'Challenging' versus 'changing' someone?
March 20, 2015 5:05 PM   Subscribe

Where do you draw the line in a relationship between challenging your partner in a healthy, positive way, against attempting to change them, making them question themselves in an unhealthy way?

I recently came across this response to a question and it got me thinking.

I've perceived a general belief throughout life that a 'good' healthy relationship should always 'challenge' you and your beliefs. And yet a counter to this seems to be, like the above linked comment, that a healthy relationship should be accepting of who you are, and to not make you question yourself too deeply.

I'm in a relationship with someone who 'challenges' me, it seems almost constantly, to the point where I feel bullied. My partner is of the opinion that an intelligent person should leave no personal belief unscrutinised, so that when I express an opinion or feeling, my partner feels I should be able to justify exactly why I think or feel this to his satisfaction and understanding. If I fail to do this adequately, he says he finds it a bit of turn-off, he'll say 'I think you're much smarter than that but you're not showing me your intelligence'; 'if you don't know why you think/did that how am I meant to understand you?'

My response is that, everyone has set of core values, or things that make up who they are as a person, and to question those values or that essence is damaging. He thinks this is an ignorant position. That one should constantly question themselves, to weed out any belief that may be restrictive. Otherwise, he says, you're just like a religious zealot who ignorantly holds belief in something without justification.

This makes me feel stupid, and ideally, I'd like someone to respect me for having certain values and opinions, without requiring a rigorous justification for holding them (within reason).

Can you please share your thoughts? Am I wrong?
posted by NatalieWood to Human Relations (37 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
It stops being challenging and starts being bullying once it feels like bullying, and if he keeps it up after you tell him that's how you feel, then he's a bully. Sometimes people are so focused on rooting out quasi-religious zealotry that they miss that they become the biggest zealots of all.

In short this guy sounds like a dick, and you should drop him and find someone who cares about and respects you and your feelings and boundaries.
posted by Itaxpica at 5:14 PM on March 20, 2015 [33 favorites]

Please don't conflate the idea that a significant other should challenge you with the reality that your boyfriend is a twat. Of course it's possible to have philosophical, intellectually stimulating conversations with a partner without making one party feel stupid, small, and belittled. That can be a great thing. Your boyfriend doesn't seem to have gotten this memo, and appears to be hiding boorish behavior and a real mean streak in the guise of being intellectually authentic.

How does he feel about having his beliefs challenged? Like the one he has about treating his significant other like a child?
posted by phunniemee at 5:16 PM on March 20, 2015 [53 favorites]

"you're not showing me your intelligence"

Seriously? Who does he think he is? That would annoy the hell out of me. Sounds more like a professor-student relationship than a romantic one. I think a reasonable amount of back-and-forth is healthy and can be challenging, but from what you've written, this doesn't sound mutual, and he's pushing past your line of what is acceptable debate.
posted by monologish at 5:18 PM on March 20, 2015 [19 favorites]

Love should never diminish. What you describe ventures into belittling. It's not acceptable. You should think more of yourself, even if he doesn't.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:18 PM on March 20, 2015 [8 favorites]

It's "challenging" when the mutual (MUTUAL) respect and admiration is so great and you feel so safe with each other that you inspire each other to question and grow.

It's just being an asshole (or way worse, I suspect) when one person sets himself up as the sole judge of the other's intelligence, when one person keeps score on the other, when one person feels entitled to an accounting of a person's every thought--and feeling!--to their satisfaction and their standards, and only their standards prevail.

I would be very unhappy to be with someone who spoke to me that way. I would not be with a person like that for long.
posted by kapers at 5:22 PM on March 20, 2015 [40 favorites]

He is giving a reasonable explanation for doing something that is not okay. Yes, you should challenge your partner. But ultimately, challenging your partner (in a good way) means that they feel they have grown or improved somehow. They feel bigger, smarter, better, and more confident. If you don't feel more confident about yourself and what you can do in the world after the "challenge", then the partner is not "challenging", just "belittling."

When I started learning how to ride a bicycle, so I could ride to work, I didn't have the confidence to do more than donuts in the parking lot for a long time. One day, my husband (who has way more bicycling experience and had ridden that route before) said we should just do it, even though I wasn't sure. He rode with me, and helped me navigate the difficult parts. After that experience, I felt way more confident about my bicycling skills and became a better version of myself.

