#421: If he wanted to be your boyfriend, he’d be your boyfriend.

Dear Captain Awkward:

I’ve been with this guy for 2 years now. We had a falling out for about a month but we’ve been talking again since September. It’s been 4 months that we’re talking again and he’s afraid to make me his girlfrend because i messed up our relationship a little 2 years ago. We’re basically going out, we do everything we did when we were together, but its not official. He won’t let go of the past. At this New Years party we went to, he hung out with this other girl the entire night but claims nothing happened between them. He wants to make me his girlfriend now because im threatening to leave him. I dont know what to do, I’m hoping you can help me. Advice at least? I’m so lost.

Dear Lost,

The whole “You can’t be my official girlfriend because you did terrible, unforgivable things that I constantly bring up and blame you for, but I wish to keep enjoying your attentions and your…attentions” is one of the classic jerk-ploys. If whatever you supposedly “messed up” was so terrible that he doesn’t like you anymore, he wouldn’t hang around with you. If he still likes hanging around with you, then what you did can’t have been so terrible. This is a ploy to keep you around 100% on his terms, and dole out just enough affection and attention to keep you hooked and interested, but not enough to make you feel secure and happy and loved. And then, bonus! He gets to use your past to make you feel like everything is your fault. Manipulation 101.

If you really, really want to try one more time to make it work, say “Hey, if you’re interested in a casual relationship, that’s fine, but I’m not, so we should probably end this and let ourselves actually move on.” See what he says. If he brings up past-whatever-it-was, say “Hey, that was 2 years ago. I’ve apologized and done what I can to make amends. You either forgive me, in which case, don’t bring it up anymore, or you don’t, in which case, let’s end this. I can’t have that hanging over my head anymore.

Honestly, though, I don’t like this dude and I think you can do better than reward his shitty behavior or hold onto him with ultimatums. That’s my advice. “This isn’t working, and I want to break up. Let’s make it a clean break and not hang out or talk for a few months while we figure out how to move on. Happy New Year.

If you’re worried about backsliding into some kind of ummmmfriendship where everything stays confusing, the solution is simple:

  • Email: Block.
  • Facebook: Unfriend/block.
  • Twitter: Unfollow/block.
  • Cell phone: Block.

Do not unblock for at least three months.

86 thoughts on “#421: If he wanted to be your boyfriend, he’d be your boyfriend.

  1. I’m seconding the Captain on how freaking manipulative he sounds. I mean, wow. He’ll deign to bestow the title of girlfriend upon you because you’ve threatened to leave him? After making you do penance for whatever bad thing you did two years ago and acting like a boyfriend since then? Um, okay. What. A. Douchemaggot.

    If what you did was so terrible, he should have dropped you completely and not done the pants dance. If you must tell him that you don’t want contact (as opposed to blocking him and not talking to him–you’re not actually his girlfriend according to him, so you have zero obligations to even “break up”) tell him that you’re no longer interested in him romantically and that you want space from him. And enforce that space with the social media/phone/email blocking. (While you’re at it, delete his digits.)

    1. I know right – the “official title of girlfriend”, as if this is a great honor like a knighthood that the Great Man has the power to bestow should we be worthy of his attention and patronage.

      LW, it sounds from your letter that this guy is stringing you along and that cannot be good for your sense of self esteem because sooner or later you internalize his message that you are not good enough for the real title of Proper Official Girlfriend (TM) and he is going to keep on “hanging out with girls” where “nothing happens!” and making you feel crappy.

      I feel able to say this because I was in a similar position with my Abusive Ex and I didn’t get out at the start when he was saying that we could not tell anyone we were dating/ sleeping together (as if he was embarrassed), and by the way, he really fancied this hot girl we met at that dinner party on Friday who did I notice was thinner than me? It was a power game and I internalized the “you’re not good enough must work harder for his affections” so that by the time I realized it and ditched him I had been with him far too long.

      I don’t like your non-boyfriend, LW. Whatever you did, is it really worth to spend your life atoning to try to win affection from this miserable douche or do you just want to forget it and move on to better things?

