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Is it me or is it you?
February 23, 2008 4:41 PM   Subscribe

I am having difficulty figuring out whether our arguments are normal in a relationship or whether they're poisonous.

I'm in my late 20's in my second serious relationship with a girl, the relationship has been going for about six months so it's still fairly new. I have some questions regarding arguments/discussions/conflict resolvement in a relationship. These questions are very difficult to formulate clearly so I will try and use specific examples to illustrate my points. I am looking for general advice (any level) drawn from literature and/or personal experience.

We generally get on well, however, sometimes arguments are triggered on perceptions on her part of what I *might* be implying

Example: Last week where I went to see her for valentines -- we were sitting at a table in a restaurant and I had been with her for 2 days.

I asked her "how much have I spent in the last 2 days?" and went on to recount. The idea being (honestly) that as she was with me she would be able to plug any holes in the recount.

I then proceeded to total up (verbally) the amounts. Her reaction was a very sharp, spiteful "don't worry, I'll pay you back", at which point I reassured her this had nothing to do with me outlining my spending it was just me working out numbers so I have a rough idea of what's in my account.

While this is a specific example, I find myself having to defend myself on many similar to this -- where I have no ill intention and it seems to be perceived as a direct attack and/or accusation.

b) Actual arguments. There are some things about the arguments which I find a little bit insulting:

i. She will always call me to attention like I'm a schoolboy. "Come here right now, stand here and tell me what you meant about x,y,z".

I have talked to her about this but it doesn't change. My hackles rise considerably when I'm addressed like I'm a little kid. However, I'm open to the idea that this may actually be the way she initiates a discussion/argument. She says it's so.

ii. Arguments always seem cyclical and never-ending. I hate to say this but I sometimes feel like no matter what the starting issue I am going to end up hammered. Usually she starts off on something small and recent then progressively brings in things that happened longer and longer ago, some of which have been discussed and (allegedly) resolved long long ago.

It only ever stops when it turns into a blazing row where I take a time-out to go sit somewhere else as that changes the focus of the argument. Then, a regroup is called for, and things slowly sorted out.

iii. Nothing is ever let "go". I grew up in an environment where my parents would let small petty issues or arguments just go without discussion of every single detail. Example, a discussion/argument on the dinner table about my dad getting home late may end up in a change of subject and generally forgotten. With her she will bring up every single small issue for MAJOR discussion, sometimes weeks later. Again, I accept I have seen one p-o-v and other argument/resolvement models may work this way.

iv. In the argument she will attack me transitively. "Oh, you think because you went to XXX you are soooo clever" or "oh, you think you're the only one who can do ABC" etc... -- these attacks are SHARPLY attacking me as an individual and my character/personality.

Sometimes I take the bait (more out of frustration) and respond with "yes, yes I can -- so what?" which escalates things a lot.

v. The thing bothering me the most -- when we argue, she often ends up in a flood of tears and very very distraught when in actual fact the argument is NOWHERE as serious.

Case in point, the above example of the money count had her crying almost hysterically and me feeling really bad but not knowing why she was so upset about it. Even worse, sometimes she strikes out (half-heartedly) when upset. It's never intended to hurt so I'm not accusing her of being an abuser but I can't help feeling a little bit shocked at how upset she seems to get over seemingly not-so-serious things. Her response to this is that she is a very passionate person who feels deeply about things, which again, I am willing to accept because it seems plausible

I realise this is a long, open-ended question but I would ask for advice. Have other me-fites been with people who have exhibited this sort of behaviour? I would like to think yes, this is normal and she just comes from a different background/upbringing as myself. However, the reason I ask is because I'm not so sure anymore.
posted by gadha to Human Relations (64 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
It might be that these things are normal for some people and not others. Bear in mind that what matters is whether you can enjoy a relationship and feel trusting and relaxed with her. To me, this kind of insecurity, grudge-holding and nastiness would be totally unpleasant and I would not want to be in a relationship like that. Other people might find it normal.

What matters is whether the two of you are well-matched in temperament etc, and whether you can work together on improving this part of your interactions. If you aren't, or can't, then it doesn't matter whether in the abstract this behavior is normal or not.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:52 PM on February 23, 2008


I'm confused why you were recounting the amount of money you were spending on her in the first place. Were you bragging or angry about it? I'm all for dutchness, but sounds like you were trying to impress her with the amount of money you spent on her. If you spent it on her, and wanted to, that should be its own reward, no? And she should feel thankful for it.

I'm not without sin in this regard, but definitely know that recounting money spent on someone basically takes away any benefit of spending it in the first place.
posted by sully75 at 4:53 PM on February 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


The thing bothering me the most -- when we argue, she often ends up in a flood of tears and very very distraught when in actual fact the argument is NOWHERE as serious.

Well, that's your opinoin. Your girlfriend is taking your arguments seriously, and why shouldn't she? The kind of arguments you've laid out sound toxic, frustrating, and detrimental to your relationship (I have to imagine her side of the story, since you conveniently left it out of this post entirely). You two need to work on your communication skills- that is entirely normal for dating relationships. Read some books together, talk about things as they come up instead of stewing, figure out if you two will be able to make your relationship work instead of making your relationship Work.

On preview, sully75 brings up something I was wondering- you're talking dollars on Valentine's Day? Geesh.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:54 PM on February 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


I can't speak to the rest (it sounds to me like you guys aren't communicating very well,) but to your example.

I would feel very defensive if my husband, in the midst of a giving holiday, started to make account of how much he'd spent on me. I'd feel guilty; I'd also feel as though he were trying to tell me that the amount of money he spent was burdensome because he didn't really want to spend it, he felt he *had* to.

And yes, I'd probably cry, because when somebody you love makes you feel unworthy, it hurts.
posted by headspace at 4:55 PM on February 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


Seriously, she sounds like she has some serious self esteem issues. She needs you to feel small so she can believe that she has control over the relationship. Crying over you figuring out how much money you've spent is way over the line. If you have this many issues this early in a relationship, you need to give some serious consideration to the question of whether it's worth it or if it ever will be. Life's too short to spend all day explaining yourself.
posted by MasterShake at 4:57 PM on February 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


Yes. Yes I have been with someone like that. I ended up marrying him after 9 years and it ended very badly. With him going to jail.

This might be termed "crazymaking" behavior, if you want to look it up.

I made up a TON of excuses because I was in love, the sex was great and I felt sorry for him because of the way he was raised.

