Author Topic: Is it rude not to be comforting?  (Read 8268 times)

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greencat

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Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
« Reply #15 on: August 27, 2012, 05:51:37 AM »
I think SleepyKitty's boyfriend is reacting to how he feels and not to what SleepyKitty actually did.

Furthermore, what he wanted to hear was "No, of course you didn't mess up.  This wasn't your fault at all!"
All you wanted to tell him was "take responsibility." 
So, SleepyBoyfriend felt bad about the situation and his handling of it.  SleepyKitty didn't give him the "yes man" response he wanted to feel better about himself.  Ergo, SleepyBF still feels bad.  Except, now, he associates that "I feel bad" with how SleepyKitty reacted, instead of the actual cause, his own behavior. 

You tried to talk to him about it.  He couldn't carry on a conversation.  You also couldn't offer him the verbal reassurance that he hadn't messed up without lying to him.  If he had been physically present, maybe you could have given him a hug.  Is it rude to not lie to him in order to try and make him feel better?  I don't think so.  Etiquette does not normally demand that we lie about anything besides being grateful for strange gifts.

Err, SleepyKitty, you're not in Atlanta dating my ex are you?  >:D

bah12

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Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
« Reply #16 on: August 27, 2012, 10:58:39 AM »
I don't think you are required to lie to someone to make them feel better about a situation and I agree that the BF was likely projecting.

On the one hand, I don't blame the OP for thinking that her BF wanted to be left alone.  He wasn't responsive on the phone and the OP herself would have wanted to be left alone in the same situation.  But, (and I'm not sure how long they've been together) I would assume that a couple would be more aligned with how the other deals with stress and what they need as they go through tough times.  So, unless BF suddenly changed how he handles stressful situations, I do think the OP could have been more sensitive and offered some comfort.  Saying things like, "I'm sorry, this is a tough thing to go through" or "I'm here to support you and help get you through it" are helpful without being untrue or offering false hope.

If this is the first time she's experienced his stress as a couple, then things like "what can I do for you right now?"  or "do you want to talk or do you need some space?" are good things to show that she wants to be supportive and just needs some specifics of how to do that.

CakeBeret

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Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
« Reply #17 on: August 27, 2012, 11:10:38 AM »
OP, I really sympathize with you. Sometimes my DH makes pretty poor decisions and then wants sympathy when things go south. I know he needs sympathy, and I have to really restrain myself from saying "Well, if you hadn't done Really Stupid Thing that I warned you was a Really Bad Idea, you wouldn't be in this mess". What I do is focus on his feelings rather than what happened. I say things like "That really stinks, I'm sorry you have to deal with that" or "That's rough, honey, I'm sorry". I also ask him what he wants, so I can give him whatever support he needs. "Do you want me to stay here and talk about it, or would you rather me go do XYZ for awhile?"

It does sound like your BF was projecting his unhappiness onto you. I don't blame you for thinking he wanted to be left alone. I do think that learning to sympathize even when you think he's wrong would be a good move. :)
"From a procrastination standpoint, today has been wildly successful."

Moray

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Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
« Reply #18 on: August 27, 2012, 11:14:01 AM »
Some men when they are upset kind of revert to childhood.  They "lose their words" and just want comfort from Momma.  They don't want to talk and they do want to talk at the same time.  They don't know how to express what they are feeling and why--all they want is for someone they love to be there for them without judgement.   

I'm female and I can get like that, too.
Sometimes when I'm upset or stressed about something, I'm just exhausted from thinking and talking about it, and I want comfort without having to rehash it all. Or feeling secure that when I do talk, it's okay if I don't make sense.

That's definitely not a male thing, that's a human thing.
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dawbs

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Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
« Reply #19 on: August 27, 2012, 11:18:19 AM »
I don't think it's rude/polite so much as it's what each of you can/wants to give in the relationship.

Sometimes "I can see you're hurting/I"m sorry you're hurting" is incredibly valuable. 

Moray

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Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
« Reply #20 on: August 27, 2012, 11:26:43 AM »
I don't think it's rude/polite so much as it's what each of you can/wants to give in the relationship.

Sometimes "I can see you're hurting/I"m sorry you're hurting" is incredibly valuable.

