#284: “My partner is controlling about my appearance.”

A cake with "nothing" written on it.
What do we like about this boyfriend of yours?

Dear Captain Awkward,

I’m in a long term relationship (7 years now) that started in my last year of high school, and has been my only romantic relationship. As you may imagine, it’s been…interesting. He’s a great person, with many admirable qualities, whom I still like a lot as a person and enjoy spending time with.

So, there’s a big conflict in our relationship that we haven’t been able to sort once and for all, despite talking about them a bunch of times:

He is really opinionated about my appearance (clothes, hair, weight). He feels that he has a right to comment on it, and gets really passive-aggressive when I don’t give him the opportunity to voice his opinions (ie. I dye my hair and he goes into a snit for days about how he doesn’t like it, and can’t talk about it because I don’t want to hear his opinion on it and oh the angst). It’s gotten to the point where getting a fucking hair cut is fraught because I prefer my hair short and he likes long hair. And it really all comes down to the fact that he’s not as attracted to girls with short hair/dyed hair/wearing goth make-up/ overweight/ insert here. Or he feels I’d look better in skirts/longer hair/ contacts/ more “normal” makeup, etc.

It feels really controlling to me. And I absolutely hate feeling controlled. I think part of the problem is I am generally really laissez-fair about my appearance in general. My general philosophy is I do/wear things because they make me happy or because they’re comfortable. For example I like short hair both because I think it looks best on me, and it’s easy to take care of. My exceptions to this rule are work, work events, and occasions such as other people’s weddings, graduations and funerals. He is very conservative in his own dress, and grew up in a super-conservative family. He doesn’t believe in leaving the house without careful grooming. He has a very hard time coming to terms with the fact that there is not a “universal rule of how to dress right”, and holds to some pretty hetero-normative ideas about how people of each gender should look.

When we’ve talked about this issue (on a number of separate occasions, initiated by me after some passive-aggressiveness on his part), he’s told me that the reason this is such a big deal to him is he sometimes feels embarrassed to be seen with me and he feels like I don’t care if I am attractive to him. And I really don’t know what to do with that information. My general rule for social situations is “if you’re judging me for my clothes you’re not a person whose opinion I care about”, but that’s kind of hard to transfer to someone else. I’ve asked for some concrete things that would help him feel like I care that he is “attracted’ to me, but he basically says “that’s not the point, you should be paying attention to what I like and doing it without me telling you”, which I kind of interpret as “read my mind”. There are a lot of things that I’m not willing to compromise on; my hair, makeup, high heels, skirts (in case you haven’t guessed I am really not into “feminine” things and they make me feel really uncomfortable). And I really chafe at the idea that it’s my “job” to be attractive to him.

The imbalance is exacerbated by the fact that I decided a long time ago that other people’s appearances were none of my business, and I try really hard not to offer unsolicited advice/pressure/opinions, unless they’re compliments. I have never tried to have an influence on my bf’s wardrobe or presentation, and I don’t really care what he wears. Ok, that’s not true: I think his taste in clothes is dorky and conservative to the point of being unflattering. But I have never said as much nor given any indication that that is my opinion. Frankly it doesn’t matter to me what he wears because (and this sounds really clichéd) but I’m not with him for his looks.

Oh, did I mention that he’s also got some charming fat-phobia going? I am not, by any definition of the word, overweight, but I’m about 10 lbs heavier than I was when we started dating. I also used to exercise pretty obsessively (3-4 hrs a day) and watch what I ate obsessively, which is something I am glad to have left behind me. I currently run 2-3 times a week and train at martial arts 2-3 times a week, but he is…really obnoxious about tracking how much I exercise. I feel like I have to constantly “prove” that I am exercising “enough”, and he constantly likes to give me advice and tips about my exercise routines and food. Which is funny because he spent 4 long years doing no exercise whatsoever while I was racking up 4 hrs a day in the gym and I never hassled him about it, and I have a very solid grounding in basic nutrition while he eats….frozen ready-made foods and steak. He is terrified that I am going to gain weight and become fat and he won’t be attracted to me anymore. And he made a point of bringing up this fear when I was struggling with depression, in a very toxic work environment, and had absolutely no motivation to do anything but sleep and go to work. Which really helped me feel better about myself, as I’m sure you can imagine.

I wonder if this whole thing is really a sticking point for the whole issue of “we are different people, with different backgrounds and different value and that’s scary” and he just wants some symbolic sign of commitment out of me. He’s said before that he wants to be with me for the rest of his life, and frankly that scares the crap out of me. I’ve always taken the “it works until it doesn’t” approach to this relationship, and I think that’s a reasonably logical approach.

Our relationship has a lot of the “teacher-student” dynamic, which I feel is reinforced by his strong adherence to traditional gender roles. He is never happier than when he is “teaching” me something new, be it a game or an idea. Which can be good and bad at the same time: I’m not particularly adventurous, so I do learn a lot of new things. The trouble is that it’s really frustrating too, because conversations easily turn into “lectures”, even when I know more about a subject than he does, and I feel that he doesn’t give me a lot of credit for stuff I really do know about like it’s my job already. I’m really not good at explaining ideas either, which is something I need to work on, but it really isn’t my first move for conversation.

I feel like he’s definitely someone I want as my best friend but I’m not sure I want him as my partner anymore. I really think he could be a really good partner if he dropped the criticism of my appearance and was a little more informed about feminism/ less invested in traditional gender roles but I am really sick of dealing with this bullshit and having conversations that go around and around in circles. I would love to have someone who responded enthusiastically to experimentation with my appearance, and looks and self (I’ve recently become curious about passing as/dressing more as a boy), but I would settle for adopting a “none-of-my-business” attitude.

So…yeah. Any advice on this epic would be appreciated.


Frustrated and fed up.

Ps. Every time we talk about this, he whips out the “I’m allowed to have my own opinion you know! We don’t have to agree on everything!” which I just…what.

A breakup cake!
In a few days. Or now. Now would be good.

Dear Frustrated and Fed Up:

When are you dumping this massively insecure controlling mansplainer who clearly doesn’t get you or even like you all that much?

I want to know so we can throw a party.

These are what are known as “irreconcilable differences.” If this guy liked you and understood you and was attracted to you, he would not try to make the problem of his FUTUREBONER the center of your lives as he tracks your eating and exercise. “I’m afraid I won’t be attracted to you anymore if you don’t do what I say,” is the purest, grossest kind of manipulation and straight-up MISOGYNY.

If you need a quick breakup review, here you go:

Partner, I am breaking up with you. My feelings have really changed and I don’t want us to be in a relationship anymore.”

He’ll ask why. You don’t have to give him any reasons (even after 7 years, I swear), but if you want to you can say “I am really tired of the way you comment on my appearance and I’ve decided I’m just done with that forever. Your obsession with appearance makes me not attracted to you anymore, and I agree with you: we should both be with people who are attracted to us just the way we are.”

Please have the phrase “This isn’t a negotiation. We are not ‘breaking up’, we are ‘broken up’ – we were as soon as I decided it and told you” at the ready. See also “As you’ve talked more and more about wanting a permanent future with me, it’s made me realize that is not what I want and it was time to speak up honestly about it.” And please have a trusted friend or family member at the ready to call or come pick you up – this dude is not going to go quietly. Rehearse the talk ahead of time if you need to to get your courage up.

I know you think of him as your best friend and want to continue the friendship, but please, please, I beg you, give yourself a long, long, long break from having any contact with him. This guy is not your friend. I’m trying to be gentle, but oh my god, your letter made me hate his fucking guts as my shoulders went up around my ears. He is not your friend. I predict that if you try to do the nice thing and stay friends, he will use every second of future contact to badger you and pressure you to get back into a relationship.

You sound awesome, healthy, and level-headed. You would have to be to survive so much of this bullshit with your sense of self intact. When you say that the thought of spending the rest of your life with him “scares the crap out of you” (that prospect scares the crap out of me, too), it’s clear that you already know what to do, so I view this post less as advice than as moral support.

You will be so happy when you’re free of him, I swear. I SWEAR. I swear that there will be other dudes who don’t wear dorky conservative clothing and who don’t have dorky conservative views about how you should be constantly thinking about how to please them.  They will be attracted to you exactly as you are, and it will be amazing.

I’m serious about the party. Tell me when you’ve sent him packing, and I will make a post full of fun music and pictures of cake.

Commenters, please feel free to recommend cool songs & movies we can link to to send the Letter Writer on her way to awesome singleness. Let’s get this party started.

197 thoughts on “#284: “My partner is controlling about my appearance.”

  1. All I’ve got is DTMFA. And Lesley Gore’s “You don’t own me,” as covered by ever-badass Joan Jett:

    And some Orianthi:

    Best of luck LW.

  2. I’ve been a CA fan for a few months, but this is the first time I’ve commented on a post, and I’m commenting to say, LW, that you’re charming and insightful and cool and interesting, and I love you already. Please take CA’s as always excellent advice and give up on this guy (you’ve given it your best shot for seven years, and it’s still not working)–he’s not fit to lick your Doc Martens.

    This has nothing whatsoever to do with breaking up, but it’s my current favourite movie:


    You can watch it to distract yourself from your personal drama.

  3. I cannot second the Captain hard enough here.

    LW, I was in an incredibly similar sounding relationship in college. The details are pretty irrelevant, but I broke up with him, we tried to stay friends, and it ended up with me guilted back into a pseudo-relationship and being coerced into sex.

    Looking back now I can take that 1) what was happening was pretty dysfunctional and borderline abusive and 2) it has given me some issues I am working through today. I am not trying to label your situation one way or the other, but it sounds like you are unhappy and he is treating you really, really poorly.

    I want to suggest (depending in your thoughts on the topic and resources) maybe getting a therapist on Team You if you break up with this dude. It was incredibly helpful for me to have someone with no investment in the situation to talk things through with AND it really helped to sit back and think “Wow, if this were someone else’s relationship I would be telling them to run for the fucking hills.”

    Please break up with this guy, then we can have Internet cake.

    1. I would also recommend seeing a therapist about this if it’s at all possible. When I was in a similar situation, talking to my friends about my partner often made me feel defensive for him. I mean, they really were awesome friends, but they had their own egos wrapped up in any conversations we had about my romantic life, and I interpreted a lot of what they said as them telling me that they knew what was best for me, which I was already hearing from my partner, thank you very much. When I started seeing a counselor about something entirely different, my unhappy relationship came up, and I went from “I think I might give it a few months, and if I’m still unhappy then, I’ll dump him” at one appointment, to “I dumped him,” at the next appointment two weeks later. Your experience obviously won’t be exactly the same, but it did help to talk about it with someone I didn’t have any personal relationship with.

      Also, if you do dump him, I totally second the advice to at least take some time to yourself before you start being best buds with this guy. I’ve seen people be good friends with their ex-partners, and I think it can happen and be totally wonderful, but I also think that you need some space away from someone who spent a long time making you feel like crap. Spend your time enjoying life with people who make you feel happy and good about yourself. If he eventually fits into that category, awesome! If not, you’ll be fine without him.

      1. Thanks for this. I don’t want to be a dick – I’m sure he does have many good qualities, or someone as TERRIFYINGLY AMAZING as the LW wouldn’t be into him, but he also has giant insecurities or he wouldn’t need an awesome girl to slowly change herself to fit his idea of what she should be like.

        Recommended viewing: Vertigo, dir. Alfred HItchcock.

  4. He’ll ask why. You don’t have to give him any reasons (even after 7 years, I swear)…

    I dunno, I’d love for her to tell him in exquisite detail why what he’s doing isn’t OK. Is that just me?

    1. Sure. But she’s not going to convince him, and he’ll just argue her down the way he has all the other times, so why put in a lot of time explaining your romantic decisions to someone you don’t want to be involved with anymore?

      1. Plus, as Cap said: he is not entitled to an explaination, and the second she starts talking, he’ll jump on her words and twist them like a pretzel. “You make me feel bad” is a good enough reason; I don’t think she’ll feel better giving him a Power Point presentation, as awesome as that would be. 🙂

        1. A Power Point presentation would be absolutely magnificent. She could post it on the internet!

    2. I would love for him to know and understand those reasons. Unfortunately, I think if she explained them, all his brain would process is, “My girlfriend is an unreasonable crazy hyper-sensitive feminazi.” It would be a great deal of effort gone to waste.

      1. Yeah, I think this guy is about to date a long series of hypersensitive, histrionic, ball-breaking feminazis with poor grooming skills and a tendency to get unflattering haircuts and reject constructive criticism and cut off all contact with him after they break up. It will be an amazing coincidence.

        1. As a wise person once said, if all your exes are “crazy”, it’s time to look at the common denominator — YOU.

    3. There are few things that I’m sadder about than the fact that I don’t actually get to give jackasses an itemized list of their jackassery and have them shut up and recognize that these are ACTUAL THINGS THAT THEY DID AND THAT THEY ARE ALL WRONG, but, yeah. It doesn’t work that way. The dream of having him realize that he did things wrong is a lovely dream, but not one that translates to reality.

      First, there’s no way he’d sit still for a full list.

      Second, his entire worldview is based on the concept of him being right about everything, so there’s no way that he’s going to go “oh God, what was I thinking! I have been a terrible person and I feel bad!”, he’s going to hear this as “totally wrong things that I, a lady person who often thinks wrong things due to my lady parts, think about you!”

