I’ve been with my girlfriend for a few months now and things have generally been going pretty well but I’ve noticed that whenever I disagree with her about something she gets really snappy and totally dismisses my opinion. She often thinks she’s right and when we argue she can be really patronising. The thing that bothers me most is that she regularly picks on things I say or do in front of other people, including our friends and I find it really embarrassing. I try to laugh it off but it’s starting to really get to me.

Ammanda says…

In every healthy relationship, partners should be able to agree to disagree without anyone feeling put down. It’s not on for someone to humiliate their partner in front of others. In fact, it’s not OK for them to do it when you’re alone together either. It sounds like this is a situation that has been going on for a little while and has left you feeling that whatever you try to say will be wrong.

I wonder though if you have been trying to tell her how upset you feel about this in a way that she can understand. In a perfect world, our partners would always get the message and want to talk with us about how to put any problem right. Unfortunately, this is not a perfect world and sometimes it pays to try different ways to get a partner’s attention.

You say that she acts like this whenever you disagree with her. Could you maybe find a time when things are going OK to tell her that you find it difficult when she doesn’t let you have an opinion? It’s always better to confront these things when emotions are not already running high. Talking with her calmly when she’s not already in the middle of disagreeing with you about something may provide enough space for her to take on board what you’re saying.

Of course, it’s likely she sees this situation quite differently to you. She may feel you’re the one causing the arguments and that she needs to defend herself from your comments – or even your lack of them: sometimes, silence from a partner can be confused with anger and resentment. Often people learn how to resolve differences with partners and friends based on what they learnt about agreeing to differ as a child. Any of us can quite easily get into a pattern of responding that is so second nature we hardly notice what we’re doing. This might be the case for you two.

I know the thought of bringing the issue up might make you worry about starting another argument but it’s unlikely things will change unless you do. Even then, there’s the risk that she may dismiss you again. If that’s the case, you have some tricky decisions to make, because staying in a relationship where someone else always has to have the upper hand can be soul destroying, as you have already found out.

If you feel like you both need some help getting to the bottom of your communication problems you might find Relationship Counselling useful. Lots of clients tell me that having the space to share how each of them feels about what’s been going on and get an unbiased viewpoint really helps. You can find out what’s available near you by searching for your nearest Relate Centre.