I recently got engaged! Owe a lot to this subreddit so I thought to contribute once again. I’ve read a lot of people’s complaints about not knowing how to STFU or what that looks like, so I thought I’d offer some input.
First of all, it’s kind of a misnomer. There’re plenty of jokes about how a man just wants a mute sex doll, but reality is much more complex. Men do actually want a sentient partner who loves them for them, so some personality (and therefore speaking) is needed. The reason why STFU is so ubiquitous is that women often say the wrong things or say things in the wrong way, which is often worse than not saying anything at all. So the goal of STFU isn’t to be totally mute, but to say things in the right way.
So what’s the right way? There are a lot of theories, but I think it all boils down to saying what you mean. Sounds simpler than it is, because you’ll have to avoid all sorts of stuff like rhetorical questions, sarcasm and hidden implications.
Example: You’re shopping with your partner and he picks a blue rug for the house, but you prefer the pink rug.
Worse: “Why would you pick that rug?”
Implication: Your choices are questionable.
Worse: “The pink rug is better because our sofa is pink.”
Implication: I know what’s best for the house. My judgment is more sound than yours.
Better: “I like the pink rug more.”
No implications. Or maybe that you expect him to take your feelings and preferences into account, which every good partner should do (not always defer to them, but take them into account).
Example: Your partner stayed out late at a party without you. You felt lonely and a bit insecure.
Worse: “What were you doing so late at a party?” (In an accusatory tone)
Implication: I don’t trust you.
Worse: “Don’t stay out so late! You made me worry!”
Implication: Commanding, blaming. I have authority over you. You’re obligated to take care of my feelings.
Better: “I missed you! I got insecure for a bit there.”
Just sharing vulnerable feelings. Insecurity is not the most attractive, but if you feel it, either own it or don’t say anything (instead of trying to hide it behind logic or commands).
Better: “Would you please let me know ahead of time if you’re going to stay out late?”
I’m requesting something because it’s important to me. You don’t have to grant the request but I hope you do.
Example: Your partner isn’t taking you out as often as he used to. You want to change that.
Worse: “Mary’s boyfriend takes her out every week!”
Implication: You’re worse than Mary’s boyfriend. I compare you to others.
Worse: “Why don’t you take me out as much as you used to?”
Implication: I’m entitled to x amounts of dates/resources from you.
Better: “I want to go on dates more.”
At this point, you might be seeing why having no implications is so difficult. You’re in a really vulnerable position. You’re communicating your authentic desires and trusting him to take these desires into account. He might not. (Maybe reconsider your relationship in that case. NOT if he can’t fulfill all your desires, that’s normal, but if he never or rarely takes them into account) But it’s better than trying to guilt him or out-logic him into doing something.
And yes, sometimes it is better to STFU. Bonus real example: In the earlier days of dating, I went to my partner’s place. He bought some wine for me but didn’t have a corkscrew so he was trying to open it with some tools he had lying around. It was taking a while but I didn’t say anything. I wasn’t going to die from not drinking immediately and I trusted that if it wasn’t working, he’d switch to plan B. Anyway, his sister happened to visit him at that moment, and she said all of the things:
“Why would you buy wine when you don’t have a corkscrew?”
Implication: You’re careless.
“How long have you been working on that?”
Implication: I don’t trust that you have time management skills or common sense.
“Just go back and buy a twist top instead.”
Implication: I don’t trust your problem-solving skills. I have better ideas than you.
“They sell corkscrews at the nearby grocery store.”
Implication: I know my surroundings better than you.
*Note: I know we often don’t mean to imply these things, but men often hear it anyway. Men and women generally view respect very differently. For example, I can question a girl friend’s actions 20 times (would that diet really work? Why are you going for it?) and she’d still feel like I respect her. Men aren’t the same. In general, if you wouldn’t say it to your boss (not counting the lovey-dovey stuff, of course), then it probably isn’t respectful. That doesn’t mean that you can’t warn your boss that something’s a bad idea, you just have to be tactful.