General Question

KDC's avatar

Occasionally we have small disconnects in communication that result in unnecessary hostility... Is this worth breaking up over?

Asked by KDC (59 points ) September 5th, 2012

General Facts:
I’m 26 and she’s 21.
We’ve been going out for about 3 years.
Annnnd… sorry up front for asking a relationship question. I’s not my MO, but I’m stumped here.

A little background:
Throughout our relationship we’ve had some rocky times… Times that likely would have been more than enough to end most relationships; but for one reason or another we’ve never been able to completely let things fall apart.

To try to explain the specifics of our relationship in its entirety would be impractical, and I’m trying to avoid creating some form of bias, so I’ll get straight to the point

Disconnect in Communication: this is the most current/fair example of the issue I’m talking about

While talking on the phone last night she said she wanted to bring me lunch at work today and asked what I wanted her to make. Nice, right!? She’s an amazing cook and the sentiment of her buying ingredients to make my favorite food, then driving it 30 minutes to my work on her day off does not escape me. Also, she’s probably going to decorate the box she puts it in, just because she’s that kind of girl.
Anyways… as 2:30 rolls around I get a call from her asking if I still want her to bring me lunch. She sounds a little hesitant, so I nicely say “yea” but throw in “but if you can’t or don’t want to, it’s cool, I’ll totally understand.”
She says, “What do you mean!?”
I say, “Yes. But, if you can’t, or something came up, I understand, we can do it another time.”
To which I get an angry response of, “WELL DO YOU WANT ME TO OR NOT!?”
Surprised by her response I immediately get up and go outside so that I can have a conversation without the audience of my coworkers. I reply with, “are you kidding me with this!?”, and the fight begins.

To save you from all the back and forth, here’s the gist of it:
Her side:
She was excited to bring me food, and me acting all “sure I guess” about it upset her. She just wanted me to say “yes!” and be excited.
My side:
I wasn’t trying to underplay her gesture, or act like I didn’t want it, and I even specifically made a point to emphasize that in my tone, because I KNOW this sort of miscommunication happens with us (most recently 2 nights prior). I was just trying to express that if she couldn’t, then she didn’t need to worry or feel guilty about it.

Wrap-up:
This sort of communication breakdown happens in our relationship… too often, in my opinion. Someone sets out with good intentions and it leads to some stupid/illegitimate fight.
I’ve had past relationships where something like what happened today wouldn’t have instigated the slightest controversy. I would have said what I said and she would have understood my response in the fashion it was intended.
So here’s the problem… On one hand she’s super nice/thoughtful/puts in A LOT of effort (obviously)...
But on the other hand, sometimes it seems like we just do NOT understand each other. (I say something, she takes it this way.. She says something, I take it that way..)

Is it time to finally throw in the towel on this one?

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26 Answers

Judi's avatar

Some people just aren’t happy without drama. Can you live with that?

Coloma's avatar

Well, like everything in life it’s a balance sheet. If the dog pees in the house once a year when it has been left alone too long no, don’t get rid of the dog.; If the dog pees in the house every day and there is no correcting the issue inspite of your best efforts then, gas the dog. lol
Same goes for relationship issues. Once in awhile people misunderstand each other, but…. if you end up having the same issues over and over again without any resolution or the frequency escalates then maybe time to throw in the towel.

If you are having this problem more than once in a while maybe time to rethink things or go to counseling if you’re serious about trying to work things out.

Bellatrix's avatar

Only you can really answer the ‘is this a deal breaker’ question. If you are at the end of the road with it, possibly.

My ex was an extreme introvert and prone to passive aggressive behaviour. I am an extrovert and fiery and outspoken. We were together for 17 years. One thing I realised (and not until I did a psychology class) was we had enormously different ways of communicating. Neither was wrong – just different. I don’t regret that relationship ending but I wonder if we had learned better ways to communicate earlier, would that have made a huge difference?

Have you thought of going and talking to someone – a counsellor – to explore how you can find a way to communicate more effectively? This doesn’t mean your relationship is doomed. It means you think it’s worth investing some time to improve on what is happening now.

gailcalled's avatar

She nicely volunteered. You said, “Yes, please.”

Why, then, did she feel it was necessary to take this unnecessary step? vvvv

“Anyways… as 2:30 rolls around I get a call from her asking if I still want her to bring me lunch. She sounds a little hesitant, so I nicely say “yea” but throw in “but if you can’t or don’t want to, it’s cool, I’ll totally understand.”

