This is a great question and hard to describe.

In a truly secure relationship, it is okay to express a concern or a worry.

For example the couple is watching a movie scene that’s upsetting. She turns and looks at her boyfriend and says, “You wouldn’t leave me like that, would you?”

That’s an emotional bid for reassurance. In a healthy relationship the listener normally would pull the speaker into a hug and says, “Of course not! Not ever.”

And both people would feel better. The emotional bid was heard and positively responded to.

What happened here was this:

Same question – “You wouldn’t leave me like that, would you?”

Response – “How could you say that or even think that about me?”

So the listener reacts with upsetness and defensiveness. He doesn’t comfort the speaker so her bid for support is ignored or rejected. (Bad to do -see John Gottman’s work on emotional bids)

But the boyfriend takes it one step further– he now turns the table and makes it about him.

He uses what’s said as a new bid for support. The only way out is for the speaker, who still is waiting to be supported, to deny her needs and to push through her pain so that’s she now can comfort the listener. Her needs go ignored and he gets support.

Not good.

There is another darker piece to this. That scenario is already not emotionally functional. Such relationships probably aren’t stable enough to last long (again see Gottman’s research), but both men used the table-turning tactic in a more devious way. To distract from the original question. Both most likely were guilty of it. To cover up their duplicity they made the issue the “’meaness of the question” instead of the hurtfulness of their truthful answer.

To revisit the initial scenario – she asks, “You wouldn’t leave me like that, would you?”

Truthful answer – “Sorry, yeah, probably because I don’t see what’s wrong with leaving like that. So, yeah I would leave you like that.”

She acts hurt and crushed because she already suspected he didn’t have her back in this area. Now she knows it’s real and has to decide if this a deal breaker.

Both of these guys ignored the fact that they have or would do what I feared and made me out to bad or mean for asking the original question.

By the way, this is a subtle form of gaslighting. Pretty manipulative tactic to avoid being transparent and honest, don’t you think? And definitely not playing nice.

And no thank you. I’m not interested. I want the meet the first guy who knows how to respond kindly and compassionately to an emotional bid. Someone who has my back. Not someone who ignores my needs and worse yet hides his lack of empathy for me by flipping the conversation in such a way I’m the bad guy for asking an emotionally-loaded question.

Does this make more sense?

Great, great question. Thank you.

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