      1. Yep, I also had an abusive ex who used this as a favored ploy, regularly telling me about aaaaaalllllllll the awesome hot women who wanted him and he could leave me and be covered in attention ANY TIME HE WANTED and he’d do it if I wouldn’t be a better girlfriend. (I seem to recall that I did actually call his bluff on this once, and he just spluttered and redirected the fight.) It doesn’t matter whether it’s true; what matters is that it’s manipulative, assholish behavior, and it’s not the kind of thing a person who truly cares about another–as opposed to just wanting to use them–will engage in. This guy doesn’t want a balanced, mutually-affectionate relationship, he wants someone he can control.

        The Captain has given excellent advice on this one. This is a time to follow it to the letter.

        1. I am high-fiving you so hard right now, people. I had exactly the same experience with the Evil Ex™ who told me all about the bevy of supermodels clamouring for his attention and wasn’t I lucky that he chose pudgy, boot-faced little me? – plus a little of what LW’s boy seems to be doing, which is manufacturing situations where he makes out I’m in the wrong so that I “owe” him. I didn’t owe him. I dumped him. It felt WONDERFUL. DO EEEET.

  2. Perfectly put! Also, having tried and tested the Facebook deletion method myself (while it sounds drastic), I can vouch it’s upmost effectiveness!

  3. “He wants to make me his girlfriend now because im threatening to leave him.”

    Worst prize ever.

    1. Oh wow, I just suddenly thought of how gross it is that he wants to “make” her his girlfriend. Relationships should be mutual, LW, and this guy sounds SO super manipulative and gross.

  4. Trying to see things from another perspective here:

    * You’ve been for together 2 years including your break. (‘We were on a break!’)
    * You did something you’re not mentioning that caused the break for a month.
    * Is it possible you did something really terrible and is omitting it here to sound better? Maybe he has every reason to be wary of you.
    * ‘He won’t let go of the past’ – Or he can’t, ’cause he’s still hurt? Have you talked about whatever you did?
    * ‘I’m threatening to leave him’ – even though you’re not together.

    So to summarize: you did something that caused a break in your relationship. You’ve been talking and hanging out for the last four months and now that he won’t commit to you, you threat him.

    1. So what does that all add up to? Is she supposed to continue trying to maintain a relationship in which this guy dictates every term?

      Even if she did something really terrible (legos strewn on the floor by his side of the bed? I don’t know, and neither does anybody here), the onus is still on this guy to decide whether he wants to have a relationship or not.

    2. “If we’re not dating, then I’m going to stop acting like we’re dating” is not a threat. That’s just drawing a boundary. Frankly, I don’t really think it matters what she did wrong. If it’s bad enough that he doesn’t trust her or want to date her, then they should stop acting like they’re dating. If he does want to date her, then he has to get over what she did and stop bringing it up. It’s been four months since they started talking again and acting like they’re in a relationship — time for him to make a decision, or her to cut her losses.

    3. Still doesn’t explain why he’s willing to just go along with the ultimatum instead of insisting they talk about it. Especially if whatever it was really was that terrible.

    4. Either way the moral of the story is that this relationship is probably not at all worth it, and it’s best to just cut ties now so everyone can move onwards and upwards.

    5. Kellis: Yes, it’s helpful to look at this from the dude’s perspective, but regardless — he shouldn’t hang out with this lady if what she did was so damn horrible. If he has ‘reason to be wary’ then again, he should NOT be hanging out with her! But likely he wants sex, so. Whatever she did MUST be forgiven if they are to be together. “hanging out”/having sex, dating, etc… means you have a girlfriend. Being picky about whether to call her your gf is the sign of an asshole/manipulator for sure. I’ve seen it time and time again.

      1. Depends, just the not calling her girlfriend is one thing, and I think this guy is being a manipulative asshole. I do think there are some legitimate reasons to not call someone your girlfriend/boyfriend even if everyone else would.

    6. Here’s the thing about that though. If someone does something horrible to you, you get to be mad at them. You get to cut all ties and stop being friends with them. You get to be wary of them and slow to trust again. You even get to tell the cops if the horrible thing was also illegal. You have lots of options.

      But they remain a person with rights and options as well. You don’t own someone just because they’ve wronged you. No matter how horrible the unspecified thing the LW did was (and for all we know it may not have been horrible at all) she doesn’t have to do penance for the rest of her life, and live that life on her not-boyfriend’s terms.

