Low-brow lover

I have been with a man for 10 years who is a controlling anti-intellectual.

By Cary Tennis

Published September 3, 2003 7:02PM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

I am a 32-year-old gay male. I have been in a relationship for almost 10 years with a man I met in college. All of my friends and family believe we have the perfect relationship (the one they point to as an argument in favor of same-sex marriage), so I feel that I can't talk to anyone about this. I got into the relationship because he is intelligent and handsome, and because we had great sexual chemistry. However, although we are both academics, he has an extreme anti-intellectual streak and refuses to watch documentaries or subtitled films ever in favor of more "low-brow" entertainment. Moreover, our wonderful, adventurous, exciting sex life went south after less than a year; he says that he's just not a very sexual person (he also says that he hates the fact that I am uncircumcised, but he knew this from the first time we slept together).

He often makes mean-spirited comments and feels compelled to win every argument. The biggest problem is that he is somewhat controlling and, at times, verbally abusive -- a little like the husband in "Sleeping With the Enemy" without the physical abuse. I do love him, but I don't like him very much anymore. I've suggested couples counseling, but he says that he doesn't need it (often adding, that maybe I should be in therapy). Is there any hope? Should I just move on?

Seeking Direction

Dear Seeking Direction,

Of course there is hope. But not if you don't start fighting back. You probably don't know how to fight back. You need to learn. When you are feeling put-upon, you probably are; when something he says stings, it was probably meant to. If he's not willing to go to couples counseling, I suggest that you begin a course of counseling on your own. What you need a counselor for is to decode his behavior, to uncover the rich substrata of beliefs and strategies for control that are at work here, the resentments masquerading as analysis, the revenge masquerading as cultural taste, the will to power shrouded in the mysteries of "personality" and "individuality."

You need to learn to identify the ways he is attacking you before you can tell whether he still loves you or not. Armed with an understanding of what he is doing, you can then begin proposing specific ways he must change. If he is unwilling to change, that probably means he doesn't love you enough. Then you can decide to leave, and you will not be in doubt about your reasons. You will have a working understanding of what love is, and you'll be able to search for it again.

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Cary Tennis

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