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A couple of friends of mine were organising a dinner at one of their places for our group to meet. I told my boyfriend that there might be an event for us to attend in the next week, so he could plan accordingly. Turns out the group decided later that no partners should come, so everyone could be comfortable to talk about problems and intimacies, as most of the boyfriends/girlfriends of the group are relatively new.

I told this to my boyfriend, but he didn't take it well, even though he wasn't going to attend anyway. He started asking if I had any secrets I was hiding, that he thought we didn't hide anything from each other. I told him that I had no secrets, but that some people of the group might not have been comfortable to talk about some subjects in front of him or another significant other, for lack of intimacy.

Some months later he still uses this as an excuse to not attend some events, saying that if I go alone I'll feel more comfortable in talking. I feel like he's not being reasonable, considering that I explained that the request to be a friends-only event was made by the host and not myself, and that it sounds reasonable not to feel automatically comfortable talking about private stuff on front of your friend's lovers.

I've been completely sincere, yet it doesn't make a difference. How do I clear this situation so that this card doesn't get played anymore?

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    Hi there. I removed what I think was an "opinion based / should I" part in your OP. Please roll back if you think I was wrong, or even improve it. Thanks. – OldPadawan Dec 21 '19 at 16:51
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    How long has it been exactly? If it hasn't been too long then I'd suggest to leave your rational explanation be the end of it and time will help. If he has HAD a number of years and is still complaining about the one party then yeah that makes it different. – Jesse Dec 22 '19 at 2:38
  • It's been roughly 3 months – ConfusedHuman Dec 22 '19 at 4:16
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I'm a very direct person myself, so this might be a bit harsh, but it has yet to fail (for me or my friends if they apply this advise):

In my experience, these kinda of problems tend to "hover around" until you swat them down. Be direct and tell him to stop bringing it up. It was a group decision at the time, nothing personal, he needs to stop acting as if it was. I suggest you rephraze it such a way he doesn't feel offended, while remaining obvious. Don't make it about him or you, state the facts.
You can also ask why he brought up the hiding-secrets, why he got those feelings. Maybe a bad previous relation? Reinsure that you are not that person1.

I would also bring up the usage as excuse. I find it immature and would tell him that. You had nothing to do with that decision, but he is making these decisions. Again, this should be said in a calm voice. Try it not to make it a blame-game, the goal is to solve the issue.

What I think I'm reading between the lines is insecurity on his part (reflecting this on myself, from both angles). If he would've been secure about the relation, he would not have brought up the hiding-secrets part.
When I started my current relation, I came from a bad one and was behaving insecure as well. I was given a fairly simple choice: I either trust her or I dont. And if I didn't trust her, we might as well just stop the relation there because that has to be a core principle for a relation. It was very scary, because the last time I did that, it resulted in a bad outcome. You can ask how to help create that trust1.

1 I'm not saying he is the kind of person to do so, nor am I implying that he will become like that, but: Be mindful of emotional manipulation. You should acknowlegde his feelings, but it should not all be about his feelings. You shouldn't stop doing (normal) things 'just to not hurt his feelings'.

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Your boyfriend's behavior sounds like what I would classify as passive aggressiveness, something I used to engage in quite a bit. Thanks to what I learned from my partner's approach with me, I am much better at bringing up my relationship concerns in a more productive manner, so perhaps sharing what they did with me would be helpful for you.

(NOTE: I found that this worked well for my particular brand of passive aggressiveness. This is not a one-size-fits all and depends on your partner's willingness to work on issues and their willingness to reciprocate your calmness and openness with his own calmness and openness. It also takes repeated practice and may not work like a charm the first time.)

  • At the moment of the passive aggressiveness, do not react defensively. Remain calm, but ask directly what is bothering them (e.g., Hey [term of endearment], what's going on?). In doing so, slow down or stop in your tracks. Make space and gesture in a way that expresses genuine interest and desire to listen. Take the time.

  • Do not leave the conversation until they explain what was behind their comment (e.g., snide remark) or behavior (e.g., silent treatment). Keep asking questions about them, try to get their perspective and to learn what emotions they are experiencing. Again, remain calm and do not get defensive. The point of this is to reveal the true source of the pain/hurt for your partner. This is not about admitting either of you are wrong. This is about demonstrating actual compassion for your partner's emotions and getting down to the true issue.

  • Once you learn the true source, then you can start to understand whether there is something to can say or do to address it. This often involves posing questions to the partner to get them to question their assumptions, or even discovering this is only the "tip of the iceberg" -- there are other things you are doing that you weren't aware of.

  • Ask him if he would agree to instead of making that particular remark in the future to bring up his concerns in a more straight-forward manner. Mention that the remark only makes you feel (for instance) sad and worried that you are making him feel bad, but that it doesn't offer you any way to help address the problem -- it only points to an event in the past, which you cannot change.

For instance, taking your case: Let's say you ask your boyfriend what is going on? Why did he say that? Imagine that through some calm questioning, you discover that he's worried you don't really want to take him out to hang out with your friends. So then you ask, why he thinks that? His answer might surprise you -- maybe it was that one time you mention in your post, but maybe there are behaviors you are engaging in that you didn't even realize that make him think you don't want to take him with you.

If it is only the one instance, you can ask him whether he thinks you were not telling him the truth about who decided partners should not come to the hang-out (i.e., question his assumption). Or you can ask whether he thinks you should have pushed against that suggestion (i.e., was there expectation for another way you could have behaved?). If he does think that, you can consider whether you agree with him (in which case you can apologize, express agreement and intention to have a better response in the future), or not (in which case you can express the fact that, though you would have much preferred that he be there you wanted to honor your friend's wishes).

However, you might discover that there are other behaviors you are engaging in that lead him to think you don't want to hang out with him, or that are leading him to question his appeal to you. Then you can consider whether these behaviors should be changed. If not, maybe you can help him understand the meaning of them, and perhaps offer to engage in other/additional behaviors that can help remind him how much you do like spending time with him.

  • This is very interesting, thank you! I do try to understand the concerns, but when I start doing your step 2 (not leaving the conversation), he normally dismisses with "I don't want to discuss anymore, let it be" or "there are things you shouldn't notice, I can't explain it to you". Has that ever been a problem with your approach? – ConfusedHuman Jan 7 at 23:33
  • Well, as the one who was passive aggressive but also likes to discuss things, when prodded, I would usually discuss. However, I imagine a helpful response might be to highlight the fact that if he doesn't help you understand his perspective, you will be left in the dark and the bad feelings on both sides will persist. Also, emphasizing that you don't want them to persist. Maybe this helps? – DraxThemSklounst Jan 8 at 18:02

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