Just Moved in and Ready to Send Him Packing
June 11, 2007 Ask Dr. Love Advice Column
I am hoping that you can offer some advice for my situation. My boyfriend & I have been together for a year now, and we have just moved in together. The last month or so I have started to have my doubts about our relationships future.
My initial reaction was to ignore them, thinking that with time they would just go away, but so far, they haven't, and seem to be getting stronger. One of the things that I think has added to this problem is the fact that I have just returned from an overseas trip with my family, on which I received quite a bit of attention from other guys, and I've got to be honest I didn't mind it one bit, since my current man isn't great at giving compliments & the like.
However, now that I've returned, I'm starting to notice more & more things about him that annoy me. Even the things I used to like about him annoy me. We have also started arguing quite a lot about little things but only because he always has to be the one to make a decision (like on where a picture should go on the wall) and though we've talked about compromise, I am not seeing any progress in the actual compromising 'actions'.
I know this sounds pretty bad but my problem is that we've just moved in together & we also work together, and it's not as easy as 'just end it'.
How can I get him to listen to me? Is there hope for this relationship? I need your help.
It's Not So Easy to End It
You have more than one issue with your boyfriend. I would lump all your complaints into the general category--he isn't responsive to you. Specifically, he doesn't compliment you enough and he's controlling and rigid rather than collaborative.
The bottom line is you're angry, and as a result you are now finding fault with many of his qualities. The problem is that you have more than one gripe and if you mention everything in one discussion (the Kitchen Sinking Open Warfare Fight Trap) he's going to feel dumped on and will likely become defensive rather than responsive.
Therefore, I would suggest picking one issue; you can discuss the other issues during future talks. When you talk to him, don't blame or criticize, stay cool and use my proven method. Start by Knocking on His Door, to make sure he's available and then deliver what I call your Ice Breaker. This sounds like: 'Honey, I have something important to discuss with you. Are you free now?'
If he says, no, then pick a time that 's mutually convenient.
If he says yes, start off with a Disclaimer, a positive statement that praises him for a quality that you admire, ideally a quality that will help you in the upcoming discussion. Next deliver what I call the Disclaimer, which is a statement that takes his ego off the hook, gives him the benefit of the doubt, and lets him know that you aren't out to attack him or deprive him of vital bodily parts.
For example, 'I've always admired what a good problem solver you are, and I think I haven't encouraged you to use this skill to help us (or something similar).
When his dukes are down, he'll be more willing to work with you rather than fight you. Only say what you really think and feel. Here's an example of a Disclaimer that might be right for you: I know what a kind person you are and that you would never intentionally do or say anything to hurt me.'
Now state your issue using my X, Y formula. This is a concise Problem Statement (the XY Formula), which consists of saying, I feel X (hurt, sad, angry, scared, etc. ), when Y (description of the action or behavior that bothers you) is said or done. I would intentionally avoid the word YOU in order to minimize the risk that he feels personally attacked.
Your Problem Statement (the X, Y Formula) would sound like: I feel hurt (undesired) when I'm not romanced on a regular basis. Now finish with the Suggestion for the Future: And I would feel so happy to be told what is loving or attractive about me.
This is your best shot at getting him to hear what you're saying. I suspect that he's been feeling blamed and criticized by you. Then he becomes angry and doesn't feel like responding to you. You become more angry and blaming and voila vicious cycle time. Stay cool no matter how hurt and angry you are, use my X, Y Formula and you'll break the cycle.
As for the other issue, that of his not considering you in the decision making process, use the same formula as above. Knock, issue your Ice Breaker, Disclaimer, and use the XY Formula, finishing with a Suggestion for the Future.
You can dig your way out of the mess. It will take discipline on your part not to rip his throat out. Keep in mind that you, like most people, have unknowingly had a hand in helping him be unresponsive to you. Of course you never learned the above formula --it's not taught in school!
So each time you've tried to 'talk' to him, he's felt attacked and blamed and was unwilling to listen and respond. So pull the plug on the past, and begin talking to him in a way that will work. Stay cool and use my formula. This will encourage him to want to hear and respond to you.
When he responds, praise him for his efforts, however small, and he'll be encouraged to continue doing what you like. By the way, even if you break up, you will find yourself in this same predicament with your next partner. So why not learn how to communicate your needs with him?
If, God forbid, he's a lost cause, which I doubt, your learning won't have been in vain. You'll take your skills with you to your next relationship.
Let me know how you make out.
"If anger and fighting are ruining your dream of a happy marriage, Dr. Turndorf’s conflict resolution program is for you."
-- John Gray,
Author of NY Times #1 bestseller Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus
"This well-researched book offers a thorough, step-by-step program that provides tools for couples to heal even the most troubled relationships."
-- Dr. John Mack
Pulitzer Prize winning author and Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School
“This book is mandatory reading for every couple that wants to build lasting love.”
-- John Bradshaw,
Author of NY Times #1 bestseller Homecoming
"Dr. Turndorf is an amazing individual who has wonderful advice to offer men and women of all ages and in all types of relationships. Ignore her counsel at your peril!"
-- Bill Hammond III,
Winner of the Best Historical Fiction Award, 2012
"You are awesome Dr. Jamie. You really are. The best part about you is the way you translate complex psychological stuff into easy to understand and actionable insights."
-- Kajay Williams,
Producer Relationship Advice Cafe
"Let me tell you why you're extremely important now. I really believe your message is there. You're spot on. More and more people should be taking advantage of what you're offering."
-- Michael Dresser,
Syndicated Radio Host
"Good stuff. Great insight. I love your approach. Who doesn't need more healing. I love your idea of using your partner as a healing agent. That's such a great way to see your partner. You give great labels and patterns to look for. I love your method. You make it sound so easy. You have a great website with lots of great information and resources. These are the tools we all need."
-- Dr. Matt Townsend,
Host, The Matt Townsend Show