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So... I'm looking at trying to help my current partner (girlfriend) help overcome her emotions when we get in a little bit of a minor argument about random topics and she gets emotional about me getting angry at her etc.

I've already brought the topic up a few times when and after it has happened asking her what and why she's upset, and most of the time it's because she doesn't want me to be angry with her and leave her, in which case I reassure her of the opposite (I also jokingly say if I was angry with her I wouldn't be doing this to try and lift the mood, 90% of the time I get a chuckle from her).

Scenario: Last night we finished up a LARP event and went to get food afterwards then headed off, we both drove ourselves so we weren't waiting on one another, she stayed and chatted to a few other tables while I went off and headed to our place (I didn't need to stay and be a part of a conversation I knew I wasn't involved in), when we got home she was worried that I left in an angry mood because I left earlier than she did, that she wanted to chat with her friends and assumed that me leaving was a "let's go now" (more context below) and that "you can't stay here any longer, we're leaving", to which I informed her that it was the opposite and that's why we both take our own cars, so that if one of us leaves or has to go, the other can still stay.

She has mentioned in the past that her previous partners have been "you must do this and only this, if I don't like it then you can't do it". I'm not a controlling person, we both have our times where we visit our individual mates, places and whatnot, but there are times we spend together, a healthy balance I think.

We've been together almost 6 months now, and I would like to know what I can do to help her break the habit of how her previous partners were treating her, other than reassuring her every time she gets worried.

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    Was there a conversation prior to going to the event specifying that you would leave at seperate times or was it implied by taking different cars? – Jesse Jan 12 '18 at 3:50
  • No, we usually leave at generally the same time in some cases she'll stay for a minute or so before getting to were we've both parked. – user10013 Jan 12 '18 at 4:02
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It sounds like this could be cleared up with a little more preemptive communication...

In the case of her being worried that you left angry a simple:

Hey, I'm going to head out, but take your time. I'll see you when you get home.

These little gestures go a long way towards reassuring a partner in a new relationship. Rather than letting them guess, or assume, you're just making things clear. After some time, and settling in, most people slowly get over these little insecurities.

Sometimes it helps to just tell them what you're thinking and how you're feeling:

Hey, can we talk about XYZ? I'm really not angry or anything, but we need to come to some conclusion/understanding/compromise....

On the other hand... Some people have a harder time.

In cases where a partner has been in controlling and/or abusive relationships in the past it's probably worthwhile to mention seeking professional help. You can be nothing but sweetness and understanding, but if your partner needs help, they need help, and they should get it.

I don't say that lightly, I've been in a relationship with an abuse survivor. As much as I wanted to make it all ok, there were some issues they needed more help with than any lay person could offer. I'm not saying that this is your situation, but if it is, encourage them to talk to a therapist about it.

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    Thanks. I have asked about talking about the situations a few times and she's been happy to talk about them, but usually (atleast from what I can tell) coats the responses with thats how she has been from previous relationships and that she doesnt want to lose me, want me to be upset/annoyed/angry etc. I'll take your reply into note though, because I do know that I don't inform a lot if I leave early or not. – user10013 Jan 12 '18 at 6:05
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    @MrJackal It might be worth it to tell her explicitly that you want this relationship to be about the two of you, and not her former boyfriends, which means that she'll have to trust you at some point when you tell her that you don't do those things out of anger or in order to manipulate her. It might be that she isn't at that point yet, but I feel it might be important for you to know that she agrees with you on that in principle. – sgf Jan 12 '18 at 14:24
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Let's look at this :

Scenario: Last night we finished up a LARP event and went to get food afterwards then headed off, we both drove ourselves so we weren't waiting on one another, she stayed and chatted to a few other tables while I went off and headed to our place

I had to do a web search for LARP - I think my age is showing. :-)

I think the problem here is that you are not acting as a couple in this instance.

You arrive separately. You leave separately.

Unless there is an important reason to arrive or leave apart (like work or something), try and travel there with each other. Exceptions are fine, just make then exceptions, not the norm.

Let her drive you. Guys often hate this, but it's part of showing trust in her. If you do this 50-50 it's fine.

