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Love Letters

When we fight, he calls me names that make me cry

How do I get him to understand how his words make me feel?

My boyfriend and I have been together for almost two years. For the most part, our relationship has been wonderful. He’s very supportive of my career goals, and enjoys spending time with my friends and family. We fully agree on how we’d like our future to look (house, kids, pets, our careers, finances, etc.).

What I struggle with are the words my boyfriend uses when we argue. He often calls me “childish” and “emotional” and refuses to understand the impact his words have on me. When I get frustrated or upset, I tend to cry, which I know can be annoying. I have been working on remaining calmer during arguments/disagreements and reminding myself that not every situation is worth the tears. I try to understand where he’s coming from — he was bullied through his childhood and often has trouble expressing his emotions — but it’s hard for me to not have him acknowledge how these words can make me feel.

What could be a good approach for helping him understand my feelings? Is couples counseling even an option at the two-year mark, so early on?

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– Where to go from here?

A. Couples counseling is always an option. You don’t have to think of it as a symbol of doom. Sometimes, it’s like a class where you can learn tools to be a better partner. You can go (or Zoom) in and say, “We have one bad pattern that keeps happening when we fight. Teach us how to bicker in a more respectful way.” It sounds like that’s all you need.

To me, there’s a big difference between “childish” and “emotional.” You are emotional — and there’s nothing wrong with that. Emotions are good. I do understand how the tears might be confusing. Your boyfriend might need help navigating that reaction and understanding its meaning.

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Also, know that you can press pause on a conversation. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by a conflict, tell him you need a moment to regroup, and then walk away to breathe. He might need that time, too. It sounds like the crying is directly related to frustration, and sometimes all a person needs is a few minutes to recover. Talk to him about knowing when — and how — to force a break, so you can reset for better communication.

– Meredith

READERS RESPOND

You’ve been called “childish” and “emotional.” Well, are you? If you can’t handle a disagreement without tears, I believe this is on you. LEFTYLUCY

For what it’s worth, it doesn’t seem like he is kind to you. ANONYMOUSFRIEND

I think a relationship is far more impacted by the way people fight than the way they are when things are good. Counseling would be a good idea. Also, stop shaming yourself for having and expressing emotions. HELLOWORLD13

I used to cry a lot, too. But I don’t cry anymore, because I know I’m a very competent adult — and I know the difference between disagreement versus abusive, contemptuous behavior. You need to do some work on yourself and to get help looking objectively at your boyfriend’s behavior to determine which it is. SEENITTOO

Catch Season 3 of Meredith Goldstein’s Love Letters podcast. Get it at loveletters.show or wherever you listen.

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