What the heck is this?
March 22, 2012 2:16 PM   Subscribe

My boyfriend seems to have a kind of blindness around other people's feelings and motivations. I don't think he has Aspergers -- more like ADD and some narcissistic traits, perhaps. What might this be called, how can I gently help him with it, and how can he help himself?

I'm really not sure how to frame this question, so I hope that mefi can help me out. I want to say first of all that I don't want to DTMFA, so I'm hoping you can all help me analyze this situation and learn from it. If I need to DTMFA in the future, I will.

My boyfriend seems to have a lot of difficulty anticipating how people will feel and to be extremely self-centered, to the point of not understanding when others will get upset about something. He has to have his way, in small things like where we go to breakfast or what order we run errands -- or he gets upset. He has really severe social anxiety, hates parties and going out, and gets very defensive if he feels criticized. He has to feel in total control of his environment or he has panic attacks. He seems constitutionally incapable of doing things he doesn't want to do. He gets very needy when under external stress.


- He really hates being "pinned down" to schedules, timelines, or plans, not just with me but with anyone. It makes him very grumpy and defensive. He's kind of a superstar at work so he gets away with a lot, but he misses meetings all the time because he won't be pinned down to a schedule. Nevertheless, he works really hard and is extremely creative and productive.

- He comes up with a thousand reasons why something he doesn't want to do is impossible, instead of clearly communicating that he doesn't want to do it. He often thinks other people are being assholes when they are merely opposing his point of view. He has a brilliant strategic mind for getting his way, finding loopholes, and getting out of things. He's never overtly verbally abusive in the sense of saying mean things. It's more a kind of total inability to see points of view other than his own, in the moment. He gets defensive very easily and blames others for his frustrations.

- He doesn't like to play board games because he feels like he has to win at all costs, but he doesn't like to make other people feel bad about losing. (So this is a perfect example because he can't imagine that others wouldn't feel as bad as he does about losing, he has to win at all costs, but he also doesn't want to be a jerk and hurt others.)

At the same time, he is extremely loving, caring, and supportive. He asks how I feel and communicates with me. He remembers concerns that I have. He really pays a lot of attention to making me feel loved. He's changed a lot of things about how we interact in order to make me happier. He's wonderfully affectionate, extremely interesting and smart, and when focused on me really tries his best to understand and support me. This is really the best relationship I've ever had. I love him very much.

In the span of a few weeks, he has gone from being very defensive about these issues to being much more open to talking with me about his thoughts and feelings. It's becoming clear to me that he has trouble identifying his own motivations and listening and communicating with others. I really enjoy the growing trust in our relationship and I think he would be open to learning more about these issues and how he can help himself and I can help him. He is realizing that these problems get in his way at work as well as in our relationship.

He was diagnosed with severe learning disabilities and ADD as a child, which means that he forgets things easily and often switches context in a way that is confusing to others. He was not diagnosed with Aspergers at that time, as far as I know. I think he might have some sort of disability in understanding others' motivations that he then covers up with defensiveness and super love-y behavior.

I was in a relationship with a narcissistic sociopath, and this doesn't feel like that. He has a big personality, loud, confident, and bold, but he has a kind of sweetness that narcissists don't usually have.

My father has Asperger's Syndrome (and I have some Aspie traits), and it doesn't feel like that either. I'm thinking maybe it's some kind of sensory integration problem? Sometimes he is very sensitive to touch and little things (like having his hair touched gently) bother him.

I feel like there's something here that I just can't put my finger on. Boyfriend is in his late 20s, if that matters.

