Belittling a girlfriend
We spent Christmas at Stuart’s aunt’s place. But the second half of the exams was at the beginning of January, so all I did for the rest of the holiday break was study. Stuart played video games most of the time, and I asked him to use headphones while I studied at the kitchen counter. He wanted me to come along when he saw his friends for movies at the cinema or drinks at the pub because “that was what couples did.” I felt obligated to accompany him, but it felt like a waste of time to watch blockbuster films about superheroes or politely listen to conversation topics with which I wasn’t familiar. He told me once he wished I had understood the cultural references. The conversation would have been easier and more fun. I asked him if he meant I was boring. He looked sad when he said, “sometimes,” as if it was his tragedy.
Stuart was sweet and kind when we were alone but sometimes became abrasive when we were around his friends. The jokes he made about me were about my accent, my choice of an expensive hair conditioner, or, once, he made up a false account that I prohibited him from eating a particular food. When he picked on me in front of his friends, he moved his body closer to them to create a distance from me and laughed at me with them. There was a sense of “othering” when he did this. When I asked why he humiliated me, he denied it defensively. I had never seen his facial expression so intense. It was a look of hurt, anger, and righteousness. After that, I decided not to rock the boat again and avoided joining his outings.
I pondered why he belittled me only when we were with others and not alone. At first, I thought it was his revenge on me for something he wasn’t happy about. Then, I thought it was his way of boosting his sense of masculinity. But, considering how oblivious he was of my hurt feelings and his upset with my confrontation, I concluded it was his deeply ingrained idea of how relationship dynamics should appear to the public.
My romantic feelings for Stuart dwindled rapidly. But because my future was so uncertain, I made myself hang onto our relationship, which was my only safety net at the time.