      No relationship can work if one person is holding a past wrong over the other. You either forgive and agree not to bring it up again, or, if you can’t do that, you end the relationship.

    7. No. Just, no.

      Saying “I’m not going to put up with this shit anymore, you change your behavior or I’m out” is not a bad thing to do. Actually, it put things in stark relief for this guy. He’s all suddenly in a panic because hello, they actually DO have a relationship. If they didn’t, she wouldn’t actually be able to leave as there would be nothing to leave.

      And if I was in her shoes, I’d dump his ass, too. Hell, I wouldn’t even tell him, since he was so clear that they aren’t boyfriend/girlfriend. No “relationship” to leave according to him, so he shouldn’t fucking whine when his calls, emails, and texts are met with radios silence. She was actually being rather nice in giving him fair warning.

      No one is under any obligation to be another person’s emotional kickbag. If someone’s that angry with me over something I did in the past, they should not be with me. It would NOT be my obligation to twist myself into a pretzel to work things out with someone who is not approaching me in good faith. And her BF is NOT approaching her or talking to her about whatever it is she did in good faith. It takes two to work things out. And by “two,” I mean two people who are actually talking about stuff and committing to behaving in ways that aren’t hurtful to each other. It is not “one person acts like a gaslighting shit and the other person gets to be told they’re fine for a fuck but not for a relationship and oh, BTW, I’m going to hang out with this other person and rub your face in shit some more.”

    8. Even in that case — which might be true; we don’t have enough details to know — the fact remains that this is not currently a healthy relationship. Either he’s manipulatively stringing her along, or he’s trying to both cling to his hurt and anger and keep dating the LW without putting that name to it. Trying to have the good bits of a relationship and the penance, two years later.

      One way or another, it’s a vicious cycle, and it needs to be broken. I agree with the Captain that breaking up is the way to do that. If, in three or six or twelve months, both parties agree to give it another shot without the dances of atonement and oh-but-you-hurt-me-back-then, then maybe it’s worth seeing if the break salvaged the relationship. But it needs to be a clean break to let both of you get some perspective and get your heads on straight about the whole thing, not an “Ummmm well we’ll keep hanging out but we just won’t make out (much, unless we slip up) or call ourselves in a relationship (so it’s totally cool to date other people, why are you getting all pissy about it?) so it’s just friendship, right?” breakup.

    9. Also, I think you’ve gotten the timeline mixed up — the transgression, whatever it was, was 2 years ago. Since the LW says that they’ve been together for 2 years, apparently this unnamed Bad Thing was right when the relationship was starting out? And yet they managed to be officially dating for over a year and a half after that, then had an unspecified falling out some time this past August, got back in touch in September, and now she’s untrustworthy because of something that happened in late 2010/early 2011.

      This, I do not understand. LW, is this roughly correct, timeline-wise?

    10. Okay, let’s say she really did do something terrible. Like, the worst thing she could possibly do. Let’s say she murdered his children and served them to him in a pie, and when he said, “Mmm, delicious, what is it?” she was all MWA HA HA IT IS A PIE OF YOUR BABIES.

      So…therefore they should fake-date? That makes no sense.

      I do not like this guy. I would bake his children in a pie and never feel sorry.

      1. Maybe she wouldn’t have made his children into a pie if they hadn’t cut off her daughter’s hands and tongue.

  5. Advice at least? I’m so lost.

    Feeling lost when you’re dating/seeing/paired with/boning another person is a red flag.

    Any time you can say “I feel so lost”, put down the relationship and back away slowly. If, after distance and time, you feel less lost, you can pick things back up. But healthy, adult relationships where both parties are honest and open in their communications do not leave people feeling lost. (they might feel hurt, upset, let down, alone, frustrated, resentful, regretful, but “lost” they aint!)

    1. Yes! Even if her act was so heinous that he needs to go through a complex forgiveness process like Catherine below, he can’t keep half-assing it with her, and punishing her with relationship status bargaining. Even if you did something bad and if you are truly remorseful and/or have made up for it/paid your dues (see all the other commentariat)…whatever happened, you still deserve someone enthusiastically consenting to be with you, and no less.

