GF Overreacting?
November 20, 2010 12:54 PM   Subscribe

Relationship question-need input

So my girlfriend says I am not romantic enough. Here is a scenario that happened yesterday, fact by fact

1. She dimmed out the lights although I didnt notice this at the time
2. She asked me to rub body creme on her butt
3. I asked if she would mind if i listened to something whilst i was doing this
4. She said no, she wouldnt mind
5. I turned on NPR's News Review
6. She was furious and walked out of the room

She said she thought I was going to put on some music and I thought I would put on a News Review

Was she overreacting?
posted by bostonman to Human Relations (30 answers total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
Well, I would have been pretty ticked off in her position. But it totally sounds like the kind of miscommunication that could easily happen with my SO, so I have some sympathy for you, as well. I think you would do better to focus on improving communication between the two of you than figuring out whether she was over-reacting...
posted by bardophile at 1:01 PM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Clearly you two were not in the same headspace. If this was something that happened regularly, I would probably get fairly cranky about it, too.
posted by restless_nomad at 1:01 PM on November 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Regardless of overreactions or whether you are "romantic" enough or the dimming of the lights, unless the stuff you are rubbing on your S.O.'s behind is burn ointment or rash cream, you can safely assume that her request for you to fondle her backside means Intimacy has been Initiated.

Whether she overreacted, on the other hand, is a much more complicated question that strangers on the internet can only divine an answer to. Has this been a recurring problem in the relationship? Better yet, has it been a problem that has been brought up in conversation? How does she normally handle frustration? Is she a hurl-a-thing-against-the-wall kind or the seethe-silently kind (or anything in between, of course)?
posted by griphus at 1:02 PM on November 20, 2010 [8 favorites]

I think she should have been more clear and explicit in what she wanted from you, but all the same: dude! Rubbing body cream on someone's bum? That's pretty clearly sexy time. I know I would probably behave in the same manner if my partner did something totally unromantic during sexy time.
posted by Solomon at 1:02 PM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


"I have no pants on, and I want you to touch me" is generally code for sex. You agreed to touch her, so she expected you agreed to sex. "I'll listen to NPR News" usually (but not necessarily) is not sexy. So, she left the room because there will be no sex. She was upset because you'd rather listen to news than have sex.

Maybe you two need to be more direct. "I want sex." "I want to listen to the news."
posted by Houstonian at 1:03 PM on November 20, 2010 [58 favorites]

Yeah, there is no way of answering this question without some context about the rest of your relationship. If you have a history of missing her romantic cues, then no, she's not overreacting, I could see being quite annoyed about something like this.

(Also, I think I would be far more bothered that you're asking a group of strangers on the Internet to weigh in whether she's overreacting or not, as if by that you could prove that she's overreacting. This is something the two of you need to discuss.)
posted by peacheater at 1:04 PM on November 20, 2010 [8 favorites]

I don't think she's overreacting - I'd be upset too.
posted by christinetheslp at 1:08 PM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

bostonman: Was she overreacting?"


Assuming you're not just taking a poll, I'd be really pissed.

In case you're not 100% crystal clear, #5 was the point of failure here. The correct answer was not NPR, but Barry White.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:11 PM on November 20, 2010 [9 favorites]

Was she overreacting?

Walking out? Not at all. She was asking you to pay attention to her in an intimate way. It would be like putting on NPR during sex. The message is I am only half interested in this right now. Which is fine - but refusal of her request would have been better.
posted by marimeko at 1:11 PM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Two questions for you, bostonman:

1. How did you interpret her request for butt-lotioning? Did it seem like a sexy overture to you, or did you interpret it as a request for help moisturizing a spot she couldn't reach?
2. Would you be comfortable having sex while listening to News Review?

In a nutshell, she put some pretty clear moves on you and you indicated some crystal clear non-interest by putting on the news. This sounds like either obliviousness or insensitivity on your part.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:17 PM on November 20, 2010 [4 favorites]

I guess it could have been worse. You could have put on the Diane Rehms show.

