My girlfriend has a tendency of getting fixated on things she thinks true, when she won't listen to any reasoning and starts arguing with me. We are in our late twenties and we have been together for 8 months. She is a foreign student in my Central European country, we both work as interns. Neither mine nor her first language is English, but it's the only common language we share. I'd say our language skills are nothing near excellent, but better than average in our countries, e.g. we rarely have to pause in live speech to find the appropriate expression.

We planned going on a short holiday. A few days after reserving a room online I found out we have to pay for the accomodation in Euro, instead of *local currency*. As she has a Euro bank account, I asked her if we could pay from that. I never indicated I want her to pay for our stay without compensating her in *local currency* or by paying for dinner, etc. We always share payments, except for transportation. I never asked her to pay for the fuel when I drive her somewhere. However I'm fine with that, since my pay is better than hers. The recent online conversation leading to the conflict went as the following:

Me: Hey babe, I guess we have to pay for our room in Euro. Can we use your account for that?

Her: I wanna use that money when I travel around Europe with my family. Can't we pay in *local currency*? Let me check this out.

Me: I don't know, I'll have to ask them.

Her: Why did you choose such a place to stay? Cancel it!

Me: I did choose it because this was the only one which was rated like above 6/10 and still not a hotel room for 500 Euro/night in *local currency*.1

Her: What? It's so expensive! I could buy many things for that! Just forget about it, and cancel the reservation.

Me: Please stop saying this, our room costs 60 Euro/night.

Her: I can't pay 500 Euro for one night. I won't go there, it's so expensive. Cancel it.

Me: What are you talking about?

Her: Do you wanna piss me off? What if they charge me more?2

Me: Why would they do that? Read again, it costs 60 Euros.

Note #1: Her sudden turn to accusing me in her second answer isn't exaggeration, it literally happened like this.

Note #2: The exact wording of the conversation couldn't be understood as "our room costs 500 Euros" at all, reading it back, it's still clear I was referring to other possible choices. I repeated the fact multiple times (even when she was attacking me), after the quoted part from our chat.

It went on for a while, she gave me more and more aggressive responses. I asked her if she drank something, since she has a history with alcohol, and this made her go wild. She deliberately misinterpreted my choice of words "free room" as if I meant free of charge, not vacant or available. She insulted me for being stupid, crazy, said I just wanted to argue with her, told me I constantly accuse her of doing something wrong.3 I asked her to read back, and copied print screens of our conversation but she refused to read them, or listen to the fact, that our room wouldn't cost 500 Euro/night.

My question is how can I de-escalate the situation if it happens again? This seems to happen quite often. Telling her the facts doesn't seem to impact her perception of the situation, like it's already fixed forever in her mind. Asking her if she is drunk is obviously not a way to do that, but I did that after some arguing, after I became angry too. Thought about simply not responding to her for an hour or so, but I just can't let it go when someone doesn't understand my explanation or disregards my reasoning.

IIRC this thing happened like 4 times in our relationship. Considering myself quite rational it affects me badly. After the initial refusal, I admit if I made a mistake and apologize. She has a different personality, she'd rather try to explain and defend her position, but then laugh at herself realizing her argument is incredible, this happened multiple times. I wouldn't mind her not saying, only realizing she was wrong, as long as she doesn't cling to false statements so strong. We have been together for 8 months. I don't feel this thing happens like each day, but every 2 months seems a bit too often.

Typically after such fights we don't speak for some short time, it seems like time solves the problems... I usually try to talk about the fight, but occasionally she shuts it down with a "you just look for arguments" sentence. Sometimes she knows she was wrong, sometimes she doesn't. If she doesn't, she can't take any criticism at all. Other than this thing I like her and our relationship.

I don't remember having any conflict right before this argument.

1 We decided on going on this trip lately, so there weren't lots of free places to choose from.

2 500 Euro/night

3 The thing I "accused" her during this argument is misunderstanding my messages and the cost of the accomodation. I'm under the impression she isn't aware of the real meaning of accustaion. E.g. asking her if she has charged her phone before going out is "accusing". I guess she is thinking I'm ready to blame her if she hadn't. I've tried talking to her about this issue before, but she didn't seem to get my point.