  6. I have to say, I’ve been on the other side of this. My boyfriend did something awful terrible. We broke up. A year later we started talking and got back together. The awful terrible was still there, it had never gone away. I was still upset. I held it against him and blamed him still. If I was ever rude to him, then it was his fault because of the awful terrible. It’s a terrible vicious cycle.

    Eventually I realized what I was doing and realized:
    a. my boyfriend had apologized, felt sorry and realized about what was so awful and terrible.
    b. it was in the past and not going to happen again.
    c. I loved him and a healthy relationship more than I loved reminding him how he had committed such an awful terrible act.

    Now, I don’t know if your boyfriend will get there. But I know how it feels to be where he’s at (at least I have some idea). You can help him get there. For me, talking out my hurt and having my boyfriend really understand why I was upset helped. Him actually just repeating my words back to me or rephrasing them helped. It showed me that he understood what I was saying and actively listening to my words. Perhaps you could try that?

    But ultimately, he has to forgive you and let go. You can’t do that for him. And even if you have done something wrong in the past, him holding it against you isn’t the answer either. If he can’t wrap his head around that fact, break the vicious cycle and let him know that you care, but you can’t be his emotional punching bag anymore.

    1. I think this is a really important perspective. LW, your boyfriend does not have to be a horribly manipulative person to be horribly manipulating you right now. He might just be in a really confused spot while he heels from whatever you did, and maybe he doesn’t really know what he wants. When you threatened to leave him, that might have just brought up more questions because he knows he doesn’t want to lose you but he also doesn’t trust you and he just can’t figure out how to put those two things together.

      However, you don’t have any obligation to stay with him on his journey to figuring this out. Maybe what you did really hurt him, and that sucks, but you don’t have to stick around and wait for forgiveness. If he hasn’t figured out how to forgive you, that’s totally his business, but if your arrangement doesn’t make you feel good, you’re allowed to leave.

  7. While I’m not really necessarily jumping in with the “this guy is a manipulator!” thing, best case scenario is this guy is being damagingly flimsy and you need to look out for yourself. I have been the “wow, this person has betrayed me, but I love them and want to make this work (even if sometimes I look at them and feel like they are stabbing me in the chest all over again, when really they’re just making pasta)” boat. That is a shitty place to be, but people with relationship skills put on their grownup undergarments and take ownership of their decisions. He is being a baby and trying to avoid having to make that choice, and it is at least possible that you making your wants extremely clear has forced him into actually making a decision. Maybe he will stick to it and make himself get over it. I would guess it is, at best, 50/50 that he is really gonna be able to get over it and treat you with the respect you deserve. I did that, and it was hard fucking work on my end to manage my feelings about it in the beginning. But I managed it without pushing all of my feelings onto my partner, and it paid off.

    If I was you, honestly, I’d give it a (tentative) shot. BUT: I would make it absolutely, crystal-fucking-clear to him going into it that what happened is in the past. He will not bring it up. The relationship is contingent upon him being over it, or him being able to get himself over it. If he can’t, then you understand his feelings and accept it, and wish him all the best, but you cannot be together in any way. If he can’t agree to this, you’re out (with the methods mentioned above, do not continue to speak to this person and let him continue to flimse all over you). If he agrees to it, proceed with caution for the next several months: if he breaks his commitment (whether explicitly, or through moody semi-implications or other shady bullshit), no discussions, just cut ties and find someone who won’t try to saddle you with constant guilt.

    Good luck! I hope it works out, whether that means awesome relationship with this guy, or putting this mess behind you.

  8. I’m not necessarily sure this is an intentional jerk-ploy. It could be unintended passive aggressive behavior that stems from pain and ambivalence. But it doesn’t matter, because it sounds like this relationship still needs to end.

    If he’s been unable to forgive you or trust you, two years is enough time to figure out whether that’s ever going to happen. If he’s not secure enough to be in a relationship with you at this point, he’s not ever going to get there. Even if you get an official commitment from him, I don’t think you’re going to get the sort of relationship you want. If, on the other hand, he’s just the sort of jerk who likes to have an automatic guilt trip and all-purpose excuse in his relationship war chest, then you should get as far away from him as possible.

    Either way, it’s best this relationship ends and it doesn’t seem likely he’ll be the one to end it. Initiating a clean break sounds like the path that will result in the least overall pain.

