How to stop fighting with my boyfriend?
August 1, 2011 7:25 AM   Subscribe

How can my boyfriend and I stop fighting so much?

Hello Metafilter!

I'm feeling very stuck here and anyone's thoughts/help/experiences would be much, much appreciated. I know that couples therapy might be a good idea, but for various reasons that is not a good option for us right now. I'm hoping that getting some outside peoples' perspective and experiences might help me/us, I don't know...shake things up, give me/us some new ideas, etc.

Anyway, the situation:

My boyfriend and I are both in our early 30s and we live together. We've been together a bit over a year. We love each other and we both see this as a relationship that could go on indefinitely/lead to marriage, etc. Our relationship has a lot of good stuff in it -- we have fun together, like to do the same things, find each other interesting, have similar views on what we want out of life, etc. The only thing is, we fight a lot more than either of us would like and despite our best efforts to stop, as of yet we have not been able to.

With very few exceptions, the fights start about trivial stupid things and spiral into big ridiculous meta-fights about the fight. Then the fight will seemingly take on a life of its own and at a certain point it will almost be like we are speaking completely different languages in a way that feels both scary and frustrating. (He'll accuse me of doing/acting in certain ways and I'll think he is completely totally wrong and crazy, and vice versa). We often misunderstand each other no matter how hard we try to communicate.

A big part of the problem seems to be that we are both extremely sensitive/reactive to each others moods/feelings/disapproval. The idea of him being even slightly irritated with me about something makes me feel horrible (and vice versa). At this point we both feel like we are walking on egg-shelves trying not to upset the other one.

We are both trying SO HARD and while there are times when it seems like things are getting better, there are other times it feels like we've been having the same fight for our entire relationship.

It is exhausting and I'm not sure what to do at this point. We have discussed trying to be less reactive to each other, although I'm not really sure how to go about doing that. Like, if I feel like he's being snipppy to me, I am fully capable of not bringing it up, but I'm not sure how to make my feelings not feel hurt.

I've read the Harville Hendrix books and know that there are those who say we are drawn to the people who will push our buttons the most (and can help inspire us to fix things about ourselves that need fixing). How do I know if we're going to help fix each other or if despite our best efforts and wishes, we're simply incompatible? I know both of us really want to work on this and want this to work out, but all this fighting is taking a toll on both of us.

So, Metafilter, do you have any suggestions? Any ideas of techniques to try or books to read? Questions to ask ourselves or each other? Ways of approaching this? As I said, I realize I'm asking a really hard question here (even if you guys DID know both of us personally).

Has anyone here been in a similar situation, and if so, how did you and your partner handle it?

Any help would be very, very much appreciated.
posted by JessicaJane to Human Relations (29 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
One technique I find extraordinarily useful to avoid fighting is to delay everything for 24h. If I am irritated by something and want to have a go at the person responsible for the irritant, or if another person seems to want to start something, I leave it for 24h/ask that the person talk to me about it tomorrow.

After a full day has passed most things are revealed as the trivia they really are, and that's the end of it. But if it's still an issue, one is much calmer for having slept on it, and then you can go ahead and discuss possible solutions in a rational fashion.

It takes two to fight and it really is possible to simply not fight with somebody once you're committed to that. You must be able to recognise the start of these blow-ups by now? Just don't engage. Go for a walk if that helps.
posted by kmennie at 7:35 AM on August 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

you say that couples therapy is not an option right now for various reasons. i'm sure i'm not the only one who will suggest that you find a way to make it an option.

i would suggest re-examining why it's not an option and make it a priority. if it's money, most places having a sliding scale. if it's time, there's going to have be some sort of compromise.

if you plan on getting married, a few sessions in couples therapy might make a huge difference in this issue.

also, if possible try individual therapy. i've found that working on my own issues with self-esteem and anxiety have made me a much better partner in my relationship.

relationships take time and work, both the relationship with yourself and your partner. therapy might be that work and making it happen might be the key. there's a reason it's the first thing most mefites suggest in posts like this.

hugs to you - i know it's tough.
posted by sio42 at 7:37 AM on August 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

A year and ya'll are fighting like this right now? Yikes. Marriage ain't going to help, sorry for the brutal truth. This is a personality thing and seems like you guys cannot help but fight. It reminds me of times with my brother as a kid. I couldn't talk to him about ANYTHING because something always turned into a fight so I ignored him and tried not to make much conversation cause I hate arguing. Well, he loves to argue and his wife divorced him because she says he debates everything, they don't talk on an equal scale. This kinda sounds like you two. Try therapy if you really feel this relationship is marriage material only a year in (doubt it), again just honesty and experience from many ends. It's tough but you need to see the relationship for what it is if it's wearing you down.
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 7:46 AM on August 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

Wow, my wife and I could have written your question, exactly word for word, except that we have been married for six years and have two small children amplifying everything.

