Is My Boyfriend Hypersensitive or Am I Too Insensitive?

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We dated for 6 weeks and had a wonderful time. I noticed that he was very sensitive. He’s had a lot of emotional trauma in his life, there was abuse growing up, he had problems with authority, he acquiesced to his ex-wife all of the time and he said the single women at work were controlling so he doesn’t date them. One day I asked a question about the use of the word “minou” which is French for cat/kitten and also used as a term of endearment. I then joked that I could call him minou and starting saying the word as a joke, bit of overkill. He then got mad and said he didn’t like being called that.

About a week later I used it in a text message at the end of a sentence followed by a smiley face. He responded saying that it was “disturbing” to him that I used the word after he said he didn’t like it. Then proceeded to say that I’m controlling. I asked for examples of what I’ve said or done that is controlling so that I can modify this behaviour for the next guy I date. He said the way I speak sounds like it’s my way or the highway. I said just because I speak a certain way doesn’t mean it’s set in stone. I’m not the type who’s afraid to admit she’s wrong, I have no problems compromising, I can apologize and no BF has ever told me that I’m controlling.

He said that when someone asks him to stop something he does it and the fact I continued is indicative of a future behaviour pattern. He said we were getting along great but I didn’t let it go. All the good qualities I have and all of the good times we had together did not outweigh this one incident of teasing. As far as I know, most couples still tease or irk each other with something they know irritates their partner. Was this an over-reaction? I thought the adult conversation should have been something like this, “when you use that word, I feel teased. I was put down, humiliated and teased a lot growing up and I’m very sensitive to it. Could you mindful about this and I’ll be mindful not be so hyper sensitive.”

Am I way off base here? I was very upset.

Nora

I’m with you, Nora. 100%.

It’s not that I can’t empathize with highly sensitive people.

It’s that highly sensitive people expect the rest of the world to cater to their sensitivities and get upset when the rest of us fail to be as sensitive.

I can imagine how maddening it might be for this guy to feel that you’re OPENLY DEFYING HIS WISHES AND ACTIVELY TRYING TO HURT HIM – because that IS what he’s feeling.

But here’s the thing about feelings: they’re not facts. They’re not universal.

But here’s the thing about feelings: they’re not facts. They’re not universal.

And while everyone’s entitled to feel his/her feelings, such feelings don’t automatically override everyone else’s.

The current political correctness wars and cancel culture are a perfect example of this.

Should everyone strive to be more sensitive? Sure. Asians should be called Asian. If you have a different pronoun as a gender nonbinary person, your loved ones should endeavor to refer to you as you wish. But what we can’t do – what we have been doing – is having a zero-tolerance policy for decent people who fall short. That is unfair and short-sighted, as it demonizes your allies and lumps them in with your enemies.

You want to cancel Joe Biden? Stephen Colbert? Sam Harris? Do you really think that anyone who stumbles over the PC purity test or even has a contrarian point of view should be silenced and banished? If you feel that way, please, spare me the commentary below. This is not a safe space for you.

Everybody needs to learn to take a joke – yes, even historically oppressed minorities and hypersensitive people.

I am neurotic, intense, politically liberal, highly opinionated, frequently injured, and have a big nose and ears. I don’t have to love these characterizations but everyone I know and love can tease me about these things. I have no choice but to have a thick skin. The alternative is basically telling everyone to stop observing me objectively. You can say – in theory “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it,” but that’s not how the real world works.

Furthermore, there’s a big difference between saying something to be intentionally hurtful and something that is supposed to be funny or teasing. Friends/lovers/family can lovingly tease. YouTube comments? Not so much.

My wife and I once took friends to The Comedy Store in Hollywood. We had a great time. Our friends did not. Said one: “Why do comedians think it’s okay to make fun of people?”

My wife and I smiled and nodded – and never hung out with that couple again.

I’m not kidding. We take our laughter pretty seriously. Before our kids were born, my wife and I determined that we’d be fine if our kids weren’t gorgeous or brilliant or successful. All we wanted was kids with a sense of humor.

To have that sense of humor – the ability not just to tease others but to laugh at yourself – you need a deep foundation of unconditional love. We provide that for our children, just like our respective families provided that for us. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

We tease my temperamental son when he’s acting like Trump.

We tease my dreamy daughter when she’s off playing with her hair for hours.

We tease my wife when she is “as slow as a turtle with a parachute.”

And I better learn to play along when my kids pull my ears, honk my nose, and use, as a secret password “Daddy’s Big Belly!”

Listen, I’m sure there are some honorable dissenters who think that all teasing is inherently cruel, who believe that to make fun of someone is punching down, and that moral, sensitive people would never even make the justifications I’m making.

You’re certainly entitled to that opinion. But I don’t want to hang out with you.

You may be nice but you’re the death of laughter. I’d rather live in a world where we can joke about our foibles instead of pretending we have none.

And Nora, you should absolutely find yourself a boyfriend who can communicate his displeasure in the way you described in your last paragraph, rather than a guy who throws a hissy fit and acts like you’re some sort of monster for using a French word for cat.

I know another word for cat that is more appropriate.

P.S. A timely satirical video about cancel culture just popped up on the NYT today



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