One afternoon in college, a couple friends and I skipped out on our afternoon classes and took off to go rock climbing. Where we went to school in Chattanooga, this is a thing people do with relative frequency. It’s the coolest city ever—trust me on that one.
While at the crag (climbing area), we stumbled across the all too frequent occurrence of a male climber failing to properly introduce his girlfriend (maybe wife) to the hobby. She was belaying him from the ground (holding one end of the rope so he didn’t die when he fell—which he did a lot) as he loudly stumbled through the route he was trying to finish.
My friends and I watched in silent horror as he repeatedly snapped at his girlfriend for letting him take too big of falls or not giving him enough slack (which are mutually exclusive by the way). It was pretty obvious to us that she was hating every minute of it. I’d seen this interaction with other climbers enough times to note the trend and swear I’d never, ever be the controlling boyfriend who ruined something fun by being a controlling jerk.
Unfortunately, that was a resolution I’ve been unable to keep.
One such experience came the first time I took Brittany (my wife—then girlfriend) skeet shooting. If you don’t know her, she’s the most wonderfully kind human I’ve ever met. In those days, we had just begun our dating relationship after literally 4 years of me trying to convince her to do so (yeah, she’s that cool). Up until that point, things had been pretty sunny. We rarely disagreed and when we did, I gave up pretty quick. We were also long distance at the time which I think delayed our first real fight.
Brittany wasn’t particularly interested in shooting, but she was always willing to go along with whatever adventurous thing I planned when she visited Chattanooga (except whitewater rafting—bad experience there). So by some force of convincing and her not caring enough to choose not to go, we drove up the mountain to shoot skeet.
If you don’t know anything about skeet shooting, it’s the activity you see in the movies where the circular orange clays sail through the air and you shoot them with a shotgun. If you’re lucky they explode when you hit them, but mostly you just miss. It’s pretty hard.
Up until this point in the story, I think I had been an OK significant other. I was taking my girlfriend to do something she hadn’t done because I thought it’d be really fun. Unfortunately, that was about to change.
This is how you ruin something fun by being a controlling boyfriend.
Step 1: Pressure, Pressure, Pressure
Brittany was willing to go shooting so long as she wasn’t required to shoot. She told me she was more than willing to watch me shoot and I was more than willing to repeatedly tell her she would love it and that she should totally do it—like a condescending teenager.
For some reason it mattered a great deal to me that she try it and I used that as justification to keep pressing her to give it a shot (pun intended). Unfortunately for us both, this is an awful way to introduce anyone to anything new. Which reminds me…
Takeaway = The harder it is to convince someone to do something, the more likely it is that it’s really all about you.
Step 2: Ignore Concerns
Brittany seemed nervous about the sound of the gun (shotguns are loud), the kick of the gun (shotguns can hurt), and the whole act of shooting a firearm (shotguns can hurt). She just wanted to watch, and I just wanted her to shoot.
Eventually, I convinced Brittany to hold the gun. She waddled around with the heavy pump action gun hanging from her arms like a concrete post. She could barely lift it to her shoulder and when she did it almost immediately came back pointed towards the ground. Instead of offering to take the gun and forget the whole thing, I tried to correct her technique.
“No, you really shouldn’t hold it like that.”
“Keep it tight on your shoulder.”
“No! Don’t let the muzzle point at your feet”
By this point, Brittany was obviously shaken and I was doing a piss poor job of guiding her. I ignored her very legitimate concerns for the sake of preserving my ideal experience for us.
“Just shoot something, anything,” I eventually instructed.
I spent the next several minutes trying to convince Brittany to just shoot a tree as if she was afraid of the clays and shooting trees would be so much easier.
Takeaway = Ignoring your significant other’s concerns is a great way to say both, “I don’t hear you” and “I don’t care” at the same time.
Step 3: Get Frustrated
As previously stated, Brittany and I had not been dating very long and I had never experienced this weird sort of disappointment I was dealing with when we loaded up the gun and left the range. My frustration took over like a selfish kid who didn’t get the toy he wanted for Christmas.
“Are you upset?” she asked me.
“No,” I quickly lied.
“I feel like you’re mad at me,” she said.
We sat in silence for the ride home.
Takeaway = Getting frustrated is a good way to end the conversation.
So there it is, that’s just one story of how I totally ruined something fun by being the controlling boyfriend I swore I’d never be. If your’e wondering how this helps you, I would suggest you follow the steps I’ve listed above by doing the exact opposite. Don’t pressure, listen to concerns, and don’t get frustrated.