Dear Laurie: My boyfriend speaks to me in a way that really gets me annoyed. He tells me what to do instead of asking me nicely. At times I feel like he thinks he owns me.
We have been together for 20 years and nothing has changed. I know I’m part of the equation because I’m still with him, so how can I change so he will? — Nancy
I understand, Nancy. Not too many people like to be ordered around. It must feel disrespectful and affect your self-esteem. You have been with him for a couple of decades and have accepted this behavior, which may have built up some animosity, resentment and anger.
I suggest sitting quiet and writing down all of your feelings and how you want to be treated. Then have a heart to heart with him in a calm manner and express how it makes you feel when he orders you around. Stick to the facts by citing exactly how he speaks to you. Let him know you are interested in a more respectful relationship and both of you communicating in a respectful and loving manner.
Put your foot down and let him know that you will not respond to this type of dialogue anymore. Let him know that the way he speaks to you is not supportive of your spirit. And, it’s not acceptable and doesn’t feel good. Inform him that you want to feel appreciated and respected as an equal and individual with your own life.
Here are some suggested ways of communicating in a more respectful way:
- Would you mind helping me paint the guest room on Tuesday? It would be such a big help, and I always love your company.
- If it were convenient, can you stop and pick up the dry cleaning? It would be a huge help. I’ll get yours next time.
- I want to be respectful of your time, as I know you have things to do, so only if it works in your schedule, is there anyway you can swing by and pickup dinner? I will do all the dishes. And, if you don’t have time, I will order something for us.
- I would love to go fishing on Saturday and would love your company. If you were interested, and available, would you like to join me?
- Thank you so much for setting such a beautiful dinner table. You always go out of your way to make things nice. I really appreciate you so much.
- I love all the little special things about you and feel so blessed you’re in my life.
- Can you please shut the light off? Thank you!
Don’t respond to him when he speaks to you in a way that feels like he owns you and is ordering you around. Using “please” and “thank you” go a long way.
Keep in mind it’s the energy behind the words that are felt more than the words. So when he’s using this new language you will feel his sincerity or insincerity. Let him know when you feel it’s from his heart. If he chooses to change his behavior, then he really is listening to you and validating your feelings.