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Need to find a safer way to communicate with someone that is sensitive...


eastcoastgal
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I know there must be some psychology professionals out there reading this forum, so I'm asking for some advice on dealing with a type of personality that sees everything as an accusation. I mean literally you can't say anything negative...and I try to be constructive in my negative comments. But it's always taken as an attack. Like, I could say "you have a little something on your lip" and it would be like, "are you accusing me of being a slob?!?" Really hard to deal with.

The person, my boyfriend, has shut me out because he thinks I'm constantly accusing him of this and that when I'm only trying to point out some behaviours and open a dialogue and maybe find a better way to communicate.

I have tried googling it and ail I get are pages about falsely accusations and gas lighting and I really don't think I'm doing that, I just want to communicate what I feel is unacceptable behaviour to me and let him respond with his views and then work it out. But he thinks I'm attacking him.

Am I being aggressive and can I change my dialogue ?

My boyfriend is 74 and I have experienced this before with elderly people. Is it something to do with age?

 

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4 minutes ago, eastcoastgal said:

The person, my boyfriend, has shut me out because he thinks I'm constantly accusing him of this and that when I'm only trying to point out some behaviours and open a dialogue and maybe find a better way to communicate.

I don't think he's necessarily too sensitive.  Why do you need to point out behaviors?  If he asks you for input about his behaviors then you can give input.  How does pointing out behaviors open a dialogue - I would think it often puts the other person on the defensive.  How often do you point out his positive actions? Acnknowledge them? 

If he is treating  you with disrespect then make it about you.  I feel disrespected when you don't come on time.  I feel frustrated.  I feel sad.  Rather than "you were late to pick me up and that was disrespectful".

Or "I was commenting on this specific situation -nothing broader than that."  For example my husband left two heavy shampoo bottles out of the tub ledge.  Which means I had to lift each one and replace them so I could then clean the sink.  I said to him "please put the bottles back from now on so I don't have to move them to clean the sink."  If he'd responded with "you think I never do anything right" I would say calmly "I was just talking about shampoo bottles.  They are heavy for me to lift."  And then I'd end the exchange. 

But my purpose in pointing this out was not to open any dialogue.  It was to save me while I'm cleaning up at night and really tired from having to lift additional stuff and replace.

If I want to have an open dialogue and it is about something that is bothering me I make it about me.  And we talk.  But for me open dialogue should be about positive stuff mostly -as much as possible. I mean there is so much weighty/negative stuff in the world why seek to have open dialogues about more negative stuff?  We had a long conversation last night about our wedding, people who were there, the framed photo he got me for our anniversary, and I shared with him again how I loved our wedding and what a great and happy day it was.  So that was really open -we  talked, I shared emotions - and - didn't involve negativity but I think it fosters our good communication.  (We're 56). 

Ask yourself why there is so much you have to point out that is unacceptable to you - if there is so much -why are you with him?

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13 minutes ago, eastcoastgal said:

My boyfriend is 74 and I have experienced this before with elderly people. Is it something to do with age?

Just for some context, how old are you? How long have you been together? Do you live together?

14 minutes ago, eastcoastgal said:

have tried googling it and ail I get are pages about falsely accusations and gas lighting and I really don't think I'm doing that, I

Correct. He's doing that to you. The way he's reacting to you does not sound healthy at all.

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2 minutes ago, eastcoastgal said:

I'm 55. we have been in a relationship for 2 years

So I do think it's wrong to attack you if you raise an issue in a respectful way.  My son who is 13 does that to me - I tell him he broke a promise to me/didn't follow a rule and he will say "right I'm an idiot" and I will then point out -no I said you acted disrespectfully to me or you made a bad choice - I don't think and I didn't attack your character/you as a person.  I will say I do not call him names like idiot or jerk or bad -I very narrowly address the situation.  I also limit my gushing about how awesome he is as opposed to "I loved how you ordered your burrito in such a clear and respectful way" (because ordering his own food is on the newer side for him) or "that was really thoughtful of you to thank the crossing guard."

