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My partner and I have been together for 15 years and, in general, have excellent communication. However, I can't seem to get past a couple of issues with him. In this case, it's his continued insistence on offering "advice" or making some comment when I am experiencing a problem - specifically one I have created myself.

A recent example: A kitchen drawer became jammed shut because it was too full of utensils. It took me some time to unjam it and, like I imagine anyone in a similar situation might be, I was frustrated with myself that I let it happen. Afterward, I cleaned the drawer so it would be less likely to jam again.

My partner's response to this situation, after the fact, was, "Maybe we shouldn't keep so much stuff in that drawer".

I am aware that I can be over-sensitive to unsolicited advice or criticism so I try my best not to get upset. Approaches I have tried are:

  • Simply thanking him for his advice and trying to move on. There seems to be no way to do this without him assuming I am being sarcastic.

  • Ignoring the comment completely. If he doesn't receive a response he escalates, either offering more advice or sometimes taking matters into his own hands to "fix" the situation, even when I have already done so.

  • Leading by example. If he is in a similar situation I have tried either empathizing without offering a solution or, if I honestly believe I could help, I ask if he is open to advice. This works great for him but he has never made the connection.

  • Calmly explaining that comments like that make me feel as if he thinks that, because I made a mistake, I am also not smart enough to figure out how to ensure it won't happen again.

His response to that has been to get upset and say, "I was just trying to help!" In the worst cases, his response is especially exaggerated and he will insist that he will never attempt to help me again. This always ends very poorly, usually with me in tears and having to apologize for...something? I'm not even sure exactly what.

Additionally, I have tried to approach him about his responses at other times. ie...not immediately during or following an incident. He seems more understanding at these times but also seems to forget we've ever had the conversation...putting me back at the start.

Is there some other way to approach this issue without it ending up in an argument and tears? It's just a bit stunning to me that we have few other issues but this is something we can't seem to overcome.

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  • Have you tried starting your story with “I just want to vent” or “I’m not looking for advice or a solution, but …”?
    – AsheraH
    Nov 23, 2022 at 5:45
  • Related: interpersonal.stackexchange.com/q/3573/11811
    – scohe001
    Nov 30, 2022 at 14:23
  • "Maybe we shouldn't keep so much stuff in that drawer" This does not sound like an advice at all. It sounds more like he is trying to establish a new rule for both of you, including himself. Unless of course you are the only one stuffing things into this particular kitchen drawer, I would give him the benefit of the doubt, especially if he is coming from a different culture than you. Dec 27, 2022 at 20:05

4 Answers 4

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I have been, in my early years, a control freak and unsolicited advice giver. Not the best of me, but I was having the same issues as you mention here. And experiencing the same frustration Maybe with a worse attitude. So, as time went by, I had to learn to better control myself and behave in a way that wouldn't annoy / upset people (and my SO !).

Now, when your partner says:

Maybe we shouldn't keep so much stuff in that drawer

it's like kicking down an open door. It's usually neither meant to "give a lesson" nor to be unsolicited advice or criticism. It's a fact. Kind of "this happens... unlucky".

When I say that in the exact same situation (I have the problem with the drawer, I grumble or get irritated), it's not aimed at my SO. It's not criticizing. It's not patronizing. If she says that to me, it's not giving unsolicited advice or criticism. It's a fact, so treat it as one. What I do is acknowledge, in a very simple way:

yeah, you're d*** right... We should be more careful. I'll rearrange it, and you check later and tell me if it's ok with you the way I put stuff.

That leaves doors opened. No one is accusing or giving advice, as both of us put things in the drawer, so it happens because of us. The unlucky one is just the one that has to deal with the drawer when it's blocked. We treat a fact together1. What was said was the truth, the reason why the drawer was jammed, so no big deal, and no need to be upset or yell.

So, in order to have this technic to work, it's important to state the obvious: when an issue arises, just state the fact, and acknowledge. It's a little bit of work to do with your SO, but we figured it out quite quickly, and it still works well years later.

1. note my remark after rearranging the drawer: please check it and let me know if it's nice, tidy and crisp, and if it fits. You both are involved, you share, no matter who did struggle with the drawer, or who cleaned it.

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  • This. I heard that comment as just a remark on the situation, not a judgement of OP's ability to handle the situation. I could see myself saying that, both if I was dealing with a stuck drawer, and if my husband was, with the same meaning (not necessarily intending to remove anything from the drawer, just a remark that the quantity of items is most likely at least part of the issue, regardless whether I plan to deal with that). I would probably answer something like that with "Yeah, maybe" and then move on.
    – Esther
    Nov 29, 2022 at 20:02
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I have multiple people who do this to me. Discussing it out of the situation has never worked for me. They remember the incident differently and we end up at "I was just trying to help!" and "ok, I get it, I must never help you no matter what I will try to remember that" and other unhelpful things.

