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Carolyn Hax: He rolled his eyes; she narrowed hers

By Carolyn Hax
Thursday, September 9, 2010; C03

Adapted from a recent online discussion:

Dear Carolyn:

Is there such thing as too sensitive? I rolled my eyes out of frustration when I realized my girlfriend was going to do things her way no matter what I said. It hurt her feelings. I reluctantly apologized, but we had to have "the talk" for a week. If I show the slightest frustration or annoyance with her, she gets upset, cries and expects an immediate apology. I think the relationship is doomed and told her so.

Minneapolis

Not sure there's a question here, but I won't let that stop me.

Yes, you did ask if there's "such thing as too sensitive," but that doesn't count because you clearly think there is.

Besides, there's no need for anyone to be at fault here -- an idea both of you urgently need to embrace. What you've described is an unspoken competition for Most Aggrieved. "If I so much as twitch in a frowny direction, she cries!" "He's got this huffy attitude with me all the time, but refuses to admit it!" (Two words: "reluctantly apologized.") Right now you're both looking for behaviors in each other that prove you're the righteous one, and, really, has anyone looking to justify him/herself ever not succeeded at it?

People have their comfortable ways of expressing emotion, and not all ways are compatible. It could be that you're just not suited to each other; most people aren't.

But it could also be that you're so far up in each other's business that you've forgotten how just to be yourselves. For the next week, see if she'll agree to having both of you let everything go. Decide upfront: "This is how s/he is and it's not a referendum on me."

If you can go a week without taking each other's each-other-ness personally, then you might actually start to see the outline of the people you fell in love with.

Or, not. But then we can all say we tried, right?

Re: Minneapolis:

Don't roll your eyes at other people. It's dismissive and communicates underlying contempt. I used to do it, and one day realized it's a profoundly immature way to express oneself. If you have something to say, then have the courage to say it. If it's better kept under your hat, keep it there. It's irrelevant whether the recipient of your eye-roll reacts badly; YOU are communicating a lack of respect for that person when you do it. Is that the person you want to be?

Anonymous

So good it belongs in a frame.

Re: Eye-rolling:

If I'm getting periodic (angry) eye-rolls, I can understand that I should say something. But, will it do any good to point out that the person is being disrespectful, or does he have to figure this out on his own? It's my husband, he didn't used to be like this, and I really don't want the kids to think this is an appropriate way to treat others.

Anonymous 2

"If there's something you'd like to say, then please show me the courtesy of saying it." Calm as can be. You'll show your kids that eye-rolling stinks, which is really important, and you'll show them what it looks and sounds like to stand up for yourself. Really really important.

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