Being supportive, trying to get someone to express themselves.
April 20, 2012 10:39 AM   Subscribe

How do I get my girlfriend to be brave?

So, it's a bit of a situation. Together on & off for a year, before she made the call to move to my city, which took me a bit by surprise - and led to her living at my place for two months before finding her own. This put a bit of stress/pressure on our relationship, which initially wasn't even termed a relationship, and continues to be a little unstable.

But in reality, that was actually a welcomed move, because besides that, she's painfully timid. Stuff like not expressing strong opinions that it's clear she has, making literally any decision (deciding on a restaurant: once she's done it, it took five hours), is like pulling teeth. In my previous great relationship, a bit part of what made it work was that the girl was confident and decisive, which made for decent life-collaboration. This just isn't as easy; and to the point that I've considered ending it.

Is there something more that I can do? Supportive I can do, and have done, and urged her to express herself and make decisions, but more specific things might be useful; usually this isn't my role. I like this girl, and she seems to like me a lot, but on a practical (make a decision! watch a movie, or go on a walk!?) and emotional (say what you actually want out of me!) level this is unendingly frustrating.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (35 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Does she want to be more brave?

You phrase the question as though you want to be more supportive of her, but all I see here is that you want to change this gal to be more your type. You cannot do that. It will not work.

I see extremely clear compatibility issues here. You either need to decide to live with them as they are, or walk away and find someone more compatible with your desires.
posted by TinWhistle at 10:42 AM on April 20, 2012 [27 favorites]

In my previous great relationship, a bit part of what made it work was that the girl was confident and decisive, which made for decent life-collaboration.

Cool. Go find a woman who's like that, and stop trying to change the woman you're with into someone like the woman you used to date.
posted by xingcat at 10:44 AM on April 20, 2012 [43 favorites]

Repeat after me: "I cannot fix people even though I love them."

That said, all you can do is reinforce with your words that you desire her opinion, and reinforce with your actions and reactions that it is *ok* for her to have strong opinions.

Other than that, back way way off of it. She's timid for a reason, and you have no way of knowing what that reason might be. At some point in her life, expressing these opinions was strongly discouraged. She learned not to do it. The more pressure you put on her to have strong opinions, the more stressed out she will be trying to figure out how to have a strong opinion that is ALSO the opinion you want her to have. It's not as though she's able to just say to herself, "Ah, I can relax around this guy, he wants me to express my opinions" and just do it like flipping a switch. She has to learn by accumulated experience that it's okay.

And it's not comforting or happiness-inducing to have somebody always frustrated that you won't just make decisions and be more confident. It's just more anxiety-inducing. She's already really good at trying to be and think and do what people want her to be and think and do-- all you're doing is throwing her into another "figure out what I want you to do" puzzle, as far as she can tell.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 10:48 AM on April 20, 2012 [27 favorites]

There's no way to will someone into become more confident; when it happens it is a natural effect of the relationship. Based on your first paragraph, your relationship is not solid. You begrudge her some for moving in the first place, you certainly begrudge her some for this large aspect of her personality and finally, you compare her unfavorably (in your own mind at least) to past relationships. None of this is going to lay the groundwork for her opening up and becoming more self-assured. You can say all the right "supportive" words and go through the motions of support but the elements I mentioned above will inevitably underlie and undo your efforts.
posted by Katine at 10:49 AM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is this behavior a problem in her life? I mean, you're putting a pretty big value judgement on her behavior, but the only person it seems to be impacting is you. You may have a hard time convincing her to change -- and by "hard time" I mean you can fuck up the relationship -- if she doesn't feel like her attitude is negatively impacting her well-being. Her behavior clearly makes things hard for you, but then you need to decide whether this is something Really Important (like, relationship-endingly important) and, if it is, get it across just how hard it's making things for you. And then she either likes you so much she's willing to give it a shot, or you go your separate ways because there's a pretty blatant incompatibility. Otherwise, there's neither internal nor external pressure for her to change.

Of course, if you can see that the way she is acting is making her life difficult, you should probably point that out to her.

Could you contact the mods with how old you two are? It's not a terribly big deal, but if you're in your, say, early-20s and fresh in the Real World, the amount of change you can expect out of her (assuming she it's the latter scenario and she wants to change) is somewhat different than if you two were in your 40s and she'd spent most of her life being this person.

