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Friday, October 19, 2012

283

Stay-at-Home Dads and the Confrontation-Averse

1. My husband went from having two jobs when we were first married to now being a stay-at-home dad. He raises our toddler daughter, runs our household like a tight ship, is a fantastic cook, and manages our finances so well that we live fairly comfortably on one salary.

He loves being a full time dad. He was worried at first that he’d be bored, but he loves his time with her, and especially being able to plan his days the way he wants. Between the parenting and the domestic stuff, he’s working just as hard, if not harder, than he ever did. He’s fulfilled and happy.

My issue is his mother. She’s very old-fashioned, and constantly makes snide comments alluding to our role reversal — a term I resent — and insinuating that her son is “trapped.” She’ll say things like, “And you’re okay with this, being a house husband?” and, “Well I know your wife insists on being a *career girl.*” – asterisks denote sneering.

He mostly laughs it off. But I’m concerned that this is touching some nerve deep down, hardwired from childhood with this awful woman, that tells him he’s not “man enough,” because he’s not providing for his family financially. The man works a hell of a lot harder than I do (I just happen to get paid more to spend my hours away from home) and I couldn’t be prouder of who he is and the way he’s raising our daughter.

Is there anything I can say or do to counteract this negativity? He’s not much of a talker, so maybe even bringing it up would be worse? Like, asking if he’s okay will make him think it’s not okay? I can’t help but think a “I’m Proud of You” Hallmark card would just make things worse.

Working back to front: Hallmark card = bad idea, check.

Now you don't say how much practical effect his mother has in your shared life, on a spectrum from "She lives two thousand miles away and they only talk on Sundays" to "She lives down the block and takes care of our daughter two mornings a week." I'm going to assume it's somewhere in the middle — she's part of your life, but not a major support.

If that's right (and salt to taste if she's a 'two mornings a week' grandma), then you have a culturally approved way of bringing this up, and giving him some safe space to talk: Don't complain about the way his mother treats him, complain about the way your mother-in-law treats you. 

She is, after all, not just dissing your husband (something it sounds like she's adept at) but dissing you, and your marriage. In fact, if you concentrate on her criticism of him as a non-traditional dad, but not her criticism of you as a non-traditional mom, you re-enforce the idea that he's got the short end of the stick here.

So you could say something like, "I'm sorry to say this, honey, but we have to talk about your mother. I love our life together, and I think we've made something that works for both of us, but I feel so judged by your mother for our choices."

That puts you on his side and him on yours, opens up a space where he can talk about his mother, and, I think, does it in a way that doesn't have that sound that many of us men hate or fear: "Let's talk about you and your feelings." Instead, it's part of a conversation far more men are willing to have: "Let's talk about us against the world."

2. I feel foolish for mailing the internet about a man, but here I am. I met this guy a year ago, we dated for six weeks and it ended. He ended it. He had two jobs and was starting up his own business. A cop out, you say. I thought it, too. He said it wasn't. He said it was timing. I believed him. I had to.

Even though it was a brief period, those six weeks were fucking epic. Not only were we dating, we became friends. At the beginning I wasn't that interested at all; I wasn't attracted to him and he just seemed nice. Then one night Bam! There. I. Fell. Literally swooned inside myself. (I am cringing at myself right now.)

So when it ended, I was honest with him and said I couldn't hang out and be a part of his life as he wanted (that would be rough for me), and we parted ways. He was definitely sad. I was too.

I didn't really see him after that, or hear from him. The odd txt over a few months, but that was it. And yet, I still think about him.

Am I a silly, silly girl, or could I go for it one more time? I'm not talking straight away, though, I think I need a few months to sort myself  out with a few things, but I was thinking about waiting maybe six months, then seeking him out again.

Or am I kidding myself and have I been played? I don't know. I would appreciate your input. I'm going crazy here.

*(I didn't add this to the main part, but one of the reasons I think I have really fallen for this guy, even thought the encounter was brief, is that even though it was only a couple of times, the sex was awful. AWFUL. Sex is very important to me, and even then I don't care and would love to see him again.)*

First, about him: He was not playing you. He sounds like a nice guy, sensitive enough to say "It's not you, it's me," which is the kind thing to say in that situation, and has the advantage of being at least partly true. Don't take it as manipulation, but don't take it as an open door either.

Next, about you: No cringing. You fell in love. It's nice when that happens. It can also be painful when it doesn't work out over the long haul, but don't let yourself forget that it's nice when it happens, and don't cringe about having believed it might work out, just because it didn't this time.

More importantly, you said you need a few months to sort yourself out with a few things. THIS IS YOUR ANSWER. Needing that kind of time suggests that speculating about your post-out-sorted romantic life is probably not a great use of your time.

Now I'm not saying you should laugh alone with salad every night for 180 nights. Go out, have fun. Or: Stay home, have fun. Whatever. Just don't try to figure out now what you're going to feel like next year about a serious relationship.

There's a chance that that relationship could be re-kindled. It's been known to happen, and you'll know better when you're feeling more together. Also, there's a chance that you'll come to see it as something in your past but not your future. That can happen too. Or you'll meet someone else. Also happens. But the question "Would my recent ex be a good boyfriend for me six months from now?" is probably not best answered by the pre-sorted-out you.

3. I am an outspoken, extroverted, leader-type. I am great at arguing and at getting what I want. My husband, on the other hand, is a reserved, introverted, accommodating guy. He would rather do almost anything than have a fight. So when we argue, it is the mismatch of the century! I try to be sensitive to his reluctance to fight by saying things gently and encouraging him to speak up for himself. I usually feel I am arguing both sides of the issue — his and mine.

The problem is that although he won't argue, he still has preferences and disagreements. He often expresses these in a very passive-aggressive way. For example, he won't say, "I don't want to go to your friend's party. I'd rather stay home." Instead, he'll just put off getting ready to go until it's too late. He also won't negotiate household chores. He'll agree to whatever arrangement I suggest, and then just not do the parts he doesn't feel like doing and say he forgot. But come on! Nobody forgets to fold the laundry for three years! When I try to suggest a different arrangement ("You clearly don't want to fold laundry. What would you prefer to do? Do you feel you have too many chores?") he'll insist that the current arrangement is fine and he'll remember next time. But he never does. These are a few examples of a fairly consistent pattern.

Married Dude, I'm a patient woman with good communication skills, but I have no idea how to deal with this kind of behavior. It's impossible to accommodate someone who will not state a position! So my question seems to be, how do I get him to speak up for himself and negotiate, rather than acquiescing and then resisting? 

And the answer is "That's the wrong question."

You two don't actually sound like the mis-match of the century to me. Your husband didn't want to go to your friend's party, and then he didn't go to your friend's party. Sounds like he insists on his preferences pretty effectively, no?

So the right question is "Why does he adopt a passive-aggressive strategy?" and the answer is "Because it works." Meanwhile, the question you end with, the wrong one, sounds like you asking "How do I get him to adopt my strategy, which I am better at, so I can beat him fair and square?"

Will he get a life more to his liking by stating his preferences clearly? That's certainly one possibility, but only if you are willing to say "If you are more expressive, I will be less argumentative." But another possibility, implicit in your description, is "If you are more expressive, I will get my way more often, and you less, because I'm better at arguing." Why would he sign up for a life like that?

4. I've been with my Dude for almost three years. He's the love of my life, and he thinks the same about me (and I believe him). We've recently started to talk about getting married, which I'm generally all for. The sticking point is the wedding. We both come from families so complicated that, if you were to try to draw a diagram of who is related to whom and who is currently fighting with whom, the universe may actually explode. In the last year I've spent a cumulative 10 months being completely cut off by one or another parent for my behavior toward another parent or step-parent (i.e. visiting when I'm not supposed to — oh, and I'm 29). His family is no better. Needless to say, the idea of having all of these nutjobs in the same room, at the same time with alcohol scares the living bejesus out of me. But the idea of slighting any of the crazies quite possibly scares me more, as I'm not sure some relationships would recover from a non-invitation. At the same time, we want the experience to be special and meaningful to the two of us, so the idea of being just a number in a courtroom or married by Elvis isn't very appealing. 

So my question is, as a married Dude, did what you did or whom you had at your wedding wind up mattering at all later on? Did you decide to not invite anyone, and do they hate you? Or should we just suck it up, strap on the Kevlar and hope for the best as no one will remember it next year? After all, the whole point is the being married part and not the wedding, right?

Yes, right, the whole point is the being married part, and for that reason, the sticking point is NOT the wedding. The sticking point is "How much do you want to be married?" If the answer is even approximately "All the way much," then the wedding is simply something you have to get through.

So, you're in the "We could pay for the wedding by starting a reality TV bidding war!" zone. I don't doubt that your respective families are practiced at bringing the crazy, but  everyone's wedding is a bit like that. There's the alcoholic uncle, the college roommates who both dated, and messily broke up with, the best man, as well as, ad abundantiam, the weepy, bitter cousin, the demented aunt, and the friends who've stopped speaking to each other.

For me and my wife, the stress around our wedding rose and rose and then collapsed like a soufflé when we finally realized, while wringing our hands about her father's incessant, incompatible demands, that there was simply no way to do it right, if by "right" we meant "A light-hearted and stress-free evening for all concerned." And once we accepted that we were planning an event that would be part fancy dress party and part international fiasco, we relaxed, and set about the task of containing the fallout, rather than trying to forestall it.

When you draw up your guest list, there will be people you don't want to invite but have to. There will be people you do want to invite but can't. There will be people you can't bear not to invite, but will then lose touch with immediately after. There will be people you don't invite who later become such dear friends you forget they weren't even at your wedding.

And someone will throw up and someone's baby will cry during the vows and the music will be too young for the old people and too old for the young people and your relatives will glare at each other and get poisonously drunk and either fight or descend into mute fury, and in the middle of it all it will be time to cut the cake, which some relative or other will regard as very very urgent, and you'll freak out and grab the caterer and say "Have you seen my husband?" and when you use that word for the first time, every dreadful thing happening around you will fade a bit as you realize that your family, the family you really belong to, has just shifted from the one you inherited to the one you've invented.

Previously: Debt-Sharing and Mismatched Ambition.

A Married Dude is one of several rotating married dudes. Do you have a question for A Married Dude?

Photo by ARENA Creative, via Shutterstock



283 Comments / Post A Comment

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

These are good! Except I don't understand what #2 is about?

polka dots vs stripes

@Rock and Roll Ken Doll With apologies to LW2, I stopped reading halfway through. I just couldn't get it.

WaityKatie

@polka dots vs stripes But the best part is at the end, where she knows she's in love because the sex was terrible. Whaaaattt??

Reginal T. Squirge

I think she was trying to get an outside opinion on whether or not she should just forget this dude completely or if she should try again in a few months.

katiemcgillicuddy

@WaityKatie Yeah, I was...confused by that.

Reginal T. Squirge

In regard to the sex thing I think she was saying that she knows it's true love because she loves him DESPITE the bad sex. Which is rare because usually awful sex ruins everything.

WaityKatie

@Reginal T. Squirge Maybe the awful sex was why the dude broke up with her. Awful sex means it's not working!

katiemcgillicuddy

@Reginal T. Squirge Yeah, I think you're right, what she said just kind of reads weird.

Judith Slutler

@Reginal T. Squirge The "despite the bad sex" should probably be a heads up to her that she's trying to tell herself this relationship was better than it actually was. If that makes any sense.

CasualElegance

@Emmanuelle Cunt Agreed. I think they'll get back together, have terrible sex and then remember why they broke up in the first place.

mabellegueule

@Emmanuelle Cunt
Makes total sense and I totally agree.

jhonsons

Whoooooo! That's all @j

yeah-elle

This Dude is a righteous Dude, in my opinion.

teebs

Baby can you dig your Dude?

Pocket Witch

@yeah-elle I came down to the comments section to say that I like this Married Dude. He's cool.

purefog

@yeah-elle Seconded (or fourthed). A couple of these answers are absolutely epic, notably #3 and #4. (Although admittedly #3 is not going to help the LW much with "solving" the "problem," unless it just helps her to see it more clearly.)

lora.bee

@yeah-elle "They all adore him. They think he is a righteous dude."

Myrtle

@yeah-elle He has righteous skills. Are those Married Dudes the partners of a lovely 'Pinner? If so, lucky girl.

timesnewroman

Number 3: I went out with a passive non fighting man like that once.

We broke up.

major disaster

@timesnewroman I did too. In my case, he never expressed an opinion about anything, acted like everything was fine, and then broke up with me because, according to him, he never got what he wanted. That was fun.

redheaded&crazy

@timesnewroman Yeah I think that would be the outcome for me as well. I need somebody to be able to communicate with me otherwise I'm on a one-way trip to anxiety town forever.

evil melis

"Darling, I couldn't help but notice that while you did fold the laundry this week - thank you, by the way, I'm very grateful - you folded it into a bas-relief of me drowning in what appears to be a sea of knives. Is there something you want to talk to me about?"

"No."

"You're sure? Everything's fine?"

"Yep."

"There is no meaning behind this screaming mask of terror clearly meant to represent me in the form of hand-woven cashmere sweaters?"

"That is the natural form the laundry took."

olivebee

@all Yeah, I liked this Married Dude, but I'm not sure his advice to that LW was all that helpful. It sounds like he is just saying "your husband is gonna do what your husband is gonna do, and what he's doing actually works just fine." Which...I don't know. I don't think being passive aggressive and manipulating your way out of doing something you don't want to do is a good thing. Neither is fighting/bullying/arguing till you win, but I didn't get the vibe that the LW was doing that. It sounded (to me, at least) like she wanted advice on how to open up a more healthy line of communication where he can be open and honest with her. Honestly, I'd want that, too, if my husband acted like that. It's not about "winning;" it's about communication.

