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I am dating a woman I met 2 weeks ago. We understand each other very well and like each other. For the past 4 days, she was away in her hometown and came back yesterday evening. During that time I had a terrible sore throat and constant coughing to the point I could not sleep. I hoped it would go away by the time she came back so that we could spend the night together.

Sadly, it did not go away and I told her that it might be better if we spent the night separately because I didn't want her to suffer and stay awake just because of my constant coughing. That's the way I communicated it, but she was really angry at me. Not writing back for hours, then finally being snappy and saying I should leave her alone. I said OK and left her for the evening.

So now it is the next morning. She didn't write, I didn't write until now.

I really want to be on good terms again, but I don't want to apologize for anything, because in my mind I did nothing wrong by wanting to protect her from a sleepless night. If she would have just written, "I don't care, please still come over" I would have come. But she didn't and simply blocked herself.

How could I communicate that I did nothing wrong and don't want to apologize, and that the best thing would be that she apologizes because she ruined the evening and overreacted, while still getting a "happy ending".

PS: This person COULD be my next relationship. In my past two-year relationship I apologized for everything even if it wasn't my fault and that really came back to me with time because I was blamed for everything because I didn't stand my ground prior. I don't want to repeat that mistake again!

UPDATE: After reading all the answers and comments, I decided that it would be best to apologize for phrasing it as I did, and making it clear to her that I would have loved to spend the night together but was just worried of her well being. I phrased the apology very carefully and eventually she forgave me, apologized for being so angry as well and invited me over to her for the evening (last evening) and we spent the night together and had a great time. During the night I actually woke up a couple of times and had to cough really hard for some minutes, but she really did not seem to mind at all. Thanks for all the answers and suggestions, it really helped me!

  • 1
    Consider her vantage point. "During that time I had a terrible sore throat and constant coughing to the point I could not sleep. I hoped it would go away by the time she came back so that we could spend the night together." Did you text her while she was gone, keeping her updated with how awful your nights were, or was she way from you for 4 days & looking forward to seeing you again only to receive "Surprise! Stay away."? – TOOGAM Nov 1 '17 at 11:10
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Sadly, it did not go away and I told her that it might be better if we spend the night separately because I didn't want her to suffer and stay awake just because of my constant coughing.

It's subtle, but if you told her what you told us, then you've already implied that you've decided to spend the night separately.

Consider the difference between these two statements (I've changed the context for the sake of generalization):

  • I think you can't keep working in our company.
  • I'm not sure how to go about your future employment in our company.

Both communicate the same thing (uncertainty about future employment). However, the statements do have a different focus.
The first statement implies that ending the employment is the only viable option. The second statement points out that there are obstacles on the path; but does not suggest that you're considering ending the employment.

The same is true in your scenario. Compare the differences:

  • It might be better if we spend the night separately because I don't want you to suffer and stay awake.
  • I'm afraid that you'll suffer and stay awake if we spend the night together.

In both cases, you're communicating that you think your illness will prevent a nice night together, but the second option does not suggest that not spending the night together is the best option.

Essentially, the second option makes it her decision, as opposed to yours. She is able to decide whether she is willing to put up with your coughing or not. Maybe she's even able to come up with a solution that solves the problem for her.


if she would have just written, "I don't care, please still come over" I would have come. But she didn't, and simply blocked herself.

This ties into the earlier point. You're relying on her to go against what you just said.

She may be unwilling to do so, because she may be afraid that you would think that she's ignoring your wishes and forcing her decision (to spend the night together) on you.

Especially when you're sick, that's not how she wants to be perceived, especially in a new relationship.


I really want to come to good terms again, but I don't want to apologize for anything, because in my mind I did nothing wrong by just wanting to protect her from a sleepless night.

Your intention was good. Your phrasing was not. You shouldn't apologize for what you intended to say, you should apologize for what you inadvertently ended up implying.

Again, this is all about how you phrase it. Consider the differences:

  • I don't want to apologize. I did nothing wrong by just wanting to protect you from a sleepless night.
  • I'm sorry if I made you feel that I didn't want you here. I did, but I wanted to protect you from a sleepless night.

Again, you are conveying the same truth (wanting to protect her from a bad night), but the second version does not add the implication that you think you did nothing wrong.


Another thing to stress here is that the relationship is new.

If this story had happened with someone who knew you for 10+ years (even if you were just friends for the majority of that time), then they would likely not have reacted so strongly. The difference is that an established history between the two of you can offset any offending inference on her part.