If you are questioning this, ask yourself what advice you would give to a sibling of yours, or a close friend. Sometimes your emotions and feeling sorry for people can lead you to allow them to overstep your boundaries.

Sounds like she is overstepping boundaries, whether intentionally or not, and only you can decide whether or not you can handle this. You can keep putting up with it, get yourself to counseling, go to counseling together, or break it off and say "phew!" No one choice is the best, you have to decide how much you love this person to want to try and save the relationship or go nuts trying to work it out.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:01 PM on February 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


1. The money issue: It was not valentines day and the reason for the recount was to figure out which checking account to use. So I wasn't trying to impress or depress I was just trying to get an accurate assessment. We often do discuss money at this level with each other but this was just an example. I can provide others if needed.
posted by gadha at 5:03 PM on February 23, 2008


The last three posters have said that they can understand the money thing being misconstrued, which is fair enough. Apart from that though (as that was only one example), I have to say that her behaviour sounds toxic. Not so much that you have arguments, or that she sometimes misunderstands your actions, but the way she deals with that.

In my book, if you've asked her to stop something and explained why ("I don't like you talking to me like I'm a schoolboy"), and she continues, it's a huge mark against her. If she brings personal attacks into a discussion, it's a huge mark against her. If I can't have a discussion without fearing all the things you've described, and if I feel that she'll always 'win' it, it's a huge mark against her.

I'm assuming that you've spoken to her about these things. I'm assuming you've laid out how it makes you feel, that you would prefer it if discussions were resolved without xyz, and that she hasn't really taken that on board.

I can't say if this is 'normal' or not, but I hope to high heaven that it's not. To me, most of these things are just unacceptable. It sounds like you're not too happy with them either. If you can't ask her reasonably to change (and you have every right to feel equal, to be able to discuss things without being attacked, etc.), then I think it's time to move on.
posted by twirlypen at 5:04 PM on February 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


'Last three' as in up the top, on preview, etc.
posted by twirlypen at 5:06 PM on February 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


The issue of Valentine's Day and money aside, what I see in your description of your girlfriend is someone who:

a) Is perhaps a bit sensitive
b) Struggles with criticism
c) Interprets many things as criticism (see A)
d) Defends herself by going on the offence

In short, when you're in conflict, she's arguing to win, or to defend herself from a perceived accusation. In couples with good communication skills, both parties are arguing towards resolution.

So, yeah, it sounds like she is taking a lot of stuff very personally and, on top of that, has very poor conflict resolution skills. Long term, that's toxic.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:06 PM on February 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


There's a bit of a joke about women and arguments (that was once used on Friends) that they don't so much get offended about what you say as how you say it. As guys, you and I might very well mean no harm when we ask a woman a perfectly innocent question but women are far deeper creatures than you or I and are prone to over analyse almost everything you say to them. This is, I have found, especially true in a relationship and even more true in the early days of a relationship as she will be analysing everything you say as some kind of portent to what you really think about her. This analysis of your words will be judged against what she knows of you so far along with past boyfriends, her upbringing, her experiences and the advice of her friends when she's talking about you with them.

This is of course a generalisation but one that, in my experience, I have found to be generally true.

That said, this girl of yours sounds loopy. Sorry mate, but she does. I think she's probably had some very bad experiences with guys in the past and that, based purely on what you've told me, she's not ready for a relationship at this stage. People argue, but for a six month old relationship to be experiencing these sorts of arguments seems hard.

And love is not meant to be hard. It's meant to be easy.

Case in point; my fiancee and I have been together for three years and I think in that time that she and I have only ever been angry at each other once. Truth be told, it's just about the most harmonious relationship I've ever been in and while I'm sure one day we'll be very mad at each other, it hasn't happened yet. Put simply, this love is easy. Your sounds like it isn't.

My advice is cut the cord now, before you get to invested and it gets harder to get out.
posted by Effigy2000 at 5:07 PM on February 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


The money issue: It was not valentines day and the reason for the recount was to figure out which checking account to use.

That's not a good reason at all. Verbally adding it up, outloud, so she can hear, is pretty damn ridiculous.
posted by Stynxno at 5:08 PM on February 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


When I'm arguing about things, I cry really ridiculously easily. Like, at the idea that the conversation might be getting close to an argument, even though I'm not that upset. I cried when a store refused me a refund that I should have gotten. It drove my last boyfriend nuts, but I can't help it (and hell yes, I try). I don't know about her other behaviour, but I guess this is meant to be anecdata for you that other girls do the crying thing :) (If you want the inane psychobabble, I think part of the reason I cry so easily because I have trouble criticising/expressing anger at people. HMMV.)
posted by jacalata at 5:09 PM on February 23, 2008


You two sound completely incompatible. it's not just you and it's not just her--it's both of you. Why do either of you want to be in a relationship with each other?
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 5:13 PM on February 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Just a guess but I think you probably say and do things to make yourself look important, educated, etc. to impress her or perhaps as a way of making yourself feel good about what you've accomplished. Instead of impressing her it makes her feel as if you are acting arrogant and trying to put her in her place. So when you ask how much you spent that weekend, your intention might be "Gee I hope I'm not about to bounce a check since I haven't been keeping up with how much I've been spending. Help me figure out how much money I have left in my account" Instead of hearing that though, she hears, "Look how much I spent on you. You are breaking me and really not worth the money I'm spending to keep you happy."

Once you two can talk things out and realize the intentions behind the statements then things will go a lot better. If you do go on and on about where you've been to college she needs to know that you say that because you're proud of it..not because you are saying it as a way of putting her down. You also need to be aware that if those statements like that do make her feel like you are looking down on her, stop saying things like that.
posted by GlowWyrm at 5:16 PM on February 23, 2008


I think in the money argument she wasn't necessarily wrong in the conclusions she made. You didn't intend it that way, I understand, but I don't think she was pulling her conclusions out of nowhere. I had read your question a couple times to understand your POV because I'd made the same conclusions she had.

It doesn't seem to me like any of her argument behaviors are inherently "poisonous," though they approach it. It looks like the two of you have completely different argument styles that stop you two from understanding each other -- she seems to be very emotional, you seem to be pretty rational and unemotional. She doesn't get how much point 1 bothers you, for example, or you don't get that sometimes people cry over small things (there have been a couple AskMes on this very issue, for example). It could also be that the issues you think are getting resolved aren't actually, which is why she keeps bringing them up. If you two sit down and have a serious, no-holds-barred conversation (NOT when you're already arguing about something) about how you argue/what bothers you/what kind of resolutions you hope to get out of an argument you'll be able to better understand each other. (And be prepared for tears. They will happen.)