      Third, this guy is of the controlling variety of belligerent wrongheaded jackass, so he’s going to take that “totally wrong things that this lady person thinks” and he will CORRECT THEM, point by agonizing point.

      Fourth, because LW’s LADY REASONING is flawed, clearly that means they’re not actually broken up! Also they are not broken up because ladies don’t get to decide that stuff, you know.

      Honestly, THESE ARE THE REASONS YOU SUCK lists are not good to indulge in anyway, because… well, in a slightly different universe, CA would be getting a letter after the LW’s boyfriend broke up with her and did JUST EXACTLY THAT, and his list included things like “gained weight” and “violated the sanctity of my futureboners”, and I’m pretty sure we would hate him for that. So I’d advise against it because not only would it not work (although oh, we could dream) but because it’s just not a good thing to do.

      We’re really only one generation out from ANCIENT DIVORCE COURT requiring something besides irreconcilable differences– especially for women– and the sense that we need PROOF remains strong, so if there isn’t any obvious giant single reason, we feel the need for a lot of smaller ones. But we don’t need them! We don’t need to prove that the other person meets some kind of gold standard for bad-in-relationship-ness in order to get out of the relationship, we just have to leave.

    1. Wait, I DO have something to add! And that it that you can totally find someone who can introduce you to new stuff (as the one good thing you mention is “learning new things”) without being a condescending dick about it and having to be The Imparter Of Knowledge.


      I really think he could be a really good partner if

      Well yeah, if. If he weren’t hanging on like grim death to all these shitty ideas about your respective “roles” and how the relationship should be and how you should be. If he weren’t a hypocritical, controlling, sexist asshole. If he were a better person! But that’s basically a hypothetical alternate-universe version of him, who you don’t get to deal with and who he isn’t going to suddenly turn into. It’s a shame whatever good qualities he has are packaged with these horrible ones, but there it is. I mean, you know this already; I just think sometimes it helps to spell it out explicitly.

  5. Hey LW, this letter really spoke to me, because… a lot of it sounds like something I could have been written ten years ago.

    The guy I was dating wasn’t bringing this stuff up as often/offensively as your boyfriend is, but I heard similar things: “When you don’t dress more feminine for me I don’t feel like you want me to find you attractive!” “I know you don’t EVER wear makeup, but you should put lipstick on and give me a blowjob!” “When you shaved your head, at first I thought it was cool, but now that it’s been a few weeks and you decided to keep it that way, I think it’s icky and not badass!” “Stop talking about getting more piercings; I won’t find you attractive any more!” “At some point we all have to grow up and be adults, and you can’t look like this forever!”

    It’s interesting that you mention wanting to experiment with men’s clothing and your presentation… I was also doing similar things when I was dating my Asshole Ex, and he made it clear that he was not particularly happy with any of that. And actually, he kind of sneakily made fun of my fairly gender-neutral chosen name (now my legal name) right when we first started dating and that should have clued me in a bit. What started out as experimentation eventually turned into “oh hey, turns out I actually am some odd flavor of dude” and when the ex found out about this (long after I broke up with him) he was Not Happy, but he definitely couldn’t handle anything other than Extreme Straightness and Femininity from me when we were together, and that got increasingly difficult to deal with.

    This guy also loved to lecture and be the Smart Expert about all sorts of things, and this extended, infuriatingly enough, after I broke up with him. It was really nice not to have to pretend to care about his ridiculous opinions, especially since he started listening to conservative talk radio and trying to educate me about what he “learned” from it.

    I realize it’s generally improper to just tell someone “break up with them already” but please. Just fucking dump this guy. Someone who really loves and supports you will not treat you like this. If I could go back in time and split up with my own appearance-policing asshole earlier than I did, I would in a heartbeat. You sound pretty fucking great and you do not deserve to be treated like this.

    1. I love your handle, accidentalbeard.

      Also experimentation is fun and magical even if no transition/discovery comes from it (apart from the discovery that they make underwear in comfy).

    2. Also, I don’t know why these guys don’t just clock the lack of skirt and makeup when you first meet.

      1. I was wondering that too! I don’t really do feminine dress that often, and friends have even told me “Well if you just wore skirts/lipstick/girly things, you would have a MAAAN!” But I don’t want to date someone who expects me to look feminine all the time, and here I was hoping being myself was a good preventative measure.

      2. I know, right? This was pretty clearly part of my presentation when we met; I was by no means a butch woman but I “dressed up” rarely and always kept things pretty casual. I didn’t even own any makeup other than dark blue and purple nail polish that I’d put on my toes sometimes. I think he initially thought my general appearance was interesting and exciting, but eventually he was tired of having an interesting/independent girlfriend, maybe? He very specifically said he thought my shaved head was “badass” and sexy until he realized it wasn’t a phase. After we broke up he told me he thought I looked, no lie, “like a street thug.” Keepin’ it classy.

    3. I thought of you yesterday when I ran into a former student who started film school as a tomboyish girl, began transitioning during my course, and now rocks a BITCHIN’ NOT-ACCIDENTAL-AT-ALL BEARD that looks great with his blue eyes. Boy is HANDSOME like a handsome Viking of old. I know that whole process must be so complicated and hard at times, but it must also be amazing, right? Reverse-puberty-that-isn’t-terrible-this-time-through?

      1. Yesss, I’m so happy you told me that! I’m sending a psychic high-five to your former student and his beard.
        Sure, I still have a lot of the body issues I’ve been struggling with for most of my life but goddamn is my beard/face handsome now. The beard is inexplicably RED even though my hair is brown and it is the greatest thing. Woo!
        And as stressful as transition can be (and I feel very privileged that my worst moments have been nothing in comparison to what a lot of people have to go through), for the most part it’s been a fabulous, empowering, self-affirming process.

        1. This is total anecdata, but it seems pretty common for a brunet or blond’s facial hair to be redder than his top-of-head hair. It may also go grey earlier– my dad’s beard was completely white while his hair was still salt-and-pepper.

  6. Yeeeeeek.

    I’m imagining two possible motivations for writing in.

    (1) You’ve pretty much decided you want to break up, but you’re having trouble justifying it to yourself and hope that the Captain and commenters will validate your feelings.

    (2) You’re genuinely torn and, despite your recognition of what has become an incredibly messed-up dynamic, are reluctant to leave because all of the good qualities that make your boyfriend a good “best friend.” Fair enough. Its possible that he has some endearing qualities that have kept you around this long.

    If #1 is accurate, let me just ditto what everybody above has said (and almost certainly what everybody below will say): Yes, bailing would be a wonderful idea. You are justified in wanting to bail. Get ooooouut.

    If it’s #2 and you’re still feeling attached, then nothing the Captain, the other commenters, or I will make that much of a dent. So don’t listen to us. Instead, read your own letter. If somebody else wrote it, what would you think they should do? Would it matter if they also listed all the endearing qualities?

    Good luck. I’ll post an angry breakup song if I can think of a good one for your situation.

  7. Dear LW,

    You are awesome and everything about you sounds awesome and all I want for you is a terrifyingly amazing life, and that can’t happen if you have a giant fucking millstone of a criticizing jerkwad boyfriend hanging around your neck. This guy is not good to you, he treats you really badly, and you deserve better. Please, please DTMFA.

  8. It’s not explicitly about breakups, but “Might As Well Dance” by Patty Larkin is good. However, my go-to breakup songs are probably “Shopping Cart of Love” by Christine Lavin and “As Cool As I Am” by Dar Williams.

    1. Seconding the rec for “As Cool As I Am”! One of my favorite hippy liberal women’s college anthems from my past.

  9. Today, I removed somebody from facebook — I’d put up with his rape jokes and misogyny for a while because he respected me fine, but when he pulled out every slur for Arabs he could think of, I decided I didn’t need that kind of friend.

    I’ve known him for less than a month, and I’m still fighting the urge to apologize and “be friends again.” I can’t imagine how hard it is to break up with someone you’ve been with for seven years, but I think we have a consensus: this is not the kind of person you need in your life. He is harshing your awesome, and you deserve way, way better.

    1. Go you! I hope tomorrow is a brighter, shinier day because of that decision.

  10. Congratulations for managing to stay so awesome with this wall of dickbag trying to fence you in. That’s truly an achievement.

    And it’s okay to break up with him, you know. Just because you’ve invested 7 years of your life with this guy, doesn’t mean you owe it to him to stay, or owe it to the relationship to give him a chance to change. He is trying very hard to turn you into some watered down, fictional, malleable version of someone who isn’t even you. He basically wants a Buffybot. Screw him.

  11. Ewwwww.

    So. I had this first-relationship-ever guy in my life for 6 years, and he was emotionally abusive in lots of little ways that I’ve detailed here before. But somehow, I’ve never mentioned this:

    About 2-3 years into the relationship, he started getting really pissy anytime something about me changed, particularly physical things, without his pre-approval. He wasnt quite as blatant as your guy with saying he was entitled to have me look a certain way, but he would insist that changes he didn’t like were “just not [me]” and I must be doing this for/because of someone else/some outside influence, and he would express his disapproval and anger repeatedly. I wasn’t doing anything extreme either… chin-length hair, black fingernail polish (which was actually originally for Halloween, but I liked it so i kept it up for awhile).

    When I finally got up the nerve to leave for the many, many good reasons I had, he refused to believe our problems weren’t fixable, and for some reason he seized on this particular problem to fix, thereby saving the relationship. He got extrordinarily creepy, suddenly claiming he actually LOVED the changes i had made, he was just afraid because they were happening too fast and he was worried that I’d change too much and now love him anymore. At one point during a fight, he begged me to let him repaint my fingernails black. Seriously.

    I can’t tell you whether my ex’s excuse was even partially true for him, much less for your guy. What I can tell you is that our partners had an image in their head of the kind of person they/we were, and the kind of relationship they were in, and we fucked with that image. Whether or not your guy genuinely dislikes less-feminine women, he is clearly invested in himself as the type of macho dude who dates stereotypically feminine women, and you fucked with that. He is experiencing some serious cognitive dissonance, because he wants YOU (for whatever reasons–genuine attraction, fear of being alone), but you are refusing to be the person he expects you to be.

    Generally, rigid/dogmatic people struggling with these kinds of conflicting realities can be unpredictable and kind of scary. So I am with the Captain 100%, and I think you should leave ASAP… but I also want you to be careful, and not just for fear of physical violence, though that is a possibility. You also don’t know what he’ll SAY to stop you. You may get guilt trips, or reversals of previous judgements and begging for forgiveness, or scathing personal attacks, or any combination of those or other tactics. Save yourself the heartache—don’t listen to any of them. You don’t need to care about his reasons for being an asshole at this point, because he’s already repeatedly been asked to change and has refused. Whatever he says or does in the face of what he’ll interpret as an ultimatum, ignore him. Walk away, don’t engage, distract yourself from any fallout, don’t look back.

    1. Holy shit, when somebody thinks they know better than you do what “just not you” means, RED FLAG. I’m glad you’re out of that one!

    2. You’re right that the LW’s boyfriend will immediately apologize and promise not to do whatever it is anymore if she’ll just stay. That promise will be kept for approximately 3 weeks, max.

      1. Where “3 weeks” is precisely equal to the amount of time it takes you to stop grinding your teeth whenever he opens his mouth, if my experience is anything to go by.

  12. Adding to the break up party mix: http://youtu.be/kA5Gtziljxs

    LW, you sound like a great person and there are a lot of people out there that thinks androgynous gender expression and goth make up is really cool, who don’t particularly care if you exercise and who values other people’s knowledge. And, well, I think you’d enjoy yourself a lot more if you spent your time with those people instead.

  13. Hey! I hope you do it quick and best to you. Like any wart removal, it’s momentarily painful but over very fast.

    As far as music for the party, I think Erykah Badhu once had something to say to a guy like this:

    You and me
    Like It used to be, Baby
    But ya don’t know how to act
    So matter of fact
    I think ya better call Tyrone
    (Call Him)
    And Tell him come on,
    Help you get your Shit
    And no, you can’t use my phone.

  14. It sounds like you already know what you need to do, LW! Do it quick so it hurts less. It’ll be like ripping off a sticking-plaster, but whinier.

    One more thing, which you realise, I’m sure, but I think needs to be said: it would not be OK for him to talk to you like this even if you were fat, and even if you didn’t have a strenuous exercise regime, and even if he did dress with breathtaking style and panache himself.

  15. LW, I agree with what everyone else here has said – you seem really freakin’ awesome, your boyfriend sounds like a toxic asshole, pleaseplease dump him now.

    But I also want to touch on one other thing – you said that you still want to be best friends with him. While I don’t mean to generalize too much from my own experiences, and my own toxic ex was toxic in very very different ways than your boyfriend is, I also had this idea that we would be Best Friends after we broke up. Because we cared about each other, because I’d never been that close to another person before – but mostly (and I didn’t tell myself this at the time) because I was so used to him being a constant in my life and losing that was really scary.

    Lessons learned: I did not want to be BFFs with him. In fact, after about a year of trying I realized I did not want him in my life, period. I did not want any contact with him. Part of it was that he treated me a hell of a lot worse post-breakup. But part of it was that once I had a little bit of space and got used to not seeing him every day, I realized that I actually just didn’t like him that much.

    Maybe your situation will be totally different and you guys will forge a happy friendship down the road, but I think that before/during/immediately after a breakup is a really hard time to make that judgement.