- What might this be called? (Feel free to speculate wildly and make internet diagnoses)
- How can I gently help him with it?
- How can he help himself?
- What can I do to deal with my frustrations about these traits in him?
posted by sockratties to Human Relations (34 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
To me he sounds a bit lonely and no longer able to run on superiority alone, but as he's getting closer to 30 he's realizing he needs to change the way he acts. I suggest gently calling him out on the excuses and continue having real conversations with him, and trying to find friends for the two of you that are cool and on his intellectual level but won't put up with his defensiveness. He's already trying to help himself and this will just make it easier. To help yourself deal with the frustration, I recommend whatever source you usually draw on to sustain your kindness and patience.
posted by michaelh at 2:28 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is it possible it might be some sort of auditory processing disorder? What you're describing rings a few bells for me for the adults I know who I strongly suspect have some issues along the integration/prosodic subtype lines.
posted by scody at 2:29 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Well, unfortunately everything you described is a person who will not want to help himself. You can't "help" (I think you mean CHANGE and you should start using that word) him in any way, and it sounds like he's perfected the whole immature, weasely baby thing to a highly polished sheen.

Here's the sentence that indicates any attempt you make will fail, FYI:
He comes up with a thousand reasons why something he doesn't want to do is impossible, instead of clearly communicating that he doesn't want to do it.

I have never found a way to penetrate that particular brand of armor, and I'm quite the cagey operator; double unfortunately, I don't think trained psychologists have either.

Now your specific questions:
What might it be called? - anything from a point on the narcissistic spectrum though this is pretty heavy and not lightly tossed off with OH HE'S A NARCISSIST; to immaturity that he needs to grow out of (was he an only child?), to just a hyper-Asker who never learned to not get his own way.

How can I gently help him with it? Re-read what you wrote and consider "gently" "helping" someone who refuses to go to a breakfast place that was not his first choice.

How can he help himself? Does he want to change? Does he acknowledge he has a problem? No to either or both? The end. Yes to either or both: cognitive behavioral therapy, a healthy dose of you calling him on his shit in a constructive way and therapy. This sounds like a serious inability to function normally.

What can I do to deal with my frustrations about these traits in him? Acknowledge that you (rightly in my opinion) want to CHANGE him rather than HELP him. Don't feel like it's your fault. Take steps to stand up for yourself constructively which'll build self-esteem. Get your own therapy.

Dunno. I have a lot of experience in mediating and that will probably be my next career. It's not a far shot from being a therapist. Sorry I wrote you a novel!
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 2:32 PM on March 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

This sounds a bit like some things I've seen in lefties (including myself). Some leftie research (mainly German, I'm sorry to say) claims to have established that quite some of the traits you're listing may happen more often than "usual" [whatever that is] in lefties; it seems to be a hemisphere thing, something to do with processing reality and social stuff in another order, with other priorities, about mixing rational and emotional responses in a specific way, about not confirming to usually expected patterns. So: is he by chance left-handed?

If there's a learning curve, be confident. How many people are there, really, who are truly extremely loving, caring, and supportive, ask how their partner feels, communicate with them, remember concerns that they have and really pay a lot of attention to making them feel loved. Sounds like the jackpot to me.
posted by Namlit at 2:45 PM on March 22, 2012

What can I do to deal with my frustrations about these traits in him?

Maybe look into the responses you got in your other questions.
This is the same dude, no?

I'm not trying to be mean, but these issues seem to be long-standing, and I don't think an online diagnosis is going to change anything.
posted by vivid postcard at 2:46 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I dated this guy.

And then one morning I woke up and was like, "OMG I don't need in this in my life. This is MY life. MY life shouldn't be taken over by HIM NOT BEING ABLE TO DEAL with HIS life."

I'm not saying you have to DTMFA, but I did, and it was so much better than being in a loop of figuring out how to mitigate his selfishness and his moods and his everything.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 2:46 PM on March 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

Mod note: Folks, the easiest way to not go someplace you don't feel like going is to NOT GO THERE. Don't turn this into a terrible thread please, thank you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:46 PM on March 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Just so everyone knows, I'm open to hearing if you think this is abusive. The thought has crossed my mind more than once. But I want to work this out with him at this point, because he is amazing in so many ways, because things seem on a general upward trend, and I think we are coming to understand each other and meet in the middle on many issues.
posted by sockratties at 2:57 PM on March 22, 2012

Is it possible that being around groups of people (work, playing board games, other group activities) just exhausts his mental resources? You get me around more than about 2-3 people at a time and my brain just freaking FRIES and I get frazzled and don't know how to react to more than one thing coming at me at a time. And then I'm just exhausted and need to regroup on my own.

