Dear Carolyn: My boyfriend constantly picks up on little things about me (too many boxes of Cheerios, the names of romance novels on my shelf) and needles me about them.
I’ve raised some protest, saying that in a relationship, it doesn’t help to have the unflattering obvious mentioned over and over again. He says “inside jokes” are a sign of fondness and bring people closer. He says I must be laughing on the inside. I’m not.
I get that a lot of relationships today have a lot of sarcastic banter. But he doesn’t seem to get that that’s not the way I operate. I find myself moving things out of view to avoid his turning them into a punch line. Any way to make it go – without making him go? – A.
You’re both talking in this-applies-to-everyone “shoulds,” with a side of generalization on “relationships today,” when both of you need to talk about just-between-us specifics. Nothing matters except the way you two actually get along.
So, discard your “Relationships should be safe from dwelling on the ‘unflattering obvious,’ ” and discard his “You should be laughing at this,” and what do you have?
This: His idea of “fondness” annoys you, and you both think it’s the other one who needs to change.
Stating your objections and deciding whether you can live with his response, is a long-term solution; ignoring him when he gets like this and/or developing a thicker skin is a long-term solution, as long as you both can be genuinely playful about it; concluding that anyone who tells you how you’re supposed to feel is a bad bet becomes a long-term solution when you find the guts to break up.
But hiding your spare Cheerios? That’s a declaration that you’d rather keep the relationship going than be your unguarded self. Since I think the whole point of a relationship is the mutual support of liking and being liked as-is, you lost me at Paragraph 1. Constantly + needles = go.