#862: Q: “Does my boyfriend actually love me?” A: “Who knows? He treats you like crap, so time to go!”

Spoiler note: I reject this “boyfriend,” and all his works, and all his empty promises, and all his creeping on young women destroying their self-esteem.

Dear Captain Awkward,

I’ve been seeing the same guy for almost two years now. We met when I was living in Colorado, shortly after we met I moved away, and our relationship there wasn’t ever really too serious, but I feel like both of us felt that we wanted it to grow stronger, so when I moved away we continued to see each other and have a long distance relationship, but we aren’t truly in a relationship because he says he doesn’t want to claim me as his girlfriend until I am 21. He is 29 and I am 19. I know that is quite an age difference, but I am very mature for my age, and I feel like he acts more as if he is 24/25 than a 29 year old. So after going to visit him in Colorado a few times, I actually found out that the first time I went back to see him he had a girlfriend, this really upset me because I felt lied to and betrayed, but he thought it would make me feel special to know that he cheated on his girlfriend to be with me. They ended up breaking up right after I saw him, and that was that.

Besides telling me that we can’t be together until I’m 21, he also tells me he can’t be with a girl who doesn’t have, in his words, “a perfect ass”, so he constantly is harassing me about going to the gym and working out, he will check in with me and asked if I worked out today, which is really upsetting to me because, I eat very healthy and I go to the gym daily, and it is because I like being healthy and feeling good about myself. I am not overweight or out of shape by any means, I’m [height and weight redacted by Captain A.], I wouldn’t call that out of shape, but he constantly is harassing me about the way I look. It is so bad that I don’t even want to show him my body because he always has something negative to say. The things he has said to me have really hurt my self esteem, and make me feel like I am not good enough in his eyes. He will say terrible things about my body and my looks but then the next day tell me how beautiful I am. It is hard for me to understand.

When I get upset at him for critizing my body and putting me down he will tell me I need to toughen up and that he is only trying to make me better, but it’s not because he is worried about my health, it is because he wants me to look a certain way, like some model he sees online. He has even said to me, “I see other girls and I just want to f–k them”..I just don’t know how you say that to someone you love, and he says he’s just being honest, and that he’s a guy and every guy I meet will think that about other girls. Bottom line is, he just makes me feel terrible about my looks, and I wonder will I ever find a guy who can love someone that has all of the flaws he points out in me, I know I will never be a bikini model, but I am in very good shape, and he acts like he is a bodybuilder or something, meanwhile he doesn’t even have a gym membership, eat healthy, or go to the gym on a daily basis. I have never, and would never try to change him, even though he is 29, doesn’t have a job and has no clue what he is doing with his life, I always encourage him and tell him he will figure things out. I never bring him down, or make him feel bad about himself, and he will say the only reason I don’t is because I think he is so perfect already, and it’s not that, it’s just that I love him for who he is and all of his flaws or imperfections make him who he is..I just really don’t know what to do anymore. He also, came to Florida, where I live now and went on a cruise with another girl, before I found this out he told me he was coming to Florida to visit me, but around this time he told me he met someone else and he never really loved me, that we were just friends,and that maybe one day if I was in better shape we could be together, so I was confused as to why he was coming to see someone he felt this way about, then the day before he came he told me the real reason he was coming to Florida was to go on a cruise with another girl, and he wanted to see me after..After that I blocked his number, but ended up forgiving him a week or two later. But even after all that he still disrespected me and treated me poorly when this should’ve been a time he was amazing to me.

I asked him if I could spend New Year’s and go to a concert with him and he told me I didn’t look good enough to be seen with him there..but Later on he said he needed me there and was so happy I came. I just cannot keep being put down so harshly, by the one person that is supposed to bring me up, I just don’t understand what is wrong with him, or what is wrong with me. obviously he can be good, and sweet to me and we have had some amazing times together, which is why I love him, but hearing him say such hurtful things makes me question his love for me. I just don’t know what to do.

Dear Lovely Letter Writer,

Your email subject line was “Does my boyfriend actually love me?

No. He doesn’t. He may say that he does, or have feelings inside his head that he calls “love,” but the way he treats you isn’t how love works.

Question Time:

Is this the kind of treatment you want from a boyfriend?

Are you okay with it when he criticizes your body and makes you feel ugly?

Are you okay with him constantly lying about his relationships with other girls and women?

Do you think that “girlfriend” is a role that you must constantly audition for and prove you deserve? Over the course of multiple years? At the cost of your well-being and self-esteem?

I don’t have any scripts that will make him behave better or turn into the boyfriend you need and deserve. He won’t ever change or stop these asshole behaviors. He has been grooming you since you were 17 to accept his warped version of love and what your body should look like and how people treat other people (and he likely grooms and mistreats all his other “not quite girlfriends” too). He is an emotionally abusive asshole who picks on you to make himself feel better.

You end your letter with: “I just don’t know what to do.”

You DO know what to do and you already tried to do it (block him forever). You just gotta make it stick this time, and I’d love to help you do that.

Right now, you could text him and say “I am breaking up with you, goodbye.”

Then (also right now), you could block him on all possible forms of communication and delete his number from your phone. It doesn’t matter what he thinks or feels or says – once you decide to break up, it’s over.

Then, you could let yourself get really, really angry about how he’s treated you.

Next, imagine your ex-boyfriend as a flat piece of paper.

I want you to mentally crumple that piece of paper.

Make it really tiny and dense.

Did you crumple it? Can you feel it crushed very tight inside your fist?

Good.

 

 

Now I want you to mentally launch it into the center of the sun.

The Sun

 

Whenever you start to think about him or miss him or think you might want to talk to him, picture the piece of paper going into one of those extra bright burny bits. *Poof* Goodbye forever!

This dude has been shredding your sense of self for 2 years, so it might take more than that to get him out of your system. That’s okay! If you have access to a counselor (maybe at school?) I want you to find one and tell them everything. You could show them your letter from the blog, if you don’t know where to start talking about it. If you don’t have a counselor available,  LoveIsRespect.org has free online resources, including an online chat staffed by trained volunteers, if you need to talk to someone in confidence right now. Also, check out The Sunflower Project if you need a reminder that people can and do move on. Leah Zeiger is a survivor of an abusive relationship that started in high school. She and her dad made an amazing film about that, together. Being in a relationship like yours can be incredibly isolating, but you are not alone, and ending things with this guy is not the end of anything except you feeling awful all the time.

“…it’s just that I love him for who he is and all of his flaws or imperfections make him who he is…” “(But I LOVE him, Captain Awkward!)”

You do love him, and I’m not going to tell you that that’s not real, just, that love is more about you and your wonderfulness and loyalty and the spark of joy inside you than it is about him. I mean, let’s unpack that – You love this guy, “despite his imperfections,” but all he does is point out what he sees as your imperfections and tell you how it makes you not quite good enough for him (except when it’s convenient for him). He (and our shitass culture) has sold you a story where your love and the achievement of a “perfect ass” can conquer his sexism and cruelty to you if you just believe and try hard enough, but it can’t. It never will. Your body is already perfect just the way it is (and it always will be), and you can’t love someone into being a better person or into treating you with basic kindness and respect.You gotta find a way to take all that love you feel for him right now and shine it on yourself.*

If that’s too overwhelming to imagine just yet, that’s okay. There are more kinds of love than romantic love. Look around you for the people in your life who make you feel good, throw a little love their way, and trust that it will come back to you somehow.

We are rooting for you so very hard.

Animated ghost giving a ghost hug.

*Text here.

 

 

 

498 comments
  1. Dear LW: I got about a paragraph into your letter and this is what I have to say: Your boyfriend is a fucking asshole. Dump him right now. Spend some time with yourself & please practice self care. You deserve way, WAY better than this.

    • stellanor said:

      I got halfway through the first paragraph before the internal screaming started and from there it just got progressively louder.

    • I had to physically restrain myself from defenestrating my iPad after, like, the first sentence.

      • Mobuy said:

        +1 for the use of the word “defenestrating.”

        • Nancy M said:

          +2 for letting me read “defenestrate” twice in one day. And write it once. It is my favorite word, but sadly there are far too few opportunities to use it in the business world. Well, far too few that don’t end in “you’re so fired, and the police are here to have a looooong talk with you.”

          • If you got into the business of teaching history, you’d get to talk up the Defenestration of Prague!

            Sadly, though, I can’t think of very many other contexts in which the very concept of chucking things out windows seemed reasonable.

          • JeanLouiseFinch said:

            The defenestration of Prague scenario would be appropriate in this case, if applied to the “almost” BF, since the politicians in Prague were pitched into a giant pile of manure.

          • JenniferP said:

            I lived in Prague for a while during school and I am LOVING the defenestration talk. Best word.

          • @JeanLouiseFinch, it would be a pile of shit of the “boyfriend’s” making, too!

          • Redgirl said:

            My college roommate nearly got kicked out of the dorms for defenestration. She poured a drink out the window (our OJ had gone bad) right when the residence life director was walking by below. That was how I learned that particular vocabulary word!

          • Divizna said:

            You’re all talking about “the” defenestration of Prague and you’re confusing me. Which one do you mean, 1419, 1483, or 1618?

    • I felt the same. I rushed down here to beg the LW to DTMFA ASAP.

      LW! He doesn’t like you! He doesn’t cherish you! He certainly doesn’t love you! He criticizes how you look, he has no interest in being faithful to you (and your relationship sounds like you expect monogamy) and has already cheated on you at least once THAT YOU KNOW ABOUT. He insults you. He makes you literally work your ass off to meet his standards, but I bet your ass is absolutely fine the way it is. He blames his shitty behavior on your appearance, when the two things have nothing at all to do with one another. I bet he is also not making a living as a fitness model in his spare time.

      You’re 19. He’s almost 30. If he treated you well and you had the confidence to tell people to go fuck themselves when they criticize you, maybe it could work. He treats you badly, and you are buying into the slanderous things he tells you about yourself. He probably can’t find many (if any) women closer to his own age to put up with that nonsense, I am sure. Dump him. Please.

      • Yes. LW, your boyfriend is not a good guy. He does not love you. He uses and mistreats you and I promise you, from someone who has been there, that there is a better life out there for you. But you have to start by loving yourself enough to kick him to the curb.

        There are better people out there for you and the first one is yourself.

      • J.C. said:

        “he has already cheated on you at least once” <– yeah I just came down here to reinforce the fact that you also got cheated on. You mentioned that he said that he """thought""" you'd feel special because he cheated on his girlfriend with you but I want to tell you that HE ALSO CHEATED ON YOU WITH HER. You BOTH got cheated on in this scenario, and I'm really sorry but this is a pattern of behaviour I would expect him to continue. You deserve so much more then this jerk, and I really really hope that you are able to get angry about the way he is treating you.

      • I vote"meese" said:

        HA, I never encountered the acronym DTMFA before and it took my brain like 5 milisecs to figure it out. love that. knew it as I read it. will try to use it in conversation from now on. well done for summarising everyone’s reply into 5 letters.

      • Haha, I never saw the acronym DTMFA before and it took like 1 milisecs to figure it out, knew it as a read it. well done for summarising everyone’s feelings in 5 letters.

      • How ironic that he puts so much emphasis on finding a “perfect ass” when all he has to do is look in the mirror.

        • FlyBy said:

          Perfectly said.

          LW, my husband and I got married when we were both 23, and we’re 30 now. I was (insert very small clothing size here) when we got married, and I probably had a perfect ass. (I sorta regret not having photos of it.) I’m (insert moderate clothing size here) now, with cellulite and a bit of a belly pooch and all the other things that come with age and some weight gain.

          LW, my husband has NEVER ONCE said anything unkind about my body. He just continues loving it and telling me how awesome it is. I believe him, because his body has changed since we got married too, and I still totally love how he looks. It’s wired in somehow – he’s my man, and I love him, therefore I love his body. It doesn’t actually have anything to do with appearance. We do not put each other down, ever, because we don’t want to hurt each other. That’s how this is supposed to work.

          Ditch the killjoy and go be an awesome young woman with a rockin’ bod for a while. You deserve so, so, so much better.

          • Emma said:

            Yessss.

            When good people in healthy relationships love someone, they also love that person’s body, because the body belongs to someone they love. A partner’s body is a vessel which contains all their amazing personality, interests, beliefs, thoughts and words. A partner’s body is the thing they use to share their life with you and to share affection and fun and intimacy (of any kind, not limited to sexual). You can’t separate a person from their body. If you love the person, loving the body comes automatically.

          • Esselyn said:

            Yes yes yes this! My husband and I are neither of us perfect. We snap when we let ourselves get too tired, we watch tv instead of doing important adult things like chores or work out, we shout when we should listen sometimes, and more. But never ever once, not even in the nastiest, meanest fight we’ve had has my husband ever come close to criticizing my body.

            A photoshop body is not a requirement for a relationship, and someone who’s telling you that, ESPECIALLY someone who seems to think that high standards are for them to arbitrate, but not to meet, is not someone who deserves you, in all your wonderful you-ness.

          • Cricket said:

            Well put, FlyBy! Lovely to have such a clear example of a supportive partner for contrast.

            When I read the “perfect ass” parts of this letter, one of my first thoughts was “But nobody keeps the same ass for their entire life, everyone is at least somewhat reshaped by age and circumstance. Does this dude plan to date only teenagers for the rest of his life?”

            After a moment’s consideration and a re-scan of the letter, I would say yes, that is probably exactly what his plan is, and it’s horrible. Best wishes on building a fantastic life without him, LW.

          • Ros said:

            This. Exactly this. My body hags absolutely changed since meeting my husband… because I went from being 17 to 32 (we started going out when I was 24, for perspective). Because I have the body that bore and breastfed children, and that leaves marks, for most people. Because I have a thyroid issue. Because bodies change as we age, it’s just a part of life – even if I’m the same technical weight, curves sit differently on my body weight gathers in different spots, and I move in different ways. LIFE. 15 years of it, to be exact.

            And if you’re intending to have that person be part of your life for more than a year or two, well… they’re either going to see your body change and be comfortable with it, or they’re gonna make you feel like crap about it. Or you can convince yourself that you’ll make it to 40 with the exact same body type you had at 17. And then try to hold onto that tooth and nail into your 50s. NOT a great way to spend your 40s.

            May I add two comments?
            1) the availability of love in your life is not directly inverse to the size of your ass.
            2) don’t date people who make you feel shitty. Date people who make you want to do things, who make you feel you can accomplish things, who make you better than you are alone.

            This guy is NOT the guy.

        • Judas Perckerwood: thank you. I didn’t think finding humour in this situation was possible, but you managed.

  2. Sheelzebub said:

    You deserve better than this. Your BF sounds like Emporer Massengill of Xanadouche Mountain.

    The Captain’s advice is spot on. If you want to be nice, text him and telling him that you’re done with him. (This is one of the rare times that I’d give a pass on ghosting. He’ll try to pull you back in, so I kinda think it might be better to just block, block, block and never ever look back.) Block his number immediately. Block his email, FB, Twitter, any and all social media. If he knows your friends, let them know and ask them to not take any bait he throws their way.

    And then do things that you enjoy that he despised or dragged you for liking. When you think about him, remember all of the crappy things he said about you and think: “Ah! I don’t have to hear that shit anymore!” Hang out with your friends, join a fun MeetUp group, try to learn something new (cooking a new recipe, painting, knitting, an instrument, a language). Go to some fun free events in your area. Hit the gym and work out any anger and hurt you have on the treadmill. Go hiking. Do fun things with friends, alone, or in an organized event like a meetup group.

    Take care of you. You deserve better than this guy.

    • “Emperor Massengill of Xanadouche Mountain” is brilliant

    • walkingwhilefemale said:

      Totally agree that it’s ok for LW to ghost in this situation. This douchenozzle has spent the better part of 2 years bringing her girl down, when she should be surrounded by loving members of Team LW as she starts to find her way into adulthood. I am so ragey on her behalf! I have this horrible feeling that any “break up” text or contact will spiral into more gaslighting and relationship rules-lawyering to keep her tied to this loser (go on, ask me how I know…).

      LW, you have this fellow escapee’s permission to run as far and as fast as you can without so much as a “goodbye” and never look back! You are a beautiful soul, inside and out, and my whole being wants you to know, believe, and feel that with all of YOUR being. My heart is aching for you to get free and just *be* the terrifyingly amazing person that you already are.

      • walkingwhilefemale said:

        *bringing this girl down

        So ragey I can’t even sentence correctly today

      • Bippy said:

        I always feel good for the girl when I hear that song too. Oh, you dumped me and I moved on and am having a great time, and you’re all pissed because you wanted to pick me back up and I’m too busy for you?

        Poor you.

  3. PintsizeBro said:

    You’re very mature for your age, LW? Are those your words, or his?

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure you’re a mature and responsible young adult, but that’s EXACTLY the kind of thing that a man who’s pushing 30 says to a woman who’s not even out of her teens yet to convince her that she should be with him instead of someone her own age.

    There’s a reason why he’s not dating women his own age: they are wise to his shit. This guy was your age 10 years ago, and that means he’s got 10 years’ experience manipulating women your age.

    • When I was 19 I dated a guy who was 28 for a while. I thought he was the COOLEST. We broke up, I didn’t see him for a while, and I ran into him again when I was 27 and he was 36 or so, and he still acted like the guy that a 19yo would think was the COOLEST. But at 27, I found him literally repulsive.

      • I was literally going to say, a guy in his late 20s who acts like he’s 25 will most likely still act like he’s 25 when he’s 40.

        When I was 17 I dated a guy who was 23 and thought he was AMAZING. Then I came across him again in my 20s (bear in mind he’d have been about 30) and he was like, “hey! Why don’t you show me your nipples?” Um, I’ll pass on that one, thanks.

        • I just reread the letter (because I was already developing an ulcer, so I figured I might as well keep growing the one that I had to the point where I could establish my own ulcer farm? I dunno), and the “acts like he is 24/25” bit stuck out to me, too. LW, I’m not sure what you mean by that, exactly, but I can reassure you that this is Not A Good Thing.

          • Cora said:

            Ulcer Farm is my new rock band.

          • If the songs are all Feminist Hulk poetry, I am 100% on board with this.

          • Shaenon said:

            I thought “he’s almost 30, but he’s so immature it makes sense for him to date teenagers!” was going to be the worst part of the letter, but then everything else happened.

            Teenage girls! You do not want to be the mature, responsible partner in a relationship with a grown-ass adult! Trust me!

        • AnotherAnon said:

          I came here to say this too. 🙂 LW, you will grow up, and this guy will not. Even if he wasn’t a horrible person he’d still not be good for you.

        • manybellsdown said:

          Yes, “29 but acts way younger” is NOT a positive.

          • TO_Ont said:

            Also, he’s not really acting like a decent person who’s 25, or a decent person who’s 19 like she is. Or even, frankly, like a healthy 12 year old acts when they genuinely want to be friends with someone. He’s not just being immature; he’s being mean.

            The age is relevant in the sense that he’s probably targetting someone younger because he can use the age thing against her, because she’s less likely to have learned yet to avoid guys like him, and because it’s harder to find women his age who are still willing to put up with someone who acts like he does…

            But it’s not something that can be excused by being immature. And being immature isn’t a terrible thing. It’s just growing up. It might make you more prone to honest mistakes (like dating douchbags) but it doesn’t make you be deliberately cruel.

          • TO_Ont said:

            Also, he’s not really acting like a decent person who’s 25, or a decent person who’s 19 like she is. Or even, frankly, like a healthy 12 year old acts when they genuinely want to be friends with someone. He’s not just being immature; he’s being mean.

            The age is relevant in the sense that he’s probably targetting someone younger because he can use the age thing against her, because she’s less likely to have learned yet to avoid guys like him, and because it’s harder to find women his age who are still willing to put up with someone who acts like he does…

            But it’s not something that can be excused by being immature. And being immature isn’t a terrible thing. It’s just growing up. It might make you more prone to honest mistakes (like dating douchbags – which he’s counting on) but it doesn’t make you be deliberately cruel.

      • PintsizeBro said:

        I’ve got a bit of morbid curiosity (this is a rhetorical question, I really don’t expect an answer): I wonder how much longer your ex was able to successfully stalk his chosen prey. Because, while he might have acted the same way… 27 is young enough to be “cool,” but for most 19-year-olds 36 is edging into “old” territory.

        Compliments about maturity, sophistication, from someone who’s old enough to be a “real adult” but young enough to be “cool” are really the perfect bait for teenagers. All teenagers want is to be liked, respected, and accepted for who they are – especially by adults.

        • Buttermilk said:

          It’s incredibly…scary how many men in their 40s, 50s, even early 60s can convince young women in their late teens and early twenties that they’re cool. See, all the creepy college professors of the world.

          • PintsizeBro said:

            Good point… ugh.

          • mynnia said:

            Probably because we live in a whole CULTURE grooming them for this. Not only the very visible age difference in media, but also in how children and adolescents are raised. Guys their age are allowed to be completely self-indulgent and childish, while they had to be more responsible and mature in their interpersonal behaviour for a long time already, so of course they seek an equal and find it in guys mid- to late twenties. Double if you had to grow up too fast because you lived in an abusive house-hold where you were held as accountable and capable as an adult (be it via punishment, neglect or emotional burdening).

          • Rose Fox said:

            When I was 17 I was super into a guy who was 45, and he was super into me. Fortunately he lived 3000 miles away and I got into a monogamous relationship with someone my own age before I could do something like fly across the country to meet him. He wasn’t cruel or manipulative like the LW’s boyfriend, but even genuinely nice dudes should not be dating teenagers 30 years their junior. Now I’m 37 and married to a splendid wonderful guy who’s 44, and if I try to imagine him flirting with a 17-year-old, the inherent creepiness factor of the age difference totally overwhelms his personal non-creepy nature.

            I know two couples who are in deeply happy long-term relationships with age differences of 10+ years, but they all started those relationships when they were already grown adults. (In one case they got together when they were 66 and 80, respectively. No one was going to tell them they couldn’t! They just celebrated their eighth anniversary and are totally adorable.) The “N/2+7” rule is there for a reason.

          • Chessie said:

            LW, everyone else has already said almost everything I could possibly say about this: he is an abusive shitwad, do not trust him, do not speak to him again, break up immediately, block him and cease all contact, find a therapist and tell them all about it, look for people to hang out with who treat you respectfully and make you feel good.

            One other thing, though. I don’t know what — if any — kind of sexy stuff you two have been up to, but now would be a really smart time to get yourself to the doctor and get tested for STDs. This guy is a liar who doesn’t care about you and doesn’t care if he hurts you, and I can easily see him being lax about safer sex (with other folks or with you), or even deliberately concealing that he had a communicable disease. Do it right away so you won’t have to worry, and so you can get treatment ASAP for anything you may have caught.