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1 hour ago, Batya33 said:

So I do think it's wrong to attack you if you raise an issue in a respectful way.  My son who is 13 does that to me - I tell him he broke a promise to me/didn't follow a rule and he will say "right I'm an idiot" and I will then point out -no I said you acted disrespectfully to me or you made a bad choice - I don't think and I didn't attack your character/you as a person.  I will say I do not call him names like idiot or jerk or bad -I very narrowly address the situation.  I also limit my gushing about how awesome he is as opposed to "I loved how you ordered your burrito in such a clear and respectful way" (because ordering his own food is on the newer side for him) or "that was really thoughtful of you to thank the crossing guard."

I have been careful when talking about his behaviour to say "you are LIKE this..." or "you behave LIKE this.." Never You ARE.. He, on the other hand responds with clear insults.

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29 minutes ago, eastcoastgal said:

I have been careful when talking about his behaviour to say "you are LIKE this..." or "you behave LIKE this.." Never You ARE.. He, on the other hand responds with clear insults.

Why are you putting it that way ? Meaning who are you to tell him what he is like ?  Tell him what you are like.  “I feel disrespected when you are late and don’t txt me to let me know “ “I feel frustrated when I ask you to pick up the mail because I’m expecting an important insurance check and you forget and don’t apologize”. Yes if you were his mama perhaps you could say “you are behaving badly”. Or his therapist.  But I’m not a fan of being told what I am like especially in a negative way and if so really rarely. 

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50 minutes ago, Batya33 said:

Why are you putting it that way ? Meaning who are you to tell him what he is like ?  Tell him what you are like.  “I feel disrespected when you are late and don’t txt me to let me know “ “I feel frustrated when I ask you to pick up the mail because I’m expecting an important insurance check and you forget and don’t apologize”. Yes if you were his mama perhaps you could say “you are behaving badly”. Or his therapist.  But I’m not a fan of being told what I am like especially in a negative way and if so really rarely. 

Ok well I think this is interesting because I'm just describing my experience...it's like this... instead of saying that is this or that...to me that's less accusatory

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In my experience, a person who takes things as an attack that nobody else would see it as such, suffers from depression. They are seeing things through a skewed lens. My ex-husband did that as well, and then stopped when he got on anti-depressants and received therapy. When he stopped therapy and anti-depressants, he became even worse than before.

If you're upset the majority of the time because of this issue, why stay? Life's too short. Find someone who doesn't overreact. I divorced and married someone who I didn't have to walk on eggshells around.

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3 hours ago, eastcoastgal said:

Is it something to do with age?

In my opinion it amplifies with age. We have a saying here that old people often tend to be like children when they come to a certain age. Children think all the world revolves around them until about the age of 6. Some old people adopt that attitude too. And how they know all the best due to their age. They lived through a lot so they think it gives them a certain right over you. So if the person is egothistical, that will amplify with age to the point every thing you do they can do better, or if you say something about them, they "offend" easily. 

So, in my opinion, you just stumbled upon someone who isnt really prone to critique due to ego. So they take any kind of critique very seriously. I mean, you could just be very critical to him so he thinks you just dont have a nicest opinion on him. But I think its more of an ego combined with age. 

I mean, he got mad because you pointed out that he has something on his lip. You cant really expect a better dialogue of the person like that. And frankly, he is too old to have some kind of big change there. 

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Hes an elderly man, different generational expectations. I find that this generation have a lot of pride... like a lot. And their values are not open minded such as quoting "respect your elders", men are "head of the house" etc. 

Generalising here also but again, women tend to be of less value then men. 

So therefore anything you say that's not positive he's questioning your authority on "why are you speaking up.. is that your place?"  And my guess is the way he is responding is to put you back in your place. 

My observation of this generation is that their partners usually fluff about after them, care for them and stroke their egos. 

If this is not for you perhaps think about moving on... he's in his 70s, he will not be changing his communication style any time soon. 

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2 hours ago, eastcoastgal said:

I have been careful when talking about his behaviour to say "you are LIKE this..." or "you behave LIKE this.." Never You ARE.. He, on the other hand responds with clear insults.

You would be advised by professionals NOT to make YOU statements.   It's basically out of bounds.  Why do you feel it's your role to "point out" his failings / weaknesses / annoying behaviors?   Nobody wants to have their shortcomings pointed out to them.  

If he is doing something that adversely affects YOU, as someone above already stated, the way to address it is  with an I statement.  For example, "I feel very uncomfortable and can't enjoy eating in a restaurant with you when you speak rudely to the wait staff."  You can back that up with "don't choose to go to restaurants with you any more if this is to continue."  Of course then you have to stop going, as you cannot make someone change - especially older folks.  We get pretty set in our ways.

