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Thread: Please help me to identify the problem in our relationship

  1. #1

    Please help me to identify the problem in our relationship

    Hi, first time poster and in need of some advice/perspective.

    Background:

    I'm 36 and my girlfriend is ten years younger than myself. I have had three long-term relationships previously, but I am her first partner. We have been together for almost three years, and lived together now for six months. We usually get along well, and while we are very different in some ways, we have things in common too - like a shared sense of humour and openness to converse on a range of topics and hear each other out. I am very easygoing, not an extrovert but more so than her - I can talk to anyone and enjoy joking around a lot and pushing boundaries in my humour. I am relatively easy breezy, and I don't tend to sweat the small stuff. My partner values kindness above all else, and while she is extremely polite and thoughtful (more so than I am) she does sweat the small stuff, is more introverted, quiet, and experiences anxiety on a much higher level than I do whenever we have a fight.

    Sort of relevant for context: My parents have been married for 40 years and I grew up seeing them fight occasionally (sometimes screaming matches) but they are still married, and happily so. They are best friends. Her parents divorced when she was young and she doesn't really know why. Her mother remarried a few years ago and has a very happy second marriage and they never ever fight.

    Difficulties:

    We have had our share of problems from the beginning of our relationship but have managed to push through them, but they periodically rear their head. We can go long periods (months) without having a fight, but then suddenly will experience a period of a few months (like the period we are in now) where we have a disagreement about twice a week. The fights go like this: I notice my girlfriend is upset; I ask her what's wrong; she refuses to tell me; I have to push and push to get it out of her; she tells me and I don't agree or like what she's upset about; I feel attacked and defend myself; we go around and around in circles until it gets heated, I get angry, she cries and then questions whether we are suitable for each other. After two years together my girlfriend broke up with me because she said she was having anxiety from all the fights we were having. She said she didn't think the amount of fighting was normal in a relationship. We were apart for two weeks, but decided to give it another try eventually.

    I don't think that we fight much by ordinary standards, and we never yell or scream or abuse each other. But they are frustrating, anxiety and stress inducing and end with her in tears, so I want to fix them.

    The key to understanding our difficulties, I think, is what we fight about. She moved in with me six months ago. We live in a big house with three other house mates and have the downstairs to ourselves which is nice for space. Initially in our relationship we would fight about my friendships with other girls, and this has been the common theme. Most recently it is usually fights about my relationship with one of the other house mates. I will call her Rose. Rose and I get along very well (as friends). Rose is an attractive girl, but I am not attracted to her. I only have eyes for my girlfriend. My girlfriend has developed somewhat of an issue with Rose, but Rose has no idea. Rose is very nice, extroverted, chatty and her and I get a long superbly as friends. We enjoy each other's company. I don't see her much though - perhaps half an hour per day while cooking in the kitchen. My girlfriend likes Rose too and tells me this.

    My girlfriend says that she knows Rose and I aren't flirting, but she can just 'sense' something in the air and that we are both flirtatious people by nature. It began with her accusing me of staring at Rose inappropriately when Rose bent over to pick something up. This shocked me and I certainly didn't think I had done that. Whats more she said Rose deliberately bent over in front of me in order to entice me to look at her, when she could have kneeled down instead as that's what my girlfriend would have done. I thought this was going a bit far. Another time we went out for dinner with a large group of people, including Rose, and during the dinner my girlfriend told me I was looking at Rose too much. I really didn't think I was. Lately, If I go upstairs to make food or a cup of tea, when I get back my girlfriend will accuse me of taking too long up there and ask me what the hell I was doing, then we have a fight about that - sometimes I just like to hang out and have a chat with my house mates (not just Rose but the others too). And then there are the other fights - recently when she was upset and I was asking her what was wrong apparently I looked at myself in the mirror and adjusted my hair while asking her. This led to her telling me I wasn't genuine in asking how she was as I was focused on the mirror instead (I had just taken off my hat and the mirror was beside me while I was talking to her, and we had a big fight about that.

    On another occasion, she said she was having such anxiety in her chest about me interacting with Rose, that could I please limit the amount of time I spend in the communal areas of the house? We had a big fight about that. I thought that was really unfair and controlling. She later backtracked on that and said she would never try to control me like that.

