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All this over a ham sandwich?
July 18, 2012 2:25 AM   Subscribe

Please help me figure out what I should have done differently in this argument with my boyfriend. It gets long, sorry.

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.
posted by guessthis to Human Relations (74 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
He expected you to have done the shopping while he was in hospital. I suspect somewhere along the line he thinks he left simple, but clear guidance on what he really wanted or thinks you should know him well enough by now to have "got it right".

He is now annoyed because he's had an op and it's made him tired and cranky, was hanging onto the idea of that one thing, can't let it go and now probably has a little voice in his head telling him he's an ass for fixating on this one thing and being a bit of a jerk.

What he's not telling you, I would venture, is that he sees this issue as symptomatic of some other larger relationship issue he can't or won't vocalise. Hence being monosyllabic and blowing trivial things out of proportion.

What you're not telling him is all the thinking, care and attention you put in. So he feels justified in being inconsiderate. He is the wronged party, as it were.

Except he's not, and he needs to know this from you. All the plans you outlined at the top of the post were in your head, not communicated. Tell him about them. And gently inform him that his best reenactment of his toddler years over a brand of ham meant he nixed those plans.

In short: he needs to stop thinking he's the wronged party here. But when you raise it, expect this incident to be used as an example of some bigger issue.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:38 AM on July 18, 2012 [15 favorites]


Thank you for your response, MuffinMan. I will just briefly clarify that I did tell him all of my plans the day before - he knew I was planning to pamper him. He also told me specifically not to prep lunch because he wouldn't know in advance what he wanted to eat. I was also at work all morning and went straight from the office to the doctor, so couldn't have prepped anyway.
posted by guessthis at 2:42 AM on July 18, 2012


PLEASE tell me you don't live together! He's given you two days of grief (so far!) over LUNCHMEAT, and apparently YOU are the one who is in the wrong?!? This is raising all sorts of red flags for me, and even just from this one incident he feels very controlling.
posted by easily confused at 2:43 AM on July 18, 2012 [61 favorites]


I have had moments of such severe crankiness (because of fatigue, pain, hunger, or all three) that I blew things similarly out of proportion, but the fact that he decided to continue being a jerk the next day? That is just ridiculous.

He seems to feel that your actions were selfish; I'm struggling to see any actual proof of that. I agree with MuffinMan, in that there is something else underpinning this, and that's what you need to sort out with him.
posted by catch as catch can at 2:52 AM on July 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


I agree with MuffinMan. The ham is a red herring (so to speak). There are larger issues at work here -- the fact that you can't talk to him about your feelings when he's upset you, for instance. I'm worried that you're constantly shutting yourself down in order to maintain this air of being "okay" for him, even when it makes things worse. You don't need to be okay if you're not okay. You have every right to be upset and angry at what was essentially a toddler tantrum from a man who should know better. Especially given that you've been together so long.

You shouldn't be ashamed of your feelings. Let yourself be upset and angry about this today. Then, when you get home, sit down with him over a cup of tea or something and explain that you understand he was probably tired and cranky from surgery, but you were trying your best to help him out and his words had upset you. You both reacted badly but now you want to move on and leave it behind.
posted by fight or flight at 2:57 AM on July 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


It sounds like he's confusing "giving someone the silent treatment" with "being a bit quiet while processing feelings". I would point out to hime that you couldn't agree more that the silent treatment is unacceptable. But not being ready to talk something through right away is something he should try to understand. He seems to expect you to wait while he thinks, and he should do the same for you. And that includes trusting someone when they say "I thought about it, and it turned out I was being silly".

Of course if you actually do have trouble talking to him then maybe he has identified a real problem.
posted by caek at 3:02 AM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


It seems to me that both of you need to work on expressing your feelings promptly and productively. I know how painful it can be to feel ashamed of your feelings, and to the extent that you can come to peace with them, that will help. We feel what we feel, and there's rarely any talking ourselves out of them. It is better to engage with what's real in our emotional world than what we wish were so, and if possible, move past shame like that.

Part of that process must include our closest friends and loves not punishing us for our true feelings. Part is on us to express them clearly. I see you both not doing either of these.

Is this a common pattern between you? How about with close friends?

Another thing I wonder is, did you explain your reasoning when you suggested different stores? It was obvious to you that you were working to be loving, but I'd neither of you explained why you wanted what you wanted, I imagine it felt like unnecessary stonewalling to the other.

It's easy to forget that what's obvious in our own thinking isn't so obvious to others, so that's another realm to make your communications more explicit.
posted by rosa at 3:07 AM on July 18, 2012 [10 favorites]


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 get grumpy when I am really hungry, and so does my wife. It's something we've learned to recognise and accept in each other - occasionally we still have arguments because one or both of us is hungry-grumpy, but usually they end with one of us telling the other to go and eat something (in a good-natured way). My brother-in-law is like this too but even more so - he has a huge appetite and gets sullen and moody when hungry.

The reason I say this is because I could totally see the whole "I JUST WANT TO EAT MY FAVOURITE HAM WHY ARE YOU HASSLING ME CHRIST I AM STARVING" thing happening with one of us, especially if we hadn't eaten for a day.

I would echo the above comments about expressing your feelings better with each other, and it could be that the "not explaining feelings" issue was initially amplified by hunger and post-operation grogginess.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:13 AM on July 18, 2012 [29 favorites]


Outpatient procedures aren't carried out under general anaesthetic and don't involve staying in the hospital for a couple of hours afterwards. With an outpatient procedure, you walk in and walk out, possibly having local anaesthetic. This actually sounds like a day-case procedure under sedation, which is kind of in the middle in terms of seriousness between local anaesthetic and general anaesthetic.

If this was sedation, then the effects will linger even after the patient is discharged. This is why hospitals insist that the patient's accompanied by a responsible person afterwards - people can have impaired judgement and memory lapses for a few hours afterwards. It's a bit like being drunk. So his behaviour after the procedure should be judged in that context - he wouldn't have been himself.

I think this escalated for a few reasons including poor communication on both sides. It also sounds like you might be underestimating or minimising the impact that this kind of procedure can have, especially if there was a week-long build up to it. It might be worth sorting out exactly how he feels in that respect and whether he felt that there was a mismatch in the level of empathy he expected and the level that you were able to provide (which you based on your expectations).
posted by xchmp at 3:22 AM on July 18, 2012 [33 favorites]


"All this over a ham sandwich?"
Kind of says where you're coming from here. Big tip: it's not about a sandwich. imo, when he came out of the hospital he was hungry and tired and wanting to be pampered and comforted. When you made him haggle/fight just to get the treat he wanted, he probably felt, well, uncomforted. You were placing your convenience over his comfort, and he felt undervalued just when he needed to feel overvalued by you.


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.

Never, never, never, never, NEVER say "everything's fine" or "I'm fine" when it isn't and you're not. All that does is confuse and frustrate the asker and bottle things up in the "fine" person to explode later. Answering the question honestly at the time makes for a much, much smoother ride in the long run. Honestly, but never accusingly, is the key.

I think the main thing you could have done differently (beyond the initial thing of making him fight for his happy-ham) would have been to be straight with him when he asked what was up. From that "fine" everything just escalated.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 3:35 AM on July 18, 2012 [63 favorites]


You were placing your convenience over his comfort, and he felt undervalued just when he needed to feel overvalued by you.

Just realised how harsh that sounds - I meant from his perspective. It really helps to try to see a fighty event through the other person's eyes, then when you talk it out you can say, "I see how that must have felt like I wasn't caring about what you wanted, I'm sorry, I was only trying to get you home and comfy as soon as possible."
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 3:39 AM on July 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


I had felt strongly, and still do, that if I had mentioned something, it would have ended in a fight anyway.

I think this is key. I personally find this kind of prolonged anger repression in the service of "peace" to be really frustrating, and totally see where your partner is coming from, so maybe I can help you see his perspective. The reason why this behavior is frustrating is that you make the decision unilaterally that if something would end in a fight, you're not going to say anything about it. Okay.

Well, you might think that you can be mad about something for an entire day without your partner of nearly 6 years figuring it out, but that's not true. He can tell. But when you don't just come out and say it, that means he has to do all the work of figuring out if you're mad, convincing you to tell the truth about it, and THEN, after all that, he still has to deal with the original source of your anger. And then if he gets mad that he wasted an entire day trying to figure out WTF was going on with you, you take that as proof that your behavior was right, because him getting mad proves he would've been mad 6 hours ago, too.

Also, I imagine there were times before he knew you this well where you were angry and he didn't realize it for a while. This feels like being lied to, and I imagine he's sensitive and mistrustful of you because of it.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:39 AM on July 18, 2012 [47 favorites]


My question is: is this an isolated incident, or do these fights over seemingly petty things happen regularly?