But, yeah, it's pretty ridiculous that you didn't notice that she was initiating sexytime. Unless the butt creme was hemorrhoid ointment.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:18 PM on November 20, 2010 [12 favorites]

Unless you spend a lot of time discussing geopolitics in bed, no, it probably wasn't the smartest thing to do.
posted by avocet at 1:19 PM on November 20, 2010

Due to the demographics of the internet.. you're bound to get a wide variety of opinions re: was she over-reacting.

Personally.. I think she over-reacted and could have responded to the situation in a much more creative fashion. As soon as you turned on NPR news.. she could have simply (coyly) winked at you and said something like "I was hoping for something a little" ...

Or.. as others have said.. she could have simply been direct and told you what she was in the mood for.

Course.. I'm a man.. and I like things simple and direct.. so what do I know.
posted by jmnugent at 1:20 PM on November 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

She was not overreacting - she was reacting to her feelings. There's nothing wrong with that.

However, you're not getting many to agree with you here because you framed it as if you were in her head the whole time. Which you weren't.

What if the question was "I wanted sex, and I did something that I thought was a sex move but my girlfriend wasn't in the mood. Can I be mad at my girlfriend for not being in the mood?"

Because that's essentially what your situation is but with the genders reversed. Since you're explaining it the way you are, I think you get why she's mad. But I also think you shouldn't make this about who's right and who's wrong, just how to get over it and avoid it happening again.

Mistakes were made, but neither of you is totally at fault. If you want to avoid this in the future, either get better at picking up her signals (which would be the more romantic route) or tell her that you'd rather have a more straightforward way of communicating (which is more practical but probably less fun)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:20 PM on November 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

Do you really think she needed help putting creme on her butt? The answer, for the most part, is no. It's just an excuse to start some intimacy. Now you know for future reference.
posted by Meagan at 1:20 PM on November 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

The simple fact that you're framing this as a win-lose situation is a bad sign. Was she overreacting? Is that what really matters about this situation? That someone on the internet declare that you won by being less insensitive to your partners needs?

You two have a communication problem. She expects you to be able to read her signals, and doesn't have a lot of patience when you miss them. You expect her to explicitly express her wishes and don't seem to pay attention to any non-verbal cues. Which one of you was being the bigger jackass in this precise situation isn't important.

The two of you need to sit down and talk about how you can find a common ground on which to communicate your desires. One that will involve you learning to actually pay attention to her non-verbal cues, and one that will let her make them more explicit rather than flipping out when you miss them.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:22 PM on November 20, 2010 [10 favorites]

Oh, word on the 'I will describe this objective series of events objectively and the internet will give me an objective answer that I can then take to my (implicitly unobjective) girlfriend for the decision.'

We like to pretend otherwise, but AskMe is not the booth where you can take the replay footage and ask for the call to be reviewed. For one thing, you're both supposed to be on the same team. And she's allowed to feel however she feels about this. You are welcome to disagree with her.

That being said, in undergrad, the rule of thumb where if you were able to focus on any chores around the house during sexytime, the relationship was likely to be on the rocks. While this has mellowed a bit during the post-college Time of Responsibility and the ups and downs of LTRs, I'm going to amend that to include the news.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 1:28 PM on November 20, 2010 [9 favorites]

Well, I think the whole situation is pretty hilarious, and if my SO had done it we'd still be laughing about it. So yes, I think she overreacted to your extremely clueless behavior.
posted by hazyjane at 1:52 PM on November 20, 2010 [5 favorites]

See, I have the sort of relationship where "Is this just a butt thing you need help with, or is this a sexy butt thing? Because if it's just a butt thing, I'm going to leave this BBC World Service report on starving malarial war orphans on, and that's not gonna work with any sexy butt things" is a valid response to that sort of query.

If you don't have this sort of relationship, you might try to work towards it. It saves a lot of time on misunderstandings.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 1:54 PM on November 20, 2010 [33 favorites]

Nothing screams sexy time like NPR!
If I put npr on, my girlfriend probably wouldn't find that very attractive.
Just ask what expectations she has of you. Communication and all that jazz.
posted by handbanana at 2:02 PM on November 20, 2010

No, she wasn't overreacting, although if this doesn't blow over, that would be an overreaction... or a sign that you have bigger problems.

