The Criticism Catch-22

If my bf takes something I am saying as criticism, the focus turns from the issue I brought up and my feelings about it to his feelings of being criticized and telling me how wrong I am. He has a situation-specific rationalization for everything he does, but sometimes he is the first to criticize me if he thinks I am affecting his time or money. Then if my feelings disagree with his intentions or recollection of what happened, my feelings are wrong. It's like I have to pay vigilant attention to certain things about his life but he can randomly decide when something is or isn't important.

For example, he recently started a new job that is hourly. He started obsessing about his time to the point where he said commuting from his parents' house or my place costs him 1-2 hours of money at work plus gas money, so he decided to stay with his cousins. He pays them monthly rent and he says it's worth it for the short commute. He has spent a total of three to four days there in three weeks. He got so focused on money that he would skip lunch and almost devalue his off-time as not being lucrative. I won't even go into his recent over-spending, and I don't go down that road with him because it's his money. This is frustrating for me to watch, but I try not to say much about it. 

I asked him to do me a favor two weeks ago and be at my apartment while they were inspecting it. It was done early and he missed 1-2 hours of work. He acted like it was no problem (I even offered to pay him), but during a later argument he held it against me. He also has said things in the past like "don't you know how busy I am," as if I don't know or don't support him. I know that's a product of him feeling overwhelmed, but he puts the accountability on me in a way. Yesterday apparently he wasn't feeling well and wanted to catch up on some things at home, so he left work early and drove to go do that. I wanted to say, do you know how busy you are? I don't understand how leaving work early and driving so far is in line with anything he has been saying about time and money. I know I shouldn't be concerned, but I was upset that he has lectured me on his time and money (as if I impact either, which I don't) and then treats both so loosely when he feels like it. Granted, he is often easygoing about these topics, but they come up in arguments as ammunition on his end. I feel like I have to be hyper-sensitive to those topics because it may be held against me later. If he doesn't like what I'm saying he tells me I'm wrongly characterizing what actually happened. I think he has a tendency to get really excited about things and then cut corners or blame others when he has trouble keeping up. In my frustration I questioned whether he is serious about his job, which I know I shouldn't have said. I just don't know why he always has a rationalization for being inconsistent but sometimes talks to me like I have no idea that his time is valuable. Deflection, perhaps? And then he withdraws and says things like "you can think whatever you want" and "I don't need your validation." I wouldn't mind the inconsistencies if he didn't sometimes lecture me about his time. 

I want to add that overall we have been getting along pretty well lately. This catch-22 never seems to go away though.

time management

I think this is ADD.  I call it compartmentalizing the facts.  Like dh who would say, "That is my money and it goes to X. You are not going to tell me what to do with it. I earned it."  Phrasing it that if I make a suggestion to invest or buy something for the house that I am forbidding him from doing something with his own money.   It is in his mind that then, I have no say about that portion of our budget because he has put claims to it as HIS by wording it this way.   Your bf is saying that certain amounts of his time and life are HIS and you have no say as to how he spends his time. He has done his own miscalculations and come up with a solution that works for HIM.   It is manipulative and stupid.  

For years my dh bought gas only $5 cash every time saying that he needed to have his car light enough so that he could save on gas and so that his car would not drag on the ground.  What he was doing was writing out a check at the gas station for $20, then spending $5 cash on gas and pocketing the rest.  He expected me to accept that rationalization.  He must have gone to a gas station 3 and 4 times a day buying gas - he was a traveling salesman.  He told me he thought he was saving money. He would not use credit cards. It is easy to see the manipulations and lies when it is someone else's story isn't it?  Things don't add up.

