For a long time, I wanted to meet someone, and I did in the last few months, just as everything is opening up again. It was great, he was really kind, and he still is, very loving and fun to be with. Occasionally though, he’s made comments about my weight and appearance — saying it would be better if I lost weight or did my hair a certain way. He also comments when we walk past a pretty woman, saying I could be more like them if I dressed differently. At first, I ignored it but now it’s starting to grate a bit. My friends have told me to tell him off, or get rid of him, but I’m scared as I’ve wanted a relationship for a long time.
Thank you for your letter. I understand your desire to be in a relationship. Most of us hope to find a special someone to share our lives with.
Everywhere we look we see couples together, our friends and family are in relationships, in every book we read, every film we watch we see couples and we hear the message that this is how we’re supposed to be.
The start of a relationship is an exciting time as you get to know this other person, there’s an attraction between you both, you enjoy being with one another, finding out about each other, having a laugh together.
There’s plenty of research that says healthy relationships are good for us, good for our emotional and physical health. The key word is ‘healthy’.
You’ve had enjoyable times with your new partner but there’s a couple of red flags that you have raised.
I would like to ask you a question, would you ever compare your partner’s appearance to another man? Would you say to him that if he was a few inches taller, more toned, he would be ‘better’?
No, I don’t think that you would. So, how come it’s okay for him to say similar things to you? The reason that it’s starting to ‘grate’ with you is because you know it’s not okay.
I’m glad you’ve spoken to your friends about his comments because again it means that you are checking out if this behaviour is okay and they’re affirming that no, it’s not.
When we feel the need to check if how we’re being treated is acceptable it’s a big sign that something is wrong.
It’s great that you’ve a good support network of friends around you, they know you, they care about you and they’re giving you some very clear feedback about your boyfriend’s behaviour.
When we love someone it’s because we’ve fallen in love with who they are — not loving an idea of what we think they should be.
Loving someone in a healthy, nurturing relationship means we are interested in each other, we accept that person for who they are, we share companionship, affection, emotional support.
One of the most important aspects of a healthy relationship is that we have more positive interactions than negative ones.
No relationship is ‘perfect’ and there will be disagreements but as long as these remain respectful and looking towards solutions and compromise — not imposing one will on another, then the relationship will be enriched.
Being in a relationship adds to our life experience but it doesn’t complete us. You are enough as you are. You deserve to be loved for who you are.
For information on Relate NI, see www.relateni.org