No chat today. We will make up for it next week.
Like many couples, my girlfriend and I are largely happy with the occasional disagreement. Recently I started to notice a trend with our more heated discussions. There comes a point when I will say something that she disagrees with and I will usually get one of two possible responses, and occasionally both. The first is, "Am I the crazy one here?" -- a statement that seems to imply that either I think she is crazy (which I don't) or that I am crazy for not seeing things the same way. Then there are times that this leads to, "Yes! It's all about you." At that point I know that no matter my answer it will be turned into a debate about me being self-centered.
Lately I've taken to walking away from the conversation when these statements come up, but is there a better way to handle it? I am not averse to the possibility that I need to change my attitude, but I feel as if I need a way to use defuse these arguments. I don't want her to feel like I think she's either crazy, and I do want to address issues calmly and not always get to the point where these statements end a conversation in an argument. Thoughts?
– Defusing the Bomb
A: I wish I knew what caused these fights and what they have to do with you being self-centered, DTB. Is she turning small arguments into a way of discussing bigger issues? Is she happy in the relationship? Have you asked, simply, "Are we OK?"
Without knowing more, all I can do is suggest that you discuss this issue with your girlfriend when you're not in the middle of an argument. When things are calm and pleasant and you're hanging out like friends, tell your girlfriend that you wish there was something you could do to stop fights before they start and to make arguments less personal.
You can also talk about coming up with a safe word -- something you can say to hit pause on a big fight. It's basically a yellow flag. The safe word can mean that one of you wants to take a time out or that you'd prefer to turn to email so that you have to work out your thoughts in writing. (Some people are just better at fighting in writing. Have you tried?)
Again, I wish I knew what these fights were about, but you're right to suggest that the "Am I crazy?" question only makes things worse. Try to talk about this when you're enjoying each other and see how far you get.
Readers? If he brings this up when they're happy, will it just turn into a fight? Are these arguments really about something else? What's the right response to "Am I the crazy one here?" Help.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.