Dear Life Matters,
My fiancé is everything I would want in a man and most of the time we have a very pleasant relationship and a lot of fun together. I love him deeply most of the time and I think he loves me. He did ask me to marry him.
But I think he has a mean streak. He doesn’t have a temper, he has never been physically abusive with me and I don’t think he ever would be. So it’s nothing like that. But, sometimes he just cuts me to the core with his words. He can be so critical of me and it seems to come out of nowhere and for no good reason.
When he starts this, I do not want to be around him. And later when he wants to make love, I can’t stand the thought of him touching me. He acts as if nothing is any different. I would estimate that this happens about 10 to 20 percent of the time.
I really need to understand what I can do and how to deal with this before I move forward with an actual marriage.
I am glad to hear that you enjoy a lot in common, have fun together and, for the most part, have a pleasant relationship. You should definitely capitalize on this.
However, what you write to me indicates that you have three problems, not just one.
First, you say that you think that your fiancé loves you, but it doesn’t sound like you are very certain. You definitely do not want to marry someone who doesn’t really love you. Yes, he asked you to marry him and hopefully you are correct in what it means, but since I don’t know any of the other circumstances, I recommend that you honestly ask yourself if there might be any other reason or motive. I know it is not so romantic but better to know now if there is something a little off then to come up against it down the road when you are already hooked in.
Your second problem is the one that you point to, which is his criticizing of you. What is this about? Really, he cuts to your core, but on the other hand says he loves you and wants to marry you?
There are a number of reasons he might be behaving this way. He may be angry with you about something and unable to express it in any other way. Perhaps he is angry with someone else or another situation and just takes it out on you. It may be that he is very self-critical and it is easier to project it onto you. Maybe he wants you to be different than you really are.
All of this is a problem and it does need to be nipped in the bud! If not, you will be living with it and the growing resentment that you already have, which is your third problem.
Nothing kills a relationship faster and more efficiently than resentment!
If there is anything specific that he tends to criticize you about, pay attention to what it is and what this may mean.
There is a very correct saying that goes “when you point your finger, remember that three are pointing back at you!”
This is to be taken seriously and might help you understand what is going on with him.
As for staying in the relationship or moving forward, you are correct to think twice. If this 20 percent causes you to feel so terrible and to want to remove yourself from him as you describe this is a serious problem that if not addressed will just get worse.
Marriages or serious relationships should be made up of love, respect and mutual admiration and trust. There should be equality and at some level you should be best friends.
I don’t know that there is any room for criticism in a love relationship. It just hurts and causes resentment. Perhaps I am just splitting hairs but they are important ones.
It is fine to tell our partners what we like or don’t like, to share our feelings when we are hurt or bothered by something, but it does not need to be in the form of criticism, i.e., putting the other down, sarcasm that hurts the other. This is not only poor communication but also causes unnecessary pain which breeds resentment that more often than not leads to the end of a relationship.
Lastly, you might want to consider pre-marital counseling. It just might save both of you from a lot of heartache. At the very least start talking to him about this and start soon.
Dr. JoAnne Barge is a licensed psychologist and licensed marriage and family therapist with offices in Brentwood. Visit her at www.drbarge.com or send your anonymous questions to firstname.lastname@example.org Got something on your mind? Let us help you with your life matters! Because it does.