Treating strangers, acquaintances, and friends better than close family and significant others?
January 5, 2012 10:48 PM   Subscribe

Treating strangers, acquaintances, and friends better than close family and significant others?

I know part of being in a relationship is dealing with the other person's grumpiness, tiredness, thoughtlessness, and distractedness, but it's still difficult when I see my SO treating others "better" than me sometimes.

I'm not talking about horrible treatment, just random stuff that would make me feel a lot better. I can't even give examples without it sounding silly or petty, but things like apologizing for talking over [person that is not me], or walking too far ahead and not waiting for [person that is not me], acts of consideration and helpfulness, "hello's" that are more like "Hey!!" rather than "oh yeah hi," make me feel like a second class citizen. Like I got the short end of the stick, because I'm the one who washes my SO's dirty socks, and gives massages after a long day, and most of all, am the one who wants a nice hello more than those other people anyway.

Again, it's not horrible treatment. I get consideration and nice hellos frequently, but when I see my SO being "on" all the time with other people, it really does make me feel less valued.

I'm sure this is how it is in every relationship. We can't always treat each other like royalty. So how do you deal with this? What should I voice to my partner?
posted by DeltaForce to Human Relations (29 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Do they know you feel this way? If they realised it was important to you, they could make more of an effort to include you.

Part of the joy of a long term partner is that you're allowed to be 'off' with them - you don't always have to be polite and pleased and great to get along with. Perhaps some of the time your SO is acting like this it's just a way of being polite, and they don't want to put on the same false act for you.

Either way, you need to talk. Mention that it would mean a lot to you if they tried to include you a bit more, but then you should also be trying to be aware that being around your partner all the time is a privilege that all the others (who receive the happy hellos) miss out on.
posted by twirlypen at 11:00 PM on January 5, 2012

That ALWAYS happen. People put on a front with other people and that gets exhausting with someone that you're with all the time.
posted by empath at 11:05 PM on January 5, 2012

I think more examples would be useful, but this sounds painfully familiar.

I had a partner who would be very jovial and fun with friends and acquaintances at parties and dinners, but totally ignore me in the same situation, or alternately, after leaving the party become really glum and unpleasant.

I voiced these concerns and my emotional needs to her, but in the first example she said she wasn't aware of doing it and was not interested in trying. In the second example, she said she felt like she could be herself around me, so didn't need to seem fun and upbeat if she wasn't feeling that way.

The latter one I can understand, even if I didn't like it.

The former was never really resolved. I continued to voice concerns about it but no action or acknowledgement was taken so I frequently found myself withdrawing from such social engagements, to another room usually, to avoid that awful feeling of alienation.

Either of those two standing alone aren't that bad of a problem, as in the first situation you can use the knowledge of awesomeness of the relationship the REST of the time to sustain you. But together, they become quite an emotional drain.

So I would recommend you voice how you feel to your partner. Find out if it is something that they are comfortable with you notifying them about when they're doing it. Like whispering "hey honey, I'm feeling a little in need of some more attention." Most likely they don't know they're doing it. They may not be used to attending to your needs in that way.

But if it doesn't get resolved, see a couples' therapist.
posted by MonsieurBon at 11:08 PM on January 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

some people are are trained to be extra polite to strangers/not family. those people also seem to consider their significant other as an extension of themselves - or like you're even closer than family - which means they can burp and say what they're thinking and not worry that you'll judge them for it.

...but the problem there is that you start to feel like they don't care. bringing this up in a non accusatory way would be my suggestion - not even "i feel like a second class citizen" but "hey, i'd feel more cherished if you could try XYZ."
posted by nadawi at 11:11 PM on January 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

I used to rationalize this behavior (incorrectly) as a twisted form of intimacy--seeing and/or sharing what someone 'really' thinks, being on a team where we supposedly know how tight we are that we can afford more shorthand and less diplomacy, etc.

But actually, it's pretty self-centered and more than a little lazy. Relationships generally can and should offer continuous positive reinforcement. Both partners deserve warm fuzzy signals, daily or better. That takes effort--all relationships do. And your SO should be making that effort. It's completely reasonable to feel undervalued when you're not being shown that you're valued.

On the other hand, I would try not to compare his reactions to you with his reactions to others. That opens the door to all kinds of explanations and counterclaims for why he treats others as he does. All that matters is do you notice him trying to make you feel warmly admired and respected every day. Let him know unambiguously that you need that every time you notice it's been too long since you felt it, because the fact of you not feeling it makes a much stronger case that he is failing to meet your needs.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 11:29 PM on January 5, 2012 [28 favorites]

I'm sure this is how it is in every relationship.

