Quit copying me!!!
September 9, 2006 7:35 AM   Subscribe

How do you deal with a spouse that jumps on the bandwagon of everything you do?

Everything I'm interested in, and everything I do lately, my husband is right there jumping in too, often times steamrolling right over me and taking over - showing MORE interest, out-doing me, etc. It gets really annoying. I read up on history of a certain movement or a certain topic, and he's researching the same thing online at work & throws a bunch of "did you know... this and that" about that topic at me. I know maybe he's just showing interest in what I'm intersted in, and I know it's probably a sign of affection, so I'm trying real hard to be nice & appreciate the fact that he is actually interested in what I am interested in. It's just really annoying because it seems like he doesn't find his own things to be interested in. And yes, I'm asking this anonymously because he's probably all up in teh Metafilter because I am. Even things like diet & exercise - if I decide I'm going to start exercising, he'll jump up that morning & do push-ups right near the bed. If I decide to try to cut out refined sugars, he's reading every label in the grocery store & informing me about everything Im eating. I'm vegetarian and have always been, and now he's doing the same darn thing (even though I know he LOVES meat), and believe me - i never try to push any lifestyle on him whatsoever. I just want us to be our own selves & i don't want to feel smothered anymore! If I floss my teeth, he flosses his (and i don't floss regularly - shame on me - but the only time he does is when he sees me doing it.) If I like a certain band, he goes online, researches everything they've done and everyone they're associated with & is suddenly "all about the band" too. Argh. It's driving me nuts. Help anyone? I have mentioned it to him, we are good communicators - but he gets defensive & denies "copying" me, so how do I make him aware he's doing this?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (23 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Well, I don't know. I've seen relationships ruined because of the opposite, including one of mine. I'm sure it is pretty annoying, but my advice is to make the best of it.
posted by danb at 7:40 AM on September 9, 2006

Everything I'm interested in, and everything I do lately

What's changed about your relationship LATELY? He lose his job? You get a better one? Is he having an affiar? Are YOU?

Basically, there's a reason for his change in behavior. Figure out what that is.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:58 AM on September 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

Armchair psych: He's clearly looking for your approval for some reason by showing you he's mentally and physically capable. Some dynamic in the relationship is clearly off. Why his insecurity? Relationships shouldn't be competitive. Also for starters, maybe just stop telling him about everything that sparks your interest. Do you have others that you can share your interests with--book club, etc?
posted by slow, man at 8:06 AM on September 9, 2006

The next time he starts exhibiting this behaviour simply point it out as an example. If you really are good communicators and otherwise have a good relationship, he should understand.

I'm no psychologist but I've known a few people who have displayed manic, obsessive behaviour in the past and it has turned out to be a coping mechanism for stress or depression or insecurity. Maybe have a chat.
posted by jimmythefish at 8:08 AM on September 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

This seems to be a temperament issue. He is drawn to things that catch his attention. You get interested in pre-columbian art, and he notices how interesting pre-columbian art is. Some people I know who do this are totally unaware, so he might not be able to help it.

You may feel like you need some areas of your lfe that are yours alone. Maybe you could have a regular night out with friends, a book group, or go running with a pal, anything where you can tell him you want some private time. Long term, having him share is probably a good trait, as long as he's not trying to be territorial, but I can see how it would annoy.
posted by theora55 at 8:18 AM on September 9, 2006

Ya, I'm sure it's quite annoying to you at this level but I know so many people (myself included at various times) that would love for their partners to show an interest and otherwise be able to converse about topics that interest them.

I really would just ask him.

"Hey, you know I've noticed that lately whatever I'm showing an interest in also pricks yours. That didn't seem to be the case before. While I like that we can talk about stuff that interests me, sometimes I feel like you are turning it into a competition. What gives?
posted by FlamingBore at 8:22 AM on September 9, 2006

Here's an idea, just for fun. Pretend to be interested in something really boring. I'm talking about 18th Century English tax law, or something of that nature. If he claims to be interested in it also, see how long he can keep up the charade.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:22 AM on September 9, 2006 [5 favorites]

Feign female plumbing problems.
posted by Wet Spot at 9:12 AM on September 9, 2006

Sounds like the guy who gets sick every time his wife does.

But yeah, I agree with Brandon Blatcher. Did anything else happen in your relationship around the time he started this? Were you working more or something? Is this just a misguided effort to spend more time together?
posted by gaspode at 9:23 AM on September 9, 2006

I am certainly not a psychologist, but...

