Are arguments normal in new relationship or am I with a wrong girl?
October 29, 2013 2:41 PM   Subscribe

Is it normal to have these kinds of arguments in a 5 month relationship? I'm Indian and she's white and we're both 23. Am I with a wrong girl? (Details Inside)

I have been dating this girl for about 5 months now. We were doing fine until my school started a month and half ago. Lately, me and her have been having lot of arguments over little things. I feel like its mostly me because I get mad at little things she says. In the summer, we would talk about anything and we would enjoy each others company. I stay at her place almost everyday. I have introduced the girl to my parents (they're Indian) and they really like her and they don't mind that I hang out with her also. Our relationship mutual understanding. So she would completely misunderstand when I say something to her.

To be honest, when I first started dating her, I figured the little things she does, if I tell her she would not do it. Since for example, I grew up in house with no pets. Im allergic to ton of stuff from pollen to cockroaches. Even tho she owns a cat, I don't mind. I only told her to clean the cat water bucket in the bathroom and not the kitchen sink and she got mad for that. Another thing that really bothers me is that some of the clothes she wears. I sometimes tell her that I don't like what she wears and she gets mad. If she told me the something, I would not wear that again. Like she would get mad about anything I say. I really love her so much and I do see myself with her in future. I have IBS(Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and whenever we argue it just makes it worse plus the school (Im in Engineering, senior year). I have told her that she can move with my wherever I get a job and she said ok to that also. I really love her, but whenever we argue, I just feel like breaking up because I just hate it so much.

One time she was going to work and she was wearing a sports jacket with a skirt, and I told her why are you wearing that and she got mad at me for saying that. Now she works at a Bank and told her you should wear something appropriate for that. When my girlfriend tells me same thing, I would think she's saying for my better. Like she told me how she didn't like some of my clothes so I don't wear those any more. I feel like girlfriend and boyfriend should be open to each other for each others good. But she told me that everything I say is for my benefit. We went out last night to a pizza place and I was short of a dollar and I asked if she had a dollar but she called me "dumb" and told me I took 15 minutes to pull out my wallet. It really bothered me because never before I asked her to pay in the past few months since we've been dating.

She grew up in a low income family and I grew up in a high income family so Im not sure if that play a big role here. But I really don't know what to do from here. To be honest, when I first started dating her (this is my first girlfriend), I though these things can be changed. But I really don't know if Im asking too much from her or not. Any advice on this would be greatly appreciate it.
posted by Parh6512 to Human Relations (37 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
FWIW, my previous 3-4 questions are also related to dating and the person.
posted by Parh6512 at 2:43 PM on October 29, 2013

People have varying standards on what is an acceptable (or desirable) amount of arguing in a relationship. For starters, ask yourself whether the relationship adds more happiness to your life or more stress to your life. If additional happiness doesn't drastically outweigh the additional stress, it's probably not a great relationship for you.

Also, you included a couple of examples of fights that started after you criticized what she was wearing. If you want to stop having that fight, stop criticizing what she's wearing.
posted by craven_morhead at 2:50 PM on October 29, 2013 [27 favorites]

It sounds to me like she's reacting to you picking at her. But if that's your style, you would do better to find someone who appreciates it rather than someone who clearly doesn't. Me personally, I wouldn't want someone telling me what to wear to my job. I would expect that I would be the better judge of that, based on the people around me at work.

I wonder whether your issues have less to do with the income of your families and more to do with your cultural expectations? It appears, based on your post, that English is not your first language, so I wonder how it is that you're so sure what she should wear to a job in the US?

I also wonder, however, why it is she's calling you names. "Dumb" is inappropriate. She might not like what you said or did, but that doesn't mean that you're "dumb."