That ALWAYS happen. People put on a front with other people and that gets exhausting with someone that you're with all the time.

Err, no. Not at all. My wife comes first. Not that she asks or demands, it's just so. That's where my loyalty lies. That's where my priorities lie. I treat my friends well, because I like 'em - and strangers well, because I'm generally a well-mannered person. But you can bet your bottom dollar that I treat my wife with the kind of warmth that only comes from the deepest intimacy and feeling. In fact, it seems kinda obvious to me. This is the person you spend more time with than anybody - far from taking them for granted, or "putting up a front", this is where you want your life to have the best quality. Why would I spend most of my time with somebody with whom I have boring, or indifferent, or cold times with (hostile doesn't even enter it!)? I mean seriously. When I hear tales of tense relationships, or constant fighting, or coldness and resentment, I always wonder: why in the world are you putting up with it? It's not a question about who is right or who is wrong. It is not a question of how you "ought" to relate, it is not a question of making an effort and putting up a front - all that sounds exhausting! It's not worth it? I'd walk away from such a relationship for no other reason than that it's not the way I want to spend my life - I've only got one, and I'll be damned if I'll spend it sulking with someone(?!).

If this is how your partner is, this is not something you should put up with. Why in the world would you? I mean, think about it from your end - swap places with them. Don't you want the best for him/her? Don't you want to please your SO? Doesn't it delight you to surprise your SO with some nice gesture? Don't you love to see them smile and be happy? Don't you want your time together to be one of laughter and tenderness? Yes! And you act accordingly - it's no effort, it's what you want to do yourself, because it gives you pleasure to see him happy! So why settle for less from him?

It sounds like you need to take a closer look at this. It may seem petty. But it's actually a very serious problem, and I'm afraid almost unsolvable. Because even if you compel him/her somehow to treat you better, it'll just be a performance, under duress, with quiet resentment brewing - painful for the SO, and bringing no pleasure to you. If I were you, I'd seriously evaluate this relationship - do I want to spend my life being the perpetual second best?
posted by VikingSword at 11:32 PM on January 5, 2012 [68 favorites]

You need to consider just as much in this case whether it's always seemed like this to you, or if it is a more recent development. I have felt this way many times before, until I realized that the way I was treated hadn't changed, but my perception of the person had. If you think it's recent, you may want to evaluate whether you're expecting more from someone because you don't feel the same way about them. Of course, it could just be the result of living together--when you see someone every day, you just aren't as boisterous to greet them as you are people who are more removed.
If its something that's bothered you for a long time, or you can point to obvious factors (like, it starting within a year of moving in together, etc) then just having a low key conversation about your concerns could help a lot. It's really hard to talk about these kinds of things without sounding petty to yourself, I know. But mentioning something lightly can make you feel better as the issue arises.

I don't like to be a naysayer, but someone being inconsiderate in little ways is usually a bad sign. I agree that familiarity often leads to someone being less courteous, but a good partner generally figures out what is important to you and what can slide just by reading your own behaviour over time. It's likely that youve either already tried bringing this up gently, or can't figure out quite what to say, since you're here. A mediator, in therapy for example, will probably be your best bet to get these things off your chest without feeling like you're whining.
posted by zinful at 11:33 PM on January 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

Yeah, I think there's a spectrum, though. I think there's a natural tendency to take your partner for granted, to treat him or her as an extension of yourself (and who apologises to him- or herself?) But it's a tendency that should be kept in check. It's like the difference between keeping your house as clean as you would for company, and keeping it as you do when it's just family at home - it's wonderful to have your house feel comfortable and lived-in when it's just you being cozy and intimate, but you still shouldn't let it descend into slovenly chaos. Likewise, it's okay to take some liberties with your partner on the assumption s/he'll understand, but you have to strike a balance between being "on" all the time and unapologetically farting in bed, for example.

