It’s a big problem, you know?

We chat at 1 p.m. today.

Hi Meredith,

I've been with my boyfriend for five years now. We met in college. He's smart, kind, good looking, humble, and I just adore him. I know he loves me just as much. We have great careers and we're searching for a place to move in together for this fall/winter.

I don't know if it's the pressure of both of us moving out of our parents' houses or the fact that everything is getting more serious, but he's been getting easily annoyed lately. Specifically, he hates when I say "you know" in a sentence. He points it out every time I say it and it's driving me insane. I'm a consultant and I travel Monday through Thursday every week, and I'm usually "on" the entire time. I'm constantly giving presentations and being careful about speaking professionally. When I'm on the phone with him or at home, I just want to relax and speak normally. Saying "you know" is a normal thought connector/filler word. He says it too. Everyone does!

I don't do it more than others. It's become a problem. I feel like I can't even talk without walking on egg shells. I feel like I can't relax and just be myself. Whenever he corrects me, I go from 0 to 100 on the angry scale and whatever I was trying to say is forgotten. Who's right here? Do I put more effort in to eliminating filler words from my speech? How do I get him to back off and understand I'm only human? Um, like, thanks, you know.

– YK


You're right – this is probably a stress thing. You guys are experiencing a lot of change.

I feel like there's a two-part solution to this problem. 1. You do have to be a little more thoughtful about choosing your words (sorry). You mention that "you know" is your filler phrase. Maybe his criticisms are more about having filler conversation. You're away for most of the week – it's important to be able to have genuine, thoughtful communication by phone.

2. He does have to to lay off the judgement. Let him know that you've heard his concerns, but that you're beginning to feel like you can't say anything at all. Remind him that the goal is a better relationship. You'll work on the "you know" issue, but you don't want to hear about it again.

Some people get annoyed when their partners snore, leave drawers open, do a loud chewing kind of thing, or start every sentence with "I feel like." (That one is my habit, according to someone in my life. But ... sometimes I DO feel like). We're supposed to try to be less annoying, we shouldn't be afraid to be ourselves around the people who are supposed to love us most.

Readers? Is her partner being too critical? What is this about?

– Meredith