Couldn't you just, like, be happy for me?
April 25, 2012 4:10 PM   Subscribe

A couple of awesome things are happening in my life right now, and when I told my girlfriend about them, she was quite critical of them. At the time I brushed it off, but a couple days later, I'm feeling quite bothered by her reaction. Should I bring this up to her? Is there a healthy way to do so? Or should I just let sleeping dogs lie?

My gf and I have been dating for about 6 months, and we're both in our mid-twenties, though she's a couple years older. She lives in the Big City, while I live in the near suburbs. She's great, I have a blast with her, and I think we complement each other well in a lot of ways.

Recently, after far too long in community college, I was accepted to university! Awesome! This has been the biggest goal I've achieved in my adult life. Seriously self-actualizing shit here. So I told my girlfriend about it a couple days ago, and her reaction was basically, congrats, but by going to school in the suburbs you'll be seriously limiting your options in terms of networking possibilities and future employment. My school is not that far from the Big City, we're talking 15-20 miles. Essentially, it is one of the area schools. It is also what I've decided is the best choice for my major.

Secondly, my roommate moved out recently and I have this big old loft type space to myself for a few months before I move to my new school's neighborhood. So my first reaction was, I'm going to hold an art exhibition with a bunch of my artist friends. I've never done something like this before, and it's something I'm really excited about. Again, this is me being my best self, self-actualizing like a motherfucker. Great way to network, deepen relationships with other artists like myself, and frankly just have fun. So I tell my girlfriend about it, again a couple days ago, and her reaction was, well that sounds cool and all, but it's pointless if you're not going to do it in the Big City. It won't help your career and what you're talking about is basically just a house party. Ok... I don't have a space to hold an art show in the Big City. The idea was I have this space, I know these artists, let's do a show. She's out of college and just starting to work as a promoter, so she kind of got into promoter mode and started stressing about how I need to find a way to afford to rent a space in the Big City for a show, and that my portfolio is not up to snuff to show with the kinds of artists she knows, and so on and so forth. I wasn't against doing something in the Big City if I could, it's just that I don't think I'm prepared for that. Either way, we talked about it for a while and went on about our day.

So it's been a couple of days since we've talked about these two things, and I've been at home on my own thinking about it, and the more I think about it, the more it bothers me. I've spent years being depressed, backsliding, going nowhere in my life. So when my hard work is starting to pay off with new possibilities and opportunities, I am seriously bothered that this person who is supposed to be important to me just shits all over it. I'm having serious doubts about her after these conversations. These are supposed to be good things in my life, I don't want someone close to me to criticize them.

So now I'm wondering, it's been days since we talked about these things. Is there really any benefit to bringing up the fact that I'm bothered by her reaction? Or should I just let it go? If I do bring it up, how do I do so in a healthy way? Like, I imagine this would be a situation where "I" statements are called for, right? :) What do you think, MetaFilter?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (40 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
speculation: she wants you to move to the Big City to be closer to her.
posted by cupcake1337 at 4:15 PM on April 25, 2012 [14 favorites]

My initial view is that she's probably concerned that you are at a crossroads in your life and that you are not steering yourself towards 'the big city'. You are making decisions that you are happy about that don't directly include her, so she is being shitty about them. But I may be wrong, those were just my first impressions. Congrats on the self-actualizing!!
posted by bquarters at 4:16 PM on April 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think it's quite possible that a lot of this is informed by the fact that she wants you to be closer to her, and is possibly was actually a bit sad that you would be going to school further away. Had you talked at all about her speculations about college?

That, or when you were talking, you may not have expressed regret in relation to her, that she was hoping to see, and she may have, as on preview bquarters noted, been shitty about them because of that.

That said, congratulations, and I agree that this is definitely a situation where "I" statements are called for.
posted by corb at 4:19 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

She does want you to move to the Big City, but she's also developed a complex about the Big City being wrapped up in her identity and that being in the Big City is an accomplishment and that people who aren't in the Big City aren't as accomplished as her and won't be.

tl;dr: it's mostly not about you.
posted by deanc at 4:20 PM on April 25, 2012 [32 favorites]

First, congratulations on being accepted to a university!!

