Abusive Relationships/Getting confused with my relationship
QUESTION: Hi Cathy,
my name is Sharia and I am 25 yrs of age. I am currently in a relationship with G, 28 years old. we have been together for nearly a year now and have been living together for about 5 months now.
G and I are from different countries and we met in India where we both came for our studies. I came over here about 19 months ago while G has been here for about 6 years.
The reason I am writing to you is that ever since he moved in with me (because my flat was bigger than his)things have been getting more and more confusing and I feel wrung out at times.
When we used to live separately, we never had enough time for each other. We just recently graduated from our respective colleges and have been staying at home and just enjoying being free. But G has been changing his behaviour so much and I am just hesitant in telling him something lest he takes it badly which is why I am turning to you. I guess the easiest way for both of us is that I just list out the things that have been bothering me.
- He seems very selfish in most things that he does, such as always wanting to choose what to watch on TV and stuff.
- He does not help out even a tiny bit at home and when I asked him, he either just ignores me or complains that he is tired. At times, when he sees that I am getting upset, he starts helping out but with anger and gives me the silent treatment or make as if I am not even there.
- He keeps telling me that I am the woman so I know how to do things better than him, thus it is logical that I do it and not him.
- When we wake up in the morning, he just grabs a shower and then leaves the house; sometimes for a few minutes or sometimes for hours and hangs out with his friends.
- I am quite sure it is not a girl or cheating problem because he is a real mess with women and used to be like that with me as well. He is so shy that he can't even say the initial hello. He got used to me because I just kept being around and calling him up when I found out that he loves me but did not know how to initiate a conversation between us.
- He used to pay attention to the way he dressed and looked like but nowadays he just does not care. he can go out in a torn up jeans and wrinkled t-shirt and very old flip flops and not care about it.
- Whenever I ask him to do something specific at home such as make the bed, he does it in such a way that I have to come back and do it myself. For example, when making up the bed, he will just bundle up the blankets in a ball and leave it in the middle of the bed etc...
- He can stay for hours on his laptop, not talking at all and keeps chatting with friends on political issues. Again no girls involved, just a bunch of guys.
- Whenever I just give him a peck and just want to kiss him, he either tells me wait or he just stays still with his eyes glued to his laptop screen while I try to get a miserable kiss. If it was just when he is doing something important; I would understand but it is always like that. He does not even move his head one second to even glance at me. In the end I just give up.
- In bed, he takes up more than half of the space and tells me its normal because he is a man and men are bigger than women so he needs space. I am a small woman (4'11) and kind of tiny but I honestly get squished in between him and the wall in such a way that I can't even lie on my back. I talked to him several times about this but he just reverts to it again and again.
- He knows that I have huge troubles sleeping; especially without my pillow which I got specifically for my neck. He even told me several times "you cannot sleep at all without that pillow" and i just say yes. But recently, he just takes it and leaves the one which I definitely cannot sleep with. When I try to get it back, he says that he has a neck ache and I should learn to share. So i suggested getting a second one for him but he flat out refused saying one is enough. Knowing him, he will just get angry if I just go and get one without telling him.
- Last night he asked me to find another place to sleep because I am disturbing him. I was so shocked that I just stared at him and he said I am sorry but I just can't sleep so go sleep somewhere else. I did not know what to do at that time so I just went to sleep on the couch, without my pillow. And I did not want to argue at 4am. Needless to say that I did not sleep at all the whole night.
- When we do end up arguing, he never yells but he either starts ignoring me until I apologise even if I am pretty much sure that I am not at fault or he leaves the house.
I guess this about sums it up. Am I being too demanding or is there something else going on here? I am just so confused and I don't know why but I always end up feeling like I am the one causing trouble in our relationship. I was not like this before but nowadays I just can't seem to get my bearings.
Please help me.
ANSWER: Hi Sharia,
Thank you for writing and asking about what is going on. First of all, relationships are supposed to be two people working together to get their needs met. If one party wants the other to “take care” of them, then only one party is getting their needs met. Or if one party wants to do whatever they want without concern for the other, then that party is not working towards an equal relationship. Healthy relationships work together to get their needs met. So, the question to ask yourself, is he working with you to get your needs met? Or does he operate in a manner that is only about his needs?
Some people can change but they MUST be willing to work together and learn better communication skills. Others cannot change. They expect you to revolve around their needs which appears to be happening in your relationship. So, wondering if you are too demanding may be turned around to ask yourself, am I hooked up with a guy that really cares about me and my needs? Does he really care how much room I have in the bed? Does he really care about my neck ache and needing my pillow? Does he really care about helping out around the house? Does he care when he is on the computer for hours without engaging in conversation with you?
Looking at who and what he is important like you are doing and asking yourself if you want to live like this for the rest of your life. If the answer is no, then either seek professional counseling to learn better ways to communicate or end the relationship. The pattern of relating is being developed in your relationship and if you don’t like it, then you are the one that has to take the steps to create a happier and healthier life.
If he isn't willing to change or learn better communication skills, then you have the answer you are looking for. Please keep asking questions and always remember, you deserve the very best in life and have the power to make that happen.
Much peace to you,
Cathy Backlund, Life Coach, Specializing in Abusive Relationships and Domestic Violence Education
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Hi Cathy,
first of all, thank you so much for such a rapid response. I was feeling rather depressed and I can't tell you how relieved I was when I saw your answer.
