Shut (me) up, put (me) down
May 23, 2012 12:10 AM Subscribe
My boyfriend of two years feels compelled to put me down, in not-so-friendly ways, for the negative tendencies he sees in me.
posted by Aleatoire to human relations (71 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Dear Metafilter: I am a 23 year old woman living in Southeast Asia and teaching at a university. This is my first time out of the United States, my first serious job, and he is my first relationship. I love him for many reasons. When we met, I was a total asocial-yet-sociable bundle of nerves and excitement, just emerging from a lifelong depression rooted in a history of parental emotional abuse. I am happier, more clearheaded and confident than ever before.
I make all the money to support us: he does not work. I bought us an expensive stone grinder from India to start a small nut butter business here, which he is happy with, but it has been slow to bear fruit. Because he is a wonderful cook, he solely takes the responsibility of making meals (though, very frequently, I clean up after him).
However, he is compelled to constantly criticize me: he cannot forgive any absent minded action but instead reproaches me for small mistakes -- such as accidentally dripping a bit of water on the floor as I am doing the dishes or sometimes not noticing that I could be helping him do something without him asking. He justifies this by saying that he has "dealt with my lack of awareness for over two years" and though it is nearly always something different, he always says it is an expression of the same thing: namely, my being (in his words) "braindead" and "helpless child". When I react emotionally to these words, he gets very angry and tells me to stop being defensive. He claims that telling me that I am "retarded" is a more effective stimulus for change than positive, loving language. He says that, after having to suffer my lack of awareness for two years, he refuses to talk to me in a kind way because my words of recognition and apology are empty and speaking to me kindly would be an undeserved indulgence. Whenever he corrects me on particulars, I express how I understand how I could have acted otherwise and almost always do remember for next time; however, he says that I never learn from his constant reminder to be more aware.
He prohibits me to express, either verbally or through my actions, that I am tired when I come home from an early morning and a long, sweaty day of teaching. He gets angry at the way I respond to him: if I do not reply using the exact words he was using, I am grossly disfiguring his message with my thesaurus-mind. He refuses the correlation between what I am saying and what he said, but only hears that I did not speak in his terms. I love the philosophical and poetic; his words often feel oppressive.
I know that I can be awkward at times. I know that I am prone to shyness and daydream. However, I am hurt by his lack of forgiveness and insistence on being a hard-ass on me. I find no peace in the feeling of being constantly judged by someone who supposedly loves me: he tells me he gets upset with me and drills me with this unkind language because he sees my potential -- to be much more aware -- that I do not push myself towards fully embodying. I would be grateful for your advice on how to better react to his harshness.