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Is it ever normal to dislike your SO?
May 13, 2011 10:25 AM   Subscribe

Is it normal to dislike your boyfriend at times? (Or girlfriend, or husband, any SO...)

I'm 43, he's 40. We are at the three year dating mark. In a LDR whole time, but that is changing soon as we will be moving in together (and marriage soon thereafter). We've managed the LD pretty well, also. But my question refers to the fact that there have been a couple of times recently that it occured to me that I didn't like him at that point. I could be jumping to conclusions, whereas, I really don't just like something he said, rather than just not liking HIM. (Is it just semantics?)

Some important things to note:
--we've both been working a lot, and under a little extra pressure with deadlines and such
--both of us hate talking on the phone, but we sincerely try to make the best of it and "let each other off the hook" when one of us isn't up to talking
--when I want/need to discuss something on the heavy side (not always relationship talk, but sometimes I just want to "check in" with him and tend to us without getting too heavy because he'll tend to withhold when he thinks we are going in that direction), he tends to more and more "jokingly" tell me how I think too much or how serious I am in such a way that it's turning me completely off to even approach him about anything

For example, today, we were talking about our work day, and how busy we are and how much we hate it when there is no food in our house(s); we end up grabbing fast food, eating bad, etc. rather than spend the energy to go grocery shopping (we both feel this way). I've been better about breaking this habit than him, not that I gloat about it or anything Since I know that when schedules are hectic, it's *ideal* to try to at least grab something on the healthy side and try to stay away from McD's, if at all possible. So, ALL I said to him was "ok, NOT to sound like a mother, but as a caring girlfriend who cares for you and is looking out for you, when days are like that, I try to eat as healthy as possible, and drink as much water as possible, simply to help keep the energy up as much as possible." That's all. I said this because he always complains about feeling tired and having no energy (before the heavy workload, too), and this dude can put down some sweet tea like nobody's business (other than coffee, basically all he drinks), and he'll grab bad food most times, he smokes, has ADHD (wherever that might play a role), and he does not get any regular exercise.

Soooo, I know he knows he should eat healthy, I just said it out of a gentle, loving reminder and out of simply caring about him. Ok, and I even made a joke about me giving "unsolicited advice".

His reply: "ANY type of UNSOLICITED ADVICE goes 100% back to what my FATHER does!!" (FYI, he has a very strained relationship with his father, and yes, his father is well-known for his "lectures" and "unsolicited advice" and boyfriend hates it, understandably).

So what I am to do? Not EVER, EVER give gentle reminders or bits of advice or whatever again in our lives together, because I'll be damned if I remind him of his father!? I told him I'm jus tlooking out for him and I don't mean it in a bad way at all. But his response felt a little over the top towards me. Even after I tried a little damage control, he still had his defenses up and even made another remark about it (can't remember exaclty). But damn.

I don't know, maybe the work strain is just wearing on us both. I do tend to feel more sensitive about things in general than him, (which he'll point out how sensitive I am, and not in a complimentary kind of way, either).

Is this a phase that all relationships go through? Neither of us have been married, but some long term relationships. If you go through this in a marriage, how in the hell do you get back to "normal". Am I making too much out of this? How do you let these things just roll off your back and make sure you are truly picking the right issues to be concerned about? Is couples counseling in order? I've brought that up before to him; we never went.

Thank you for reading!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (40 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is a stupid shitty little fight. Relationships are full of them. How do you feel about him the rest of the time?
posted by Think_Long at 10:31 AM on May 13, 2011 [14 favorites]


I would opine that not only could you call this a "phase," but actually a "common, recurring thing in every relationship." Not just a phase. An operating principle that must be constantly recognized and dealt with. This is completely normal, as anyone who has wanted to strangle their significant others will tell you.

("Would it KILL you to take out the trash, you brainless wench? I love you. Wanna kill you. But I love you.")

That said...

"ok, NOT to sound like a mother, but as a caring girlfriend who cares for you and is looking out for you, when days are like that, I try to eat as healthy as possible, and drink as much water as possible, simply to help keep the energy up as much as possible."

Don't try to boil the ocean. You can't help him solve all of these problems all at once.