What we have recently discovered is that we are so comfortable with each other and know each other so well, that we have stopped communication and instead started assuming everything--assuming what the person is thinking based on knowing them so well for so long; assuming we know how the other person is feeling, etc.

We used to be amazing communicators and got along very well and would go years without even the smallest fight; but now that has all gone out the window and in a way to find a shortcut, we just assume, assume, assume. Our fights have been horrible lately, and add the stress of two tiny children, and it's just awful.

Hopefully this helps. It has been helping us, but it's hard to stick with it when the easy route is just to blow up and fight every night.
posted by TinWhistle at 8:15 AM on August 1, 2011 [15 favorites]

I'm in a relationship where both my partner and I felt "fixed" before we got together. We continue help each other achieve goals and grow both individually and as a couple, but we never think we need to get "fixed."

I imagine this "fixing" idea is exhausting. Can you change this attitude?

Otherwise, maybe you are two great people not exactly compatible. It happens! No shame required.
posted by jbenben at 8:22 AM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

So tone down the rhetoric! And learn to be active listeners!

Accusing each other? Assuming each other is crazy and wrong? That's no way to behave! No wonder you're fighting all the time.

Next time he says something crazy, say, "Oh, I'm sorry you feel that way. Can you tell me what gave you that impression, because that wasn't what I intended to convey. Instead I meant... [reframe the issue in the positive light that it was meant to be in from the start]."

If he decides to be irrational and angry about it, FULL STOP. Do not pass go, do not continue the conversation. Say, "I can see you're upset right now. We should talk about this later when we've both calmed down." And then absent yourself. Come back to the issue later when he's had time to calm down.

If you find yourself irrational and angry about something, FULL STOP. Don't accuse him of something. Say, "Hey lover, can you help me understand this thing?" Is he forgetting to consider something important in his explanation? Don't say so. Say, "Hey lover, but did you consider X thing?" Maybe he did. And maybe his explanation is better than yours.

It takes a lot of self-control to respond appropriately in emotional situations. First you need to realize that the first thing to come to your mind is usually NOT the right thing to say. So let that little voice tire itself out in your head while you ignore it and formulate the adult response that you'll say aloud. Take your time. This isn't a race.
posted by jph at 8:30 AM on August 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

what TinWhistle said. You are not communicating. Theres a way to fight where you communicate whats actually going wrong... the 'when you do this, i feel like this' model...

Have you had a real, no-holds-barred conversation about this behavior? Sometimes its hard to get out of the 'we're fighting! fightfightfightfeelawfulapologizemoveon' cycle, but a good way to get there is 'Look, I love you, and I know weve been fighting a lot lately. Let's try to figure out what's going on with us that leads us to this pattern, and see if we can address it so at least we can be more aware of each others triggers. I'll go first...'

Yes, yes, therapy, every MeFi questions answer for everything. I think you can get through this without it, but you have to talk about it for real. talk about the fighting in terms of what you think sets you off. Be vulnerable (hey, you love this guy, right? thats part of it). Work on the underlying stuff that leads you two to set each other off!
posted by softlord at 8:35 AM on August 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Are you able to communicate better in writing? I often have difficulty articulating my thoughts as soon as an "argument" starts. It's like I just get immediately defensive and wrapped up in the idea of arguing, rather than the issue at hand.

I think face to face communication is best, maybe it would help to write your thoughts down on paper and then swap with the other person. I haven't done this in the heat of an argument, but it might be worth a try if you're the kind of person that expresses yourself better in writing, when you have some time to think.
posted by pourtant at 8:35 AM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

If I start getting irritated by my partner, I stop and take a self-assesment. Am I hungry? Tired? Stressed? Uncomfortable for some reason (too hot, too cold, vulnerable, etc). If the answer is yes to any of these, then I stop what I'm doing and take care of this first. I would say that 99% of our fights stopped when we realized that we were lashing out based on internal factors, not external ones.

