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I want to preface this by saying that I love my boyfriend very much, but I have been frustrated with him especially in the last few months.

He is extremely intelligent, well-educated, well-traveled, knowledgeable in an incredibly extensive number of subjects (and all his information checks out), he is extremely adept at connecting with strangers, and he works with at-risk youth.

Sounds like a great guy, right? He is. The only problem is what all of this means for our relationship. When I met him I was under the impression that he was in his mid-twenties, which is fine considering I'm twenty myself. I'd been heartbroken over my ex, wallowing in misery and self-pity daily, and convinced that I would never get over it. The first night I met my current boyfriend, I was shocked to realize I had a huge crush on him and that I could finally get over the other guy. The problem is, it was after I fell for him that I found out his age, early thirties. Now, it's not his age itself that's a problem for me. The problem is the enormous difference in experience that we have, in many contexts, which leads him to constantly try to teach me all these life lessons and causes me a lot of frustration.

I'd never lived with anyone I was dating before, and we moved in together fairly quickly. I'll be honest- I've been pretty sheltered from reality my whole life as far as what it takes to make it on your own. I did the whole homeless couch-surfing thing for a while, and I suppose I was on my own, but I wasn't really “taking care of myself” or “making it.” I was just surviving.

I never lived with anyone who cared if I forgot to rinse out a dish right after I used it. I never lived with anyone who nagged me about leaving the scissors on the coffee table. The thing is, it's not just once in a while. It's constantly. He's very neat and orderly, and is huge on keeping organized. I've always been really messy and disorganized, and I'm a really random and abstract person, and an artist. It's really hard for me to handle the constant barrage of nit picking. And he doesn't take the criticism back.

And it's not just that he wants to tell me what I'm doing wrong. It's that he wants to sit down with me and have this whole conversation about it and about what it means. It's not that I don't take criticism well, but when every little thing that I do is being criticized constantly I get really resentful of it and I stop being receptive to hearing it. So instead of doing any good for the two of us it just makes me mad and starts a fight.

We went to the grocery store the other day, and he makes more money than I do so it's not a big deal to him, and he was just throwing all this expensive food in the cart. And of course I need to pay half of it, but he didn't even ask how much I had to pitch on food and watch what he was throwing in there. And the bill ended up being huge at the end, and I couldn't afford to pay all of it because I needed to make sure I had enough for rent, and I told him as soon as the utilities bill came I would pay him back the last 30 dollars. Well utilities came, and I had enough money. That day the bank was closed so I couldn't go cash my last check, so I ended up going to the used clothes store and spending the last of my cash on a seven dollar jacket for a job interview. I had the money to pay him I just had to wait until the bank opened up. And I showed him the jacket and he got mad at me and sat me down and gave me a huge long lecture about priorities, the way he would if I was one of the kids he works with. And I can't express frustration with this or he tells me I'm either A) throwing a temper tantrum (he uses this phrase constantly any time I'm even the tiniest bit upset with something he did or said, which is frustrating because there's this huge age difference between us and I keep telling him I'm his partner and he needs to stop making all of these child references and start treating me like the adult that I am, who pays half the bills and has been making a huge effort to keep the house neat and tidy because that's important to him, but if he finds one tiny little thing on the floor he lectures me) or B) he accuses me of trying to start a fight. And I'm not trying to start fights, and I don't enjoy arguing with him. But not an hour goes by that he doesn't find something to pick me over about. It wears me down so much.

It's not even a two way street most of the time. He's huge on me taking responsibility for everything and treating his things with the utmost respect, which I try to do. But today he accidentally broke my chair, and I just heard him yell when it happened from another room. And instead of apologizing and offering to get me a new chair (which is what he would expect me to do ) he just said something about how the cheap chair had broken and then walked off. If I had done that he would have sat me down and given me a huge lecture about how I need to be aware of my actions and be in my body and how I need to show his things more respect and that if it was HIM he would find me another chair.

Like, if it's me, the reason I break something or knock something over of his is because I'm not paying attention and I'm not in my body and I'm not focusing the way I should. But if he breaks something, it's because it was cheap, and if he knocks something over, it's because I shouldn't have put it there. And if I try to bring this up then I'm either throwing a temper tantrum or being argumentative.

I'm just really frustrated. And I know it sounds like a bad situation but really, other than this, things are fine. I'm really in love with him. He's an incredible musician, and he's kind, and he's brilliant, and he's amazing with kids, and he's funny, and I'm really comfortable with him. I don't want to make it sound like I'm pissed off all the time because I'm not. It's just this one issue that we can't seem to communicate about, and I really want to stay with him. I'm not going to leave him. I can honestly see myself being with him, maybe as a life partner. I don't want to just give up. But I don't know how to deal with this. And I'm not very good at communicating, I tend to feel like I'm being judged and have a hard time listening, not just getting offended or hurt, and that makes it hard too because his forte is talking about tricky subjects, and he gets frustrated that I can't articulate my thoughts, but I have a hard time talking honestly about my feelings when I'm feeling attacked, even if he's not trying to make me feel that way. So it's just this endless cycle of frustration. If anyone had any advice for me on how to handle this I would appreciate it very much, because I love him and we complete each other so perfectly in so many ways, but I am tired of running in the same old tired circles and fighting.

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