Victim or Volunteer?

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

My boyfriend is very jealous, disrespectful and doesnt seem to care about me.

I have been with my boyfriend for 2 years now. I love him so much and I can’t live without him but he treats me like crap. At first everything started very well. He doesnt let me have any male friends or have facebook or even doesnt let me go to the market because he thinks that I would cheat on him.

I have to get permission from him to do everything. My girlfriends can’t come over to my place because they would turn me into a bi*ch well thats what he thinks. At school he would talk to me on the phone till recess is over because he was afraid that I would cheat on him again. He has a really bad temper. He would always yell at me and even slaped me 3 times for doing the ‘wrong thing’ which was yelling at him in public and arriving late to a date. We would have arguments and yell at each other and he would make me feel terrible by saying things like no other man would love me the way he loves me and that i am so lucky that im going out with a handsome guy like him. He would really be like a father instead of a boyfriend to me. I have once made a mistake by cheating on him..and made him be in a terrible position with the other guy and treated him like sh*t for a few weeks because I wanted to teach him a lesson. He was never happy with me. I was suprised that he didnt break it off and was really upset that I cheated on him. He would send me poems everyday and make me feel special. One day he changed really suddenly. He told me that he hates me and was only going out with me to make me love him again after the cheating. He told me that he will never be that guy that he was when he first went out with me and he only wanted to take revenge. He would say if you beg me the way i begged you i would forgive you. So i did. I begged him to go out with me. He did but the next day he would say that its over because I didnt text him and that I was cheating on him again. He forced me into sex. He would yell at me when I didnt do it right. He always complained that my thighs were too chuby and can’t put it in. The thing I dont understand is that after each argument he would send me all these poems and say that he loves me and some days he would be a perfect boyfriend but suddenly changes afterwoods. He expects me to be perfect.

Now im overseas. I will be here for 7 months and later on he expects me to go back and get married to him. My parents dont even know that I’m going out with him and so he would take me somewhere that no one will find us. I found out yesterday that he cheated on me. He said that you did the same thing so I did it too. But I’m a guy and your not here and I need to have sex. I only used that girl for sex. Im going to marry you not her.

I dont know what to do. He wants me to send him money so he won’t cheat on me and go to a place where he could pay to have sex for but I cant afford sending him money all the time. I dont know what to do. I cant break up with him because I love him. Im really use to him and he has really put things into my mind that are really nice. Like getting married having kids having our own place..I think he has different personalities. I just cant understand him. I’m trying to accept the way he is but its really painful and he hurts my feelings so much that I nearly cry everyday.

What should I do? I’ve tried talking to him and hes said that he loves me so much that he would marry me. When me have an argument he would tell me that he was only saying that so he could hurt me even more if we were to break up one day. Do you think that I should get married to him? I really don’t think that he is going to change but maybe he should get help from someone. He changes all the time. He surprises me, then makes me cry..

What should I do? Do you think he loves me?

A: This isn’t love: It is abuse. Let’s review. Here is one of your opening sentences: I love him so much and I cant live without him but he treats me like crap.

Do you see something amis with that statement? I do. You love him more than he loves you. You say you can’t live without him, but the deeper question is why? Think about this. He wants you to work, earn money, then send it to him, so he can pay for sex, so it won’t be like cheating on you. He has hit you, and you have acted out against him by cheating. He has a very distinct profile that is often associated with misogynistic behavior. Such traits as excessive control, denial, manipulation, jealousy, anger, intimidation, and sexual domination are all indicators of his abusive nature. It does not get better on its own. Without him commiting to therapy these behaviors typically escalate.

Let me be a bit more blunt about this and put the issue squarely in front of you. It is your low self-esteem that is keeping you in this relationship, not your love. What you need to do is feel better about you so you don’t accept his pathetic behavior as something loving. Slapping you, telling you to pay for him to have sex with someone else, criticizing your body and forcing you to have sex are not acts of love. They are abusive: He has taken you hostage.

Even the poems are part of this profile. They are called an “undoing.” They are designed for you to forget the pain he is causing you.

But the part of you that feels there is something wrong, and does not want this to continue is the key to your self-esteem. It is the part that got you to write this letter and ask for help. Pay attention to this aspect of yourself. It is coming from a healthy place.

Get some counseling from a women’s support center where you are staying. You can find a local chapter through this organization. You can also click on the “Find Help” tab on the top of this article.

You were most likely drawn to your boyfriend’s potential, not his reality. Often when someone has felt victimized thy are afraid of having their own power because they feel it makes them like the person who controlled them. But what you are seeking is self-empowerment, not abusive or controlling. It is part of self-care which is essential for emotional growth.

Knowing when to leave an unhealthy relationship is important because it sets a boundary and allows you to become more whole.

Once the crisis passes you may want to continue in counseling to understand a bit more about why you were drawn to him in the first place. You need to feel better about yourself so you can see him for what he is. As the popular 12 step saying goes: “You are either a victim or volunteer.”

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 24 May 2010

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2010). Victim or Volunteer?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 26, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/05/24/victim-or-volunteer/