How can i bridge the gaps in my relationship & not be so jerky?
September 27, 2010 8:24 AM   Subscribe

How can i bridge the gaps in my relationship & not be so jerky?

I’m 38 and I’ve been dating this girl (30) for a little over a year. She a total cutie, talented in her craft, really sweet and well intentioned. She makes my heart go pitter patter & is a lot of fun.

We have differences that I’m not sure how to bridge the gap on.
I’m the kind of person that is of my word, she commits to anything in the moment but may or may not follow up. When I ask her about it, she 1) feels put on the spot 2) has reasons/excuses 3) still may/may not follow up. I think this is because 1) people around her rarely keep their word 2) she hasn’t been important to the intimate ppl in her life so her word is not important to others 3) she may just be a really bad planner Ie: there is a whole list of things, both important and less important, that I haven’t seen any follow through on. Ie: I’m going to do your hair. I’m going to plan a trip for us. I going to buy get rid of this table.

It’s gotten to the point where I don’t trust her when she says things & it’s spilling over into everything. I also start to feel like I'm not important to her (which isn't true). For example, b/c I know she might not do X, I don’t trust her to do Y. When I explain this, she gets defensive and reminds me that she couldn’t do X b/c of _______ but I’ve always done Y. I believe that you make time for the things that are important so i start to feel not important when she doesn't do X & see her reasons as excuses. I'm like "get your life together!".

I’m a critical thinker, have thoughts on just about everything, am generally curious & well exposed. She is rather mainstream, unexposed & doesn’t question much around her. Ie: TGIF is having a deal 4 items for $20! I would question the quality of food and understand the marketing scheme. It’s just a good deal to her. She’s excited about the latest beauty products and I see them as a reminder to women that they’re not good enough unless they buy ____________.

She wants me to be more involved in her life & as much as I want to, I just don’t get it.
I feel that her friends treat her rather crappily (they seem jealous & mean, always asking for money, rarely keeping their word). I work really hard to keep crappy ppl out of my life & hanging with her friends sometimes feels like an assault.

We also come from different cultures, have been raised so differently & some of our values are different. I know a lot about her culture, she hasn’t really shown much of an interest or insight on my culture.

These things make me feel really sad and kind of a jerk.
So, my questions are:
How can we bridge the gaps in our relationship?
How can I be less judgmental of her, her choices, her friends?
I think she feels pressure in this relationship b/c she knows of my do i relieve the pressure & have us agree on realistic expectations?
What are my blind spots & what can I do about them?
posted by PeaPod to Human Relations (28 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe you should break up.
posted by Ted Maul at 8:44 AM on September 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm having a hard time following this, but I can answer one question: How can you be less judgemental of her?

Understand and accept that she sees things differently than you, and that different ≠ bad. I think you may be looking at things very narrowly.
posted by bolognius maximus at 8:44 AM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure you actually like her that much - it sounds like you want to like her but don't.
posted by Pax at 8:48 AM on September 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

That was quite difficult to read, but the gist of it seems to be that you don't get along. I don't think there's anything you can do about that besides accept it or break up.
posted by tel3path at 8:56 AM on September 27, 2010

What are my blind spots & what can I do about them?

Realize that even though you are a "critical thinker", you don't have to over-analyze every possible thing all the time. Sometimes going to Friday's and feeling like you got a good deal on potato skins is better than having a discussion about how a 4 for $20 promotion is designed to maximize profit for their corporate ownership, and people can get excited about buying things that they think make them look nice without having to delve into how the consumerism enforces negative attitudes about natural beauty. Especially when it comes to things that make people happy, finding ways to prove that they should actually feel bad about it is not generally a good idea, even if you think you are right.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:03 AM on September 27, 2010 [12 favorites]

Response by poster: Sorry for the confusion...i didn't do so well in outlining the gaps and examples. so to bolobnius: girlfriend has a an abundance of tee shirts (some she never wears), goes out & buys new shirts. I just can't get excited for this b/c she has sooo many she doesn't wear. to me, it is bad & doesn't move her to a better place. (sure she feels better for a moment but it just seems like mindless consumerism)
posted by PeaPod at 9:03 AM on September 27, 2010

Here's a concrete suggestion for you next time she says "I'm going to do [x]." Assuming it's something that's actually important to you, you say this: "Okay. Do you think you can have that done by [next Friday] [the end of the month] [etc]?" You'll find out really quickly whether she was intending to make a plan or just thinking outloud.

