Relationship Advice – Being Mean, The Need For Space

by Jodi
(Cape Town, South Africa)


Hi there. I need advice on my current relationship with my boyfriend. He has a tendency to be mean with me for just about anything. Sometimes, I phone him, without knowing that it is a bad time, and he goes off at me like I just murdered his cat. I have told him time and again that being mean, sarcastic, or belittling never helps any situation. He sometimes admits to being mean, but the very next day, he is back to being nasty and breaking me down.

Two weekends ago, he told me that I was welcome to come over when he finished work, which I did. When I got to his place, he ignored me, and was angry that I was even there. He said that he doesn’t even have a chance to relax and play a computer game. I told him that if he had just asked me to come later, I would have gladly done so. His response was that he wouldn’t dare do that, because then I would be upset. He said that I even have a problem with him working because it means that I can’t spend time with him, which is absurd!

In reality, it is not about him spending time with me that makes me upset, it is how his being mean and nasty.

He says that sometimes he tells me over the phone that he will call me later simply so that he can get rid of me temporarily. He says he has no time to do what he wants to do because of my presence.

Whenever I talk to him about his being mean, he says that he is not interested in arguing and that I should let the past be the past. I then tell him that he is being mean to me even in saying this at this instant. And that sparks off another row.

I am going crazy and do not know what to do. The situation isn’t improving…


Hi Jodi.

I can understand what you are going through as I too have been in a relationship (and am still in one).

The first thing I tried to ask myself was, “Why might your boyfriend be behaving in this manner? Why would he constantly be angry about the fact that you call him or visit him way too often?”

Let us first try to see how things are from your boyfriend’s point of view. From your description, it is obvious that your boyfriend is saying, “Give me space, leave me alone, don’t call me, let me spend a lot of time alone without you!”. He may be having a lot of pressure at work, he may be facing some other problems he has not talked to you about – and he finds you to be intruding when you call him or visit him. All of us need some time alone – some time only for ourselves – and it seems that currently your boyfriend needs a lot of such time alone. When you call him and visit him, he feels frustrated because what he is looking for is time ALONE and he feels you don’t understand because by calling and visiting you are not giving him time to unwind alone. In his frustration, he then shouts and says mean things. He feels trapped because he feels like he is trying to be alone and you are just not letting him be alone by calling him and visiting him. He wants to say, “no, don’t come”, but finds it difficult to be assertive and say that. Then, when he gets too frustrated, he says mean things.

Of course you may not even be aware of the fact that he needs so much space, that he wants to be alone so much and so you are absolutely stunned when he vents out at you and says mean things. You actually want to help him with his problems and be with him and here he is rude to you! That causes more arguments.

The solution, as far as I can see, is to give him the space that he wants. It seems that temporarily, he doesn’t want to be disturbed, doesn’t want you to visit or call. So don’t visit him or call him. Temporarily, understand that he is himself very frustrated and depressed and needs some time for himself. For the next one week, try not calling him at all. Yes, you may miss him and really feel the need to talk to him – but stop yourself. Tell yourself that currently he is in a situation where he is overwhelmed and it is best to leave him alone for now. I am sure that if you don’t call him for 3-4 days, he himself will call you, then. You must have noticed that in general, you alone make most of the calls, you alone say most of the time that you want to visit – he doesn’t. This time, wait for his call. Let 3-4-5 days pass. When he does call you, don’t be angry at him but ask him how he is and if his life is getting better. Tell him that you had thought about the situation and realized that he needed space. Tell him that, this was the reason you didn’t call him. Also assure him that you are perfectly OK about giving him more space and you love him enough to let him be on his own for some time. Assure him that he can go ahead and share his problems with you whenever he feels like it. I am sure, if you say these things to him, he too will respond kindly and thank you for understanding. Soon, if you give him enough space, he himself might start calling you and visiting you and also sharing more with you.

Overall the problem as I see it is:

Boyfriend doesn’t get space —> He gets frustrated and is mean –> You feel bad because he is mean (anyone would feel bad).

The solution I see is:

Give boyfriend space –> He will feel understood and loved –> He will be kind to you

I know, in this entire solution, I have sounded like I am on the side of the boyfriend. But when I really thought about a solution, this is what I felt truly felt from the bottom of my heart.

If you give your boyfriend space and he is still mean to you and says bad things, then yes, it has gotten too far. In that situation you really need to consider whether you want to be with him at all. However, I think you can give him once chance by giving him a LOT of space, not calling or visiting him and letting him call or visit first. If things improve, great! If things still don’t improve, then you can rethink your relationship status in detail.