It's the little things...

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It's the little things...

Post by nearly_takuan on Tue Jan 26, 2016 9:25 pm

Smallish things about my interactions with Girlfriend have been bugging me lately, and I'm not sure how or whether I can confront them without making things worse.

Main one is I often feel like I'm stuck in a no-win scenario with her. There's the classic/cliche thing where she wants dinner but won't say what she wants but doesn't want any of the things that I can think of off the top of my head. Then there's...sex stuff, where she wants (needs?) me to enjoy things that I do not enjoy (and have difficulty feigning enjoyment of), and there's not really a way around that.

She sometimes expresses that she doesn't think I love her as much as she loves me. This to me seems odd, because I sacrifice a lot of my personal time and energy to be with her and accommodate her needs, and because I've stayed up for hours giving her multiple orgasms, and because she has habits like immediately shutting off my music and switching on the radio when she gets into my car. And because I find this a hurtful subject to begin with for both parties and she's bringing it up. But I imagine she'd get upset if I brought these things up with her in an even slightly confrontational manner. I've asked why she feels that way, and the only concrete thing she's said so far is that she feels like she says the words "I love you" first more often than I do, when we interact. (Hard to beat her to the punch, though, when it's the first thing she says.)

Lately she's also felt insecure about my lack of prior experience, and this may be having an effect on the above. She says that since I've never dated other women before I don't have enough information to discern whether I truly like her.

But she's also pushing for a shared living space. It'd be inconvenient as hell for several people I care about, plus myself, so I've repeatedly told her it's off the table until we've been together for at least a year--that being the duration of the lease we'd be stuck with if the relationship turned sour. The implication that it's possible for relationships to not be perfect forever seemed to offend her. And she keeps bringing it up.

I'm starting to get a little frustrated, and slightly worried about how I'm going to deal with it all in the near future. Outside perspectives and thoughts are welcome.
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Re: It's the little things...

Post by eselle28 on Tue Jan 26, 2016 9:55 pm

I'm sorry you're dealing with all that. Several of those things are all relationship problems that are pretty common, but they're also ones that can be really frustrating!

I have several people in my life who do the, "I don't know what I want! Keep guessing until you come up with the right response!" thing. I've had some luck setting a limit on the number of suggestions I'll offer. If the first couple suggestions for a restaurant or a movie are duds, then I make a sandwich or watch TV and say I'm up for whatever when the other person figures out what they want to do. Alternately, you might want to suggest that if you're going out to do something, it's going to be agreed upon in advance, and that if you don't have any preset plans then the default is that you're going to hang out at home. It doesn't eliminate the indecision, but it does take away the pressing need to go out and get food because one or both of you is hungry. Do either of these things sound plausible, or do you think they might cause even more conflict?

The feeling of being loved might be a conflict between the way the two of you express affection. It sounds like you might express it by being giving of your time and by acts of service, but that she values verbal affection more highly. You might want to get around the, "I love you trap," by finding other sayings that mean basically the same thing but are unique to you. (I also think you should expect and if needed ask her to express affection in ways that have meaning for you.)

Your boundary about sharing living space is entirely reasonable. Hell, as someone who's cohabited, you might want to wait even longer than a year. It's not just the difficulty of moving out, though that's a very valid concern. It also puts a lot of stress on a relationship, and if people are still hammering out some of their issues as a couple and their ways of relating to each other, having that much more time together and a whole new set of things to disagree about can break a relationship that might otherwise be pretty good. It sounds like explaining isn't helping, though. I think this might be a time when you want to break out a simple, "I can't," without going into the details about why you're not sure the arrangement would be a wise one. I would also suggest that you might want to set a time limit on discussions - that you'd be open to discussing the subject again in three months (even though that might not be at the one year mark) but that you're not up for talking about it at all until then. I think this is actually something that's really important, and that you might want to assess the future of your relationship based on part on her ability and willingness to respect this boundary.

(I skipped over the sex and experience questions. I don't know if I have much of use to offer on either, though it sounds like a frustrating situation.)
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Re: It's the little things...

Post by Werel on Tue Jan 26, 2016 10:08 pm

Oof, some of those sound little, and others sound less little.

The one that seems most concerning is her pushing for moving in together so soon. It's still a pretty new relationship (what, 4-5 months at this point?), and the combo of her expressing a lot of insecurity about your feelings for her* AND pushing hard on some of your very pragmatic and smart boundaries makes it seem like she might be seeing cohabitation as... some sort of magic bullet that will assure her, once and for all, that you're serious about her? It's not a very realistic attitude to bring to the table, and kind of a nervous-making one (I hate the phrase "keep-a-dude baby," but it does bring to mind the similar practice of having a kid because you think it'll cement the relationship).

*Her claiming that prior inexperience makes you incapable of telling if you actually like her is a little worrying too, though. When insecurity goes the extra mile and becomes gaslighting, it's way harder to be on that person's side and support them as they work through the insecurity. Plus, I really don't think you need prior romantic experience to be able to accurately assess your own feelings for someone, but what do I know? Razz

nearly_takuan wrote:The implication that it's possible for relationships to not be perfect forever seemed to offend her. And she keeps bringing it up.
Now she's sounding like the one with no romantic experience. It seems like damn good common sense to make sure y'all work well in the long run before moving in together. You want to commit to something like cohabitation post-NRE, post-several fights, post-having successfully worked through some of the kinds of issues you'd face as roommates. If she can't admit that things like "figuring out how to fight" or "planning for rough patches" are absolutely mandatory for couples, she may not be ready for the kind of committed relationship that usually goes with living together.

