Friday, May 9, 2008

Communication in relationships

So I recently dated a deaf guy. He was the first deaf person I had dated in a few years; the previous people I had gone out with had been hearing.

Let's call him Recent-Dater #1.
Recent-Dater #2 was a hearing interpreting student who signed fluently.
Recent-Dater#3 was a hearing graduate deaf ed student who signed pretty well.

So now that you have some semblance of my recent dating history (and that "history" covers the last four years), I'm going to try to get right to the point.

Communication was HARD at times. In a way, I expected it to be easier because we were both deaf and we both sign. But apparently, that's where the similarity lies.

I prefer to express myself in English.
He prefers to express himself in ASL-PSE.
I voice relatively well.
His voice is pretty damn unintelligible.

I like communicating via voice or written English (IM, etc.). I don't have a problem discussing heavy issues over IM, especially when it's important and I don't think the issue should wait. He prefers to wait until we can both meet and then discuss in person, so he can "sign it out."

Of course, this led to frustration for both of us. Especially since I'm not the most patient person in the world. (Or even the most patient patient...but I digress.)

I almost always had to ask him to fingerspell two or three times because I never understood his fingerspelling the first time around.

He thinks I sign better when I'm "singing."

I found myself wanting to make things easier in public by voicing for him sometimes. In the beginning, he told me he did not want me to interpret for him. Then he started glancing at me every so often. And I would go right into "deaf interpreter mode." Without even thinking about it. One night, we had dinner with my parents. And I interpreted the entire time, taking time out to eat for myself. Not that I minded, but... it would definitely have been easier if he could communicate with them directly.

So perhaps the importance of communication isn't so dependent on the hearing status of both parties or communication mode (signing, cueing or speaking), but rather...

the ability of both people to express themselves in similar ways -- or at least to be able to understand how the other person expresses themselves and not struggle.

Admittedly, I want a partner who is as comfortable with English as I am, who doesn't need me to proofread written communication and, admittedly... one who enjoys musicals as much as I do. :)

And someone who can speak relatively well, so that I don't feel like inequality in communication exists. Because communication with others is just as important as communication with your partner.


ETA (edited to add): I am NOT upset/annoyed/mad with this guy. We just encountered difficulties in communication that I didn't expect. So many people assume that deaf+deaf = easy communication, but that's not necessarily true. It's not just about the language (English or ASL) or mode of communication (signing, cueing, speaking).


tayler said...

LOL I can empathize with him. Although I write well in English, I find myself telling my wife over IM "let's ASL later". It's just faster. :) Hopefully that will change as video chat/conference/phones become more mainstream--it's functionally equivalent to landline/cell phones.

DC Deafie said...

Oh, I should have mentioned... he doesn't like to VP, either. I like VP fine... but he doesn't. *sigh*

Anonymous said...

You seem so “self center” young lady. (It is too obviously) You will never find a decent guy if you are so picky about over ricidilcous stuffs such as English. You will spend most of time with your cat or dog for rest of your life. I am glad your ex deaf boyfriend find a sensitive girlfriend far better than you. No offend.

DC Deafie said...

Anonymous -- you missed the point. It's not about English. It's about the ability to communicate well with each other.

tayler said...

dc deafie - seems like he doesn't like to communicate at all! LOL. Or maybe he's just not too fond of technology? It may have nothing to do with his deafness or English fluency. Try to see it from different angles.

DC Deafie said...

Haha... Tayler, he LOVES technology. Just prefers face-to-face over VP, IM, etc.

tayler said...

haha looks there's more to this guy. only so much i can tell from your post. hmmmmmm this is dr. tayler checking in. i'll be replacing dr. phil today. jk :)

here's other angle: maybe he likes being close to you? maybe he wants to focus on his work so that he can complete it earlier-- the sooner to lay you in his arms and behold your eyes?

in any case, looks to me like you're better without. again, i wouldn't be too sure it had to do with his deafness or English fluency... that's what i'm saying.