He doesn't get any regular exercise? Suggest going on a hike.
He drinks sugared teas? Offer him a club soda with a lime wedge.

That kind of thing...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:31 AM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'd both delay the wedding and get into couples' counseling (which I love). This seems like a basic communication issue that could use a little "give" on both your parts.

I'd be annoyed if someone were like "I eat healthy, hint hint" but I'd also be annoyed if my partner constantly complained about something and then never did anything to fix it. Both of these things have happened in my relationship. It's not a huge deal.

That said, if he's constantly super defensive, then that's something he needs to change. I don't mind crabbiness or "that's a sensitive subject, let's move on". I hate defensiveness because it shuts down communication and puts people in opposing camps. That sucks, and can be used as an ongoing strategy to intimidate your partner from telling you things you don't want to hear, which is really unhealthy.

Again, though, something to work through in couples' counseling.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:34 AM on May 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


I just read through your example, and it sounds more like an example of "him reacting strongly to something you said" rather than "you not liking him". So I have to admit I'm not sure how it relates to your question, or how you extrapolated "oh no I think I don't like him sometimes" from that incident.

But to answer both: well, yeah, all relationships go through occasional moments when you look at something stupid your SO is doing and go "my God, what are you doing?" Everyone has annoying habits that get on your nerves, and in that split second or that moment you feel like you want to scream. But those moments pass.

As for your other question - he did kind of react weirdly to what you were saying, but what you said also came across as kind of....mom-like. You mean well, and that's clear, and you're worried about him. But you also know that he has this unusually sensitive spot, so...yeah, maybe backing off on nagging him about things is wiser.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:35 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I told him I'm just looking out for him and I don't mean it in a bad way at all. But his response felt a little over the top towards me. Even after I tried a little damage control, he still had his defenses up and even made another remark about it (can't remember exactly). But damn.

There was this scene on Modern Family where Phil goes to a spa and has an "enlightened" moment about how to deal with Claire; he always tries to help and "fix" things when she has a problem, rather than just being supportive and letting her deal with them.

I asked my partner if that was how she felt too, and she totally agreed. I was stunned. In a relationship, often times one partner (or both) feel like they have to fix or protect the other one. It's not always as well received as you might expect it to be.

I understand where your comment came from (good intentions), but it sounds like your partner prefers your support, rather than suggestions on where they can improve on things. If you can figure out how to implement that, your relationship will be fine.
posted by dflemingecon at 10:37 AM on May 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


Well, there is, I think, a lot more going on here than "is it normal to sometimes dislike your SO?" Because that answer to that question I think is most certainly yes. All relationships go through strain, all go through fights, rough patches, whatever you want to call it.

But your issues sound perhaps more systemic than that. I see a couple issues:

1) You're moving from a three-year LDR to marriage really rapidly. This must be stressful, and let me tell you - going from being in an LDR to living together WILL drastically change the nature of your relationship, by necessity. This upcoming change might be causing extra stress for him, or extra anxiety. I would also warn that it might not be a wise decision in the long-term interest of this relationship to transition so drastically so quickly.

2) It sounds like your general concern and good advice (don't eat shit it will make you feel like shit) is being met with unwarranted defense and the weird father comparison. It can be hard in a relationship to take advice from your partner - but that's what mature relationships are for. You want to, without nagging or being a dick (which it doesn't sound like you're doing), be able to help and support your partner without always being written off, or scolded, or whatever. Obviously constructive criticism can be hard for anyone to take, but within the confines of an intimate relationship, there should be enough trust and guarantee, especially if marriage is on the table, that you can share such things in a conscientious manner with each other for the benefit of your lives together.

3) Do all relationships go through this? Sure, or some form of it, or some other communication problem. There is no 'normal' in a marriage of a LTR; there is a constant working and effort that you need to put in, especially after some years when the sparks have worn off a bit. The 3-6 year period tends to be tough in this regard, IME. What isn't good though is that he seems unwilling to listen to you or work with you. That would be a red flag to me.

Think carefully about the marriage thing. If I were you, I'd give it some time once you're closer to one another and can have some face-to-face convo time.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:38 AM on May 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


Oh and this is bullshit: (which he'll point out how sensitive I am, and not in a complimentary kind of way, either).