But I didn't have to justify why I was worried about riding. He challenged me by encouraging me to do something I wanted to do, and being there to support/catch me if I ended up not being able to do it.

If he had tried to neg me into riding the bicycle... well, I wouldn't be riding the bicycle and I might not even be with him.
posted by ethidda at 5:24 PM on March 20, 2015 [12 favorites]

DTMFA. Seriously. You deserve to be valued and to feel at home in your relationship. You're not being "challenged." You're being treated with contempt and belittled. DTMFA.
posted by carmicha at 5:24 PM on March 20, 2015 [10 favorites]

"Challenging" in the first way you're talking about can be synonymous with inspiring, moving, motivating, uplifting (i.e. 'Partner challenged me to keep going when I was in the middle of marathon training because I'd told him my goal was to finish').

"Challenging" in the way you're describing your partner acting sounds synonymous with demanding, testing, sparring (i.e. 'I challenged him to a duel'). That makes me tired just reading about it! Everyone has different tolerances for conflict, and maybe your partner craves more friction than you do. It sounds like you're not well matched.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 5:24 PM on March 20, 2015 [6 favorites]

I should be able to justify exactly why I think or feel this to his satisfaction and understanding

Ugh, and this. THIS. Ugh. Who died and made him the grand arbiter of reason? What an arrogant jerk.

Bro is not Socrates.
posted by phunniemee at 5:31 PM on March 20, 2015 [49 favorites]

but you're not showing me your intelligence

WTF??? {insert Tyra Banks fingrwaggle.gif here}

I wish I had something more coherent as a response to that, but I don't. That's just so incredibly rude and obnoxious that I literally can't even. He's not entitled to see your intelligence. He's not entitled to demand proofs from you. If you said "I want to learn underwater basket weaving" and he nudged you towards signing up for a course, then I think that's acceptable. But it seems more like he's treating you as a student and himself as the expert.

If you both buy in to an agreement where this kind of thing is acceptable, then that's cool. If you don't specifically buy in, then it's very much not cool. If you're not OK with this, then set a boundary with him and let him know that it's not cool. How he reacts to that boundary will tell you a lot about him as a person.

You could try turning the tables on him - demand proofs that it's OK to make your partner feel bullied. $10 says he turns this back onto you and can't offer you any kind of justification for treating you this way. That's something of an energy sink though, in that you're trying to change another person in a similar fashion to how he is. Perhaps it would be best to just dump him.
posted by Solomon at 5:31 PM on March 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

I am a person who is constantly questioning myself and frequently trying to figure out exactly what I am feeling and how I am feeling all the time. I don't make decisions without articulating my rationale to myself. I like to be very clear on my opinions before I commit to them.

And I think your boyfriend is an enormous tool, and if my partner ever demanded that crap out of me we would not be together. End of. No one gets to demand a thorough justification of your opinions and emotions on command. For one thing, processing that shit takes time and it takes energy. That's a really nasty cost to impose on you for what seems like really quite shallow reasoning on his part.
posted by sciatrix at 5:32 PM on March 20, 2015 [7 favorites]

No, you aren't wrong. I find that it's a good thing to be challenged in a relationship. What hits a sore spot for me though (and I think rightly) is when it isn't balanced with 1) a sufficient amount of inter-personal encouragement, and 2) also space to just "be" without having to be on and perform all the time. My one major pet peeve is people who feel like they always need to be encouraging others towards self-improvement or correction. It's not healthy, and it's a bit condescending, actually. Life isn't always about being "on" and challenged. Sometimes it's about being at rest and being allowed to be in an imperfect state and accepted how we are. If you feel that this is always being picked at for you, I would wonder if you are getting a good balance in the other things that relationships need.

You know the saying that says that you should pick your battles? In relationships, this comes into play as well, as when we get to know people very well, we see a lot of blind spots that most other people don't see. This is a place of vulnerability, and it should be respected. The unwise person picks all the battles. Choosing our discussions in relationships should be balanced with wisdom regarding what we intentionally let go as healthy relationships can't stand under a barrage of constant challenging. We weren't made that way. People who address the "picking your battles" saying by actually picking every possible opportunity for improvement probably betray something deeper inside of them that is more important to address than whatever it is that they see is wrong.

