My boyfriend and I both hate making each other feel bad. Does this mean we can't talk about things that aren't going well? He in particular feels very hurt when I bring up things that are bothering me.
posted by segfault to Human Relations (22 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
First, I just want to point out that I'm a noob at relationships and expressing myself and even just knowing what I want or what's bothering me or why. But I do think communication is paramount and that it's important to talk it over when the inevitable conflicts of two humans trying to fit their lives together come up.
I've been seeing this guy for a short time (we're in our mid 20's), and I've noticed that he might not share quite the same view. The first few times I brought up something that was bothering me, he's immediately expressed feeling really bad about it, and then that makes me feel bad. Occasionally I've even mentioned something offhand that I've noticed about him that he's taken to mean I didn't like it, and thereafter never did it again. It's possible that I'm just really bad at expressing myself and came across as critical?
Lately I've been scared to say anything to him that might sound like a criticism or a complaint. We're both a little over-sensitive and hate making people feel bad. The problem is that I've been feeling like I'm unable to communicate with him, and that's making me feel helpless and resentful. The other night, I wound up crying on him about it (ugh, overreaction much?) when it all came rushing out. Of course he felt terrible, I felt terrible, hence this question.
As an example, let me tell you what the source of conflict was. I was feeling miffed about some of the activities we did together, which seemed to be basically him leading his normal life and me observing him. For example, we'd be setting up the computer to watch Netflix together, and he'd start checking his work email. Being in bed with him, at his apartment, I really had nowhere to go and no way to similarly entertain myself, especially since I couldn't predict whether this would be a minute's distraction or 10. Similarly, I didn't like that I spent a lot of time waiting for him to get home from work (since he was always getting stopped on his way out the door to answer more questions, making it impossible to time when I should leave work myself), or that we did a lot of his hobbies together (because I liked them) but none of mine (because he didn't).
Obviously, telling him this while crying was not going to end well. He was so hurt, and I immediately realized that 1) I did like being part of his life and getting to know him in this way, and 2) if I didn't like the activities we were doing together, I should just stop them and propose an alternate, and 3) when you open your computer of course your instinct is going to be to check your email, what's not normal about that? and 4) in any case none of these were big enough deals to actually cry over. I immediately started trying to take back everything I said, but the damage had already been done and he was already feeling bad and I was feeling bad and it was in general a bad time. Now he feels like he can't do his thing around me and we have to try one of my hobbies at least once a week and he has to let me make all the decisions about what we do together or I'm going to be mad at him. I just want to undo that whole conversation.
So, this is where I need help. If I don't talk to this guy, I wind up spewing my crazy at him all in a concentrated dose, which is unacceptable. If I do, it usually winds up going similarly to this, but less dramatic: he's hurt, I rationalize for him, we have sad hugs and secretly wonder if we're even compatible (I presume).
I guess my questions are two-fold.
0) What on earth is wrong with me? I have a very critical mother. Maybe I'm turning into her. No, I know you have no way of answering this.
1) What should I do when I start to get bothered by something that we're doing? Especially when I don't blame him for it in any way or even quite know why it bothers me? Is the right approach to be more aware of my needs (somehow) and gently steer us away from things I don't like as they're happening? Or is it to diary about it and deal with these problems that don't even matter on my own? I like to think I'm very good at seeing from his point of view, so I understand why he's doing a lot of these things, and I like making him happy, so I do enjoy them, somewhat. I don't think he's a bad person for it and I don't want to hurt him for such petty complaints.
2) Can you help me understand this mentality? Why does he feel so hurt when I tell him, "Oh hey, I thought about it, and I'm actually not really into this show you suggested after we tried the first episode."? I'm pretty sensitive myself, so I more than understand a fear of criticism (I sometimes think of him as me, but ~5 years ago). But fearing criticism myself, I've always thought I was good at saying things in the nicest way possible, explain that I don't blame him for it or think less of him for it. But he said something like, he has to feel bad or he won't remember and change his behavior. He's also never told me anything I was doing that bothered him, so maybe in his mind we're not supposed to talk about things like this.
I understand that not all relationships are destined to work, or work easily, but I just wonder if there's any way for this one to, since the problem seems to be that we both care too much.