Savvy Tokyo's resident "Love in Japan" columnist, Hilary Keyes, answers anonymous questions from readers on everything from dating in Japan to how to find peace with oneself after a broken heart. Got a question you’d like to ask Hilary? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org with a subject "Ask Hilary."
My boyfriend suddenly changed. Was it correct to end the relationship?
Hi Hilary. I was seeing this guy pretty seriously for a few months, but things suddenly changed between us. We only spoke Japanese together, and before he would call me by my name or use anata, and called himself boku. However, suddenly he starting calling me omae and referring to himself as ore. He’d also gotten short with me — like, he had a temper that he didn’t before. No matter what I said, even if I agreed with him completely, he’d still get pissed off at me. I dumped him, obviously, but what gives? — Sudden Change Changed Our Paths
Dear Sudden Change,
I’m sorry to hear that. As a Japanese speaker, you’ve probably learned that the polite ways to refer to another person are by anata in general, kimi for a child or someone of a younger age or lower position than yourself, while omae comes across as being rude and is most often used derogitively. Boku is a boyish, neutral way of referring to oneself, while ore can have the image of an “ore-sama” or arrogant, overconfident man to it.
If it had just been a change in terms of language, I would say that it was simply the end of the honeymoon period of the relationship, and his natural pattern of speaking was coming back. In that situation, I would have suggested talking to him about it, and perhaps telling him that you didn’t like being called that.
However, because of the personality change, I’d say you just dodged a bullet. Anyone that undergoes a drastic personality change, especially one towards overly aggressive behavior, is someone that you don’t need in your life.
I’ve met a few men like this, in Japan and elsewhere, and I’ve noticed that they tend to start acting this way when their image of you has changed. They decide that somehow you’ve changed, and it’s not a change that they support. This is by no means your fault in any way, shape or form – you might have said something completely innocent that just riled him up, or maybe he saw something on TV about someone similar to you that made him angry. It’s entirely based on his own interpretation of things. But once he got that idea into his head, he couldn’t get over it.
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