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Is My Relationship With My Boyfriend Unhealthy?

Published: December 7, 2008
Dear TeenHealthFX,
I'm not sure but I don't know if my relationship with my new boyfriend is healthy or not. We recently got together after I splt with another guy here at University, it has been around 3 months and he has said to me that he thinks he is falling in love with me. I think I am falling in love with him also. We are both 18 and have already had sex. He has had one serious ex girlfriend and often jokingly says he gonna go home and have sex with her at the weekend to wind me up. I'm not sure if he is trying to control me, but some things I dont want to say in front of him with friends because he jokes about sayin yeah but your opinion doesnt count and stuff" or the typical yo mama jokes or your face.. I just feel that people generally take advantage of me and dont have any respect for me, friends often jokingly tug me about, i find it hard to show that it actually does hurt me and end up laughing. I have told my boyfriend when we are alone that he is sometimes cruel to me, and he apologises and hugs me. I tell him that he will still do it again, and as far as i can tell he does. I dont think people realise i am being serious, they just have no respect for me. How do i gain it back? Also, sometimes when I attempt to have a serious chat with my boyfriend and something may offend him, or he hears something he doesnt like, he turns over and says whatever, and makes me feel guilty so that I Go to hug him. If i dont do this however he makes me weak my hugging me and calling me pet names. Little digs from everybody is beginning to get too much, from stuff like crushing my stuff in the supermarket or just not allowing me out of my room. I have shown that i have gotten really pissed of once in front of a friend and cried, and they were generally sorry. I dont know how to make them respect me? what do i do? 
Signed: Is My Relationship With My Boyfriend Unhealthy?

Dear Is My Relationship With My Boyfriend Unhealthy?,

 

TeenHealthFX does have serious concerns about some of the dynamics in your relationship. And our concerns are both about how your boyfriend relates to you, as well as how you are responding to his hurtful behavior.

 

Our concerns about how your boyfriend relates to you:

 

1. That he tells you “jokingly” that he is going to have sex with his ex to antagonize you.

This is a cruel and hurtful thing to say – especially that he is saying it on purpose to upset you. There is an absence of love and respect here, and the presence of hostility and emotional abuse.

 

2. That he tells you your opinion does not matter.

This statement is abusive because it belittles you and is meant to “keep you in your place,” so to speak. The fact is that your opinion does matter and should matter to him if he truly loves you and cares about you.

 

3. That he makes “yo mama” jokes at your expense.

Again, these so-called jokes are hostile and emotionally abusive.

 

4. He continues his hurtful behavior despite being told by you that it feels cruel.

What this shows is that your boyfriend is not truly interested in working on being more loving and respectful to you. In a relationship with real caring and respect, the person would genuinely feel terrible at making you feel so badly and would make real efforts at ensuring that kind of behavior didn’t continue. Whether they made efforts on their own, or sought out professional help, you would see some type of effort and change on their part.

 

5. You get a “whatever” when you want to discuss serious concerns with him.

This is disrespectful and dismisses your feelings as being unimportant. Again, it displays a lack of interest in wanting to be kind to you and to help improve the relationship.

 

6. There are times when he does not allow you out of your room.

This is particularly concerning to FX because it is so controlling – behavior which is definitely a form of dating abuse. The word “allow” should not be coming into a healthy relationship. If you want to leave your room, you do not need his permission to do so. And he should not be giving you rules or preventing you from doing something like leaving your room through threats, coercion, physical violence, or any other means.

 

Our concerns about how you are dealing with your boyfriend’s hurtful behavior:

 

1. You laugh when people say or do hurtful things to you.

FX understands why you laugh – that you may not want to face the hurt, deal with a confrontation, or deal with consequences or standing up for yourself (like maybe losing your boyfriend). However, FX’s concern with your laughing is that it opens the door for people to make jokes at your expense or be hurtful to you – because they see they can get away with it and do not experience any negative consequences for their behavior.

 

2. You feel guilty when your boyfriend gives you a “whatever” and then go to hug him.

Again, FX understands your feelings and behavior here. We imagine that it is probably painful for you to have him be angry or distant with you, so the hug is an attempt to make peace. Your guilt may also be a reaction to how your boyfriend treats you – that he makes it seem, and you have begun to believe it – like what happens between you or if he is upset is your fault. FX would see a healthier response as your being angry with him when he says “whatever” and turns away from you, and letting him know that it is not okay for him to respond to you this way. Rather than you reaching out to hug him to make peace, he should demonstrate in some clear, genuine way that he is sorry and wants to do things differently to help strengthen the relationship.

 

3. You continue to use a method of dealing with your boyfriend’s cruel behavior that is not working: you let him know it hurts you.

This verbal response has become part of the cycle of abuse because there is not consequence in the form of an action. Your boyfriend acts in an abusive manner, you tell him it hurts you, you briefly make up and things feel good, and then he is abusive once again. This type of cycle can go on and on forever. The only way to stop the cycle is for your boyfriend or for you to do something differently. Since you can’t control his actions or change him, then it is up to you to break the cycle. An example of breaking the cycle would be the next time he is cruel to you, that you let him know that he has been this way towards you for too long now and that you need a break from the relationship until (when and if) he can prove to that he wants to make changes in how he relates to you. And proving to you should not involve one or two sweet make-up sessions – it should be a very decent amount of time where he is consistently demonstrating caring and kind behavior to you.

 

 

Even though we may not know what they are, FX knows that there are definitely very real reasons why you relate in relationships the way you do. We appreciate that to respond differently could be very hard for various reasons. That said, we think it is important that you get help from a professional therapist on ways to relate to others that is better for your emotional well-being. We also think it is important that you grow to have more love and respect for yourself and to demand it in a way from others where people are crystal clear that you are serious about how you wanted to be treated. FX also thinks it would be extremely helpful for your boyfriend to be in his own treatment so that he can learn how to relate to others in a more caring and respectful way, and to deal with the anger and hostility that is interfering in this process. You can raise with your boyfriend that you think it is important for the two of you to be in your own individual treatments to work on the ways you each become a part of this cycle of abuse. If he agrees to go, that would be wonderful – but if he refuses help, please do not let that stop you from getting your own.

 

If you live in northern New Jersey and need help finding a therapist you can call the Access Center from Atlantic Behavioral Health at 973-247-1400. Outside of this area you can log onto the US Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website for referrals in your area. You can also contact your insurance company to get a list of in-network mental health providers or check with your school social worker or psychologist to get a list of referrals in your area.

 

The National Center For Victims Of Crime has a Dating Violence Resource Center where you can find helpful information and resources. They can go to the following link for more information:

http://www.ncvc.org/ncvc/main.aspx?dbID=DB_DatingViolenceResourceCenter101

 

You can also go to www.loveisrespect.org to learn more about teen dating abuse, or you can call their National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline at 1-866-331-9474.

Signed: TeenHealthFX

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