That's a very good point, dawbs. Sometimes acknowledgement is really all that's needed.
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Take2

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Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
« Reply #21 on: August 27, 2012, 11:51:28 AM »
In a relationship, it isn't so much about a standard polite response to pain/suffering like it would be in less close relationships. It's about communicating and getting to know one another well enough to offer the kind of support that feels good when the partner needs it. What that looks like varies wildly from person to person. To sit and argue about whether a certain approach was rude or polite after the fact is sort of a red herring. The real question is what each partner needs/wants and how they can interact to respect BOTH sets of needs/wants.

I can't personally give a "everything will be OK, you didn't do anything wrong" response to a loved one when that isn't true in my estimation. But I can give a "you are a good person in spite of this situation, I know you are strong enough to get through it, and I am here for you" response. Which meets my partners needs of feeling validated as a human being of worth, reassured that I am not about to bail due to the mistake, and having someone in his corner. Without messing with my need to be honest.

Also, through many conversations we have come to agree that I will ask if I can help in a situation where I can't tell what he wants/needs. But after that, if he won't tell me what he wants/needs, he will have to graciously accept my best guess. It sounds like bf is trying to set up an agreement that you will read his mind and meet his needs. Getting that out in the open and discussed might help here.

LEMon

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Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
« Reply #22 on: August 27, 2012, 09:06:47 PM »
My DH and I have gotten in the habit of asking after one of our emotional collisions what we could have said or done differently.  It often helps to know how he wanted me to ask or listen or sympathize or hug, or whatever.

I do suspect the fact it was over the phone caused a part of the problem.  He couldn't see your expression or feel your touch so he felt more distant.

I also suspect he knows you think he created this so he does need to know what you do believe (positive) about him.

Softly Spoken

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Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
« Reply #23 on: September 01, 2012, 01:13:51 PM »
I don't think it's rude/polite so much as it's what each of you can/wants to give in the relationship.

Sometimes "I can see you're hurting/I"m sorry you're hurting" is incredibly valuable.

That's a very good point, dawbs. Sometimes acknowledgement is really all that's needed.

POD POD POD

My therapist helped me understand acknowledgment with a metaphor about my toe... If my toe hurts and I tell someone "My toe hurts," I want them to acknowledge my toe and let me know they care that I am in pain. I don't want to hear a diagnosis of why my toe hurts or what I should do to stop it hurting. I don't want to be told that I will get over it, that it doesn't really hurt, that I should take better care of it, etc. etc. Being told it will get better doesn't do anything for the pain I'm in now. It doesn't matter if they stepped on my toe, I stubbed my toe by accident, I hurt it kicking something, or it's a phantom pain in my head - the point is I am feeling bad, and it would make me feel better to at least hear "I'm sorry your toe hurts." Just having someone notice and care can make the pain less. Then if I'm up to it, we might move onto what can be done to ease the pain or prevent it from hurting in the future.

Of course, it is my responsibility to communicate how my toe feels, and to let someone know what they can do (or not do) to help me with it.

Also, when someone feels bad, I think it is rarely productive to debate or comment on whose "fault" it is. I don't think someone being in a situation of their own making should preclude them from sympathy. Until they have come out the other side of an issue and have the emotional maturity to laugh at themselves/learn from their mistakes, any perceived judgement will only make them defensive. I see absolutely no value in "I told you so"/"You brought this on yourself" - it communicates a distinct lack of empathy, suggesting that someone deserves to be upset and unhappy because they are judged to have made a mistake. This can create a "one up" ranking dynamic that is not very healthy in personal relationships. Nobody likes to be "finger-wagged" when they're already feeling bad about something - who likes to be kicked when they're down? :-\
"... for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."
-William Shakespeare

"We find comfort among those who agree with us - growth among those who don't."  ~Frank A. Clark

Allyson

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Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
« Reply #24 on: September 01, 2012, 07:34:01 PM »
Everyone is so different. For me, if I went to a friend with a problem and their response was, "That sounds really tough for you!" I wouldn't like that. I want to be hearing their advice or thoughts on the matter. But, the 'that sounds really tough' response is one that's advocated as something a lot of people *do* want. I am an 'advice giver' and people do approach me specifically to say 'Tell me if I'm being an idiot' or similar. But, I wouldn't be that blunt with anyone who I don't know wants that kind of response. I'm not good at being a 'pure sympathy' kind of person.