Frankly,  what I've gathered from your posts is that you are either dating a very unpleasant person, or you're just incompatible to the point where him just being himself is not okay with you.  

 

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46 minutes ago, catfeeder said:

The things you’re not telling us are examples of what you want to say to him, not in general but specifically.

From there we may be able to help you find the kindest ways to reframe.

I agree- while I actually agree to an extent with the differing perspectives I also need more info.

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4 hours ago, eastcoastgal said:

have been careful when talking about his behaviour to say "you are LIKE this..." or "you behave LIKE this.." Never You ARE.. He, on the other hand responds with clear insults

This is not a healthy dynamic. He has a role in this, so pause on your self-blame for a bit. A normal healthy person does not respond back with insults.

Also, he's old and set in his ways. Most people after they hit their 40s-50s become set in their ways. I would personally find his response upsetting and disrespectful. I would not put up with that and I would leave. You cannot be in a long term relationship with someone who does not respect you. You also cannot walk on eggshells for the last decades of your life.

Try to stop believing in what he's saying. Stop on succumbing to your self doubts. Stop your nagging if there's any. He is part of the problem here, and I'm afraid no matter how you raise a comment/question, you will be met with the same insults. It's just a toxic relationship dynamic, and the insults are just the tip of the iceberg.

Reflect on whether this is the type of man and relationship you want for the rest of your life. If you don't live together, it'll be easier to cut ties and live in peace.

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5 minutes ago, DarkCh0c0 said:

Most people after they hit their 40s-50s become set in their ways.

I mean -not my experience at all - but even if some do I don't think it's helpful here - we don't know what his "ways" were in the past or if this is just an oil and water issue.  (I personally changed a great deal in my 40s as a newlywed and new mom and continued that into my 50s - I'm far less Type A in specific situations and how I interact with people changed too - and I'm very open to change particularly as the mom of a teenager - my mom is in her late 80s and also growing and evolving).  I know it's a cliche, I know it has some  truth but I don't think either of them should be excused for being set in their ways-the OP comes here to change the way she communicates -if that will help.  So she's clearly not set in her ways.

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It could be gaslighting, dementia or a combination of both.  Or, this is his personality and character for life. 

I've had some people in my life who habitually distort everything I say (or write) which is frustrating, disturbing and maddening.  I can never say the correct and right answer without receiving their retort.   My answer?  I no longer engage.  I steer clear.  I've since learned to avoid people who mistreat me.  If I must cross paths with them, I learn to adapt by disengaging and enforcing strong boundaries.  If it's possible to eliminate them from my life, they're permanently eliminated from my life.

Since he's your boyfriend and not your husband, do you have the option to dissolve and exit this dysfunctional and toxic relationship?  He won't change.  You can never change a man.  He is who he is.  Either accept him as is or do something about it so you're no longer treated with obnoxious rudeness.  It's your choice.

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How often do you compliment him and are they specific compliments (and how does he react -does he give some self-deprecating retort?).  How is his physical health -is he fit, does he eat properly, sleep properly, does he drink a lot of alcohol? Get enough outdoor or indoor exercise? Do you see him interact in this way with others?  I wouldn't want to walk on eggshells either and I also wonder whether you are perceived as nitpicking him or nagging even if that is not the case. 

Do you guys have a lot to laugh about -we have a lot of inside jokes -some from over 20 years ago- and often it requires just one word, phrase or even a funny sound and we're both chuckling or hysterical or he will "force" me to listen to him sing a really annoying ear worm song from our son's younger days he knows I hate just to tease me.  We love commenting on TV shows, actors, reporters -no not nasty -just fun (ok sometimes nastier like critiquing the shark tank contestant's products lol). 

Do you and can you have fun with this guy just by bantering? I'm trying to figure out what percentage of your interactions involve this sort of critique by you and wanting to have a "talk" to have an "open dialogue".  I remember when my son was 4 and acting out a lot that day and I told him "ok come here and let's have a talk" and he looked at me, horrified and said NO! NO TALK!!!! as if I'd said I would make him eat broccoli. 