Note that this also means one of you can't drink alcohol, so that may also put you off this. If you both drink, take turns being the designated driver.

I didn't need to stay and be a part of a conversation I knew I wasn't involved in

Well this doesn't help show your partner you consider her important.

Wait around. Maybe the conversation will draw you in, maybe it won't. But demonstrating to your partner that you're happy just to be around her and will give up time to let her do her thing would be very supportive emotionally.

Consider this : do you think this previous abusive BF would have left early or stayed around ? I suspect by leaving you are repeating a pattern she has seen before.

Put this together with :

She has mentioned in the past that per previous partners have been "you must do this and only this, if [I] don't like [it] you can't do it".

What signal does leaving her at a social event suggest to you in this context ?

I wonder if she read that as you signaling that her conversations with other people don't interest you or that simply leaving was you saying "time we were out of here".

The positives

You are clearly interested in supporting her emotionally. You are sensitive to the issues and her needs.

From what you've said she is happy with this.

But she probably will need a little more of your attention and patience (i.e. just patiently doing very little and looking happy about it to accommodate her needs). Probably more than average and possibly for a long time to come - abusive relationships leaves scars and they don't always heal completely and certainly not quickly - think decades, not months.

We've been together almost 6 months now, and I would like to know if other than reassuring her each time she gets worried, what I can do to help her break the habit of how her previous partners were treating her.

Be there for her. Be available to share what she's doing (e.g. talking with people you don't know) not because there's a logical need, but because it demonstrates that her needs are important.

I'd also suggest that where possible you let her drive you to and from social events you're going to together. At least do it more frequently than not. Again it's to show you trust her and that you are more concerned about time with her.

At some point the need for that will probably die out gradually.

Her opinion of what you are doing or things you hear on the TV and so on, is something else to ask for (as casually as possible - not like a routine).

This would demonstrate that her viewpoint, support and approval are things you value. This would be something I suspect her previous relationship did not have.

Overall you simply need to demonstrate with small thing (not necessarily words) that you value her as a person and are fine putting that into small deeds.

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    I like you'r reply and value your tips, thanks! I should probably note that we drive separately because I drive from work and she drives from home to the events, and its not feasible for the time frame when she gets home to when I leave for her to pick me up (I've already tried ;) ) – user10013 Jan 14 '18 at 23:04
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She has mentioned in the past that her previous partners have been "you must do this and only this, if don't like you can't do it".

I've been watching my best friend struggle with this exact situation for a while with her new partner. Her ex was emotionally abusive and controlling. He would say one thing and then pull the rug from under her.

Patience and transparency will help. Her fear is greater than her trust right now. It might help to have a conversation about how they've treated her in the past. Right now her baseline for relationships is geared off her exes and perhaps knowing where you stand on these issues will help.

In your head you figured it was ok to leave early since you arrived in separate cars. She doesn't have the confidence yet to think the same way you do so verbalising your thoughts will help.

Once you open the topic of her exes behaviour vs yours, you should also bring up that you want her to trust you not to be like them. Every time she compares you to her exes, it holds her back from letting your relationship grow healthily.

Ask her what her triggers are. If she has these fears of you leaving her then likely she's also gearing all her behaviour to keep you happy. Hearing positive affirmation goes a long way.

Couples argue or disagree so she can't expect your relationship to not have those struggles but you can both be communicative to work through it. Hearing your honesty may be a relief and less anxiety so she doesn't have to second guess herself.

Those emotional triggers may run deep. Please be patient and remind her of your commitment to her. You clearly care about her welfare and hopefully she accepts it.

  • Thanks, I agree that there are times that she wont know how I would act etc. without verbalizing (re: your example about leaving separately). I have thus started to be more verbal in such a manner myself. – user10013 Jan 14 '18 at 23:06
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    I can tell she's likely anxious by what you mentioned of her reactions and possibly she knows it. It's not a reflection on you but a trigger reaction of how past partners treated her. In her head when certain situations occur, they react negatively and treat her that way. It sounds like perhaps past exes would blame or act like things are her fault so that's become her baseline in those situations. You're already making an effort to make her comfortable and she'll need encouragement to make an effort to trust that you're different. – doctordonna Jan 15 '18 at 0:07

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