How Does One Answer This?

Last night, B asked me the following question:

Do you think that you are better than me and smarter than me, because a lot of times you come off like you think or feel that way about me?

She spent nearly all of the last decade in an abusive relationship, where she was constantly told how stupid she was and how much of a loser she was. She’s a survivor and she is recovering, but there are still open wounds. She tends to take everything that is said in the most negative and personal way possible, and then allow her feelings to be hurt by it, even when the comment was meant as a compliment. Add that to the communication challenges that y’all already know that I have, and you have context for the second half of her question.

But how does one answer that question? To say no would be an obvious lie. No two people on the planet are exactly equal in anything. One will always be at least slightly stronger or better than the other in any given comparison. Between two people who are seemingly compatible enough to develop a relationship, one will excel in some areas, while the other will be better at other things. Such is life.

But to say yes invites hurt feelings, especially to one so vulnerable.

I chose honesty. I told her that I do feel that in some areas, I believe that my skills exceed hers. I went on to say that I couldn’t hold a candle to her in other areas, and that’s what made us strong as a couple.

That’s when she got her feelings hurt. She couldn’t seem to see past the “yes” in my answer far enough to get to the explanation. Then she told me that what she asked wasn’t really what she asked, and I knew that, and I answered yes anyway.

I don’t think of myself as a better person. I see her as my equal. But she’s the better communicator, while I’m better at math. I told her that, and tried to explain that I did indeed understand her to have asked the exact question that I answered. I then tried to further answer what she meant to ask. Unsuccessfully.

I can usually talk her through misunderstandings like this, but she was too tired. She went to sleep hurt. I hate that.

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4 Responses to How Does One Answer This?

  1. nancykrainz says:

    First of all, one shouldn’t ask a question if they aren’t prepared for the answer. Secondly, I thought your response was spot on. We all have strengths and weaknesses. As you stated, it is a positive thing and makes for a more balanced relationship when one partner is strongèr in an area the other one is not as strong in. Unfortunately, us females often seem destined to initiate our own demise and are prone to do so at a particularly vulnerable moment. In other words, asking questions like that when we are already having a negative emotionally charged moment. At those times it is virtually impossible to avoid doing or saying something that will not at least in part be taken in a negative light. In this situation, time is your friend. A nice nap for her even better. She will look at the situation from a completely different perspective when rested and not otherwise stressed out. Your best bet is not to bring the subject back up for a rehash. Move forward, showering her with compliments. These situations are the inevitable repetitive bumps in the road in a relationship. You handled the situation correctly. No need to second quess yourself. Us women are complicated. 🙂

  2. hollychism says:

    Next time, start with the positive, slip in the negative, then finish with more positive.

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