‘My boyfriend and I have two entirely different methods of fighting’

My boyfriend and I have two entirely different methods of fighting and it makes our little arguments huge. I am the type of person who needs to walk away from a heated situation. I process my thoughts slowly and I am not quick-witted like he is, so I miss entire parts of the discussion or I get far too riled up and explode, saying things I don't mean, or I come across very harsh. I've learned that when I am upset, I have to stay quiet, take a few deep breaths, and let myself calm down before I can come back to it. Sometimes, during that cool-down time, I even realize that the thing that angered one of us was soooo silly that I laugh and don't even bother bringing it up again. He hates that. It makes his blood boil if I get quiet or try to walk away. He will actually chase me down to "settle things right now." He's an action man in that resepct. We have to discuss it now and apologize now and figure everything out NOW or else ... I don’t know what the else is, but it's very important to him.

Literally mid-argument if I take even 15 seconds to pause and think, he'll say things like "You're ignoring me," or "You're not even paying attention." If I start to realize I was in the wrong, he'll come at me with "So you can't even apologize?" I need like five minutes to feel sorry (unless he wants insincere apologies). A quick example: The other day he said, "I wish you would own up to your mistakes more and apologize when you are wrong, and not get so defensive if I say anything," and in the argument I "rephrased it" to "When you said I need to be apologetic and less defensive," to which he lost it screaming "That's not what I said, you NEVER listen to me." He's not denying that he said those things either; he is literally mad that I didn't use the EXACT wording that he used. It makes me want to carry around a tape recorder. What do I do? How do I make these little meaningless things not become so huge? I don't know how to change how I'm wired. I'm so lost. It's starting to make me feel... numb?

– Numb


One of the many reasons couples go to therapy is to learn how to have a productive argument. A good professional counselor can give you new ways to communicate. That person might also be able to teach you how to assume the best of each other, as opposed to jumping to every worst conclusion. It does sound like you need this kind of help. You can't manage the tiniest disagreements.

You should talk about the therapy idea when you're calm, not when you're in the middle of a fight. Also, think about how writing might be helpful. If he needs to communicate immediately, he could type it all up – every feeling, every irritation. It would give you time to think and then read. Writing can help people process problems in an entirely new way.

It's also very possible that this is not a match. You didn't say anything positive about this relationship in your letter. You didn't tell us, "Oh, but when things are great, they're amazing." Instead, you made it sound like you're walking on eggshells. You feel the need to carry a tape recorder. You mention that when he's angry, he screams. All of this has made you feel numb.

Those are very good reasons to walk away.

– Meredith

Readers? How do you have productive fights with the people in your lives?