The main issues are around money; I feel like he is incredibly defensive whenever I ask for anything, yet at the same time he asks me to tell him exactly what I want. Case in point: he’s always asked me to tell him what I want for special occasions like Valentine’s Day and my birthday, then will turn around and call me high maintenance and ungrateful when I tell him. (On V-day I asked for flowers, not an extravagant gift, and on my birthday I said I didn’t need anything specific and would be happy with anything he planned.)
Just to give some background on our situation: I’m 25, he’s 35 and we’re both professionals living in one of the more expensive cities in the country. I’m fully able to support myself financially and would never ask him for money, but he makes probably 5x (250k range) what I do and always offers to pay when we go to dinner, etc. I like to take care of lunch or things that are more in my budget. He’s more traditional and pretty much always insists on paying (which I really appreciate and tell him that) but I do want to contribute to the relationship, financially and otherwise.
It just seems the littlest things can turn into these huge fights, and we always end up talking about breaking up although we don’t. We are in therapy to see if we can work things out, but it’s starting to feel like I’ll never be completely sure either way. I’d like to make a decision at some point because I don’t want to spend years with someone if I don’t think we’re a long-term fit for marriage and children (we both have discussed this and know those are shared goals). Looking ahead, it just seems hard to build a successful marriage and family with constant conflict. I know all couples argue at times, but I’d really like to cut down on the amount of fighting. Is there anything I can do to make things more peaceful? Or should I just admit it’s not working and MOA? — Fight Club
I’m confused about why you’re fighting about money so much. You don’t mention living together, so I’m assuming you aren’t fighting over shared bills. You say you take care of lunches out and that John insists on paying for other things that you do together, like dinners out, etc. You only mention two occasions — Valentine’s Day and your birthday — when John specifically asks you what you want and on one of those occasions you even told him you’d be happy with whatever he planned. So how does all of that equal weekly, blow-out, all-day arguments, and what gives him the idea that you’re high maintenance and ungrateful? Something just doesn’t add up here.
You say that John always offers to pay when you “go to dinner, etc.” What’s the et cetera? And where are you eating these dinners? Are you going out every night? Almost every night? Are you always going to pricey places? Do you ever repay the courtesy and cook John a nice meal? Do you ask him what he wants for Valentine’s Day and his birthday?
If I had to guess — and it seems I do — I’d say that John either feels like you’re only interested in his money (and he’d only really get that idea if you were failing to compliment him on other traits you like), is tired of being the one doing all the planning, or isn’t happy in your relationship but doesn’t know how to communicate his unhappiness so he chooses to focus on finances since that’s easier than talking about feelings. The only way you’re going to get to the bottom of what’s going on and resolve your problems is to communicate, ideally at a time when you aren’t fighting or on the verge of fighting. Pick a moment when you’re comfortable with each other — maybe on one of those dinners out — and verbalize how much you appreciate John, not for his paycheck, but for all the things you mentioned in your first couple of sentences above. Then ask him what his needs are in the relationship and what you can do to make him happier.
Finally, if you’re in therapy and you’re finding that things are still uncertain between you, pick a date in the future when you feel like it would be appropriate to MOA if you’re still feeling this level of uncertainty. Maybe that’s three months from now or six months from now. I don’t know. If it were I, and it had only been a year and things were already screwy enough to warrant therapy, I’d probably MOA sooner rather than later. I personally don’t think a relationship should be so much work so early on, before marriage and kids and living together and all the big life stuff that can cause stress. But that’s me and my timetable. (I also wouldn’t stay with a guy who routinely called me high-maintenance and ungrateful… or any unkind names, for that matter). You have to figure out what makes sense for you given your needs and goals, etc. So, pick a date and if things aren’t good by then, MOA knowing you gave this relationship a true fighting chance. Perhaps a little too much fighting…
You can follow me on Facebook here and sign up for my weekly newsletter here.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].