QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:
Please remember, this column is designed to help the consumer seeking
behavioral-health information, and not intended to be any form of psychotherapy
or a replacement for professional, individualized services. Opinions expressed
in the column are those of the columnist and do not represent the position of
other SelfhelpMagazine.com staff.
I had been dating a man for a year an a half. We have both been
divorced for over three years. He fought regularly with his ex-wife. When I
complained about his anger, he sought counseling and I didn't hear about any
more problems with his ex-wife. We then began discussing marriage. He then
became verbally abusive and demanding, becoming angry whenever my attention
was not focused directly on him. I quickly ended the relationship fearing
this was just the tip of the iceberg. Why did it take me so long to see this
abusive side? How can I protect myself in the future?
Yours is not an unfamiliar story. We often assume that people will
behave differently toward us than they behave toward others. That's our
first mistake. When you observed your friend relating to his ex-wife in a
hostile manner, you could have assumed that at some point that behavior would
be manifested toward you.
During the courtship phase of a relationship people relate to each other
using "courtship behavior." When we contemplate marriage, the stakes are
raised, and people relate to one another with their marriage behavior. Your
friend gave you information on how he relates to women and what he expects
in a marital context whenever he complained to you about his ex. More
often than not, the signs are there; all we have to do is pay attention. A
year a half is not much time to learn valuable lessons. It is to your
credit that you decided to get out as soon as you did.
Dr. Edward A. Dreyfus is a Clinical Psychologist,
Marriage, Family, Child Therapist, and Sex Therapist. Dr. Dreyfus has been providing
psychological services in the Los Angeles-Santa Monica area for over 30 years.
He offers individual psychotherapy to adolescents and adults, divorce mediation,
couples counseling, group therapy, and career and vocational counseling and
assessment.His book, Someone Right For You, is available in the Amazing
Dr. Dreyfus can be reached at: (310) 208-5700.