Point 4 does seems a little worrisome, though, and I think you're in the right on this issue. Though her behavior isn't completely "poisonous" yet, it could easily veer in that direction. You could let her go now, or you could attempt to work through it -- maybe she just doesn't understand what she's doing. If she completely refuses to change after you've talked, get out.
posted by cschneid at 5:21 PM on February 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wow. On preview, I didn't realize I'd be this far in the minority on this one. The thing is, my wife and I spent the first six months of our relationship fighting just like this. We stopped, and I'm sure we wouldn't be together if we hadn't — but it's totally possible for the two of you to stop too. Some of that will involve change on your girlfriend's part, and if she refuses to change there might not be a future for you two, but I can't speak to that. What I can tell you is what worked for me when I found myself in the role you're in.

I found it was helpful to make my intentions clear before asking some kinds of questions. To me, "Didja get groceries?" and "D'ya wanna stay home?" seemed innocent enough, but it turns out my wife was taking them as little passive-aggressive jabs and reacting accordingly, and things would escalate from there. We'd wind up fighting without either of us really knowing why, and each one blaming the other one for starting it. So I just started explaining more: "Hey, it's no problem if you didn't, I'm just curious — did you get groceries today?" "I'm totally up for going out if you still want to, but you sound kind of tired. Do you want to stay in tonight?" (Or, in your case, "I'm picking up the tab tonight — it's Valentines Day, I insist — but I'm trying to figure out how much cash I've got for tomorrow..." ) It sounded weird and defensive and over-explaining to me at first, but it worked. We quit having sudden fights over those questions. Eventually, too, she got less touchy about those questions, and I could dial the explanations back down.

It was helpful, too, for me to realize that people are often the most aggressive when they feel cornered. I don't have any evidence that this one applies in your case, just a hunch — but do you suppose it's possible that the stare-down, the call-to-attention and the eventual tears are coming out of fear or insecurity? You might need to give her a little empathy and reassurance, rather than taking the bait and fighting back.

Last, thing, though, and this is important — I realized that some things were just going to piss her off. Whether I found out about it immediately, or a week later in an unrelated fight, was irrelevant. I could sulk all I wanted to about her holding grudges and keeping score, but the easiest way out was just not to piss her off like that. Some of this stuff will probably clear up if you communicate better and empathize and all that, but some of it will just flat-out require you to stop doing shit that pisses her off and there's no way around it.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:26 PM on February 23, 2008 [35 favorites]


Go see Diner. There's a couple having an argument about how his records are organized.

It has nothing to do with the records. It's something much more serious about their relationship- it's just safe to argue about records.

Hope you see the subtext in this.
posted by filmgeek at 5:27 PM on February 23, 2008


You know, the real issue is not really whether or not it's "normal." It's more whether or not you can live with it (get used to it, learn ways to deal with it, decide it's what you want for your life, or decide it's an acceptable tradeoff for the positive things). And if you can't live with it, whether or not she's willing and able to change.
posted by salvia at 5:28 PM on February 23, 2008


I would find it extremely obnoxious and very passive aggressive if my significant other decided to tally up $$ on what most consider to be "the" romantic day of the year. It is your way of saying "Hey, pay up, toots, look what I spent...I expect something in return". Whether it is money or just payback in making her feel like shit, mission accomplished. If you really just wanted to know what you spent, you could excuse yourself and go sit in a toilet stall with a piece of paper and a pen and figure it out.
posted by 45moore45 at 5:29 PM on February 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


cschneid, nebulawindphone -- good points. One thing that your posts made me realise is whenever I'm in conflict with anyone I develop a very monotone approach to argument and voice tone. Perhaps this is bothering her. I will ask.
posted by gadha at 5:29 PM on February 23, 2008


Have other me-fites been with people who have exhibited this sort of behaviour?

Yes. It's crazy and toxic. From your description you are rather tactless which probably contributes but her reactions and style of argument is out of line.

A lot of things can be worked out. A LOT. But, in my experience, crazy hysterics is not one of them.
posted by Justinian at 5:32 PM on February 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


When you say sometimes she strikes out do you mean physically?
If so I wouldn't put up with it. Getting physical shows either an enormous lack of self control or an enormous lack of respect. It is a no win situation. You also put yourself at risk because if she ever gets completely out of control you will stand a good chance of being the one locked up. Male or female, if someone hits, they aren't worth it.
posted by InkaLomax at 5:42 PM on February 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


One thing that your posts made me realise is whenever I'm in conflict with anyone I develop a very monotone approach to argument and voice tone. Perhaps this is bothering her. I will ask.

See, okay, here's the thing about that. You get all calm and level-sounding when you're angry? So when you start talking about something loaded — money, sex, time, feelings, whatever — in a calm and level voice, how will she know if you're angry or not? I really do think that telegraphing more ("Hey, I'm pissed off about X" vs. "Hey I'm just curious about X") will help.

Jeez, though. I'm making it sound like this is all your fault. Look: it's also possible she's just crazy, in which case you really should run as fast as possible, like everyone else is saying. I'm suggesting things to try if you want to meet her halfway. But it's possible you don't want to meet her halfway — in which case, you'll both be happier if you break up. And it's possible she'll be too self-centered or too stuck in her own bullshit drama to meet you halfway — in which case, dump her ass and run. Yes?
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:43 PM on February 23, 2008


Mmmm... if she is the very emotional type (I'm upset because I feeeel bad/angry/ignored/etc, and I can't explain why I started feeling that way in the first place without getting even more upset), and you are the abstract-justice-tally type (Let's figure out in minute detail what got you upset, and whether that was a Right or Rational response to the stimuli), I can see why you would get into world-class fights.

Possibly Deborah Tannen's work (example here, but she has written several full books which are widely available) on male and female communication styles would help, if that's a lot of how you get into fights in the first place.

The "you think you're so smart" stuff is pretty poor by any standard, though. Are you more educated than she, and she's insecure about it? Does her family do a lot of this kind of belittling each other?


I guess I would just say -- if you feel like this happens occasionally and the rest of the time she's considerate of you and a good partner, great. But if you feel like you're constantly walking on eggshells, that's a sign that you should get out.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:48 PM on February 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


I find it completely strange that others see tallying up spending on a night out as insensitive. This is like viewing a conversation re: having better sex as a personal affront. If something like spending is a touchy subject so early in the relationship--before finances become entwined--just imagine what a morass it'll be further on.

