Do You Want to Make Him Love You More?

Last week, I was on the phone with Bobbi. Early 50’s, attractive, bookish, divorced.

She signed up for my Private Coaching reluctantly, as she was hesitant to get 12 weeks of dating coaching when she’s already “seeing” a man.

I told her that, in my experience, if things are iffy with a man at the very beginning, the odds that he’ll turn out to be her future husband are slim.

Bobbi took my word for it, and the first few sessions were spent talking about Gary.

Gary is charismatic, opinionated, vocal. He has qualities that Bobbi admires, is attracted to, and would like to emulate if she weren’t so introverted.

As a result, she can’t help but to feel drawn to him.

Anyway, the reason that Bobbi wanted coaching is because Gary really hadn’t turned the corner to become her boyfriend yet. And while it’s only been 6 weeks, she’s not too confident he will. Gary’s got a lot going on in his life. Busy job. Ex wife and kid. Bobbi’s trying to be patient, but struggling.

But that’s not the real kicker.

The real kicker is that Gary, because of his strong opinions and point of view, is kind of difficult. Moreover, he’s critical and has a temper when he doesn’t get his way. When he’s in one of his moods, Bobbi can feel really bad about herself. 85% of the time, things are amazing. 15% of the time, she’s unsure about herself.

If things are iffy with a man at the very beginning, the odds that he’ll turn out to be her future husband are slim.

I told her that Gary’s personality wasn’t a bad habit that was going to be ironed out; this is a character flaw. Thus, she has two choices: stay and suffer, or leave and find a man who didn’t have those verbally abusive tendencies.

Bobbi said she’d stay.

The following week, Bobbi told me they had a big blow-up in the car, to the point that he was yelling at her and she was crying because she couldn’t defend herself.

I asked her if she was ready to move on, and start online. She said that she was thinking about it, but that she’d give a little more time with Gary.

Seriously.

Three weeks later, she’s got a profile online, but is still seeing Gary.

Things are good – for now – she reports.

And without betraying Bobbi in any way, I can almost certainly predict that she hasn’t seen the last of Gary’s criticism or temper tantrums.

I can only hope she does what’s right for her.

While it’s easy to say that low self-esteem is the main reason that people stick in prickly and critical relationships, I think it’s more.

I think it’s because you have the feeling that things can be GREAT, and so you stick with your man waiting for him to be at his best. But he won’t. He can’t.

He’s a flawed human being and you’re all too willing to overlook his flaws.

If it’s not clear from my writing, I don’t give advice from a pedestal. I’m fully transparent about all of my flaws and mistakes in dating.

Which is why I feel so strongly about Bobbi’s situation.

I’ve been in her position with a woman that I loved desperately.

Nobody made me laugh like this girlfriend. Nobody made me think like she did.

And yet nobody ever made me feel worse about myself.

Why?

Sometimes love isn’t enough. Attraction isn’t enough. Feelings aren’t enough.

Because of all the things you already know about me.

I’m very much a man.

I’m very much a flirt.

I’m very opinionated.

I can be very logical, even in the face of emotion.

And because of these qualities – which my wife seems to be able to tolerate – I was called “a sociopath,” “disgusting,” “disrespectful” and so on.

My girlfriend finally broke up with me after my friends went to a bachelor party and she didn’t like that I’d be friends with the kind of men who go to bachelor parties.

True story.

Two weeks later, she asked if we could reconcile. She knew I was a good person, but she couldn’t stop flying off the handle each time I talked to another woman – whether it was a middle aged bartender or a 17-year-old cashier.

She simply didn’t trust me – even though I’d never given her a reason not to.

As much as it pained me, I refused to try to reconcile. I loved her dearly, I wanted to make it work, but it was clear from our 6 months together that she couldn’t accept me for who I was.

And I refuse to be with someone who can’t fully accept me.

You should, too.

Sometimes love isn’t enough. Attraction isn’t enough. Feelings aren’t enough.