  • 4
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    – Mithical
    Commented Aug 17, 2018 at 7:24
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    @FutureEngineer please add clarifications and important info to your question so it can be saved and easily seen by anyone reading. Thanks!
    – Em C
    Commented Aug 19, 2018 at 16:01

13 Answers 13


There are probably a lot of issues at play with your girlfriend and relationship which I'm not picking up on well, but there are a few things I took from reading your question which might be of use:

For de-escalating a situation that has already begun:

1. Proactively assume responsibility for miscommunications

Communicating well is not a matter of stating true facts (though that is important). It is about expressing things that are accurate in a way that the other party will understand. It is common, in my personal experience, for technically-minded people (like engineers) to only focus on the accuracy of their statements.

Especially if your girlfriend feels that your tone is often accusatory it might be good to present things as mistakes you made in expressing information, not failures on her part to understand it. Always placing the blame on her for misunderstandings can easily feel accusatory, particularly when you are in fact making an accusation (such as when you state that she deliberately misinterpreted your use of the phrase "free room").

I think I was unclear when I said 500 Euros. That's what other decent hotel rooms cost. I chose this hotel because it's less expensive and costs 60 Euros.

2. Ask her about her positions, even when you're sure they're wrong or you think you know why she thinks what she does

It's easy to be dismissive when you're sure you're right, particularly when there is something like a chat log. But it can help to have someone explain why they hold a certain position, as this requires them to think about why they think something is true and doesn't give as much room to focus on the fact that they think it's true. It will also give you specific arguments to address, rather than just endlessly repeating that you think she's wrong.

Why do you think it would cost 500 Euros?

3. Don't be dismissive, and make an effort to engage with arguments and positions

At the end of the chat segment you posted, your girlfriend clearly expresses a specific concern: "What if they charge me more?" Your response starts off with (2), when you ask "why would they do that?" but then immediately follow up with a (not very diplomatic) suggestion that she has misunderstood ("Read again") complete dismissal of her concern. That the price is listed at 60 Euros in no way addresses her stated question of "what if they charge me more?".

Even if her concern seems unrealistic or nonsensical to you, she has expressed that it's a worry for her. Indicating that you don't care and think she's foolish for it isn't going to de-escalate anything.

4. Stay focused on what you're actually doing

You want her to acknowledge your (accurate) position that the room will not cost 500 Euros per night. You can't really force that to happen, but the argument can stall out when you say

I just don't understand why you think it will cost that much.

She can explain herself, or stay entrenched and leave you wondering why. You don't need to figure out exactly why she thinks what she does (though in some cases that may be useful). If she won't be convinced, especially if her position is irrational, further examination of her reasoning probably won't help you. For example, suggesting that she was drunk could not possibly have been productive (on this specific topic, at least) in terms of you convincing her of your point. Moving your argument on to tangential topics makes escalations more likely and does not advance your goals.

Avoiding future situations which might require de-escalation

Additionally, there are a few things you can probably do to help keep these situations from coming up so frequently.

1. Improve your communication with your girlfriend

This mostly overlaps with (1) above. Stating things which are true is not enough to communicate well. Knowing how your girlfriend tends to interpret information, it might have been better to not say "500 Euros" at all-- it's a specific number which has no bearing on what your experience will actually be. Had the phrase instead been

I did choose it because this was the only one which was rated like above 6/10 and still reasonably priced.

this particular misunderstanding would have been avoided.

You can't predict everything she might do, but if this is a common sort of problem between you then it could be the case that you are often providing extraneous information that you can predict might be misinterpreted. It's still an accurate description if you leave out "500 Euros", and removes a potential point of misunderstanding.

Communicating with a specific person involves understanding how information might be received by them, even in cases where what you state is not wrong. When you want to be understood this is nearly as fundamental as speaking a common language in the first place.

