Respect Within the Couple

by Andreia


My boyfriend's got an old friend from Uni (female friend, recently married) who since we've started going out has used every opportunity to offend or belittle me. We live in different countries (me and him in one, her in another) and so there haven't been so many opportunities, but nonetheless she has missed none.

At first I was quite intimidated and didn't know how to respond. As time went by I started to gather frustration and anger that I only let out in front of my boyfriend (out of education telling me not to make a scene in public, but also maybe fear that in a scene he might not back me up, or that in the long run he would respect me less).

Because of living abroad, he feels he has to put extra effort into keeping good relations with as many people as possible and therefore he's refused to admit anything was wrong, and then, when faced with the evidence, his attitude was "let us be the more wise & dignified" etc.

So I kept on taking hits. every time he hears from her I snap. I live in constant worry that some day her disliking me will somehow influence him.

He admits that she's out of place, but tries to minimize the events and says he would rather we proved our strength in time, than confront her. I feel that by him not saying anything to her, he encourages her to continue to treat me with lack of respect - which I believe that time has proven.

We started going out after I had been dating one of his friends, and so we've always been a bit cautious socially, to try and not force common friends to pick a side and avoid making them feel uncomfortable. I believe we've kept a feeling of guild towards friends. Her reasons are probably irrelevant, but if I was to presume, I'd say she's started out as protective towards him and evolved into frustrated over being wrong.

Recently she's sent an email asking if her husband could come and visit my boyfriend (and my boyfriend alone) for a week-end. My boyfriend is considering having him over while I get stomach aches just thinking that he's probably going to send another friendly email, ending in "Love, ..." therefore giving her the message that nothing in her behavior was ever wrong.

We've been fighting about it for the past days, me telling him that by allowing his friends to offend me he is in fact the one offending me and that there is no such thing as non-action (lack of attitude being, instead, an act of approval), him arguing that I can't "force" him to fight with his friends, and that he doesn't believe confrontation is the key, but "living well..."

In the meantime I've started feeling guilty. Should I? Am I wrong? How should I deal with this? I have already used all the logical arguments, all the metaphors in the world, tried to make him imagine a reversed situation, threatened, asked for logic etc. At the end of the day, I'm left with guilt and sadness and bitterness.

I feel that by him tolerating his friend to offend me he's showing me lack of respect, love or commitment.

Ben's Answer:

Andreia - If your boyfriend's female friend and her husband really treat you with disrespect, insults or prejudice, and your boyfriend sees that they are doing this, and actually allows it to take place without saying anything to them about it -- then he is absolutely disrespecting you.

If this is the reality of the situation, then "dignity" or "wisdom" or keeping the peace or whatever flawed logic your boyfriend uses to justify his avoidance, is simply that: Avoidance.

If he was really exercising dignity and wisdom he would confront his friend's childish behavior, have it out with her and insist that she get over her issues with you.

You have nothing to feel guilty about.

He seems to think that confrontation means conflict. He needs to understand that there is no real peace created in this world without confrontation. Confronting denial. Confronting prejudice. Confronting fear. And confronting with compassion and love as your guide. Until he learns that lesson, you will have to tolerate the indignity of his friend's disrespect. You deserve more than that.

Take Care,

Ben Schwarcz

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