Or, I wonder if people would've taken this differently if the poster had been female, and mentioned her boyfriend being upset re: her tallying her spendings?
posted by soviet sleepover at 5:48 PM on February 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


lobstermitten -- yes she is an emotional type, I am a rational type. I'm not more educated than her, in fact we are educated to the same level, her in a better university. Regarding her family, I don't know much but I have seen her parents do it extensively.
posted by gadha at 5:51 PM on February 23, 2008


I like nebulawindphone's post quite a lot. Especially:

So I just started explaining more: "Hey, it's no problem if you didn't, I'm just curious — did you get groceries today?" "I'm totally up for going out if you still want to, but you sound kind of tired. Do you want to stay in tonight?" (Or, in your case, "I'm picking up the tab tonight — it's Valentines Day, I insist — but I'm trying to figure out how much cash I've got for tomorrow..." ) It sounded weird and defensive and over-explaining to me at first, but it worked. We quit having sudden fights over those questions.

Because you each come to these discussions with different expectations, it's going to require sometimes-uncomfortable conversations about things that may seem strange to talk about. You wrote, "I can't help feeling a little bit shocked at how upset she seems to get over seemingly not-so-serious things," but if you want to improve things, you have to accept that these things are serious, if they're making her flip out. Maybe it will work out (you develop a non-adversarial relationship; you decide to break up) and maybe it won't (you fail to come to any conclusion and stay in a relationship that detracts from your happiness).

As to whether it's "normal," well, as LobsterMitten points out, it depends on what you both want. I would be unable to stay in a relationship with any significant amount of arguing; for some people, it's how they relate to others.

I'm with everyone else who thinks it's the height of unreasonableness to talk money in detail at Valentine's Day dinner.
posted by ibmcginty at 5:54 PM on February 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Seconding nebula's post. I grew up in a yelling, unreasonable-kind of fighting family. My first married fight was all about me yelling and crying, as I was sure that I was doing more chores than he was, and what did he mean, "Did I get groceries?" After I had finished with my emotional tantrum, my new husband looked at me calmly and said, "I do not appreciate being talked to like that. We will not argue like that." After my initial shock and anger, I quickly came to see his point of view. Now we "over explain" things all the time, and have had maybe two heated arguments in four years. We both respect and feel respected, have learned when is and is not a good time to bring something up, and carefully consider our words before lashing out. Words are very powerful things, and without proper respect for their power much damage can be done.

No, it's not normal for two people in a committed relationship to argue like you do. But that doesn't mean it can't change. As long as you are both committed to your own emotional health and that of your relationship as your top priority (over keeping each other happy, great sex, etc.), this is fixable. It will take work and you would do well to seek a little outside help, perhaps from the school counseling center or a trusted older married friend. I won't address the "talking about money at Valentine's dinner" thing as it's been covered, but I'll just say that you will learn about timing and tact and that will help as well.
posted by orangemiles at 6:08 PM on February 23, 2008


Fair fighting.

Print it out, carry it with you, live by it.
posted by tkolar at 6:12 PM on February 23, 2008 [6 favorites]


That sounds like powerful insecurity, at least on her part. That may also be true of you as well, but it's really hard to see that from someone's own writing; generally it has to be described from outside.

Part of insecurity is Center Of The World theory. At its worst, all activities and behaviors in all people around the insecure person are related to and caused by them. If someone around a deeply insecure person is unhappy, it's their fault. The insecure person is very convinced that they're worthless and that they're to blame for almost everything.

What this means is that anytime you make a comment, there's a part of her that's processing it for hidden messages confirming her belief that you think she's worthless. On some level, she's convinced she is, so she's trying to defend herself against the "inevitable" hurtful thing you're going to say.... because she fears being rejected, so she's trying to control your perception of her. (Insecurity also translates strongly to controlling behavior, which I think you see when she summons you like a child.) It also results in rampant perfectionism, so as to avoid having anything about themselves or their lives that can be criticized.

So, to her, when you asked for help with the money, the monkey on her shoulder started whispering, and telling her that she was worthless, and that you were actually enlisting her aid in keeping the score "against" her. From that perspective, it would have been absolutely humiliating, even though you didn't intend humiliation at all. You were just trying to figure out your checkbook balance, but to her, it was a scorekeeping exercise. If it was around Valentine's Day, most people would catch a hidden message there, so you did kinda blow it.... but with that monkey sitting there, it was much, much worse.

You're in a relationship with three people; you, her, and the monkey. That's why you constantly have old fights over and over again... you can convince her, but that monkey never shuts up, and eventually she starts to think the old settled things aren't actually settled anymore. You, yourself, cannot convince the monkey of anything, and in fact you can barely communicate with it at all. You may be able to shut it up for awhile, but it will always be back unless and until she realizes it's there and can learn to ignore it herself.

The deepest problem with insecurity is that getting started on fixing it is so, so hard... because the insecure person beats him- or herself up over BEING insecure.... punishing themselves for punishing themselves. It's a really nasty loop, and it's hard to break out of. A lot of people never manage it at all. I suspect a therapist would be a big help, but even suggesting that to the insecure can result in nuclear-fireball arguments.

Another thing you'll often find: insecure people, because they're convinced they're worthless, will tie a lot of their continued existence around the relationship they're in. You, in many ways, are the protective barrier against the monkey, the thing that lets them feel kinda okay about themselves with the ever-present, horrible whispering in their ears. If you want to leave, to them it feels like they're going to die, and they'll go to absolutely wild lengths to keep you. So if you do decide to break up at some in the future... it's likely to be an ordeal. The absolute "do not call me anymore, ever" barrier is often the only way you can successfully escape.
posted by Malor at 6:17 PM on February 23, 2008 [15 favorites]


Print it out, carry it with you, live by it.

By which I also mean share them with her and ask that she try to live by these rules as well.

It takes a certain amount of practice and maturity to actually live up to fair fighting rules, but if she's unwilling to even try then I'd suggest you move on.
posted by tkolar at 6:17 PM on February 23, 2008


So I wasn't trying to impress or depress I was just trying to get an accurate assessment. We often do discuss money at this level with each other but this was just an example. I can provide others if needed.