I've heard it said that relationships should have this kind of posture to flourish: 90% grace and encouragement, while looking past weaknesses; and 10% the kinds of loving confrontation that has the chance to be emotionally difficult. I find that the more people focus on the latter, the less meaningful the prior feels when it happens. And when focus is spent more on the prior, it gives weight and credibility to the latter.

Perhaps those thoughts can be helpful for you. Good luck.
posted by SpacemanStix at 5:34 PM on March 20, 2015 [19 favorites]

Are you dating a sea lion, by chance?

Being "challenged" in a relationship is not the same as being questioned, belittled, or doubted. It means that your partner inspires and encourages you to grow, learn, do your best, and contribute to the health of the relationship - just as they do.

You're dating one of those amateur debate club dumbshits who thinks conversations should have a winner and a loser. You'll say something innocuous like "I really like this sandwich" and he'll jump all over that statement and pick it apart and make you justify your sandwich enjoyment and if you dare get upset it's your fault because emotions are useless because they are not logic. Does this sound familiar to you?
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:38 PM on March 20, 2015 [26 favorites]

he'll say 'I think you're much smarter than that but you're not showing me your intelligence'

Show him your intelligence by dumping his condescending ass STAT.

No one should be talking to another human being like this. Hell, show dogs are treated better.

This guy is messing with your mind in a completely fucked up way. Quit seeking his approval and just leave him. You'll be much happier in the long run.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:39 PM on March 20, 2015 [10 favorites]

Challenging, in this context, should be a desired thing. Not just "objective improvement" in some sense but improvement you actively want. Challenging is someone who encourages you to try new things, who tells you that you should keep going when you want to quit out of frustration. Someone who might sometimes point out if you're wrong, but who encourages you to learn more about things generally and expresses encouragement and positivity when you're right about things or when you know something they don't. A coach, a teammate, sure. An opponent, no.

So if he wants to hear more about why you believe things as a demonstration of your intelligence, I don't think that's fundamentally bad, but the way you've phrased this--it doesn't sound like he actually wants to know more about what you think and believe. It doesn't sound like he's showing genuine interest in your opinions so much as wanting to find flaws. Looking for flaws without looking for strengths at the same time is just demoralizing. Questioning your core values isn't demoralizing... if at least a good chunk of the time the answer you come up with is, "You know what, I'm a good person."

There's a verse in the Bible that instructs along the lines of, "test everything, keep the good." I find it good advice, broadly. Hanging out with people who assume that there's almost no good worth keeping is a drag. I want to examine my beliefs, I want to strive to be a better person, but I want to do that by being around people who just like to listen and who I like to listen to. Feeding thought, not starving it out.
posted by Sequence at 5:42 PM on March 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

My partner is of the opinion that an intelligent person should leave no personal belief unscrutinised, so that when I express an opinion or feeling, my partner feels I should be able to justify exactly why I think or feel this to his satisfaction and understanding. If I fail to do this adequately, he says he finds it a bit of turn-off, he'll say 'I think you're much smarter than that but you're not showing me your intelligence'; 'if you don't know why you think/did that how am I meant to understand you?'

No, you are not wrong. You are right. This is bullying. He sounds very arrogant. I'm guessing that your boyfriend is very young, under 25 maybe?

We are allowed to have beliefs just because and we should allow ourselves to question and grow and be open to new ideas and different ways of thinking. We are not always right and we should continue to learn and to admit when we have changed our position on something. But, to have this person demand that you justify your thinking to his satisfaction is cruel and strange.

And speaking of religious zealotsā€¦ Today I went to a work meeting (I work for a faith-based hospital system). The speaker said, "Just because you don't think God exists doesn't make it so. If you don't believe in God that doesn't mean he isn't real. He is real and he does exist" I disagreed with this statement with every fiber of my being but I would never challenge this statement because obviously this person, at his core, believes in God. His absolute unquestioning tone is not my style but that's life.

Whatever your beliefs, you don't have to be with a person who "challenges" you in this way. It sounds very intense, uncomfortable, and not much fun. Usually it's much easier to date someone whose beliefs line up with yours, or at least date a person who respects your beliefs. As you grow as a person, you will probably change some of your opinions, not out of coercion, but from life experience. Good luck.
posted by Fairchild at 5:43 PM on March 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

In addition to the blatant disrespect , I would dump this guy just because that whole process sounds completely exhausting. He just sounds like a drag to be with.
posted by gt2 at 5:45 PM on March 20, 2015 [6 favorites]

Yeah, my boyfriend challenges me, too. He challenges me because he's so sweet and funny and kind and ambitious I feel like I have to keep up, and it makes me want and actively try to be a better person. This does NOT involve criticizing me or "helping point out my weaknesses."
posted by quincunx at 5:45 PM on March 20, 2015 [25 favorites]

There's a difference between challenging you and hurting you. He's hurting you, and telling you that you're wrong for feeling hurt when he does it.

