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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.

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.
posted by Aleatoire to Human Relations (71 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
He claims that telling me that I am "retarded" is a more effective stimulus for change than positive, loving language.

Well, he's being abusive so he would say that.

I would be grateful for your advice on how to better react to his harshness.

I make all the money to support us: he does not work.

I would suggest you leave because he is using you.
posted by mleigh at 12:23 AM on May 23, 2012 [105 favorites]


I would be grateful for your advice on how to better react to his harshness.

From what you've written here, I would react to his verbal abuse (and that is what his behaviour is) by ending the relationship.

Honestly, he sounds like a horrible human being and you deserve a partner who treats you kindly and with respect, not someone who calls you 'retarded' for dripping water on the floor when you do the dishes.
posted by Defying Gravity at 12:24 AM on May 23, 2012 [34 favorites]


He claims that telling me that I am "retarded" is a more effective stimulus for change than positive, loving language

he tells me he gets upset with me and drills me with this unkind language because he sees my potential

Your phrasing here makes it sound like you realize that what he's claiming/saying and what is the actual fact are two very different things. I mean, you do know that, right? Because there is certainly nothing loving or supportive about belittling somebody. You have every right to react emotionally towards such treatment. I'm sure I'm not the only one who will point out that what you describe seems controlling and abusive.

From what you've written I really can't see any better advice to give than that you react to his harshness by getting yourself the heck out of this relationship.
posted by DingoMutt at 12:25 AM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would be grateful for your advice on how to better react to his harshness.

"I am not going to continue to be in a relationship with you if you treat me like shit."

Then leave him if he continues to treat you like shit. He is not your only chance at happiness; far from it.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 12:26 AM on May 23, 2012 [45 favorites]


Honestly, he sounds emotionally abusive, and I do not think you are the problem here. When anyone "prohibits" someone, especially a loved one, to express thoughts and feelings, s/he is being controlling and mean. When someone uses derogatory language and reacts disproportionately negative to normal life happenings, such as dripping water on the floor while doing the dishes, s/he has is being demeaning, has poor coping skills, and is projecting his own issues onto you. When being kind is considered to be an "indulgence" and accepting apologies, warranted or not, is an impossibility, someone is being unyielding and cruel. There is a difference between a couple working together to bring out the best in each other and someone being belittling and overbearing in the form of "correcting" your supposed deficiencies (many of which are probably not even a reality). I would suggest going to therapy together, but he does not sound like someone who would respond to couples' counseling. I'm also not one to jump to DTMFA, but for your own sake, consider leaving him. What you describe is very troubling, and you deserve so much better. You do not need to learn how to react better, you need to free yourself from his abusive treatment of you and this toxic relationship. No one should be treated in the manner you describe. Best of luck.
posted by katemcd at 12:29 AM on May 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ugh. This an unhealthy dynamic that is bordering on abusive and is not doing you any favours. Good partners in healthy relationships do not call their partners names or attempt to control their actions. You react to this by asserting *boundaries*. Draw lines around yourself that he is not allowed to cross. Don't apologize for yourself. "I know I spilled some water. That happens and I'm not going to apologize for it; I suggest you try not to worry about it". "I am not braindead or helpless, and I won't tolerate being called names." "It's hard for me to anticipate your needs if you don't ask. I can see you're upset, but I've done nothing wrong; if you want me to help you, you need to ask me first." "I won't tolerate criticism of my personality. This is me, and if you don't like it, you will have to adjust."

Everyone has their quirks. Being made to apologize endlessly for them is going to grind you into dust. Do not apologize for being yourself. Do not let him criticize you for who or what you are -- this is over the boundary and not fair game. Stick to this firmly firmly firmly. Do not say sorry just because he's upset. Do not let him test you and poke your boundaries and get in your head. And then try to get some time to yourself, away from him, so you can see that this relationship is bad for you.
posted by PercussivePaul at 12:30 AM on May 23, 2012 [21 favorites]


By putting (this parasite) out of your life. He doesn't sound the least bit nice. This may be your first relationship, but it's not a healthy one where the partners are equal. He needs to climb down off his high horse and get a job, and you need to realize that there are much kinder people who will treat you with the respect you deserve. They're out there: think about those you work with and those you are friends with.

I promise you, the good ones are out there.
posted by SillyShepherd at 12:36 AM on May 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


I've quoted this in askmefi before, so I'll just paraphrase now: he will never ever treat you like an equal because he will never acknowledge that you are - you need to decide for yourself what is acceptable and what is okay and take that for yourself. And it's hard to do.

My vengeful hindbrain wants you to try toddler style behaviour anlysis when he does this, the way I talk to my toddler if she starts being mean. "I'm sorry you feel this way, but we don't talk like that to people" repeated over and over, with "we ask nicely - can you say please pass me the toy instead of yelling" and "oh, thank you for asking nicely". But that won't work. It just brings you to his level.

My experience has been that you walk away. Maybe from the argument, probably the relationship, but you can absolutely say "no. Stop. You do not get to say these things to me." You can do this, it's okay.

And whatever else may come, life without constant negative harping gets so much easier.
posted by geek anachronism at 12:37 AM on May 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


1. I'm so sorry you're being subjected to this treatment. 2. These comments your boyfriend makes are vile, degrading, and abusive and they will wear you down until you feel like you're completely worthless, if you don't already. 3. Please consider showing him this thread.
posted by Cortes at 12:38 AM on May 23, 2012


He claims that telling me that I am "retarded" is a more effective stimulus for change than positive, loving language.

HELL. FUCKING. NO.