Finally, I can't find it at the moment, but there was a similar question a while ago (although I think both partners were indecisive,) and someone had suggested that when a decision like "which restaurant?" needs to be made, the person asking offers a series of choices. So instead of asking her where she wants to eat, you ask if she wants to eat at The Sushi Place or The Italian Place. Less open-ended choice yields faster decisionmaking.
posted by griphus at 10:49 AM on April 20, 2012

The only thing you can really do is explain to her that it's frustrating when she's indecisive or not willing to assert herself a little. It's up to her what she does with that information. But actually changing this would be a huge undertaking - in a lot of ways it would involve changing who she is, fundamentally, and that's not something she will be willing or able to take on if she doesn't actually want to.

When dealing with people like this in the past, I've found that the best I can do is resign myself to being the one who makes decisions in the absence of feedback. But even then, the problem is that you will only have solved the problem of what you're doing tonight or where you're going. Her reticence to share her feelings won't change.

This may seem like a simple solution to what looks like a complex problem, but honestly, in your position I'd break it off. Like I say, I've dealt with people like this in the past and on the occasions when it's been a dating sort of thing, it never got any easier. It seems like this is just what she's like. You need to consider that this might not change, ask yourself if that's something you can handle, and be aware that it's okay if you can't.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:49 AM on April 20, 2012

"Of course, if you can see that the way she is acting is making her life difficult, you should probably point that out to her. "

Please keep in mind that when I say "difficult" I mean she has trouble making/keeping friends (and is unhappy with that,) or she can't keep a job, or is always late with bills and has to pay fees or just something that's genuinely making her life worse, and not simply introducing an element of frustration.
posted by griphus at 10:53 AM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Time for a conversation. That she is timid may be her personality, which is something you cannot change. Being timid is a tool that works for her. She can get what she wants that way without taking any responsibility. But when people are unwilling to make a decision for the relationship, they are also copping out on taking responsibility for the relationship. It's a way of not contributing. You sound like someone who wants a partnership, is sounds like your girlfriend wants a guide. I would talk to her about the fact that you need her to contribute more to the relationship, if she is unwilling to do that, then this might just not be the right relationship for you.
posted by Vaike at 11:10 AM on April 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

So, you like this girl, right? First, think about the positives: what you like about her, what drew you to her in the first place.

This is about the time in relationships when the irritating stuff surfaces and questions about longevity creep up. Maybe don't compare her to your past relationships, but look at HER and ask yourself if the stuff that bothers you is negotiable, if you two are able to work on it, etc.

Have you calmly told her how you feel about her indecision issues? Tried to come up with some strategies? What does she say about all of this? It is coming from somewhere, it is not about you, and it is probably something that can be worked on. I guess you need to figure out just how big of a deal it is to, and how work-able it is, and if she wants to work on it.

I might be way off here, but I am wondering if the "off and on" aspect of your relationship might be a part of this? If she doesn't feel that you are committed to each other, she might be feeling insecure and not want to rock the boat. When people feel secure with their partners, they are usually more willing to deal with the hard stuff. She might need to know that you can face the hard stuff together (you won't run when it gets a little difficult).

Take a deep breath, slow down, focus on the positives.
posted by retrofitted at 11:12 AM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

you can not get someone to do something they do not want to do, or be something they are not. you have to decide if this is something you can live with, long-term, if she never decides to change this or date people who are more compatible with you.
posted by violetk at 11:15 AM on April 20, 2012

Have you tried sitting down with her to tell her that her inability to be decisive is a deal-breaker for you, and you'd like to help her work on it if she wants to, otherwise you have to end the relationship?
posted by davejay at 11:15 AM on April 20, 2012

She's timid for a reason, and you have no way of knowing what that reason might be. At some point in her life, expressing these opinions was strongly discouraged. She learned not to do it. The more pressure you put on her to have strong opinions, the more stressed out she will be trying to figure out how to have a strong opinion that is ALSO the opinion you want her to have. It's not as though she's able to just say to herself, "Ah, I can relax around this guy, he wants me to express my opinions" and just do it like flipping a switch. She has to learn by accumulated experience that it's okay.


I have been Won't Pick A Restaurant Girl. Why? Because every restaurant I suggested growing up, my dad would bitch about, until I realized that when he asked for suggestions, he didn't actually like, MEAN It. I learned that saying "No, I don't want to go to Denny's" would lead to an hour of screaming fights. So I learned to NEVER suggest or pick or object or express any opinion on things. I would guess she has some kind of similar story in her family history. Your "confident" exes weren't getting smacked on the nose with a newspaper every time they spoke. Think about it.