Also seconding with softlord said. We talked about why we fight a lot - what sets us off, why it spirals, how each of us can work to break the cycle. Again, do this when each of you feels that internal factors have been cared for.
posted by muddgirl at 8:37 AM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Like, if I feel like he's being snipppy to me, I am fully capable of not bringing it up, but I'm not sure how to make my feelings not feel hurt.

When he's snippy, you have two choices - you can assume he's being a jerk/wants to pick a fight/mad at you, or you can assume there's something else that's bothering him. Before you assume the former and comment on it, think about whether it is worth having a hurtful, painful, relationship-threatening argument because of it. Wouldn't it be better if you assume there's something else wrong, take a deep breath/go for a walk and let it pass? Better yet, see if there's something you can do to help relieve/distract him from whatever is bothering him...

Your shared goal is for you two to be happy together, right? Base your interactions on working towards that goal and, assuming he does the same, you will be surprised how much less you argue.
posted by jshort at 8:37 AM on August 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

TinWhistle is on to something, the both of you really need to explain to each other how you feel and set some parameters up as to what is a valid/productive form of communication and what is considered an attack. Seems to me most fights are started by one person unknowingly using communication language that the other feels is hostile. Sometimes just pointing that out immediately can diffuse the situation. A simple " you see, it's that kind of language that turns me off" can be enough to allow the other person time to immediately apologize and rephrase the question/statement so it doesn't come off as accusatory. Once someone balls up into a defensive position nothing good can happen.
posted by any major dude at 8:37 AM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Would you describe yourselves as defensive people? Maybe every minor complaint or snip seems like something you need to defend yourself against and thus creates an attack/defend dynamic that blows everything out of proportion. If this maybe rings true for you, my approach (as someone who has been there) is two-fold: Truly accept that this person loves you and you love them. Accept in these situations that feeling defensive and hurt is a choice you make.

Don't take abuse, but don't defend yourself against 'attacks' that aren't there either. That just creates noise and bad feelings that will never solve the actual problems.
posted by Katine at 8:42 AM on August 1, 2011 [7 favorites]

This will sound bad but i talk from experience. You two are not meant to be together. me and my ex used to fight all the time. We broke up (she actually cheated on me) . The next person i met became my wife. We really dont argue (maybe once every two or three weeks) its a complete 180.

So my experience dictates you two are not meant to be.
posted by majortom1981 at 9:11 AM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I had a very similar dynamic with my ex-husband - we were both really sensitive to perceived slights, and both threw up up defenses really fast, and just exhausted each other with constant fighting. What had started to help me out was personal therapy - I was in a DBT skills group, and started working on my own emotional reactivity. It did change our dynamic when I would change my side of it.

Although divorcing wound up being the best option for us for lots of reasons, I still find the skills useful, even though my new relationship is a lot more relaxed and much less defensive. I still find myself falling into the pattern of getting hurt feelings easily and wanting them to go away NOW, which is what always triggered fights in my marriage. The feeling of being hurt was so strong I felt like I couldn't deal with it, and pushed my husband to fix it for me immediately. I've really had to work hard to be able to accept being uncomfortable with hurt feelings, and process them on my own and figure out what's a legitimate problem and what's just my own shit in my head. I take lots of walks and write in a journal and talk to friends to sort it all out myself before then approaching my bf once I've figured out what the real issues are. I find it really unnatural compared to the way I'm used to reacting, but it makes me ultimately feel more grounded to own my own stuff.

Anyway, I guess my long-winded point is that you might not be able to prevent hurt feelings, but you can choose how you react to your hurt feelings, and taking control of that can ultimately feel pretty good. Good luck - I know how hard it is!
posted by Neely O'Hara at 9:13 AM on August 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

The High-Conflict Couple
posted by jon1270 at 9:49 AM on August 1, 2011

My go-to recommendation: How to be an Adult in Relationships. It totally helped me rewire the way I express myself (and could hear my partner expressing himself) during conflict.

The number one thing to remember -- and to remind yourselves explicitly, as necessary -- is that you are always on the same team. (This is presuming that you both genuinely feel this way. If not, there's a different problem here.) This means that a conflict is no longer about which one of you "wins" and which one of you "loses" -- it becomes about how both of you can find a resolution. You stop being enemies and become allies (albeit allies having a disagreement).