          • Chessie said:

            Not sure how that ended up nested when I tried to leave it as a general reply…oops. :-/

          • Enraging and horribly sad too

        • Well, my late husband was sort of the same (had to date progressively younger and younger women) and we started dating when I was 21 and he was 41, so a lot of men can keep it going till they end up with someone who has internalized that “I’ve made my bed and now I have to lie in it” message.

          As far as I know, that ex fetched up with someone closer to his age eventually, but we aren’t friends so I don’t know if he grew up or what.

          • My dad was one of those. He dated and married a procession of teenaged blondes, until eventually he reached an age where he couldn’t attract the teenaged blondes anymore. So then he went for women closer to his own age, but still with low self-esteem.

      • Thissssss.

        I dated a dude in his mid-twenties starting when I was 17. I broke up with him at 19.

        years later I agreed to have lunch with him (why? I don’t know, I felt like I should? we had friends in common?) and I was like…this is so weird…he hasn’t changed at all…I feel like I am older than he is?????????

        • Pear said:

          Oh my gosh! I had a similar-ish experience??

          In this case it was only a 3.5 year age gap but that’s A LOT when you’re a teenager, and said dude continued to pursue girls in their mid-teens once he entered his twenties. Yeah.

          One day he was ~feeling lonely~ and I agreed to meet up with him because I was curious. I had just turned 20; we parted when I was 13, and he’d return intermittently to manipulate me if he couldn’t find another teenager with low self-esteem to prey on. But I felt much more in control. On the day, I was both sick and triumphant to discover that he was not exactly, but *exactly* the same. He was uncomfortable; he hardly recognised me. He remembered things I had long since discarded. It was like he was absolutely determined to remain exactly the same. I honestly felt older than him!!! Oh my goodness.

        • Ella Ella Ay Ay Ay said:

          YES to everything in this thread. When I was 19, I dated a 27-year-old for ~6 months. It was not at all coercive or abusive, we just dated for a bit and then broke up amicably, and we’re still Facebook friends. I was mature for my age, and he was kind of immature for his, so the age gap didn’t feel huge. Several years after the fact, we went out for drinks with a few other people who were in our friend group at the time, and I was struck by how he hadn’t changed AT ALL. He was still really smart and funny, but he hadn’t matured or grown at all.

          Meanwhile, when I hit 27, my little brother was 19—the same age gap between me and this ex—and I could not even IMAGINE wanting to date anyone my brother’s age. A 19-year-old and a 27-year-old are just at completely different stages in their lives. I didn’t recognize that at the time, but from this side of the gap, it seems completely unthinkable.

      • ordinarygoddess said:

        Sadly, I had a similar experience, except, being 17 and not knowing any better, I married the creep. By 25 or so I found him literally repulsive too, but I had elementary-school-aged children and it took another ten years to get quit of that marriage. Now he’s 50 and still a manchild and I find him repulsive and also PATHETIC.

        (but I no longer have nightmares that the FBI is going to show up at my door and take him away for embezzling or fraud or something and my children and I will be destitute and homeless.)

        LW, don’t do that. Get OOOUUUUUTTTT. Get out and have a great life without that guy.

    • I’m 30, but apparently look about 10 years younger. Which means I could probably get away with creeping on college-age guys if I wanted to, but YTF would I want to be a predatory asshole?!?

      • thepaintedlady said:

        Well, and also, there are some really lovely college aged people out there, but I would not want to date them. They are totally different, for the most part, from the type of person who would be appropriate for 33-year-old me to date. It’s not just that late teens and early 20s-aged folk are easy to exploit and therefore I sideye anyone who regularly dates people that age when they are much older, it’s that….there’s something really screwy in being okay spending that much time and intimacy on someone with whom you have so little in common.

        • SarahTheEntwife said:

          Yes! There is a lovely sort of honorary older/younger sibling or aunt/uncle type of relationship that’s possible with inter-generational friendships that I’ve happily been on both sides of. But the however-benign power differential makes it *very very risky* to try to have a relationship type that’s supposed to be between equals.

          • Yes, I’m sure relationships with that particular age differential can work, in the right contexts. I am currently proctoring AP tests. A lot of my fellow proctors are college students. In the sense that I have any authority over them, it’s due to the fact that this is my second year doing this, so I am more knowledgeable about the procedures than the first-timers. There is a woman down the hall from me who has worked here for three or four years, is younger than I am, and proctors the tests with technological elements to them (e.g., using the cassette recorders [what century is this, College Board?!]) because she has more experience than I do. Even though we’re a few years apart in age, we have enough in common that I enjoy talking to her and hope she feels the same about me, and I don’t feel like I’m toeing any lines by conversing with her–or with any of the other proctors, whose ages range from 18 to 60.

            But this is clearly not what’s going on for LW. This guy is a festering sore.

        • There is that, too, though I used to teach at a community college, where most of my students were older than I was (which made for an interesting dynamic at times). I laser-focused on the potential creep factor because finding common ground with college students was part of my job. But it was also easier then due to me being 24 at the time and fresh out of academia myself.

          • thepaintedlady said:

            I teach as well, and I definitely have relationships with a few select students that I would say are closer to friendships than teacher-student (partly because they come to me on an extracurricular capacity rather than my being in charge of their grades) but they’re still not what I would call a totally equal relationship, and I’m always very cautious of that. Even former students who have been out of school for awhile, or friends who are lovely but young enough to have been my student. My department chair at school is my mom’s age, and I love her more than my luggage but we still aren’t friends like I’m friends with the co-worker I grab drinks with. There’s just…a difference.

          • Agreed. It is really hard, perhaps impossible, to separate the age difference from the power difference in a scholastic setting. Hence my residual feelings of squick about dating someone the age of my (former) students. :X

        • thetigerhasspoken said:

          Yes. I am 30 and I have 20 year old friends. I love these friends! They teach me about hip, trendy things and we have great discussions about politics and social justice. They have boat loads of energy and ambition. But damn do I need a break from them too. There is a VERY marked developmental difference between us. And one of them is much more “mature” and “responsible” than me (she actually remembers to provide hostess presents and thank you cards) but still. We are NOT peers. And the idea of dating one of them squicks me out because there would be an inherent power differential. It’s hard even to define . . . it’s just a feeling that this isn’t ok. Especially when they say things I heard come out of my mouth 10 years ago and I cringe of my own embarrassment from memories.

          • thepaintedlady said:

            Ha! True. One former student of mine who is 21 and lovely and smart and about to be a nurse makes me feel this way. We are also friends with a woman who is about my age, and Old Friend and I occasionally gently rib Young Friend about being 21 when she makes remarks that are very fitting for her age. But we also make sure to tell her, oh my goodness, no, you are *supposed* to be this way. We tease you not because we think you’re silly or stupid but because we *love* seeing 21 from the other side and we recognize so much of this and find humor in the familiarity. And she in turn teases us for being old. So it evens out. I adore her and couldn’t imagine not loving her, but she also has no desire to hear about my career progress and come to brunch or a wine evening that wraps at 9 with the old married ladies any more than I want to go clubbing with her and pull all nighters that end in diner food and sleeping on someone’s couch.

          • Kat said:

            My best girlfriend is 8 years older than I am (I’m 28, she’s 36), and we’ve been friends for a long time, but there was a definite shift as I got older. We first met when I was 18 and she was 26, and we were instantly friends, but the friendship was very different then. She had more of an older sister role\. As I aged, we grew closer largely because we had more in common: life experiences, frustrations, career stuff, etc. It’s really, really cool to look back and see how that change happened. I am very grateful to have found a best friend who let me act my age, held my hair that time I got WAY TOO DRUNK because I was young and inexperienced (and pining over a boy, naturally), listened to me pine over so many jerks, and become my closest friend apart from my partner.

            (And we live thousands of miles apart now, so I think I’m going to send her an emoji kiss and tell her I was thinking of her. She’s pretty much the best.)

          • I am also in this boat of having younger friends. I run a Halloween event, so the people I spend time with tend to be younger, gothier, and have time on their hands to volunteer for me. I value these friends a great deal for all they bring to my life, but I also recognize we are in very different places in life, with different concerns, and different emotional work on our plates. I’m glad to be able to offer them wisdom, but sometimes I feel a little lonely in my own troubles. My same-age friends are a godsend.

            I’m also partnered with someone 10 years my junior, having begun our now four year relationship when he was 25. We’ve been very careful in our relationship to be mindful of the power dynamic between us. Because there SO is one. I held an established life while he was still searching. We’ve both needed reminders that he needs to NOT tag along on my life, but possess/create his own. It hasn’t been easy. I’m grateful that we’ve had so much to offer one another that we truly value. He was eager for an established family and a clean break with dysfunction. I was eager for someone to join me in a weird life that was often a poor fit for people already in my age bracket.

            With so many younger friends (and being openly poly) I get a fair share of lost puppies who wouldn’t notice if I was mean to them. And I assure you. It is not that hard to be ethical about this. It is not that hard to remember that these young (hot) folks are human beings who deserve respect for their well-being. Who deserve to be told that I’m not all that, my opinion ain’t all that, and frankly, to turn them down every now and again when you’d rather not. Because you actually care about them and their lives.

            It’s just not that hard. People who won’t do it are not good people. They are selfish and they are crap at looking out for anyone other than themselves.

        • Bunny said:

          This. I am 32, and spent a few months recently training a 23 year old lad. He’s young, physically attractive, fit, funny, and after the training was over we developed a fun, mutually-salty friendship. I cannot even *imagine* myself and him in any kind of romantic relationship. My mind just automatically slots him in the *baby brother* category of my brain.

          A 17 year old? I think the last time I saw an attractive 17 year old I sort of went “Aw, what a handsome young man.” Y’know. The way old people do when they see cute kids.

          • DesertRose said:

            A friend of mine (she and I are both middle-aged mothers) refers to her perception of attractive people a generation younger than she is as “milk and cookies cute,” as in, she’s acknowledging that they are attractive human beings but because of the age difference, she feels she should be offering them a plate of homemade cookies and a glass of milk! (This is usually in the context of talking about attractive celebrities, often in discussions about the handsome famous young men over whom our respective daughters are making love-struck eyes.)

          • I have been working with high school students for the past three weeks. They all seem So. Damn. Young. to me.

          • Helen Huntingdon said:

            @DesertRose — Milk and cookies cute is a good one.

            I reached a point in my mid-thirties where a whole age group of men who always seemed far too old before suddenly looked attractive to me. And the youngest men, who were still asking me out because I looked their age, suddenly looked…not quite done, like cookies that had been taken out of the oven too soon.

            It’s been really weird the last few years when my young face means I’m now getting chatted up by eager guys who are literally young enough that I could be their mother. I’ve tried telling them that, which works on some of them, but a lot of them just think it makes me even more attractive, and then I have to go, “No dear, just…no.”

          • @DesertRose THAT IS WHAT I SAY TOOOOO!

            In this country (UK) it’s apparently now acceptable for men in their early 20s, or even late teens, to be “courting” women in their 40s. Like me, dammit. I find it super eeeeek-worthy. And my general response is “what does he want, milk and cookies?” Cos they are lovely people, but to me they’re *kids*.

            There’s a line in Last Vegas where one of the characters is about to marry a much younger lady, and one of his friend’s comment is something like “I’ve got haemorrhoids older than her.”

          • Agreed. I’ve gotten to know a young guy (17) who works a restaurant I end up at a lot. He’s smart, attractive, and witty. But the closest I’ve gotten to doing anything is mentally repeating to myself, “dammit, why can’t you be 20 years older?!?”

            Now, my brain is slightly defective, so it may not work the same as most people’s. But even if I were to seriously entertain the thought of pursuit, I would *never* act on it–because it’s a BAD IDEA. It’s creepy. And most of all, he is young enough for me to have *given birth* to someone that age. (I’m 40.)

            So the brain just stops right there. Nope nope nope nope. Same way with anyone is a relationship already–they could be the living embodiment of all my dreams and fantasies, and my main thought is’ “Dammit. Taken.” Because it’s bad idea and a generally shitty thing to do. You just don’t *do* shit like that if you’re a relatively decent person.

        • basketcasenz said:

          Agreed!
          I went back to uni recently, and one of my tutors (who was 10 years younger than me), I clearly remember thinking, “me, my first time around at uni would have had SUCH a crush on him”. Instead, I wasn’t interested.
          I do however, have a friend who has turned 50 and is involved in some… kinky… communities. His average age of partner is about half his age at the moment. They are all consenting adults, but I cant help find it a little squicky. At least he is genuinely nice to his partners, and he is actually still friends with a large number of them. Heck, I’m 20 years his junior and friends with him. He’s actually a nice guy.

          • Nashira said:

            This is a huge problem in the kink scene and one reason I no longer engage with it. It’s very common for male tops to exaggerate the “dangers” of kink with an age appropriate male because “they aren’t experienced enough and will hurt [you]”, when talking to any women, whom they assume are all submissive. It’s just a new twist on older men dating younger women because older women won’t take their crap.

          • PintsizeBro said:

            @Nashira (out of threading) – yeah, this is why I don’t engage with the kink “community” anymore either. I wish I could say that it were better in the gay leather scene than the straight one, but it’s really not.

          • Ros said:

            To be fair to the kink/poly community (having been involved in my early-to-mid-20s, prior to getting into a monogamous relationship with a dude my own age…) : the advantage of hooking up with an older guy is that they’re usually somewhat more competent in bed than guys in their early 20s (averages, not absolutes!), they usually have a primary relationship elsewhere where they’re getting their emotional support so they’re not dumping it all on your shoulders (unlike the guys in their early 20s who, on average and in my experience – notice the caveats – haven’t learned/been taught to handle their own stuff) and they’re at a place in their lives where they’re not rushing to move in with you to save money, their career is established and you’re not likely to hear about it all night, and they go away in the morning.

            Basically, if what you’re looking for is comfortable companionship with a guy who can hold a conversation, knows fun places to go to that aren’t bars, will be reliably decent in bed, and then will go away and not rely on you to handle their relationship with their family… then yeah, a guy in his late 30s makes sense (assuming you can read the signs and avoid the creeps, obv).

            But note that I did that casually, and then got serious with a guy my own age. These were NOT people to have a relationship with – too much baggage.

    • Anothermous said:

      This comment speaks the truth, right here.

      • CommanderBanana said:

        Ran out of nesting, but I LOVE milk and cookies cute. What an adorable expression!

        My girlfriends and I refer to a dude who is cute but not sexy or cute but too young as “He’s cute-awwww! not cute-uhhhhn!” as in, awww like a puppy, not uhhnnn I am finding this dude sexy right now.

        • zephyr haversack said:

          “Milk and cookies cute” sounds like he should be in Lisa Simpson’s fave magazine “Harmless Boy”.

          Back on track — LW, he’s a sack of mean, manipulative crap. Run away fast. Just go. Now. We all want love, but this isn’t it. It’s the opposite. If you think this is what love feels like, you are sadly part of a very large population, so don’t feel bad, just be angry that you’ve been misled into believing that — that you have to work for love, that people who claim to love you need you to change in specific ways to suit them (parents might demand all A’s before they smile at you, boyfriends might demand perfect butts before they do you the magificent honor of having mediocre sex with you), but that’s just messed up. Please, you deserve better, even if the douchebag has you convinced otherwise.

          You’ve been mezmerized by a skeevy, cheap-ass stage magician into thinking you’re a chicken, but you’re a beautiful, lovable swan. Just The Way You Are — like the song.

          The Song — remember the song!!! If someone love you Just The Way You Are, they actually do love you. There’s your litmus test, right there.

    • Yeah, guys like this aren’t dating young girls for their “maturity.” Very much the opposite, because you don’t know any better to buy literally any bullshit he tells you. That’s what other girls are here for: to let you know it’s bullshit.

    • Alexia said:

      I used to regularly talk with a classmate who is 19 and he spent a lot of time bragging about “how mature” he was for his age. He also spent a lot of time trying to flirt with me in the most awkward way I’ve ever seen anyone flirt with anyone ever.

      Meanwhile I’m in my early 30s, married, seeing *every little bit of immaturity he has* and telling myself “No way.” He’s smart, interesting, and gorgeous – for his age – but there is 1) no way I’m going to cheat on my lovely husband and 2) the age gap made me feel like a real creep for even thinking my classmate is good-looking. Took me months to even acknowledge that he was flirting with me because I have no idea how someone who is in their 30s would be attractive for someone in the 18-21 age range.

      I encouraged the classmate to try to date girls his age and tried to maneuver our discussions into a platonic friendship, but the maturity difference ended up being too large, so it didn’t work out.

      I can’t imagine how messed up you have to be to systematically target someone from that age group when you’re over 25.

      • Myrin said:

        I feel like maturity is one of these things where if you have to constantly proclaim you have them, it’s proof that you actually don’t.

    • Anisoptera said:

      Yes exactly. I was a “mature for my age” 19 year old, but on hindsight, about 20 years later, I’ve changed *so much* in that time that the thought of dating a 19 year old (or 17 year old!!!) now seems unimaginably creepy (I dated someone my current age when I was 19…ugh). I think what I meant about mature for my age (and what other people meant) was that I was smart and bookish and fairly sensible. LW I bet you’re a whip smart, non-silly person who is fairly sensible! But it turns out that the most important thing when it comes to dating older people is just all that experience you get with how people behave and how it’s possible to like someone who seems nice but who is actually basically a lizard person wearing an appealing human skin. You learn to spot that (you’re learning it right now, sadly). But the lizard people do love to prey on young people who haven’t quite learnt what it looks like yet, or haven’t learnt fully how to set boundaries around how other people treat them and what they’ll put up with. Anyway, the other, very important point is that while it’s awesome that you’re smart and sensible, an older person who acts young for their age is someone you are going to rapidly surpass, as you discover just why it is that older people act older (for various smart and sensible reasons that you’ll pick up fairly rapidly as you encounter adult life) and then that “younger acting” person is going to start seeming more and more awful. Because trust me – they’re either putting it on to manipulate young people into dating them, or they’re a hot mess who can’t get their life together enough to date people their own age, or both, often both. Sounds like both in this case.

    • Anonchalance said:

    • HelloYello said:

      I totally agree. Call this sheer speculation but I have a feeling there’s a lot of “You’re so CHILL, not like those OTHER girls!” And “I say TRUE(mean) things because I CARE about you, don’t you want me to be AUTHENTIC WITH YOU?!” as well as “I’m totally A GOOD GUY, all of my ex’s were CRAZY!” In addition to the “You’re so mature for your age!”

      LW, these are not compliments. They are supposed to look like compliments so that when you try and call him out on them he can retain plausible deniability. I know you know this, otherwise you wouldn’t have written your letter and you wouldn’t have labored over and over the logical inconsistency that is someone who says “I LOVE YOU” but their actions speak to the contrary.

      That is why The Captain’s advice is so spot on in regards to letting yourself be angry. That is why so many commentors are breathing literal fire and melting their computers. That is because we have been there, done that and KNOW: that angry fire is your most fundamental tool. It is the furnace in which you form the magical white hot swords of “Giving Zero Fucks” and those are what let you cut down all the lies, bullshit and injustice. Be aware though, none of that is easy and if you haven’t done it before it is so SCARY. You’ve no doubt been told implicitly and explicitly that “good girls” don’t get angry. And that you’re probably a CRAZY B*TCH, And that whatever happened you probably were to blame too, so you really don’t have a right to be mad. Those are the lies other people tell you to keep you small. Please don’t listen.

      Here are some songs to help!
      Chic Gamine and Frazey Ford respectively.

    • jo said:

      YES. LW, I recognize your boyfriend’s tactics. The shit he does to you (and almost definitely to the other women he messes around with) is the way that loser guys, even as they age, can keep young and traditionally hot women hanging around them to bang whenever they please. He gives you amazing sweetness and passion and compliments just often enough to keep you wanting more, and the rest of the time he ignores or belittles you AS A DELIBERATE TECHNIQUE to manipulate you into working even harder for his attention. He has told you outright, the main thing on his mind is that he wants to fuck hot young women with “perfect” asses, and he has perfected a strategy for keeping himself in a position to do that anytime he wants.

      He is doing it on purpose. He wants you to feel this way. He doesn’t love* you.

      *Even if he did, do you really think you owe something to every guy who feels love towards you? You deserve love from the men you date! Love is not a favor that you are obligated to repay with unending loyalty and forgiveness. If a man makes you unhappy, you get to leave him, even if he does love you. The more important question is, is the relationship good and right for YOU.

  4. Cinnabar said:

    I rebuke thee!

    (Okay now I’ll go read the answer. :D)

    • And the people said, “Amen.”

  5. Karyn said:

    Run. Don’t walk–run. Be thankful he lives thousands of miles away.

    Hang out with friends. Go to the movies. Read. Play video games. If there is a hobby you’ve fallen away from, try to pick it back up. If you’re in school, throw yourself into your studies–consider taking summer classes, even. If you’re working, put some focus on that–pick up extra shifts or try for more responsibilities. Fill your time and your heart with awesome.

    • lisakoby said:

      Yes, this. Self-care x 1000

  6. bleh said:

    LW: You are amazing. You deserve better. Do turn that love on yourself as the Captain suggests.

  7. alexcansmile said:

    The Captain’s advice is spot on. It’s not love if you’ll never be good enough. Love IS respect. Please take the Captain’s advice LW. –jedi hugs–

    • JulieB. said:

      Agree! As one who is prone to unhealthy relationship due to childhood “stuff”, my therapist reminds me often: Criticism is Not Compassion. Criticism is Not Love.

      Jedi Hugs and know that you are awesome just as you are and at 19, there are so many, many young men out there who will also find you awesome just as you are.

  8. slfisher said:

    omg. I can’t even.

    lw, I’m so sorry that this guy has even tried to convince you that this is what loving behavior is like.

    • babblemouth said:

      I feel like this is the only moment when #NotAllMen is appropriate: when a douchebag tries to convince someone his behaviour is like what 100% of men will do, and a girl should just settle.
      NO.
      Not All Men are like that, for real, and LW, you can expect SO much better.

  9. Oh LW. You are so much better than this horrible man, and he knows it. Your friends all know it. And we, the people reading your letter, know it. I read your letter and I see myself at your age, surrounded by older men trying to make me feel small enough that they were all I would deserve. (We call that grooming. It’s gross.)

    You are too awesome to be treated like this. You know what you need to do, and I believe that you can do it.

    • walkingwhilefemale said:

      It sucks just how many of us can see ourselves in this LW, but I’m glad for her sake – we’ve been there, done it, gotten out (hopefully) unscathed and have found this fantastic community of terrifyingly amazing, supportive people. I’m rooting for her so hard!

