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RELATIONSHIP ADVICE

Am I too picky? How to tell if it's a deal-breaker or just a bump in the road to love.

Lauren Gray

Hi Lauren,
 
I've been single and dating for the last 3 years and I’ve found it almost impossible to meet a man that meets even the minimum criteria of having a good job, not living with his parent's, and wanting a relationship.
 
I finally found a really great guy and we’ve been together for a month. I have a list of what I want in a guy and he meets almost all of the criteria, except for one huge thing. He hates cats and gives me crap about being vegetarian all the time!
 
He apologizes when I tell him he's hurt my feelings by taking the teasing too far, but I still constantly hear references to being a “crazy cat lady” and how meat would “cure all my ails.” I have 2 kitties and I’m never going to eat meat again and he’s not letting it go.
 
I don't know if I'm being overly-sensitive or if he's being a jerk. I really don't know if this is worth breaking up with him over. When there are so few good men out there, it feels silly to put my foot down on this. Where should a woman realistically draw the line?
 
-Daphne
 
 
Hi Daphne,
 
Great question! You hear messages like, “Don’t settle for less” and suddenly you feel empowered to have high standards for a partner.
 
But then you hear messages like, “Don’t wait for Mr. Perfect; there’s no such thing” and it’s easy to turn on those beautiful standards and accuse yourself of being TOO picky!
 
It’s mentally exhausting bouncing between these two perfectly rational principles. So, where DO you draw the line?
 
 
If it bugs you, it’s real
 
First I want to validate you: this constant teasing isn’t cute, it’s not charming, and it’s not working for you. This doesn’t make you “too picky,” “a diva,” or “the princess and the pea.”
 
Some people might call you “overly sensitive” but everyone has different levels of patience and tolerance. It doesn’t matter if you’re “overly sensitive” or regularly sensitive (there’s no such thing!), if something bugs you over and over, you just can’t shake it, and you find it’s wedging a wall between you and your partner, then it’s a REAL issue and it needs to be confronted.
 
 
Where to draw the line
 
In some areas it’s really helpful to hold the same values as your partner like when it comes to marriage, parenting, or religion. But when it comes to cats and food, we’re in the territory of, “it’s okay to NOT be on the same page.”
 
The truth is that it doesn't matter if this guy doesn't like cats or he thinks being vegetarian is stupid, those are his opinions and he's got every right to them. But it does matter that he's disrespecting your values and your choices. It's a respect thing. And it's worth setting a boundary.
 
 
Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater!
 
Whenever you find yourself in a relationship with someone and you feel disrespected, it’s time to set a boundary.
 
Many people have never been taught how to set a boundary in a compassionate, non-accusatory way. So they either put up with the feeling of disrespect OR they kick their partner to the curb.
 
When you put up and shut up, it causes distance in a relationship. #communication (Tweet that!)

...Enough distance to poison an established one and certainly enough to prohibit bonding in a brand new one.

But when you put your foot down entirely and say, “It’s my way or the highway fella,” then it’s an over-reaction. This is truly a case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater!
 
There is a MIDDLE ground.
 
 
How to set a boundary
 
Here’s a script you can use to set your boundary in a compassionate, non-accusatory way (aka: the middle ground):
 

 "Hey, it’s such a small thing and I might sound silly bringing it up. I know we've gone back and forth on this issue of cats and me being a vegetarian and it's stupid really. But the fact is that when you make comments, however lightly, disrespecting my values and my choices, it makes me feel like you don't respect me. And I know that isn't your intention.
 
"I respect your dislike of cats; I get it. The message is loud and clear. I get that you like your meat and you think it'd be better if I ate meat. But I don't and I don't want to. I won't try to convert you to vegetarianism or cat-liking, if you stop trying to convert me.
 
"This is a boundary I want to set and I want us to agree to leave this cat and vegetarian conversation behind us. We both know where we stand on these two subjects. Instead of focusing on what we don't have in common, let's celebrate and indulge in the things we do have in common like (examples here.) Lets move on and learn more about each other because I'm having so much fun with you."
 
You’ll want to keep your tone light and matter of fact so it won't trigger his fight or flight response. No man wants to be seen as “the bad guy” in the eyes of the woman he cares for. He wants to be her hero.