    1. To some degree I don’t think it matters what the horrible thing was, whether he will/can/should forgive it, or whether he’s an asshole or merely hurt: this sounds like two people in an unhealthy relationship, and it’s better that it should be broken.

      We can’t know what the terrible thing the LW did was, and whether it _was_ terrible, why they did it, whether the LW has learnt from it so that if it was a hurtful thing they won’t hurt anyone else in that matter, or whether the LW has forgiven themselves. Those things are between the LW and their conscience, but if you allow yourself to be treated horribly because of [bad thing you did] that probably means that you haven’t engaged with it fully and still feel horrible guilt over it. (Horrible guilt and the feeling you deserve to be punished aren’t helpful. Working out why you did this and taking steps to not do it again are much more productive.)

  9. Yeah, the “threatening to leave” struck me the same way – if you’re threatening to leave, that sounds like you’ve considered the “leave” option and the situation’s not promising enough to rule it out.

    1. …and that was meant as a reply to RodeoBob’s comment on “I’m so lost.” silly internet machine, read my mind better.

    2. It’s entirely possible that both the LW and the not-boyfriend are both being manipulative and/or passive-aggressive. They’re probably both nice and decent folks in general, but toxic around each other. I definitely get an odd vibe from some elements in the letter (both about him and her) but pointing that out doesn’t actually help the LW one way or the other.

      The whole situation just feels off, which is what led me to the “feeling lost is a red flag” position. Distance (space and time) helps to get a clearer sense of what’s going on, and that’s what the LW needs. If it’s good, if it works, and if it’s worth it, they can pick things back up in six months.

      1. Yes! I get the sense that they do not bring out the best in each other. They seem to be like bleach and ammonia: useful and great separately, but put them together and you will choke to death in an evil gas cloud. Boyfriend seems to be a hurt and conflicted person, but this manifests in ways that are uncool, and that bring out the worse impulses in LW. LW seems like a person who is trying hard but is frustrated by Boyfriend, and who probably feels a bit unfairly judged by someone who is not exactly being great right now. Some dang space would be beneficial– possibly forevermore, if this is one of those situations where two good people drive each other horribly crazy.

  10. All I can offer is a cautionary tale.
    There once was a boy named Peter. When Peter was 16, he started dating Hannah. They were inseparable, and were the “it” couple in their high school.
    Then, when Peter was 19, his father committed suicide. Peter almost died trying to save his father. He and Hannah became even closer as she helped him through that horrible time.
    However, two years later, Hannah wanted to date other people. She loved Peter, but felt she couldn’t commit to marriage or children until they had both been in other adult relationships. Peter did not agree.
    They separated for a while, then got back together. Hannah wanted to get married, but Peter refused, because he could not forgive her for her initial uncertainty. She stayed with him because she loved him and hoped he would forgive her eventually. They went on to have three children. It’s been 20 years. They still haven’t married. He still hasn’t forgiven her.
    Bottom line: Peter may not want to marry Hannah, but he is happily married to his grudge. I cannot see being happy in this scenario.

  11. It doesn’t sound to me, LW, as if you are getting much out of this relationship. You are expected to fulfill the role of ‘girlfriend’ without being called one. If you were actually his girlfriend, hanging out with another girl all night at New Year would be unacceptable behaviour. Will you get more out of the relationship if he calls you his girlfriend?

    It strikes me as very unequal. You deserve to be treated better than this.

    1. Yeah, plus does LW really believe that nothing happened with this girl?? In any case, hanging out with someone all NYEve is quite a public declaration, at least of intent. So LW has been publicly declared not girlfriend material, and should mull on that.

  12. I…think you may want to leave this relationship behind. This IS manipulative behavior and he isn’t being straight with you. When I broke up with my last ex (nothing bad happened, just wasn’t interested in him romantically) we agreed to be friends. I kept it kind of aloof respecting that he’d need space to heal and to see how well we could manage as friends.
    at first it was fine. then he started sliding in little barbs like, ‘you were wrong to break up with me’ and ‘see how well we work together? We’re going to be friends fooorEEVVERRR’ and like a fool I let it pass because I thought I deserved it because I had hurt him when we broke up and he didn’t really mean it.
    ha haaa. He ended up stalking me. He was actually convinced that we were going to get married and when he brought it up (popping over to my house on a surprise visit in the middle of the night) he didn’t ask me just told me, ‘I’m going to marry you’
    So I ran, ran far away and cut off all contact.