I have IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) so I know what you mean about stress creating problems. As a result, I don't pick fights with my boyfriend.
posted by janey47 at 2:51 PM on October 29, 2013 [5 favorites]

If a boyfriend tried to tell me what to wear I would show him the door so fast his head would spin. The examples you give seem to be you trying to control her behavior and her reacting poorly to that.
posted by mollymayhem at 2:54 PM on October 29, 2013 [101 favorites]

Wow, it sounds like there is a lot going on here. She may be in the wrong some of the time here, but she's not the one here asking for advice, you are, so I'm going to talk about you.

I only told her to clean the cat water bucket in the bathroom and not the kitchen sink and she got mad for that.

Did you TELL her, or did you ASK her, and explain why? You don't get to just tell her things, even if they are problematic for you. You need to work with her on this stuff.

One time she was going to work and she was wearing a sports jacket with a skirt, and I told her why are you wearing that and she got mad at me for saying that.

She is 100% in the right here. You do not get to criticize her clothing. That is not OK. That she sometimes does similar things and you react in a different way is completely immaterial partially because again, she is not here asking for advice, you are, and partially because two wrongs do not make a right. She gets upset at this, rightly so, and has made it clear that she doesn't want you to do it. Above, you were upset that she did something you didn't want her to do. Now, you are upset that you are doing something she clearly doesn't want you to do but you don't agree. Stop doing it.

If you are not happy with her, you don't have to be with her. You don't have to find a REASON for that, if you don't want. You don't need an excuse, you don't need the fights to be a certain amount of bad or for her to be a certain amount at fault. Not being happy with someone, or not wanting to be with them, is all of the justification you need to break up with someone.

It sounds like for whatever reason, you two do not bring out the best in each other. That's OK, even if she's a great person and you two get along swimmingly most of the time and you like each other's families and whatnot. You should be with someone who brings out the best in you.
posted by brainmouse at 2:55 PM on October 29, 2013 [17 favorites]

I think a lot of what is starting the argument is not what you're saying but how you're saying it. You think you're being "honest" and "helpful" but it comes across to her as condescending and rude. If there is really a problem with the way she dresses (and it doesn't sound like there is), you could gently provide some constructive criticism or have a gentle discussion about it. If you want her to change the cat water in the bathroom not the kitchen, you ask her not tell her.
posted by radioamy at 3:01 PM on October 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

Never, never, never go into a relationship thinking you're going to change the other person. They may change, but you are not going to change them. You can only change how your react to them.

If you really love her so much, why do you want her to change to conform to your expectations?
posted by clarkstonian at 3:03 PM on October 29, 2013 [29 favorites]

To be honest, when I first started dating her, I figured the little things she does, if I tell her she would not do it.

Ouch. Yeah this is a very different starting point for a relationship than some.

As far as your actual examples, a partner should try to accommodate allergies, absolutely, and should not give unsolicited criticism of the other's clothes (and a boyfriend criticizing his girlfriend's dress choices has a lot of baggage in American culture and is not remotely equivalent to the obnoxious but much more benign trope of a woman dressing her man).

But I think you need to rethink your approach. Do you love her as she is? If so, then accept the little things. Accept them in your heart. Then you can politely ask her to accommodate you and she'll be able to acquiesce or refuse without it becoming a thing, and then you appreciate it either way and drop it.

If some of these things aren't so little, like your allergies, then be a grownup and treat her as a grownup, let her know what's important to you and figure out whether you can get on the same page or not - and be ready to walk if the answer is 'not.'
posted by Salamandrous at 3:18 PM on October 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

If someone "told" me, in my own home, where to clean my cat's water dish, there would be an argument. The first time. The second time, there would be no argument, because there would be no relationship. (Asking nicely is a different matter.)

Your girlfriend sounds like she is willing to make some effort with you, but is not willing to be controlled. You have to decide if you are willing to make a similar effort to get along with her, or if you prefer someone who is better at taking orders.
posted by rpfields at 3:21 PM on October 29, 2013 [16 favorites]

Off the top of my head, I can only think of three instances where it's ever okay to tell someone to do something instead of asking them:

1) You are trying to save their life: "get out of the way of that falling piano!"
2) Someone is abusing you: "stop abusing me or I'm going to leave."
3) Parent/Child relationships: "stop throwing your food at your brother's face."

