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Dr. Norman Brown
Dr. Norman Brown, Marriage Therapist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 1207
Experience:  Family Therapist & teacher 35+ yrs; PhD research in couples
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why has my boyfriend become so selfish and to me? All

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why has my boyfriend become so selfish and nasty to me? All he ever seems to think about is work. He brought me to London from Worcester to stay with my best friend for Christmas today, and I brought a few bags. When my friend wasn't at home when we arrived this afternoon, he wanted to leave me at her door for 3 hours as she had been delayed. We then had an argument as I said I wasn't prepared to be left like a homeless person. He then took me to his office until she called. He then refused to help me with my bags to her door. Now he is not speaking to me. I think this is so selfish, and is not how you would treat a girlfriend you are supposed to be moving in with. What do I do?
Dr. Norman Brown :

Welcome to my couples workshop, where people 18-80 of diverse cultures & orientations have come to explore their questions and find a path of heart.

I’m sure you feel homeless when you’re giving up your own digs to become dependent on his dwelling for your sense of safety and belonging. He might also be afraid of dealing with your emotions, as many youngish men are, so he’s dodged communication instead of sticking thru your upset responses until your minds are meeting again. That’s also good cause for some hesitation about moving in. Do you have a history of his withdrawing when you get upset about something in your interaction? I suggest you make some notes about that history, including both the times your pattern was just like it is this time and other times when there was less of an interruption in confidence and connection between you and more of a reliable pattern of removing obstacles and resuming your rapport.

Dr. Norman Brown :

I just lost a paragraph. You wrote that your BF is intensely focused on his work. So you will need to be BOTH PATIENT AND PERSISTENT if you are going to change his habits toward a more acceptable balance between your relationship and his work. If you respect his personality as it is now, you might need to reconsider whether you want to give up your own safe haven BEFORE you feel a better balance of power between your love relationship and his work. For it is normal to feel much more powerless than usual in love if you give up your own personal dwelling to move into his territory--and you'll need to carve out a section of his digs to call your own territory, even if he doesn't like the change. It might be wise to postpone moving in until you've planned out some "rules of engagement" that allow you more power in those places where you can get it--esp because you may well find out that you can't make any significant gains in the power to determine WHEN he prioritizes his work over your relationship any time in the near future.

Dr. Norman Brown :

So this glitch in your holidays may be a blessing in disguise, if it prompts you to do more careful work in maintaining your decision-making power in your relationship BEFORE you become more dependent on him for your sense of security and well-being. What COMMITMENTS would you like to have with/from him as proper conditions for you to accept the limitations that living in his environment are likely to impose on your personality and personal space. This is a very PIVOTAL moment in your relationship, so it is a good thing that this accident has forced you to pay intense attention to what it means. I'll await your response.

Customer: I'm not sure I understand your last paragraph. Are you saying that I have seen some aspects of his behaviour that I hadn't predicted and not favourable to me, thus need to consider my options more carefully. We are not young people anymore, and I wanted to settle down by the time I was 50 which is in 6 months time. My best friend did not like his attitude to me, and would be worried if I moved in with him. I have tried to see if he would talk to me, which he has agreed to after I wrote an email to him as he was ignoring all my texts and calls. I thought I could trust him a lot more as I have known him for 10 years, and have lost all confidence to be able to date new guys as I have been through some traumatic relationships recently.
Customer: he has had a history of this behaviour of withdrawing when he doesn't like my emotions, when I first met him. I thought he had matured and grown out of this behaviour. He just makes out I'm totally selfish when he doesn't like what I think.
Dr. Norman Brown :

Our emotions always dictate what we think, which then turns out to justify what we are feeling before we're aware of it--this is even more common among men who prefer not to name their emotions than among women who live inside of their emotions and can achieve clear thought to revise their emotions--but we can't revise emotions until we have first admitted what they are. One problem with being around 50 is trying to "teach an old dog new tricks." If he's so work-focused (or perhaps has "spousified his work") at his age, do you think he'll change significantly for you? You mention he makes out You're totally selfish when he doesn't like your feeling-colored thoughts. And you do the same to him--you led off your question with that thought. People like both of you that have lived without a spouse for (perhaps the majority of) your adult life are more likely than those who've lived with second-guessing a partner's feelings and needs to experience self-focused feelings before finding your way to considering the other person's (equally self-focused) conditions and feelings. So I'd suggest you nominate an experienced couples counselor to act as explainer and mediator for your expression of feelings towards each other, because it's likely that you'll need considerable practice in learning how to consider the other person's feeling-colored-thoughts (which is also dignified with the label "empathy") with as much care and intelligence as you consider your own. Since you want to settle down in the near future, that would be a good dedication of some of your work-time (since it will cost you some of your work-money) and also serve as a way to elicit a serious commitment from your man-friend of 10 years toward a relationship that could be very costly if you enter into it without laying adequate infrastructure to sustain its inevitable increase in intimacy and emotional reactivity. The longer you wait to commit to settling down, the bigger the risk of not being able to make the needed adjustments may become, and hence the greater the need for professional assistance and training in developing the new habits as a couple for bridging the changes.

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You've carried your desire to settle down this far, so please bring up any thoughts you have about what you can do next. I've suggested some important issues, like making sure you will have some territory of your own in his dwelling, because misunderstandings and differences could easily spiral out of control if you're also feeling undervalued and insecure because your new home doesn't seem to be enough "yours" as well as "his." If you don't want to discuss anymore, that's OK. But it won't cost you any more if you do.
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