What got me over it? Moving away, moving somewhere where it was more okay for me to be myself, slowly finding out that everyone else won't scream at me if I pick the wrong restaurant. But I had to learn that slowly and be gentled out of it and reassured that my boyfriend wouldn't bite my head off if I said the wrong thing. Yes, my exes weren't too thrilled to have to deal with this, but they did. Yes, like the song "Daughters," I've had it pointed out to me that they weren't my dad and they weren't going to rip me a new hole if I said the wrong thing. But they did have to prove to me over time that it was safe for me to have an opinion here. It's not that she's indecisive, it's that she's afraid of what will happen if she states an opinion and it's "wrong" to you. She can probably make decisions when she's alone, right? And she made a decision to move to you, which is HUGE! And a good step! It just...isn't a quick fix to learn to not fear.

If you don't want to take the time and get her to slowly learn that you won't bite off her head, then you should probably break up with her for a "confident" girl. I can tell you that she can learn to get out of this pattern. But if you don't want to be with someone like this while she learns, don't tell her that indecisiveness is a dealbreaker for you and that you'll break up with her if she can't pick. That'll only give her more of a complex.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:25 AM on April 20, 2012 [37 favorites]

A key element here seems to be the fact that she made the call to move to your city. It showed you that she can indeed make big decisions and put herself out there. And you may be thinking, wow, if she could only develop that part of herself, that would make life much better for both of you. And there you are, ready and willing to nurture it if you only knew how.

But that's not how it works. The initiative has to come from her side. If it does, then you can be there to support, encourage, etc. Without her setting the goal, you become just a frustrated nag.

It might be useful to learn more about how she came to her big decision to move. Was it really as sudden as it seemed to you, or did she agonize over it like everything else? Does she wish she could be more like that in other parts of her life? Or was it so distressing that she doesn't want to put herself through the agony again?

But mostly you need to ask yourself if this is a person you can stay with long-term if she remains exactly as she is. Because that's more likely what's going to happen.
posted by Longtime Listener at 11:29 AM on April 20, 2012 [5 favorites]

Supportive I can do, and have done, and urged her to express herself and make decisions, but more specific things might be useful; usually this isn't my role.

First, find out why she is the way she is. Is it from abuse? neglect? Low self esteem?

If you want to fix someone or something, you have to understand them first and then you have to put in work to get it fixed. As a very rough analogy, if your computer's is broken and you want to fix it, then you have to known a little bit about computers and machines and then do the physical work in terms of taking the computer apart to get to the fan, replace the fan and then put it back together.

You'd probably have to do the human equivalent with your girlfriend, which is wildly different, more complex, takes more time and has no guarantee of success.

Does this sound like something you'd be intreated in doing? If so, then you need to sit down and talk with her about why you are the way are (i.e. this bothers you 'cause you're a factor here), why she is the way she is and the impact that dynamic is having on the relationship for you.

Talk to her, figure out what's going on. Then decide if you event to help. It's ok if you don't.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:32 AM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, she may need professional help to get over the indecisiveness. Nothing wrong with that, but just keep it in mind.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:33 AM on April 20, 2012

Has she always been like this? I ask because deciding to move to a new city is a pretty big decision to have made. If, when she did that, you were surprised (and possibly displeased) she'll have absorbed feedback along the lines of her having done something wrong. Then she had to find and choose a new place. None of this sounds indecisive, maybe she's just too busy dealing with the consequences of those decisions. I don't blame her for feeling vulnerable and unsure right now. Maybe you should back off a bit til she's had a chance to settle in before bombarding her with expectations over the small stuff.
posted by freya_lamb at 11:34 AM on April 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

I do not recommend leaving her or "setting her free" as some have opined here.

Of course you can take steps to change that part of her - people make adjustments all the time for other in relationships. Asking her to be decisive is *not* fundamentally changing who the person is.

If one cannot change someone, then it applies to her as well: she will not change unless she wants to. You can't change her even if you tried, so there is no harm in requesting or helping her on this journey.

Lastly - she may not "want to be set free" and may find that absolutely devestating. In other words, give her the option of adopting a new conviction in life, before you simply decide on this relationship unilaterally.
posted by Kruger5 at 11:49 AM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

But in reality, that was actually a welcomed move, because besides that, she's painfully timid. Stuff like not expressing strong opinions that it's clear she has, making literally any decision (deciding on a restaurant: once she's done it, it took five hours), is like pulling teeth. In my previous great relationship, a bit part of what made it work was that the girl was confident and decisive, which made for decent life-collaboration. This just isn't as easy; and to the point that I've considered ending it.

