Dear Miss Dinna –
My girl-friend and I have been together for a bit over 2 years. We have always prided ourselves for having a great relationship where we hardly ever argue. Recently, however, we moved in together and have found that our arguing has become more frequent. She accuses me of speaking to her in a confrontational, harsh tone.
I know she’s right, but my argument is that I only speak to her in that way as a reaction to her belligerence that comes about when she has been drinking (three drinks or above – before that, things are fine). The only alternative I have is to not engage with her when she’s drunk, but then it means that I either ignore her, which will lead into an argument, or that I don’t enter into any serious conversations with her and act as if I am not bothered (eg with affection, lay with each other cuddling etc. etc.) and address whatever issues I have with her from the previous night the next day when she is sober.
This alternative feels disingenuous to me and as if I am denying myself the candidness to express myself and is coddling of, what feels like, negative behavior to me on her part. Outside of these maybe monthly or bi-monthly moments, we get along great. But with moving in with each other, I think that this problem has become more glaring and cannot be ignored as well. I’m not sure how to solve it.
Beginning to Boil
Dear Beginning to Boil –
It sounds to me that in your\ having consistent experiences of your girl-friend becoming “belligerent” and arguments often ensuing, after 3 drinks, that you have probably become hyper vigilant to her drinking in general. What I mean by that, is that I am imagining that once she begins drinking, you begin to watch her closely to see if she is hitting that 3 or above drink mark and are increasingly becoming tense as the drinks progress. If this is the case, it means that you are already agitated by the time the third drink comes along, and therefore most likely anything she says in that state is going to irritate you. In turn, this generates a response in you towards her that is “harsh and confrontational” which I am sure triggers her and so on and so on.
What’s important to point out is that you are already agitated simply with her drinking – and that core issue needs to be addressed. I suggest you sit down with your girl-friend, on a sober day of course, and let her know that you have become anxious around her drinking and that you have observed this pattern and that it is leaving you with the above stated alternative solutions – none of which sound great to you. If your girl-friend is able to agree with your observations, she can then decide if it’s important enough for her to monitor her drinking on her own.
The hope is for the two of you to come to an agreement that will achieve the goal of relinquishing you of the responsibility of watching over her and becoming agitated in the anticipation of conflict. Over time, you will be able to relax and have conversations from a peaceful, loving place, rather then from a place of resentment and annoyance.
Best of Luck!
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