Dear Captain Awkward,
I’m a single woman that just got out of a 1 1/2 year relationship. I’m not very relationship savvy (who is?) and this was my first *real* relationship, but I have always made a point of having clear boundaries and been all about enthusiastic consent. If I wasn’t in the mood I wasn’t in the mood and I never had an issue telling someone no.
My ex was another story.
Whenever I would say no he would get upset with me, go very cold and ignore me. He would give me the silent treatment and when I *could* get a response out of him he would be very short and snappish and moody. This treatment would last well into the next day. This behavior upset me and started to make me feel like I couldn’t say no without incurring the cold shoulder. I talked about it with him and told him how it made me feel and he would respond by telling me that I was always allowed to say no and he would respect that but he was also allowed to feel disappointed. This made me feel like I was crazy for being upset with his behavior because of course he’s allowed to feel disappointed and I shouldn’t police his feelings. I would tell him that the problem was not that he was disappointed but how he treated me. Sometimes he would apologize for how he acted but the behavior never changed.
Nevertheless, every time the question of sex came up and I wasn’t in the mood, I always had to weigh my options: have sex to make him happy and maybe get into it or stand my ground and deal with the poor treatment. Treatment he had convinced me was reasonable because who was I to tell him how he should feel?
The relationship is only freshly over but I still feel crazy and unreasonable for feeling how I did.
I guess the question is where is the line? He said I was allowed to say no and he would respect that, but he was allowed to feel disappointed and I should respect that and I was policing his feelings when I brought up my issues. I know I should just get over it since the relationship is over but it’s made me nervous of dipping my toes into the dating pool again.
Thank you for your insight,
The Feelings Police
School’s back in session, so posting will be light as I find my feet with my new schedule, but I had to answer this question.
Dear Feelings Police,
Your ex boyfriend was a doucheloaf about this. It is not normal, and I am very glad you are not with him anymore. He is correct – he is entitled to feel any way he wants to about whether you will have sex with him. He is not entitled to sulk and freeze you out and punish you for his feelings as a form of pressure. The silent treatment is a sign of contempt and a fight for control. Everything about this behavior is threatening and coercive. It says “Do what I want to, or else I get to treat you like shit and tell you that it’s your fault.” It stems from a giant sense of entitlement on his part.
Fuck that fucking guy in his abusive asshole fucking fuckface.
The good news is that most people do not behave like this. You are correct and smart to be watchful for signs of it in future dating partners, though, because it is The Worst. If you have a counselor or some close friends on Team You, talking through this with them might help you process how very,VERY angry you’re going to get when the full extent of how he treated you sinks in.
Maybe invest in a stretchy pair of purple shorts just in case.
Edited to Add: Any time in a relationship any of you feel yourselves thinking “Well, I should probably have sex with now or else s/he’ll be mad and mean to me,” take it as a giant sign that something is Not Okay, and start thinking about how to get yourself to a safe place that is Away. Even if Away is the next room by yourself with a door closed where you can hear yourself think.