Of course this isn't effective at helping you grow as a person. That's not what it's supposed to do. You know what it is really effective at? Making you doubt yourself and constantly police yourself for something you're doing wrong and try not to upset him, because really you're lucky he's with you because come on who really wants to be with someone they call retarded, he's mostly just doing it to be nice, probably, right? It's meant to diminish you and shake you and make you grateful to him for the attention he deigns to give you.

Speaking to you the way that he does is not the way a loving person speaks to their partner. Ever.

I would be grateful for your advice on how to better react to his harshness.

I would react to his harshness by breaking up with him. If you were in North America, you could come stay in my spare bedroom. Hell, I'm sure I know somebody who knows somebody in Southeast Asia. Do you need a spare bedroom? Let me know.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 12:42 AM on May 23, 2012 [16 favorites]


It just occurred to me that last night I dripped water while I was doing the dishes, and by "dripped water" I mean "sloshed an entire jug of dishwater water all along the back of the sink, behind the microwave, onto the floor, etc etc etc." My fiance was standing right next to me, and she burst out laughing over my incoherent cursing as I lunged for something to mop up with. Her laughing was kind, though, and silly in a way that put the whole thing in perspective for the minor non-event that it was. This afternoon I spilled a truly revolting dish of old pudding (don't ask) as I was trying to move it to the sink, spattering a good chunk of the kitchen with stuff you really don't want to think about. This time my partner knew exactly what had happened as soon as she heard the noise from the other room. She immediately got the dog out from under my feet and asked if she could help clean up that disgusting mess she had in no way contributed to.

These are the types of things that one would hope for and expect in a mate. Two ridiculous messes (caused by my eternal clumsiness), and never once did I even get chided, let alone insulted. She made me feel better in both cases - put things in perspective, helped when she could, and made me feel like I was truly part of a partnership and not some wayward child she needed to "fix" by whatever way she deemed appropriate. You deserve that, too, and sadly, it does not sound like this is the person who will give it to you.

If he will not respect and support you in the way you want and deserve to be supported, you would be well rid of him.
posted by DingoMutt at 12:42 AM on May 23, 2012 [50 favorites]


This sounds more like a hostage situation than a relationship. This is emotional abusive. You've moved from one kind of abusive relationship into another.

I realise this is the first person you've ever been in love with so it will be 10x harder for you to break it off, but please take this lesson to heart: loving someone isn't enough. You need to have standards for how you are treated in a relationship. This relationship would fail to meet even the most basic standard for kind, supportive, treats you well.

You've broken free before; I have faith in you that you can do it again.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:52 AM on May 23, 2012 [20 favorites]


It can be really really confusing (especially if you're new to relationships) when someone that you love, and think loves you, starts talking to you like that. You try to rationalize things, and don't realize exactly how ugly it is to talk to someone that way.

To me, the word "belittling" doesn't really do it... in some contexts it just that... but "belittling" from someone that is supposed to love you and support you is "dehumanizing"... so is not accepting or allowing someone to be in a state of tiredness. You're also extra vulnerable because you're quite alone being in a foreign country.

All of these things add up to something pretty shitty.

Don't try to fix it.

Don't let this guy screw you up.

Good luck, I've been there- its hard.
posted by misspony at 12:55 AM on May 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Nthing everyone: tell him to stfu and gtfo.
posted by jacalata at 12:56 AM on May 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Be strong and walk away. Save yourself the torment of wasting any more time with him. He will always be controlling and manipulative. If you walk away you will bring the strength of leaving him with you. Sends a message to future lovers that you are not the type to mess around with.
posted by Kale Slayer at 12:58 AM on May 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


He cannot forgive
He justifies
He gets very angry
He tells me to stop
He corrects me
He says I never learn
He prohibits me
He gets angry
He refuses
He only hears
He drills me
His harshness

I am hurt
I find no peace


I am so sorry. It sounds like you have a great (if stressful) job in an exciting place and you are understandably confident about your abilities, your successes, and your potential. You are not an absent-minded, awareness-lacking, braindead, retarded, helpless, childlike, defensive, over-indulged, undeserving-of-kind-words, message-disfiguring person. You have done NOTHING that needs to be forgiven. He is not superior to you. You have nothing to prove to him. There is no reason that he should be able to declare that the way he see things and wants things to be is how they are and must be, and that it is your job to strain to decipher the unknowable way to model your every word and action and emotion to please him.

What you have described is a toxic, abusive relationship. There is nothing in your post to suggest there is reason to believe it will improve. So your mission now, as the sole captain of the Good Ship Aleatoire, is not, in fact, find a way to better react to the fierce, damaging winds and monstrous waves of his harshness, it is to steer your ship away from the storm toward a safer harbor. Please end this relationship. Now. I understand and believe that you love him, but the force of how cruelly he treats you will continue to bash you against the painful rocks and ultimately wreck you. Please don't hesitate to ask any of us for any kind of support we can provide, including directing you to expert resources. I'm so glad you wrote, and I know you find a path that allows you to fully thrive. Memail me any time.
posted by argonauta at 12:59 AM on May 23, 2012 [64 favorites]


speaking to me kindly would be an undeserved indulgence.

Being spoken to kindly isn't an 'indulgence' you earn by being good enough at things. Being spoken to kindly is a basic, ground-level obligation your partner has towards you. He doesn't want you to realise that, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't.
posted by Catseye at 1:16 AM on May 23, 2012 [20 favorites]


Jesus H Christ, dump this guy. He's an emotionally abusive user. This will not get better.
posted by violetk at 1:18 AM on May 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


- Please do not show him this thread. He's abusive and manipulative and showing him this thread will get you nothing but trouble.

