My Boyfriend Wants to Marry Me, But He Is So Draining When We Fight.

My Boyfriend Wants to Marry Me, But He Is So Draining When We Fight

Hi Evan!

In one of your posts you said, “If men have one complaint about women, it’s that every detail of a relationship needs to be dissected and analyzed to death.” Well, in my relationship, that’s my boyfriend, NOT me. Every time there’s an issue he needs to go back to it and pick it apart. Every time I say, “hey this thing you do is annoying”, he won’t want to have a general conversation about it, he’ll want me to dig deep into the archives and pull out a ton of examples. It is always what I consider a menial issue. He’s a sweet guy. He’s very attentive, very kind, giving, and a good listener, but this argument style makes him so unmasculine to me and seriously puts my attraction in question. He has expressed to me that he wants us to get married but I don’t know if this is something I can get through. Do you think the good outweighs the bad here? Or is this a reason to walk…

Hana

ANY reason is a reason to walk.

Really. It is. Whatever you turn into a dealbreaker can become a dealbreaker.

I think what you’re asking is whether this is a valid dealbreaker or not.

Such decisions are highly personal.

In general, I separate valid dealbreakers from invalid ones with a simple formula:

How important is it in the grand scheme of things? Can I live with the status quo for the rest of my life?

Let’s consider a few examples where reasonable people can disagree.

How important is this?

A friend of mine is married to a woman who never performs oral sex. To him, this is something that is negotiable. To me, it was not. I’m having sex with one person for the rest of my life; the least I can do is enjoy it.

Another friend of mine insists on marrying someone Jewish. To him, this is important. To me, it’s not. My wife can believe whatever she wants as long as she doesn’t impose her religion on me. I don’t need likeminded. I need agreeable. Again, a personal decision.

You don’t owe this guy a lifetime commitment just because he’s kind and giving. You should feel buoyed in his presence, not drained.

I just had lunch with a guy who insists on dating women under 30 because he wants children. I get it. But pointed out to him that my wife had kids at 41 and 42 and my sister just had her second child at 40. Since I was more flexible with my deal breakers, I had a lot more women to choose from.

We can go on with this forever.

Do you want a man over six feet tall? Sure. Do you NEED a man over six feet tall? Probably not.

Tall is attractive, but tall men are not nicer, more flexible, more sensitive, or better communicators. They are just better able to change lightbulbs.

Can I live with the status quo for the rest of my life?

It’s a similarly personal choice, but I think the answer is a little clearer.

My wife is perpetually late. I don’t love it, but I choose to deal with it. I’d rather be with my late wife than single and looking for someone JUST like my wife who is not late.

I am very argumentative. My wife doesn’t love it, but she chooses to deal with it. She’d rather be married to me than on Match.com, trying to find a similarly bright and ambitious guy who is less opinionated.

That’s how marriages work.

Let’s assume this guy will be this way for the rest of his life. If you can deal with that, stay. If you can’t, leave. There is no third option.

The issue with your boyfriend, Hana, seems to run a little bit deeper. This isn’t about the clothes he wears, the music he listens to, or the way he leaves his dishes in the sink.

This is about everything.

Your boyfriend is anxious and insecure. This affects your respect for him, your attraction to him, and the way you interact as a couple. In short, anxious and insecure people – however nice they might be – tend to be a real energy drain. They’re hypersensitive to everything and while they’re technically entitled to dissect every word you say and constantly talk “about us,” you’re equally entitled to find a partner who doesn’t carry himself this way.

In other words, you don’t owe this guy a lifetime commitment just because he’s kind and giving. You should feel buoyed in his presence, not drained.

I know that anxious and insecure people will disagree, just as mentally ill people disagreed with me when I wrote that healthy people with choices will usually choose other healthy people.

Listen, I don’t know you from Adam. I don’t know if you’re constantly tearing him down with various “you’re annoying” comments, which would make you equally hard to live with. Maybe you’re the nitpicker and he’s merely defending himself. Maybe if he wrote me this email, I’d tell him to dump you and your constant negativity. That’s the limits of giving advice to anonymous strangers.

But I stand on my initial premise:

Let’s assume this guy will be this way for the rest of his life.

