- Dr. Love in the Media
Lady Who is Feeling Verbally Beaten
May 11, 1998 Ask Dr. Love Advice Column
I've been in a relationship for six years and it's been really hard, I feel as though he is always trying to change me to be 'a better person' I feel as though I am a good person and the way he talks to me sounds like insults and when I tell him that he says I just don't know how to communicate and I get to offended because I don't like anyone telling me anything.
That may be true to some point because I was on my own since I was 14 and I'm not used to having an authority figure over me telling me how to live my life. But I am very successful so far, I am 23 and I already own my home and I have a very stable job, and my son comes first in my life.
I don't feel like I don't know how to communicate but I have to admit ive become a little insecure about it and when I talk to him things just are not coming out right.
He questions everything I do as far as discussions ive made for myself or my son or why am I cooking like that, I feel its very hard to live under this pressure and I'm very depressed at home. one incident is one night he had an appt. after work and I didn't know when he'd be home so I ate, and when he got home I asked him if he would like something to eat.
He asked if I had already eaten I said yes, and he said I'll have the leftover pizza, but I had eaten that, so I offered to make him something else. He made the comment that I don't look out for him since their was nothing ready for him, but didn't I show concern because I did offer to make him something?
He said I always mess up his plans, I was pissed! This isn't the only time he makes comments like this, the last time I had to work late he was still at home waiting for me to cook dinner and since I had already eaten at work, he said I don't expect you to know what to do since your mother never taught you.
I really feel this is unnecessary, and my feelings are hurt, Please give me some advice I don't know if I want to be with him anymore but I don't know if all women have to deal with this in their relationships.
Wondering If All Women Deal with This
If you feel insulted by your boyfriend, then you are being insulted, and if he wants a relationship with you, he must learn to speak to you in ways that feel less assaultive. Bottom line, if he wants to be with you, he must learn to be responsive to your feelings.
You left your first family when you were 14. I can only assume that you were feeling mistreated by one or both of your parents. Now history is repeating itself with a boyfriend who mistreats you. You weren't supposed to be mistreated by your parents and you certainly aren't supposed to be criticized and mistreated by your boyfriend.
The question you asked me at the end of your letter, do other women get treated like this, tells me that you haven't been treated very well in your life. This explains why you aren't sure whether the way you are being treated is 'normal' or not.
Since I suspect that you weren't treated properly as a kid, you have no model in your head for how you are supposed to be treated now. So, I am going to give you a model, and your boyfriend, if he loves you and wants this relationship, must learn to speak to you using the model I outline.
One thing we need to get your boyfriend to understand about his behavior is that when he feels hurt, instead of owning his true feelings and talking about it with you, he stings you with insults and anger instead. The pizza story is a good example of what I am talking about. He obviously felt hurt and rejected when no dinner was made for him, and instead of telling you: I felt hurt or neglected when no dinner was made for me, he insulted and attacked you. (In a calm moment you might point out to him that many men prefer to show anger than to reveal a more vulnerable feeling such as hurt.)
The next time he insults you, I would tell him, "If you want to calmly tell me what I did (or said) and how that made you feel, I will listen and try to understand. But, if you insult me (or put me down, or call me names, or scream at me--choose whatever applies) any further, I will terminate this discussion." If he doesn't stop whatever is making you feel damaged, then walk away. If he follows you, leave the room or the house. When you meet again, if he starts insulting you, give him the same message as above, and again walk away if needed.
Bottom Line: You will no longer reward his insulting or abusive behavior with attention in any form (no responses, ongoing discussion, or yelling back). Never mind whether or not he tells you that you are crazy to feel abused. If you feel abused, listen to your own feelings. Your emotional reality is your own. The question of how you feel is not for the other person to determine.
I hope that my answer clarifies how you need to protect yourself. And, no, you are not supposed to feel the way you are feeling.
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