It sounds as though both of you may have some concern about your having something at which you in particular individually excel. As you describe the situation, it sounds as though you, unsurprisingly, really want such a thing, and that your husband may for some reason really be threatened by that, consciously or unconsciously.

Following on what others have said above, maybe you could try picking one project and telling him that for your own sense of well-being/accomplishment, you need to prove to yourself that you can accomplish that one thing X all on your own, and that as much as you treasure his support, you really need to do it all on your own. Encourage him to do the same with respect to one particular project. Then, perhaps, sharing everything else will be joyful.
posted by sueinnyc at 9:25 AM on September 9, 2006

Eh, I apparently do this too. Or at least my girlfriend has complained about it, that often she feels her interests are subsumed into mine once I get ahold of a subject.

A couple of things that I think play into this— One, I have really wide-ranging tastes. I work as a freelance writer, so have to be able to research different topics quickly and reach a level of competence to write about them. One of the things that I like about that is that it exposes me to a lot of different things, and another component is that I'm always looking for story ideas, so her interests sometimes get cannibalized for my print.

Two, since we live together, we are each other's primary peer group. If she starts reading up on something, she likes to tell me about it. In order to talk to her about it, I like to become conversant. Sometimes that can feel like one-upsmanship to her, whereas I see it only as keeping the conversation going. If she's so interested in whatever, she should be happy to hear more about it, right?

Three, there's some confirmation bias. She remembers all the times that I've become interested in something that she's interested in, and forgets all the times when I couldn't care less. Part of that is that often things that she's the only one interested in don't hold her attention as long as mutual interests that we have.

Fourth, and this is sort of coming out of the first and third parts, is that I kinda think that I end up interested in more things that she does. I'll go diving after all sorts of things that don't interest her, and she'll ignore them, but when I'm interested in something she likes it's more apparent.

Fifth, there are frequent points where I'll have an idea that I'd like to explore, and it'll seem interesting to her too, but we'll have different paths of exploration, and she's remarked that it seems like I'm controlling whatever project. Because she was there for the initial conversation, she'll have a feeling of ownership over it, but her vision doesn't conform to mine, so I don't have as much of an interest in doing things her way and she'll feel like I "took over."

I can't say how many of these things explicitly apply in your case, but my being conscious of them has made me tone things down and allow her to get a little more breathing room. I realize that I can have a strong ego when it comes to certain things, and giving her a chance to develop whatever projects she'd like to on her own for a bit before I delve in is handy. But such a big deal? Not so much.
posted by klangklangston at 9:26 AM on September 9, 2006 [2 favorites]

If all else fails, you could always become interested in learning massage, cleaning the house, discussing emotions... That kind of thing.
posted by Durin's Bane at 9:48 AM on September 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

I do this too sometimes. klangklangston explained it well, except without the puppy enthusiasm I tend to have. But I do have my own things I like to savor. Maybe you could encourage your partner to cultivate some of his own interests. When he shows some initiative, share and encourage him.
posted by bleary at 10:01 AM on September 9, 2006

Could it be a dominance/control thing? Is he the kind of person who has to be top dog in everything?
posted by konolia at 10:57 AM on September 9, 2006

Sounds like you've been exploring yourself/your personal interests alot lately.

My guesses as to causes of his behavior:

1) Maybe hes afraid that you're becoming a different person and he will lose you.
2) He may be afraid you don't find him interesting.
3) You may have planted some idea in his head that he doesn't listen to you/care about what you care about/find you interesting.

Hes not just doing this for fun. What has changed?
posted by mhuckaba at 11:01 AM on September 9, 2006

Try telling him about it instead of being concerned that he might find out. Don't you want him to know so that he will stop? Why attempt to manipulate him into what you want him to do. Why not just tell him your feelings. That way he can stop doing it.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:25 AM on September 9, 2006

this would drive me insane. it's one thing to take an interest, it's another thing to take over. insecurity? competition? does he have any other friends?

i was going to suggest doing things alone or with a group, making sure that he's not involved, but that's ducking the issue.

i echo everyone else in wondering what has changed lately in your relationship and/or his life. and i wonder if he's reading mefi and knows this is him ...
posted by sdn at 12:36 PM on September 9, 2006

I would kill to have Mrs. Radley be interested in a tenth of the stuff I'm in. Guess the grass is always greener on the other side, eh?
posted by boo_radley at 1:05 PM on September 9, 2006

This would drive me bananas. Do you both work from home, or have some other arrangement where you spend a lot of time just with each other? (Or, do you live in a town where you don't have a lot of social contacts with people you find interesting?) You say he is researching things when he's at work -- it sounds like he's not coming home from work/school with stories about people, problems, etc from outside the house at all.

