She abuses Men

Q: I've seem to be very unsuccessful with my relationships. I tend to give 100% devotion to all the men I've been with. At first things are so light, I am always cool about his hanging out with his friends once in a while, but as our relationship goes further, I tend to get very out of control and would physically and verbally abuse my boyfriends. I realize this is something I really need to work on, and I try really hard to control my temper, but for how long? I'm only able to control myself for a week or so, and then I go back to my old habit. I know I'm seen as cute and adorable by many guys, but for some reason I still don't have that confidence in myself and always think my man would go for other girls. I really need to work on my temper and self-confidence and independence. Can you give me some advice or a suggestion of a book to read?

Dr. Susan: Women are much more often the abusers in relationships than the general public realizes, probably because they don't usually batter with the same physical force that out-of-control men can. But whether their partners are cowering in fear or not -- and some are -- it's not a pretty situation.

So here you are: the abuser, and you know it. You don't say whether your boyfriends are actually betraying your trust with other women, or whether their two-timing is merely a figment of your overheated imagination. That "100% devotion" phrase worries me a bit, because it might signal too much co-dependence and perhaps control issues. Regardless, your number one priority is to stop taking out your low self-esteem and need to control and suspiciousness on other people. How can you gain confidence and a sense of independence? These are huge lifelong kinds of issues that you might want to consult a therapist about. There are anger management classes available, too, that might be helpful.

Treating others properly isn't a matter of "self-control." You have to believe they deserve to be treated fairly, as we all do deserve. You also have to know deep down that hurting someone doesn't help you at all. It's bad for your boyfriend, it's bad for how you feel about yourself, and it's death to any chance of real love in the relationship. If you explode during conflicts, then learn how to fight fairly and handle disagreement without ending up in blows (there are chapters on this in my book Loving in Flow). There are numerous other books available on the issue of self-esteem (have a peek at Phil McGraw's Self Matters), though it may be most useful to work this stuff through with a human being, one-on-one. Once you start abusing people you say you love, then your problems are probably beyond book learning!

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