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Is My Boyfriend Trying to Break Me Down?

From France: Hello! I’m a 23 year old girl and I have been seeing a 26 year old guy for about 6 months now and we have been a couple for about 4 months. In the beginning I wasn’t really interested in him, I was a bit skeptic about him and as shallow as I can be I didn’t find him very handsome at first. It automatically put me in a more dominant position. I warned him I don’t feel the same like he feels for me but that we have fun together, we click and I enjoy spending time with him. He did most of the effort to be with me, I kept my mind open about him and our relationship developed to something deeper and now I love him and we make a great team.

There is only one problem is that my self-esteem has really gone down since we got together. When we have been vulnerable with each other and talked about our problems in the mind etc. he can be telling me things like I don’t really know who I am, I don’t really want to do what I’m doing in life that I’m lost, that I have split personality.

Never in my life before I met him have I ever felt any of those things and now I kind of do. I do know deep down that the things he is saying are not really true, I’m incredible happy to run a growing business with my mom, the business is one of the things I’m most proud of, having the opportunity to work with home decoration, fashion, modeling and all the other aspects of running a business is a true blessing! I know I’m very strong and I usually have a deep sense of self and direction. Lately I feel more submissive with him and like I lost my power.

My reaction to his comments is anger, I’m angry because he is partly right about what he is saying and I’m angry with him because I believe he is trying to break me down. I told him all that I believe he is doing that but he is telling me that he is trying to make me stronger when all I have gotten is weaker.

My boyfriend has a very strong personality, he can talk his way to anything and has great self-esteem. If we can find a way it would be great! I don’t know what to do. I love challenges so maybe I could learn how to deal with him and put us in a more equal position where we can look up to each other and make each other stronger “in the right way” also we can help each others careers out. He can help me with my business and I can help him start his career. Or should I just leave him?

You are right to be angry! I don’t agree that your boyfriend has great self-esteem. From what you say, he needs to dominate you in order to feel okay. It looks to me that he found your initial lack of interest to be a challenge. Now that you’ve fallen in love, he is gaslighting you.

Sometimes when we ask a question, we already have the answer. You want to know whether to leave him? Think about this: You are happy with yourself and your life except when he “helps” you. You aren’t feeling stronger from your interactions. You are feeling weaker.

On the basis of what you’ve said in the letter, I think you should take a huge step back. You deserve to find someone who is your greatest and most loving fan, not your critic.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

from Ask the Therapist

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