I am a very emotional person, and my boyfriend isn’t so I’m worried — my relationship doomed? I admit that I can get upset very easily and then I really can’t stop my feelings and I end up crying and/ or saying things that I shouldn’t. Then I feel guilty and ashamed that I got so out of control. Interestingly, my boyfriend shows very little outward emotion and he loathes it when I get unstrung and he hates the “drama.” However, we’re both in our late 30’s and so it is unlikely that either of us is really going to change, personality-wise. All of my previous boyfriends have accepted the fact that sometimes I get a bit crazy, but they accepted my behavior I guess because they thought I was worth it. Alas, the man I’m with now seems less willing to deal with my emotional outbursts and I’m afraid I’ll lose him because of it. The thing is, no matter how hard I try to control my emotions, I know that it’s likely that I’ll still push him and get overly emotional from time to time. The other day I felt really bad about something and I thought my boyfriend would make me feel batter, but by the time I finally got through his voice mail and actually got him on phone I was practically yelling. At least that is what he accused me of doing. So instead of making me feel better, he made me feel horrible and rejected. I ended up telling him all the things that are bothering me –not just about the horrible day I was having, but in my life and in our relationship, too. I knew I shouldn’t have, but the emotional dam had burst and I couldn’t stop. He listened, but then he told me I should not be talking to him as if he was a therapist, and I should get someone else, like a girlfriend to talk to and that I was pushing him away. I was devastated although I did understand he was repelled by what I did. I admit that I might have been out of control but I never claimed to be perfect. Why can’t he just appreciate me, flaws and all?
Sign Me, Sad Sharon
Tony’s Take: If we have had several intense relationships in our lives we can often lose sight of the status and state of a new relationship. The writer here has failed to understand both that point, and what is the natural inclination of many males to do when faced with certain situations. This man is the writer’s boyfriend not husband. This boyfriend is not her BFF. This boyfriend is also not her therapist.
We try to make our primary relationship into everything, but unless there is a solid underpinning and understanding, if we dump too many issues on that relationship it will stress the relationship often to a breaking point. You cannot talk over certain classes of problems with a boyfriend. Just as you have the right to be anyone you want to be, your boyfriend has a right to be the person he is. It is only with continued development in the relationship, and long term commitment, that a moderation of each side can be expected, and what is needed for a long term stable relationship.
When presented with problems that their lover has, a male will want to “fix” things. He is looking for a solution to a problem in the words he is hearing, and if he feels that it is implied that he is the source of said problems he starts to logically ask himself “is it better for the relationship if I cool it down or I exit it?” So Sharon, it is far better to discuss the issues that would lead him to this question with another woman, because she will understand the emotional support you need through words, which most males (since they will take it personally), cannot. It will also moderate the intensity to the point your boyfriend can console you and make you feel safe and secure rather than be on the defensive.
Since this is an existing situation, you must be aware of any damage you have already caused, and strengthen the relationship by being loving caring and passionate towards him, because that will reassure him that he is not the source of your misery nor that your life and his life would be better apart, rather than together.
Alison’s Take: Sharon, Tony brings up some good points in his view, but I don’t agree with all that he says. I believe that relationships that are past the early dating stage are those in which disclosure is important and perhaps, essential. While Tony is correct that it’s not a good idea to stress a relationship to the point that one person no longer wants to be in it, if you don’t share your feelings, the relationship is nothing but a shallow amusement.
Tony is correct that couples are not each other’s therapists, but I do not think it is unreasonable for a man or a woman in a loving, supportive relationship to listen, console and advise on issues that are of importance to their partner. For a relationship to mature, it has to reflect all the facets of the people in the relationship, and that means it can’t always just be “good times, good fun, good conversation and good sex.”
Once a relationship has been established (and it appears that yours has), sharing one’s hopes, dreams, and yes, even some fears and frustrations may stress a relationship, but it builds trust, too. it might not always make for a pleasant evening, but it makes the relationship real. Perhaps Sharon’s boyfriend is not her husband. Perhaps he has not made a long term commitment to her. But Tony’s assertion that he has no obligation to talk to Sharon about any or all issues that are on her mind, is ridiculous. It is only by opening up and sharing one’s vulnerabilities that you get to know someone well. Waiting until you are married to “share” seems a bit like hiding your real self and only then, revealing your true nature.
As a highly emotional woman myself, I identify with you, Sharon, a great deal. I don’t see being over-emotional as a flaw, but simply as a personality type, love it or not. The key is knowing when and how to let your fury, or your tears, fall. If your boyfriend cannot love you as you are, he probably cannot live with you either, and perhaps the relationship is doomed. But if he can accept the fact that you will probably never have complete control over your emotions, but you will keep trying to keep them under control, it is the effort itself that he can learn to appreciate. If he cares for you he will understand that you will do the best you can, and he will love you all the more for it. He will see that this thing he really dislikes about you does not unbalance the other, wonderful things that you offer him, and he will learn to accept the occasional outburst as part of who you are, as others have done in the past. You are apparently, well worth it.