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11 hours ago, eastcoastgal said:

Like, I could say "you have a little something on your lip" and it would be like, "are you accusing me of being a slob?!?" Really hard to deal with.

Firstly, what do you know of his background? Maybe he's been consistently criticized or blamed for a huge chunk of his life and thus, he's very sensitive when someone remarks something innocuous such as "you have a little something on your lip".

There's, however, a fine line between a harmful suggestion of improvement and being told what to do and how to do it–basically acting like his mother. I'm not suggesting that this is your case at all. It's just that I've seen it happen. Not a pretty sight.

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Do you chalk it up to him being a crotchety old man?  Or, it could be this is his obnoxious personality. 

I wouldn't like it if a man or anyone snaps at me so harshly.  I wouldn't want to be with a person like that anymore because this type of person is consistently and predictably unpleasant. 

He is the one gaslighting YOU.  Gaslighting is deflecting the subject and forcing you to change your perception of the facts.  Gaslighting is forcing you to question your sanity and make you feel that you are delusional.  Gaslighting is when the blame is shifted from the perpetrator to YOU.  Never fall for this manipulative trick.  It's the oldest, nastiest, dirtiest, ugliest psychological warfare. 

Being with this 74 year old man is unrewarding for you.  What do you get out of it?  His sour comments at every turn?  Why be with him if it's not enjoyable?  He is not a keeper.  What a loser.  ☹️

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Do you ever tell him how it makes you feel when he responds so harshly to well intentioned comments or ask him why he feels it is acceptable to insult you?  It's not reasonable to get mad, just because someone points out you have something on your lip.  You probably can't win - if you keep quiet and he notices he has something on his lip, he'll get mad at you for not saying anything.

I think you need to tell him how his reactions make you feel and how insults etc are unacceptable.  He should tell you how best to talk to him about things and you tell him how you would like him to respond.  I did this with my ex-boyfriend and he began to realise that if he was rude to me then I would end the date and go home.  It helped!

If your boyfriend cannot accept that he is at fault, then you will either need to accept him as he is or realise you'll be happier single.

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15 hours ago, eastcoastgal said:

 I just want to communicate what I feel is unacceptable behaviour to me and let him respond with his views and then work it out. 

How long have you been dating? There's no need to be chronically critical. There's no need to change, fix or re-raise him. Leave him alone.

Don't pick on people. If he has "behavior that's unacceptable to you", you're not compatible. He is under no obligation to "discuss" rearranging himself to your specifications. 

 

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I would say yes he maybe suffering from depression, but combined with a personality disorder that only gets worse with age, especially when it's not being treated. He's 74, he ain't gonna change because his brain is too old to change. Your solution is to stop putting up with it and breakup. You are plenty young to meet someone who treats you the way you expect to be treated and that's with kindness and respect.

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My sister is chronically critical and we had a bit of a conflict because of it over the Thanksgiving holiday.  She just can't seem to hold herself back from delivering "constructive criticism" at ANY time that she sees something that she knows could be done better ... at least in her opinion.

It ends up just coming off as fault finding.  She says she's "just being honest" though.  If she sees something that "should" be improved upon she feels honor bound to point it out.

Meanwhile it's our home and we feel OK about the way the gate is hung, the dishwasher is loaded, etc.  

Could you be doing this?

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On 12/10/2022 at 3:13 AM, Cherylyn said:

Do you chalk it up to him being a crotchety old man?  Or, it could be this is his obnoxious personality. 

I wouldn't like it if a man or anyone snaps at me so harshly.  I wouldn't want to be with a person like that anymore because this type of person is consistently and predictably unpleasant. 

He is the one gaslighting YOU.  Gaslighting is deflecting the subject and forcing you to change your perception of the facts. 

I agree here.

I am old enough & experienced enough to know what I can and cannot tolerate.  Life can be challenging enough, to not want to deal with people who are so challenging or negative.

I don't have the energy to take ppl's crap anymore and I just reached my 50's.  I've experienced plenty and my circle is quite small now.

I realized that when people have had so many challenging years, it shapes them up to how they become.....

As for your bf, it sounds like he's in ways acting out in such a way, his 'defense system' is on high alert.  So, the critical responses come out at you.

Yeah, no thanks!

Think again on remaining with someone like this.  Try hanging out with someone who's not so nasty with you.  Who's got it together and not such a grump!

 

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