I have contemplated for a while about the questions you set for me. Amazingly enough, the answer came as yes and no for most, if not all of them. When I wrote to you this morning, I was sleep deprived and angry and also quite focused on everything bad in my relationship. To be truthful, there are moments when I feel so happy and blessed to be with him.
At times, he does seem to honestly to care about me and my well-being. Its just that some days, these moments are very rare and some times he is constantly caring and affectionate. Such as for example, if I am seated somewhere in the house and he happens to walk by me, he always makes sure to run his fingers through my hair and kiss my hair softly. Or he will always ask me if I want something to drink if he is going to the kitchen.
On rare times, he would not let me do the dishes and insists on doing it himself. But at times, he just forgets it and I end up doing it myself while he looks at me apologetically and he says sorry a multiple times in a minute.
He is the one who always drags me to the hospital when I get too stubborn to go....mostly because I spent all my childhood in hospital beds due to a congenital heart defect.
He also was very supportive when I started flashes of my childhood when my elder cousin used to abuse me. When we first moved in, I would usually wake up terrified and panicky but always knew when it happened and would stay up with me as long as I needed.
To be honest he is a an amazing guy and really caring when he wants to be but recently he is mostly like I described in my earlier post. He has his epiphany like moments when he switches to caring mode.
Sometimes he would tell me if you are too tired then get some rest and don't do the chores. But he never actually takes the initiative to help around.
I just started thinking of all this because what I forgot to mention in my sleep deprived rant this morning, is that we are engaged. So I really have to figure all this out before taking the big step.
So I guess what I want to know, is how do I deal with this? Should I sit him down and talk to him or get some help for myself? Is the problem with me?
Thank you for your help,
ANSWER: Hi Sharia,
Sitting down and talking is the best and only way to start resolving issues. If he is unwilling to do so, then this may be a “red flag” and may be the way he deals with issues in the future which is usually the death of a relationship. Giving you the silent treatment, making excuses, and not considering your needs are serious concerns even though he can be loving and caring at times. Resolving conflict in effective ways is just as important as being kind and caring and important to know if he can learn more effective communication techniques before you marry.
Silent treatments and using anger to control your emotions are NOT healthy or effective communication techniques. These are techniques used to get one’s way at the expense of another—a one way and controlling relationship to meet one's own needs.
I would suggest to take one or two issues on your list of concerns and talk to him about it. Express how it makes you feel when he does or says the things he does. If he refuses to talk about these issues, then seeking a professional counselor may be needed for more guidance. If that is not successful, then you will know that this relationship may not be the one for you.
Looking at the whole package is necessary before making that long life commitment. But on the other hand, if he can accept how his actions negatively affect you and wants to improve on communication skills, then taking classes or seeing a counselor will help you both learn better communicate skills.
But in either event, taking action today will provide you with the answers you are looking for! The problem is NOT you. The problem is learning effective communication skills to resolve conflict which he may not want to learn if he wants things to go his way without concern for your wants and needs. That is what you need to find out--does he really care for you enough to change his ways so you both can learn better communication techniques? The answer to this question will guide you in the direction you want to go!
Much peace to you,
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Hey again Cathy,
Thank you one more time for your rapid response. Well, I tried talking to him twice but it has not worked out so far. The first time, when I decided to broach the subject, it turned out that he had an appointment at the embassy and was tunning late. So I asked him if we can talk when he is back, he agreed. But once he was back, he was upset about some mishap with an officer at the embassy so I chose to let it go at that time.
The second time was last night....about 3hrs ago (it is around 4am now). He agreed to talk but the moment I started to tell him what my concerns are, he told me that a person should look at his own imperfections before looking for them in someone else. I told him that I am in no way claiming that I am perfect or that he is imperfect, just that we need to talk and find a better way to communicate and understand each other because I really want us to be happy as a couple. He just looked away and appeared bored or uninterested and a tad bit condescending (that's how I felt anyways). When I asked him if we could have an honest and open conversation with no one blaming the other, he said yeah sure but not now. He refused to talk now because he is not in the mood for that. He just went to sleep and after just this little bit of conversation, I feel like I have been through the wringer and I cannot sleep.
What should I do?? Do I try again when he is ready to talk or make him listen or what??? I feel so useless at all this.
Thank you for being there Cathy,
You are taking the proper steps to improve your relationship and communication is the key to a healthy one. Unfortunately, you cannot make anyone do anything. The only power you have is over yourself and the decisions you make but healthy communication is extremely important for a healthy relationship.
If you can find a good counselor in India, I would suggest that you go. Then you can invite him to go with you when you believe the time is right. This sends a strong message that you are serious about working on these issues and he will eventually have to make a choice—learn better communication skills or see you leave the relationship.
Taking any classes on communication skills would be good to do to. I would recommend the following books and websites for further information:
Dr. Karen Sherman: http://www.drkarensherman.com/
Dr. Judith Orloff: http://www.drjudithorloff.com/
Relationship Rescue by Dr. Phil McGraw
Help! I’m in Love with a Narcissist by Carter & Sokol
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Verbal Self-Defense by Lillian Glass
What you need to find out is if he is willing to take you serious about your concerns and work together to resolve them. If he continues to brush off your concerns, blame you or make you feel bad for bringing them up or continue with his controlling behavior, then those are signs that he isn’t willing to change.
Some men need to have control over everything in their lives including the women they are involved with. Controlling behavior will wear you down over time, affect your self-esteem and keep you in an unfulfilling relationship. Being in a loving and caring relationship is the goal which may or may not be with this guy.
Please let me know how things go. Much peace to you.