Please provide more examples. On this first one, response has been leaning toward the "you goofed" camp. If your other examples also highlight a sense of cluelessness on your part, maybe you should consider that there are things that you could be doing differently to preempt her emotional outbursts.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:25 PM on February 23, 2008


I'm with those who say that this is a problem, but not with those who say it's permanently toxic or dooms your relationship. Yes, you two have a communication disconnect. You may or may not also have individual characteristics developed over your lifetimes that are getting in the way of communicating better. But this is something you can work on, if the relationship is important enough to you to do the work it will take. If you feel there is a basic, strong relationship there which you care about maintaining, this work is worth it. It could help you become a better communicator, a better partner, and a more mature person. It doesn't feel easy because, as someone said above, you'll be out of your comfort zone sometimes, but you will adapt your communication strategies for the overall good of the relationship.
And if things go as they should, so will she.

Darling Bri's interpretation of your girlfriend's behavior struck me as very likely:

what I see in your description of your girlfriend is someone who:

a) Is perhaps a bit sensitive
b) Struggles with criticism
c) Interprets many things as criticism (see A)
d) Defends herself by going on the offence

In short, when you're in conflict, she's arguing to win, or to defend herself from a perceived accusation. In couples with good communication skills, both parties are arguing towards resolution.


It's surely something like this - people don't act "crazy" for fun. There are reasons why this behavior seems natural or unavoidable to her, and learning more about her upbringing and self-image might help this make sense more. I agree that these behaviors won't serve well over a lifetime if they never change, but I don't think they're irreparably toxic, because I know many people who have improved in some of these areas over a lifetime - myself, probably, included. It may mean some counseling for her, or for both of you.

What's also sure is that should she post on MeFi, someone might make a list of such characteristics that explain why you're so [insensitive, focused on money, cold, emotionally blocked, unresponsive to crises, uncaring]. There is probably some work you could do on yourself, too, to improve this and other relationships. It rarely goes just one way. Sometimes people are even drawn to one another because each clearly has strengths in an area the other person very much needs to develop.

It all hinges on doing the work that could turn this dynamic into a healthier one - learning some new communication styles, addressing whatever underlying issues make it hard for you each to approach conflict differently. The book suggestions above, a few couples counseling sessions, even just reading around some websites and talking them over together - it all could help. I am a person who has modified my conflict style to the vast improvement of my relationships - learning that not every comment is a criticism, for instance. It's not the kiss of death, but it is a matter for attention.
posted by Miko at 6:27 PM on February 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


23skidoo, some examples:

1. She got a new haircut. I saw her on the day and complimented her eyes. We ended up having an argument on how I didn't like her haircut and that's why I chose to talk about her eyes (I just saw her and noticed her eyes).

2. Her mom was sick recently and I was encouraging her to visit. She took this as a view that I didn't want her around and was planning to "live it up".

3. I got a chocolate cake about a month ago (for myself) brought it up to the house and got into an argument because 1) I know she likes chocolate and that 2) I'm trying to make her fat because I think she's too think [no really, I was just jonesing for some cc]
posted by gadha at 6:38 PM on February 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Just wanted to add that I'm a lady and the money-discussing wouldn't bother me a bit. Maybe it's because I don't buy into the whole Valentine's thing.

To me it sounds like she's always right on the edge, with insecurity or fear about something. Walking on eggshells definitely is no way to live.
posted by loiseau at 6:43 PM on February 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


OK, my take:

1. She got a new haircut...

This one suggests insecurity on her part, and vulnerability with new haircut. On your part: people who just got haircuts are feeling a little unsure about how they look. She wants you to like the way she looks. Basic rule for living: whenever someone gets a haircut, say something nice about the haircut. Add the compliment about the eyes and you're world's best boyfriend.

2. Her mom was sick recently and I was encouraging her to visit...

This one sounds like insecurity on her part and perhaps lack of trust in you. She may have also been emotionally a little edgy worrying about her mom - depending on the seriousness. But it makes me want to ask:Were you planning to live it up, or looking forward to alone time? It's okay to want alone time, but it helps to ask for that directly rather than suggesting indirect means by which you get it. Could you have gone on the visit too? What about asking her "Do you want to visit your mom?" and going with whatever the answer is? She suspected you of having a different agenda when you asked. I don't know if you sometimes pursue needs indirectly, but if you do, this kind of question will always potentially mean more than it seems like it means. Even if you don't, if she was brought up in a home where people couldn't be direct, it's really natural for her to assume that every question or comment means a lot more than it appears to on the surface. That part of it is her problem to solve, assuming you're usually not hiding your real needs.

3. I got a chocolate cake about a month ago

Hard to say on this one, but my bf knows I really try to eat healthy and don't do well resisting sweet treats, he knows fitness is a value of mine, and he knows I would like his support in reaching this goal. When he brings stuff like that into the house I'm not too thrilled either. I basically think it's not considerate - if he decided he wanted to quit drinking for a while, I wouldn't show up at his house with a 6-pack and say "don't worry, it's just for me."

On all 3, I think she is a little sensitive, and maybe your phrasing and approach are a little insensitive. She definitely sounds insecure, with herself and in your relationship, which seems to be making her a bit emotionally needy. But I have to say this doesn't sound anywhere outside the normal realm of human relationships. It is in fact the bread and butter of any number of sitcom writers, and they have jobs because people laugh because this stuff is familiar from their own lives.

You can definitely do better and not argue all the time. You'll probably have to work on showing consideration, offering a lot of support, and explaining your thoughts. She'll probabl y have to work on battling insecurity, being clear about her needs, and trusting you. And perhaps about her argument style and how to have conflict when someone's upset. But no...this isn't terribly weird stuff. It's the overall exhaustion of the pattern that you should address, I think, before it becomes settled behavior for either or both of you.
posted by Miko at 6:50 PM on February 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Sounds like she is over-reactive, but you don't seem to be helping her with that. Your actions all seem innocent enough and can be spun that way, but clearly she doesn't see things like that. You realize this, so why would you do these things? If you noticed that she cut her hair, why would you compliment something other than her hair? She is flipping out for a reason. It may not seem like a very good reason to you, but that doesn't mean her feelings are invalid; something is going on.

I'm not sure if you want to help her, though, because it sounds like you do things to exacerbate her craziness. You realize her reactions are over-the-top, but you've done some things that sound insensitive to me, and maybe even passive-aggressive (it's common courtesy to comment on a friend/family member/lover's new haircut, but you chose not to acknowledge hers--and bringing a cake in for yourself? If someone came over and brought food just for himself, I would find that slightly rude. If my boyfriend made a show of adding all his expenses (especially while we were out to dinner; I do not know why you thought that was an appropriate time to start tallying up), I would feel just awful, like he was making sure I knew how much he spent. If, on the other hand, it was a quiet time and he was working out his finances and said "I'm figuring out which account to use--can you help me figure out if I'm missing anything?" that would be fine.)

