I've been reading your column for a while but never thought I'd be one of those people writing in, mainly because I thought I had a great, sensitive, caring boyfriend. I still have this boyfriend, but I'm beginning to doubt just how great he is. We've been together for a while, and occasionally he'll do something stupid or inconsiderate. I've always figured this crap happens, especially because whenever I confronted him, he'd try to explain himself and apologize. I have to admit that a good portion of the time when I confront him, I overreact. Until recently he's always accepted my overreactions, reassured me, and basically put up with my crap in the same way I try to put up with his.
But recently when I get upset, instead of his usual MO, he's made me feel like it's solely my problem, he can't handle it, and maybe I should seek professional help. At first I bought into this and even made my very first therapist appointment. But now I'm asking myself if I did the right thing. I mean, even though I admit I overreact, he still does some inconsiderate shit, which I'm not willing to let him continue to do. Although he assures me he loves me and has no intention of ditching me for some calmer bitch, I'm still angry. How do you think I should deal with this sudden shift? Should I accept that he's sick of my particular brand of crap and ready to move on, or should I go to therapy or what?
Maybe I'm Just Overreacting Some More
You have to accept the fact that as long as you insist on dating men, you're going to have to put up with a certain amount of stupid crap. Example: The other night my boyfriend told me what a great girlfriend I am. And why not? I am a great girlfriend. But instead of leaving it at that, he named all the ex-girlfriends I was better than. He came up with three or four (there were more, whom I'm presumably also better than, but that's not the point), and as you might imagine, it turned what could've been a compliment into an irritant. Not a shriek-worthy offense; more like sand in my ass crack.
I smiled sweetly and told him he was a great boyfriend. Thinking we were in the midst of a warm fuzzy moment, he moved in for a kiss. But I wasn't done. I told him he was better than any of my exes, too. Then I went on to list every man I could recall having ever seen naked. As I've seen my share (and probably several other people's shares as well) of nekkid men, you can imagine that list took me some time. Point taken.
Obviously, I'm no expert at boyfriend-keeping, but I've found that most men possess a severely underdeveloped sense of empathy. You can rip your hair out, scream, cry, and hiss that they're morons, but usually they just don't get it. A far more effective method of getting your point across is to calmly pull the exact same bullshit on them.
And I mean exactly. Obviously there will be times when this is impossible (you aren't going to fart in front of his mom just because he cut one in front of yours), but whenever possible, try.
(Now for all you bristly men out there, this next bit is for you.)
Reader dearest, if you are copping to "overreacting," I'm guessing you probably get fairly out of control when you call him on his "stupid crap." Men don't react well to histrionics, and frankly, throwing yourself into a tizzy every time your boyfriend says something insensitive doesn't help your case one bit. Nor is it an effective use of your time. I know there will be moments when a girl has no recourse but to burst into tears, but resist random theatrics whenever possible.
The most difficult part of any relationship is learning how to argue. You must always remember that there are some things you can never take back. Once those words (or deeds) are out there, they're there to stay. If you're the type who gets really abusive at the slightest slight, you're going to find yourself alone. Your man is giving you a chance to have a professional coach you in the ways of fighting fair. I suggest you take him up on it before he coldcocks you to the curb.
Consult a professional. Write Dategirl at email@example.com or c/o Seattle Weekly, 1008 Western Ave., Ste. 300, Seattle, WA 98104.