- What is the story with your lease? I suspect you will need to leave him and the apartment rather than the other way around. Quietly start making your plans.

- Honey. I'm so sorry about your upbringing. I'm from there, too. You've chosen a romantic partner that abuses you because on some level, it is familiar. YOU CAN GROW OUT OF THIS. You are not doomed. You are not damaged goods or irredeemable in any way. You are wonderful! And you are 23 years young! And on MetaFilter where you can check in about choices and situations! Hooray for you and your future!!

- I suspect what your bf is commenting on is called "dissociation." It's, like, when you check out mentally. It is common in abuse survivors. You're normal. There is help for this.

Leaving this guy behind will be the BEST first step you can make in your new, healthy life. Go for it.

PS - don't support this guy financially once you leave him, and absolutely go 100% "no contact" once you are free. If you remain in touch, he'll sweet talk you and manipulate you to keep you in his life so he can keep using you. Be strong. He's an adult, and the type who will never ever take responsibility for himself as long as he can manipulate someone else into bearing that weight for him. He's a user. Be strong and close the door on this episode for good by refusing to carry him any further in life.

And yes. There are many many awesome people out there to date. Go find one of those when you've recovered a bit and feel sure-footed again.

Best.

-
posted by jbenben at 1:24 AM on May 23, 2012 [26 favorites]


Really, truly, he sounds like a manipulative jerk and you are so so young. You should break up with him ASAP. Please don't waste any more of your precious time on this guy. As far as how to respond to his very next criticism? You should point out the fact that you are supporting him, and that he is lucky you don't kick him out for speaking to you like that. And then...kick him out anyhow. Or leave and cut your losses and find a new place.

The whole part where you're not allowed to be tired after a long day? When he doesn't even have a job?!? WTF?!!! That's not normal or ok at all. If someone tried to tell me not to express my tiredness (especially in this situation), they would have an ear full of foul foul language. Like seriously, that could come to blows. Your whole question actually makes me want to punch this guy, or at least yell at him a bunch. Loudly.

I think the fact you have "a history of parental emotional abuse" might be playing into the fact you don't seem to realize you are being emotionally abused right now by your boyfriend. Good thing you came to the internet to get some objective opinions - looks like it's 100% on the side of, he's lucky he's had you this long. Dump him! No ifs ands or buts on this one.
posted by smartypantz at 1:26 AM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


OP, I see from your question and especially from the comment you favorited, that you are looking for strategies and we haven't really been offering those up.

The thing is, when someone like you describe goes as far as your bf has in defending his awful awful behavior towards you, the only strategy that works in the end... is to end the relationship.

This thread isn't a case of us ignoring you or your feelings for this person, it's decades of first-hand experience telling you this isn't fixable in the way you currently believe it might be. Your bf doesn't even want to get a job to support your household in any meaningful way, truthfully, he's not going to put in the self-work required to change from being an abuser and manipulator into someone more lovely and loving towards you.

I just wanted to let you know I don't think anyone is ignoring your request for strategies, more like, we're concerned for the situation you are in. It's not good, and there is no evidence in the universe you can improve it.

All the love in the world won't change this guy. The kindest thing you can do for him is get out of his way and let him go. It hurts you both if you stick around for more of the same treatment. You're not helping him by supporting him because supporting him is only helping him to continue being a not so nice person. Do you see what I mean? He's not going to grow up or ever be his best self while he's engaged in manipulating and abusing others, or in this specific case, while he's actively manipulating and abusing you.
posted by jbenben at 1:45 AM on May 23, 2012 [33 favorites]


I too, having moved away from a screwed-up family to a foreign country, chose as my first long-term boyfriend a chap who was charming, intelligent, talented-- and then turned into the Sniper From Hell (while, similarly, not working and leeching off me). It took me three years to be rid of him. Don't be me.

This guy was your training-wheels boyfriend. He was useful relationship experience with some salutary lessons in What Not To Do. That was his purpose; you've learned all you can from him and outgrown him. I'm always hesitant to tell people what to do, especially telling them to break up, but: look to the future. Consider the rest of your life and all the better things it could hold if he weren't standing in the doorway, blocking the light.

And please, please don't internalise his snipey little voice telling you that tiny, everyday things are signs that you're worthless. They're not. They're signs that you're human. Give yourself permission to screw up, in small ways and large ones, and still be okay as a person and a partner. Let that permission be louder than his voice. Fade his voice into nothingness. A good therapist can help you with this, if necessary.

(One warning, though: the next step in screwed-upness is to date someone nice, think they must be worthless for liking you, make the same sort of negative comments on them, and inwardly despise them when they stay. If you catch yourself doing this: Therapy. Pronto. Or at least, think hard about what was done to you and what you are doing.
posted by Pallas Athena at 2:03 AM on May 23, 2012 [9 favorites]


-He constantly criticizes you
-He can't forgive your small mistakes (especially when you are doing something that he isn't even helping you out with)
-He says that he has put up with your lack of awareness for over two years
-He calls you brain dead and a helpless child
-He puts the blame on you without accepting responsibility for the way that he treats you
-He calls you the r word (I refuse to say this word. I cringe when I hear people use it so lightly, let alone when it's directed at someone!)
-He puts you down in order to get you to follow his ways... and the list goes on

I don't say this often, but DTMFA. This is only going to get worse over time-that's how abuse is. Then, get therapy.

I completely agree with jbenben-don't show your boyfriend this thread. It will be used against you. That's how people like him function, they try to harm others (either physically, verbally, or emotionally) in order to feel better about themselves. Don't let him have this.

