A Mumsnet forum allows people to ask for advice on whether they’re being reasonable (Picture: Getty/Metro.co.uk)
AIBU – am I being unreasonable? – is a question that pops up over and over again, both online and off.
The acronym is attributed most to parenting website Mumsnet, where members can post and debate whether their choices, intentions and feelings are justified – or are unreasonable.
The topics covered vary from friends to family to work, but notably to relationships too.
It’s a long-standing forum dating back to 2007, but the comments and posts still go strong today, with hundreds sometimes responding to a thread.
And actually, AIBU’s 7,169-page long web space feeds into a wider conversation about healthy relationship dynamics – a conversation that wasn’t so prevalent when AIBU was in its infancy.
As empowered as women are, we’re still questioning ourselves and reaching out to untrained strangers for validation and support online.
While it’s good to check ourselves, heightened feelings of insecurity – be it down to low self-esteem or mental health issues – will make someone more prone to doubting their reasonable nature.
So it’s good to know where your personal starting point is when calling your rationality into question.
It might be the case that someone is genuinely being unreasonable, but what’s ‘reasonable’ is hard to define, as Neil Wilkie, relationship expert, psychotherapist and author tells us.
‘There is no absolute definition of “reasonable” – it is all perception,’ says Neil.
‘Each partner in a relationship will have their own definitions and they will vary according to the context, what the topic is and how they are feeling at the time.’
If you’re questioning whether you’re being unreasonable, Neil suggests you step back and consider ‘whether your feelings were well expressed and reasonable to you.’
You can break this down by reflecting on: how defensive your partner is being, whether this is a recurring pattern, whether this impinges on a core value of yours, and if you feel unheard.
Neil says the hard truth that women regularly deliver on the forum is that: ‘Your feelings belong to you and no one has the right to hijack them and dismiss them.
‘If your partner continues to insist that you are unreasonable, when you feel that you are being reasonable, that is not a sustainable relationship.’
Determining where to draw the line though is tough because inevitably, our past experiences do affect the way we approach the present – particularly if there are unhealed wounds.
If you’re genuinely feeling undecided over how ‘reasonable’ your actions have been, Kate Moyle, relationship expert for sexual wellness brand LELO, says you need to dig deeper.
‘Sometimes we experience something not just in the present, but also in our experience of what that feeling was like historically,’ notes Kate.
‘A way of visualising it might be like an emotional bruise – it feels more tender or sore to the touch.
‘It can be helpful to recognise our experiences or sensitivities if this feels like it’s happening – and bring ourselves back into a more logical headspace and reassuring ourselves.
‘It can also help to explain this to our partner.’
Kate adds that you could simply say what certain situations trigger in you, which would open up the conversation over what is and isn’t reasonable.
If reasonability is determined by personal judgement, it might a good idea to define that better as a couple.
Be mindful of starting sentences with ‘you’ when having that conversation, Kate warns, which can make someone feel blamed.
Knowing your boundaries is a good first step to recognising whether a demand, concern or enquiry is unreasonable.
Sometimes boundaries are instinctive, other times they are proactively set.
‘In relationships we should work to understand what these are for each other, and then we can work together or understand when we or our partners are feeling more reactive,’ Kate says.
They’re important to figure out as Kate tells us they bring greater recognition to our feelings and reactions, which can be hard to gauge if emotional manipulation is at play and affecting your judgement on how reasonable you are.
‘Gaslighting is a form of manipulation that can happen in relationships, and can be emotionally abusive to the point of a partner questioning events or memories, and their thinking about what is going on around them,’ Kate explains.
So when Indiana29 asks on Mumsnet whether she’s being unreasonable by suspecting her partner is exploiting her financially and Jelbo questions whether it’s unreasonable for her partner to be jealous of her having friendships outside of their romantic relationship, the answers are probably no.
And in writing those posts to begin with, something inside is probably telling them that too.
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