“I love you, but your friends suck.” Ouch. A discrepancy in social circles can really hinder a healthy relationship and act as a point of contention between the two of you, and your friends. Everyone has that buddy that is, well, hard to get a long with. Then there is the unfortunate truth that if you don’t like your partner’s friends, they probably don’t like you either. Fake smiles are easy to spot.

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The one thing I really loathed about singledom was the whole “in-between” stage of casual dating. You know, the swampy ground that begins after the third date and haunts you until you’re forced to have an uncomfortable conversation that usually begins with “So…what are we?” The relationship pre-ejaculate, if you will. It’s not as exciting as the real thing, but still a necessary stepping stone…

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There really is no winning recipe for “good” sex. Everyone likes it a little bit different, and when we put two—or more!– people together in a sexual situation, well they’re going to have to work together to figure out what does it. Hm, what’s that, oh you’re not into forniphilia? But I do such a great impression of a dresser…

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So you’re vegan, and your partner isn’t. Or maybe your an omnivore, or a vegetarian, and your partner is a vegan. Or maybe you’re an everything eater and your partner is gluten-free. Or maybe you’re gluten-free and your partner is allergic to nuts, or soy, or dairy, or…

See where I’m going with this? Sometimes our dietary restrictions (and ethical POVs) just don’t match up with the views of the people we like to spend our time with.

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My manfriend and I watch too many movies. I guess it’s easy to make excuses about why—aside from just liking film, he works in the industry and I’m currently in stew-mode for my second screenplay. Whatever the reason, we spend 90 percent of our “date nights” on Netflix Instant.

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Communication? What communication?

If you follow along on TLV, you probably have noticed I jabber about the importance of communicating a great deal. That’s because it’s super important, and also because I have been working on my communication skills over the past 6 months, so I’m often brewing on it.

Now, we already know that talking is not always communicating. But let’s say you are communicating—expressing thoughts and feelings effectively—are you doing it peacefully?

I’ve been working on my peaceful communicating skills, also known as non-violent communicating, or NVC. This method is based on the idea that all human beings have the ability to be compassionate, and that we only resort to hurtful behavior when we don’t recognize a more effective strategy. Sounds pretty spot-on, yeah? The way we act is learned from our surroundings, our families, communities, what we watch on TV, etc. So violent or hurtful behavior is learned; NVC is an attempt to unlearn it, or to focus on a gentler strategy.

The whole concept is centered around living with awareness, and communicating that awareness with our partner – or whoever we’re speaking with. It’s about practicing mindfulness. Ohhhhm.

I know what you’re thinking: NVC, WTF? Can’t she go back to writing jokes about giving handjobs on airplanes?

I’ll admit, some of the stuff behind NVC is a bit crunchy; spirituality is at the base of it. But that doesn’t mean you have to be super spiritual to practice some of it and help you communicate more effectively, and less aggressively. Here are a few easy-peasy tips:

 Keep requests and statements in the positive. Instead of saying “I hate it when you forget to flip the toilet seat down,” say “I love it when you remember to put the toilet seat back down.”

“Please stop playing Stairway to Heaven on your guitar while I’m on a conference call,” becomes “Baby love, could you please remember to be quiet when I’m working?”

Be specific. “You don’t care about my feelings!” is a general statement, and general statements tend to put us on the defense as they boil a large number of actions, individuals or feelings down into one unit. This is similar to why stereotyping is so dangerous.

Instead, try something specific, like “when I told you it hurts my feelings when you don’t text me back, and you continue to ignore my messages, it seems as if you don’t care about my feelings.” This gives an actual situation to address, instead of a general accusation, which is more combative.

Stick to observations, rather than evaluations. This can be paired with being specific. For instance, “you stopped making an effort” is an evaluation. “It’s been several months since you planned something special for the two of us” is an observation. Evaluations can seem judgmental, and often differ depending on who is doing the evaluating. Someone can argue an evaluation (“I do make an effort, I made you dinner twice last week”), but an observation is more straightforward and less aggressive.

Let’s not deny responsibility. Violent communication often comes around when we deny responsibility for our feelings by placing all of the weight on the action of the other person involved.

Instead, we should imply that our feelings are correlated with the other party’s actions, but we need to address that they are still OUR feelings. No one can make me feel sad. They can act without thought, which will in turn trigger me to feel inconsequential, which will make me feel sad. But they didn’t use their Jedi mind power to suddenly make me miserable. If I was a sociopath, they could have acted the same way, and I’d have felt nothing. Need an example if denying responsibility IRL?

See the following dialogue.

Denying responsibility: When I catch you looking at our waitresses’ booty, it pisses me off.

Taking responsibility: I feel hurt right now. I saw you looking out our pretty waitress, and it makes me feel incapable of holding your attention, and inadequate in comparison.

Did any of that make sense to you at all? It’s important to remember NVC can be used in any and all relationships, not just romantic ones. The next time you’re raging because of something your mother-in-law or frenemy did, practice NVC to avoid a cat or dog fight. Tell me your tricks for peaceful communication, please!

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securedownloadCommunication is important in your relationship, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Sometimes—most times—the stuff we really need to talk about are the hardest topics to approach. This is especially true for intimate issues, where egos, feelings, and future sex sessions are on the line.

Maybe your guy is a too rough with your goods or drums on your ladybits like he’s tapping out morse code. Or maybe your girl isn’t as active as you want her to be, and just lays there underneath you like she’d rather be watching Game of Thrones.  You really want to bring it up, but aren’t sure how.

Sure, it would be great if everyone was awesome at being direct AND gentle. (This is not the time to be bossy, my fellow Type A’s. No one bosses their way to better blow jobs. No one I know, at least…)

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It’s Friday! That means it’s time for my Lusty Vegan column on iEatGrass.com.

I typed “talk” into my Google image search and this came up. Ha!

Communication is a bitch. It’s absurd how in a world where we’re all so connected 24/7, we can simultaneously be utturly disconnected to each other. But trust and communication are the pillars to a healthy relationship. Yeah, love and chemistry and the fact that you both like Apatow comedies and Chinese food are all important, but without trust and communication, everything will fall to shit. If your communication is bad, then your relationship is doomed. DUN DUN DUN. Just kidding. Like everything else, you can work on improving communication, but it’s hard, and you have to really commit. Here are a few helpful suggestions/exercises for those who are shoddy communicators, and/or are partnered up with someone who has trouble fessing.

Big note: there is a difference between being quiet and being unable to communicate properly.

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