Subtle Abuse

Each incident on its own seems fairly harmless. It's when they increase and then become normal and even systematic that they register on the scale as emotional abuse. He starts with an occasional joke about your faults or frailties. I never objected and even laughed because I like to laugh at myself and I usually think it's funny. Except it really isn't. Because I hate myself for those faults. I have to laugh at the fact that I'm late 9 out of 10 times, that life confuses me, I don't seem capable of planning ahead, etc. If I didn't laugh then I'd be home crying.

Part of my attraction to him was that he is good at the things I am so bad at. I hoped I could learn something from him. I even asked for advice and help at times. But then a few weeks ago, his occasional jokes expanded to teasing criticism. Which I let him do because he wasn't criticizing anything that wasn't true; and maybe I needed a kick in the rear end. Maybe it would be good for me. But it got irritating. The first annoying one: "you should have read the articles days ago instead of right before class and that wouldn't have happened." Oh yeah? No kidding.

Then the criticism extended to things that are not in fact problems for me. For example, I just got my student loan money so I decided to get new glasses. I hadn't done that in 5 years, my old ones were disgusting and too weak. On the phone, I told him about wanting to buy new glasses and maybe get a haircut. He responded with, "So now that you have some money you are just going to go spend it all? Don't forget you have to buy medicine and stuff." What? How could I EVER forget that 30% of my income goes to my medical care?? Since when are new glasses and a haircut (the first one in 2 years) frivolous expenditures? That made a little red flag go up. He was getting overzealous with the advising thing.

The next weekend I was at his place and his criticism started getting obnoxious. That's when he said the first really mean thing. I had to go to the store to buy some 'girl supplies'. He didn't want me to leave but this was obviously a necessity he couldn't talk me out of. I wanted to go to the store and then home. He asked me why I needed to go to the store if I was going home? Why didn't I just get the stuff and come back? I told him I didn't think I had any at home either. Then he said, "If that's true then you must be the most irresponsible woman alive." He didn't even try to make it sound like a joke, he was scornful. I found it hurtful. And out of line. I defended myself but shouldn't have bothered.

Another sign of abuse, he never tempers the criticism with compliments. Since November, he has said exactly three complimentary things to me: 'you're funny', 'you have beautiful hair' and 'you're adorable.' The last one doesn't count because he said it on our first date. I have tried to say nice things to him because that's what you do, and I wanted him to feel good. His glaring omission of compliments told me that he has confidence issues. I hoped he'd get over it when he felt more secure with me.

Men with low self-esteem feel they don't deserve the women they are with, and they're afraid the woman will realize this and leave them. So they don't want to do anything that might help her see that she can do better. That means not giving compliments. I hoped it would end there. But, unfortunately, it also means they try to break the woman's confidence. By constantly reminding her of her inadequacies he can blind her to his own. Having learned this by experience, I made two rules to weed out the abusers. 1. Don't date shy men, they have obvious self-esteem issues. 2. Never go out with a man who didn't have the confidence to ask me out himself. The rules worked, I haven't dated another abuser since.

But I broke them with this one. And today he crossed the line with an unambiguous and cruel comment. After being with him on Friday night when he laid into me with some speech about how I need to figure out what I want and go get it because I am too timid. And that passivity is unbecoming at times....and on and on.... I am not a timid person! I'm shy with people, but that's it. So I felt confused this morning, wondering why he thought that of me. But we had planned to spend the day together working. So today, which happens to be my birthday, we ate together and worked on our papers. He teased me some during the day but he said nothing particularly hurtful.

Just before I left he levelled the big ugly at me. I asked if he wanted to keep things on the downlow tonight with our fellow students. He said: Yes, it's best not to be the object of gossip. I said I agreed and just wanted to know what to expect. Then he said, 'besides I'm embarrassed to be with you.' That's not funny. In no context are those words EVER funny or acceptable. I responded with 'Oh, so that's why you never take me out then.' I wasn't joking, he doesn't. He ignored that and instead said, "Actually, that woman who lives downstairs. The one who met you. She thinks you're pretty. She told me so. She told me you were pretty." With a backhanded insult he implied that there is only person in the world who thinks I'm pretty. And that person is not him.