If you can deal with that, stay.

If you can’t deal with that, leave.

There is no third option.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Stacy

    Evan, your advice is on point!

    I would add that I have found that fighting styles or the way someone deals with conflict has great bearing on my happiness and satisfaction. I would think it is so for most. So, a man who you find draining when you fight because he has to dissect and pull apart everything because of his anxiety?…Eh…this would personally be a dealbreaker for me.  And, most habits become even MORE annoying over time. If you are losing respect for him now, what would it be like in 5 years?

    Unless the boyfriend understands fully that this is an issue and completely willing to work on this, resolve and change, I would be out of there.

  2. 2
    Fusee

    My whole dating experience and now marriage made me conclude that the most important relationship skill to master for a happy and healthy long-term relationship is being able to resolve conflict effectively and in a way that leaves the couple more bonded afterwards.

    For this, basic individual skill is necessary (ability to listen deeply, non-defensiveness, willingness to recognize own contribution, ability to apologize and compromise, etc) as well as compatibility as a couple in how to resolve their conflicts (what constitutes conflict, resolution process, time frame to resolve disagreements, etc).

    I had to learn both aspects the hard way, as I was quite defensive and uncompromising when I was younger. Once I got better, I made sure to screen potential partners for these qualities and found myself a well intentioned, non-defensive, and compromising hubby. So I’d suggest to date for a while to figure out if you and your partner have adequate conflict-resolution skills, get a chance to learn what’s missing if needed, and explore whether you are compatible as a couple; not getting into too many disagreements in the first place and being able to resolve any conflict that arise effectively.

    The Letter Writer and her partner don’t seem compatible in that regard. They don’t seem to agree on what is actually a conflict, they do not seem to agree on how to resolve them, and the Letter Writer gets drained in the process. Unless they sit down and (agree to!) hash out a plan to resolve future disagreements in a way that works for both parties, this relationship will continue to drain the LW’s love bank, and you don’t want to marry with a love bank in the red.

  3. 3
    L.A Randle

    It might seem a little odd to many people, but let me be the one to tell you that some couples have a hard time overlooking the small “irk me” characteristics of their significant other. This boggles my mind. A person will be able to list about a thousands things that they love about their partner, and then list one thing that make them so upset. Then they allow this one thing to be a deal breaker.

    I truly believe that this is one reason why so many people are single, and alone. The pros should always out weight the cons. And when it comes to overlooking certain aspects of your relationship, I think excepting the crap that doesn’t matter will create a healthier relationship. Seek to find harmony in the things that matter the most, not the things that don’t.

    I talk about the art of arguing on Sexy Loving Him. And one of the things I talk about is not bringing up old stuff that has nothing to do with the argument. Avoid over analyzing the argument because all that will do is create more problems.

  4. 4
    Michelle H.

    I say Run!!!  I once dated a guy like that (rare, considering that most guys prefer NOT to discuss relationship intricacies). As nice and doting as he was, his behavior eventually led to borderline emotional / psychological abuse. No exaggeration!

    In his case, he had been cheated on, and regardless that I am a faithful woman, he just could not trust to save his life.

    Please… Take care of yourself.  I learned that even though someone isn’t physically hitting you, there are SUBTLER forms of control which are unhealthy, childish and unacceptable from a balanced adult partner.

    You wouldn’t be asking the question if everything felt good to you. Trust yourself… or else!

  5. 5
    L

    Very good advice.  I would only add that the way someone fights is a huge deal.  Marriage will involve conflict and how well you address and resolve conflict is a key indicator of marital happiness and success.  So, if you feel that you aren’t resolving conflict well, then that is a clear deal breaker to me.

  6. 6
    Cherry

    Evan,

    Is therapy a third option? Can insecure and anxious people change if they work with a psychologist?

    Do you think doing couple therapy before marriage makes sense? Or is it fair to say, that if a couple needs therapy before marriage that it is better to find someone else?

  7. 7
    sunflower

    A healthy relationship should be easy going.  Yes, there will be times of conflict and negotiation, but the overall footprint should make you happy and feel at peace.  If you’re partner or prospective partner causes you a lot of stress (which in the long run can put your physical health at risk), then you might want to rethink your future with this person.