I really think this has to do with her, as a promoter, being all about the Big City, and having a desire for you to be part of that. I've discovered that people who associate pieces of their identities with Big Cities can get really defensive and upset when people choose not to live there.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 4:21 PM on April 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

You should definitely bring this up with her. You are right, the person who is supposed to be important to you and supportive of you shouldn't be shitting all over your news. Hell, I'm excited for you (and I'm just an internet stranger), the art exhibit ideas sounds great! Maybe she's right and you need to show stuff in The Big City, but you have to start somewhere right? You will make lots of connections and figure lots of logistics out-- just the experience you will need to do more exhibitions in the future. Good luck, this all sounds super fun!
posted by sadtomato at 4:22 PM on April 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

If she is secure in the relationship with you: she is letting you know that whilst you are climbing the hill, the hill is not the mountain. You have a glimmer of talent and some momentum, but it's easier to make it in the suburbs than it is in the city. She loves you, and she doesn't want you to think storming a fort is the same as storming the castle.

If she is not secure in the relationship with you: she is worried that your success will take you away from her. Until now, you have been struggling and needed her for support and companionship, but now your actions are telling her that you are achieving a point where you are much happier and you don't need her.

As far as "I" statements? Either "I" want to go with you on this journey, or "I" don't.
posted by nickrussell at 4:24 PM on April 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

I have very seriously dated a few people long-term who have made choices in their lives for the better that would take them temporarily very far away from me. Part of me has always been a little hurt (what about meeee!?), but most of me has always been extremely supportive and happy for them. (These relationships ended when Temporary Thing became a Basically Forever thing.)

I would also guess that she's upset that these things are going to ground you in the burbs away from her. If you have plans to eventually move to Big City, that's one thing, but if you plan to stay in the burbs forever (and, assuming things work out between you) with her joining you, that's quite another.

If this is, indeed, a short-term, 'til-you-finish-college thing, then I'd say she's being immature and selfish.

It is completely, 100% OK for you to say something like, "when you reacted negatively to [thing] it made me feel [sad, marginalized, like you're not happy for me, etc]. I'm doing what I think is best for me, and I think it will be good for us in the long run, too, because [something]." At that point, hopefully you guys can start talking about it productively.

Congrats on all the good stuff happening! Don't let this bum you out.
posted by phunniemee at 4:26 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I read this the same way as the posters above - she's bummed that your decisions are not moving you closer to her (esp. at a time in your relationship that is often kind of a get-more-serious-or-break-up phase).

BUT that's not what you asked about. Yes, it is important that you talk with her about things like this that bother you. How about something like, "Hey, the other day(s) when I told you about getting into university and having my art show, you brought up a number of things you saw as problems with my plans. I felt kind of judged, instead of celebrated. I am super happy about the stuff I'm accomplishing - the dreams I'm finally realizing! - and I really just want your support. You are important to me and it's important to me to be able to share my happiness with you."
posted by TrixieRamble at 4:28 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Bring it up for sure - don't let this fester or erode the foundation of the relationship. The how - I messages and empathy.

"Hey girlfriend, I wanted to get something off my chest. You remember the day when I had my big news? Well, I was really happy about those things. I felt disappointed and deflated by your response. I know you didn't mean any harm. I know you were just using your expertise as a promoter to think of what would be most helpful for my career. Those were really good points too. Trouble is, I think it was a practical kind of response and I was expecting an emotional response, like enthusiasm and gladness because I'm finally moving toward my goals and not fumbling around in a depressive haze.

You were looking out for me and I love you for that. It was wrong of me to expect a particular reaction from you - but there it is. I expected you to be happy for me, and I didn't expect you to tell me why my plans are bad for me.

