Dr Love,I have been with my boyfriend for 6 years. We have broken up twice. The last time was at the end of 1998. After a couple of months we got back together.The problem is that I am laid back and my boyfriend is quite tidy. He is very punctual, he is very critical. I am easy going and laid back. My boyfriend was first brought up in residential care home from being 7 years old and then went into the territorial army from 4 years. He says this life suited him because he could handle the institutionalised environment.At home my mum allowed me to be laid back. I am now very sensitive to criticism and am getting angrer and more resentful. I like being me, I don’t mind him being him. He is always saying I should change. I can’t because I then feel I am loosing my own identity.When we don’t agree on something he will say ‘I said do it’ If I refuse to do it his way he will start to call me horrible names. Like fat cow, fat b**tard etc. I will say ‘No I am not’ each time he calls me a name and then I will end up in tears.He never apologises, it is always me who leads us back to intimacy. I end up doing something nice and then he responds. The point is in a couple of weeks we are supposed to be buying a house together but I don’t if this is the right thing to do.I do love my boyfriend and I want my daughter to have a stable home but how can I sort this out. PLEASE HELP.
Dear ‘Woman Who is Being Verbally Abused by a Boyfriend Who Thinks He’s Her Commando Officer’:You are being mistreated, plain and simple. Your boyfriend thinks he has the right to impose his values on you, annihilating you in the process. He acts like your values are wrong and his are right.The fact is that values cannot be judged as wrong or right. They simple are what they are, and both partners must respect each other ‘s differences and try to arrive at an accommodation that respects both partner’s values. To attempt to force a partner to give up his her values is the same thing as asking him or her to commit psychological suicide. This should never be done.I know your boyfriend had a bad childhood. I am sure that he is filled with anger over having been raised in an institution and then shipped off to the army. The problem is that he isn’t owning his feelings; he is dumping all his pent up rage onto you, leaving you to carry the horrible feelings that he must have felt as a boy and young man.He surely felt dictated to, strong-armed, oppressed and violated. And, since he hasn’t addressed the feelings that he harbors about his history, he is merely purging himself by projecting his feelings onto you. Each time he violates you, he feels a bit lighter inside because he is draining all the emotional pus inside him.But, you were not put on this earth to be a recepticle for his emotional garbage.Despite his miserable past, he has no right to dictate his values to you. He also has no right to call you names and verbally assault you. Do you know that his treatment of you violates what I call your emotional Bill of Rights?Before we go any farther, I think you need to examine why you would consider staying with someone who treats you this way?I can only imagine that you were emotionally crushed as a child, which means that you must think that it is normal to be treated this way. It isn’t. You need to enter therapy at this time to understand more about why you would even consider staying with someone who treats you the way he does.You need to also get a stronger sense of entitlement about what you will and won’t tolerate. In this process you will need to also focus on what you intend to do with your future. If you are seriously considering going forward and marrying him, keep in mind that if this man treats you the way he does before marriage, he will become even worse once you are ‘his.’Once he has you, you will have even less bargaining power. With a man like him, the only way to get through to him is to use a great deal of aggression. Being soft and sweet will only encourage him to batter you more, whereas a strong and aggressive stance is the only hope of cracking his massive defenses and making him face reality–that his behavior is totally unacceptable.The risk in using your aggression is that he may become even more enraged. And, I am concerned that he might physically batter you. You need to be certain that you have a safety plan in place before you consider taking him on.I think that the best way to confront him is in a therapist’s office. This way he will have to behave himself in front of a stranger. What would you tell him during this confrontation?You will tell him that his behavior is unacceptable and that you won’t tolerate his verbal insults one more day. You will tell him that he is imposing his values on you and that this isn’t allowed. That you expect him to respect who you are and what you believe in and to arrive at accommodations that marry both of your beliefs.You will tell him that he dictates to you like an army general and that this type of behavior is not allowed in a relationship. If he wants to be a dictator, go back to the army. If he wants to have a relationship with you, he needs to learn to consider your feelings and needs.This is a big start. Before you go forward, my suggestion would be to see how adaptable he is willing to be. Does he want to get help? Is he willing to examine the impact of his actions? Does he want to change?If you do not get the feeling that he is willing to take responsibility for his behavior and own that it is unacceptable there is no relationship possible here. If you decide to go forward in any case, know that you will be embarking on a prison sentence, not a marriage.Be strong.