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Carolyn Hax: Girfriend seeks total control

Sun., Jan. 29, 2012

Dear Carolyn: I have been with my girlfriend for two and a half years. We moved in together 11 months ago with the understanding that if we still felt the same way after a year, we would plan marriage.

My girlfriend has complained a lot every time I make a batch of beer (every two months): She says the kitchen is always dirty afterward no matter how hard I try to clean up, and the smell of the hops bothers her and lingers in the air for days.

Last Saturday, an officemate was supposed to come over to make a batch with me. Shortly after my girlfriend left, my officemate called to postpone. Instead, I decided to clean the kitchen thoroughly, behind appliances, baseboards, etc. Afterward, I took a nap.

When girlfriend woke me she said the smell was worse than ever, and although the kitchen was clean, it was still worse than when she left.

After I told her I didn’t make beer, she loudly told me that I set her up and then told me to “forget about it.”

I told her that her behavior – making believe that beer was a problem for her and not being willing to discuss it – is causing me to have doubts about marriage. My girlfriend says I am looking for an excuse not to make the commitment.

I do very much love her. I know she can be somewhat controlling. My heart is telling me one thing, and my gut is telling me the opposite. I don’t have anyone neutral to talk to.

The thought of her not being in my life depresses me, but this has given me huge doubts about a healthy marriage. Am I making too much of it? – Conflicted

She lied to you to try to make you feel bad about – and quit doing – something she knows is enjoyable and meaningful for you, and when she got caught in her lie, she blamed you.

What part of that string of nasty italics says, “Ignore me”?

You say you need a neutral person to talk to, and I might not be it; I believe controlling people make exhausting mates – and that’s the best case.

There are lots of reasons for that, but here’s the one that I hold paramount: Over the course of a lifetime, everyone is going to be wrong – regularly about little stuff, like what time a movie starts or which route is faster, and occasionally on the big stuff, like which person to marry, which career to pursue or which investment to make.

Imagine a life where you push your preferences aside in favor of hers – it’s just easier, right, to avoid a fight? – and it’s still not enough. Not enough for her to be happy, because complete control over another person is impossible, so there will always be something about you that she wishes would change, and not enough for you to be happy, because you’ll miss all the things you gave up to please her – and be left to wonder whether the payoff ever comes.

Perhaps I am now the one making too much of this. But:

Until your girlfriend is able to (1) tell the truth, and (2) admit fault, and (3) renounce trying to change you, these remain your only options for resolving the beer incident: You either ignore it and get no redress for her lies and manipulation, or you become the guy who found excuses not to commit.

You love her, you say. But if she loved you, then wouldn’t she offer you avenues that don’t make you the jerk?



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