In fact, the next time you find one of these stupid little fights escalating, see what happens if you just take a breath, put your hand on your boyfriend's hand, look in his eyes, and say calmly and gently, "honey, I'm on your side." If you both have empathy for each other, it's a pretty good bet that this will immediately change the dynamic of the situation. You may both still be angry, and you may still have stuff to talk out, but the heat will almost certainly come down at least a few degrees.

Another trick is to find a verbal "get out of jail" card that either of you can play during these fights that will signify that the matter has to be dropped immediately (or at least tabled for the time being). This is something that you'll have to decide on when you're not in the middle of a fight, obviously; it also helps if it's based on a private in-joke of some sort (even better if it uses the word "monkey" in some way, but possibly that's just me), so that when you deploy it, it is sufficiently silly and/or a reminder of your sense of affection for each other.

Here are a few other things that I've found to be useful. Good luck! I know this sort of thing can be really emotionally exhausting.
posted by scody at 10:02 AM on August 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

jshort is on to something. I recommend this book. I also don't recommend marriage. If it's this much work one year in, it's going to be hellish after 10 years.
posted by toastedbeagle at 10:04 AM on August 1, 2011

"I've read the Harville Hendrix books and know that there are those who say we are drawn to the people who will push our buttons the most (and can help inspire us to fix things about ourselves that need fixing)."

I don't know this Harville Hendrix from a hole in the ground but this sounds like bunkum. Who we are attracted to is a bit of a mystery but I don't think everyone gravitates to a button-pusher and just because you've got one on your hands does not mean that this is the natural order of things.

Are you two talking about this? Equally miserable? If so, that's a great first start and may mean you can skip the therapist. Communication is absolutely key. I think every couple goes through a phase where they have to learn how to fight -- fairly and with compassion. It sounds like you two are really missing some key communication strategies and are not fighting fair or with compassion.

One conversation that can open up a whole world of clarity is: how did each of your parents fight? What did they do well and what did they not do well? We learn how to be adults from our parents and their bad habits can easily become our bad habits. And these habits seem to us normal and natural when, in fact, they are just habits or styles and they may not work for us as adults. Start with this conversation and see where it goes. Afterwards, let it stew for a week and percolate and then talk again. Talk about what you'd rather do and what you'd rather see. Keep talking.... if you guys love each other, you'll work hard on this. If your fights are as petty as you say, I think you two can come through this.

Another axiom is that boys marry their mother and girls their father. If that were true then I think my husband may have gravitated to my headstrong nature while abandoning the lying manipulations of his mother. (Good choice!) And I took the deeply sensitive heart and sense of humor of my father and left behind the crazy, alcoholic rages. (Even better choice, I say!) So, there's really no "rule" about who you choose and it's really up to you two to create the mold that your relationship is going to fill. Good luck!
posted by amanda at 10:40 AM on August 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Stop cohabiting.

Living together leads to many opportunities for fights over stupid things--chores, toothpaste, etc. Living together also robs you of an easy escape from these stupid arguments--when you don't live together, you just hang up the phone or leave when stupid arguments get out of control; that option is more difficult when cohabiting. By not cohabiting, you give yourselves time to learn how to work out these arguments--or how not to have them in the first place--in a less challenging environment. True, stupid conflicts will arise if you are married and living together. But then, the conflicts will arise in a different context--one where you have already agreed to work those things through.

I take it you have been a couple for a year (as opposed to merely cohabiting for a year, but knowing each other longer.) That's not long to work out ways to solve problems. Cohabiting makes problems worse.

I don't speak as someone who has always opposed cohabiting. I speak as someone who has done it twice and who has no desire to ever do it again.
posted by massysett at 10:53 AM on August 1, 2011

Yep, here's your (main) problem. You said: A big part of the problem seems to be that we are both extremely sensitive/reactive to each others moods/feelings/disapproval. The idea of him being even slightly irritated with me about something makes me feel horrible (and vice versa). At this point we both feel like we are walking on egg-shelves trying not to upset the other one.

Now, you have to face an uncomfortable truth here: this is very dysfunctional and you need to find a way to get past it. Partners must be able to give each other the space to feel upset without becoming upset themselves; this codependent dynamic is going to prevent either of you from feeling comfortable enough to talk openly and maintain real intimacy.