  8. 8
    Max

    I am just curious how it follows from the original e-mail that the guy is anxious and insecure. Is it the typical reaction to criticism for such people? May be the OP’s complaints are very vague and require elaboration and examples to be able to find a compromise? Of course, if it extends to minor things, then it is probably not the case. But on the other hand, there are bigger issues, if they are arguing about minor things.

  9. 9
    Sabina Luyaali

    In a relationship both parties should be in agreement and comfortable with each other. If you cant put up with his negative energy that drains you then dump him. Marriage is a lifetime affair.

  10. 10
    Russell

    The best part of Evan’s response was near the end, where he correctly points out that we aren’t getting the whole story here.  So his advice can only speak to what she claims, but may not necessarily be the correct advice to her because the truth of the matter may be different.  His advice is spot on if her version is the absolute truth.  And, you can even say that even if she isn’t being 100% honest, it can still be perfectly correct, because if she isn’t happy, she should move on.

     

    From my personal experience, it could very well be that SHE is the problem, not him, and if she can’t figure that out, it is still better for her to move on.  For instance, maybe his annoying things are completely innocent and the problem is with HER insecurities, and or, it is HER inability to not make mountains out of mole hills that is the problem.  Maybe arguing with him is draining because he is very good at pointing these things out, but she doesn’t want to “lose” the arguments and it is draining to her because she can’t win.

     

    An example would be that maybe he is just an extrovert, so when they go to parties together, he is in his element, and has an awesome time talking to people.  She sees him engaging in animated conversations, which is fine when it is with guys, but when she sees women in the group, obviously enjoying his company, it makes her feel insecure.  My ex was that way.  So she confronts him later and says that it annoys her how he flirts with every woman at the parties they go to.  He is like, “Excuse me?”  And then he starts asking for examples.  Each time she provides one, he can easily explain how she is wrong, that he was never flirting.  Her, “Yeah but when I walked up while you were talking to those three girls and one guy, everybody stopped talking and looked guilty.  You were all laughing and enjoying yourselves until I walked up.”  Him, “Yeah, that’s because you had a scowl on your face that a blind man could see.”

     

    Either way, Evan’s advice is correct because whether he is to blame or she is to blame is somewhat irrelevant.  The only thing that changes is how they go about fixing the problem.  If the problem can’t be fixed, the advice is still relevant because it is best for them to find somebody that they can communicate with in a healthy manner, and if she is the problem, the guy would thank Evan in the future for saving him a lot of pain and heartache, because their problems would only get worse with marriage.

  11. 11
    Josie

    The mere fact that Hana is questioning her attraction to him and his “argument style” points to deeper issues.  It sounds to me as though they have inherently incompatible communications styles.  Reminds me of my ex.  I would ask him nicely to take the load of clean and dried laundry out of the dryer (his habit was to do a load, then just leave it in the dryer for days then re-wash because it had become so wrinkled or musty-smelling) and then he would make it about how I “nagged” or “picked on him.”   Well, no, nagging would be if I asked him 3 times in an hour.  I asked once, then I had to move his laundry out of the way if I wanted to do a load.  “Picking on him” would have been a justified response only if I had actually launched into a series of personality critiques based on leaving the laundry in the dryer.

    The fact that the guy takes every little request or disagreement as a personal affront or “threat to the relationship” seems to smack of insecurity and an unhealthy attachment style.

    1. 11.1
      Russell

      It is pretty silly to keep rewashing clothes instead of just folding them the first time.  But, be a little forgiving here Josie.  I think there really is an epidemic of men who in a lot of ways, just feel, “what’s the point.”  It’s why so many men are committing suicide.

       

      If you run into a similar situation, try this.  Men love to work in teams.  We do it in most sports we grew up playing, we do it in the military, and we do it on many jobs.

