Dating a critic

Joey Garcia

My boyfriend meets a lot of my criteria, but my ego always picks on something he does or says, or the way he looks. My critical nature is hard for him. I’m uncertain about everything in life, and he needs assurances for the future. He needs emotional consistency, and I can’t seem to generate that. His urgency drives me away. Our relationship goes well when we’re just being together, but when he needs stability on my part, when he needs me to be consistent and loving toward him, I feel suffocated. I am committed to be here with him and work through all of this, but I don’t know what to do anymore and would love some advice.

OK, I’m confused. If you’re constantly editing your boyfriend’s appearance or words or behavior, if you are emotionally distant and unable to be consistent and loving, which of your criteria does he actually meet? Another question: What are you really looking for? Some people hook up because they want someone to dine with occasionally or because they want a regular sex partner. For these people, a superficial relationship is completely satisfying because that’s all they can handle. But a real relationship requires emotional connection and commitment. So, uh, tell me what you want, what you really, really want.

I am curious why your boyfriend wants to be emotionally close to someone who is so critical of him. I also wonder whether he is emotionally needy or if he is simply trying to establish a normal romantic connection and you are blocking his attempts. Habitual critics use negative assessments of others to justify their emotional distance. Criticizing others distracts them from admitting and transforming their difficulty with emotional intimacy. Sound familiar?

Perhaps you should both agree to move on. He could find a woman who is emotionally available, and you could find a man who plays hide-and-seek with his emotions, finds fault with you and refuses to make long-term plans. That would allow him to have an emotional connection and you to continue to live without one. Or, you could stay together and agree to help each other heal. If he is emotionally needy, and you abandon him whenever he needs your support, it’s time to exorcise the demons that haunt you both. Psychotherapy is imperative for change.

Not to sound overly uptight, but you are dead wrong that a woman gets to keep her engagement ring because “it was a gift.” Let me stand up for us fellas: An engagement ring is a conditional gift. The woman gets a ring in exchange for a vow of marriage. No marriage means no ring. It needs to be returned to the man, and any decent woman would agree. Sorry for the rant, but I had to stand up for the decent and right thing to do.

So, a broken engagement is a breach of contract in your rule book? Hmm, I suppose we could call Judge Judy for a ruling. Of course, she might point out that the idea that a woman receives an engagement ring in exchange for a vow of marriage is inherently flawed. First, wedding rings (not engagement rings) are exchanged when marriage vows are taken. And secondly, quid pro quo is the antithesis of what allows a long-term, committed, romantic relationship to be successful.

So try this, guys: Don’t hand over the engagement ring until you have detailed what should happen to that ring if the relationship dissolves. Tell your woman you want it back if the marriage is called off, or decide together to sell the ring and split the proceeds if wedding plans implode. Better still, donate the ring to charity because if the engagement is off, no one deserves it. Court is adjourned.

Meditation of the week
It’s the time of year to honor the ancestors (all that brought you to where you are today), exorcise what bedevils us (release the behaviors that inspire your unhappiness) and choose treats over tricks (accept what is juicy, sweet and delicious in life, rather than focusing on what went wrong). Will that be a change in how you live?

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