2. Be more charitable in your interpretations of her positions, and more humble in your assumptions about your communication

I'll agree that the most natural reading of your initial 500 Euro statement is as you describe. But it is not the case that it couldn't be understood as expressing that the room would be 500 Euros per night (it depends on where you read the termination of the clause initiated by and still not).

When there is a potential language issue it's even less reasonable to assume perfect clarity in how your statement will be parsed by her. For example, you seem to be assuming that your understanding of the usage of the word accuse is perfect and that she simply does not understand it herself.

To be blunt, based on this small sample of communication from you, I would lean towards agreeing with your girlfriend. Your overall tone does strike me as accusatory, even if "accusation" isn't the most accurate word to describe a given incident. "Read it again" is an accusation that she did not read it correctly, and this is the case whether or not the accusation is true.

Saying that you "can't let it go when someone doesn't understand your explanation or disregards your reasoning" suggests that you are prone to driving arguments until someone explicitly acknowledges that you are correct. That, plus a seeming reliance on the technical accuracy of your wording and "telling them the facts" sounds like argumentativeness.

Some people are fine with communicating this way but it sounds like your girlfriend is not. She may well be overly sensitive about this, either in general or as a result of experience interacting with you specifically, but either way your experiences are likely to be better if you try some modifications to your approach.


Maybe you should have talked about the room and the money before reserving.

And just my opinion: you are completely ignoring what she wants, “stop saying this“ “what are you talking about“ “read again“. I think neither her nor you are the victim in that conversation.

I'm not saying she's being reasonable here, I'm saying you aren't either. To me, this conversation is not about her paying the complete bill or anything that you said.

A relationship is per definition loaded with feelings. Those feelings work like an amplifier. In both directions.

Some misunderstandings are normal. But in my opinion, the skill you need is to listen what she says instead of enforcing and reiterating your opinion.

Actually, that's a very important skill in life.

So, how do you deescalate? Take a deep breath and then start searching for the real problem. You booked a room she thought wasn't cheap enough. Or maybe she had around 500€ on her account and didn't want to go near 0. I don't know. The problem is, neither do you.

In short: Don't argue, listen!


I think this is where things started going badly wrong with that conversation...

Me: Please stop saying this, our room costs 60 Euro/night.

Her: I can't pay 500 Euro for one night. I won't go there, it's so expensive. Cancel it.

After which you said

Me: What are you talking about?

I suspect she started typing her message about 500 Euro, before she saw your message clarifying the actual 60 Euro price.

When you then wrote that bit about "What are you talking about", that would very likely be taken as being condescending.

You were confused that she was talking about 500 Euro, but she didn't know at that point that the actual price was 60.

I don't think it's a about her getting fixated on false facts and not listening to reasoning. She was just in a panic because she thought you'd booked a 500 Euro room (understandable), and hadn't had time to read your clarification.

I think it was really just a simple misunderstanding.

To prevent this happening in the future, I'd suggest that if your girlfriend writes something which seems strange or illogical, carefully check the previous messages, to see if there might be something that you wrote that could have been misinterpreted. Also don't assume the other person has seen or read every message you've written. Often people are distracted, or just busy thinking about, or starting to write the reply, that they can fail to notice an incoming message.

  • I've thought about this too, but it doesn't explain why she refused to listen when I repeatedly told her the real price. And after many days passed, I can't recall the exact timing of the messages. We've had misunderstandings like this many times, not leading to fights like this though, I'll take this good advice. Commented Aug 19, 2018 at 9:10

The already top voted answer clearly tells you how to de-escalate the situation, but I'd like to add the following:

Pick up the phone and call her.

"Looks like I'm explaining it wrong, I'll give you a call, hang on.."

(Even if you believe you are explaining it correctly, you obviously are not if the person does not understand).

Online conversations lead to miscommunication more often than not. There are countless occasions I can recall where a message I sent was perceived differently than what I intended because the other person replied before I did. Emphasis is everything when communicating and it's all lost when doing so via messaging.

In a relationship communication is key, don't try to do it all via messaging, especially not important things like booking a holiday.

