06
Feb
17

My Response to C (Carolyn Hax)

*****

You can find my response to this and other letters, now available for your viewing and opinion, on the designated page

But, while you’re here, have a read.

C, a man–young or old, I don’t know–is being torn apart by his girlfriend and her parents (not literally). It’s a case of “micromanagement” in which every little thing the guy does seems to be wrong and any attempt on his part to counter the accuser(s) is returned with denial.

Carolyn Hax reasonably has little in the way of advice to offer this seemingly dire situation. She does make one good point about filtering what C allows to happen/direct himself. I opt to inquire about a possible missing piece to the story and propose my own strategy for a final effort.

——-

C, from your account of the situation, I’d be inclined to hit the EJECT button and get as far away from those people as possible. I know those people.

However, a tiny voice inside my head presents a hint of doubt. Why, if you are so happy together, would you even need to suggest ways to improve anything other than in self-defense of this “micromanaging?” Could you be coloring details in your favor? Hearing the situation in her own words would definitely improve comprehension.

You DID say you two have had “many happy times” and are “quite compatible in most fundamental ways.” But…ummm…can you explain those terms? Fundamental ways? What are we talking about here? Your body parts fit together nicely? You can share a bed without discomfort? You have great sex but define this as “functioning well together?” You get along while washing dishes by hand?

If she goes so far as to take action when you’re not around, invading your personal space and attempting to alter your lifestyle choices, then there is no getting around this. You either stand up to her or evacuate.

If every detail is as you describe it, understand that you will not likely ever be friends with her parents and should consult your girlfriend about how much time she intends on spending with them, if any. [Sometimes, a safe distance from a source of negative radiation can ease the tension and reduce the impulse to nag.]

Regardless, I will offer a few desperate strategies to stay “in the fight.”

Strategy #1: Be like water. Maybe you could try letting her demands slide rather than confronting her. The next time she corrects you, just nod or say, “Yep. Sure. You’re right.” And, walk away without giving her the impression she has bothered you. Don’t undo what you did or correct it. Let her do whatever makes her happy. If this begins to leave you short of breath or if she goes one step further, take a deep breath and tell her this ends now.

Strategy #2: Redirect the negatives into positives. Think of a martial artist catching a flying fist and redirecting it away from his/her body, wasting the opponent’s energy away until the desire to fight is gone. Maybe some of her suggestions aren’t so bad. If there’s any chance you could say, “Hey, that could work. Thanks for the tip,” you’re one step closer to resolving the obstruction in your relationship. However, if she’s poked you so many times, already, that you’re nerve endings are sparking or dead, you’ll likely compare this to drinking bleach.

Strategy #3: Confront the bear in the woods. What is that wild animal survival guides say should be confronted by making yourself look big? Maybe you have been a limp noodle so long that people like your girlfriend and her parents make mince meat out of you. Perhaps this upheaval is a wake-up call to “grow a pair” and defend yourself. Do not fence with them. Do not simply retaliate with “their own medicine.” This might be a case in which two wrongs definitely don’t make a right. But, maybe by displaying a backbone and not backing down–similar to what Carolyn said toward the end of her response–you will dazzle the gal (and her parents) with your resolve, and the claws will retract. Be confident in your choices (unless you are just as likely to be guilty of obsession, addiction, etc.). [If you are defending a desire to stack beer cans in a living room, then she has every right to fuss.]

Strategy #4: Play the therapist. Seize an opportunity to discuss her childhood in a comfortable setting. Perhaps you two are reading the newspaper while relaxing in the living room. Inject a question. “Honey? Were your parents exceptionally strict with you?” See where that goes. Follow up with one or more of the following. “Did they expect perfection? Is that why you find fault with the smallest of details? Do you aspire to be like your parents?” Of course, phrasing is touchy at best. Your choice of words will definitely affect impact. And, this could go the wrong way, easily. But, if it does–if she bristles and counters–calmly end the session and either continue sharing space quietly or excuse yourself by saying, “I’ll be (where?). Come talk with me when you’ve calmed yourself down.”

[A fifth strategy that comes to mind would be a scheduled period of separation to see if she softens when confronted with your absence. But, if she really is such a “control freak,” I doubt this would have any impact other than showing your desire to retreat. Even my first strategy is a form of resilience in the line of fire.]

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