How can we get past her figuring out that I'm not perfect?
February 10, 2005 5:12 PM   Subscribe

RelationshipFilter: In a new relationship where you fell for each other rather quickly, how do you get the other person over the hump when they find out that you're not their perfect, ideal knight in shining armor?

I started going out with this girl several weeks ago. We hit it off great -- lots in common, we're weirdly in synch on a lot of things. We have very similar upbringings and our position in life is pretty similar.
However, I realize I'm not the best of all people, and there are some things where I feel very strongly about doing things differently than she does. For instance, I'm self-employed (started a company several months ago, and it's already fairly successful) and I'm focused a lot on how the business is doing and what I need to do next with it. I love my job and the way it gives me a lot of freedom. She has always thought of work as something you do to pay the bills, not something that's fun, and doesn't understand how I can spend pretty much every waking moment thinking about my business. She also regards my talking about building up one of my subsidiaries and spinning it to a larger company as 'money-grubbing'.

On top of that, I never wanted to have children until recently, and it was because I didn't want to give up some of my more dangerous hobbies -- motorcycles, learning to fly small airplanes, rock climbing, etc. -- and the freedom to just TRY new things that I currently have in my life. My parents sacrificed their hobbies for their children, and while I appreciate and respect some aspects of their sacrifice, it hollowed them out in a lot of ways. Repressing all of their hobbies and enjoyment made them more of soulless robot-parents, rather than loving parents. They're much more loving and we care for each other alot more now that they're picking up their hobbies again post-children. I recently spent time with a family that has avoided that, so now I'd much rather integrate the things I love to do into my family's life. I don't know how she feels about that, because we were talking on the phone about it at lunch and she started to sound uncomfortable and changed the subject.

There's been a few discussions that go along these lines ... while there's so many areas where we mesh (and how often do you get to discuss your favorite sci-fi books over a first dinner date?!), as we've gotten to know each other, there are some very major areas where we don't mesh. I don't mind so much, because I expect it. She, on the other hand, goes all quiet on me every time I prove to not be the perfect knight in shining armor of a mate, almost as if she's hurt by me having different opinions. (As happened today.) I haven't dated in almost two years and it could be said that this is my first adult relationship, and I really do like the woman.

Is she just being a woman and needs time/space to think about it, am I a backwards asshole, or should I just forget the whole thing and say we're not compatible?
posted by SpecialK to Human Relations (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would tend to say that the ball is in her court. If it works, great. If these are things that she's not willing to compromise on...well, there's not a lot that you can do.
posted by amandaudoff at 5:18 PM on February 10, 2005

It might just be me, but I've found that talking about "the future...", babies, loosing one's identity when you become a parent, and all that within the first several weeks of a relationship dooms that relationship. Save those conversataions until after several months and enjoy the first several weeks getting to know the person in a less heavy and possibly depressing way.
posted by pwb503 at 5:21 PM on February 10, 2005

I don't know how she feels about that, because we were talking on the phone about it at lunch and she started to sound uncomfortable and changed the subject.

I'd be pretty uncomfortable if someone I'd only been dating for several weeks started talking about kids, however obliquely, and I don't think I'm alone in that.

On preview. Yes, I see I'm not.

I love my job and the way it gives me a lot of freedom. She has always thought of work as something you do to pay the bills, not something that's fun, and doesn't understand how I can spend pretty much every waking moment thinking about my business.She also regards my talking about building up one of my subsidiaries and spinning it to a larger company as 'money-grubbing'.

Have fun while it lasts. The passage above says to me that the two of you have fundamental differences that aren't going to be trumped by your similarities. No blame: sometimes the amount of compatibility people have isn't enough for the long haul, and that's okay.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 5:26 PM on February 10, 2005

What pwb said.

...we were talking on the phone about it at lunch and she started to sound uncomfortable and changed the subject.

That's probably because she doesn't want to talk about kids, not because she's nervous about your habits. Or at least, that's the way it sounds from the way you said it...

on preview: pst too.
posted by rooftop secrets at 5:29 PM on February 10, 2005

It might just be me, but I've found that talking about "the future...", babies, loosing one's identity when you become a parent, and all that within the first several weeks of a relationship dooms that relationship.

YYMV - I talked about these things with the woman who is now my wife within the first month of us meeting. It forced us both to make changes - and that's a good thing, because if you're really serious about a relationship with someone, you have to be able to compromise. Not compromising is what's guaranteed to end a relationship quickly.