    Last nights fight sums up what usually happens quite well. It was Valentines Day - I had bought her some gifts, a nice card, and made her dinner. We spent a couple of hours together, then I went upstairs to make a cup of tea for myself. Then I sat outside in the cool evening air for half an hour. At one point Rose came outside for 30 seconds to check the temperature as she was going out and was deciding what to wear. We talked for ten seconds. My girlfriend then called me on my phone and asked could I come back inside to spend more quality time together. When I went back in I could immediately see on her face something was wrong (huge mood change from when I left). She asked me why the hell I stayed upstairs for half an hour, and she could see Rose "prancing around in front of me in her outfit". I disagreed, felt attacked, like I had done nothing wrong at all, and that she was reading the situation entirely differently to what had actually happened. We had a big fight and she started saying "there are guys out there I could be with who wouldn't treat me the way you do" AND "I don't deserve to be this upset, it isn't fair" as she was crying. She also said "it sends the message you would rather hang out with her or by yourself on Valentines Day than with me" and "it's embarrassing for me, because our house mates will be thinking there are problems in our relationship because we are not downstairs together on Valentines Day." I am used to this now, but I was a bit stunned, because in my mind all that had happened was that I stepped outside for a cup of tea for half an hour and I barely even saw Rose.

    And then there are the times that she accuses me of looking at a girl on a bus when I'm not, or if I Google an actress on my phone it's an act of sneaking away to do something I shouldn't, or if I happen to look twice at a girl in the street she shuts down and won't talk to me for twenty minutes. For the record, I have two sisters and lots of close female friends, and all of them would agree that I am not the type to oggle women at all, though I will openly say I think a woman is attractive (like an actress or someone we know) but I will say that about a man being handsome too. I don't think that should be a problem. These things occur maybe on average once or twice a month, but since moving in with me and being around Rose, it has been weekly and is getting a bit much. It has gotten to the point where I am constantly microscoping my own behaviour - psychoanalysing myself - in case I might be doing something wrong that will upset her. I'm wondering if I've talked to this girl for too long, if I've looked too much, careful to avert my eyes, don't make her laugh too much, have I been upstairs for too long, what's too long, is 15 minutes ok? It's not healthy for me.

    We love each other though, and we we are not in this conflict mode we can go long periods without any trouble. I have suggested we go to counselling. She has agreed and says she wants to try and fix it too, but she also sometimes says she thinks we are just too different and there would be guys out there who would instinctively just know not to do all the things wrong that I do.

    We've booked a counsellor for next week. Do you think it will help us? What do you think the problem is here? Am I not being sensitive enough to her needs and feelings? I feel torn between standing up for myself and not saying "yes dear, sorry dear" every time there's a problem, but also wanting to set her mind and heart at ease and make her feel better as well. I do love her.

    PS. Obviously this is just a big list of our problems, but largely the relationship is a happy one. Just lately it hasn't been and I would like to get back to that good place. Any help/advice/perspective will be appreciated. Sorry for the length!

    Cheers

  2. #2
    Platinum Member DancingFool's Avatar
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    I think that she is right that the two of you have some serious compatibility issues and that's making the relationship difficult to say the least. Can those difference be smoothed out and some compromises reached so that you both can be more happy? Remains to be seen and you are already addressing that with setting up a counseling appointment.

    Some things that stood out to me from your post is that you see her upset and push and push find out what's wrong. Why do you push? Have you considered that stepping away and leaving her alone to process whatever is bugging her is an option? You say that you have to push, but the reality is that you do not. It kind of gets worse from there, where you decide that whatever she is upset about is wrong or invalid. Sorry, but it is always valid to the other person. When you invalidate another person's upset....you are begging for a fight and bad feelings. In effect, you are doing a lot to initiate conflict.

    As for the living arrangements that you have, I mean each their own. All I'm going to say is that many women will have a problem with a guy living with female roommates. It's just not for everyone. It doesn't mean that you are doing anything wrong, but it does set up exactly the situation that you are in - an impression of impropriety. A more secure woman might look at the situation and how you treat her and be good with this. This girl is not that secure, plus she is still very young so it's a volatile situation.

    Can it be fixed? I think you both have your work cut out for you, but if you are both willing to work at it, then anything is possible.

  3. #3
    Gold Member SarahLancaster's Avatar
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    Wow. When someone is jealous like that, it makes a relationship very difficult. If you truly feel that you're not giving her any cause to be jealous, and you think the relationship is worth saving, then perhaps the couples counseling will help shed some light on why she doesn't trust you. You can't go through life with blinders on to prevent you from looking at or talking to girls.

    If things don't change, I don't see how you can continue with this. It obviously bothers you.

    Why are you living in this communal arrangement? Is it possible to get a smaller and more private place?

  4. #4
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    Hi,

    I think your girlfriend needs to work more on her self esteem. She feels inadequate when it comes to other woman is what I’m guessing. She comes from a place of high insecurity. She also sounds as if she doesn’t trust you, or your intentions being around Rose or whomever.

    She really has unrealistic expectations of wanting your undivided attention 24/7.

    Given saying all that. Yes you can ease her mind about her being your one and only. This will only last temporarily though. She needs to fix these issues herself. She honestly shouldn’t be in a serious relationship until she delves deep and tackles her insecurities and the root of them.

    What your basically on with her is this merry go round of how to help self sooth her own mistrusts. This is not fair to you and is quite toxic. How do you repair? Counseling’s a good idea but go into it realistically.