    So, no guilt in turning away from this relationship. You will find more men, BETTER men worthy of you.

      1. Haha, yup. Sadly, this was before I was aware of the Nice Guy ™ and all the behaviors involved. Now I have first hand experience.

  13. The thing about mistakes and betrayals in relationships is, you have to at the very least forgive them and work to move on. At the very best, you use your relationship fuckups as a way to grow as an individual, and hopefully as a relationship pair.

    If the role of your colossal fuckup, whatever it was, is going to forever be your making up to him for whatever you did, and him dictating every time the terms of your relationship in account of the fuckup, you have neither of those things.

    If what you did was so very awful, he should cut you loose. YOU should cut you loose so you can grow up, learn how to not do that, make amends with yourself at least, and move on. And he can move on.

    If what you did wasn’t so very awful, he’s really pulling puppet strings, in which case, fleeeee.

    He needs to decide, you need to decide, and make that decision a real thing.

  14. “threatening to leave” “hung out with another girl” but “claims nothing happened”(if you two are not in a relationship anymore, why is this important?)…I’m sorta parsing this in the opposite direction: the guy needs to cut LW out instead of the other way around. There are too many blanks in the letter(Who initiated the reconnecting? What exactly happened that caused the break-up? Was the hanging out with the other girl at the New Year’s Party explicitly ditching or was it a social setting in which LW had plenty of other friends to mingle with?) to cold-read it one way or the other, but whether or not the guy is keeping her around as a back-up GF or indulges his ex because he wants to remain friends, but doesn’t know how to handle her volatile feelings, the clean-break advice is spot-on in either case.

  15. I can relate to being the person who can’t let go of a past hurt. A long time ago my husband did some things that hurt me very deeply and badly. We separated for a while and opted to get back together. Unfortunately, the hurt from that time hasn’t gone away. So I know how hard it can be to get past something, even when it’s causing you pain, even when you *want* to forgive.

    I’m currently in therapy to deal with my past so that I can have a happy future with my husband. See…this is what i’ve learned that your boyfriend hasn’t. My pain is mine to deal with. My husband has apologized, and he does not behave the way he used to. He works hard to give me the security I need now. There is nothing else I can expect from him. He cannot go back in time and change the past. He deserves to be with someone who doesn’t hold the past against him, and that’s MY work to do.

    Have you apologized (sincerely, without making excuses or justifying your behavior) for whatever you did in the past? Have you actively avoided repeating the behavior? If so, then there isn’t anything more you can do. You don’t deserve to be punished indefinitely.

    In fact, punishment is a damaging thing in a relationship. It’s one thing to say, “You violated my trust, and in order for me to feel safe again I need you to do X.” That’s asking for what you need in order to heal. But simply refusing to give your partner what they want because they hurt you in the past–that isn’t contributing to healing. That’s keeping the wound wide open eternally. It’s not helping him be able to trust you, and meanwhile it’s damaging *your* trust in him.

    You can ask him what he needs from you to get past this. But you cannot allow him to punish you indefinitely without signs that he is healing and moving on. And you deserve to be with someone who wants to call you his girlfriend, not just because you threaten to leave him, but because he wants it just as much as you do.

  16. I don’t really have much else to add that hasn’t already been covered…
    I just wanted to ask if it’s weird that I read it as _Man_ipulation

  17. All the above is good advice, but there’s one other thing I’d like to say: it’s OK to be single.

    Society tells us that if we’re not all coupled up we are lonely and unhappy and we have FAILED AS A PERSON, but society is wrong. There are worse things than being single; such as being in this not-relationship of yours. And I’ve gotten myself into some doozies just because I felt that even bad love was better than singledom.

    It’s not.

  18. Early on in my current relationship, my g/f did something that didn’t take long – it was over in minutes – but that left me thinking for a few days afterwards about breaking up with her.

    The idea of breaking up with her hurt me a lot. But she’d just hurt me a lot, and her initial reaction to having hurt me was amused/dismissive (“it couldn’t have hurt that much!”). After a couple of days I agreed to meet up with her again and I told her flatly what she’d done, how much it had hurt me, and how much I really needed to be able to trust her again.