But I do believe compartmentizing is one of the tactics the ADD mind does to help them with the overwhelm and trying to feel some control. It does not excuse the fact that when you are married, as partners and parents, your time is well spent toward combined aims and it is a good thing to be helpful and thoughtful for each other.  Know that the way you are setting up your relationship now as bf and gf is the way your married life will be meted out too.  It does not change after a ceremony.  He will use the same thinking process to divvy up his time and money and energy that he uses now. You will be pretty much screwed and alone much of the time just as you are now and in his mind, he is giving you sooooo much and he believes himself to be very generous.  It is manipulating the facts.  That is who he is.  You will not change him with any kind of love or support or understanding. He has rationalized his time to be his own.

his v. ours

Thanks jennalemon, it really helps to hear this and reminds me that my perspective is valid. You are absolutely right, and he has said it in so many words before that he gets to decide what he wants to do with HIS time, and I'm supposed to be a mind reader about what he decides is HIS time and what time is shared time. It is controlling of him. It is so strange to me that your dh and my bf implicate us like that just by having an opinion or asking for something shared. The compartmentalizing of the facts does seem like an attempt to have control. I am very apprehensive about what this means for marriage, and that is part of why I post on here. We are considering moving in together next year. You hit the nail on the head that he thinks he is being very generous--and sometimes he is very generous indeed--but usually on his terms. He was raised, and still lives in, a house where people treat time in that way, that they do their own thing and do not have a team spirit. Everyone puts themselves first. His mother actually told him once that a relationship is just two individuals. They are a family of 6 (father and brother have diagnosed ADD).

The way your dh thought he was saving money sounds so familiar. My bf thinks the bridge toll is too much sometimes, but other times will drive unnecessarily. It all depends on his mood. Sometimes he comments on what I buy and sometimes he doesn't. He told me not to buy a $3 box of holiday Kleenex because it was overpriced, but then will buy a $400 coat for himself. The reindeer makes me happy, he can deal with it. 

We just got into another ridiculous argument because I told him something that I thought was rude that my boss said to me and bf interpreted it to be okay. He is ignoring the fact that I have more context, and that what matters here are my feelings. When he tells me something and I have a different opinion, he tells me that I don't have all of the information...even though he is the one providing me with the information. I don't understand this way of thinking either.

If I could understand why he manipulates facts (and then accuses me of it), I think I would be better informed to decide what I can and cannot live with. At this point I can't imagine being married to him, yet I still consider it for the future. I love him, but sometimes I feel like he is holding me back. Maybe I can't imagine what a different relationship would be like. Whenever I bring up looking into ADD, he says he can't afford therapy. When I mention books, he makes it sound like he would have to change who he is entirely. 


My husband of 28 years

My husband of 28 years interprets all attempts on my part to discuss problems as "accusations" against him.  And he has also told me that any critical or "accusatory" comments cause him to either shut down and not be able to respond or to want to do the opposite of what I suggest.  And in his case, me not talking about problems means they don't exist.  Damned if I do, damned if I don't.

Hi Rosered

My dh tells me it is a tone that I use that makes anything I say as accusatory.  When in reality it is HIS tone that is threatening and aggressive.  I know I have a soft voice ---many people tell me it is too soft. So.  If I talk softly and sweetly and say please and dear, then he thinks that I am just suggesting that it would be nice if he bought some light bulbs and he will not believe he NEEDS to and won't do anything.  If I say loud and clear so he can hear and understand and ask if he heard me, there will be a sarcastic response from him.

The direct, clear, loud request, with "Did you hear what I said? Will you please?" and then follow through is the only approach is the only thing that works.  And then not take any flack he delivers personally.  A written request is good too.  The sweetness and light routine does not work.

He has a favorite phrase "You get more bees with honey", that I tried to accomodate him with.  What happened is that I got so soft spoken that I was not taken seriously anymore.  I think the real problem is that he sees cooperation as wimping out and listening to a wife as being "hen-pecked" (an outdated phrase that was once used so men could make fun of men who maybe wanted to cooperate in their homes.)

Sounds very familiar. We have

Sounds very familiar.

We have been married 30 years. If I want to discuss a problem I am"causing trouble". He starts yelling and walks out or stares into space and acts like a piece of furniture. I can't win. 

Unfortunately that means we can't have a normal conversation about anything that isn't what he wants to hear.

Finally I "blow" and he listens. I hate that we can't just have an open and honest conversation. It's like dealing with my teenagers...emotions and immaturity.

You are not alone.