(My cred here is that I've been happily married for 10 years and I am basically a low-energy lazy lump, so I acknowledge the effort of stopping the slide into self-centered jerkdom.)(Also I am not looking for a fight with the person out there whose partner just loves it when you fart in bed. You get on with your bad selves, you. Takes all kinds.)
posted by gingerest at 11:42 PM on January 5, 2012 [5 favorites]

So I went on a googling spree trying to find this story I remember reading for you, and I finally, finally found it. Before I found it, in growing frustration, I wrote out a summary:

There's this guy who comes home tired from work one day, and receives a lackluster hello from his wife who's on the computer. And he says, "Let's try this again," turns around and walks out the door. He waits a few beats and reopens it to celebratory cheers from his wife. (Good sport, her.) And now it's a thing in their marriage. Every time one of them comes home, the other makes an outrageous to-do about it. And even though it's ridiculous and forced, they both really enjoy that they do this thing. And I bet they think of this thing when something comes up along the lines of a polite gesture for a stranger instead of for their partner.

I guess I'm saying, come up with a ridiculous, bonding thing that you can mentally point to and say, "Well, he certainly doesn't do that for anyone else..."
posted by vegartanipla at 11:43 PM on January 5, 2012 [24 favorites]

At the end of the day, there's absolutely no reason for you to be in a relationship with someone when they make you feel bad, in any form. It doesn't matter if it is because you harbor some deep-seated jealousy issues like I often thought this was for me, it doesn't matter if you think you love him and you think he loves you. What it boils down to is that there is someone out there who will do everything your current partner does, without making you feel this way and you need to find this person. And I hate to say it, but I think that the people saying it is normal behavior are settling. It is possible to find someone that is mutually as enthused about you are as you them and continue to be until you're both on your deathbeds.

To me, that is the ultimate goal in life.

The continuous flow of positive energy allows me to become someone so much bigger than myself and accomplish things I wouldn't have been able to with a lesser partner or on my own. Like vegartanipla's story above illustrates, there can and will be bumps in the road, but if you soak them up immediately they will be remedied. You turn what could have been the turning point of a marriage into an everlasting joke. Obviously it takes being in a positive relationship in the first place, as I can see clear as day what words would have come out of my mouth if certain exes had done that very same thing. But my current beau? Probably exactly how the story panned out.

Not because I'm less selfish than I was back then, not because I'm any less the jealous type. Because we just work; we understand the other and want to be there for the other. The most important thing to both of us is how the other is feeling at any given moment, regardless of the social situation. Desire, pure and simple.

If you are not feeling this in your relationship, you need to re-evaluate it. Life is too short, and love is too important. Best of luck :)
posted by june made him a gemini at 12:30 AM on January 6, 2012 [7 favorites]

I need to note that this doesn't mean there is anything wrong with your current partner and I am absolutely not downplaying your feelings for the other. There's no right or wrong to love if it makes you feel good. It is sincerely a personality compatibility issue, and while some might tell you (or, as you are telling yourself) that it is petty to feel that way, it really isn't. You deserve to be treated the way you want to be treated. Never forget that.

If you've not tried to explain yourself to him, that is the first step. Perhaps you two just need to set up a subtle cue that lets the other know one of you isn't feeling right. I'm still not 100% at being able to be straight-up about issues that arise myself, but letting it burrow is much more infuriating and self-defeating. I don't know if that's one of those things that ever particularly gets easier though, since no one likes to hear criticisms, especially if it is over something they do frequently or even just occasionally over the course of time. All you can do is grow and find out.
posted by june made him a gemini at 12:46 AM on January 6, 2012

Yes, it is normal, but that doesn't mean it's a good thing.

Treating our alleged loved ones worse than anyone else is just not going to strengthen our relationship with them. Of course it takes an effort to be polite around the house, but come on. How strenuous is it, really, to say please and thank you? And there's a difference between being in a bad mood which we expect our nearest and dearest to understand, and taking it out on them.

Saying "I'm rude because I can be myself with you" is not painting a flattering picture of oneself. It's totally reasonable to respond to that with "well I don't want to be around your rude self, so I'm going to leave the room now, and if the fundamental character of your essential self ever changes enough so that I can stand to relate to you again, let me know," would be -

- well, okay, pretty darned sarcastic and destructive. So you probably won't want to say something like that.

This does sound like a case for Ding Training (q.v.) or for vegartanipla's "you wanna try that again?" training.

