Having a romantic relationship with someone who has a very different style of communication can be a challenge. Making it work requires effort and compromise, it requires fearlessly facing your own feelings and insecurities - ok most relationships require that, but you get the point. It's not easy. But what do you do when those different communication styles start to eat away at something you used to love doing together?
One heartbroken Reddit user is asking that question now. Every couple has their "thing" and hers with her partner used to be comic conventions. The two would spend days immersed in comics and fantasy together, making friends, talking about the stories they loved and generally bonding. Her more outgoing personality meant that she made friends faster and was more immediately personable with celebrities and creatives that they meet. It took him a little longer to warm up, but in the end they both made great connections.
As time passed, her outgoing personality has become a point of contention. Her boyfriend has gotten jealous of her ability to quickly connect and has kind of started to hold it against her. He's begun accusing her of ruining his encounters, so she's stopped talking during them. He's told her that creatives are only nice to her because they must be attracted to her. He's told her that his multiple awkward silences were her fault. Overall, it seems like he's turned a thing they loved into a sort of competition and reason to feel bad for himself. Here's her initial post:
My partner and I have been together four years, and we're really into comic book conventions.
In the last couple years, we've particularly gone out of our way to meet a lot of creators and voice actors we like, and have prints and stuff signed. It's been a lot of fun!
Or, I guess it was for a little bit.
Lately I've noticed a pattern where the moment we walk away, he gets mopey about feeling like the moment was wasted for some reason or another. He puts too much stock into having such an immediate rapport with a cool stranger, and then feels bad when it isn't some magical experience. There are celebrities he can't stand now because he felt like they weren't immediately warm and friendly. To make matters worse, he gets too shy and nervous to really say much, so he's always kicking himself later.
I, on the other hand, don't put too stock in all this. I try to assume the best of people and not define them by the two minutes I interacted with them - honestly, when you're talking to people non-stop I'm sure it all blurs together, so I take everything with a grain of salt. I just try not to take it too seriously. I'm decent at small talk and don't have any problems interacting with people I don't know, so I keep it light and breezy.
There were a couple points where later, my boyfriend said that it felt like I'd dominated the conversation and wasn't letting him say anything. I felt really bad, so I made a point to scale back, especially if this was a person he was more invested in than I was.
I feel like people treat us like we're a unit, and not like it reflects badly on him if I break the ice first, but I didn't want to stress him out when this is something that already makes him flustered.
So, now there's just more awkward silences, and it feels like if I say anything at all, he acts like it was a disaster.
Lately he's been saying everyone just likes me better, or it's all just because I'm a girl. It's starting to really hurt my feelings. I keep saying I really think he should just get in line for this stuff alone from now on, since he keeps feeling bad and then making me feel bad. He acts like I'm overreacting, and that this is a fun thing we like to do together.
It's not anymore.
I think I'd be fine just doing other stuff at cons, but I also kind of want to actually address this. I feel like if it was the reverse, and he had like, a funny moment with a famous person or whatever, I'd just be happy for him. He's never happy for me about things like that, he just treats me like competition and gets way too wrapped up in the whole thing. I feel like his negative reaction to me is just an extension of how nervous he gets, but I really don't like that if I have a decent moment with a creator I enjoy, it's instantly ruined by my boyfriend either turning this into self-pity or acting like they must have been attracted to me (ew?).
Is there anyone else who gets like this, and knows what needs to happen for him to chill the hell out?
She turned to Reddit for help - and Reddit had no problem stepping in with suggestions. They're not always kind, but they're certainly honest and most are pretty insightful! Here are some of the responses that stuck out to us; edited for language or clarity when needed.
Go Your Separate WaysGiphy
Maybe do things separate at cons, I think it's silly for him to blame you for his shyness. Maybe pick who you're meeting beforehand and see the actors/creators separately then no one's 'ruining' it for anyone else.
It's such a shame though, it sounds like you and your boyfriend do some super cool stuff together.
But if he's gonna get moody and annoyed, then you have your fun and let him have his, you can always meet up after and share you're awesome meetings!
Low Self Esteem
It's sad. It sounds to me like he suffers from really low self esteem and he keeps getting more disappointed because of his own failure at socialising. It's a vicious cycle at this point.
You're not doing anything wrong. He needs help with his low self esteem and with breaking this negative cycle.
A Spoiled Child
Just refuse to get in the line with him. He's acting like a spoiled child and you should not tolerate it. It's not a fun thing you do together, it's an excuse for him to put you down.
"Beating Me At MY Thing"Giphy
So, when I first read your story, I thought "wow, what a jerk. He should just let her be great." Then I realized that I actually do this to my fiancé in another aspect of life.
We've been together for about 4 years. We were both independently really into fitness before dating, but we started doing races and classes jointly when we got together. It brought out a very nasty side in me. If we were on a practice run and he was ahead of me, sometimes I'd get upset and once I even cried (yes, I know this is crazy.) If we were in a competitive cycling class and he was beating me, I'd feel discouraged and angry. If he won a race we trained for together, I wasn't happy for him. I am not jealous of him in other aspects of our relationship and we have a very balanced and healthy thing going, so I examined it a bit.
I realized that it hurt me because in those moments it felt like he was beating me at MY thing, a thing that made me feel like myself even before he was my boyfriend. I took control of it and set some boundaries, and we haven't had the issue since. I also needed to do some soul searching about my own self worth and figure out why fitness made me happy (aka it's not a competition.) I think you need to talk to him about it, because the solution should probably start with him and how he is approaching Cons. I'd also consider doing Cons separately, or go with friends and then meet up afterwards. Good luck!
