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Engaged To Be Married But Fighting. The Wedding Date Has Been Canceled.

Question:
<p>I have been with my fianc&eacute;e for 4 years (though off and on). We just got engaged in August. We have currently canceled our wedding date because of issues we both feel need to be addressed before we continue with wedding plans. </p><p>I constantly feel like I can't do anything right and so does he. We get easily frustrated with each other and are stubborn. He says I do not make him feel attractive, sexy, and wanted (which is about 90% of what we fight over). I feel his only way to feel wanted is through us making love. To me, it is more than that, I have to feel he wants me in ways other than that. My drive for sex is controlled by how much we fight and how close I feel to him. When he constantly complains about things I don't do right, it makes me distance myself from him. He claims now that I must &quot;change the way things affect me&quot; and that if I don't then he is not important enough to me. </p><p>We argue about simple things. He gets &quot;firm&quot; (what I call being hateful) and rude towards me when he addresses me with a problem or issue. He claims this is &quot;just his tone&quot; and he is not being rude or hateful. He has accused me of being hateful and I have worked on it...he has even told me how much he appreciates me not being as hateful.  </p><p>He has a mechanic hobby shop and stays out in the shop some nights until 10 or 11. He does make time to spend with me and comes in early some nights to. The other night he got mad at me and said he had to &quot;fight to spend time with me&quot; because I was in the shower for too long. </p><p>Where do we go from here? Currently, we have left it as I am suppose to &quot;change how things affect me&quot; in an attempt for my sexual drive not to be influenced by anything; however, I do not know how to do that or where to start. . .or if it's even something I should be working on. He says if I do not change that then he &quot;must not mean enough to me&quot;.  </p><p>I feel he cannot be happy unless the sexual drive is there at least 3 times a week.   </p><p>Where do we go from here?     </p>
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Answer:

Honestly, I’m not sure. Relationships require compromise, but compromise is not possible until both partners grow a certain level of tolerance for the various ways that each partner is different from the other. You both don’t seem to be very tolerant of the other’s differences right now.

Each of you is wanting something from the other that isn’t happening. You are wanting your fiancée to be more demonstrably loving, respectful and available to you. He is wanting you to be similarly more available, both in terms of time and in terms of sexual availability. You are both feeling hurt by the other partners’ difficulty in complying, and that creates anger and frustration and hurt feelings that create a negative feedback loop. The more you feel hurt, the less you are available to be loving, and th more that the other partner feels hurt in return. Your mutual hurt is effectively feeding off one another and making things worse rather than better.

When your boyfriend says that he is not meaning to be hateful, that this is "just his tone" I expect from his point of view he is speaking honestly. He doesn’t intend for his actions to appear hateful. That’s nice for him, but it doesn’t help you because in concrete terms, that tone of voice he takes on is hurtful to you. His intentions effectively don’t matter because his actual actions end up being hurtful by the only judge who counts, which is you. The same applies to your behavior. If he judges you to be unavailable to him, it doesn’t matter if you don’t think you are being unavailable. That is his perception and unless you think he is just psychotic and completely off base in his assertions (in which case, what are you doing with him?) then he may have a point that you are unavailable to him. Neither of you needs to change if you don’t want to. However, clearly what you are both doing for each other isn’t working well. Your behavior is ineffective in getting you want you want. You both might want to reevaluate how you’re acting towards each other in this light to see if making changes in how you interact will make your mutual situation better.

Part of the problem is that you have not been clear with one another what each of you needs from the other. You want him to be less hurtful for instance, but what does that really mean? It might mean that you need him to use a different tone of voice when he speaks to you, that you need him not to wag his finger at you when he speaks (if he does that), etc. The more you can define what being non-hurtful looks like in very explicitly even stupidly concrete terms the more chance you have of getting what you want. If you don’t define your terms and desires explicitly with one another, each of you will have different definitions of what it means to fulfill being non-hurtful, and you will end up being more hurt with one another when the other accuses you of being hurtful when you’ve been trying so hard (in your own terms) to be better. Insult is added to injury in that circumstance, because in addition to being attacked, your efforts to be better go unrecognized. It is really important to recognize one another’s positive attempts at repair. If you want to read a great book about the importance of making expectations concrete, I can recommend Dr. Gregory Lester’s Power With People.

Your fiancée is trying to make this relationship problem into your problem rather than seeing the problem as a relationship problem that you both own. This is a disturbing sign that you should pay close attention to. If he cannot learn to see his own contribution to the problem, that doesn’t bode well for your happy future together. The urge to externalize a problem (to make it someone else’s problem rather than owning your own contribution to the problem) can be a sign of social and emotional immaturity, it can simply be a sign of someone who was raised very traditionally with rigid gender role expectations in place (e.g., the man acts this way and the woman acts this way and no deviation from that pattern is acceptable), or it can be a defensive coping mechanism that occurs when people feel stressed. No compromise is possible so long as your fiancée holds on to this defensive stance. You won’t be able to respect him (because he is asking for something unrealistic), and neither will you be able to placate him (because you will find he is never satisfied with what you do. The relationship ceases to be a negotiation and instead becomes a supplication. No good. See if you can gently gently gently call his attention to the fact that you are both participants creating the problems between you and that it simply cannot be all your responsibility to fix things. If he really won’t back off from his tendency to externalize then I recommend seriously reevaluating whether this relationship is worth staying in.

Understanding that your fiancée’s sex drive may be stronger than your own (at least for the time being), think about if you can commit to being available to him sexually whether you are really into it or not on a several times a week basis (of your choosing). This would not be capitulation so much as an attempt to give him what he is needing, and as as a positive gesture and gift you can give to him; a way of taking care of him and helping him to feel valued and recognized. Granted, this may be a chore for you, and it may need to be a quickie; you probably won’t get off yourself. This won’t be worth doing if you only feel resentful about it. But if you can offer this to him as a loving gift, then you may be able to set up a positive feedback loop, where you do something for him and he becomes motivated to do something for you. In return for giving him something he needs, it is perfectly okay for you to ask for something you need (in stupidly explicit and concrete detail so that he can’t misinterpret what you want). If you need him to value you beyond sex, then figure out a way he can demonstrate to you that he values you in a way that will work for you and ask him to do it. Maybe it will be that he commits to taking you out dancing once a week. Maybe he will cook for you. Maybe he will tell you that he loves you and look you in the eye when he says it. Maybe he will make something for you in his craft workshop. It’s up to you what you will find pleasing and what will be proof of his multifaceted love to you.

It goes without saying that couples counseling would be a good idea. You two love each other, but aren’t managing to communicate your needs well enough with each other. Neither are you managing to both mutually take responsibility for your individual roles in causing the problems (him more than you, apparently). This has to stop. A third party counselor can be a force to help you listen to each other effectively and learn how to give each other what each of you needs in a more effective manner. You aren’t managing to do this on your own, so it is certainly worth a shot to try it another way. Good luck.

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