In my case, she talked me into wanting kids, and I talked her into accepting that I'm an impoverished grad student. When you start to care about what the other person wants and are willing to change yourself to please them...that's a real adult relationship. So don't be scared to change yourself - you've got a long life and a lot of opportunity ahead of you, and that life will be greatly impoverished if this girl isn't in it.
posted by Jimbob at 5:29 PM on February 10, 2005 [1 favorite]

In reference to the 'future/parents/kids' thing, and in my defense -- she brought it up. ;) I didn't know I was supposed to dodge the question... all these things I gotta learn...
posted by SpecialK at 5:30 PM on February 10, 2005

In reference to the 'future/parents/kids' thing, and in my defense -- she brought it up.

Oh. In that case: RUN!!!! ;-)

Jimbob is right about the importance of compromise, but compromises that suppress fundamental parts of your character tend to end in an explosion of resentment in my experience. The personal value of work and your differences on it would really be a sticking point for me.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 5:39 PM on February 10, 2005

Firstly, love is great, congratulations.

My relationship was a tooth and nail battle over just about everything that defined future. We fell for each other almost instantly, but it took three years for it to become marriage material. We definitely knew were in love, but it was painful until we fixed all we needed to fix. With that in mind, if you are in the same boat, I don't envy you, it was horrible, although it was amazing after we fixed it. I say stand up, be who you are, but realize love is sacrifice and giving. Come what you think is halfway, then go much more. The good thing about all this is if it's suppost to work it will. I couldn't breathe without her, regardless of how 'incompatible' we were once upon a time..
posted by sled at 5:47 PM on February 10, 2005

Perhaps you didn't say love, and I read that into things.. Smile, sorry.
posted by sled at 5:48 PM on February 10, 2005

There shouldn't be any "supposed to dodge the question." I also take issue with your suggestion that she is "just being a woman." Seriously, for reals: not all women - not even most women! - are mind game players. Ascribing her actions to something mysterious and confusing and woman-like can only be bad for the relationship. As I see it, either you're not going to try to understand her on an individual level because she's confusing and a woman, leading to miscommunications and misunderstandings, or else she really is a mind game player, in which case do you really want to be with her?
Maybe I'm spoiled but in relationships, I always expect to be treated like my actions and my motivations are rational, and I treat my partners the same way.

Also, I'm with Jimbob on YMMV on discussing these things. I, too, think that if you're serious, and if there's a serious conflict, better to talk about it now than later, when it's too late or too painful to find a compromise.
posted by librarina at 5:54 PM on February 10, 2005

There are some things you can disagree on and some things that you can't. Disagreeing on having or not having children is HUGE! Perhaps there is somewhat of a minor compromise, such as having children later in life or adopting a child from a poor country. In the latter, you don't have to deal with all the lost sleep and pregnancy stuff.
posted by Arch Stanton at 5:58 PM on February 10, 2005

librarina - We have a very stereotypical "men are from mars, women are from venus" thing going on in our relationship. As a humorous example ... We were watching "The Incredibles", and she loved the symbolism of Elastigirl as the super-mom who's flexible enough to handle all of the demands that were put to her. I, on the other hand, had to reel my jaw back up off the floor for reasons that will be obvious to anyone whose mind is in the gutter.

She takes everything emotionally or with a sense of humor, and I take everything either logically or with a sense of humor. The emotional/logical disconnect has grown into a little bit of an in-joke between us, with us saying, "You're such a man" or, "You're such a woman" to each other when we stumble across one of the disconnects so that we can point out that there was a disconnect, and then can deal with things with the humor that we have in common. As an inherently logical person, looking at things from a symbolistic or emotional point of view really is mysterious and confusing to me. (What was really funny, though, is when we were watching a tear-jerker movie and I kinda teared up at the end, and she put her head on my shoulder and said, "You're such a woman..."
My apologies for not making this clear, it was not my intention to present any sort of misogynism.
posted by SpecialK at 6:26 PM on February 10, 2005

I say give it some more time. It can be hard when we have an idealized idea of who someone is, or what we expect them to be, and then find the reality not quite meshing with our ideas. It's something that (in my experience) is an easy enough hump to get over once the jitters from the start of a relationship smooth out. She may also have some baggage of her own that she's trying to sort out in her mind. I know that if I'm feeling weird about something, I prefer to go quiet and try to work out my feelings internally before I'm comfortable talking out the problem.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 6:43 PM on February 10, 2005

You say she doesn't understand that you work at lot...I'm assuming by what you wrote that you talk about work a lot even when not at the office. Shop talk for those out of the loop can be pretty boring for anyone.
posted by zardoz at 6:44 PM on February 10, 2005

Just give it some time, SpecialK. I agree with those who say you should be talking about it, but children, work, and such shouldn't be a deal breaker yet. After "several weeks" I doubt you two really know each other that well. Let her know that you want to talk about the present and the future, but that you don't want to seem like you're giving her ultimatums or even making plans.