    1. Yes. The LW says she wants to be friends, so I hope things work out as she wants in the end – but I don’t see any more evidence of friendship potential there than of long term romantic potential. Would you ever say about someone whose company you enjoyed, who made you laugh, who was warm and compassionate, who you wanted to be friends with… that they had “many admirable qualities”? That’s the kind of thing you say about someone you don’t like.

      1. Yes. And if a friend treated me this way–insulting my appearance, tracking my gym attendance and weight gain, getting extremely defensive when I pointed out that this was hostile and unkind–then that friend would be a toxic friend. (I have had friends like that before. I had to stop spending time with them, and I am much better for not having them in my life.) This is a toxic relationship.

        I agree with everyone else here, LW. Your boyfriend just hasn’t learned how to treat romantic partners yet, and you’ve done your best to teach him–both by being a flesh and blood adult woman and by modeling mature and generous behavior yourself–and it hasn’t worked. He’s not good for you. He’s bad for you. You deserve someone who will love and respect you as you are, and who won’t turn your life into The Swan.

        I have my own history around stuff like this, and I wouldn’t cope well with a lover who told me that I was slipping away towards an event horizon of unfuckability. You sound like you’ve held up pretty well under the onslaught. But…maybe consider counseling in the aftermath of all this? If you believe you can salvage a relationship with a man who openly fears your gross fat future body, then you may have internalized some extremely damaging ideas about your body.

  16. LW, I don’t like your boyfriend any more than any of the other commenters, and I sincerely hope you break up with him soon. I also don’t think he sounds like great friend material.

    But if you do decide you want to be friends with him, my best advice is to take a months-long break from any contact right after the break-up. I only had the sense to do this with one of my exes – and that’s the only one I’m still on friendly terms with. I think the best way to become friends with an ex is to have a solid period of radio silence right after the break-up. It lets everyone heal and get over things, and creates a firmer ground for friendship, IMHO.

  17. Yikes. This is why I think breaking up with someone who is no longer appealing to you is a good and fine thing–the alternatives are being in a relationship that isn’t satisfying to you and stewing, or trying to manipulate/bully your SO to change, neither which is cool.

    But I suspect that if you suddenly looked the way your BF deemed acceptable and attractive, he’d find other things to criticize and manipulate you over. I know I should tell you that you’ll be better off to DTMFA, but seriously? DTMFA. If a “friend” got into a snit over how I wore my hair and didn’t speak to me over it, I’d dump that friend. It’s certainly NOT okay that a BF is doing it, and people like that can not be persuaded that their behavior is fucked up.

    Can you live with this kind of behavior for seven more years? 27 more years? The rest of your life? Life’s too short for this bullshit.

  18. You totally rock. I’m so impressed with you standing your ground and cutting your hair and dressing like you want to even with that whiny voice in your ear telling you that you’re “doing it wrong.”

    Not a breakup song, but this song always makes me feel empowered: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ivt_N2Zcts

  19. Wow, LW, there are some serious flaming red flags in your letter. Teacher-student dynamics sound not so fun for a lifetime partnership. I am reminded of kids’ imaginary games, where one kid always insists they are the teacher and the other kid is the student. That would be no fun at all!

    1. Yeah, if homeboy likes teaching so much, public education is always looking for inspiring and inspired candidates to work with kids who really, really need teachers.

      I am a teacher and I love my job, but my job does not produce dynamics I would want to have with those for whom I have pantsfeelings.

      1. I just divorced a teacher type. LW, you should be the one teaching HIM, because you’ve got it right and he’s scared & insecure.

    2. For reals. Teacher-student dynamics are inherently imbalanced, that’s why teachers aren’t allowed to date their students even when they’re of age. This dude seems threatened by a relationship of equals on like, every level.
      I’d also like to contribute this number to the break-up dance party:

  20. Also, someone who is that hung up on their partner’s appearance? Not ready to be with *anyone* for the rest of his life. Bodies change over time, and living with someone means seeing them in all sorts of states of disarray.
    He’s so immature that even his idea of maturity (dressing conservatively, making lifetime commitments without any idea of what that entails, knowing things so that he can splain them to his woman) is childish play-acting.

    1. Well put. There’s nothing more transparently childish than stamping your feet and yelling that you’re a grown-up. LW didn’t say, but I wonder if he is older than her and what has actually happened over the last 7 years is that she’s matured and he hasn’t?

    2. Yeah, this is more or less what I was thinking. I mean, this man freaks out if you put on ten pounds or get a haircut that he hasn’t authorised. What’s going to happen when your boobs start to sag and your face gets wrinkly? Or God forbid someday you get sick and need some kind of disfiguring treatment to save your life, like chemo or a mastectomy? He’s pretty much handed you a signed statement to the effect that when you really need him, if you’re ever really vulnerable and in need of love and support, he won’t be there. Because you’ll be all gross and unsexy.
      It’s easy for all of us to say this from outside the situation, but you sound like a very smart, interesting and sane person. I’m very sure you can do better than this guy.

  21. LW, I add my voice to the chorus of you sound awesome and to get that guy gone as quickly as you can. He has nothing but sad making for you. It sucks to evict someone who you have had in your life for so long but you can do it! And hopefully (almost assuredly) you will feel better once he’s gone. Maybe not right away but eventually you WILL feel better.

    “but he basically says “that’s not the point, you should be paying attention to what I like and doing it without me telling you”

    That right there is scary scary stuff. You don’t owe him happiness on a platter through mind reading!

    Here is something that helps me in crappy times,

    1. Yes YES YES. This, x1000. Anybody who thinks that they shouldn’t have to use their words, that I should pay more attention and therefore automatically know what will make them happy gets a sit-down conversation about me not actually being a Legilimens, and an explanation that their expectations of me are manifestly unfair and setting me up for failure and themself up for unhappiness. Persisting in that pattern of behavior gets them unceremoniously removed from my life for being manipulative and immature.

      This is a real hot-button for me because it was part of the pattern of abuse in my childhood, and also in a long-term romantic relationship. Failure to accurately predict what the abuser wanted led to long angry tirades that were all variations on the theme of me being a bad person who was inconsiderate of others’ feelings. Fuck that noise. If you want me to do X, tell me. Don’t set me up with little hidden tests that I would pass if only I really cared.

      1. SECONDED (OR THIRDED, I CAN’T COUNT OKAY). I spent my entire childhood playing the “let’s predict Dad’s emotional and entirely illogical whims and moods!” with bad stuff (not physically abusive, more along the lines of “emotional terrorism”) as the prize for choosing wrongly. It screwed me up; I have to work hard to allow MrFirpa to be in a bad mood without desperately trying to fix it (“STOP TRYING TO CHEER ME UP I AM NOT YOUR DAD I’M NOT GONNA THROW OUT YOUR BARBIES” = actual quote) because it scares the crap out of me. Not only do I fear the repercussions of not reading someone’s mind, I have the added bonus of being raised to believe that asking about someone’s needs or telling someone about your needs meant that I had FAILED TERRIBLY, so, in short, I have to read minds and do it correctly! every time! or else it means I don’t really love them! And holy hell, does it make it hard for me to actually use my words and ASK for things I need, because the great fun of having an abusive parent is that there’s still a part of me that thinks that if I have to ask, then I don’t really deserve it, because the other person is still the arbiter of my needs’ merit and it’s unseemly for me to ASK.

        The thing that is wigging me out about the LW’s boyfriend is that this doesn’t sound like one of those unspoken read-my-mind needs that is, like, an actual need– where the boyfriend needs a hug, or needs emotional support on something– but the sort where fulfilling it isn’t the point, because any one need, or even set of needs, is dwarfed by the need to get that kind of worried attention that NOT telling brings. Not to mention that saying it out loud (“I need you to look exactly like you’re not!”) could expose just how fucking silly it is.

  22. Sometimes when I look back on my other relationships I wonder why I stayed in them so long. I think sometimes we learn to make allowances for certain behaviors. We get used to them and it is just part of our relationship. And I think that’s part of any healthy normal relationship to an extent. No one is perfect, so there are some things that we learn to put up with, like the way he always turns of the cable box and the receiver but leaves the TV on, or the way she leaves her clothes EVERYWHERE.

    And then there are some things that you will look back on and think “Why the FUCK did I put up with that for so long?”

    I predict that this BS will be one of those things.

    If it were me I would break up with him, make an appointment at a salon, and then go shopping. You deserve someone who respects that you are in charge of your own body.

  23. Ugh. If you’re worried about how he’ll get on without you, as a parting gift buy him a Barbie doll. He can dress her however he likes (long swishy hair, lots of “feminine” outfits and high heels available!!) and her weight will never fluctuate and he can have conversations with her where he gets to do all the talking for both sides so he will never be disappointed.

    I think of love as a kind of reverent wonder for the way that molecules and DNA and life experience have all swirled together to create the miraculous person that is you. And by that standard, I think I (and Jennifer and the other commenters) love you more than your (hopefully soon-to-be-former) boyfriend does.

    I’ve said it before: it doesn’t matter whether your boyfriend is a horrible person. He is being a horrible person to you, in this case it seems because the real you isn’t actually someone he wants to spend the rest of his life with. He just doesn’t have the courage to set you free and go look for that woman, so instead he’s trying to make you into her, even if it means cutting off vital, lovely parts of you. However, A) it won’t work; you are not meant to be that person, so he will be forever lopping and chopping, and B) that will always make it suck to be you.

    Which mean that you will have to have the courage for both of you, to end this relationship so you can both go find people you can be yourselves with and adore and be adored by, all at the same time.

    Not a problem, I don’t think: you sound like you have plenty of courage and strength and clear-headedness and strong-heartedness. So go do it, and report back on how much happier you are once you are not trying to live your life inside a woman-shaped box that is half the size of your spirit. You are not one of the LWs I chew my fingernails with worry over.

  24. Hey, LW,

    I know you have been with this dude for 7 years, and I know you want to remain friends with him. It is not an easy thing to realize that the person you’ve been with for so long is no longer the fun person you started with. You are awesome to realize that his behavior is wrong and that something needs to change.

    I wanted to tell you this: There is a man out there who will love your short hair and think you are really cute. There is a man out there who will be able to show you things you’ve never seen before without making it into a lecture. There is a man out there who will appreciate your laid back ways. There is a man out there who thinks you are taking care of yourself just fine. There is a man out there who will not try to control you. In short, there is life after douche.

    I wish you luck in your break up, if that is what you decide. I know that it is hard, but I know you can handle it.

    For my break up song, I second Orianthi – According to you

    1. EXACTLY.

      Also LW, there will be a man who will love and find lovely and goddam sexyhawt you ideas and desires about maybe dressing/presenting more like a boy. Maybe check out Cliff Pervocracy’s blog for some really cool and insightful writing about this. And yes, please, DTMFA.

  25. Augh, LW, this dude is NOT COOL AT ALL. You’re trying to grow and become even more awesome, and he wants to belittle you till you fit into a sad, unhappy box. He can cram it with walnuts, in my opinion.

  26. LW, I’m going to be another one heartily seconding the Cap’s advice, from personal experience. I spent eight years in an abusive relationship with a man who, among other things, was inordinately invested in having me dress A Certain Way (even as he had no concern whatsoever about how HE dressed and got irritated if I brought it up) and who constantly made clear that my body as it existed was not acceptable, and I was pretty damn miserable not only during that relationship but also for quite awhile afterwards. In addition, I had a short relationship with a guy who was, like your SO, very conservative and locked into specific ideas about “acceptable” gender presentation and “appropriate” dress (we had a huge fight on New Year’s Eve because I wanted to wear stockings with a tiger on them; he insisted that I would be “embarassing” him to go out dressed “that way”), and I wasn’t very happy with that either, though I got out of it without too much damage.

    It is absolutely true that it’s no one else’s business how another person dresses, as long as they’re basically clean and not breaking any laws. But how someone dresses definitely matters, because what we choose to wear (and related things such as gender presentation and subcultural identification) gives messages to the world about what we like and value and who we are. A person who supposedly loves you, and yet constantly criticizes how you dress, is telling you that he/she does not value who you are or respect the things that matter to you. And there is not a happy, congenial relationship to be made from that. You don’t need to invest any more energy in someone who has so little respect and value for you, and that includes the energy of being a friend. End the relationship, entirely, and go be who you are and do the things you want to do. You will be happier overall, and it will give you more opportunity to find someone(s) who finds value in who you are, because you’re being your true self.

      1. I got them from a Frederick’s-type catalog a hundred million years ago. (They were sheer black thigh-high stockings that required a garter belt; the tiger was in black flocking. They were ridiculous and wonderful and I loved them. I don’t have them anymore; they were fragile.) I believe I’ve seen them in the intervening decades but I can’t nail down any specific vendors. The kinds of places that sell lingerie and “racy” attire would be the best bets.

        1. Sweet! A chance to talk up my favorite legwear seller on my favorite advice blog. Behold, sock addicts: http://www.sockdreams.com/_pages/index.php

          I can attest that their customer service is excellent. Everything ships really fast, and when something has been awry–wrong color arm warmer, tights don’t fit–they exchanged with a minimum of fuss.

          I didn’t find you tiger tights, Elisabeth, but I did see tentacle socks. http://www.sockdreams.com/products/socks/thigh-highs/tentacle-extraordinary-otk

          1. OMG, those tentacle socks. WANT. Also, lol @ the site’s careful avoidance of the exact associations one might have with tentacles + lingerie: “perhaps an alien life form come to protect you and your socks from dreary days and dreamless nights.” Yes. The tentacles are there to protect you. From boredom. Yes.

