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Carolyn Hax / Life Advice

Boyfriend Pushes Buttons

Dear Carolyn:

My boyfriend of two and a half years loves to push my buttons. We are both incredibly stubborn, hate to be wrong/love to be right. About once a week, a normal disagreement (e.g., a wrong turn) will cause major heart- and headache. He says these things that really get under my skin -- and in my anger I call him every name in the book. When he doesn't seem fazed by it, I escalate it by saying I don't know why someone who loves me would try to say such hurtful things and I don't know why I would sign up for this for the rest of my life (marriage).

This does really bother him, because he honestly would like to get married and is ready when I am. These arguments annoy the $!$& out of me, and I just don't know how to move past this. We don't even have great makeup sex because I'm so mad I withdraw! I try to ignore his rude little comments (OK, yes, maybe we both just had a stressful day and a wrong turn doesn't help matters ... ), but he won't stop and I just end up steaming and exploding later.

If it is this bad now, I shudder to think where two and a half kids and a mortgage will leave us.

-- Maryland

Much shuddering just transpired. (We're shuddering with you, not at.)

There's obviously no place for nastiness (button-pushing, name-calling) in relationships. Less obviously, there's no place for stubbornness. Everyone loves to be right, and no one loves to be wrong; you are not even remotely special in your preferences there. What distinguishes you from others who aren't "stubborn" is that you behave as if there's a cost to admitting error that you're not willing to pay.

Whether this stems from your relationship or from immaturity, I can't say; certainly both are common, and often overlap.

Some signs that it's your relationship: You're not this way with others; in the beginning, you weren't this way with him; you feel mounting frustration at not being heard, understood or respected.

Some signs that it's you: This is business as usual for you, and it feels like a problem only when you run across someone as argumentative as you are.

...continued

Copyright 2012 Washington Post Writers Group



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