If a partner of mine ever tried to tell me what to do, I would assume that he felt he was:

A) In control of the relationship.
B) Superior to me, and therefore knew my own mind and abilities better than I do.
C) Socially inept (and it's not my job to train people how to be polite. "Please" and "thank you" are some of the first words that a child learns).

Note: A-C are huge deal breakers.

I would highly advise you to stop telling her to do things, that alone may help alleviate a substantial portion of your arguments.
posted by Shouraku at 3:23 PM on October 29, 2013 [28 favorites]

Arguing early in a relationship can be normal. Arguing in such a way that you belittle the other person and make them feel terrible is a giant red flag.

It sounds like you two may not be compatible. There are ways to criticize or suggest changes in a partner that don't hurt their feelings or feel like they're coming from someone on the same team (that don't feel threatening). From your descriptions, it's hard to tell whether your critiques of her behavior and clothing come from that neutral, caring voice - though criticizing clothing choices can be really fraught and unless the clothing was genuinely inappropriate (ill-fitting or unintentionally revealing) I would refrain from doing it. But at the same time, her attacks on you, calling you dumb and belittling you are also not cool. This could be differing communication styles between you, so what you perceive as a request she sees as an order. Or it could be you're ordering her around without realizing it and she is understandably pissed.

But overall, it sounds like you want a relationship where both of you are on the same page about doing things the other wants, and right now you are unable to achieve that. This is the honeymoon phase of your relationship -- if you can't find a way to ask for what you want in a way that gets you heard, and you can't be a team when you find your way into an argument after a miscommunication, I think the relationship can't last regardless.
posted by Mchelly at 3:27 PM on October 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

Others have mentioned this, but replace "told" with "requested with a reason."

For example, this:

"Don't leave your crusty dishes in the sink."


"Hey, could you rinse your dishes after you use them or put them in the dishwasher? If you just leave them in the sink they get crusty and more difficult to clean."

See the difference? Shouraku gave a good summary of when "telling" is okay. Sometimes very high stress situations can result in "telling" in my relationship as well, but it's rare, and it almost always comes with a reason. For example, while driving through a blinding snowstorm in the mountains, the "telling" might sound like "Hon, I need you to turn off the radio because it's distracting and I'm trying to concentrate on driving so we don't die."

In my view, in a healthy relationship the addition of the reason results in a discussion if the other partner does not understand the request or finds it unreasonable, rather than an argument.
posted by craven_morhead at 3:28 PM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I should rephrase my wording here. I do not tell her to do stuff. I ask her nicely if she can do that. For example, I asked her if she can clean the cat water in the sink because of my allergies. But I guess I come off as controlling. I was raised around Indian parents and that's how most of India people are. Part of me also has that controlling trait. I wish I didn't because I want my partner to be happy with me. When I ask her to do stuff, she thinks Im saying it to put her down. But that is the last thing I want to do.
posted by Parh6512 at 3:30 PM on October 29, 2013

"I should rephrase my wording here. I do not tell her to do stuff. I ask her nicely if she can do that."

Does she get to tell you not to do things, or tell you what to wear? Do you view her as an equal, or do you view her as a 'girl' and, thus, you make the rules because you're a man? I'm a man, but I'd be pissed if I were treated the way it sounds like you treat your girlfriend. Treat her the way you would want to be treated.

"when I first started dating her (this is my first girlfriend), I though these things can be changed."

You don't get to change someone else, but you can change YOU. I'd suggest you start there.
posted by 2oh1 at 3:46 PM on October 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

I was raised around Indian parents and that's how most of India people are. Part of me also has that controlling trait. I wish I didn't because I want my partner to be happy with me. When I ask her to do stuff, she thinks Im saying it to put her down. But that is the last thing I want to do.

Have that discussion with her, but not during a fight, this needs to happen during a time when you are both calm and reasonable and not heated.