Miss Maszkerádi

@timesnewroman Same. It was annoying as shit. He also would sulk for a week whenever I offended him without even telling me what I had done to piss him off. Then ignored me for two weeks to see if I loved him enough to chase after him and beg to know how I could fix whatever I was not good enough at. Except by then I was relieved to be free of him, so yeah. Ugh now i'm back in a bunch of fucking toxic memories and need to go watch kittens on YouTube.

muddgirl

@olivebee I live with a quiet, non-argumentative man, and literally nothing I do is going to get him to 'open up a more healthy line of communication where he can be open... with me.' That's why it's the wrong question. That would be trying to change him. If my dude chronically said yes when he meant no, I would just assume that he was always saying "no." He has communicated to me that Yes means No.

yeah-elle

@olivebee To me, it sounded more like A Married Dude was saying, "Your husband's doing what he's doing because the results are in his favor."

Maybe not a helpful answer regarding how to improve the situation, but I think LW3 framed his passive aggression as some kind of mystery, and A Married Dude laid it out—he's being passive aggressive because that's how he's getting his way.

Judith Slutler

@muddgirl I mean, ok, but... how does he tell you "yes"?

olivebee

@muddgirl I have no problem with quiet and non-argumentative (in fact, I like those qualities). However, passive-aggression and manipulation (like the examples the LW gave) are a horse of a different color. 'Changing someone' sounds like a bad thing (and most of the time, it probably is), but I don't personally think that wanting someone to tell you how they feel ("Honey, I hate folding laundry, but I will happily do _____.") is out of the question. And if they'll never change, and never communicate, then maybe it's not the best pairing.

ColdFinger

@olivebee Agreed!

Well, it does sound like his strategy works because it appears he HAS gotten away with not folding the laundry for three years or going to the unloved friend's party. So... maybe the LW is the one who needs to change HER behavior? Like, go to the party without him, if he's stalling? Or announce that chores are switching, since he hasn't been able to handle the laundry, rather than waiting for him to express his POV?

evil melis

Also, take a shit in his laundry. Life is so unbelievably fucking short and then you are gone from this earth forever; you have zero time to waste on Laundry Wars. Shit in his laundry and see if he starts talking then.

rocknrollunicorn

@muddgirl But it seems to work for you. Doesn't sound like it's really working for LW3, who is held hostage at home while there is a PARTY to go to! Probably a good one with nice cheeses and charades, dammit.

olivebee

@yeah-elle Very true. I can see that in his response, as well. Still unhelpful to the LW, though, and I think I just got my hackles up because it sounded like he was saying that what the husband was doing was better than what a married dude perceived the LW to be doing ("I win! I win!"). And I just don't think she seemed like she was doing that.

@ColdFinger Your advice is better than A Married Dude's!

OhMarie

@timesnewroman God, this is what I was like when I was a teenager--I never had screaming matches with my parents, but I would agree to do whatever they wanted and then not do it forever. AND THEN say something like "oh my god, Mom, why did you do the dishes I was totally about to do them." But I was not.

Passion Fruit

@evil melis This is the best advice I have ever heard. Yes.

purefog

@evil melis [shrug] "It's okay, I was tired of that shirt."

Sierra

@olivebee yeah it sounds like this Married Dude might have the same "argument" style as LW3's husband and this hit a nerve.

Married Dude said "Your husband didn't want to go to your friend's party, and then he didn't go to your friend's party. Sounds like he insists on his preferences pretty effectively, no?" -- yeah, except then his wife's night is ruined, like rocknrollunicorn said, not going to a fun party because he didn't tell her his deal. maybe if he had told her earlier, she could have made plans to go by herself or with someone else.

Married dude also says "Meanwhile, the question you end with, the wrong one, sounds like you asking "How do I get him to adopt my strategy, which I am better at, so I can beat him fair and square?""... um, that seems really rude and unnecessary and also incorrect. She specifically said "It's impossible to accommodate someone who will not state a position! So my question seems to be, how do I get him to speak up for himself and negotiate, rather than acquiescing and then resisting?" and that she tried to ask him which chores he would rather do .. sounds like she would love to accommodate his preferences, if she knew what they were.

The rest of the answers were right on though, I think. But Jeez, poor LW3, she didn't get good advice. My advice to her might be to dump her douchey passive aggressive husband.

PomoFrannyGlass

@Passion Fruit This LW's husband sounds just straight passive, over passive-aggressive. Fun fact I learned from my therapist about passive people (i.e. my ex): they will make the other party in the relationship do all the work (metaphysically and chore-wise), and have alllll the feelings (that's why you get so mad at them over little things), so that they don't have to. I'm hesitant to use the word "manipulation" because I don't think it's even intentional, it's just how they've been conditioned to function (LW, does your husband have a particularly domineering parental figure?). So in some ways, Married Dude is right in that the husband will keep doing what he does b/c it gets the result he wants, but that still doesn't really help the LW with the imbalance and resentment this behavior leads to. In my admittedly limited experience, this kind of thing is a pretty deep seated communication issue (as opposed to one or the other party needing to change his/her strategy) and a nonbiased 3rd party might help.

Faintly Macabre

@PomoFrannyGlass Spot-on. My dad is generally passive and passive-aggressive. His mom is emotionally abusive, and he was the one who got the least abuse while his siblings got in deathmatches with her. My mom is direct and pretty bossy. As I've grown up, I've mostly gone from being passive-aggressive like him to more direct like my mom. Once I was old enough to see the flaws of both sides, I finally understood what so many of their arguments are about and had quite a few with my dad myself.*

Frankly, A Dude's answer is bullshit. This is not mean LW3 abusing some poor guy, and in a healthy relationship, this kind of negotiation should not be battles or zero-sum. If LW3 is trying to make room for his preferences and for him to voice them, and he's refusing to do so, the relationship (not just LW3's tactics or their laundry talk) needs work and most of it needs to come from the husband. Especially because his passive-aggression is probably not just coming out in discrete situations.

*I feel like I should add that my dad is not at all a bad person--he is in fact one of the best people I know. The comments on Letter 3 are actually making me realize quite how much of this comes from his terrible mother, which is kind of upsetting.

insouciantlover

@CountessMaritza search for "kitty sliding down stairs"

katekari

@olivebee Agreed to the max. I was married to the same type of husband, and divorced over almost exactly all of this. Because it might be partly about winning, but mostly it's about getting your partner to communicate and cooperate with you in an adult way! I mean, the way things stand, the husband is "winning" every time, which is no more fair than if the wife is "winning" all the time. Asking for a way to find middle ground where they can communicate and negotiate is not unreasonable.

Best of luck to the LW. My marriage didn't work out, but I really hope yours does. :(

TyrannosaurusWreck

@Sierra I dunno, the phrase "How do I get him to..." automatically sounds like trying to change someone. Congratulations, you married a passive aggressive dude. I don't think it's manipulative to not do the things you want. Maybe it's time for an all out throw down hullabaloo! Tell HIM that "come on, Nobody forgets for three years" when he gives you that line. Be honest. Maybe stop trying to communicate for a minute and be all "WHAT THE HELL, MAN." I'm not married, though.

Also after writing this hahaha oh god marriage is terrifying.

Myrtle

@evil melis Death by Laundry Origami, or, She Read her Future in Her Leggings

Myrtle

@rocknrollunicorn She could also learn to go by herself by saying, "I thought I'd drive, and leave about 7:30." And then do it, whether he goes with or not. Your friends will love having you to themselves for once. Ventilate your relationship to the world as a couple.

sophia_h

@timesnewroman My marriage is a lot like LW3's, and I think she only got half an answer. I'm fine with the Dude's excellent explanation of how the husband's strategy is actually working for him, which she seemed to need, but the story doesn't end there. She is not happy, he "wins" arguments she doesn't even have a chance in (you can't out-passive a skilled passive person), and something needs to change.

I have improved my own marriage by just calling my husband on this BS -- "you have to tell me what you don't want, you can't just not do it, your refusal to discuss things is unfair because then you just always win." I've referred to him in the past as a "tar baby", because you just keep taking swings and getting your fist stuck in sticky immobility. Tar babies always win fights. The only way to successfully navigate the situation is a) to explain to the tar baby that you know what's going on, and b) for the tar baby to be convinced that your happiness is equally important to his own, which may mean he has to step out of his comfort zone and express some fucking preferences once in a while.

Fortunately my tar baby decided he cared enough about me that we've fixed a lot of the problems, and on a somewhat unsettling front, I found that me having chronic health issues and being intermittently unemployed has helped him to step up, takes care of duties he previously avoided, and communicate better. I'm disturbed to think that my sweet, feminist, beta-dude needed to be put into more of a head-of-household role in order to stop acting like a passive jerkface a lot of the time...but I guess the road to gender equality is a long and bumpy one.

Myrtle

@sophia_h I love your comment, esp what you've learned. I feel glad you have support from him now and that he seized the head of household role with such zeal. My own single biggest challenge with my own thing is learning to let people help me. Because I fought off so many would- be friends, my helpers are strangers who are becoming friends. Ricard Bach wrote: "There is no such thing as a problem, that does not have a gift for you in its hands. You seek problems because you need their gifts." Be well, Sophia, enjoy being loved and cared for!

Myrtle

@Sierra you raise some good points with the LW's choices. I was drawn to the Dude's reference to "asking the wrong question" something I, too, can raise my hand to having done.

With "It's impossible to accommodate someone who will not state a position!" LW has answered her own question. New question: do you want to live with that, or not?

The two things that raised the bar for me in relationships are Separate bathrooms and Do you own laundry.

intentsandpurposes@twitter

@timesnewroman Yes, I went out with this man too, once, for three years. We talked about babies, and moving to a new city together. It was FOR REAL. When I couldn't look at the domineering bossy-pants he had enabled me into becoming in the mirror anymore and I could hear my mother yelling at my dad to "just clean the damn pool already!" I broke it off. And he basically said "okay" with no fight. And then my heart broke a little bit more than I thought it could.

I would end it, LW3. It sucks so very bad, though.

mlle.gateau

@TyrannosaurusWreck Alternately, you can combat passive-aggression with passive-aggression, if you don't mind being childish. I find that most PA folks are unaccustomed to being on the receiving end of their own BS. So... do your laundry, fold it, and put it away, but don't do his. Tell him you're going to the party and leaving at 7:30, whether he wants to go or not. Or stop inviting him and just go yourself.

I am not fond of this dude's advice here, because it's the opposite of advice. OBVIOUSLY LW knows her husband's methods work. She doesn't want him to do tasks he doesn't want to do, she just wants him to pull his weight and if there's a task he finds less onerous than folding laundry, she'd be happy to do the laundry folding. She's not trying to browbeat him into doing the damn laundry, she's trying to find a balance and he's opposing her at every turn. Which, at least form my perspective, is way worse than actually arguing about it.

You can keep trying to talk to him, LW, or call him out on his bullshit, or throw that PA shit back in his face. Or you can walk away and only have to fold your own laundry.

Futon Revolutionista

@PomoFrannyGlass I just unlurked to thank you for your post. I've never heard this explanation of passive vs passive-agressive before and it explains SO MUCH about my ex. He eventually un-passived and broke it off, to his credit, but only after I called him on the fact that I was doing all of the work and having all of the feelings. But I also strongly feel he needed professional help, for several reasons, that he never got. Because getting help would have taken effort and risk, obvs.

PomoFrannyGlass

@Futon Revolutionista I'm glad it helped. I'm a big pusher of my therapist's gems of wisdom. :-) It was kind of mind-blowing when I heard it put in those terms; I'm not sure if hearing it before we split could have changed things, but it did really help put the break-up in context.

@intentsandpurposes@twitter's post makes my empathy hurt, because yes to hating the domineering bossy-pants the situation has caused you to be come, and yes to the weird awfulness of calling it off, knowing it's the best thing for you, and getting "okay" *shrug* in response after years and plans together.

OxfordComma

@sophia_h : If it helps? Think of it less in terms of gender, and more in terms of personality. Some of us are born with leadership, and some have it thrust upon them. :)

Jennifer@twitter

"when you use that word for the first time, every dreadful thing happening around you will fade a bit as you realize that your family, the family you really belong to, has just shifted from the one you inherited to the one you've invented."

This made me happy. Also, this A Married Dude is spot on. <3 him.

jacqueline
jacqueline

@Jennifer@twitter I was coming here to copy-paste the same thing. Made me tear up a bit!

planforamiracle

@Jennifer@twitter Me too. So, so lovely.
Is this also the right place to say that the beginning of LW1 was also mad adorable.. I have a crush on stay-at-home dads and the sweetness of how this couple is making it work for them is very real and heartening.

Jennifer@twitter

@planforamiracle YES! That would be my dream if I have kids :)

@jacqueline I was tearing up near the end of that response too, you are not alone.

khaleesi

@Jennifer@twitter Was going to copy and paste that exact same part! So heartwarming.

Lily Rowan

@jacqueline Me too.

Pygmalion

@Jennifer@twitter That right there was so pretty it led me to that irrational daydream of skipping my 20's and getting marrriiieedd

TheBelleWitch

I like this dude!

LW#1 seems like she might be using her worry over her husband having a secret problem with his mom's comments as a cover for the fact that she's the one pissed off by them. I think it's totally possible the husband is used to mom's bullshit and really is laughing it off, but if LW#1 can't do the same, she needs to say something about it to him. Hopefully her husband will back her up and tell mom to can it next time.

planforamiracle

@TheBelleWitch That sounds totally plausible to me too. I have definitely been in the place of being more offended than I should be, on someone's behalf, by someone else's relative whose bullshit I am not accustomed to dealing with.

lavender gooms

@planforamiracle Story of my life. He's used to the crazy, I'm not.

Myrtle

@TheBelleWitch Oof, yours is some subtle and clever sleuthing. But for me, I have had an expensive time of it, digging out the ingrained hurts that get new hurts added. It feels great to me to have those pointed out as Not Normal.

insouciantlover

Uhh, can someone write a non-shitty response to LW3?

insouciantlover

@insouciantlover Like, honestly I wish I could.

I feel like A Dude is responding to her question as though she were talking about wanting to win fights, when she's talking about wanting to communicate better.

