Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Moody boyfriend making you feel badly about yourself?

DEAR NATALIE: My boyfriend has mood swings and I think it’s just getting worse. I’ve been with him for five years and we've been fighting over little dumb arguments. It’s getting to the point where I really believe I’m being emotionally abused. Meaning: He makes me feel as though I’m always wrong and he’s always right. I’m walking on eggshells at this point and I don’t know what else to do. He refuses to talk to me in person so he’d rather text and these “conversations” are not going anywhere. I love him so much and I don’t want to lose him. But I don’t know how much more I can take. Any advice?

-- SAD IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR SAD IN CALIFORNIA: This sounds like more than just moodiness. This sounds like someone who is hypercritical of you and controlling. My question for you is, why do you want to be with someone who makes you feel badly about yourself? If I were you, I would take some serious time to reflect on what it is that you want from this relationship and what it is that you are looking for in a partner. I know first hand how hard it can be to let go of a long-term relationship. It feels like a death that you have to mourn in order to heal and letting go is the hardest part. But, life is short. Do you really want to spend your time walking on “eggshells” because your partner doesn’t even have enough self awareness to speak to you about his feelings in person? I’m not discounting that he is in pain or that he loves you. I have no doubt that you love him too. But the question is: Who do you love more? Yourself or him? Self preservation isn’t the same as selfishness, and while I’m not telling you to leave him, I am saying that taking a step back to reevaluate this relationship may be a good idea. At the end of the day, I would rather be alone and content than with someone and miserable. Don’t stay just because you want a boyfriend. Don’t stay because you think you can “fix him.” And please don’t stay because you feel as though you are incomplete without him. You are enough. You are enough just as you are and if he doesn’t recognize that, then say “enough” of this nonsense and walk away.

DEAR NATALIE: As a man who considers himself a decent human, I have to admit that I was (and still am) shocked at the number of allegations coming forward from women since the #MeToo movement aimed at so many famous men. As someone in the art and entertainment industry, I want to support women but I’m not sure how to do that. I would never hurt a woman, but I feel like that’s not enough and I shouldn’t win points for not being a total creep. What else can I do? -- AN ALLY

DEAR AN ALLY: The only way things will change is for men to call out other men for this behavior. If you see or hear something, say or do something. You can also take other proactive measures like supporting policy changes that uplift women and families as well as support your local businesses that are owned by women. Become a mentor for young boys and men and instill in them respect for everyone. Learn more about intersectionality and how race, gender and economics play major roles in how we treat one another on the micro and macro levels. Read. Ask questions, but don’t expect women to do all the work for you. Things won’t change unless we each decide to make a change within us. I really like this quote from Rumi: “Yesterday, I was clever so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Don’t take the bait. Sometimes, you may find yourself in a conversation where someone is trying to bait you to say something negative about someone else. Just ignore them. Don’t fall into a trap where you say something you will regret while giving someone else an advantage. Just like your mom always said: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!”

Please send your questions to Natalie Bencivenga to her email, nbencivenga@post-gazette.com; or through postal mail to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Dr., Pittsburgh, PA 15212.

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)