There are physiological reasons he could've been acting this way after a procedure, but if this is the kind of thing that happens regularly, that's a different story.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 3:44 AM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, also, the other thing is that in this question (and in your approach) you're making yourself out to be completely reasonable and your boyfriend to be irrational and angry for no reason. You paint yourself as the calm, reasonable one who avoids fights and your boyfriend as instigating fights. The reality is that you were BOTH angry, but you put all the responsibility of communicating about it on your boyfriend, and then criticized him for bringing it up instead of letting it fester. It's really not fair to put him in the position of being "the angry one" just because he's more inclined to talk about his (and your) anger.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:45 AM on July 18, 2012 [37 favorites]


Really, both of you should have just gone home. He really did not have to have that particular brand of ham and he wasn't really in a fit state to be going to a supermarket.

But, here's the thing - neither of you seem to be great at communicating with one another. There's a whole lot of Guess culture at play here - you both seem to think the other is a mind reader.

But, also, your loving styles appear to be a little bit different. You sound super practical. Which is awesome. But I am a bit like your boyfriend and when someone's being super practical when I'm feeling like crap, I get massively annoyed. I think it's because I don't want practicalities, I want compassion and understanding. But to you it appears that being super practical IS being compassionate and understanding - see, different love styles.

And, you're perfectly prepared to undermine your own feelings to make peace - and this can also be difficult for someone on the receiving end to manage. It's a bit of a martyr complex. I agree you need to learn how to express your feelings, even if they're negative. It might initially result in a fight, but when the other person understands where you're coming from, it is easier for them to come around - but as it stands, you either want to gloss over it or expect him to read your mind. This is not healthy for either of you.

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?

Because you would be denying your own feelings - and that's what feels crap. I can't guarantee you won't have a big fight and that there won't be more crying and storming off, but give it a go - tell him how you actually feel.
posted by heyjude at 3:50 AM on July 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


I come at this from a different perspective. I've had general anesthesia a few times in the past couple of years, and the prep for it and the fogginess afterwards can be anything from an annoyance to disorienting. It's definitely not the circumstance under which I'd want my partner second-guessing my behavior. And if I wanted my favorite ham for my first meal after 18 hours of not eating (and being completely exhausted and maybe nervous about my medical procedure) I'd probably be really annoyed if he didn't cheerily and selflessly provide it.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 3:52 AM on July 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


Do you guys both "punish" the other person like this when you're upset? Cause that's super super bad. Your boyfriend over-reacting, for sure (especially the following morning, that passive-aggressive tit-for-tat nonsense is such horseshit), but, you're assuming that the way you perceived your behaviour that night is an objective truth, but it's not; her perceived it the same way you felt about him in the car.

By attempting to joke around that night, he was feebly trying to apologise without acknowledging his shame and embarrassment - a person in their early thirties shouldn't have to do that, but you know so it goes some times. By not engaging, you were letting him know you wanted a stronger apology (please, spare us and him the "it's fine" stuff.). He couldn't or wouldn't give that, so decided to turn the tables the next morning.

Can you see how much of the above involves parsing the nuance for things that people didn't say? That's not great for successful relationships. The whole thing could have been resolved if you told your boyfriend how pissed off you were regarding his shitty behaviour (in a nice way), and if he said why he was pissy, then you both apologised for hurting each other.

This mutual escalation thing you both have going on where you don't address what's powering the emotion and up the ante till one person backs down is super dodgy (to be fair, it sounds like your boyfriend was doing it more than you, but I'm sure if he was telling the story it would sound the exact opposite).

Forget the sandwich, work on communication skills, and if that means you say to BF, "I want you to work on communications skills with me, cause I think we're hurting each other needlessly", so be it. Own your feelings and their validity in the relationship, and his feelings.
posted by smoke at 3:56 AM on July 18, 2012 [13 favorites]


Simmering in silence to "keep the peace" and "avoid confrontation" never works. This is passive-aggressive behavior and saying "all this over a ham sandwich?" means you clearly are not interested in improving the relationship, only painting your boyfriend as the bad guy and you as the accommodating girlfriend who is confused by his anger.

You are not being honest about your motivations. You did not want to avoid Shop A so your boyfriend could avoid lines. You wanted to avoid Shop A because it was out of your way and you already had planned to go to Shop B. Your next alternative was Shop C, which is conveniently located. But even though you were supposedly pampering your boyfriend, when he said he wanted ham at Shop A you said no, and no, before finally giving in and being surprised that he was annoyed. It wasn't about the ham, it was about you not being honest.

Giving someone the silent treatment is never, ever, ever ok. Silence as a punishment is cruel. The guy was recovering from anesthesia, and you made the day all about you. Your pampering plan, your feelings, your heart not being in it, your confused emotions.
posted by headnsouth at 4:02 AM on July 18, 2012 [26 favorites]


If I were going to have surgery, I would not expect my wife to say, "The next 24 hours are all about you-- I am going to do anything you want, and all you have to do is sit back and be pampered." In fact, if she said something like, "Look, this is a really crazy week for me, I can get you home after the surgery and fix you a sandwich or something, but then you're on your own," I'd be completely cool with it.

But if she promised me the pampering thing... and then the very first thing I asked for, she started telling me it was inconvenient and trying to negotiate me down... I'd be a little annoyed under any circumstances. But after having surgery under general anaesthesia? Yeah, I'd get a little grumpy.

The best way for you to handle it would have been, as soon as you realized he was upset, to say, "Sorry, that came out wrong. I'm happy to go anywhere you want-- I just felt bad about dragging you around when you're tired. I didn't mean to sound like I was trying to push you into your second choice."

The best way for him to handle it, by the way, would have been to say, "I'm sure you don't mean it this way, but it feels like you've set this up as a big pampering day for me, and now when I've just come out of surgery, you're backtracking on it a little. As silly as it sounds, I was really looking forward to that ham sandwich. And more importantly, I was really looking forward to having some special time with you, but the fact that you're arguing with me on the very first thing makes me worry it's not going to be the special afternoon I was hoping for." And if he was (understandably!) too groggy to be that clear in that moment, he could have said something to that effect the next day.

So neither of you handled the situation perfectly. If this is an isolated incident, and you were both just tired and grumpy after the stress of the medical procedure, it's totally understandable, and no big deal. But if you routinely feel like you're stepping on each other's toes, than I echo the other posters who think it might be worth both of you working on your communication skills.
posted by yankeefog at 4:15 AM on July 18, 2012 [24 favorites]


I think what headnsouth said above comes out a little too harsh, but I agree with the gist of his/her point. That's not to say your boyfriend didn't overreact or wasn't being insensitive, but I'd cut him some slack for now due to his condition.

It's great that you wanted to show him your love and pamper him to make him feel better. However, it's important to note that taking care of someone doesn't necessarily mean you will feel good about it. When you imagine doing all these things for him, you're probably imagining how happy your boyfriend is, and how grateful he is to you, and that thought made you want to take care of him, and the minute things started not going as planned or fantasized, you started focusing on yourself and your confusion and your feelings, which bothered the boyfriend even more. If you really wanted to show him your love and genuinely take care of him, you should've expected that the boyfriend could react in whatever way, and prepared yourself to accommodate that. If you can't do that, then all of a sudden it feels to the boyfriend that he is suddenly forced to play house with you on your terms.
posted by snufkin5 at 4:15 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I think you were both in the wrong here, but the main thing you could have done differently to avoid this situation would have been at the point where you were mad, but felt silly/unjustified and so you said things were fine. It was clearly apparent to your boyfriend that they were not, and he didn't guess that the reason you didn't tell him about your feelings was that you weren't sure they were fair. He probably thought you were trying to make him guess as some sort of test or punishment.

So what I would have said at that moment instead of "Fine" is, "I am feeling grumpy and hurt because I planned this day of pampering for you and now I feel like you think I am selfish and unaccommodating. But I am also feeling ashamed for feeling this way because today isn't meant to be about me, and it doesn't really seem that important. So please excuse my grumpiness. I'll get over it in a bit and you haven't done anything wrong: I'm being a bit irrational." (If you think that last bit is true. Obviously if you think he is at fault, or haven't decided, just leave that last bit from "you haven't" onwards off.)
posted by lollusc at 4:17 AM on July 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


The way you're reluctant to express anger mixed with the level of shame you're feeling when you do get angry makes me think that you have a parent who had a frighteningly bad temper. If so, this might be a good time to get into therapy to talk about your issues surrounding that before it poisons your relationship irreparably.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:19 AM on July 18, 2012 [12 favorites]


Please help me figure out what I should have done differently

Well, since you phrased it like this, one thing you could have done was recognized long before this incident that your BF tends* to be vague and passive about what he wants. The minute he scoffed at your counter-suggestion of Little Supermarket - or even when he first suggested Big Supermarket - you could have said, "Oh, there must be a very specific thing you want at Big Supermarket. Tell me what it is and we can go there."

Personally I find that trait of expecting you to read his mind and resenting you when you don't really annoying and insidious. But from all I've seen of relationships where one person has this or a similar trait, the conflict comes in only when the person in your position forgets to accommodate that "need" of their partner's and then gets mad at their partner for being, basically, how they knew he was all along.