But if I can read between the lines here a bit, it sounds like you just don't have much respect for her. I'm not going to tell you that you're right or wrong for this, but I don't necessarily think this is something for you to "get over." Ask yourself if you would still want to be friends with her if she was a guy that acted this way. And ask yourself if you would want to be in a relationship with someone who didn't respect your values and choices.
posted by trunk muffins at 9:04 AM on September 27, 2010

Try not to be so judgmental of your next girlfriend. Once you let yourself be judgmental of someone, it's very hard to get the cat back in the bag. I'm afraid this relationship sounds like a lost cause.
posted by oreofuchi at 9:06 AM on September 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

She sounds flaky, and there's really not a good excuse for continuing flakiness in the context of a serious relationship. Some people grow out of flakiness, some don't.

You are correct that you do make time for things that are important.

I don't see anywhere in here where you come off as a jerk, you're just different than her. I have townie friends like this, who enjoy nothing but chain restaurants and don't really seek to learn anything or become aware of life beyond their hometown. I don't look down on them, we just chose different paths in life. But eventually, the friendship fades.

So what to do? You can either deal with this behavior by never setting anything in stone, which doesn't really seem that fun to me, or you can try to have serious discussions where compromise is necessary to further the relationship, or you can break it off.

Ask yourself, "Do I want to be with a person who breaks our plans constantly, puts up with friends that treat her crappily, and thinks anything at TGI Fridays is a good deal?" Some people do, some people don't.
posted by kpht at 9:09 AM on September 27, 2010

Well.....I wouldn't go so far to say you need to break up, but I will point out that the problem with the friends is kinda an immediate deal-breaker.

See. I know these couples who have separate lives and don't judge each other's friends. That only works until things get real intimate, like in living together or marriage. Then the crazy drama, unpleasant, and sometimes full-on risk your SO's social choices bring into your life does make a difference.

It sounds like your GF could grow out of these people. But I'm wondering how long you want to wait for that to happen. At the same time, her social circle is and outer reflection of her inner dynamic. The flakey, for instance.

I think maybe you see the good things in this person while discounting the bad. A good partners are accountable to each other and work to improve communication (like making plans) with each other. People who care about you don't invite troublesome elements to join you for dinner and drinks.

Long-term, I think you already know what to regarding this young lady.
posted by jbenben at 9:13 AM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

"is an outer reflection of..." Oops.
posted by jbenben at 9:15 AM on September 27, 2010

girlfriend has a an abundance of tee shirts (some she never wears), goes out & buys new shirts. I just can't get excited for this b/c she has sooo many she doesn't wear. to me, it is bad & doesn't move her to a better place. (sure she feels better for a moment but it just seems like mindless consumerism)

Again, you seem to be way overthinking this. Some people like buying tshirts or jazz records or snowglobes or whatever else they like because it makes them happy. Buying things can get out of hand sometimes, but as long as she has room in her budget for buying whatever random stuff she feels like buying and it isn't some sort of pathological obsession, who cares if she never wears the shirts?

You don't have to necessarily be into everything that she is into, but the ideal situation is that she does things that make her happy and you are supportive of her in doing things that make her happy. It's okay to be curious about why she would be into something that has no appeal from your perspective, but just labeling her behavior as mindless consumerism seems to be overly dismissive of something relatively harmless that she likes. When my partner or someone else I care about likes X, where X is something that I felt negatively about in the past, that makes me reconsider my opinion of X because I really respect their opinion about things and if they like X it can't be all bad.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:18 AM on September 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

girlfriend has a an abundance of tee shirts (some she never wears), goes out & buys new shirts. I just can't get excited for this b/c she has sooo many she doesn't wear. to me, it is bad & doesn't move her to a better place. (sure she feels better for a moment but it just seems like mindless consumerism)

Did she ask you to get excited about it?
How is it your place to judge how she wants to spend her money?
Why are your values ('mindless consumerism') more important than hers?

she commits to anything in the moment but may or may not follow up

What kinds of things is she committing to? Do you think it's a high ethical breach to politely say 'yes, let's do lunch' to someone she probably isn't going to make plans with? Or is it that she says "I will pick you up for the doctor on Saturday at 9am" and you count on her and she doesn't show up? Is it that she says 'Sure, let's go to the park on Sunday" and then sunday rolls around and she's changed her mind? How seriously, really, are these ethical breaches of commitment on her part? Because people are allowed to change their minds.

I’m a critical thinker, have thoughts on just about everything, am generally curious & well exposed. She is rather mainstream, unexposed & doesn’t question much around her. Ie: TGIF is having a deal 4 items for $20! I would question the quality of food and understand the marketing scheme. It’s just a good deal to her.