       

      So let’s say you want for there to be sharing of the cooking duties.  Instead of doing it like the laundry, where he simply has his things he is supposed to do, join with him and do it together.  Every night.  Instead of alternating who cooks, just cook together every night.  If he isn’t making a move, ask him if he will come out and help you cook.  If he puts you off, saying that he wants to finish watching the game, or movie, or news, handle this non-confrontationally.  Try this.  Simply say to him in a light tone that this is fine, and that you can wait until the show is over.  If need be, add in a little white lie stating that you aren’t very hungry.  If you are, sneak out of the house and go grab a snack to tide you over.  Wait him out.  If he wants to eat, he will help.  Right?  But you have to do it with patience, and kindness, and encouragement, not brow beating, or stern looks.  In a way, he has to see it as his idea to begin the task.  But in reality, he doesn’t really have a choice if he wants to eat.

       

      But, I suspect there was deeper issues with the ex.  Maybe it wasn’t really either person’s fault, but just a reaction to the fact that he felt as if he wasn’t appreciated.  Men can feel appreciated in a variety of ways, and I don’t think this is much different than what women experience.  A man can make you feel appreciated by listening to you and being involved in your life.  He can give you simple affection.  He can be there for you when you need support in some manner.  Maybe a shoulder to cry on, etc…  He can make you feel appreciated by cooking a special meal for you.  Or maybe he takes care of your car, checking tire pressure, fluid levels, lights, etc.. and doing it on a regular basis.  OR HE CAN JUST DO THINGS FOR YOU.

       

      Maybe your guy just felt like he had to do everything for himself, and resented it.  Maybe he is an “Acts of Service” guy, which means he feels loved when you are doing things for him.  I don’t know what you did or did not do for him, but maybe he was hoping that if he kept messing it up, you would just take over and do it for him.  Maybe this was him acting out because in reality, he didn’t feel loved, being an acts of service guy.  I feel fairly certain that had he taken that love language quiz, his primary love language, or second one, would have been acts of service.

       

      I’ve told it here before but I will tell it again for you.  My XO (second in command) in one of my squadrons in the Navy, gave me some marriage advice.  he said he and the wife had an agreement regarding the Christmas tree.  One person puts it up the day after Thanksgiving, and the other person takes it down New Years day.  Following year it is reversed.  So he had put the tree up, and then New Years Day came and went, and the tree was still up.  The next day he asked his wife if she was going to get to the tree, and she said yes.  A week later it is still up.  He asked again, and again was told yes.  Rinse and repeat another week, or two, and finally, he just decided to take it down himself.  He said he made a conscious decision, however.  He said he decided that it was simply much more important to him that the tree come down.  So he chose not to make an issue of it.  He said he chose just to take it down and not make any fuss, or even bring it up to her.  She of course noticed, and both apologized and thanked him for taking it down, and she told her not to worry about  it, he didn’t mind, and it was no big deal.  The next day, she did something nice for him.  Don’t remember what it was.  So he told me that if he had wanted to, he had all the moral authority to make an issue of it and point out to her what a failure she was in this instance.  He could have pointed out that he always took it down on time, and that he had put the tee up.  But he asked what that would accomplish?  He said that instead of creating bad blood in the relationship, he instead created a bonding moment by just doing her chore for her.  In short, it was an act of service.  And she noticed and was thankful for it.  I am sure it made her feel more bonded to him.  In my opinion, a strong bond is created one loving act at a time.  It’s everything from soft affection, to doing a chore, to listening to him/her, to turning off the phone when on a date, and doing it openly so the other person feels the love in that act.  Every moment of strife tears away at the bond.

       

      They claim that for a relationship to be healthy you have to have some fights.  Horse pucky.  Fights can and do tear away at the bond.  I do understand the concept behind that train of thought.  The opposite of that is not addressing issues that need to be addressed, creating a powder keg that blows.  IMHO the fights are actually those powder kegs.  What is healthiest in a relationship is to resist fighting, resist lashing out, and instead find a way to use I messages to talk out problems before they become big problems, or fights.  Here’s a good example if we were in a relationship.  You come at me and say, “You don’t respect me.”  Bzzzt.  Wrong answer.  It’s a false statement.  What would be correct is if you were to say, “I don’t feel respected.”  That’s a true statement and is non-confrontational because you did not accuse me.  You simply pointed out a true statement, which is that YOU do not feel respected.  Nobody can tell you how you feel, so if you say you don’t feel respected, then that is not debatable.  Now all that is left to do is to figure out why you don’t feel respected.  If I do respect you, then somewhere along the line, the message is not making it through.  That could be all my fault, all your fault, or both of us.  Figuring out what the cause is may or may not be easy, but it will be a whole lot easier because nobody’s feeling were hurt, nobody had to jump to the defensive, etc…  The two people can get on with the problem solving instead of wasting time assigning blame, or defending one’s honor.

