We can all get a little defensive from time to time, especially if something we hold dear is being threatened. That could be something you believe in, an aspect of your personality, or even someone you love—it’s a normal human emotion to experience. But dating a guy who took defensiveness to a new level completely changed how I date and even how I interact with men in general.
Initially, I thought this guy was just opinionated. Starting out, I mistook his chronic defensiveness for an opinionated nature. I figured he was just always down for a friendly verbal sparring match and he really stuck to his guns when he had a point of view. Truthfully, I thought that was attractive in the beginning. I love a guy who’s a good conversationalist and I love having a (respectful) discussion with someone who has a different opinion than me on a subject. Naturally, I had no idea just how bad it was at this point.
He would make me feel terrible if I had any contrary thoughts. Pretty soon into the relationship, it became clear that his verbal jousting wasn’t just because he loved debating points of view—his point of view seemed to be the only one that mattered. If I ever disagreed with something he said, he would immediately jump on my words. He would make me feel stupid, uninformed, ignorant, or even mean; if you didn’t agree with what he was doing or saying or thinking, you were bullying him. In reality, he was the one doing the bullying.
Having productive conversations was impossible. All couples disagree sometimes. The key is being open with your S.O. and talking through the disagreement. Discuss both sides, have a respectful banter if you need to, and come to a decision together. That was never an option with this guy. He was unwilling to accept anyone else’s opinion besides his own, especially mine. When we would disagree, our “discussion” would be him demeaning and condescending to me and it would typically evolve into a screaming match. Typically, I just gave in because I was sick of fighting, and on the rare occasion I won out, he would be miserable for days afterward.
It would often become quite aggressive. Let’s be clear. He wouldn’t just say, “Oh, well, all I mean was…” and offer a polite explanation for what he had said or done. His voice would rise, his expression would contort, and phrases like “insensitive bitch” would be tossed in my face. He never hit me or got physically aggressive in any way, thank goodness, but the verbal assault wasn’t easy to endure.
He never apologized. To make matters worse, he didn’t just refuse to see my side of anything and treat me like sh*t, but he never apologized. No matter how nasty our argument, he would never swallow his pride enough to say sorry to his girlfriend for making her cry last night. We would just move on like the whole incident had never happened, which was often the worse part.
The relationship quickly became manipulative. Eventually, I came to fear this backlash. He would either make me feel terrible about myself or we would end up getting into a huge, blowout fight—and this would just be because he wanted Thai and wanted seafood for dinner. In an effort to avoid fighting or feeling like I was some kind of monster picking at his flaws (another direct quote, by the way), I just stopped disagreeing with him. At the time, it seemed like the easier way to go was to just appease his defensiveness by being agreeable or neutral, and I logged it as a “quirk” that I just didn’t like about him.
I actually convinced myself that he was just sensitive. It’s important to note that, while I’m painting this individual in a pretty negative light right now, he had a lot of redeeming qualities to bring into a relationship. He was outgoing, funny, and got along great with my friends; I never had the heart to tell them about our constant fighting because of how touchy he was. There were so many things that made him “boyfriend material” that I just told myself his big flaw was his “sensitivity.” How could I possibly break up with a great guy just because he’s sensitive? That was all the justification I needed to keep this relationship going WAY longer than it should have.
Eventually, I came to my senses and broke things off. After only dating for two months, I had become a ball of stress and anxiety. One day, when he asked me out to dinner at a fancy restaurant, I realized I was actually scared to spend time with him. That tremor of terror was the wake-up call I needed, and I broke things off that night. (He did explode on me in public if you’re wondering, and yes, I left him alone with the check.)
That relationship may have ended, but some scars still haven’t healed. When I started dating again a few months later, I noticed that the way I interacted with men was different. I wasn’t engaging in conversation as vigorously as I once had and I rarely offered up an opinion. I became meek and more submissive with men, something I came to resent in myself. It’s hard to admit, but it took years of counseling and self-evaluation for me to feel more like myself when I was dating (or even just talking to) men. But here I am now, in a healthy relationship where good-natured arguments are encouraged, and I can safely say that I’ll never overlook red flags like these ever again—in anyone.
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