When we fight, I cry

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Hi Meredith,

My boyfriend and I have been together for almost two years, and for the most part our relationship has been wonderful. He's very supportive of my career goals, likes spending time with my friends and family, and we fully agree on how we'd like our future to look (where and when to buy a house, kids, pets, our careers, finances, etc.).

What I struggle with in our relationship are the words my boyfriend uses when we argue. He often calls me "childish" and "emotional" and refuses to understand the impact his words have on me. When I get frustrated or upset, I have the tendency to cry, which I know can be annoying, and I have been working on remaining calmer during arguments/disagreements and reminding myself that not every situation is worth the tears. I try to understand where he's coming from – he was bullied through his childhood and often has trouble expressing his own emotions – but it's hard for me to be put down and not have him acknowledge how these words can make me feel.

I'm wondering ... what could be a good approach to helping him understand my feelings? Is couples counseling even an option at the two year mark, so early on?

– Where to go from here?

Couples counseling is always an option. And you don't have to think of it as a symbol of doom.

Sometimes it's like a class where you learn specific tools to be a better partner. You can go in (or Zoom in) and say, "We have one bad pattern that keeps happening when we fight. Teach us how to bicker in a more respectful way." It sounds like that's all you need.

For the record, to me, there's a big difference between "childish" and "emotional." You are emotional – and that's OK. I do understand how the tears might confuse – your boyfriend might need help navigating that reaction and understanding what it means – but emotions, in general, are good. Don’t forget that.

Also know that you can press pause on a conversation. If you're feeling overwhelmed by a conflict, you can tell him you need a moment to regroup, and then walk away to breathe. He might need that time, too. It sounds like the crying is directly related to the frustration, and sometimes all a person needs is a few minutes to recover. Talk to him about knowing when – and how – to force a break, so you can take a beat to reset for better communication.

– Meredith

Readers? Should the letter writer have any problem with going to couples counseling at two years?