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Avoiding Conflict
January 19, 2000
2:59 pm
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conflict
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My boyfriend and I have been having problems which have led to a breakup last weekend followed by a get back together. Here is the scoop: he says that i have problems because I am "critical and negative"....I say that we have communication problems because in every argument we dont understand each other. I suggested couples counseling but he says that the focus is on ME and that I am the one with problems.

He admits that he does not like conflict in his life. He is also from a household where no voices were raised, no arguments, and not much serious discussion or debate. I come from a household where we had family discussions to deal with issues and debated about politics and other topics of interest. That is how we learned from and about each other. He feels that when i debate about an issue i am bringing about conflict. This has caused him to refrain from telling me things about his life because he feels i will react with questions or want to talk about whats going on instead of just saying "that is great that you got a new job" and not asking what company, where, what is the position, etc.....i want to know these things...

the problem now is that i am in the position where he is convinced that I have a problem and I need help. And that he is fine and does not need to look at himself.

What to do?

January 19, 2000
3:10 pm
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eve
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I agree with you: I prefer open discussion of conflict to an illusionary harmony. And I had a partner, who was afraid of conflict for long enough to dread that situation. So if it helps: no, I don't think that you have the problem, or at least not only you have a problem.

But that dosen't get both of you into counseling. Do you think he might agree to go to couple counseling "for your sake", to help "you" with "your" problem? Or ist that not a way you would like.

January 19, 2000
3:28 pm
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conflict
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He says that I have the problem and likes the idea of me going to counseling to fix my problem. He says that if they ask for him to come in to get a better understanding of his view than he will but he has emphasized over and over again that he wants me to focus on ME and that I am the focus and the US will follow after I fix me.

My friends that I have known for 10, 18, and 5 years are all very concerned by these statements. They think that it takes 2 to tango and for him to be saying it is all me is weird. They know the type of person I am and consider me to be a positive happy person who is analytical and likes to give feedback when asked. I am successful and financially more successful than him, and he is 6 years older. He was out of work for a period and I tried my best to support him and help him find a job. Now he has a job and likes his job. HOwever, he still does not have a car (has not had one the whole time I have known him) which puts a strain on me. I knew he was saving and he told me he was going to buy a car buy the end of 1999. Well, no car yet....and he avoids the topic. This is one example of how he does not share his life with me and he claims that the reason he chooses not to tell me certain stuff is because he feels i will be critical or negative. The truth is that he knows that the car situation has been frustrating for me and I have been patient...so if he tells me "i haven't saved enough or the loan application didnt go through" of course I will be disappointed and want to find a solution.....he'd rather me just be positive and say "oh , dont worry you will get a car soon, i know it will work out for the best".....

thank you for your comments...i will continue to check..

January 20, 2000
9:17 am
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Cici
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Since he grew up in a household that didn't allow for a lot of interpersonal expressions of ohstility or aggression, do you think that he might just be misunderstanding your arguing style?

We define our immediate environment through our own biography PLUS social history (which includes the social circles we interact with). We see the world through glasses colored by our experiences and the norms that we were raised with. In a household where confrontation is not dealt with, any expression of anger or upset could be taken as hostility. Have you talked to him about this side of the issue?

January 20, 2000
12:30 pm
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conflict
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I have talked with him about it but because he gets feedback from his family and friends that agrees with his "side" that arguing or raised voices is a sign of an unhealthy relationship he points the finger at me and says I have problems. He observes how I talk with my parents and that I may disagree with my parents on any number of things and we talk and debate to hear each others opinions but he sees that as arguments....I see that as a way of learning from someone and about someone.

My friends think that he is not accepting his role in the relationship and that he is often over sensitive. He outwardly expresses that he is proud of his sensitivity and that it is a good quality along with him avoiding conflict because it leads to a happy pleasant life. I feel like I enjoy a happy life but it creates a huge distance between me and my partner if I can't openly express my view on something because he will take it as a personal attack. I suggested couples counseling to help us deal with communication issues and he gets frustrated because he thinks i am turning it around on him and that I have the problem. I bought a book that dealth with relationships and was very good, read through it, highlighted parts that hit me and gave it to him so that he could read it and discuss. He never mentioned it to me again. When I ask him about it during our breakup discussions, he says "I thought you were giving me that as a sign that I needed to read it adn I am not the one with the problem"...

Even more uncomfortable is I have felt awkward around his brother and his wife for as long as we have been together....He is very close to them and lives a block away...I brought it up after about 4 months that I feel uncomfortable because every time I see them it is hugs and "Hi how are you doing" and not another word after that. After 4 months, they had never asked me about me, didnt know where I worked, where my family lived, what I liked doing, etc. I felt distant to them. He said that it wasnt intentional and maybe cultural but I saw them talking to others about things at parties and gatherings....Well, he talked to them about it (a conflict which he didnt like doing) and then it was still weird but an occasional "so how is work"....after we broke up last weekend (for a day) he of course told them and they were supportive because they said that he was worried about conflict and tense all the time. When we got back together, their response was "well as long as she gets help and has someone to talk to it might help"...so now they think the problem is strictly me too!!!

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