I'm more curious about this than about anything AskMeFi I've ever seen -- OP, what were you thinking? Did you not realize this was a sex thing or did you think NPR was good sexytime background?
posted by J. Wilson at 2:09 PM on November 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

You went wrong with number 3. You should have said "do you mind if I listen to the news?", to which she would have said 'yes'. No one assumes someone would be clueless enough to think news is an appropriate 'something' to listen to when they are clearly looking for some intimacy.

Get your sexy-time radar checked. It's clearly on the blink. She didn't overreact, she just left the room to cool off instead of telling you how clueless you were. If she flipped out on you, I might be more sympathetic.
posted by sunshinesky at 2:09 PM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Is it a bit difficult sometimes for you to read social cues? Is she aware of this personality trait of yours? Also, everyone is a bit socially awkward sometimes, even with their SO. I would say she overreacted if you have made her aware of the way you think about these sorts of things. In that case, she could have shown a bit more compassion and laughed about the situation. If you two don't know each other that well yet, then it was a learning experience for the both of you. You know now that likes these sorts of romantic activities, so can be prepared for them to arise. She knows that you might now always be able to read the situation (if you go talk to her now about what happened). That's okay. Sometimes it's tough for men to read minds like women expect them to. :) Tell her to be a bit more clear with you when she wants sexy time. Having to explicit state things doesn't "kill the mood." Be a bit self-deprecating and light hearted about it when you're discussing the incident with her, if that is in your nature. Hopefully you will both be able to understand eachother's feelings about the matter. Good luck!
posted by sunnychef88 at 2:14 PM on November 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

I guess it could have been worse. You could have put on the Diane Rehms show.

And for total bed-death you could have put on Prairie Home Companion.

Honestly, this is one of the funnier things I have read on this site, ever. You guys need to learn how to communicate -- which means that you need to learn that "rub this on my butt" is code for something other than NPR, and she needs to learn to laugh at your cluelessness rather than getting angry and to express herself with more literalness when she wants there to be no chance of a misunderstanding

That kind of miscommunication is totally normal. A lot of things in a relationship are expressed indirectly (quick: is "do these jeans make me look fat?" a question about the jeans?) or with non-verbal communication. There's no one right way to communicate -- you guys just need to find a pattern that works for both of you and that doesn't leave either of you unheard or angry.
posted by Forktine at 2:51 PM on November 20, 2010 [16 favorites]

I would add in that if she has issues initiating sex, it'd suck to be making what seems like a pretty damn clear cut move and get mowed down IF it's something that is an ongoing issue. In other words, if you've had discussions about lack of sexy time/her lack of initiation and then you put the news on in the middle of her making a move, it'd suck kinda hardcore. Because it's not even a "aw shit honey, I'm just not up for sexy times" or "I'll rub this on your butt, nothing else" it's a "I don't even care that you're asking for sexytimes". And ignoring someone's sexual desires sucks.

In my relationship, there would have probably been anger at the time, laughing at it now. I've come very close to walking off when the Other Anachronism took just that bit too long to stop playing a game because we have discussed my ridiculous issues with sex and it seemed like a blatant disregard for those issues that we are working on as a couple - I am not able to sustain desire for significant periods of time without some sort of help. Listening to him tell the other guys "look man, I gotta go" five or six times over 10-15 minutes is not help. So in that situation I would have been pissed - we're working on sex issues and you want to put on (possibly triggering, certainly unsexy) news? WTF man? Just say you don't want to have sex and we'll be okay!
posted by geek anachronism at 3:27 PM on November 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

Whether she overreacted or not -- that was her reaction, and just in terms of doing what's best for your relationship, the first thing I think you should address is the aftermath. That is, the point now isn't to argue about whether she overreacted or you did wrong, but to deal with the fact that her feelings are hurt (and, secondarily, so are yours, I suspect -- otherwise you wouldn't have posted this question. I can understand that you'd be flustered at the very least! Sucks to be blindsided by your SO's behavior).

