Dear Patricia Marie,

My boyfriend constantly puts me down, particularly when we are out with friends, and it is really starting to cause a problem. He says it is just his sarcastic sense of humour, and all his past girlfriends have found it amusing, but I am starting to lose my confidence when I am with him.

I am reasonably attractive, with a slim figure, but have always had low self esteem, ever since my mother walked out when I was 14 years old, and my father made it obvious I was a nuisance to him.

It has taken me a long time to accept myself as I am, and although I don't want to break up with him, I also don't want to start feeling bad about myself again. If I try to talk to him about it, he just gets angry, and says I have no sense of humour and that he is only joking, but he does seem to pick up on all the things I don't like about myself and make them into 'jokes'.

Is there anything I can do to make him stop?

Patricia Marie says...

People who constantly find fault in others, are generally insecure and unhappy within their own lives. It's unhealthy for any relationship to be filled with constant criticism and you need to let your partner aware of how much he is jeopardising yours. Perhaps he grew up with a critical parent, was bullied himself, or maybe he is carrying regrets or resentments from previous partners.

This man is able to make you feel worthless because you are allowing him to, and constantly facing such negativity is quite understandably wearing away your happiness. If you really want to salvage this partnership, calmly ask him why he feels the need to verbally attack and belittle you. I suggest you make it clear that you will not tolerate this behaviour any more. If he realises how much he is hurting you, and genuinely wants to address his issues, this will be a good start, but if not, you have to ask yourself why you would want to stay with a man who is making you so unhappy.

If you can't make a decision right now, have some time apart, to allow you to re-evaluate your feelings. It could be that your boyfriend's attitude has reignited in you painful memories from the past which you may not have dealt with at the time, and I therefore believe you could benefit from some counselling. This will empower you by building your self esteem, enabling you to think more clearly, and help you make better decisions both at this present time and in the future too.

You may come to a decision to sever ties, but remember, no relationship is ever a waste of time. If it doesn't bring you what you want, it teaches you what you don't want, and do keep in mind, all endings bring new beginnings.

I recommend you read: Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay, by Mira Kirshenbaum: A Step by Step Guide to Help You Decide to Stay in or Get Out of Your Relationship.