*I assume this is a tendency and not a one time thing. I've had a lot of surgery, some inpatient, some outpatient, and yes, some outpatient with general anesthesia. I've also driven several people home from surgery and bought/helped them buy stuff they needed afterwards. Surgery can make you tired and out of it, and a little "off." But I've never known it to make anyone suddenly incapable of just saying they want Boar's Head.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 4:28 AM on July 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


He could have avoided all this himself by saying "I want to go to Big Supermarket for this specific type of ham which they don't sell elsewhere." Instead, he said "I want to go to Big Supermarket", didn't mention the specific type of ham, and then scowled and sulked and gave you the silent treatment over the ham he hadn't told you he wanted. And while it's fine to feel childishly grumpy sometimes, including after medical procedures like that, it's much less fine to insist it's all your fault and continue making this kind of sulky grandstand about it the next day.

(It seems like a lot of commenters are reading the situation as "He asked for that type of ham and I refused to let him get it." If that is the case and I've misread, then I'd cut him a bit more slack for being grumpy, but I've re-read what you wrote several times now and it doesn't seem like that's what happened.)

He needs to get over it, and at the same time, I think you need to own your feelings of upsetness. Things like this:

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 ... I did my best but I wasn't jokey and silly and physically affectionate the way I usually am ... I just smiled and said, "everything's fine, don't worry" because I was ashamed of my feelings of upsetness ... I still feel upset, hurt and angry, but also ashamed of myself for feeling this way

are troubling to read, because it sounds like you've fallen into a pattern of stamping down on your feelings, shutting up about anything negative, and seeing it as one of your relationship duties to act in an upbeat and positive way whatever you're feeling inside. Even when you describe telling him what you're annoyed about, you couch in terms like "I just couldn't help myself" and "I blurted out", as if your real duty should have been to shut up about the problem.

It's difficult to tell from the outside whether this is a pattern you've developed in this relationship with this specific person, or whether it's a pattern you've developed in general. Is it something you've done in other relationships? You say that if you'd communicated your feelings, "it would have ended in a fight anyway" - is this based on past experience with him, or do you generally perceive confrontation and disagreement as fights and thus things to be avoided? Because if it's something you do in relationships in general, it's definitely something to work on (and definitely something he needs to work on too, given all that sulking and silent treatment), but something that you can profitably work on both independently and together. If it's something you've learned to do around him - because that's the way this relationship has always worked, because this kind of behaviour from him is a pattern rather than a one-off - you've got bigger problems to start addressing, but none of them will be solved by taking on the role of self-denying peacemaker.

(Also: I spent a lot of time in hospitals as a child, including sedation and local/general anaesthetic. I remember how groggy and awful it felt to come round from the anaesthetic. I also remember throwing a total screaming fit in a toyshop because my parents wouldn't buy me a super-expensive toy I wanted after an operation, and learning from that experience that coming out of hospital and being pampered a bit did not, in fact, give me 100% leeway to behave however I wanted with no consequences. I was four. Your thirty-something boyfriend should know better.)
posted by Catseye at 4:30 AM on July 18, 2012 [11 favorites]


Thanks all for your comments thus far. I really appreciate them, and they're giving me a lot to think about. I just really want to stress that I know I didn't handle it the best, and I want help with that. I am absolutely not just here to get sympathy and paint him as an asshole, I promise.

A few clarifications which I reaaallly hope are not just making me look defensive:

- We spent ages throwing around different lunch ideas, dishes and restaurants before he settled on "ham sandwich." The discussion about different supermarkets took place before he mentioned the certain type of ham. As soon as I realised that this was his reason for wanting to go to Big Supermarket, my reaction was, "ohhhh, okay, I get it now. Then sure!"

- Fights like this about petty things are not uncommon. I know I need to work on how my anger is expressed. I was thinking you guys would probably tell me I should have spoken up sooner, but I wasn't sure since I knew my feeling was mis-placed. I try hard (with the help of my therapist) to be upfront when I feel like I have a genuine grievance. Anger in general is a problem area for us. He gets irritated about things I think are no big deal, like spilling milk, say. If he spills milk or forgets something important, I really don't feel mad - I feel bad for him that he has to now fix whatever it is. He reacts with irritation when I make mistakes like this, and it's hard for me not to feel like he shouldn't be irritated, just because I wouldn't be. I know that's not really fair, I'm working on it.

- I agree that the silent treatment is a very cruel thing to do. I wasn't silent. I chatted pleasantly enough, smiled at him a lot and even joked around a bit - I just was not my normal silly-voices-and-random-dancing self. I felt like I needed time to think and process, but I can see how it came off and that it was a mistake not to just be upfront.

- @the young rope-rider: yes, my mother was a screamer (and a hitter, but not that often) over things like accidents and spills and "disrespectful looks". I'm in therapy, my therapist is on vacation.
posted by guessthis at 5:00 AM on July 18, 2012


I've been under general anesthesia once (impacted wisdom teeth, what fun!), and while I'm normally a pretty chill, quiet, and reasonable person...that shit screwed me up.

I don't remember anything about the procedure, or really much of anything for a few hours following, but apparently I flailed and punched and kicked and yelled and tried to take out the entire nursing staff. I think I actually punched one lady in the face. I either slept or was moody and monosyllabic for the next several hours following.* I think if someone had tried to tell me on that day that I couldn't have my happy ham, it would have ended very poorly for them.

*After my brother got his out, also under general anesthesia, he tried to put the moves on one of the nurses who was at least as old as our mother. It affects everyone differently.

Also, maybe I read this wrong, but if you were going to Big Supermarket later anyway for the dinner supplies, why didn't you just do it all in one trip? And also, if I were planning to take care of someone coming out of general, I'd have the food ready at the house before the surgery and a snack ready to go in a cooler in the car. That way you can whisk the person home and away from the public eye where they can relax and ride out the symptoms of the general without hurting or embarrassing themselves.

Somehow you've managed to make his recovery and comfort all about you (first paragraph of your question), and that's something you just don't get to do. Cut your guy some slack.
posted by phunniemee at 5:11 AM on July 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


Fights like this about petty things are not uncommon [...] He gets irritated about things I think are no big deal, like spilling milk, say. If he spills milk or forgets something important, I really don't feel mad - I feel bad for him that he has to now fix whatever it is. He reacts with irritation when I make mistakes like this, and it's hard for me not to feel like he shouldn't be irritated, just because I wouldn't be. I know that's not really fair, I'm working on it.

When you say 'fights like this about petty things are not uncommon', do you mean that in the sense of 'we have lots of fights about petty things', or in the sense of 'when we have fights over petty things, they usually go the way this one did'? Because if your boyfriend is seriously pulling this kind of sulkfest at you over trivial things like spilt milk on a regular basis, I think you need to spend a lot less time calling yourself 'unfair' to him by disliking that, and a lot more time laying down your own boundaries about how it is and isn't okay to treat you.
posted by Catseye at 5:14 AM on July 18, 2012 [15 favorites]


I feel sad that you keep blaming yourself, that you're always the one who has to fix everything. It's not your fault but he wants you to believe it is.
posted by discopolo at 5:29 AM on July 18, 2012 [15 favorites]


Outpatient procedures aren't carried out under general anaesthetic and don't involve staying in the hospital for a couple of hours afterwards.

I've absolutely had the experience of having TWO! outpatient procedures under general anesthetic and released a few hours afterwards. At least in the US, hospitals won't keep you a second longer than they have to or the insurance companies won't pay for it.

Post-surgery is not the time to take anything the patient says seriously or personally. If he wants ham from the *moon* just shrug it off and if he gets upset about not being able to get moon-ham, well, he's hungry and groggy and irritable and just go to your happy place and wait it out.

In 5.5 years, I'm sure you've had small differences of opinion crop up before and you've found ways to deal with them. You can get through this as well. Just remember while he's healing that this isn't *normal* behavior because he's not feeling *normally.* If he's on painkillers, that will affect his mood as well - some can make you really irritable while others just make you really woozy.

You obviously care about him a great deal - but you need to be gentle with yourself as well. Just let this incident go, it's in the past, and if you need to learn anything from it just have it be that sometimes being kind to someone recovering from surgery just means brushing off what they say because they're not entirely themselves at that point.
posted by sonika at 5:53 AM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


What should you do differently? Recognise that your boyfriend is a petty, controlling, manipulative, grumpy...person you happen to love and would like to have approval from.

Personally, I'd take this as a cue to re-examine the healthiness of the relationship and the expectations placed up on me, particularly given the situation of recovering self from prior explosive personalities.

The people who are saying "you're somehow making this all about you" don't seem to recognise that you are trying to figure out where you went wrong when trying to make something all about this other person, so you focused on yourself to tease out the various elements that could have gone awry, and I encourage you to shed their castigation for this reason.

You've already explained that he didn't want you to shop ahead of time and work responsibilities would have prevented it, that it took him a while to decide what he wanted, and that he couldn't have been present for a full shopping trip due to the very reason you were trying to cater to his desires, but folks are missing that and judging you for some weird reason. Brush it off and ignore the judgment.

