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Counseling/Healing wounds from criticism during arguments

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Question
I've been dating and living with my girlfriend (until recently) for about 7 years now and we've been having problems with:

1) Me being too critical during arguments,

and

2) her always bringing up the past and avalanching it on me in all fights, which she justifies because it relates to a past issue.

I explained it to her that: I am a big believer in fairness in all things that I do, but it is very difficult to be non-critical when you are outraged by something that you find is unacceptable for your significant other to do.

For example:
For my girlfriend's birthday one month ago (we were engaged at that point), she went drinking and eating with her male boss one on one for 5 hours at two different restaurants on a Monday night and got home at 11pm. She told me that she was going with her boss, and told me it is okay because she kept me in the loop the entire time she was there.

After their dinner, her boss followed up with flirty texts saying:

- He's sorry he blew our her birthday candles because he doesn't get out much.
- He "really enjoys her company a lot" and they should celebrate her birthday more often.

After waiting one day, I told her it is a deal breaker for me for her to continue all these outside of work activities with her male boss including: weekly one on one lunches and coffee--- especially when her boss clearly likes her based on the things he says to her at work, the $160 he spent on her for her birthday dinner, and the 5 hours he spent with her on a monday night knowing that she has a fiance.

She argued that it is part of her weekly routine, and she finds her lunches fun because she can get away from the office. She then said it was like she is losing a friend if she doesn't go to lunch or coffee with her boss and she does not have any friends. I said she can always go take another person from the workplace with her, and she said there's no one else to take with them.

She said that it is too controlling to make it a deal breaker for her to go to lunch or coffee with her boss one on on one.

I told her then well if your fun is more important than your relationship with me then I will just do my own thing.

Fast forward, we fight all week about it, and the Friday immediately after the monday when she went out, we get into an argument about how I think she should take her attorney bar exam because she will remove herself from that job situation and make more than $24 an hour.

She then said she can't deal with my critical arguments of her anymore and i've been critical in so many arguments we've had and it hasn't changed in 7 years and people should never have these type of critical arguments.

So she said she wants to break off the engagement and take a step back where we are just dating each other.

It is absolutely impossible to not be critical in situations like this.

In regards to her one on one lunches with her boss, I settled with: I want her to do whatever makes her happy but I wanted to warn her that "work spouse syndrome" is a real thing, and even though she may go to lunch or dinner with innocent intentions, she's giving her male boss who clearly likes her many opportunities one on one to build emotional rapport by doing so many one on one lunches and coffee runs together.

Do you have any advice on how I should handle this matter about her thinking that i'm unjustified to be critical in situations?

And how do I heal her past hurt of 7 years worth of critical arguments that she is holding against me?

Thank you so much for your time and help

Answer
Hi George - from your description, it appears w1hen you two have a values conflict, you  argue instead of problem-solve. It also sounds like you two may be caught up in power struggles about who's "right." See these for better options:


http://sfhelp.org/cx/skills/dig.htm // http://sfhelp.org/cx/skills/ps.htm

http://sfhelp.org/cx/tools/r_msg.htm  //  http://sfhelp.org/relate/vc.htm

The real issues in your scenario about her and her boss are (1) your insecurity and (2) your  apparent distrust of her.

If you w1ant her to stop bringing up the past, I suggest you practice empathic listening and assertive I-messages  http://sfhelp.org/cx/skills/listen.htm

http://sfhelp.org/cx/skills/assert.htm  //  http://sfhelp.org/cx/improve.htm

If you have questions about these, please ask - Pete

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Peter Gerlach, MSW

Expertise

I can answer questions about mood disorders, depression, suicide, relationships, communication skills, problem solving, clear thinking, bonding disorders, trauma recovery, addiction management, grieving, shame, guilt, fear, reality distortion, and trust disorders; courtship, family functioning, "problem kids," mediation, (re)marriage, divorce, stepfamilies, stepparenting, boundaries, self-neglect, abuse, parental neglect, personality subselves, ("parts work"). I cannot answer legal or medical questions.

Experience

I maintained a private therapy practice near Chicago for 27 years, and have worked with over 1,000 men, women, couples, and families on a wide range of personal and family problems. I have been in personal recovery from growing up in an alcoholic family since 1986, and have worked with five therapists to heal my own psychological wounds. I maintained a "warm (phone) line" for callers on the topics above for 20 years, and have taught over 200 seminars and classes in midwestern universities, churches, support groups, and schools since 1981. I have practiced internal-family therapy ("parts work") with trauma-recoverers since 1991.

Organizations
National Stepfamily Resource Center (NSRC) Experts Council; SelfGrowth.com Compassion and Choices, and Final Exit Network

Publications
# Several hundred articles in my non-profit "Break the Cycle!" Web site at http://sfhelp.org These articles are augmented by over 150 educational YouTube videos .

# six books on childhood-trauma recovery, effective communication, and stepfamily courtship, coparenting, and management.

Education/Credentials
A bachelors degree in mechanical engineering (BSME, 1959) from Stanford University, a Masters degree in clinical Social Work, (MSW, 1981), and over 500 hours of post-grad training in the topics above - including clinical hypnosis, spirituality, codependence, addicrtion-management, and guided imagery. My post-grad traning includes two 9-month internships on doing internal-family therapy at the University of Illinois.

Awards and Honors
Hundreds of grateful emails and comments from students and clients all over the world.

Past/Present Clients
Over 1,000 average Midwestern-US women, men, couples, and families. A physical disability limits me to doing telephone and Skype counseling now.

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