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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey everyone! This is my first post to these forums. I'm glad that there are people out there willing to help and be helped by others!

To give you the just of my situation, I am 25, as is my boyfriend of nearly 3 years (this February). We have lived together since last November. He works full-time and I work part-time and go to graduate school full time. Needless to say, we are both busy individually.

Anyways, the problem I am having with him is not new. He is a very rational, solution-focused, wants-to-research-everything-for-months-before-he-buys, kind of unemotional, flat, down to earth, relaxed guy, altough he is very type-A and can be really anal about stuff. I'm a graduate student and have been in therapy for years now, working on my emotional growth. When we met, I thought "oh, he's just quiet, he'll open up eventually".

Well, here we are almost 3 years later and I literally have to pull teeth to get him to talk about what he is feeling. Whenever I am upset about something, he tries to give me solutions, when all I want is some validation of my feelings and to know he understands me. I have spoken with him on numerous occasions, not just when I am upset, about what I would like from him in the emotional department. He gets very defensive at that point, even though I am telling him what I NEED from HIM, not demanding him to do something. I think that is a reasonable request, especially considering the list of things he would like me to do (like do my dishes more often or take out the trash when it's full).

I'm feeling that, if we plan to get married, which we have talked about and made tentative plans about, I need to know that he is willing to work on our communication, emotional understanding, and emotional intimacy. Our conversations have no real "meat" to them. They are just superficial like "how was your day?" "fine, yours?" "good" "what are your plans for the weekend?", things like that. I'm not satisfied with "meatless" conversations or a lack of emotional understanding and intimacy.

Let me give you an example of what I DON'T want to happen anymore:

This week I was upset about something very significant that had happened to a family member. I came to my BF and told him what had happened and how I was feeling (I was frustrated, angry, and generally upset with my family member). Instead of saying, "wow, that sucks. I can't believe they did that again. Are you doing ok?" Instead I get "you can't control [family member's name]'s life, let them do what they want. you have done all you can to help them. you have no reason to be upset or mad at them since it's their life". Hmmm, that made me really defensive and I told him that he was responding in a way that was not what I needed and that I felt he did not understand how I was feeling or even comfort me when I needed to be comforted. I felt he was denying my feelings, like they were not acceptable or completely out of line for the situation (which they were not). We talked a bit, through my tears, that night, but never really came to a real understanding.

This is a lot of info, so read it over and ask me any questions if you need to know more. I hope someone out there can help me get my mind around this issue and figure out the best way to approach him, without him getting defensive and shutting down.

Thanks.
 

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Well, I can only say that your boyfriend sounds like my 49 year old husband. It took lots of work to get what I needed from him emotionally but we are still together and still very much in love. You might just have a diamond in the rough just waiting to be polished. I am almost the complete opposite of my husband. I don't research for days or months, I buy what I am looking for almost immediately. He could drive me crazy if I wanted him to, but I don't sweat the small stuff. I work on making our marriage work and so does he. I communicate, I am not a perfectist, although we both like some sort of order in our home and our things. I have experienced many weeks like you described above. I had to condition him to respond to me the way I needed him to. It is kind of funny now that I look back how much we changed and intertwined in a beautiful way. For me your boyfriend sounds like a keeper :) If he is a great guy in every other way, you can learn to apprieciate when he answers you with a solution that he is (in his own heart) supporting you emotionally. Best of luck.
 

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I think he means well, honestly. I read 'Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus' and the one thing that stood out to me from that book is that men are problem-solvers, they want to fix things. It's natural for them. Women are better commiserators.

Maybe counselling sessions would help you both communicate better,teach him how to share his feelings with you and empathise more.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
" I had to condition him to respond to me the way I needed him to. It is kind of funny now that I look back how much we changed and intertwined in a beautiful way. For me your boyfriend sounds like a keeper :) If he is a great guy in every other way, you can learn to apprieciate when he answers you with a solution that he is (in his own heart) supporting you emotionally. "

Thanks for your response, Happilymarried67. I am wondering what you did to "condition" you husband to respond to you how you needed? I have had many discussions with my BF about ways in which he could respond that would truly let me know he was "hearing" and "feeling" me. He does not like to talk about emotions and seems to get scared when I have an emotion, especially when I am sad or angry about something. I don't act crazy or anything when I am upset, so it is kind of bizarre to me that even a quite normative reaction to life stressors would make him so uncomfortable. You should see his face when I ask him if we could "have a chat"!!!!!