So I just wanted to let you know how I'm feeling about it and maybe get your thoughts on the matter. If you want to get back to me about it later that's okay, and if you're ready to talk about it now that's okay too. I know you meant well, and we got our wires crossed, and hopefully if we can talk it out we can avoid this happening down the road."
posted by hungry hippo at 4:29 PM on April 25, 2012 [9 favorites]

Yes, Phunniemee's template is good, too. Adjust language to taste.
posted by TrixieRamble at 4:29 PM on April 25, 2012

Those are both cool things, and congrats on making those plans! I'm envious of your initiative. I'm sorry your girlfriend's being such a wet blanket. It sounds like either she's warning you against being overeager or she's got hangups about the suburbs vs. the Big City, as other respondents have noted. Anyway, the way I usually deal with stuff like this (having a creative idea or ambition of mine pooh-poohed by someone I care about) is to keep working on it on my own time, and once it's a fait accompli, they tend to come around. Maybe something about the initial conversation made your girlfriend defensive... I might also just wait a while and then, in the context of updating her on things you've accomplished in a given day or week, mention it again. See how she reacts then—a different day or context can make a difference.
posted by limeonaire at 4:31 PM on April 25, 2012

What TrixieRamble said ... she phrased the response to use well.

I had another initial thought tho ... is this the first time she has dissed good news you have shared, or is this a pattern, but this time you noticed it more? Some people are just knee-jerk negative and always feel they have to point out the downsides, without even realizing they are raining on your parade. Mr. B was that way and I had to train him (through conversations!) to keep anything not uplifting to himself when I share good news, etc with him.

Talk about it with her!
posted by batikrose at 4:34 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

she's probably concerned that you are at a crossroads in your life and that you are not steering yourself towards 'the big city'. You are making decisions that you are happy about that don't directly include her, so she is being shitty about them. But I may be wrong, those were just my first impressions.

Mine too.

But my second impression is that I know - and am friends with - some people like this. They support you, but they always have to subtly knock your exciting new stuff down a couple pegs if it's anything they don't entirely understand or approve of. It's fine (if occasionally a little upsetting) to be friends with people who do this but I couldn't be in a relationship with one. I think you'll probably see pretty soon, once your life starts changing, whether she's just anxious about you moving in a different direction or if she's the dismissive type. And bringing it up with her would almost certainly speed that process along.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 4:35 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sorry, one more thing, since you're in your mid-twenties and a six-month relationship.

It may feel weird or awkward or risky or embarrassing to talk like this right now. For one thing, you're bringing up a conflict, so that can feel like opening up a can of worms when it kinda feels safer to not say anything. For another, all these "I" statements can sound pretty cheesy when you're not used to them (maybe especially if you are a dude). But this is the point in your relationship when you really start to build intimacy and develop the tools for dealing with bigger, more important conflicts down the line. You should have this conversation not only to address the problem at hand, but to start a pattern of dealing with conflict openly, with love and respect. If she's willing to play, too, you just might find that working through this together brings you even closer, and that next time you have something tough or awkward to say, it's a little bit easier.

My husband and I started working on this in our mid-twenties, and we have gotten through stuff we NEVER would have survived without being able to "do the work" together.
posted by TrixieRamble at 4:36 PM on April 25, 2012 [5 favorites]

What hungry hippo said. Regardless of whether she wants you to be closer to her or not, the things she said all sounded (to me) like good advice, so acknowledging that when you talk to her makes it easier to have the conversation be about your feelings (since you already acknowledged that she was giving good advice) and what kind of things you would've liked her to say when she heard the news.
posted by 23skidoo at 4:36 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hmm. Another possibility is she's genuinely concerned about your future and thinks you're pursuing your career in a naive way or that you're too easily satisfied with small accomplishments and don't push yourself hard enough. If you're trying to be an artist, she may have a point that you'd make better connections if you went to school in the city. Just something to consider.
posted by timsneezed at 4:46 PM on April 25, 2012 [5 favorites]

I'm of a couple of different opinions here.

First things first. I somewhat agree with your girlfriend about the art show, unless you know A LOT of people in your particular suburb who would definitely attend such an event. Or, frankly, even know that your apartment is a loft space, you are an artist, etc. Once upon a time, I was part of a (very well established) arts collective in Long Island City, Queens. LIC is not a suburb, it's very much in New York City proper. It's known as an artsy neighborhood, and there are lots of other galleries in that part of town. Even after several years as an established thing, holding the same types of events around roughly the same calendar, it was REALLY UNBELIEVABLY HARD to get people out to our events.