Ask her why she needed that second phone call. It was designed to throw you off balance; there was perhaps nothing you could have said that might not have upset her.

Even, “Honey, we already had this conversation? Why are you asking me again?”

Why not just come with the lunch and get a hug and a kiss?

She’s not playing fair. Why? I don’t know. How often does this occur?

This behavior is designed to be unsettling and thus, you have every right to feel unsettled.

Is she often the ingenuous saboteur?

Jeruba's avatar

I think a piece of information is missing somewhere because this doesn’t add up.

Is 2:30 your normal lunchtime?

Had she missed a noontime window, and had you gone hungry through lunch hour, so now you’re starving and she’s asking whether it’s too late or you really want to wait another half hour (and she made an excuse or apology and thought you were probably already mad)?

Did you go ahead and eat at noon and now she’s bringing you a second lunch?

Does she flake out a lot, so it’s a sore spot?

Is she trying to maneuver you into giving offense in order to put you in the wrong and get off the defensive herself?

Did you respond without the expected delight when she first made the offer, so she was giving you a second chance to express pleasure and you didn’t take it?

No need to answer all these questions. You can treat them as thought starters while you consider what might be missing from the picture.

As given, though, the story doesn’t lend itself to analysis, in my opinion.

josie's avatar

Sounds like too much work to me. I don’t care what people say about relationships requiring work. They shouldn’t be all that much work. I would find another woman. Just sayin…

LuckyGuy's avatar

It looks to me like she didn’t want to come and made it all your fault. Very clever…

Unless the makeup sex is really great, I’d move on. You shouldn’t have to spend your life walking on egg shells.

chyna's avatar

^^What @LuckyGuy said. Perfect.

KDC's avatar

@Jeruba
I see where you’re coming from. Hopefully I can fill in that picture a little.
My lunchtime is whenever I want to take it, and often I don’t. I’m one of those people that pretty much just eats once or twice a day and am not too partial as to when that is. She knows this; so although it was past your usual 9–5er’s lunchtime, she knows I wasn’t sitting around hungry waiting for her… That being said, I’m sure she felt like she might be a little late on delivery, which is probably why she called, and probably the reason behind that slight hesitation I sensed in her tone. From my perspective, she was calling to make sure I still wanted lunch at work, or to see if I just wanted to wait until afterwards. Either way, she was still planning to make the food and bring it to me.

Jeruba's avatar

@Neizvestnaya, the OP just answered ^^^ my question about his lunchtime habits.

Shippy's avatar

I’m sorry I was exhausted reading it, not the length but the actual emotional content. I just don;t have the energy to play games, I did when I was 21 though.

wundayatta's avatar

No, not at all. No need to throw in the towel. You simply need to find a way to identify patterns in your communication break downs, and then develop strategies to short cut those problems.

There are couples communication workshops all over the place. I don’t know if you live in the US, but places like the Omega Institute or Esalen Institute (East and West coasts, respectively), are filled with workshops of this type.

In addition, there are psychotherapists who specialize in these kinds of issues. You could go for two or three sessions and learn enough to be able to handle this on your own after that.

It’s a shame that people seem to think that relationship skills are something you just have naturally. It’s not true. You need to learn them. Some learn “on the job” and others need training. There is no shame in getting relationship and communications skills training. Businesses provide this kind of training for employees all the time.

So I would encourage you to raise this issue with your gf. To acknowledge you get into big fights over small issues and you’d like to learn how to stop doing that. Why not take a short vacation in some place nice and attend a couples workshop and figure out how to avoid this kind of thing in the future. Hopefully it’ll be fun and she’ll be excited about the opportunity to make your relationship stronger.

bookish1's avatar

As others have said, only you can decide if this is a deal-breaker for you. I am inclined to agree with @gailcalled‘s and @LuckyGuy‘s assessment of this situation though… If she had already made plans to bring you your lunch, and she knows you don’t really have a regular lunch time, why did she need to call you?