What has worked well for me is some of these, delivered with a bit of a twinkle and some body language that indicates you're not super angry and you like them:

  • I know, I'm doing that (or just did that)
  • I got this
  • Thankyou, I know
  • Do you honestly think I need to be told that? (This produced a very surprised "no, I was supporting you by agreeing with what you're doing", which in turn surprised the heck out of me, since phrasing of "you/we should just X" is to me nothing at all like "you're X! That's great!")
  • You mispronounced "you're handling this perfectly and just as I would" (or "I think you mean")
  • Really? Gosh, it's a good thing you're here to tell me that incredibly obvious thing I already knew (not great, but can be received with a laugh)
  • Uh huh. Thanks, but I've got it under control
  • I am a full grown adult and more than capable of handling [situation eg a stuck/overfull drawer]

Most of these land better if you occasionally discuss the matter when you're not frustrated by a situation you're trying to solve, or angry at being given advice you didn't ask for or need. Then you can refer back to parts of that conversation:

  • Sorry if I led you to think I want advice on this, I don't
  • I'm good, I know what to do, remember?
  • Did I ask you to help? Do I need help?
  • Do you think I can actually handle this?

The good news is, a person can overcome this habit. The person who did this to me most frequently is now far more likely to say things like "oh, I see you're doing / have done what I would have done. Great!" and has even mastered the art of just saying "oh" at times. (Mostly from being told "that would have been a great time to just say oh" when that was not what was said.)

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When someone is trying to help, they may not understand a snap-back result. Best way I have found is to turn it into a joke, continually each time this happens.

It can correct some people commenting without asking, and others just turn these things into a fun exchange, a game.

Something like:

"perhaps you should not put so much in there?" "Thanks dad that could work, or... what if I just put them in upside down?" (With a smile)

Be creative and fun.

This will also help you view these comments as a joke opportunity to have some fun, instead of something that annoys you so much, that you are seeking advice.

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The problem is that you ran into a situation where the average male and female mind work differently and cause a mismatch. (Due to comments: The "average" male and female is not "every" male and female. If I had meant "every" then I would have written it and would have been wrong. I wrote "average").

As a man, I will come to you with a problem if I didn't manage to fix it myself and think you might be able to help. As a woman, you will come to me with a problem when it annoyed you and you want me to listen to it. The outcome will be that I get annoyed when you don't give me the help I expected, and you get annoyed if I try to solve the problem instead of just listening. It's unfortunately what happens.

If we both know that this is going to happen, the solution is to not care. (Due to comment: Yes, this is absolutely helpful advice. You have a choice in this situation do take it serious and start an argument about it, or to not take it serious and ignore it. Ignoring it will be a lot less upsetting). I don't care if you don't help me, and you ignore my unwanted advice. You are happy having showed me that you care by listening to my problem (even though it's not what I wanted), and I am happy by giving you helpful advice (even though it's not what you wanted).

People are different. And you can't change them. You can sometimes influence them to act against their nature, but they won't like it and will resent you, not openly but subconsciously. What your husband did, if he was in your position and had told about the problem, he would have been perfectly happy with what he was told, because his expectations are different from yours. The best thing is to accept each other the way you are. Don't think "he gave me advice that I didn't want", but "that's just his nature" and ignore it.

And what you wrote fits right in with this. I know what you really want, but it is my nature to give you something different. I might realise, or I might recognise it if you tell me, but that cannot change my nature. That said, telling this to the average man is just fine, they will accept it with no problem, it just won't help in the long run.

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  • 5
    First, not all men and not all women react like this. But more importantly the OP never says "I go to my partner and tell him about the stuck drawer." The partner is just showing up and offering advice that wasn't asked for. Plus the advice you give "just ignore it and don't care" is really unhelpful. What's more, I know that men who care can actually learn not to give advice that upsets and offends their partners. Nov 23, 2022 at 13:56
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    I addressed your comments. You are wrong.
    – gnasher729
    Nov 24, 2022 at 7:59
  • As one of my ex-GFs said, "I don't want help, I just want to rant about it."
    – bobflux
    Dec 17, 2022 at 11:05
  • I'm a man. Often when I have a problem I just want someone to listen. And then maybe I want a solution, but often I know the answer, I just want to be heard. I've also given advice where it's been annoying. I didn't like getting the feedback, but once I realised it wasn't helpful I was perfectly capable of making the choice to listen instead. Learning how to meet our partner's needs is vital. Compromising and going without may be ok some of the time, but when the compromises become bigger and bigger it's how relationships wither and die.
    – Tom
    Dec 30, 2022 at 14:41

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