Dear Amy:

I'm a third-year college student in a serious relationship. My boyfriend is wonderful, but certain things that he does bother me.

I was taught to tell someone when you don't like what they are doing, and I find myself doing that a lot with him. He wasn't raised that way. He was raised to keep his mouth shut and deal with it.

When I tell him about things he does that bother me, he gets extremely upset and thinks I hate him and am always having a problem with him.

What should I do? Should I just keep my big mouth shut or stick to my teachings?

- Girlfriend

Dear Girlfriend:

What if your boyfriend said to you, "It really bothers me when you tell me things I do that bother you." Would that statement satisfy your feeling that a person always should state what's bothering him or her - and would it get you to at least modify your behavior? Because when your boyfriend gets upset, he is telling you what bothers him. You just don't seem to like it.

In a loving relationship, stating your needs, likes, and dislikes is a dance. It is important to air issues, and sometimes petty annoyances are easily dealt with as long as the other person knows what the stakes are (sometimes the stakes are low; that should be clarified).

But there are times when you just have to suck it up and realize that if you complain regularly about matters large and small, at some point your annoyances aren't as important as the fact that you are being annoying.

Your boyfriend takes your complaints very much to heart. You should always be proportional when you state your annoyances or preferences, and you should do so thoughtfully and lovingly.

In my household, complaints are often turned inside out and prefaced with, "Can I make a suggestion?" I find this annoying, but it seems to get the job done.

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