It doesn’t matter if 85% of the time he’s a great boyfriend, if the other 15% of the time he’s a selfish jerk.

I couldn’t “make” my girlfriend change to accept me and love me the way I deserved and you shouldn’t try to “make” your guy do ANYTHING.

Either he wants a long-term relationship and treats you like gold, or you’re out the door.

Otherwise, you’ll be in Bobbi’s position, spending a life waiting for a man to be someone that he’s not…

Join our conversation (38 Comments).
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Comments:

  1. 1
    Nadia

    Ohhhh, Evan, you speak the truth! I’ve been both characters: the critical bitch who wants my man to change AND the meek woman who hopes that 15 % will get better. I’m finally learning that you have to be happy with things the way they are–truly happy–or move on. As ridiculous as it sounds, I was never sure what I could realistically expect from a boyfriend and from a relationship. 

  2. 2
    Saint Stephen

    Sorry Evan, but i don’t understand what you mean by this statement: I’m very much a man. Could you please throw some more light cos you got me lost there…

  3. 3
    Liz

    Bobbi, listen to Evan!  Run away!!

    My ex-husband was like this guy, but he didn’t start acting really badly until we’d been married for several years.  He got worse and worse as the years went on.  When you’re dating, a man is on his best behavior.  If you move in together or get married, he may start hitting you. 

     

  4. 4
    david

    this sounds like the abusive relationship my (ex) friend is in — he’s great maybe 50% – 75% of the time, but that other percentage he’s RAGEFUL, mean, abusive, manipulative, makes her cry, lose sleep. A angry 12 year old in a 41 year old 6’1 man’s body. 

    I’m not friend with her anymore as well as other people.

    She needs to GET OUT. NOW. And this is like week 6? Buckle up, it’s to going to be a bumpy ride, otherwise. 

  5. 5
    Helen

    I’ve been sitting here trying to think of the appropriate thing to write, because I’m of two minds about this post.
     
    On the one hand, no one should put up with verbal abuse, or any kind of abuse. We don’t have enough details on Bobbi’s case, but Evan, for someone who supposedly loves you to call you “sociopath” and “disgusting” is itself sociopathic and disgusting.
     
    On the other hand, it’s a mistake to expect that the “right” person for you is 100% easy to deal with. Everyone is flawed, and let’s face it, if you married him and you want to stay married all your life, you’ll have to accept certain things about him that make you want to scream from time to time. Yes, you can have a good marriage and yet find your spouse incredibly difficult at times.
     
    So we need to be realistic too. I see very few (zero) marriages where either party treats the other “like gold” or is agreeable 100% of the time. That’s too idealistic. Again, it’s about managing expectations. Being loyal, supportive, fair, and kind to the other is what matters. That’s not treating someone like gold (and doesn’t preclude irritating habits); it’s decency and common sense if you want a good relationship with anyone.

  6. 6
    Christina

    I sure hope Bobbi takes your advice. Self-esteem issues aside, there seems to be a lot of betting on “potential” in the dating world. Because it can take time and effort to find someone with whom you really click, it’s easier to latch onto someone who seems mostly right, and hope you can change or overlook some serious flaws. It’s a recipe for disaster. 

    While we all have flaws, a line should be drawn at those that cause mental or physical harm. It’s one thing to be with a guy who has a few irritating habits; it’s quite another to be with someone who destroys your self-esteem and tears you down, even if it’s “only” one day in five.

    A temperament like Bobbi’s guy should be an absolute dealbreaker. This guy has no business dating until he’s dealt with his issues. Bobbi however, should probably also take a step back and really ask herself why she is willing to put up with his behavior. No one deserves to be treated like that, and until she truly believes that she’s worthy of better, she’ll be vulnerable to other jerks who might mistreat her.