If the person digs their heels in and says "this is who I am! I shall never change! accept me thus or not at all," well, there's your answer. But I bet you'll get a more positive response, as this is usually just a bad habit combined with a misconception about how acceptable it is.
posted by tel3path at 1:04 AM on January 6, 2012 [4 favorites]

I've been thinking about this and the only example I can come up with is someone in the immediate family, who does this to his birth family but not to his long-term friends. He has been monosyllabic and grumpy and almost rude at times but if a friend shows up he's laughing and joking within a few moments. It hurts and creates a very uncomfortable dynamic - it's as if other people are worthy of the extra effort but family isn't, because family will always be there and will take any amount of crap, because they're family and that's why blood is thicker than water and all that jazz. Like you, it isn't all the time and he is mostly charming and funny, but I wouldn't necessarily rely on him to not revert to brusque and silent if I caught him at the wrong time.

In part, I think he does this as a managing technique, to hold at arms' length people he suspects might make what he would see as emotional demands of him at that particular time that he is not able / comfortable dealing with. This sort of distancing through rudeness and a very obvious lack of interest puts people off talking to him about personal or emotionally-based things that he finds hard to contemplate. His friends don't do this - they talk about sport and what everyone is up to and that's easy.

In general, I think people do this when they frankly aren't all that bothered how they are perceived by those around them that they are close to, either through a sense of personal certainty about their place in people's affections or because they're simply not bothered enough to take care with other people's feelings. They're more interested in their standing with strangers or acquaintances because those relationships, brief though they may be, burn more brightly for them at that moment and consume more of their attention. They want to be thought of as a good guy, friendly and funny and charming but ironically don't seem to weigh the opinions of those who know them best as highly as they do the people who don't know them at all. It's a twisted logic and seems pretty shallow to me.

Everyone is allowed an off-day. Everyone is allowed to snap at their partners, or to be rude or sharp once in a while because we're human and imperfect. If it is a recognisable pattern that's making you uncomfortable, which it clearly is, and you've raised it with them and said that it makes you feel unappreciated and undervalued when they do that, and they still do it, then you will have to have a think about whether their charm and care for you when they're "on" with you generally outweighs the adverse effects on your mood and esteem their other behaviours have.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 3:35 AM on January 6, 2012 [11 favorites]

If you let your SO know that this behavior hurts you, and it turns out that it's just exhausting for your SO to be "on" all the time, perhaps you two could work out a deal that, when you're feeling especially in need of a little bit more attention, or enthusiasm, or affection, you can say something specific, like, "Play nice today" or something.

Having a SO with whom you can express your frustrations at the world, or let go of some of the social mores, can be refreshing, but if you feel you're being taken for granted, that's not good for either of you.
posted by xingcat at 4:17 AM on January 6, 2012

I'm also curious, does your SO know how you feel?

Here's the thing, and this is something I learned when raising kids, so it doesn't necessarily apply to grown-ups but having been put through this by one of my own SO's before, this is my take on it. I have a niece that is, in a word, pretty awful to her mother. She has an attitude problem and throws massive fits. She doesn't listen. But the thing is, the consideration she gives to her daycare provider, her teacher, her older sister is amazing. She NEVER acts up at school or daycare. She is always "on" for them, so to speak. My sister has spoken to numerous counselors, doctors, blah blah blah, and the consensus is that she's doing this because she knows her mother loves her but she isn't always positive that the lady at the daycare feels the same or that her teacher would still like her if she behaved at school as she does at home. She is comfortable with her relationship with her mom and truly, doctors have said that while her behavior does need adjusting, it just shows that mom is doing a good job. Now, I know this is probably a stretch and I don't want it to seem like I'm giving your SO a pass for this at least semi-shitty behavior, but perhaps the issue is he feels he has to be on in front of others because he's not sure they'll like him but you? He KNOWS you do and feels comfortable enough to occasionally be his grumpy, less-on self.

And I'm nthing others -- sometimes it's exhausting for people with certain personalities to be on all the time. In social situations I light up and automatically feel better (in fact, the less I know the people, the more on I am). Perhaps these situations in which he feels he has to be on to illicit good feelings from others but he knows you care for him already, so he doesn't have to tire himself with that behavior with you.

Again, if this is something that is hurting you and affecting how you feel, you certainly need to broach the subject. And you need to make clear your expectations to your SO. I know that if I were making someone I cared for feel this way, then I'd want to know and you bet your ass, I'd be working on it...
posted by youandiandaflame at 5:04 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is one of those things that is common, but not okay. I agree with VikingSword; my husband and I treat each other far BETTER than we treat everyone else. Because we love each other and enjoy each other's company above anyone else's, this is effortless for us.