I like being in charge of my schedule too but not enough that it's a huge deal. It is a much bigger deal when I've been exposed to bunches of other people on the same day, though.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 2:59 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

That's great, sock. I hope it works out. Sometimes it does just take awhile for people to get in the groove.

My handy dandy life rule is that if things are ever VERY BAD that it will never be evened out by very good times. Now shit happens to everyone, we all have bad days, etc. so I define very bad as intentional infliction of pretty heavy mental, emotional or physical distress on someone.

Snapping at someone because you don't like the eggs at IHOP when you're grumpy about some other stuff going on isn't at that point, but having a full blown meltdown consistently over minor things that disrupt everyone and leave lasting emotions in the air... well, yeah. If you're never sure when the other shoe is going to drop but you KNOW the other shoe is going to drop, you will still probably enjoy the great times, but it'll change who you are and how you live your life in ways that are not good.

No one in these types of situations is dealing with someone who is Snidely Whiplash consistently only working to cause pain and suffering in others. That's why they get away with it for so long.


For the record and to get back to your initial question, I reaaaaaaaaaaally like to do my own thing so I've learned to A.) Not schedule things unless I'm confident I'll want to do it as it'll cause me anguish in both anticipation and if I decide to cancel B.) I should make this clear and work out compromises with people. I do plenty of things that I'm lukewarm on doing for myself for the sake of my family, partner, etc. and I'm super glad to do those things because life's about giving and taking. You could try explaining that to him in as clear language as possible.

I know it seems stupid, but it was seriously like an eyeopening revelation to realize that I don't have to agree to every single social thing I'm invited to and then agonize because my poor introvert brain feels overwrought. I did not realize this until I was TWENTY FUCKING SIX.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 3:14 PM on March 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

Reading your other questions and putting the three together, he doesn't sound like somebody who is very pleasant to be in a relationship with. It sounds like, for every single interaction, he puts himself first and everybody else a distant second.

My ex-best friend was like this. He seemed utterly incapable of considering anybody's point of view but his own, and would throw anybody under the bus if it helped him. He was whiny and threw fits, too, about minor stuff like where to eat and activities. I tried many times to point out to him how his behavior hurt me and other people, but it was always rebuffed.

In the end, I had to cut off the friendship. He did something that caused serious financial repercussions for me, and wouldn't apologize and wouldn't admit he did anything wrong. It broke my heart to let a 10 year friendship go, but looking back, it was the best choice I could have made.
posted by zug at 3:17 PM on March 22, 2012

Best answer: To be honest, the ADD explains a lot to me. He doesn't like schedules, because he has a hard time working when he's supposed to be and therefore needs to make his own schedule. He needs to win all the time because he's insecure, possibly due to dealing with ADD and learning disabilities. And the social anxiety is just social anxiety, but ADD can make social anxiety more severe.

I don't think he sounds abusive, but I WOULD be totally frustrated by his finnicky micromanaging behavior. I used to date a guy exactly like this (threatened to cancel his plans to fly to my city for Thanksgiving because I didn't think I had the equipment to roast half a turkey). He was also extremely sweet and sensitive and loyal, but I couldn't put up with it and it veered into ultimatum territory. I think you have every right to tune him out and tell him how unreasonable he's being when he refuses to let you choose a place for breakfast or hit up the post office before the grocery store.
posted by stoneandstar at 3:24 PM on March 22, 2012

Okay, he does this stuff. After it's done, or when presented with a hypothetical, can he understand and discuss how regardless of why he did what he did, his actions were a problems for other people? Will he own that? Because if he's all Popeye and says I am what I am and operates on the principle that everyone else must accommodate, I don't see how you can help him.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 3:28 PM on March 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

I suggest the book Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay. It's a really great book for these kinds of situations. It's very matter-of-fact and I think you'd like it.