Just try this: the next time you sense that he's upset, don't be afraid to ask if he's okay, but do it once and then leave it alone. Give him space to be upset. Because right now, your emotional behavior is telling each other that your moods are completely dependent on each other (hence, co-dependence) and that is absolutely toxic for everyone involved. You can't have your respective happinesses depend upon the others' like this. When you feel yourself getting tense and anxious because you fear he's upset with you, don't act, and let that voice in your head eventually quiet down. If it's a real problem, he'll either respond to your initial question, tell you himself, or act out in some way -- and it's on him, not you. Don't take responsibility for his feelings.
posted by clockzero at 11:14 AM on August 1, 2011 [9 favorites]

I was very recently in a relationship with a communication dynamic very, very much like this. Exactly a week ago I walked away from it. My ex was beginning to show a pattern of reacting to fairly pedestrian matters with a lot of accusations and completely irrational assumptions about my motives, with a huge undercurrent of passive-aggressive hostility running just below the surface. In turn, this (obviously) made me question how into our relationship he was, and I often found myself in tears, feeling like I kept fucking things up, and like I had to walk on eggshells all the time, because I wasn't sure which benign comment would turn into some huge fight, or whether he was even into the relationship and liked being with me.

I did my best to communicate what I needed in a healthy framework for conflict resolution (asking him to not assume that I had the worst intentions, using "When you, I…" statements) but my ex showed a lot of resistance towards doing this, trying instead to get me to use a form of conflict resolution that basically consisted of me calling him out in a way that overstepped my own sense of healthy boundaries and seemed like a quick path to a complete breakdown in constructive dialogue. We'd probably still be together if we could have gotten on the same page about how to solve conflict, but we couldn't.

So, ultimately I walked away. And I have to say, I miss being with him, but not feeling like you have to walk on eggshells is so, so liberating.

We were only together for four months, and I feel like I got out before things got worse. If y'all can agree on ground rules and both do the heavy lifting that's required, it might work. But please listen to all those people telling you if you're only a year in, this does not bode well. I bet this has been going on for longer than you realize; if you step back and look at those things that maybe you once chalked up to being just a bad day, instead of the red flag it actually was.
posted by mostly vowels at 12:04 PM on August 1, 2011

First of all, thank you, thank you, thank you for the communication suggestions, book suggestions, personal experiences, opinions and kind words. Seriously. I hugely appreciate your all taking the time to answer this.

To respond to a few different peoples' questions/suggestions/comments and give a little more information:

I definitely am very prone to getting defensive. The moment he says anything about anything I did that he does not like, my default response (which I am trying very hard to change with some success) is to explain why it is not fair for him to be upset with me (instead of just accepting that he is and either apologizing or not depending on whether I think I've done anything wrong). Many of the things he gets upset with me about are confusing to me -- I often have a very hard time seeing why he is upset at all. And I'm not someone who in general has trouble putting herself in other peoples' shoes. It's just with him that I do.

(When I say upset, I should mention he is not yelling or anything, at least not at first. When he brings up small things he brings them up in a small way and I tend to overreact.)

He thinks my doing this -- trying to explain why it is unfair of him to be upset -- is me needing to be right all the time. And to some extent this is true I guess. The reason for this is some part of me feels like he won't love me any more if I do anything wrong ever. And so I want to convince him (and me) that I haven't.

The thing is, this -- that he won't love me if I ever make a mistake ever -- is not even factually true. But of course it's not like I logically think this with my logical brain, but I guess some part of me deep down does. This feeling is about me, not him and is not completely confined to this relationship --- I tend to feel completely terrible and wracked with anxiety and guilt if I think I've done anything wrong in a personal relationship (or if I think anyone else thinks I've done anything wrong) and if I feel like anyone is upset with me about anything I obsess over it and can't get it out of my head until the issue is resolved. This is obviously something I need to work on both for our relationship and for myself. I'm just not entirely sure how to go about doing this.

I think clockzero has made a seriously good point re: the codependancy thing. I'm going to think about this a lot more and discuss it with my boyfriend further. (We have discussed this already to some extent but this has inspired me to bring it up again).
posted by JessicaJane at 1:55 PM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

The thing is, this -- that he won't love me if I ever make a mistake ever -- is not even factually true. But of course it's not like I logically think this with my logical brain, but I guess some part of me deep down does. This feeling is about me, not him and is not completely confined to this relationship --- I tend to feel completely terrible and wracked with anxiety and guilt if I think I've done anything wrong in a personal relationship (or if I think anyone else thinks I've done anything wrong) and if I feel like anyone is upset with me about anything I obsess over it and can't get it out of my head until the issue is resolved.

