Sunday, January 21, 2018
Parenting & Relationships

An aversion to compliments may mean your partner has underlying trauma

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

An aversion to compliments may have an underlying trauma

Q: My girlfriend says she's uncomfortable with compliments, saying she doesn't want to be a "trophy." I do think she's fantastic, and it feels unnatural not to tell her, but at the same time I don't want her to get "weirded out." She especially doesn't like any comments in public.

I say "any" because I said one thing — confirming her friend's positive comment about her — and it caused a major rift that I found out about 12 hours later. What to do?

"Trophy"

Carolyn: Does she ever compliment anyone? Does that make others her trophies?

The kindness-phobia + "major rift" + the 12-hour silence on it = significant issues. Just from your short description, I see two primary ones: the emotional injury underlying her deep skepticism of compliments and the inability (unwillingness?) to communicate in an intimate way.

To wit: She apparently also hasn't told you anything about the source of said skepticism, even though it's unusual (insecurity typically fuels an excessive reliance on praise). Also, she wasn't able (willing?) to say on the spot that you upset her, but instead put you in the doghouse for the better part of a day without letting you know you were there.

My opening outburst aside, I don't think issues, even major ones, even major ones involving emotional trauma and inability to communicate, are an automatic deal-breaker. You "do think she's fantastic," after all.

However, her inclination to control what others say to her is a natural obstacle to speaking freely, and speaking freely is the heart of intimacy.

One possible conversation-starter is to center your argument on you — for example, by pointing out kind words she has spoken of you, and your confidence that her motive was kindness, not objectification.

Similarly, you also are entitled to ask how she would feel if you told her there were a whole category of statements you wouldn't allow her to make. My guess is she is deeply invested in protecting herself, and hasn't thought fully about what she's asking of you.

Anonymous: Does your girlfriend love herself? I ask because I used to be like her — I hated compliments. They made me feel self-aware, awkward, and oftentimes I'd end up doing something involuntarily to counter the comment. Picture, "You look so pretty right now." Then I'd pick my nose.

It took a few years and a concerted effort to "love myself" before I was finally comfortable with compliments. To the old me, compliments were weird because I thought people were lying to me. I couldn't see how awesome/pretty/smart/strong I was, so I immediately distrusted anyone who did. You can imagine how that affected all of my relationships.

If any of this rings familiar, the best gift you can give your girlfriend is the space/direction/time so she can work on herself. I hate to say this, since you sound pretty great, but someone who doesn't even know how to love the person she's been her whole life won't be able to fully give to a new person, no matter how much you love her.

Carolyn: So well and credibly said, thanks.

Comments
2018 Children’s Gasparilla Parade: Guide and insider tips

2018 Children’s Gasparilla Parade: Guide and insider tips

On Saturday, the kids get first crack at the booty from the pirates at the Children’s Gasparilla Extravaganza, the annual alcohol-free party on Bayshore Boulevard. To kick off the season of Jose Gaspar, the fictitious marauder whose legend has...
Published: 01/18/18
You can buy the balls from Amalie’s Beach Tampa exhibit at auction

You can buy the balls from Amalie’s Beach Tampa exhibit at auction

More than 100,000 people showed up at Amalie Arena in 2016 to frolic in a huge ball pit. It was a sea of 1.2 million white orbs so vast that grown men could belly flop and remain afloat. Almost two years after the Beach Tampa packed up, some 15,000 l...
Published: 01/18/18

Tell Me About It: FaceTime offense lands sister on the outs

FaceTime offense lands sister on the outsQ: When does FaceTime become an intrusion?My sister-in-law recently relocated to our area. We invited her to join us for our traditionally quiet New Year’s Eve celebration. About two hours before midnight, she...
Published: 01/18/18

Tell Me About It: Cousin’s husband pursues young sisters

Cousin’s husband pursues young sisters Q: I just found out that my niece’s husband has made inappropriate comments/propositions to both of my daughters, one still a minor (17). I have to tell my niece, right? I don’t want to hurt her.Broken HeartA: Y...
Published: 01/18/18
Plan your weekend Jan. 19-21: Gasparilla Children’s Parade, Jake Owen, Riverdance, Florida Orchestra’s Dvorak

Plan your weekend Jan. 19-21: Gasparilla Children’s Parade, Jake Owen, Riverdance, Florida Orchestra’s Dvorak

Plan your weekend   Gasparilla Children’s Parade: A week before the more raucous pirate invasion, the G-rated version hits the streets. The Children’s Gasparilla Extravaganza and Parade kicks off Gasparilla season with a bicycle safety...
Published: 01/17/18
Top things to do this week: Steve Martin and Martin Short, Gasparilla Children’s Parade

Top things to do this week: Steve Martin and Martin Short, Gasparilla Children’s Parade

PICKING AND GRINNING: Steve Martin and Martin ShortThere wasn’t a lot of bluegrass being played around Hamilton, Ontario, when Martin Short was a kid. But his decades-long friendship with Steve Martin has made him a fan, which brings An Evening With ...
Published: 01/17/18

Tell Me About It: Mom needs reassurance of their gratitude

Mom needs reassurance of their gratitudeQ: Whenever my mother gives me or my family member a gift, she ends up asking about it several times afterward. Does not matter if it was $5 or expensive.We always thank her for gifts, and these comments feel l...
Published: 01/16/18

Tell Me About It: Sister-in-law’s gall is of epic proportions

Sister-in-law’s gall is of epic proportionsQ: I’m a two-time, currently-Stage IV breast cancer survivor. When I was told I needed a double mastectomy, I did the research and decided to "go flat."For dressy occasions, I wear prostheses, but they’re no...
Published: 01/16/18

Tell Me About It: Pregnancy makes move harder to bear

Pregnancy makes move harder to bearI’m 27 weeks pregnant and just moved to a new city for a great job, but I think I made a big mistake. I loved my old life and feel so homesick for it. But my husband and I bought a house, so moving is not a feasible...
Published: 01/15/18

Tell Me About It: Mom is floored by daughter’s pregnancy

Mom is floored by daughter’s pregnancyQ: I’m literally shaking as I type this. My 15-year-old daughter is pregnant. I can’t believe it. We had many good discussions about waiting until she was ready, using birth control when she was, but it all did n...
Published: 01/14/18