It's not about being brave, or confident, per se. It's about being comfortable doing things. The question is, how do you make somebody comfortable with doing whatever it is they seem timid about? How do you expand their comfort zone? It sounds like semantics, but it is not -- focus on making her comfortable, instead of brave or confident, and see where it gets you.

Pushing somebody to do something they don't want to do is not a way to make them comfortable about doing it. Neither is getting frustrated with them when they aren't doing something you think they should do -- like being indecisive. So if you've done either of those things, and I'm not saying you have, cut it out; all it does is increase the stress and anxiety related to doing it.

You make somebody comfortable by treating them patiently, positively, and sometimes with praise. Find a way to remove stress and anxiety from doing something, and you've made somebody comfortable with doing it. Like voicing a preference for dinner.

If you're not the person to do that, to be patient and help her become more comfortable making decisions, then go ahead and reconsider the relationship.

Also, please reference this classic response regarding Ask Culture vs. Guess Culture.
posted by jabberjaw at 12:06 PM on April 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'd tend toward the opinion - look at yourself. Why is it you need her to be decisive? Do you have difficulty making up your own mind? Are you uncomfortable making decisions for both of you - about what to do, where to go, etc... In my experience some women just like men to show that they can make decisions that include them, take what you think they want into account. Some women don't.

Maybe she is going through a phase, she is in a new city with a guy - from what I can tell in your email - that seems uncertain about the relationship. Maybe she has bigger issues as most of the folks here have speculated. At the end of the day you cannot do anything to change her. Her choice to change, if she needs to change, has to come from with in her.

What you can change, look at, examine, find the truth out about is you.

One thing is for certain though, if she is indecisive and you continue to ask her what she wants you'll both go nuts. Rather than saying what do you want to do tonight say - lets go to the movies. if she doesn't want to go let her tell you that ...
posted by jeffe at 1:04 PM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Does she have likes and dislikes when it comes to restaurants, or does she just not care? I'm usually a decisive person but I find it difficult to make decisions about something I don't really care about. Especially when the person asking has a stronger preference than I do - I feel like they should just choose.

If it's more of a general problem (sounds like it might be) you could also try removing yourself from her decision process so she is forced to make the decision when you are not physically present - for example, "I'm off at 6. Pick a restaurant and I'll meet you there." This could give her some practice in decision making on her own. (Maybe you've done this already, I couldn't tell if the 5 hour restaurant conversation took place in person)
posted by beyond_pink at 1:30 PM on April 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

Has trouble making decisions, doesn't like to say her opinion, is very timid -- these things can all be caused by anxiety at a level that she can't just reason away. Counseling can help, if it teaches her strategies toward getting what she wants. Also, she might benefit from a self-help book like David Burns' "Feeling Good." If anxiety is causing her to hesitate, then it would be good for you to understand that she's very, very uncomfortable when trying to make a decision; it's not that she "just doesn't feel like it." She's actively trying to avoid feelings that seem overwhelming. Be compassionate. You don't need to stay with a girlfriend who avoids asserting herself, but please don't blame her or assume that she doesn't care how it affects you.
posted by wryly at 2:43 PM on April 20, 2012

It's perfectly possible she just *doesn't have an opinion* on the stuff you're asking her about. I have strong desires for a particular kind of partner, for a particular kind of career, the important stuff. But I could genuinely not give a shit which restaurant I go to each time my partner and I go out. So he picks.

If she really doesn't mind how you guys spend your free time, it'll be annoying to her when you describe her honesty about that as indecision. I've been incompatible with people in the past because they decided this was something about me they needed to fix, that I had a preference lurking somewhere within, repressed. They end up pressuring me to pick something because it'll be 'good for me', so I feel patronised and they don't get to go where they'd actually like to go.

It's fair enough if you don't want that sort of partner, and more so if you think she has problems expressing herself on important issues. But sometimes indecisive people are just more open to possibilities and others' preferences, which you could consider appreciating in her.
posted by pickingupsticks at 2:46 PM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

griphus and beyond_pink have good strategies on how to gently nudge her into making a decision. You could also take turns in decision making like saying "Ok, I chose the restaurant, now it's your turn - which movie do you want to see?" And go with whatever she chooses. That way you are sharing the power.