Explain to her that you come from a family/culture where this type of language is typical, but you are working on changing your approach. Let her know that it is not your intention to control her, but you are just trying to communicate your desires and needs. You just need help doing so in a manner that does not come across as controlling or demeaning. Let her know that when she calls you names like "stupid," that this is also hurtful, and that perhaps the two of you can work on being kinder to each other.

Good luck!
posted by blurker at 3:50 PM on October 29, 2013 [4 favorites]

Allow me to gently suggest that you keep your opinions about her clothes to yourself. You may believe you are well-intentioned, but criticizing wardrobe choices is a big red flag for a lot of people about issues around power and control. If you don't intend to come across as controlling, zip it.
posted by ambrosia at 4:01 PM on October 29, 2013 [7 favorites]

It sounds like you guys might have some cultural differences that are causing miscommunications between the two of you. My guess is that you either have differing ideas about how much control one person should have over the other, or what kinds of things are OK to say to a partner (or maybe when it's better to keep things to yourself).

If I was dating someone and they started telling me how they wanted me to clean my house, and what to wear? The relationship would be over so fast their head would spin. (I'm an American-born white woman, for what it's worth.)

Maybe, if otherwise I was crazy about them, and after several months together I knew they were a good person at heart, and there were cultural divides between us, I would give them the benefit of the doubt I'm giving you, that you mean well and there are just differences in expectations, communication styles, etc.

But to be honest, taking away the assumption that it's cultural communication stuff, you come off like a jerk. The things you're asking of her are beyond belief WAY out of the question in an American context. Especially after five months. I'd let my spouse weigh in on how our shared home should be maintained, and I might accept input about my clothes. But the new boyfriend? No way.

I think that, for this to work out, at the very least there's going to have to be compromise between the two of you. Maybe you have an understanding that when you say this stuff, you're asking, not commanding, and she can say no or laugh at you or explain herself or however she wants to respond. Or maybe you guys can map out the boundaries of what's OK for you to ask of her, and what's OK for her to ask of you. Or maybe the answer is that you just stop giving her your input into housekeeping and clothes unless she asks, because that stuff is just totally no-go for her (as it would be for me).

If you honestly expect her to clean her house your way, and to dress according to your whims, the relationship is probably doomed.
posted by Sara C. at 4:09 PM on October 29, 2013 [6 favorites]

Hey, I'm Indian and a woman, and have dealt with bossy, know-it-all Indian dudes my whole life.

Stop bossing her around. If my boyfriend acted like you, I'd have laughed in your face and left yesterday.
posted by discopolo at 4:29 PM on October 29, 2013 [37 favorites]

If you honestly expect her to clean her house your way, and to dress according to your whims, the relationship is probably doomed.

Repeated for truth. See, in your update you say you're asking, not commanding, but this:

I figured the little things she does, if I tell her she would not do it

says that your basic assumption is compliance. You fully expect her to comply with the "little things" you tell her to do or change about herself. This is not a small cultural difference, this is pretty massive. I dated someone for five years from a culture where this was the norm. He, too, made a perfunctory attempt to be less aggressive in attitude and less "controlling" on the surface, but since his basic habit and assumption was that partners (or, mainly the female partner) were supposed to make every attempt to please each other, and up to including doing whatever he asked me to to, it was constantly a sort of "why wouldn't you do such a SMALL THING for someone if you truly loved them?" argument. ALL. THE. TIME. And really, "why can't you do such a small thing" was code for "I am going to test you by asking you to do small thing after small thing after small thing for no important reason except that it sooths my ego and my needs and my convenience." And as someone above said, this is really a red flag for many american woman as an early sign of an abusive relationship. She is probably getting angry and arguing with you because she is hoping you are not really like that and she is horrified to hear this sort of thing coming out of you.
posted by celtalitha at 4:31 PM on October 29, 2013 [13 favorites]

Whether you're asking or telling, trying to influence what a woman chooses to wear in a negative way (ie, telling her NOT to wear certain things) is something with huge cultural baggage in North America. You can tell her when you think she looks especially nice, but unless she specifically asks you for feedback on whether something is work appropriate, keep any negative thoughts about what she's wearing to yourself.