  7. 7
    nathan

    There’s always the possibility that someone could change. But at the same time, and more importantly, is it worth going through an uncertain, potentially long period of time with that person until those changes might occur? Sometimes, the answer is yes. However, the majority of the time, it’s probably no. 
     
    In my opinion, if a person’s behavior seriously undermines trust and blows holes through your self esteem, it’s best to leave. In the past, I had two relationships where I ended up feeling more like a therapist than a partner. I was expected to take anything she dished out, but received nothing but grief if I became critical of said behavior. Evan made the right choice in leaving his old girlfriend, and I think his advice here is spot on. Especially the point about a rocky beginning like this making the odds slim that he’ll be a good husband in the future. If a middle aged adult has a pattern of yelling and flying off the handle, it’s going to take a lot of work to change that. You can’t fix them, and life is too short to play partner therapist for several years, hoping things will eventually get better.
     

  8. 8
    Ruby

    A key statement is, “He has qualities that Bobbi admires, is attracted to, and would like to emulate if she weren’t so introverted.” Sounds like Bobbi’s lack of confidence in herself is what makes her admire Gary so much despite his flaws.

    Hasn’t Bobbi talked to her friend about the problems that lead to his divorce? I’m betting that his anger management issues and moodiness were a contributing factor. Normally, we are all on our best behavior in the early weeks of dating, so the fact that only 6 weeks in, Bobbi’s friend is already verbally abusive is a huge, red flag. Nobody is perfect, but shouting, criticism, and bringing someone to tears is not acceptable. I have found that people with these kinds of problems tend to be very self-absorbed, as well. Another example of a guy who needs a therapist, not a girlfriend.

     

  9. 9
    Maria

    I totally agree on your reply Evan. Howveer, if your man does all the things Evan did such as talking to other women like the bartender or cashier BUT he still shows no consideration for you and shows no caring then HE is out the door. I am the type of woman who will deal with the fact that my man will talk to other woman and will have female friends as long as I am aware of it. But I sure can not deal with lack of attention and or compromise. I have been on her shoes and I have learned from that.

  10. 10
    M

    Hmmm…so, this begs the question, (this relates directly to me…) if this man decides he wants to work on these “not going to be ok in any relationship” qualities, should Bobi stay believing that he wants to make the change, or go because he has shown his true colors in the past…
    I have been a long time reader of EMK, been the topic of some posts…and learned A LOT. I have gone from a really bad relationship..gradually gotten better and better and now am engaged 🙂
    My fiance is a great guy, but had some serious past issues to let go of. I considered leaving thinking he just wasn’t ready, but he seemed to get past them until we got engaged. Once that happened it really hit the fan. He went to therapy, and said he had a light bulb come on in one session and says he is past his past (is still going to continue therapy though to improve communication skills) and is ready to do whatever our relationship needs to be successful.
    To this, I am torn. On one hand I think I am lucky to have found someone who is willing to work to make things the best they can be in our relationship (we both have to work on it, I know I am no saint!), on the other I think I have seen his worst side and I do not ever in my life want to deal with that again. He did not hit me, but there were a few months of putting my down, criticizing me, things that I just wont tolerate. He said they were because of his fears of marriage based on his previous marriage being projected on me and he says he is not afraid anymore and has let go of his past and truly realizes now that I am not like his ex wife, and our marriage will be different. I am just afraid that that is not really true, that he will slip back into those critical and demeaning ways…but it’s all a gamble, right? I don’t know what can or will happen in the future either way. All I can go on is how he is treating me right now…right? He had moments like this in the beginning (when I was going to leave), seemed to get better for a good amount of time (about 10 months) then it came back with a vengeance when we got engaged. I know fear is a powerful thing, but I don’t want to bet on him being over it ad have him not be. Wedding is getting closer and closer…I’d really appreciate the perspective or opinions of a man who may have been in this kind of situation…especially from you EMK. Your advice is usually pretty accurate, at least for me 🙂
     
     

  11. 11
    Casey

    I was married to “That Guy” many years ago….I have three words..Run Bobbi Run!!!
    (M..you better run too!). They do not change, it will only escalate, it’s totally unacceptable behavior and will lead to a miserable life!  As a woman in my early 50’s with that experience well past, I frankly can’t understand how any woman who has reached this stage would put up with that sshhstuff!! 