Really, he may well be very good to you in other ways, but as an intrinsic influence on your stress levels, he sounds like a massive...spike of discomfort and worry, which will ultimately undermine your health and well-being, if not your relationship. It might be uncomfortable to consider it, but it is often better to surrender a relationship than to surrender health and well-being.

Since you've described this childish petulance and pettiness on his part as par for the course, you might want to at least consider living apart. That way, his abrasive response to the vagaries of daily life won't wear you down so much and make so many hits on your nerves.

For the record, I've had surgical procedures along the lines of what you described more than once. Regardless of what my support network was capable of or failed in, I wouldn't have been in the right to re-pick a fight repeatedly and actively look for excuses to be crappy to someone who was trying to take care of me. It shouldn't be right for him, either.
posted by batmonkey at 5:55 AM on July 18, 2012 [25 favorites]


I knew my feeling was mis-placed.

I think you're confusing feelings with behaviors and judgements, and that muddying the waters this way makes your problems much harder to address constructively. You feel the way you feel; that's just the way it is, and there's no such thing as a *feeling* that's misplaced. But a feeling is something that is very simple and factual, like "I'm angry." Anger is not yelling or accusing or sarcasm or any of the other behaviors you might associate with anger; it's just an internal state. Anger is also not the narrative that you think explains where the feeling came from, or the judgements you might make about who is righter or wronger. If it takes more than a couple of words to name your feeling, it's probably not a feeling at all; it's probably a story and/or a judgement, and stories and judgements are problematic because they insist on the correctness of a single point of view which typically frames somebody as the bad guy; this is not at all conducive to mutual understanding or collaborative problem-solving.

You can learn healthier ways of responding to feelings, and you can wait to discuss them until both you and the other people involved are ready and able to talk intelligently and with generosity and kindness (i.e. not shortly after surgery), but it's not a good idea to repress or stamp out the feelings themselves, because you can't turn off the bad feelings without also turning off the good ones. For more on this idea, take 20 minutes and watch Brené Brown's TED talk, The Power of Vulnerability.
posted by jon1270 at 5:57 AM on July 18, 2012 [11 favorites]


I knew my feeling was mis-placed.

The thing is, you can still tell your partner when that's the case. If I'm grumpy because of something at work and I come home growly, I'll say exactly that - "Sorry honey, I love you but right now I just need to bite things. I'm not mad at you but I might bite you if you get too close. Rawr!"

Or, in your case, "I felt x even though it's not really fair, but that's how I'm feeling and that plus feeling bad about feeling that way is why I was withdrawn last night."
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 6:23 AM on July 18, 2012 [10 favorites]


Gosh, I could be this guy. I can totally relate to how he's feeling. I think " L'Estrange Fruit" came closest to explaining the general gist of what's going on in your boyfriend's mind.... there's a lot of other good interpretations here too. Combine the psychological effects of thinking of one's own mortality (what I always do when in a hospital, even if in for something minor...because I know I'm AROUND very sick people) with a sense of just wanting closure and to move on, eat, and rest, and you have a scenario of being somewhat miffed even on the petty things that distract from that ideal way to end the day. It's not a purposeful feeling...it just happens. Best advice to smooth things over would be a simple apology perhaps, and then some quality time together (maybe a bottle of wine, hand holding, dinner, or movies...something nice, you both care deeply for each other so remind each other as to why), and then just both agree to let it go and move on...but with a feeling that you'll both strive to be more attentive and communicative in the future. Personally I've let my pride completely go and put myself in the background when attending to my S.O. when she isn't feeling well, and it annoys me at times that the same quality of consideration and selflessness isn't returned. But that's not really the point. I don't expect or demand it, nor strive for absolute balance...I realize these are natural human emotions...we all have them and express ourselves in different ways. What I mean to say is, it's not sexist, demeaning, or wrong to expect one to put the needs of another first in a relationship...as that should be a two way street when needed...that's what loving relationships are all about. It really means a lot to the recipient. In your boyfriend's mind, he may be relating the ham sandwich ordeal to wondering what things will be like when it's a more serious future scenario. Will you put your needs first when he's in real need? It sounds absurd I know. But these are the kind of irrational thoughts that can leak in from time to time and plant their seed. He needs to be reassured there's a strong commitment and bond underneath all the petty distractions...In my case, my s.o. could diffuse a lot by simply saying, "suck it up princess, you got me for good, I'm not going anywhere." But to each his/her own...
posted by samsara at 6:23 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


So much of this could have been avoided if you were honest about your feelings. All you needed to say was, "Hey, that hurts my feelings." That was the truth. The rest of it is static.

Tonight when you get home, say that.

"You know, I really wanted to do right by you in your recovery yesterday, and by telling me that I was selfish, you really hurt my feelings. I know you were out of sorts and not yourself, so I was giving you the benefit of the doubt. I should have told you right way about how I was feeling, but I didn't want to seem petty. I'm sorry that this got blown up out of proportion. I'd really like some acknowledgement that I'm NOT selfish and that although my efforts to cater to you yesterday didn't go as planned, that you appreciate that I was trying."

Honestly, isn't THAT what it's all about?

If your boyfriend isn't feeling better today, and doesn't see that he was being cranky and unreasonable, then you have some thinking to do.

In the future, don't be afraid to say what's on your mind. If you think you're being petty, say so, but you still feel that way.

If you don't feel comfortable discussing your feelings, then you're not in the right relationship.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:27 AM on July 18, 2012 [22 favorites]


sonika: I've absolutely had the experience of having TWO! outpatient procedures under general anesthetic and released a few hours afterwards. At least in the US, hospitals won't keep you a second longer than they have to or the insurance companies won't pay for it.

I had an interesting memail conversation with someone about this and it's apparently mostly a terminology difference between the US and the UK. In the UK we'd class this as a daycase admission. General anaesthesia under these circumstances is generally twilight sedation (i.e. GA drugs applied lightly as opposed to just oral sedation, rather than the full anaesthetic works).
posted by xchmp at 6:33 AM on July 18, 2012


YMMV, but I had a similar-sounding procedure a couple of weeks ago (dental work under heavy sedation, but not completely knocked out). My parents were the lucky ones who got to drop me off/pick me up. Let me be the first to tell you - I was a HUGE ASSHOLE to them when they picked me up and for the couple of hours they hung around my house making sure I was OK. Seriously, a MAJOR DICK. I was so messed up from the sedation that I was still super cranky and asshole-ish the next day. I can't make excuses for boyfriend's behavior, and can only speak to my own, but damn.... I was acting completely out of character for at least a day after my procedure.
posted by brand-gnu at 7:05 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wanted to show him how much I loved him by taking real good care of him.

So I shrugged and said, "okay, how about Organic Supermarket?" I was quite pleased with this idea because...

I was trying to be as accommodating as possible, but I thought...

It took away all the joy and pleasure of looking after him.


It seems to my like in your mind this was about you and how you were excited about taking care of somebody rather than actually taking care of them and that this led imposing conditions that would in any other situation be normal (we want to do things conveniently, things should be fun, people should be pleasant and forthright).

I think both people were being unreasonable but he was drugged and you told him you'd pamper him so I can understand him feeling wronged. He should definitely express appreciation for the things that you did and for the effort you put in but it is unreasonable to expect that in the moment.
posted by mountmccabe at 7:07 AM on July 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


I kind-of sympathize with your boyfriend, having had two C-sections. If it were me, and I were being a querulous jerk after a major medical procedure, and my husband decided to take umbrage about it and be upset for two days afterwards (and he also pretends nothing's wrong and look I CAN TELL, OKAY, WE'VE BEEN TOGETHER FOR TWELVE YEARS I CAN TELL), instead of cutting me some slack and forgiving me generously, I'd be pretty upset about it. I was particularly bothered that you said, "It took away all the joy and pleasure of looking after him." You weren't looking after him so YOU could have joy and pleasure; you were looking after him because he needed looking after. It really seems like you went into caring for him with a secret idealized vision of how this caretaking would go, and when instead he was grumpy and rude and so on, you couldn't cut him any slack and forgive him, because he hadn't followed the secret script.

And yes, people who are ill or recovering from a medical procedure should be as pleasant as they can. But the fact is that if you've agreed to take care of them, you're agreeing to overlook some bad behavior and chalk it up to the stress they're under.

It sounds like with some food in his stomach he became less of a grump (he "warmed up," you say), but by then you were in full-on passive-aggressive mode, pretending things were fine when he could clearly tell they weren't. And I imagine that must have been stressful for him, being able to tell that you were upset with him but you refusing to acknowledge it, and him trying to decide whether he was supposed to be playing your game or what and he just wanted to relax.