          2. Thank you for the amazing recommendation! I am a burgeoning socks/tights collector, and my eyes are like saucers right now.

    1. “We had a huge fight on New Year’s Eve because I wanted to wear stockings with a tiger on them; he insisted that I would be “embarassing” him to go out dressed “that way”…”

      Ahhhhhh! My Darth Vader ex and I had a huge fight one night before a party because I had put on heavy black cat-eye eyeliner; he insisted that I take it off because he didn’t want his friends to that he’d “be with that kind of girl.” It would be just too embarrassing!

      Unfortunately for him, I AM THAT KIND OF GIRL, if by that you mean, “the kind of girl who likes eyeliner.”

      (Tiger stockings, cat eye liner…emotional abusive dudes hate felines, maybe!?)

      1. “(Tiger stockings, cat eye liner…emotional abusive dudes hate felines, maybe!?)”

        It makes some sense. Cats can set pretty clear boundaries and then seriously harm people who don’t respect them. That’s not the kind of behaviour that emotionally abusive people like to see.

        1. Funny thing: the first time my cat met the abusive boyfriend, the cat flipped out, hissed, and ran away and hid. I really should have taken that as a sign. (Conversely, when the same cat met the man to whom I’ve now been married for seven years, cat climbed repeatedly into man’s lap and refused to be deterred no matter how many times he was removed. Cats get things.)

          1. Yes yes yes! The cat would dig her claws into HS kinda-boyfriend’s crotch, and the golden retriever completely ignored him, but I somehow never got their clue that he wasn’t the right guy for me. I finally figured it out later when they both fell in love with the future Mr. Canadensis! 😀

  27. I can’t think of a perfect song, but these lyrics spring to mind:

    Rapport’s a thing you just can’t manufacture.
    You had your pin-up girl, I couldn’t match her.
    I didn’t want to, it was Mrs Thatcher –
    It would never have worked.

    -Victoria Wood

  28. I’d like to add Mary Prankster’s Blues Skies Over Dundalk to the happy it’s over break-up song list, but it doesn’t seem to have a youtube video, so instead here’s hoping for the future http://youtu.be/bp7ZEHyfkN8

  29. My favourite break up song

    I dont get my kicks out of you,
    I dont feel the way I used to do.
    I know its bad,
    After what we had,
    But I’m just not the angel you knew.
    I dont get my kicks out of you,

    I dont get my kicks out of you,
    You’re just to good to be true,
    The booze and pills, the cheapest thrills,
    They mean more to me now than you do,
    I dont get my kicks out of you.

  30. You don’t have to make excuses for him.

    I won’t say whether you should/should not break up with him, you are well qualified to make your own choices.

    I will say that I recently married an ultraconservative dork who grew up in very defined gender roles, and I know that the background doesn’t make the man. My UCD thinks I’m the coolest thing ever, what with my engineering degree and snarky t-shirts and my general state of hippie geek. His response to concerns about my nutrition was to learn to cook. His response to concerns about my physical health (which is admittedly concerning, I have a lot of broken parts) was to hunt down a private Pilates instructor who is qualified to handle my challenges. When we run into a thing that our different backgrounds have caused us not to question, we question it together and come up with what works for us.

    Whatever his background, his behavior is belittling and disrespectful, and you don’t have to make excuses for him.

    1. Oh yeah, this. Conservative background is really, really no excuse for being a jerkass. Both my boyfriend and I came from conservative families – the stricter strains of Baptist, in fact – but we… grew. And when we go out together, we are frequently mistaken for a gay couple, and it doesn’t bother either of us at all – and he knows I am neither heterosexual nor definitely 100% female, and that doesn’t bother him. Despite the conservative upbringing.

      There are some really, really awesome dudes out there, dudes who want their romantic partners to be happy and independent and free, and dudes who would be just a bit creeped out by said partners asking them to confirm every appearance-based decision to make sure it was sexy enough (but not TOO sexy!).

      Time spent with jerky dudes who think their girlfriend is a Barbie doll is time not spent with awesome friends and/or awesome dudes who think romance is whatever the both of you think it is, and gender roles can go to hell because who -doesn’t- want shiny books for, and also between, every available holiday? So – dude is not shiny and awesome, but you will absolutely find a person who is! And I wish you all the best of luck in that. Not that you need it! Because you, too, are awesome!

  31. Nthing the Captain’s advice. DTMFA, do it without explanations (excuses to argue) and don’t “try to remain friends” without at least six months of no contact. Here’s my suggestion for party music.

    I’ll add a few tidbits for the LW:

    A 7-year relationship has it’s own gravity, it’s own weight that can make it harder to break up than if you had only been dating a few months. If you want to tackle this hurdle intellectually, I recommend reading up on the fallacy of sunk costs. There was nothing in the LW’s letter that explained why she puts up with this person who talks down to her and tries to control her through a mix of demands, shaming, and other manipulation.

    It feels really controlling to me.

    Read this great comment, and take to heart the lesson. If something feels like it’s happening, that might be because it is happening.

    LW – that student-teacher vibe? Remember that most teachers only know one area or subject well, and even then, teachers get things wrong.

  32. 1 – Yes. The dumping. Dump him.

    2 – I would like to pre-empt a potential jerkbrain reaction of “Why did I stay with him for so long? I must have been stupid!” NOPE! You were not stupid to stay with him, and you are not stupid for dumping him now. You’ve just grown past him. Grown past him like a past infatuation with New Kids on the Block, like a pair of birkenstocks that have completely lost the tread and have detaching soles, like a pair of jeans that used to fit but now have the dreaded thigh-rub-holes. It worked for a while! A long while! Now it does not work, and you are going to move on to the next band, shoes, and jeans of wonderment and joy.

    3 – Someone who loves you the way you deserve to be loved is going to defend your choices, not criticize them. For example, my mom – who I love! and loves me! – is always nitpicking me about my appearance and lack of interest in makeup, etc. She made the mistake of asking HusbandLogic at one point “Don’t you think CL would look much better with just a little foundation?” to which he responded “I think she’s beautiful right now without it.” CHECK. MATE. Also, my heart did a little dance of joy.

    4 – I need to get my Experimental Hair touched up. At this Hooray for the Dumping of That Guy Party, I will bring the fancy hair dyes and some scissors. LET’S GET HAIRFUNKY.

    1. Thank you for the pre-emptive jerkbrain defusion. People outgrow each other. Obviously the dude must have some good qualities or an awesome lady like our LW wouldn’t spend so much time with him.

      Also, I love your husband, he is the best.

    2. Totally agree with CommanderLogic and the awesomeness of HusbandLogic.

      When I got my first mastectomy, I did the due diligence of exploring all my options regarding reconstruction with my partner by my side. When I tried to get hir to express an opinion or preference on my physical appearance with/without breast, zie firmly refused but did proffer some arguments that other in hir life had considered with respect to the physical implications of lop-sidedness so that I could do a more complete assessment.before going with plan A of nothing. And while I think that I am not particularly attractive/sexy for various reasons, my partner does, which drowns out the jerkbrain just fine.

      The only preference my partner has ever expressed regarding my appearance is a request for me to not cut my hair once it started growing out. So far I have agreed because I consider long hair a sensuous experience that pleases me. But I may cut it short just to fuck with my brother’s extremely narrow gender-conformity brainwashing of my niece and nephews and the bullying attitudes he is encouraging by his deeds if not his words (I already had that talk with him–it went surprisingly well ). In contrast, my abusive ex remarked on my gaining weight and how disappointing it was. There were lots of other issues, but body policing was definitely part of the package.

      Good on you for successfully resisting this for 7 years. On to the next step and the awesome party to follow.

      1. Your partner gets all the cookies. Actually I have banana bread, does he/she want some??

  33. Here’s my contribution to the break-up party, directed at LW’s lousy ex. Or soon to be ex, but hopefully already ex. LW, you can do better. ❤

  34. To flip this situation around for a moment, I wonder why someone who clearly finds fault with so many things about you is still dating you. People who like you act like they like you. It doesn’t sound like he’s doing that, so why is he still with you if he doesn’t actually like you? To me that suggests that he is getting something else out of the relationship instead of genuine affection and attraction for his actual partner. That’s a red flag for me.

    You deserve to be in a relationship with mutual respect and liking. This doesn’t sound like one of those.

    1. I also wonder what makes him a best friend candidate. The concerns you mention as a partner don’t sound that appealing in a friend either.


    3. I definitely second looking at the situation like that. If he really isn’t attracted to you (or if his attraction is as fragile as he’s made it out to be), then you might do him, as well as yourself, a favour by dumping him. If he actually is attracted to you, then it seems he enjoys making you feel like crap, in which case you will do yourself a bazillion favours by dumping him.

    4. I think it might be fun to break up with him by saying, “Clearly I’m a horrible person and too inadequate for you and I’ll never be the girlfriend that you want.”

      No idea if that would work/have the right effect or if he’d just blow it off, but I’d be curious to see his reaction on that score.

  35. Dated a guy like that. When we finally broke up, he brought his dad and two cops to my house to get his stuff (which I had cleverly bagged and written an itemized receipt for, so they didn’t even have to come in!) and then he told everyone in my extended social circle that I’d been cheating on him for the duration of our 3 year relationship. Since he was local and I’d moved there for college, I lost most of my so-called friends. Looking back, I am so grateful that I dumped him. He wanted me to be a pastors wife despite knowing that I was pagan and he wanted me to hide my religious beliefs even from our future children in addition to the mansplaining, the over protectiveness, and the advice on my appearance. It was a rocky post-breakup year but has been a much better life.

  36. Anybody remember that thing about how every New Yorker cartoon could be recaptioned with “Christ, what an asshole” and still work? I think that applies to all the behavior the LW describes.

    My favorite breakup song: Walk Away. Yes, by Kelly Clarkson. Also the video is a one hundred percent feelgood time.

  37. As a woman who loves her jeans and pixie cut – you rock! Also, I wish I were in as good shape as you are. (I’m getting there, slowly. Couch to 5k in six weeks? Hah! Try six months, maybe.)

    Do what you want with your appearance, and eff what he thinks. You’ve got your head on straight.

    1. But maybe don’t? Take at least a couple of months to breathe, unless the fates throw the most amazingly perfect guy at you the week you breakup. And even if that happens, be careful….

      EVERYONE has some expectations of their partners, even if it doesn’t reach the level of this guy’s oppressiveness. Even lovely, non-manipulative partners have expectations that a reasonably clued-in partner will pick up on, and there can be subtle (if completely unintended) pressure to reshape yourself to make the person you’re crazy about even happier with you.

      While you don’t have to be all “I am who I am, take me or leave me exactly as I am in all respects or you’re a manipulative asshole” to be emotionally healthy in a relationship, you don’t ever to wake up again to realize you’re in a relationship with someone whose attraction/affection for you is rife with if-onlys.

      The best way I can think of to keep that form happening is to take time to revel in all the things your ex wouldn’t have liked, before you open yourself up to a new relationship. Spend time with friends who love you the way you are and will tell you about that with great gusto. (Do *not* spend time with the ex for a while). Let the real you hang out like crazy, so a guy who wouldn’t like the person you are would keep on walking, while the guy who will feel like he’d be the luckiest guy in the world to be with someone like you will ask for your number.

      1. Oh yes! I don’t think Beyonce is like “NEVER BE SINGLE AGAIN” but just — that motherfucker isn’t nearly as special as he thinks he is.

      2. This is the gospel truth, right here: “Let the real you hang out like crazy, so a guy who wouldn’t like the person you are would keep on walking, while the guy who will feel like he’d be the luckiest guy in the world to be with someone like you will ask for your number.”

      3. alphakitty, I am trying very hard to not just follow you around going YES, THIS, EXACTLY THIS, but it’s difficult to pull off when every time I start to reply to a comment with ZOMG THIS it turns out that it’s you.

        That said: YES THIS.

  38. WOW.

    I’ve asked for some concrete things that would help him feel like I care that he is “attracted’ to me, but he basically says “that’s not the point, you should be paying attention to what I like and doing it without me telling you”, which I kind of interpret as “read my mind”

    I feel like I have to constantly “prove” that I am exercising “enough”, and he constantly likes to give me advice and tips about my exercise routines and food

    He’s said before that he wants to be with me for the rest of his life

    The trouble is that it’s really frustrating too, because conversations easily turn into “lectures”, even when I know more about a subject than he does, and I feel that he doesn’t give me a lot of credit for stuff I really do know about like it’s my job already


    I feel like he’s definitely someone I want as my best friend

    I’m going to have to take your word on that, because clearly this letter was not about his better qualities. Some questions you might want to ask yourself, though:

    – Does he have other female friends?
    – Does he treat them with the same respect that he does his male friends, or is he constantly mansplaining at them, as well?
    – Does he have OPINIONS on their weight / hair / style / dress, or does he ignore it the way he does his male friends’ weight / hair / style / dress?
    – How is he with his ex-girlfriends? Is he able to deal with them (after the obligatory mourning period)? Have any of them become friends afterward? Does he treat them the same way he treats his other female friends? (And is that different than how he treats his male friends?)
    – For that matter, how DOES he treat his male friends? (Just checking!) He’s not an opinionated dick with them, right?