Oh, and I agree with zardoz - try not to talk too much about work. Some people get bored by stuff like that.
posted by muddgirl at 6:57 PM on February 10, 2005

I'm amazed at the number of supportive comments in this thread. Everything you say makes it sound to me like the two of you aren't compatible at all. The fact that you aren't really her type doesn't mean she's looking for a knight in shining armor. And if the best example of your compatibility is that you realized you both like sci-fi on the first date...well, sorry, but that's not exactly remarkable.
posted by bingo at 7:46 PM on February 10, 2005

I'll third shop-talk being boring. It sounds from your post as though you have lots of hobbies that you care about--they are far more interesting than any business you might be in, guaranteed.

Also, it seems to me, following muddgirl, that your question is a little premature; 'several weeks' is no time at all. If you guys stay together there will be months, and even years, in which to iron this stuff out. And I'll add that rather than accepting these disconnects as such, you should think of them as legitimate examples of alternate perspectives. For instance, your complaint about your parents is essentially the same as your girlfriend's complaint about your being so business-focused. If she feels that your business-intensive day-to-day life is, in effect, hollowing you out, then you should think about that, and presumably she'll have things to think about too based on what you say.

Every relationship has these moments: you just need to be patient and open to change, and not insist that each of you have unchanging characteristics that define you to one another.
posted by josh at 7:50 PM on February 10, 2005

oooh. Oohh. I know.

Slow down

Even if you suspect she is the future patient in it all.
posted by filmgeek at 7:57 PM on February 10, 2005

Bingo -- The similarities are ... that we have very similar upbringings and grew up in neighboring towns. We were geeks in high school, but still tried to ask out the popular kids to the prom and whatnot ... and ended up not going to any high school dances unless we were on the committee that was throwing it. Both late bloomers. We both like victorian architecture and would love to renovate an old bungalow, craftsman, or victorian someday. We read and continue to read the same books. She's a vegetarian, and while I'm not, I eat in a vegetarian fashion more often than not because I helped to start a vegetarian restaurant someday. We're both cat people, but are both heinously allergic. We like fires (fireplaces or campfires, obviously) and the same kind of smells. She's introduced me to new celtic groups I'd never heard of before (I have a foot -tall stack of CDs back at my apartment of hers...) and I introduced her to some local groups that play the same kind of music. We ran hand in hand to a playground in an elementary school yard when we were on our first date. We're both insanely ticklish. We both love cooking but hate doing the dishes. We both went away to a big school the first time, and either graduated with a low GPA or bombed out, and then switched fields to something more general that we liked and paid for it ourselves the second time by working full time and taking night classes. I could go on for days, obviously, but I didn't think it was pertinent.

Thanks for the support everyone else has given me. This relationship, for some reason, is very different from the ones I've had before and I'm still coming to terms with it... the others were all surface level relationships and broke up after we really got to know one another. Any other advice is appreciated.

On Preview: Josh & Filmgeek: Yeah, taking it slow. Holding on. Being patient. None of those are things I'm good at, but I'm trying my damn best.
posted by SpecialK at 8:02 PM on February 10, 2005

oops ... helped to start a vegetarian restaurant, nix the someday.
posted by SpecialK at 8:03 PM on February 10, 2005

For me, if I make it past the second date, six months is about the natural next decision point. Around that time is when any seriously opaque blinkers fall off and flings become relationships, or become over. It's happened many times now on that schedule, that seems to be my natural point. Give yourself a target, say six months, and forbid yourself from thinking about the future until then. If you're like me, it'll sneak up anyway -- there's no point in rushing it for either of you.
posted by dness2 at 8:24 PM on February 10, 2005 [1 favorite]

You'll be ok either way, you know? Either this relationship will work out, or some of the doubts you're expressing will play out and you'll find someone else who fits better.

The liking-the-same-stuff thing only goes so far, though it's sort of giddy and exhilarating when you find it and definitely can be fun. The stuff where your partner understands you and your deep motivations and desires and fears and things like that (work, family, philosophy, religion, etc etc etc) grows over time and becomes what holds you together and sustains your relationship.
posted by judith at 8:37 PM on February 10, 2005 [1 favorite]

My husband and I fell for each other *very* quickly. And we were amazingly similar also in upbringing/past. We talked constantly, we were together as much as possible, we were deliriously caught up in each other. We did discuss all the "big issues" right away, in those first weeks - for example, I wanted kids, he was iffy about that; all of a sudden he changed his mind. Give it time. It'll work out if it should; you don't want to force it. Make sure to explore the deeper similarities, your life goals, your outlooks, what kind of family you want, religion, all the things judith says; those are the similarities you'll need to make it work, far more than your past or the things you like.

I'd be wary of this idea that you're disappointing her, that you're not "perfect" enough. Don't try to make yourself over into someone else's image of what they want of you. Right now in the blissful stage you want to do everything to please, you want very much to make it work; but soon enough it *will* pass and you're going to feel restricted, not gracefully compromising.