I guess overall, your worry is whether or not you'll be able to have a productive conversation with her about any of this, right? One place to start might be asking her to trust you on your own emotions, because it's the most baseline problem and the most reasonable ask. Something like "I know you have worries about the balance of affection between us, but it hurts a lot to have you second-guess my feelings when I express them to you. Could you try to cut back on that, and I'll try to [whatever long-standing thing she's asked you to work on]?"

As far as moving in together... I'm sure you feel pretty secure in your decisions, but I'mma reinforce them here: good call to wait. That is a completely solid boundary and I think you should both hold on to it and keep a close eye on whether she keeps pushing it, because most of the "little things" you're describing also sound like her being a bit cavalier about your boundaries (sexual, temporal, musical). Is it possible that she's just getting hung up on the technicality of "we need to have been together for the calendrical period of a lease," and trying to rules-lawyer out of that? Would something more based in relationship dynamics make more sense to her (like "once we've shown we can get past a big conflict")?

edit:
eselle28 wrote: I would also suggest that you might want to set a time limit on discussions - that you'd be open to discussing the subject again in three months (even though that might not be at the one year mark) but that you're not up for talking about it at all until then. I think this is actually something that's really important, and that you might want to assess the future of your relationship based on part on her ability and willingness to respect this boundary.
Seconded all the way. This is a good idea.
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Re: It's the little things...

Post by Caffeinated on Tue Jan 26, 2016 11:03 pm

Werel and Eselle say very smart things. I have one or two very tiny ideas to add.

One is the thing about making suggestions on where/what to eat. A thing that's worked for me and people I know is a house rule that if Person A makes a suggestion for food and Person B shoots it down, then it's Person B's turn to make a suggestion. If Person A then shoots down Person B's suggestion, it's Person A's turn again, and so on until someone comes up with a suggestion that the other person accepts. It works for us because it shares the responsibility, and keeps from developing a dynamic where one person always seems to be auditioning for the other person's approval.

Another tiny idea is a way to deal with the thing where she always beats you to the punch on the who's saying "I love you" first thing. A thing that struck me there is maybe her way of expressing love is more verbal than yours, so maybe you could build in little verbal things into your routine where you might not normally do so. Like text her randomly when you're not in the middle of a conversation, just to send a little "I love you" message. Or insert an "I love you" into a text conversation in a place where you might send a smileyface.

The third thing I thought of is a little bigger. And that's to practice not automatically giving explanations when you set a boundary. Plus to practice setting them in small things. For example, the switching the music when she gets in your car thing. Maybe stop her and say "I want to hear the rest of that song", or switch it back and say that. Or in the moving in together discussion, you could simply say "I'm not ready for that" and leave it at that.
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Re: It's the little things...

Post by nearly_takuan on Wed Mar 02, 2016 5:19 am

I apologize for going dark after posting this. When "big" things happen in my life that I needed to talk about here I would sometimes wait a few days or even weeks before posting, both to give myself more time to figure things out on my own and to avoid making it immediately obvious who or what I was talking about, even if someone with less than noble intentions figured out who I was. But I've only got the one girlfriend, so it's not like her identity would be hard to figure out once mine was guessed (and I've inescapably provided enough information here to exactly identify myself, if for some reason someone thought it worth the trouble) so I guess I just felt kind of weird about the whole thing. Especially because I have not yet come clean about having an account here in the first place.

... But I still should've written something just to say your responses were all very, very helpful.

What most of the things prompting my worries came down to was her not realizing how I was interpreting the things she was saying, and me not understanding her intent or clearly communicating my own feelings about stuff. We share similar cognitive barriers to both sending and receiving certain kinds of emotional information, and while in some ways this exacerbates existing problems for both of us, it also gives us each sympathy for the other's position. Once we'd figured some of this out, we basically agreed to try to explicitly describe our thoughts/feelings to each other when (or, if not possible, then after) things start to feel tense. So far I think this has gone reasonably well.

For instance, I hadn't realized just how much she really likes sex. If it were entirely up to her, we'd be doing multiple kinds of sex acts every day; if it were left entirely up to me, we'd pretty much never go past superficial cuddling and me occasionally helping her get off. So far the compromise has been skewed toward my preferences more often than hers, and while we agree the exact middle isn't necessarily the best balance, it's still helped me to understand some of what she's going through here.

The relationship has been an "open" one this entire time, which is to say I'm explicitly okay with the idea of her dating and having sex with other people, but so far we haven't had any success finding her additional partners. I'm hoping that if we do, that'll mitigate some of the sexual frustration she's experiencing.

Anyway, we're both getting better at boundaries and relationshippy talks, and it's mostly thanks to your advice, so... Thanks. Smile
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Re: It's the little things...

Post by Werel on Wed Mar 02, 2016 4:32 pm

Really glad to hear you're making headway on talking about relationshippy stuff and emotional communication-- that stuff's hard, so give yourself a big old pat on the back for learning as you go. Good going. cheers
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Re: It's the little things...

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