  12. 12
    Angie

    Bobbi, if the man is ALREADY throwing temper tantrums 15% of the time at 6 weeks, imagine how often he will throw temper tantrums at 6 months… or 6 years.  People mask their flaws at this point, and this is a huge one, and one that has the power to grow worse, aside from the fact he isn’t making an effort to make you his girlfriend.
     
    On top of that, when men want to be with someone, they make it known.  Especially since he has an outgoing personality and you are expressing interest.  He clearly doesn’t want a relationship.  He probably just likes having someone around.
     
    Evan is steering you in the right direction.  Be with someone who puts their best foot forward.

  13. 13
    Christie Hartman

    People often wonder why someone will stay in relationships with very difficult, troubled, or abusive people. There are lots of reasons, but one of them is “variable reinforcement.” This is when the reinforcement – the good stuff – comes at unpredictable times. Casinos use a variable reinforcement schedule with their slot machines because it gets the most money out of people. You don’t know when it will hit, so you keep trying, hoping it will hit at any moment, fearing that if you walk away someone else will sit down and win the jackpot. In people terms, this means that it’s tough to walk away from a difficult person because you get hooked in waiting for their good side to emerge, and that happens at unpredictable times.

  14. 14
    barnett

    Believe or not most people have anger and temper issues…

    She could maybe work it out if she knew how to deal with verbally abusive people. One thing that I personally do when someone is shouting and cursing to me is that I…

    remain calm
    let the person know that i will not continue to talk to them unless they speak to me in a calm manner
    once they mellow done allow them to express themselves calmly and then let them know how its easier to be calm when expressing something that may enrage a person

    Hope things go well with your client!

  15. 15
    Lance2012

    @Christie #13, interesting comment about variable reinforcement.
    I suspect another common reason woman stay in the relationship is that the difficult/troubled/abusive man is often not really as difficult/troubled/abusive as the woman telling the story makes him out to be. Of course that is not a comment about Bobbie’s situation, which I would have no way of knowing.

    1. 15.1
      Caroline

      Lance, it’s likely to be trauma bonding already at work. The random reinforcement, Bobbi’s vulnerability, and her familiarity with the dynamic from childhood (I would guess), and his initial charm and charisma. Abusive men use our brain chemistry against us and we, as women, are totally outgunned. Oxytocin addiction is like brain crack, as someone wisely said on another post.

      I was in a similar situation, and I still have conflicting emotions (diametrically opposed actually) which I won’t act on. It IS as bad as described, and the mindf**k is real, even in such a short time.

      It sounds unbelievable, but it is really as bad as described by the victims, and difficult to leave.

  16. 16
    Zann

    Yuk. I do not like Bobbi’s guy at all. At the same time, I understand her attraction to him. I agree with Evan 100% on this one, and with many of the comments already made. But what struck me the hardest is the fact that Bobbi views herself as an introvert and in awe of his more extroverted, provocative personality. As a card-carrying introvert, I can relate to this tendency to be drawn to the dynamic personality of others, wishing I could be more like them. The problem is that all that extroversion, charisma, and people-magnetism are meaningless if the guy is also a hurtful, unpredictable jerk. Even if he’s only like that sometimes, even if he’s only like that 2% of the time, it’s still too much. No amount of abusive or intentionally disrespectful behavior is okay.