My only advice, as with just about anything, is "therapy."

paddlepickle

@insouciantlover Seriously. What the actual fuck is with that answer.

Judith Slutler

@insouciantlover #3 is truly shittastic, for real. Married Dude, why are you validating crappy passive-aggressive behavior that way? Christ.

I guess at least we know how passive-aggression looks, game theory style, from inside the passive-aggressive mindset.

planforamiracle

@insouciantlover I actually think it's kind of a legit answer. you can't force someone to fight your way, even if it is a clearer and more effective way to communicate.
I am a direct person who has had difficult with passive-aggressive people (roommates and partners) in the past. My best guess at solving this problem, since I have not been able to REALLY solve it, is to have a talk about WHY it's frustrating for us. If LW3's partner is that accommodating, he may not realize how frustrated she is.

insouciantlover

@Emmanuelle Cunt Oh, good point! Maybe "Will he get a life more to his liking by stating his preferences clearly" is passive-aggressive talk for "divorce his lazy entitled ass."

MmeLibrarian

@insouciantlover Let me take a stab at it because, yeah, I thought this Dude was doing a pretty good job until I got to that letter.

Here are, maybe, some options. If you ask him to fold the laundry and he agrees and then doesn't fold the laundry, don't. fold. the. laundry. Or fold yours and leave his in a big, wrinkly pile. Forever and ever. Maybe a chore chart? And tell him he has to pick chores or he's going to do all of the chores? Or maybe maybe pointing that making your wife a) do all of the housework and b) policing your not doing the housework is some sexist nonsense that makes said wife into a really surly Angel on the Hearth who is certainly not going to be up for fun things like nice dinners and sex?

Personally? When things were getting a little (truly - only a little) imbalanced in the Librarian household? I did the third one. I may have used the sentence "I am not your mother." It worked incredibly well.

wharrgarbl

@insouciantlover It's hard to have a real partnership with a person who treats the relationship like an insurgency. Therapy, therapy, therapy.

fondue with cheddar

@insouciantlover Yeah, I didn't like the answer either but I honestly have no idea what the right answer would be. Therapy or divorce, I guess.

insouciantlover

@planforamiracle If that was what A Dude was trying to say, and he had worded it the way you did, I would not be annoyed. I think that reflecting on why it's frustrating is a good start, but I think LW3 already thought about why... because she feels they're not communicating.

So, idk, maybe passive aggressive people can help us out here? What's a way to get you to communicate more clearly about basic, fundamental things?

vine fruit

@insouciantlover Right? What the hell, A Married Dude. Agreed on counseling - it sounds like LW3 is approaching this in a pretty civil, fair way, but if that doesn't work, it doesn't work. Get another person into the mix. (NOT SEXUALLY)

Ellie

I actually kind of liked the advice and I sort of felt like the "wanting to fight my way and win my way" was on target.

But I do agree that the crux of the problem was totally unaddressed! I think that the crux of the problem is that she feels that she puts more effort into doing things for the household or relationship, and into negotiating these things. I think that the next step should be for her to figure out:

1) Are the things that she wants him to share equally in things that he would prefer not be done at all? Caveat that even if he would genuinely love to drown in a pile of unfolded laundry, her happiness regarding the folding status of laundry SHOULD be important to him. So the laundry folding probably isn't legit, but going to parties sometimes might be, though that too could be something that the happiness of your partner should be motivating enough for. My feeling, though, is that there are some household tasks that one person does because he genuinely wants them to be done and therefore would rather just do it than try to get his partner to do it. It might not be *fair* but it might be *easier*.

2) The next time he says "I like the arrangement, I promise to do it next time," don't accept that as an outcome and demand that something different happen. You can't do the same thing over and over again and expect different results. This "demanding" might look suspiciously like continuing your current, non-passive arguing style, but so be it!

evil melis

Semi-related: Google results for "men who do not do chores" is as depressing as you'd think.

planforamiracle

@Ellie YES. This is what I was trying to get at, albeit in a less clear way. "You can't do the same thing over and over again and expect different results" is right on target.
However, re-reading the letter, the housework thing is just an example of what I can only assume is an all-encompassing failure to communicate. My experience has been that this has to be addressed in a way that can be applied to everything, because it can be insidious.
I guess the answer to "how do I accommodate someone who will not negotiate" is just don't accommodate him?

fondue with cheddar

@insouciantlover To paraphrase what @Blushingflwr suggested in another comment, if the passive-aggressive expects that speaking their mind will be met with opposition, they're not likely to do it. As someone who has a tendency to be such, I have to agree that it's good advice. I'm conflict averse and was pretty passive-aggressive in my last relationship, but my current partner is very laid-back and doesn't blow up at me when we disagree, which makes it easier for me to be forthright.

catwithglasses

@fondue with cheddar Yeah, I didn't hate the answer either. Because I think it's partially right and also I have no idea how to fix it.

But coming from someone who is dealing with a slightly similar situation in terms of different fighting styles, I totally see myself in the "If you just fought like I did everything would be better because it's clearly the right way to fight!!" perspective. But you really can't change people's fighting styles. The only way I've been able to move forward is to give slightly (which is so frustrating at first). For me, it ended up that my husband gave a bit too. So we're inching along. (For reference, my fighting style is "talk it out immediately and constantly" and his is "take time to sit and not talk").

Passive aggressiveness though? Ack. That's hard to fight. I hate that.

wharrgarbl

@Ellie As somebody whose dude occasionally does the same sort of thing, part of the reason it's infuriating is that it doesn't have to be a fucking fight. At all. Not all the time, but a lot of the time. "I don't want to go to this party with you" is actually an acceptable response that a normal human can have! No fight necessary! Or, if it's not the greatest response or exactly what you're looking for, it's going to get let go because it's not worth fighting over. Like, you'd prefer they come with you, but they clearly don't want to, so you let it go and attend by yourself.

Same deal with a lot of chores and other sundries. It's okay to say "I hate folding laundry, I'd prefer to scrub the shower stall or clean out the fridge once a week, why don't we swap?"

If everything's turning into a fight, that's a really bad sign for them. If someone can't have a normal discussion/negotiation without interpreting it as a fight, that's a problem, too, and one that is likely carrying over into other aspect's of the dude's life. But as it stands, this situation sounds crazy-making for both of them.

Stevie

@MmeLibrarian Sadly, "I am not your mother" does not work at all for me. I've left a lone (dirty) athletic sock in the middle of the kitchen floor for two full days before asking for it to be picked up, because apparently I need to point that out. (The response was a jokey "I'm marking my territory!") Granted, he is busy with a full-time job and an accelerated part-time MBA program (for our future, etc.), but there are basic home tasks and somehow I'm the only one doing them. I'm not sure what to do, because when I see him for twenty minutes at the end of the day and bring it up, he gets angry that I'm on his case right when he walks in the door.

Sorry, stressful week. He has finals; I feel like Cinderella Part 1.

rocknrollunicorn

@Ellie I'd say that the problem with viewing her letter as solely "argue my way" is the party. He ruined a night she planned by refusing to actually communicate his wants. This isn't a fighting style, it's manipulation.

MilesofMountains

@insouciantlover I can actually be a fairly passive aggressive person, but I am stuck on this because he seems to be passive aggressive for completely different reasons. If I were leaving piles of laundry unfolded, it'd generally be because I want to talk about something so my answer to "why didn't you fold the laundry" would be something like "oh, I'm sorry, I must have forgot it between doing the laundry and making dinner and doing the dishes and maybe if I wasn't doing 1000 other things I wouldn't forget" or "oh, I guess I just didn't see it what with you taking CLEAN LAUNDRY from the machine and dumping it on the floor like an animal building a nest". As annoying as either of those would be (and I get that I'm being annoying) I at least figure it's clear where to go from there. I don't know where you go from "I forgot."

Judith Slutler

@wharrgarbl This is what I'm thinking too. It doesn't have to be a fight! If LW is being honest about her responses to this behavior, which sound totally nonconfrontational, it doesn't sound like she is trying to make it into a fight at all. I kind of feel like they need marriage counseling just to sort out the fact that he is not going to be "in trouble" for just speaking his mind once in a while.

fondue with cheddar

@kmc I hate passive-aggressiveness too, and I do it sometimes! I hate myself for it but it's so ingrained in me that it just comes out in certain situations or with certain people. I had a breakthrough moment while driving home from my therapist one day when I realized that my parents never argued. NEVER. I thought arguing was bad, and it meant you hated each other. And that's why I'm conflict-averse. Knowing how I got that way helps the immense guilt I feel somewhat. I'm working on it!

@wharrgarbl It doesn't have to be a fucking fight. YES. That was why my last relationship didn't work, and why I was so horribly passive-aggressive. He's a nice guy but he brought out the worst in me.

highfivesforall

@insouciantlover Totally agree. It's hard to write advice for this, because it does seem like he is extremely unwilling to change at all (she asks him if he'd like to choose something else instead of folding and he says "no it's fine" multiple times? please.), but the advice here just doesn't make sense. She does not want to "win fights", she wants to be able to give him what he actually wants instead of having to guess all the time. I like @MmeLibrarian's advice here.

insouciantlover

@MilesofMountains Haha, oh man I can relate to this ALL TOO WELL.

But it's more like "why are you passing out in front of a movie again" and I'm like oh GEE, sorry, I guess I spent my energy being the only person who buys toilet paper!!!

all the bacon and eggs

@Stevie Too busy to pick up a sock: not a thing.

wharrgarbl

@highfivesforall Seriously. Winning fights is great, but being able to trust that the words coming out of your partner's mouth bear some passing resemblance to the truth is fundamental. If you have no way of figuring out what's going on in their head ("I am complaining about the food and picking fights with friends of friends over stupid shit because I secretly didn't want to come in the first place and feel like you dragged me here and will never, ever admit to any of this! When you ask what's wrong, I'm going to fake a smile and say 'Nothing'!"), you're pretty boned. I mean, you're adrift without a friggin' compass.

insouciantlover

@all the bacon and eggs I honestly think there are some people who cease to see clutter after it has been there for a certain amount of time. I have lived with people who have left a thing totally out of place in a weird spot for months on end until I finally ask "what's going on with this?" and they're like, oh, I forgot that was there. And it's in plain sight! But, idk, selective vision?

aphrabean

@Stevie You know what I did, is I set aside time to talk about it when we both weren't busy. It's a conversation we've had to have multiple times ("I'm not your mother" didn't work because no one in his life ever did any of that kind of work; he was raised sort of ferally) and it goes much better if we can do it in a calm, neutral state when I am not ready to stab him with my much-loathed mop handle.

Also, I then talked about my feelings, about feminism, and how deeply hurt an devalued I felt when the burden of housework fell on me, and we discussed what could be done for a different response. I also accepted that he is comfortable with way more chaos than I am, so have had to step back a little on certain things.

fondue with cheddar

@insouciantlover I have that, and the reason is that if I get used to it being there I won't see it anymore. that's why I can't write notes to myself too far in advance. If I write myself a note on Monday about something to do on Saturday, I've gotten used to ignoring it by Wednesday so I don't see it when I actually need it. And as much as I hate when things are out of place, if something is out of place for a reason I will still stop seeing it.

Beatrix Kiddo

@wharrgarbl I find this infuriating too. IF YOU WOULD JUST BE FORTHRIGHT TO BEGIN WITH, I WOULDN'T BE PISSED ABOUT IT NOW.

insouciantlover

@fondue with cheddar I'm REALLY BAD with notes in particular... like the jury duty notice I got several weeks ago that I completely stopped fucking seeing pinned to the refrigerator until this morning.

Stevie

@aphrabean Thank you, this is good and reasonable advice. I know he's so much better at house stuff when he's on a break from school, too, so at this point I need to let it go temporarily until the time is right to address it. Unfortunately I tend to say what I'm thinking right away, consequences be damned, but so maybe that's my goal for a few more days. I like having a task!

angelene

@insouciantlover I'm not too aggressive, but definitely passive. I have to be sure it won't offend ANYONE before I express a preference, so the main thing is showing that you really don't mind if what they say is negative. But sometimes, you know, I don't really have a preference. That said – I do do chores when asked, so it's not the kind of passive resistance that LW3 is encountering. If this is a really chronic unbalance in the way they manage chores, she should stage some kind of rebellion. I also remember reading that men see chores as simply disagreeable things, whereas women view them as a way of showing other people you care. This is, of course, a dodgy generalisation, but may be helpful in thinking about his rationale when he doesn't do the laundry. He just might not see the importance or realise it shows a lack of caring.

cinnamonskin

@fondue with cheddar "Therapy or divorce" explains many a relationship.

PistolPackinMama

@fondue with cheddar I've been thinking about this, and I think... agh. I guess I think the issue here might be, if a partner avoids stating what is on their mind, I'd avoid asking unless I really needed an answer. If you know asking for information is going to result in a lot of work with no outcome, why do it? You can avoid that stress and make decisions in some other way.

So if a partner is asking and asking and asking for information from a passive/passive-agressive person, (well, if it were me asking), it means it's really important. And sometimes things are really important because they are problems, and with problems you aren't always likely to get your way. In fact, it's nearly a guarantee that you shouldn't always get your own way.

Working on that "you state your needs/desires and I don't get pushy about my conflicting need/desire for it to be my way" dynamic is something to practice NOT during a crisis or in a case where decisions need to be made and might require negotiation.

I guess that means people in LW's position need to (counterintuituvely) make a bigger deal out of getting opinions on littler things.

My dad is the best at withholding information/opinions/preferences and boy howdy was it hard on my mom until she established a system to cope. He's gotten better, but still. Aie. (My dad's dad was... really domineering. Hoo boy.)

PistolPackinMama

@PistolPackinMama And, I hasten to note, both of my parents are awesome. They are great individuals and a great team. But aie, still.

mustelid

@Stevie Another thing you might try is ask him how he wants you to tell him that stuff (like, the next time he gets angry about you "getting on his case" right when he walks in the door).