    Your girlfriend has told you multiple times her own qualms about being in this relationship. How you look at other girls too much, or how another guy would be different.

    I see nothing wrong with what you’re personally doing. You vibe and have a lot of female friends. It’s harmless and innocent. You can only reassure her so many times.

    I think she needs one on one counseling more then couples counseling to address her issues.

    I also think you need to understand you both have very distinct personalities in regards to other people that may be underlying incompatibilities.

    Unless you give up all your friends and move with her to a remote island. I don’t see this issue being fixed.

    This is who she is

    And it’s up to her to get the right help for it.

    I’m sorry I wish I had a more hopeful response

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  6. #5
    Platinum Member reinventmyself's Avatar
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    Good advise already but I just wanted to add:


    I have to push and push to get it out of her; she tells me and I don't agree or like what she's upset about; I feel attacked and defend myself; we go around and around in circles until it gets heated, I get angry, she cries and then questions whether we are suitable for each other.

    She shares with you what is upsetting her, you don't agree and you defend yourself. You're angry, she cries and nothing gets resolved. Rinse, repeat.

    This ends up being the fight to be right, instead of trying to understand. You don't have to agree with her, but you could try to understand how it feels for her. Instead of going into angry, defense mode I can't help but wonder if you had just listened to her, is it possible this might have blown over by now?

    There is nothing worse than being goaded into telling someone how you are feeling and then being flipped on the mat and now you are in the victim stance angry with her, over something she didn't want to tell you to begin with. There is no consolation for her. Even if you don't agree with her and it seems irrational, this is her experience.

    I can't help but wonder if this is common theme (Rose) isn't really about Rose at all. Or at least not entirely. Maybe it's about your girlfriend wanting to be heard and understood.

  7. #6
    Platinum Member bluecastle's Avatar
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    Sorry about the troubles.

    I admit I come to this with bias—as, well, we all do—but I can't help but see some of this as extensions of the age gap. Let's start with the way you described the nature of the fights. Reading between the lines, I get the sense that you don't quite take her concerns seriously, that whatever they are, at any given moment, they strike you as being a bit petty, immature—or, as you put it, her sweating the small stuff. Can only imagine she senses it, and doesn't like that feeling of being unheard. At all.

    Here's the thing: all people want is to be taken seriously, to be seen and heard, for real. Where that's hard? What is "small" to a 36-year-old might be genuinely big to a 26-year-old. No, it's not science; yes, there are exceptions; but it is a place where a smaller age gap can come in handy. You sweat the same stuff, more or less, and don't have to use your brain to take the sweating of the other seriously. What I was sweating at 26 is very different than what I was sweating at 36, for example, which is to say my 36-year-old self would struggle to take my 26-year-old self seriously. I could empathize with him—that's maturity—but I couldn't date the female version of him, you know?

    The simmering, sometimes explosive stuff with you and other women, Rose in particular? More of the same, in part, to my eyes. Maturity gap 101. Let's say, for argument's sake, that you're sugarcoating it a bit and are actually disrespectful ogler of women—well, a more mature and secure woman wouldn't bother with the dramatics; she'd just leave you. A more mature and secure woman would also, of course, probably not be super cool with moving in with her boyfriend if it meant moving in with two other people, one of them an attractive woman with whom her guy gets on with swimmingly. Maybe at 25, she'd think, but that was then...

    And let's say you're painting a pretty accurate picture, which, for the record, I trust you are—well, until someone has had a bit more experience in the world, these are often things that will overwhelm, trigger a jealous reaction. My girlfriend is 36, for instance, with many attractive male friends. Great dudes, at least the ones I've met, and I assume the same about the others. I'm not threatened when she tells me that "Mike from Brazil" is coming into town and we should all get coffee, but psyched to meet Mike from Brazil. But going back to myself at 25? If I was dating who she is today when I was that guy I'd probably be pretty intimidated, unnerved, and would have probably struggled with expressing that to her with total grace.

    Being honest? I think your girlfriend was onto something at the two year mark when it came to assessing your compatibility for a longterm relationship. You guys had enjoyed the fun first year, but by the more "real" second year there was the fighting, the friction, the turbulence in her own spirit telling her something wasn't quite right. Had you two outgrown each other by then, or stopped being positive influences on each other's growth? That a year on the issues that led to that breakup have not been resolved but have become more entrenched in the dynamic—well, it's worth being real about that being a sign of incompatibly.

    All in all, I think it's worth asking if you are bringing out each other's best, most mature sides—i.e. growing into healthy shapes as individuals, alongside each other—or if you're kind of reinforcing immature sides in each of you: her jealousy, your dismissiveness. It's also worth asking yourself, and being totally honest, if you can take all this seriously enough to keep putting in the effort.