      • walkingwhilefemale said:

        Unscathed might be the wrong sentiment here. A better way of saying what I meant was we all came out *strong*.

        Second time today I’ve had to post an edit comment because I am just BURNING with fury at this jerkface.

        • FlyBy said:

          Yes – been there, done that, it hurt, we survived and learned and grew and found other people like us. Sadly crap boyfriends are more of a rite of passage than an anomaly. But happily it’s a survivable passage.

    • neverjaunty said:

      Beautifully put.

      LW, he doesn’t say these things because one day you will magically meet his standards and then be worthy of his love; he says them because he wants you to feel unworthy, always.

      • Brisvega said:

        You are not supposed to meet his standards! If you ass was magically perfect, he would find something else to critique. Suddenly, your hair or boobs would be wrong or your pronunciation of words or your cooking or SOMETHING. The point is to make you wrong, small and desperate for his approval.

        You can’t meet his standards, because they are rigged against you. He has to knock you down so he can feel powerful and so that you aren’t confident enough to leave his scared, insecure, nasty self. If you go, he will come on strong and amazing to some other young woman and then find a way to belittle her, in turn.

        I have seen this so many times. You deserve so much better.

  10. lisakoby said:

    LW: He doesn’t love you. He just doesn’t.

    He acts like this because he knows that you would dump his ass post haste if he didn’t constantly keep you in a state of anxiety about bullshit ‘flaws’, and by inconsistently dispensing attention pellets to keep you on the hook. He’s hooked in a nice person, and is actively manipulating you to keep access to your attention/body when convenient.

    This is not a reflection of you or your worth in the world. There is no way you can exercise your ass into an acceptable height/width/aspect ratio to earn his love and the attempt is not going to serve you.

    He doesn’t love you. He loves himself. People who love you don’t treat you like this. Period.

    This is one of those statements that is true, simple and really hard.

    Block block block him and do not every release him from the corner. He’s not a safe, good or supportive person for you.

    • Mary said:

      And if he did love her, it still wouldn’t be OK! Someone who loves you and treats you terribly (because they don’t know any better, because they aren’t dealing with their own shit, because they think this is how you’re supposed to treat people you love) is someone you should not be with. Love does not conquer all.

      • JMegan said:

        This is kind of where I’m coming from too. Maybe he does love LW, but his *behaviour* towards her is reprehensible. Who cares what he’s feeling, if this is the way he is acting.

        LW, I’m going to add my voice to the chorus saying that you are beautiful and strong and smart (and probably have a very nice ass), just the way you are. And you deserve much, much better than this.

        • That’s pretty much why I got divorced. My ex-husband was always quick to tell me how much he loved me, but was never available emotionally and did SFA to help with kids and house and what not.

          LW – you deserve better. The better is out there. Go out and find your version of ‘better’ (it may even be remaining single!).

      • charmedomega said:

        ^ This.

      • lisakoby said:

        Very true…had a friend who loved and frankly was loved by a rather spiteful guy. He was still s jerk and not good for her.

      • Well said, Mary! M. Scott Peck makes much the same point in The Road Less Travelled – he says that love is something you *do*, not something you feel. Loving someone means acting lovingly towards them, not moping about saying “I love you” while you verbally abuse your partner or abandon your kids while you go out drinking.

    • thegirlfrommarz said:

      “People who love you don’t treat you like this. Period.” Word.

      As the Captain so wisely said a few years ago, people who like you will act like they like you.

      Ask yourself if you would ever treat a boyfriend or even a friend that way yourself? Would you say cruel things to him about his supposed “flaws” and then tell him you’re just being honest? Would you visit the city where he lives and not tell him, or go on a trip without him but with another man? Would you disrespect him and treat him badly? I know you wouldn’t, because that kind of person wouldn’t have written this letter.

      LW, you sound like such a lovely and loving person. Your boyfriend is preying on your kindness, your struggles with self-esteem, and the fact that you’re young, and using these things to manipulate you. You deserve much better than this person who makes you feel sad and hurt. Loving someone else means wanting the best for them, and this man doesn’t want the best for you – he wants to keep you off-kilter and anxious so that you don’t question the way he is behaving towards you. Kick him to the kerb and don’t look back. You may well be sad for a while, but sooner than you would ever imagine you will feel relief and happiness that he is out of your life. Jedi hugs to you, LW

    • lisakoby is right. LW, he is encouraging you to nitpick your own alleged imperfections and flaws, and keeping you so busy with “self-improvement” activities that you probably don’t have much time to catch a breath and realize you’re fine as you are, that he is 100% definitely not trying to improve himself for you, and he is also 100% making you feel bad and obsessed about where you allegedly fall short of his ideas of perfection (or “good-enough-ness”) so you don’t take a moment to look at him and wonder what the hell he is bringing to the table, and what kind of asshole makes someone they supposedly love always feel bad about herself, not good enough, and/or unworthy of fidelity or respect.

      Your BF is bad, and should feel bad. I bet he doesn’t, though.

  11. Squirrel said:

    Can we have a horrible romantic partner contest the same way Ask a Manager has a horrible boss contest? Because this one would be a contender.

    • stellanor said:

      I feel like that would end up being the saddest contest…

        • Jenny Islander said:

          Maybe a “Look Back and Laugh” contest, for the stuff that’s funny now.

          • I dunno. If we’re using CA letter subjects as our archetypes, mine is a dead ringer for 861, and even after three years, I’m still more chagrined than amused at the shit I put up with.

          • stellanor said:

            In high school I dated a guy who wore a trenchcoat and a fedora with acid-wash jeans, three wolf moon-type tees, and athletic shoes. And he had a mullet. And loved chivalry. And was a total Nice Guy. In retrospect it was Socially Inept Dude Stereotype Bingo.

            It took 10+ years before I could look back at that and laugh more than I cringed, although it’s still like 70% laugh 30% cringe. On the plus side he did make 16 year old me realize how very, very much I valued good social skills and social awareness in a romantic partner. And it’s pretty funny.

          • My ex and I met in college. He had a trench coat. And a fedora. And the t-shirts. And would have been into chivalry if I hadn’t shut that shit down early on (though he’d later go on to show his rejection of chivalry by letting me do everything for him). It might take 10+ years of heavy drinking for me to get over this one, and I no longer drink more than a beer at a time unless the Broncos are playing. :/

    • manybellsdown said:

      I think the “my boyfriend sits in the bathroom all day so I can’t ever pee in my own house and we’re late to everything” is the all-time winner. I still hope for an update on that letter every day.

      • RobinG said:

        Oh, *shudder*, I had blocked that one from my memory. It is terrifying how somebody can twist a person’s perception of what is acceptable.

      • lizinthelibrary said:

        Me too! I really want an update.

        Actually we very rarely get updates from LWs. I adore updates on Ask a manager and would love them here too. But I’m always rooting for the happy ending! Happy ending does not mean “find a new partner” the way people think it is. Happy Ending = finding peace and a place in the world.

        PS – here the happy ending is her leaving this guy. Can we talk about the levels of grooming going on here? I read “in the future I might love you if you’re ass is better but now I’m leaving with this other woman” as “I know she won’t put up with this act for very long so I’m setting you up to be my next abuse victim/relationship.”

      • stellanor said:

        At what point do you just escalate to “If you don’t get out of the bathroom in the next five minutes I am going to pee in your shoes”?

        That is certainly my dog’s tactic if I don’t take him outside…

    • BigdogLittlecat said:

      I want to start a CA posse to hunt down creeps like this and feed them to rabid squirrels. Rabid squirrels with dull teeth, and paper cut-inducing claws. That pee lemon juice. While eating. Slowly.

      • I’m in. Gimme a call when ready, I’ll be sharpening my spikes.

        • Let me book a few alibis and I will be available to tote squirrels and hold coats.

          • Kai Lowell said:

            I’ll bring the napalm-laced bandaids to “patch them up”.

          • I call driver. Also, I’m a great alibi.

  12. B. said:

    Dear LW:
    I’ve nothing new to add to the Captain’s wonderful advice, because she said everything I wanted to say, but better. Just, you deserve to be happy. Your boyfriend doesn’t make you happy; in fact, he actively makes you unhappy (so he’ll feel better about his own shit, I assume. What he should be doing, what an adult person would do, is dealing with his shit in a constructive way instead of hurting you with it). If there’s anyone in this relationship who should have their title revoked, it’s him. No boyfriend worth his salt makes his girlfriend feel like crap.
    There’s a saying in my language that goes “better to be alone that in bad company”. It became a saying because it’s true: you will feel sad and hurt and alone when you dump your undeserving-of-his-title boyfriend, but those feelings will still be better than the constant hurt you’re dealing with now.
    Stay strong, LW, and go be happy with people who treat you well. You deserve it!
    Love,
    B.

    • That is a saying that needs to be absorbed into English.

      • Cactus said:

        I thought it had been absorbed into English…I’ve heard it attributed to George Washington, I think.

        • Maybe it’s regional? Or maybe I’m even more out of touch than I thought?

          • My grandmother liked to say, “It takes a mighty good man to be better than no man at all.”

            LW, listen to my grandmother! He is not a good man. I agree everyone above– if ever there was a proper time to ghost, this is it. Go, just, go and never look back.

    • Donna-Lee Tucker said:

      My grandmother used to say better an empty flat than a bad tenant. She was mostly talking about gas, but I think the sentiment is the same. As in, not putting up with that shit any more.

      • This dude’s nothing more than a human-shaped fart cloud anyway. It fits.

        • fwiw, I suspect the “gas” in question is the kind you use for heating and cooking. But I still like your thought process.

          • I’m pretty sure the “evicting a bad tenant” thing refers to farty type gas. You wouldn’t really want the other kind to escape…

          • My mind went to farts because of Donna-Lee Tucker’s immediate follow-up reference to shit. And because I stopped maturing at 12. Which still makes me better than LW’s “boyfriend.”

          • LoL… I saw a twitter post from the actress Kate Walsh the other day, and it was something a 12-year-old had told her: “Why is love like a fart? …..Because if you have to force it, it’s probably shit.”

            That is one worldly wise 12 year old.

      • clovenpine said:

        Usually when I say something made me “laugh out loud,” I’m referring to a quiet snort or a soft, ladylike chuckle. When I read this, I GUFFAWED and drooled coffee onto my blouse. I’m pretty sure your grandmother owes me for dry-cleaning.

        “Better an empty flat than a bad tenant.” HA!

      • B. said:

        I agree, that’s a good equivalent! ^^ My mom always used this saying to reming kid-me that I didn’t have to put up with alleged friends being mean to me, and to soothe kid-me when I felt friendless and lonely, so it holds a special place in my heart 🙂

  13. TO_Ont said:

    This guy is a revolting piece of shit, but don’t beat yourself up for not seeing it.

    If someone you spend that much time thinking about and caring about and paying attention to tells you stuff, it’s very natural for humans to start to accept that as part of reality. Humans are social animals and we have an immense ability to influence each other’s world view. It’s also likely that this guy looked carefully and found some things you already had self-doubt about or that other abusive people had already insulted you about.

    The reason I’m saying this is, if you do as I sincerely hope you do and put every lock and password and phone block you can between you and this person, there may come a time when you get just enough clear of his poison to start to feel stupid or weak for ever having gone out with him. Try to forgive yourself! It’s not you – it’s him.

    • Yeah, I feel like this girl is living in the House of Evil Bees, but she’s gotten so used to them that she thinks everyone’s house has bees and they’re just something you have to put up with.

      • +1

        Unfortunately, I’ve noticed this is a thing that culture teaches women (and I’m pretty sure people on this site have talked about it before): your male partner might do XYZ but if you want to be with someone, you have to put up with it. XYZ might be anything from “doesn’t pick up the shit he left lying around the house when I ask” to the body-shaming bullshittery the asshat in the letter was doing to LW, or anything else equally awful. Of course any partner you have will have some quirks or tendencies that you find annoying, but there’s a HUGE difference between a partner who sometimes forgets to pick up their laundry because they’re human and a partner who belittles and berates you at every turn.

        I was lucky enough to escape this programming (and turned out queer anyway, haha), but it makes me so sad to see. My fiancee’s mom is a sweetheart and her dad is…a piece of work. I wish she would leave him, because all he does is make fun of things she likes and yell at her when she doesn’t do things exactly as she wants, but anyway. Enough with my rambling. LW, please leave him and find ways to love yourself. You are worth that. ❤

        • Yeah, and the XYZ stuff starts small, so it’s difficult to gauge what’s acceptable and what isn’t, and in the latter case, it just keeps growing and growing until all of a sudden your shoulders are aching from the gigantic burden you’re carrying.

          I think the difference is that in acceptable cases, you can reach compromises that are followed through.

          • I commented on another forum that women are essentially socialized to accept the absolute bare minimum as their just desserts. If a man has high standards or expectations, that’s his prerogative. If a woman has *any* standards or expectations, she’s demanding and unreasonable.

          • Yeah, and the self-blame spiral you get into for raising said standards/expectations is…well, it’s hard to get out of, that’s for sure. I’m 3-4 months out and still blame myself for having needs because I thought I was too clingy, even though it turns out from comparing notes that *I* was the reasonable one, not my ex.

      • Anonchalance said:

        This is more than just a House of Evil Bees. It’s like a Convention Center of Evil Bees. Actually, considering how much he takes his shit-show on the road, it’s like a Hotel Chain of Evil Bees.

        • DoctorMead said:

          “HELLO, SEATTLE! WE ARE THE EVIL BEES WORLD TOUR!”

          “Two, three, four!”

          *insert deathmetal cover of “The Flight of the Bumblebee”*

          *screams as the audience flees the demonic bee swarm*

          • Frankie said:

            …Can a death-metal “Flight of the Bumblebee” please be a real thing?

          • This…is a thing of terrifying beauty!

    • Cassandra said:

      I agree! Letter Writer, you are not a chump. You are not foolish for loving what seemed lovable in him. YOU ARE NOT A CHUMP. If you can carry anything good away from the raging garbage fire that is this dude’s influence on your life, I hope it’s confidence in your own capacity to love.

    • Angel said:

      Also, some really creepy psychology experimentation has proven that brains don’t separate “one person told me this a hundred times” from “a hundred people told me this once”. So if you hear something from one person enough times, it starts to feel like EVERYONE THINKS THIS. And you respond as any rational social creature would respond to everyone thinking something, and start acting in that way.

      Don’t fall prey to the braintalk trap! This is one dude, not a hundred dudes. Find a different dude who will tell you that you’re beautiful and enough just the way you are a hundred times.

  14. Oh honey. This guy makes me so, SO angry for the way he is emotionally abusing you.

    I’m sorry, because I know you love him. But he is not a good person. At all.

    And how fucking DARE he tell you that you “didn’t look good enough to be seen with him there”? That is absolutely disgusting. You are worth so much more than this and you ARE beautiful and you deserve someone who can appreciate that, not someone who tells you this bullshit. This guy has such a need to feel like he’s better than everyone else (especially women, I can tell you for certain) that he achieves this by putting you down to make himself look better. It doesn’t. It makes him look like a grade A fucknugget.

    • Guava said:

      YES.

      Maybe you “didn’t look good enough to be seen with him” in public because then it would be 100% bloody obvious to even a casual observer that he was grooming and abusing a teenager.

      I have so much rage for this guy. So much rage.

    • Big Pink Box said:

      This! It made me tear up just reading about how she allegedly didn’t “look good enough”.

      LW – He doesn’t love you. Have you ever seen a cat toying with its prey? It won’t gobble a mouse or bird up, it’ll bat it around, chew it, maim it, play with it. Your “boyfriend” is the cat. He does this to you because it’s fun for him, he gets off on it, and in return he gets a broken, wingless little bird who he can mess with forever. Sweetheart – you need to get away from him, heal those wings, and grow back your beautiful feathers. You deserve to soar and swoop freely, not hop around, dragging your battered plumage behind you.

      You are a good person, you have a lot of love to give, so save it for someone who deserves it. First though, as terribly clichéd as this sounds, you have to work on loving You. Your beauty does not lie in vital statistics, looks, or anything so ephemeral, it is in your strength, your resilience, and your drive to make your world a better place for you, and for everyone in it. I bet you’re great at that, caring for other people, lifting them up. Resolve not to say negative things about yourself, and to slam the door in the face of anyone else who does that.

      Cut him out of your life and don’t ever look back. Mobile/cellphone providers will often change your number for free if you are getting abuse (you are). Share your new number with Team You, the people who you can trust to support you. No jerkfaces allowed.

      You’re stronger than you know.

      • This is so beautifully written and I agree with every single word. thank you, Big Pink Box.

      • Light37 said:

        And keep in mind, the cat is just doing this because it’s not sure how to kill its prey. He’s doing this because he enjoys hurting you.

        • MuddieMae said:

          I read recently that cats do that to tire their prey out so the prey can’t haul off and bite the cat or whatever. No idea if that’s actually true, but it’s a pretty solid metaphor for this dbag – he’ll keep toying around with you until you can’t fight back anymore.

    • Myrtle said:

      My own experience has taught me that those things I loved about the abusers were attributes of mine that I’d projected onto them.

  15. Oh LW!

    It doesn’t matter whether he loves you (spoiler: he doesn’t) because his behavior is nasty and unacceptable.

    So you don’t have to accept it. Leave.

    That thing he said about all men look at other women and tell their SOs how they don’t stack up isn’t true. Well most of what he said isn’t true – lying another reason to drop him.

    Lots of other boys and men will think you’re wonderful. You’ll think lots of boys and men are wonderful. You’ll date some, you’ll love some, some will love you, some won’t.

    Some time in the future you and your friends or maybe your SO will mention the horrible man you sort of dated as a teen, and you’ll say “huh. I wonder if he’s still such a jerk” and then you’ll go back to talking about more important things – by which I mean anything.

    His behavior towards you is horrible.

    Jedi hugs if you want them.

  16. KDru said:

    If someone loves you, you will not be a project to them.

    *sets everything on fire*

    • Guava said:

      Seriously. I’m at Khal-Drogo-carrying-cauldron-of-molten-gold-toward-Viserys levels of rage here right now.

      • walkingwhilefemale said:

        I’m at Dany-overturning-braziers-of-fire level myself.

        • ralucahippie said:

          I’m pissed off enough to wish Ramsay Bolton upon him

          • MellifluousDissent said:

            …AND Ramsay’s dogs. Seriously.

            LW, at its heart, love isn’t a feeling (or at least, it’s not just a feeling) – it’s a collection of words and actions and behaviors that one person exhibits towards the other. To make use of a perhaps overly-trite phrase, love’s not a noun, it’s a verb. This guy *may* noun/feelings-“love” you, but he is not actually loving you. Not with his words, not with his actions, not with his behavior. Whatever he thinks/feels, the things he’s actively doing aren’t love at all – they’re contempt and disrespect, and you deserve so, so much more than that.

            And LW, I can hear you responding… “What do you mean I deserve that? How do you know, when you’ve never met me?” LW, I know from your letter that you are loving, and kind, and loyal, and supportive, and that you’re able to give your whole heart to somebody just because you care about them, without asking for anything in return. And that is absolutely a beautiful thing. Take all of that beautiful lovingness and turn it on yourself, and your friends, and the people who treat you with care and respect. Don’t waste one more moment on this terrible man-boy who is only trying to suck you dry of your amazing power for love and compassion and kindness.

          • clovenpine said:

            I’m pretty sure this dude IS Ramsay Bolton. This sounds very like what Ramsay did to Reek, short actually flaying the LW.

          • I know this isn’t the same person, but I somehow read Ramsay Bolton but pictured Gordon Ramsay, and really either one would work in this situation.

          • MellifluousDissent said:

            @betterpast, out of nesting, but let’s just send ALL the Ramsays this guy’s way.

          • this is A Good Plan

  17. You Deserve Better said:

    I dated this man, except I was his older girlfriend. Trust me, he will not change. He is insecure and it actually makes him feel better about himself when he puts you down. That isn’t love in any sense and it can be very hard after an experience like this to realize that.

    It can be really hard to move on from this special type of emotionally abusive asshole. There are moments of extreme lows and highs, and you do get addicted to the constant adrenaline of fighting and making up – especially because when he chooses you you feel like you’ve ‘won’ vs. the other women he is pitting you against and it gives you all the validation that he won’t give you verbally.

    All I can say is run, run far away and seek help – whether that be professional or from friends and family. This experience will shape how you believe love ‘should’ feel like and it will take time and talking through it to reset that expectation. In my case, it took a few years and then meeting someone who actually loves me to realize love doesn’t feel like constant anxiety and constant adrenaline.

    Sending you so many hugs!

  18. Mary said:

    There is a quotation that my girlfriend loves, which is that staying in a bad relationship is like staying in a cooling bath. You stay there, even knowing that it’s awful and getting worse, because the bit where you actually get out is going to be worse. But the thing is, as soon as you get out, it’s worse, but from there on, it just gets better. You get a towel, and you start drying yourself, and then you warm up! Whereas if you stay in the cooling bath, you just get colder and colder, and you still have to get out sooner or later.

    Leave. It’ll feel bad immediately, but it will very, very quickly start feeling better. Oh SO much better. Opt for the warm, cuddly towel of your single self and I promise you won’t regret it.

    • Love this analogy.

    • Brittany said:

      This is so excellent and so true!

    • Nicole C said:

      This is a wonderful analogy.

      • Turtle Candle said:

        Hah, so wonderful we both had to say so in exactly the same words! (True, though.)

    • Turtle Candle said:

      This is a wonderful analogy.

    • thathat said:

      I’ve heard it called a frog-kettle. Because there’s old wives tale (I don’t know if it’s true, and I kinda hope no one ever actually did this) that if you put a frog in boiling water, it’ll jump out, of course. But if you put it in a pot or a kettle with regular water, and put that on the boiler, the frog will just sit there, not noticing as the water gets hotter and hotter, until it’s passively boiled alive.

      um. The bath analogy is probably nicer. Because it involves fluffy towels and no boiled frogs.

      • Agree, plus many of us have had baths, and few of us have been cooked. Plus a lot of urban folks have never even seen a frog. The bath is much easier to identify with.

        • TO_Ont said:

          I am pretty certain frogs don’t actually do that, also.

          I can’t imagine an animal that only responded to temperature changes if they were sudden would survive very long. Especially a cold-blooded one that depends on its environment to regulate its body temperature!

          • Aris Merquoni said:

            As long as we’re already derailed: No, frogs which are put in slowly warming water hop out as soon as the water gets uncomfortable–this has been tested by science. But the metaphor has stuck with us.

            The same study found that if a scientist cuts out part of the frog’s brain, the frog will stay in the water until it is injuriously hot. I think a scientist cutting into a frog’s brain is a better metaphor for an abusive relationship, but very few people have heard of this study.