However, some people do not have this instinct with people they say they love. (Sorry for the "say they love" language here, but I'll explain this in a moment.) Instead of naturally treating them well, it takes effort and they cannot keep this up all the time. As a result, those around them are punished for being close to them, relative to those who are not close to them. This makes being that person's loved one kind of a raw deal.

After trying to be patient with these kinds of people (in a friend context) I have recently concluded that it's really not worth it. They are not monsters or anything, but what all these people have had in common (in my experience, anyway) is that they have had some certain issues that wash away that natural instinct to be kind to the people they love, namely insecurities and resentments that keep them from fully trusting people and being at ease; they feel crappy about various aspects of themselves, worry they are being judged, and resent when others are happy often enough instead of taking genuine joy in their happiness. Their insecurities also lead to their judging other people to reassure themself, so that things other people don't even notice are pegged in their head as annoying. This kind of person may love someone in that they feel strong feelings and more powerful concern for the person's well-being relative to other people, but they cannot be around anyone for very long because interacting with others -- even if they're an extrovert -- is a fraught exercise. They can keep themself in line long enough not to snap at strangers and acquaintances, but the people they spend more time with suffer because no one can stiffle their rising negative feelings that long, plus their resentment toward loved ones tends to be even greater due to how much more insecure they are that someone they like might be judging them.

So I said they "say they love" people because, while I don't want to make an argument out of whether they "really" love someone or not, which no one else could really know and would be disrespectful of their self-reported feelings, I think most people could agree that they do not show that love in a way that people *want* to be loved. No one says, "I want to be loved in such a way that makes it clear it's a difficult task!" People want to feel that it does not take much effort to love them. And even more, from the few people I have gotten to talk about it, those who treat their loved ones worse than everyone else don't want to feel the way they do, either! They feel bad about it. They feel unhappy. They don't want loving people to be so difficult.

Whenever someone says that loving someone else is very hard, it gives me pause because to me, that is a sign they need to either work on themself or find other people. Some people find staying in a difficult relationship rewarding and different strokes, I guess, but I have only ever heard that from couples that seem to be sad a lot of the time and have to try hard to enjoy each other's company -- and that's just what was outwardly obvious, so I don't know how bad it was for them internally (or how good, to be fair). They seem to spend a lot of time convincing themselves they are happy and drawing strength from all the times they didn't break up. (To me, this is different from bad events happening to the couple and making them mutually stressed. These people seem to have difficulty with each other foremost, not externalities.) I worry that people internalize the "love is hard" line, think such a thing is true of all relationships, and do not explore what it is about themself that makes loving others take so much effort, or else what it is about their partner that is incompatible and makes them not naturally enjoy their company.

From what I have seen, when it's not just a case of incompatibility and it's an issue the person has with everyone they are close to, that sort of thing can take years, or even decades, to fix. I just spent three years watching my best friend deal with this in herself, after repeatedly telling me she doesn't like to be close to people because she starts treating them badly and it makes her feel awful. (We were friends as teenagers, when she also had depression and a lot of issues, and reconnected recently.) She has been in therapy and has known it is a problem and why. I had to watch this for a while, and sure enough the closer we became, and the more supportive and solid I seemed, the worse she began treating me. After it blew up out of nowhere and crossed a line I had to tell her I was done. I still feel very sad and sympathetic to her because I know how terrible it is, but ultimately it was no longer a happy situation for me to spend time with her, and her resentments had begun making me feel bad about things that should have been things I could feel good about. She hid those resentments well until recently because she knew they were unhealthy, but they still built up and she was finally outright malicious to me. I was unsurprised by this -- both due to what she had told me and what I observed, and also because I have known other people like this; feeling sympathy for fellow depressed people is a double-edged sword -- but very hurt and disappointed because I loved her like a sister, and the malice killed my trust. No one wants to spend time around someone that finds it difficult not to have negative thoughts about them, no matter what the cause. Even if you know it has little to nothing to do with you, it makes you feel shitty; not because their negative thoughts are true, but because you have to wonder about it and because you could be spending time with someone who doesn't have to try so hard to enjoy your company. When you're with someone that isn't naturally happy to be around you, it sucks all your happiness away.