So when you’re setting a boundary and essentially telling a man that a certain behavior won’t fly with you, you want to be careful with your tone so that he doesn’t feel like you see HIM as the bad guy; it’s just the behavior you don’t like.
 
It also helps to minimize the damage, like calling the issue “silly but important to me.” It helps to say, “It makes me feel disrespected and I know that’s not your intention.” This way he knows that he hasn’t failed you to the point of no return. He doesn’t need to feel embarrassed for hurting you unintentionally this whole time.

Setting a boundary is not about dredging up the past, it’s about making a clear request of how you’d like to move forward in the future.
 
 
A clear path to HAPPY
 
Once you’ve set your boundary it’s important to show your genuine enthusiasm for moving forward together. Smile. Kiss him. Be excited. He will see that he has a clear path to make you happy and (hopefully) he will take it.
 
All you can do is set your boundary, show your man the way to make you happy and hope for the best.

You never know, he could be teasing you for the same reason boys who like girls in elementary school pull their hair. They just don’t know what to do to get a girl’s attention or get a reaction out of her. Show him the way to get a happy reaction out of you and he might just graduate the 3rd grade. ;-)
 
 
Warning! Do not swallow…
 
Never swallow an issue just because it's the beginning of the relationship and you're afraid to alienate or turn off the other person.
 
For the first few dates it's fine to shove things under the rug since people are nervous, they say the wrong things sometimes, and you don’t want to jump to any conclusions.

But after a month of dating, it's time to start setting the agreements that will help you create your ideal relationship.
 
Ultimately, this guy’s interest in you needs to be more than his disinterest in cats and vegetarianism in order for you to move ahead.  When you use the script above, let him know how you perceive the tease, and you stand your ground with a clear request, you WILL find out what his priorities are. It’s best to find out now, in the beginning, then in a year down the road.
 
