I Need Help So I Can Help My Boyfriend Treat Me Better

Reader’s Question

I am in desperate need of some professional advice. I have been dating my boyfriend for a year. We have had many arguments. He has made me suffer many times. He is 30 years old. His parents divorced when he was 18, and his brother has looked after him since the the divorce.

Would like to have some tips on how I can better communicate with him and how to get along with him better. I’m sure many of his “issues” are linked to his past family problems.

Psychologist’s Reply

It appears you are making three assumptions. First, you assume that your boyfriend’s “issues” are the outgrowth of his family’s past problems, including his parents’ divorce. Second, you assume that some failure of “communication” is responsible for your not getting along better. Lastly, you appear to assume that if you understand your boyfriend’s past emotional wounds better and communicate with him more effectively, you can be the instrument of his treating you better and not making you “suffer” as much.

Making the kind of assumptions you make has kept many a person in a dysfunctional or abusive relationship. Trying far too hard to “understand” a person’s problem behavior often turns out to be the prime way of inadvertently “enabling” it. Besides, there’s absolutely no reason to believe that any of your assumptions are correct. And, even if they were, they are irrelevant to the issue of your “suffering” at the hands of your boyfriend’s behavior.

At age 30, a man need not be “looked after” either by his brother or his girlfriend. Rather, he needs to have worked through his own issues sufficiently enough to be able to conduct a healthy, intimate relationship with another person. If he is not yet ready to do so, that’s what counseling/therapy is for, and it’s his responsibility to seek it. Yet you are the one asking for professional help and advice. My advice: Don’t make assumptions about the root causes of someone else’s hurtful behavior, and don’t entertain the notion that you have the power to fix them. Take care of yourself and address your own issues (we all have them). Settle for nothing less that being treated with dignity and kindness. If your boyfriend knows, loves, and appreciates you enough to want to keep you, perhaps he’ll work on the issues he needs to work on and treat you in the manner you’d like to be treated.

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