Ask E. Jean - Tormented? Driven Witless? Whipsawed by confusion?

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I have been dating my boyfriend for almost a year now. He is 29 and I am 35 so there is definitely a bit of a maturity/age issue, but so far we have been able to work through things together. One thing that I think causes some issues on the experience/maturity area is that he previously had only dated one other person and for only 3 months, whereas I was in a relationship for almost 7 years with an emotionally abusive boyfriend. It sucked to be sure, but going to therapy and working on myself until I had the strength to leave and continuing to heal myself after was an incredible experience that helped me grow SO MUCH as a person. However, he tends to have very oversimplified views about relationships and sometimes it can be annoying but sometimes it can actually trigger a really negative emotional response in me because of what I went through in my last relationship.

For example, he just emailed me a link to a youtube video of some male comedian because he thought it was funny (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8FTVB6Tn888). If you watch the clip, it basically is a guy describing how impossible it is to make a woman happy in a relationship, but it's so easy for a woman to make a guy happy because all she has to do is "bang him and feed him". First of all, UGH gross. Second of all, this kind of is a slap in the face to me because my ex was SUPER controlling, critical, and was literally IMPOSSIBLE to make happy. Especially the part where the comedian says that men have to "dress real nice, but like they don't care at the same time" - usually before my ex and I went anywhere together I would have to change my outfit 1-2 times before he deemed it "nice enough" which usually meant he wanted it to look trendier or more styled. Jeans and a sweater didn't cut it with him. Or he would complain that my hairstyle was boring and that he wished I would try harder to look nice.

I don't think my boyfriend is a misogynistic asshole, I think he finds things like these funny because he doesn't have the life experience to show him how silly generalizations like this are. I responded by saying "eyeroll, only shallow men believe that cliche and it's because they seek relationships with women based on how attractive they are instead of whether they are compatible".

However, I feel like maybe I need to have a more in-depth conversation because this isn't the first time he's done this (one of the times he showed me a Joe Rogan clip and it actually made me cry because of how much it offended me after my last relationship). I thought he would have taken the hint that he should keep clips like this between him and his guy friends but apparently not.

Edit: I definitely need to have a discussion with him, but any advice on how to explain this to him calmly without being emotionally reactive would be greatly appreciated! It may seem silly that I am so offended by this but if you knew the full extent of emotional abuse I went through in my last relationship it would probably make more sense!

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    I'm not sure if this occurred to your boyfriend, but these sorts of "jokes" demean men in a big way, portraying them as clueless oafs who can't figure out the first thing about women and have only the basest of needs. But it's also demonstrating his lack of relationship experience.

    So yeah - the lad needs a clue. You could start with an equivalence - as in, "What if I kept sending you videos about how stupid men are? And after one too many you told me to stop. Except that I kept sending them to you. Wouldn't you wonder why I had so little respect for your feelings? So I'm wondering why you keep sending me these insulting jokes and videos, even though I've asked you not to." Don't dance or hint around about it; say outright that these are insulting and that you don't want to see them - EVER. Obviously, hints are not working, so you need to be more direct.

    Also, it would be a good plan to agree to make it easy for either one of you to bring up issues based on his inexperience and your past experience. Good communications are the cornerstone of any healthy relationship, so both of you need to be comfortable with speaking up. And oftentimes you need to actually say that this is important and make a point of giving both of you permission to be truthful about what you need.

    One last thing: do try your best to not make the current guy pay for the previous guy's behaviour. Yes, you are experiencing triggers, but those belong with the old guy, not this one. So when you start getting pulled back into the past, step back and remind yourself that this is not the same guy who abused you all those years.

    reply to Jill
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    Wow! I could have written this. I experience this too. I was in a wildly toxic emotionally abusive relationship for 4.5 years, and credit therapy and the effects thereafter to help me finally leave. I also found it life changing in EVERY SENSE OF THE WORD. I am a different person now, and as painful as it was, it taught me a lot. Itís something that a lot of even my closet friends donít truly understand. And good for them! As that would mean they went through an abusive relationship too and I wouldnít wish that on them.

    Life just isnít the same afterwards! I donít relate to people the same way anymore. Thereís a lot of ways I am still struggling. As my therapist and I chat about, I was in that relationship for 4.5 years, so it will take awhile to truly heal. Same goes for you I am only guessing.

    I agree with Jill whole heartedly above. He should absolutely, positively be respectful of your feelings, and be able to understand why you donít find certain jokes funny. But just periodically remind yourself that they are in fact triggers.

    I am 29 and my boyfriend is 36 which is ironic but I have had to remind myself many times (and end up explaining to him) that I am often displacing my deep wounds at times.

    He has been very supportive when I bring things up, and most of the time I just say whatís on my mind then and there. However we have had a few formal talks especially when we first started dating. I needed to him to take it seriously because I was serious, and what I went through (and you went through) was serious.

    As for the actual conversation, just say how you feel. You can express how you know it is just a joke for him, but it really bothers you. If he doesnít respect that, then you need to have a different conversation.

    reply to Barbara
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    This is not a maturity issue.

    My sister married a man 10 years her junior. They met when she was in her mid-30s (and he was in his mid-20s). They married when he was in his late 20s.

    She never blamed any of their value differences on their age difference. Please do not do this for your boyfriend. His age is not an excuse. It is a reflection of value differences, not age differences.

    reply to Maggie
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