Front-loading. Have you ever heard of it? Especially in connection to communication within a relationship?
So what is it?
I didn’t expect it to in the dictionary. I thought it was just a slang term of sorts that couples use or my partner had picked up from somewhere.
Webster Dictionary describes it as “to load or fill from the front” and funny enough, that’s exactly how we use it.
In the first year of our relationship, like most couples, we made plans or decisions (involving both of us) without discussing the details. “Want to go eat at my friend’s house tonight? Sure!” “Want to go to the beach this weekend? Sure!” But we continually found ourselves in arguments over why we were staying so long at that friend’s house or why we didn’t leave earlier for the beach, and it was exhausting.
Let’s be honest, we’d all prefer it if our partner could read our mind — right? I mean, who wants to have to go through every. freaking. detail. just to make a plan?!
I sure don’t.
But I’m not my partner and he’s not me. We have a lot in common but we’re also very different. Energetically, mentally and physically I run circles around him. He’s a laid-back guy who’s rarely in a rush and takes life in stride. I’m a color-organizing nerd who likes to think ahead. P L E N T Y of room for miscommunication.
And after a particularly terrible argument about how we each had planned for a weekend getaway, both of us had had enough.
Now, any time that we make plans to do something where confusion might step in, we front-load beforehand.
Front-loading means sitting down and talking through our expectations, and communicating what we want out of a situation. To be honest, it can be a pain in the ass. It takes time. It takes slowing down. And it takes presence. But it has eliminated SO MUCH friction that we both make it a priority.
For instance, we make plans to visit my brother’s family for an evening. Ahead of time, we front-load by discussing the food and drinks to bring and when to leave our house, which sounds obvious. But we’ll also discuss the time we want to leave their house, if we want to do anything else while we’re in that part of town, or anything else that may need to be said.
Front-loading is a form of communication that helps to better communicate our needs and expectations.
Because regardless of how alike two people are, they have different expectations around “going to visit the family.” In most situations, there are many variables and because partners are different people, the lack of communication can lead to issues if front-loading doesn’t occur on the front-end.
Another example, my partner’s family loves summer visits because we live on the beach. There are ALL kinds of front-loading before making that decision — everything from what dates work best for us, who’s coming (he has a big family), where they will sleep, what food we’ll cook, what activities we’ll take them to do, etc. Again, these things probably seem obvious, but there might be some extras thrown in like — when do we want them to leave, are there conversational topics to avoid, our house rules to set with them beforehand, if one of us needs to work while they’re here, etc.
Bottom line, it’s all about enhancing communication and the importance every relationship should put upon it. No matter how boring or annoying it seems to be.
Front-loading helps us feel safe in potentially uncomfortable situations, reinforces our team mentality, and respects each other’s needs. I might want to stay the whole night at my brother’s, but my partner might be tired and want to go home early. His family may come to town but I may need to work while they’re here.
It’s a win-win when we front-load. It’s a trainwreck when we don’t.