And be careful about playing into those stereotypes of what men and women are like and how they should relate to each other. After the initial tingly passion phase, there has to be a firm foundation of honesty and communication so you can stay together; start with stereotypes now and once the rose-tinted glasses come off, you'll end up with stereotypes later - that might not be very pleasant. Could be frustrating rather than intriguing if you feel you're always coming from different places.
posted by Melinika at 10:57 PM on February 10, 2005

I started going out with this girl several weeks ago.
should I just forget the whole thing and say we're not compatible?

Now some people wandering through their 30s reach a point where, as soon as ANYTHING looks amiss, they turn and bolt, because they're shopping for a spouse and don't have time to waste on anyone less than the PERFECT person. But I am always moved to wonder, how did they get to their late 30s without settling down, if it's something they care about so much? Perhaps by focusing too much on perfection and too little on compassion, hard work, loving someone for who they are and not what they offer you.

Your work lives differ. You have different ideas about kids. You just met her. Either work with it a little more or get ready to do this all over again about 82 times until you luck into the exact right person at the exact right time.
posted by scarabic at 11:35 PM on February 10, 2005

For purposes of comparison: I also am a late bloomer; like victorian architecture and would love to renovate an old bungalow, craftsman, or victorian someday; love to read (though not sci-fi); eat in a vegetarian fashion more often than not; like fires; listen to and play celtic music; never pass a playground; have a cat; love cooking but hate doing the dishes; went away to a big school the first time, bombed out, and then switched fields and paid for it myself...

My point is not that you and I should be going out, but that you shouldn't be overwhelmed by the similarities you and this woman have. There are so many more people than you can imagine who will have similar interests and characteristics.

I think it was the curmudgeon George Bernard Shaw who said "Love is a gross exaggeration of the difference between one person and everybody else." I would never go so far as to agree with that, but I think it's worth noting that likes/dislikes/personal histories are not the real stuff of which a human is made. Melinika talked about the deeper nature of a person being more important. How does she treat you - Do you respect her - Would you want to become more like her - Does she maintain good relationships with others - Does she care about her family - Can she hold a life together and work toward her goals - Can she respect and support your goals even if they are not ones she would choose for herself - You see where I'm headed. That is what love and lifetimes are built on.

Sometimes, the people I've loved the most are quite different in tastes and habits from myself. For instance, I'd never have answered a personal ad for the hip-hop loving Jewish snowboarder I spent a couple of years with, but it was such a great relationship in many ways. It's about the next level of personhood, not just the trappings.

Anyway, you're in the first flush of infatuation here. Don't worry about the long term yet. You're still figuring out whether you like her, or whether you just like finding someone who understands your interests.
posted by Miko at 8:00 AM on February 11, 2005 [2 favorites]

Also, "different" can often work in your favor, as long as it's complementary. Truthfully, thinking about a couple who are both *way* into their careers exhausts me -- how do they find any time to be together?!? If it's really important to you to be with someone who's professionally ambitious, that's one thing, but if it's not, then her being more free and flexible about her job means she's not going to be competing with you on that level in the future (if you need to move for work, for instance, or someone needs to make dinner because the other has to work late, whatever).

And as someone who also often goes quiet when I'm trying to process, I'd say to just give her some room when it happens (assuming she's not passive-agressively pouting). My going quiet drives my boyfriend nuts, and I'm trying to get to the point where I can at least state my emotional state to him before going off to process ("I'm a bit confused because of x, y, and z, and I need to sort through that on my own before we can have any sort of productive conversation about it, so let's pick this up later" rather than just going away), but we're at the 2-year mark and I'm still finding it very hard. Really, going quiet is a way for me to process my emotions so that I can respond on a more reasonable, rational, kind level rather than just lashing out or spurting forth a confusing mix of unprocessed emotions, and I think it's a *good* thing for communication.
posted by occhiblu at 9:44 AM on February 11, 2005 [1 favorite]

Isn't it great when you have things in common? Gives you lots to talk about and things to do together.

As I stumbled through my dating adventures I learned enough from all my relationships to finally discover what the three most important things were to me in a relationship. Not surprisingly, my wife has the same top 3, albeit in a slightly different order.

I found that if the things that were most important to me were the things that were the most important to her, the rest was easy.

She could be a carbon copy of me in regard to sci-fi tastes, music tastes, familial background, and kinkyness but if she put a hobby before our relationship, it just wouldn't work out.

I guess what I am trying to say here is spend some time finding out what is REALLY important to you in a relationship and what is REALLY important to her and see if you can both give those things to each other.
posted by jopreacher at 11:21 AM on February 11, 2005

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