Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Email from a guy with an impolite boyfriend

Just before the end of November last year, a reader sent me the following email:

Dear GB,

My boyfriend and I have been together for almost three years.

My boyfriend was, for a year and a half, amazing, wonderful, and essentially the most loving person I have ever met. He was extremely kind, not only to me, but to others, was very positive and charming, and was very open minded. I love this man deeply, and I truly feel honoured to be with him. I know for a fact that he loves me the same, and we would go to extreme lengths to make each other happy.

But for the last year and a half, he has become quite the opposite. He is extremely rude to others (not me, luckily). He purposely walks in the way of others in public to assert his self-defined superiority, causing one older woman to ask him "Are you okay?", with him responding snarkily, "Don't get in my way." He stares at himself in the mirror for very long periods of time, brushes his hair obsessively, and often mentions how beautiful he is. He regularly mentions how he is so financially successful at such a young age, which is true, but then makes it a competition between him and his similarly successful friends. He thinks all of my friends are a waste of resources, since they are mostly following a traditional career path in their respective fields. He buys $2,000+ articles of clothing and apparel not to look good, but to make others who can't afford it feel inadequate. He is cunning, and uses his people skills and good looks to manipulate others to do things for him. He purposely treats people in the service industry poorly so they feel as if they must overcompensate to earn a tip or good rating. He ignores people when spoken to while staring at his finger nails, and often responds to complex questions with overly simplified and off-topic answers to turn the tide of the discussion in his favour. I have spoken to him about all of this.

I know everything I've stated above seems like he is the worst person to ever walk the face of this planet, but he wasn't always this way. He *tells me* that he has always been this way, but from the first year and a half of dating, that is completely untrue. I have confronted him about this by stating that I believe, when he is acting terribly, that I am staring at someone else, and I cannot recognize him. He is very stubborn, and at first, refused to believe me and tried to make it seem like I'm imaging things, but I was so overwhelmed by his idiocy that burst out in tears, and he finally listened. He told me he will try to be more nice, more focused on how to be a better person. He is extremely romantic and tender in these situations, and really kills it as a boyfriend when it comes to caring for me. He loves who I am on the inside and out, and finds me very attractive. He loves my family, and I love his, and we get along wonderfully as best friends. I've seen some improvement in the recent months, but it's more of a 15% improvement than anything else.

Overall, I'm not happy with the current state of relationship, directly due to his bad attitude. Things could be infinitely worse, as in, he could be treating me badly or not love me, or he could be cheating, etc, but he is not, and I shouldn't take anything for granted. However, I still find myself unhappy with him. His bad attitude makes me want to disappear sometimes, or fall asleep and wake up to a time when he was still acting normal. Even his own mother has noticed a severe change in attitude, and told him that she did not raise him to act this way to others.

Finally, he is not going through any trauma or severe change in his life. We talk about his work life, family, friends, and personal well-being all of the time, and he is very comfortable and happy. He is not stressed out, nor is he worried about the future. He is not self-conscious, more so like overly self-confident. I am more of a quiet person, and much more observant and self-aware. We are both very young, as I've already alluded to, and I believe that we both have much to learn. He believes that he knows all that he needs. Despite all of these changes, I still love him deeply.

Thus, I am unsure of how to act on this. I like to address a problem, and solve it. He is having difficulty understanding the problem, or seeing that it exists, making this a particularly difficult situation for me. Do you have any advice? Is there advice?

Thank you for taking the time to read this, I really appreciate it.

I sent him a reply within a day, in which I said that it was very strange for his behaviour to change like that, and that it was obviously real given that his mother had also noticed the change.

It seems to me that the boyfriend has some kind of physiological or even psychiatric problem. I'm not trained in either of those professions, so perhaps the best advice would be to seek the help of someone who is. However, like a lot of people, I find it interesting to think about these kinds of issues.

Based on my own experiences, the amateur psychologist in me would say that this kind of behaviour might be rooted in some feeling of inadequacy that the reader's boyfriend has. Were there any events that occurred a year and a half ago which might have made him feel that he was a failure in some way? Or what event from his distant past might suddenly have resurfaced in his consciousness to give him an inferiority complex?

There's an analogy here with situations where someone feels that they might be gay, but wants hide their feelings, especially from other people. When that happens, the person often becomes become homophobic and anti-gay. Some of the best examples of this can be seen in politicians who support anti-gay policies in an attempt to *prove* their heterosexuality, which makes it all the more embarrassing for them when their gay experiences are discovered. So with the reader's boyfriend, his constant assertion of superiority could be because inside he's feeling inadequate and inferior in some way.

Maslow's pyramidHowever, I'm not sure what the best course of action is for the reader to solve the problem. Perhaps one place to start would be for the reader to discuss this amateur psychological analysis with the boyfriend. And as part of that discussion, it would be good to point out that genuinely successful people always treat people with respect. I'm thinking here of "self-actualized" people at the top of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

Also, if the reader's boyfriend is at all religious and in particular if he follows the Catholic faith, it might be worth pointing out to him what an excellent example Pope Francis is setting at the moment. I was brought up as a Christian (protestant not Catholic), and although I don't follow it anymore, I am hugely impressed by what Pope Francis has to say about most issues. His famous line "Who am I to judge?" and now his new book "The name of God is mercy" are a breath of fresh air. However, the reader's boyfriend is taking the opposite approach, because he is judging people and failing to treat them with them with dignity and respect.

I think this is quite a difficult problem to solve, so if any other readers have any insights that might help, I'm sure the reader who sent me the email would appreciate it :-).