As to whether your relationship is doomed by all this fighting, possibly. It seems like there's a cultural mismatch happening here, and she's pretty clearly not willing to be the one to bridge that divide. Are you?
posted by jacquilynne at 4:34 PM on October 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

You say you would be fine with her asking you to do things, but it seems to me like she is asking you to stop this behavior, by expressing her displeasure with your requests. And instead of just changing your behavior, you're questioning the legitimacy of her displeasure. Why not take it as a request and try to change your behavior?

BTW, some people can date folks with different approaches to relationships and deal with the tension that comes from that - they're fine with the conflict and enjoy the new perspective it brings. But I don't know if you're one of those people: 1. stress harms your health and 2. you seem to be pretty set in your ways.

Oh, and it totally seems right on schedule that this is coming up around the five-month mark. The initial attraction/limerance can get you through a few months and smooth over tensions, but then once that starts to wear off a bit, the basic compatibility stuff becomes more important.
posted by lunasol at 4:51 PM on October 29, 2013

To me, it does sound like there are some cultural conflicts going on. But some of these problems also sound like you guys are young. In that context, I think your arguments sound perfectly normal and don't really mean much about your compatibility. If anything, I think you guys sound pretty great together in that you're being super open with each other and the problems you're running into are largely simple, practical ones.

Anyway, I'm an American woman and I've overstepped with my friends and boyfriends, too, and kind of learned how not to do that through trial and error. Up until now you've probably had parents, teachers, bosses, coaches, and all kinds of authority figures telling you what to do and training you to communicate within a hierarchy. You're probably both pretty good at that by now, considering she's working and you're in school. But now you're adults and you're going to have to figure out how to communicate outside of a hierarchy, as equals. Pretty much everyone got a taste of that kind of communication with their friends growing up, but this relationship is more intimate than just buddies, and some of the habits of how parents/children interact are probably going to carry over because that was likely the most intimate relationship you've had up to now.

It's OK for this egalitarian kind of communication to be new to you, it's new to pretty much all new adults. But because you aren't always going to be in charge, it's going to be something that you have to get good at -- you aren't going to go your whole life within some clear hierarchy, and you're going to have to be able to communicate with any girlfriend or friend or business partner or etc etc etc as an equal. So it's worth getting good at it now, regardless of whether you and this girlfriend end up together forever.

One major difference between talking with an equal as opposed to someone above/below you on a hierarchy is the issue of compliance, like celtalitha said above. If you're actually asking instead of telling, then she has the option to not do what you'd prefer, to *not* comply. If her not doing what you'd prefer turns into an argument, then even if you worded the request as a question you were still telling her to do it.

If you're sharing new information with her and leaving it up to her to decide what to do about that information, then you're pretty safe in assuming that you're not being controlling or rude. So, for example, if you ask her to go to a fancy place for dinner, you might want to tell her that the restaurant is fancy/formal, so then she can make an informed choice on what to wear. If she knows all the information that you do and has made her choice, then you're going to have to let it go. So, for example, if she's dressed to go to her job, you don't really have any information to add so there's not really anything you can say about it. Likewise, if you have more information than she does but there's no way for her to use that additional information, it's rude to tell her about it. So, for example, if you guys meet after work and are on your way out somewhere, and you realize that she's got a stain on her skirt, it's rude to tell her about the stain knowing that she can't do anything about it at the moment.

If you're bringing up a possible problem, that can count as "new information." If the problem is something that you guys are going to solve together or both participate in, you can propose a possible solution to that problem. But even then, you need to give her the space to also propose solutions. Even if that turns into a discussion about which solution each of you think is better, it keeps the focus on the problem you're trying to solve and isn't as likely to get personal (make sure to stay on track and *not* make it personal!). Once she decides to go with a certain way of solving the problem -- even if it's not the way you would solve it, or you guys can't agree on how best to solve it -- then you have to give that solution a chance to work before bringing up the problem again. That should all be pretty familiar to you from how you operate at school or in labs.