If she's indecisive because she finds it hard to narrow down a myriad of options, you could ask her questions to help her logically step through the problem. So in choosing a restaurant, you could ask things like what nationality of food she wants, does she feel like someplace more casual or more dressy, has she heard anyone recommending somewhere that they liked, where is nearby, how much you have to spend, or even something silly like pick a letter of the alphabet and go to the first restaurant you can think of starting with that letter.
I would just ask one of those questions to start with, and then use that to generate suggestions, and get her to pick from them.

In my case if I'm struggling to make a choice I also often tell myself "I can always change my mind" but this works because a) I usually can but b) I never do. You could experiment with that, but be aware that it only works if she sticks to a decision really solidly once she's made it.
posted by EatMyHat at 2:56 PM on April 20, 2012

I've had this problem, myself, and for me it comes from a desire to put others first. If I say what I want, and it's different than what they want, then I can feel like I'm putting them in an awkward situation because they now have to decide between putting me first out of politeness, and doing what they actually want to do. Better not to create that conflict, and keep my preferences quiet.

Getting past indecisiveness and that others-first focus with the fellow who's now my husband mostly required time and comfort. When I knew him well enough that politeness was unimportant and we could both relax enough to fart and belch in front of each other, telling him what I really wanted became a lot easier.

That's not to say I've solved the "put others first" problem -- and in fact it's sometimes caused new relationship issues. I no longer put Mr. Supafreak's wishes ahead of all my own preferences, but I do tend to put everyone else ahead of me. And now that we are a Supafreak unit, that means I put them ahead of him too. If I'm negotiating with a friend or family member about where we go to dinner, and the preferences of all members of the Supafreak unit come after the preferences of everyone else, my husband can feel like his wishes are completely ignored. I'm working on this one.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 2:59 PM on April 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

My biggest question would be how much you have talked with her about this, and more importantly, how much you have *listened* to her. Why does this bother you? Tell her. Why does she do this? Ask her. You guys need to talk to each other. If you love her, this is a wonderful way to show your love!
posted by carolinaherrera at 2:59 PM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't break up with her without talking about this with her, and it's not clear if you have. It makes a difference if she's happy how she is or if she wants to change.
posted by J. Wilson at 4:24 PM on April 20, 2012

Is there something more that I can do?
Unless she wants to be this type of person, no. If this is why your relationship was previously off-and-on, then her moving to your city seems like her trying to do this in a very big way, though.

Why is it still unstable? There's something off here that I highly doubt her being "brave" is going to fix.
posted by sm1tten at 4:30 PM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

When my girlfriend (now my wife) and I first started dating, she explicitly told me she wanted me to make most of the decisions. On our first date. I asked her what she wanted to do now, and she said she didn't care, that she hates making decisions, and was happy to leave all that sort of stuff to me. As our relationship continued, I fell into that role, uncomfortably at first, but soon came to rather enjoy it.

We started dating in early 2005, so we've been together eight years now. And somewhere along the line of me making (pretty much) all the decisions, she started making more and more of them. I think it was because sometimes I really didn't feel like making a decision myself, or sometimes I wasn't around and she needed to make a decision herself. Plus by doing what she asked, I think I essentially gave her the freedom to come around to making her own decisions in her own time.

The point here is that it was natural. It's not something I worked on. I think that's what you should do too. Make the decision if she can't, give her the freedom to learn to make decisions on her own time, and perhaps eventually she may become more brave on her own terms.
posted by Effigy2000 at 4:31 PM on April 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Is it possible she doesn't care about where you eat? I mean, planning a move is a pretty big deal, so what you might be identifying as timidity might just be indifference, or an awareness of risk factors or a different set of goals. For example, when picking a restaurant, I generally don't care, as long as it's not going to lead to an extended debate over food allergies or whatever, or involve me being actively inconvenienced. Also, I don't always have conversations about deeply held political beliefs because I've already written the other person off as a hot air balloon who's not going to change their mind.

Personally, I don't have the energy to waste debating things like restaurants or having conversations where I know the outcome.
posted by spunweb at 5:14 PM on April 20, 2012

It's possible that your girlfriend is already brave, cares about things, but likes to take her time deciding on which option is better for her. Some people are private and like to keep thoughts that are very strong to themselves. Some people also think internally rather than saying whatever comes to mind (my roommate is of the former type and I am of the latter)

My roommate takes FOREVER to figure out if she wants to do something. I (being the spontaneous and opinionated kind of person that I am) find it so incredibly frustrating.