Even if she inferred that you didn't want her to spend the night with you (in a way that offends her), if she knows you a long time she would likely see that you've historically always shown to be willing to spend time together, so your current statement must mean that either you're really sick, or you simply didn't mean it the way that you said it.

But when you're in a new relationship, there's no history to rely on. If she infers that you didn't want to spend the night together, she has no way of knowing whether this is a unique situation (because of being sick), or whether you're just a person who often wants to have a night by himself.


Although this is just an inference on my behalf, her strong reaction to your (somewhat mild) mention of not spending the night together suggests that she may have been burned by others in the past.

Past experiences can leave scars. Scars can make you sensitive to something happening again. Being sensitive to something means that you overreact.

To use more extreme examples to showcase the point:

  • Someone who has suffered from domestic abuse with a previous partner will respond very defensive when you use a verbally aggressive tone; whereas someone who has not suffered from domestic abuse will not be as defensive (because they haven't been in a situation that required them to be preemptively defensive).
  • Someone who has had to deal with a friend who loaned money from them (and never paid it back) will be less eager to loan you money because this exact thing has burned them in the past.
  • (suggested by @stannius in the comments) You seem to be adamant about not apologizing since you intended no harm. Speaking from personal experience, that can be indicative of a scar too. For me, it's due to my parents who pushed the blame on me for failing them and regularly even attributed malice on top of that; which caused me to become very sensitive when someone even implies that I'm guilty of something I did not do. I can't speak to your case, but I suspect that there is a similar backstory as to why you're adamant about not apologizing.

I know these are very extreme examples, but the general principle is the same. If people are disproportionately sensitive to something, it's likely that they've been in similar problem situation before, and their instincts are telling them that the current situation will be another problem situation.

You're quite adamant about not seeing the need to apologize. I understand your points (I'm not that different from you), but I think that your strong opinion may be grating to her, at least when it touches on a scar that she has.

Be kind. Consider that she could have understood something different from what you meant. Apologize for potentially miscommunicating, rather than not apologizing because you intended well.

  • 4
    "I'm sorry if..." - that's a non-apology apology. "I'm sorry for making you feel..." seems better. – NotThatGuy Oct 30 '17 at 18:00
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    Simply "I'm afraid that you'll suffer and stay awake if we spend the night together" might still be taken to mean that you don't want to spend the night. I might opt for more explicitly giving her the choice, by e.g. adding "would you prefer that I come over anyway or a rain check for in a few days when I'm feeling better?". – NotThatGuy Oct 30 '17 at 18:07
  • @Flater Best answer and very detailed thank you. I hope to grow socially in time while being here and learning all this new points of view! – MansNotHot Oct 31 '17 at 8:18
  • @NotThatGuy: I disagree about the non-apology. While it is true that many fake apologies include "if", "if" itself does not inherently invalidate an apology. "I'm sorry if you feel that way" is a non-apology because of "you feel" (which puts the blame with the other person, not because of the "if". The examples in the link you provided are generally dodging certainties to avoid confirming that they've definitely made a mistake. But in my answer, the "if" is there because OP's girlfriend simply hasn't talked to him yet, so he can't be sure. [..] – Flater Oct 31 '17 at 8:41
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    @NotThatGuy [..] If OP were to avoid the "if", he would be making an assumption about why she's upset. To showcase the point, OP would be making a non-apology if he'd say "I'm sorry if you feel upset", because that puts the blame on her. But if he says "I'm sorry if I made you feel like I didn't want to spend the night with you", then OP is putting the blame on himself, which means it's not a non-apology. Overall, I think the "ifpology" (as per your link) is a gross oversimplification of non-apologies and misses the point by pointing at an unrelated commonly appearing word. – Flater Oct 31 '17 at 8:45
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How could I communicate, I did nothing wrong and don't want to apologize

You don't, because "This was all your fault" never goes over well.

If you want to get over this and continue your starting relationship, maybe the best thing for now is to just let it rest for a bit and try to get on with things. Probably both of you have cooled down a bit and going back to the problem now might not be the most succesful idea. New relationships can't handle as many issues as more established ones.

Personally, I'd just try to leave it behind me for now and say something like:

Hey, I'm feeling much better today. Want to make up for lost time? We can go do [x] (where [x] is something your partner will enjoy)

When you get closer and know each other better, it might be good to talk about expectations when either of you gets sick and how to deal with that, but if you've only known each other for 2 weeks then it's probably not the time yet.

