You can never be too delicate when you’re trying to tell someone they’re fat. No matter how you try, you will pretty much always come off sounding a bit rude. That’s the first lesson I learned when—8 months into our dating relationship—my wife, Kara, tried to hint that it was time for a new swimsuit. The second lesson learned was that a little vulnerability in communication goes a long way.
At the time of the incident, we were in a long distance relationship, and I was telling her over the phone about an upcoming pool party some of my coworkers were hosting. Suddenly she hit me with an odd request: “Well… please just get a new swimsuit before you go.”
What? Why? My swimsuit had been a loyal companion for the last ten years of my life. It had served me well at pools and beaches throughout the country, why should I abandon it now?
Kara started listing the reasons. It had a hole in it! (Really it was a tear, only about an inch long on the thigh, revealing nothing. I promised to sew it but that didn’t satisfy her.) It was faded! (It was a flower pattern that had in fact faded in the past decade, but I’ve found that flower patterns never go out of style.) It was just time for a new one! (That was the least convincing, I tend to wear clothes until they just decompose, and this swimsuit was in fantastic shape.)
Finally, in frustration and angst, Kara firmly replied, “I don’t care what you get, just get a size bigger ok?!?!” This verbal blow knocked me back a couple steps, but I was able to mutter, “are you calling me fat?” Kara then tried to bob and weave out of her previous comment, until finally she was forced to admit that I was in fact too big for my swimsuit.
This story in no ways endorses calling your significant other fat, what this experience taught me is the importance of effective communication. In fact, I think there are many times we try to communicate one thing by saying another. Sometimes I say, “I don’t really want to do anything tonight” when I mean to say “dear, I’m exhausted and stressed, can I have 30 minutes to myself to recharge before I’m all yours?” At times I’ve heard, “are you really planning to go out with friends tonight?” when Kara meant, “honey, I’ve missed you all week and I would love to spend some time, just me and you.”
Love is about intimacy, but at times we can hide ourselves from our spouse and communicate on the surface when the reality is much deeper. Kara and I have noticed it time and time again, and that’s why we always try to relate our feelings as honestly as possible. When something comes out wrong—which happens from time to time—we try to find the meaning beneath the surface. Working hard at communication has been very helpful in our marriage. It helps us get to the heart of things, to grow closer together, and it motivated me to get a new swimsuit, with room to grow!