You deserve to be with someone that loves you for who you are, treats you with respect and kindness, and helps you clean up the messes (literally and figuratively) in life rather than treating you so terribly. There are plenty of other people out there that are hoping to meet someone as wonderful as you.
posted by livinglearning at 2:20 AM on May 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thank you, everyone, for sharing these experiences, for your helpful and touching comments. Guaranteed, I will be back to this little corner of virtual treasure to be reminded of some of the essentials as i am finding my way through life. I wish lightness and love to all of you.
posted by Aleatoire at 2:22 AM on May 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


Sorry, I'm late to this, but what's with "stop being defensive". You're not allowed to defend yourself?
posted by mattoxic at 2:50 AM on May 23, 2012


Remember when your dad came around and you didn't want him around? I don't know how you ultimately handled that, but when your gut/little voice inside your head/your feelings are that when you don't want somebody around, or close to you, hugging, or touching you, you are well within your rights to tell them to leave or remove yourself from their presence. This won't make you a bad person and nobody who is any sort of decent person will think any less of you for doing so.

To speak up for yourself and look after yourself, and not put up with nonsense sends a clear message that it's not okay for someone to treat you poorly. Trying to negotiate, reason with, and seeking strategies for dealing with The Crazy will only keep you in situations that having you asking questions for which the answers are pretty unanimous.

If you can read The Gift of Fear, that might help you see that attempts to be polite and nice to people who violate your sense of space and security only give them inroads to do bad things.

If you're looking for peace, you definitely are not going to find it with this guy.
posted by SillyShepherd at 3:09 AM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I really hope you dump this jerk, you sound intelligent and sensitive and you deserve a LOT better.
posted by Ziggy500 at 3:45 AM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm suggesting you get a copy of The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans, so you will have scripts for naming and responding to the various ways he talks to you.

However, if I'm honest, I think you're a lot better off just walking out and never contacting him again. That's easy to say, of course. But I don't see any ambiguities here at all. You've described someone who brings nothing to your relationship but criticism and who thinks this is a good thing.
posted by tel3path at 3:51 AM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


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.

I had a boyfriend like this, except his reason was 'they're just words' and 'calling a girl a [x] is not the same as calling a black person an [x], it's just being angry'. The fact you are telling him this upsets you and he is telling you that it is for your own good suggests this is not someone who is ready to have a relationship with an adult.
posted by mippy at 4:26 AM on May 23, 2012


This makes me so, so sad. You sound like a lovely person - kind, interesting, thoughtful, and original. Being single for the rest of your life would be better than living with this man - but you won't be single for the rest of your life, because someone as lovely as you appear to be will find someone who is worthy of you. Please be kind to yourself, OK?
posted by cilantro at 4:34 AM on May 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sweet Jesus, DTMFA.

Here's the thing. I'd make the assumption that yeah, this dude is a major asshole and this is all coming from a place where he feels inferior to you and just isn't mentally healthy or decent enough to deal with that instead of attempting to bring you down to his level.

Listen, I've dated this guy and I tell you what, dumping him angrily one day when I'd had enough was the best feeling. I walked on clouds for months afterwards, having gotten rid of him. He lived with his parents, refused to work, and then railed on me for the way I parented, the way I paid rent, the way I dealt with friends. Basically, everything. It was exhausting and while I gave him a pass for so long because this was obviously coming from a place of insecurity, one of the best days of my life was realizing that yeah, dude has mental issues but also? He's just a giant dick of a human.

You cannot fix him. He might say he loves you but his actions prove otherwise. You are 23, living in Asia, and teaching at a university?! Hell, I'm an internet stranger and I think you're damn swell! You should truly value yourself enough to recognize that this behavior on his part is not okay, not even a little, and that you didn't earn it nor do you deserve it.

Kick his ass to the proverbial curb. And good luck to you.
posted by youandiandaflame at 4:37 AM on May 23, 2012 [12 favorites]


I was in a similar situation when I was young, and I really feel for you. It's confusing and painful when the person who is supposed to love you is critical and mean all the time, no matter how hard you try to please, and somehow twists everything around to make you believe it's all your fault. You start to feel worthless, like you can't do anything right, and you worry that your partner will leave you, because you're afraid you are too messed up for anyone else to love.

The thing is, that is exactly how your boyfriend intends for you to feel. He needs to keep all the focus on what he claims are your screw-ups so that you won't be able to focus on what a loser he is. It's misdirection, all smoke and mirrors, like some sort of evil fucked-up magician.

But it's not real. You are not what he says you are. You're fine.

He's the one who is mean, critical, picky and unreasonable; he's the one who doesn't have a job and sponges off his girlfriend; who calls the sweet girl who pays his way vile names and won't even let her show that she's tired from work (because he thinks she's trying to manipulate him into feeling guilty about not being tired himself from pulling his own weight in the relationship?)

There is something wrong with this guy, and there is very little chance that it will get better. Abusers like him will only escalate when you start standing up for yourself, because they can feel you slipping out from under their power and they can't stand that. By all means start standing up for yourself and don't dance to his tune any more, just don't expect that to fix the problem.

If you leave him, you will cry and feel sad for a short time, but after that you will feel SO MUCH BETTER being away from someone who has been stifling you and keeping you on constant guard for so long. You will feel free and light and happy.