As The Messy One in my relationship, I get a bit defensive when I'm asked to clean something up, even if it's completely reasonable. I don't know what his history is, but for me, I was just raised in a really gross house and have the selective vision for cleanliness-related stuff, which I'm super ashamed about. So one of the things I've asked for is that I get a simple request with no frills. "Hey, can you pick up that sock?" instead of "Can you pick up the filthy sock that's been sitting there for two days?" The first request doesn't make me feel like a disgusting filth-encrusted worthless human being who can't even pick up a damn sock.

Another one that might help is, "Hey, can you pick up the sock before you go to bed?" It's picking up a sock, it takes two seconds, there's no reason for him not to do it right then and there... but he might be better able to do it if he can feel like he's doing it on his terms, instead of feeling like you're pouncing on him to make him do it right once he gets in the door. Then you drop the matter, and it's hopefully gone the next morning. If not, try it again.

Anyway these are just some thoughts, but the best bet is probably to ask him how he wants you to deal with it, since he's obviously reacting poorly to the way it's going right now (because it's true, nobody is too busy to pick up a sock).

PotatoPotato

@mustelid: I just wanna second this. I grew up in a super cluttered house, and I have a hard time parting with stuff because every time I threw away something as a child, my mom got all upset and said, "Ohhh, but don't you still want that?" (She still does it, and I haven't lived at home for years.) It's taken me a long time to recognize the emotional value I give Stuff.

I also become blind to things lying around. Tossed a purse on the couch three days ago? It is now part of the couch. Took off a shirt I wanted to wear again before washing and dropped it next to the bed? It is now part of the floor. Like seriously, I just step around it and IT NEVER REGISTERS THAT IT'S NOT SUPPOSED TO BE THERE.

My live-in partner is a neat freak and it drives him crazy, so I have taught myself to walk into a room and go, "Ok, what does my partner see when he walks into this room? What looks out of place to him?" And then I pick up a couple things and put them away, and then try it again in the next room. It usually takes me at least three sweeps of our entire apartment, room by room, to pick up all the random stuff I've left all over the place.

"Hey, can you pick up this sock before going to bed" is a perfect way for him to handle it, because then he's 1) letting me know that something's upsetting him, and 2) he's not triggering that same built-in shame of being a sloppy person and the resulting defensiveness. It also gives me an opportunity to address things that I didn't know were upsetting him before he hits the point where he's really angry and annoyed, which sometimes happens because he thinks he's being too demanding and then just doesn't tell me he's still just mildly annoyed.

Also, a gentle "thank you for taking out the trash/washing the dishes/other thing I did not ask you to do" helps me remember that what I do or don't do affects him. And that goes both ways -- I like to hear it, but I also say it, because it keeps me in the mindset of thinking about how my behavior affects him.

Dimples

@insouciantlover Wow, excellent advice/story. I am very, very messy and am dating a neat and tidy fellow. I'm so nervous about not driving him crazy with my mess when we eventually marry/move in together (this is imminent). Your note makes me feel like maybe I won't make him insane for the rest of our life together.

Stevie

@Dimples This is all interesting -- the selective vision idea, especially. I will keep the advice in mind, and try to be patient. I have been doing the "before bed"-type requests so that he feels some agency, but he usually forgets if he doesn't do it right away, so I end up getting frustrated anyway after a few days, but it's a process. It helps to know that so many relationships have this "Odd Couple" dynamic, and that it's really about communication and considering the other person's perspective.

misskatesays

That last sentence choked me up a little.

Nicole Cliffe

My dad stayed home with my brother and I, and people gave him such shit. But he would just roll his eyes at them and continue to change us / buy groceries / push swings / put on hats like a boss.

Speaking of cake, I have cake

@Nicole Cliffe <3s for your dad

wharrgarbl

@Nicole Cliffe Bonus points if people who flip shit about stay-at-home dads turn around and talk about how stay-at-home moms are the bedrock of society, should feel bad for working, and/or shouldn't aspire to be anything but a mom, because "it's the most important job in the world."

Jennifer@twitter

@wharrgarbl BUT ONLY WOMEN CAN HAVE THIS JOB!

Ugh... yay for stay at home dads :)

fondue with cheddar

@Jennifer@twitter OMG MR. MOM THAT'S SO UNCONVENTIONAL

wharrgarbl

@Jennifer@twitter Lady-version: "IT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT JOB YOU CAN EVER HAVE!" Dude-version: "Ugh, why doesn't that lazy moocher go get a real job?" Stay-at-home dads: "Y'all jealous."

bitzy

@wharrgarbl Seriously. The reactions to stay-at-home dads are ridiculous. My husband's best friend recently became one and gets lots of "Oh, that's OK"s (Which is the PNW version of "Bless her heart"). He lives in sweatpants, doesn't have to commute, and gets to hang out with his adorable child all day. I AM jealous.

The Hyperbolic Julia Set

@bitzy YES! This or people keep giving my husband off hand tips about job openings they heard about because he obviously must be looking for work. Or trying to comfort him because I'm a crazy "career girl" and we all know what THAT means.

MilesofMountains

@Nicole Cliffe My dad was a stay at home dad for a few years in the early 80's, since my mom had the better paying job. He got so, so much shit, especially from family.

Lady Humungus

LW4: Elope. Seriously. My fam isn't even toooo crazy, and I had a great wedding, but after spending $20k on a nice-but-stressful day I mostly remember only thanks to the pictures, I really wish I had eloped. You and your fiance can have a really special, private, romantic wedding... and then come home refreshed and ready to have a casual picnic or something where the whole crazeballs family shows up to toast your nuptials.

blueblazes

@Lady Humungus I agree wholeheartedly. Having a "real" wedding was like having a second full-time job for six months followed by one extremely stressful day. Leaving the wedding was the best thing that ever happened to me, and not just because we were driving to a fancy hotel to have sex. If I had to do it over, I'd have gotten married at a courthouse and then thrown a totally bitchin party somewhere at a later date.

blueblazes

@blueblazes PS, our wedding was totally chill and we had no crazy relatives or major fallings-out. But it was still stressful. I can't imagine adding interpersonal drama to the drama of getting the caterer to deliver on time and making sure there were enough chairs on the lawn.

Greta M.

@Lady Humungus Absolutely! And to LW#4, elopements do not have to just be Vegas or city hall. You can find lovely "elopement packages" in romantic locales. Even the smoothest of weddings is very stressful. It sounds like your family will find excuses to be pissed no matter what, so why not do what makes you happy on your own wedding day?

OhMarie

@blueblazes Yeah, and you can even have multiple parties at later dates! I did not do this, but I have a friend who did (they were both from other countries, so they had one party in her home country, one party in his, and a party here in the US for their friends) and it was GREAT. Drunk uncle factor was 0%!

somethingobscure

@Lady Humungus This. I'm getting married on Monday at city hall (WOW. that's really soon.), because we want to get married right now but don't want a big production. We're planning to have a semi-casual reception at a local vineyard next year with family and friends, but it won't be a big production either. We both have great, supportive families, and even so, the idea of spending so much money, time, and effort on something I just don't really care about is just NO.

I can't say I really get the whole wedding thing. I want to be married, not have a stressful, expensive party. Plus, I've always thought that I would feel super awkward doing something really intimate and important in front of tons of people...it will feel more real and more special with just the two of us.

werewolfbarmitzvah

@Lady Humungus Truth! I actually kinda get my knickers in a twist when people are dismissive of elopement as not being a valid option, or as LW4 words it, not being a "special and meaningful" experience. You're getting yourselves legally tied together in matrimony; it's automatically meaningful whether you do it in a courthouse or in a rose petal-strewn garden somewhere! I mean, have a wedding a wedding is what you truly want, but there's no reason to have a wedding solely because your douchey relatives expect you to have one. It's one solitary day, and your crazy family is going to keep on being crazy whether there's a wedding or not. Anyway, I eloped at city hall, we had only one witness, and it was great!

Bittersweet

@somethingobscure Congratulations! I love seeing those slideshows of the couples getting married at City Hall. Here's to your health and happiness. *raises fake internet champagne glass*

mlle.gateau

@Lady Humungus YES! This was my suggestion, but I wanted to read down and see if anyone else had done it. My friend got married back in May, but there was definitely a stretch where they looked at elopements. Eloping doesn't have to mean getting married by Elvis or going to the courthouse. You can spend a couple grand and go to a vineyard for a weekend. They'll set you up with an officiant, a photographer, a tiny cake, the works. It can be a really special thing for the two of you. And if you feel really guilty about the whole reception thing, as others have said, you can still have a reception. Your wedding should be for you.

movieormaybe

LW with the warring families.. how about marrying for real at city hall or somesuch, just you and your SO exchanging vows in a meaningful way, and then having the big staged event shitshow -- without any of the family knowing about the first wedding? The legal marriage part is the signing of the license, right? Everything else is window-dressing. Maybe if you know that the 'real' part of the wedding will be private and meaningful, you can be relaxed about all the family garbage, since it's just a big party celebration afterwards?

garli

@movieormaybe If you're going to do that you should be honest about it. It's not uncommon for people to do a private ceremony and a big reception (or medium/small reception, what ever) but why lie?

loren smith

@movieormaybe My husband and I actually considered this - I'm not the LW - but we had a lot of very real concerns about people's behaviours at the wedding. We were married in August, in a beautiful wedding and reception, and it ended up being great and everyone was fine. The people we were worried about ending up really pulling together and being normal.

@garli Because the point of lying is to get them off your back when they want to meddle. And because it's better to ask forgiveness than ask permission.

"SURPRISE! WE ELOPED IN THE MOUNTAINS ON VACATION! Come to our big ass party! Wooooo!" goes over way WAY easier than "Dear Catholic Aunties: don't show up to my gay wedding ceremony where you will meddle." Maybe this is a cultural thing?

tea sonata

My flippant comment of the day - LW4, elope.

Also, LW3, at any point since you went your separate ways has he mentioned getting back with you, in any way, shape or form?
Also, crowd source with your friends who know about him!

Speaking of cake, I have cake

WEDDINGS UGH. I'm not married, and as time goes on and I see the amount of stupid fights and fallings-out that happen over what the Dude very accurately describes as 'part fancy dress party, part international fiasco' it makes me think that it Mr Cake and I ever tie the knot the only way to do it sanely is in an anonymous register office with a window cleaner or something dragged in as a witness and NO ONE ELSE. A family member is getting married next year and the amount of latent family drama, passive aggressiveness, friends-turning-out-to-not-be-friends and financial freakouts that are happening ALREADY are enough to turn me off for life.

Sorry for the wedding-negativity explosion! I'm sure lots of people have lovely chill weddings where everyone's happy - I just have yet to see an example. Doesn't help that where I'm from it's the societal norm for people to have insanely expensive weddings even though the country is literally broke. STOP THE BRIDAL MADNESS PEOPLE.

Harriet Vane

@Speaking of cake, I have cake YES SO MUCH YES. Also, hello other Irish person! (I'm guessing?)

Speaking of cake, I have cake

@Harriet Vane Guessed right! Dublin Pin Up facebook group here FYI https://www.facebook.com/groups/469311923093202/

MilesofMountains

I completely disagree with the answer to #3. It's not just that she's not winning the arguments, it's that his way of arguing involves no compromise. He doesn't want to go to a party? If he told her, she could go on her own, but now she doesn't get to go to the party either! He doesn't want to do laundry? He won't switch for something else, he just won't do it so she has to pick up his slack! It's a bullshit method of arguing he should have grown out of around the age of 9. He hasn't, and she needs to stop "encouraging him to advocate for himself" or whatever and call him on his manipulative shit.

eiffeldesigns

@MilesofMountains "call him on his manipulative shit." A thousand times yes. Passive aggresiveness is the bastion of manipulative assholes.

I think the only way to resolve this (if it can be resolved) would be to call him out on it and do some couples counseling. But what I've learned in life is that arguing styles don't change. My ex husband is my ex husband for a variety of reasons, but one of them was we just dealt with conflict in very different ways.

Mingus_Thurber

@MilesofMountains THIS. I think LW3 is married to my ex-husband.

TattyEmu

@MilesofMountains

I felt like the answer to #3 amounted to 'dudes will be dudes, you pushy nag' and my head near exploded. This guy doesn't avoid conflict, by refusing to speak his mind he's taking away her ability to make her own choices. The longer and harder she tries to guess what will make him happy the smaller and smaller little circles she's going to run in, until all she does is sit there and wait for him. Dear LW3. Your husband does not value you, your opinion, or your mind. Go find someone who sees you as an equal partner, and not a thing to be outmaneuvered.

TyrannosaurusWreck

@MilesofMountains Why doesn't she get to go to the party either?

MilesofMountains

@TyrannosaurusWreck She said right now she ends up waiting for him until it's too late to go, so he's keeping her home with him.

rasko

Whoa #3. She is asking for a way to improve their communication. You might think, reading this letter, that she is coming on too strong in the "I'm a great communicator and heeee's not" sense, but still, even if you did read it that way - suggesting that she wants him to argue just so that she can get her own way? Not helpful... Why not provide advice on communicating effectively? She's looking for ways to get past passive-aggressive behaviour, and you could provide some suggestions on how to do that in terms of her own communication. Build on the "If you are more expressive, I will be less argumentative," line, with less of the rude dismissive you-suck-woman advice.

(Also, how many of us have at one point or another either been the passive-aggressive non-communicative one or dealt with a passive-aggressive partner? Like everyone? I could always use more internet advice on that.)

fabel

@rasko yeah, I did NOT like this dude's reply to 3 at all. He's basically telling her that the husband is allowed to be as passive-aggressive as he wants, because she is bossy? What the fuck?

I think you're right that she just wanted some tips on how to improve communication. Passive-aggression is a shitty, shitty way to express oneself.

City_Dater

@fabel

It is a shitty way to express oneself!

And I know because I was in the LW's situation at one time, and I am very grateful to NOT be catering to that nonsense anymore.

southwer

I totally, totally disagree with this dude's answer to LW3. this kind of bullshit pisses me off to no end. LW3, just stop doing this a-hole's laundry if he won't help. This is about being passive-aggressive, but it also sounds like he's just a dick who won't pull his weight around the house. and maybe, dump him.

