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Is he controlling or am I just sensitive?
My boyfriend and I have been together for nearly 3 years. I used to be scared of him - as in he was quite critical of how I would go about doing certain things for eg how to make dinner. We purchased a second-hand boat and I don't have much experience with boats. Each time we have taken it out I have found him to be bossy, critical (not having much patience when teaching me the ropes) and if I do something 'wrong' he belittles me by saying things such as, 'As per usual, your doing things half-assed'. I'm dreading the day we get our motor boat back from getting fixed, as I don't want to go out in it as each time we've gone out, I've felt so stupid, small and dumb.
The boat has been away for fixing for 3 weeks now, during which time I've resumed training for a 10k fun run and doing yoga. Doing these things has given boosted my self-acceptance and self-esteem....so much so that whenever my boyfriend talks down, gets bossy or insulting towards me, instead of cowering and saying 'I'm sorry', I've gone the other way and have gotten reactionary. My behaviour is now '....and that's another thing I've done wrong' or getting defensive and angry.
My question is, is his behaviour deemed as emotional abuse? Also, how can I find a middle ground for myself - by not allowing his behaviour to dictate how I respond?
Dear Carolyn Rae~
Thank you for coming here. Relationships can complex and I'd expect here you will gain perspective from other peoples' thoughts. Sometimes one is too close to judge.
First of all let me say I view a proper partnership where both parties try to look after the other, to make the other at ease, reduce the other's hassles and general look after the other . It's part of love. There really is no room in it for belittling someone. I suppose one can have an unfortunate manner, however the bottom line is care. If putting you down is the motive then it is simply unacceptable. It most often is part of a desire to control.
One of the most important things to try to understand in these situations is that your self-image will suffer, and you may well doubt yourself. This is of course completely wrong. It is one element of being controlled.
Being frightened of ones boyfriend is a terrible way to be. Now you are changing and that is good, though I'd have to question if the whole relationship is a healthy one. I can understand you asking "how can I find a middle ground for myself?" - in other words how to deal with disparaging attitude, however a better question might be "why should I have to deal with it at all?"
You write in an intelligent manner, you are obviously athletically accomplished and overall sound very capable. If your bf cannot see these qualities in you and admire them you are being sold very short. Have a look at 'cycle of abuse' on the web.
Please feel free to talk here as much as you would like
Hi Carolyn, welcome
In short, if you feel abused and dominated then - you are! It's an individual thing. Some might not feel abused, that's for them to feel. A past partner always said to me "its your sensitivity that's the problem". I'd reply "yes I'm sensitive, very, and I'll work on being less sensitive, but if you don't work on being less bossy then we have an issue". We did, and we split.
One thing that struck me, its his joy/hobby/interest...then why is he insisting on you learning all these proceedures when its his hobby? Yes learn safety but its a bit like he expects you to share his interest?? You have a right to just sit there and enjoy the water.
Here is a few threads you can google that will make sense of the matter. Use google
Topic: wit, the only answer to torment- beyondblue
Topic: the definition of abuse- beyondblue
Thank you White Knight and Croix for the thought-provoking responses.
For a long time I've excused his behaviour as a result of him being in the Navy for 12 years.....but now I'm not so sure.
I will definitely read the reference material.
Hi Carolyn and welcome,
I have been in a similar situation and i would say yes, it is a form of abuse. When a person makes your feeling invalid, puts you down, belittles you, makes you question your ability and lose your confidence and controls you, then they have an issue. I am glad that since you have started training for the run you have felt more in control and stood you rground, it's amazing what exercise can do for us. I hope you can continue to speak up for yourself, in a calm gentle way because if he is like my ex, i'm guessing he becomes defensive if you stand up to him and may even manipulate the situation to make you question yourself and feel like you are to blame. I hope he isn't like this but these types often are. I guess if you feel abused then you need to think about the type of relationship you want to be in. He wont change.
Wishing you all the best
He does manipulate the situation to make it feel like I'm to blame.
I guess I've made excuses for his behaviour for so long. Excuses like he has a right to let his physical and mental pain get the better of his emotions. I know he was in the navy and he has even said that the world 'owes him'.
I used to too quickly say sorry and try to make things better. Eg if he grumbled/growled at me it ended up being because he he either didn't sleep well - due to his nightmares, or because he was in a lot of physical pain (from his younger days). No, he isn't seeking help from anywhere.
Enough about him. I'm not perfect and I'm sure that I have things about me that aggravate him.
Hi Carolyn Rae,
You've had some awesome and informative replies so far : ) just wanted to add to them
Relationships can take work and it's difficult when you have had a painful past, I know from experience unfortunately.
However, its not ok to use past trauma as an excuse to treat you unfairly, especially when your partner has no interest in seeking help for his issues from being in the navy.
You deserve to feel safe and supported in your relationship- not scared or defensive.
Have you spoken to him about how he makes you feel when he puts you down?
Ultimately it is his decision to change his behaviour and maybe seek help to address his problems from the past but you can also make a decision on whether you want to stay in this relationship or not.
Try not to excuse his behaviour, its harder than people realise to acknowledge that the ones we love are doing the wrong thing but if you feel abused or controlled or put down then it simply isn't ok.
I wish you all the best, keep up with your yoga and exercise- it really does work wonders for feeling good!
None of us are perfect, and maybe you do have things that aggravate him but that is no excuse to belittle or abuse you. Is he having counseling for the trauma he has been through?
He used to, over 10 years ago. He refuses to go back.
Dear Carolyn Rae~
I'm sure that I have things about me that aggravate him
Well yes you are no doubt quite right, I guess everyone has things that annoy or hurt others, it's part of being human. We are however comparing apples and oranges. Normally such things are not done to put down others so as to feel better. I've been angry at my partner and said hasty words, or been forgetful, or one of umpteen other things. I would not want to hurt her or make her feel less though. Many people are fragile having let their guard down when with the one they love, and one does need to be considerate all the time.
Now having things from the past govern one's actions is difficult to deal with. It is tempting to say - because this or that happened he does not have to behave properly. I've PTSD from my past and the usual related illnesses and true it did make a huge difference to my actions. I had, and still have treatment and it puts me in the position where I can maintain a relationship with love and care.
I realize treatment is not easy, but needs to be done if it affects your relationship. For him not to do so is failing in his care for you as well as himself. I'd imagine there might be avenues via his service that would make treatments less expensive.
Having said all that I'm not convinced his behavior is due to the past, your description seems to describe a particular personality type, however you are the best one to judge.