What does he have? I have no clue. If he was diagnosed with ADHD as a child there's a chance he didn't grow out of it. That will make scheduling and organization difficult. And some people simply aren't that empathetic. He also sounds like he has an anxiety disorder.

As long as you're sticking around and putting up with this, and his work is, too, what's his motivation to change?
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:31 PM on March 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Okay, I just read your other questions, and WOW, he is my ex-boyfriend. Including and up to continually bringing up a woman from his past (who he was clearly still in love with) and lashing out in completely unpredictable ways, plus being diagnosed with learning disabilities as a young child. My ex was also genuinely a good person, on a deep level-- he had admirable values, could be very kind and generous, and always wanted me to feel loved. I wish I knew what was actually going on with both of them, but I don't. But in this case I will definitely say that having a hard line about what was and was not acceptable was 100% necessary for me to have a healthy relationship with my ex. For me this meant basically getting to the point where I was actually ready to break up with him if he didn't change very specific behaviors.

On preview, exactly-- what the young rope-rider says, you need to make it clear that you won't put up with petty behavior, even though you love who he is at his core.
posted by stoneandstar at 3:33 PM on March 22, 2012

What might this be called? (Feel free to speculate wildly and make internet diagnoses)

To me it sounds like garden variety immaturity and poor coping mechanisms. I don't know that it's necessarily clinical.

On the other hand, "Honey, I feel frustrated when you have these angry outbursts about IHOP, because it makes me think you don't care about compromising with me and I want a partner who understands you don't always get what you want in life" is probably a lot easier to swallow (for him) than, "You're self-centered."
posted by Snarl Furillo at 3:36 PM on March 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you, everyone for your perspectives. I guess I should add that the issue with his ex has been resolved. He realized how much it was bothering me and they have cut off contact completely. (I'm nearly 100% sure of this because I helped him draft the final email and he cc'ed me on it and forwarded her reply. Also, the kinds of things he's been saying about it have changed a lot since then.) I think it just took him a while to get over her completely, and to understand my feelings on the matter.
posted by sockratties at 3:39 PM on March 22, 2012

Outside of how well he does professionally, anything that might have been an issue in his life before you, with all that out of the picture - what is this man to you?

It just sounds like your are forgiving and ignoring and trying to find ways to fix most of what he is. How is that your job? What's left for you if he doesn't change any of the things that are negatively affecting you?

To answer your question: It's not clear to me that there is a way for you to fix this. If ending it is off the table, the alternative islearning to live with him as he is. If you don't like that answer, the flow chart goes back to DTMFA. And if you dont like that.... How much time do you want to spend cycling between hoping he'll change and trying to cope and hoping he'll change?
posted by Lesser Shrew at 3:50 PM on March 22, 2012

Best answer: I suggest that a proper diagnosis is what's needed. It's no good to have unqualified people who are pissed off at him waxing and waning on diagnostic labels and trying to figure out therapeutic approaches for conditions they don't know he has.

If he's open to getting diagnosis and treatment, great. If not, you may have to accept that he's like this and decide how much you can put up with.

He may actually not be able to do things if the sequence is interrupted. That's characteristic of ASDs, whether or not it reminds you of your father. I say this not to diagnose him, but as an example of how it may not be a great idea to conclude that he's selfish because he won't change the way he does things for someone else. You might conclude that you can't stand it, of course, but you don't have the right information to make a value judgment without a diagnosis. (FWIW the not wanting to win because it might upset others is really unlike any narcissist I've ever known, all of whom could turn the most trivial interaction into a contest, but I doubt that I've known a representative sample so who am I to say. Actually, I don't even know that those people were narcissists, but they were hurting me so I gave them a good running away from and just assumed they were probably narcissists. See what I mean.)
posted by tel3path at 3:52 PM on March 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Not suggesting you are making value judgements, in case I sounded like that.
posted by tel3path at 4:53 PM on March 22, 2012