Anyways, I DO think he is a wonderful man, we have a lot in common and do tend to have fun together. He has challenged me to try new things and not be such a wuss about things. And yet, although I have let myself be vulnerable with him, trying new things and stepping out of my comfort zone on many occasions, I can't get him to "let me in" emotionally. I have been growing emotionally, especially in the last year since I have been to my own counseling, and I want him to be on the same level or at least close.

I plan on having a "chat" with him tonight. He was not liking the idea of doing it last night, because he said he would "be thinking of stuff all night", so he wouldn't sleep well. I agreed with him, it had been a long day for the both of us, so we postponed it until tonight or sometime this weekend. He asked what I wanted to talk about and I told him I wanted to talk about how to improve our communication skills and work on stuff in our relationship. And just to give everyone some perspective, we have done a couples "inventory" last year. We sat down and each wrote down what we needed/wanted in the relationship, both from the other and the relationship as a whole. We also talked about what each of us was willing to work on, for the good of the other person and the relationship. At that time, it really did help us, which is why we are still together now. I'm hoping that by doing something similar, our relationship can be helped again!

Any other suggestions would be great! Anybody have a suggestion on a couples workbook?
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I think he means well, honestly. I read 'Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus' and the one thing that stood out to me from that book is that men are problem-solvers, they want to fix things. It's natural for them. Women are better commiserators.

Maybe counselling sessions would help you both communicate better,teach him how to share his feelings with you and empathise more.
Adrift, I agree that men, in general, are conditioned to be problem solvers and tend to lack the same depth of emotion women can have. However, I know that men are CAPABLE of being emotional and sensitive, which my BF is, but he just doesn't know how to express it and/or is scared to express himself. I would LOVE to get him to attend some counseling with me, but I think I will need to take baby steps to get him to that point. I was thinking of having a chat with him and doing an inventory of our relationship, then maybe suggesting we get a couples workbook and do some exercises at home. In the future though, I think a third party would be able to really help us much more than a workbook or me trying to be the counselor (which, ironically, I am studying to become).

It's funny that you mentioned that "he means well" because I agree with that. He reacts in a way that is natural to him and does not know any other way. BUT, it's hard to believe/see that when I am upset and really just want to be supported and have my feelings validated by my mate. :(
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I would like to mention a few more things, just to vent, and maybe even get some more advice.

The BF just asked me if I wanted him to go pick up a movie for tonight or if we just wanted to watch something on tv. I said that I didn't care either way. I then said we could watch something or we could have a chat and he said, just a moment ago, "how long will it take?". I said that I didn't know. I personally don't give a rats how long it takes, so long as we work on our relationship together. It's not like he has anything going on this weekend, unlike me who works at 7am tomorrow morning. I said "you seem uncomfortable about having this conversation with me" and he said "no, I'm not uncomfortable. what is it about anyways?". As to which I replied that I would like to do an inventory of our relationship, with both our wants and needs and make sure we are on the same page, etc. and are working on things that we decide need to be worked on. He was like "ok, I'm going to the store now".

Any thoughts on what I should do? I just want to talk to him, but he obviously doesn't want to.
 

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Soul seeker...it seems like me you are thinking a lot about your relationship..my husband behaves in exactly the same way..as most other men...reading so many other post....
my point is..we women tend to think a lot about our relationships...we are 100 % committed so feel the bf or the husband should also verbally tell us their commitment to us...but in 90% cases it does not happen that way...and when he is not saying the things you want him to say to you...you get angrier with every situation...even the ones you used to enjoy with him....

What I would advice is...RELAX.
Your boyfriend seems to be a nice guy...maybe just a little lazy showing his feeling the way you want to see them...
but for a minut forget everything and see what he does for you...every person has his own way of showing love...it might be the gentle way he wake up...so as not to distrub you..or calling you often to know what you are doing...or even asking you for something to do together..that show he cares...
relax and think...I am sure you will be happier not by moulding him the way you want but by appreciating the person he is...
 
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