Am I Being Abused?

Am I Being Abused?

Q: My boyfriend and I have been dating for eight months and moved in together two months ago. He used to buy me presents and bring me flowers when we first started seeing each other, but ever since we started living together he seems to be so moody and temperamental all the time. He says I don’t clean things the way he likes, and he hates my cooking. I’m trying to be a good girlfriend but I just can’t seem to do anything right and he gets so angry at me. The other day one of my brother’s old football teammates contacted me to get his contact information and my boyfriend accused me of cheating on him and lying to him about it. I don’t know why he would even think that! Ever since then he waits for me in the parking lot when I get off work to make sure I go straight home. I told him I don’t like being told what to do and he screamed at me. I think he had been drinking. My friend told me he’s being abusive, but he hasn’t hit me or anything. When I told him I needed space he started crying and threatened to kill himself if I left him. I love him and don’t want him to hurt himself but I’m also kind of scared. What should I do?

He: Run! This seems like a really inauspicious beginning for an eight-month relationship. It’s not surprising that you didn’t get to learn all of the facets of your boyfriend’s personality in the six months before you moved in together. That is why you should never do anything like that. Six months is not even close to enough time to see how a significant other responds to the challenges and stressors of a relationship. The emergence of unwarranted suspicion, criticism, verbal abuse and controlling behaviors would have made themselves known to you, had you allowed more time to pass before cohabitating. This is a big part of his personality, and those ugly personality traits would have crept out soon enough. My guess is that when you look back at the first six months, some of those signs were there, but the cloudy-headed bliss of the new relationship didn’t allow you to see them for what they were.

This situation is not going to get better and will likely get far worse. Even though his abuse has been emotional and not physical, his anger issues indicate that it may evolve into the physical realm, particularly if he feels like he is losing control. Don’t allow the threats to kill himself affect your decision making process- this is just part of his attempt to control and emotionally abuse you. You are not responsible for man that he is. You have only known him for a fleeting moment in his many years on the planet. Similarly, you can’t change him, as much as you would like to try. The concrete that is his personality has long hardened, and it is going to take a lot of time and a lot of work to make any significant changes.

The best thing you can do for yourself is chalk this up to a learning experience and part of your development as a person. You have undoubtedly learned a lot about yourself and reading other people as a result of this relationship. Break it off cleanly with him. Move out and avoid any contact with him and make sure that you are safe. Undoubtedly, he will make many attempts to reconcile. Be strong and use your family and friend network to resist any impulses to talk with him. He will eventually move on, and hopefully, will use this experience as a wake-up call to get some help dealing with some of the issues he has.

She: Let’s be really clear, emotional abuse is abuse, and what you’re experiencing is emotional abuse. It rarely gets better, and typically gets worse. Unless your boyfriend is interested in getting help for his mood instability, insecurities, and controlling behaviors, it is likely that the abuse will increase in frequency and intensity.

It’s important to understand that abuse is about control. People who abuse have a need to control those that they are with. They do this using put-downs and threats, physical violence, or sexual violation. They will try to keep you isolated in order to avoid outside influence. They love for you to feel bad about yourself, and the worse the better. They want you to feel like no one else would ever love you and you are nothing without them. I don’t care if you think you are a strong person now; if you don’t get out soon, that will change. He will eventually win this war, and you will feel like you don’t deserve anything better.

What brought you to the place that you feel that this is any way to be treated in a relationship (that you’re writing, I’m hoping you are feeling like this is not normal)? Is this the relationship that you dreamed of? What have you done to make it better? How far are you going to let it go? What will be the final straw for you? Do you have a plan to get out of the relationship? These are things you need to think about, very seriously.

In the future, you might think about moving in with a boyfriend so soon after meeting. Six months is a very short time to move in together; this is well short of the time you need to really know someone. This is still the ‘honeymoon’ phase, and a time when you are both showing each other your best selves. If you would have waited, and gotten to know each other, you would most likely have seen the signs that he has some issues with mood, anger, jealousy, and control. Now, you have entwined your lives to a point that it is not as simple to just break-up. I always encourage people to date at least a year before moving in; your situation is a perfect example why.

Leaving any relationship is hard, but the sooner the better. You are wrapped up in a cycle of abuse (see article below) that won’t end until something changes. That change will mean one or both of you getting professional help, or leaving. Don’t wait for things to get worse, don’t buy into the apologies and the tactics to gain your sympathy to keep you from leaving. Just get some professional help and get out. Then make a commitment to taking your time finding a relationship that makes you feel safe, loved, and free to be yourself- you deserve it.


Dr. Jen Semmes and Andy Wilson have been (mostly) happily married for eleven years (currently happily). They are the owners of Coastal Counseling therapy center in Carlsbad, California. Jen holds a license in clinical social work and a doctorate in psychology, and is a therapist at Coastal Counseling. Andy just tries to hold it together.

If you, or anyone you know, has a question for ‘He said, She said’ please send a private message to Coastal Counseling on Facebook or email the question to  

Disclaimer: This blog and the information herein are for educational and informational purposes only. It is not meant as a substitute for professional psychological or therapeutic services.  The self-help information provided by this blog are solely the opinion of the bloggers and should not be considered as a form of therapy, advice, direction, diagnosis, or treatment of any kind. Instead, the information is designed to be used in conjunction with ongoing treatment provided by a mental health professional. Use the information in this blog at your own risk. All of the information is provided “as-is,” with no warranties of any kind, express or implied.


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