Was boyfriend homeschooled or in other ways poorly socialized? He sounds more like ADD or ADHD children than adults, honestly.
posted by corb at 5:11 PM on March 22, 2012

It may be that things are working just fine for him as they are, in which case the internet diagnosis is selfish jerk. Somebody who must have their way and then "gets upset" when they don't, thus causing other people to walk on eggshells and do what they want, may, in fact, be entirely successful in achieving their goal of always getting their way. You may see that as reprehensible; does he? If, indeed, he has some sort of diagnosable problem (Asperger's, ADHD, personality disorder, whatever), and wants to change, he is going to need a professional to help him through. If he acknowledges he needs help, the best thing you can do for him is support him in getting the appropriate treatment. You are not going to be able to "gently help" him through this; sorry.
posted by Wordwoman at 5:13 PM on March 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I feel like I'm somewhat like your boyfriend, although I have yet to have the panic attacks. I have a hard time figuring people out, forget things easily, and have some of the same kind of automatic defensiveness to criticism going on. Focusing on what other people are telling me is also difficult, and I can completely lose track of a conversation on a bad day when I'm too much into my own thoughts. At times I'm sitting and watching someone talk and can not understand the words they're saying because they've been drowned out by my inner monologue. I've been like that from a relatively young age.

It takes a lot of conscious effort to deal with it. I've been trying to change my behavior first by looking into mindfulness exercises and reducing the amount of caffeine that I drink (the effects are more negative as I get closer to 30), and second by expanding my social circle from work friends to activity-friends. I struggle with parties, board games, and similar activities because I don't enjoy those things in themselves and the people who I was with weren't interested in the same types of things that I am interested in. Now that I've found people who do share many of my interests, I find it easier to focus. These things aren't changes that another person could have helped with and may or may not be helpful to your boyfriend, though.

I don't think that he's being malicious or a jerk from your description, just that he doesn't really recognize the severity of some of the impacts of his behavior--it sounds like once he does get his head around the idea that his behavior is a problem, he's willing to change. But that doesn't alter the fact that unless he's willing to take an active role in becoming more sensitive to other people's needs, it's going to be a lot for you to put up with and there isn't much that you can do about it.

One specific thing that might help with the defensive argumentativeness is to warn your boyfriend beforehand when you want to have a serious discussion and what it's going to be about. I'm also pretty instinctively defensive, but if I can think through that initial reaction ahead of time and get past it I feel like conversations go a little better. Of course, this requires you to take on a larger than fair share of the burden in setting up these discussions, which is not really the best thing.
posted by _cave at 5:23 PM on March 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

Woah. Corb. I was homeschooled, and am neither socially inept nor a selfish idiot. I think that was way off topic. This guy has character issues, not socialization issues.
posted by celtalitha at 5:56 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: He has really severe social anxiety...

This could actually explain a lot more of his behaviour than you seem to realise. It's not an excuse, of course. He needs to seek help, and if his current treatment isn't working properly, he needs to go back and get it adjusted. It's not fair of him to manage his condition so poorly that you're having to compensate around him.

He has to have his way, in small things like where we go to breakfast or what order we run errands -- or he gets upset.

Anxiety. Not having full control of where he eats and what he does when makes him feel on edge. What if you make the "wrong" decision? What everything goes wrong and he gets the blame? His anxiety is blinding him to the fact that your preferences and needs are just as important as his.

He seems constitutionally incapable of doing things he doesn't want to do.

Anxiety. When you walk around all day with your anxiety meter dialed up to 11, the thought of doing something which might make it hit 12 or 13 can be too awful to contemplate. Even if it's just making a brief appearance at a party to keep your girlfriend happy.

He really hates being "pinned down" to schedules, timelines, or plans, not just with me but with anyone.

