When it's time to talk things out in a relationship
I'm 46 and never married. A five-year relationship I had with a divorced mother of two ended a year ago. The first three years were great; the last two I began to feel as if all she cared about was financial security and would love whomever provided it. She wanted control of everything, from where we were going to live to whose family we spent the holidays with. We argued about everything. I got defensive, and she became insecure about our future. My intuition told me it wasn't going to work. So we ended things. I've always listened to my intuition but now I wonder whether I might have sabotaged the relationship, and previous ones. How do I tell the difference?
Hara Estroff Marano is the Editor at Large of Psychology Today and writes the magazine's advice column, Unconventional Wisdom. Her newest book, A Nation of Wimps: The High Cost of Invasive Parenting, grew out the groundbreaking Psychology Today article A Nation of Wimps.
Editor: Nadeem Noor
You don't. instincts aren't always correct, so they can lead to behavior that subverts your best interests. You have to stop and reflect on what your real interests are and what you're reacting to. In a relationship, one important goal is to feel sure of someone's love. Maybe you don't know what that feels like so you misinterpret the actions of others to reinforce your own insecurities. A few years into a relationship, many women—and almost certainly one with children—want to know what's ahead.
Perhaps you are misreading your partner's quest for certainty about the relationship as attempts at control. Or your own failure to address the future may have exacerbated her anxieties. Was your girlfriend interested only in financial security? You don't know for sure—you know only what you were afraid of—and I certainly don't. But you find out what's on a partner's mind not by jumping to conclusions but by having an honest discussion. Better than bogging down in endless arguments is to sit down like two adults—no blaming, no name-calling, just asking a lot of questions and doing a lot of listening—and discuss her concerns and your qualms about feeling like a meal ticket: "We're arguing a lot lately and it's going nowhere. What's on your mind?" It's too late to save this relationship, but not the next one.