So yes, it's common that people end up in relationships where it takes them a lot of effort to be nice. It's common that people treat strangers better. That doesn't mean it's okay, or that you should accept that kind of partner for yourself on the imo flawed grounds that "love is hard." It does not have to be hard, and you deserve better than a lifetime (or a few months, or whatever) of feeling like you're difficult to love because one person can't manage it for whatever reasons. There is someone out there that will be wonderful to you even when they have had a bad day, who will be cheered at the sight of you on such a day, who will look forward to seeing you as an escape after such a day. Please do not settle for this. I have been with my husband going on ten years now, and plenty of other MeFites have posted about similarly long, happy relationships. You can have one too if you don't convince yourself this sort of treatment is okay with you.
posted by Nattie at 5:23 AM on January 6, 2012 [32 favorites]

I've been on the receiving end of this and I know exactly what you mean.

I agree there is a spectrum to this behavior, but no, all relationships are not like this. Especially to the point where it becomes a "thing." If talking it out or counseling doesn't work out, I hope you might rethink this relationship. A lifetime is too long to waste on that self-centered crap.

But hopefully you're partner isn't too far gone on the spectrum. Just pointing out that this became a deal-breaker for me after putting up with it in a past relationship for a long long time. Mr. jbenben isn't like this at all and I am A LOT happier. Like another poster above, my husband puts me first.

For some people it's about a sort of relationship philosophy. I hope your partner is open to re-thinking his. I bet he's never even considered that he has a base-line relationship philosophy or style.

Go gently, but do expect improvement once the dialogue starts.
posted by jbenben at 5:27 AM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

A slightly different direction -- I once had a full-grown adult say to me, "I don't have to use manners at home, it's home! Manners are for company, and all of that behavior is false and untruthful." (wow did someone's mother do some odd childrearing there.) My point back was that informal home manners are not the same thing as bad manners (or no manners!). But while I think this guy was a little out there, I don't think it's that uncommon an attitude; parents focus a lot on company manners but not a lot on home manners. People DO need to be able to let down their hair in their own homes, and they DO need to be able to deal with negative emotions in close relationships (spouses, parents & children, etc.). But that doesn't mean they get to suddenly turn off everything and treat people poorly and not bother with consideration. Family should be given MORE consideration and MORE kindness than strangers.

Anyway, that might help you frame -- it's not that you want to be treated the same as strangers, for whom he is "on," but you want good at-home manners/treatment/behavior. Which can be much lower-key, but rude is not okay.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:11 AM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

"Are you angry with me?"

--No, why?

"Well, you just spoke over me and didn't seem to even notice."


"Well, you just took off running and it seems like you don't want to walk with me."

Sometimes its easier to address this stuff in the moment, when it happens. If you're among friends, then you do it when you have a moment alone (ie, not in front of others).
posted by vitabellosi at 6:49 AM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

I know part of being in a relationship is dealing with the other person's grumpiness, tiredness, thoughtlessness, and distractedness

Yes, but only sometimes, or for a reason.

Just piling on to say, not every relationship is like this. If you tell him, "I see how you do X, Y and Z for others, and it would make me feel a lot more loved if you would do that for me too," or when you get a "oh, hi" joke, "How about some enthusiasm?" and get absolutely no change in behavior, maybe you should reevaluate the relationship. Acting like your SO bores you and you're not happy to see them is not a sign of a healthy relationship.
posted by chickenmagazine at 7:22 AM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Err, no. Not at all. My wife comes first. Not that she asks or demands, it's just so. That's where my loyalty lies. That's where my priorities lie. I treat my friends well, because I like 'em - and strangers well, because I'm generally a well-mannered person. But you can bet your bottom dollar that I treat my wife with the kind of warmth that only comes from the deepest intimacy and feeling.

I didn't mean to imply that he should treat her like shit. Only that once people 'settle in' to a relationship, some of the politeness that people treat people they are less intimate with, inevitably falls by the wayside, and people tend to get more abrupt and casual.
posted by empath at 7:49 AM on January 6, 2012

There are two answers to your question and I don't know which is correct.

1) you are over thinking/misreading/jumping to inaccurate conclusions about how you are treated relative to others

2) people who are nicer to non-intimates have a strategy of putting on a show until they have convincingly established themselves as what they want to be seen as, and then they feel safe doing whatever they want to do with no regard for you

I'm hopeful and guessing that your interpretation is off and that, actually, when your SO is "on" with others, SO is not feeling wahoo fun times yeah!!! But is stressing about the social pressure of having to be "on" and not truly sharing intimate thoughts and feelings. Or that your just seeing the "on" with others and missing it when it's directed at you.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 7:59 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I do this, despite trying not to, to my poor husband and kid sometimes. It's when I'm at my most insecure and sad, strangely. Strangers/acquaintances? I have to MAKE THEM LIKE ME! But my family? They have to love me, right?