So, for example, if she goes to wash the cat dish in the kitchen sink, you might say, "I'm worried about germs from the cat because I have allergies" (That's giving her new information -- there's a possible problem that the cat germs will trigger your allergies). Then you can propose a possible solution: "Would it be OK to wash the cat dish in the bathroom to keep her dishes separate from our dishes?" Your girlfriend might decide on another solution, (in this example, such as washing the cat dish in the kitchen sink and then cleaning the kitchen sink with Comet to disinfect it). Then you've got to give her solution a shot. If you really can't stomach giving her solution a shot, or even though her solution solved the problem you still feel like something's wrong, then either you have to go back to the drawing board and figure out what the *actual problem* you guys needed to solve was, or you need to just let it go and accept that you can't have everything your way.

For another example, when you guys were going out for pizza and you knew you were running low on money, you could 1. share the information: "I'm low on cash." 2. propose a solution: "Would you pick up the tab this time?" 3. compromise on a solution: she's also low on cash so she thinks maybe you should just get sodas this time. Or she says she'll treat this time. Or you say never mind, you'll put it on your credit card. Whatever. 4. figure out if the problem is solve: you guys leave the pizza place happy and there's no fight.
posted by rue72 at 5:38 PM on October 29, 2013 [7 favorites]

"I was raised around Indian parents and that's how most of India people are. Part of me also has that controlling trait. I wish I didn't because I want my partner to be happy with me."

My happily-married hubby and I always say -- when you've been together only less than 6 months to a year, when you're in your early 20s, before kids, before having to look after your elderly relatives -- it should be a blissful, lovey dovey phase in a relationship. It should not be hard. When you're finally with the right person for you, it will not be this much trouble so early on.

You're not going to change. Neither will she. Break up. Enjoy your youth. Find someone who likes you just as you are - your well-meaning, controlling traits and all. Your ideal woman should understand the expectations your Indian parents will have of their future daughter-in-law -- she should clearly be someone who can handle unsolicited feedback about her clothing choices, among many other sensitive topics.
posted by hush at 5:42 PM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

> I should rephrase my wording here. I do not tell her to do stuff. I ask her nicely if she can do that.

Does she have the option to refuse your request? Because if she doesn't, it's not really a request.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 6:07 PM on October 29, 2013 [4 favorites]

Don't criticize what she wears, it makes you seem like a jerk just biding time with your unattractive girlfriend until you can find some arm candy trophy girlfriend. Your girlfriend does not want to feel unattractive. IF you want to drop hints for her to dress a certain way, then compliment her when she wears outfits you like.

Also be aware that as a low income American young woman, she may have been funding her wardrobe on a tight budget for many years with no help from her parents. When you have $50 to spend on each shirt it's easier to get something that fits or looks "nice" or whatever than if you have $3.

My boyfriend is from a foreign country and used to always have something to say about my clothes (low income American woman here). He stopped when I told him that I was leaving him because I was tired of his criticism of my clothes.
posted by WeekendJen at 6:18 PM on October 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

My parents are from India ( I am a woman, born and raised in the US) and I must say that controlling Indian men is not some ingrained, foregone conclusion, my father, brother, extended family and family friends are not like that at all, and I was not raised that way. I think this is a stereotype that is remarkably self proliferating though out the diaspora.

What I will say is that there is a more "straightforward" way of speaking in Indian and immigrant families that is less common among people who have been in American families for generations.

The "I'm saying this for her own good, and would want her to say it for me" language made me think of this. She doesn't want to engage this way, and finds it infantilizing and controlling. When you guys aren't fighting, you should talk that out. You're young and feeling out relationships, both of you,but I don't think there's some insurmountable cultural codes that you guys can't punch through if you're able to communicate more productively.
posted by sweetkid at 7:59 PM on October 29, 2013 [10 favorites]

It seems as though your point of view is, "if a significant other asks you to do something, you should assume that they're asking out of love because they think it will be helpful to you or to the relationship, and so it's probably a good idea to try to do it." And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that point of view. And I think it can actually help here.

