He’s sort of mean

A thank you note from yesterday’s letter writer: “No matter how much your friends tell you stuff, sometimes you just need a stranger to slap you upside the head and tell you that you're an idiot :-)” Way to slap. Here's today's:
I have been with "Phil" for about a year and a half now. I'm really happy with our relationship except for the fact that he is constantly making hurtful and demeaning "jokes" about me and women in general. He calls me demeaning names that I've told him I don't like and says that he is only kidding. At times I feel like his behavior is a bit controlling since I have asked him to stop many times and he never does. Sometimes he says things like my breath is bad just to get a rise out of me and after I get upset he admits it isn't. These things bring me to tears sometimes. All he can say is that I'm just too sensitive and I have no sense of humor. I grew up in an abusive environment and I'll admit that maybe I read too much into things. Sometimes I feel like I don't know what a "normal" relationship is. Am I being irrational? How we overcome this?

– Not Amused, Weymouth


NA, I know you want to stay with him. And I’m sure we’re only hearing the bad stuff. But the verbal abuse (that’s what it is, by the way) is very troubling. It’s even more troubling that he’s telling you it’s your problem. Some of his teasing probably has to do with the fact that you just moved in together. You’re learning about each other’s little quirks and habits. It’s only natural to poke some fun along the way. But what he's doing is much bigger than that. These comments are breaking you down. You’ve described his behavior as controlling and hurtful. He makes you cry. He's making demeaning comments about women. That makes me want to cry. You’re not oversensitive. You’re you. Sometimes I feel like I don't know what a "normal" relationship is. There’s no such thing as "normal." But a good relationship shouldn’t bring you to tears and make you doubt yourself all of the time. Try to figure out whether you’re in this because it’s working – or simply because you want it to work. Readers? Am I being oversensitive? Is she? Share.

– Meredith