If this is a routine relationship dynamic, you guys really need to examine that, because this doesn't seem like a good dynamic. And you feel how you feel -- you can have your feelings hurt by him being a butthead when he's sick, and that's totally legitimate. But I don't think you were quite fair to him, and I think both of you could benefit from some generous forgiving of one another for minor missteps and misunderstandings.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:07 AM on July 18, 2012 [39 favorites]


You both need to improve your communication. I agree with Catseye that if he had a specific kind of ham in mind, he needed to say that upfront, and he didn't. Of course, he might have been fuzzy-headed or assumed you knew, but you can't read minds.

- I agree that the silent treatment is a very cruel thing to do. I wasn't silent. I chatted pleasantly enough, smiled at him a lot and even joked around a bit - I just was not my normal silly-voices-and-random-dancing self.

It sounds passive-aggressive. Like the young rope rider said, your partner can certainly tell the difference between "pleasant enough" chatting and normal conversation. He knows there's something you're withholding, and not only did you not divulge it, it sounds like you pretended there was nothing to divulge.

The advice to never say "I'm fine" when you're not is excellent. It's dishonest and drives a huge wedge between you and the people around you. There are other things you could say in place of that - "I need a little time to think," "I'm a little upset about X and could use some quiet time,"

Also, I personally find that once I get mad about something like this, I tend to stay mad, and revisit it interrogating it for ways it should make me more mad, and then mining my relationship history for other things like this that made me mad so I can find a pattern which can get me even more mad - and in recent years I've grown to see how (a) unnecessary and (b) damaging this is. I see some signs of this in you in the detailed way you're revisiting it and in how you don't want to let the heated part of your anger go. It is possible to just stop this cycle. My boyfriend will sometimes respond to this spiral starting by simply saying "Can we start over?" To which it's not difficult to say "yes," and go back to the original intention of the interaction, before the fight erupted.

So if you want to go home, hug, and apologize, if you want to say "let's start this over," there's nothing wrong with that. You really don't have to stuff your feelings down in order to do that. It's not an all-or-nothing, either "stuff" or "explode" proposition (definitely the mistaken kind of thing you learn when you grow up around explosive anger); you can both recognize you made too much of something, and still be honest and direct about your original feelings and where you got upset and figure out how to avoid that next time.
posted by Miko at 7:11 AM on July 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


If I were planning to take care of someone coming out of general, I'd have the food ready at the house before the surgery and a snack ready to go in a cooler in the car.

He asked her not to do this, and she couldn't have anyway: He also told me specifically not to prep lunch because he wouldn't know in advance what he wanted to eat. I was also at work all morning and went straight from the office to the doctor, so couldn't have prepped anyway.

If he'd get this sulky and petty because she couldn't guess that he wanted to go to the Big Supermarket for the special ham, I suspect he wouldn't have behaved better if she'd shown up with food that didn't meet his exacting standards. If this had been a one time thing, due to surgery, stress, hunger, etc., then I would say you should just try to move on. People act like asses sometimes. But it sounds like he has a habit of expecting perfection from you (you shouldn't spill milk and you should know why he wants to go to Big Supermarket), and that's unreasonable and unrealistic.

What you should do differently is accept that you're human and will spill milk sometimes. Stop being the silly, happy partner whose job it is to suppress your feelings and absorb all the blame.
posted by Mavri at 7:11 AM on July 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


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.

To me, this is a lot of pushback for a trivial issue. On both sides. The whole idea that he "looks scornful" when you make a suggestion is disturbing to me but so is the idea that you won't take no for an answer after your first alternative is rejected. When it's a question of which supermarket to go it, isn't the fact that one adult in the relationship wants to go somewhere good enough?

This is stuff that should be nearly free of emotional content but you are both-- as I read it-- controlling each other with displays of emotion. ("I got upset.") I think you both need to figure out how to put your foot down on these kinds of issues without it being a big emotional deal.
posted by BibiRose at 7:12 AM on July 18, 2012


This day of pampering is an odd idea.

If the surgery is truly minor, it's way too much pampering. If the surgery is major enough to warrant that much attention, then it's the wrong kind of attention. Big special dinners and desserts and doing some extra chores (?) and waiting in line in Big Supermarket are not good R&R. I find it weird that the word 'pain' never comes up once in your story.

It makes me think there was a dimension to this surgery you're not discussing (e.g. it was a vasectomy) that made you think this kind of symbolic I'm-not-really-helping-you-recuperate-I'm-making-a-demonstration-of-love treatment is a proper response.

If so, it's almost surely fallout from that larger issue.

If not, I think this plan was just bad from the outset and not really what you should be doing with someone after surgery. You guys built it up into a weird fragile thing.
posted by fleacircus at 7:19 AM on July 18, 2012 [12 favorites]


A few things.

First of all, give your guy a little credit -- if he's been with you for five years, ain't no way you were doing a good imitation of being okay. He knew you were upset. When you say you just weren't your random-dancing self ... I mean, look, this could be me. I am exactly like this; no matter how hard I try, when I am upset, I have no poker face. And it drives people who are close to me crazy sometimes, because I honestly might as well be saying, in so many words, "I am angry but I won't tell you why or participate in resolving it." So what I try to do instead is just say, "You know, I'm frustrated, and here's why," and it passes sooner.

Second of all, it's very important, I think, to learn to tolerate snappishness in relationships now and then without getting too freaked out by it. He had just had surgery. He was tired. He was overwhelmed, and according to your own account, you went round and round and round until he picked something, and then you suggested a different store. And he said no, and you suggested a DIFFERENT store. Are you being unreasonable or inconsiderate? Nah, but sometimes, people don't need pampering in the sense of food and foot rubs. They need pampering in the sense of you doing your best to create a frictionless day from their totally (temporarily) selfish perspective. And while I absolutely know you meant well (clearly!), that is not a frictionless day.

Yes, he shouldn't have been short with you the next day. You probably shouldn't have been chilly to him (which, let's face it, you were) in the first place. You were frustrated; he was frustrated. I agree with the (kinda funny) observation that the ham is a red herring. Who was right about that is totally irrelevant. What matters is how you guys navigate it. You can both apologize. You can both say, "I was legitimately annoyed, but I didn't react very well."

Don't take all the blame on yourself, but don't put it all on him either. This should have been an outbreak of garden-variety snappishness between a guy who just had surgery and the person who's genuinely trying to help. People aren't perfect, especially when they're under stress. Take something from it about how you want your relationship to work. Stop squashing your feelings, stop feeling guilty about them, stop obsessing over them. Express them with some generosity about how they collide with his and they'll fade. Squash them and they'll fester.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 7:23 AM on July 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


To give you an idea of where my answer above was coming from: reading your post reminded me of spending a weekend with my parents. Both of them used emotions to get their way, to punish each other, and various other things. I don't think either of them started out doing this on purpose to each other. But it got to the point where my father would be throwing stuff over the kind of argument you were having here. I mean literally, my mother would say she didn't want to go to the movies, and when she came back there would be stuff strewn all over the floor. It was like a kid having a tantrum. But apparently, it was unthinkable to both of them to settle the smallest difference without someone getting upset.

If I could say one thing to the both of them, now that my mother is dead and my father is too out of it to bicker most of the time, it would be: "You can have your emotions. You are allowed to be unhappy, disappointed, upset." One of my father's most irritating habits was to say, "What? I'm not allowed to get upset?" Sure, you're allowed to get upset, but I'm not going to let you use it to extort me, either.

I really think that if you stay in the pattern you are in, and especially if it starts to escalate, you are headed for a life of bickering and tantrums. And nobody getting what they want in the end.
posted by BibiRose at 7:37 AM on July 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Just anecdotally, I got into an argument about a Jimmy John's sandwich with my (at the time) boyfriend when I was in my mid twenties and he was in his early thirties, and it got pretty ugly. In our case, it was about control (or perceived control). So maybe you need to dig deeper. Is this kind of two-sided passive-aggressive behavior typical for the conflicts in your relationship? If it's not, then could this genuinely be a one-off where everyone is kinda cranky?

I think for right now, I am leaning towards both of you apologising to each other for some poor behavior on both parts and agreeing to be more verbally communicative about your feelings.
posted by sm1tten at 7:49 AM on July 18, 2012


I was in an almost identical situation last week when my boyfriend got a routine colonoscopy. I have no idea if this is what your guy got but if so, it's not just a day of not eating it's a few days of very uncomfortable prepping that are, for many people, really really unpleasant. I was also the "pick up" person and we'd agreed beforehand that we'd just head straight home and we'd ordered take-out the night before so that I wouldn't have to have conversations with spacey-boyfriend as we tried to get home.