I don't know, I'm starting to think you might not like him because he's not that nice. I mean, maybe he is nice, but my partner doesn't go around insulting me, nor do I insult him.

"too sensitive" is an especially poisonous insult because it leads people to second guess themselves (just like his defensiveness).

I don't get why he is so intent on controlling how you communicate to him (and what you communicate).

Plus, if the caps indicate that he was YELLING at you over the phone, then you should seriously reconsider this relationship. That is an extreme overreaction.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:40 AM on May 13, 2011 [14 favorites]


A wise person once told me that naive people think "hate" is the opposite of "love" while experienced people know that the real opposite is indifference. Not liking each other for reasonably short periods of time is normal.

But I'm not admitting to it personally -- hi, honey!
posted by dgran at 10:41 AM on May 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


Why are you going from LDR to living together and already planning to get married? Why not take it one step at a time - live together and then decide whether to get married.
posted by hazyjane at 10:41 AM on May 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


To answer your question about occasionally disliking your SO, I think this is standard for any close, long-term relationship, and not just the romantic kind either. Some of my most heated arguments (raised voices and all) have been with my parents and close friends. In a perverse way, I'm more likely to argue with people I care about. If I only know a man casually, I'll often tell myself, "Eh, he's moving away in half a year, so let it go," but if I expect to know him a long time, then it's worth the initial aggravation to hammer out minor problems rather than letting them fester.
posted by d. z. wang at 10:41 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, it's normal to be annoyed with your partner and not like certain things they do. There are times we don't want to be around each other because one or both of us are in pissy moods, but I would never say I dislike him.

So what I am to do? Not EVER, EVER give gentle reminders or bits of advice or whatever again in our lives together, because I'll be damned if I remind him of his father!? I told him I'm jus tlooking out for him and I don't mean it in a bad way at all. But his response felt a little over the top towards me. Even after I tried a little damage control, he still had his defenses up and even made another remark about it (can't remember exaclty). But damn.

Don't have a lengthy argument about this. Just walk away or say "I'll talk to you later when you've calmed down." Nothing can be accomplished while one or both of you are in defensive mode. (And you're being defensive too when you're saying "I was just trying to help!") Wait until you're calmer, then talk. "I love you and I hate seeing you stressed out/tired/sick, so what can I do to support you during this time?" Obviously unsolicited advice does not register as "support" in his mind.

I highly, HIGHLY recommend that you read up on how ADHD affects relationships. I guarantee you that a lot of his behavior will make much more sense. I'm guessing that with the ADHD, you find yourself having to remind him a lot, and this can get frustrating. This is going to get 10x more frustrating when you move in together, so you'd be well advised to seek help with it now. Is he on medication? This makes a tremendous difference in the way that my husband reacts to (real or perceived) criticism. I try to pick my battles wisely, but medication is one thing I won't back down from. You will not believe the difference.

Feel free to memail me.
posted by desjardins at 10:47 AM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


It is totally normal to feel not close to your boyfriend at times. To expect otherwise is romantic perfectionism.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:50 AM on May 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


So, ALL I said to him was "ok, NOT to sound like a mother, but as a caring girlfriend who cares for you and is looking out for you, when days are like that, I try to eat as healthy as possible, and drink as much water as possible, simply to help keep the energy up as much as possible."

If I were tired and stressed and somebody said that to me, I wouldn't like them very much at that moment.

If that person were my partner, and they knew I was tired and stressed and had no time, I would wonder why they were prepared to tell me to follow their example in eating healthy food without providing any actual support to do it - it would feel very smug and provocative. They might as well whip themselves up a nice olive-oil stir-fry tofu-for-one and sit there smugly eating it right in front of me and jeering "you're a fool to yourself, tel3path" for all the good it would do me.

I get that you're running on empty yourself and can't necessarily be expected to say "oh poor baby let me whip you up a quick gourmet meal and massage your feet". However, if he has ADHD he needs at least twice as much motivation and coping skills as you do to get through a day, so no wonder he gives in to eating whatever's easiest or provides him with a quick treat-like experience, even when he knows it's bad for him. (He really does know this, even without your telling him.) We all soothe our morale at the expense of other things sometimes. If you are not in any practical position to be helpful, it would be better to say nothing.