Just don't say something like this before you call:

"Looks like you don't understand, I'll call you"

By blaming her for the miscommunication she might not want to pick up at all. Don't take the risk.


The problem that you describe might be more an issue of communication using a chat instead of real problem of your girlfriend. If you can't have a chat by phone or face to face, try the following when you have a chat by text with her:

  • Try to avoid ironies, because when you read an irony, is hard to realize that is a joke instead of a true statement. When you said "and still not a hotel room for 500 Euro/night" is quite easy to get fixated to the number stated there.
  • Once she is confused about the issue, you apologize saying that it was your mistake in the communication. Avoid blaming her because she did not read the right thing. You can say

"My mistake, ignore that I said earlier. The correct information is the following..."

  • If she gets mad, read again what you said, because probably she was offended by something else, phrases like "Please stop saying this" or "Read again" can be interpreted like harsh words. So be sure to apologize before continue with the conversation.

Here's what I think is likely happening:

She's very uncomfortable with using her account to pay for the room. When she says it's going to cost her €500, she's essentially describing her emotions about paying for the room. In her mind, she's not exaggerating the cost; she's accurately expressing her feelings, which matter to her more than the money. Her feelings about it are that big. Consider this a figurative use of language on her part.

She feels that she shouldn't be involved in the finances. As a grown man in his late twenties, you should be able to handle a simple thing like this on your own without coming to her for help. Women don't like dependent men. They're not crazy about women being dependent on them either, but you're the one she's in a relationship with.

There is no reason for her to be involved. Just open an account in Euros. You'll need one anyway.

She's not actually being crazy here. Rather than expressing her concerns directly and plainly, she's merely alluding to them in a way that seems weirdly indirect and crazy to you, but the underlying concern is legitimate and it's how she communicates. You'll certainly never talk her out of it. You can say "You're being a little nuts there, babe", but say that in an affectionate way and don't make an issue of it. Go ahead and open your own account in euros. This won't be the last time you'll need one. She doesn't want to have to tell you what to do; you're an adult, you're supposed to figure it out for yourself.

Many, many times over the years, with a fair number of women, I have found that they will balk like this and give me a lot of "crazy" objections that make no sense to me. When that happens there's always a real underlying reason that makes a very great deal of sense, but they don't want to talk about it for whatever reason (occasionally it's something bad, but usually it isn't). My instinct is to push ahead and disregard "crazy talk", but I've found that it's a good idea to try to figure out what the real reason is. If it matters that much to her, there's a good chance it's genuinely important. Don't argue logically with the weird "€500" stuff. That's got nothing to do with anything. Maybe the real reason is something you can talk her out of or just bulldoze over, maybe not. Not in this case, I don't think. Do not take this as a blanket suggestion to give girls whatever they want when they act upset: They rarely give you any solid hints about what they actually do want (they may not even know), and they may not deserve it anyway. Figure out the real issue and make the best decision you can. Sometimes "no" is the right answer.

I think she is very bothered by the fact that you seem unable or unwilling to resolve this issue without depending on her resources. Women do not like it when men are dependent on them. She doesn't want to be your mother. She likes you, she doesn't want to come out and say what bothers her. She doesn't want to say anything that suggests her boyfriend is weak or helpless. But nevertheless she has alarms jangling in her head and she can't ignore them.

Whatever the reason, she is telling you as clearly as she can that she will not go on this trip on those terms. At the very least, the terms have to change for her to go. Maybe she won't go anyway -- if you arrange to handle all the expenses yourself and she still makes excuses not to go, you've got a much bigger problem. You can't force her to go and you should not try, even if the terms were absolutely reasonable by anybody's standards. If she were being genuinely unreasonable, I'd advise you to go without her. But I don't think that's the case.

Women are much less inclined to say what they mean in plain simple language than men are, and they are infinitely less inclined than male engineers. That will remain true whether you like it or not. Learn to work around it.

Remember, at your age relationships are usually fragile and temporary.