          • Cactus said:

            Yeah, the “boiling frog” metaphor totally creeped me out for a while. Finding out a few years ago that the frog always jumps out in the end was…just what I needed at the time, to get my brain out of a bad workplace interpersonal dynamics “THIS WILL NEVER GET BETTER AND I AM STUCK!” situation.

    • thegirlfrommarz said:

      I love this analogy too!

      On the analogy front, something Allen Carr said about quitting smoking seems relevant here:
      Smokers often talk about how good it feels when you have a cigarette. Carr points out that for a nicotine addict, having a cigarette brings you back up to “normal” – back to how non-smokers feel all the time. So what feels like something really good is actually just an end to feeling bad. He compares it to plunging your hand in boiling water just to feel the relief when you take it out again. LW, is it possible that even the great times you have with your boyfriend are (at least partly) the relief of taking your hand out of that pot of boiling water?

      Another thing I wanted to say is that when I was your age I thought all “real” relationships were full of drama. I was supposed to feel terrible lows and incredible highs, just like all the love stories I read and watched. Then I met someone great and it was all so… easy. And fun, and sexy, and real. He liked me and made it clear that he liked me. He didn’t play games or withhold affection, and every time we were together he made it clear that he thought I was beautiful, funny, and great company. It was so much better than any of the star-crossed lovers stuff I thought was so romantic. The secret I had to learn about relationships is that there is no secret. (I wish someone had told me that back when I was your age, so I hope it helps you.)

      • I agree. Real love is easy. So delightful.

        Because both parties are thrilled to make the other one happy. There’s respect and discovery and support.

        Unfortunately, that makes for a boring book/movie. So people get the wrong idea. 🙂

  19. toniprufrock said:

    LW, this commentariat is a fantastic place for advice and I hope you get it all on top of the captain’s excellent response. I wish I could come up with something eloquent but I’m just so mad on your behalf I can’t form anything else but this:

    Your ‘boyfriend’ is a shit stain.

    You deserve so much better. You are so clearly full of kindness and love and he is full of such bile. I’m sure there are good times at times, but there is no respect and no love from him. He speaks to you how I (and, I imagine, you) wouldn’t even speak your worst enemy.
    Please, please dump him before he leeches away any more of your colour.

  20. Coffeegirl_Karin said:

    Nothing to add to the Captain’s excellent advice, LW, but I’m sending you massive Jedi hugs!

    You deserve so much better.

  21. mamacitaconpistoles said:

    Oh, LW. LW, this guy can’t take you out on NYE because he can’t be seen in public with a woman without a perfect ass? That’s when I went rage-blind and couldn’t get much past it because of the red haze obscuring my vision.

    Objectively, no one, ever, under any circumstances provided it’s appropriately adorned for the occasion, ever has an ass unfit for the public.

    If that is true about strangers and anyone’s bottom, (it is), it is unquestionably true about *your* specific ass and the company of this specific guy who says he loves you.

    Also, if someone says “I’m too good for what you offer, but I can’t live without this thing you offer that isn’t good enough for me?” Don’t trust theme or believe them.

    The job of partners is to support and sustain each other. He should be as nice to you as he expects you to be to him.

    You deserve to be with someone who is kind, loving, and appreciative of all the things you bring to the world.

    You know this! You’ve already got your eye on the ball. Now bat it out of the park, leave the field, and don’t look back. You’re ready to switch leagues.

  22. Clarry said:

    This guy doesn’t sound smart enough to know what he’s doing on purpose, but he’s handing out intermittent reinforcement.
    “Intermittent Reinforcement is when rules, rewards or personal boundaries are handed out or enforced inconsistently and occasionally. This usually encourages another person to keep pushing until they get what they want from you without changing their own behavior.”
    Intermittent reinforcement is a particularly powerful stuff. He’s using it against you to get what he wants. Now you have to use it for yourself to do what’s good for you. You know you should block him completely, but what do you do when you feel that desire for some attention from him? What do you do when you’re hanging on that feeling that you’re special to him and want to forgive him so you can get that feeling?

    First, make a list of things that feel wonderful to you that have nothing to do with him. Do you love dancing by yourself in your room with the music turned up loud? Or calling a friend? Or working out? Or reading science fiction? Or going to farmer’s markets, especially ones with goats and alpacas? (This is largely my list because I don’t know what’s on your list. There are no rights or wrongs. Just think about what you love.) Then, when you feel that urge to unblock him, run do something on your list instead.

    • ashbet said:

      I was trying to find an article about the power of intermittent reinforcement that wasn’t super-jargon-heavy — couldn’t find the one I read in a doctor’s waiting room years ago, but here’s one that’s pretty good:

      http://lorricraig.com/psychologist/relationships/on-off-relationships/

      LW, you deserve so much better. I have been in your position, and managed to move on and have a good life (and partners who genuinely loved, desired, and respected me), after I’d had some time to do the necessary self-work (including getting counseling.

      There is a fabulous life awaiting you, full of possibilities and excitement, once you get off this asshat’s hook.

      *Jedi hugs*

      • BeldamSansMerci said:

        This covers it pretty well, along with other tricks the guy in the letter is using to keep LW engaged:
        http://issendai.livejournal.com/572510.html
        (I first read this after being linked to it in comments on a CA post years ago… it’s pretty sad to think how many times I’ve had occasion to refer back to it since then.)

    • This exactly. The old experiments on intermittent reinforcement were done in pigeons: they spin in a circle, they sometimes get food. The thing is, the pigeons only care if they’re hungry; you have to take away their food for a day to motivate them or they’ll just sit and stare at you like “nah bro I don’t need what you’re selling.”

      This is exactly what this guy is doing – starving you so you’re desperate for the reward. Fill yourself with love, LW. Your own self-love, the love of your friends, of people you haven’t met yet, your Team You. Fill yourself until there is no room left for his poison.

  23. Nymuria said:

    “that love is more about you and your wonderfulness and loyalty and the spark of joy inside you than it is about him.”
    Why have I never heard anyone say this before? So beautiful and true.

    LW – your letter gave me chills. I have dated much older men at your age, and I don’t think it’s about that. I also dated a guy my age who was just like this guy. And I didn’t even realize I was being emotionally abused until some other chick (who I never even thought liked me) stood up for me one day as he was telling me I had applied my lipstick wrong. Suddenly, it clicked what was happening as I saw myself from the outside of the relationship. Please cut him off like a gangrenous appendage. He is hurting you. You will probably spend decades remembering that ass comment every time you put on a skirt or a pair of pants. He can be nice and sweet when he wants to, but he doesn’t get to switch to Mr Hyde at will. He uses women. He knows what to say. And he’s stringing you along. I’m so sorry you found him. So sorry. I hope you can find the will to cut him out of your life forever. He doesn’t deserve you, and he’s whiddling away at your self esteem so that you think you don’t deserve anything better. Don’t wonder if you will ever find a guy who will accept all your flaws.Listen to the voice in you who KNOWS that you are healthy and in very good shape and tolerant and forgiving and able to work/go to school and basically keep your shit together. You are not the problem here.

    • efmather2006 said:

      Yep, this. A friend of mine is going through a similar situation, except that she’s 42 and he’s 46. She’s going through some tough emotional stuff, and this guy swept her off her feet, dropped her, and pops back up to play romantic boyfriend when he wants sex, then treats her like an embarrassment. She also loves him for his imperfections, and is so set on getting him to love her that she has changed her style, personality and interests to suit him, which scares me. But Darth Vaders are great at playing you, and pushing every button to keep tangled up with them. You (and my friend) can do so much better, LW.

    • Anisoptera said:

      Let’s hear it for ladies standing up for other ladies! Even maybe ladies they don’t like, because it can change someone’s life. These days if a person tells a story about an abusive thing a lover or spouse did in that “hahaha men am I right?” tone I don’t laugh along, I say “that’s not OK” or “that sounds horrible” or “gee that’s not very respectful of you” or whatever. Or I’ll show my shock and dismay if I’m standing there watching someone be horrible to someone else right there at the party or where ever we are. Because so much of abuse is not being really sure it’s *really* not OK, and being gaslighted into thinking it’s somehow reasonable or your own fault.

  24. kbozukova said:

    He said you weren’t good-looking enough to be seen with him? *snorts derisively* The only person I can imagine saying that is someone who is so insecure about their looks, they’re worried their girlfriend would steal their thunder and make them look bad. You are NOT this guy’s accessory. You are a fabulous human being and if he had a shred of the wisdom and life experience he pertains to, he wouldn’t need to tear down your self-esteem in order to make himself feel better. Dump his sorry arse – he is not worth any more of your time.

  25. “You gotta find a way to take all that love you feel for him right now and shine it on yourself.”

    This whole letter hit me in the feels, but when I hit this last line I actually teared up. Please, LW: I know this kind of message is hard to hear but I hope so much that it comes home to you.

  26. Catherine from Canada said:

    I just want to quibble about word choice here. He is not a boyfriend. He is not a boy and he is not a friend. He is an ass.

  27. L. said:

    Dear LW,
    Here is what I think is the important thing. Other people’s feelings are complicated and messy, and you can’t necessarily know what they are. So you have to judge people by their *actions.* Maybe this guy loves you, but he doesn’t act like it.
    I had a boyfriend like yours. I wasn’t very experienced, so I thought it was normal and I allowed him to treat me badly. After I finally broke up with him, I found my current boyfriend. He cherishes me. He tells me I am beautiful and brilliant. He wants to go on dates and adventures with me (not other girls!). He bought my mom flowers for Mother’s Day because he wanted to impress her. Does he love me? I think so. His actions certainly make it seem like he does.
    I am telling you all this because I think it’s important for you to know that there is better love out there for you. There are men who will be nice to you and treat you like you deserve to be treated! Doesn’t that sound wonderful?
    Wishing you all the best love,
    – L.

  28. Darthtrina said:

    LW, does your gym have a boxing class? Once when I went, I was late and said, “I’m not going to apologize. Just let me hit something.” And the teacher nodded, and gave me the look that said she Knew, and gave me something to punch. It is an amazing way to work out anger and it’s totally fine to cry while doing it. My teacher said she started boxing because of a boy; she is probably not the only one.

    • Rana said:

      I had a similar experience when I took a women’s self-defense course. Being encouraged to hit at padded things while yelling as loud as you can is really cathartic.

  29. CommanderBanana said:

    High-pitched SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAMMMMMMMMMMMMM

    LW, get rid of this guy. Get rid of him. Getridofhimgetridofhimgetridofhim.

    Block his number. Delete his number. Remove his number from your recents so it doesn’t pop up. Block him on social media. Do you have a friend you trust? Ask that friend to be your designated person for you to call or text when you are lonely or tired and want to call or text Terrible Awful No Good Very Bad Ex Boyfriend.

    Get rid of him. You have way better things to spend your time and energy and precious years as a young adult figuring out who you are than examining your ass for possible flaws.

  30. hey LW – i feel you. really hard. this guy sounds a lot like my ex, who i was very in love with and who treated me like dirt. let me say what i wish i’d been able to hear: you will be better off without him. as amazing and special it can feel when things are okay, and you believe he loves you, its nothing compared to the freedom of not feeling miserable All The Time. getting this guy out of your life might hurt for a while, but given some time it will be such a relief to be rid of him.
    this is not what all guys are like, this is not what all relationships are like. this is not what they are supposed to be like. you deserve better, and you can find better.

    • B. said:

      It is linked within the Captain’s answer, but it certainly bears re-linking. There’re times I want to print it out in brochure-size and throw it massively from a plane.

      • TO_Ont said:

        Oops, I didn’t follow all the links.

  31. Dearest LW,

    The captain’s advice is spot on (if difficult to follow) and I hope that you follow it.

    One tiny thing: I am a man and I want you to know that whatever your soon-to-be exboyfriend has been telling you “all men” think or want or do… He’s lying. He might believe it himself but it seems likely to me that most men would know that not all men want the same things. Plenty of men (and women! And others!) are happily monogamous or in closed relationships! Plenty of men don’t cheat on their partners, keep any thoughts about how attractive people they aren’t dating are to themselves, don’t pressure their partners to fit into their own idea of what they should look like…
    He wants you to believe that he is the best you can hope for and all other men (/all other potential partners) are just as bad as him or worse. He’s lying. Better partners than him exist. Other people who would love you as you deserve to be loved. And he knows that you’d not put up with his bullshit if you knew that so he tells you this is just “what men are like” so you won’t even look for better.

  32. olivia0330 said:

    OMG. OMG. OMG. It’s my Darth! (Who was 18 to my 14, but that’s a huge difference at those ages.)

    So, the thing that keeps popping up in my brain is, when I would try to end things for good and he could tell that I was serious, he would make some Big, Romantic Gesture. Guys like this love the drama of a Big, Romantic Gesture, and also, one big burst of effort, in the mind of a dude like this, “buys” them the “right” to treat you like garbage when they have reeled you back in. (“How can you expect me to not criticize you?! I’m just telling you how I feel, and, oh, didn’t I do that nice thing when you were going to dump my ass, you ingrate?!?!”)

    The Big, Romantic Gesture, it is a trap. Be smarter and more savvy than I was, LW, and if dude pulls a BRG out of his butt, don’t fall for it.

    You deserve all the good things, LW. REALLY GOOD THINGS. You deserve a darth-free life.

    • allreb said:

      A darth-free life is better than the best romantic gift he can give you.

    • Big, Romantic Gesture sometimes involves showing up unexpectedly at your home/school/work.
      This is when you call the police and have them deal with the trespasser.

  33. fancifulscientist said:

    Oh, honey. Straight up, the answer is no: your boyfriend does not love you the way you deserve to be loved.

    The love you deserve – it does not sink to the lowest possible denominator by treating you like sh*t and excusing that treatment with “all guys are like this” (NB: they’re not). It does not criticize your body – your strong, powerful, beautiful body (NB: dudes who say mean things about your body don’t deserve to see it naked, because they’re jerks). It does not cheat on you with other women or claim that cheating with you makes you “special” (NB: he does not cheat because of you, in either direction; he cheats because he is an ass). The love you deserve is delighted to be in the same room with your perfectly imperfect ass, and restricts his comments about women he’d like to have sex with to comments about you (but you know, politely), and does not need to groom you into crippling insecurity to earn your love.

    I think we don’t say this very much to young women, because our whole fairy-tale industrial complex teaches us that if we are good and pretty and thin and nice enough we will earn some imaginary love, but: even in the absence of the love you deserve, being alone with your badass strong confident powerful promising self would be SO MUCH BETTER than being around this guy for another 10 seconds.

    Break up with him. Lose his number. And then call your friends, because chances are they are going to be very, very happy to have you back and to have your back as you move on from this guy.

  34. HQB said:

    Everything the other commenters have said is true. I wanted to discuss this bit from your letter specifically: ‘He has even said to me, “I see other girls and I just want to f–k them”..I just don’t know how you say that to someone you love, and he says he’s just being honest, and that he’s a guy and every guy I meet will think that about other girls.’

    He is lying – there are plenty of men out there who think the women they are with are perfect, who don’t go around looking at other women all the time as if they were sex dolls, who aren’t always looking for something better or different. Your so-called boyfriend is lying about this, and he is doing it in order to manipulate you. He wants you to think that there is nothing better out there for you, and that his awful, abusive statements are true and okay. But neither of these things is true – there are better men out there for you, I guarantee it. There are men who will think you are gorgeous with a fabulous ass. There are men who will not go around wanting to screw other women (and rubbing that fact in your face). There are better men who will not pull this crap with you. And even if there weren’t, you would be better off alone than with this loser; the things he says are not okay, they are not true, they are not kind, and you deserve better.

    I know that sometimes he is wonderful to you, but that doesn’t make up for his cruelty, his lies, his manipulation, and his long-term campaign to lower your self-esteem and your expectations so that you will stay with him. You deserve someone who is wonderful all the time, who boosts your ego, and who wants to be a good person for himself and for you.

    • Emma said:

      AND ALSO. Dudes who say things like “I just want to f–k them” about women, even if the dudes are single and therefore not being shitty to their monogamous partners, are not dudes you should date. That is shitty and disrespectful and sexist. HE is shitty and disrespectful and sexist.

    • hummingbear said:

      There are also plenty of men who may be attracted to other women, but value their relationships enough not to act on it or comment on it. A large part of what people call maturity is simply realizing you don’t have to vocalize every single thing that passes through your brain.

  35. Brittany said:

    LW, I’m so sorry this has been your experience for the last two years, and that you wonder if you are good enough or if this is what love feels like or if it is the best you can expect from a partner. CA gave you such great advice and so have previous commenters, so I want to echo all of that.

    I’d also like to add that in difficult/toxic/abusive/horrible relationships, it has helped me to ask under what circumstances I would possibly treat the other person the way they are treating me. If the answer is often that I could not conceive of a reality in which I would do that, it’s a great sign to me that the problem is with the other person and not me or that it is not just “normal relationship difficulty”. Relationships require some work and adjustments and forgiving, but not all coming from only one person. And not at the expense of any shred of your worth and dignity and value. Please think of a friend you love and think highly of, and what you want for them in a romantic partner. And then please expect that same thing for yourself and don’t settle for less, because it exists and you deserve it.

    Of course there are some good things about him and things you like and you two have had some good times. If he always let himself act like a completely hateful, selfish jerk, you wouldn’t put up with it. In some ways, this is worse, because he is doing just enough whatever to keep you strung along hoping that this is the real him and that the mean and horrible things are just flaws he will overcome. They aren’t flaws to be overcome, they are deliberate weapons to hurt you and keep you doubting yourself enough to stay with him on his terms. He is treating you like an object, not even a person, much less a person he loves. You would probably not treat anyone this way, or want a friend to be treated this way. Please be a friend to yourself and put an end to it.

    • johann7 said:

      I’d also like to add that in difficult/toxic/abusive/horrible relationships, it has helped me to ask under what circumstances I would possibly treat the other person the way they are treating me. If the answer is often that I could not conceive of a reality in which I would do that, it’s a great sign to me that the problem is with the other person and not me or that it is not just “normal relationship difficulty”.

      That’s a great way to frame things to put them back in perspective!

      • Swistle said:

        I love this too. Very useful.

      • I second (third? fourth?) this.

        I use the “Why would *I* act this way?” question all the time and find it very useful for sniffing out lousy people even very early on. If I put myself in the shoes of someone doing something sketchy or peculiar and I feel gross when I try to feel out their motives I typically NOPE out immediately.

        Hasn’t failed me once.

      • Nthing this. Sticking it in my mental relationships folder.

      • The Awe Ritual said:

        Or, if you are the sort who has higher standards for her treatment of others than she has for everyone else, try imagining a woman treating a man like that. If you find yourself appalled, well, um, don’t let others be meaner to you than you would let a stranger be to another stranger.

        Anyone else getting a PUA manual/ MGTOW vibe from this guy?

    • Enail said:

      Another question you can ask yourself is “if the things he was saying <i<were true (I’m 100% sure they’re not, but if they were) how would a kind, decent, caring person behave?”

      If a decent guy doesn’t think someone is “attractive enough”? He doesn’t keep them hanging on while constantly criticizing them and being mean and cheating and saying he’d treat them better if they looked different, he just gets the fuck out of the way so they can find someone who does think they’re attractive (if they want to). Decent people don’t date someone they don’t think is good enough for them; decent people don’t treat someone they date like they’re not good enough for them. The things he’s saying wouldn’t justify the way he’s acting – if he were a decent person.

      Which means that he’s not being a decent person, that his reasons aren’t true, that he has a reason for behaving that way that has nothing to do with how good/attractive/whatever you are. I’d bank on that reason being because he feels good when he can make someone else feel bad, because it gives him power over you. The things he says are just a distraction, whatever he thinks will work to keep you focused on your supposed flaws instead of his.

    • Ella Ella Ay Ay Ay said:

      “I’d also like to add that in difficult/toxic/abusive/horrible relationships, it has helped me to ask under what circumstances I would possibly treat the other person the way they are treating me.”

      True, although people in abusive relationships sometimes get their sense of self so worn down that they start to think they *would* treat the other person that way. My best friend is in a physically and emotionally abusive relationship right now, and I have been shocked to hear her say things like, “I would do the same thing if I were him” (the “thing” in question = him forbidding her to hang out with me) when she has never done anything remotely like that and obviously never would.

  36. Rachel said:

    “he thought it would make me feel special to know that he cheated on his girlfriend to be with me.”

    * jaw drops*

    “he also tells me he can’t be with a girl who doesn’t have, in his words, “a perfect ass”, so he constantly is harassing me about going to the gym and working out, he will check in with me and asked if I worked out today… meanwhile he doesn’t even have a gym membership, eat healthy, or go to the gym on a daily basis”

    O_O

    “He will say terrible things about my body and my looks but then the next day tell me how beautiful I am. It is hard for me to understand. He has even said to me, “I see other girls and I just want to f–k them”

    O_______________O

    “he told me he met someone else and he never really loved me, that we were just friends,and that maybe one day if I was in better shape we could be together, so I was confused as to why he was coming to see someone he felt this way about, then the day before he came he told me the real reason he was coming to Florida was to go on a cruise with another girl, and he wanted to see me after”

    *RUN SIMBA! RUN AWAY AND NEVER RETURN!!!*

    Dear LW, I hope with all my heart you can get this terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad backstabbing, gaslighting, cowardly, juvenile, misogynistic, hypocritical, two-faced piece of shit out of your life. He is mistreating you for the horrific crime of….being one of the 99.999999% of women who don’t have the ass of a goddess/supermodel?? Leave him! Leave him to seek out the ass that clearly such a prime piece of douchebaggery deserves, and may he wander in eternal torment in the Desert of Dissatisfaction of his own making!

    Find a good man! (or woman!) Find someone who doesn’t care how big your butt is, someone who is emotionally mature and will love you for your kindness and loyalty, someone who won’t cheat on you half a dozen times and then try to make you think it was your fault for not living up to his “standards”! A good S.O. will never treat you this way! You deserve that person! You can do it!

    • Deborah said:

      And .. . she could be in the 0.0000001% of women with a supermodel ass and he’d STILL be saying these things because he’s a manipulative sack of shit.

      • WilhelminaMildew said:

        Exactly. There is literally no standard she could meet that would stop him from being a piece of shit, because his criticism has nothing to do with her actual body/self and everything to do with his own personal misery and complete lack of self esteem.

    • Buni said:

      “he thought it would make me feel special to know that he cheated on his girlfriend to be with me.”

      So in other words, the one thing you absolutely know to be true about him is that he’s a cheater…

      • WilhelminaMildew said:

        And seriously, who the fuck says something like that? My brain keeps I CAN’T EVEN-ing so hard I can’t even begin to unpack & articulate all the layers of wrong.

