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Woman With Facial Tic Smiles At Innapppriate Times, And Her Boyfriend Just Doesn't Get It

One of my closest friends growing up had a tic that made him involuntarily shake his head as if a fly was buzzing around him. Those of us who knew him understood to just ignore it, but hanging out with him in public meant a never-ending stream of explaining, or people looking around for bugs that didn't exist. One woman thought he was feverishly disagreeing with her and took offense to it. For people with tics - especially facial tics - your days can sometimes be full of sending nonverbal signals that you don't mean to send, and then having to explain it over and over. One Reddit user has a tic that makes her smile when she's feeling emotional tension - and it's been seriously affecting her relationship.


Unfortunately, the girls boyfriend keeps responding to her tick as if it's something she is doing on purpose and it's causing some serious issues. Here is her original post:

I (23F) have a tic that causes me to smile during inappropriate times. This has been triggering fights with my boyfriend (24M)
I involuntarily smile during inappropriate times since I've been a teenager. It happens during very tense moments. For example, when I've been in therapy and have talked about having suicidal thoughts, I grin uncontrollably.
It's especially bad when people are angry with me, and it has caused fights to escalate in the past between me and people I am close to. I will smile when apologizing to my boyfriend of 8 months or when he is yelling at me, and I cannot stop unless I put my hands over my mouth. It makes him question my sincerity and confuses him. He will do things to antagonize me like laugh in my face when I am telling him how I feel because he thinks I am lying about not being able to help it.
I know that people misread my emotional expressions, which is why I prefer to have intense conversations over the phone, but my boyfriend wants to talk in person when he is upset. I have been in therapy for a while, but it hasn't helped with the smiling and I am at a loss for what to do.
tl;dr I smile uncontrollably when my boyfriend is angry at me, but I can't convince him that it's not intentional. How do I come off as sincere when we are having arguments?
Edit: Sorry, I don't have the time to respond to everyone's comments, but I appreciate the outpouring of support! I'm reading every one and will try and post an update in the next week or so.

u/hysteria_voucher


Reddit didn't hold back with their responses. Here are some of the most honest reactions we found - edited for language and clarity when needed.

Like A Hyena

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Laughter and smiling as a response to stress or trauma are pretty common.

I laugh like a hyena when I'm in pain. Its a thing, it is known.

Your boyfriend sounds like a jerk though, antagonizing you and making fun of you to your face, that's not a nice thing.

- charlzebub

Change Your Boyfriend

If you can't change your behavior, you can always change your boyfriend. Your problem is pretty unusual, but it's a failure of empathy on his part that he can't get past that is a known issue you have, and even mocks and antagonizes you for it. Imagine if you had a limp, and everytime you couldn't keep up with him in public he yelled at you to go faster, caricatured how you walked, and punished you for not being capable of walking without one. Would you tolerate that? If you saw someone else doing that to someone, would you think the guy was a gigantic douchebag?

If you're doing everything in your power to correct or prevent your smiling from happening, he doesn't really get to react the way he does. As he does it anyway, I think what we have here is an implacable incompatibility between you two.

- Brampl420

Give A Heads Up

I have this problem it's really hard to control. My mom has hit me because if it as a child, cause to her i was laughing at her while she was angry at me.

So now i cry uncontrollably or laugh when very nervous, no inbetween lol. I remember smiling like an idiot when my husband was going through a rough time but i was upset with him not laughing! He didn't notice i hid it well. Hands on face and looking away usually helps.

What i do is i preemptively say that I'm gonna smile if i feel it coming but reassure the person i am not laughing. I feel so bad when it happens that it makes it worse!!

- phiexox

Just A Quirk

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I have a smile tic also. Funerals are the worst for me because I can't stop smiling, or if something bad is happening I will laugh. I believe it is to do with anxiety and not being sure how to react, so you smile to alleviate the stress (I read this somewhere - can't find source).

However, onto the question: I think a partner should always be on your side. My partner knows about my nervous smiling and he understands it - it's just a quirk of mine. The fact your boyfriend is shouting at you and mocking you by smiling in your face when discussing serious matters is awful and you do not have to put up with this - I would never be with someone who mocks and gets angry at things I cannot control. You deserve better.