His logic-before-all is not a value you share. That would be fine, or at least livable, but he's judging you for disagreeing.

(He's just wrong about "logic" being the only measure of intelligence, and his "logic-or-zealotry" bit is a false dilemma. If you want to try engaging him on his terms, try telling him that! If he takes it well, maybe he'd be a nice boyfriend for someone who shares his fondness for this sort of debate. If he doesn't, he's an asshole)

A relationship that only "challenges" one half of it sounds like a bad deal to me.
posted by BungaDunga at 6:32 PM on March 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

People I've met like that are usually insufferable technolibertarians who are emotionally unavailable. They gravitate to their philosophy for a reason, and that reason in arrogance. You deserve better. Cut him loose.
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 6:38 PM on March 20, 2015 [6 favorites]

The psychologist Carl Rogers wrote, "The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change." That's how I think of productive growth in relationships: An acceptance so strong that it inspires you to test your own boundaries, because even failure will be embraced with love and compassion, so you can spread your wings and see how high you can go knowing full well your partner will catch you if you fall -- and love you, not judge you, for your attempt, even if it didn't work out perfectly.

That... doesn't sound like what you have.
posted by jaguar at 7:03 PM on March 20, 2015 [21 favorites]

I should add: Most relationships do not have that level of acceptance. But I do hold that acceptance is what fuels growth, not judgment, criticism, or confrontation.
posted by jaguar at 7:10 PM on March 20, 2015

one should constantly question themselves, to weed out any belief that may be restrictive. Otherwise, he says, you're just like a religious zealot who ignorantly holds belief in something without justification.

Sure, but an intelligent person is perfectly capable of doing that on her own without the aid of someone bullying her about each and every belief.
posted by deanc at 7:20 PM on March 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

My husband and I like to challenge one another, but it's usually judicious and has to do with self care, because we both have mental health issues that can keep us from seeing issues before they're right on top of us. Here are some recent (as in, the the last year) exchanges:

Him: I love you and am concerned that you aren't moving enough to keep your heart healthy. What can we do to give you the space you need to feel like you have time to do this?
Me (8 months ago): I have several projects going on, and am not up for this right now. Can we revisit it in a month?
Him: OK
Him (7 months ago): Are you up for revisiting the exercise conversation?
Me: Yes, thanks for asking. I've been doing some thinking and....


Me: You stop breathing and snore a lot at night. Would you consider going to the doctor for a sleep apnea test?
Him: That's probably not a bad idea. I'll call and make the appointment today.

When it comes to "intellectual" stuff, we usually have conversations that start with one of us saying something, and the other saying something like, "It's interesting that you say that/think that/feel that way - I'd like to know more about it." It sounds really awkward, but for us, it conveys the thought that we're interested because we want to know more about one another, NOT because we want to judge.

I've been with a dude like yours. It's at once SO BORING and also SO ANXIETY INDUCING and for me, it would make me just not want to say anything at all, because I didn't want to go through the two hour justification of why I liked X, and "I just do" was never "enough" of an answer. Gods. After I broke up with him, it was such a relief to just be able to go about my day and like the things I liked and say the things I thought and feel the things I felt.
posted by RogueTech at 7:21 PM on March 20, 2015 [8 favorites]

Where do you draw the line in a relationship between challenging your partner in a healthy, positive way, against attempting to change them, making them question themselves in an unhealthy way?

You feel bullied. He makes you feel stupid. You believe, and have told him, that being constantly "challenged" on the things that make up who you are is damaging. You'd like someone to respect you for having certain values and opinions, without requiring a rigorous justification for holding them.

I think you already know where to draw the line, and which side of it your dude is on.
posted by argonauta at 7:30 PM on March 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

I would say the point where it's hard to just relax around him, then it's harmful to the relationship.

There are good odds that he will argue that if this scenario is causing you stress, then the real problem is that you're letting it cause you stress, not that he's doing it. You should be able to discuss these things objectively without taking it as a personal attack. So he should just keep doing it until you toughen up.

