September 20, 1999 Ask Dr. Love Advice Column
Dr Love, I hope you answer my e-mail because I don't know where else I can turn.
My boyfriend of 6 years calls me names and says I am fat. If we disagree he get so angry, he calls me lots of nasty names. Last night he knuckle the top my head. I love my boyfriend but I am not sure why I put up with the way he treats me.
I have never been abused before and come from a very loving family. My boyfriend's mum was beat by his dad for years, her brothers threw him out eventually. She still says its just the way he was.
When my boyfriend was 4 this was. At 7 years old he was put into residential care. He was a very bad tempered child who would reck things if he couldn't have his own way. He came out of care when he was 14 years old.
His mum left to live with her boyfriend who she'd been having an affair with for some time when her boyfriend left his wife. My boyfriend joined the Territorial army at 17 and then the driving corp when he was 20 years old part time.
He is very particular. I can't seem to do anything good enough, we are buying a house and moving in a week on Saturday, I don't know what to do for the best. I don't want to leave, I believe that you can repair a relationship but I don't know where to start.
You are my last hope. I've been to counselling with two different counsellors it didn't help me because it just should me what I already know and that is that abuse is not right. Can you give me some guidance, I hope you can.
I am sorry to hear how you are being treated. Because you were raised in a loving family, you are unfamiliar with how to handle another person's aggression. Since you are untrained in this area, your fiance is walking all over you.
It's wonderful to know, in theory, that abuse is wrong, but what you need is a plan of action. First of all, we need to be sure that you are physically safe. I know that you have been verbally mistreated, and that, to this point, he hasn't touched you.
However, for the first time, he did knuckle you, which means that he has crossed over the line--now he is physically mistreating you. This man clearly has an impulse disorder. He is out-of-control, and I am concerned that you are in danger.
What your fiance needs is strong confrontation and limits. He was abused and the only kind of communication that will get through to him is a symbolic smack upside the head. The only problem is, I am not sure that you are safe in taking this stand with him.
Can we be sure that he wouldn't go even more out-of-control if you were to tell him that he may not verbally abuse you or lay a hand on you ever again? I'm not sure. So, where does that leave you?
He isn't running for help. So, you need to get help. Join an abused spouse support group so that you can gain strength by talking with other women who are or have been in your situation. The group will also help you get armed with a plan.
Right now, you are a victim. You placate, suck up to him, try to be better. That's what victims do. Unfortunately, 'making nice' just tells him that he is allowed to mistreat you.
Before you even think of taking a stand with him, you need to be sure that you are safe from retaliation. You may need to move into a shelter or obtain an Order of Protection before telling him what's what. He needs to know that you mean business, but you need to get that message out to him from a safe distance, or with outside protection.
Bullies back down when they meet up with an even bigger bully, like the law or a mean cop. The only way that he is going to take you seriously is when you take this to the mat. But make sure you are safe before you do.
As my 91 year old grandma always says, 'Honey, take shit from no one.' In the group, you would also be wise to explore why you want to stay with someone who treats you so badly.
Good luck to you.
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