As to your actual question, yes it is normal to have passing feelings of not liking people who are around us day in and day out. However, each of us has a part to play in being as likeable as we can, as much of the time as possible.
posted by tel3path at 10:51 AM on May 13, 2011 [9 favorites]


There are two sides to this.

Side A, partner Y complains about the same thing over and over again and does nothing to correct or remedy problem. Partner Z proposes possible solution, Partner Y loses shit. Partner Z is annoyed and doesn't like Partner Y very much.

On the B side, partner Y has had a rough time and just wants to vent about how tired/bloated/etc he feels. Instead of offering comfort and support Partner Z tells him how to live better and implies his choices are shit. Partner Y loses shit and doesn't like Partner Z very much.

Both of you need to learn to communicate better. One of the tricks my partner and I use is to ask, "Is this a vent or is this a fix?" Because both of us are fixers and it's very, very hard for either of us to sit back and let the other vent. But neither of us are really good and letting people help us, so you can see how it would be somewhat difficult.

Yes it's sometimes normal to be annoyed at your SO, but it should be very, very infrequently or you need to address it before it becomes too big to deal with.
posted by teleri025 at 11:00 AM on May 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


"ok, NOT to sound like a mother, but as a caring girlfriend who cares for you and is looking out for you, when days are like that, I try to eat as healthy as possible, and drink as much water as possible, simply to help keep the energy up as much as possible."

I would not say this to Mr. Llama and wouldn't like it if Mr. Llama said it to me. We both know perfectly well what we should be eating.

That said, you have to be willing to let stuff go once the apologies are made -- assuming the apologies aren't of the 'I'm sorry you feel that way' or 'but' variety ('I'm sorry I said that BUT it's for your own good.' Eesh.)
posted by A Terrible Llama at 11:00 AM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh, and - another thing - some of the worst memories of my life as an ADHDer involved not just watching all my peers swan around coping, but being in the receiving end of criticism or judgement from them about my not coping. I already knew I was failing at everyday life and on a path to destruction, doom, defeat and all those d-words, that things were going to turn out really badly for me and it would be my own fault. And now somebody was pointing this out to me, as if I didn't know. Thanks.

I seem to be the only one here who's had a really strong negative reaction to what you said, and as an ADHDer I think maybe I recognize some similarity in your partner's reaction, and I can see why something that seems oversensitive or defensive to you would feel very different from his side.
posted by tel3path at 11:06 AM on May 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


Sometimes people annoy each other. Don't go to therapy about it (srsly? only took two comments?), talk to him about it. $10 says theres stuff you do that annoys him too.

The sign of a strong relationship isn't whether you're never annoyed at each other, but how you deal with being annoyed at each other.
posted by softlord at 11:09 AM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have encountered the "not liking my SO" thing in two instances*:

- when I got to know the person better and realized I didn't like them/wasn't compatible with them.

- when I got to know the person better and realized I didn't like them/wasn't compatible with them.

*this is not the same has that feeling of annoyance you sometimes get towards your loving spouse when you discover they've forgotten to pay a bill or misplaced your keys - again.


I agree your initial question and description don't sync up and it's hard to know what you trying to find out.

Just popped in to say I've definitely had the LDR disconnect happen upon spending more time with an SO in person... But I'm not at all sure that's what you are talking about.
posted by jbenben at 11:10 AM on May 13, 2011


It sounds like you may not like each other. You wrote a lot about him and not a single word mentioned a good quality or a good way he makes you feel.

It is premature for you to think about marriage. A 3 year semi-dysfunctional LDR does not mean you will be able to get along and live together day-to-day and LIKE being around each other. You need to find that out first.

If you both feel like you're walking on eggshells and have to work hard to not irritate each other, you're not a good match. If that's the case, don't get married (and don't get pregnant).
posted by fritley at 11:11 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


It sounds normal to me, especially given your circumstances. If I would say to work on anything it would be communication generally (him not wanting to have conversations that he perceives as serious).

