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Communication issues... How to fix? Can it be helped? What can I do?


misssmithviii

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I like to think the way I express my thoughts and emotions is very diplomatic, considerate and collected as my therapist has said himself.

He says my issue is that I've experienced rejection and emotional pain all my life and so my needs are somewhat skewed, my threshold for accepting comfort and affection is more than the norm, more than typically necessary. So I put my own feelings into the model that he's helped me create which is choosing multiple people: one who I perceive as more emotional or emotionally unstable than me, one more emotionally secure, one who has baggage similar to mine and one who has absolutely no baggage. Some overlap of course. He made this model so that I can better understand how I come off to others, my SO in particular, and understand their reactions.

 

Well the issue I've encountered a few times with my man of about 6 months is that whenever I've come to him, expressed myself about how I've been hurt by his words or actions, his response is immediately defensive and he 'handles' me like he would any male friend of his. He's not disrespectful, he doesn't yell unless he feels pressured (which has happened before), but he is very dry, matter-of-fact, and short. Instead of approaching me with a solution, I'm only met with excuses/explanations for his words/actions. You couldn't tell the difference between his reactions of being harassed by a friend and listening to his girlfriend feeling down. It's like he expects that if I understand why he doesn't agree or why he said/did what hurt me that I shouldn't be hurt since it's never on purpose.

 

Therapist explained that my SO does this because he's never really had a serious relationship before and only knows how to react/interact to his friends and doesn't quite understand how to adapt to being directly under the spotlight of conflict in a romantic relationship setting.

 

Communication is suffering, at least I feel that way. I want to be able to express my emotions without being made to feel like I'm crazy or like I'm annoying him - which is evident in how he reacts. I always place my feelings and reactions against the model my therapist gave me and carefully choose my battles, if you will. I take care not to sweat the little stuff. But when something is eating me up inside, I have to tell him.

 

I'm seeing the trend in him that I saw in my ex of 4 years... if something doesn't compute for him, if he doesn't think his words/actions should've hurt me (or wouldn't hurt him if the roles were reversed), then he doesn't find it important enough to discuss any further than a quick 'sorry I didn't mean to'. It's avoidant, evasive and (as other friends and my therapist say) immature.

 

Therapist says healthy communication is learned and frankly my man just hasn't learned it, and it just might take losing me to learn it with the next girl or take months/years with me. I hate to think this way, but I'm beginning to agree.

 

Example: He cancelled overdue plans with me one night for friends he hasn't seen in years, I explained that I understand but am inevitably saddened (it was holiday season, I hadn't spent much time with him at all since he was out of town with family and the day promised to us he so easily cancelled). He became abrasive, defensive and kept reiterating that he hasn't seen them in so long so I basically don't have a right to feel sad. I explained that his defensive response only made me feel worse, and I never expressed disdain for him going but would appreciate a little understanding and acknowledgment of my feelings. A positive, "I'll make it up to you honey" attitude would've worked much better than the "I don't even want to talk about this, this is ridiculous" approach I was given.

 

It was only after I took the initiative to apologize for causing him any distress that day that he apologized as well.

Any example where I've been feeling down due to him and put it out on the table, ends in him being annoyed with the situation, annoyed with me. If I continue to talk about it he'll become defensive. If I don't talk about it after I put it out there, he becomes short with me, seemingly unwilling to interact with me.

 

I want to talk about this... We haven't really had a deep talk about how his dismissive reactions are affecting me and I think it'd do us good if we spoke about it with the dust settled and not in the 'heat of the moment'. But for the first time in my life I'm actually afraid to express myself, I'm afraid to talk about it, put myself out there and only be met with a nonchalant 'this isn't a big deal to me' attitude. I feel embarrassed. I have difficulty standing behind my own emotions because I know they're not always merited, so when somebody treats my emotions as 'ridiculous' or 'dramatic'... I can't help but question myself... this in turn brings me down even more.

 

Is it even worth talking about? Is being diplomatic making things worse somehow?

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So you get to put all of your emotions on the table and he is supposed to react the way you want him to react? I don't see much diplomacy in saying "your actions hurt me and invalidated my feelings".

 

You have.posted about this fellow before. And as you have needs for a very empathic partner...I just don't see this as a good fit.

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I appreciate your opinion. This is an issue I want to get over because I know it's more me and my fears of feeling stupid than the men I've been with. I have been with a very empathic partner before and it was amazing, but everything else was lacking. I feel that was kind of one in a million to be frank. This man and I are best friends and have more fun, laughs, great conversation and just all around happiness together - it burdens me that this communication issue is enough to break that.

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I feel like I've been sidestepping my feelings out of fear of pushing him away and I'm tired of it. I want to be myself. Being myself kept me in long standing healthy relationships that might've had more direct conflict but things were taken care of.

 

I undoubtedly agree. Communication is vital. And I'm on the brink of just laying it all out.

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Sounds like you are overly sensitive and he is your opposite, which is a compatibility issue and not really something you can fix. He is not going to become sensitive and start seeing the world through your eyes and you are not likely to become less sensitive and grow a thicker skin. If you need to talk about your feelings, maybe that's best done with your therapist. If you need to address an actual problem with your bf, then maybe try to be more brief and matter of fact rather than making it all about your feelings.

 

If he is more of rational sort of person, then he really can't relate much to your feelings but he can understand very well a direct request. Ex.: It makes me feel really bad when you do ex v. don't do ex, thanks. In the first one he feels bad for making you feel bad, but he also kind of can't relate and doesn't really know how to fix it, so his response is to get defensive and dismiss it. The second one is simple - don't do ex, got it, ok. He is clear on what your problem is and what the solution is. It's just a different way of thinking about the same exact thing and unfortunately you two sound like total opposites, so the going will always be rough to one degree or another.

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Therapist explained that my SO does this because he's never really had a serious relationship before and only knows how to react/interact to his friends and doesn't quite understand how to adapt to being directly under the spotlight of conflict in a romantic relationship setting.

 

I don't think being in a relationship or not has anything to do with your boyfriend's communication skills. Particularly since you mention he treats his friends the same way. Good communication is due to caring about others, about actually hearing them and an interchange of ideas. To some degree this is learned behavior, but there's also something called empathy and not being self-centered and/or selfish that has a tremendous amount to do with how two people communicate together. A more self-centered person will always take the view that most suits them and their needs. An unselfish one can look at the other person's views and needs and take those into consideration and understand them. It can have to do with age yes and inexperience I suppose, but not totally I think. My first BF at the age of 13 would sit and talk with me for hours and hours and we were each other's first relationships. He was interested in everything I had to say and pretty much any partner that I had a good relationship with had that quality.

The ones I had relationships with that were along the lines of not really caring what effect they or their words or their actions had on me were just guys that either weren't right for me or they just weren't as invested in the relationship as I was to begin with.

 

At the six-month mark you should both still be in the honeymoon stage and all over each other, not able to get enough of each other including talking. If you're already having this much trouble then I have to ask why are you hanging on to him at all? You're young, you have time on your side, why not let him go and go find someone who suits you better? You shouldn't be this unhappy already and it's only going to get worse unless he sees there's a problem and wants to fix it.

 

And apparently he doesn't. As an older woman I have to say I learned a long time ago there is no reward for staying with someone who isn't right for you and who doesn't make you happy and make your life better, there just isn't. Instead of trying to change yourself to suit someone else why not just change who you share your life and find someone who accepts you for who you are?

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