So I'll momentarily take the "prove everything" approach.

First off, does it make you feel stress? Between the two of you, I think you get to be the expert on what you feel.

Second, is it better to put the blame on his behaviour, or in your response to it? Let's consider both options.

If the problem is his behaviour, then he needs to be willing to cut it out when you ask him to.

If the problem is you feel stress, then what is the solution? Controlled exposure. He's providing exposure but it isn't controlled. You wouldn't try to cure someone of a phobia of spiders by randomly throwing a spider at them when they aren't expecting it, would you? As long you have no control over when he's going to do this, that will only compound your anxiety over it. So again, he needs to be willing to cut it out when you ask him to.

Therefor, no matter where we place the blame for your stress, it requires the same change in behaviour from him.
posted by RobotHero at 9:18 PM on March 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

Where do you draw the line in a relationship between challenging your partner in a healthy, positive way, against attempting to change them, making them question themselves in an unhealthy way?

The line is drawn when he starts doing things to you that you haven't given him permission to do. Your boyfriend only has the right to challenge you after you've given him that right with your own free will. I challenge my partner all the time, and can even be a little harsh about it, but he's made it clear over and over that he loves that. He also makes it clear when it's not welcome. Have you made it clear when you don't like being challenged?

He doesn't sound like the sort of person who thinks you would have the right to not be questioned and interrogated, but the first step is still to make it clear that you're not okay with it. Right now it's conceivable that he thinks these conversations are a fulfilling, positive part of your relationship, but once you tell him, point blank, that you don't like them and don't want to engage in them anymore, then there's no way he can go on believing that you're okay with it. Any time he does it after that then you'll both know that he's directly violating your rights, no matter what rationales he gives for it.
posted by sam_harms at 9:27 PM on March 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Challenging someone is attempting to change them, by definition.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:02 PM on March 20, 2015

Otherwise, he says, you're just like a religious zealot

Challenge him to consider that he has become what he claims to despise.

Or just break up with him. He doesn't sound like he respects you or even likes you very much. Challenge yourself to believe that you deserve better!
posted by rtha at 10:24 PM on March 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

I had this same issue with an ex. He was always talking about how relationships are great because they're all about self-improvement, about giving you the incentive to be your best self.

Interesting how the only person who had to work to "be their best self" was me in that relationship. Interesting that I was pretty damn fine already before I met him. Interesting that his "best self" had no problem with being a bully.

But it's a weird situation to be in because yeah, fundamentally, I totally agree. A relationship is in many ways all about personal growth. But you know what? It's through space that the opportunity for personal growth flourishes. With my new partner, I am absolutely solid in my understanding that I can screw up and he will not bully me. I can sometimes not be my best self and that's ok. He already thinks I am great, and because of this? I have the space and capacity to be even better. Because I know that he will accept me no matter what.

I just achieved a lifelong dream recently. And it's a dream that might mean I can no longer date this incredible man. But it's because of him that I even decided to go for it. He gave me the space to challenge myself. There's such a wide gulf there: having the opportunity to challenge myself, to figure out how I want to improve (and even these choices - figuring out how I want to improve myself - often come from observing him and admiring his great qualities and wishing I possessed them as well) - that's so different from being bullied into changing. My ex bullied me into losing so much weight that I stopped getting my period and I was diagnosed with anorexia. "I just want you to be the sexiest version of you that you can possibly be!" he said. "Look how much prettier you are now! You were so grotesque when we met!" (I weighed 115 pounds when we met so... I wasn't grotesque.) My new boyfriend? Just the other day, he said to me: "I am so impressed that you exercise every day. That's so good for your heart. I should do that, too!" See the difference? Night and day. Night and day.
posted by sockermom at 12:30 AM on March 21, 2015 [8 favorites]

"You're not showing me your intelligence."
"You're not showing me your kindness and respect."

This boyfriend is a boy but he's no friend. Get out, it's not going to get better.
posted by Too-Ticky at 9:32 AM on March 21, 2015 [3 favorites]

This guy sounds like a dick. Or at least he is behaving in a particularly dickish fashion.

He's unilaterally decided what things you have to explain - by which he evidently means 'have to defend from whatever gotcha questions he wants to ask' - and he wants to decide what the win condition is every time, so he's rigged the game so that he always gets to come out being the winner.

