Because the first step to finding a solution is labeling the other person's behavior
June 4, 2007 5:54 PM Subscribe
I'm having difficulty interacting with Mr. Anonymous. I'm looking for a label to describe how he behaves so I can do some reading and work out some strategies for handling our interactions better. There's
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (66 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Mr. Anonymous frequently finds offense or insult in things I say and do, then retaliates by ignoring me, even though I'm unaware I've done anything to upset him. It's beginning to take a toll. I can give an actual example and a generic description of the dynamic. Would some MeFites care to weigh in and provide a label for either his behavior or our dynamic? At heart I want to improve our relationship, but right now I just need some coping strategies and can't see the forest for the trees. We've been together a little more than 5 years and this is a chronic problem. These events happen about once a week. Here's a real-life example:
Me: Would you handle dealing with the contractor about the exterior and the garage?
Me: I don't think it makes sense for me to be a go-between on areas you requested work for. Also, I don't think I can watch Toddler Anonymous and meet for two hours with the contractor at the same time, and then spend my free time in the evening filling you in on the meeting.
Him: Fine. [A bit curt. He begins to gather his things to leave for work in a very clipped and efficient way.]
Me: Have I said something to upset you?
Him: No. [Now very curt].
He makes no eye contact with me and says nothing for the next 20min.
Me: You said you're not upset, but when you stop talking to me and start rushing to leave I think you are angry with me.
Him: Is that so? See you later.
He then more or less avoided me for the next two days (while at home he retreated to his office, came to bed later than me, would not start or continue conversations with me, etc.) before I got upset with him and we had a blow-out.
Here's my take on how the dynamic usually plays out in a generic fashion:
Me: Neutral remark or request
Him: Silence and withdrawal for a number of hours. He often doesn't tell me he's upset and, if I don't notice, this can go on for a full day or two.
Me: Noticing and asking if something's wrong. No idea I've done something.
Him: Tells me I offended him and usually claims it was intentional, which justifies his upset. He often has to specify the event because it's so small I cannot identify it.
Me: An apology for offending him (but without taking on the "intentionally malicious" claim) and explanation for my behavior.
Him: Silence, withdrawal, refusing to interact with me for another extended period.
Me: I also begin to ignore him. Eventually I confront him and express upset at being punished disproportionately for my actions.
Him: Or he eventually approaches me saying, more or less, to stop being controlling and ordering him around. Also I should be more polite (say please after requests, wait until a better time, not interrupt him, etc.).
Me: Point out that he could have said no to my request or tried to negotiate a compromise or asked to talk about it later or pointed out why he could not meet the request. When I ask if he could do this rather than ignoring me for hours at a time, he again says some variation of "You meant to offend me" or "No, just because you want me to do it doesn't mean I have to."
Then the full-fledged argument begins.
What's going on here? Is he paranoid, depressed, insecure, a bully, all of the above? No one in my life (including ex's) has had this issue with me and I'm getting tired of the work it takes just to get through small transactions with Mr. Anonymous.
Context: We've been in therapy for other issues but stopped for some scheduling reasons and never resumed. (I don't think our counselor was very adept. Every time we came up against a hard issue she'd say "we'll save it for next time" and ask us not to talk about it during the week, but then we'd never re-address it. I called her on this a few times and she basically said some people just get along better if they avoid issues. I said I wasn't one of them. So I never rescheduled after a missed meeting.) Yes, therapy might work but in this case I'm looking for other suggestions and specifically a concise label for his or our dynamic that will help me find some strategies for dealing with it.