Self-Love Wednesday – Ask Amanda

Question: Hey Amanda! I was telling a friend over our mani/pedis that I had gone another round of unproductive and brutal fighting with my long time boyfriend. She suggested that I write you. There are a lot of past childhood hurts, abuse and other dynamics that play into who he is. He overreacts when I have dinner and drinks with girlfriends or do things independently of him. I just want my response to not be so emotional and then leaving me with a big hole. Unfortunately, I feel I’m in a pattern that I can’t correct. My question is – how does a person not respond back in ugliness. I need to be able to feel that I’m not conceding and still maintaining me. In those heated moments nothing good comes from giving it right back to him, but I don’t want to be left feeling like a whipped pup? – P




Hello P!

Without knowing the exact scenario, a few things come to mind. 


1. First let’s talk about you. I am so sorry you are going through this. That kind of fighting can be so draining. It sounds like you want to be able to say how you feel without making hurtful remarks or escalating things further and adding to the big blow up when this man overreacts to a situation. 

A part of loving yourself (and loving your relationship) is being able to explain yourself. The goal is to be able to talk about how you feel without causing anyone to feel attacked and further escalating the situation. So that may sound like, “I know you are really angry right now, and I’m sorry that you feel so upset, but I feel really blank when you blank. I want to try figure out a way that we can handle this type of situation differently” or “I want to figure out a compromise we are both really comfortable with for the future.” And then maybe you can talk more about what you want/how you feel.  



2. Next time you find yourself in this situation, you may decide that you need to walk away for a while before you talk. So it’s a good idea to tell him you need a minute to yourself and take a walk or go somewhere alone for a minute. So maybe say something like, “I know you are really upset right now and I don’t want to say anything that will hurt you, so I’m going to take a minute to myself.”

During the alone time, really experience the way you are feeling. Let yourself feel angry, sad, frustrated, etc. Accept your emotions as valid and just sit with it for a minute. When you feel settled, consider talking. Wait to explain yourself until you can do it calmly and from a more peaceful place. 



3. That being said, let’s talk a little more about what is going on with your partner – when people have a lot of pain in their past that they have not worked through, anything that brings up an old hurt will cause them to react disproportionately to the situation. It sounds like you are aware of this.  I don’t know enough of the situation to know where his insecurity resides. It may be a fear of losing you, being alone, losing control, ect. It is my guess that when he feels threatened/insecure/vulnerable he freaks out. 



4. Since you are well aware that his issues are rooted in his childhood, it may make it a little easier to relate to him and have empathy for what he has gone through. So when he acts crazy, first validate his emotions. Start with, “I know you’re really upset right now” “or “I know when I blank it made you really blank and you just didn’t know what to do”.

Your acceptance and understanding can help. Never tell anyone that they are wrong for how they feel. His feelings aren’t wrong. His reactions to the feelings he doesn’t know how to handle are where the problem lies. There are no winners in these kind of arguments – so focus on understanding each other better, not being right.



5. All of that being said, it is really really hard to be in a relationship with someone who is threatened by your independence or who is unable to trust you during a night out with friends. Trust me, I’ve done it. He may become more comfortable over time with the things you are describing as you talk about it and learn about what’s going on for him. However, if this does not help, I suggest he see a therapist. He could consider individual counseling or maybe marriage counseling for the two of you. To have a functional relationship, you need a healthy amount of separateness and togetherness. If you feel stifled and restricted as a person and like you can not do the things that are important to you, you will come to resent him more and more over time. 


If he will not consider talking through or working through these issues, I suggest you consider getting out of the relationship.  In my experience, I was lucky that the person I was with was willing to have a discussion about their fears, work through them, and grow as a person… but had this not been the case, I would have had to leave the relationship. 



All the best P,


Amanda Frances 


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