If you're going to give advice, I'd cut out the preamble - you're phrasing it like you're doing something wrong. That said, these are major lifestyle changes that he knows he should be making, and he's not - your reminders, however phrased or out of whatever motivation, are unlikely to change his behaviors. Especially if part of his pattern is to go in the opposite direction when you try to bring up something serious.
posted by mrs. taters at 11:12 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd wager my wife likes me as much as she hates me. So, that's not an issue you should worry about.

If you've been in a LDR the whole 3 years, though, there will be a significantly different dynamic when you start living together. And either you will find that living together works, or it doesn't.

"Oh, sure, I've had roommates before." Yeah, um, be prepared that things will be vastly different and either the things you speak of as being a problem will change and get better because you are with each other in close quarters a lot more and can support each other (from one person doing some shopping, splitting chores, etc), or things that you don't have to deal with in a LDR (seeing each other EVERY DAY) becomes an annoyance.
posted by rich at 11:27 AM on May 13, 2011


I don't mean it in a bad way can sound like "I'm not a racist, but..." preceding a racist remark.

Allow me to translate a little for your SO. "ANY type of UNSOLICITED ADVICE goes 100% back to what my FATHER does!!", really means that "Due to how I was brought up, I am especially sensitive to disguised criticism." In other words, he is
a) Admitting to having the reaction he does because of his family history, and thus taking some responsibility for the intensity of his reaction, and
2) Telling you something intimate about himself and asking you not to talk to him in certain ways that make it hard for him to hear you.

If you can hear what he said in this way (instead of feeling you don't like him, which I would bet has some connection with your own history) and use it to get closer to him, you will be improving your relationship rather than creating more distance.
posted by Obscure Reference at 11:33 AM on May 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


I would have bristled at your comment, too. I know you phrased it like "I do this" so that it wouldn't come off as an order, but that phrasing actually makes you sound really holier-than-thou, which would definitely piss me off and put me on the defensive. It depends on your delivery of course, but I'm hearing, "well, when I'm feeling like this, I eat healthy and do everything perfectly (unlike you, you imperfect slob)!" I think it's especially important to be careful with comments like this on the phone - he can't see your non-judging, supportive body language & facial expression; all he can hear is your judgment and implied statement that you are better than him.

To address your actual question, it is normal to feel like you don't like your SO for a few minutes - and especially in ticky-tack bickery little fights like this (oddly, the big fights don't generally result in this overwhelming petty exasperation). But you really might want to rethink planning a wedding if you haven't even lived with the guy yet and you're already having these kinds of problems.
posted by dialetheia at 11:35 AM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I seem to be the only one here who's had a really strong negative reaction to what you said, and as an ADHDer I think maybe I recognize some similarity in your partner's reaction, and I can see why something that seems oversensitive or defensive to you would feel very different from his side.

+100000

If I'm stressed and coping with it poorly, the absolute fucking last thing in the world I want is for somebody to point out to me just how poorly I'm dealing with the stress.

I've raised my voice to my current SO exactly once (and feel awful about to this day), and it was under very similar circumstances to what you described above. When I yelled at him, I wasn't particularly angry at him -- I was pretty upset with myself, because I made an expensive mistake when booking some very important travel arrangements, and really just wanted to be left alone instead of consoled or reminded of how I'd failed.

Most people assume that individuals with ADD are unaware of their disorder, or the manifestations that it has in their daily lives. This could not be any further from the truth. You wouldn't walk up to a guy in a wheelchair and comment "Hey; I'm not sure if you noticed this, but your legs aren't working today." Pointing out the symptoms of ADD to a person who has already been diagnosed can be every bit as insulting and condescending. Suggestions like "Focus Harder" and "Eat Better" are damaging and insulting, because we already know that they're true and blindingly obvious.

When your boyfriend says that he wants to be left alone, or for you to stop lecturing him, he is not being modest or proud. He wants you to leave him alone, and for you to stop lecturing him. Your nagging is just one more distraction, and this is going to upset him, because he cares about you and wants to live up to your expectations of him. I'd read the fact that he got upset with you over this as a sign that he actually cares about what you have to say. It's every bit as easy for a person with ADD to simply shrug and say "Fuck that. You're not the boss of me."

Once the stress has gone down a bit, it'll be a safer time to talk to him about developing better ways to manage the pressure and workload. Also, if he's on ADD meds, certain ones can have massive mood-based side effects. Might be time to see the doctor, and get these things sorted out.