Anxiety. Committing to things ahead of time makes it far too easy to obsess about them. And what if he "doesn't feel up to it" on the day? Far better to wait until the last minute and decide then whether or not to grace you with his presence.

He doesn't like to play board games because he feels like he has to win at all costs, but he doesn't like to make other people feel bad about losing.

Anxiety, coupled with perfectionism. Failing at anything, even a board game, makes him anxious. This also supports your belief that he's not really narcissistic - he does care how other people feel, but sometimes his anxiety is so strong that it overwhelms his empathy.

As I said above, none of these explanations excuse his bad behaviour. It's his problem, and he needs to deal with it. There may be other stuff besides anxiety going on, too. He needs therapy - preferably CBT or something with a mindfulness component. But if you could try imagining that he's walking around all day with IMPENDING DOOM lurking in the back of his mind, threatening to rear up whenever things don't quite go his way...you might understand better why he's so difficult to be around.

In the meantime, maybe try acknowledging that he's feeling anxious without reassuring him or being drawn into an argument about it. Be with him through his anxiety, but don't take on the responsibility of trying to relieve it. "Hey, I know you're on edge right now. It must be really unpleasant to feel so worried. But this is the way I want to do things today. Let's try things my way and see if it really goes as badly as you think." Then try your hardest to dial back your irritation at his whining so you don't end up arguing and inadvertently reinforcing his internal association between "not doing things my way" and "unmitigated disaster". It's not going to be easy. Therapy will make it easier.
posted by embrangled at 6:37 PM on March 22, 2012 [8 favorites]

Best answer: You might find the articles and forum at http://www.adhdmarriage.com/ useful. (yeah, you're not married, but it gives an interesting and useful view into some of the personality traits and coping strategies for ADHD adults and their partners.)

But in short: do not expect change. If it is ADHD, there are neurological reasons for the behavior that MIGHT change with medication and CBT, but frequently do not.
posted by instamatic at 7:47 PM on March 22, 2012

Best answer: I suggest that a proper diagnosis is what's needed. It's no good to have unqualified people who are pissed off at him waxing and waning on diagnostic labels and trying to figure out therapeutic approaches for conditions they don't know he has.

Amen to this. Not to pile on, but the resistance to scheduling and committing is very common in ADD/ADHD.

I agree that you're looking to change him, not to "help" him. If none of this is a problem for him, you're going to run into trouble. If it's a problem for you, please say so. That might make it a problem for him, might not, but in any case, your problem with the way he is is actually your problem.

If it's not a problem for him, well, he has no incentive to change and you can't really make him. One part of this relationship is about you, deciding what you can put up with and what you can't. He may change someday, he may change never. What would you do, in either case? Would you continue indefinitely if you knew he never would or could change?
posted by Miko at 9:01 PM on March 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: To clarify: not making a value judgement on homeschool, but I've found sometimes that it is especially bad for those people who for whatever reason have issues that cause them to socialize differently. (ADD, ADHD, Aspergers, etc) I've found this also applies to some people who have been free-schooled, which is an approach I love! But both types of schooling tend to kind of allow you to be really self-directed and often not have to interact with people who do things really differently if you don't want to.

OP's boyfriend seems to have a lot of ADD/ADHD style behaviors, but is at an age where the roughness should have been taken off of many of them by life and frequent socialization with others. This does not appear to have happened. Trying to speculate where this perfect storm came from.
posted by corb at 10:50 PM on March 22, 2012

A number of people are encouraging you to see him as a jerk for not changing. If he has major psychological or neurological problems he may be using up all his effort just to get through a day. He may never be able to change enough to meet your requirements, let alone those of a bunch of Internet strangers.

We can all say that disabled people are jerks for not changing enough to make things easy for others, but this guy wasn't put on this earth to please us or the OP any more than we or the OP are here to please him.

OP, if you or any of the rest of us had a car accident tomorrow we might well change for the worse, including personality change if there were head injuries. Any of us, at any time, could become someone to be written off as a jerk or just too much trouble. Probably some people in our lives would just leave, and new people might not want to get involved. That would be sad, but it wouldn't mean we would be able to change back into the kind of person they'd want, just because they want it.

