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QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:
Relationships Department

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.

Question

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?

Answer

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.

3/5/98

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 Bookstore Catalog.

Dr. Dreyfus can be reached at: (310) 208-5700.

 

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