Dear E. Jean: My boyfriend and I were fine at dinner in Brooklyn recently. Afterward, when we arrived home on Long Island an hour later, we showered and I asked him if I could sleep in a sports bra and panties. (I have to ask permission because he never lets me sleep with any clothes on.) He said no, so I got into bed naked and was really annoyed. He asked me why I was annoyed, and I told him I prefer sleeping in my sports bra and underwear. He replied that I didn’t love him because I “won’t do the simple things that make him happiest” (i.e., sleep naked). So we got into a huge fight.
This happens every time I attempt to get into bed with anything on. It’s happened every night for a year. So I’ve learned to get naked to avoid an argument. I don’t get naked out of love, I do it out of fear. Whenever I try to bring this issue up, my boyfriend becomes so angry and offended! What should I do?
I just feel so broken because I can’t give him what he needs to feel loved without sacrificing my happiness. We have sex two to three times a week right now, and it’s not enough for him. He constantly complains about it; he wants it seven days a week—and, by always reminding me about all the compromises he makes “for us,” he makes me feel unworthy. I know the easy fix is for me to shut up, sleep naked, and open my legs, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. — Sad He Isn’t Happy With Me
Miss Sad, My Love: Maybe he’s not knocking your teeth out and dragging you by the hair—and I’m sorry to give you more misery, God knows you’ve lived through 365 nights of it—but no woman should feel so menaced that she has to “ask permission” to clothe her own body.
And that you, a brilliant young woman with a master’s degree from one of America’s top universities (I looked you up) and a soaring career, should suffer 8 hours out of 24—one third of your life!—under the command of a man who is manipulating, humiliating, and intimidating you into taking off your clothes to prove your love (the oldest form of female subjugation in the book!) makes me lose all compassion for the man.
(Of course, I looked him up too and was surprised to see that he’s one of those guys we’ve all been hearing about who keep a truckload of guns in the basement. I don’t wish to add to your pain, so the less I say about his total want of looks, education, status, intelligence, and character, the better.) Let us proceed:
Does he restrict your daily activities?
Does he make unreasonable demands?
Does he manipulate you by making you feel unworthy through denial, lies, and belittling your wishes?
Does he coerce you by using demands and threats into taking actions against your will?
Does he stifle your independence?
Does he deprive you of liberty and equality?
Does he ignore your opinions and the harm that his behavior is doing to you?
The above queries feature just a few of the tactics listed on the website for the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, under the heading “What Coercive Control Looks Like.” If you answered “yes” to even two questions, I implore you: The man may not be totally brutal, but get out now before he gets worse. You can’t help who you fall in love with, Miss Sad, but you can help yourself by leaving when that love turns ugly. Good luck! Check Twitter’s hashtag #MaybeHeDoesn’tHitYou, and call me and let me know how you’re faring. You can do this!