    In short: are you sure that your concept of “female best friend” would work any better for him than your concept of “girlfriend”? Because I don’t know the dude; maybe these are only things that come up when sex is involved, and otherwise he doesn’t give a damn about gender. Maybe he has a long history of being a totally awesome friend to chicks and is not at all misogynistic for women who he isn’t boning! Maybe– on top of this– he has a long history of being totally cool about break-ups and will totally be able to shift his treatment of you away from “I totally have the right to my loudly voiced opinions on everything about your physical self” and onto “whatever, do what you want, not my deal”!

    MAYBE. But it’s going to depend a lot on what the answers to those questions are. Your vision of “best friends” with him would, I’m guessing, be one where he could totally forget that you have lady-parts and that you guys have a romantic history, and you could just be another person with him. I totally hear you on that, and oh God I sympathize, but I gotta warn you that there’s a very high likelihood that this is not going to work.

    I really think he could be a really good partner if he dropped the criticism of my appearance and was a little more informed about feminism/ less invested in traditional gender roles

    I’m guessing, because you seem totally awesome and informed, that you would be a great source of knowledge for him on feminism! Except for that bit about how he’s only ever happy when the situation is Him = Teacher, You = Student, and I’m further guessing that he knows perfectly well that you know stuff about feminism, so he’d have to go out on his own– without your prompting, because that would weird him out and turn him off the subject even further– to learn these things. Which I don’t think is likely to happen.

    Further, even if he knew more about these things, there’s no guarantee that it’s going to change his mind. It’s a common fantasy (that I fall into constantly) that disagreement is only due to ignorance, and if the other person just knew X, Y, and Z, they’d agree! And, yeah, sometimes that is totally the case, but a lot of the time either a) they are deliberately avoiding knowing game-changing things because they really don’t want to change what they’re already doing, which works great for them in their opinion, b) they know the facts already, but understand them TOTALLY DIFFERENTLY than you do, or c) facts just aren’t as important as their own feelings on the issue, so SCREW YER FACTS.

    I just… man, this is just not going to go well no matter what. He thinks that he has his future life partnership all mapped out already, so breaking up with him is going to make him upset. He is not going to want to agree to this, or possibly even admit that you have a right to make the breaking-up decision without you. He’s going to be angry with you, and sad. He probably won’t want to be friends with you, and if he does there’s a very very big chance that he’ll end up treating you very differently than you’d hope your friendship would be.

    Good luck. You deserve everything good.

    1. – Does he have other female friends?
      – Does he treat them with the same respect that he does his male friends, or is he constantly mansplaining at them, as well?
      – Does he have OPINIONS on their weight / hair / style / dress, or does he ignore it the way he does his male friends’ weight / hair / style / dress?
      – How is he with his ex-girlfriends? Is he able to deal with them (after the obligatory mourning period)? Have any of them become friends afterward? Does he treat them the same way he treats his other female friends? (And is that different than how he treats his male friends?)
      – For that matter, how DOES he treat his male friends? (Just checking!) He’s not an opinionated dick with them, right?

      Second this checklist forever! If I had but known, this would have saved me many months of fruitlessly trying to work out a friendship with an ex-love. My heart was using the argument “If we loved him enough to consider a future with him, surely we would want a future as his friend!” My brain reluctantly agreed, but would probably have reversed the ruling if I’d thought of checking whether he actually had friends in the way I understood friendship. (He did not.)

      This painful lesson made such an impression on me that I had the equivalent of the first two points on my dating profile when I last had one, this past winter. In other words: I will not even date a dude unless he has friendships with women he clearly respects and admires. That rubric might not work for everyone, but it was a good tool to weed out some mansplainers (“I don’t have women friends because REASONS!”) and is a condition I admire in my current partner.

      1. I hadn’t actually thought about it, but that was a definite requirement of my (mental) dating profile, when last I had one: “You must like women as people enough to independently have some as friends.” WELL DONE.

  39. LW, I used to be you, and I can only echo the advice given by the Captain and the other commenters. This behavior doesn’t get better, it gets worse. When we started dating I was alterna-girl, goth makeup, slutty fishnets, and when we ended I was STILL alterna-girl, goth makeup, slutty fishnets, but had spent almost a year listening to how I was doing Woman wrong. I’m mean and stubborn, so we would have fights about my appearance (god, that phrase — “fights about my appearance” as if anyone has the right to fight me about that!) ceaselessly, and about how I was “embarassing” him and how I was “inappropriate.” The whole sitch culminated in him saying “if you can’t respect my wishes, then I think we should break up” and me saying “FINE!” and then having to put up with his borderline stalking for six months because he “didn’t mean it!”

    It will be hard, LW. You will miss him. You may miss–as I did–someone caring about you enough to notice everything about you. But you will also feel lighter, because someone noticing everything about you is a heavy, heavy load to bear, and you won’t miss that.

    Good luck!

    My contribution to the break up party: “Stop Your Crying” by Bob Mould

  40. Why are you dating him?

    No, seriously. Why? I can’t find one. single. reason why you would want this guy even as a casual acquaintance. I’m really baffled as all fuck as to why you’d want to be his friend, let alone be his partner.

    I mean, to recap, you are an adventurous, independent, traditional-gender-role eschewing lady, and he is a patronizing, patriarchal traditionalist fundie. What the sweet weeping hell are you getting out of this relationship? How did you get past the first date with this guy, let alone seven years?

    Dump him. Dump him. You do not need this in your life – your awesome, wonderful, life.

    1. There’s something to be said for being close to someone who’s known you intimately for seven years. Honestly? I’ve given up a lot of people who weren’t good for me, but I miss the fact that they knew me when, in a way no one who’s known me since possibly can. Net benefit, I’m certain, but that is a real, valid loss.

      1. I get this, I really do. Everybody here doesn’t have that history and can therefore pretty easily do the “OH GOD DUMP HIM AND RUN FOR YOUR LIFE” thing. But if you do decide to break up, you’re allowed to be really sad about it. You’re allowed to mourn what was and what could have been. You’re allowed to cry and brood and wish things could have been different.

        Here’s the thing: basing decisions on the “how things were” and “how things could be if only” stuff will bite you in the ass 999 times out of 1000. The dude is who he is. You’d probably have about as much success trying to change him as he’s had trying to change you.

        So take a look at who he is now. Is that a person you want to spend another 7 years with? How about the rest of your life? You said that he’s got lots of good qualities — do they outweigh the controlling-ness? And not the controlling-ness as it might be if you could get him to take it down a notch, but as it is right now? Only you know that. But don’t base your decision on what it would be like if he changed, because the odds are good that he won’t.

        1. Oh, I totally understand that – I spent two years in an awful relationship, and it was precisely 730 days too long to be in it. And I intimately know what it’s like to be in That Rut, where things are not working but for various reasons it’s just so hard to break out of it. And yeah, seven years is a really long time.

          But seven years and another day is another day too long with this guy. A lot of the letters about should-I-dump-him-or-not seem to have some redeeming qualities, but this letter didn’t seem to have any. The LW seems like an amazing person with a strong sense of self. I mean, can you imagine being with someone who picks at you for seven years?? Most people would crumble under that kind of treatment! And she’s still defending who she is and fighting for her right to be the person she wants to be. That’s really awesome, right there. That’s hard enough just in a regular life, let alone in a relationship that sounds vaguely emotionally abusive! And obviously, I think as most of us know, you get something out of it, which is why you stay (hence, why I stayed in said Awful Relationship of Awfulness).

          I wonder if it’s like the frog in boiling water situation – where things get bad gradually enough that you don’t realize it, until you wake up and are like, crap, I’m dying here! But either way, I think this LW has some amazing reserves of emotional strength, and she should rock on and rock that guy right out of her life.

    2. The LW is super-cool and easygoing and looks for the best in people, and until now she’s chosen to let his good qualities (of which there must be some, because hey, he has a cool girlfriend) be uppermost. Don’t treat her like she’s stupid for ever being with him in the first place.

      I think he is massively insecure and tries to put her down so he’ll feel better, like, look at me, big strong man, making my cool girlfriend strive to please me! And when she leaves his view of himself will be shattered and it will be ugly. But we’ve all dated Not Awesome people sometime, and it’s because we were getting something (even something not immediately obvious) from the relationships.

      1. Or, considering that the relationship began her senior year in high school, perhaps he used to feel indulgent about her choices, secretly thinking in a horrid, patronizing way that her look/style/whole personality was “cute” while he with his conservatism was demonstrating his superior maturity, and assuming that with time she too would grow up and become more like his wonderful, conformist self. But instead of growing out of who she was, she has grown into it (yay!), “necessitating” more active stifling and oppression on his part.

        Whatever his issue, what matters isn’t whether going out made sense at one point or not, it’s that that they don’t work as a couple anymore, and never will again.

      2. Oh, I totally agree – like I said above, the LW sounds like she’s an amazingly resilient, emotionally strong person, which is kind of a minor (or even not minor, but like a medium one in fancy paper?) miracle, after putting up with this twerp for so long.

        I don’t think she’s stupid for ever being with him – I’m really legitimately curious, which is why I asked. Most of the should-I-dump-him letters mention at least a few redeeming qualities, and there just don’t seem to be any here. But there are certain levels of incompatibility, and this one seems like the Seventh Circle of Incompatibility. Like, not he snores and makes bad jokes, but like, he is slowly killing my soul incompatibility.

        I’ve definitely been in that situation, where things got bad gradually, and people seeing the relationship for the first time where like whhhhaaat were youuuu thiiiiiking, which was simultaneously helpful and not helpful. Not helpful in that no, I am not some kind of doofus who just wandered up to someone and was like, hey, let’s go out and you can be mean to me! And say terrible things and make me insecure! Like many emotionally abusive people, my Evil Darth Ex was really good at manipulation and stuffing me into this Skinner box of punishment/reward that really screwed up my thinking for a while, and got me to tolerate behavior that I never thought I would have tolerated. Of course he didn’t whip that stuff out when we first met, it was an insidious, gradual process.

        But also helpful in that it made me go, hey, this person is seeing this relationship In The Now, without all of my attendant baggage, and they think it’s FUBAR’d, maybe I should think about this?

        So I don’t know. Sure, it’s easy for Internet Forum to be all DTMFA. But of course we’re not in it. We can just send our Internet Support to this letter writer and hope that things work out for her and that she finds herself in a place with people who love and appreciate her for who she is.

  41. Wow, his good qualities must be pretty good because his not-so-good qualities are… pretty crappy. Everyone’s right, you know what to do. You’re unhappy, why torture yourself?

    My contribution to the break-up party is for when the worst is over (asshole or not, you might still be a little sad. 7 years is a long time.) and things are looking up.

  42. LW, please let me add to the resounding chorus of “DTMFA”. If my experience is anything to go on, your life is about to become infinitely more awesome and fantastic without someone constantly policing everything about you and trying to force you to live up to their ever-changing, often unclearly-stated “standards”.

    That shit’s exhausting, and you’ve been putting up with it FOR THE BETTER PART OF A DECADE. You definitely deserve some “you” time: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dULOjT9GYdQ

    Follow The Nimoy. Learn from The Nimoy. And DTMFA ASAP.

  43. Robyn “Don’t Fucking Tell Me What to Do”

    From her appropriately titled album “Body Talk, Pt. 1”

    LW I predict in your next album of life, Body Talk, Pt. 2, you’ll be accepting compliments on your awesomeness, and will be not need to tell buttheads disguised as boyfriends to step the fuck off.

    Here’s to you, and people not telling us what to do.

  44. This column seems oddly appropriate to the current goings on in my life. So let us add to the party mix with a recent favorite:

  45. Hello everyone, it’s the LW here. Thanks for all your kind words and advice. I think Cinderkeys comment up above is bang on, because I am still genuinely torn about breaking up. But it’s true what Captain Awkward says in her response, that we should really be with people who are attracted to us and not terrified that we’re going to become BONERKILLERS.

    My bf is a good person, and though I don’t talk about it extensively in the letter, he does make me laugh, and is caring and compassionate and a loyal friend. If I need him for something he tries his best to be there for me, and he’s a problem-solver. I like how he treats his friends and for the most part how he treats me. I don’t think he’s dangerous, but I think you’re right that if I decide to break it off he will try to convince me not to.

    He’s just got these frustrating blind spots and I’m not sure I can/want to live with them because he sure as hell has demonstrated that he thinks he’s in the right about this stuff. And a lot of the things that frustrate me are red flags…like I had to really put my foot down about implementing ideas from consent culture in bed (once I found out that it existed) because it made me feel so much more comfortable. And he still thinks of it as “something he does to accommodate me” rather than something that is a genuinely good idea. He has a hard time accepting that different people have different boundaries (not always liking to be hugged, not always comfortable in large groups of people, needing a lot of down-time) and that that’s ok (ie. it’s not a reflection on him, they’re not broken, etc.).

    I just… I’m not a great person either, and I feel like I’m putting a lot of burden of changing on him when heaven knows I’m not the easiest/best/most fun person to be with either. I’ve been diagnosed with low to moderate depression, which I suspect I’ve been dealing with for at least 4 years. And I’m really trying to work on that, and I try to live by my principles, but I don’t want the dynamic of “I’m always right and you’re always wrong, and you should change”. I think…I think I’m going to seek out therapy. It’s been immensely helpful to write this out, and to hear that I am not unreasonable for wanting to not be hassled about my appearance.

    Sorry, that got really long.