If this is your example of 'critical thinking,' I'm sorry to break it to you, but you're not exactly Stephen Hawking and aren't in a place to be judging your girlfriend or anyone else. Really? You're going to judge her for thinking the TGIF deal might be a good deal? "understand the marketing scheme" - really? Please explain the marketing scheme to me in detail. I don't think that you can, but you feel superior for not 'falling' for a commercial when she just thinks, "That seems like a good deal". There's nothing wrong with that.

Here's the thing: your girlfriend doesn't meet your standards. You are asking us to support your thinking that you are more superior than your girlfriend. There's probably nothing wrong with her, but the relationship has run its course. Instead of being a grownup and ending the relationship, you want us to support your thoughts against your girlfriend so you can justify breaking up with her, or telling her that she's a bad person and should change so you like her more. You should just break up with her because you two aren't compatible. That's why people date, to find out if they're compatible.
posted by micawber at 9:21 AM on September 27, 2010 [22 favorites]

Buying more t-shirts when she already has a lot, buying the newest beauty products... these are things that a lot of women do. Sure, maybe it's "mindless consumerism" - but you need to realize that the message "you will feel great if you buy more things" has been pounded into us since birth. Especially for women, where the message reads more like "you need to buy products to look pretty or no one will ever love you." Try to cut her some slack on that front. Is she in major debt because of shopping? Does your relationship suffer because you can't do fun things because she can't pay her part? If not, try to get over it. Nothing wrong with an occasional "honey, do you really need another shirt?" but stop dwelling on it.

And about the Friday's deal thing - if she likes the restaurant and is planning on eating there anyway, why can't she be excited about a "deal"?
posted by coupdefoudre at 9:24 AM on September 27, 2010

I think you can work with this. Let me offer two scenarios...

1) In my opinion buying a brand new car is never the best decision. It loses value the instant you buy it and is hardly better than last year's model or a car with 30,000 miles on it already. More than that, if you buy a car for $3000 cash, there's no debt.
She disagrees and must have a new car partly for a feeling of security and partly for the status that invokes. She's finally adult enough and getting paid enough to choose to make payments for the next 7 years,
We've had to agree to disagree here.

2) I am often late to social events, and once there hang out for longer than I predicted (1 hour turns into 3). She is frustrated at this, and I am frustrated that someone should make a big deal out of it.
Here we compromise: When I go out with her, we're generally on time. When I don't, I give her a call when I realize I'm going to be out later than I originally estimated.

Will these things work in the long run? I don't know. But these things alone probably won't ruin us.

Also, a lot of people say that they might be able to go to something, just to keep their options open. Ask her afterward if she definitely wants to attend, or if she just thinks it might be fun to keep in mind.
posted by jander03 at 9:34 AM on September 27, 2010

She’s excited about the latest beauty products and I see them as a reminder to women that they’re not good enough unless they buy ____________.

Data point: I am a very logical thinker who has a degree in a technical field and is also a die-hard feminist. I. Love. Makeup. You come off as very judgmental. This 30 year old woman that you are dating is obviously not the one for you.
posted by 200burritos at 9:42 AM on September 27, 2010 [8 favorites]

There's no reason to stay together. You don't trust her, you don't respect the way she thinks or makes decisions, you don't respect her choice in friends.

You don't need to bridge gaps with someone when the gaps are so fundamental. Just break up.
posted by Kololo at 9:52 AM on September 27, 2010

Never never never ever get between a girl and her beauty products or her clothes. Just don't

I can understand, OP, that you can have the feelings you do. Obviously, you too feel the same sort of pressures she does in terms of makeup and looks and all of that. Your way of reacting to that is to say no, I won't buy makeup and I'm not going to get into these beauty things like other women.

But your girlfriend may be different. You have to respect that her reaction to being pressured by the beauty industry might be different than yours. And figure out why you feel your reaction to the beauty industry has to be the same as your girlfriends.

As for the flaking, tell her it is important that if you make plans, that she follow up with those plans. Ask her, point-blank, if she can do that for you. If she says no, I'd break up.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:01 AM on September 27, 2010

You sound like you're just really different people and maybe not all that compatible. Do you love her? Do you want to marry her? Or is this just a fun relationship with "a total cutie" who, ultimately, you don't respect the way a partner should be respected?

I think people are piling on you here, and I don't mean to imply that you're an ass for feeling the way you do. It's perfectly fine if you don't want to eat at TGI Friday's. But maybe you should be dating someone whose restaurant preferences don't make you think less of them.
posted by tetralix at 10:04 AM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for your suggestions. I realize I'm being judgemental & was hoping to figure out a way not to be since I'd like to be in this relationship.