If you do want to help him, you will have to put out of your mind the idea that he owes it to you/the world to change, which some people are promulgating here.
posted by tel3path at 1:40 AM on March 23, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: You want to know how you can help him?

You can't. People aren't fixer-up projects. Find someone else and examine why you are drawn to projects, not healthy relationships.

When someone has written three "I need help with my new BF/GF" questions in just a few months, they need to move on.

This early on in the relationship you shouldn't be having so many headaches. Just end it.

(I'm not even going to get into ADD or any diagnosis because it doesn't matter. What matters is that you have had a lot of issues with this guy. Good relationships never start with this much grief.)
posted by kinetic at 2:51 AM on March 23, 2012 [7 favorites]

...and I know you said you didn't want DTMFA advice, but you need to examine why you're not considering that at all.

This early on in the relationship and you now want to us to diagnose him. And why is that? So you can write off his annoying behavior as "Oh, it's just his ____" but otherwise he's great?

Now wanting to know his diagnosis so you know how to help fix him (again...not a good idea) and help yourself deal with things you don't like about him just seems very unhealthy.
posted by kinetic at 3:08 AM on March 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yeah, sounds like ADD, but the real problem isn't the ADD, it's how he deals with it, or rather, doesn't deal with it.

The self-awareness issue is the big issue and I don't know what to say about that. People need to wake up to that sort of thing on their own.
posted by j03 at 4:43 AM on March 23, 2012

Some of your language reminded me of one of my partners and one of my best friends, especially this:

He has to feel in total control of his environment or he has panic attacks. He seems constitutionally incapable of doing things he doesn't want to do.

I truly cared-- and continue to care-- about both those people. However I agree with whoever said above that they may make incremental changes but the possibility of that behavior is always there. The only thing you can really change, in my opinion, is yourself. You can recognize that their behavior is controlling and not allow yourself to feel controlled. For me, with my romantic partner, that meant not living together. I remember the exact day when I called him on certain behavior and he pretty much said, "I love you, but I am what I am." After that, I scaled the relationship way down.

I don't know, with people who act like that, whether they keep doing it because it works out for them, or because they can't help it. At a certain point it probably doesn't matter. With both of them, I stayed around partly because I sensed that the controlling attitude came out of a certain vulnerability. But also just because they were, and are very, interesting people. The one I am still in frequent touch with has tons of friends-- and former friends, I have to say. At a certain point, he is just so complicated that I can't deal with him for a while, and I think that happens with his other friends too. I sat there once while he listened to his voice mail, which was a whole series of people calling him for his birthday, people who had been out of touch but obviously still thought about him a lot. Like the other guy, he has pretty much said, "I am what I am." He has made efforts to improve, for me and for others, but he always ends up doing the same stuff.

To the extent that I recognize these traits in your partner, I don't think he's going to change enough to make living with him substantially different. Date him if you want-- I totally understand the appeal, but don't have kids with him.
posted by BibiRose at 5:04 AM on March 23, 2012

I can kinda understand where he's coming from. I'm passionate about things being done right and very competitive when I want to be, especially in entertainment. I'm very artististic and creative, blah blah blah and don't work well with time or schedules. Not because I think I deserve it, but that's just how I am. So, I'm a freelancer, which allows me to work jobs I want to do. I feel you're just coming from a different place than he is. The only way I don't see this relationship working out is if you are coming from a place of judgement on essentially who he is. Not saying he can't cope better but... this is him, baby! It all boils down to how you feel. Nobody likes to be criticized so if you are... stop it. Now. But DO tell him how you FEEL. And if overall, the feeling it ain't right for you... then eventually, you know what to do. Sit down and guage where YOU want to go, internally.
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 9:19 AM on March 23, 2012

« Older Bad neighborhood, 4-year-old son, 50 mile commute...   |   A five-minute long wedding reading? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.