    1. I just… I’m not a great person either, and I feel like I’m putting a lot of burden of changing on him when heaven knows I’m not the easiest/best/most fun person to be with either.

      LW, I respect that you’re still feeling torn, but please hear the chorus when we say that being unhappy is enough reason to break up. You do not need to be The Better Person. You do not need to be perfect. You do not need to make things work. You are allowed to say “It doesn’t matter who’s easier to be around — this isn’t working for me” and go from there.

      Good luck to you.

    2. I had to really put my foot down about implementing ideas from consent culture in bed (once I found out that it existed) because it made me feel so much more comfortable. And he still thinks of it as “something he does to accommodate me” rather than something that is a genuinely good idea.

      More than anything you put in your original letter, that – to me – is the hugest of red flags. That’s not even a regular ol’ red flag, it’s one of those gigantic car dealership flags, and it is not only RED and WAVING, but also ON FIRE and BILLOWING HUGE PLUMES OF BLACK SMOKE.

      I’m not a great person either, and I feel like I’m putting a lot of burden of changing on him

      Frankly, from your letter, you sound pretty great to me. The reason the burden of changing is (rightfully) on him is because his behavior toward you is condescending, hurtful, rude, and controlling. Nobody’s perfect, and nobody’s nice to be around 24/7, but that does not mean that the behavior you’ve described in your letter is okay. It’s just not. I’m really glad to read you’re thinking about therapy. You seem like you’ve got a really sound head on your shoulders, and a good therapist will help you work through all your conflicting feelings about this relationship. You’ve got a right to look the way you choose to look, and demand consent culture in your own bedroom, without somebody who says he loves you constantly crapping all over you. Not okay!

    3. *Jedi hugs, if you like them*

      You’re doing well. These things that you’re asking him for (not criticizing your appearance, accepting your need for downtime, consent culture in bed) are totally reasonable to ask for. You said that you don’t want an “I’m right and you should change” dynamic, but it sounds like you’ve already got it – coming from him! You’re not asking him to change anything about himself, you’re just asking him to lay off on trying to change and control you. Which is more than reasonable, it’s necessary.

      Depression sucks. Seeking therapy is a really good idea. In my personal experience, depression is as much about habits and thought patterns as it is about brain chemistry, and having an experienced, professional sounding board who has no other attachment to the situation is super helpful with getting it untangled. Therapy is less like surgery and more like having a personal trainer – it’s for anyone who wants some extra help in getting their head to where they want it. Serious mental illness is not required, just a desire to improve things.

      Good luck. You’ve got your head on straight, you’ll do well.

    4. See, this is what I worry about when people write in about their SOs’ jerky behavior. We come on so strong in our dismissive criticism of the SO that the LW often winds up defending the obnoxious SO, thinking “I really didn’t do justice to him/her, I just wrote about his/her bad qualities” and maybe (and this is the bad part) taking the advice with a jumbo grain of salt, as applicable to someone whose SO is worse than theirs but not entirely applicable to their situation because their SO has redeeming qualities.

      LW, I am willing to assume that your boyfriend has good qualities. I DID, when I commented above, assume your boyfriend has numerous good qualities. But he does not accept who you are, and that means this is never going to be a happily-ever-after relationship for you. He is always going to be trying to make you over into his fantasy woman who is fun like you and/or smart like you and/or sweet like you (and/or whatever among your many sterling qualities are the ones he sees and values) but who also dresses and acts in ways he thinks are socially acceptable, etc. etc.

      The thing is, that woman he wants you to be already exists out there, and he should just go find her and be with her instead of trying to remake you. Because you are not just fine but AWESOME the way you already are, thank you very much, and there is not just one guy out there who could love you for who you are and feel incredibly lucky to have you in his life — there are lots of ’em. It’s just a question of which ones you find/find you first, and which one makes your heart sing so joyfully you say THIS,THIS is the guy I want forever.

      Try to picture that: instead of being with someone who (whatever his fine qualities may be) looks at you, winces, and says “is that really what you’re planning on wearing?” or “what have you done to your hair this time?”, and, when he gets you home, will tease at the boundaries of what he can get away with in bed because he is indulging your strange desire for consent culture but fundamentally doesn’t get it, imagine yourself with someone who is just as loyal and compassionate and whatever else you like about your guy AND looks at with you with pure adoration (and lust) in his eyes when you’re wearing your favorite new look and says “wow, you look great!” and you know that the whole time you’re out together, some part of his mind (and all of his body) is looking forward to getting you home to bed, where he plans to pleasure you in the ways he has learned you love to be pleasured… ’cause that’s just the way you are together.

      Is it not worth the risk of a little awkwardness/sadness/a dry spell to get from here to there?

      1. P.S., You’re not trying to remake him. You’re just setting him free to be with someone who he doesn’t feel such a need to remake, the way he does you.

    5. I feel like I’m putting a lot of burden of changing on him when heaven knows I’m not the easiest/best/most fun person to be with either.

      There is not actually a bar of You Must Be This Awesome To Be Treated Well By Your SO. It wouldn’t be any more reasonable to ask him to respect you if you had three Nobel prizes and cooked him the exact dinner he wanted every night. It wouldn’t be any less reasonable if you were dying of cancer and couldn’t do anything for him and most of your interactions were him finding you something to puke into. The things you want are things you deserve to get, no matter what.

      Good luck, whatever you do, LW. It took me a decade of depression to figure out that what i deserved had nothing to do with how awesome or awful I was, and I didn’t believe it for a long time, but it’s true. I hope you’re quicker on the uptake than I was.

    6. “I just… I’m not a great person either, and I feel like I’m putting a lot of burden of changing on him when heaven knows I’m not the easiest/best/most fun person to be with either.”

      In the last months of my first relationship, I did not like who I was when I was around my boyfriend. I was naggy, nitpicky, easily irritated, and just not fun to be around. At all. I acted in ways that I wouldn’t be proud of, later. And, yes, I DID try to change him. I DID try to get him to be more this or less that, and that added to me feeling kind of terrible and acting kind of terribly. The person I was when I was around him was just not a person I liked at all. Eventually, obviously, we broke up and I discovered that once I was no longer around my ex, I was no longer that person I didn’t like. It was like a huge weight had been lifted, or like something that had crushed my personality into something small and grasping and ugly had fallen away. When I broke up with my first ex, I never saw that small, naggy, insecure, depressed, irritable person again.

      Your letter broke my heart. I kept reading it and thinking “Holy crap, that is the WORST EVER.” And then I would keep reading it and go “Oh no, oh no wait I was wrong before, THAT is the worst ever!” and then I would keep reading and I would go “Oh my god it keeps getting worse, HOW DOES IT KEEP GETTING WORSE!?” Until at the end it was all I could do to keep from sending a gibbering wreck of a comment that contained me going “Oh god oh god oh god break up break up break up. Break up NOW. Break up YESTERDAY. PLEASE TO BE WITH THE BREAKING UP NOW.”

      LW, there is nothing wrong with you. You don’t deserve to have your appearance nitpicked like this and you are ESPECIALLY not obligated to put up with that kind of behavior because you are depressed sometimes. I’m sure you’re bf has lots and lots of good points. So did my ex. Nevertheless, the breaking up had to be done, and I was much better for it.

      You will be okay. You ARE okay.


      1. Oh, that feeling is the most amazing feeling – I turned into this crazed-with-jealousy, horribly needing, emotional black hole of hole-i-ness. And after I finally, finally definitively ended things with Awful Ex, it was amazing. It was seriously like the clouds had parted and the birds were singing and this weight was lifted off of my shoulders. I liked myself again, because I was no longer the Rage Monster that his constant sniping and picking had turned me into.

        1. Ha! That was exactly how I felt after I left my ex. Giddy. Bubbling with laughter. After years of frustration and anger and irritability and being the worst person I have ever been after years of his smothering cling and obsessive jealousy and demands that I have these emotions and meet those expectations I also felt very broken at the same time. But I’m much better now.

    7. I just… I’m not a great person either, and I feel like I’m putting a lot of burden of changing on him when heaven knows I’m not the easiest/best/most fun person to be with either.

      Okay, first off, I don’t know you, but I bet you are, in fact, fun and pretty great. You deserve to be around people who also think you are a great person, and who make you feel great!

      I know how it is to feel unworthy of feeling good. My mom can be abusive, and used to try to change and mold me in ways that sound a lot like your boyfriend — she’d withhold affection and tell me I wasn’t good enough to have friends or have fun unless I acted the way she wanted me to. And once I got away from her, things were way, way better. My life wasn’t instaperfect or anything, but I got to be myself, and myself was way better than I expected me to be. People who tell you that you’re unworthy distort you a lot.

      You are ABSOLUTELY 100% DESERVING OF HAPPINESS. The world is not a place where we rank people and match them up according to some sort of objective scale of great-person-hood, and if you don’t measure up to arbitrary awesomeness standards you have to spend time with someone who sucks the joy out of life.

      One thing I can tell from your letter, even though I don’t know you, is that you are a kind person, who worries about how other people feel even when they are hurting you pretty badly, as this guy clearly is, and even though that strength of yours (because kindness is a strength, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise) is hurting you right now, it says to me that even if you aren’t the most fun person to be around, being around you is a good place to be.

    8. Okay, if you were wearing t-shirts with dead baby jokes written on them, and he was saying “please can you not wear the dead baby t-shirts around me because they disturb me”, then that would be a reasonable request of the “please can you ask/let me ask before we do anything in bed, because it’s easier for me to say no before it’s happening” variety, like the kind you are making.

      Does it seem like you’re putting the burden on him changing because it’s personality traits you want to change, not how he dresses, so the changing will be harder for him? Well then know that how you present yourself is part of your personality, so really it’s the same thing. Plus, how would you solve this by changing yourself?

  46. Oh. My. God.

    LW, your boyfriend sounds so much like my ex. I dumped him because of similar behavior (though there were other issues as well.)

    Things my ex used to say: he would not let me use conditioner on my hair. If I bought conditioner he would get into a snit about it.

    He wanted me to wear skirts because he is attracted to women in skirts. I hate skirts.

    He threw away (!!!!!!!!) my running shoes saying they were “teenager like”

    Oh, and he said I was “fat on the inside” with “fat wrists”.

    He tried to stop me seeing my friends, saying they were “drug addicts”, in fact my friends are cool, nice and successful at life and don’t take drugs.

    He was a controlling asshole. Like your boyfriend. But guess what, he was nice some of the time.

    I dumped him, it was hard. He turned into a creepy stalker for a while because he is a control freak. But It stopped and dumping him? THE BEST DECISION EVER.

    1. Wait, no conditioner? I don’t.. I mean… But…. Why?? That doesn’t even make sense in some twisted bullshit gender essentialist (skirts! no sneakers! Be skinny!) way. Is he only attracted to women with split ends and tangles?

      1. Because when our hair is shiny, bouncy, and full of body, we may feel so good we up and dump that mofo!

        Or…yeah…I don’t know, either. That’s definitely the most bizarre thing I’ve heard about today. What’s next, no shoelaces because you can run away from controlling guys faster when your shoes aren’t flopping around??

        1. Maybe it is some kind of CONDITIONER HAS CHEMICALS OOH BAD thing? I have had friends and acquaintances who dated or befriended guys with some kind of weird Immortality Plan/Diet who nagged them into sharing their rituals, however inconsistent and however little they shared those beliefs. (Please note: I have no problem with your age/death-prevention routine of hopping widdershins around the block wearing a blue hat while slathering yourself with royal jelly/acai berry/the hip new antioxidant of the week. Insisting that your disinterested partner do it OR BONERZ ARE KILLED is fucked up, though.)

          1. It gets extra special annoying points if it’s a save the earth/your body through less chemicals/energy use/waste that’s not a big deal for guys but falls outside of the gendered norm for women. Like not using conditioner, or not shaving, or not styling long hair, or wearing really short hair.

            I respect the hell out of people who do deviate from the norm, especially if they’re undermining assumptions about gender, but playing with assumptions about gender often has a big cost, and an awful lot of the stuff that comes along with acai berries and hopping around in widdershins and royal jelly is harder for women. More power to those who choose to fight through the weird looks and comments from rude strangers, but trying to force your partner into dealing with that when they aren’t interested, especially if they’ll take more shit for it than you do, is a sucky move.

    2. Oh, and he said I was “fat on the inside” with “fat wrists”.
      I’m not even sure what that means. And I’m fat on the outside, with fat everything.

  47. LW, you sound intelligent and strong and motivated and if I knew you, I would like to be like, “Wow, that girl is so awesome, I want to be her friend!”
    When you’ve been in a relationship that long, it just becomes a fact of life. It seems impossible to imagine your day-to-day life without the routine you have built up with the other person, let alone picture yourself alone/with someone else.
    I’m frankly astounded that you’ve stayed so confident and level-headed after years of emotional abuse and manipulation. You are totally strong enough to walk away from this controlling dickhead. And there are so many other guys out there, who will not only instinctively respect the fact your body and your dress-sense are your own and not up for critique, but actively find these things about you exciting and unique and a huge turn-on.


    I am also making a playlist of all the songs in this thread, for motivation next time I need to deal with my own case of a controlling dickhead.

    1. I love this video so hard, because it emphasizes what the Captain always says about relationships, that one person doesn’t need to be awful for a breakup to happen. Both of the kids in the video seem like sweet, normal, awesome kids. Even so, the relationship isn’t working for the boy, and so he feels FULL OF JOY at the end.


