Dear Miss Asia,

It's my first time to be in a relationship and I'm 33 years old. (I had a boyfriend back in high school but we were only textmates since my parents were strict). Mark*, on the other hand, has four ex-girlfriends and even a few more na “complicated” daw. Don't get me wrong, I have no issue with his past. Except when we fight, he always points out my lack of experience kaya raw hindi ko siya naiintindihan. Feeling niya lagi siyang tama and I'm getting tired of it. He treats me like I’m a child!

I don’t get it. He's a good listener when I'm talking about my work or family problems, but when it's about him, wala. What do I do?

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April*

*Names and other details have been changed

Dear April,

It must be frustrating to feel like your first romantic relationship does not live up to the pre-poison-Romeo-and-Juliet hype. Because the question was just a little bit too short, let me try to cover all the bases before we get into the meat of the matter:

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If he is more experienced and has had good relationships in the past, then he should be more than willing to bridge the gap between his lived experiences and your inexperience. Now, if you believe he is a genuinely good guy with just a slightly misguided way of expressing himself (meaning he may be dense or oblivious, but capable of change), you can broach the subject while you're having some quality time. Start with: “Hey, I understand that sometimes I may seem inexperienced and naive when I get upset about some of the things you do. Could you help me express myself better and understand some stuff that happened recently?” If he agrees, you can move forward. If not, ask him how he wants to be approached so he’s better prepared to help you through your concerns without judgment.

However, if he exclusively brings up your inexperience when the fight is about his mistakes and his behavior, then it's a totally different story:

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  • If he forgets a date, then it’s your fault for not reminding him. “These are girlfriend duties, you should have known.” Does that sound fair to you?
  • If you’re upset because he still flirts with his ‘ka-complicated’ even though you’ve agreed to be mutually exclusive, ikaw pa ang selosa. “You’re too clingy.” Does this sound familiar?
  • If he conveniently forgets to tell you he’s out with the boys after making you cancel on your girls, "Aba, boys will be boys!”
  • If he’s great at engaging with all your problems except himself, you may be talking to a wall for the rest of your relationship. Do you really want that?
  • If you’re not sure if this wall will crack or not, ask yourself some more questions.

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So let’s say you’ve heard these things before, and you’ve tried to address them. Do you usually approach him with “Babe, when you did this, it hurt me. Could you not do that again?” If his responses are some variation of “You just think it’s hurtful because you have no basis for what you’re talking about,” then you may be seeing signs of emotional invalidation. What does that even mean? It means, wala siyang paki sa feelings mo.

A good technique to see if you’re being dismissed is to pretend it’s happening to one of your girlfriends. Would you let someone talk to your BFF like that? I don’t think so. 

It doesn’t sit well with me that he’s using this as his Uno reverse card instead of helping you adjust to this new relationship with him. This is called deflection. Personally speaking, a toxic ex of mine did this all the time. If I caught him sexting another girl, he’d flip it around and ask me why I was so insecure. Another, much older ex of mine was fond of telling me “You’ll understand when you grow up” whenever he refused my requests to discuss emotional situations. 

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Don’t let anyone tell you that your feelings are not valid just because he’s been around the block more than you have! His relationship roster does not exempt him from being held accountable. If he responds negatively when you confront him about his habits of deflecting and invalidating your feelings, then it might be time to cut your losses. Successful relationships rely on suspending judgment. Condescension or talking down to you is not conducive to a good relationship. You are looking for a partner, not a dad telling you “Maiintindihan mo rin balang araw.

It took a lot for me to learn my worth, and to learn that not all relationships have to last. This is especially true for your first few relationships. He’s your first boyfriend, if all else fails, it sounds like it’s time to earn that “experience” and move on to someone who can honor your journey. 

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But wait, break agad? If you think that’s too rash of a decision even when winawalang-bahala lang ang mga sinasabi mo, just remember the sunk-cost fallacy. Just because you’ve “sunk” all this time with your first boyfriend doesn’t mean it justifies sinking even more of it, especially when leaving him will immediately bring you results greatly outweighing the frustration of that sunk-cost. You owe yourself a partner who will meet you halfway. If you have tried expressing your concern in a calm, objective, and non-judgmental way without any success, then you are completely in the right to become just another ex to him; let yourself or someone else honor the wonder and curiosity that comes with new experiences!

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