I’m just saying…
Anyway, it’s time for a little reader mail:
Your honesty article hit close to home and made me wonder what your perspective is in regards to honesty in long term dating situations.
I recently ended a dating situation because although he was honest about dating other people, after 9 months of dating he still wanted to continue to see other people. After initally telling me he was trying to see where this was going, I waited patiently a few more months only to hear him say, “maybe I am not ready for what you are ready for”. It also seemed that his once complimentary nature had changed. “You look cute” and “I enjoy spending time with you” turned into “maybe you should start doing sit ups” and “your arms and thighs are beginning to look bigger”. If anything, I have lost weight since I began dating him.
I initially took these to be minor critiques and thought he may have a point and began doing the situp thing, but he was continual with his comments and it just seemed like I could do nothing right or there was always something wrong with my appearance. Anyway, I ended it and his response was that he never wants to speak with me again.
What do you think of these types of critiques in a relationship? When do they become criticisms?
Thanks for your thoughtful note and kudos to you from getting away from Mr. Critical. If there is one thing in the entire world that drives me nuts, it’s people like him. I know nothing about you, but I’m confident that you’re a lot better off without him than with him.
As far as how I feel about these types of critiques, I’ve written about this extensively, most notably in a chapter from “Why You’re Still Single” called “I’m Sorry, We Don’t Make Change”.
In it, I distinguish between constructive and destructive criticism. Constructive criticism is criticism that is being offered for the benefit of the other person. Destructive criticism is everything else. Unless you’re asking for genuine feedback – “Honestly, does this dress flatter me or not?” – your boyfriend’s job is to keep his mouth shut about things he doesn’t like. It’s not that he’s not entitled to his opinion; it’s not that his opinion is wrong – it’s that as your boyfriend, he’s supposed to be the one who loves you unconditionally. And part of unconditional love is keeping quiet about your partner’s perceived flaws. If he thinks they’re too great, he should get out of the relationship. But to be with you for nine months and tell you all the ways in which you could stand to improve? That’s unhealthy – for both of you. He needs to be with someone he feels less critical about. You need to be with someone less critical of you.
My girlfriend is extraordinary in a number of ways, but especially in her ability to live and let live. She doesn’t pretend I’m perfect, she just doesn’t call my attention to all of my imperfections all the time. I greatly appreciate her for that.
In fact, I just had lunch with a friend whose girlfriend is always trying to impose her will on him, and he’s had it. Too much tinkering. Too little peace. Sure, relationships may take work, but this stuff is the easy stuff. Be nice to your partner, the way you’d want your partner to be nice to you. That’s it. Yet the desire to mold our boyfriends and girlfriends seems to be stronger than the desire to be in a supportive, peaceful relationship.
Finally, the fact that he never wants to speak with you again speaks volumes about him.
Good riddance, Mr. Critical. Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.