Sidenote: Your boyfriend probably has ADD. Not ADHD. They're similar, but different beasts, just like how depression and bipolar disorder are two very different things.
posted by schmod at 12:04 PM on May 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


Putting myself in the position of your SO and how I would react...

When you tell someone something that they truly don't know they will be grateful.

When you tell someone something that they already know (and just aren't taking them time to do) then they will be pissy. Especially when they were just looking to kvetch and were not necessarily looking for a solution.

I've had the same issues with my SO. If you wish to help then actually help with something other than words, i.e. pack him a lunch. If you think that packing a lunch for him is too much for you to take on and you think he should be doing his own lunch packing then you'll have to let him figure that out himself.

When he complains about this bolus of stuff that he should/shouldn't be doing and continues to do/not do it you either have to A) accept it or B) not accept it and decide you want something better in an SO and (perhaps) break off the relationship. You may not know whether the A route or the B route is right for you and sometimes you have to go through couples counseling to figure that out.

The one thing you can't do is force him to change. One of the best things I ever learned in counseling was that 99% of the time when it comes to different personality types and the way they aprroach the world (making decisions, motivating themselves, etc) is that there is no right or wrong way, there is no good or bad way, there are only different ways.
posted by dgeiser13 at 12:08 PM on May 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh, and - another thing - some of the worst memories of my life as an ADHDer involved not just watching all my peers swan around coping, but being in the receiving end of criticism or judgement from them about my not coping. I already knew I was failing at everyday life and on a path to destruction, doom, defeat and all those d-words, that things were going to turn out really badly for me and it would be my own fault. And now somebody was pointing this out to me, as if I didn't know. Thanks.

I seem to be the only one here who's had a really strong negative reaction to what you said, and as an ADHDer I think maybe I recognize some similarity in your partner's reaction, and I can see why something that seems oversensitive or defensive to you would feel very different from his side.

FWIW, I had a very strong visceral reaction to that statement as well, and I also have ADHD. It's incredibly maddening when someone tries to tell me something like "well, if you managed your time better ..." or "if you want to lose weight, just eat less and move more!"

People with ADHD often know exactly what we need to do to succeed, but the disorder often makes it extremely difficult to take those steps. Even just establishing a routine and sticking to it is hard for me, even on meds. I admit I have definitely had irrational reactions to such statements not unlike your partner's reaction. I know it's not necessarily fair, but I'd guess this is pretty common among people with ADHD.

I do agree with desjardins, though. It's his responsibility to make sure his ADHD is treated. If he's not managing it, then I think it's totally reasonable to ask him to do that. And I don't think he should get a free pass for lashing out at you because he has ADHD. But it seems like, in general, you could both benefit from trying to be a bit more empathetic to the other, and I think couple's counseling would help with that.
posted by the essence of class and fanciness at 12:35 PM on May 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


"ok, NOT to sound like a mother, but"

Pro-tip: any use of the word "but" in circumstances like this negates all the words that come before it. If you're going to sound like your mother, own it. If you don't want to sound like your mother, then don't say stuff that sounds like your mother. Be honest in your communication -- with your partner, and with yourself.

That said, I agree with other comments that it sounds from your description that you guys may just not like each other very much in general, and/or you are jumping from a long-distance relationship into marriage too fast. Is it possible you two can slow down the train to marriage-ville and try to reconnect in a (loving, supportive) way that's all about your present relationship?
posted by scody at 12:36 PM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I do think this is one of your pick your battles and look at the big picture kind of thing.

To wit:

Yesterday I brought home some food for Mr. Anitanita and myself, and he began eating it without washing his hands. This would not have been an issue except for the fact that his hands had just been touching something in the house that was icky and fungal-ly. But he claimed that because he'd doused his hands in tea tree oil, there was little chance of anything spreading. I still insisted on the hand washing, so he did - with water, but not soap. All the while pointing out to me that if one had the choice between using water, or tea tree oil, folks would use tea tree oil. I would have noticed this, if I wasn't so distracted and fuming about the fact that he WASN'T USING SOAP.