    The thing is: that was years ago, and I found I can, and I do. I don’t downplay what she did to me, but I do have extreme confidence and trust that she’d never do anything like that again – not because she’s afraid I’d break up with her over it, but because she really doesn’t want to hurt me, any more than I want to hurt her.

    If I couldn’t trust her that much, I would have broken up with her. If I wasn’t that confident in her, we wouldn’t be together. I have confidence that if things were bad for her she’d tell me.

    No matter what you did, LW, your soon-to-be-ex boyfriend isn’t dealing with it appropriately. If he doesn’t want to be with you because of what you did, he shouldn’t be. If there’s something about you he wants to change, he should tell you what that is. (Your option, then, to decide if you want to be with him enough that you do want to make that change. You don’t have to.) But your soon-to-be-ex-guy is just manipulating you with this crap.

    The Captain’s scripts, as usual, sound great to me. Use them. Start 2013 happy and single.

  19. So, you screwed up in a major way and really hurt him to the point that he can’t trust you… but he still likes you enough that he’ll keep you around if you threaten to leave him?

    Sounds reasonable to me. Sounds like a casual relationship is all you can get with him, because it’s all you deserve. Not interested? Fine. But quit pretending you’re entitled to more, and quit whining about HIM being the manipulative one.

    1. “because it’s all you deserve” “quit pretending you’re entitled” “quit whining”

      This must be the bitter boyfriend! After all, that’s the only way you could possibly know what LW originally did or how bad it was or how much guilt-tripping she deserves. So, since you’re clearly eager to share your perspective, and we are such a captive audience, please enlighten us: what crime is just the right amount of heinous, but not quite heinous enough, that you’d choose to STAY in a relationship with the perpetrator, but are entitled to police their actions (including them wanting to leave) by guilting them with the crime whenever you want?

    2. Then maybe boyfriend needs to say “Hey, this is only ever going to be a casual thing” not “I don’t know if I can trust you enough yet to be a real girlfriend.”

    3. It basically boils down to this: after two years, either this guy can forgive her or he can’t. If he forgives her, he stops bringing it up and holding it over the LW every time she feels she deserves to be treated with respect (which people deserve), or he can’t, in which case he says “look I can’t get past this,” and makes a clean break.

      But the fact that he’s been manipulating her for two years says he probably won’t. Now that the LW is threatening to leave he’s trying to keep her around by saying “but no, I *might* consider making you my girlfriend,” (oh goody, because treating it like it’s a glorious title isn’t patronising and kind of creepy) but I’ll bet the second the LW does something he doesn’t like he’ll be right back to “but how can I trust you ever? You did this thing two years ago.”

      It’s a merry-go-round made of blades, and you’ll both only get cut to ribbons if you stay on it. He probably won’t be the one to end it, at a guess.

    4. Google “Copyleft” and “Rebecca Watson” or “Copyleft” and “feminism”. The results will show you exactly how bitter and whiny this trolling douchecanoe is.

      1. Glad to know I’ve got a stalker! I’m always happy to explode female entitlement and enlighten them to the fact that we don’t have to make women happy.

        1. Oh, I dunno, cupcake. Your spittle aspirating fail makes me happy. It amuses me.

          Now, dance.

        2. ‘Female entitlement’


          That’s probably the best laugh I’ve had all day.

          ‘we don’t have to make women happy’

          No, you don’t. You can make them miserable and stay in miserable relationships. You can make them miserable and wind up single. GO YOU.

    5. I demand a better grade of troll! The really masterful ones start out one of three ways, it seems to me: incoherent, misspelled, badly punctuated sputtering rage (which I suspect the good Captain prevents us from ever seeing); faux-erudite with lots of “advanced” polysyllabic words and dripping with condescension; or seeming totally reasonable and only slowly descending into trollishness so that the community feels uncomfortable calling the troll out.

      Starting right off with “plain-spoken condescending douchebag” doesn’t fit either of the first two, and tips your hand way too early to be the last one. Unless, of course, this is some kind of performance art piece exploring alternate ways of trolling, in which case I suggest you leave this one out of the final portfolio; it’s honestly pretty subpar as trollery. Aiming for “troll” and only hitting “jerk” impresses no one.

