Please help me figure out what I should have done differently in this argument with my boyfriend. It gets long, sorry.
posted by guessthis to human relations (74 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Yesterday my boyfriend was due for a minor outpatient surgical procedure. He was given a general anaesthetic and told that after waking he should be back to normal within two hours, but he should have someone should take him home. That's me, and I was happy to do it. He hadn't been able to eat for a day before the procedure, and had a restricted diet for a week beforehand, so I planned to get him whatever he wanted for lunch, clean the kitchen, do the grocery shopping and fix him an amazing dinner and dessert before a long massage. I wanted to show him how much I loved him by taking real good care of him.
The procedure went fine, they held him for a couple of hours and then we headed home. On the way I asked him what he wanted for lunch. He couldn't decide for ages, then settled on a ham sandwich, suggesting we go to Big Supermarket to get the supplies. I was already planning to go to Big Supermarket that day to do grocery shopping. It's a slight detour on the way home, plus very busy so you end up queuing a while. I would rather avoid two trips. I mentioned this and suggested we go to Little Supermarket instead - it's right next to our home and I figured it would have everything he needed. He looked scornful and said, "do you really think Little Supermarket will have what I need?" So I shrugged and said, "okay, how about Organic Supermarket?" I was quite pleased with this idea because Organic Supermarket is also closer to our place, quieter, and would have even nicer ingredients than Big Supermarket. He fell silent, so I squeezed his knee and said, "But if Big Supermarket is what you really want, no problem, we'll go there." It turned out then that he was after a specific brand of sliced ham which Big Supermarket carries, so I said okay, let's go.
He was monosyllabic as we shopped, with a scowl on his face. As we walked out I asked him if everything was okay. He then said, "well, perhaps I'm just tired but I find it really annoying that you gave me such a hard time about the food I wanted to eat. I'm supposed to be able to eat anything I want, right? And you're complaining when I finally do choose something." I was very surprised. I said, "I didn't mean to give you a hard time! I was trying to be as accommodating as possible, but I thought if there was a way we could avoid Big Supermarket while you could still be happy with your meal, then I would ask about it." He just ignored me and kept silent and scowly as we walked home.
As I fixed his lunch I grew upset. His words had implied that I was selfish and unaccommodating. It took away all the joy and pleasure of looking after him. But then I also felt like it was unfair to hold this against him, because he was tired and hungry and could I blame him for being irritable in the circumstances? I just wanted to stamp my hurt feelings out and be normal, but the more I tried to do that the harder it seemed to be. So I spent the day being polite and friendly and caring, but not quite my normal self. I did my best but I wasn't jokey and silly and physically affectionate the way I usually am.
He warmed up a bit after his lunch and a nap, and he asked me a couple of times what was up. I just smiled and said, "everything's fine, don't worry" because I was ashamed of my feelings of upsetness. So we settled into a quiet evening like that. I shopped and cleaned and cooked like I planned, but my heart wasn't in it.
This morning at breakfast I was feeling somewhat better, but he was scowling and monosyllabic once again. I asked him what was up and he said he was just giving more of what he got last night. I started to tell him that he was right, I was upset yesterday, but I wanted to move on from it and it wasn't anything we needed to talk about. He started telling me how selfish I was to treat him like this when he was recovering, and then I just couldn't help myself and blurted out that this was the problem, that he thought I was selfish when I was just trying to be nice. He pressed for details and the whole thing came out. He then castigated me because I hadn't brought it up with him, but instead had tried to 'punish' him by being weird all day. I had felt strongly, and still do, that if I had mentioned something, it would have ended in a fight anyway. I told him I had felt like my feeling was unfair, and he strongly agreed, and was annoyed that I couldn't just get over it. He also maintained even then that I did make it more difficult than necessary for him to get the lunch he wanted. He stormed off to work, I cried a bit and did the same.
Now I just don't know how to BE when I get home. I still feel upset, hurt and angry, but also ashamed of myself for feeling this way. I would love to just put it behind me, but the thought of hugging and apologising feels… wrong, somehow. Why is that? If I stay friendly but reserved until I feel better I think the same thing will happen again - he'll be angry at my continuing weirdness. Could you explain to me how I could have handled this better? Could you help me get over it?
If it's relevant: I'm mid-twenties (f), he's early thirties, we've been together for 5.5 years. Thanks so much in advance MeFi.