It sucks and I have little tricks to try to remind myself/make myself aware of it. But that's because we've discussed it and my husband has (nicely, mostly) made me aware that I'm doing it. Because it's the definition of taking someone for granted and I really, really don't want to do that, and I'm sure your SO doesn't either -- if he/she were more aware he/she is doing it.
posted by Gucky at 9:01 AM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm much nicer to my partner than I am to other people, except that I fart in front of him.

You feel taken for granted. The solution is to ask your partner to stop being a butt. But first you need to believe, deep down, that you deserve to be treated well.

Good luck.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:31 PM on January 6, 2012

Ok, I would only say, if you're writing in about this, it's either a pretty frequent situation, or it's infrequent but when it happens, it really upsets you. I sort of assume it's pretty frequent, in which case, people have a point about this may not being the relationship you want long term. If it's the latter, I'm not saying it's good, but I'm not sure it's the catastrophe people in this thread are suggesting... Really, all of you who are SO GOOD to your partners ALL OF THE TIME, you never snap at them in annoyance when you're in a bad mood? You never feel unenthusiastic about having to socialize with anyone, including them, and let it show a bit?

Again, if this is how you usually feel, it's really not good, but we have no indication of how frequent it is. If your partner kind of acts unenthusiastic around you once every month or two, different issue.
posted by namesarehard at 2:49 PM on January 6, 2012

It's not that I am 100-percent good to my friends and family (the Fam I get soon with) and my spouse ALL THE TIME and never have any moments of less than stellar behavior. It is simply true that in general I am better to my intimates than I am to others. When I am moody or tired or whatever, innocent strangers and friends of friends and waiters and suchlike are far more likely to be the victims.

Bit maybe I'm just generally awful to people until I get close to them.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 3:55 PM on January 6, 2012

Really, all of you who are SO GOOD to your partners ALL OF THE TIME, you never snap at them in annoyance when you're in a bad mood? You never feel unenthusiastic about having to socialize with anyone, including them, and let it show a bit?

Er, yes, really. I don't think there's any reason or excuse for it, and don't even feel the urge. I can't remember the last time my husband did any of those things either. If one of us feels crappy, we just say something like, "Sorry if I'm not saying much, I'm just tired," or had a bad day, or whatever. We're both introverts so we often ask each other for alone time if we need it. I don't see when there would ever be a reason to be snippy or rude about it.

I think part of the reason people say this is normal because all too often, when someone says it's not normal, other people get defensive and react as if the person asserting it's not normal is lying in order to look good. I have no interest in that; my interest is in ensuring people do not give themselves permission to he rude or mean to their partners on the grounds that it's normal and that makes it okay, and my interest is in ensuring people do not settle for it for the same reasons. I assume that's the reasoning of others in this thread asserting the same thing, but it's easy for me to take them at their word because I have seen that kind of relationship is possible. You can either believe I (and anyone else) is telling the truth or not. Making rude remarks about how we're just SOOO GOOD to our partners is really not helping the discussion, although that kind of tone does sort of demonstrate what we're talking about.
posted by Nattie at 6:41 PM on January 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think telling people who are sometimes snippy with the people they love that their relationships are "not normal", that they only say they love their partners, and that their partners don't feel loved is rude, judgmental, provocative, and misguided.

I am a difficult prickly person. I am not kind by temperament - I am kind with effort, thought, and energy. I do *try* to be kind, because it's the right thing to do and it's rewarding, but it's not easy for me. Mercifully, I found love among the prickly people, and my (equally difficult) partner and I value each other more than anything or anyone on earth. We have tough skins and we can snap safely around each other (and we can call each other on it when one of us plays too rough, too.)

That said, I think DeltaForce and her partner are past due for a talk, because she does feel undervalued, and nobody should feel that way when they're in love - love is all about feeling valued and cherished. (Even if the things that make you feel cherished would not be recognised as such by someone outside the relationship.)
posted by gingerest at 11:09 PM on January 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't think there's anything you can say to your partner that will make a difference, having just emerged from a relationship marked by this exact sort of behavior. You can't talk someone out of having a personality disorder.
posted by macinchik at 10:50 PM on January 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

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