So, seen through my eyes only, this situation has a few "oh that could have gone better" angles

- not a great idea to leave the decision about food until after the procedure when he's all low blood sugar
- you said you wanted to pamper your bf but then there was weird pushback when he told you what his choices were
- you acting like he was a rational actor when he hadn't had anything to eat and was just out of the hospital
- his scowling and sulking which continued into the next day
- your pretending nothing was wrong the rest of the day when that clearly wasn't the case
- the odd "punishment" angle where you being in a bad mood is somehow the same as you attacking him according to him

And I think both of you feel like the wronged party because, based on cues you felt like you were getting from the other person [you to him: get whatever you want! him to you: I have specific requirements] you made decisions that seemed right at the time and turned out to be problematic. And then there were "this made it worse" situations where you both feel dug in about your own hurt feelings without talking about them. This sort of righteous hurt-feelingness can make it difficult to make up because you lose sight of the relationship and trying to arrive at some sort of mutual understanding about the whole deal.
posted by jessamyn at 8:15 AM on July 18, 2012 [13 favorites]


I think you as the caretaker in this situation should give him a get-out-of-jail-free card this time. He was probably being a bastard because of the procedure/medicine/pain, and honestly, I've only ever been under general for a semi-serious but totally routine thing, and it was still pretty scary. You sign a lot of papers saying you understand the risk to your life.

Take a deep breath, choose to forgive him, tell him you're sorry, and agree to wipe the slate clean when you get home.
posted by juliplease at 8:27 AM on July 18, 2012


For future reference, OP, when picking someone up from the hospital/clinic after any procedure, the idea is to go straight home. Any side trips are additional stress on the patient. I have been groggy and grumpy like your b.f. in similar situations, and have had no patience for dicking around with various errands before heading home to my bed.

Also, the idea of "pampering" seems like something out of the 1950s...but maybe thats how you two roll...
posted by BostonTerrier at 8:32 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Please help me figure out what I should have done differently in this argument with my boyfriend"

It shouldn't have gotten to the argument level.

When you setup a 'day of pampering', you are doing it because you know he will be tired, grumpy, stressed, etc. Therefore you also recognize that he may not be on his best behavior. If he does show any of the symptoms you are wanting to help with (general discomfort and emotional), you need to roll with the punches and continue with your plan.

Instead, you bogged down because he didn't act perfectly.

That is how you should have handled it differently. Sounds like you know that already though. You just won't let yourself drop it and apologize.
posted by LeanGreen at 9:00 AM on July 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


I get cranky and unreasonable when I am tired and hungry and generally want to be left alone.
posted by Frasermoo at 9:04 AM on July 18, 2012


My immediate reaction is that what should have happened differently with this argument is that it shouldn't have happened at all. It's easy to dwell on the mechanics of what caused friction at the outset and who was reasonable or unreasonable and to what degree.

But situations like this are non-avoidable in a long term relationship. It's simple enough after the fact to see that engaging a person who has just been through a restricted diet and fasting and general anesthesia and an operation to figure out what he wants to eat and how to most efficiently procure its ingredients is a recipe for a disagreeable encounter. You won't make that mistake again but it doesn't mean you will see the next problem coming. Maybe there are couples out there who never have little bickering exchanges over negotiating the fundamental problems of making single decisions with double brains but I've never met one.

I can easily see something just like this happening from either direction between my wife and me. The difference is that, large amounts of benefit of the doubt would immediately be deployed. The cranky post-operative would not be interrogated upon their crankiness. The stung aspiring caretaker's initial visible hurt would have been noticed but not remarked upon but the cranky post-operative would have dialed back the grump, with effort. The caretaker would have actually gotten over it rather than just pretending to. It would be seriously forgotten by the next day. It would not be discussed again.

Because it's normal for a person to be cranky and unreasonable after an operation and it's normal for a person to feel hurt when their caretaking attempts are underappreciated and it isn't necessary to have a big old discussion about it if you understand one another, accept one another as humans and give one another the benefit of the doubt on whether emotional reactions or a few brief, rash words are about some dark fundamental lack of love and respect or rather just the inevitable ups and downs of human frailty.

So I guess my question would be, given that this sort of interaction is normal in a relationship, inevitable I would say, is the way you are dealing through it together something that is getting better or something that is getting worse? Some of your past questions give the impression that this relationship has some pretty significant, fundamental conflict going on. Five and a half years is a long time to be getting in this much fracas over this minor of a collision.
posted by nanojath at 9:38 AM on July 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


Lots of good advice above. Clearly, your heart was in the right place, but, unfortunately, you bungled this a bit. Taking care of people when they are sick/recovering from surgical procedures, even those we love very, very much is hard and involves a lot of letting unusual behavior go, which is far easier said than done. To me, that is the biggest mistake you made. Should he have called you selfish? No, but there are times you have to mentally say, "pssh whatever, post-surgery snappishness," and then move on like it didn't happen. Even though you felt your feelings were petty, you telegraphed very clearly that you were upset, but refused to address or resolve the issue. When someone is recovering from a procedure, that's the last thing s/he needs. You are right that talking about it probably would have just started another fight, which also would not have been appropriate. So, his assertion that you should have been able to let this go, under these particular circumstances, is not too far off the mark. It's not easy to do, but it's generally necessary when taking care of someone who is recuperating. This is definitely no longer about the ham sandwich, it was about you being passive aggressive and mad at him while he was recovering and needed some extra allowances made. I don't think continuing the argument is very productive, but acknowledging you could have handled it better and apologizing might smooth things out. You said that feels wrong somehow, but your options are limited and your boyfriend might still be feeling crappy, even though it was a minor procedure. I'm assuming this is not typical behavior from him and is specific to the whole post-op thing. If this is par for the course, however, you have far bigger issues and are being treated poorly, which is not okay. I hope this hasn't been too harsh. It is evident you care about your boyfriend and wanted this to go well, it just didn't. Good luck!
posted by katemcd at 9:38 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Jesus, I thought I wrote this in my sleep. Or we are twins. I am a "everything's fine" person and the mr. is a "why didn't you tell me you were upset, now I'm upset" person.

I'm still working on this, but two important keys to our relationship are 1) timing and 2) trust.

Timing means not bringing up difficult subjects and cutting the other person some slack when they've had a bad day at work, are tired, hungry, etc. Surgery obviously qualifies. Proper timing requires that both people be honest about where they're at. If he doesn't know I've had a terrible day or that I'm sick, he can't take that into account.

Trust - he needs to trust that you are being honest with him, which you weren't. You need to trust him that everything will be okay even if you do have a confrontation. You need to trust yourself that your feelings are valid, and that you will act on them appropriately. You need to trust that he won't explode like your parent (unless he does, and then it's time to leave).
posted by desjardins at 9:43 AM on July 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I dunno, people are chiming in about how surgery makes them behave badly, but anesthetic and pain meds seem to make me super cheerful and the idea of picking a fight over a ham sandwich with someone taking care of me horrifies me. Really horrifies me. I had an outpatient thing a couple months ago and I could not imagine treating my pickup person like that. I would be appalled at myself. Your boyfriend comes off as a really bratty jerk here, surgery be damned, and as a couple you seem to be fumbling around with each other unable to see the gist of each other's intentions. Maybe you were overly concerned with the show of taking care of him, but he sure wasn't making it easy for you.

The crankiness over the ham sandwich can be attributed to a case of the medically induced GRRRs, but his irritation the next morning with your supposed silent treatment and interpretation as a "punishment" really strikes me badly. He seriously thinks you want to punish him? He interprets you that negatively? I would be reconsidering the relationship and thinking of counselling.
posted by griselda at 9:45 AM on July 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


Also, listen to him when he says that you're acting selfishly and don't automatically get into a "who, me? I was just trying to help ... " mode. It's passive aggressive and you know that he's at least sometimes right. Don't act like a martyr.
posted by desjardins at 9:46 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


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.

This is where it should have stopped. The problem in this specific instance was that he was stressed from the run-up to the procedure and the procedure itself, and he was hungry (very hungry, apparently - low blood sugar is a really common precursor to a fight), and he was tired and just generally cranky.

When we are babies, before we learn any degree of emotional or social modulation, those conditions cause us to scream bloody murder. They're no walk in the park when we're adults, either.

He ate, he had a nap, he was better.

I realize it's easier said than done to just drop it at that point, but that's one of the things one needs to learn to do when in a long-term relationship. Just recognize that it was a dumb fight and it had more to do with his condition than anything else, and if it was relatively anomalous, see his sheepish attempt at reconciliation for what it is, and let it go.

Here is another skill I strongly advise learning: When asked if everything's all right, you need to be able to say (and it has to be okay that you are saying) something along these lines: "I guess I'm a little out of sorts from (earlier, or from whatever you're still out of sorts from). It's not you, I'm not upset at you. Just a little out of sorts and I don't want to make it your problem, you know? I love you, you're the best."

This signals that the argument remains over, it is not being reignited, and things are basically okay on the macro level, and you love each other, etc.

It also needs to be okay to answer, "Nah, I guess I'm kind of upset but I'm still in the phase where I'm having more of an emotional reaction than a considered one and I probably need a couple minutes to sort it out because this is the mindset in which big dumb unnecessary fights happen and that's not good for anyone." Or something along those lines. This way, you're answering honestly, but also not letting it spiral until you've had a moment to chew it over. That can be hard to do in the moment, but it's worth the effort.

Finally, it's vital to be able to be told you're doing something a less than optimal way, or in a way that's causing hurt feelings, and (again, if the situation is anomalous enough that the expectations of you are not wildly unreasonable) be able to just say, "You're right, I'm sorry." Then hug, the hugging's important.

