He Makes Me Feel Guilty

We chat at 1 p.m. today.

My boyfriend and I have been together for five years. We both came out of marriages where there was a lot pain and drama in the divorce. He had a 20-year loveless marriage to a materialistic selfish woman, and I was cheated on unknowingly for years by a man living a double life. We both have children who get along fine. We do not live together but are currently saving money to buy a big house.

He stays with me about five days a week. He does not help me with household bills but he regularly buys groceries, always pays when we go out, buys and fixes things when needed, pays a bill if I need him to, and takes very good care of me and my kids. His income is twice what mine is, and I struggle much more because I get very limited financial help from my ex. I have always been grateful for everything he does for me. I do my best to make him happy, and overall we have a great relationship.

What bothers me is that about a dozen or so times over the years, he brings up "the list" of all he has done for me. When we argue, which isn't too often, out comes the "I do a lot for you" comments. This tears me up. I end up with a ton of guilt. I cry, and then he says that "the list" is how he shows he loves me, and when he can't win an argument or feels I am unhappy, he brings it out. I am having trouble getting past this. I swear, if I won the lottery or came into money, I would give him every cent he has ever spent to rid of this feeling. He thinks I'm overreacting. How do I not let this ruin our happiness?

– The List

You guys need to learn how to fight. Because fighting and arguing can improve a relationship if you do it right. The trick is to communicate, as opposed to battling it out for some sort of superficial win.

Talk to your boyfriend about what's supposed to come out of these infrequent arguments. They're a tool for growth and compromise, not a way to determine who's the better partner. You should be asking yourselves, "What question are we trying to answer here? What is at the heart of this dispute?"

If your boyfriend goes back to "the list" every time you get upset, you'll never come to any real conclusions about why you're fighting. Tell him no more list. It has no place in these debates.

Also talk to him about how money will work when you're in the new house. If you feel like you owe him now, it will only get worse when you share property. There are financial counselors who help couples with big changes. It's worth meeting with one so you know what to expect and how to talk about it.

Readers? List?

– Meredith