That said, maybe you are a fixture in your suburb's artistic community, and everyone knows your space and expects such things to happen. And maybe your suburb is just chock full of artsy folks who are dying for someone to start hosting events like that. In that case, you obviously know better than me.

On the other hand, I think that in a lot of your girlfriend's advice, her Big City bias is showing. Especially the college thing; that just makes no sense at all.

I'm sure someone else will have said this already, but are you sure that this is not your girlfriend's desire for you to move closer coming through? Maybe she told herself that, once you transferred schools, you'd move to the city? Maybe she (subconsciously) wants you to be more city-focused? Because a city person dating a suburb person is basically a long distance relationship (and the bigger the city, the more that's true).
posted by Sara C. at 4:48 PM on April 25, 2012

I don't think it's about Big City to be honest. It sounds like she's trying to be loving and helpful based on her (uninformed) opinion of stuff. Many people will give unsolicited opinions on other people's plans which come across as "meh, you're doing it wrong." or "nah, you could never achieve that, because it's bloody awesome, don't try or you'll get hurt."

I seriously had to tape my mouth shut when my daughter first advised me of her plans to study Fine Art painting. I mean, seriously? She didn't even have the same level of talent I had at that age, and OMG, who can get a paid job as an artist? But I remember too, that my mother dissuaded me from pursuing Graphic Design studies when I was 17 and I was doing that sort of work (untrained) at 23, and finally succeed in getting a degree in it at about age 40. So I shut up, though it was difficult, and she (my daughter, not my mother) is now in her final year, her skills far exceed mine at any age, she's doing really innovative work, is regarded highly by her lecturers, and... I could go on and on but I won't.

So my point is, some people think they're helping by trying to save you from your decisions. They're not helping but they're trying to. If you do want to talk about it with you, you might say, "I appreciate your reservations about my decisions, but I've thought about these things for a long time, I'm sure I want to do this, and I would really appreciate your enthusiasm and support, rather than criticism. Criticism I can get anywhere, but your support (even if you don't agree with my decisions) means the world to me."

You might also suggest that she focus on what she can come up with to mitigate what she sees as negatives - eg, networking not so good in the 'burbs, how about we arrange this function, or join this association or whatever. This gives her something positive to think about rather than "oh dear, my loved one is making a huge mistake and I must help anonymous to save him/her from the error of their ways."
posted by b33j at 4:51 PM on April 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

When I lived in Denver I would drive to Boulder several times a week for readings and art house/old movies.

I think that if she truly cared about you she would not be disparaging you like this. DTMFA
posted by brujita at 4:52 PM on April 25, 2012 [5 favorites]

Also, I've seen a community of artists being built in a small country town so well that people are now traveling from the Big City an hour's drive away to participate in events. It's possible, it can be done, it requires innovation and commitment but why not you to be the leader in this? Even if you don't have the level of success you would like, you will still gain valuable skills and experience, for later events. You go for it and if you want to hear more about the small town artist community that I mentioned, memail me.
posted by b33j at 4:53 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

If she wants you to be in the big city, either to level up in your ambitions or to be closer to her, then she should say so. Communicating it through undermining snipes when she should be celebrating your success is asshole behavior. Tell her to say what she thinks, and that you deserve to have her be kind to you.
posted by anildash at 5:02 PM on April 25, 2012 [7 favorites]

In my view, this is her insecurities getting in the way here. Which is not necessarily something you will be able to deal with, so be warned, the outcome might be that you have to break up.

I am seriously bothered that this person who is supposed to be important to me just shits all over it. I'm having serious doubts about her after these conversations

And this is why you shouldn't just let it slide - because all that will do is build resentment.

When she does this again, respond immediately, plainly and without emotion, that while you appreciate her advice, you're happy with your decisions and you hope that she is too.
posted by mleigh at 5:05 PM on April 25, 2012

Even if everything she's saying is true (which, as a Big City type who went to college in the Big City and has also lived in several super-artsy small towns, I'm not sure about) there are ways and ways of communicating her concerns. She could still express enthusiasm and be happy that the OP is so happy, and wait a bit before getting to the "Have you thought about x?" Or "Do you think it might be better if you did Y?" Or "What made you decide to do Z, because in my experience..." etc. In this situation it's the way she communicates and how supportive she is that matters, more than the specifics of it, imho.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 5:07 PM on April 25, 2012

Yeah she really wants you to move to Big City and both these things are getting you farther away, not closer to, moving to Big City.