This is useful insight, and is the kind of thing that the book I recommended can be pretty helpful with, I think. Our ways of dealing with conflict -- as dysfunctional as they often are -- come from somewhere, usually our family of origin. So somewhere along the line, you evidently received the message that love is conditional, predicated on being perfect. As you've noticed, this means you've developed the habit of either geting defensive (to neutralize the mistake) or seeking reassurance (to get redemption for the mistake).

Ultimately, the work you have to do (both individually and as a couple) is to undo the message. This means learning a few things. 1) you CAN make a mistake and still be worthy of love; 2) the ups and downs of your boyfriend's feelings don't always automatically mean you've made a mistake in the first place; 3) the anxiety you feel in either instance is actually endurable if you allow yourself to observe it and choose how to respond, rather than reacting in one of your habitual ways.
posted by scody at 2:33 PM on August 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

When arguing, I often lose the ability to articulate my thoughts in any adequate way, even if the argument is really minor, and this generally has the effect of blowing arguments up into huge things.

What works for me is putting off the argument for 24h, with most people. With my boyfriend, we have a safe word for whenever an argument is getting a little out of hand which is our signal for 'enough arguing for now, lets deal with this later'. Our safeword - bananahammock. Has the side-effect of getting us giggling too :)
posted by daysocks at 4:07 PM on August 1, 2011

This book helped me to better understand the underlying issues in recurring arguments and get to the underlying concerns.
posted by lois1950 at 4:21 PM on August 1, 2011

This might help you: "One technique that helps couples was taught to me by a supervisor in graduate school. She called it the Mirror Trick. It works like this: before you approach your partner with a grievance, take a mental peek into the mirror. What aspect of yourself, what issues or ‘stuff,’ either past or present, are you bringing to the discussion about this problem? For example, if you don’t like the amount of time your partner spends with friends, ask yourself “what does his/her spending time away from me mean to me specifically?” It could be an issue of feeling inferior to them or unwanted, something that cuts beyond the core of “a man/woman needs to be home with his/her spouse.” If you can ‘look in the mirror first’ you can then approach your partner with the grievance in the form of your personal idiosyncrasy with the issue as opposed to simply pointing the finger. This will often decrease defensiveness and lead to a more productive outcome. Consider: “When you spend such a large amount of time with your friends, it taps into my fears that you don’t want to be with me. I feel inferior to them.” Compare this with: “I hate it when you’re with your friends so much. You need to be home more.” Which approach is more likely to get the more productive response?" from:
posted by foxjacket at 4:29 PM on August 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

I definitely am very prone to getting defensive. The moment he says anything about anything I did that he does not like, my default response (which I am trying very hard to change with some success) is to explain why it is not fair for him to be upset with me (instead of just accepting that he is and either apologizing or not depending on whether I think I've done anything wrong).

I have friends who do this to me and it drives me crazy. Explanations told like this sound like excuses for not taking responsibility. And they are. "I was late because..." is very different than, "Yes, I was late." One is passing the buck (even if it is a true buck). One is taking ownership. Even if you were late because a meteor struck the earth on the freeway right in front of you, YOU were still late. (Just a fact. Not right or wrong.) Learn to be o.k. with that.

The ownership options is much more scary because it is directly about YOU. But, the good thing about the scarier option is that there is nothing to oppose. It takes blame, judgment, defensiveness out of the equation. And by doing so, takes the momentum and escalation out of the argument.

I think becoming more secure and trusting that he will still love you if you mess up (just like you will still love him if he messes up), will go a long way. You are going in the right direction. I think you just need to keep going.
posted by Vaike at 4:32 PM on August 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

But if he's bringing up something constantly about anything wrong you do, I'm sorry but that's border abusive. It only serves to wear you out, girl. He doesn't have to yell. My ex rarely yelled whenever he would lecture to me what I'm doing wrong. But the problem was, he was always pointing it out. Not good.
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 5:45 PM on August 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

Thanks very much for all the great advice you guys. I followed a lot of this advice, in particular Clockzeroes suggestions. I am kind of astounded at what a big change that has made. I am sure we will fight again at some point, but for now things are a whole lot better.
posted by JessicaJane at 9:47 AM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

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