Ex Date #1 said...


Au Contraire... In defense of DC Deafie, she is certainly entitled to her own opinions.

Now, I have my own perspectives on the issues that she had brought up in the blog. English was not an issue at all. I use English often. More of SEE/PSE. I prefer to date women who are educated and have good English/communication skills. What happened between us goes much further the issue that was brought up in the post.

I believe what DC Deafie was trying to point out that it is NOT the choice of conversational language, but more of how both persons can communicate with each other without strangling each other.

Be nice to her. She's sweet and extremely smart woman.

About the post:

Regarding the IM and Videophones, I do not mind using both, however, I must point out that I try to avoid using IM for serious discussions because in my past experience, such serious discussions often get into ugly e-brawls because the words being conveyed does not always carry the tones/meanings across the electronic means. As well it may be quite hard for me to do this but that is why I prefer in person so that way it'd be easier to get the issues out.

Image this scenario for both IM and VP: Two people are in heated discussion. One person decides to sign off in middle of argument, leaving the person hanging without any resolution.

Now, I don't mind the IM/VP at all, but just having someone signs off in middle of heated debate annoy me a great deal. Furthermore, who knows if the person is saving conversation and sharing it with other people, hmmm?

By the way, I didn't say that I think she signs better when she's singing. I said that she signs beautifully when she sings. There it goes: Miscommunication!

-Ex Date #1

Anonymous said...

It seems to be a struggle between ASL vs. English. You have a choice to continue to compete and butt heads or you both can become more bilingual in your relationship and expand the ways each of you commonicate.If you are open to improving your ASL, he may be open to improving his english.

Last, how does his speech or lack of speech really make you feel? I mean, it seems that you and he need to be very clear about when its okay or not okay for you to take on an interpreter role. This shouldnt be one conversation either. It must be an ongoing discussion until you two can know with a glance when its okay or not okay (for you both).

been there, done that said...

I believe how you grew up as a deaf/hoh individual plays a roll in how you are able to receive communication and express yourself.

I grew up oral while people cued or spoke to me, and I found myself struggling to express myself through sign language in a past relationship to someone who could only understand me through sign language. I never felt I could fully express myself with my intermediate knowledge of SEE/PSE. Not being able to lead heated discussions, aka arguments, without being interrupted so many times to clarify what I am trying to say lead on to even more frustration and forgetting what point I was trying to make.

Currently, I am in a relationship with a guy who has a similar communication background and it has made all the difference. Hope has once again been granted to me. I now can fight reasonably and I have yet to get really pissed off over the fact he can't understand a word I'm trying to pronounce or whatever.

All in all, I think this applies to everyone not just deaf/hoh people. As DC Deafie mentioned in the ETA, most people automatically assume because we are dating someone from our own deaf/hoh community , we are expected to fully understand each other. So not the case.

Anonymous said...

YOU GO GIRL SPEAK THE TRUTH!!!!!! Besides why would you want to date a guy that keeps the receipts from every dinner and writes it off as a business expense??? thats just cheap and uncool

DC Deafie said...

@ been there, done that - glad you get it! ;)

@ ex-date #1 - you're sweet for sticking up for me. Your points were good, and I thank you for adding those in.

@ anonymous #2 - his lack of intelligible speech actually doesn't bother me. would things be easier if he could speak with others so i don't have to interpret sometimes? of course. sure. but i wouldn't change anything about him. and, again, it's not about ASL/English. Neither one of us really signs ASL. We're PSE with each other. The problem is that, for us, what we feel or want to say is not *always* clear, and that has resulted in miscommunication or misunderstanding. we tried. it just didn't work out, and for reasons beyond our native communication modes.

@ anonymous #3 - you are clearly one bitter person, and that comment was uncalled for. i'm sorry you have issues that you needed to vent and had to hide behind anonymity to do so.