Talk to her about it, seriously. She'll probably snap out of it once she realizes why she's being so negative. Be nice about. "I know you want me in the Big City and your upset I'm not moving there, but it hurt me you weren't happier for me."
posted by whoaali at 5:10 PM on April 25, 2012

I think your instincts are dead on, and phunniemee's advice is good.

We all know those people who, when you are so happy about something you are just fit to burst, and you tell them in this breathless rush of excitement, respond in such a negative way it just knocks you right out of your happy place. Bam. Face into the pavement.

The optimum response from your gf would have been to let you enjoy that moment before she came in with the negative stuff, maybe just mentioning the next time the two of you spoke, "Oh, honey, by the way, about your exhibition. I was thinking you'd get an even better response in Big City, where I am. Once you've thrown yours and we see how it goes, we should totally find a way to make that happen." That would have been the kindest response from anyone you told.

And this is your girlfriend! Even if she wasn't as thrilled as you were about your news, she should have made an effort not to dampen your enthusiasm.

To be fair, maybe she doesn't even realize that's how she came across. Sometimes pragmatic, low-key people don't act openly excited even when they are inside. Maybe she's a problem-solver who reacts to news by seeing the inherent negatives and focusing on those so she can fix them, like others have said before me.

But whatever the reason, she threw cold water right in your face and dashed all your hopes (okay, mixed metaphor. But you know what I mean). And that might not be the best kind of person for you, with your history of depression.

So, you know, it's good you're seeing this now. You need to assess just how this played out. Is this kind of reaction a common occurrence with your gf? Or were these two times an exception where she just didn't realize how she was letting you down?

Because if you're prone to depression, repeated reactions like this from your SO will push you into a state of flux, where you never get anything done because you're always thinking, "Why even bother, what's the use?"

Or, alternatively, you'll spend all your time trying to be someone you're not, and make yourself miserable trying to impress her.

Believe me, I speak from experience.
posted by misha at 5:10 PM on April 25, 2012 [7 favorites]

Pointless? Good god. You weren't asking her opinion (professional or otherwise) about where she thought the very "hottest" place would be to have a show, or what would be the best next move to show off your portfolio. You also weren't asking her, "where should I go to college with the sole goal of gaining what you currently view as the best networking opportunities?" You were describing her decisions that you have made and were excited about (and for well-reasoned reasons) and she has shot them down with daggers. Do you think that maybe she was upset that you didn't include her in the decision-making? Or that she likes feeling a little bit superior to you and these plans that you've made independently seem like a threat to that (even subconsciously)? Those are some additional possible explanations I can think of, but even if there is one, I honestly don't think that this pattern is a good sign. It doesn't sound like she is even aware of where you are and the factors that make you excited about these plans, let alone being able to put herself in your shoes and be genuinely excited for you when you are obviously genuinely excited. Among other things, why isn't she interested in lending her talent to think creatively with you about how to promote a small show (in a cool free space!) and/or to build a strong network from wherever you are??

I agree that you absolutely need to bring this up with her, and soon. Tell her that you are surprised that in both situations she has responded immediately with such negative feedback, and give her the floor to explain why that may be. I think it's fair, and wise, to tell her that she's great, and you have a blast with her, and you usually think that you complement each other in many ways, but her reactions have seriously thrown you for a loop.

(By the way, I am totally excited for you, and would love to come to your show.)
posted by argonauta at 5:18 PM on April 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

To be fair, maybe she doesn't even realize that's how she came across. Sometimes pragmatic, low-key people don't act openly excited even when they are inside. Maybe she's a problem-solver who reacts to news by seeing the inherent negatives and focusing on those so she can fix them, like others have said before me.

I thought this part of misha's post summed up what I was thinking: your girlfriend might have thought she was actually being helpful when she said those things so thoughtlessly.