       

      A fight may be better than pretending a problem isn’t a problem, but it is not necessary for a healthy relationship.  It is actually a negative, and is damaging.  Too many and you now have strife, and that is death to a relationship.  If you see fighting in the relationship as healthy, it is very easy to take it too far and end up in a relationship where all you do is fight, and end up feeling like roommates.

       

      It’s just food for thought.

      1. 11.1.1
        Josie

        You make some good points, Russell.  However, after some time out of that relationship, I have carefully observed my friends’ relationships and honestly my ex WAS self-centered.  I observed my friends’ husbands and boyfriends taking on chores more voluntarily, displaying a clear desire to anticipate their partner’s needs.

        Rather than identifying his issues earlier on and ending the relationship when I should have, I did more than my fair share to support the relationship and “household”, and all in all it was an unhealthy partnership.   He was able to keep me “guessing” and proceeding under the assumption that things were going OK.   It was all evidence of the dysfunctional “avoidant (him) / anxious (me) ” relationship that EMK so insightfully pointed out in today’s post.

        Also, lost me here:

        ” If he puts you off, saying that he wants to finish watching the game, or movie, or news, handle this non-confrontationally.  Try this.  Simply say to him in a light tone that this is fine, and that you can wait until the show is over.  If need be, add in a little white lie stating that you aren’t very hungry.  If you are, sneak out of the house and go grab a snack to tide you over.  Wait him out.  If he wants to eat, he will help.  Right?  But you have to do it with patience, and kindness, and encouragement, not brow beating, or stern looks.  In a way, he has to see it as his idea to begin the task.  But in reality, he doesn’t really have a choice if he wants to eat.”

         

        The above suggestion smacks of passive aggressiveness and the kind of manipulation that I desire to avoid in my next relationship.

         

        1. Russell

          It sounds like your ex was just lazy.

           

          As for the second part, it’s not passive aggressive, it’s calling his bluff on one hand, if they are bluffing, but also letting the person know that you are willing to wait for them, instead of demanding it be done on your timeline.  This is something some women do.  Right in the middle of a game, they want to pull you away from it.  I can never tell if it is a shit test, or whether they are just being selfish.  I don’t know one woman who wouldn’t get mad if you constantly try to pull them away from their favorite shows.  You usually get a, “I will do it later” response.

  12. 12
    SAL9000

    Hmmm. I don’t get that he’s anxious/insecure/”unmasculine” at all. What I’m reading is she likes to lob bombs and doesn’t want to stick around for the aftereffects. If you judge someone make sure you’re reading to defend yourself. With men, when we’re told we’re doing something wrong, we want resolution (whether that is to fix it or deny it ;)) and that typically doesn’t happen with a “general discussion.” We will want specifics.

    I think there is another larger issue at play. IME when women constantly nitpick it’s a lot of times not about that actual thing. If she carries on with “you don’t take out the garbage on time” and “you don’t mow the lawn enough” lots of times it has nothing to do with the garbage or the lawn. She is usually subconsciously complaining about other larger issues at play such as his lack of direction or achievement in life. Thing is it’s much easier to nitpick than to have that larger discussion, thus the brain subconsciously defaults to the former . This inherent conundrum, in addition to the lob-and-run tactic, is contributing to the letter writer’s angst.

    Or, at least that’s my read on it.

  13. 13
    J

    Great point Evan.   You hit the mark.  I was in a very similar relationship and couldn’t handle how he and I had disagreements.  He was very draining and we couldn’t have a constructive and productive argument to save our life.  It was NOT worth it.  Walk away and find someone who is better suited for you.  There are so many men out there who are level headed and sane, my ex definitely was not one of them.  Save yourself some time and find happiness.

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