It's clear that my partner thinks I'm not as thoughtful as he is. How can I become more thoughtful - or prove to him that I am being thoughtful - without keeping a tally sheet or going crazy?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (22 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
My SO and I have been together about 10 years. For the most part, we get along incredibly well. He's my best friend and I enjoy spending time with him. But occasionally, we will get into a fight and as he's mad all the things that I do that piss him off - from the tiny to the elephant in the room things - come out. The connective theme seems to be that he does more for me, and more thoughtfully, than I do for him. And to this, I feel completely helpless and unable to make it better.
Honestly, it's true. He's an exceptionally thoughtful person by anyone's standards - gift giving, chores around the house, considering me in planning and purchasing, communication.
And me? Well, I'm a good gift giver, but after 10 years together, he doesn't *need* anything that we wouldn't just get on the spot (or would take up too much room in the house). I am less of a planner (and budgeter) than he is and I'm trying - with apps, journals, Getting Things Done - to plan and communicate my plans better so he knows I'm taking his needs into account. And I'm trying to communicate, but there are things I feel like don't matter (that end of mattering and I didn't tell him - like the social plans I make that I know he's not taking part in, or my plans to rearrange something that ends up getting in his way) and things that matter a lot to me that don't actually effect him that stress him out when I talk about them (like my job, what I'm doing at work).
When we're doing good in other aspects of life, I feel like we're in a good rhythm, but when one of us is (or both of us are) stressed, he gets resentful and I start forgetting to be thoughtful, communicative, etc. which leads to more stress and all that.
I would really love some tips, tools, practices, whatever that would help me learn to be more thoughtful. When we're fighting, I get really insecure and defensive and paranoid he's going to leave me - or I think maybe he'd be better off without me and then feel guilty about wanting him to stay. I don't think it'll stop the typical couple's fights during stressful times, but it would make me feel like I was doing something to improve the situation and deserve him. It would also make me feel much better about considering things that are important for us to do but would bring stress into our lives (moving to another state, having a baby, etc.) without thinking (irrationally) that it would tear us apart since even when he's mad, he's very clear that he loves me and wants me as a partner, even if he doesn't like me right in that moment. (I am a jerk in a fight and say things like, "Well, go ahead and leave me, then!")
Some other facts (since I can't thread sit anonymously):
- My previous long term relationships have been passive-aggressive at best and my last long term relationship broke up mostly because my ex was the selfish/thoughtless one in that relationship
- My SO is a very clear and direct communicator (and can be somewhat harsh, especially when stressed or pissed) and his previous relationships lived or died on that
- This is the longest relationship for both of us
- I am "working on myself" with therapy, "self care" and meds to take care of mild depression/anxiety/poor reaction to stress
- I am not asperger's or anything. Over the years, others have told me I'm empathetic, thoughtful, etc. - but in limited doses/big dramatic acts, rather than in a sustained, long term thoughtfulness (previous roommates, ex boyfriends have not considered me as thoughtful as coworkers and friends think I am)
- My thoughtlessness is less about big, dramatic and more about not taking his needs into consideration when I make choices on my own in little/ongoing matters
- I do "use up" a lot of my thoughtfulness on people who are less important to me than him - friends, acquaintances, work commitments
- Couples therapy is really not in the cards - and having gone through that with my last relationship, I don't think it would help
- It feels like he has a much better memory than I do. He can name lots of thoughtful things he's done for me in the heat of the moment, but me, I'm just like, "um, I do... I kinda take care of stuff?"
tl;dr = How does one become more thoughtful? I want to be a thoughtful person, but I'm not on a steady basis.