Then use this relationship as a measure of exactly what not to look for in a new partner. This will help you become the type of girl who doesn't put up with any shit from day one of a relationship, because experience has taught you that you are not willing to be treated like shit in a relationship ever again.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 4:48 AM on May 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


Girl, get out of there!! He is bad news, you have a job, you're on the adventure of a lifetime and he is toxic. Please pack up and get away from him.
posted by bquarters at 5:12 AM on May 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


I am so tired of this happening to people I care about. I have no less than 3 friends right now who are so down on themselves because their husbands say awful things about them, and once you're married it's a lot harder to get out of that situation. (And I spend a lot of time telling them the good things I see in them in an effort to counter those awful messages.) Please get out now, you deserve so much better. He sounds like the braindead, helpless child in this relationship. And don't let him guilt you into staying because you support him and he won't have support if you leave.
posted by IndigoRain at 5:13 AM on May 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


Also, understand that none of us know this man. We're only seeing him through your own eyes and your own words - which means that the people in this thread are telling you things that some very real part of you knows already: the relationship has given you many things as you established yourself as an adult for the first time, etc. but it has outlived its usefulness and turned into a hostile and unpleasant situation that you need to get out of. Best of luck to you as you find your way through.
posted by judith at 5:19 AM on May 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Imagine this from the perspective of your next boyfriend (because let's face it, unless you go clinically insane for a while, you're eventually going to end up breaking up with this guy). One day, you and your sweet, loving future boyfriend are going to have a conversation about your ex's, and you'll have to tell him about this guy who treated you like crap while you did everything for him. And although your new boyfriend (being a reasonable person) will smile and sympathize, part of him will be making a comparison here. "Jesus, what is wrong with her? I treat her so much better than that, and yet she doesn't do half as much for me as she did for that asshole. Is she maybe attracted to bad boys? Do I really want to be with somebody who subconsciously craves abuse?"

Nip this in the bud and DTMFA.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 5:23 AM on May 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


You're supporting this guy? No wonder he's abusive! Otherwise he'd have to feel like the weak one in the relationship. Here's your strategy: Make him get a job. Tell him you've took his criticisms to heart and now need the money to go into therapy to become the person he feels he deserves.

Then, go into therapy so you'll understand why you get involved with guys like this.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:36 AM on May 23, 2012


Imagine this from the perspective of your next boyfriend (because let's face it, unless you go clinically insane for a while, you're eventually going to end up breaking up with this guy). One day, you and your sweet, loving future boyfriend are going to have a conversation about your ex's, and you'll have to tell him about this guy who treated you like crap while you did everything for him. And although your new boyfriend (being a reasonable person) will smile and sympathize, part of him will be making a comparison here. "Jesus, what is wrong with her? I treat her so much better than that, and yet she doesn't do half as much for me as she did for that asshole. Is she maybe attracted to bad boys? Do I really want to be with somebody who subconsciously craves abuse?"


WTF? Whatever decision you make, please don't make it on the basis of what your hypothetical future boyfriend is going to hypothetically think about your current relationship. Odds are, your next boyfriend is not going to be the ginormous asshole described by wolfdreams01 and, in the event that he was such an asshole, you should dump him too.

You deserve happiness, you deserve peace, you deserve comfort. Just for you. Not to assuage anybody's insecurities, not to pacify future mates. This is not your fault. He is abusive and this is absolutely a tactic he's using to chip away at your self-esteem and self-worth and self-confidence. I urge you to leave as soon as you can, as soon as is safe, because you, present you!, deserve better.
posted by lydhre at 5:48 AM on May 23, 2012 [33 favorites]


I know this is marked "answered", but I did want to ask - are you confident that you can get him to leave? What is your social/legal support system like there? Are you living in university housing? I say this because when I worked in Asia (and lived in university housing!) there was actually very little material/legal support for foreign workers and some scary things happened.

Also, is he a local? If he's a local and speaks the language, you will need to plan carefully so that if any cops are involved they will be on your side. If he's also a foreigner, you will need to take care as well - IME sometimes cops don't like to get involved between foreigners.

Anyway, make a plan about how you'll either leave or get him to leave. Get friends or anyone you are close to for help. If you have no friends to call on, talk to the embassy or talk to the international hospital or talk to someone who has a long-term connection with the foreign community. (Unless your language and community skills are such that it makes sense to seek local resources.) Remember to take all the usual advice - secure your important papers, pets and important possessions before you tell him anything; have an exit strategy; have a plan for changing the locks if you are able to get him out. Have a friend stay with you if possible in the days after he leaves.

I don't want to be alarmist - perhaps he's just emotionally abusive but not dangerous - but IME when you're in a foreign country the abusive relationships have the potential to be a lot worse, both because a lot of Western guys in Asia are creeps and because foreigners can be outside the legal system and thus vulnerable. (Which is not to deny that white folks in Asia generally have way too much money and power; it's just that foreigners living and working in Asia don't have access to certain kinds of legal and social protections for daily life.)

Because he needs to leave! You're doing great to have gone abroad to teach, you're doing great to have broken with your parents and obviously you are self-aware enough to name your problems. That's fantastic! But you can see that you seeking out the abuse that you've learned to expect in your childhood. That's so common! We all repeat our childhoods, but many of us were lucky enough not be abused so we don't really think about it too much.

(IME, the trick is to sort of treat your past as a kaleidoscope - you can't get new pieces/new expectations, but you can twist them around into new forms that you like better. Ie, I've repeated some of the things my parents did that I swore I would never do - but I've reshaped those things so that they are actually almost always pretty good and I am happy, even though I could not make myself into a blank slate. Anyway, you can find people and ways of life that contain the positives of your childhood (or the things you're compelled to seek out) but that are good and supportive and kind - someone who is sarcastic sometimes but loving and yielding instead of cruel, for example.)
posted by Frowner at 6:08 AM on May 23, 2012 [8 favorites]


"Do I really want to be with somebody who subconsciously craves abuse?"