You can help her by being more aware of what you say and do. Let her know that you are consciously trying to be more mindful of what you say and do so as not to have miscommunication with her, so that she knows that she also needs to be more mindful of how she is interpreting these things. If it's too much trouble for either of you to bother taking this much time/energy to fix the situation (it will be draining and it will take time and you'll lapse back into old patterns for awhile until you start communicating better) then you should probably break up.
posted by Polychrome at 7:50 PM on February 23, 2008


2. Her mom was sick recently and I was encouraging her to visit. She took this as a view that I didn't want her around and was planning to "live it up".

This, to me, is the biggest warning sign out of all you've posted. To take a well-meaning suggestion that essentially translates as "Your mom is sick, you should be with her...I'll see you when you're done visiting" and think of it as a way to get her out of your way is ridiculous (I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt in assuming if you actually wanted her to leave you could come up with something more convincing). This shows a thoroughgoing lack of trust in you and comes off as paranoid.

You blew it with the accounting antics, Uncle Pennybags, but I strongly disagree with the idea that bringing home a cake somehow shows a lack of "sensitivity" or similar on your part. Chocolate cake isn't heroin. If a person doesn't want to eat chocolate cake, they can be a grown-up and munch on some carrots. Part of being an adult is eating right where all sorts of disgusting food can be yours for 99 cents.

Lastly, allow me to play devil's advocate about the half-hearted swings at you. I dated a girl who claimed to be was exceptionally emotional and would occasionally whack me in the chest, etc. I'm going to assume for the sake of argument that you're bigger than she is and just say it isn't a big deal. While I agree wholeheartedly on the theoretical level with the idea that any sort of abuse is unacceptable, this particular instance is hardly abuse and poses no real danger to you. For me, every time it happened was a comical moment that allowed me to back out of argument mode and act more like a reasonable person and use some tongue-in-cheek condescension to bring her to that level too.

Lastly, Flabdablet is right about crazy sex. Just don't marry a girl you date mostly for crazy sex.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:05 PM on February 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


23skidoo, some examples:

1. She got a new haircut.

2. Her mom was sick recently

3. I got a chocolate cake about a month ago


I dunno, it sounds like half of the time she overreacts (2 and 3), and half of the time you're clueless about the way your behavior will be interpreted by other people (1 and Valentines). These two things feed into each other: She's totally not believing that you could be as clueless about these things as you claim (I'm having a hard time believing it myself), which in turn makes her doubt your sincerity, which makes her doubt your motivation behind everything.

Do you ever validate her interpretation of your actions? Or do you just tell her "That's not what I meant"? I think that telling her "I understand why you think blhabhlahblabhlblah, but that's not what I meant. I'm sorry you took it the wrong way, that wasn't my intention at all" would go a long way to preventing these recursive, unresolved metafights you two seem to have.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:15 PM on February 23, 2008


biggest warning sign

Yeah, it's a warning sign, but they're all warning signs; the important part is that warning is nothing but "if this doesn't change, this relationship will get unhappier." If you heed the warning early on, the relationship may survive and do very well. It depends on how committed each person is to the other and to changing the dynamic. If the OP would rather not do that work with that person, that's fine, but there's no need to say "cut and run" without thinking about how much he values the relationship.

Part of being an adult is eating right where all sorts of disgusting food can be yours for 99 cents.

We're all allowed to set the standards in our own homes, so we aren't confronted with the same temptations as in the outside world. Your harsh attitude, INspector.Gadget, that it should be perfectly fine to bring something someone doesn't iwsh to have in their home into their home is one of those things that's technically defensible, but not particularly considerate or thoughtful, and in a relationship consideration and thoughtfulness, goodwill toward the partner, are in order.
posted by Miko at 8:16 PM on February 23, 2008


She's insecure and immature. Break up wit her.
posted by MillMan at 8:23 PM on February 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


We're all allowed to set the standards in our own homes, so we aren't confronted with the same temptations as in the outside world. Your harsh attitude, INspector.Gadget, that it should be perfectly fine to bring something someone doesn't iwsh to have in their home into their home is one of those things that's technically defensible, but not particularly considerate or thoughtful, and in a relationship consideration and thoughtfulness, goodwill toward the partner, are in order.

1) As far as we know, he didn't tell him in advance that she didn't want chocolate, cake, or chocolate cake, or unhealthy foods generally, in the house. There was no understanding or agreement between them. I based my comment on that understanding and the idea that it's ridiculous to condemn after the fact something that's not illegal, not offensive, and has no power over a person if they don't ingest it. This goes not to goodwill, thoughtfulness, or anything similar, but one woman's overreaction, without warning, to a perfectly normal activity.
2) We have no evidence that it was her house.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:31 PM on February 23, 2008


She has issues from her past (childhood, parents, previous relationships). Unfortunately for you, her present behavior reflects her earlier experiences. She isn't relating to you the way you deserve. She wouldn't relate to any man the way he deserved.
posted by exphysicist345 at 8:32 PM on February 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


You are not doing something(s) that she wants you to do, ie. marry her, have sex, whatever, and she is voicing her frustration indirectly. Also, you have not described anything that's going well between you two. Why are you together in the first place?
posted by semmi at 8:34 PM on February 23, 2008


The Fair Fighting page linked by tkolar offers some invaluable advice. One thing worth pointing out is the injunction against "always" and "never" accusations:
Don't generalize. Avoid words like "never" or "always." Such generalizations are usually inaccurate and will heighten tensions.
Lest you think this is only for your gf's benefit, let me point out some of your phrases, just from the limited sample on this page (emphasis mine):
She will always call me to attention...

Arguments always seem cyclical and never-ending.

It only ever stops when...

Nothing is ever let go".
The title for your question reads "Is it me or is it you?" It sounds like it's both of you, which is great news: that means you can help make it better, too, if you choose.
posted by Elsa at 9:23 PM on February 23, 2008


Likely that she has an anxiety disorder and is hiding from feelings of anxiety by bringing this up.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:29 PM on February 23, 2008


You've describe me and my wife pretty accurately. You're a rational, she's emotional. You will never understand why she gets upset at the smallest things; she will never be able to be so cold and calculating as you without attaching ulterior motives. (I say this from my POV).