LW4: Elope.

adorable-eggplant

@southwer Yes! If I were her, I would just sort out his laundry and leave it in a little heap (maybe near the washing machine) and then do my own laundry.

As the messier person in my own relationship, I understand that I have to make an effort every now and then to pull my own weight. If I didn't I would totally expect either a come-to-jesus talk or a here's your messy stuff in a pile on the curb moment. It's only fair to expect people to invest equal effort in this stuff.

garli

#4 Elope. Don't look back. Find a pretty court house (there are many) dress up nice, take a week trip after, come back and tell everyone. I did it and don't regret it for a second.

wharrgarbl

@garli Eloping isn't a bad option, for reals. It's a lot easier for the family to get over something like that when not getting invited was something that happened to everybody. You try to have a ceremony and just invite a handful of people who play well with others, and everybody who didn't get an invite is going to see to it that it gets carved on their tombstones.

garli

@wharrgarbl For sure. My best friend tried to copy me but invite only their mothers (bad relationships with the dad on both parts) and it quickly spiraled to "Oh but your sister and cousin and their kids and blah blah blah" and so they just decided it was too much of a pain in the ass and remain unmarried. Still happily together but it's just silly.

Hellcat

@garli Yeah, my plan, should it come to it, is to go on vacation, get married while on that vacation, and then come home and have a big, fun bash that doesn't have wedding-day stress and expense attached to it.

garli

@Hellcat I salute you. Just look into where you want to go ahead of time. Some countries you have to be physically there for a while before you can get married. That's why we did it local and then left. Also there's a lot of paper work between countries/states that isn't hard but who wants to deal with it?

Blushingflwr

I almost want to tell LW #3 to just be passive-aggressive right back. He puts off getting ready to go to your friend's party? Leave without him.
He doesn't fold the laundry? Fold your own, let his wrinkle. "Oh, honey, I know you said you were going to fold the laundry, so I left it for you, I just grabbed a couple of items I needed."

The thing about passive-aggression is that sometimes those of us who are passive-aggressive don't recognize that's what we're doing. It's not necessarily a conscious strategy, so much as it is a behavior we learned somewhere along the line. It can be unlearned, too, but first a person has to recognize the behavior in themselves and want to change it, and then be willing to police their own choices.

He is stating a position, he's just not stating it in language you're comfortable with.
You have to reward him when he does. If he flat-out says "I don't want to do X", then don't argue him away from that position, accept it. "Okay." Every time a clear statement gets acquiescence rather than argument, he'll learn that stating his position doesn't have to lead to an argument. Eventually (in theory), he'll get more used to the idea (at which point you can renegotiate things if you don't like his position). But if every time he flatly states a position, you try to negotiate, he's going to give up, because it's not worth it for him.

LW #4: if these people stop talking to you forever, will your life really be that much worse? I understand that there are people we have obligations to invite, but sometimes I think we make too much of those obligations. Why invite someone to your wedding that you never speak to and don't actually like, just because they happen to be related to you?

adorable-eggplant

@Blushingflwr I agree so much on both points! Just be upfront: "I'm leaving for X's party at 8:00, if you are dressed and sitting in the car with me at that time, then you are coming along. Otherwise, I'll be home midnight-ish." Be clear about what you're doing and then do it.

Also, couples counseling. Because it sounds like this may slowly drive you crazy.

And yeah, why invite jerks to a wedding? It's a festive occasion. It should be people you love and nobody else. Also, most families that feud will be on pretty good behavior in front of strangers, so maybe trust folks to pull it together at least a little bit?

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

@Blushingflwr
Re LW4, that was exactly my thinking! Much easier than my problem, which was what to do with the huge numbers of people who I liked just barely enough to care that they would be offended if they weren't invited.

Judith Slutler

@Blushingflwr That makes so much sense, about #3. Right now, she is rewarding his behavior by not only doing the laundry and skipping the party, but also trying to draw him out of his shell and spending all kinds of energy trying to figure out what his deal is. That can't be constructive! Right now, if he continues acting like this, he'll continue getting his way and not having to compromise or express himself, along with her handling more of the Emotional Relationship Work than is her share.

fondue with cheddar

LW3 READ THE ABOVE COMMENT!

@Blushingflwr YES. This is great advice. And it's true that passive-aggressive people don't always recognize what they're doing; it's something I'm working on myself.

planforamiracle

@Blushingflwr This makes so much sense. THANK YOU!
Signed,
I Hope I Never Again Have To Live With A Passive-Aggressive Person
But If I Do, I Will Follow Your Advice

guenna

@Blushingflwr i'm totally in the same boat as LW#3. this is the best advice i've heard from anyone about how to break this cycle. thank you!

meetapossum

Yes to all of the above. The main thing I agreed with in Dude's answer is "So the right question is 'Why does he adopt a passive-aggressive strategy?' and the answer is 'Because it works.'" If people allow you to be passive-aggressive, you just keep doing it.

Blushingflwr

@planforamiracle & @guenna I'm glad it sounds helpful to you!
For me, a lot of my personal passive-aggression and conflict-avoidant tendencies come from being afraid not only of conflict, but of failure and rejection (and I have a tendency to conflate all three). Learning how to use my words and state my desires clearly took (in part) having partners who didn't try to change my mind and who gave me what I wanted when I asked for it (as opposed to partners who made me feel belittled or misunderstood when I expressed my feelings). If you never get what you want, you will stop asking for it. If every clearly-stated position leads to an argument or a "discussion", you'll stop clearly stating your position. The reverse is also true - if stating your position gets you what you want (or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof), you'll learn to state your position. Some people learned that squeaky wheels get the grease, some people learned that the squeaky wheel gets thrown away.

fondue with cheddar

@Blushingflwr THIS. ALL THE WAY.

Kulojam

@Blushingflwr Great advice. And you're right, passive-aggression can absolutely be unlearned. It sounds ilke you found what was behind yours, and I did too - I learned how to (not) communicate from two terrible communicators (my parents) and those lessons were reinforced by shitty relationships. But some therapy and a healthy relationship or two helped me become a direct communicator and now I hope I never go back to passive aggression - after being on the receiving end of it, I realize it is one of the most frustrating things in the world to deal with. I also think trying to get her husband to communicate more directly (read: effectively) is not "trying to change him" in some fundamental way. Passive aggression is a behavior, not a personality trait.

adorable-eggplant

There will be people you don't want to invite but have to? Umm, nope. My parents didn't invite their parents because my grandmother is a holy terror. My brother didn't invite someone who people would assume would be on the automatic yes list and did invite someone who when I heard he/she was coming my jaw actually dropped in astonishment at the brass it took to invite this particular black sheep.

So no, just invite the people you want to invite. Deal with the fallout of those decisions as a united couple front. It's your wedding.

tea sonata

@adorable-eggplant Yup, agreed. It's a day for you, not a day to buffet some longforgotten tiff around.
Either that, or do it all over videolink. They're all there, but they're not.

Better to Eat You With

@adorable-eggplant Yes. People don't want to be upfront about this stuff, but when they bitch, make it clear to everybody that they weren't invited because they can't leave conflict at the door. (Make it clear to everybody because they'll never bitch directly to you, but will complain to everyone you've ever met.)

truelove

i can relate super a lot to that last letter-writer. oh, god, my parents/grandparents. i love them but sometimes i'll wonder how terrible of a person i am to imagine how much easier my life will be when they are dead. so reading "and in the middle of it all it will be time to cut the cake, which some relative or other will regard as very very urgent, and you'll freak out and grab the caterer and say "Have you seen my husband?" and when you use that word for the first time, every dreadful thing happening around you will fade a bit as you realize that your family, the family you really belong to, has just shifted from the one you inherited to the one you've invented." Just made my heart swell and exhale a whole lot.

Passion Fruit

@truelove Hahahaha! I understand you, girl.

"You are heaven and earth to me, but GOOD GOD, things would be easier if you were dead."

OxfordComma

@truelove : My paternal grandfather died this spring. My wedding will be so much easier without him glowering over the proceedings.

sintaxis

The answer to LW3 was pretty lackluster. I mean, yeah, that's right the dude would not want to give up his effective strategy for one that will cause him to do more chores/keep his word/be a decent guy.
Clearly LW3 is pretty unhappy with the fact that her guy is manipulative and passive aggressive and the answer of "Welp, yeah, of course he is. It's effective." seems a bit lazy to me.

fabel

LW2, what. I know you throw in enough "god, can you believe this is how I'm feeling??" lines that I shouldn't be wanting to eviscerate you for this letter, but noo. This guy is not so wonderful. Your connection to him feels amazing because of other reasons, & I think you should explore what reasons those are instead of wondering whether or not to contact him in 6 months.

I mean, the P.S. totally threw me. After the "swooned inside myself" line, I was like "oh, okay. He gave you multiple orgasms." But if you're saying the sex was terrible? & THAT'S WHY (that's why??) you fell so hard, then it seems to me like you may have a history of sexcapades that are causing you to go for something opposite, this time? I don't know. But something's off.

Reginal T. Squirge

I sort of attempted to explain this above but I have no idea if my interpretation is correct.

Hellcat

@fabel Maybe it was along the lines of "I know it must be real because I still liked him despite the bad, bad sex"?

fabel

@Reginal T. Squirge Oh, oops. Missed that! @Hellcat yeah, I think that's what the LW is trying to say...but I still find flaw with that logic. I will admit that this may be because I personally believe that it *cannot* possibly be real if the sex is really bad?

JessicaLovejoy

Be passive aggressive right back and stop spending money on something he likes, and use it to pay someone to come in once a week to do the chores he "forgets."

redheaded&crazy

@JessicaLovejoy I co-sign this, but only because girl is married and so I feel like I can't flippantly say "dump his ass"

planforamiracle

@JessicaLovejoy No way. Two wrongs don't make a right, and if you actually do this it could escalate into a really petty and uncomfortable situation.

JessicaLovejoy

@planforamiracle I don't see Cowardly Lyin doing much escalation beyond hyperpouting.

veryanonymous

@planforamiracle I don't see how it's a wrong to pay someone to come in and do chores if he's not doing his share? How else are the chores going to get done? She can't do all the crap in the relationship that nobody wants to do.

planforamiracle

@veryanonymous Sorry I wasn't clear—my reason for not agreeing with this idea was that it comes from a place of "be passive-aggressive right back." If you communicate about it and outline why, then hiring a cleaner's fair game and maybe a good solution.
LW3's question was not about housework, it was about communication (the housework is used as an example.)

and the 'hyperpouting' is a form of escalation (more passive-aggression, even less communication) that is likely to make the LW more frustrated, and the situation worse.

Amphora

@planforamiracle Yeah, being passive-aggressive right back doesn't work. If this guy doesn't recognize his own passive-aggression, why would he recognize hers? It would look normal to him. She'd just infuriate herself further by forcing herself to act like that and still not make any progress. Go to therapy already! If arguing doesn't change his behavior, he might listen to it from an objective observer because he assumes it's all in his wife's head.

SarahP

LW3, while I agree to some extent with what the Married Dude was saying, I don't feel like his answer gave you anything to work with in terms of turning around the way you and your husband communicate. Couples therapy might be a good way to start, as you guys would have someone actually helping you communicate. But at the very least, I realllllly recommend reading Nonviolent Communication. It can be a little cheesy at times, but that book really helped me turn around the way I communicated with my husband (I wasn't quite as bad as your husband, but I was definitely more on that side and my husband was more on your side of the communication spectrum). It'd be awesome is both of you could read it, but even if only you read it, you'd have new tools in your how-to-talk-about-problems toolbelt.

Lily Rowan

@SarahP Yeah, I feel like the actual answer is missing in #3. It's all lead-up!

applestoapples

LW#1, instead of giving your husband an "I'm Proud of You" card, give his mother a "STFU and Take a Seat" card. Preferably with a basket of kittens on the front.

noodge

oh, LW4: the wedding stress with crazy family types can be the worst. even when it's not the worst, it's really bad, and your fams sound like the worst. i can't even imagine.

i vote for "strap on the kevlar" and do an elopement, and deal with their drama until it peters out, because it will peter out, especially once someone else in the family creates something for them to get all rabble roused about.

but bad weddings? they can really put a damper on your relationship (especially in the planning stages) and can create huge family issues for the future (especially with the addition of alcohol)

(I won't bore everyone with the story of Mr. Teenie's sister's wedding brouhaha AGAIN, but there was a huge brawl, some broken face bones, horrible drama and trauma, it was really awful and I would say she and her husband will be dealing with fallout from it for years, if not forever. My wedding was drama free, but the tension and stress coming from his family because we couldn't invite ALL the cousins, and we weren't doing it in a way that was approved by his mom, was huge and difficult and our relationship suffered a bit during the planning stages as a result)

TheclaAndTheSeals

@teenie Also, bad weddings are EXPENSIVE. If LW4 really wants a traditional, wedding-ish wedding: fuck the haters and go for it. But if you're on the fence, having a stressful wedding is that much more stressful if you spent lots of money on it.

HereKitty

A Dude who knows that "ad" takes the accusative ... I'm swooning!

Miss Maszkerádi

@HereKitty *fans self!* Seriously, a good command of Latin is actually on my dream list of qualities of my perfect mate.

Miss Maszkerádi

To LW2: I'm side-eying the breakup after 6 weeks, the "timing" explanation and the awful sex, and my instinct is to tell you to leave this one where it fell, and eventually look back on the falling-in-love experience as a happy memory. But the choice is yours. What I really want to say is: as you embark on your few months of figuring out whatever shit you need to get sorted with yourself (and yay for sorting shit out!) BEWARE falling into the trap of thinking, whether consciously or unconsciously, that you're sorting your shit out to "prepare" for your second attempt at this particular dude. I did that once, sort of - met a guy at my college just before summer break, spent the summer "working on myself" basically, looking back on it, to be more his type, even as I told myself what a positive influence this guy would be on my life because hey, look at me getting my shit together because I can't be a life-wreck and date someone worthwhile, right? (insert sarcasm mark here.) Long story short, I ended up building up so many expectations and baggage in my head that even after our crashingly boring and awkward and profoundly disappointing first two "dates", I silenced the disloyal devils in my head telling me the guy was a douche and got in a relationship with him anyway. (Six profoundly disappointing and emotionally bruising months of an extremely dysfunctional relationship later, I broke it off.)