Anyway, in an ideal world according to Artemisia, you'd reassure her that she's sexy and desirable and that you love the fact that -- so you now realize -- she was initiating a hot session of hanky-panky. Apologize for not getting the message. Emphasize that you'd be thrilled to fall prey to her seductions.

And then tell her, "You know, I can be thick-headed sometimes, I don't mean to miss your signals but if it seems like I'm missing them, can you do me a favor and make it really freaking obvious? Because I definitely don't want to blow you off by accident."

Bonus: if she can learn to be explicit about her desires when it seems like you're missing the boat, you also will have an opportunity to be explicit about your own desires: as in, if you're not in the mood, you get a chance to convey that in a frank but kind way, without accidentally doing it in a way that will send her storming out.

So, in a nutshell: apology, compliment, a bit of self-deprecation, a request for clearer communication. Followed (because, hey, this is my version of the ideal scenario) by your offer to rub that cream in now, if she's in the mood, with the radio tuned to anything she'd like. ;)
posted by artemisia at 4:12 PM on November 20, 2010 [6 favorites]

Adding to geek anachronism's great answer -- consider that maybe her predominant emotion was not anger but humiliation. If I made what I thought was an obvious sexual overture and my partner's response was something like "Sure, but can I massage your butt with one hand so that I can keep playing videogames with the other?" I would feel really humiliated and I'd probably deal with that humiliation by getting angry at my partner for making me feel that way. (It's an especially fraught situation because we're taught that men are always interested in sex.)

I disagree with MCMikeNamara that this is the equivalent of getting angry at one's partner for not being in the mood. Saying "sorry baby, I'm not really in the mood for sex right now" is very different from suggesting that you are so indifferent to your partner that you'll just go through the motions/ignore the fact that they've put themselves in a vulnerable position. I have, regrettably, done the latter, and my partner got angry at me. And I don't blame him.
posted by pluckemin at 4:50 PM on November 20, 2010 [16 favorites]

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. There is not a Relationship Color Wheel you can hold this situation up to and say, "Well, it's shading a bit toward Overreacting, but no, it looks mostly Reasonable." Overreacting, in the context of a relationship, means whatever the two of you agree that it means. If she gets mad at you more than you feel is appropriate or for inappropriate things, then you talk to her about it. If it continues, then you figure out whether you want to stay in the relationship.

There is no Right and Wrong, there is only Acceptable To You and Not Acceptable To You. You and only you get to decide the parameters of your relationship, including how much input you want the other person in the relationship to have as regards those parameters. She doesn't get to say, "No, I'm being reasonable, per the Rules Of Human Interaction, page 315, paragraph 4, and you have to not be mad at me."
posted by Etrigan at 5:22 PM on November 20, 2010 [5 favorites]

Eek. 'Girl human has water in her eyes and a frowny face, does this mean she's wrong?'

I am projecting from my own relationships here I suppose, but maybe this is a pattern event - you've done this kinda thing to her before? Maybe it illustrates a bigger niggle about sex, attention, intimacy etc. In our house, this kind of incident being dismissed as an 'over-reaction' derails into the "you ALWAYS... blah blah... ignore me" or "you NEVER... blah blah... pay attention to me" argument drama. It might be better [and it has worked for us] to ask the harder question which is "you're upset, have I hurt your feelings?" No one's right or wrong but hurt feelings are acknowledged and lovingly responded to.

I reckon the over-reaction, if there is one, might be the partner who went on line to ask a bunch of strangers about his gal's irritation not to understand it, but to poll us on whether she's over-reacting. As others have said here, there isn't wrong and right, there's someone you love who's having a feeling. [Luckily, you are getting cues about empathy from us, so that's the lesson here imho]
posted by honey-barbara at 6:52 PM on November 20, 2010 [8 favorites]

[Luckily, you are getting cues about empathy from us, so that's the lesson here imho]

The OP's account is disabled.
posted by headnsouth at 7:01 PM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

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