I had the unique privilege of eavesdropping listening to an uncomfortable conversation in a relationship while I was working at my local coffee shop the other day.

The couple didn’t actually break up right there, but they argued, and they single handedly made me want to apologize to any guy I’ve ever dated. Because I saw the games they were both playing and I recognized myself in some of those scenes.

Yes friends, it was that bad.

Apparently there had been a miscommunication of sorts over text messages late one night when there was supposed to be a date. After that miscommunication, there wasn’t much contact via phone conversations, text conversations, or definitely in-person conversations.

They were both angry. She was angry because he was busy with work and couldn’t make their date. He was angry because when he texted her to tell her he couldn’t make it, she was short and curt. And because of that, they didn’t speak for two weeks.

Our time in close proximity at the coffee shop was the day for them to both take time away from work to meet for lunch and discuss their differences.

Lesson Number 1: Decide how important this relationship is to you before the discussion begins. If it’s important and it’s worth keeping, then remember that when you start talking. Be honest, be fair, speak in love, and start with the actual facts. Facts, not interpretation. Not opinion. And definitely not the story you tell yourself about what happened.

Lesson Number 2: If a miscommunication occurs in a relationship that is important to you, don’t wait two weeks to address it.

The gentleman arrived first and waited patiently. When the woman arrived, she gave him a huge hug and seemed genuinely happy to see him. After they hugged, she said, “You know we need to talk, because that just wasn’t right.”

He appeared a little bit confused but then proceeded to ask what she’d like to order. She very hurriedly said, “I’ve already ordered my food, I need to get it from the counter.”

To which he replied, “I thought we were having lunch together, but okay.”

Lesson Number 3: When you are sorting out an issue for the good of the relationship, there’s nothing to prove. Especially two weeks later.

The rest of the conversation was rehashing what happened that night two weeks ago. They both stated their sides of the story. Over and over. I sensed they each wanted to be heard and be right and they truly believe the more they said it, the more correct they’d be. The problem with this communication style is that they were listening to reply instead of listening to understand. When you listen to reply, you get a response. Whe  you listen to understand you gain understanding. In the end, which is better?

Lesson Number 4: A relationship is not a competition for who hurts the worst.

Sadly, the end of the lunch hour hit before they reached a solution to the problem. Both left the shop looking defeated and like they didn’t reach the resolution they would have wanted. I felt for them because lunch time is supposed to be a time of rest during the work day, but I don’t think either returned to their respective offices feeling refreshed.

Lesson number 4: Unless both parties are willing to be vulnerable in a relationship, you won’t move past your issues.

To be perfectly honest, watching that exchange did make me rethink how I’ve communicated with the men that I’ve dated over the years. I’ve refused to be vulnerable, I’ve wanted to focus on my pain while having little regard for his, and I never even thought how a simple misunderstanding can cause so much stress for both of us. And you know what? If you have a disagreement with someone who is important enough to you, answer these questions? Will this incident matter in five years, and do I value this person’s presence in my life more than I value being right?  

Thank you coffee shop couple for opening my eyes (and ears) to my own communication style in a relationship. 

How do you communicate in a relationship?

The post orginally appeared on Toni’s blog, My Life With Him and Them. Follow along with her life as a divorced mom of three teenagers there or on Twitter or Instagram.