Here’s a letter from Carol, who’s feeling horrible with her man – and my very “tough” answer:
I have a question. My man and I were out to dinner and he made the comment that one of his top 5 loves was women. I was hurt by this comment because it made me feel unimportant and like he wants to date many women. Than after I questioned him he tells me he meant it like he loves his mom and his sisters and than I was mad because he put me on the same level as his relatives.
Then he expresses how much he loves me in the middle of this loud venue and I felt like I couldn’t talk. So we get home and he says he doesn’t feel welcome so he leaves and goes home to his house. He always leaves and never wants to work it out. I feel abandoned and that he’s just not mature enough for me to spend the time with him.
I had looked through his emails and saw that he contacted a massage therapist in hopes of a happy ending when we weren’t talking. He also sent a pic of me to his friend of me in my lingerie. So I told him about it last night because I asked him about it and he lied and said that he had never done that. Without showing him the e-mail I don’t think I would have gotten the truth.
I’m so confused and need some guidance.
Thank you, Carol”
Carol – here’s what I’m getting from your letter – and I’m going to be harsh and direct because of how you phrased things in the letter to me:
1. This man can’t do anything right.
Everything he does or says, you take as a personal affront, an offense, or in a negative light.
He’s constantly having to defend himself. You’re constantly upset by him – even over the smallest things, because you’re upset about big things and haven’t worked them through.
You’re driving him away.
2. I don’t think the massage or the lingerie is worth dumping a good man for...but that’s up to you, and your assessment of him as an essentially “good man” or not.
3. You’re going to either have to dump him because you don’t believe he can ever make you happy – or you have to start RADICALLY ACCEPTING HIM and STOP interpreting everything he does or says as pertaining to YOU in a negative way.
Join in the conversation – “Yeah, we women are AMAZING – I’m so glad you appreciate us!” is a much better answer than becoming upset….
By making everything about you – you make it impossible for him to be himself.
He’s walking on eggshells and developing anger (and doing stupid things)…
If my husband said to me one of his top 5 things was women – How I’d feel and respond might have a LOT to do with “context” – what made him say it, how he was behaving around me just before he said it, what he did after he said it, what feelings got triggered in me…all of that.
I could take it as a personal slam at me in some insidious, insensitive way – or I could take it as a glowing tribute to women and his appreciation of them.
I don’t know what I’d feel in that moment, or what I’d do, but I’d mightily consider choosing the more upbeat options.
And I see that you chose to take it as a personal affront.
Either this is because he’s a narcissistic, uncaring, stupid man who was being insensitive, cruel and jerky, or because he’s simply “clueless” and has a warped sense of humor and even less understanding of women, or because there’s some friction between you and it’s causing him to develop a lot of anger and resentment and stuff it down so that it comes out in weird ways like this that seem like a DELIBERATE attempt to hurt you – or because you are so all about you that you can’t see the big picture.
Please just consider all of this.
If the possibility exists that you take EVERYTHING personally, and he’s just cluelessly playing into that constantly, so that both of you can maintain this hurtful dynamic between you, please consider it.
If it’s even a fraction correct that much of this is about you being so “sensitized” to everything he does and says that everything automatically becomes all about you – then you can turn it around by turning around your perception and interpretation, and the “meaning” you give everything he says and does, everything that happens.
Please take this as NOT that YOU’RE doing anything WRONG, either – it just isn’t HELPFUL for you to see things this way, and it isn’t serving you.
It’s just undermining the relationship.
Better to see things more clearly and either stay or go.