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My Fiancé Is Irritable, Closed Off, And Critical - But Is It Abuse?

by Anonymous
(United States)

It is hard to know what is normal fighting or bad times in a relationship, and what constitutes emotional abuse. It is even harder to know what to do about it. I love my fiancé and we are generally very, very happy. However, he has extreme mood swings and trouble being emotionally available.

It is hard to summarize how he treats me because it is just a bunch of little things. He is very critical of me and puts me down, makes fun of me, etc. but often joking. He often uses a very critical, mean, hurtful tone with me. He is not incredibly affectionate. He gets in terrible moods, and instead of being angry, he just shuts down and it is hard to get one word out of him.

He does not communicate well, and when I try to get him to, or misunderstand something, it is my fault. For example, if I suggest something but didn't realize he had already told me, or I apparently should already know something, he responds with the most disdainful tone. It often just seems like he doesn't like me, but the rest of our relationship says otherwise.

When I talk to him about his behavior or a specific fight, he just sarcastically tells me I'm right and won't discuss it further. He is fine giving the silent treatment for hours at a time, and then just tries to hug me and say "I'm sorry" to make it better, without actually discussing it. It is actually when he is very happy that I notice the issues most, because I realize how much better things are.

He is never violent or even angry. More like absent, emotionally blank and indifferent. He is not jealous, but he is controlling in the sense that I am criticized for every little thing. I have told him before I feel like I will never be good enough.

I am a confident person and know this is ridiculous. His parents are happily married, but they have a very cold relationship that I think he has modeled his own after. Unfortunately, I need more than that. I have heard his family and others say he is "just a guy" and they don't communicate the way women do. But I call BS on that. These people also don't know the depth of the issues. Just his lack of communication skills is a significant issue, not to mention the others.

In his professional life, he excels. He is incredibly charming and "turns it on" when he needs to. So I know he is capable, it almost feels like he doesn't respect me enough to turn it on for me.

I have seen him work on and improve certain things, but I am done having discussions with him and being the one to help him get better all by myself. It is exhausting and I deserve better. I think he needs help.

Do you suggest couples counseling or solo counseling? Something needs to be done before I move forward in this relationship.

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Aug 09, 2016
You Are Wise To Ask These Questions Now
by: Dr. DeFoore

Hello, and thanks for telling your story here. You ask several good questions, and I will offer some possible answers.

First, you ask if this is abuse, and the answer is yes. In your words, your fiance is "very critical of me and puts me down, makes fun of me" and "often uses a very critical, mean, hurtful tone with me." This is definitely abuse, and it can be very damaging especially over time.

You're not married yet, and that's good. These issues usually get worse after marriage, not better, so this is the time to take a close look at this relationship.

You say that you love him...I want you to think about something. Do you love yourself enough to only be in relationships in which you are treated with kindness, care and respect? If not, you may find yourself accepting abuse because of the love you feel at other times.

Even though you find his behavior at times to be intolerable, you are tolerating it, and that is a reflection of your relationship with yourself.

You also ask about counseling. If you were coming to me as clients, I would suggest that you both get individual counseling, followed by couples counseling.

Please understand that you cannot have love without respect. You can have infatuation, which does not last, and you can have attachment, which is unhealthy...but you cannot have love.

Make up your mind that you will only accept the best for yourself.

My best to you,

Dr. DeFoore

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