    6. OK folks, let’s not feed the troll, shall we? Pathetic creature that it is, it thrives on a diet of indignation. Yawn.

      For the record, I have mod privileges and I’m watching. If the creature tries to up its troll game, it’s gone.

        1. no worries, just don’t want to slither down to its level (or make its visit to our world very rewarding) (it’s kinda like when aliens visit your planet… you’d just as soon they concluded sooner rather than later that there is no food for their species available here, you know?)

          1. Again, no worries. I like our collective spirit and willingness to shove a wand up his boogerous nose. If I was not concerned that that’s what brings trolls to orgasm…..

      1. Crap, I’m sorry. Please feel free to delete my comments. It’s just so much fun to mock trolls, especially the bitter, whiny ones.

  20. Long time lurker here 🙂 I’m eventually writing a comment because this letter hit close to home, even if the situation was somewhat different than the LW’s. However, I recognize the behaviour on *his* part. I had a boyfriend dump me for someone else (nothing inherently wrong here) and on the same day he told me “to wait for him” and basically did everything in his power to keep me around while he was in a relationship with someone else. When he and his GF broke up, he actually came back… and I rejected him. That was the moment when I actually started to “get it”, so to speak. The only advice I have for the LW, regardless of what she did (I don’t care, I’m not here to judge) is to find someone actually wants to stay in a relationship (or if he doesn’t, he just *does not*). This kind of manipulation is toxic and dangerous. Someone already said that, I know 🙂

    1. When I read the part where he came back and you rejected him, I very nearly cheered out loud.

      1. You know, it wasn’t easy getting there, and I still have some general issues with the whole relationship thing, but I just had had enough. It was just pure rage that led me to do that. Afterwards, the real work on myself started to take place, the one that allows someone to engage in healthy relationships 🙂

  21. LW, if he can’t decide whether he trusts you enough to be a real girlfriend, then you might have to be the one to make that decision and say “Clearly, you don’t trust me enough to be a real girlfriend.”

    It’s not a threat, it’s a statement of fact. If he doesn’t trust you enough to be a full girlfriend, then he doesn’t. But if you don’t want to be a kind-of girlfriend, that’s valid too. Your options are ‘be a kind-of-his-girlfriend’, or be a ‘not-at-all-his-girlfriend’ so you can possibly take this bad experience, learn where you fucked up and use that knowledge so you can be someone’s real-girlfriend (or don’t because as a poster said above, being single is okay too)

  22. “he’s afraid to make me his girlfrend because i messed up our relationship a little 2 years ago”

    This relationship sounds like bees a poppin’. “You must be punished for your transgressions because you are terrible and ruined everything! But maybe you can be my girlfriend if you don’t leave, terrible ruiner of everything!”

  23. I don’t know what you did. It doesn’t really matter, whether it was sleeping with his brother or spilling a soda. He can either forgive you and move on, or break up. However, this halfway stuff has to go. You aren’t something he bought on approval. You don’t need to earn the coveted (hah!) title of “Girlfriend to guy who will hold your relationship hostage.”

    Ask yourself this- What if you got married, and he pulled this? Would you trust this guy should you have kids? What happens if he were to treat them this way?

  24. And does anyone else here think the whole “you can’t be my girlfriend because I don’t trust you” line is a wad of BS? What does trust really have to do with making it publicly official or not? If you don’t trust someone, maybe you don’t share personal information with them, or you don’t have intimate relations with them, or you don’t have unprotected sex with them–because that person can harm you through those things. Continuing to have what seems like an emotionally and physically intimate relationship but saying, “I can’t make it ‘official’ because I don’t trust you” actually sounds like this guy wants to keep his options open with other women and has found a perfect excuse that lets him do it without looking like the bad guy.

    1. It has rather a dog-in-the-manger sound, doesn’t it? I don’t want you to be my girlfriend but I don’t want you leaving and being someone else’s girlfriend either.

      Though I’m inclined to give the LW’s behaviour a bit of a side-eye too – threatening to leave? Hanging around anyway? Hmm. Conflicted at best.

      It’s like the comment upthread, they’re not bringing out the best in each other and it’d be healthier for both if they made a clean break.

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