    I started to pant and nearly hyperventilate as read farther and farther through your letter, LW. You are saying such wonderful, solid real things about yourself. And your BF is… he is… Ohmygod. It’s awful, what he thinks it is OK to say/do/think about your appearance.

    I will bring all the delicious everything of your favorite thing to the break-up party, because this guy is bad, bad news. It is not you, it is him, and the next person he dates will hear the same song from the same hymnal out of his mouth. Because this is not about how you look, it is about what role he thinks you should play in life and society.

    He is doing controlling and borderline (maybe not even borderline) abusive things.

    Also, if you want kids… can you imagine how you would feel if this dude person talks to future sons/ daughters/ nieces/ nephews in this way? What if those kids aren’t as solid in their no-bullshit zone as you are? Oh my god.

    He doesn’t deserve you, and you don’t deserve that kind of treatment from him.

    Pull the eject lever and get ready to parachute out of this guy’s world, please please please.

    PS: I hate him. I hate him so much.

  49. Wow, if my ex wasn’t an only child I’d wonder if he and the LW’s boyfriend were brothers. My ex was always on my case about how I should grow my hair out, straighten it, dye it (I started going white in my mid-teens), get a tan (ha! I worked graveyard shifts at the time), dress more femininely, and generally turn myself into a completely different person. Looking back now, it seems pretty clear that he didn’t actually like *me* at all. If I were remotely interested in speaking to him, I’d ask why on earth he dated someone he didn’t like for so long (I know why I dated someone who didn’t like me, I was afraid no one else would ever put up with me). When we finally broke up we still intended to stay friends. Fortunately I moved away to go to college, discovered that I really enjoyed not being criticized about *everything*, and stopped having any contact with him.

    LW, don’t feel dumb for sticking with this guy for so long, I did the exact same thing with a guy with fewer redeeming qualities than yours. If you weren’t a loyal, patient, forgiving person who tries to see the best in people, he wouldn’t be able to persuade you to stick around so he could keep telling you how you’re doing everything wrong.

  50. Hello everyone, it’s the LW here. Thanks for all your kind words and advice. I think Cinderkeys comment up at the top is bang on, because I am still genuinely torn about breaking up. But it’s true what Captain Awkward says in her response, that we should really be with people who are attracted to us and not terrified that we’re going to become BONERKILLERS. And that has bothered me for awhile.

    My bf is a good person, and though I don’t talk about it extensively in the letter, he does make me laugh, and is caring and compassionate and a loyal friend. If I need him for something he tries his best to be there for me, and he’s a problem-solver. I like how he treats his friends and for the most part how he treats me. I don\’t think he\’s dangerous, but I think you\’re right that if I decide to break it off he will try to convince me not to.

    He’s just got these frustrating blind spots and I’m not sure I can/want to live with them because he sure as hell has demonstrated that he thinks he’s in the right about this stuff. And a lot of the things that frustrate me are red flags…like I had to really put my foot down about implementing ideas from consent culture in bed (once I found out that it existed) because it made me feel so much more comfortable. And he still thinks of it as ”something he does to accommodate me” rather than something that is a genuinely good idea. He has a hard time accepting that different people have different boundaries (not always liking to be hugged, not always comfortable in large groups of people, needing a lot of down-time) and that that’s ok (ie. it’s not a reflection on him, they’re not broken, etc.).

    I just… I’m not a great person either, and I feel like I’m putting a lot of stuff on him when heaven knows I’m not the easiest/best/most fun person to be with either. I’ve been diagnosed with low to moderate depression, which I suspect I’ve been dealing with for at least 4 years. And I’m really trying to work on that, and I try to live by my principles, but I don’t want the dichotomy of ”I’m always right and you’re always wrong, and you should change”. I think that the person who commented above and said that it will be just as hard to change him (and in my mind not really ethical to try) as it is for him to change me is right as well.

    I think…I think I’m going to seek out therapy. It’s been immensely helpful to write this out, and to hear that I am not unreasonable for wanting to not be hassled about my appearance, and to hear other people’s stories about similar experiences.

    Sorry, that got really long

    1. THERAPY sounds smart. And you are great. We can tell.

      Even if you were 90% less great than you are, his behavior would be Not Okay.

      1. What the Captain said.

        Also, it’s possible that when you are no longer in a situation where somebody is criticizing your appearance and presentation or belittling your 100% okay boundaries re: sex or micromanaging your physical activity that you will realize that you are a lot better person who is a lot easier, better, and more fun to be with than you think you are right now.

        1. Also, you know what makes you not feel & behave your best? Being constantly nitpicked by another person.

    2. You sound pretty awesome, and not unreasonable at all for wanting not to be hassled about your appearance! Also, explicit consent-type-things as a *favor* to you? Eeg. Better than not doing them at all, but eeg.

      I also have depression that’s on the milder end. I’m not the most fun to be around when it gets going! But that still doesn’t mean that I’m less deserving of being treated well or loved for who I am now, and the same goes for you. My partner doesn’t love it when I kind of hate the universe because I’m depressed, even when I’m trying not to take it out on him, but he loves *me* (including my short hair, piercings, and hairy legs).

    3. LW, as someone who’s also dealt with depression, sometimes depression isn’t all about wonky brain chemistry, etc. Sometimes, the people around us/situations/the world feed or even cause that depression. I spent a number of years around several someones who subtly and not so subtly controlled me by questioning all my choices, criticizing me constantly, and generally making me feel inadequate. At the same time, things weren’t always bad. Sometimes they were amazing. Sometimes I was sublimely happy. But the price for those briefer and briefer moments got too high. And when I got away from that atmosphere, and found my own groove, I was so much happier. But when I was in the Fishbowl of Dysfunction, I thought I was not the easiest/best/most fun person to be around either. And I know I can be those things still. But somehow, around the right people, I have no problem being the best/easiest/most fun.
      Again, best of luck to you.

    4. That’s great that you’re going to do the therapy thing. Therapy is awesome; everybody should get it.

      I’m going to chime in with alphakitty above — the woman your BF wants, who is funny and smart and loyal… and conservative in dress and manner, and more plugged in to the patriarchy — she exists. She’s real, and she’s out there somewhere, and she isn’t you. Likewise, the guy you want, a guy who’s funny and loyal and caring and compassionate and clever AND into feminism and consent culture and non-gender-normative self-expression — he exists too. He’s out there. He just isn’t your BF.

      Take a look at Question #117 (“How is this relationship like ill-fitting pants?”). Your BF doesn’t have to be an awful person to be the wrong guy for you. There are pants out there that look amazing on the hanger, and amazing on my friend, and really awful on me. There’s nothing wrong with the pants, and there’s nothing wrong with me. They just don’t quite fit right. Which means that I need to leave those pants in the store, on the rack, so that the person for whom they will be awesome pants of joy can find them. Meanwhile, there are lots of other pants out there for me to try on. Some of them will be objectively bad pants — shoddily made, already unraveling, etc. A lot of them will be okay pants, that I could wear and be fine with, but that don’t give me that awesome feeling. Some will be amazing pants that I would really like to have except that they don’t actually look good on me, or they do but they’re super uncomfortable. And a few will be my own possible pants of joy.

    5. Hey LW! So I read this bit,

      “I just… I’m not a great person either”

      And it made me want to cry, and also to tell you a story. Years ago, I was dating this guy, and every so often, he would make comments about my weight/exercise habits (I’m a fatass dancer, and he was a gym rat). And then, we embarked on a SIX MONTH LONG breakup, in which he withheld emotional support while continuing to criticize my weight.

      During those six months, I was an absolute wreck. I cried all the time. I was clingy, anxious, and depressed (not just around him, but in general). And a lot of that persisted even after we broke up, because I am naturally an anxious person. But let me tell you something. After a round of therapy, during which I did a lot of soul searching and a lot of swearing at him and his jerkass comments about my body, my anxiety levels are lower, I am about to start grad school for my dream job, and I’m really excited to get into an emotionally healthy relationship. During that breakup, I was also “not a great person.” But a lot of it had to do with the motherfucker I was dating.

    6. Oh, man, I just want to wrap all the Loving Supportive Arms around you right now.

      I’m not a great person either. I have weird feet and this habit of pulling out all my loose hair from my head one at a time, and I have a tendency to speed when I drive, and I get overwhelmed easily, and I eat way too much sugar, and sometimes I revert back to Emotional Black Hole of Need every now and again.

      But that’s okay. That is okay. You do not have to be the easiest/best/most fun person to be around. That is an unfair and unreachable standard.

      Please, please understand that you, the way you are, deserve to be loved and cherished and respected. I know that that is easy to say to ourselves sometimes but really hard to live it. Your BF can be a caring and compassionate person and a good friend, but those things can co-exist in the same person who belittles and demeans you. One doesn’t cancel out the other.

      Just weathering the past seven years with your sense of self and dignity intact is an amazing thing that you have done! It really is. That is some badass armor right there.

    7. Yeah, I want to second everybody here that you do sound like a great person and I really felt sad at your “I’m not a great person either” comment. Having depression doesn’t make you a bad person. I care a lot more about whether you are willing to work on your things and to be conscious about not taking them out on other people.

      But you are working on your things!And you are not taking your things out on other people while they are being worked on! And you are talking about seeking out therapy!

      And in case it wasn’t obvious, there is a huge difference between not always being easy or fun to be around (I mean, is anybody?) and being manipulative and controlling. Your soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend doesn’t sound like he really respects you at all — in fact, it sounds like he wants to be with someone who he considers less than his equal, so that he can be in the position of teacher/problem-solver/helper (I mean, those are the good qualities, right?). Seriously, I don’t comment a lot, but your letter read like a red flag factory where the red flag machine got stuck on and it won’t stop churning out red flags. IMHO, cut the power.

      I can’t believe I just came up with that analogy. I need sleep.

    8. I don’t want the dichotomy of ”I’m always right and you’re always wrong, and you should change”.

      But the thing is, he is the one who keeps trying to get you to change. He’s trying to make you adapt to his views on how you should look – you’re just trying to make him let you be who you are. These two things are not equal!

  51. Wow. After reading the letter and all the comments, something really popped out at me. Why do all these men think they have a right to dictate personal decisions about their partner’s appearance? Where is this controlling behavior coming from? Nothing less than the desire to, and assumption that they have a right to, OWN their partner. It’s one of the modern day manifestations of the old patriarchal, male ownership of women schtick.

    This isn’t actually important regarding advice for the letter writer, because the reasons for his behavior are irrelevant to what she should do about them. But in general, the more I read about people’s experiences in relationships, the more I see that patriarchy hasn’t gone away at all. All of the abuse, gaslighting, manipulation, controlling, etc etc behavior (mainly of men toward women) comes from that source.

    In the past men were entitled to own “their” women, in the minds of everyone in society, and everyone cooperated with that. Not that abuse didn’t happen, (any hierarchy based on power-over is a fundamentally abusive dynamic) but now that women have rejected that paradigm and are no longer cooperating with it, VIOLA – the backlash of all these other tactics, with the underlying goal of achieving dominance over their partners. And the really sucky thing is that many men today don’t even realize that they are doing these things, for those reasons – they actually believe that they want equality and respect, even though their actions say otherwise.

    1. I don’t know how people get through relationships like this without screaming “you’re not the boss of me!!” all day, every day.

    2. P.S., Depending on where you live it’s not the past AT ALL. There was a story in the NY Times this weekend about an 18 year old woman in Afghanistan who was raped by a police officer, who has claimed in his “defense” that he got a mullah to marry them just before he fucked her unwilling body, so this is “just” a “forced marriage” case, not a rape case. And some people are nodding along. Makes me sad, and furious, and feel so helpless against that magnitude of injustice.

    3. Not to dispute AT ALL that the majority of those performing these types of behavior are men. The patriarchy will do that to people. But I had a bit of this kind of judgment from my (female) ex as well. She was always embarrassed that I liked the music I liked, had the opinions that I had, and spoke the way I spoke. That relationship is no more, because why should either of us be with someone who is either controlling or “in need” of being controlled?

      1. I’ve been there and I kind of theorize that sometimes the person cares more about what their Hypothetical Invisible Audience think of them than about the incremental soul-assassination they are performing on their partner. Which is awful, and speaks to the other person being a well of insecurity, that they need to destroy someone else’s sense of self so they can shore up their own.

        1. sometimes the person cares more about what their Hypothetical Invisible Audience think of them

          YES, my god, yes.

          Sometimes it’s even literal, like the SO whose family member was such a stalking Peeping Tom that windows made her nervous. Like, ANY window.

          Metaphorically, it’s perfectly compatible with Conservative Patriarchy Guy since a whole lot of heteronormativity is trying to LOOK RIGHT all the time, in case Ceiling Cat is watching, I guess. Or imaginary other men who will find CPGuy less manly than industry standard.

    4. Reading the letter and corresponding comments, I realized something: yes, a lot of guys feel entitled to dictate their partner’s appearance…but it’s always in the direction of being more feminine. I guess guys who dig a chick in practical shoes and a crew cut tend not to be into conventional gender roles, and therefore not into the idea that they’re the boss of the relationship, and so you’ll never hear a guy tell his girlfriend to shave her head. I mean, he might ask. But he won’t be passive-aggressive and whiny.

      On a gut level, I kind of knew all of this already…but I never crystallized it into words before.