So I think it's very important to speak to her about this because:

(1) this clearly bothers you and it's appropriate to tell her so;

(2) if this is typical of her behavior you and she will definitely need to talk about it, because over the long haul it will be really hurtful, and it's something she can improve in her communication with you if she is made aware of it; and

(3) if this is about something else, like her wanting you to move to Big City, or her just being a Big City-centric jerk about it, it's important to get to the bottom of that, too.

Congratulations on your news, too.
posted by MoonOrb at 5:28 PM on April 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

Good on you!!!

Gear up and have that show. GF is right about not being in the Big Apple, but so what? It's great practice for your next show, and what a chance to be a big frog in a small pond, instead of being just small fry in the big city. You never know where you're going to make a contact. A friend of my husband has had several showings on either coast, and the best contract he ever netted was from a show he gave to please his mom in his little hometown in Idaho. Some Big Spender was just passing through, saw his art in the window, and gave him a hefty commission.

Regards heading out to the university, just go for it. It's not the GF's dream, it's yours to pursue with both hands.

As usual, great advice above. Talk to her. We can't know what was going through her mind--maybe she was having a lousy day or felt under the weather. If she can't be happy for you or poo-poos your idea of the show, well, that's her problem, not yours.

So what if you're just putting together what is 'basically just a house party,' who doesn't love a house party? What a way to celebrate your getting accepted to the U.

The rest of us want an invite!
posted by BlueHorse at 5:42 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I just wanted to let you know...I have done this! Sometimes I have even wished the words did not come out of my mouth. Usually I am excited and happy for the person, but my brain's quirk is that I sometimes jump to problem-solving as my way of expressing that I am...I don't the game with them.

And...I've been on your end too and it is no fun.

Here's what helps: Boundaries. I do think you should talk about it retroactively. And in the future, hold your hand up and say "Girlfriend, please be in this moment of joy/excitement/planning with me. There will be hurdles and I will deal with them later." If you think it is about Big City, assure her that you intend to visit her tons or whatever.

If she is the Right Girl, she will hear you on this. It may not be easy for her to curb her impulses, but she will hear what you need. If you don't tell her though she may be completely unaware that she rained on your parade.
posted by Zen_warrior at 5:48 PM on April 25, 2012 [5 favorites]

Dtmfa! She sounds stuck up and insecure.

That's exaggeration; I'm projecting.

Sit her down and say her negative, knee-jerk reactions hurt you, and made you feel judged by this person you like to be open and honest with.

I'm critical and analytical, but I've learned to be supportive and give that a while to sink in, *then* be 'helpful'. She likely doesn't know how she's coming across.

In the future, don't be afraid to ask for the category of reaction you want, or point out that you don't feel supported if she lays in to criticism too quickly.
posted by itesser at 6:20 PM on April 25, 2012

Those reactions were terrible! You have every right to be upset since it sounds like you're making great progress in your life and starting new things.

I would just bring it up casually, without making it sound like a BIG DEAL - just say that it kind of hurt when she wasn't excited about your news, and that it seemed like she was criticizing you and your decisions. Her reaction will let you know whether the relationship is worth it. If she doesn't immediately understand and apologize, then I really don't think it's worth continuing a 6 month old relationship. You should be with someone who supports you and gets excited when you're excited about positive developments in your life.
posted by barnoley at 6:31 PM on April 25, 2012

There is a part of me that wonders whether her promoter lifestyle in Big City is a competitive and judgmental scene. It's possible her work life is bleeding into your relationship, and she feels a little bit jealous of your success and so is trying to downplay it. She also might just be stuck up about the suburbs, which I think is annoying.

But it's more likely that she wants you to move to Big City, and she's worried that you putting down roots in the suburbs means a life that might not include her.
posted by juliplease at 7:10 PM on April 25, 2012

By which I mean to say: bring it up in the context of letting her know what you think the future holds, and what her place in it is, and how much you need and want her support.
posted by juliplease at 7:12 PM on April 25, 2012

OK, so it sounds like you're going to art school and it definitely sounds like she wanted you to get into school in Big City for two reasons: So you're closer to her, and so that your art schooling will be likely to advance your career. In that light, framing your house party as an "art show" in the suburbs sort of reveals some naivety about the whole thing. ESPECIALLY in the area of a Big City, art in terms of career-advancing work for young artists only happens IN the Big City. She's annoyed that you're grounding yourself someplace that's not closer to her, but she's also right and not expressing it constructively.