This hasn't happened with my boyfriend, but we very much have the same dynamics as you and yours. I'm an introvert at the end of the day, but when I put on my "people face" I'm quite good at keeping a casual conversation going - I was a cashier, and like you mentioned, a breezy 2-minute conversation is easy for me.
We saw a small, intimate show of a band my boyfriend loved. He's somewhat of an extrovert - I think he was really lonely before we met - but he has trouble breaking into social conversations too. He's terrible at parties, frankly; he'd pull out his phone or else start a debate, until I shut that down hard. He has trouble with easy banter.
Anyway, I cared way less about this artist, just like you, so I frankly did him a favor (which I didn't mind at all and was easy) by going up to the artist after the show, dragging my shy boyfriend, and being like "guys, that was amazing! You're so good! Blah blah blah," and then turned it over to my boyfriend by being like "he's loved you guys forever and I'm so happy he brought me!", which provided a really good space for my bf to pick it up and be like "yeah, I loved X album" or whatever, and it went from there for a minute.
Honestly, I'd be annoyed if my boyfriend pulled this resentful sh!t; he doesn't. But if you're a more graceful person than I, a decent way to balance this might be for you to have a sense of the people he REEALLLY wants to meet, and pay him that lip service/keep yourself in the shadow after making him an opening. It's a nice favor that'll really really help. Obviously that doesn't have to happen every time, either - if you do care about someone, talk to them, of course - but to give him that foot in the door by doing something you do better + then letting him have it is a kindness. My boyfriend was super happy, and I was happy I got to exchange that first sentence, which was really all I needed.
Take Mini Breaks
Oh man can I relate!
I love Con's. I've been to SDCC over 10 times and the smaller ones too.
And any girl that's gone with me has straight up hated me by the middle of them. It's not deliberate there's just SO MUCH there's content, meetings, tournaments, panels, lines, exclusives, stuff for sale. It's overwhelming, and I wind up taking it out on the person closest to me and that's never ok. It happens because you have these expectations built up in your head about what you want to have happen and you want that person next to you to be reading your mind and being in the same head space and it's just not possible. There's just so much stuff and everyone likes/wants something different.
Honestly the best course of action is to take mini breaks from each other. One person goes right the other goes left. If something really cool or important comes up you use the row flags to tell the other person where you are and to get over to meet you asap. You actually feel better because your covering more ground and less likely to miss something because you have another set of eyes looking out for anything cool that might interest you. You don't have to spend the whole con apart and you don't have to spend the whole con joined at the hip either.
If your worried about a bad photo-op being missed don't worry there's always someone willing to snap a photo for you.
Con's are an emotional roller coaster. For the sake of any relationship's health and sanity split off and regroup for mini breaks and you can get along better after.
Different Methods Of Socialization
I was going to suggest just doing your own thing at cons. My husband and I do this a lot when we go to parties because we just have different methods of socialization. It works!
Invisible Without YouGiphy
To maybe give you some perspective - I had a friend I used to go out to some regular events at bars all the time. A few events were weekly or bi-weekly. She was an attractive woman who was very outgoing and bubbly. I struggle from social anxiety. There were quite a few people who would strike up conversations with us semi-regularly, and we'd chat for a bit during breaks in the event, etc. I would usually be pretty involved in the conversation, my social anxiety was generally less present when I was with a friend.
But when I went to those events without her, some of those same guys wouldn't even bother saying "hi" to me if I said "hi" or tried to strike up a conversation. It was like I didn't exist, because in this case a huge part of why they were interacting with us was because of her. So from her perspective, to quote you, people would "treat us like a unit", but without her, I was a lot more invisible. (I will note that not everyone was like that, but enough that it took a toll on my confidence).
It's still a pattern I run into with some of my attractive and outgoing friends (men and women) in some social situations - if they're not around, I have to do a lot more legwork in terms of taking the initiative to strike up conversations and meet people, as opposed to people voluntarily asking to join our trivia group, etc). I have to be careful to not let it impact my anxiety or my social confidence.
I draw the parallels only to help highlight maybe what he's feeling. It costs a lot to put himself out there, but then he feels like people are only interested in you. None of that is your fault, and a lot of that probably stems from his own anxieties and insecurities - the idea that these people wouldn't be talking to him at all if you weren't there. At a lot of cons, there's enough of a gender imbalance that woman sometimes do get more social attention, in terms of people striking up conversations, etc. That shouldn't apply to situations like autographs and pictures with creators, but it's entirely possible he feels that way about other social situations you get into at the cons, and those feelings are all getting blurred together - the idea that the guy who struck up a conversation in the food line might not have bothered if it was just him out. And, to be blunt, it's a painful bit of self actualization to tell yourself "I'm just less interesting to talk to." than "Well they like her because she's a girl".
I'm making a lot of assumptions, but his comments about "liking you more because you're a girl" make me suspect it's less about the celebrity interactions, and more about how the rest of social interaction at the con tends to go. It just gets to him when it comes to people he's excited to meet, because he's internalized this idea that people are only interested in talking to you.
To picture an inverse situation, imagine if your boyfriend always went to cons with a really great cosplay, and people were constantly talking to him or trying to strike up a conversation - and they were social with you then, but any time you separated from your boyfriend, noone was interested in talking to you.
Unfortunately for all I typed here, I don't have an offhand solution. You can try to make sure he feels included in the conversation, but it sounds like you do and it isn't working.