So I'm all kinds of triggered in a personal narrative that people should try to take care of each other, and his actions showed that he didn't care...I could get sick. After I went ALL THAT WAY to bring us home food. I imagine his narrative might have been some sort of 'why is my wife being all germaphobe-y again? It's like the "I'm not leaving my toothbrush in the bathroom if you leave the toilet seat up"-wars, all over again. And a lovely evening got a little grouchy, because we were both too tired to talk about it, and everybody went to bed.

This morning on our white board, I saw my message that I wrote about a week ago: To "Mr. Anitanita. I love you. That is all."

And then I saw his message from this morning. His message said: "To Anitanita: I love you too. That is also."

I point this out because I find myself swinging from deeply loving and admiring my husband, to wanting lightly boot him out the front door. At some point I will go back to him and tell him that it's not just the hand washing - it's this YOU AREN'T CARING FOR ME triggering thing. And he'll listen to me. And he might tell me that there is this NAGGING thing for him, and I'll listen. And then we'll come up with a compromise. I'll slice our food in half when when split it - he might look at me meaningfully as he washes his hands with soap, even though he doesn't think it makes a lick of difference. But I think it's the long game in relationships - where it's not the crappy hole you both get in, but whether you try the next day when you feel a bit better to connect again, and explain what was going on for you - whether or not the other person meant it. Hopefully you can tell your partner how you feel, and ask him how you can best communicate to him, in a way where you are both aware of your landmines. And he needs to think of something. That's working on a relationship. Not thinking of anything, or dismissing it...those are the only red flags.
posted by anitanita at 12:37 PM on May 13, 2011 [15 favorites]


I think you should take him seriously when he says he doesn't want unsolicited advice. If you feel he might benefit from your advice, try this: "Hey, I have some good ideas about how you might keep your energy up. Do you want to hear them?" And then proceed accordingly. But honestly, it sounds like maybe you dislike some of his lifestyle choices. If they must be fixed in order for you to like *him," you may want to reconsider the relationship.
posted by Wordwoman at 1:06 PM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


My wife and I have been married for 29 years. If we had tried to avoid disliking each other at times, the relationship would have shattered long ago.
posted by KRS at 1:12 PM on May 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


"ok, NOT to sound like a mother, but as a caring girlfriend who cares for you and is looking out for you, when days are like that, I try to eat as healthy as possible, and drink as much water as possible, simply to help keep the energy up as much as possible."

Of course you didn't sound like his mother. You sounded like his father.

So what I am to do? Not EVER, EVER give gentle reminders or bits of advice...

There is a fine line between gentle reminders and nagging. You may want to careful there.

As for advice, you can start with "Do you want my advice?"

The guy is pretty clearly unhappy with the ways his borders have been violated in the past. That doesn't mean you have to stay out of them, it just means you have to ask before you come in.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:18 PM on May 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


The hardest point in any relationship is that moment when you feel disappointed by your partner.

This is inevitable. He's not perfect. He's only human, after all. Accept it. "We like people because of their virtues. We love them because of their faults."
posted by SPrintF at 2:51 PM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


So what I am to do? Not EVER, EVER give gentle reminders or bits of advice or whatever again in our lives together, because I'll be damned if I remind him of his father!?

He said unsolicited advice reminded him of his father. Unsolicited is the key word here. He sounded tired and irritable and you gave advice when he was just venting and hadn't asked for any. If he isn't specifically asking, he doesn't want your advice. Seems like an easy distinction to me.

And I completely agree with others about the way you put that advice, too--you came across as holier than thou. I'm a wife, mother, etc., and I might put that in a comment to a stranger online who doesn't know me from Adam's housecat. But if I were with friends, and I prefaced something with, "As a wife and mother, I say..." I would get food thrown at me. It's distancing language.

I have no doubt that you're a caring girlfriend, but if you find yourself feeling like you have to preface A Thing with the caring girlfriend qualifier? That's probably a good clue that you need to not say That Thing.
posted by misha at 3:26 PM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


The OP has some valid frustration about hearing the same complaints over and over and over from her boyfriend. If you can't offer something constructive as a caring SO, well, do you only exist in the relationship to listen to their complaints? That's not fun.