On the phone today, you were giving her an easy out if something came up or if she realized she didn’t have the time today, etc… You were being nice, and she took offense over nothing. People don’t always respond the way you want them to because other people are not you. Maybe she hasn’t learned this one yet.

jca's avatar

I agree with what @gailcalled said. She made the agreement with you to bring lunch, and (from your further details) she knows that 2:30 would not be too late for you to eat. My first thought, before knowing your lunch habits, was that she called the second time thinking that maybe you already ate, so she was verifying that you still needed food. Then when I learned that it’s normal for you to eat at all hours, I don’t understand the reason for the second call, unless just to “start” with you or maybe she didn’t feel like bringing the food at that point, and so was hoping you’d say “you know what? I ate already” or “At this point, I can go without eating.”

@wundayatta makes a good point, that the relationship does not have to be over for communication problems. To me, though, this relationship would seem like a lot of work. Her drama would not be worth it, to me. Only you know if the good parts of the relationship are worth the bad parts, as you know (or should know, as we all should know) that all relationships have positives and negatives, like most things in life. So if the positives outweigh the negatives, then keep the relationship. But if it’s too much work and the negatives are really getting to you, then screw it. I couldn’t take this drama you’re experiencing.

augustlan's avatar

If both of you are willing to put in some effort to learn to communicate more effectively with each other, then do that. Always worth trying to save an otherwise good relationship, in my opinion. However, if she doesn’t see the problem, isn’t willing to work on it, or thinks it’s all you, I’d move on.

dabbler's avatar

I think you were being considerate with “if you can’t or don’t want to, it’s cool” it shows that you don’t take her effort for granted, that it’s special and not expected.
Some people are insecure and reactive enough to turn anything that could possibly seem like an offence into one.

In that situation I’ll suggest to elaborate what you meant, “I know you spend a lot of time and talent making a meal. It’s really special!”

Sounds also like from her point of view that once she got the concept rolling, the idea of possibly not making you lunch wasn’t on her radar, you surprised her and to her sounded like you really didn’t want her lunch – into which she’d already invested a lot of thought.

@wundayatta‘s right, you two could learn to identify your communication patterns then respond accordingly. Some counselling could be useful, and there are plenty of self-help books on communication. If you both get into listening and understanding, and everybody lays off any hair-trigger reactions you can put this kind of thing behind you.

That said I think unnecessary drama sucks, and if she’s someone who likes drama then I’d be tempted to let her go just for that. At 21 though most people have some interpersonal development to do and maybe you can help her grow out of a bad habit.

KDC's avatar

@dabbler @augustlan @jca @bookish1 @wundayatta @Shippy @Jeruba @Neizvestnaya @chyna @luckyguy @bellatrix @judi @coloma @gailcalled @josie
All your responses have helped a lot, and I have to say… I’m REALLY surprised at the detail and thoughtfulness of the answers I received here. It’s rare to find an online community that provides legitimately intellectual answers of this nature, and I’m glad to have found it. This definitely isn’t your usual Q&A site.
Thank you!

Judi's avatar

Stick around. This is a great place.

bookish1's avatar

@KDC: I hope you are able to come to the right decision for you! And I forgot to say, welcome to Fluther.

gailcalled's avatar

@KDC: You are correct about this site (and you spelled “definitely” correctly, thereby giving you free access to the box seats, the winner’s circle, the top stand at the Olympics ceremonies, and the right to be called “Jelly.” )

dabbler's avatar

@KDC Welcome aboard !

jca's avatar

@KDC: Please consider posting an update as to how things work out for you as a couple or what decision you make regarding this issue.

Thanks and Welcome to Fluther!
JCA
The Update Lady

KDC's avatar

@jca @dabbler @gailcalled @bookish1 @Judi @augustlan @wundayatta @Shippy @Jeruba @josie @gailcalled @Bellatrix @Coloma @chyna @LuckyGuy @Neizvestnaya

Update: I came to the conclusion that these interactions are at least partly, if not mostly, the result of her insecurities, some of which she’s rightfully derived from the current state of our relationship. To try and remedy those insecurities and hopefully put these instances to rest, once and for all, I’m going to try to make her feel more secure with us. If these missed communications persist then it’s towel time, but I’d hate to pull the trigger without putting forth a legitimate effort to fix things 1st.
So far, it’s been tiring.

chyna's avatar

Thanks for the update and good luck!

dabbler's avatar

@KDC “it’s been tiring.”
You’ll get used to it, relationships that mean a lot usually have some patches when it seems a lot less worth the effort than the times that’s it’s been bliss and fulfillment.
Depending on your mutual commitment you may both grow familiar with each other so that neither will seem so threatening to the other, trust will prevail.

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