So yeah, just beware that mental trap, I imagine much wiser women than me have probably also fallen into it. (Or was it just me and now I look like an idiot?) Work on you, but for YOU, not with plans for any specific future dude in mind.....

dj pomegranate

"Now I'm not saying you should laugh alone with salad every night for 180 nights." is my new preamble to all advice I ever give my girlfriends ever.

par_parenthese

#3 WTF? Am I reading this wrong or is A Married Dude chastising LW for not giving in to her bf's passive-aggressive and incommunicative behavior... because it works? Lots of things "work" but that doesn't make them OK in a relationship. What's so hard about saying, "I'm beat/peopled-out/not up for it, so I don't want to go to your friend's party?" Locking himself in the bathroom and humming loudly with his fingers stuck in his ears would probably also effectively communicate that he doesn't want to go to the party, but that doesn't mean she's "asking the wrong question" if she asks for help overcoming that kind of bullshit.

I could totally be reading it wrong. It's Friday, the cleaners are at my school making a racket, and I just finished a monumental pile of grading. So...

rocknrollunicorn

@par_parenthese I teach preschool, and we try to get FOUR YEAR OLDS to vocalize their wants and needs. I read it the same way you did, and it's making me irrationally angry. Justified anger, though.

planforamiracle

@par_parenthese I'm reading "it works" as more of, "you are letting him get away with it" so it's "working" from his perspective. I totally agree with you that the behaviour she's describing is NOT OKAY!

olivebee

@par_parenthese I just said the exact same thing above. Just because the passive-aggression "works" does NOT mean it's a good thing. How about open and honest communication?

par_parenthese

@rocknrollunicorn Thank you. Ye gods, I thought I was going crazy when in actual fact I was simul-posting with several other people who called shenanigans on that response. I feel much more justified in my ragey reaction.

Ellie

I really relate to #2, ugh. I met a guy in May I was instantly crazy about and went out with him four times in two weeks. He seemed pretty into me too. The sex was amazing and somehow "special," not just mechanically good. He said he wasn't interested in a relationship because he had so much going on in his life, career, etc. and had just got out of a long term thing. Meanwhile I totally want to marry him. Then I went away for eight weeks. I ran into him on the street by accident right after I got back (late August) and he gave me a very warm greeting and said we'd hang out soon AND texted me that night. I texted him the next night asking what he was doing that night and have never heard from him since. I am so not over it! I ride my bicycle past his street constantly. I still totally want to marry him. I wasn't even in love with him. I know my behavior is ridiculous and I can't stop feeling this way. The only thing I can think of for people in this position is to throw more time at it.

garli

@Ellie Been there (with different details). It blows. I think a lot of people can relate. And you're right, after time it goes away and you're all "hey brain/heart? what was up with that?"

Clare

@Ellie I've been there, and sure I'm not the only person for whom this kind of thing has happened. You're absolutely right that time makes the pain go away some. And try to be kind to yourself: Spinning yourself into the ground about how irrational you know it is vs. how you feel only makes it hurt more.

mlle.gateau

@Clare "Spinning yourself into the ground about how irrational you know it is vs. how you feel only makes it hurt more."

I need this embroidered on a pillow.

rocknrollunicorn

Wait, this dude is actually suggesting that being passive aggressive is, like, an acceptable way to iron out differences? Listen, I grew up with a fair amount of passive aggression in my life, and I hate conflict so I tend toward passive aggression, and even I know that it is cowardly and totally inferior to actually communicating. I feel deep shame every time I catch myself being PA, and honestly right now I am trying really hard to figure out ways to be politely communicative about disagreements in my new cohabitating situation. I sometimes get so frustrated by this that I CRY, but I refuse to be PA the rest of my life.

So, to LW3, honestly I think you have to stop allowing him to function like this in your relationship. With the not-going-to a party thing, I'm not sure what you can do. But with the laundry? You don't fold it, either. DO NOT GIVE IN to his bs. Passive aggression simply is not acceptable, and I really can't believe that the dude who fielded these letters seems to think it is.

adorable-eggplant

@rocknrollunicorn Yes!! Passive aggression is the worst.

As far as being a non-confrontational person cohabiting: I'd say the thing that has been the most useful is quarterly house meetings. We preempt a lot of problems, and it's not a confrontation because we're talking about potential problems maybe down the road not actual problems, usually. And then we have beers and play card games.

It's great because I'm not naturally someone who likes to talk about things that bother me, but put it on an agenda as part of a checklist and somehow that feels much better.

Amphora

@rocknrollunicorn I didn't get the impression he thought it was acceptable at all and I'm confused how so many people did. While he didn't give any good solutions, he did suggest that she change her approach because Clearly it Wasn't Working for either of them. What's wrong with that? If you're dealing with a stubborn, passive person, being super direct might make him react by further entrenching himself rather than going "oh wait, you're right, I'll change" - because if it were that easy, the problem wouldn't have gotten to this point. With someone who's SO indirect, you are gonna have more success dealing with them in a less adversarial way.

sudden but inevitable betrayal

I mostly really liked this Dude, but agree with what others has said: he really dropped the ball on LW3.

I have run into this a bit with my dude in the past - who I don't think is a passive aggressive person, he just doesn't always pull his weight like I think he should. What I ended up doing was separating my stuff from his stuff, literally and metaphorically. He doesn't want to help with laundry? No problem, but I only wash my laundry, there is no "our" laundry anymore. He's getting wishy-washy on some event? Fine, but I'm leaving at X o'clock and if he's not walking out the door with me, his ass is getting left behind. And like...I hate to think of myself as a nag, but guess what? If he has said he is going to do something and then doesn't do it, you better believe I'm going to bring it up. If he feels nagged or gets upset about it, there's an incredibly easy solution: DO THE THING HE SAID HE WOULD DO. Period, end of story, tough cookies bud. I'm really clear about my expectation that he will be my PARTNER, and if he's not living up to that, we talk it out.

I definitely still have days where I'm like, if he puts one more dish in the sink without rinsing it off, so help me...! but for the most part we're on the same team.

Jaya

@sudden but inevitable betrayal Oh man, this. It's not about being passive-aggressive or confrontational or better at arguing, it's about being an adult who does the things they say they're going to do. Guess what? Nobody likes folding laundry! (Ok sometimes I like folding laundry.) If he so so hates doing it that he needs to do something else, fine, but saying you're going to do something and then not doing it makes you a liar, and nobody wants to be married to a liar.

adorable-eggplant

@sudden but inevitable betrayal Oh god yes.

@Jaya I was having trouble figuring out what made me so angry about LW3's dude, but yes! Nobody wants to be married to a liar.

dham

@sudden but inevitable betrayal

This seems like the healthiest response to me so far, because it combines what A Dude ignored (that this behavior is really intolerable) with the knowledge that Being Right Doesn't Always Help. Meaning that simply knowing the other person is wrong doesn't help fix the problem.

I had a friend who was fighting with her husband a lot about housecleaning, and they eventually just hired a cheap weekly cleaning service. It seems absurd (and not an option for most people), but I do think this sort of option has the effect of forcing you to identify the whether the problem is *about* the laundry or about the relationship itself.

Or, in the case of the LW, whether it is about "communication," or him being a lazy, childish dick.

sudden but inevitable betrayal

@dham That's such a good point you make about sussing out whether the issue is laundry or something else in the relationship. Because it's easy to be like, "do your own laundry, asshole!" but often it goes deeper than that. Maybe not the most fun conversation ever, especially for an introverted person, but so important. Not saying I'm great at it, because my go-to tactic for my whole life has been to shut down and not communicate anything ever, but my dude is Mr. Communication, so I'm learning. :)

I think that a relationship requires that both people make a good-faith effort to be good partners to each other, and if one is feeling let down or overburdened, there has to be space to air that and figure out what's happened and how to proceed - the alternative is just being miserable, and who wants that? I don't want to make assumptions about LW3's husband being a DTMF-level jerk (and oh man do I recognize my own non-confrontational tendencies in his behavior), but he's not holding up his end and that's shitty.

hands_down

As someone who is completely tired of her mother-in-law's bullshit, I just having to say: fucking mother-in-laws.

OxfordComma

@hands_down : Mine is my father-in-law and his passive-aggressive sighs of guilt-trippingness.

yeah-elle

LW3: A Married Dude's answer makes sense to me personally—this dude is continuing to be passive aggressive because it's working out for him.

What's the alternative? The way I see it:
1) When he speaks up, maybe the LW bulldozers him into doing things her way.
2) He's a total butt and is unbearable.
3) Maybe it's a bit of both.

This makes me think of the time I've had several friends who were ALWAYS LATE. Not like a-few-minutes-caught-in-traffic late. LATE. Like I would wait around for half an hour. I'd get up early and lose sleep so we could meet for breakfast and then I'd have to wait around. Then I realized the only reason they continued to do it is because I let them get away with it. So I stopped putting up with it. Some of them shaped up and started being on time. Others never got their acts together and I stopped being friends with them, really. They weren't willing to extend the basic courtesy of being relatively on time, and they stopped being worth waiting around for.

Not exactly the same thing, but I figure it could work for passive-aggression. I hope LW3 went to that friend's party and left the dude sitting at home alone. I hope that dude has had crumpled laundry for months. If you're straight forward with someone, and expect them to be too, then you should follow through.

meetapossum

@yeah-elle Yes on the lateness thing! I was trying to figure out a way to bring that up and compare to LW3, but you've done it perfectly.

A particular friend still expresses frustration: "Why don't you invite me to things anymore?" Because when we do you either don't respond or are 2 hours late. Either change or get over it.

Same with LW3's husband. Just fold your own laundry and not his (as many have said above). "Why didn't you fold mine, too?" "Because you said you would fold it."

RNL
RNL

LW2: If you get your shit together and still feel the same way, you can contact him and ask if he wants to get a drink or whatever, and then tell him face to face you'd like to give it another shot. It might help with the "what ifs".

But it sounds like this is a year ago. He broke up with you, nicely. He has not really been in contact. You have to be prepared that this feeling is totally one sided and he broke up with you because he was not feeling it. I'd say that this is super likely.

Sounds like you have some personal work to do, and I would guess that these feelings are part of that, and not so much because you actually met The One(tm).

Sometimes you fall hard for the wrong person (I think this is actually particularly so when you're not into it at first - like "dude, you were lame but I saw through that and now I LOOOOVE YOU and also you should love me for it"). Getting out is a blessing. Your obsessive thoughts and feelings are your personal stuff to work out on your own. It will make you stronger and more whole to have something real with someone who knows how to make you come.

Take it from someone who knows how to obsess over the wrong guy who also, as it turns out, just doesn't care.

Not Quite Sonic

@RobotsNeedLove This was more or less my reaction to LW2 as well. It took me a (shockingly, heart-breakingly) long time to learn that, 99 times out of 100, a person breaks things off with you BECAUSE THEY DO NOT WANT TO BE WITH YOU PERIOD. The details are rarely important. Even though it's awful and painful and confusing, the sooner you accept it's over and let it go, the better for your sanity.

I think the trouble is, we tend to always think "This one is different, this is the real thing" EVERY time we fall in love. So when it doesn't work out, it seems like there will never be another chance.

Better to Eat You With

@Not Quite Sonic It took me forever, too. And this sounds absurdly obvious, but I realized that I was obsessing about whatever guy had rejected me because I just didn't have enough to do with my brain and my time. I'm an easily-bored workaholic. Once I gave myself more to do, I was also able to set myself on more even footing with men.

Amphora

@Better to Eat You With It's obvious but it's less obvious when it's happening to you. LW definitely sounds like she's been lonely and bored lately and it mentally going through a list of exes and thinking where did it go wrong and would it be better if we gave it another shot?

entangled

The answer to #4 made me tear up a little at the end. We were pretty lucky on the crazy family front because we have small families and no issues with less close relatives never speaking to us again, but there was stress and craziness and a lot of fun and then that moment of being married that was the whole point in the first place.

So, yeah, touching, even if the answer to the argumentative LW and her passive aggressive husband was relevant to my interests and not at all helpful (I didn't write that letter, unless I did in my sleep or something, but my husband is very similar but also good at arguing... some people just like saying what will make people happy and doing what will make them happy. and they leave dirty dishes, too, dammit!)

adorable-eggplant

@entangled I think there's some really helpful advice in the comment thread for dealing with passive agressive folks! So that should help.

Also, as far as the clean/unclean dharma & greg style pairing, I think it's a quandary as old as time. Some great advice I've seen (for roommates) is asking the less clean half to step up or chip in for hired cleaning help, i.e., either take responsibility for this or we will pay someone to do it.

Because it's really not fair when it defaults to the person who flinches in the I don't want to do dishes either but I also want to eat off clean plates game of chicken.

Not Quite Sonic

I'm sorry that this is a totally non-constructive contribution, but LW3's boyfriend sounds like my definition of "total douche." To me, there is nothing more damaging to a relationship (or to my sanity, really) than a refusal to communicate. If you are not participating in the relationship, why are you on the team, you know? My boyfriend and I fight like Itchy and Scratchy at times, but at least I feel like we're both in the game.

I get where A Dude is coming from on the "you just want him to play by your rules so that you can win" front, but can we all please agree that passive-aggression is horrible and that saying you're okay with something when you're not is a relationship-destroying lie?

. . . orrr maybe those are just my issues.

insouciantlover

@Not Quite Sonic For me, the worst part was the response "and why would he want to live a life like that?" implying that she's creating this horrible environment for him to live in by asking him to contribute to their committed relationship.