  • I appreciate the answer and i suppose that this really is the best thing to do. I sadly do not know where we stand after that, and after she wrote i should leave her alone. I actually try to refrain from writing her first as my "ok" was the last message written. I am wondering if i should still do it and move forward, be nice and ask to meet today to make up for the lost time, or if i should just leave her be, and let her contact me when she feels like it. And i know she can be stubborn at writing first so i fear it will take forever and i am pretty impatiant sadly. – MansNotHot Oct 30 '17 at 9:57
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I don't think you realize what you said to her. You chose not to even visit for a short time because spending the night was (your decision) not an option. And you told her that this was the reason. You know what I would hear if you said that to me?

  • I didn't really miss you and I don't want to spend some time talking
  • I really only want to come over if we're going to have sex
  • I don't want to have sex and then leave, that's a hassle
  • it would be rude to spend the night with this cough, though
  • so yeah I guess I'll just see you whenever

Before you figure out what to say to her, you need to have a long talk with yourself. Why is it that a short visit without spending the night didn't occur to you? What purpose does visiting this woman serve? Do you want to talk about her trip to her home town? Do you enjoy watching tv or movies together, or talking about a book you just read? Would it have been nice to curl up on her couch together drinking a warm drink and chatting? To do whatever you normally do after dates and before spending the night? And then, when it got late, depending on the state of your cough, couldn't you have said "oh sweetie I know you must be tired from traveling, and I don't want to spoil your sleep, we've had a lovely evening haven't we? I'm going to head for my own bed and I can't wait to see you tomorrow!" Couldn't you? I think you could have. But none of that ever occurred to you. Which could be fine. I'm not saying you should have done any of that, your relationships are your own business. I'm asking why didn't that occur to you? Why don't you think of her that way?

I expect she's mad because she thought this way, and she thinks you're telling her that you don't see her as the curl-up-and-chat kind of girlfriend, not the even-when-I-can't-spend-the-night-I-want-to-see-you kind of girlfriend, but more the if-it's-convenient-and-I-can-stay-over kind of girlfriend, and she doesn't want to be that.

4

You only met two weeks ago, so the relationship was still very much in that "exciting" phase. She's out of town for a few days likely missing you and excited to see you upon her return, then you tell her you can't come over because of a sore throat (it doesn't matter how bad it is, you need to see this from her perspective). Ouch. I'd be mad too.

She was likely expecting you to be as eager to see her as she was to see you and although your intentions were good, she is likely feeling dejected right now. You need to address this, preferably face-to-face, on the phone if you have to but avoid just texting/messaging. You can't get emotion across the same way with words as you can with your voice, facial expressions and body language. Odds are she won't want to talk to you at first, if so give her some space.

You will want to explain why you did nothing wrong but that ignores her feelings, you must apologise for how you made her feel. Tell her why you wrote what you did yes but don't suggest that it was her interpretation that caused her to be upset even if it was (arguable), it doesn't matter. What matters was that you made her feel bad and you have to acknowledge that.

I know that I've made some assumptions here but I hope it helps.

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How could I communicate that I did nothing wrong and don't want to apologize, and that the best thing would be that she apologizes because she ruined the evening and overreacted, while still getting a "happy ending".

In any kind of a relationship, insisting on being 'right' is not a healthy behavior. Let's rephrase what you said. 'I want her to admit she was wrong and apologize to me, and also make sure she will gratify my desires.'

By cutting off communication with you she is also insisting on being 'right'. The tone of the relationship is in the wrong direction before it even gets started.

Apologize for assuming she would not want to be kept up by your coughing, make it a sincere apology, not an 'if I offended you' conditional apology. Perhaps being exposed and kept up all night was acceptable to her, maybe seeing you was more important to her than risking being exposed to your cold. Perhaps a compromise could have been found, like spend the evening together in lieu of sleeping over.

If she doesn't respond positively, move on and learn from your mistake for next time there is a conflict with a relationship.

Being concerned about what you will get from a relationship is going to cause you grief. You are concerned about getting an apology and a 'happy ending' (if your meaning is true to American english slang) and she is concerned about controlling your time and making sure you spend it with her.

In a successful scenario, each of you would be worried about what you are giving, not what you are getting. If each person gives without expectation or attempting to control the other, you can have a healthy relationship. The absence of a giving attitude on either side will not lead to fulfillment for either of you.

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