Three thoughts:
1. Desire for complete knowledge about a subject, or being the first to find out some fun fact. I sometimes get this way esp when I have unlimited time to noodle around on the internet -- could he, or both of you, decrease the amount of time you spend on the web? (Maybe for a week, just to see how it goes?)

2. Does he have friends? Can you encourage him to get into some light social group (eg town league softball, church choir, local theater, martial arts class, tutoring kids,...?) of his own, and then ask him about the people involved in it? This might be a way to get him into a more independent frame of mind.

3. More drastically, could you guys take short separate vacations, spend a few days apart? Sometimes annoying behavior like this -- and one's own annoyance with it -- gets compounded if you're spending all your time together. If you can just take a breather, both get out of town for the weekend -- you go to visit college friends in Chicago, he goes to visit his friend in NYC -- you can get perspective and remember what you were like when you were separate people. (Also you'll each come back with your own stories to tell.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:52 PM on September 9, 2006

Like klang up there, I was the guy in this equation. (I guess I say 'was' hopefully, but we've worked this out, I think.) I think it's something a lot of us guys do, especially nowadays.

What she told me-- and I subsequently started to realize-- was that it felt like I was taking everything that she cared about, ripping it out of her hands, and writing my name all over it. I had been telling myself what I'm sure your husband is, that 'I just like sharing things with her.' Well, the fact is, this isn't sharing; it's overruling.

Really, the only thing you can do about it is talk about it. The problem, of course, is that he's not thinking about you or your position; he's just getting caught up in the awesome stuff in the world, and diving into it for all he's worth. But if he takes being with you seriously-- and it sounds like he does-- then sooner or later he has to start taking your feelings into account. He has to think about you first, and he has to be willing to sacrifice his periodic interests to your happiness and sanity. You'd do the same for him, I think.

Sure, he's defensive. But you have to be really bold and tell him this firmly, because the whole point of this is that he's not really paying attention to your feelings. He's not just 'copying' you; he's overruling and overriding your interests, and that gets in the way of you and him really sharing something. Repeat that to him carefully, and be very clear about how much this hurts you. He'll probably say that he just likes sharing with you, and wonder defensively why you're getting mad at him for nothing; but that doesn't matter. He's not really sharing things with you when he's hurting you or bugging you, and, as your husband, the priority for him is your feelings and his feelings, not some passing fads. He probably has no idea he's really hurting you. He needs to know.
posted by koeselitz at 9:33 PM on September 9, 2006

Have you ever considered just not telling your husband when you're interested in something? Perhaps the problem is that you tell your husband about your every interest and he feels compelled to look into it. If you had other people whom youd could share your ideas and goals with then this problem would never occur. Being married doesn't mean you're the same person. The whole 'one soul, two bodies' was just some drunken riffing. You'd both do well to develop stronger relationships outside the marriage and perhaps not share every little thing, from your band of the week to your dietary goals, with each other.
posted by nixerman at 7:34 AM on September 10, 2006

Your question has evoked a bunch of exceptionally good answers.

I think your husband's actions are rooted in fear and insecurity. He is afraid you are moving away from him, and his ultimate fear is that you will go the ultimate distance and leave him altogether.

I believe you should address this underlying fear directly by reassuring him as much as you can, in word, gesture and deed, that he is the one and you are not going anywhere, now or in any conceivable future. Please note that it's not necessary for him to directly acknowledge how he is really feeling for this strategy to work; the idea you could leave him may be so threatening he cannot even admit it to consciousness; by the extremity of his behavior, I judge this to be the case.

What is necessary, however, is that it be true. Are you sure, at bottom, you are not thinking of leaving him? I've read your question over several times, and I haven't been able to form form any definite opinion, but I am worried that "i don't want to feel smothered anymore!" has just the faintest edge of contempt, and contempt, if it is allowed to grow, is a marriage-killer.
posted by jamjam at 9:33 AM on September 10, 2006

I have this problem with my live-in girlfriend. I can't seem to have any interests unless they include her. I don't mind it to a degree but sometimes it feels intrusive.

Not sure of my point, just had to say that.
posted by melt away at 7:09 PM on September 11, 2006

« Older Saving webpages   |   Similar artists to Mark Ryden? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.