I love my boyfriend, but he twists things so they seem like my fault
I want to spend my life with him, but our constant arguments make me feel sad and like a shell of myself. Annalisa Barbieri advises a reader
Three years ago, I moved to Australia after having spent my 20s in the UK, where I had been in a serious relationship for 10 years. Moving to Australia was supposed to be my time. Nine months after the move, I met a wonderful guy. He is the complete opposite of my ex – outdoorsy, fun and outspoken, and we have many a debate, which is something I have felt I needed. Although we do have many differences in personality, I feel it works because my ex and I were so similar that there was no spark.
My boyfriend and I have a lot of spark. By this, I mean we have a lot more arguments than I am used to, or that my nerves are used to. I am by nature quite an easygoing person who avoids confrontation if necessary (this doesn’t mean that I am a doormat). At first, I thought it was fine. We are both passionate people and I feel a bit of fire is healthy. However, the arguing is becoming more and more of the central focus. This has led me to start questioning the overall relationship.
I love my boyfriend and want to live with him and spend my life with him. But he makes me very sad. I feel as if, to an extent, the level of arguing has driven me to become almost a shell of myself. I no longer argue as passionately or “stick to my guns”, because I can’t bear it. My boyfriend can be very abrupt and argumentative. He is very good with words and perhaps I am not, or I am not used to having to make such an effort to win arguments because it is not in my nature. I always try to do right by him, but a lot of the time things seem to get twisted as me doing the wrong thing.
I honestly don’t know what to do or how to turn this around. In the back of my mind I have had the thought that it should end.
I think when a relationship leaves you as a “shell” of yourself and “things seem to get twisted”, it is time to look not only at what the relationship is giving you, but also at whether the relationship may be abusive. I was not absolutely certain from what you have said whether or not it is: the wheel of violence is good to refer to here (despite the name, no physical violence need be used to make the relationship abusive).
You didn’t mention feeling scared for your safety, but I know you are isolated without many friends or family, so, before you do anything, I would like you to look at the link below, which leads to helplines that you should ring to talk through your situation with someone. Please do this.
Because I don’t know if your relationship is abusive, I also need to talk about this as if it were a normal relationship that has gone wrong. In healthy relationships generally, you should be able to argue/disagree freely and the other person should listen to how you feel – if not immediately, then at some point when you are both calmer. You shouldn’t routinely feel silenced. It is not uncommon to come out of a long-term relationship (in other words, your first one in the UK) and look for the complete opposite of what you had and sometimes this is a mistake because, in so doing, you are ignoring the fact that the first relationship did have some things that were right for you.
You want to spend the rest of your life with someone who makes you, in your own words, very sad
You know you are with the right person when that person loves you when you are most yourself, whatever that self is: quiet, exuberant, whatever. It sounds to me as if you are trying to talk yourself into thinking that this relationship is right. You say in the same breath: “I love my boyfriend and want to live with him and spend my life with him. But he makes me very sad.” I want you to read that back to yourself. You want to spend the rest of your life with someone who makes you, in your own words, very sad.
I contacted Penny Pickles, an analyst (bpc.org.uk). She feels that, “you are a woman who has lost her confidence, and yet this is an articulate letter and you know a fair bit about yourself.” You are not only articulate, but aware, too.
We both wondered about your past, why you left the UK and went to the other side of the world and why you felt you needed “a debate”. You were quite emphatic in your longer letter about having “me time”. Pickles wonders “what familiar buttons you are trying to get away from and which are being pushed” [in this situation].
“The thing about choosing a partner,” says Pickles, “is that sometimes you can choose a partner who is the opposite of yourself, and they hold the thing(s) you feel you can’t be. In your case the ability to be confrontational. But after a time, this can become difficult to accommodate. As you see, not only are you finding this situation difficult but it [all the arguing, etc] is not who you are. How you feel about this relationship is not how you should feel in a relationship.”
I want to stress that if this relationship is abusive, nothing you do or don’t do deserves that behaviour – it is his responsibility. He needs to own it.