As for giving sympathy when someone's problems are of their own making, I think it depends. If someone, say, broke their leg or was fired because of a mistake they made, they *know* what they did. Me saying 'I told you so!' is not helpful in the slightest. But if it's a repeated situation, and the person keeps coming to me with the same problem resulting from the same thing they're doing, I think it's reasonable for me to say something more than 'poor you'!

It's also a matter of time...if a friend calls me crying because she just got dumped, I'm not going to immediately jump into giving advice about what she could've done differently, what she can do now, and so on, I'm going to just let her talk through it. But if it's 4 months later and she's still crying about the same guy, I don't think it's rude to suggest something.

Emmy

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Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
« Reply #25 on: September 02, 2012, 06:02:23 AM »
Everyone is so different. For me, if I went to a friend with a problem and their response was, "That sounds really tough for you!" I wouldn't like that. I want to be hearing their advice or thoughts on the matter. But, the 'that sounds really tough' response is one that's advocated as something a lot of people *do* want. I am an 'advice giver' and people do approach me specifically to say 'Tell me if I'm being an idiot' or similar. But, I wouldn't be that blunt with anyone who I don't know wants that kind of response. I'm not good at being a 'pure sympathy' kind of person.

As for giving sympathy when someone's problems are of their own making, I think it depends. If someone, say, broke their leg or was fired because of a mistake they made, they *know* what they did. Me saying 'I told you so!' is not helpful in the slightest. But if it's a repeated situation, and the person keeps coming to me with the same problem resulting from the same thing they're doing, I think it's reasonable for me to say something more than 'poor you'!

It's also a matter of time...if a friend calls me crying because she just got dumped, I'm not going to immediately jump into giving advice about what she could've done differently, what she can do now, and so on, I'm going to just let her talk through it. But if it's 4 months later and she's still crying about the same guy, I don't think it's rude to suggest something.

I agree with this.  On various threads, people have posted phrases they would like to hear in a tough situation and those they would not wish to hear.  Everybody is different (which is why it is unfair to get offended when somebody automatically can't read your mind).  That being said, I still think the best thing to do (and something that hardly anybody would find offensive) would be to let the person know you care about their pain and you are there for them and they will get through it. 

It would be awkward to sit there while somebody was silent on the phone and like the OP, I'd be wondering if they would rather be off the phone as well.  I disagree that the OP 'rushed' him off the phone if he sat in silence for long periods of time.  The OP's boyfriend emotional state at the time probably overrode his reason and he saw his girlfriend as not giving him sympathy when she couldn't read his very confusing signals about what he wanted.  Maybe the boyfriend wanted something she couldn't give him like for her to say everything would be OK to be assured that the situation wasn't his fault.

I also agree with Allyson that different situations warrant different actions.  For example, a somebody who was fired for a one time mistake vs. somebody who repeatedly cheated the company and was caught.  If it is somebody who wants an ear to rehash the same issue over and over again (especially if they don't try to improve the situation or make the same mistakes again and again), I am going to be less sympathetic.  In the toe example, a person might complain their toe hurts, but they would lose sympathy after they keep kicking the hard object again and again and make no effort to correct the situation.

bopper

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Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
« Reply #26 on: September 25, 2012, 04:05:23 PM »
I would go back to him and say "Remember that time where <whatever> was bothering you and you said that I got you off the phone to fast?  I would like to talk about how you would like me to handle that situation next time.  I did what works for me...help brainstorm possible solutions, but then let you have some space.  I realize now that is not what you need!  Can you give examples of what would have been better?"

SleepyKitty

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Re: Is it rude not to be comforting?
« Reply #27 on: September 25, 2012, 04:54:40 PM »
Actually, it's funny you remind me of this, bopper! Things relating to this situation got better, and then later on got worse again. I used a lot of when I heard in this thread when dealing with it the second time around, and things were much smoother. So smooth, that he started kind of relying on me more and more... and more... for someone to vent to, and to get some reassurance and comfort. I mean, almost to the point of all day, every day. Finally my emotional reserves were exhausted, and one night when he was texting me I finally sent: "Listen, I'm sorry I'm not helping tonight, but I'm exhausted and I just don't have the energy to be comforting tonight. I really just need to recharge."

The response? "Oh, don't worry, I know you're not the comforting type. I was trying to reassure you!"  :o ::)

But now we've reached a pretty happy medium. He knows he can come to me (and I know that I can do something helpful) when he needs it, but he also knows where my limit is as far as listening to venting or negativity and things are pretty balanced.