Dear Dr Darcy:
I love my girlfriend but she is hugely inappropriate and I don't know how to deal with this. It was cool and funny when we were younger (we've been together 12 years since just after college) but now it just feels immature and stupid and really upsetting. When we met I loved her loud, wild, out-going personality but now I think it's time for her to grow up but she won't. She thinks it's a political statement to say something outrageous or get drunk at one of my work functions (I work in PR, she works independently in IT) or to shock strangers. It's alienating some of our friends - people never know what she's going to do or say at a dinner party – it’s driving a wedge in our relationship. She accuses me of being a sell-out when I try to address this. I suppose I am. I'm approaching my mid-30s and thinking it's time to be a grown up. How can I get her to understand this?
You know, you’re disinclined to validate your girlfriend’s feelings/outspoken behaviors and because of that, I’m disinclined to validate your feelings. We are both wrong. Validation is the key here. You to her and her to you. Anything short of that and you’ll be stuck in this power struggle indefinitely. So let me show you how it’s done:
ME to YOU: I hear that you’re very embarrassed over your girlfriend’s behaviors. What worked in college no longer feels age-appropriate. And it’s painful for you because when you express your feelings to her, she accuses you of being a sell-out. I can imagine the frustration that this situation is causing you.
See how much better you feel now? I’ve done 2 things for you: 1) Confirmed that I heard what you said and, 2) Expressed to you that what you said makes sense to me. That’s all she needs as well. If the two of you communicated this way, you’d need less behavior changes from one another because you’d be deescalated. When we’re calm and happy, we’re more tolerant; there’s more room in us for bullshit.
Now for some tough love: You got what you paid for. She’s always been this way. She’s probably not changing and if she does, it will be marginal. You've managed to avoid marriage for 13 years and I'm guessing it was so you'd have an out. If you don't like the woman who stands before you, get out now.
Writer’s Stats: Male, heterosexual.