      And LW, just to reiterate what others have already said: your bf is being totally inappropriate. I have to wonder what would happen if he decided one day that he’s super attracted to women of a different race than you, or way taller than you, or something (“Put on the Sexy Geisha Girl outfit and the stilts or I won’t be attracted to you anymore! You owe it to me to look however I want you to look!”). The way I see it, you can’t change the fact that you’re fundamentally a jeans-and-t-shirt girl any more than you can change your height and race. If your bf thinks you’re that hideous, he should leave, not badger you to be an entirely different person.

      And the fact that he claims to be embarrassed to be seen with you?! Major, MAJOR red flag. I could almost write off the whole “jump through hoops to be attractive to me!” attitude as immaturity combined with male privilege, but at this point he’s trying to make you feel like you’re not even fit to be around other human beings, and that is flat-out abuse. I’ve had several abusive romantic relationships and some toxic friendships in my day, and all of those people tried to pull the “OMG when we’re out in public I see people looking at you like you’re a giant loser” card at one point or another. It’s a way of exerting control – of trying to convince you that no, it’s not just the abuser’s opinion, the entire world agrees that you need to change.

      Definitely break up with him, and definitely maintain radio silence for a few months afterward before deciding whether or not to be friends with him. You may find that you miss him less than you thought you would.

      1. Oh My God. I never thought about that before, but you are right. You almost NEVER hear of an abusive relationship where the abused partner is pressured to look less like the Patriarchal Standard Model (TM).

        1. Moreover: When a woman in an abusive relationship is coerced into appearing less stereotypically feminine, it’s often because their abusive partner wants to break them down and convince them that no one else could ever possibly find them attractive or worthwhile as a human being. Flip side, same coin.

      2. Actually… I was on the ass-end of a relationship where I was pressured to look less like the Patriarchal Ideal – not wax eyebrows, take care of my hair, or wear skirts – but that was for myriad reasons: 1. because he knew I could do better than his dumb ass and 2. because he, being one of those nerd dudebros, thought that femininity in a woman was less than and indicative of stupidity. When I finally grew into my own and realized that my femininity wasn’t something to be hidden, I got a LOT of backlash.

        And he was definitely passive-aggressive and whiny about it, to the point of contacting my mother and telling her to “stop making me girly.” Yeah. I’m not actually kidding.

        Unhealthy relationships come in all shades… even the fauxgressive ones. (Though, he did throw a lot of anti-Arab slurs around and once told me that poor people were worth less as humans than rich people, which was one of the main things that pushed me away from him. Bleah.)

    5. I think it’s partly because guys get judged on how hot their girlfriends are? Whether they’re dating a super-feminine girl or someone who’s unashamedly fat and butch affects their social standing with other men. So if they get razzed by other guys about having an “ugly” girlfriend, they’re probably gonna go home and tell her to start wearing makeup.

  52. About halfway through this letter I started getting trapped-bird feelings because I dated this dude in high school! Then I dated another (slightly less Borg-like but still, awful) one of this dude in college! So I just want to tell you, that the feeling the morning after the breakup when you know that you can wake up when you want and wear whatever you want and style your hair (or not!) in any way you want and talk to whomever you want and this dude is not going to harass you or pick on you is so, so incredible. It is like being able to breathe fully for the first time in long time. It is like floating.

    You seem like a lovely person and I hope you can experience this feeling.

  53. Oh, LW, I feel you.
    I have been you, and dated That Guy.
    This Mind-Reading-Do-It-My-Way stuff is not working for you, and that is completely independent of whether you are perfect (you are not, nor am I), or whether you have your own shit (of course you do, as do we all) or whether There Was That Horrible Thing You Did That Time (oh, me to, it’s ok, we’re all trying to do it better).

    His shit and your shit are not contingent. You do NOT have to have it all together to move on to something that makes you happy. I hope you move on to a situation that makes you happier.

    Here, have some Annie Lennox, to help you envision this being happier!

  54. I recommend some Talis Kimberley (http://youtu.be/0PK6dTLNnNY) and the new season of RuPaul’s Drag U is airing on Logo (also available at LogoTV.com). And, in the words of Latrice Royale, “if you fall, get up, look sickening, and make them eat it!”

  55. Why hello, I am late to this party, sorry! I bought cupcakes. They are sprinkled with “you deserve someone who loves you just as you are” sprinkles. They are the best kind of sprinkles.

    Seriously, it’s all been said, but please – from a lady with a shaved head, married to a dude who thinks that is shit-hot – there are SO MANY people out there who will not only think your gender-role faux pas are awesome, but will actively help you explore them together and figure out what it all means to you.

  56. My friend was in a similar situation, except it was the second date and she just flat out told him that she wasn’t going to be Perfect Anime Girlfriend, which nipped that problem in the bud. (He was really unsubtle, I am not saying it’s your fault for not breaking up with him seven years ago).

    Then she had to get back the games she lent him, and instead she got emails about how mature he was, and how she should give him a chance, and how all his friends told him about their problems and all the couples he knew, the girlfriend was annoyed by the boyfriend at first but then she got to know him better and they fell in love, and couldn’t she just give him a chance?

    The moral of the story is: email filter that bitch, and get your stuff back right away.

  57. Having been there, done that for way too many years, I have to agree with everyone else and urge you to get rid of this guy FAST. The truth is that even if you WERE willing to change yourself for him, he would never be satisfied. There will always be something about you that he’s unhappy with. Because none of this is about you, it’s all about his unhappiness and his need to control someone to make himself feel in control. He’s clearly missing something in himself and is looking to you to fill that spot. But it will never work and he will never be satisfied with anyone until he fixes his own issues. You cannot help him with this or fix it for him. He has to do it alone. In the meantime, you deserve better. And I suspect that once you get some distance from this giant toddler, you will see just how much happier and better off you are without him.

  58. LW, I married this guy. Please do not marry this guy. Please do what I *should* have done and STOP worrying about hurting his feelings, STOP worrying about how much you might miss him, and break it off ASAP. You deserve so much more.

  59. I can’t believe I read through all of that and you had not broken up with him by the end of it. I’m sad. You are amazing. You are amazing JUST AS YOU ARE. This problem is never going away if *you* are not.
    My gosh, not only is he NOT the right partner for you, he is also not Best Friend Material for you. You deserve somebody who truly loves YOU. I want to go to your Broken Up Party!

  60. This letter hit home for me, not because I’m in the same situation or ever have been, but because – and I’m not sure I completely realized this about myself before – I’m afraid of this. I am a fairly gender-nonconforming lady, and while I tend to get flak about it only from my mother, I am sometimes self-conscious about my presentation.

    Sometimes I suppose, people look at me and see someone who doesn’t care enough to dress ‘nice.” I look at me and see a reflection of my worldview. I don’t paint my face. I don’t hang shiny things from parts of my body. I don’t wear skirts or lady shoes or plunging necklines or any other weird/uncomfortable/impractical things that attractive ladies are supposed to wear. I don’t braid my hair into pretty patterns or whatever – and I really only have long hair because what do you DO with short hair? (No, really, I don’t know. Right now I get my hair cut straight across once a year. Otherwise I wash, brush, and forget about it). That’s all part of me and how I do (or don’t do) femininity. It’s the me that can’t stand gender roles and doesn’t care much for marriage. The me that, if I ever do decide to get married, would wear some nice slacks and a clean shirt and visit a Justice of the Peace.

    I know, intellectually, that anyone who thinks I don’t look ‘feminine’ enough REALLY isn’t the partner for me. But that doesn’t stop me from worrying about showing up to a date in docs and paying for my own food. I’m not going to change, and you – you, awesome LW – shouldn’t either, but I worry.

    1. *big hugs* If it helps, I’m on the West coast of the US, and women like you describe yourself are pretty common here. My boss’s boss wears cargo pants and little if any makeup to work. The CEO (who is also female) is even more casual! You’re in good company.

      1. Thanks! I guess living in an East Coast Big City makes a difference. I recently had a big job interview, and I had to endure so much prescriptive femininity just to get there. I was asked, by other women…

        “Are you wearing heels?” (No.)
        “What are you doing with your hair?” (Wash and brush. And I even used a hair dryer!)
        “Are you sure it’s REALLY okay to wear pants?” (Yes.)
        “If you don’t wear jewelry, they’ll think you haven’t made an effort.” (Not a question, I know, but… what?? I’m pretty sure that brand new $150 suit will show some kind of effort, thanks. Not to mention, you know, the things I SAY.)

        It was so. frustrating.

  61. Wow. Just wow. This is just like the first serious relationship I ever had. I was 16 years old, and had quite long blonde hair, but I’d never been very girly and was happier in jeans and pants than dresses or skirts. I decided I was sick of fooling with my hair and went and got it cut off short. The hairdresser tried to talk me out of it, saying, “Have you asked your boyfriend if it’s all right to cut your hair?”

    Being young and naive, I was somewhat puzzled that he would have an opinion about it one way or another. Unfortunately for me, the hairdresser had been right. He blew a gasket! I didn’t have very good examples from my mother about appropriate relationships with men, so I just accepted that I had been in the wrong, which was just the beginning of four years of niggling at me about my weight (seriously, I weighed at or under 50kgs), my way of dressing, the way I spoke (apparently I swore too much – fuck it!), undermining my intelligence (I was a lot smarter than he was and he knew it). I finally grew up enough to realise that his opinion was bullshit (it’s so unladylike when I swear!) and I dumped him. It took me years to get through the low self-esteem and resulting depression that arsehole caused. One of the worst things was how my mother and everyone else around me would constantly tell me what a great guy he was. From a distance, sure that was true. He couldn’t say no to people, and would internalise all that rage and frustration and take it out on cutting me down in private.

    Just to put the cherry on top of that cake – a few years after we had broken up and he had moved away to another town, I had to go to that town and interact with him. He was nice to me during the visit, but he called me about a week later to tell me that his friend (who I had met for five minutes in the street) was ragging him about what a snaggle-toothed horror I was. For the record, I actually have pretty good teeth, but one of my teeth on the right-hand side is turned at a slight angle. Clearly, I should wear a hessian bag on my head like I am The Elephant Man. If it wasn’t to make me feel bad about myself, why did he bother to ring me up a week later JUST TO TELL ME THAT?

    Don’t let it go on any more. DTMFA. Best thing I ever did. I’ve now been married to the most wonderful man in the world for almost 25 years. Give yourself the chance to find someone who’ll love YOU, not some RealDoll he has in his head.

  62. Nothing to add to the captain’s great advice, so here’s a (slightly) relevant song for the sucky-boyfriend hate party:

    Plus: It’s LOU BEGA! Who can be unhappy when Lou Bega is Playing?

  63. Oh, LW. I am sorry to be late to the party.

    You already see all the reasons to break up with him so clearly. That is good. If you are looking for people to tell you that those reasons are good enough, well, here we are. And honestly, those reasons are more than enough. They are heaping platterfuls of enough.

    You may have your own issues. Fuck, we all do. Acknowledge those, work on them, but don’t use them as a reason to feel like you don’t deserve better than this. You’re flawed, we are all flawed, but he’s picking on “flaws” that aren’t flaws at all, just a part of who you are and how you want to present yourself.

    His good points mostly describe the bare minimum you should expect from a friend. They don’t constitute a reason to stay with someone who is otherwise a tool. You can find better people than him, and you will, and you will feel so much better when you are away from him.

  64. LW, my heart goes out to you. I grew up in a town with people who thought like your boyfriend and my high school existence was absolutely miserable. Now, I go to college in a big city and it feels like I can breathe for the first time. I offer you Jedi hugs and these awesome breakup/making you feel like Daenrys Targaryen/Brienne of Tarth songs:

    Hope it all helps!

  65. Hey LW, if you’re still reading even though I’m SO late to this party in Internet-years…

    I married that guy. I was with him and SO in love for, oh, a decade at least?

    Get yourself to that therapy, if you haven’t already. Maybe you’ll learn that you can make this work; maybe you’ll learn that you don’t want to do what it will take from you to make it work. Either way, you’ll be better off for what you learn about yourself.

    And if you do leave him, even though you like him, I just want to say that this can happen and it’s okay if it does:

    I left my ex still saying he was a good person and I wanted to be friends. For months and months.

    The further away from him I got, the better I saw all the things that other people had said to me that I just didn’t see before.

    And one day, I realized, “I am NOT FRIENDS with people who act like he does. Therefore, he is not my friend.” And I pretty much washed my hands of him and feel so much better for it.

    This might happen, or it might not, but it happened to me.

    All the best. You’re fabulous just the way you are AND just the way you will be. You are worth a partner who wants the adventure of seeing who you will be rather than needing to control that future-you.

  66. To me it seems like mostly a boundaries thing. I’m not going to say he’s wrong for liking what he likes. (I for one couldn’t date a guy who dressed goth because I would be embarrassed. I might say something to him about it, like “honey, is this new style you’re rocking a trend or a permanent thing? Because I don’t think it can be a permanent thing for me.” and see where things stand. But I wouldn’t dream of telling him *what to do*, just what things *I* could or could not do. I don’t see having the opinion as wrong, simply the inflicting of it on others) For him to tell you “You should do this because that’s what I want you to do” is violating. There’s a solid line between expressing a preference and issuing a thinly veiled command. If someone came to me all “I really don’t like the way you dress/also you’re fat/also blahblahblah, you should change them because I want you to” the answer is “Welp, sorry we disagree on this, have a nice life.”

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