It’s time again for “Dear Wendy Updates,” a feature where people I’ve given advice to in the past let us know whether they followed the advice and how they’re doing now. Today we hear from “Complicated Communicator” who wrote in way back in June of 2011 in what became one of the most popular columns of this site to date. Remember “My Boyfriend Thinks I’m Too Opinionated” about the woman whose boyfriend of four months got really upset when she made a disparaging comment about a TV personality he liked? “He said I invalidated his opinion with mine,” she wrote, “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.” She continued: “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!” She got jumped all over in the comments on that column, as did I for the advice I gave her. She was hesitant to share an update even three plus years later, saying: “How vividly I remember being excoriated in the discussion of this letter!” But here she is with an update, and I respectfully ask that she not be excoriated again (although I think many of the commenters on that original thread are now gone and this site has become more welcoming in the years since then).
Honestly, after reading a majority of the responses to my letter, I walked away from the site for a while. It’s hard to read through an entire community of people telling you how awful you are, when you’re asking for advice.
There were definitely some useful replies in there for me to look at though – someone said that they knew how I felt- they get excited, and jump in, without really taking the interruption part into consideration. That was me. And someone else gave me the idea to have him tell me, as it happens, when I am being rude or dismissive when we talk, so we can get it sorted out then, rather than let it fester.
Immediately after writing, our communication didn’t really improve. I made attempts, but he seemed intent on shutting down. Inevitably, shortly after, we broke up. I turned to the forums when we broke up, where I was given a lot of great advice, kindness, and encouragement. Some time passed, he reached out, we talked, his explanation was that most of his behavior in the month or so prior to our breakup was him trying to create distance and make me break up with him. He was dealing with some stuff that he didn’t tell me about, and, as we started to talk again, he opened up to me more.
It was like night and day difference. He told me that he loved me, and he was freaking out about it, because he didn’t plan to be in a relationship again after his divorce. I told him I wasn’t going to be with someone whose response to negative emotion is shutting down and shutting people out. It’s fine to be that way, but it’s not someone I want to be with. We agreed that he’d point out at the time it was happening if I was being overbearing in conversations, I would point out when he was withdrawing when he should be communicating, and, honestly, much more that needed to be sorted out.
That was 2011. Here, in 2014, I can happily say that all that stuff is behind us. We are still together, the communication between us is excellent, we’ve both grown a lot – learning to trust and to open up. We moved in together about a year and a half ago, and we are happily living in sin.
So thank you, Wendy, for understanding my point of view, and to the commenters who gave me useful advice. I know you caught some heat for your response, but it forced me to be direct and open with him when we got back together. I am who I am, and, while I can definitely work on my tact, I’m never going to be the person who doesn’t share her thoughts. Your advice gave me a jumping off point to reconcile our differences in how we communicate, which has been massively beneficial in the long run.
Thank you so much for your update. I’m really happy to hear that you two were able to work through your communication issues, that you received some helpful advice through the column and the forums here, and that you two are together and doing well. Best of luck to you for continued happiness and relationship harmony!
If you’re someone I’ve given advice to in the past, I’d love to hear from you, too. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a link to the original post, and let me know whether you followed the advice and how you’re doing now.