Can’t he just open the door?

My boyfriend lashes out when I ask him to do something… like open the door for the plumber! Am I being unreasonable?

His behavior doesn’t sound normal, says our elder.

Dear EWC

I consider myself to be a pretty independent person; I find that I rarely ask others for anything unless absolutely necessary, almost to a fault where I put too much responsibility on myself, and run out of time. I have been dating my boyfriend for almost three years now. He has moved in with me, and lucky for me he is actually a pretty tidy person. He likes to keep the house clean, and any chores that he feels called to do, he will do them. Unfortunately, that is where his helpful streak ends. Whenever I need assistance with something (and usually my asks are very simple, like opening the door when my hands are full, or helping me carry something to my car) he will roll his eyes, throw a fit, and challenge why I’m asking for help in the first place. Often I feel like he tries to force a fight in these situations so that he doesn’t have to do whatever the silly, tiny thing is that would have really helped me out. He’ll ask questions like “What would you do if I wasn’t with you?” and say that I’m just with him because it’s “convenient” to have him around.

In our most recent fight I was trying to schedule someone to come take a look at our leaky bathroom sink. I was working 12-hour days for the next three days, and asked him if he’d be home to let the plumber in sometime today, and he flipped out. Said maybe he had plans, and why couldn’t the plumber come over and take up my time instead of his. I was beside myself — he literally just has to be a body to open the door! He could do whatever he wants as long as he let the plumber in. What is this all about? Right now I feel like I’m dating the most selfish man on earth. Why does he never want to help me? Playing devil’s advocate — Do I have too high a level of expectation when it comes to helping me out? I suppose he doesn’t ‘owe’ it to me to assist me, but if the tables were turned I would help him without question.

Roxie replies

Your expectations don’t sound to me to be too high. Lending a helping hand is part of being a loving partner, and a request for minor assistance shouldn’t be experienced as a burden. Sometimes, of course, people do ask too much, and everyone is entitled to an off day now and then. But your letter describes behavior that is much more pervasive than an occasional lazy moment.

What surprises me the most in your letter is the intensity of his response. It’s one thing to groan, say you are too tired, or just play dumb. But his anger and tendency to turn these interactions into a fight suggest to me that there is something much deeper going on with him than just selfishness. Perhaps he felt that his parents imposed on him when he was a child? Maybe there is something else in your relationship that is bothering him? Obviously, I’m just guessing. But I don’t think his behavior is normal.

If you want to keep your relationship with him (and this is something that you should really think about), you need to talk to him about what is bothering you. I would suggest that you pick a time when you don’t have any requests to make, and try to raise the issue in a non-confrontational way. You could say something along the lines of, “I’ve been wanting to talk to you about something that makes me sad”. Say that you are confused by his behavior, and ask him if there is anything that you could do to avoid the conflicts that erupt when you make what you feel are reasonable requests. Do your best to stay calm and avoid turning the discussion into a fight. Try to focus on a possible solution and be willing to compromise.
If a heart-to-heart conversation doesn’t work, couples therapy can be very helpful. But, it is a commitment of time and money that either he or you may be unwilling to make. Unfortunately, it may turn out that this man is not going to change enough to make him the right partner for you.

Letter #: 450967
Category: Dating/Relationship

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