  8. #7
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    I agree with the others. Question -you are 36 - why are you in this sort of living arrangement as opposed to living on your own or sharing a place with your girlfriend?

  9. #8
    Platinum Member reinventmyself's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by bluecastle


    And let's say you're painting a pretty accurate picture, which, for the record, I trust you are—well, until someone has had a bit more experience in the world, these are often things that will overwhelm, trigger a jealous reaction. My girlfriend is 36, for instance, with many attractive male friends. Great dudes, at least the ones I've met, and I assume the same about the others. I'm not threatened when she tells me that "Mike from Brazil" is coming into town and we should all get coffee, but psyched to meet Mike from Brazil. But going back to myself at 25? If I was dating who she is today when I was that guy I'd probably be pretty intimidated, unnerved, and would have probably struggled with expressing that to her with total grace.
    As I am reading what blue wrote, I am checking myself and yes at 36, I just couldn't be bothered with the drama about whether my guy ogled another woman.

    In my mid twenties, I'd probably would have come undone.

  10. #9
    Platinum Member Andrina's Avatar
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    There's a saying that there can only be one queen bee in the hive. It's not shocking that there will be problems with that living arrangement. Go ahead and try counseling, because you care. Just realize though that it might not solve any of those issues, since there is such a huge incompatibility between you two. It's likely that she belongs with a guy who doesn't have close female friends, and you belong with an extremely free-spirited woman who doesn't have an ounce of jealousy in that regard.

  11. #10
    Platinum Member Cherylyn's Avatar
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    I agree with others. Both of you are incompatible and have different personality and character differences which don't mesh.

    It's good that you have an appointment with a counselor next week. I definitely think it will help both of you as you listen to the counselor from his or her angle.

    Both of you are mismatched as stated above and it's not optimal to share your residence with housemates especially if you're in a couple situation. There's too much co-mingling with the opposite gender and jealousy is bound to happen sooner or later. It's too much togetherness with daily life in your home. There is no real, 100% privacy despite having downstairs to yourselves. It's unhealthy for your relationship with your girlfriend. Hopefully, you two can rent a place of your own without sharing your dwelling with others.

    In order for two people to have a sound relationship, both sides need mutual agreements. I've been married for a long time. My husband does not have female friends nor do I have male friends. Same thing with my in-laws, my sister's, sisters-in-law (SIL) and brothers-in-law marriages. I don't find anything wrong with having opposite gender friendships as long as both parties agree with it. Fair is fair.

    My husband and I have many couple friends where we dine out as foursomes, socially meet in groups and have same 1:1 gender friends of our own. This is our comfort zone. I know for a fact that I would strongly disapprove of my husband having female friends, confiding in them, meeting them for meals, walks, getting entertainment tickets for concerts, theater and what am I? Chopped liver? Hello? What about me? I didn't invest in years of toil, blood, sweat and tears only for my husband to be traipsing off with a female friend after a long, hard workweek. For us, it's common sense that I don't befriend every guy I meet either. We just don't do it. However, we're perfectly fine for other couples to do what they do with opposite gender friends. We fully support others as long as both of them are happy with their opposite gender friends.

    As for the roving eye and surreptitious glances, men: Guard your eyes, your wives or girlfriends will appreciate it. This is not only when you two are together but also when you two are apart. (And yes, women, too.)

    If you want to improve your relationship and acquiesce your girlfriend, keep a cooler distance from Rose. Be polite, well-mannered, kind and respectful but don't over do it with chit-chat and small talk with Rose or other females. Rose will take a hint, back off and your girlfriend will notice that you are trying to behave like an honorable gentleman who exercises discretion. If Rose questions you or calls you out on your new behavior, tell her that out of respect for your girlfriend, you won't get chummy with her and other females anymore.

    Also, if you're secure, sincerely loyal and devoted to your girlfriend, you wouldn't have the need, desire nor curiosity to Google actresses or females. Trust isn't always about your behavior in front of others. Real trust is being able to be trusted when her back is turned and when no one is looking over your shoulder. That's called integrity and having moral values.

    You're better suited to be with a more liberal minded, easy breezy woman who thinks, acts and behaves exactly as you do and believes in having opposite gender friends. Your girlfriend is better matched and suited with someone similar to the men in my midst who have their boundaries. It's important for both the man and woman (or any partners or marriages) to be compatible and have fundamental agreements otherwise your days will be filled with daily arguments and fights.

    You can get back into that good place and in your girlfriend's good graces IF you change for your girlfriend in order for her to feel more secure, calm and at peace. If you're not willing to change for the sake of your girlfriend, arguments and fights will continue to be endless for both of you. This problem will not go away unless you change for her. Or, if the counselor tells your girlfriend that she should accept you the way you are and every female in it including Rose, actresses and every female in public.
    Last edited by Cherylyn; 02-14-2020 at 08:14 PM.

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