Depends on what your definition of "is" is.
July 28, 2011 6:32 AM Subscribe
How can I best cope with this relationship impasse?
posted by anonymous to human relations (54 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
My partner and I have a recurring argument that is not being resolved. I am becoming increasingly frustrated with how this conversation goes (to the point where I dread attempting to even discuss the issue) and I am looking for books/websites or other resources that may be helpful in helping us communicate more productively here.
An example from today: I work for my partner's business and we both agreed that I would take the day off today to prepare our bags and house for an upcoming trip. When Partner arrived home, he asked what I'd done all day. I explained that the bags were packed save a few of his personal items plus I'd done other household chores. Partner responded by saying that this shouldn't have taken me all day and I needed to monitor my time to see where it went.
I find comments like this unnecessarily critical, bordering on condescending and hurtful. I had good news related to a creative endeavor of mine, but did not want to share it after being talked to like a child. Partner noticed I was upset and asked what was wrong until I explained that I did not like him treating me as an employee in our own home and that I just did not understand what else I was supposed to be spending my time on. For the record, the house was clean and neat.
When I expressed myself, my partner told me that he feels he cannot trust me to do what is needed because I am too selfish. This is the common refrain that just destroys the conversation. I am selfish, I do not back him up, I do whatever I like and he supports me.
I have asked repeatedly what things I am supposed to be doing that my selfishness makes me neglect, but he has no concrete answer. I have also tried to explain that when he is constantly critical of me, I feel that he's being antagonistic and belittling me. It makes me feel that he's putting himself in a parental role over me and that destroys my sense that we have an equal partnership. Our relationship is otherwise satisfying and close. He stands by this issue so firmly, I have to wonder if it isn't masking some other problem. He gets very cold and insistent when we have this discussion, which is unlike our other interactions. I have had minor success in asking him if he isn't just generally defensive out of a fear of being taken advantage of in other conversations, but it never extends to this "selfishness" argument. He has had other relationships where he felt manipulated and used, but I have always gone out of my way to make sure I wasn't making unreasonable demands of him.
He says we don't have an equal partnership because he does everything he can to make sure I'm happy and I can do what I want, while I am "lazy and selfish."
This conversation frustrates me to no end because it seems like nothing I ever say or do will disprove the charge of selfishness. For the record: we don't have kids, my partner is not high-maintenance, and we don't live in a place that takes years to clean. At most, I do a bit of laundry-folding and sweeping and the housework is done.
Due to layoffs, I've had to go work with my partner (which was his idea), though there often isn't much for me to do at his office, I am learning his industry. I would love to have a separate job, and am always looking, but we live in a small town where there are no industries in which I could use my advanced degree. We discussed this at length before we married and (I thought) had agreed this would not pose us a problem.
We have seen a therapist, but I did not find it helpful. For one, the therapist was not very interested in my input. Also, he was an acquaintance of my partner and they spent some of the therapy session bonding over their shared religious upbringing (which I did not have).
I am searching for another therapist at present. What other sorts of resources can I use to help us communicate better?
Posting anonymously because my partner reads AskMeFi.
Throwaway email: firstname.lastname@example.org