I think my girlfriend doesn’t respect me and I don’t know what to do about it.
We’re a pretty typical 20-something lesbian couple. She works for queer justice, not making much money but definitely helping to make our world a better place.
I have a boring job that is helping me pay off my student loans and keeps a roof over our heads. And I spend most of my free time on my real passion, working for animal rights.
That’s the big problem between me and Christie.
She is always ragging on me for caring more about animals than people. She says if I have free time I should be fighting for “our” cause. She asks me why I waste my time trying to get people to stop eating pigs or rescuing animals from slaughterhouses when LGBT teens are being bullied.
I don’t get how she can be so compassionate toward humans and so shut down about the suffering of animals. She says that’s a stupid comparison. I wonder why can’t she have compassion for everyone.
When we go out to eat, she’ll sometimes make insulting remarks about what I eat to our friends and then say how “yummy” her non-vegan food is, asking me if I want a bite or holding up a slice of bacon and saying “oink.” She says she’s just being funny but I feel totally disrespected. And I find her lack of compassion toward other sentient beings pretty chilling.
I’m still with her because aside from this she has a really generous heart. The work she does for our community is beautiful and except for this stuff, she is a very caring girlfriend. Also, she’d have trouble affording a place to live on her own and I don’t want to destabilize her life like that.
Do you think I’m being too sensitive? Is there a way to get her to be more respectful of the things I care about? I’ve asked her to stop being so critical multiple times and she won’t.
You are not being too sensitive.
You describe repeatedly asking Christie to stop denigrating a cause you care deeply about and Christie continuing to mock what you hold dear.
If Christie simply didn’t care much about animal rights, that wouldn’t be problematic, as long as she was respectful of your wanting to put your energy and passion into alleviating non-human suffering. Both members of a couple don’t have to care about all the same causes.
The problem is that Christie is relentlessly critical of your beliefs and the work you do. That’s no way for someone to treat her girlfriend and no way for you to live.
You wonder if there’s some means by which you could convince Christie to be more respectful of your work on behalf of animals. What more do you imagine you could do, given that you’ve asked her to stop repeatedly and she hasn’t?
If you want to stop being subjected to Christie’s obnoxious criticisms, your surest bet is to get out of the line of fire. So let’s think about why you aren’t doing that.
I get your concern about destabilizing Christie’s life, given that she relies on you to pay the bulk of the rent. But Christie, like you, is an adult. It’s up to her to find a way to take care of her own needs, including shelter.
If you’re staying with her because you’re afraid she can’t find a way to cover her rent, you are actually disrespecting Christie, by treating her like an incapable child. And of course you are doing yourself no favors if you are staying in a relationship out of pity. So ask yourself, why are you choosing to stay with her?
You say that aside from the behavior you describe, she is a very caring girlfriend. Really? I’m curious how you could see Christie’s ongoing taunts as compatible with being a very caring girlfriend.
Here is a possibility to consider: Do you have a history of not being treated well in some previous relationship —romantic, familial or otherwise? That might contribute to your accepting nasty behavior as “just part” of being in a relationship.
I may be on the wrong track here, because you do seem to see Christie’s behavior accurately, but is it possible you need to open your eyes a little more to reality?
I’d also like you to consider whether you might be staying in this relationship in some part because doing so allows you to feel a sense of superiority, for tolerating Christie’s insults; or virtuousness, for helping Christie keep a roof over her head.
Again, I may be on the wrong track. But your continuing to stick it out in a miserable situation, in part because you don’t want to shake up Christie’s life, makes me wonder if you have a taste for martydom.
Michael Radkowsky, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist who works with LGBT couples and individuals in D.C. He can be found online at michaelradkowsky.com. All identifying information has been changed for reasons of confidentiality. Have a question? Send it to Michael@michaelradkowsky.com.