Ask Amy: Partner’s startling response bears scrutiny

Dear Amy: My partner and I have been living together for five years. We are both in our 60s and each have grown children. We are together almost 24/7. We get along beautifully.

For as long as I can remember, I get startled very easily. If someone walks quietly into a room, I jump and gasp in shock and fear.

I really can’t help reacting this way. I’ve never had a horrible trauma that might cause it. I do remember many years ago my father quietly entering a room and my mother jumping with fear when she saw him. My father seemed to find this funny (or entertaining), even knowing how angry she got with him for startling her.

Now my partner does this same thing to me, and I hate it!

Amy, he claims it is my fault for not anticipating that he will walk into the same room, since it’s only the two of us at home. But how can I?

We have had numerous intense arguments about this and it still happens at least a few times a week. If I’m reading, cooking, or doing anything quietly by myself, I’ve asked him to make some kind of noise before approaching me. If he does, I’m not startled, but he says he forgets to do this (most of the time).

I really don’t know how to change my startled response, but — like my father — I think he secretly gets a kick out of watching me react the way I do, and it really cheeses me off!

Please, any suggestions?

— Fraidy Cat