Seems like there are two problems at work here. 1) The OP is frustrated with her boyfriend's complaining and wants to alleviate her frustration by seeking a fix for the complaining (emphasis on ending her discomfort, which is why she took the boyfriend's negative response personally). 2) The boyfriend responds to the OP poorly because he feels he is being criticized and not treated compassionately (he wants attention and validation, and OP appears to be ignoring his wants, so he reacts negatively).

Both of these people are being a bit selfish - both want to make the problem about themselves - and neither expressed their true wants very well. The girlfriend wants the boyfriend to stop complaining, and the boyfriend wants to complain and get some attention. The conversation could have gone:

Boyfriend: I am frustrated by my bad eating habits. Can you offer suggestions?
Girlfriend: Of course. How about X and Y?

Or:

Boyfriend: I am frustrated by my bad eating habits.
Girlfriend: I am sorry you are having trouble. Would you like to hear suggestions?
Boyfriend: No, I just wanted to complain. I feel better now. Perhaps I will try X in the future.

I empathize with the OP a great deal, but responding to her boyfriend's remark with "So what I am to do? Not EVER, EVER give gentle reminders or bits of advice or whatever again in our lives together, because I'll be damned if I remind him of his father!?" is creating more drama and casting herself as a victim. It's more selfishness.

If both partners are in a stressful time, it might be very easy to slip into these bad habits. Perhaps the OP can start by being careful not to make her boyfriend's problems about her (his complaining bothers me; his eating habits impact me; his remark about his father is all about me), and instead being more open and letting the boyfriend's problems be his problems. But the boyfriend also has a responsibility to do something positive to improve the situation, since as an adult he should know that his negativity impacts his partner and when he takes care to improves the quality of his life, he also improves his partner's life.

I would not get married until this dynamic is recognized on both sides.
posted by griselda at 4:49 PM on May 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


He said he doesn't like unsolicited advice because that's what his father does and you prefaced unsolicited advice to him by saying that you don't want to sound like your mother.

Basically, don't give him unsolicited advice and certainly don't tie it in to family relations when you do do it.

And yes of course you can dislike your SO.

There are variations on this but there is a saying along the lines of "I love you but right now I just don't like you very much."
posted by mleigh at 7:40 PM on May 13, 2011


I really cringed when I read this, too. "Eating healthy food is healthy" is child-level advice. Parents do it out of habit from when you actually were a child. You don't have that excuse.
posted by anaelith at 7:49 PM on May 13, 2011


So what I am to do? Not EVER, EVER give gentle reminders or bits of advice or whatever again in our lives together, because I'll be damned if I remind him of his father!?

Well, you should ask him this question. And decide if you can stomach the answer. But yes, what you describe is really and truly an option, as a few others above me pointed out.
posted by salvia at 8:34 PM on May 13, 2011


I like a lot of the advice you've gotten here, particularly about communication and defensiveness. One other thing that you might consider is: are you a prickly person? I can be a big a-hole that gets annoyed by everyone because they are doing it wrong. So sometimes when I get really annoyed-to-wanting-to-kill my SO, I try to sort out if it's just me being annoyed about something he's doing in the world, vs. being angry because he's actually done something to me (far more rare, for the record.)

If you aren't the type that ever gets annoyed with people, and suddenly find that you're only getting annoyed with the SO, I would take that as a much larger problem sign. I'm not proud of it, but I have moments of disliking almost everyone I know, so I try to take that into consideration when dealing with the SO.
posted by lillygog at 6:11 AM on May 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh yes, it is normal. As I've said elsewhere, passion has many forms.

So now you know unsolicited advice isn't received well by your SO, and why. Consider this a valuable piece of information that will serve you well once you start cohabitating.
posted by luckynerd at 12:06 PM on May 14, 2011


"ok, NOT to sound like a mother, but as a caring girlfriend who cares for you and is looking out for you, when days are like that, I try to eat as healthy as possible, and drink as much water as possible, simply to help keep the energy up as much as possible."

With all those disclaimers, it sounds like you knew he was going to be annoyed by your suggestion. But you made it anyway. Actually helping him would have been, like, buying him a nice water bottle he could take around with him.
posted by Clotilde at 1:08 PM on May 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


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