If you've discussed the issue of being called on the carpet like a subordinate (my wife tends to do this as well,) the only thing I've found to work is to discuss the fact that you resent this, which you've done. Do it again. It's a psychological power game, (cf. how to win friends and influence people if not even before that), and it means she feels insecure somehow, like she needs an advantage over you (probably unknowing that she's doing that). Take it that way when she does it, same as if she said to you, "I'm afraid you're going to think I'm silly for this, so could you humor me and just listen?" Do you have logical arguments for your side that seemingly cannot be argued against? Well, that's why. She's mad, and you make her feel ridiculous for being mad.

You also, most likely, are calm and rational during an argument. To me, that would be admirable, and I would enjoy arguing with you, and we'd come to a good solution quickly. Unfortunately, to my wife and apparently your GF, it means you don't give a shit. It's trivial to you, not worth getting worked up over. You're just Mr. Logical Smart-ass, playing argument games.

Two things that work for me (somewhat, it's never going to be perfect):
1) Be stream-of-consciousness guy. Just run your mouth all the time (to her, not the whole world) about what you're thinking. If something irritates you, say so. I'm not sure why this works, but it does. Maybe because you're not such an unemotional mysterious machine. That's why she's assigning motives to you, she doesn't have any fucking idea what you might be thinking.

2) If she complains about something or asks you to do something once, and you go, "ok, whatever [crazy person]," it may not be a big deal. The second time, it's a big deal. Even if it seems silly to you, that is now priority #1. It's amazing how easy this is, because usually you really don't give a shit one way or the other. That's why it's so easy to forget about. Just do it her way.

For point #5: she's not crying because you won the argument, or because the subject of the argument is important. She's thinking big picture, maybe I'm not cut out to be with this guy, how could I have been so stupid, I just wasted X years, maybe it's me, maybe I'll never find a good guy, oh god, who's going to take care of the cat when we split up, etc, etc. Her mind is blowing, while you're thinking, "WTF, who really gives a shit if the car didn't get washed today and we do it tomorrow instead?"

She's different from you. She cares about different stuff. It does no good to think something should not be important - if it is to her, it is. It's going to be difficult for you, and probably not get easier unless you can change the way you relate to her on a day-to-day basis. Is it worth it? It may not be. That's for you to decide. But you know what? There's a good chance that the next person you're attracted to will be similar. We can't help what kind of person we're attracted to.

You hit very close to home with me, so I probably rambled too much, and maybe I projected too much. Sorry for that. Just trying to save you some of the frustration I've been through and (mostly) solved.
posted by ctmf at 10:36 PM on February 23, 2008 [11 favorites]


I strongly recommend that you check out John Gottman's work. Based on actual research, he identified very specific factors the differentiated successful couples from ones heading for divorce. Fighting by itself is not a problem but how the couple fights makes a difference (are they nasty? do they bring in old problems instead of just focusing on the issue at hand?) Good luck!
posted by metahawk at 11:44 PM on February 23, 2008


Ah, also, re: bringing up past stuff
I know why that is, too. See, say you forgot to take the trash out. An argument ensues.

You think it's a simple argument about the trash. You may or may not admit fault, but you will suggest corrective actions aimed at getting the trash out before the trash guys come, or present a case that the trash did not necessarily need to go out today, it can go out tomorrow just as easily and no harm done. You're missing the point of the argument.

Yep, the argument is not about this case of you forgetting the trash. The argument is about you being the kind of person who forgets to take the trash. You're also the kind of person who doesn't care that she wanted you to take out the trash. Whatever you did instead of take the trash is more important to you than her, obviously.

That's why past examples of you being a forgetful person (point 2) are relevant when you don't seem to be getting her point. She's establishing a historical pattern. Even though that past stuff is already done with and settled, it's still evidence of the pattern of behavior. You need to forget about today's trash, and address how you're going to be less forgetful in general. Or the issue that you don't agree on the chore schedule, which should preferably be discussed before missing one.

That's also why she's mad at seemingly small stuff. Missing a trash day - small stuff. But if you can't be reliable on something so small and easy, how can you be trusted with both of your entire lives OMG!?
posted by ctmf at 12:33 AM on February 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


Thank you to everyone who posted. I will try and be more tactful, explain my intentions better, less robotic and generally more human. The advice and literature provided in the posts seems like a very good place to start.
posted by gadha at 1:44 AM on February 24, 2008


I'm sorry for you man, but really--recounting how much you spent on her for Valentine's Day = bad move. Seriously. I know it can get expensive, but a woman does not want to know how much you've spent on her for something that was supposed to be a romantic gesture. (It kind of spoils the whole mood). To do it in public, would be even more hurtful I would suspect, not that I think you were doing it intentionally, so if others have suggested this upthread, I would only echo them in saying that--yeah--you should probably be a little more aware of such things.

As for her lashing out at you and all the other stuff, sounds like she needs a good councelor. Have you guys talked about that?
posted by hadjiboy at 4:00 AM on February 24, 2008


For the record my parents fought A LOT when I was a kid and yes, it freaked me out and I always was worried they would get a divorce, which I definitely didn't want. But my dad would always say that it was the way that they negotiated things. It would get pretty emotional...I remember once my dad threw some newspapers at my mom (they came undone and floated down onto the floor). That really freaked me out too because my dad was generally non-violent, so it seemed momentus.

Anyway, they are still married and really love each other and have a pretty great relationship, so just because you are having problems doesn't always mean that you have to break up. My parents are both eccentric and hard to get along with but also loving. I think people today are a little too much into perfection in relationships. I'm not saying my parents are ideal, just that it's one model that doesn't get talked about. The love each other and constantly bicker about stupid shit model.
posted by sully75 at 4:07 AM on February 24, 2008


Yeah, the money thing was a blunder on your part. But seriously, her behavior sounds outrageously unacceptable to me. She's basically acting like a child-- expecting you to read her mind, and then throwing petulant fits when you "fail." I think it's great that you're willing to put in the time to try to fix this. But personally-- I'd get out of the relationship. She sounds horrible to deal with. At the very least you should insist that you both go to counseling-- I think it might help you understand some of your emotional blind spots, but she desperately needs help with her self-esteem. The thing with the haircut was a clincher for me. She's making up entire narratives about your motivations-- she's not in a relationship with you, she's in a drama with herself at the center and you as a peripheral supporting character.
posted by miss tea at 5:27 AM on February 24, 2008


Gadha, I think I am your girlfriend. I'm super-sensitive, over-emotional, and if I can take something the wrong way, I will. But I'm only like this with a partner. I'm very even-keeled with all my friends/family because I keep them at a safe emotional distance. Was she like this with you from the get-go or did it come on once you started getting closer? If she's like me, something traumatic probably happened to her by someone she loved and trusted and now it's coming out in ways you describe. She might not even be aware of it.

