Correcting boyfriend's speech diminishes them both

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Correcting boyfriend's speech diminishes them both

There's probably a grammatical error in this question . . . : My girlfriend is always correcting me when we're out with friends or family. It is EXTREMELY annoying. She corrects my grammar, pronunciation, even minor facts in stories. I've asked her to stop but she says she can't help herself, it's just instinct. I told her it can't be instinct because she only does it to me, and she said that it IS instinct with just me because I represent her.

I guess that makes sense? I don't even know what to do with this.

Carolyn: " . . . Because I represent her"? Barf.

I upchuck not at the idea that you reflect on her, and vice versa, because the people we choose do say something about us. Where my lunch tries to make an encore appearance is in her twisting this into justification for trying to gussy you up for public consumption.

No, no, no.

If you are a high-quality person who occasionally errs, then people will see your value through those minor frailties, and will give her due credit for her excellent judge of character.

If instead your errors are signs of poor character, then others will take that all in, even when — especially when — she rushes in to correct you.

So, correcting you doesn't boost her standing as she apparently hopes — and, in fact, it diminishes you both. She's calling attention to your flaws/mistakes, making you look worse, and she's publicly humiliating you, making her look worse.

It's almost as if she's trying to tell the world, "I know he's not perfect, but I see it and I'm working on it." That's the battle cry of the insecure: trying to beat people to any negative judgments, because she doesn't want anyone to think she missed something.

Anonymous: Rather than stemming from some deep-seated need to impress others, can't she just be a person who values precision? I'm not suggesting that constantly correcting others isn't an annoying habit, but I don't think it necessarily has the negative animus you seem to attribute to it.

Carolyn: If she "values precision," why doesn't she correct anyone else? They're perfect?

And I never ascribed ill will to her impulses, just insecurity.

Anonymous 2: I was once told that you can tell a lot about what someone is trying to hide by the way they're trying to hide it. The grammarian girlfriend is worried her friends and family will think her boyfriend is not smart enough AND that by extension she's not smart enough, or good enough to get a smart boyfriend. It has insecurity all over it.

I find the adage useful myself. If I notice I'm engaging in protective behaviors on behalf of a grownup, I ask myself what I'm trying to hide. The answer can surprise you if you're honest.

Carolyn: Great stuff. "What am I trying to hide?" can have broader applications, too — when we're nervous, needy, hesitant, procrastinating, bad-mouthing someone, eating too much or otherwise acting against our own best interests. It's a shortcut to self.

Correcting boyfriend's speech diminishes them both 05/01/11 [Last modified: Sunday, May 1, 2011 5:30am]

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