Adventures in Dating

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You know it and we know it: There's no such thing as a perfect relationship. Every couple has a few issues they need to work through. Meet Steph and Sam (we've changed their names), a real-life couple with a real-life dating dilemma. We'll offer some advice to help them build a better relationship.

Steph Says:

He's So Critical

No matter what I do, Sam is constantly on my case. I never take the fastest way when I drive. I park crooked. I walk too slow. When we make pizza together, he even complains that I don't cut the tomatoes right!

I don't think Sam realizes how often he criticizes me. To him, I guess, it's no big deal. At least that's how he reacted the one time I tried to explain how much something he said had bothered me. He just shrugged it off, like I was the one blowing things all out of proportion. I'm sorry, but it seems to me the guy who thinks there's only one right way to slice a tomato is the one with proportion problems.

I'm not sure what I can do to get him to stop, but I've got to either do something or break up. It's almost to the point where I'm afraid to do anything while he's around. I don't like being picked on by my own boyfriend.

Sam Says:

She's Too Sensitive

Steph has this thing about always being right. She gets away with it because she usually is right—she's one of the smartest girls I know, and that's a big reason I like her. Unfortunately, she's also super-sensitive about anyone telling her there's a better way to do something—or hinting that they know something she doesn't.

Take driving. I'm a year older, so I've been driving longer and know the roads better. But we were in her car one day when we were in a hurry to run some errands. I knew a shortcut to the mall, so I told her to change lanes and make a quick turn. She did it, but she practically growled at me: "I know how to get there." I mean, where did that come from?

Sometimes I feel like I can't say anything around Steph, because I never know how she'll react. It's tough to have fun with her when she's so uptight.

Elesha's Advice:

I have one word for you two: Relax! Steph, it's OK to change the way you do things. Suggestions aren't always criticisms. And Sam, it's OK to let Steph do things "wrong" once in a while. Life will go on if the tomatoes are diced instead of sliced.

Of course, fixing this problem isn't quite so easy. Telling people to relax is kind of like telling them not to think about pink elephants: The harder they try, the harder it becomes. However, there are things both Steph and Sam can do to take some of the tension out of their relationship.

Steph mentioned talking once with Sam about the way his criticism makes her feel, but if it's still bothering her, she needs to bring up the subject again. Her best bet is to start with "When you … I feel" statements, like, "When you tell me to change my driving, I feel like you're saying I'm incompetent." Chances are, Sam never thought about it that way. There's also a good chance that voicing her thoughts will help Steph realize that, yeah, she does overreact sometimes.

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