Saying everything's fine when it's not is just a way to build resentment on both sides. You have the right to be upset even if it's over something dumb and you have the right to be heard. You both do. Then you work together. Be a team.

So:

I would love to just put it behind me, but the thought of hugging and apologising feels… wrong, somehow. Why is that?

From the way you describe your relationship and his anger over trivial things, it sounds like the two of you have fallen into a pattern of scorekeeping and a sort of background radiation of resentment. You feel this way because you're carrying the feeling that if you're the one to break the sulk, then he wins, and you don't want him to be the one who wins because, like I said, scorekeeping and resentment.

So on some level, what you've got is a cold war. Emotionally removed from the situation, it would be easier to see it this way: You could go home and hug and then it'd probably be over, or you could go home and keep sulking at each other and escalate a situation that's already bad enough that you needed to ask the internet how to proceed. The cost of the former is a tiny bit of pride and the cost of the latter is...well, the sky's the limit, frankly. But the cold war has put you in a mental state where either option seems worth considering and in fact you're leaning away from the former. Think about that.

You both need to be in a place where you're okay with occasionally paying the price of a tiny bit of pride. If it's always one person bending to the will of the other, then you've got a problem.

This is something that happens in long-term relationships sometimes: You're not just fighting, you're fighting about your fights and you're letting resentment take hold. It's honestly kind of toxic and this would be a good time to make some plans with your therapist to attack the issue of communication productively. You've got probably years of deeply entrenched unhealthy patterns to uproot, so sooner would be better than later.

In the short term, just go home and hug the big dope and say, "That was dumb, let's not fight anymore, okay?" Ms. Guessthis, tear down this wall.

Good luck.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:03 AM on July 18, 2012 [14 favorites]


The thing with anesthesia is that it can send a person in different directions - one person might be a bratty jerk, another person might be sweet and gentle, other people might just be themselves just a little bit dialed up or down. If this was a one-time thing I wouldn't even sweat it, and feel forewarned to know what to expect in the future after other medical procedures. (I have experience being the caretaker for loved ones after minor and major surgery, and I've seen the spectrum. There's just no way to know, not really.)

However, and this is a big however, after your update I think you really need to unpack this in therapy and not on Metafilter. Petty fights are not uncommon between you, he gets upset over the same sort of things your abusive mother used to get upset about, you tend toward passive-aggressive behavior (sorry, but that's what it sounds like), not to mention that caretaking after surgery turned into this "Day of Pampering." (Which, while not totally out there as an idea, it makes me wonder why you felt compelled to turn into this big show of How Wonderful Guessthis Can Be, rather than just focusing on the basic caretaking of someone after surgery. Especially when you know he's prone to getting upset if things are not perfectly right ...)
posted by stowaway at 10:06 AM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


The thing with anesthesia is that it can send a person in different directions - one person might be a bratty jerk, another person might be sweet and gentle, other people might just be themselves just a little bit dialed up or down

this. please don't expect everyone's reaction to these situations to be identical, similar, or even on the same planet (to both to the OP and everyone else in this thread projecting their own expectations onto Boyfriend's behaviour).

You cannot control people's reactions to stressful situations, but you can certainly control your own.

Agreed that there is an element of scorekeeping here, as well as setting expectations on an uncontrollable outcome, then getting annoyed when things didn't go according to your "secret script" (I love this description of the act of passive-aggressive expectation-setting and shall adopt it in future).

I am a person who grew up poorly socialized to confrontation in the household. As such, I've had to work very hard to stop writing romantic, overwrought novels in my own head about how This Is Exactly How This Situation Will Go Happily Ever After, et cetera. Real life and painful experience has taught me the hard way that this is setting myself up for failure.

So my advice is to recognize that, from what it sounds like here, you do have a tendency for scorekeeping, and scorekeeping only leads to drama. If you don't like drama, you'll need to learn how to be completely transparent with your emotions.

I believe there is also an element of the classic Ask vs. Guess culture at play here, too, but I'm an administrator not a shrink so I'll leave that to the experts.
posted by lonefrontranger at 10:32 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


your thinking to much.

He was hella freaking hungry. Many folks get pretty mean when hungry. Notice after he ate he was ignorant of the whole ordeal. That does not diminish what happened but its the facts of the situation.

I married into a whole family of angry when hungry people.
posted by couchdive at 11:01 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


It sounds like you were both disappointed that you didn't get the experience you were looking for--you were looking forward to taking care of him and pampering him and having him feel taken cared of and loved by the attention and he was expecting to be pleasant and un-cranky enough to make decisions about what he would like to eat and go grocery shopping and eat a ham sandwich and be pampered by you.

Yes, everyone reacts differently to general anesthesia. After I had outpatient surgery I once asked that my parents go to the store and buy me cold stone, because the ice cream they had was not good enough--not because i am a demanding brat but because the surgery and the anesthesia made me a cranky irrational monster.

While it definitely sounds like there are other issues going on between you, I would not expect rational behavior from my partner when they are sick, in pain, haven't eaten in the past 12 hours, or really tired. Post-surgery is like all of these combined.
posted by inertia at 11:16 AM on July 18, 2012


DestinationUnknown: "Surgery can make you tired and out of it, and a little "off." But I've never known it to make anyone suddenly incapable of just saying they want Boar's Head."

Just so nobody gets the wrong idea, that absolutely was not the case for me. After having my wisdom teeth out with some twilight anesthetic, I was in no condition to communicate with anybody until after I'd been home and taken a four hour nap. Hell, I don't even remember getting home. I remember leaving the doctor's office and getting in the car, then opening the door to puke out the side of the car on the way home, then pretty much nothing until after I woke up again. The next day, after having plenty of opiates to kill the pain, I was the happiest I've ever been in my life to go with my SO to the mall and watch her shop for clothes. I never do that. So yes, anesthesia and pain meds will make people weird.

guessthis, I'm generally one of the folks harping "communication!" all the time. This is actually not one of those times. He probably doesn't even have any coherent memory of what happened before waking up from his nap. Expecting him to apologize for something he did while he was under the influence and can't even remember clearly is a bit much, I think. If you want him to understand what's going on, thus giving him the chance to understand why his behavior at breakfast was unreasonable, you will have to tell him, though. Yeah, it sucks, but you're the one who knows what happened. He's almost certainly reacting to the reaction, not the actual "slight".
posted by wierdo at 12:07 PM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seconding FAMOUSMONSTER.

Illness or a hospital visit is a time of extreme vulnerability for many people. They may react like a child, a.k.a., regress. I have seen this happen several times with love one. People of normal or even good character turning fussy, tyrannical about food. "How could you feed me this! Don't you love me?"

Without drawing conclusions about yourself, about your own ability as a caretaker, I would just try to give both you and your boyfriend a free pass. For a day, he needed to be cared for and babied. You were momentarily surprised by this. It didn't work out.

You need to talk about this, surely-- as everyone else is saying. But really, I think you did the wise thing by not forcing a discussion on top of everything. The last thing a sick hungry person wants is a relationship discussion. That might just be your way.

Maybe if you could express your feelings about this episode to each other, calmly, it would really help. I don't think you really need a script for this.
posted by kettleoffish at 12:14 PM on July 18, 2012


Several people have said that by trying to hide your irritation, you were being passive-aggressive. I don't see the evidence for that. "Passive-aggressive" means trying to manipulate someone by striking out at them in an indirect and deniable way so as to avoid taking responsibility for said aggressive behavior. I think your behavior was just plain passive. You were trying to "act normal" in order to avoid conflict, and you didn't see your own irritated feelings as legitimate.

If your boyfriend's scowling and pickiness were a rare thing, I would agree that letting it go without comment would be best. Your feelings, though, would still be legitimate and fine - not a problem to be solved. I think the problem here is that you and your boyfriend both believe otherwise.

And you're saying that your boyfriend's snappishness over trivial things is not rare. In this light, your irritation seems not only like a normal response to rude behavior, but like a part of you trying to grapple with the fact that your boyfriend treats you shabbily. I don't think you should be trying to get over it.
posted by Mila at 12:58 PM on July 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


If guessthis had indicated this behavior was wildly out of the norm for her BF, then maybe I would have assumed he'd had an unusual reaction to the anesthesia. I'd also think that if that was the case, he'd be relatively normal by the next day. But he was still acting like a child the next day (he was scowling and monosyllabic ...I asked him what was up and he said he was just giving more of what he got last night...He started telling me how selfish I was to treat him like this when he was recovering...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....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...) And according to the follow-up, this kind of thing is not uncommon for them.

