Living

Is angry boyfriend abusive?

Carolyn Hax
Carolyn Hax

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: I’ve been dating my boyfriend for 11 months. It’s the best relationship I have ever been in and I love him.

Last weekend he found out about a social media account I didn’t tell him about and got very upset. He found out when I showed him a cute kitten post on the site, so it wasn’t so much a secret as an omission.

He says this has made him reconsider our whole relationship and he doesn’t feel like he knows me at all anymore. He says he is totally transparent (really? is anybody?) and I am withholding.

He swears his reaction is about the principle of not keeping secrets. I say the nature of the secret was so unimportant that his reaction is ridiculous.

My mom says he is controlling and gaslighting me. I’m not sure, but something does feel wrong. He sees the world in more black-and-white; I see more gray. I don’t know what to think anymore. Is his reaction over the top?

Is It Abuse?

You have to be yourself, and he has to see that and decide whether to keep dating you. (And vice versa.)

So be clear in standing your ground: “I’ve heard you out, and maintain I’ve done nothing wrong. I’m going to live my life, neither hiding from nor reporting to you. That’s my way. If that’s not your way, then I respect that, but won’t change for you.”

That puts you at a crossroads: Can you accept each other as-is, or will you just hang on while trying to change each other?

If he keeps looking to prove his suspicions as you scramble to disprove them, this thing’s over — it’s just a matter of making it official.

Re: Abuse?: “Something does feel wrong.” LISTEN TO YOURSELF! Do not rationalize that away. Our instincts can be a gift.

Anonymous

Re: Abuse?: His reaction sends up so many red flags. That you showed him a link from the site would tell any reasonable person you were not hiding it from him. He has great potential for being a controlling partner.

Anonymous 2

Re: Abuse?: There is nothing abusive about that at all. Statements like that undermine true abuse.

Anonymous 3

Technically abusive, no — however, dismissals like yours squelch discussion of the early indications of abuse, essentially denying people a chance to get out of relationships before they get dangerous.

If abusers punched or berated people on first dates, then abuse would be a non-issue as all the abusers sat home alone while everyone wisely avoided them.

Your “true” abuse starts somewhere. That somewhere is predictable and visible to informed eyes, tucked into the romance, love, promise, excitement — elements that form the attachments that keep victims there when the bad stuff starts.

A couple of those key signs were in the above letter.

It’s certainly possible this guy is too young or immature for his black-and-white worldview to have grayed at the temples, and it’s also possible the letter-writer is shading the story in her favor — though he should break up with her over that, not badger her into obedience.

But training people to spot warnings does nothing to “undermine true abuse.” On the contrary; it’s our soundest way to prevent it.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.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.

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