        • Light37 said:

          I KNOW. My brain just went HULKSMASH at that point.

  37. speedbudget said:

    I just want to let you know, dear LW, that it is decidedly NOT true that all men will look at other women and either (a) think about fucking them and/or (b) tell you about how they are thinking about fucking them. This is because most men are not immature assholes. Please don’t let this guy ruin your trust and belief in men’s ability to be respectful, caring partners. Please take some time off from dating, get the help you need to process all this hurtful, horrible garbage this guy has spewed into your wonderful brain, take some time to take care of yourself, and leave this dudebro in the dust on the side of some far-off country road without his pants so he has to walk miles pantless in the bright shining sun in order to get home.

    • Serin said:

      I think it’s important here to distinguish between “I sometimes notice the attractiveness of people who are not my partner” (which is true of most people) and “I get off on objectifying other women in my head, and then I get off on telling my partner about it and enjoying her hurt feelings, jealousy, and uncertainty” (which is only true of jerks).

      • crooked bird said:

        No kidding. My boyfriend-now-husband managed to tell me how much he enjoys feminine beauty of all kinds, and what kind of boundaries he sets himself on that, without making me feel small. Just that he was being honest and that it sounded like he’d found a healthy balance. Sounds to me like this asshole was being honest too–about what an asshole he is.

        • Yeah, mine too. When we first met, he’d tell me how hot he thought certain women we knew were. I told him ONCE that I was uncomfortable with this for various reasons and that while it was perfectly OK for him to be attracted to them I’d feel more respected if he didn’t talk to me about it, and guess what? He never did it again.

          • FlyBy said:

            LW, print this one out and put it on your mirror! This is what respectful relationships look like – it’s okay and safe to ask for things like that, and good partners will either do so, or explain why they can’t and work with you to figure out something else that will work for both of you. Without ever getting upset at you, accusing you of being immature/paranoid/not good enough/whatever, insulting you, anything. Just reasonable people trying to figure out how they can not accidentally hurt each other.

      • Not to mention “I tell my partner how much I want to screw other women and *then* get to tell her how awful and uncool she is when she objects.”

      • Or even: “My partner and I get off on fantasizing about attractive strangers”, because perfectly nice people do in fact do that.

        What’s vile about this man’s behavior is that he’s trying to harm LW.

      • Southernbelle said:

        Yes. I work at [REDACTED] which is filled with >1000 hearty athletic persons between 1/2 and 2/3 of my age. I appreciate their hearty attractiveness in an aesthetic way but I sure as hell don’t go home and tell my spouse he’s less attractive than them (and to me, he’s quite attractive!). Because that would be rude and creepy and disrespectful.

        I also don’t date then because they are children to me. (And I’d get fired! And I don’t WANT to! Children!)

      • Light37 said:

        Exactly. You can admire a pretty passerby (of whatever gender) without being creepy about it, and especially without telling your partner how zie doesn’t measure up.

      • aebhel said:

        Yeah, there’s that tiny grain of truth: most people with a sex drive at least occasionally notice attractive strangers, maybe even idly fantasize. Decent people do not tell their partner about how much they want to fuck other people, especially when it obviously makes said partner miserable and hurt. And decent people especially do not negatively compare their partner to random attractive strangers.

        He’s not a decent person, he’s a gross asshole.

  38. Kate Rohdenburg said:

    X2 to the Scarleteen rec and the only other thing I would add is advocates. In my experience counselors are helpful for some people and not for others, some understand emotional abuse and the culture around it that the Captain mentioned and some don’t. Advocates that work at rape and domestic violence organizations are there specifically to help people navigate exactly that culture and experience. Often people don’t think that advocacy is for them if there isn’t physical violence – but we are absolutely here for you. You can find a program near you at http://www.hotpeachpages.net (weird website, super helpful).

    • TyphoidMary said:

      Advocates can be a great resource! They often do not have the same training as a therapist, but they usually know which therapists in the area focus on gender-based violence (and thus, get the whole cultural element that we’re talking about). Advocacy is a very different role than therapy, but it’s also great because hotlines are often available 24/7 with no appointment necessary. I very much second this suggestion. This is absolutely a situation that I might hear on a domestic violence hotline.

  39. The Other Side said:

    This song immediately came to mind: “No” by Meghan Trainor

    The song is catchy. The song is fun. The song is a good descriptor of a mantra to use for a while, if you want it to be, and for when you want the “No” to stick. Especially after blocking and deleting All The Things.

    Dude tries to call you from another number? Your number is No.
    Dude tries to see you? Your address is No. Your time is No.
    Dude tries to send you something to your address or work? Your answer is No.
    Dude tries to email you? Your email address is No.
    Dude tries to reach you on social media? Your status is No.
    Dude tries to go through a friend or family to reach you? Your reply is No.
    Dude tries to escalate his attempts to contact you or to explain? No to the No to the No to the No.

    There is a really great read over at Scarleteen (sp?) about older dudes and their younger paramours. It also may help to explain why I–along with many folkx here–have their shoulders at their ears.

    Linkie: http://www.scarleteen.com/article/abuse_assault/why_i_deeply_dislike_your_older_boyfriend

    ***

    This dude doesn’t love you and I want to stand on top of the highest mountain and shout in my loudest voice: This Is Not Your Fault. Like at all. Like not even the teeniest tiniest bit.

    Yes, it can be very flattering when someone older takes a shine to you and/or displays romantic interest, especially when folkx and peers seem to be so awkward and weird.

    And it can be very difficult to push past this and see clearly that there is something a bit off about this arrangement. You are doing this now and I want to give you a huge high five for it (if willing).

    Given how dude treats your very valid concerns about the nature of your relationship and the mutual expectations that go along with it, this is not a good or healthy one.

    It wouldn’t be a good or healthy one even if dude was dating someone closer in age.

    This isn’t love. What he is doing and how he is treating you isn’t love. It isn’t even in the same neighborhood as friendship.

    • Badh said:

  40. Turtle Candle said:

    One thing I wanted to add, LW, is that it can be really easy to read all of these comments of people going “no no no oh my god” or pointing out the warning signs and feel foolish or gullible for having gotten together with him/stayed with him. You’re not. You’re with someone who mistreats you and you deserve better, but it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you for having fallen in love in the first place.

    I concur with everyone else: get away from him, and then take really good care of yourself. You deserve so, so much better than this.

    • Kat said:

      Also, LW, I hope you notice that the vast majority of comments here are “OH GOD NO PLEASE NO” followed by “let me tell you about the time I was in your shoes.” We are cringing this hard and saying no this emphatically because many of us fell for the exact same trap, and we want to help you out of it. We cringe because WE KNOW. We totally get it. We’ve been there.

      I dated a very similar guy when I was 22, albeit without the big age difference. It took me literally years to untangle all the ways in which he convinced me that I was not worthwhile. In my case, he came from a blue collar background, one of dirt biking and offroading and shooting guns, and he reminded me at every turn that I was a delicate, pampered, suburban flower who just could not hang. In retrospect, it’s so easy for me to see his insecurities around class, but it felt unspeakably shitty to constantly feel like I was just not cool enough to be around him and his friends. A different, more awesome person would have said, “Oh man, you’ve never gone offroading before? I can’t wait to show you! This will be so much fun!” Instead, it was “Jeez, I can’t believe how sheltered you are. I’m not sure you can handle this, so I’ll take you along, but I’m going to loudly mock you to my friends, and not in a fun, you’re-in-on-the-joke kind of way.” It was that way with EVERYTHING, and it was awful.

      Also, someone else mentioned a big, romantic gesture? Yeah. That’s true. Please don’t be like me and fall for it. DEFINITELY don’t be like me and mistake an accidental (he hit the wrong name in his contacts, which is hilarious in retrospect) 3 AM drunk dial for a big, romantic gesture. It will not end well.

      The good news here is that the sooner you get out, the sooner you can get over him and get on living your life. I can promise you this: someday you will care about him not even a little bit. You won’t care what he thinks, you won’t care who he screws (or screws over). You’ll get there, but it takes a lot of fortitude to get through the ugly patch where you still do care. That part sucks SO MUCH. Rent a bunch of movies (funny or sad, depending on your needs), pick up a hobby you’ve been meaning to try, throw yourself into whatever exercise you love (because it’s good for aggression and frustration and endorphins, not because you need to improve your ass — YOU DON’T), listen to your favorite music and sing along at the top of your lungs, paint your nails, treat yourself to your favorite food, and live your life. It gets so much better from here, I promise. Sending a million Jedi hugs your way, particularly over the first few weeks and months after getting away from him. You’ll need it, but I swear it’ll be worth it. ❤

      • Anonchalance said:

        “We cringe because WE KNOW. We totally get it. We’ve been there.”

        Exactly! It’s not a criticism of the LW for getting drawn in by these tactics, because as another commenter mentioned, the tactics abusers use to groom their victims work really in the short term. The honeymoon phase is a hell of a drug.

        We cringe because we have heard this story before, going back to the beginning of time, and we know how it ends. We know every plot point. Every beat. Every shitty piece of gaslighting dialogue. Every woman I have ever met has either lived a version of that story or knows another woman who has.

        • Leonine said:

          I love your username. That is all.

    • Swistle said:

      This is a great point.

      • It is. It really, really is. Your being in thrall to a juicebox =/= your smarts and awesomeness. That feeling stupid because of making the not-most-beneficial choice for you is a feeling your soon to be ex’s favorite way for you to feel.

        Great country music and heroic stories and teen films show it’s not the only *story* you can tell about bad dating experiences.

        LIFE IN GENERAL shows lots and lots of us have been there, and I am sure, alas, some of us will be there again. Don’t let any of those feelings of WTH WAS I THINKING OMD stop you from doing what you need to do right now. It’s never, ever too late and no one is too far in to go when it’s time to leave.

    • apricity said:

      Yeah, the LW seems lovely and the fact that she is questioning this shows good judgement. You can definitely find someone nicer and more compatible, LW!

  41. AlexTheBunny said:

    Dump. That. Asshole.

    He will never change.

    He will never stop treating you like trash.

    He will never think you are “enough” for him.

    Get out. Leave. Run. Block him everywhere, never speak to him again, not even to explain yourself or apologize — you owe him NEITHER of those things.

    I am seriously just at a loss, here, for different ways to tell you GET OUT, RUN AWAY. He is SUCH AN ASSHOLE I am incoherent over here.

    ANY ONE of the fifty things you say he’s done would be grounds for dumping his cheating, controlling, lying, disrespectful ass. All of them together? A WHOLE NEW WOOOOOOOORLD OF NOPE.

    Bail. Just get outta there. You seem like a really smart person with an interesting life and a future ahead of you. He is offering you nothing that will not DESTROY that.

    LW, don’t let him crush you. Please. Don’t give one more second of your valuable life to this monstrous anal polyp of a human being..

  42. Good LW, as you have seen from the outpouring of responses here at Captain Awkward, you are very much not alone in this. I had NOT one but TWO emotionally abusive boyfriends at different points in time. The last one ended three years ago, and I have successfully blocked him on all possible ways of contact.

    Three years ago, at the time of the final breakup with that evil one, I could not see the me that is now. The me that wakes up without thinking about those two (…most days, I am human here.) The me that goes on about my day at a job and school that respect and support me and my skills. The me that learns new things every day. The me that is able to make time and space for good friends to be in. The me that picked back up old loves like cooking and crochet, and now does some new things like weightlifting and being the president of a university organization. The me that is willing to learn from mistakes and fails vigorously at new things every day.

    Do I have days where I look back and have a twinge of uncertainty or fear? Sure, but those are quite rare now. The more time that has passed, the more it has been proven that they are petty, pathetic, miserable cowards not worth my time.

    You can do this LW. You will find that love contains not only itself, but also trust, communication, respect, and honesty (see: Garnet.)

  43. Side note: Cap, I’m so happy you redacted her height and weight. Size 2, 8, 22… doesn’t really matter does it? Still wouldn’t be right for him to tell you he’s too ashamed to go out with you in public.

    Tell him he can lose your number. Immediately.

    • fancifulscientist said:

      Yes yes yes. That made me happy too.

      Someday, the LW will no longer be 19 and might no longer be in great shape and the defense of “but he’s wrong, right?” might not be so compelling (I resemble that future LW, a lot) and you know what, LW? You will STILL be deserving of respect, public space, dates, and basic human decency. You will still be baller, powerful, beautiful, and worth spending time with. And your ass will still be perfect (to someone!).

  44. johann7 said:

    I love the letters where people are writing in asking for permission to do what they already know they need to do (though I don’t love the fact that assholes have put people into the situations prompting the letters). It makes the whole advice part very straightforward. Your boyfriend is a terrible partner, LW, and I’m so sorry he’s subjecting you to his manipulative abuse. You know that something is very wrong, which is why you’re writing in, and we can confirm that your sense that something is very wrong is correct and that dumping your abusive boyfriend’s sorry ass (as you have tried to do in the past) is a good response. You deserve better, and you’re not nearly as flawed a person as this jerk claims.

    we aren’t truly in a relationship because he says he doesn’t want to claim me as his girlfriend until I am 21. He is 29 and I am 19.

    Serious side-eye. I’ve seen a couple of late-teens-with-mid/late-20s romantic relationships that weren’t utterly disastrous or creepy (and many more that were), and none of them were characterized by the older partner refusing to socially acknowledge the relationship. If your age difference really isn’t a problem as far as dating you goes, then it shouldn’t be a barrier to acknowledging you as the primary person he’s dating i.e. his girlfriend. That he won’t call you his girlfriend ‘becasue of your age’ suggests that he thinks/knows there’s something wrong with dating someone that much younger than he is, or that your age isn’t the real reason he won’t commit to a socially-acknowledged primary relationship, or both (in this case, both).

    but he thought it would make me feel special to know that he cheated on his girlfriend to be with me.

    Treating others badly “for you” is never, ever a good sign; run!

    he also tells me he can’t be with a girl who doesn’t have, in his words, “a perfect ass”, so he constantly is harassing me about going to the gym and working out, he will check in with me and asked if I worked out today

    Wow: objectifying, entitled, and controlling all at once; run run run!

    he constantly is harassing me about the way I look. It is so bad that I don’t even want to show him my body because he always has something negative to say. The things he has said to me have really hurt my self esteem, and make me feel like I am not good enough in his eyes. He will say terrible things about my body and my looks but then the next day tell me how beautiful I am. It is hard for me to understand.

    He’s actively – perhaps even intentionally – trying to destroy you self esteem so that you depend entirely on him for any sort of validation of your worth as a person. He’s doing this to both make you feel worthless in EVERYONE’S eyes – not just his – so that you feel isolated and undeserving of help escaping his controlling influence and additionally to keep you constantly working for his approval, for which you’ll never be good enough, because if you were, then you might stop putting all your energy into trying to please him and realize he’s a toxic douche. This is utterly abusive behavior; while you still have your sense of agency intact, run!

    He has even said to me, “I see other girls and I just want to f–k them”..I just don’t know how you say that to someone you love, and he says he’s just being honest, and that he’s a guy and every guy I meet will think that about other girls.

    1) That’s more awful abuse intended to destroy your self esteem (by prompting you to compare yourself to other women and come up short); 2) he’s lying about all men (almost every universal proclamation in the form “group [X] is like [Y]” is false, and if the speaker is part of group [X], the statement should be interpreted as, “I am like [Y], and even if it’s possible to change, I refuse to try, so instead I will assert [Y] as a universal, immutable characteristic of group [X]”); 3) while it is true that nearly all people (irrespective of gender) will find more than one person pretty, sexually attractive, etc., there is a difference between finding someone attractive and actually wanting to fuck zir, and it’s also a conscious decision to voice those thoughts to any given person, in a particular way, in any given context (for most – some, but very few, people have conditions where they truly have no filter at all); his statements may technically be honest, but that doesn’t mean that voicing them is considerate or appropriate, and it also doesn’t mean we can’t judge him poorly for what making those statements reveals about his character. He’s not *just* being honest, he’s being honest AND being an asshole. Run!

    Bottom line is, he just makes me feel terrible about my looks, and I wonder will I ever find a guy who can love someone that has all of the flaws he points out in me

    This is the effect he’s trying to achieve by destroying your self esteem: making you think that NOBODY will love you for you, and so his abusive self is the best you can do. That is a lie, but even if it wasn’t, you’re better off alone than in a toxic relationship with a manipulative abuser. Run!

    • Also, what’s with “doesn’t want to claim me as his girlfriend…”?

      CLAIM.

      Whether that’s the word he used or not, it neatly sums up his attitude towards the LW. She’s a conquest, a prize, a thing he can claim.

      Ugh, this guy.

      • JenniferP said:

        When dating THE VAMPYRE one must be WORTHY of his MARQUE

        • Emma said:

          I work in a public library and that is genuinely the blurb of almost every book in the romance section.

          SLIGHTLY UNUSUAL FEMININE NAME was just a NORMAL GIRL until a MYSTERIOUS STRANGER saved her life. It turns out he is BROODY VAMPYRE and now he has ARROGANTLY, TITTER TITTER, HOW EXCITING decided that she is HIS and requires her to live by his CONTROLLING AND OBJECTIFYING RULES so that she will be WORTHY OF HER PLACE BY HIS SIDE (that she never wanted or asked for and wasn’t given a choice about). Swoon!

          Luckily the romance section is one shelf and the person in charge of the library rolls her eyes and sighs loudly every time it is mentioned.

          • As a reader of romance novels (which… seriously have loads of fun, feminist, incredible authors, and is a denigrated genre because it’s BY women FOR women so is clearly all of the terrible) this makes me super sad to hear. Some of my best healing came from romance novels (because by definition they have to have a happy ending), and a lot of my “wait, other people treat people like human beings?” did as well. I wish I’d started reading them as a teen, instead of pooh-poohing them until my 30s.

          • caryatid said:

            @trundlebear, i could use some recommendations for good romance right now – could you start a thread on the forums maybe?

          • apricity said:

            I agree with @trundlebear on this one. Like, there are definitely books that follow that forumla. There are also YA books that follow that formula, and western or mystery books that folow that formula, and literary books that follow that formula, etc etc. But there is also a strong tradition in romance of the hero being like “Here is how things are!” and the heroine going “yeah nah”. And, as trundlebear has pointed out, romance is a female-dominated genre that people love to hate. It’s also one of the most lucrative genres.

            Romance is not everyone’s cup of tea. There are for sure valid critiques of romance (and there is a lot of smart discussion out there about it) and definitely still room for romance to improve (it’s a very white genre, some of the heros are just assholes) but I feel like “don’t judge a book by its cover” is an appropriate quote here.

          • Aris Merquoni said:

            I’m sorry that your library romance novel section is a lonely shelf of terrible books! Perhaps someone should fix that? http://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/ is a good place to start looking for recommendations. (Full disclosure: One of the ladies who started the blog is a friend.)

          • Emma said:

            I would love to get a better selection of romance books in there! I was definitely not trying to denigrate romance as a genre, just expressing frustration at the examples I see regularly.

            Unfortunately we have pretty much no money, and on the occasion that we do get to buy new books, there are lots of higher priorities than romance. So, we’re entirely dependent on what people donate to us, and what other libraries offer us when they’re culling.

            I’ve thrown out at least three donated copies of EL James books >.>

          • I far prefer the QUIRKY FEMININE NAME was a SPUNKY WOMAN with a PENCHANT FOR SCRAPES when she encountered a SOMEWHAT SCANDALOUS GENTLEMAN who was IN NEED OF ASSISTANCE. Now they must OVERCOME THEIR DIFFERENCES to RESOLVE SOME SORT OF MYSTERY OR INTRIGUE and along the way DISCOVER IF THEY CAN COOPERATE (in bed).

            Much less claiming.

          • apricity said:

            Azure, I too love that kind of book so much. 🙂

          • Whoops, I didn’t realize we were out of nesting so didn’t see these!

            I like books with a fair bit of explicit sex (it’s not required, and I skim some, but others I really enjoy) but I like slow burns over a series like the Mercy Thompson or Kate Daniels serieseses — they’re Urban Fantasy but there’s some very sweet (and occasionally completely off-the-wall) romance in them.

            For book recs, my go-to favourites are Courtney Milan (at least one of her books is usually free) and I really adore Grace Burrowes, Tessa Dare, Julia Quinn and Eloisa James and Lisa Kleypas, and oh oh oh Kate Noble in the Historical Romance category. Kate Noble co-wrote the Lizzy Bennet diaries. Jeannie Lin is also A++ top notch every book is my favourite AND she’s one of the few people who writes in a setting that isn’t regency England (Dynastic China, she paints beautiful word pictures).

            Contemporary, Bella Andre can’t write a bad book as far as I’m concerned, Vivian Arend’s cowboys in Alberta are delightful and fun and sexy (she also does some paranormal stuff that’s fab, and her stuff co-written with Elle Kennedy is on fire). I’m liking Tanya Fenske’s for ridiculous plots and adorable characters, and Jennifer Crusie’s stuff is usually a riot. Leslie Kelley is still a favourite, her Harlequin Blaze books were my first dip into Romance, and while I loved them for what they were, having since learned about how different writing category romance (Harlequin dictates how many pages, some of what happens, etc) but still making it yours really has ramped up my respect and enjoyment of her books.

            OH OH OH. And of course, the one who REALLY brought Romance as a major genre into my life: Nalini Singh. Her Archangel/Psy-Changeling books have better worldbuilding than plenty of fantasy or sci-fi, more interesting characters, and WAY more entangled plot development and over-arching plot than stuff that isn’t like, Brandon Sanderson levels of Many Books, Interwoven. Jessica Sims/Jill Myles/I can’t remember her other pen names writes some fun paranormal romances I like, especially the Shifter Dating Agency stuff. Eve Langlais always makes me laugh (Scared of Spiders is one of my favourites) and I retract my “fun funny feminist” for Cherise Sinclair because I love her books but they take such a hard left turn into bizarro-world I don’t know what to call them, but I can’t stop reading them, and they’re the only ones I’d list as guilty pleasures. One minute it’s BDSM, the next, busting human trafficking rings, and one of the characters (but only one) has psychic powers and it’s just weird.

            Most of this stuff is straight/het and I feel a little bad for having it as most of my recs, although some (Vivian Arend and Grace Burrowes) do write in not just gay and bi characters as sub-plots but who actually get leading roles as well, and some triad stuff, and Courtney Milan’s next book has a transgender heroine which is kickass. There are some gay space opera titles I really like (Chaos Station et al) and my biggest difficulty is finding lesbian romance that isn’t contemporary (someone’s recommended one with pirates that I need to track down, and there’s one coming out about the kids of superheroes and villains falling in love, so there’s hope yet for f/f to be more easy to find).