I'm a little bit curious about the other incidents where you thought she was "acting crazy". If I where you, I'd think back over them in detail and try to figure out what her real motivation might have been. Maybe she's basically an unreasonable person, maybe not, I don't know. What you described in your question sounds like a basically reasonable girl who doesn't know how to deal with what you're saying.

(An earlier version of this answer assumed that she was being completely unreasonable, but on reflection I don't believe that was the case).

  • 4
    Relationships are fragile and temporary for couples in their late twenties?
    – syntonicC
    Commented Aug 18, 2018 at 14:37

Let's look at the start of your exchange:

Her: I wanna use that money when I travel around Europe with my family. Can't we pay in local currency? Let me check this out.

Me: I don't know, I'll have to ask them.

She brings up three points separate points. You ignore the first point, answer the second and reject her third point.

After she said that she wants to use the money when she travels around Europe, you could have immediately said that you two will share the cost.

I don't see a good reason to say "I'll have to ask them" after someone says that they want to check out the issue themselves. Depending on the power dynamic between you the fact that you don't want her to look the issue up herself might be offensive to her and reason to assert power in her response by telling you to cancel the reservation.

The conversation would like have went a lot better if you would have addressed her concern about her wanting to use the money for her family trip directly and would have let her do whatever research she believes to be reasonable.


Clearly she does not think she is wrong, nor she takes a moment to understand you. And we cannot blame her for that, it could be a habit or how she was brought up, but you can play a part in helping her change that. For now, let's just associate it with a stubborn mindset and bad habit...

When such things happen, first thing, stay calm, cool down, do not ever get heated up or argue, arguring or esclating the situation almost never helps. Next time, just point the facts to her, and just walk away/ignore her for a short period of time. Hopefully she will eventually realise something is wrong and turn to the facts. Some people are stubborn or refuse to accept they are wrong, so fighting back never helps, so just let them be, just ignore her, let her cool down, let her self reflect, it is better for you, it is better for her.

Since she is your girlfriend, she loves you, it means she enjoys talking and spending time with you, but everytime she refuses to look at facts and fight back, you can take that away from her temporarily, not as a form of punishment, but for her to remind herself that she needs to accomodate and work with you to make things happen.

In short, my suggestion is to let her think for herself, you can just take a step back everytime such things happen. Present the facts, walk away for a while. Do not need to say or do anything else... You mentioned when she does not know she is wrong, she will not take criticism, that is her pride and dignity stopping her, she refuses to be verbally attacked because she thinks she is right. So you do not need to argue nor critcise her, just let her self reflect. Sometimes, the best things happen when one is in a calm state of mind.


Your conversation escalated to a situation where you were arguing with each other about who was right, who did what, who misunderstood what.

Instil in your relationship the notion that when you have a disagreement, it’s you and her together against the problem, not against each other. No accusatory tones, no assigning blame, even if one of you was clearly in the wrong. If it became an issue that affects both, you both need to work collectively towards the same resolution. Any comment that is about what any of you did is thus irrelevant and should be left out of the discussion. After you solve the issue, you may have a conversation about how to avoid those particular types of situations in the future, a kind of post-mortem analysis. But seeing as the disagreements are fuelled by miscommunication, that may not be necessary.

So insist (and act accordingly) that you’re always on her side and have no desire to blame her for any problems. Rather, you want to fix the greater issue.

This is something you’ll need to do before fights.


My partner and I also don't share a native language, and misunderstandings can be frequent but we've gotten used to it by checking that the other person has understood the point being discussed.

Unfortunately, if the initial misunderstanding has triggered an emotional response, it can be quite difficult to reason your way out of it. In your particular example, I think the point of using her Euro bank account has triggered the misunderstanding.

Although in the past you have shared costs (or even paid for the majority yourself) that act of asking her to use her bank account has made her think she will be paying the costs... hence her defensiveness. She has stated that her money has been saved for a different purpose, and then proceeds to lessen the damage to her bank account by challenging you on the price of the room.