 
With love,
Lauren


read more blog posts from Lauren Gray
  • Lauren Gray
     5/1/2014 5:12:39 PM
    Hey Rebecca, This is a bit more involved than the q's I answer in the comments. The best way for me to help you is through my Email Advice Package: http://www.marsvenus.com/lauren-gray-work-with-me.htm If you read it over and decide it's not for you, no worries. You can sign up for email updates in the box above to get awesome and free relationship advice delivered to your inbox every week. :-)
  • RebeccaL
     4/29/2014 1:44:55 AM
    One more thing, is there a way that can help me not to be defensive, something I can tell myself to help me out, another perspective for me to try and look at so I can handle these situations better. I want to have a balanced life with getting my things done, spending time getting exercise/eating right, spending time with friends and also with him in a loving way, I do miss him and like spending caring time together, but this issue is starting to cause bigger ripples. Thank you for your time, I know this is super long and detailed, I look forward to your response. Rebecca ...
  • RebeccaL
     4/29/2014 1:40:28 AM
    He rows twice a week, so I find that a bit hypocritical/contradictory, which really bothers me that he can't see this. He has been so good to me in so many other ways, a really good man, but these situations or situations like this are really starting to weigh on the relationship. It pushes me away and in turn hurts him because I am not taking his advice or being a receptive woman, I am being a defensive woman. I don't want this to be my behavior toward him, I don't like it either. He then takes it as we are not a match because we don't see things the same way, and so he pulls away to think about the relationship, and this causes me a different stress... He is from the GDR and has deep issues with trust through the Stasi and his parents, being limited in life, growing up in fear of dooms day, although he doesn't see it but these thoughts come out every so often, which is where the organization comes from, he wants to be prepared for life in a very pragmatic way. I need help to adjust his perspective, 1st focusing on the good, congratulating and support, that I need, instead of pissing on all the good I do and picking the bad to focus on. 2nd when it is advice that he has to give, that it could be worded differently. because I am a North american woman, it feels like he is trying to control me when really, it is how it is worded which sucks but he is trying to give his opinion or advice to help me out. ( his english is better than my German but there is a language barrier where things don't get translated the same way) Yes and he doesn't agree with how I handle my cat either, she is an animal not a person, yes but she is my animal!.... ha. I really like your last paragraph in your script and I feel that I can fit what I need to say in that but I don't know how to word the controlling/advice and focus on the good, as boundaries... One more thing, is there a way that can help me not to be defensive, someth...
  • RebeccaL
     4/29/2014 1:38:22 AM
    Hi Lauren, I don't know if this is a boundary or a slightly different issue to handle (I think it is). I am dating a German man (34), I live in Germany (I am from Canada, 30), we have been together for 3.5 months. I am currently living with him (supposed to only have been a month until I found a different apartment) (Which living together so quickly has changed the dynamic of the relationship from dating, obviously) Anyway the situation is, he tells me what to do, gives me advice all the time, but not in a good way, more of a 'I have to way, because the way I am doing it wrong'. I have explained 'we are two people, I am not him, I have been figuring out how I work best and the way I do it does work for me.' For example (one of many) We went for a run the other night and he said I was running too fast, because after a quicker spurt I slow down and walk for a bit then I run again. He said I need to slow down and just run at a steady pace the whole time, not stop and start. But for me to build up my endurance/cardio right now, that is how I need to do it, each time I run, I run a little faster and longer and the walks in between get shorter... Anyway. I would like him to focus on the part of me that is doing good and getting out to get regular exercise, rather than finding something about it that is not right. I would rather focus on the other 10 things I did right that day than the one thing I might have missed. He also says for being so stressed with all the other things I have to do, that I am not prioritizing/not organized, that I shouldn't be running anyway, that I should be working on the important paperwork and getting it done first. (But I know exercise is an important part of a balanced life and staying focused and I have just recently added it to my life again because I think it will help me to complete the other things). He rows twice a week, so I find that a bit hypocritical/contradictory, which really bothers me t...
  • pjzm66
     3/27/2014 11:37:09 AM
    Nicoise, why are you saying things like "it's silly" and It's stupid really"? Your beliefs are neither stupid or silly. If you say they are or believe they are others will find your beliefs stupid and silly too and not respect them. Be proud of yourself girl!
  • Lauren Gray
     2/27/2014 12:01:18 PM
    Nicoise I LOVE IT!!! Great job! I'm so sorry I didn't see this until today but I hope you moved forward with it with confidence because it's FANtastic! The only edit I might add is to say your piece and then say, "I don't know exactly HOW we'll figure out a solution to this but i know that you'll be my partner and together we can figure something out. I would really appreciate your problem solving skill on this conundrum." I'm just building on your natural instincts to ask him for his help. Men love saving the day by solving an impossible problem. The only thing is, if you ask him a question mid-speech, his brain will stop listening to you and start in on the problem solving. Again, Great Job! Love me some organic food!!...
  • Nicoise
     2/17/2014 11:47:44 AM
    Lauren, here's my script. What do you think? Nicolse "Hey, it’s such a small thing and I might sound silly bringing it up. I know we've gone back and forth on this issue of my feeling strongly about how important it is for my health and the planet's to eat organic, sustainable, natural foods and meat. And it's stupid really. But the fact is that when you make comments, however lightly, disrespecting my values and my choices, it makes me feel like you don't respect me. And I know that isn't your intention. "I respect your right to think that all of this is nonsense; I get it. The message is loud and clear. I get that you don't think any of this matters and that buying those kind of foods is just an unnecessary waste of money. But I don't and I don't want to. I won't try to convert you to conscious eating, if you stop trying to convert me. Since we are planning to live together , I know it will be a challenge as we shop and cook together; share expenses for groceries etc. How do you think we could handle that in a way that is respectful to both of us? "This is a boundary I want to set and I want us to agree to leave this eating style conversation behind us. We both know where we stand on these two subjects. Instead of focusing on what we don't have in common, let's celebrate and indulge in the things we do have in common like cooking, laughing, writing. Lets move on and just enjoy this wonderful relationship we are creating."...
  • Lauren Gray
     2/13/2014 1:51:32 PM
    Katdarling22: Thanks Kat. Glad you enjoyed it. My lipstick is Rebel from Mac. But I had some red underneath it so it influenced it's pinky shade.
  • katdarling22
     1/12/2014 8:42:25 PM
    Totally unrelated but I just love your lipstick color! Will you share your brand and shade? Great blog, by the way!


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