  45. Anyanka said:

    LW,
    Your boyfriend is a grade-A dickbag. I personally want to punch him into the sun. I hate him more than I hate certain characters on Game of Thrones.

    But even so: if he loves you, that doesn’t matter. It matters how you are treated. It matters how and if he respects you, takes care of you, supports you. And given what you’ve said? He does nothing of that at all.

    One of the catalysts for me leaving my ex was realizing that complete internet strangers treated me better than he did. That cashiers were politer to me than him. That I preferred some sort of quiet civility than his crazy, passionate, I-love-you-so-I’ll-dump-my-endless-crises-on-you.

    Love-as-an-emotion isn’t something that people can always choose. But love as an action is. And even if he feels the former, he’s not doing the latter. This is not the kind of love that you want. This is not the kind of love that will lift you up and nourish you and make you strong.

    This is the kind of ‘love’ that will have you making hapless excuses for him, that will knot you closer and closer to someone who refuses to give a damn about your or be good to you at all

    LW, you deserve better. You deserve someone who will not just say he FEELS love for you, but will ACT ON that love for you every day–who will support you, and listen to you, and respect your boundaries, and be affectionate towards you. Someone who will say that you’re beautiful at your body type. Someone who doesn’t manipulate you with ‘you’re so mature for your age’. Someone who makes you feel like you’re bathed in a golden light. Someone who cheers you on as you rebuild your self-esteem.

    He doesn’t love you. Or he does. Either way–you deserve to love yourself, to act upon your self-love, and leave him.

    • servogirl said:

      Oh my goodness, I love this. Love-as-an-action is, I think, the definition of a successful, long term partnership. LW, you deserve someone who will think as much about how to make you happy as you are trying to figure out how to make this guy happy. And he’ll never be happy, because he’s not saying any of these things for your benefit, it’s all to put him in the power position.

    • Badh said:

      I really like the love-as-an-action. I know that for me, actions speak louder than words. My husband can tell me he loves me all day long (which, yes, I really like hearing), but it’s the things he does like brushing my hair or going out of the way to surprise me with a favorite movie that are the things that let me know he loves me.

      LW: I’m so on the you deserve better train. You need to believe and know for yourself that you deserve better, and deserves someone you thinks you are beautiful even when you don’t feel it. Writing to CA is a good step. I hope that even just writing down the words helped to clarify things for you.

      Sending you good wishes, sparkle glitter, and Jedi hugs (as long as you want them)

      • slythwolf said:

        Based on what I’ve experienced, we like hearing it when we are being shown the truth of it with actions and thoughtfulness, and super hate hearing it when we are being shown through actions that it is false.

  46. Also dear dear LW, if you’re thinking “but really, he’s good too. There’s good in him. Sometimes he’s lovely” you’re right! If he had no good qualities you wouldn’t stick around at all.

    Here’s a thought: if you have to weigh up reasons to stay vs reasons to leave, some part of you (I believe it’s the wise and healthy part of you) knows that he’s not good for you.

    I don’t like telling people to trust their guts, because my instincts aren’t always good. Nonetheless, I believe that your gut – which is telling you that he’s wrong, and doing wrong to you – your gut is right.

    • Yes, absolutely. LW, there are reasons people stay with abusive partners, and it’s because those partners aren’t abusive all the time. Sometimes they’re awesome.

      If you have a hard time cutting ties with him, if you find yourself getting sucked into forgiving him one more time, giving him one last chance, that’s normal too. You’re a loving and compassionate person, and leaving can be hard. That’s one of the best reasons for going with the hard, across-the-board BLOCK — phone, email, social media, everything.

      I went back to my own Darth Vader twice before I managed to cut things off permanently. It took me a while to stop feeling embarrassed about that. Now that I know how common that is, I feel better about myself.

      My best advice to you is to take the kindness, compassion, empathy, and love you’ve been sending your boyfriend’s way and direct some of it inward, because you deserve all those things. Find a way to direct some of it outward, too — play with the puppies at the animal shelter or take some soup to a sick friend or send someone you care about a card just because you feel like it.

      You deserve to be loved and respected and cherished. You deserve a partner who will help you build yourself up rather than constantly tearing you down. (I know the current one says he’s doing it to make you stronger, but that’s not how people work.) And there are men out there who will do those things. Your boyfriend is wrong about what “all” men are like.

      My grandmother once pointed out to me the importance of contentment. Big, dramatic emotions come and go in big, dramatic ways. The highs are incredible, the lows are crushing, and the whole thing becomes both addictive and exhausting. Contentment settles quietly into your bones and stays there. Contentment is awesome.

      • This is so very wise and I wish I’d discovered it before my late twenties because I would have wasted a lot less time on people who were really wrong for me.

        I had several incredible romances with guys who were all the most amazing thing EVER and all wanted to marry me and spend the rest of their lives with me. Nobody else I knew ever seemed to have anything as intense or full of fireworks and magic. I felt sorry for them.

        I was so wrong.

        As a dear friend of mine said to me many years ago: a firework is an incredible sight that fills your senses with amazement, but it’s gone in seconds. A candle may be a mundane and unremarkable thing but if you take good care of it you can depend upon it to last you a long time and be there for you when you need it.

        That doesn’t mean a good relationship gets boring and mundane! But I assumed my amazing relationship (whichever one, take your pick) would continue to be amazing and sparkly forever. But without exception, each of those guys suddenly dumped me without giving a reason and they all broke my heart.

        Now I don’t know how much of that is relevant to you LW but I do know this: one thing that made those relationships so exciting (though I didn’t realise this until years later) was fear. Fear that it wouldn’t last forever. Fear that I wasn’t perfect enough for these perfect guys and perfect relationships. They didn’t pick on my “imperfections” but I did. I guess that made me more clingy and insecure than I am normally. I also think that’s what pushed them away. Because actually, although we had these amazing things, these men were NOT good long-term partners for me. I just wanted a happily ever after so I deluded myself into thinking they were. It had to be perfect so I ignored the imperfections. I was on constant rollercoaster rides through these relationships because I’d panic at the slightest sign of anything going wrong (and then I’d explain it away with really daft “logic”).

        When I was 28 I met a man who did excite me but didn’t whip me up into a frenzy. I didn’t find myself constantly fantasising about marrying him and growing old with him, like I did with the others…because I was perfectly happy and content with the relationship as it was. He let me be me. I didn’t have to be perfect, because he wanted me exactly as I was. Our relationship didn’t have to live up to The Most Amazing Show On Earth, so there was no pressure for things to be perfect. If something wasn’t quite right, we’d talk about it, agree to change it and it never came up again. That was 6 years ago and we are now very happily married. Despite being very much in love with him, I’ve never had this BIG AMAZING FIREWORKS thing with him, because it’s been replaced with a contentment I never knew I could have.

        My old relationships were like the most incredible pair of killer heels that look the absolute bomb but rip the skin off your feet and give you blisters that hurt for weeks. Every jibe and criticism of your appearance is one of those blisters, LW. But I wear my current relationship like a pair of old slippers and it is *beautiful.* I hope you find your slippers one day, if you want to.

        • winter said:

          I love your slipper analogy!

      • DesertRose said:

        I went back to my own Darth Vader twice before I managed to cut things off permanently. It took me a while to stop feeling embarrassed about that. Now that I know how common that is, I feel better about myself.

        Oh, lord, I have so been there.

        TW: Threats of violence and suicide, somewhat graphic.

        The death knell for my marriage was when he threatened me in a friend’s kitchen with a chef’s knife because I’d committed the heinous crime of being snippy with him because he was stoned out of his mind when he had full charge of our then 15-month-old daughter in a mobile home with the front door wide open to the concrete steps (the door was open because the friends whose home it was were trying to work out the logistics of getting their Christmas tree inside). I didn’t actually argue with him because I didn’t want to cause a scene at someone else’s house (particularly given that not only was it not our place, but the sisters of both halves of the couple whose place it was were there with their husbands and children, so it would have been a colossal scene if I’d actually read him the Riot Act he bloody well deserved to hear!), but I was certainly quite short with him. He picked up the 8″ chef’s knife that was on the counter, brandished it at me, and told me, “If you ever talk to me like that in front of my friends again, I’ll kill you.”

        I left that night and foolishly let him suicide-threaten me into reconciling; that lasted less than a month before I busted him smoking weed at home with Toddler Daughter in the same fucking room, and I finally reached a point of “I may be too depressed to care about my own well-being, but I am NOT putting my child through this bullshit, and if you kill yourself, that’s on you. I am SO done.”

        P.S. Don’t get married at age sixteen because you’re pregnant and scared. Bad idea. Trust me on this one. (I’ve forgiven myself because the brain of a scared, pregnant sixteen-year-old kid is not the natural home of good decision making.) The best thing out of the whole mess is Daughter, who is a sarcastic asshole of an awesome twenty-something nowadays. 😀

  47. Emily said:

    I totally agree with CA’s amazing reply and I wish that I had listened to the women in my life telling me to let go of loser guys who sound exactly like this one. Eventually I did listen and although you will have days in the beginning where you miss them and feel like you’re over reacting by totally cutting them out, that is the best thing because it’s a clean break..it’s better for you in the long term. Definitely make sure you block them on every avenue of social media, because they will most likely try and make contact. Chin up girl…you’re amazing 🙂

  48. SZ said:

    The word “love” seems to mean different things to different people. I’ve tried to unpack it a little, and I want to share my understanding of what I consider genuine love, whether it’s love for a friend, a family member, or a romantic interest.

    These are the things that make love real:

    Affection and admiration. Wanting to be close to each other, because each of you has attributes that the other considers amazing and wonderful. Neither of you has to be perfect, but certain things about them are completely awesome to you, and vice versa.

    Trust. Being able to rely on each other to be honest, to be there when you said you’d be there, to not talk badly about you behind your back or do things they promised not to do.

    Respect. Their feelings and thoughts and what they like and don’t like are important to you because they’re part of that person, and vice versa. You don’t necessarily like all the same things or share all your interests, but you don’t put each other down or make each other feel less for liking things you’re not into.

    Kindness, in word and action. You do things to make each other happy, and avoid doing things that make each other unhappy. You pay enough attention to each other that you know what these things are.

    I don’t see any of these things in the way your “boyfriend” (I agree with Catherine, he is neither a boy nor a friend) treats you. He does not love you. He manipulates and mistreats you, he insults you and belittles you, and he does this to make you feel unlovable so you will continue to put up with this treatment.

    You deserve better. You deserve affection, admiration, trust, respect and kindness. Please don’t settle for less.

    P.S. Your ass is already perfect.

    • Leemac said:

      All of those are exactly how I define love as well. You cannot do without any of them for it to be actual love.

  49. Squirrel said:

    @Letter Writer: I had an ex like this too. And let me say that the problem is with him and not with you. My ex would chronically point out all of my flaws and once said that I was not hot enough for him to be monogamous with (!!!!). We broke up.

    He later met a woman who is *absolutely everything* he wants and he (monogamously) married her. A couple years later I’ve heard through the grapevine that he’s unsatisfied with her despite her being literally everything he said he wanted in a partner.

    There is absolutely NO WAY that you can ever be “good enough” for him; he’ll just keep moving the goalposts and making up new things for you to “fix.” There’s not even anything for you to fix; everything that is wrong is in his own mind, and no one else can change that for him.

    • Guava said:

      Yeah, the “not good enough/not hot enough/doesn’t have the perfect ass/you have to audition to be my partner” is just a trap that these people build, so that they always have a built-in excuse to cheat. It’s the little door that they always keep open, so they can leave you at any time. He will never be completely satisfied with anyone because he is the one who is broken. Right now, in this relationship, at this very moment, he is trying to break you.

      • Yeah, and in the case of all of these people even if you have every single perfect quality ever listed by anyone they will invent a new imperfection to pick at.

        Because they want to.

  50. MrsLokiofAsgard said:

    LW, I give you credit for trying to see the good in this man, but the truth is there isn’t any. He’s a jerk? Asshole? Douche? All of those…and more. There really doesn’t seem to be a word to describe how hateful he truly is.

    He is never going to love you. Never. He’s going to say he will or that he does. He’s lying. The only person that man has affection for is himself and based on your description of him (29, unemployed, unhealthy with diet and exercise) pretty soon the rest of the world will stay away and he and his hand will have a love affair stronger than anything he will give you.

    This is NOT your fault. It’s his. He’s an idiot. He can’t see beyond himself to see what a treasure he has with you. I’m sure that you’re funny, smart, clever, loyal, friendly, beautiful inside and out. I’m sure that you have friends and family that you love and who love you back. Surround yourself with these people. Let them lift you up. It hurts to have your heart broken, but let me assure you: there is a man out there that wants you just as you are. He will love you for yourself. He will look beyond the shell, see the woman inside and want to be with her no matter what. Will it happen soon? I can’t say, but I can tell you this: while you’re looking for him, lose the losers that can only see the shell and think that even that isn’t good enough for them.

  51. Helen Huntingdon said:

    LW, others have addressed what an appallingly rotten and abusive person this guy is.

    I’d like to talk about how he’s managed to convince you to worry about all your body “flaws”. The thing is, most of the things he’s convinced you are flaws are actually huge raging turn-ons to a lot of other guys.

    It’s all about loving what you’ve got, and holding out for someone else who loves what you’ve got. As the Captain says, drive it like you stole it.

    Let’s start with butts. When I was your age and younger, Hollywood and magazines convinced me I wasn’t supposed to have one. But my athletic pursuits in my teenage years, plus genetics, means I have a bubble butt. The thinnest version of me would have a muscled bubble butt. Since hips and thighs are the first place an ounce of fat goes on me, unless I’m starving, I also have a padded, muscled bubble butt.

    The world is CRAMMED, FILLED, with MILLIONS UPON MILLIONS OF GUYS who think a bubble butt with padding is the hottest damn thing they’ve ever seen in their entire lives. There’s an endless supply of them. As far as I can tell, nearly all of them think some thunder in those thighs is what goes with that.

    Eventually I figured this out, and I learned to drive it like I stole it. If some guy or other isn’t into the ass and thighs, why should I care? There is an infinitude of others out there who are crazy for it. I can date one of them.

    • Helen Huntingdon said:

      Oh, and don’t even go there with stuff like stretch marks or moles or freckles or scars or cellulite. I am liberally blessed with all of those. Let me repeat that — I have all of those, and lot of them.

      Every single guy, EVERY ONE, who is really attracted to me and who has gotten a look at much of my skin raves on and on about how beautiful my skin is, how they’ve never seen skin so beautiful. They think the moles are cute. They either don’t see the freckles, or they think freckles are hot. They never even notice the stretch marks and the cellulite.

      That bears repeating: They don’t even notice the stretch marks and cellulite. They look right at them and don’t see them. They’re too busy being distracted by soft girl skin and bubble butts and whatever else is turning them on. And that is how most guys are. NEARLY ALL OF THEM.

      The ones like yours, who look for flaws to pick over, they do exist, but they’re not the norm. What’s much more normal is to be so distracted by the attraction to one’s partner, and the beauty of one’s partner, that one doesn’t even see other things.

      That’s what happens on my end too. My last ex was worried that the scar from his knee surgery was all puckered and gross and horror-movie looking, which it was actually, but I had entirely failed to even notice it. It wasn’t important.

      • ashbet said:

        GOOD POINT!!

        I also have freckles, moles, scars, stretch marks, and a bit of cellulite.

        I also have a chronic illness which can manifest unpredictably and leave me bed-bound or require me to use a wheelchair to get around outside the house.

        NONE of this has stopped me from finding partners who think I’m the cat’s pajamas — or from having an awesome Team Me of good friends (and some of my exes, who DIDN’T treat me like crap and therefore stayed friends), who also think I’m gorgeous and reinforce that with their words.

        I think I’m pretty damn cute, but I don’t hit all the societal tickboxes for “thin, able-bodied, conventionally attractive,” etc.

        I don’t give a fuck — because not only are those bullshit standards, but I also have a sense of my own self-worth, and the people who I’ve chosen as lovers and partners have been attracted to me *because* I’m who I am (inside and outside), not *in spite of* it.

        I have truly been in your shoes — and it helped that I came from a hypercritical, controlling, abusive family background… which meant that I was fresh meat for men who wanted to groom me into insecurity about myself and a belief that I couldn’t do better than them.

        I could. I did. And you can, too, LW. ❤

      • VG said:

        I used to be in a relationship with a guy who’d had two open-heart surgeries, and when he was going to show me his scars for the first time, he warned me “it’s really gross, I’m sorry, you’re going to be so disgusted.” So I was all braced for it, and then I saw them and went “…that’s it?” I don’t know what they looked like in his head, but they weren’t nearly as big a deal as he thought they were, especially compared to all the things I liked about him.

      • My boyfriend’s stretchmarks are *gorgeous*. And that makes me feel so much better about my own stretchmarks and other physical “flaws” because I can see how absolutely wonderful things I was told made me “ugly” become beautiful when they are part of someone you love.

        LW, no matter what your soon-to-be-ex calls “flaws” in your body, no matter what you or anyone else has ever pointed to on your body and called “ugly” or “unattractive”, someone who loves you for you will see the beauty in it or at least will see it as a part of the amazing and beautiful body that carries around the amazing beautiful person that they love.

        • Frankie said:

          Same! Partner is really self-conscious about his (rather dramatic – he’s been on & off a med that causes rapid weight gain) stretch marks so I don’t generally comment on them, but I think they look pretty awesome.

          • fancifulscientist said:

            I once had a panic attack when I noticed a new host of stretch marks on my belly. (Sometimes the psychosis of diet culture comes out in surprising and absurd and intense ways!)

            My wife goes, “Oh, those? I noticed. I think they’re cute, and delicate. Like contour lines showing me where to kiss.”

            People who love you – they love your flaws too.

      • NorahMancer said:

        I feel like mentioning at this point, that if some part of a person’s body is a dealbreaker for you, that’s fine. You’re allowed to decide that some element of a person’s physique is just so unattractive to you that you don’t wanna do ’em. What you’re NOT allowed to do, however, is make that person feel bad for failing to wave a magic wand and comply absolutely with your personal set of standards. Accept them how they are or go find someone more in line with what you like. Either way, it is Not Their Problem.

        • MrsLokiofAsgard said:

          100% agree with this!!!

    • MrsLokiofAsgard said:

      There’s a scene in that movie “Eat Pray Love” that has stuck with me since I was forced to watch it. Julia Roberts and another woman are in Italy and are eating pizza at some famed pizza place. Julia is pretty much inhaling the pizza with all of the yummy noises one makes when eating pizza. The other woman is picking at hers. Julia asks why she’s only picking at her food and the woman says something about how she’s gained weight. Julia then asks her when the last time a man, seeing her naked for the first time, demanded that she put her clothes back on and leave. The woman says it has never happened. Julia says it’s never happened, because it never will happen. If he finds you attractive enough to have sex with he’s going to do that. She then says that they should go buy jeans that fit better after their lunch because they’re going to eat those pizzas.

      I’m totally paraphrasing the whole scene, but the point is: if a guy truly likes you and you like yourself, he accepts you warts and all. My sister is big. She’s confident. She’s got men beating down her door to date her. I have a friend who is gorgeous. Seriously…she is Nicole Kidmans doppleganger. She’s the least confident person I know. She’s constantly pointing out the things wrong with her body and with other people’s. Nobody wants to be around her for fear of being picked apart. She’s single. Be confident. Own those flaws, know that they are part of what makes you the special person you are, and let the people who try to pick you apart be alone in their misery.

      • DesertRose said:

        Basically, anyone who deserves to see you naked will treat being permitted to see you naked as the gift it is. If someone who claimed to want to fuck you shames you for your body “flaws,” you are well within your rights to tell them to GTFO posthaste.

  52. Fran Shamen said:

    Oh dear, dear LW: as I read your letter, my shoulders crept up around my ears and still haven’t descended.
    What this guys is doing is not pointing out your flaws so you can improve. He is chip, chip, chipping away at your self esteem so that you never take a step back and get perspective on his terribleness because you’re constantly chasing a goal that doesn’t really exist. You will never reach
    that “perfect ass” because it’s not a measurement or an ideal, it’s an arbitrary designation that he will constantly hold out of your reach.
    You mentioned age gap in your letter. Please understand, it isn’t necessarily an age gap that bothers people, it’s the imbalance in power. And there is a huuuuuuuge imbalance between a guy pushing thirty dating a teenager. I can see you are mature from the very collected way you’ve laid out your problems. But maturity can be a trap. “Maturity” can be shorthand for “you need to take whatever terrible thing I give you without complaining otherwise you’ll be just like THEM™!”
    He isn’t trying to toughen you up. He’s been softening you up for his emotional abuse. Run like wolves are after you, because they are.

    • FlyBy said:

      Yes! Part of maturity is learning how to insist that people treat you decently, and how to cut out the people who won’t. That’s the opposite of what this guy is trying to develop in you.

  53. BiancaSnoozes said:

    “I love him for who he is and all of his flaws or imperfections make him who he is.”

    Agree with the advice that this says more about you than it does about him. But also, remember, there’s no prize for loving someone in spite of their awfulness. The only prize is the position of emotional punching bag for an asshole to use to build himself up. As you’ve now realized, you don’t get love in return from someone like this.

    Loving someone in spite of their imperfections is wonderful, because everyone has imperfections, and if you only loved perfect people, you’d end up loving no one. And when you find your most meaningful, intimate kind of love, that may well be the love that includes the most imperfections–not because imperfections make love more meaningful, but because when you are very close to someone, as in a romantic, long-term relationship, you are more aware of their imperfections. Do not confuse this with loving someone awful. If you love someone awful, your love doesn’t get more meaningful and wonderful because you are loving harder and harder through the “imperfections.” You just bore further into the depths of the awfulness of that person, convinced at every turn that if you just love a little harder, work a little more, be a little thinner, have a more perfect ass, you will reach the magic land where you are loved back. But an awful person doesn’t actually have this magic land.

    And this guy is awful. Really, horribly awful.

    • “The only prize is the position of emotional punching bag for an asshole to use to build himself up.”

      These are wise words, and I wish I could print them on a T-shirt.

  54. Helen Huntingdon said:

    Oh, and LW, if a guy breaks the “half your age plus 7” dating rule, there is almost invariably something deeply wrong with how he treats his relationships. It’s not a universal, but it nearly is.

  55. Cora said:

    Everyone here is rightly telling you that you deserve better, and you will find men who will love you for who you are — but, one thing:

    It’s okay to be alone.

    You will NOT be a loser if you are alone.

    No one of any worth will think you are a loser if you are alone.

    Try to be alone for a while (I mean, romantically. You should totally live it up with supportive friends and family.)