If you're not going to art school, then disregard.
posted by cmoj at 7:34 PM on April 25, 2012

My read on this is that your girlfriend probably wants you to move to the big city with her, but that she's also emotionally tone deaf to the way she's coming across here.

I'm betting that you've sized things up accurately as far as having an art show with your artist friends in your loft is concerned, and that you can pull it off. If you couldn't, something would have come up in your conversations with these friends of yours to prevent you from thinking it was a good idea, before the idea to have the show even formed.

Please bring this up with your girlfriend, not just with "I" statements, but with "I feel" statements. If she couldn't see that the context of the conversation you were having with her was "look at the great strides I'm making personally" rather than "I think this is the absolute best way to participate in this arts scene, please let me know if I'm wrong," then I think that's a problem in your relationship that needs to be addressed.

The way you're describing things, though, it sounds like she's cutting you down with fault-finding. It's really easy to fault find. It's the easiest thing in the world to do. The hardest thing in the world to do is conquering demons, which is what you're doing. Please keep that in mind, and compassionately stand up for yourself here.
posted by alphanerd at 7:50 PM on April 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Is this typical of your interactions with her? Is this typical of her interactions with most everyone?

Some people seem to have a lot of trouble interacting if they aren't in fault-finding/problem-solving mode. They are really incapable of saying "That's great, I'm so happy for you!" Among early 20somethings living near/in Big City it seems like an incredibly common attitude, sadly. I used to be this way and so were a lot of people I hung out with at the time. Along with it was this complete avoidance of serious conversations of any kind, so nobody said anything about being upset by the negativity. I guess being genuinely positive and excited about the future was uncool. You should tell her, I bet she may not even realize she's doing it or that it bothers you. Otherwise this behavior just continues until one day you look around and think "I don't really like my friends.."
posted by citron at 9:33 PM on April 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

Why does it matter why she said it? She's an adult and can use "I" statements herself if she wants to communicate.

I really like hungry hippo's script and think you should definitely say something.
posted by salvia at 9:37 PM on April 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

OK, so it sounds like you're going to art school and it definitely sounds like she wanted you to get into school in Big City for two reasons: So you're closer to her, and so that your art schooling will be likely to advance your career. In that light, framing your house party as an "art show" in the suburbs sort of reveals some naivety about the whole thing. ESPECIALLY in the area of a Big City, art in terms of career-advancing work for young artists only happens IN the Big City. She's annoyed that you're grounding yourself someplace that's not closer to her, but she's also right and not expressing it constructively.

Most definitely.

Yeah, I think that she isn't expressing herself well, and I understand why you'd be upset, but if you are in fact trying to make it as an artist, your girlfriend is mostly right. Possibly not about your choice of school - I'm sure you made an informed choice based on a variety of factors, and she's probably just worrying about you and expressing it poorly - but about the art show, she might have a point. That doesn't mean your original plan is a bad idea, but if she can help you have a show in the city in a more "legitimate" venue, let her help you! If she's a little older than you and savvy about this stuff, use her as a resource. And while I don't think she did a great job as a girlfriend, part of being in a creative community and being an artist is learning to take criticism and guidance gracefully and try to learn from it.

And some people can't get into cheerleader mode. I'm very self-critical and low-key when excited, and I have a hard time getting really excited for anyone, including myself. And if you're the type of person who gets really excited about things, this aspect of her personality might just bum you out. But hopefully you tell her how you feel, she modifies her behavior somewhat, and there's joy in mudville.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 10:07 PM on April 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Comments like the above imply that you're stupid and can't realistically tell the difference between undermining and reasonable objections. However, they do also show that telling you you're going to fail and can't do things, is considered constructive and healthy - or at least, usually assumed to be well-meant - by most people. They're wrong, but it's very normal for people to be wrong in this way.

Let me put it this way: what is the worst that can happen if you try to have a show in your loft? I guess, since this is the only show you will ever have, your gf wants to make sure that you save your one shot for something really spectacular, which can only take place in the Big City?