Only way out of this is to be the adult in this conversation, apologise as you inadvertently caused confusion and start the conversation again by clearing stating what percentage of the costs you will cover (or if you just expect her to pay for food), and state when you will transfer Euros into her account. That way she knows what her responsibility will be, her exposure to risk is defined and you can then both talk about the fun stuff such as which Room to stay in, what Restaurants to eat at etc.


Pronoun trouble!

The first problem I see when reading your conversation is you are using quite a lot of placeholder words: like that, them, it, such a, this ... to refer to past bits of the conversation.

Very often with substitution words, you and the other person are not referring to the same "that".

In a heated conversation, that is a recipe for disaster.

The problem is, when you're mad, and someone uses a substitution word like that", you tend to map it to whatever you're angry about. So even more than usual, the "that" which you are referring to is not the same as the "that" which she thinks you mean.

This sets you into a death spiral, with you defending the "that" which is correct from your perspective, and her hearing you defend a different "that" which is ludicrous or unfair from her perspective. You don't even realize you are talking about different "thats". Allow this to go too deep and there's no recovering from it.

So you need to create a hard "break" in the conversation at once. Either step away, or create what appears to be a snap turn (from her perspective) where you start agreeing with her "that". And you are welcome to attribute this snap turn to "not understanding what she meant".

And then at some point in the future, lay down the facts at hand in a format which lends itself to presenting those facts. Voice conversation often isn't it. Often times I print it out on paper.

It also helps to make her feel included: present options A, B or C, and warn that the desirable option may not last. She's likely to say "book it fast" in which case you already did. If she wants something else, you work it out, and if it ends up not being the place you booked, call and cancel it (after you have the new place booked).


Learn to make her feel what is wrong.

Believe it or not, she feels she's doing the right thing, although she might not. This problem is pretty common.

People act following feelings. You don't think what will happen if you fall down as you walk, all the pain et.al. You just walk, and avoid falling down. All the logic behind is already imprinted in your mind. So, we just act following feelings, even intelligent people. We don't have the time to think.

But some people don't have the basics correctly imprinted. Just as your girlfriend, who feels she need to react emotionally, without prioritizing reasons or logic. Behavioral causality (how to react to an action or stimulus) is a learned mechanism, and it can be changed. Ask Pavlov.

So, this is the process to help someone having wrong reactions.

  • You need to discover the underlying issue and name it. After having an issue, and after she gets rationality back, you must discuss with her what was the problem and give it a name. A short name is ideal, you will need it, like "emotional reactions are useless".
  • You need to repeat each problem's name after it occurs. And you will follow the same reasoning scheme you've used previously. Problems names should become catchphrases, like "avoid reacting emotionally before thinking" or whatever.
  • the key is detecting and repeating. Repetition in the right circumstances will cause her to detect and feel something is wrong.
  • If she feels something is wrong after naming the problem, and that behavior repeats, eventually she will start feeling that something is wrong without naming the problem. Success.

Warning: Although this process could be appear to be manipulative, it is just a tool, like a gun. You decide if you want to use it. Because if you use it for good, you can really help others. But if you use it for bad, you can really harm others.

This knowledge is applicable to any communications issue.


Note that the attention span of people is very different. There are people that can listen for minutes, absorbing much information from the input. On the other hand, some people only absorb one piece of information that is processed and has to be discussed at once.

Note also that this hasn't much to do with intelligence, as intelligence is related to the speed of processing rather than being able to listen properly.

This seems like such a situation: Due to a misunderstanding, your girlfriend absorbs one information:

The room costs 500€ per night.

This triggers a hefty reaction:

I can't pay that!

And now she is unable to process more information until the initial problem has been solved. All that you are adding is interpreted as disregarding her problem, which is

I can't pay that!

The only information that is helpful in this situation is

You don't have to pay that.

Without explicitly conveying this information, you will have nearly no chance to get through, and all snarky remarks or "read again"s will exacerbate the situation.

A general hint: If you have to interact with people with a very small attention span, ironic remarks are not the best option. They often get misunderstood, and then they are the only information that gets processed, leaving the person to wonder why you are so unfair or mean. You'll have to resort to clear communication as much as possible, conveying the important facts in the first part of the first sentence.

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