- Dr. Love in the Media
He's Issued an Ultimatum
May 14, 2007 Ask Dr. Love Advice Column
Hi Dr. Love.
I am a college female and I am desperate for advice. I am in a two-year relationship with someone that I love so much, but when he does something wrong I let him get away with it after staying mad for a day or so.
However, I only did one thing wrong by not trusting him and he wanted to break up until I begged him not to. He set down rules such as I cannot look at his cell phone or ask where and with whom he goes on the weekends.
I know for a fact he had not been cheating, so I do not know why he wants to be so secretive with his phone and papers. He even asked me not to see my best friend of 12 years ever again because she was involved in the fight where I did not trust him and he feels she betrayed him.
What should I do? I cannot abandon my friend.
Should I move out and hope he realizes he was too demanding after the fight, or should I stay with him and later ask him to change his mind about these controlling rules when he calms down from the fight?
First thing, no decisions should be made in the heat of anger. Second, let's talk about what you call your habit of letting him get away with doing something wrong. What exactly does this mean? Do you mean that you don't lay down rules like he does? Does it mean that you act out your anger rather than tell him in words what he's said or done that you don't like?
It sounds to me like there isn't enough talking going on. Instead, there is far acting out of feelings. You act on your fears by going into action and checking up on him. You act on your anger by 'showing' him through behavior that you're mad. He goes into action when he's mad at you, and he expresses his anger through controlling and retaliatory behavior. Both of you need to learn how to talk to each other about your feelings instead of going into action.
By the way, his demand that you don't check his cell phone and his papers is a legitimate request. You shouldn't be going through his private property. Because he's so angry with you for having violated his privacy and for having falsely accused him, he is, unfortunately, expressing the anger by laying down the law. It would be better for him to say, in words, that he's furious at you for having violated his privacy and that he doesn't want you to do this again.
Bottom line, you both need to get down to the basics and learn how to talk about your feelings and listen and understand each other. When you both feel fully heard and understood by each other, you won't act out your anger and he won't issue all kinds of demands. These are dysfunctional tactics that are beng substituted for proper communcation.
You both need to read my book ASAP. I promise you, if you don't put the principles I outline into practice your relationship isn't going to make it. To get past your current dilemma, you need to ask him to talk to you and then you must listen and understand his feelings. Don't even attempt this until you've read the book and know what you're doing. Otherwise, the discussion will blow up in your face and you'll be in worse hot water.
When you talk, you'll want to take responsibility for your role in the conflict. Tell him that you realize he's very angry with you. Tell him that you think he's also been insulted and hurt by you.
Since you know he's a faithful man, your jealous accusations really offended him because he was being falsely accused. Tell him that you've never done him the service of understanding how much you hurt him.
After that introduction, let him talk. Repeat what he says to you and ask if you've understood him. Do not insert yourself, your opinions, or make self-justifications. Just listen and understand him. When he feels completely understood, I think he won't feel as hell bent on making you prove your loyalty to him by giving up your friend. Your listening and understanding will already prove your loyalty.
If it feels appropriate, tell him that you think that it's not good for your relationship when either of you issue edicts. In this case, ask him if he can see that the edict that you must drop your friend will only hurt your relationship with each other? Tell him that you will feel angry and resentful to be forced to comply at gunpoint and this will lead you to resent him, which will hurt your relationship. Tell him that it would be much better for the relationship if he communicates, in words, the underlying feelings that lead him to wait to issue such a demand.
You also need to become more aware of the feelings of fear that led you to snoop in the first place. Since he's faithful and you know it, this means that your snooping was triggered by a wound inside you.
My Personality Profile will help you identify and heal the wound. Each time you feel the fear, talk to him about it, link it to your childhood so he doesn't take your reaction as an accusation against him, and above all, don't act on the fear by snooping. This doesn't resolve the source of your fear and only ruins your relationship.
You both have a lot of work to do. Thank God you love each other. That's a powerful motivation. But the surest way to erode love is to either act out your anger or shove it under the rug.
My book will show you how to save your relationship.
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