Oh wait. You can have more than one show in your lifetime? Wow, in that case, I guess a history of having successful shows will really damage your credibility into the future.

Oh wait. A history of successful shows will actually make you look good? Even in the Big City? Well, yeah, but obviously your show can't be successful because it's outside of the Big City and it's in your living room.

Oh wait. People have salons in other Big Cities - you know, cities as big or bigger than yours? Imagine that. Living room concerts? Small, intimate creative evenings?

Well, you won't have a successful salon show, because... um... well, you just won't.

Because I said so, that's why.

Okay, not pretending that there aren't dangers here. An unsuccessful show could be embarrassing to you. So you need to be careful that if your show fails for some reason, you can just not mention it again and it won't be held against you. That should be reasonable, because if something has no impact in your living room in Suburbia, well, the lack of impact should be confined to your living room in Suburbia, then. But you also don't want to discredit yourself amongst local artists. That, I think, is the worst thing that could happen.

So you want to figure out a way of having your show that means it doesn't fail. There is a method called the Strada method for managing projects by preventing failure; memail me. But what you have to do is figure out what would make your evening a success. Is it if at least three local artists show their work? Do they have to be in the same medium as you, or can they be other kinds of creatives, like, maybe a musician would like to play, a poet would like to do a reading?

In that case, to prevent failure, you'd have to identify two other local artists and secure their participation and make sure they're not the kind of people who flake. If they do flake, or they get a paid gig for the same night (if you're paying, the risk is reduced) then you'll need a couple more people, so rope in a couple more people.

Read up all the books you can find about how to have a successful party. (Like, if it's a cocktail party, allow four canapes per person, that kind of thing.) Read Miss Manners on the correct way to RSVP. Make sure you cover every part of the organization like a steel trap, and don't waft around leaving anything to chance. Who is coming? Will there be enough seating? If not, where are you going to grab your extra seating? Do you need a licence or some other kind of permission and, if so, can you tweak the conditions so that you don't need a licence?

This is the kind of thing that a) you should be doing and b) a supportive person should be saying to you. You don't have to put on the Biggest Show On Earth. You do have to put on A show, even if it is the Smallest Show On Earth.

I can't tell if your gf is some horrible Negative Nancy who just wants to undermine you (wanting to keep you close to her is functionally the same thing because she shouldn't be doing it like this), or whether she simply has some bad habits because she's a product of her culture. Either way, you are ABSOLUTELY RIGHT to want to confront her over this. Because what salvia said.

And because just because we live in a culture of miserable underminers who always tell you you can't do things, and they cover up their sadness and failure through hip, sophisticated cynicism, doesn't mean the entire culture shouldn't just fuck off and die.

I spent way too much of my life putting up with this sort of thing because I'd been trained to believe it was good for me. It was not good for me. It was a waste of my life. And now I feel a permanent sadness that people who allegedly were my friends, or loved me, couldn't bring themselves to wish me well and could only feel all right as long as they had infected me with their own misery and sense of failure. I don't want to live in a world where even love means that people don't believe in me and have no hesitation in telling me so. Take a look at the last few paragraphs of Nattie's comment here because it's very close to what I'm getting at.

I do think you should follow hungry hippo's script because it assumes good faith on her part. In general, you want to take the high road a) because you should and b) you want others to take the high road with you and c) you don't want to give your gf legitimate reason to think less of you, because she's on her way to being a promoter in your industry. Good diplomatic relations are important on every level here, personal and professional.

If she doesn't react well, then you should seriously consider cutting her loose. While you're giving her time to prove herself, the author Patricia Evans has some good scripts in her Verbal Abuse book for dealing with undermining:
- Cut it out.
- I certainly don't feel supported when I hear that kind of talk.
- Stop it! I don't ever want to hear that kind of talk from you!
You only want to say your piece at length once - you don't want to get metaphysical or epistemological about it. Have faith in your ability to tell the difference between objection-raising and undermining.

Overall, be very discerning about what kind of people you associate with. You of course don't want to surround yourself with false flatterers and Pollyannas. But you don't need your parade rained on either. Have you read The Artist's Way? Read The Artist's Way.
posted by tel3path at 4:21 AM on April 26, 2012 [10 favorites]

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