Then, go into therapy so you'll understand why you get involved with guys like this.

OP, please don't take this kind of victim-blaming to heart. It is very hard to figure out who's on your side and who isn't, when even people who are helping you are telling you the reason you're being abused is because you're so mentally disturbed and profoundly flawed that you bring it on yourself.

One of the things that makes it hard to get out of abusive relationships is - I suspect - because they're at least as common as healthy ones. I don't say this to discourage you, but to point out that even people who claim to be, and perhaps believe they are, on your side, may not treat you acceptably.

To address one of the comments above, I think a very real risk is that you'll meet another guy, he'll find out about your last abusive relationship and family background, and go "prey! all I have to do is act really nice and caring and make sure I always look just that bit better than the last guy!" I think that's a higher risk than a genuinely good guy thinking you want him to abuse you. Google revictimization and you'll see what I mean. Please read the Patricia Evans book to learn the standards, and be very careful not to tell anyone about bad ways you've been treated in the past until you're well into a relationship.

Hopefully if you leave this guy, it'll be to be in the company of someone (you) who treats you well - not necessarily with the intent of exchanging him for someone better. You may meet someone better, but hopefully you can enjoy your own good company until someone genuinely better comes along.
posted by tel3path at 6:11 AM on May 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


Or what lydhre said, too.
posted by tel3path at 6:13 AM on May 23, 2012


What are you getting out of this relationship from him? The reason that so many people are advising you to drop him is that you have said nothing about his good qualities, with the exception of his cooking skills. Maybe he has extraordinary qualities, but the reason that so many people here think you'd be better off without him is that we cannot imagine that they offset the truly terrible behavior that you describe.
posted by Mr. Justice at 6:15 AM on May 23, 2012


The answer, of course, is that you should leave him because he is treating you horribly.

One thing that struck me about your narrative are the foreign culture issue and the "tiger mom" aspect of his behavior. Regarding foreign culture, please be careful about your job and living situation when you dump him. Do you have somewhere to go? Can you make him leave? What happens if he tells bad stories about you to the school you work at? The point is, make sure you have all your ducks in a row.

Regarding tiger mom-type behavior, I'm sure I'm stereotyping horribly, but this sounds to me a lot like how he and many other people in southeast Asia may have been raised. That's not to excuse him -- and really, excusing him or not is not the point, the point is that he's treating you like crap and this relationship is not good for you -- but rather, to point out that you could encounter this sort of thing again, especially in your current location. Be on the lookout to find someone with more liberal, less traditional values and experiences.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:16 AM on May 23, 2012


Is he living with you? Kick him the fuck out. Are you living with him? Get the hell out and don't look back. Maybe take a moment or two to draw a cock on his forehead with a sharpie. This man has no redeeming value that I can see aside from the fact that he will one day be fertilizer.
posted by elizardbits at 6:30 AM on May 23, 2012 [10 favorites]


Imagine this from the perspective of your next boyfriend

The type of man you will want to be with in the future will be one whose only opinion of your past abusive relationship will be "how awful that she went through this."

If, however, there is ever any question as to why you put up with the abusive guy's shit for two years, the answer is something along the lines of "I was young, it was my first relationship and I didn't know any better. I'm older and wiser now." And you demonstrate your newfound wisdom by kicking to the curb any potential partner who wants to put you down because of it, or who assumes you are willing to be treated badly based on your past.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 6:31 AM on May 23, 2012 [19 favorites]


hey, I was in a relationship for YEARS with this guy (really, someone very much like him).

And if I, like you, had written an AsKMe question - and it would have sounded a LOT like yours - here is what I would have said a few years ago to all the people upthread who have been telling me that he is abusive and I should DTMFA and I should get out and move on:
- but we have so many good times!
- he is so smart!
- I am lonely and it is hard to meet anyone else and he loves me
- he does have some issues but without me to help, he will just get worse
- if I can find the right way to get through to him, his love will shine through and he will drop this hurtful language

Really, I would have said (or thought really hard about saying) that to all these people who did not get it because I was in love and he loved me and he had good qualities and I was not exactly Miss America myself.
So,what is my point:
I don't regret much in my life. But I regret spending a decade of my life with a man who belittled me because it made me ten years behind on getting on with my fabulous, awesome life where I have people I love and people who love me and I don't have time or inclination to put up with being treated like that.

I am not saying our situations are the same but man, this sounds scary familiar.
posted by pointystick at 6:49 AM on May 23, 2012 [9 favorites]


If you come from a certain kind of home, it can take a lot to sort things out and not keep getting into relationships like this. One of my sisters married a guy who belittled her all the time and I was always horrified to watch their dynamic. Meanwhile my own relationship was very similar. I'll tell you something; I really do believe the man I was with loved me with every fiber of his being-- in his own messed up way. Or he thought he did; whatever. I think I was sort of like his Mini-Me and he projected his negative self-image onto me and then berated me for weaknesses he saw or feared in himself. Which my father also did.

Like everyone else, I think you need to get away from this guy. I also think you're going to continue to be attracted to people like that. I'm so sorry.
posted by BibiRose at 7:44 AM on May 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


OP, I'm late to the thread but please, please, take Frowner's advice to heart. What you describe is so ruthlessly abusive that I really hope you're not in any physical danger. Unless you have ever directly defied him before you have no idea of what he's capable of, because up to now his controlling strategies have worked fine. So please take steps to protect yourself before before you re-assert your boundaries.
posted by glasseyes at 7:50 AM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have entered the discussion to say that simply from reading your post you seem very well spoken and analytical. This is a benefit to you and seeking online advice from the likes of us Metafilter friends furthers the analysis.

