Q. My boyfriend confronted me last night and told me that he felt I wasn’t being supportive of him enough (we go to grad school together, and we’re taking one class together; I gave him a B+ on his presentation). I tried to apologize and told him that I wasn’t aware it meant a lot to him (the presentation didn’t carry a lot of marks to begin with), but he told me that my apologies are not genuine and that he doesn’t believe anything I say, anyway.
He continued to talk down to me and told me that I did not respect him enough, I was willing to admit to my mistakes, but he told me that it wasn’t good enough, and then moved on to pick on personal habits of mine that he disliked. It ended with him telling me that I was an “embarrassment” to him and to his family before he walked out.
I’m honestly at a loss of what to do. This wasn’t the first time he’s confronted me like this. The last time this happened, I had cut my hair short and he thought it was a sign of me leaving him! He doesn’t seem to trust me very much and seems ashamed about what I do and how I carry myself in public, which hurts me deeply, but I’m aware that I cannot help how he feels. I don’t know if he had said these things out of anger or frustration or whatever it is he’s going through, but I’ve known him for so long and this was the first time he’s yelled at me.
We had wedding plans and everything, even plans on buying a small home after we work for a few years. But after he’s said all that, I don’t know if this is someone who I want to share a future with, presentation grades be damned. I’m at a loss of what do from this point onwards, any advice?
Oh sweet pea. I’m so unsure where to begin.
On one hand, I want to tell you that being in any relationship with a person means seeing them at their worst. And I’m not talking about “you-didn’t-do-the-dishes-you-got-upset-at-sports-you-were-a-dick” worst. I mean, a person’s worst. The flawed, insecure-driven ick that gets muddled around in our bodies and comes out in words we can’t take back and actions that would embarrass us any day of the week. Being with a person, especially if you want to be with a person in a way that includes mortgages and marriages means getting comfortable with the worst aspects of your partner. Not all time time, oh not at all. But some of the time? Yes. That’s what being in a real relationship means.
On the other hand? I want to tell your boyfriend to put his big boy shoes on and grow the fuck up. To put aside his shitty little ego (because frankly, that’s all the size an ego will let you be) and stop looking to have a pissing match. I want to to tell your boyfriend that the feelings of hate and insecurity and all the other mess he is transplanting on you are actually all about himself. I want to tell him that resentment is a festering hole that barely anyone can dig themselves out of.
But then again, I also want to tell him that somewhere in that muddled mess of feelings, there is validity. Or a fear. Or a genuine feeling of not feeling your love or respect. And then I want to tell him to actually talk about it as opposed to theatrically scream and yell about it. Then I want to tell him that he needs to yell some more, not at you, but in general, because bottling up feelings leads to a poisoning of the well. I want to tell you that maybe what is right in front of you is where the problem lies and maybe that there really is no problem at all, just a scared, hapless kid, because that’s what a lot of relationships are, really. Two, scared hapless kids trying their very best to be adults together.
But I can’t tell you or him anything. Not a single damn thing.
Because this decision? Is yours and yours alone.
There are times when people write me with questions that boggle the very cells of my mind. On the surface, it looks easy and I could swear on a stack of Bibles that when I first read your questions, all I could think was, “Drop the motherfucker.” It seemed like the easiest and most simple answer.
And then I remembered something.
I remembered every time I have ever acted like my ego was the center of the goddamn universe. That “I” was in fact all there was, and “I” was a person misunderstood, one whose ways had to be met. I remembered every time I had ever stormed out of a room, slamming the door to let the person know I meant business. Or every time I delivered the most satisfying of low blows, only to realize that what I had just said was neither right nor fair. I remembered every time I had ever defended myself and while doing so, realized that I was not defending my actions but my right to just do so, to not be wrong, even though I knew I was so very wrong. I remembered each and every time I had said something hurtful instead of just saying how I really felt, how I had diverted my own feelings of unworthiness to someone else, how each judgement and critical action on someone else had come from the fact that I really did not like myself one bit. In short my love? I remembered every time I had ever been at my very worst.
Better yet? I remembered every person who had not dropped me at that very worst.
If you are human, which I tend to assume you may be, you may have also found yourself in this dark moment.
It is at the ground zero point of being at one’s very worst, that people make the decisions that ripple through those two lives: Stay or Go.
Like I said, the decision is yours.