Instead of viewing "challenge" as "a task one takes on to achieve it, like training for a race or finally knitting an enormous cozy that will fit over your whole car" where he could optionally provide help with the challenge ranging from helping to encouraging to cheering you on, it seems like he means "challenge" more like "who goes there? prove you get to be here!"

Fuck that noise. I don't know if the answer is to leave him or start replying "why the fuck is it important for you to know? kindly justify your insistence on haranguing me" or what, but it sounds like things need to change and by "things" I mean "him".
posted by rmd1023 at 1:01 PM on March 21, 2015 [4 favorites]

This relationship sounds horrifyingly draining, and - were I in your shoes - would leave me with little energy to actually do things like change for the better or meditate on my psychic processes.

In your place, I would dump this dude. I would also be prepared for him to want to have a very long conversation about WHY i was dumping him, so that he could at least understand the LOGIC behind that decision.

I would refuse that conversation, in part because it would be yet another psychic drain upon me that he has not earned the right to, and in part because I know it would secretly drive him batty for years afterward.

I would counter all of his WHYs with "nah, I think I'm just done"
posted by Greg Nog at 1:28 PM on March 21, 2015 [4 favorites]

My sons inherited some of their genes from their dad, my ex. So, in some regards, they have very different mental wiring from me and they see the universe rather differently from me. We often have lively, interesting discussions about those differences and they have grown to accept that some of my views are not just "nutty" and I have grown from seeing the world through their eyes.

I told them from a very early age that they did not have to agree with me, BUT they were also not going to disrespect me. (They think belief in god/religion/astrology/anything similar-ish is silly. That's where these conversations came from.)

It's fine if your SO wants to deeply discuss and hash out why you think what you think in order to understand you. It is NOT fine for him to require you to justify your beliefs.

If you have a respectful relationship with people who see the world differently, meaty discussions with them do sometimes foster change. That change runs in both directions. But it shouldn't be forced. He is forcing this on you. You don't have to play. You can take your toys and go home if he won't back the fuck off after being politely asked to do so.
posted by Michele in California at 2:03 PM on March 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

This guy is like a flea - he just keeps biting and won't leave you alone. He's a control freak and a bully and he's making you question your own right to stand up for yourself.

I like to be challenged - by the Sunday Times Crossword Puzzle, for instance - or by some good debate and deep thinking when it's my choice to take part. What you're describing is not at all in that realm.

Honestly, and with sympathy, I think you're wasting a lot of time with this man - time that you can use to find happiness and respect and someone who will love you instead of "challenge" you - head first, into the ground.

The trick is going to be getting away from him; he's not going to like the idea at all - because it will be difficult to replace you with someone who will let him pull the same stuff. If you've ever seen him get angry in a way that frightened you, get some information on escaping from domestic violence - and identifying it - before you actually leave - IOW, plan.

Plan well, courage up, and go - that's what this old lady would say. Don't waste more of your precious time on someone who's really just building himself up by putting you down.
posted by aryma at 1:40 AM on March 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

If he's challenging you on a regular basis about something specific that you didn't mention in your post, something that he perceives to be destructive for you to be believing in or doing, then he may be attempting to help you grow as a person. But it sounds like this incessant pecking is a recurrent pattern and sort of all-encompassing. If he does this with every subject the two of you discuss, then the behavior he's exhibiting, the belittling, may be an indicator of a personality disorder or sadistic tendancies. People who feel compelled to constantly one-up or 'challenge' others (a clever disguise for attempting to show others how superior they 'are' aka wish they were) are either A. incredibly insecure and it's their way of feeling in control socially or B. have psychotic personality traits and enjoy picking on people to satisfy themselves. I would take an inventory of what this guy is bringing into your life versus what he's taking from you. If he's just a lecturer, and it isn't as serious as all that ^, and he's a great partner otherwise, then you may consider discussing with him your desire to think for yourself thank you very much. But if this is never-ending, you need to reevaluate your situation. He may also be trying to mold you into the kind of mate he would like to have, instead of just accepting you the way you are, in which case, he's not the one for you either. Just to empathize, I can't imagine staying in a union in which my partner constantly wanted to re-work my thoughts for me. What a nightmare.
posted by Avosunspin at 3:21 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

A belated thank you all so much. I'm so grateful for these considered responses. Thank you.
posted by NatalieWood at 5:05 PM on April 6, 2015 [4 favorites]

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