When I left I felt like crap. That comment made me angry. And so did something else. He has 3 parties tonight, so he explained to me that he's coming to my party first then going uptown for an hour and then to a party on 40th street where he'll stay until he's tired. His ordering of events tells me that his friends are more important and/or more fun than the woman he has been dating since November. And he didn't do anything for my birthday, other than to say 'Happy Birthday' and give me a kiss on the cheek. He didn't even bother to shower for me, he wore his dirty sleeping clothes all morning and afternoon. I asked if he was going to take a shower, but he just grinned. Totally disrespectful. I'm not even his girlfriend and he's already dropped the pretense of caring how he looks?

While on the way home, I determined not to go to his house anymore. I'd call him when I got home and tell him so. As I walked, I tried to figure out why I always felt bad after being with him. I started reviewing all the mean things he said and did to me in the past two days...and beyond. By the time I got home I fumed in anger. I called him but he didn't pick up the phone. Even though I knew his sorry butt was home. (He had to have known he pissed me off today, I have a very expressive face.) I left him a message. I ended it by saying he didn't have to come to my party tonight. He was under no obligation.

I'm too old for this. He's so gone. Happy birthday. Oh yeah, he hasn't returned my call. I said he could call me back if he wanted, or not. Does he have the cojones to show up? Place your bets below! I'll let you know tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

What an a$$hole. You are way better than him. The fact that you have caught on to his antics shows how intelligent and aware you are. 

Posted by Jessica

Anonymous said...

P.S. Happy Birthday!!! (and feel sorry for that guy, he obviously has such low self-esteem for himself, he has to drag down others). 

Posted by Jessica

Anonymous said...

Happy birthday!

As for Then he said 'besides I'm embarrased to be with you.'  he should be embarrased to be him. Big, big warning flag, glad you dumped him before he warped you into slavery.


Posted by Stephen M (Ethesis)

Anonymous said...

Happy B'day to you, Happy B'day to you, Happy B'day dear Celibate, happy B'day to you.

Biggest gift you can give to yourself is to get rid of this sorry ass. It'll hurt, trust me been there done that, but that's short term compared to the slow chipping away at your precious self the emotional abuse would do. Celebrate tonight - enjoy and know you're on the right path


Posted by Russel in Retrograde

Anonymous said...

Why that... I oughta... Grrr! At least you know that his behavior is not good in a relationship and are getting rid of him fast.
You're a strong woman. Don't let him bring you down. 

Posted by Sister T

Anonymous said...

Happy birthday, JL! I just got back from a surprise birthday party for a friend at church who just turned 50. It was at a Spanish restaurant, where we ate tapas and watched flamenco dancers. One of the guitarists announced the guy as "the sexiest man in South Wheaton," which I thought was very funny. But after he danced, my friend's wife leaned over to me and whispered, "Just for the record, I'm thinking he's pretty sexy!"

On your boyfriend(?), what you describe is clearcut emotional abuse. It is indeed subtle; that's what emotional abusers do. They start small so you barely notice it, and then once you're sucked in they start to turn up the volume. You *absolutely* made the right call to dump him.

You asked for predictions. OK, here's mine. I say he comes to your party. Because when emotional abusers get called on it, they do a temporary reform trick, apologizing, promising to do better, and so forth. And then they slide right back into the old pattern. So my money is on him showing up and trying to apologize. 

Posted by Kevin Barney

Anonymous said...

Run the opposite direction from this turkey as fast as you can! Don't stop and don't look back!!! 

Posted by Lowell

Anonymous said...

