If I Let Him Know I Know Why He’s Doing Things to Hurt Me, Will He Stop?

Reader’s Question

I am in love with someone I believe is commitment phobic. I am not a psychologist nor am I in the medical field. But when my boyfriend flipped out on me for no apparent reason, I knew something must be wrong.

My boyfriend also always wears sunglasses and has about ten pairs of them. He won’t even go into certain establishments if wearing sunglasses is prohibited. I believe he does this to avoid eye contact with people. He also avoids certain social situations. Being with a crowd of people he doesn’t know makes him very uncomfortable. He has on many occasions, while under the influence, told me that he loves me and wants to marry me. Yet, when I remind him, he becomes angry. He says things to insult me and hurt my feelings, yet he can be so sweet, caring and playful. It’s really confusing. Every time we start to get close, he sabotages it. I believe what he does and not what he says, so I don’t let the things that he says bother me so much. However, I also believe that I am letting him take control of my life. I thought it out and have decided to confront him with what I believe his problem is. I feel if I tell him that I know what he’s doing by being mean to me, I take the control away and he’ll stop because he’ll know that it’s not affecting me. But then again I fear that it might make him go deeper into his shell and never speak to me again. That’s where I need your advice. Do you think that I should tell him?

Psychologist’s Reply

One of the tools of personal empowerment I’ve written about in prior posts and which is expounded upon in my book In Sheep’s Clothing is to Judge Actions, Not Intentions. You need to be really cautious about making interpretations about the “underlying reasons” for inappropriate behavior. You have already conjectured that your boyfriend has a fear or “phobia” of commitment that causes him to “sabotage” things when you start to “get close.” Such presumptions and interpretations have often been among the reasons people allowed themselves to enter or stay in abusive relationships. Instead of kidding yourself and maintaining the “illusion” of control by thinking you have the power to know and expose your partner’s motives and therefore take away his “reasons” for his dysfunctional behavior, take actual control of your own life by setting limits, expectations, enforcing boundaries, and most especially by paying attention to people’s behavior as the best predictor of what they will do in the future.

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