I feel like if the question had been phrased differently, with the surgery and subsequent behavior as one incident in a long relationship full of things like him getting mad at her for spilling milk and her trying to "work on it," people would be all "Gaslighting! DTMFA!" Now, it may not be that extreme. But it does seem like a fine line between you both trying to accommodate each other's irrational reactions to certain things, and you constantly half-afraid of what he'll pick on next. The people I talked about in my comment above, who mostly deal well with partners like this, they're...well, it's not that the relationships are bad exactly. But there's sort of a sad acceptance about them, they know there are aspects of a functional, grown-up relationship that they will never have. But these are decades-long marriages, so it's worth it to put up with that for them. I don't know. I just hope with all your working on stuff, guessthis, he is also working on his stuff for you.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 1:04 PM on July 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


I feel like if the question had been phrased differently, with the surgery and subsequent behavior as one incident in a long relationship full of things like him getting mad at her for spilling milk and her trying to "work on it," people would be all "Gaslighting! DTMFA!"

I'm not sure what you're getting at here. That if there were a long history of irrational, half-violent belittlings over tiny problems, people would feel differently?

I mean, I think I agree, but I'm not sure what that proves. I think you're taking perhaps a darker view of the next day's behavior than I am, because I admit that when I read questions, I usually have a sort of adjustment in mind where everybody's behavior is adjusted 20 percent up or down according to the fact that most people ascribe more innocent motives to themselves than to others, simply because they know their own feelings. She knows she didn't mean anything by it and just reacted in the moment; he may well have done the same.

What she's calling "scowling and monosyllabic" the next day is probably exactly what he thinks she was doing when she was not what she terms her usual happy dancing self -- that is, cool and remote. And then ... he started telling her how selfish she was? I have no idea whether that means he berated her for ten minutes about how she was "so selfish," which is one thing, or whether that means he said, "I feel like you were more concerned about your shopping trip and not wanting to make two trips than you were just getting me some lunch so I could go home," and she rightly concluded that the underlying accusation there is selfishness, or whether it's somewhere in between, that he said, "It seems kind of selfish to me that you get all focused on the most efficient shopping strategy when I'm trying to get home from being under." Similarly, she says "castigated," but that's so editorial, you know? I don't know what it means. I don't assume it means what I think you're assuming it means.

And note, she didn't say that he berates her all the time and that's not unusual; she said they fight over petty things and that's not unusual.

Yes, if she had said, "He screams at me because I spill the milk and he makes me pick up crumbs off the floor on my knees, and I cannot please him," I would react differently, because those are different facts. There is a TON that we don't know, and I think everybody (including you, but also including others) is trying to give the best insights they can based on what they have, rather than trying to guess what goes in all those blanks. Because yes, sometimes women who are emotionally beaten down (at the very least) talk all the time about how they're just trying to be better for their boyfriends, but sometimes women who are kind of hooked on patterns of high emotion do that, too.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 1:26 PM on July 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure what you're getting at here.

I don't think I'm "getting at" anything. I just think that sometimes questioners, because of their emotional state or situation, ask questions in a way that make their own behavior (or another party's) look worse than most reasonable people would deem it to be. Often the fuller details that illuminate this come out in follow-ups. And I think (obviously I don't know what their relationship is like IRL) that this might be one of those questions. The OP was asking about a particular situation, but it sounded to me (and some others) as if this situation was not a one-off, but part of a pattern. And her follow-up seemed to confirm that. And if that's true, and this kind of whining and lashing out on the part of her boyfriend is a common feature of the relationship, then this is a pretty crappy way to be treated. But because she only asked about the surgery day and what she did wrong, most of the answers have to do with "surgery makes people act weird" and "your bad qualities are X, Y, and Z." Not saying the OP doesn't have some of these bad qualities, it's impossible to tell. But I think she may have been overly hard on herself and a lot of people picked up on that and were overly hard on her in answering.

I've been helped before by being told, after asking a question, "You're asking the wrong question here." She may not be asking the wrong question, but it seems pretty possible that she's not asking the whole question. If she'd said, "This was totally out of the blue and he's never been like this before," then I guess the answer would be "Don't ever expect much of your boyfriend after he's had surgery in the future" and that would be that. But she's ashamed at feeling sad for being treated badly, and apparently this is not the first time she's felt like that.

I'm guess I'm saying if she'd written "For the past 5.5 years my BF has gotten irritated with me for small things like spilling milk. He'll also be very vague in conversation and not tell me what he wants for some time. When this happens we end up fighting over these petty things, and I feel bad. But I try to pretend I feel OK because it's wrong to feel bad. But that doesn't always work, and he's sullen with me anyway. My mom also faulted me for little mistakes and sometimes yelled and hit me over them. I'm in therapy about this. Recently BF and I had a fight about a ham sandwich...etc." If she'd asked that way, which - my paraphrasing aside - would be an accurate description, I think the answers would have gone a different way. It might not be all that "dark," it might be totally solvable with therapy or extensive talking, but as it is now it really does not sound like a pleasant way to live.

I agree those words are editorial but if her intent was to get people on her side, it didn't work. She could totally be a drama queen, but that's not the vibe I got. Of course she's totally free to disregard every assumption I've made if they're all wrong.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 2:14 PM on July 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


most of the answers have to do with "surgery makes people act weird" and "your bad qualities are X, Y, and Z."

I don't think that's the case at all. I don't think that's in any way what was said, and I think it's counterproductive to advise her to read people's reactions that way.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 2:27 PM on July 18, 2012


[This back and forth basically needs to end here, take this to MeMail please.]
posted by jessamyn at 2:28 PM on July 18, 2012


I'm a planner (as it sounds like you are, guessthis), love being efficient, and I can get overly excited about doing nice things for my boyfriend. One time I put a bunch of effort into planning a whole exciting day of activities for his birthday, but it turned out that he just wasn't that interested in what I had planned for us. We ended up fighting. I was hurt--I had put so much thought into it, I thought he would love it (who wouldn't?!), and I did it all for him!

It's easy to feel like he was the jerk in that situation, but really I prioritized what I thought he'd like over what he actually wanted at the time. And I got lost in all the planning and timing and excitement. I always need to remind myself to be in the moment and pay attention to the person I'm with and what their needs are at the time.
posted by dede at 5:16 PM on July 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I haven't read all the answers, but not eating for 8 hours, let alone 24 or 36 seriously fucks up my moods, even once I've eaten.

Anesthesia fucks me up for days.

Since this is common, it makes sense to work through your communication patterns, but for me surgeries are such a one-off that I wouldn't focus on this particular instance as being significant.
posted by small_ruminant at 5:34 PM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've been reading these responses with a lot of interest, as my boyfriend and I often get into similar fights. Here's my take, based on my own experience:

- You come from an abusive background. You are trying to be The Perfect Pampering Girlfriend.
From reading your previous questions, I think you are trying too hard to be perfect. (I know, I suffer from this too.) Then your fiance seems to be taking advantage of this by demanding that you are perfect and picking at you in a not very nice way.

- I would re-post this question about other incidents that are more everyday and don't involve surgery, etc. I think you would get higher quality answers that address your real concern.

- What happens when you don't stuff your feelings down, and let him know that you're upset?
posted by 3491again at 7:55 PM on July 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


Ooh, just remembered my other point: Your other questions illustrate a LOT of issues in your relationship. You support him and he doesn't work on selling his art. He doesn't fit in with your family. And more. I think you guys need to get some help for these issues before you get married.
posted by 3491again at 12:39 AM on July 19, 2012


Hi everyone, just a brief update. When I got home last night it turned out that my boyfriend had come across this thread and was following the whole thing. He very rarely visits here, so this was unexpected.

I think it helped us both to read the responses I've received here. We had quite a long chat about it all, and have finally hugged it out. He apologised for being cranky (he remembers the episode) and thanked me for my thoughtfulness; I apologised for not being upfront about my feelings.

So this fight, and this specific thread, are resolved. Those of you who have picked up on broader issues in the relationship are on to something, though. Irritability is an issue for him, over-sensitiveness is an issue for me. We are talking about these things a lot, and are both pursuing therapy separately, would go together if needed. We have also both changed a lot since the early days of the relationship, when these problems were a lot worse, not even identified as 'problems'. Talking last night revealed that we harbour unnecessary fears about each other's reactions because we're not paying attention to how much we've both changed. My fear and shame yesterday was a nod to the kind of irritability he used to exhibit back before we talked about it and he resolved to change.

So in a nutshell: yes, there are difficulties which don't have anything to do with ham sandwiches, but we're aware and we're working on them. The ham sandwich was a good way of bringing the things we still need to work on to the fore. Thanks so much for all your insights.
posted by guessthis at 1:10 AM on July 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


Your situation is so, so similar to ours, and I can tell you that you will benefit greatly from a few counseling sessions together in which you can work on your communication skills.

One thing that has helped me a lot when facing irritability is to act as if it were not directed at me personally. (It's usually caused by something that has nothing to do with you; in this case, the anesthesia.) You don't have to figure out what's causing it and you don't have to fix it (that's his job). Just mentally brush it off. You will see an immediate benefit to your relationship because you've disengaged from his mood and not added fuel to the fire with your own hypersensitivity. His irritability will fade on its own; you just need to get out of the way. Sometimes literally. Go for a walk.
posted by desjardins at 7:18 AM on July 19, 2012


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