I can't believe people have relationships like this. I am so glad you noticed this and are ending the relationship. His behavior is wrong. Please don't change your mind. Nothing he does in the future can erase what he has already shown you he thinks is acceptable. An apology can't change what he did and thought. Don't fall for that. 

Posted by JKS

Anonymous said...

Oh that...grr! He definitely  doesn't deserve you -- deserves a swift kick in the shins, rather!

I had a roommate who would say similar things to me a lot last year -- there's nothing worse than spending a lot of time with a person and discovering that you feel awful after you spend time with that person.


Posted by Arwyn

Anonymous said...

Kevin wins the prize for calling his bahavior!

He called me saying he was confused about my message and I told him now was not the time to talk about it since I had to get ready for the party. Then he asked if I wanted him to bring something. He showed up about 9 and had two presents and a card for me. One was an apology present.

He stayed 2 hours then said he felt bad about leaving and he wanted to stay but he had to go to these other parties. He promised to go to them before he knew about mine. (I ditched a previous engagement for his New Year's party--but whatever.) 

Posted by JL

Anonymous said...

Aren't you nice to get your friend to feel so cocky. I think some people like to stomp and stomp, and then pick you up, dust you off, and they are hoping you are theirs now.

I see people trying to do that to me, but I think to myself 'stomp away, but you aren't getting your way with me. I don't know what it is you want but you're not getting it'.

Its sad when the compliments subside, and a person realizes that they were being treated overly well, but the good treatment ends, and they are back to square one with their same old everyday self.

I think sometimes the objective of dating is a little shallow, because dating for the purpose of sharing with one person, doesn't consider the more long term well rounded benefits of the development of children and an eternal family. To think that the world was created by Heavenly Father only so people can hook up doesn't reconcile. He wants us to partnership with him in a greater developmental effort I am beginning to believe. 

Posted by Anonymous

Anonymous said...

Don't let him get away with it. If you do, he will start all over again. Dating on the sly is for the birds. If he wants to be with you, he should be proud to be with you. He could drop the other commitments, if he wanted to make you happy.

You are of divine worth, you deserve that happiness and more.

Have a happy birthday otherwise ;) 

Posted by Chris

Anonymous said...

Wow! Another celibate year has come and gone, and you've survived! Congratulations! and happy belated birthday!!! LOL

When you're a sucker like me, you'll be moved to give him another chance by those little redemptive gestures. Don't be a sucker! LOL Go on. Get out of there. You don't need time wasters like him. 

Posted by Kwirki Girl

Anonymous said...

I have a feeling that he will in fact show up.

Happy Birthday, and what better present to give yourself than to get rid of this idiot! ;) 

Posted by Aimee Roo

Anonymous said...

Belated Happy Birthday! Here's to another year of embracing life!
Re: guy, he's cooked. Dump him! Don't waste your time with him. You definitely deserve better. 

Posted by ilongga

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday to you!!!

Now....run....run....VERY far and never look back! You are a daughter of our Heavenly Father and you do not deserve to be treated like that! No one does!

I just read a great posting on LDS Mingle  the other day and then posted it on my blog. Check it out when you feel ready to read about: The Power of Love

It is spring...time for renewal and rebirth. Rejoice! 

Posted by Lynn

Anonymous said...

Drop the zero.

If you can count on one hand the number of compliments he has given you since November he's not worth your time. If he's embarrassed to be seen with you, he can go play in traffic.

Unlike wine, he won't improve with age. 

Posted by Eddie

Anonymous said...

You provided the big clue yourself.
You feel bad about yourself when you are with him, or leaving him for the day.

People who care about us make us feel good about ourselves. When we are down they pick us up by pointing out our strengths.

This guy is either mean or clueless. Don't waste your time with him.

