Posted: 27 Jun 2012 06:20 AM PDT
Dear Dr. Brian:
I have a problem with my partner. We’ve been together for 8 months now, but the last 5 have been constant fighting over my behavior and character. He wants me to change and be more strong like he is, to stop being romantic and so emotional to the point I cry, to separate my personal and work lives, to not be influenced by others, and to be more talkative and have standards in my life. I have tried, but nothing seems to be enough for him. He’s talked about breaking up with me.I don’t know what to do anymore to please him and I don’t want to lose him. What should I do?" - Backed In A Corner_____________________________________________
Dear Backed In A Corner:
Thank you for writing and I am very concerned by your letter. After 8 months of being together, your relationship with your boyfriend is still very young and should be a time of discovery and fun as the two of you share experiences together to build a foundation as a couple. Instead, it sounds like your relationship has become dominated and defined by conflict and negativity and this is a serious red flag that should not be ignored.
While I’m only hearing one side of the story, I have some concerns for the way that you are being treated. While I do advocate for all of us to be striving for personal growth to better ourselves, it sounds like your boyfriend is doing a lot of dictating about how you “should” be. Having a strong character with good values and integrity is very important, as is good work/life balance, being assertive and communicative, and having a solid vision and life goals. His need to have you improve upon these areas might very well be appropriate, however how is he presenting this to you?
Is he supportive and encouraging or demanding and critical? Is he trying to control and manipulate you? Whose goals are these…yours or his? The thing that really concerns me the most though is his statement that he wants you to stop being romantic and emotional. If this is an inherent part of who you are (there is absolutely nothing wrong with being romantic, passionate, and prone to crying), it is unfair for him to judge you and try to change these aspects that are core to your identity.
Is it possible you’re dealing with someone who is controlling and narcissistic? You will also want to examine your role in some of the problems in the relationship so you can take responsibility for your part in the fights and make those changes as needed. However, with the last 5 months having been characterized as “constant fighting”, I’m also worried that there may possibly be some emotional/verbal abuse occurring and this is never a good thing as your self-esteem can take a hit and it is extremely disrespectful and demeaning. If you do the same thing back to him, you’re perpetrating as well and are only serving to reinforce the dysfunction.
Tread very carefully, my friend. There are a lot of warning signs here that indicate this might not be such a healthy situation to be in. If your boyfriend wants to break up, it’s important that you validate for yourself that you deserve to be with someone who will treat you with positive regard and unconditional acceptance. Try to take stock of the lessons you learned about yourself and relationships and grieve your loss of him so your next partner choice will be more compatible with who you really are and want. Take the feedback you’ve heard from him and others about your behavior and decide for yourself what your strengths and weaknesses are and what traits about yourself you’d like to change for the better. Make yourself as “dateable” as possible and focus on building a stronger identity and self-esteem.
If you and your boyfriend discuss continuing to remain together, it’s important to remember several things. First, the two of you will need to improve your communication and conflict management skills and tolerate anger and frustration better. It will also be important for the two of you to create separate lists of what each of your negotiable and non-negotiable needs are for a partner and relationship and share these with each other. If either of you is unwilling to work on any non-negotiable needs that are identified, the relationship will likely perish and this should then alert you to not invest any more energy into it to avoid any more pain that would surely result.
It is critical that you be honest with yourself about what your true values are and never sacrifice your beliefs, values, and ideals just to stay in a relationship with someone. You’ll be giving up personal power and setting yourself up for a codependent relationship in which your needs will always be undermined and you’ll lose your sense of self. If your values don’t match, there will likely be ongoing conflict and tension and is a sign that this probably is not a good fit. The two of you would also benefit from seeking the services of a licensed counselor for both individual and couples therapy.
So take good care of yourself. The worst thing you could do in this situation is to ignore the warning signs and do what he wants you to do just to pacify him and hang on to the relationship.
Also take a look at what your fears about losing him are really all about and work on building your confidence and independence. You deserve to be treated with dignity and respect and to be able to be who you are; otherwise, that’s not really love..that’s control.
It truly is better to be alone than trapped in a relationship where you’re not honored for who you are and made to feel “less than.” All the best to you with your decision-making.
© Dr. Brian Rzepczynski, The Gay Love Coach
( The suggestions and feedback offered in this column are but one perspective of multiple approaches to dealing with problems or challenges. Information provided in articles and advice columns should not be used as a substitute for coaching or therapy when these services are needed. None of this information should be your only source when making important life decisions. This information should not be used for diagnosing or treating a particular problem, nor should it take the place of a consultation with a trained professional. It is your responsibility to consult a professional prior to making any life decisions. )
Dr. Brian Rzepczynski, contributing author to GAYTWOGETHER, is one of the leading love coaches for the gay community. As a licensed dating and relationship coach, Dr. Brian Rzepczynski, DHS, MSW has over 18 years experience as a psychotherapist and life coach specializing in helping GLBT individuals and couples develop and maintain successful and fulfilling intimate relationships. He holds a doctorate degree in human sexuality from the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality and a master’s degree in clinical social work from Western Michigan University. He also runs a successful private therapy practice, Personal Victory Counseling, Inc.http://thegaylovecoach.com
~~~THANKS, BRIAN and MICHAEL@gaytwogether.com