Girlfriend Takes Things Wrong
Q: I have been dating this girl for a year and a half, and we have been engaged for three months. Sometimes I say things to her that I mean in a good way, but I say it the wrong way. No matter what else I say after that, she is convinced that I meant it the bad way that it first came out. I know she loves me, but sometimes it seems like she likes to be depressed. I asked her about it, and she said it was crazy for me to think that. What is going on? -- Jason, 22
Dr. Susan: It takes a long time to really "get" another person. Apparently, you blurt out words that are ambiguous, so your task in this relationship would be to learn to think before you speak. And her job would be to let you know clearly how your communication style is confusing and distressing her. I don't believe she likes to be depressed, but rather that she is insecure about herself and your feelings about her. Over time, I hope, you will both learn to respect one another's sore spots. You may be missing something here: the emotional impact of your words. It's a typical male/female quandary (though sometimes the genders reverse): he says something that he considers plain and simple and logical, but she hears what's underneath, or what might be underneath if she were saying it. When I was first dating my husband, I would always mention the six or seven possible underlying meanings of something he said, most of which made me feel bad in some way, and he would reassure me that he meant only and exactly what he'd said. Eventually I came to believe him. Be patient with one another.
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Advice for Her
Advice for Him
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.