Not Quite Sonic

@insouciantlover Totally. Makes me wonder if A Dude has had traumatic experiences with aggressive, domineering partners to the extent that passive-aggression seems like a reasonable response.

A Dude?

Passion Fruit

@Not Quite Sonic Yes, passive-aggression is the WORST! My relationship is where I can let my hair down, and I don't have to couch things in nice-nice office speak all the time. Which doesn't mean that I am mean, per se, just more to the point. Like, "I love you enough to let you know you are annoying the crud out of me. Also, give me your last bite of ice cream*, plzzzz."

Also, I read somewhere that couples that don't disagree from time to time are also couples that eventually lose out on sex/intimacy, because arguing is a form of passion. Makes sense to me!

*"Next time I will give you mine, duh."

Megasus

@Not Quite Sonic Even worse, he is totally manipulating her with his refusal to communicate, and that is NOT OK.

JanieS

@Not Quite Sonic Well, not to defend passive-aggressive behavior, because I do see that it's unhelpful, manipulative etc., but I am on the passive end of the personality spectrum and I really just cannot DO arguing. Conversations to work out issues - yes, but the moment voices start getting raised my brain just stops and goes elsewhere and effective communication is no longer possible through the fight-or-flight static. I just go deer-in-headlights. (Yes, I realize my reaction is extreme. No, I don't expect everyone to cater to my weirdness.) I think my point is that there's a wide range of what people can consider 'normal' arguing, and not everyone can engage at the same level.

But at the end of the day, I think we can all agree that LW3 and her husband could use some couples counseling?

Not Quite Sonic

@JanieS It's good to hear from another perspective on it. In my imagination, LW3 is behaving like a calm and rational human being, while her boyfriend is a lying liar who says "Yes, I'll do these things, I agree with your thoughts and feelings on this matter" with no intention of following through. That scenario is infuriating.

If I picture LW3 as an argument-seeking aggressor, and her boyfriend as a decent guy who's just a little bit lazy and a lot non-confrontational, SHE starts to seem like the one with the problem.

And ditto the counseling. All cleverness aside, this seems like a rough personality clash.

* for the record, I'm a crier in arguments, which I understand is also very infuriating and often seen as manipulative.

JanieS

@Not Quite Sonic Exactly! I'd bet that neither party here is a horrible jerk, it's just an unfortunate personality disparity. Drinks Counseling all around!

I cry when I'm in a heated discussion too. It is the WORST.

par_parenthese

@Not Quite Sonic I too am crier-in-arguments. My brother used to HAAAATE it because it meant that he always got in trouble when we fought, and I never did because I was crying and he thought I could just turn on the waterworks when in fact I couldn't turn them OFF. I usually try to explain, through tears, "I'm not making this happen, I swear, just all intense emotions come out through my eyes."

hahahaha, ja.

Oh my god, I have found my people! I cry at the drop of a hat, when I'm sad or frustrated or angry or really happy. Or there's a commercial involving little kids or old people. Anyway, yeah, it's frustrating because the unbidden tears can really shut down a legit discussion, and it takes time to get someone else to realize that It's OK when I cry, it's not personal, and tears do not mean that I am at my wit's ends.

Springtime for Voldemort

@Not Quite Sonic I am also a crier in arguments, usually out of frustration and not sadness. And I can't stop it! Accusing me of being purposefully manipulated does make it worse, though. I wish I could turn it off so much, while also hating the way accusations of "manipulation" are used to delegitimize the crier's emotions and experiences.

damselfish

@JanieS That's fair, though! I am a passionate argumentative type, but after years of arguing with my mother I've learned to argue this way: "Okay. We're both upset. Let's separate, write down what we want to say, and meet later where we can discuss notes." I think much better when I can lay out my argument, and then we're not arguing in the heat of the moment. Of course you also have to trust the person you're doing this with also wants to fix the issue....

Not Quite Sonic

What a relief to know I'm not the only one with the emotional control of a toddler.

I also turn red whenever I converse with my hot supervisor.

@Not Quite Sonic Exactly. "You just want him to play by your rules." HELLS YES I WOULD WANT THAT, because my rules are "communicate and fix problems" and douchebag's rules involve petty, awful mind games.

Megasus

@S. Elizabeth Well, I don't even consider that MY rules I consider that the being a fucking adult rules.

squeee

as Mitt Romney says, women in the workforce come with the BURDEN of needing a FLEXIBLE SCHEDULE so they can GO HOME AND COOK.... err

Lisa Ring

Am I missing something about LW2? She seems to say she met dude a year ago, they dated for 6 weeks and then broke up. I was kind of assuming she'd be like "And now he contacted me again." or something, but it doesn't say that...

She says at first she thought his breakup line might have been a cop out. But now she thinks it wasn't. Why? Because she "had to".

She's already given it ALMOST A YEAR. And now she's wondering if she should give it another 6 months? So she can go back to having terrible sex with him?

What?

antilamentation

LW3, I think you can't get him to do anything. It's like you're doing all the active stuff: trying to coax him to speak up more, making a list of chores, etc. But you can't animate someone who doesn't want to be animated. It kind of reminds me of people who are living with an addict, asking how to get them to stop: you can't get them to. They have to get to a point where they realize it's not working for them anymore, and they are going to stop, and are ready to change - and that point is not up to you. They have to take responsibility for themselves.

I think if you can do anything, it's more about how much you're willing to put up with, or not. As long as you keep imagining you can take the lion's share of the responsibility for making change in the relationship - well, you're going to be getting awfully frustrated. And it keeps things unequal between you because you're pouring all this energy into trying to change things, while he just has to stand still.

I think it's probably a good time to look to your own boundaries and be clear with yourself what you will or won't stand for. Because you can't change him, but you can change yourself and your stance.

EM87

LW2 just to weigh in-- I have been with my current boyfriend for two years and it is my most awesome relationship everrrr, but we previously dated briefly (about six weeks also) and broke up because both of us were coming off other relationships and not ready to get into a Thing with each other. It was the same sort of amicable "I like you but this isn't the right time" thing. A year later it was the right time-- bonus, we were both coming into it with clearer perspectives and we were good friends by that point who knew that we liked and respected each other. We refer to the first attempt as a beta test of the relationship.

It doesn't always work out, and there might be other things going on in the background of his life. Depends on timing, and if he feels the same way later, and if you even feel the same way later. But just because it's doesn't work once, doesn't mean it won't work later.

antilamentation

LW4, sometimes with all the good will in the world you're never going to make your family happy, or avoid conflict, or avoid disappointing them. So maybe it's time to stop focusing so much on what you can't do (which is manage all their hangups), and focus more on what you can do - which is build yourself a lovely marriage with your partner. Do what you want for the wedding, and if other people get angry or choose to be offended by that - well, maybe you're better off without them anyway, because they sure are not focusing much on your happiness.

Queen Elisatits

In regard to #3 I think that part that might have snagged on is "argue", when what LW3 really wants is communication. She doesn't want to make him got to parties or fold laundry, she just wants him to actually state his opinion from the start. The issue might be making sure the boyfriend knows situations like that won't be fights, just discussions since the passive-aggression might be learned behavior from past experiences. I know that I often unconsciously approach situations with everyone the same way I would with my yell-y unpredictable dad, even though they are most decidedly not the same person.

dracula's ghost

You guys, that advice about the wedding was so good! Shifting ideas of family from the one you were born with to one you've invented! So beautiful and true!

Non-anonymous

I approve of "ad abundantiam." I mean, I approve of some of the other things this Dude wrote too, but I *really* liked the Latin.

TheclaAndTheSeals

LW4 - If you don't already, go read A Practical Wedding. apracticalwedding.com. It has loads of sane, actionable advice for dealing with challenging families of every permutation. A Married Dude's advice is solid here, but APW will have you covered for all the various kinds of family/wedding hell - budgets, guest lists, expectations, etc.

tmsteele2000

Holy Shit! LW3 could be me. I am floored! And this Dude just gave me a better answer than any marriage counselor ever has. I'm going to read it again. Very enlightening.

redonion

I am kind of curious about how LW3 responds when she doesn't get her way. The way she describes their relationship kind of reminds me of the relationship between my father and my stepmother. My stepmother is assertive, aggressive, loves an argument (though only one she wins, but she always wins because the argument does not end until the other person concedes, usually out of weariness), and needs things done on her schedule. My father is laid back to the point where you wonder if he really cares about anything (but he does, just ask him about Republicans in Congress), absent-minded, avoids confrontation like the plague, and really doesn't think twice about leaving a glass in the sink even though the sink is right next to the dishwasher. But when my stepmother finds that glass, it doesn't matter what my father is doing because he'll have to go put that glass in the dishwasher NOW (usually as the command, "[Father's name], NOW!" is barked at him). And then it will be an hour before he hears the end of it.

Obviously my father and stepmother didn't start out this way (at least not that I can recall). These behaviors are totally the result of an escalation over the years. I am sure my father has become increasingly passive aggressive as a way to contend with my stepmother's aggressiveness. And she has become increasingly demanding as a way to spur him to action. It is awful to be around. And none of the things they fight about actually matter. Who cares if a glass is in the sink or if the laundry isn't folded right away or if he doesn't want to go to a party? Fold the laundry or don't or just say "Hey, the laundry is here, so I'm gonna pull out my things and you can deal with yours." If you get the sense he is dragging his feet on something, tell him you're happy to go to the party on your own and let him make a decision. Do you need him to want to do all the things you want him to do? How terrible is it if he doesn't want to do those things? How terrible is it that there is sometimes a hamper with his clean laundry hanging out in a corner of your home?

Passion Fruit

@redonion Yeesh, I am sorry about your dad's situation. That's harsh. You are right, most things aren't worth fighting about. I am cool with fighting/arguing, but I also try to be cool with not getting my way half the time. The relationship should make both people happy!

redonion

@Passion Fruit Yeah, sorry that sort of turned in a vent, but the LW and the subsequent response sort of got me because that is the same way my stepmother complains to me about my father.

Passion Fruit

@redonion I think it's a good example to share. It's pretty much why people are passive aggressive; they fear the ones with louder voices/more articulated arguments trampling all over them. Because sometimes, apparently, they do!

I've found that in almost all my relationships (romantic, friendship, professional), talking about the problem more than once or twice does no good. It's responding with ACTION (or non-action) that actually spurs change. Like, as you said above, if my partner won't fold laundry, but won't say so, then that's cool, dude. I'll just be folding my own. But it's really not worth fighting for, or "discussing" ad nauseam.

Things that I think are worth long protracted discussions: sex, finances, fidelity/monogamy expectations. Those should be situations where both parties feel like they are getting what they want and need.

frigwiggin

Ahhh, #4, I feel some of that. My dad recently decided he's never talking to two of my aunts again, due to Complicated Reasons, and one of my aunts emailed me the other day saying, "Your dad isn't responding to any of my emails, I think he's not talking to me, do you know anything about this?" Which, AGHHHH, Dad, you didn't TELL her you're not talking to her? I guess I need to call him and ask him to tell her because having to explain to my aunt, who I still care about, the mean and angry things my dad told me about why he's not talking to her is not something I ever want to do.

Megasus

Wow, I feel like the response to #3 ignores the real issue entirely, which is that he is so passive aggressive that he uses it to get his way, rather than communicate and compromise. And agreeing to do household chores when you live together and then "forgetting" but not actually because he is being a passive aggressive asswad is INFURIATING, and it's really not cool that he does that, especially since his GF is a better person that I am and is totally reasonable about it! Basically what I am saying is, he is being MANIPULATIVE rather than communicating, and that's not a good relationship to be in. And I think they might need to see a counselor to work this out.

Gilgongo

LW3, get married in Hawaii or Jamaica or somewhere really far away! And invite everyone. Probably no one will go, but they'll still have been invited.

AnnaBarenina

@Gilgongo You would think so, but this does not work. My sister had a destination wedding last year and we live in Perth, Australia, and so does all my family, and her wedding was on an (expensive) island on the other side of the country. Everyone used it as a excuse for a holiday.
I had a friend who decided to get married in Italy thinking it would stop people from coming. Almost 80 people went (I did not).
So on top of everything, you have to fend off questions about where the best hotels are, nasty comments about how selfish it is to expect your poor brother to pay for all his children to come, which flight are you going on so we can go on it too, who is going to pay for grandma to come, etc. I think this would only work if you choose a destination no one wants to go to at all.

par_parenthese

@AnnaBarenina "I think this would only work if you choose a destination no one wants to go to at all."

You are totally correct, and now I'm cackling to myself at the idea of planning a destination wedding at a destination everyone would hate. Hey everybody, we're gettin' hitched in the ASS END OF NOWHERE, wanna come? And then only your most miserable relatives would show, because they fucking LOVE the ass end of nowhere.

spuntino

Yo AMD, Great job re-framing the confrontation-averse question, but why didn't you answer the asker or provide advice? You intelligently explained why her perspective was flawed, but didn't articulate a better way to handle the situation at hand!

lobsterquadrille

First of all, LW3's husband is a liar, plain and simple.

I think I'd try to deal with this is the most direct, most honest, least passive-aggressive way possible:

"Hey honey, I grabbed my clothing out of the dryer but left yours there, since you insisted that you wanted to and were planning to fold the laundry, and I'd rather believe that that is true and that you really had forgotten than that you lied. Have a good day at work!"

"Jane's party is this Thursday. I'll just go on my own, okay? She extended the invitation to both of us so maybe I'll see you there if you wind up going, but I'd rather not have us plan to go together since it seems like from our experience I have no way of knowing whether you're being honest when you tell me that you do want to go with me. Sound like a plan?"

And then I would realize that I was basically doing this marriage alone!