You say that if your girlfriend asked you to do something, you'd assume she was trying to help, and you'd try to do as she asked. Right now, she's asking (albeit not directly in words, but through her feelings and reactions) you to stop criticizing her. She's asking you not to comment on her clothes or her behavior, and not to give helpful suggestions about how best to do things, and not to tell her what to do. And I think it's totally fair to assume that she's asking you to stop criticizing her because her feelings are hurt and because your criticism is hurting the relationship. So, by your own logic, because she's asked, you should do your very best to do what she has asked you to do. You should do your very best to stop criticizing her, because that's what she needs from you and that's what she believes would be helpful to the future of your relationship, and she's asking in order to try to help.
posted by decathecting at 9:19 PM on October 29, 2013 [5 favorites]

You're trying to control her.
Stop trying to control her.

You don't know better than her; you're just more high-maintenance and a bigger pain in the ass--and you seem to think that is means it's okay to boss her around.

Honestly, if someone was dictating to me how to dress, how to refill my cats water dish, etcetera, I'd tell them to go f*** themselves.
posted by blueberry at 9:31 PM on October 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

I used to work at a bank and I wore a jacket and a skirt all the time. Since you don't describe them, what exactly were you objecting to? Was it not a nice jacket? Was a skirt unacceptable? We have no idea, first of all, if your objections were even reasonable. (Skirts can be professional wear, of course.)

Second of all, having a professional wardrobe is extremely difficult if you're poor-- if she works at a bank, her income can't be that high. You don't have hundreds of dollars to drop on proper skirts and jackets and blouses, even business casual ones. I used to work at a bank, so I know.

Third, what does it have to do with you? She knows what is OK to wear to work. She goes there almost every day, sees what other people are wearing, has a boss who would tell her to change if what she was wearing wasn't appropriate. She can figure it out. If one day she ends up interviewing for a very nice job and you can help her prepare because your high-income background has familiarized you with the etiquette... maybe that would be appropriate. But she has to welcome it, you can't just pile it on her.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:58 PM on October 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think one important part of what you are saying is that you expect her to have the same attitude as you do. Specifically, you argue that you would happily accept fashion advice yourself. Thats great, but expecting people you are in a relationship to react the same way as you to advice is a route to pain and misery. People are different, and they respond to things in different ways, because of cultural and social norms, and because of their particular history. Relationships are about compromising your behaviour, and I don't see why you need to tell her about what she is wearing. If she isn't enjoying it, and its leading to arguments, why on earth would you continue?

On the cat thing, it seems you may have miscommunicated yourself. If its still a problem, wait until a moment when both of you are calm and relaxed and have a conversation. Express clearly why her current behaviour is a problem for you, because of your allergy issues, and ask politely whether it would be ok for her to do things differently. Apologise for previous miscommunication. Try and make it a fault in you, not in her: try to be as unaggressive as possible.

As to whether you should continue the relationship? Well thats hard to say. Relationships are different, and I can't claim one model is better than another, but if you feel happy in the relationship and she does too, then its probably worth fighting for.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 1:10 AM on October 30, 2013

Why are you dating someone whose clothes "really bother you"? You said "If she told me the something, I would not wear that again." Maybe she doesn't feel the same way and isn't comfortable being told what to do like that. I know I wouldn't be.

In any relationship, be careful to express your concern about something in a way that is respectful and not belittling...and pick your battles. There are more important things to disagree over rather than what kind of jacket she is wearing to her job.
posted by zdravo at 7:18 AM on October 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

but she called me "dumb" 

She called you dumb and mocked your handling of the wallet used in paying for her and your meal. Forget every other issue you cited - what about your own self-respect?
Being openly insulted is a degrading act, and has no place in a healthy relationship.
posted by Kruger5 at 7:40 AM on October 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

A thought about cultural differences: in my culture, a co-worker would never walk up to you and say "you look terrible today", because that would be considered very rude. In another culture (common amongst my coworkers) it is acceptable to say "you look terrible today" as a way of thoughtfully showing concern, and failing to notice it would be considered rude.

