Q.My boyfriend called me an unbearable bitch today because after he said we can’t hang out because his parents keep stalling about our relationship, I replied with “There’s a lot of stalling in your life,” saying that I’m used to waiting around for him, but it’s OK. He knows that mean names really hurt me. I’ve explained to him that hearing those kind of names makes me believe I am those things. He said he’s sorry and to get over it or break up with him. I don’t deserve to be called stuff like that, and I don’t know what I can say to him to make him understand that under no circumstances can those types of words be used to describe me. He once got emotional when I cried or if he made me upset, but now all he does is get mad at me. I don’t know what to do. Please help.
– 17-year-old female
Mary Jo’s response: I agree with you. You don’t deserve to be called mean names.
In my opinion your relationship isn’t in a healthy place. His new anger and refusal to acknowledge your emotional needs tells me that he’s not into your relationship as he once was. People change, relationships have ups and downs. Disrespect can be a deal breaker. Misunderstandings happen, couples disagree and fight and then make up, but respect is vital. Put-downs do not have a place in a healthy relationship.
Second, and most important, please try to define yourself differently than the way he sees you. Names can only label us if we allow them to hurt. You are a person of great worth. If he fails to see that worth, his attitude shouldn’t be taken to heart. I know it’s difficult. “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is a lie. Mean names do hurt; do not believe that you are the mean things others may call you.
When I meet young people within a counseling relationship, I listen closely and strive to avoid advice. Most teens know what they should do in a challenging situation. My job is to help reflect their thoughts and provide them with a non-judgmental person who hears their concerns. What I hear from you is a need to remove yourself from this negative relationship. Change is never easy. Give yourself a chance at happiness. Did you see the movie “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”? There are many teachable moments in that film; one of my favorites is, “We accept the love we think we deserve.” You deserve a partner who respects you. Respect yourself and be strong enough to seek happiness.
Peer Educator response:
We doubt he’ll change. If he said you need to get over it or break up with him, he’s not exactly looking to become a better boyfriend. Being single isn’t the end of the world. Don’t let him put you down.
Q.This is so embarrassing, but I know you won’t judge. People always talk about abusive relationships where one person is being hurt or put down by another. I think most people assume the person getting hurt is a woman. Well, I’m a man but I’m the one in trouble. My girlfriend constantly puts me down, calls me names, and sometimes hits me. She takes money from my wallet and acts like I’m stupid. We’ve been together for three years and I’m kind of scared to be without her, but I think maybe it’s time to leave. What do you think?
Mary Jo’s response:
No one should be put down in a healthy relationship. As I said in my response to question number one, everyone deserves respect.
Let’s talk about your fear of leaving. I’ve known young people who connect with someone early and then fear breaking up because they’ve become so accustomed to the relationship that they can’t define themselves without their partners. This tendency to become dependent upon an unhealthy relationship is a big argument for waiting to be serious with another person. Adolescence is a time of great change; you’re a different young man than the man who first met her.
I think you know that it’s time to leave. Have the courage to find a partner who honors you and respects you.
You’re not the only young man in an abusive relationship. Stereotypes tell us that only women can be hurt, but the sad truth is any person is capable of hurting another. You deserve happiness. Good luck.
Peer Educator response:
It’s a shame you don’t know the girl in Mary Jo’s first question! It’s time to move on, dude. It’s tough, but you’ll be happier in the end.