Thursday, October 26, 2006

i am an advice column junkie. i read them all the time. most of the time, nothing that anyone writes into the column affects me very much, gets me particularly excited or particularly mad.

someone who wrote into savage love this week really pissed me off.

it's not one of the people who wrote in asking for advice, but someone who wrote in commenting about one of last week's letters. the letter was a woman writing in, discussing her boyfriend's extreme jealous streak. the boyfriend wouldn't let her talk to her old guy friends, and even stormed out and got pissed after some guy grabbed her bum at a club, and she told him to stop it, and that she was with her boyfriend. dan savage told her to DTMFA1, and told her that such jealousy and possessiveness is a form of emotional abuse--which could later escalate to physical abuse, as well as cause lasting emotional damage.

i thought dan savage's advice was right on target. he has no business being that possessive, and getting pissed off in those situations. if the writer of the letter was describing her description accurately, i think the boyfriend is toxic, and has the mindset of an abuser. the mature way to deal with his jealousy would be to talk to her about his concerns, and trust her until he finds a concrete reason not to. getting mad when she talks to people that she's not cheating on him with, or contemplating cheating on him with, is not going to solve what he sees as a problem with her talking to members the opposite sex.

this week, savage love printed a series of responses to his advice to her last week. a lot of people wrote in telling him that his advice for her to dump him was good advice for very similar reasons that i think it's good.

some people wrote in to disagree with his advice. some people said that they needed to talk about it, that this kind of jealousy wasn't necessarily the kind that was overly possessive, wasn't necessarily the kind that would cause, or lead to, life-ruining consequences. i didn't agree with those assertions, but i could see why they were made. those aren't the letters that made me mad.

this is the one that made me mad:

Big fan of your column, but your response to GREEN was over the top. This guy isn't "emotionally abusive" or "controlling," he's just a passive-aggressive, insecure, beta-male crybaby who doesn't know how to handle or cope with jealousy. If this guy truly was "controlling," he would be telling GREEN that she can't EVER talk to or see another guy, or be verbally threatening her. Yet this guy can't even muster up the courage to talk to her about it. That's not abusive behavior, it's just being an insecure baby.

You are right for saying that she should break up with him, but you went a BIT too far by throwing in all that physical-abuse scare-tactic baloney. If this guy can't even talk to his girlfriend about what happened, I highly doubt that he would have the courage to raise a fist or foot at her.

Curb Your Alarmism


this guy is actually trying to argue that the guy is too much of a pansy to beat up his girlfriend, or to actually cut her off, and therefore he's not a threat? i take issue at his assertion that beating up your girlfriend, or cutting them off from the world, takes any courage at all--much less more courage than communicating about the problem. facing what he perceives to be a problem, and trying to solve it, takes a lot more courage. addressing problems in a relationship requires openness, and willingness by both parties to come to a solution that is beneficial. addressing problems requires someone to face the possibility that they may be doing something wrong or hurtful, and changing behaviour accordingly. admitting this takes courage.

beating or isolating a person, on the other hand, doesn't require any courage at all. an abuser is, among many things, too scared to face the idea that they might be wrong, or that they might not have all the power in the relationship. an abuser goes ahead, assumes his or her position is correct to the exclusion of any others, and resorts to abuse to scare the other party into staying in line with their autocratic agenda. the writer of that letter seems to think that abuse is something that only a highly secure person uses...when, if the person was personally secure, and secure in the relationship, abuse would not be perceived as a necessary tactic for maintaining the relationship's status quo.

i've heard people try to justify abuse before, but it's always couched in terms of a response to someone else's perceived transgressions. that isn't a justification for it either, but it's one i'm used to people spouting, and one i'm used to refuting. but, arguing that abuse is a display of an abuser's courage? that's a new one, and a frightening one.

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1 for all of you who don't read savage love (shame on you!), that's savage-ese for Dump The Mother Fucker Already.

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