I'm confused by my boyfriend's criticisms of my personality. I can't tell if they're legitimate problems I should work on in this relationship because I will encounter the same issues with most perceptive guys, or if it's a sign that he'll never fully accept who I am.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (82 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
We've been together about a month and a half. We were acquaintances for six months prior, and one day he finally confessed his crush to me and asked me out. At the start he moved crazy fast. He made us facebook official on our second date and told me he loved me on our fourth. He showered me with affection, and it was such a refreshing change from my previous relationship. Aside from being concerned about the pace, I was happy and excited too. I am slow to open up but I was gradually feeling less anxious around him, and just kind of letting the connection happen at a natural-for-me pace.
I should mention, for context, that my boyfriend is prone to depression, generally pessimistic and often critical of other people, although I should qualify that by saying there are certain people he only praises. (He is also super smart, adorable in lots of respects, and sweet most of the time.) He told me early on that he felt "euphoric" about us and that I "equal happiness." I remember being concerned at the time he would make me responsible for his happiness, but I also thought maybe it was just early relationship butterflies.
A few weeks ago something changed. He suddenly seemed depressed, he started canceling our plans last minute and making excuses. He did make an effort to reschedule and follow through on most of those commitments, and it's true that this change coincided with an increase in work stress for him. His job was essentially on the line. I also noticed he seemed a bit more distant when we were together but he continued to tell me he loved me.
Initially I asked him if anything was wrong and he was insistent it had nothing to do with me. Then one day he gave me a chilly, rude goodbye in the morning. I couldn't figure out why. Later that day he apologized, unprompted, and said he was feeling vulnerable and scared about where "this might go." I asked him what he meant and he told me that he felt like he barely knew me because I always seem nervous around him. He said I never smile, he's never heard me belly laugh, and I always look like a "scared bird." He told me when we are together he always has a great time but because I seem unhappy he feels like he's just "entertaining himself." He told me he loves me but wants to see me unwind if I am comfortable with that. He said that he is afraid of forcing himself into something when he barely knows me. He also said something I didn't understand about how I'm trying to "force a fake connection" and expecting him to be ideal and never cancel plans (both untrue).
I felt hurt because my shyness is one of my insecurities. But there's definitely a kernel of truth to what he said -- it does takes me longer than most people to open up, to laugh and be goofy. I told him this when we started dating. This was the biggest problem that my last boyfriend had with me. My ex was also very impatient with my social awkwardness and the more he criticized me for not relaxing, the stiffer I became. But I partly chalked that up to him not being the nicest person in general. A couple of my other boyfriends were much more patient with me and I was eventually able to be myself around them. But they were also detached, really laid back guys and I've discovered I'm attracted to guys who are more present and perceptive. They just don't seem to like me, at least the ones I've dated haven't.
To get back to my new relationship, I felt a bit pressured and hurt when he told me all this and mentioned the idea of us possibly breaking up. Something just felt off to me. He talked me out of it, said he really wanted to keep seeing me. That was only about a week ago but since then he's been making more effort -- he hasn't cancelled on me again, he bought me a toothbrush to keep at his place. Last night, though, he was being critical of me again when we were picking a movie to watch.
He said, "I still don't understand your taste. All the movies you've presented me with (he used the word "present") are so serious. Don't you ever watch anything you know goofy or campy or light hearted?" I responded, "Of course, but I didn't realize I was making a presentation to you of my taste or that my taste was on trial. I've just thrown on movies that I've been in the mood for and I guess they happened to be more serious." He teased me that my taste was "hoighty toighty." All of this was delivered in a tone that was somewhere between annoyance and joking, but closer to annoyance, so I wasn't quite sure what to make of it.
This morning he woke up at 8:30 and I was still in bed. I worked until eleven last night and wanted to sleep in since I had the day off. He remarked as he was leaving (this was at 8:30), "You're really not a morning person are you? I've never seen someone who has so much trouble getting out of bed in the morning." I responded, "Whatever, I had a long night last night." He then softened it with, "It's cute."
I feel kind of unfairly criticized. I know I have a tendency to be somewhat sensitive and I can't tell if I'm overreacting. It's also true that I take awhile to open up, so if I break up with him I may just keep encountering this problem with guys I'm attracted to.
Other things to mention. I've been very supportive of him through his daily struggles and we've talked about them at length. The few times I've sent out a feeler for support he hasn't responded. Once I sent him this text: "feeling a bit down today" and didn't get a response back. Another stressful day I sent him, "I need a hug." He didn't respond to that either. I haven't talked that much about my problems so I don't think he could accuse me of asking for too much support, and since he's kind of rebuffed my feelers I've been reluctant to. But again, maybe I'm overreacting?
Also he very rarely asks me any questions about myself, and this is perhaps part of the reason it's been difficult for me to open up around him. He's been *a bit* better about doing that since I mentioned to him that he needs to ask me more questions.