I have called her out on it and said "You know, you can just say no. It's completely fine to say no" to which she replied that she was trying to figure out if she has time to do it.

If someone is of the quiet or introverted type, they like to take their time to think about things and think about things internally.

So, if you find it frustrating dealing with your SO, then you need to be direct about this. Tell her how you feel because a solid relationship is built on open communication. You are probably extroverted whereas your SO is probably introverted. That's what may be causing the frustration since these types operate differently.

You also need to learn how to read her body language better. Be the first to suggest a restaurant or place to go to. Ask her how that sounds. She'll be able to say whether or not that works for her. Yes, it sucks being the one to always choose (not the jackpot that you dream of as a kid), but that way it's less frustrating then waiting FIVE hours just to get a response.
posted by livinglearning at 6:07 PM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is she a highly sensitive introvert? I've had (very well meaning) extroverts over the years try to get me to "open up" and "express myself" and rarely do they ever handle it well when I do. Extroverts (and I do love them dearly) tend to be far more judgmental and eager to express it without immediate consideration for things like feelings.

A highly sensitive introvert will pick up on your judgmental behaviour in a nanosecond and from your question I can see you judging her.

If it takes 5 hours for her to make a decision, then it takes 5 hours, she's still made a decision. The problem is that she's not making a decision quickly enough for you. Ergo, she's not behaving how you want her to behave. It's actually not your job to change that!

If you're judgmental about the time it takes for her to make a decision, and you're judgmental about her moving to your city and moving in with you (okay, so it all worked out, but still, there's judgment there in your question), then she's picked up on all that. She's going to be less likely to tell you what she wants and needs from you because she's afraid you'll judge her (even though you keep trying to get to her "express herself") because you frequently ARE judging her.

You either like her personality or you don't. If you don't, move on.
posted by mleigh at 3:24 AM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

A highly sensitive introvert will pick up on your judgmental behaviour in a nanosecond and from your question I can see you judging her.


What do you mean by 5 hours? Were you guys together when you were deciding, or were you guys both, for example, at work texting in the afternoon and she said "Ok, let me think about it" and then didn't respond for 5 hours? Maybe she had something else more important to deal with or forgot and then got back to you when she remembered. Some people don't think it's oh so important to decide hours before an event.

Also, it's very hard to diagnoise this without seeing you two together and hearing vocal tone or seeing body language.
posted by eq21 at 7:02 AM on April 21, 2012

Oh man, I feel your frustration. People who act like this drive me CRAZY. I'm surprised at the number of people who think you're trying to change her personality - being painfully indecisive is an irritating habit, not a fundamental personality trait. I'm a sensitive introvert, but I do recognize that part of being a grown-up is figuring out what I want, and then communicating that if it matters to me.

Can't you just point it out to her that it bothers you? I'm sure she won't fall apart. And it would be kinder than just breaking up with her out of the blue. I've never broken up with a serious boyfriend because of this, but I've definitely declined to pursue possible partners because of this behavior. It just comes off to me as inconsiderate, and a total cop out.
posted by citizenface at 8:18 AM on April 21, 2012

That behavior has nothing to do with being introverted. I'm an introvert and I can't stand that behavior either, so what I do is, I don't date people who behave that way.
posted by headnsouth at 9:29 AM on April 21, 2012

I think it's definitely a personality trait. Sure, our personalities change over time, but well...

My dad and I both have this particular trait, especially visible with restaurants. We'll ooh and ahh at nearly every restaurant we drive or walk past on the way to dinner, because even if Italian would be nice we haven't really given full consideration to the possibility of going to the Japanese restaurant instead... or the falafel place... or the Chinese restaurant... We have trouble picking one restaurant from all the restaurants unless we've considered all the restaurants.

Giving her a more limited set of options - two or three choices that you're OK with all of them - can help with this.

It certainly could also/instead be related to self-esteem or to wanting to put you first, and giving her a short list of options can help with that too - "Hon, I'm thinking Mexican or Indian for dinner tonight. Both sound equally good to me. Which would you prefer?" It helps to remove the fear that she'll pick something you won't be happy with. (Make sure you emphasize "sound equally good" - you're not secretly craving Indian but willing to settle for Mexican, in which case she'll feel bad about randomly choosing Mexican).

Or you can try having the occasional night where you emphasize you want to go to whatever place she wants to go to, it's her special evening and you just want to take care of her and will be happy as long as she's happy.
posted by Lady Li at 10:48 AM on April 21, 2012

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