    What everyone here is saying is that you are special enough that you don’t have to have a “boyfriend” to show people that you are worthy of love. You are worthy of love RIGHT NOW, messed up and confused and lonely and needy and feeling unperfect.

    Fuck what people might think. Fuck anyone who pressures you to not be you. Fuck perfect — there’s no such thing anyway. Fuck trying to please everyone. Please yourself. Work toward pleasing your awesome fucking self.

    • Coffeegirl_Karin said:

      YAAAAAAS! IMHO (as a 34 year old who has be single MUCH longer than she has been partnered) it is so important to be able to be comfortable in one own`s company. You really get to know yourself and your wishes/desires when you’ve been alone for a while. You are so young – go out and enjoy life!

    • I read the references to finding a man who doesn’t act like the (not) boyfriend as pointing out to LW that the man lies about what men are and how they behave.

    • Yes! My last boyfriend was emotionally….let’s say negligent. I hate to say abusive because to me that implies intent, and I truly believe his mistakes were more born out of youthful stupidity than actual malice. But in any case, things got to a point where he was not doing or saying things that made me feel good very often, and he would sometimes do or say things that made me feel like crap. So gradually the scales tipped to where our relationship was making me feel more like crap than good, and eventually I admitted to myself that even if I was single all my live-long days, it would be better than that relationship because at least there wouldn’t be as much adding to the crap-side of the feelings scale.

      I broke up with him and was single for the first time in a looong time. And it was pretty awesome. I reconnected with friends. I did better in school than I had in years. I got back into hobbies. Singlehood really WAS so much better than that relationship.

      I now have a wonderful boyfriend, and I wouldn’t trade him to go back, but the fact is that since I’m maintaining a relationship I don’t have QUITE as much time for all those things anymore, and I do sometimes miss all the things I did when single. Being single can be a great time, and even when it’s not, it is definitely better than a terrible relationship with someone who makes you feel bad more than they make you feel good.

    • Yes! My last boyfriend was emotionally…let’s say negligent. I hate to say abusive because to me that implies at least a little intent, and I truly believe his mistakes were born more of youthful stupidity than actual malice. But in any case, the relationship got a point where he was rarely doing or saying things that made me feel good, and he was sometimes saying or doing things that made me feel like crap. Gradually the scales tipped to where I felt more like crap than good. Eventually I had to admit to myself that even if I was single all my live-long days, it would feel better than being in that relationship.

      I broke up with him and was single for the first time in a loooong time. And it was awesome. I reconnected with friends. I did better in school than I had in years. I picked up some old hobbies. It was really pretty great.

      I now have a wonderful boyfriend, and I wouldn’t trade him at all, but since I am maintaining a relationship now, I don’t have quite as much time for all the things I did while single, and I do miss those things sometimes. Being single can truly be a good time to enjoy life and recharge yourself, and even if it isn’t awesome, it will always be better than staying in a relationship that makes you feel more crappy than fulfilled.

      LW, get away from this guy. I promise there is so much more in life that is better than what he has to offer.

  56. Been lurking for awhile, first post. I recognize myself in my early twenties in this post. Lovely LW – drop him now and take some time to get better. You don’t want to have a sick feeling of deja-vu reading a blog ten years down the road.

    Nothing like a little clear-eyed reality therapy via a great site.

  57. Jill said:

    I’m guessing if he started in with you when you were 17 that you never really had a serious boyfriend before. Which means you have no way to really compare him to how other men are. I assure you that there are puh-lenty of men out there who will not manipulate you, make you feel bad about you, imply that you’re not good enough, and treat you like a plaything.

    I once asked my husband if he loves me despite my flaws. He said what flaws? So I started the list…my potbelly, my crooked nose, my extra 10 pounds….and he cut me off and said, “those aren’t flaws. Those are features that make you the you I love.” THAT is what a loving man has to say about his partner’s body! You deserve the same sentiment, my friend!!

  58. sarahjaneb said:

    I don’t think anyone can definitively answer the question of whether or not he loves you, but does it matter? There are indeed people who treat their loved ones like crap, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re treating people like crap. So bottom line, LW, he’s not treating you the way you deserve to be treated.

  59. If this guy wants to see a perfect ass, he can look in the mirror. There will be one looking right back at him.

    LW, darling, you do not deserve this. Drop him like the contaminant that he is and live the life you deserve with people who have the decency to appreciate you.

    Also, get a copy of the oft-recommended ‘Why does he DO that?’ by Lundy Bancroft. There’s a passage in it that you’ll want to know:

    “He may be incapable of sustained sexual attraction to any woman who doesn’t meet his exaggerated ideal. He may want a woman with perfect features and a flawless body, like the air-brushed models in magazines. He may owe interest rapidly in a real-life woman whose body changes over time (from childbearing, for example, or simply from age) or one who, on close examination, is revealed to have blemishes or imperfections, as any real human being does. He’ll never find his dream girl because she doesn’t exist, but he may pour a lot of his time and mental energy into the search – and into punishing you for not being her.”

    Honey, you know something is wrong. You’re strong enough to leave him for a better life, and all that shit he’s been giving you is an attempt to make you forget that fact. Scrape him off your shoes and go enjoy your beautiful life.

    • Big Pink Box said:

      “If this guy wants to see a perfect ass, he can look in the mirror. There will be one looking right back at him.”

      BOOM! Mic drop!

      I ❤ you

  60. walkingwhilefemale said:

    I’m so rage-blind right now on the LW’s behalf that all of my reply comments thus far have been poorly worded screams of emotion. I’ll let the Avett Brothers take it from here:

    • BigdogLittlecat said:

      This is what the inside of my head looks like right now.

    • Esme said:

      YES

  61. Swistle said:

    My college roommate had a boyfriend like this. So similar, in fact, that at first I wondered if it could be the same guy—but the ages don’t work. Anyway, he used to show her pictures of girls in Playboy magazine and tell her she could look like them if she would just work out more and lose weight and grow her hair longer and so on. He saw this as paying her a compliment: he was praising her amazing potential. He would also do her the tremendous compliment of “teaching” her the right way to think and feel about everything. He’d cut her down and say it was only because he was trying to make her better. He cheated on her and gave reasons like your guy is giving you.

    He was one of the most insidious assholes I’ve ever encountered, because on the surface he seemed so good: handsome, caring, tender, intelligent, funny. But he was cruel and unfeeling and abusive, and she was trapped and couldn’t get out. She married him while still telling me she wanted to get out / he was the best guy ever and so good to her. The marriage lasted a few years, with him continuing to have affairs, until he finally left her for a woman who worked at a strip club he’d been frequenting (my friend’s fault, he said, since she wouldn’t keep her body looking the way he thought it “could”). My friend was so devastated and yet so relieved. She has since married a guy who treats her nicely, speaks to her nicely, thinks she’s beautiful as she is now, and doesn’t constantly treat her like a project that isn’t going well.

    • Mel Reams said:

      He saw this as paying her a compliment: he was praising her amazing potential.

      Oh my fuck I dated that miserable douchebag in my late teens/early 20s. If I never hear the word “potential” in relation to myself EVER AGAIN it will be too fucking soon. HULK SMASH. Miserable douchebag used to talk about how pretty I would be if I dressed differently, grew my hair long and straightened it, and started wearing makeup and heels.

      The most baffling thing he did was when I finally left my godforsaken pit of a hometown, he bought me some fake-tan lotion because I had been working nights and was even paler than usual. I have never in my entire life given even a fraction of a shit about whether or not I had a tan. I just looked at him and thought “have you even met me?”

      He would also do her the tremendous compliment of “teaching” her the right way to think and feel about everything. He’d cut her down and say it was only because he was trying to make her better.

      Yep, definitely my douchebag ex-boyfriend. Everything I said, did, thought, or felt was stupid and wrong and terrible and I should be grateful he was there to tell me how to be. Mine cheated on me too, if you still count it as cheating when the person cheated on knows something is up but deliberately doesn’t look that gift horse in the mouth because at least her abuser isn’t actively abusing her when he’s outside of the house bothering someone else.

      It wasn’t until years afterward that I figured out that was emotional abuse, so please don’t feel bad about yourself, LW. It’s really hard to admit that what was done to you was abuse and that someone you once thought loved you never even liked you at all. Of course you weren’t on the lookout for abuser red flags, you had the perfectly reasonable idea that your boyfriend actually liked you!

      • Guava said:

        I….oh…damn, I just realized that this was the way I was parented. Explains a LOT.

          • Guava said:

            OMG, yes. And – the thing about Mel Reams’ comment that set me off was the tanning lotion. Total lightbulb moment. Reminded me of several gifts that I’ve gotten over the years where I open them up and I’m floored, because, really? These were bought for me? Because no one in their right mind who knows me at all would ever have gotten this for me. And it’s kind of a mean gift, because it’s actually an insult wrapped up in paper. They were buying it for the person they want you to be, not for you. Makes so much sense now.

          • Mel Reams said:

            Jedi hugs if you would like them, Guava. It sucks a whole lot to realise that someone you thought cared about *you* actually likes you so little they want you to be someone else entirely.

        • unlurking said:

          @Guava – yeah, me too, though with the very best of intentions and love. After lots of soul-searching I am now very anti-“potential” adn pro-“you are already ok and worthy of love just as you are right now.”

          • Guava said:

            No wonder I’m such a fan of “good enough.” Never framed it like that before.

        • FlyBy said:

          Me too. As a kid you can’t really tell the difference between appropriate “hey, this is how you need to behave in the world” and “hey, I’m going to be an asshole to you in the name of making you better.”

          • Guava said:

            It explains A LOT. The good news for LW is that she’s not related to this asshole, she can walk away and never look back. The bad news is, his treatment of her isn’t coming from a misguided-but-loving place.

    • bradc said:

      “Anyway, he used to show her pictures of girls in Playboy magazine and tell her she could look like them if she would just work out more and lose weight and grow her hair longer and so on.”

      That’s horrible, and it becomes even more so when you realize that even the models in Playboy don’t look like they do in the magazine!! Those photos are corrected and airbrushed and retouched and basically painted to look the way they do.

      • Light37 said:

        Yeah, I was reading an article on retouching recently and on one picture they made the model’s neck longer. On another they enhanced her bust size by about two cups. None of this was real.

  62. Temporary Null said:

    I have a specific suggestion for making this break up stick.

    Get a journal, and write down as many shitty things he’s said and done as you can. Don’t soften anything he did with but-he-didnt-mean-its. Just write the gut wrenching shit he does and how it makes you feel.

    Step 2, get a different colored pen and write counter arguments to all the bad shit he said/did. Example, “Your ass is not good enough.” Response, “My ass is a part of my healthy/wonderful body, and it’s good enough for literally every other part of my life. Maybe you’re not good enough.” You can ask for help from a trusted friend if you’re struggling.

    When you feel like forgiving him, and going back, break out your journal and read what you wrote. Your brain will conveniently forget those details when you miss him, so having a reminder that he is the scum of the earth is helpful.

    • unlurking said:

      YES this is a good advice, to have different colored pens or different sides of a piece of paper to counter in words the terrible things he said adn the terrible things he convinced you to think. This has been a super helpful strategy for me. The counter arguments should all be totally true and what your best friend or an understanding counselor or somebody who loved you would say to you. If it’s hard to think of what the counter-argument is while you are thinking about yourself, then imagine that someone said those terrible things to a stranger, what would you tell the stranger?

  63. Beth said:

    LW,

    I have to ask, why is he keeping you around? It seems like he doesn’t think he gets much. If you’re so ugly and gosh darn embarrassing to be seen with, what exactly is he getting out of this relationship? My impression is that what he’s getting out of it is his kicks. He feels good when he makes someone else feel bad. He enjoys putting you down. I cannot diagnose someone with narcissism third hand over the Internet, but this guy is displaying narcissistic tendencies all over the place. And I *can* diagnose abusive assholeism over the Internet, and, oh, LW, may I just echo everyone else when I agree that you need to DTMFA.

    You say that you’re very mature for your age and I have no reason to disbelieve that. I’m guessing, though, that this is your first serious relationship, and certainly your first adult relationship. I suppose there’s no reason why a relationship between a 19 year old and a 29 year old wouldn’t work out, if they are both good people. This guy is not good people. This guy is providing you with a blueprint for believing that this is how things should be in every one of your future relationships, and that is just not true. There are good guys out there. There are sweet, decent, funny, smart guys who will like you for exactly who you are, and will treat you as an equal, and will never think of a woman as being something they get to “claim as their girlfriend”, Jesus fucking Christ, and will not make you feel bad.

    Jedi hugs if wanted.

  64. Postosuchus said:

    LW, I hope you take everyone’s advice and BLOCK BLOCK BLOCK that fucker. Think about it: He istarted a relationship with you when you were UNDERAGE. And he wasn’t 19 or even 20, he was 27! He is manipulative and abusive and he is deliberately trying to tear you down. You have the power to get rid of him, and I know you can do it!

    • The LW said she was living in Colorado. The age of consent there is 17, so she wasn’t underage.

      But I only came to mention that because you, dear LW, probably read Postosuchus’ comment and thought “No I wasn’t!” and I wanted to point out that THAT ISN’T THE POINT. If dude’s intentions toward you were honorable and he genuinely loved you and the age difference really wasn’t a thing as far as he was concerned, then he would NOT have said you had to wait until you were 21 before he’d have a proper relationship with you. He is stringing you along, and if you were to wait 2 years I can guarantee you he’d find another excuse not to commit to you.

      • Postosuchus said:

        Point taken, I should have clarified that LW was a MINOR at the time.

      • Actually, age of consent in Colorado is a complex issue. If you’re 17, you can consent to sleeping with someone no more than ten years older than you, so Shithead would’ve been legally okay, unless he turned 28 before she turned 18.

        This piece of trivia brought to you by the senior boy at my high school who wanted to screw my freshman self, an act which would be okay before his 18th birthday but not after, thanks to the close-in-age statutes he’d memorized. X(

        Happily, he’d done something unrelated to his creepiness to piss me off, and I avoided him well enough for him to turn 18 and graduate without any such acts taking place.

        • Ohhh. I thought the ten-year rule was if you were *under* 17. I thought that was kind of weird but it makes more sense now.

          • Nah, if you’re 15, you can, uh, consent to activities with anyone up to the age of 19. It still skeeves me out a bit, but I see why they have those weird brackets in place–if they made 18 the hard cut-off, a high school senior and junior in an established relationship having a consensual (and hopefully contraceptive-inclusive) exploration session could spell huge trouble for the older student. Still, 19 and 15? *Shudder*

        • Light37 said:

          EW. Ewewewew. So much ew. Especially the fact that he’d memorized the statutes!

          • Right?! I later found out via some article in the Denver Post that he hadn’t gotten it entirely right, so technically, we (royal we *not* included) would’ve been juuuuust fiiiiiine in the eyes of the law had there been penetration after he turned 18! WTF, Colorado?

  65. BigdogLittlecat said:

    >>>>>>spluttering frothing rage<<<<<<
    Even if he did LOVE you, even if His Love For You was the Best Ever Love Ever, DTMFA!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He treats you worse than shit; whether or not he loves you is irrelevant.

    But he doesn't love you.
    He *says* he loves you, but it's true that actions speak louder. "I love you" is nothing more to him than bait to keep you coming back to him. He has beaten you down so badly that he's convinced you he's the best you can do. He's beaten you down to badly he's fucked up your head so you think shit is love.
    He's like am abusive parent who beats a child "to teach them a lesson" and says "I do it because I love you." I wouldn't be surprised if this sonofabitch has said to you "this hurts me more than it hurts you."

    I'm betting it was early in your relationship that he said he wouldn't claim you as his girlfriend until you were 21? Like under 18? like maybe this asshat is calculating legal ages.

    DTMFA, block him on everything, tell your friends and family to not tell him anything about you and don't tell you anything about him, and anyone who insists on telling you about him, dump them too because they're not your friend.

    I am so angry on your behalf, I want to hunt him down and feed him alive to alligators.

    Take care of yourself, cleanse yourself of his lies, and grow to appreciate the wonderfulness that is you.

  66. Allyse Marie said:

    “There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you—of kindness and consideration and respect—not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had.” -John Steinbeck

    When I was in my early 20s, I dated a guy who was very much like your “boyfriend”. He would tell me that I wasn’t good enough, he would point out how I needed to lose weight, he would tell me that he was the only one who could ever love me, he told me that none of my friends liked me and were only friends with me out of pity, he would constantly criticize everything I wore and tell me I was nothing. And you know what? I believed him. He gaslighted me and made me feel so horribly about myself that I thought that I DESERVED to be with someone who treated me that way. So I stayed with him for two years, during which he completely eroded any self esteem I may have had, isolated me from all my family and friends, and made me into a shell of my former self.

    And then one day he hit me.

    After that I told myself that even if no one else could ever love me, I’d rather be alone for the rest of my life than waste one more day being with someone who treated me like garbage. I left him that day and it was hard and it took a few years to undo all the emotional damage he had done to me, but I can tell you LW, that leaving him was completely and totally WORTH IT.

    Once we had broken up, I could see that my family and friends still loved me and that I was someone worthy of love. Fast forward to today and I now have an amazing boyfriend who treats me like a princess and makes me happier than I thought I could ever be.

    I think when you’re young, it’s hard to have a frame of reference of what healthy relationships should be like, especially when you’re still trying to figure out who you want to be. I want to let you know that you deserve to be treated soooooooo much better and you CAN and WILL find someone who will appreciate the beautiful person you are inside and out. *virtual hugs*

  67. lovely said:

    I got as far as “he thought it would make me feel special to know that he cheated on his girlfriend to be with me”
    and had to come to the comments and say: no, that’s not how it works, that’s not how any of this works.
    Block his number and let his cheating “specialness” not have anything to do with you anymore. This guy sounds like a complete and total asshole. You are worth so much more than trying to pour your love onto his “imperfections”.

  68. thathat said:

    he thought it would make me feel special to know that he cheated on his girlfriend to be with me.

    Burn.

    Everything.

    *keeps reading*

    Oh. Oh geeze, I didn’t realize that was the high point. LW, you are worth so much more than this. You deserve so much better. This guy? He isn’t capable of love, and you can’t fix that. He’ll keep doing what he’s doing to you for as long as he can, until he’s drained every ounce of light and joy you have, until he finds someone “better.” They won’t be better, they’ll just be fresher, and he will treat them exactly the same, until they are beat down and empty too. Heck, from the sound of it, he already does that. He probably treats all of the other women in his life, including the ones he’s been seeing in the time he knows you, as exactly the same. If they ever find out about you, he probably also tells them that they should feel special that he’s cheating with them. If you can’t make it to a certain event, he probably calls them up, after having also told them that they’re not hot enough to be seen in public or whatever.

    I don’t know how this guy got into your head so bad. (And honestly, if you have access to a firepit or somewhere that is safe to have a fire and burn things, a little bit of therapudic destruction might be helpful. Write his name, write all these things he does to you and says to you on a piece of paper, and burn it. Safely.)

    Best of luck, kiddo. You deserve so much more. You deserve actual love.

  69. RobinG said:

    LW, you don’t have a perfect ass. He is a stinking shit stained ass.

    Go back to everything he said about your ass, about how ugly it is, how it’s holding you back, how it’s not suitable to be out in public with you, and imagine he was talking about himself. It will make a lot more sense that way.

    • FlyBy said:

      THIS.

  70. ralucahippie said:

    Me reading the letter :
    “we aren’t truly in a relationship because he says he doesn’t want to claim me as his girlfriend until I am 21.” Pfffft!
    “he had a girlfriend… he thought it would make me feel special to know that he cheated on his girlfriend to be with me.” Ewwwww
    To the end of the letter, I counted 12 Pfffft’s, 5 Ewwwwwww’s and 4 of “What the ever-loving f#(&, seriously, dude!”.
    Can I get a nopetopus pls? Or better yet that adorable badger

    • Neurite said:

      Ask and you shall receive. You’re right, the NOPE badger is entirely called for here.

  71. LW, something that stands out to me about your letter, is how much you fight him on his bad behavior. Like, you’ve spent two years with a guy who does everything he can to undermine your self-esteem, and you’re still saying things like, “I know I’m in good shape, so why does he say I’m not?” and “why does he disrespect me and treat me so poorly?”

    It stands out to me, because even though you have doubts, and you start to see yourself the way he does, you DO know better. You KNOW he’s wrong. And that takes a lot of strength. When I was 17 I had someone like that in my life, who I loved, and who did everything he could to destroy my self-esteem, and after a year of that, I believed him. Holding on to your self-worth is HARD when there’s someone you care about who’s trying to take it away. I think that, without this guy tearing you down, you’re going to be an unstoppable force.

    • RobinG said:

      Yes!! I noticed that, too. LW, you are already so much stronger than I ever was. You are resisting his mind control. You are Jessica Jones!

      • Lisa said:

        Agreed, you have amazing resilience LW! You should be proud of that

        • Bag of Hamsters said:

          That said, you should not *need* said resilience to be in a relationship with someone. Just because you are strong enough to bear something doesn’t mean you have to or should.

  72. JMegan said:

    LW, I don’t know for sure if you’re having sex with him – if not, feel free to skip the rest of this comment.

    If you are having sex, I’m going to guess that it is both infrequent and amazing. The reason I’m going there is that I dated a guy like this too, and sex was one of the ways he manipulated me. Like, he was awful about 40% of the time, ordinary to neutral about 50%, and OH MY GOD THIS IS THE BEST SEX I HAVE EVER HAD IN MY ENTIRE LIFE for the other 10%. And it was that 10% that had me sticking around. Because okay, he’s not perfect, and I don’t mind putting up with his flaws and yada yada, but that 10% was so fantastic that it seemed like everything else was worth it.

    And the other thing I discovered, is that this is a really common pattern. Every single one of my girlfriends (and a couple of guy friends) who have dated people like this, have talked about how great the sex was. People like this – they know exactly what they’re doing. They know they are being manipulative, and they know that there’s a good chance their partners are sitting around making pros and cons lists. So they’re awful *just a bit less* than half the time, and regular for most of the rest of the time, and seriously amazing only as often as they have to be in order to keep you around.

    So I’m with the others in saying don’t feel bad for having dated him – you are being manipulated by a master manipulator, and your experience is so, so common. It’s not your fault, and you will come out the other side. Also, not unrelated, my partner now is even *better* in bed than my douchebag ex, but without all the emotional nastiness. Those guys are out there, and the sooner you get rid of this one, the closer you get to finding one.

    • JMegan said:

      Edited for clarity – I don’t mean the sex was awful 40% of the time, I mean HE was awful 40% of the time. I wouldn’t call out outright abuse, but he was definitely manipulative and controlling and just not a nice person. The 50% ordinary was also not in bed, and the 10% awesome was both out of bed (flowers! telling me I’m beautiful!) and in it (redacted for modesty’s sake.) It’s a scam, LW, a deliberately planned and calculated scam.

