I think my boyfriends father is a plain old bully and I can’t understand my boyfriends way of dealing with him. Please help, I really need some perspective on this matter.
posted by leopard-skin pill-box hat to Human Relations (23 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Boyfriend and I are in our (mid/late) twenties and have been together for almost four years now. I have met his family very early on in our relationship. We do not live together. Boyfriend moved back in with his parents due to financial issues when our relationship started and eventually moved out of in November last year.
Boyfriends father is a very dominant man who can also be very manipulative. He controls everything in the family and heavily impacts the overall atmosphere. He’s also very negative. I think I never heard him say anything positive – at least not about a person; sometimes food or tv shows get his approval, but most of the time he’s talking, he’s complaining. Also, there is a lot of swearing and calling names. When I am around he calls his wife and sons names a lot. Like multiple times per person per visit. Besides that there are general negative comments, about their weight, intelligence appearance, how they forgot to pick up after them (note: he doesn’t clean ever) etc. This stuff doesn’t limit itself to family members, but also friends, acquaintances and all kinds of people in general. Derogatory remarks are made about almost every minority imaginable. He tries to hold it in in public, but not really.
Let me sketch a typical situation that occurred twice (yes, twice) when I went on a trip with them a month ago. We were in a coffee shop and everybody finished their drinks except his wife. He wants to go on and visit something and is getting impatient. First, he orders his wife to drink her coffee. She says she’s almost finished and it wouldn’t hurt waiting two minutes. But he’s getting more and more impatient, starts commenting some more, starts calling her names and eventually gets up and leaves, even though she’s still drinking her coffee. Boyfriend and I stay and tell her she doesn’t need to rush and shouldn’t bother about him leaving, but she says something like “well, I have been drinking my coffee slowly, so we should just go”, gets up and leaves.
When I read this back, I’m stunned by how horrible it sounds on paper. I should notice that this seems the way they deal with each other mutually (the being negative, complaining, swearing and such), even though boyfriends brother and mother do so way less than his father. When his father is not around, they generally don’t really do this and they are much more okay to be around. Both his parents are extremely socially isolated and do not have close friends or other family members. They really cling to their sons. I feel like they have no idea of social norms and acceptable behaviour. His father (and the rest of the family) also do not really understand what he’s doing wrong. Even a simple statement like “l don’t like it when you say that” gets met with a complete lack of understanding and 99% of the time, he starts to argue about what’s wrong with you for feeling hurt by his comments.
Boyfriend has been to therapy last year to deal with several issues, but mostly his family. He used to also make excuses for his fathers behaviour and did everything he told him to. Now he’s much more assertive and he calls his father out (but not always) on his behaviour. I noticed that his father also seems to comment on him/ calls him names less often than he does his other son and wife. Still, if I were my boyfriend, I would call him out on that too. It even hurts me when he talks to his family members like that and often, I get furious inside because of it.
Now, the problem is, I cannot understand how my boyfriend deals with his family. He works for his father at the family business, where he works at least one day a week (he’s in college). Also, they call each other daily, sometimes multiple times a day. He also visits them almost every week, often for the whole weekend. When he visits (and I’m around to notice), he acts like he is okay with his fathers behaviour most of the time. Boyfriends strategy, approved by his therapist apparently, is to just ignore everything. He says he trained himself not to feel anything when his father starts ranting and therefor he doesn’t need to call him on it or state his boundaries. I find this unbelievable (in both senses of the word, but mostly that I really don’t believe it).
Needless to say, my family is very different. Swearing and name calling is not ever ever ever tolerated in our family and everybody is kind to each other. Everybody speaks to each other kindly and loving. I know I am at least a bit sensitive to negative comments in general because of this, but I do not feel that is a bad quality in general. I am also very conflict avoidant and if I’m uncomfortable in a situation and I can’t change it, I just leave. When people start calling me names and will not stop when I ask them to, I leave. When there are people who are very unpleasant to be around because they do not respect my boundaries, I limit my contact with them. Sure, none of my family members fall in this category, so I don’t know what I would do if that was the case.
The problem is, I cannot find a lot of understanding for my boyfriends family and the way he deals with it. Can you please tell me whether I am crazy and overreacting? I feel like I don’t know what is normal, what is acceptable and unacceptable anymore, that includes my boyfriends fathers behaviour and his way of dealing with it. I would especially appreciate to hear how other people with horrible families deal with them and what their take is on this matter, because the only people I know took (maybe) extreme measures and cut off contact with these family members. Reading recommendations that would help me understand would also welcome.