I’ve been seeing my guy, “Joe,” for four months, and it’s been great! But last night on the phone, he started talking about a TV personality who I don’t like, and I said “He’s such a fraud and an asshole.” Immediately, Joe goes silent (his reaction when I say something he doesn’t like, I’m noticing) and I asked what the problem was. He said I invalidated his opinion with mine, and that I do it all the time, and it’s getting to the point where he doesn’t know if he can “do this” anymore because I talk to people in such a way that makes them not want to talk to me. He proceeds to explain this about 30 different ways over the course of the next hour, and I started to cry. As I’m crying on the phone, he says, “It’s obvious you’re upset. Maybe you can try to talk to people in such a way that isn’t so aggressive and opinionated.” He followed that up by telling me that his friends have even pointed out how opinionated and dismissive I am, so he knows what he’s saying is valid.
He said that one of the biggest reasons he was attracted to me is because of my intelligence, wit, and the way I speak my mind, but now it’s becoming a problem. He said he doesn’t want me to feel like I have to dumb myself down or not talk — he just wants me to be nicer (I guess?) and less opinionated during conversations. So, now I’m wondering: when does compromise become compromising yourself? I really dig the guy, and we’ve had zero problems before this, but I don’t know if I should just call it a day here, or if this can be fixed. Please help! — Complicated Communicator
So, this guy feels his opinions are validated when his friends agree with him but they’re invalidated when someone (you, for example) disagrees with him, is that right? And he thinks you’re the one with the problem? He thinks you need to change? Here’s a thought: instead of you learning how to treat this man-child with kid gloves so he doesn’t get his poor feewings hurt every time you have a differing opinion, he grows some thicker skin and learns how to effectively communicate in adult conversations where not everyone is going to think the exact same way he does about something.
If it were me, I’d take enormous offense at someone coaching me how to express myself by basically telling me, “All my friends think you’re a meanie, too!” As someone who is quite opinionated herself and has never had a difficult time expressing her opinions, perhaps this is a topic I’m a tad more sensitive about than others, but your boyfriend’s reaction reeks of passive-aggressive machismo bullshit that I would never in a million years tolerate from someone I was dating (or anyone else, for that matter). It would be one thing if his comment were something you’ve heard from others before. If a number of people who care about you have said something along the lines of, “Hey, it’s great that you’re so strong in your convictions, but sometimes you come across as a little intolerant of other people’s opinions,” then that would be something you’d want to take into consideration. Self-improvement for the sake of self-improvement is a wonderful thing. But changing something about yourself that, to your knowledge, hasn’t been an issue with anyone else you’re close to, just to appease some guy who seems to have control issues is all kinds of uncool.
I don’t know that I’d MOA right away, but I would definitely sit down and have a heart-to-heart with this guy and tell him him that you are who you are, you’re totally comfortable with the way you communicate, and if he has a problem with it then he needs to decide whether you’re someone he can continue being with as is, because you have no intention of changing the way you’ve always expressed yourself since it’s never caused a problem in any of your interpersonal relationships before him. The ball will be in his court then. If he can’t deal with a strong woman, his loss. There are plenty of malleable ladies out there desperate for a man’s love and attention whom he can mold into the obedient girlfriend he seems to want. Somehow, I don’t think you’re one of them. And luckily, there are also plenty of wonderful men out there who don’t need their friends’ validation to appreciate the strength of a bold woman. Here’s to all of us finding our appropriate matches.