For good reason, too. I can’t begin to imagine that stuff of the day-in, day-out of your relationship. I’ve just been presented with this one scenario. Is this the scenario that is all too common in your lives? Then perhaps “go” seems like the solution to all your ease. A reaction to something bigger? Something that has much to do with nothing? A rarity or even a misplaced outburst? Maybe “stay” is the path you need.
There is a fine line we women have to balance when it comes to this stuff. We carry a heavy weight that sometimes chooses what to do for us. How could it not? History ain’t ever really been on our side, so when the boil gets to a topping point, we are left with a choice. It is far, far too easy to excuse bad behavior in the name of “love.” Yet, in the mirror image, it is also, and just as easy, to dismiss anything if it at all disrupts the notion of what “love” means.
I cannot tell you what to chose.
I can only tell you that you know this man, if by know him, I mean, you are with him day in and day out. That is the deciding factor. Not my advice, not your mom’s advice, hell, not even his misplaced advice. It is you, and you alone, who must decide what the weight of the flawed really is and if that weight is worth carrying. Do not find out if it is a year into a marriage and a mortgage. Do not find out when there are kids. Do not find out any second later than this very instant, right now.
Because some weights are worth carrying, and others? Will always be too heavy and bring us down.
Got a question to ask, subject you’d like us to discuss, or myth you’d like us to bust? Keep ‘em coming! You can send us an anonymous message via the Ask Us! feature here. Tell ’em Coco sent ya.
4 replies on “Stay or Go: The Weight of the Flawed”
He sounds extremely immature to me. He got the grade he earned. He doesn’t deserve a free pass because you’re engaged to him. It also sounds like he is projecting all of his failures on to you and using that as an excuse to belittle you. And he could keep doing that. How supportive is he of you? Do you realty want to deal with someone who treats you like he does every day? Do you really want to be with someone who enjoys making you so sad and beating your self-confidence down to nothing?
The fact that you’re asking yourself these questions shows you are having misgivings about him. Seriously, cut your losses and leave and tell him to piss off. Better to be single, happy, and self-confident than married to someone who goes out of his way to make you feel shitty and who doesn’t seem to value you like he expects you to value him.
Sometimes, we ask these questions because we genuinely want to know the answer. Sometimes, though, we ask them because we know the answer and we need someone to push us towards it so we can feel the relief of knowing that it’s the “right” choice. Whatever the case may be here, I hope that the author of the letter reads this and takes it to heart: you are worthy, and worth knowing and loving. You deserve to have a partner who is proud of you and who delights in your successes and helps you through your failures. Whatever path that means for you, you deserve happiness, love, and respect in your relationship and your life. Best of luck to you as you figure out what will help you find those things.
I say go. While I totes agree that sometimes we say shitty things to our partners, this goes beyond bad day/bad month mojo. It gets into making claims on her character (her hair? really? A sign of something? That’s a low blow.)
Also, dating a fellow grad student is hard. Like, really, really hard. Especially if they are in your program. Grad school has a way of messing with your head that makes maintaining that professionalism difficult.
The fact that he got mad after she gave him a B+ (which is NOT a bad grade, even by grad school standards). For a partner to expect an A just by virtue of being their partner is a little unethical, firstly, and also completely against what being a good partner is about. If there hadn’t been a grade attached and she had given him feedback it should (and really it should) be okay. A partnership, especially one that is both intellectual and romantic, thrives on feedback. And if she was forced to grade him, then it sucks that it got attached to a letter grade (because those are really dumb), but he shouldn’t have been upset that she challenged his work. That’s a good thing. And it worries me that he reacts that way.
Get out. Date someone outside of your program. Cut your hair extra short. And dye it blonde. Or pink. Get yourself some cheap bling. Have fun. Find someone who loves you no matter your hair length and who when you give them a B+ says, “I really value your feedback. Let’s work on making this better, together!”
My initial thought was DTMFA. But then I read Coco Papy’s excellent and thought provoking response. And I still come down on the “toxic relationship” side of the fence. But now there’s an “unless” in there. Does he recognize that he’s taking his issues out on you and does he show any interest in changing? Have you tried saying “Don’t get snippy at me because XYZ didn’t go the way you planned”?
That being said-you said he seems ashamed of you in public. Unless you’re a truly awful human, which I doubt, cause you’re here, that’s not a good thing. He should love you for who you are, in private AND in public.