If you love her and want to stay with her, you'll both need to change. She needs to be aware of her irrational thinking/behavior and be open to getting help and you'll also need to change your behavior toward her. When she's acting defensive for no apparent reason, or making personal jabs at you, you have to understand that it's not actually over what you are fighting about, it's something much deeper that she's carrying around with her. Instead of participating in the argument you should just hug and reassure her. But if you are the type of person who has a hard time opening up yourself then it's probably not going to work.

She's going to need someone who's wiling to travel down an emotional road with her, someone with a strong, nurturing character to help her get through this. If she's in denial about her issues then there's little hope but if she realizes and is open, and so are you, then you could both be working toward something changeable and very beautiful...as we all have shit we need to work through, and as you're helping her with hers, you just might see things in yourself that, with her help and understanding, you could improve as well. Good luck!
posted by anniepants at 8:12 AM on February 24, 2008


She's going to need someone who's wiling to travel down an emotional road with her, someone with a strong, nurturing character to help her get through this.

OP: speaking from hard won experience, that someone should be a professional therapist and not you. Don't fall into the trap of thinking you can save her through the power of love.
posted by tkolar at 8:54 AM on February 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


It sounds like there are various things going on on both sides and people have given some good advice about how to cope/change/relate/break up, etc.

It's hard for outsiders to tell how much the conflicts dominate the relationship and your lives, how "bad" she is (or you are, for that matter). I got some very good advice once that may or may not apply here. I was in an abusive relationship, and somewhere along the line my shrink suggested, from my acconts of various incidents, that the guy probably had borderline personality disorder. When I read about it (and the DSM fit him to a tee), I was kind of relieved to be able to point to something that indicated that the abuse wasn't my fault, that I wasn't nuts, etc. (although I always knew deep down). But the advice that I got was that ultimately, it didn't matter WHY he acted like he did, while the diagnosis was interesting and self-affirming in a way, in the end it amounted to "so what?" The relationship in practice was toxic, and my relieving him of fault through diagnosing him with a personality disorder--or in your case, deciding whether her behavior or your behavior is normal/wrong/unreasonable--might not be the crucial issue if you don't get along (lobster mitten suggested this upstream).

Please note that I am not suggesting that she has a personality disorder. My example is extreme in that those with BPD very very very rarely change their behavior. It's entirely possible that you two can work out your differences a la the advice on "fair fighting" etc. I just want to suggest that if these conflicts are taking over your relationship, if you are walking on eggshells, AND you or she have deep seated differences in how you relate, fight, etc, a blameless goodbye might be the solution.
posted by Pax at 9:06 AM on February 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


I guess it all really depends on how much you like her and how much you're willing to give/change/etc- in relation to what you feel you're receiving from her. But I think ctmf is right:

There's a good chance that the next person you're attracted to will be similar.

We do tend to attract the same things over and over in our lives even if we think it's not what we want, possibly because there's something in it that we need to learn from also?
posted by anniepants at 10:19 AM on February 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


My one piece of advice is that you should not tell her about this thread.

She sounds very insecure, and as someone who has (thankfully infrequent) bouts of similar insecurity, I know that I would absolutely flip out if I found out that my SO was posting something like this about me. She'll probably slip into accusative mode as a cover for being hurt by it -- after all, you did post online personal details about her personality problems.

Not that you shouldn't have done this; it looks like you've gained valuable advice here. Just don't tell her. If you do, I forsee another fight in the very near future.
posted by mismatched at 10:33 AM on February 24, 2008


If youre having this many nasty arguments at 6 months, then you should really be considering an exist strategy at this point.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:39 AM on February 24, 2008


You might be right mismatched, but if my boyfriend posted this I would be ecstatic, haha. I would be like, "yes, he's finally asking for advice, maybe there IS hope!"
posted by anniepants at 10:59 AM on February 24, 2008


I then proceeded to total up (verbally) the amounts. Her reaction was a very sharp, spiteful "don't worry, I'll pay you back", at which point I reassured her this had nothing to do with me outlining my spending it was just me working out numbers so I have a rough idea of what's in my account.

After you explained yourself, did she become less angry and focus on helping you? Or did she stay angry? If the former, there's some hope, if the later, there's no hope, you two will always have friction and it's better to end it now.

Overrall, you sound clueless, though I don't mean that harshly. It just sounds like you're not used to understanding how other people might react to things you do, particularly if it's an emotional response. You should work on that, somehow.

She sounds very sensitive and it seems as though your natural personality exacerbates that, though no direct fault of your own.

Good luck.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:06 PM on February 24, 2008


I completely ascribe to the theory that in relationships we tend to work out unresolved issues from our childhood. I believe this is what's going on in your relationship, for both of you, but especially her. Thus, I would suggest that you two look into how you might be recreating old, unresolved patterns and playing them out.

This book is really helpful in terms of how to conceptualize this. It suggests that we are attracted to who we're attracted to for a reason; namely, to work out all that old, unresolved stuff. The more intense the attraction, the more closely you're repeating some old emotional pattern. I have found this to be true in mine as well as my friends' relationships. This book may seem like a cheesy, pop psychology book, but it actually just the opposite. It really get to the core of why arguments about seemingly little things can turn into such huge fights. For me, the insights were really helpful in terms of not taking my partner's rage/explosions so personally. (i.e. They are really the result of what happened in his childhood, not anything that I've done wrong.) Plus, there are exercises in the book that will help both of you on a very practical level.

To me, it clearly seems like her reactions to you have nothing to do with you, per se. Her reactions are more likely the result of how she was treated by her parents. So, now she takes for granted that people are critical of her, etc., rather than just innocently talking about something like finances.

I encourage you both to check this book out & good luck!
posted by crunchtopmuffin at 2:56 PM on February 24, 2008


I'll reference my comment in this thread: How can two critical AND sensitive people get along better? and this thread: Because the first step to finding a solution is labelling the other person's behavior.

Basically, while you shouldn't have to constantly be tiptoeing around your partner, at some point you realize, that irrationality and sensitivity is part of who they are. It's a flaw, just as if they were a bad cook. They may never set foot in a kitchen. If you decide that it's too much to tolerate, then you leave. But if you stay, you'd better be prepared to be the one to put food on the table.
posted by desjardins at 5:05 PM on February 25, 2008


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