Bostonienne

Perhaps I missed it, but why is no one suggesting to LW4 that she elope? I mean, if she's super-duper majorly into a wedding, have one, but it sounds like she's not. If city hall ain't her thing, there are so many other options! Spirit off to Europe! Get a friend to do it in a beautiful park (depending on where she lives, there may be different options on who can perform a wedding. Here in MA, anyone can!)! One friend of mine found a drive through wedding chapel/funeral home and did it there- makes for great stories for the grandkids! There are lots of elopement options, and one might fit her and her dude to a T. What I'm saying is weddings are this big expensive hassle, and if someone's ambivalent about having one I really feel like they shouldn't. I have many friends (and my mother) who say that if they had to do it again, they would have eloped. None of my friends who eloped wish, in retrospect, that they had had a wedding.

catsuperhero

LW4: Elope. Seriously. It sounds like you have crazy much more than the average crazy that A Dude describes. I had it--it sucked--we had a big wedding, and it was ridiculously stressful. My mother's family was torn over just-come-to-light abuse, and all of them had to be invited. Aunts and uncles who used to get along now hate each other and couldn't be seated at the same table. Some of them wouldn't talk to each other, or their mother. Or my parents. I found out at the wedding that my parents had instructed some of them that they weren't allowed to speak to ME! My father's family is ultra-Catholic and took issue with some parts of the wedding, my backless dress in a church, the fact that I have not practiced for years...I'm not even touching on how hugely evangelical one part of the family is. Hooboy.

And that's just my side!

So, I say to you, elope. Elope, have a special wedding for the two of you. And you know what, invite your dearest friends, because if your family's going to be pissed, they might as well be pissed at you the whole way.

If you desire, have a reception in which you invite everyone. The people who don't show up will make the reception less stressful, and you'll know who won't be sending you Christmas cards from now on. Honestly, it sucks. All I can say is that family relationships change over the years, and hopefully you're able to hold onto the ones that are important to you.

Danzig!

Could somebody point me to where I can find women like LW2 who LOVE dudes who are bad at sex? I'm asking for a friend

Not Quite Sonic

@Danzig! I admit it, I lol'd.

Reginal T. Squirge

Haha. Yeah, above everybody is like, "Awful sex a couple of times, HOW COULD YOU LOVE THAT MONSTER!?" and I'm just thinking "Maybe he had a couple of bad nights because he was really nervous about being impressive the first time with you" and also thinking that it's really romantic that she loves him anyway.

Reginal T. Squirge

But then I didn't say anything because... because.

PistolPackinMama

@Reginal T. Squirge Well there is bad sexing because the individuals involved are figuring things out. Sometimes what does this button do sex has merits not attached to orgasms. Then there is bad sex because selfishness/other negative things. Option one is eminently not a big deal. Option two is an unsolvable problem.

Reginal T. Squirge

@PistolPackinMama

Yes, absolutely.

afb1221

LW3 - I created an account to say -- you sound just like me and my partner. I feel you! For us, counselling has been great. It took us a couple tries to get a terrific therapist who helped us practice better communication. We still slip up all the time (him too passive, me too aggressive) but we are getting tons better. If you can afford it etc. (I had a program through my work) I suggest giving it a try. Self help / relationship books about improving communication skills might also help.

I think some of the comments here are a touch too negative... It isn't so easy for a naturally passive person to just speak up and once a relationship dynamic is in play changing it is tough. But it's not impossible. There is no quick advice answer but practice helps. Therapy / good books can teach concrete approaches / techniques that one or hopefully both of you can use.

jule_b_sorry

@afb1221 yes! Passive people CAN change, but it takes some work. I read the letter from the other perspective, because I used to be an extremely, extremely passive-aggressive person b/c both my parents were passive-aggressive (and became extremely aggressive if ever confronted on anything, large or small). So, for a long time, that was completely my MO - I would say anything to get the confrontation to stop, but then would go ahead and do my own thing. I am really lucky, b/c instead of kicking my obnoxious uncommunicative ass to the curb, my husband really helped me change. My advice to LW3 is:
1) Have a serious talk at a neutral time (a time when you haven't been arguing) in a neutral location. Call him on the bullshit. Tell him you've noticed this pattern, it's affecting your relationship, and that you can't continue with the way things have been.
2) Tell him that you need him to communicate his preferences directly. Just as he's uncomfortable with your direct manner, you're not able to work with his passive-aggression.
3) Tell him that, because you know he has trouble stating his preferences openly, you will accept any direct statement he makes (for a while, of course) without any fight or contradiction. If he says "I don't want to go to that party" (even if you really did want him to go) reward him for doing something you know is difficult for him. Go to the party yourself, and thank him for being able to trust you enough to be direct with you.
4) You MUST follow through on the promise of non confrontational, accepting responses. PA people get extremely anxious when making direct statements that may not be 100% appreciated by the other party. The only way to get over this is to build his trust that the world will not collapse if he expresses his preferences directly to you. Build on that trust as often as possible.

After we did this for a while, I learned that (much to my surprise) the world did NOT collapse when I said "I don't want to go to that restaurant" or "I like the pink one, not the blue one" or "I feel angry right now". Honestly, it was really difficult for me to reach that point, and my husband was extremely patient in helping me be more direct. I really think it's a trust thing - I had no trust that I could express preferences to those I loved without them becoming threatening or angry. Once I was able to trust him to not go nuclear, I gained confidence in being more direct. And honestly? If you can get him to be more direct, it'll help his life in more ways than just in regards to your relationship. My life has been MUCH better since I've learned to be direct about my wants and needs. Seriously - if you can help him change, it's very likely to change his life for the better. Unfortunately, it requires a lot of work, love and patience...so, make sure that's something you're ready to give if this relationship is worth saving.

lobsterhug

LW3 really hits home. I love my husband, but there are times when I feel like I'm nagging him with constantly having to remind him about chores and going to the doctor and other adulting things that I consider basic shit one does. We've had what I think are constructive conversations about these situations and then nothing happens, so we repeat the whole thing months later.

And then he comes through by cleaning up and cooking for me while I'm at work because my friends are coming over.

I just hope the good stuff becomes more frequent and the adult switch flips on so I don't go full Sally Field in Mrs. Doubtfire and run away with Pierce Brosnan.

par_parenthese

@lobsterhug There was a story on NPR last night or the night before about passive-aggression and it was evidently fantastic, because a friend of mine who is SO LIKE THAT with his partner listened to it and had, no lie, a life breakthrough about how he had become p-a because his mother is the most p-a person ever and he is SO ANGRY with her about it. So... maybe check that out?

lobsterhug

@par_parenthese I will definitely look into that!

Anabella

I dont agree at all, whatsoever, etc with your answer to LW3.

I am in the same situation with my beau and the end game is not "winning the argument". It's having a real conversation. He grew up in an unsupportive (to say the least) home so is scared I will reject him, so instead of saying "I don't want to go here" he says ok and hates it, or says ok and then stalls. I don't care (as it seems LW3, too) what his preferences are - I'm fine with anything - but I don't want to have to DECIPHER what his WANTS are. That's the question; not trying to "win".

superfluous consonants

LW 4: my situation was less complicated than yours, but i was genuinely terrified to invite my mother to my wedding, and not-terrified-but-bummed to invite my stepmother. i was confident my mother, who has no friends in my family, was going to get wildly drunk and cause a scene, and my stepmother was going to become infuriated about some imagined slight (possibly my mother's mere presence?) and cause an even bigger scene. but i also wasn't going to just NOT invite these incredibly important individuals.

what i did was: invite them, and then when they invariably threw pre-wedding tantrums about made up problems, i reminded them firmly that a wedding is a public event and whatever misbehavior they committed would only make THEM look ridiculous--not me (this may have also been a reminder to myself).

i also enlisted my dear, sweet, eminently reasonable uncle to quietly escort any scene-makers from the premises. i can't tell you how much it helped just to know that someone would be keeping an eye on them.

it sounds like you have WAY more stress-making individuals, but maybe you could try something similar, with a bigger team of potential bouncers?

good luck and CONGRATULATIONS.

superfluous consonants

LW 4: my situation was less complicated than yours, but i was genuinely terrified to invite my mother to my wedding, and not-terrified-but-bummed to invite my stepmother. i was confident my mother, who has no friends in my family, was going to get wildly drunk and cause a scene, and my stepmother was going to become infuriated about some imagined slight (possibly my mother's mere presence?) and cause an even bigger scene. but i also wasn't going to just NOT invite these incredibly important individuals.

what i did was: invite them, and then when they invariably threw pre-wedding tantrums about made up problems, i reminded them firmly that a wedding is a public event and whatever misbehavior they committed would only make THEM look ridiculous--not me (this may have also been a reminder to myself).

i also enlisted my dear, sweet, eminently reasonable uncle to quietly escort any scene-makers from the premises. i can't tell you how much it helped just to know that someone would be keeping an eye on them.

it sounds like you have WAY more stress-making individuals, but maybe you could try something similar, with a bigger team of potential bouncers?

good luck and CONGRATULATIONS.

@superfluous consonants If I get married, I am enlisting my uncle (loved by EVERYONE) to be on "drunk escorting out of wedding" duty.

AmyDun

Oh! Oh! Me! Me! I have an answer for the last question: DESTINATION WEDDING.

We just had ours a couple weekends ago in Mexico. We have big weird families each with a lot of family friends and they all live in the same city (where we no longer live.) If we had a wedding in that city it'd be huge, and likely a disaster. So instead we invited 370+ people to Mexico and only 60 came (those who really really wanted to be there.) You'd be surprised (and relieved) about how many people, close family and otherwise, don't come. Plus you have the benefit of not offending anyone by not inviting them.

Once there, everyone was in such a solid vacation mode, everything was taken care of (all inclusive resort) so neither set of parents had to be in the dominant role, and people just hung out with the people they liked/wanted to hang out with that there was no drama. The actual wedding was nice, quick, intimate, and the reception was awesome - everyone's room was just a short walk away so drinking faux pas didn't become party blow outs. Plus, vacation!

Anyways, my 2 cents. Would be happy to chat with anyone contemplating destination weddings. It may be just the thing!

chickaboomboom

This A Dude SUCKS. LW1: tell your MIL to fuck off. Seriously, it's none of her beeswax and until you make that clear, you'll never hear the end of it. Time to set some boundaries pronto.

LW2: the reason the guy ended it was because THE SEX WAS AWFUL. He did you a major favor---run for your life!

The advice to LW3 was the worst. Passive-aggressive behavior is NOT a reaction to you. People who are PA are so because they have deep, deep issues with their own feelings, not because you speak up for yourself. If you want to read a fantastic book about this, it's called "Living with the Passive Aggressive Man" and is available on Kindle. I HIGHLY recommend it. His PA is not your fault or a reaction to you!

I couldn't even read the 4th letter because the previous advice was so bad.

Bittersweet

@chickaboomboom You missed something incredible. Go back and read it!

cinnamonskin

Wish I could speak for the passive among us, but really, whatever y'all think.

blackjellybean

I de-cloaked for a moment to respond to LW#3. I have learned from real life marriage experience the worst thing to be with the passive aggressive is angry. It just does not work. Neither do snide tones, or anything kind of snarky. Just chuckle and say, wow you really hate folding laundry, don't you? I totally get it. I DO need help though, can you put away the groceries or make the beer run? P-A folks can smell hostility a mile away.

par_parenthese

@blackjellybean Ooh, that is actually super helpful and I feel like totally true. I mentioned upthread a friend who is mega P-A with his partner. Partner has a knack for snarking/hostile-ing him into a total fit, while I (who do not have 15 years of cohabiting baggage with him) can chuckle at his P-A moods, which snaps him out of the P-A moods.

Megasus

@blackjellybean this did not work for me.

Heike

LW4: the 'pin collective up-thread seems to be pretty solid with the idea that you should elope. Which is sound advice. But just to add to perspective: I have a problematic (read abusive) family so I didn't invite them to my wedding. I wrote and told them after the event, and I presented it as a "rush to get married in our lunch hour" affair. They accepted this, which was fine.

Actually we had to invite all my husband's family... who he didn't want to annoy, but who didn't approve because I had failed to invite any of my family, and they hated me because they loved his previous gf... who was also a friend of mine, and who was also invited (she made our wedding cake) and who hated his parents because she was mixed race and they were racist... and also his mother told all the guests that she hoped he would divorce me. -Fast forward 15 years and she adores me but it was sticky back then. Just because bride and groom are ready to commit doesn't mean their relatives don't need a little more time.

TL;DR weddings are complicated and can be a total bind, but it doesn't really matter. What DOES matter is the years you clock up together. My wedding was a bit poo in parts, but who cares; my life has been full of Kodak moments less contrived than that day, and the day is nothing compared to the years of marriage, which is the real thing I'm celebrating.

janejanejane

I would say the passive-aggressive husband is communicating quite clearly. He does not want to fold laundry and he does not want to go to the party. Having been married to a PA for 23 years I learned to pay attention to his behaviour, not his words, because the behaviour reveals the truth he doesn't feel safe enough to speak (traumatic childhood). I also learned, over time, to give him some of what he wants so he would feel like there was actually good reason to reveal what he wants. I am a direct and confrontational person and he is not but over time I learned to soften my approach and it helped a great deal. Having said all of that, I learned to go to the party by myself and fold my own laundry. When I stopped my previous behaviours of staying home from the party and folding all the laundry (metaphorically speaking) he changed his behaviour. It isn't about tit for tat or two wrongs making a right, it is about using his language of behaviour to communicate with him. It feels less threatening than verbal communication but it makes the point. My husband is far less passive aggressive because it stopped working for him, he came to recognize it and he decided to do something about it. It took real effort on his part and real patience from me. If the goal is really communication and not control then pay attention to his behaviour but also to yours and try changing your own behaviour to get a more desirable outcome. Because the only behaviour you can truly control is your own.

OxfordComma

Married Dude.

I'm getting married in three months (oh holy fucking mother of God that's soon), and I need to read that last paragraph like WOW.

Thank you.

That was hella encouraging.

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I think it makes sense that his mother said like that, because usually husband is the one who work and searching money, but i think thats okay. Maybe your husband can also do some business in your home like online business or do some business about your good-cooker husband (maybe you can build a restaurant).
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Locking himself in the bathroom and humming loudly with his fingers stuck in his ears would probably also effectively communicate that he doesn't want to go to the party,
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