I kept my examples simple, perhaps too simple & w/o more background info. It's definately a reflection of the confusion that's in my head.
posted by PeaPod at 10:23 AM on September 27, 2010


I'd take a lot of these responses with a grain of salt. There are things that might be red flags in a hetero relationship that would not be here.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:58 AM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

It might help to realize that all other women have flaws too. Everyone has flaws. But there are some flaws that you can look at from an outsider's perspective and see how they aren't so bad, or even could be kind-of adorable! But then there are some that are horrible no matter how you slice it. Which kind are these? Try to be honest with yourself about whether you're just annoyed by everyday conflicts or are deeply dissatisfied with the relationship. Then write down how you did it and send it to me in an email because I have no idea how to do that either.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:58 AM on September 27, 2010

Apologies in advance for the parts of this that are just me projecting.

I have discovered that when I'm super critical of myself, I'm super critical of other people, too. I hate being that way, now that I'm older. (When I was younger, I saw the whole world as a hierarchy, and being critical made me feel higher on the ladder.)

I have defused some of my judgementalism by practicing coming up with some CHARITABLE reasons why someone might act in ways that seem dumb. Maybe they stopped in the middle of the road because they're new at driving. Maybe they're partying all night because they feel desperately lost and lonely. Maybe they're buying stuff they don't need because they're insecure about how they look or really need people to like them. Or maybe they're going through a break up and want a little distraction and retail therapy. For me, these are things to pity, not to be critical of. I have been in all those situations, and behaved accordingly "badly."

I also make a note in my head of the times I do dumb things of the sort I'd judge other people for.

I am working on becoming humble enough to figure out that my way isn't everyone's way, and just because we have the same data it doesn't mean they'll make the same decisions I would. This doesn't make them wrong, it only makes them different.

It also helps me to remember all the times I've been plain old wrong in my judgement. Unequivocably, absolutely wrong. As part of that, these days when I'm that wrong I make a note of it in my head.

If you have contempt for her priorities, which is sounds like you do, you aren't going to make a good match, but you might want to consider whether the priorities you have contempt for are really worth such disapprobation. (And as part of that, are you denying stuff that you like because you don't think you SHOULD like them? Do you have a committee in your head judging everything as "Ok To Like" and "Not Ok To Like"? I know I do, if I don't shut it down right quick.)

It also sounds like you have a story for every decision you or she makes. For instance, buying lipstick means Buying Into the Patriarchy and Cosmopolitan's Agenda to Undermine the American Woman (just to exaggerate slightly). Sometimes it's just fun to buy lipstick. If you like TGIF's hot wings and blue cheese dressing, sometimes it's okay to just go enjoy.

I guess my point is that you're very hard on her and I suspect you're just as hard on yourself. This relationship may or may not be a good match, but I suspect future ones will also be hard, unless you opt for someone as hard on herself and you as you are on yourself, which sounds like no fun at all.

Once in while you see a relationship in which each partner seems to try to out-Puritan their partner. My grandparents were in one of these. It didn't look very enjoyable but they obviously got something out of it, or they wouldn't have bothered.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:41 AM on September 27, 2010 [3 favorites]

There are things that might be red flags in a hetero relationship that would not be here.

I think your comment is a derail, so I'd like to know: such as?
posted by micawber at 11:54 AM on September 27, 2010

Our values from a massive part of who we are. Curiosity and the desire to truly understand are marvellous attributes. I don't read your question as judgement, or as feeling superior, it just sounds like frustration because you're finding it hard to reconcile your feelings. Bottom line, if you can't share her outlook, you at least need to respect the difference. If she doesn't share your values she should at least be open to understanding where you're coming from with them. If you two can't carve out some middle ground it's a good sign that you're not really compatible long term - it's a perfect recipe for resentment down the line.
posted by freya_lamb at 12:39 PM on September 27, 2010

from = form, goshdarnit!
posted by freya_lamb at 1:37 PM on September 27, 2010

DH (28 years) started out this way. You have a good take on the possible reasons for your lady's more casual way. For many years I both appreciated and was annoyed by DH's firmer (sometimes rigid) approach while he both tolerated and learned to relax in mine. Gradually we've been taking on more of the other's way. He doesn't sweat the small stuff ("A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds?") while I take more pride in following through. Most recently we've even begun to surprise one-another by taking the other's old role. He's stopped wearing his watch and even bounced a check while I make sure we call family when we said we would.

One thing I know for sure. True love makes standards and practices, values and principles, look compulsive. Let your love for your lady drive your response to her proclivities. Lean into why she does what she does and you'll gain much more than if you cling to structures for their own sake.
posted by Mertonian at 1:45 PM on September 27, 2010

My advice is that you lighten up on her. Just because you don't get the way her head works doesn't mean that she's wrong.
Relationships are based on compromises, and you should get a little more used to just going along.
posted by Gilbert at 3:38 PM on September 27, 2010

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