I heard a wonderful homily on Sunday (Catholic celibate here) about the story of Lazarus. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, Lazarus was still bound with burial cloths. Jesus told the others to “untie him and set him free”
Our priest pointed out that while God intends to save us… he counts on all of us to help each other…to set each other free. (I’m not restating this as well as I heard it) But it made me think of how my friends and I do that for each other. When you feel your hands are tied and you can’t find an answer, your friends will untie you and give you the push you need to go forward.
We should expect the same from the men in our lives. This chump clearly can’t treat you like a sister in God’s family. Run and don’t look back. (however, if he asks for clarification… do feel compelled to answer him honestly. In that respect, you can untie him to set him free)

Posted by TRS

Anonymous said...

It sounds like this guy needs to head to Dumpsville ASAP.

I would NOT be treating a girl I was dating that way. 

Posted by Harold

Anonymous said...

If you're the most irresponsible woman alive for not having and "supplies" on hand at home, then I must be number 2 becuase I almost NEVER have them when I don't NEED them. He's a retard.

Dump is butt, and then use the gift he got you right in front of him.  

Posted by katie

Anonymous said...

Hey JL.. Happy belated Birthday! I hope you had a great time at your party.

Stick to your guns and drop the losers!

Posted by V

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the homily, that is a good thing to keep in mind. :)

And thank you everyone for the birthday wishes, I did have a nice birthday despite things.

I'm 29 and I'm proud!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WOO HOO!!!!!!!!!!!! 

Posted by JL

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Wow. I don't understand why you went on more than two dates with the guy. 

Posted by Evan

Anonymous said...

He was nice and sweet, though not complimentary up until the last few weeks. Feeling fairly hopeless about my future love life means I've been willing to make trade offs, like he's really intelligent so I could like without doting behavior. Being hurtful is something else entirely. 

Posted by JL

Anonymous said...

Don't look now folks. It ain't just men who do it.

I was crippled by a deteriorating hip for nearly 3 years. My partner, her daughter and family were abusive in so many ways over that time.
I put the story into a blog to have a voice. There is none in the courts; her daughter seemed to only see one side even while she lived in the house; and her family never asked for more than one side.

I've had surgery on my hip and am recovering quickly.
They have now taken the abuse into the courts and are trying to effectively steal my ownership of my home from me.
Please enjoy the story. I hope it helps someone.
I'm just getting out.


Left by amoranthus

Anonymous said...

A wise friend told me once, "How a guy behaves toward you in public shows how he really feels." It goes both ways. You can gauge how you feel about a guy by the way you want to be seen (or not seen) in public with him. But anyway, this guy is obviously a terrible match for you. I can't imagine in what world he'd be a good match for anyone else, but you never know. Maybe he'll find someone who can match him blow for blow. In the meantime, let him go. Forgive so you can really see him as he is. I know what it's like. I wish you all the best.  

Left by Andrea

Anonymous said...

A wise friend told me once, "How a guy behaves toward you in public shows how he really feels." It goes both ways. You can gauge how you feel about a guy by the way you want to be seen (or not seen) in public with him. But anyway, this guy is obviously a terrible match for you. I can't imagine in what world he'd be a good match for anyone else, but you never know. Maybe he'll find someone who can match him blow for blow. In the meantime, let him go. Forgive so you can really see him as he is. I know what it's like. I wish you all the best.  

Left by Andrea

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Ditto to Eddie's comment above.

I'm just glad that you are smart enough to step back, take a good look and recognise the pattern as it emerges. There are a lot of compromises I think are fair and wise in relationships - your partner speaking to you with respect is never one of those. You will be happier alone than with someone who wears your esteem down one sly step at a time. 

Left by chosha

Anonymous said...

Hey, you should learn from this guy. He is not your match. You could examine his put downs and improve where it seems he is on to something.  

Left by spener

Anonymous said...

I know the guy you dated was an asshole, but please, please, please (!) don't dismiss all shy guys. We do not all have evil personalities, you make it sound like we are lesser beings.[rolls eyes] Of course women remind us daily that fat girls have great personalities (which is a fair point), so why the double standard?

btw, nice line at the bottom, I like The Smiths too! 

Left by boy afraid

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