Reality Check: To be belittled, or not to be…

When Sonja met Harry, she found a man who seemed almost too good to be true. Kind and generous, Harry was genuinely concerned about Sonja’s welfare. And unlike Sonja’s previous relationship, Harry demanded no changes on her part.

In this relationship, one without criticism or complaints, Sonja thought it possible that she had finally found “the one.” She felt like a princess in a fairy tale.

A fairy tale beginning is not a bad thing. It could lead to a fairy tale ending, with a happy story in between. Whether the tale ultimately turns out happy or grim is largely within the control of the people involved.

As the relationship continued, Sonja and Harry became more comfortable, and of course, their interaction changed. Conversations became less guarded.

Harry began making critical remarks about Sonja’s friends, whom he perceived as uneducated and uninteresting. She’d been content with these folks all of her life, but under Harry’s critical eye, get-togethers weren’t comfortable. So Sonja began to withdraw from them. She wasn’t concerned; she could see her friends when Harry wasn’t around.

Sonja used to love Harry’s authoritative way of expressing himself. Then, she began to feel as if Harry were lecturing her. He “educated” her on everything—what to eat, what to read, or even how to hang the toilet paper!

Further, and contrasting with his initial generosity, Harry suggested it was “stupid” to live apart. They would save a good deal of money if she would move in with him. Even better, she could give up her car and save more!

When Sonja protested that she preferred to keep her own place and her own vehicle, she perceived Harry’s response as belittling. “You know you’re not practically-minded. I have much more experience, and I’m only trying to look out for you.”

It’s true that Harry’s suggestions make practical sense. Yet Sonja has a nagging feeling that she’s being asked to give up freedoms, and she’s not prepared to let go! What to do?

If Sonja chooses to not address the issue, it’s unlikely that Harry’s behaviour toward her will change in a positive way.

What will happen if she does address what she now perceives as Harry’s controlling and manipulative ways?

It is possible that Harry didn’t realize that his behaviour could be perceived as belittling. He may choose to change it and be more respectful.

It is also possible that Harry will reject Sonja’s perception, and may even belittle that! Sonja will then know that his behaviour is not going to change. With this knowledge, she may choose to continue the relationship. Or, she may not.

Sonja knows she doesn’t want to be alone. However, she wants to be an equal partner, to be neither belittling nor belittled.

Addressing a troublesome issue can be very freeing. Whether or not you achieve your hoped-for result, a liberating feeling comes with knowing you have done what you can to try to improve the situation.

If you were Sonja, which would you do: address the belittling behaviour and take the risk of losing the relationship? Or continue as is?

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