So, consider the possibility that some of your arguments may be due to difference between you as individuals, but some might also be differences between your respective cultures, which is why it leads to fighting so easily. Dating outside your cultural comfort zone -- or interacting in any way with people from other cultures -- requires thoughtfulness and consideration from both sides.
posted by davejay at 1:07 PM on October 30, 2013 [4 favorites]

Oh, and one other relationship rule I'm sure I saw elsewhere on AskMeFi that bears repeating here: it is a good ground rule for every relationship to never treat your partner worse than you would a stranger, and to not accept any less in return. If a stranger in line took a little too long to pay, I would not call them "dumb," nor would I find it acceptable if the roles were reversed. Consider this perspective when evaluating both your behavior and your partner's.
posted by craven_morhead at 1:46 PM on October 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

Lots of people are leaping to the "cultural differences" thing here, and while I'm generally skeptical of that as an explanation for interpersonal problems, I think that if this is an wealthy indian dude + lower income white lady situation, there's probably something there which you guys will have to work on for the rest of your lives, if you stay together. Not that that's a predictor of doom or anything, lots of intercultural marriages are awesome.


We were doing fine until my school started a month and half ago.

This is so much larger than anything else you described. If you're under as much stress as senior year engineering students tend to be (oh, don't I know), there's a good change that that is fraying nerves on both sides and just amplifying things that are normally there.

I mean, maybe you are as controlling as your OP makes you sound (I assumed "I tell her..." was a result of ESL miscommunication, but even asking the wrong way can be controlling behaviour). But maybe she's ok with a little bit of controlling, but if you're stressed out all the time now, maybe you're being _far_ more controlling than normal. For example, maybe she doesn't mind a little feedback on her attire, but if you're tearing apart her work clothes everyday, that can wear on a person.

And maybe she tries to accommodate your allergies, but after vacuuming for an hour and scrubbing the litter boxes so that her house is safe for you, having you harp on where to wash the cat dish is just one step too far.

You need to treat her as the equal that she is to you in this relationship, and if you're not doing that you need to figure out how to change. But at the same time, she needs to be supportive of you through the pressures that you are under (as you would need to be for her if she was the one in school). If she can't or won't be supportive of you, then maybe you need to take a break until after you're done and working. The same is true if you can't get your act together and treat her right.
posted by sparklemotion at 2:50 PM on October 30, 2013

Ok, so everyone is telling you that you are being controlling. Maybe you are. Or maybe you didn't describe the situation well and you're asking nicely but you two are just not compatible in your day to day lives. I dont know. However, if she has not paid even ONCE during your relationship and then called you dumb(!!) for asking her to contribute a dollar to the bill, then she is an incredibly selfish and mean person, and it sounds like she is using you. Also, this example of her behavior makes me think that maybe she really does not respect your desires at all and that is why she does not consider things that you ask her.

Also, everyone is saying that you are being too controlling by commenting on what she wears. It might be true, I don't know, but I know it's definitely possible to suggest better wardrobe choices without offending the person. I know my boyfriend would tell me if he thought my outfit wasn't work appropriate, and I would listen to him because I know that he has my best interest in mind. He would listen to me as well if I suggested he wear something different. It definitely doesn't have to be controlling, it's about trusting the other person to want the best for you.

But overall it sounds like you two are just not compatible. Do you really love a girl who would call you dumb? Be honest with yourself. Being called dumb would be absolutely unacceptable to me.
posted by at 4:09 PM on October 30, 2013 [4 favorites]

I think you are both in the wrong relationship. Period.
posted by sm1tten at 9:25 AM on October 31, 2013 [3 favorites]

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