Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: Do you think it’s possible to “just stop feeling resentful” when you are repeatedly coerced into situations you clearly stated you didn’t want to get into?
Example: My partner pressures me to change the color of my hair from time to time. “Pressures” because even though I tell them that no, I’m not willing to bleach my hair again, or anymore, they start telling me how selfish and coldhearted I am.
I know that if I told my partner that it would make me resentful – which would aggravate the already resentful air this relationship has from both sides – they would just say, “Well, stop being resentful, then!” or, “If you can’t stop feeling resentful, then just learn how to do it.”
I know it’s on me to say no to my partner, but I always break under pressure. On the other hand, I know I would resent my partner if I obeyed this request again.
So my question is, I guess: How do I stop feeling resentment in this situation? Or, alternatively, how do I say no in a way my partner understands?
Your partner doesn’t understand no, so you can’t say no in a way your partner understands.
The sooner you recognize this, the sooner you can get yourself out of this controlling, emotionally abusive relationship. Your resentment is your mind and body’s reaction to being pushed around and therefore it is not to be ignored or stopped or unlearned. It’s an alarm. Heed it, and soon.
A reputable therapist can help you get there, as can a call to the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE) or to RAINN (1-800-656-HOPE).
This is not about hair, so please don’t let anyone, especially not you, tell you it is. It’s about your autonomy; your partner’s sense of entitlement to overrule your autonomy; and your need to recognize, respect and enforce the principle that no one but you gets to tell you who you are. Take those steps to find someone to help you, please, and take care.
Re: Not about hair: The previous post chilled me to the bone. Carolyn is right, “Resentful.” Please get help. This is not about what color your hair is. This is about being in a relationship with someone who expects you to OBEY them. That’s not good. That’s not healthy. That’s not right.
Please take care of yourself. Please get out of this relationship. Take it from someone who started with, “Ha, yeah, I pick my fingernails, it’s a nervous habit,” and ended with two broken fingers because I dared defy his repeated demands that I grow my fingernails out to his specified length.
Wow. I hope this is the nudge the letter-writer needs – thank you.
It has been a while since I recommended “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker, so I’ll use this as an opportunity. It’s crystal clear on identifying predictors of a dangerous relationship. His group also created a useful threat-assessment tool called MOSAIC, www.mosaicmethod.com.
Email Carolyn at email@example.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.