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TherapistMarryAnn, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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Negative perception

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My boyfriend has a habit of hearing things I say in a negative tone when they haven't been said that way at all and of seeing the negative in everything most things I do. He'll basically interpret most things I do as against him. If I cook dinner every night, it's not because I want to do something nice but because I don't trust him to cook. If I complain that a radiator is leaking he'll take offence that I'm getting at him rather than seeing it that I'm just simply saying the radiator is leaking and we need to do something. He is also quite quick to anger. Although he accepts his anger is not acceptable, he blames my actions as the cause of it and continues to behave like it. Could you shed some light on why he might take everything as a personal affront when it's not?
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 4 years ago.

Hi, I'd like to help you with your question.


It sounds like your boyfriend may have self esteem issues. People who interpret others as against them usually are either paranoid (which your boyfriend does not sound like he is) or they have self esteem issues.


He probably also has anger issues, which can be part of low self esteem. People who are angry because they have low self esteem are responding that way because they are trying to protect themselves. The interpret everything said to them as something critical and meant to hurt them. So they lash out before they can get hurt or because they are hurt.


Your boyfriend may have grown up in a home where he was criticized a lot or was witness to others being hurt. When a child is criticized, it is a form of abuse. That child is not getting his/her needs met for love and caring from their caregiver. The child then learns to adapt by protecting themselves usually resulting in dysfunctional behavior. Their protections are no longer needed when they are adults but they keep using them because it is all they know.


Your boyfriend needs to see he as a problem before he can fix how he reacts. If he feels what he does is ok, or he blames others (you), then he lacks the insight needed to help himself through this. You can talk to him, but he may interpret your attempt as more criticism.


The only choice that leaves you is how you want to respond. You can try being kind to him and disarming him when he is angry. It may help but it also leaves you to deal with his behavior. You can also tell him that while you appreciate he is upset, you need time alone. Then walk away each time he gets upset. You can also suggest he see a therapist, though he may refuse. But changing is ultimately up to him. If he doesn't you may need to evaluate whether this relationship is working out for you.


I hope this has helped you,

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