That said reading your post it is very obvious to intuit that yes, indeed, this is a form of abuse you are receiving.

Sometimes you need to let your intuition speak to you. Let it guide you towards a solution as much as your logic.
posted by No Shmoobles at 7:53 AM on May 23, 2012


I would be grateful for your advice on how to better react to his harshness.

"That's an unacceptable way to talk to me. You will show me the respect I deserve as a human being, or this conversation is over."

Take careful stock of his response to this. An emotionally abusive person may or may not be a physically abusive person, if pushed or threatened. For that reason, I would NOT suggest giving him an outright ultimatum (If you treat me this way I will leave you) because that level of a threat could immediately turn this into a physically abusive situation, I fear. But listen and observe very carefully how he responds to your statement that you are demanding respect from him. If he can't do it, then you don't give an ultimatum - you just go.
posted by jph at 7:54 AM on May 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Then, go into therapy so you'll understand why you get involved with guys like this.

OP, please don't take this kind of victim-blaming to heart. It is very hard to figure out who's on your side and who isn't, when even people who are helping you are telling you the reason you're being abused is because you're so mentally disturbed and profoundly flawed that you bring it on yourself.


Suggesting therapy is not calling you mentally disturbed. It's not even "blaming." The overwhelming response to DTMFA is a clue that everyone else sees something obvious going on that is not that obvious to you. That doesn't make you "mentally ill," but does mean you could use some perspective.
posted by Obscure Reference at 7:56 AM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


What you have is The Verbally Abusive Partner

The thing to remember is he acts like he does out of weakness and fear. Which he learned from whoever did the same thing to him when he was a child. So, he has the equivalent of a black belt in emotional karate. You will never get his approval if you seek it.

And you can't win an argument with a verbal abuser -- he feels he has too much to lose.

But you can learn some verbal judo. Instead of futilely hitting back with an attempt at a blistering counter attack, you can learn to help him trip himself up with some gentle guidance. If he is worth the trouble. Only you can know this.

So, if you want to try to work it out, consider studying Suzett Haden Elgin's The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense:

Suzette Haden Elgin - The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense - Overview

But understand that it takes work and understanding to do what she describes. You may not be in relationship with this man for very long but you will learn some skills that will last the rest of your life.
posted by y2karl at 7:59 AM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


He's an abusive jerk, as noted above. He also probably has some self esteem issues going on as you are supporting him. But this is why the obvious answer wasn't so obvious to you:

Aleatoire: "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. "

You're young so you don't know that relationships aren't supposed to be like what you have. They aren't. You also feel you owe him for making you a better person. You don't.

Leave him.
posted by chairface at 8:03 AM on May 23, 2012


Look, it's not "victim-blaming" to ask the OP to see things from a different perspective.

And it's also not unreasonable to expect that a boyfriend who treats her well deserves better treatment than this current boyfriend, who treats her horribly. It's a completely fair expection, and I'm surprised that some people are claiming otherwise.

I agree entirely that a nice bf would never say anything to put her down or make her feel bad for having put herself through this. I'm just telling her what he will probably be thinking (even though he would never admit it to her). People make mental comparisons all the time, that's just a fact of life. And most people would agree that a person's past choices tend to reveal trends of behavior that a smart person would reflect on. I definitely didn't mean to degrade the OP (and I really do apologize if my earlier comment made you feel bad, Aleatoire - that was definitely not my intent) - I'm just trying to offer some perspective that may be helpful later. I'm sorry if it caused offense: I'm just being honest here.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 8:40 AM on May 23, 2012


Date someone else and go get therapy.
posted by tarvuz at 8:59 AM on May 23, 2012


Umm... no one has noticed she is posting from Southeast Asia, and presumably met this guy there?

Culture differences. In HIS culture, this is how men treat women... I'm not justifying it or saying its right. But I work (in America) with many immigrants from that area of the globe, and their man/woman dynamic surprises me on a daily basis. Other cultures follow strict traditions, and while it looks very obviously wrong to us, to them its more wrong to break tradition.

Long story short, dump the shit out of him, you sound like you have your life together and he's only dragging you down. There are literally millions of other fish in the sea, and you are an exotic foreign girl with alot to offer... I think you may feel like he's your only option, or no other option would be better. You may run into this "traditional" mindset again, but know that you CAN find someone who knows how to treat and respect women, and you DESERVE to find someone who treats you right, not this d-bag.
posted by el_yucateco at 9:14 AM on May 23, 2012


Assuming this question is being asked in good faith, you're obviously asking for our (collective) permission to leave him.

Do so.
posted by joe lisboa at 9:15 AM on May 23, 2012


just emerging from a lifelong depression rooted in a history of parental emotional abuse. I am happier, more clearheaded and confident than ever before.

Well done you!

Now imagine how much happier, more clearheaded and more confident you're going to be after realizing that you also have both the right and the strength to walk away from an emotionally abusive partner.
posted by flabdablet at 9:52 AM on May 23, 2012


I'm just telling her what he will probably be thinking (even though he would never admit it to her).

um. you have no idea what this hypothetical "he" would probably be thinking—only what you would probably think of such a person. it's a disservice to the OP to claim that would be an almost universal opinion of any future partner of hers.
posted by violetk at 9:59 AM on May 23, 2012 [8 favorites]


"Do I really want to be with somebody who subconsciously craves abuse?"