    We already know nobody’s perfect, but we’re not talking about the guy with an annoying habit like wearing socks with sandals or refusing to give up his threadbare boxers until they literally disintegrate in the dryer. Or the woman who snorts when she laughs, is dense about how to use the remote, and emotes too loudly in the movie theater (she can’t help it!). Those are quirks. An adult who throws temper tantrums, manipulates with the silent treatment, or flies off the handle to the point of being threatening is not being quirky or merely annoying. In my book, he’s being abusive, or at the very least immature and disrespectful. Who needs that? Nobody. Life’s too damn short to spend even another minute with anyone — man or woman — who’s a jerk with an anger problem. And from my own experience, no amount of patience, understanding, or time will change this. Run, don’t walk, away from this guy and do it now. You will find better, Bobbi. Go get it for yourself.    

    P.S. Introversion is not a character flaw. Introverts are usually very interesting, insightful people, with great listening skills and a keen awareness of the disingenuous.  But of course I’m probably biased.

    1. 16.1
      Caroline

      Well said Zann,

      I’m a member of the introvert/empathetic females club (aka Narcissist Magnet).

      In trying to have healthy boundaries and healthy relationships, I’ve found Cloud and Townsend’s series of ‘Boundaries’ books so helpful: they describe different ‘destructive interpersonal traits’ and make it plain that unless the exhibitor of said traits is invested in dealing with their issues and working to modify their behaviour, then no relationship is possible.

      Experience and research shows that these abusive individuals don’t change, they surround themselves with enablers, or just move onto another victim when challenged. They just don’t care. This in itself is a destructive interpersonal trait, and so nothing can ever be discussed respectfully with them, or resolved. The relationship is doomed.

      The enablers have to warp themselves to stay in the relationship, and the end result of that is never pretty. It’s not worth it.

  17. 17
    Gappy

    I work to support women and children affecfted by domestic abuse and I can tell every woman reading that in no uncertain terms, if your man is showing abusive tendencies at the beginning of the relationship, it will not get better. Run, now, before more of your life is tangled up with this person.
    I also blog about relationship and dating issues. I really hope no-one minds but my latest post is very relevant to this one here – it’s all about attempting to make someone feel something they don’t. So perhaps it’s ok to leave a link? Feel free to come and have a read if you think it’s something that is relevant to you:

  18. 18
    Terri

    I’ve been through this type of relationship……..it doesn’t go away! if this is just the beginning what would happen later on? I honestly stayed in that type of relationship thinking that he would change, thinking it would get better but it didn’t. I was received every other type of abuse but physical, and i tend to think that words hurt so much more. Eventually i decided that this relationship wasn’t healthy for me and i left. 
    Bobbi find YOURSELF, you don’t need this man to make you question yourself and worth! There is someone out there for you that would accept you as you are!

    1. 18.1
      Caroline

      Terri, I’m glad you got out, and were not physically harmed. I so understand your hopes that it would get better; we just can’t comprehend that  a person would choose  to behave like that towards us. It doesn’t make any sense when you’re in it. I was raped (I’m currently in counselling for it) and I have corresponded with other women who have been assaulted by abusive men too. I was blindsided by the assault, and I will be forever marked by it. Still, I’m alive, some women aren’t so lucky.

  19. 19
    lawyerette

    Bobbi’s situation is very clearly going to escalate into full-blown abuse. Do people really not understand this? How do people think abusive relationships start? With the guy hitting you in the face on the first date? No, but him yelling at you in the car to the point where you feel like you can’t defend yourself – six weeks in – sounds like a “good” start to me, if you want to head down that road. She needs to get out NOW. And Evan, if you are going to counsel women on relationships, I think it would behoove you to consider some training in recognizing early signs of abuse so you can make a more forceful pitch to your clients between “he’s a jerk, dump him” and “he shows clear signs of being an abuser, RUN FOR YOUR LIFE” (literally). 

  20. 20
    e

    @Lance2012  Generally woman in abusive relations doesn’t tell most of the abusive behaviour. They stay in the relationship because it is hard to accept the fact that the man you love hurts you on purpose ,when the abuse escalates over the time and becomes too much to ignore,they just doesn’t have the power to end the relationship.

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