- Callan1010

UPDATE: Some Examples

I have said that, but he has done things like laugh at me or make a hand motion to signal that he's not listening to me.

And when I say "can you not interrupt me when I'm talking to mock me? It hurts my feelings and makes me feel disrespected."

He said "I can't help it"

And then I said "really? You can't help interrupting me to laugh?"

And he said, "Your viewpoint is so ridiculous that it's impossible not to laugh. You're being hypocritical for mocking me for something I can't control."

- Hysteria_Voucher

2 Options

Ok, your boyfriend straight up doesn't trust you. If someone tells you they have an uncontrollable tic, and then demonstrates that tic repeatedly you have 2 options: Believe them or decide that they are super manipulative and lying so they have an excuse to be a sarcastic asshole to your face and not suffer consequences. Your bf chose #2. That, him laughing at you when you're vulnerable, and the fact you've had enough screaming matches in 8 months for this to be an issue all tells me this is a toxic relationship.

- rabdacasaurus

Have More Respect For Yourself

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Dude, and it's only been 8 months? This guy is a douche to the tenth degree. I have been with my husband for 11 years and he has never treated me this way. You guys are supposed to be in your early young love phase and he already treats you with such disdain and resentment? Please have more respect for yourself. There are guys out there who aren't complete self centered douches to their girlfriends. A partner who loves you would see you as a partner, not as somebody to compete with or tear down. The fact that he seems to relish in mocking you is so concerning. He lacks empathy. Omg. You are breaking my heart over here. You could do so much better. :(

- invaded_by_mother

He Thinks You're A Liar

I do the same thing. It's actually not uncommon. It often makes people angrier and they'll sometimes ask, "Do you think it's funny? Do you?" and it makes them escalate.

I don't think it's funny at all. In fact, sometimes I'm fucking terrified. But I can't control that stupid, smirking grin. Neither can my brother. We both have it, and when we'd get in trouble simultaneously as kids, mom would be furious because we're grinning at her when she's trying to discipline us. It's a really shitty deal.

A major issue here is that people feel disrespected by our facial expressions when it's something we can't really control. I have to focus on controlling my face when I should be listening to the other person. Your boyfriend feels disrespected when you do this, so he thinks the appropriate response is to disrespect you. He also thinks you're a liar.

That's something you should look at here. Even when my mom felt disrespected by my brother and I, because we're smiling, she didn't respond by disrespecting us. And even though she still finds it upsetting or unnerving when it happens, we've had enough talks that she believes me when I say that it's not a reflection of my feelings or opinion on the situation.

You still have a problem because of that tic, but your boyfriend is also an actual problem here: because he thinks you're a liar, and because he thinks an appropriate response to feeling disrespected is to antagonize and mock you. That's not how a loving partner behaves. So... I really think you should dump him.

Something I do sometimes is, when I'm dating someone, if I'm nervous or scared in a situation but I'm smiling, I'll admit out loud to how I feel-- and sometimes, that opens the conversation to the fact that my smiling doesn't mean I'm happy or flippant. But that's something to consider for future dating experience. I really think your current boyfriend is just a legitimate as$hole.

- Yukimor

I have Tourette's, which comes with lots of involuntary tics, some of which are inappropriate facial expressions. I used to have the grinning tic you have.

Your boyfriend is ignorant, and he has to learn the hard way that you're not joking about your condition. I've dealt with assholes like him before - people who think it's all in your head and you can control it if you just have more willpower. I got a cashier fired years ago for cornering me and lecturing me about how I just had a "lazy mind" for not "controlling" my tics. I'm telling you now, he will never just come around and start believing you.

Also, talk therapy won't ever make a tic go away. I'd recommend talking to either a psychiatrist or a neurologist to get some more solid answers, you may have a tic disorder. Even if you don't, you shouldn't apologize for it, it's nothing you can control.

- stablersabadcop

Not What Love Looks Like

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My wife has a really hard time talking during arguments and while it really upsets me I always tel her it makes me angry she isn't saying anything but that I love her and need for her to try to talk to me. And even though it's hard she tries and talks and I wait and stop talking until she's ready. That's what love looks like, not what you're doing with this fella.

- thehotdogman

H/T: Reddit

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