Then, go into therapy so you'll understand why you get involved with guys like this.


You are NOT doomed to be attracted to guys like this. I know so many women (including myself) who were in one verbally abusive relationship, and then never again. Or at least learned to recognize the signs and break up as soon as the dude became controlling.

The reasons I put up with my verbally abusive college boyfriend for two years:

It was my first serious relationship, and I didn't know any better

He wasn't abusive at first, and became that way very gradually

He never hit me, and wasn't physically scary (not a very big guy)

I wanted to become a better person (who doesn't?) and thought his criticisms were helping me do that

He had good qualities, so I often enjoyed hanging out with him--but I never knew when he was going to freak out

Does that sound like your situation? A lot of people have been there. (This dude was American, by the way. There's abuse in every culture.) And you know what? I dumped him, and it was really hard, and I felt awful for a month. But then I realized I didn't have to get yelled at for nothing all the time, and it was amazing. I've never regretted dumping that guy, I don't miss him, even a little, and I've never been in a relationship like that again. And my current, awesome boyfriend doesn't judge me for having that in my past, either.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 10:01 AM on May 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


Like others in this thread, I have experienced a relationship very much like the one you describe, and though leaving was terribly hard, I regret only that it took me so long to do.
It is impossible to justify his bad behavior, and I don't think any rationalization you have for staying with this person can be adequate. He is not the reason that you are "happier, more clearheaded and confident than ever before." That comes with your newfound freedom and independence, which you are putting in jeopardy by staying with this person. Don't waste any more of your short, precious life with him!
posted by Edna Million at 11:32 AM on May 23, 2012


I am happier, more clearheaded and confident than ever before.

Please dump him! It sounds like you've really outgrown whatever he had to offer when you met him and I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how well you do without him.
posted by EatMyHat at 12:05 PM on May 23, 2012


Oh girl. Do you really need to put up with this for one more minute? You're worth so much more than this belittling treatment this guy has dumped on you. Please DTMFA and move on.
You will be pleasantly surprised to find that there are lots of normal guys who will treat you in a loving manner. Please don't stay in a relationship that makes you feel bad about yourself.
posted by Lynsey at 12:34 PM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


he refuses to talk to me in a kind way [...] speaking to me kindly would be an undeserved indulgence [...] He prohibits me to express...

This is not how loving relationships work. Being kind is never an undeserved indulgence. Hell, I speak kindly to my cats after they puke on the carpet, why shouldn't you deserve better?

I know that I can be awkward at times. I know that I am prone to shyness and daydream.

These are not defects. I am like that too, and I have friends like that, and I love them and they love me. And everybody is awkward at times!

You escaped emotional abuse from your family, and that's great! You're being emotionally abused by this man. You can escape, too.
posted by clearlydemon at 12:49 PM on May 23, 2012


I'm going to chime in with another "had a horrible first serious relationship, hasn't happened since." And, again, I had a horrible time ending it, but have never regretted doing so.

I don't know what it is about first loves, maybe you can't accept how much better things can be a few months after the end of a relationship until you've gone through it at least once. I see it as a graph with a low that dips down even more during the break up, but then steadily climbs further past where it was during the relationship.

Things are going to get worse, but they have to get worse before they get better. And it WILL be better.
posted by Dynex at 1:07 PM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


You don't have a choice about who your parents are, but you do have a choice about who your boyfriend is.
posted by benbenson at 1:47 PM on May 23, 2012


I just wanted to add that I had the awful, verbally and emotionally abusive first relationship as well. And none of my subsequent partners have thought less of me for having been in that relationship, even when I've inadvertently insulted them by keeping to the protective behaviours I developed in order to avoid the abuse. They know that I was not conciously thinking they were going to take away my music, or refuse to let me play games - they know it's just an emotional hangover.

But, more important that that, it this what you want for the future. If this all freezes and he gets no worse but also no better, do you want this to be happening to you in ten years time? Five? Two? Do you want someone you love to be treated like this? Would you stand by an allow it? Love yourself as much as you love someone else (just pretend you do, if you can't actually let yourself love yourself).
posted by geek anachronism at 4:14 PM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


You deserve better. There will be someone out there that can be an affirming, supportive and loving partner for you, but this person is not the one. You are a hard working, generous, kind and talented person who needs to continue to move forward with her life.

Take care of yourself.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:28 PM on May 23, 2012


This man is emotionally and verbally abusing you! Run, don't walk away from this jerk. Repeat this to yourself as many times as it takes until you believe it. "I am an intellegent, beautiful woman who does not deserve this man's abuse. I am not his emotional punching bag. I am fine on my own."
posted by sybarite09 at 7:13 AM on May 24, 2012


Intelligent=intellegent. Sheesh, it's been a long morning.
posted by sybarite09 at 7:17 AM on May 24, 2012


And it's also not unreasonable to expect that a boyfriend who treats her well deserves better treatment than this current boyfriend, who treats her horribly. It's a completely fair expection, and I'm surprised that some people are claiming otherwise.

Yeah, no. I only know assholes who would think "but she tiptoed around her abusive boyfriend for years, why doesn't she offer me the same self-abasing devotion?" ONLY ASSHOLES. Because a healthy person would acknowledge that the things she's doing for this guy are the result of the cruel emotional manipulation of a good, kind person.

"Better treatment"? What's better treatment here, supporting him while he doesn't work? Cleaning up his messes? Only speaking in the words he allows her to use? Yeah, hopefully her future boyfriend isn't such a dumbass.
posted by stoneandstar at 3:28 PM on May 28, 2012


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