      • CommanderBanana said:

        Yup, I dated an emotionally abusive, gaslighting alcoholic dickhead for 2 years (I am sure he would have been physically abusive if he thought he could get away with it, but we’re about the same size and he was, at the core, a coward who was smart enough to keep things on the just-this-side-of-plausible-deniability) but the sex was great. Who knows why? It’s a mystery lost to the sands of time. Breaking up with him was terrible because it was literally like kicking an addiction.

        LW, you can do it. It’s not worth it. Trust me, it’s not. I’ll never get those 2 years back.

        • Polychrome said:

          this really is a thing — Lundy Bancroft talks about it. It’s so helpful when you are like “waiittttt… that’s not ‘special’ that’s a PATTERN? ohhhhhhhhhhh…..”

        • toxicnudibranch said:

          I’ve got a theory on that, actually. When I’ve been in a super-not-good-but-still-trying-to-stay (for reasons? cultural conditioning?) relationship, I would throw myself so hard into whatever it was that seemed kind of okay and inflate its goodness. So if the sex was passable, or even good, our sexual connection became So Important and So Electric. If the sex wasn’t so good, but we shared Awesome Hobby, then it became really really important, and I imagined our Bond of Underwater Basketweaving to be more powerful and interesting than what it actually was.

        • Angel said:

          Actually, it IS literally, biologically, kicking an addiction. Love and sex are drugs.. Like, biologically in your brain, love affects us like amphetamines or morphine (different contexts for each). You were in fact kicking an addiction cold-turkey.

          Source: My human sexuality textbook from last year.

          • CommanderBanana said:

            This is a really good point. I don’t have substance abuse issues but I have had problems with addictive behavior. It really did feel like using a drug and breaking up with him was so hard. I have a tendency to move from relationship to relationship with little time in between, not because I have issues with being alone (I actually prefer to be alone most of the time) but because, for whatever reason, physical intimacy is something that I find very hard to be without. It’s like my alcohol or tobacco.

        • neverjaunty said:

          Human beings use sex as a bonding and social mechanism. Sex with an awful person you’re stuck with can be very rewarding because your brain is telling you ‘see, do this and everything will be just fine’.

          • Lisa said:

            Wow, that so illuminating. I’m going to try and read up on that.

  73. LW, once you’ve dumped that colossal ass, be sure to do the work to help prevent you from getting into another relationship with another abuser. This asshole has got your self-esteem in complete shreds; repairing that isn’t the work of a moment or a day or a week. Captain gives some great advice about therapy and resources for getting some outside help. Please follow that advice. Please learn the warning signs of abusers like him so that you can avoid falling into the same trap again. I’m feeling pretty grateful that this is a long distance relationship because abusers typically do not like to let go of their victims easily, and the distance may help keep you safe if this douchecanoe sees your breakup as an excuse to go psycho. Abusers like to have power and control over their victims; this is what his relationship with you is about, for him — not loving you (nope, not even a little) — but feeding his narcissistic, psychotic ego. Be on the lookout for any warning signs that he is not going to simply accept your departure from his life, and don’t hesitate for one moment to involve the authorities and your support system to protect yourself. You might want to proactively contact your local women’s shelter to help you put together a safety plan. Even if you never need it, having one is truly worth it. Better to be safe.

    Once you have ended the relationship, it is important that you avoid ALL contact with him. Find a support group, a therapist, any resources whatsoever that you can find to help you rebuild your lost self esteem and help you with good self care. You’ll need to learn how to talk positively to yourself — remember that someone who loves you would not put you down and criticize you, and so you should not do these things to yourself. Try to spend as much time as possible with people who love and care for you and who help you to feel good about yourself. Find something that you love doing – physically or creatively – to release the endorphins in your brain. It might be a dance class, or gardening, or painting or riding horses. What is something you love to do? Do lots of it.

    If there aren’t any support groups locally, look for them online in Domestic Abuse/Abuse Survivor’s forums.

    Jedi hugs to you, LW. You are precious, valuable, lovable and so very loved.

  74. toxicnudibranch said:

    First, let me get this out of my system: FUCK HIM, FUCK HIM SO HARD, BUT NOT LITERALLY BECAUSE HIS FUCKING AWFUL SELF IS NOT WORTHY OF YOUR SWEET, SWEET LOVIN’

    Now, moving on:

    LW, I am so proud of you for listening to the voice inside telling you that this isn’t okay and needs to be questioned. All of us freaking the hell out in this comment section are here because Girl, we have Been There. Heed the Captain’s advice and lance this festering boil that has been marring your beautiful ass for years. Purge the infection and sterilize the wound so that his necrotitizing fuckery can’t reestablish itself. You are strong, you have the tools, and we will be here for you as you throw open the door of the gaslit prison he groomed and “negged” you into and burn that mothafucka to the ground.

    That’s not to say this is easy. It isn’t. But once you start, it *is* easier than it seemed, and it IS worth it.

    • Oh yes – LW, please please do some researching into “negging” because this is all about that kind of bullshit.

  75. Just to add to this, I don’t think the ‘imperfect ass’ was related to looks at all. I believe it was his excuse not to be seen in public because a) age difference and b) probably with another girl. Maybe if you can think of it as a crappy excuse it could help repair the self-esteem pain. He’s a jerk and you’ll look back in a few years and be so relieved you didn’t stay with him.

    • neverjaunty said:

      Yes. And even if a genie appeared out of a lamp and granted LW’s wish to have what her boyfriend considered to be the perfect ass, he’d simply move on to saying she needed breast-enhancement surgery, or a better tan, or something else to put her down and keep her feeling low.

  76. Megan M. said:

    LW, I couldn’t even finish reading your letter because your boyfriend’s awful behavior was making me so sad and filled with rage on your behalf. You do not deserve this. You deserve better. This guy will not get better. Please stop talking to him. Don’t let one more second of his meanness and negativity influence your thoughts. I want better than this for you. Please heed the Captain’s advice and read all of these comments and never, never, believe you deserve or have to put up with this treatment from ANYONE ever again. Jedi hugs to you.

  77. For reference, because sometimes when you’re ensnared in a Darth Boyfriend’s web, it’s hard to know what normal is. But:

    Someone who loves you might find some of your physical characteristics a bit less than perfect, but will see you as a whole person whom they love, so they’ll love that part of you anyway. Using your (likely fiiiiine) ass as an example, someone who loves you might prefer a different derriere set-up in their deepest imaginings, but because it is YOUR ass, they will love it even if it doesn’t match up with their Ideal Ass.

    Someone who loves you might very well see other people and think “I’d like to make the sex with that person,” but unless they know that’s something you enjoy hearing about, they won’t make anything of it. They won’t rub it in your face, they won’t compare you to other people, they won’t act on those thoughts in a monogamous relationship, or in a polyamorous relationship they’ll act according to the rules you’ve established within your relationship for that sort of thing. Sometimes people (of all genders!) find other people attractive even while in committed, monogamous relationships, but the line that dude fed you is bullshit. If he actually loved you, he wouldn’t use his pants-feelings for another women to try to demean you, belittle you, and pick away at your self-esteem.

    Someone who loves you will SHOW you they love you in whatever way they know how, and more importantly, will STOP DOING THE THINGS THAT MAKE YOU FEEL BAD ABOUT YOURSELF as soon as they know that’s what those things are doing. They’ll never knowingly go out of their way to make you feel bad about yourself, because they love you, and seeing you sad would make them sad. They’ll actively try to make sure you’re not sad instead!

    Someone who loves you, if they REALLY MUST make some criticism of you, will do so as kindly and compassionately as they can. They’ll try to build you up before or after delivering their criticism (or both!), and they’ll be as constructive as they know how. Again, sometimes they’ll screw up and say the wrong thing, but when they realize how much they’ve hurt you, they’ll apologize and try not to do or say that wrong thing again.

    Someone who loves you will want to be seen with you. They’ll want the world to know they love you and you love them. They’ll want to take you places and go places with you, and spend time with you both alone and in the company of others.

    Someone who loves you will at least try to be open, honest and communicative about any other partners they have. If you’ve both agreed to be in a monogamous relationship, they won’t have other partners. Rather than cheating on anyone with anyone else, they’ll try to talk to you when they’re unhappy about something in the relationship so that you can work on it together. Sometimes that means that someone who loves you might break up with you because they need something you’re not able or willing to give them. They’ll do that because they want what’s best for you — and if the relationship isn’t working for them, then staying halfway in it and stringing you along would be a cruel thing to do.

    And someone who loves you would never, ever, in a million, billion years, EVER say and do the kind of shit this dude has put you through. You deserve someone who will treat you with respect, kindness, and compassion; someone who will be open and honest with you, who will be proud to call you his girlfriend, and who will love and appreciate your kindness, generosity, and loyalty as much as he loves your rockin’ ass and all the other lovely things about you.

    • I wish I had read this when I was letter writer’s age. One of the most damaging things abusers do is brainwash their victims into thinking that the abusive relationship is “normal.” One of the most beneficial things I could have ever learned was that it most certainly wasn’t.

  78. I am very mature for my age, and I feel like he acts more as if he is 24/25 than a 29 year old.

    LW, when you dump the hell out of this guy, keep in mind for the future that just because a guy is acting below his age level doesn’t mean he’s more appropriate for younger partners to date. Actually quite the opposite is true most of the time. Past a certain point depending on the respective partners involved, age stops mattering and age distinctions aren’t as sharp, particularly after stations in life like college and obtaining full time employment. This is usually when most people have had the irresponsibility and recklessness of adolescence hammered out of them. If you are already past that point, great! If not, that’s understandable and normal because adolescence wasn’t that long ago for you. (Do some thinking about this. Once you’re rid of this asshole, you may find that you’re okay with not having to seem older than you are.) If a 29 year old hasn’t…well then that doesn’t bode as well.

    Both of you are adults now and the age-appropriateness is no longer a placement test. Your boyfriend didn’t test into remedial adulthood. His attitude won’t age chronologically to age 25-26 next year. It’s pass or fail. You choose to act right and pass or you don’t. You’re a responsible adult or you’re not. Now that you’re no longer a 17 year old kid (which you were when this creep showed up), you need to find a real adult to be with, not a failed one whatever age they are. People who fail to grow up and take responsibility for their lives and actions rarely do without a harsh kick in the ass from life. Meanwhile their friends grow up and move on and so will you while he keeps creeping on girls who are too young to know he sucks at life.

    • “Past a certain point depending on the respective partners involved, age stops mattering and age distinctions aren’t as sharp, particularly after stations in life like college and obtaining full time employment.”

      Yes! a friend of mine, in his 40s, started dating someone in their early 20s. He’d never done that before — always dated fairly close to his own age, and it weirded me out a little until I met her. OH! She’s a lot like him — they met when he was searching for an artistic collaborator for a particular project and they clicked over their work, and then turned out to share a lot of other important characteristics as well. It’s absolutely possible for two people far apart in age to meet as equals, even if it looks a bit strange from the outside.

      It’s not possible when one of them is an immature jackass who grooms and manipulates his partners. It’s important to be able to take a step back and say “wait, on what ground are we meeting?” LW, your boyfriend is not only meeting you on uneven ground, but he’s trying to regrade the field while you’re standing on it — and not to your benefit. Kick him and his landscaping machinery out and rejoice in the nice soccer field you deserve.

      • Quickly delurking to mention that my own Darth Ex was an actual, trained landscaper. 😀

    • NorahMancer said:

      keep in mind for the future that just because a guy is acting below his age level doesn’t mean he’s more appropriate for younger partners to date. Actually quite the opposite is true most of the time.
      Yup, therein lies the paradox – the people who are most likely to be good to a young partner, to be loving and supportive and capable of negotiating the difficulties involved in an age difference, are the least likely to want to date much below their age range.

  79. Dani Alexis said:

    LW, maybe you’ve noticed this already from the comments above, but I want to say it outright, because it made a huge difference to me when I was trying to escape my own Darth Asshole:

    This guy is not unique.

    The shit he is pulling is classic abuser shit. The patterns are obvious to anyone who has been in an abusive relationship and escaped (see: a bunch of us on this thread).

    I say this because when you try to walk away, chances are very good that he’ll pull another classic abuser trick: telling you that But What We Have Is Special or No One Makes Me Feel The Way You Do or But You/I/We Will Never Do As Well Again. (Watch out also for This Isn’t Even Abuse (a veiled threat) and/or That Woman Over There Has It So Much Worse.)

    These are lies, LW. THEY ARE BLOODY LIES. And you are not beholden to them, or him. It can be very hard not to take them personally if you think they are unique and personal facets of this relationship. So I am telling you: they are not. He pulls this shit because this is the shit abusers pull.

    Lundy Bancroft’s book on abusive men (the title is escaping me) can also help you see the pattern so you can more easily tell it to go fuck itself. It helped me a lot in the weeks after I left my shitheel “boyfriend” (who could be yours except I know mine has never been to either Colorado or Florida).

    • FlyBy said:

      The book is Why Does He Do That. It can be really painful to read it and see chunks of your own life laid out right there, but it can also be really healing. I recommend it to everyone, whether they’ve been in an abusive relationship or not. Knowing how abusers operate is painful, but it’s also the best way to recognize them for what they are.

  80. Angel said:

    Hey, not every dude you meet is going to “see other girls and just want to f–k them”. Case in point, my dude is no longer interested in sexing up anyone but me. It’s just not a thing in his brain. He sees other ladies and thinks “that is a beautiful woman” and… that’s it. Just acknowledges her beauty and moves the hell on, because he has all he needs. Me. I’m all he needs.

    This dude who’s lying to you about how all guys want other women is trying to keep you from realizing how fucked up his shit is. Sorry, but it’s true. This guy is just not that into you. In fact, he’s not into you at all. He might be into another person he’s trying to make you be. But that person isn’t you, can’t be you, and shouldn’t be you. It’s not going to work. DTMFA and get a respectful dude into your life. They are out there.

    • Jenny Islander said:

      Not only that, but a dude who goes with you and also feels sexually attracted to other girls he sees can just as well choose to SHUT UP ABOUT IT because he has made the decision to be MONOGAMOUS and, you know, not creepy. A penis is not a control stick.

      • Angel said:

        True! Even sexual attraction doesn’t always mean “wanting to fuck them”. Like, I’m engaged and pansexual, and there’s this girl who used to live at my co-op and is back visiting, and holy. shit. am I sexually attracted to her. Like she was very drunk and complained that she’d just wanted to kiss a girl, and my gut went *wrench* and I was like “oh, apparently this is a thing”. But I don’t WANT to fuck her. I experience that attraction, acknowledge it, and let it go. Feeling is inevitable; but wanting, I think, is a choice.

  81. DameB said:

    Can I just say, LW, that you are amazing and so much more self possessed than I was? Because when I was where you were, I didn’t even know to say that he was treating me badly. (I was 17 and he was 29 and unemployed and a recovering alcoholic and told me I needed to wear shorter skirts and make up.) It never would have dawned on me to ask for help. You clearly know that something is wrong — you say it over and over again in your letter. This is not how a person treats someone he loves.

    You know what to do and we’ll all be here cheering for you when you do it. It’s gonna be hard but you are so amazing that I know you can. I did it, and you are so much more amazing than I was.

  82. Morticia said:

    While reading this, my inner PTSD sufferer was hissing and spitting screaming, “Kill it with fire!” Sorry, LW, he doesn’t love you. He is using you to build himself up, because he is a pathetic piece of shit.

  83. choosejoy said:

    This makes me so mad. I feel so much for girls who have been so poorly mistreated like this. You are worth way more than this. Don’t put up with someone who treats you like trash. It’s hard to leave them when you love them but they don’t love you back, and I know you may think that they might change. But don’t waste your life waiting around for that too happen. Be with someone who doesn’t just say they love you to keep you around so they can use you. Be with someone who loves you and shows you he loves you through his words and actions.

  84. Nonny#38,000 said:

    LW, I am a +30 who has been coping with a huge crush/romantic interest on someone nine years younger than me who has virtually no experience dating. Recently they asked me for advice in the romance/dating arena and I told them…that right now they don’t know what they want in a relationship, and that they should date people near their age casually while they figure that out. At NO point did I let my feelings into things, even though I nursed them with a bowl of ice cream and some wistfulness to a close friend of mine. Even if they showed interest in me I wouldn’t date them right now because as hard as it was to give that advice it was the right thing to do. If this jackass really cared about you he would have said something similar when you were 17.

  85. Ookling said:

    He didn’t want to be seen with you in public? *ugly snarls* Well, then, maybe he doesn’t deserve to see you in private!

    At some level this… Individual thinks that he cannot earn/deserve/keep the chance to bask in your terrifyingly awesome presence, LW. Instead of working on himself, his issues or demons, he’s decided instead to make sure you never find out how awesome you are. What a shitwomble!

    Excuse me, I must now go and develop the ability to set jerks on fire with my mind without increasing the amount of carbon gases released into the environment. It seems to be more and more needed, these days.

    • Friendly Hipposcriff said:

      My thought was rather that he didn’t want to see his girlfriend or parents to know she exists and/or for friends and acquaintances to ask questions like ‘how’s [official girlfriend]’.

      He *knows* that what he’s doing is skeevy, so he tries to keep it private.

  86. clovenpine said:

    LW, to answer your question: Yes, he actually might really love you. You sound like a lovely, caring, dedicated, kind, and patient person. What’s not to love?

    You’re asking the wrong question. Reframe. Not “does he love me,” but “does he TREAT ME WELL? Is he healthy for me? Do I enjoy the relationship? Does he bring me joy?” His feelings are irrelevant. Your experience is important, and you should order your life such that every day you feel satisfied and competent and valuable and at peace. From what you’ve said here, it sounds like this fella is not helping you do that. He may have good-ish qualities that you haven’t mentioned here, but the fundamental truth is that He. Is. Making. Your. Life. Worse.

    All support, encouragement, and admiration to you, dear. Go live your best life, even (especially?) if this person isn’t in it.

  87. I hope you have a relationship very soon with someone who doesn’t care if you eat an entire chocolate cake while feeling the breeze in your leg hair.

    Also, I wonder if you could deliver your breakup by donkey. One with “here’s the ass you wanted” painted on it.

    • Angel said:

      +1000

  88. Nancy M. said:

    LW, put aside how mature you are for your age. This is a common tactic used by predators to groom young and inexperienced people. Flatter first, criticize later. You can find that tactic anywhere you can read about abusive partners, so I won’t bother going into it, but really, really understand that whatever flattery he has used on you, it isn’t to build you up but *solely* to keep you around in order to tear you down harder. And, by the way, *inexperienced* is the word I want to emphasize here. I’m sure a lot of us *felt* we were mature for our age at your age, and many of us probably were. You probably are! But mature or not, that doesn’t remove the HUGE lack of world experience that we all had at your age, and that we all look back at now and can see the huge, gaping holes of vulnerability like “he *told* me I am mature for my age, he *told* me he loves me, he *told* me he wants me, therefore these things must be true.” But now that we are older, we can fill in the blanks in that sentence with what we have since witnessed. “He *told* me I am mature for my age (with conditions), he *told* me he loves me (with conditions), he *told* me he wants me (with conditions), therefore these things must be true.”

    Don’t get me wrong, unconditional love is a lovely movie fantasy and normal relationships *do* consist of give and take, but that is less about “you have to look sexier for me” (which is fine IF both sides get to have a say in that, but kind of unrealistic for a long-term relationship), and more about “you do the dishes and I’ll do the laundry” or “I’ll grow my hair long if you shave your beard” (or vice versa, just so the short-haired and the bearded don’t feel left out or unloved, cause you all are :)). Compromise is a normal and healthy part of a normal and healthy relationship. BUT when someone tries to get you into a relationship where *you* are the only one with conditions, that is a bad, bad, *bad* relationship, and when you add that age difference in there, it’s a screaming red flag to the rest of us that makes us want to yell GET OUT OF THE ROOM like we’re watching a horror movie and you’re the young heroine that has just walked into the room to investigate a noise and oh phew, it’s only the cat. GET THE FUCK OUT because he wants nothing for you, he wants everything for himself, and therefore he’s a bad, selfish, unworthy person for you. You will have all sorts of opportunities to try out dating. You will probably date more people that in the end you think “I should not have dated him”, but now you have gained a little of the experience this asshole has been trying to keep you from finding on your own. “A man who expects everything of myself and nothing of him is not worthy of me.” Hold onto that lesson, but let go of the rest, including him. Block him everywhere, and if you feel the need for him, find a place or a person you trust to talk about it, but do NOT let him back in. He is no good.

  89. There is this quote that I always come back to, especially when I read these kinds of letter. Especially when I get to the “he says he’s just being honest” parts: “I mean, who am I to dispense life advice but when a person says he’s just being honest, this is a good time to start looking for the exits. Especially a potential romantic partner; people who put great priority on ‘just being honest.’ It means they’re about to harm you. In some very essential way. Not just that they’re gonna screw you over and cheat on you, they’re really gonna find the vulnerable spot and get to it. Because it gives them pleasure. That’s how they get their pleasure. And so they say to you, ‘hey you know I just try to be an honest person’ … Oh, my friends. Locate all the places to run in a fire, in that kinda situation.” — John Darnielle.

    (The quote is from banter at a show and I’ve tried to transcribe it as faithfully as possible.)

    • Jenny Islander said:

      Something I learned at Reddit (Yes I KNOW but there are some good, thoroughly moderated forums there):

      Necessary, Kind, True;
      Pick two.

      That is, someone can say things that are necessary and true, but not necessarily kind (You’re trailing toilet paper); necessary and kind, but not necessarily true (What an adorable baby); or kind and true, but not necessary (Oh wow I love your hair color! Did you do that yourself? That’s awesome!).

      So, why is it necessary for this guy to tell the LW that he wants to do other girls? Even if it’s true, it damn well isn’t kind. But cutting her down with little razor blades of insecurity is how he keeps her orbiting him and catering to him, so for him, yes, it’s necessary.

      But not for her.

      • carlie said:

        That is pretty brilliant, actually. I really like those criteria, makes you stop and think about why you want to say it.

        Also, LW: it’s not your fault he’s dragged you into this, and it’s perfectly understandable that you’ve been with him. But you deserve so much better than what he is now, and he’s only going to keep getting worse.

    • JMegan said:

      The “just being honest” thing makes me especially stabby. Think about famous people you know who use that line regularly – Simon Cowell, Kevin O’Leary, Donald Trump. “Oh, I’m just being HONEST!” they say. “I’m only SAYING what everyone else is THINKING!” And always, always, it’s a cover up for saying something nasty. No, what you’re saying is not “just honest.” It’s mean. And no, I guarantee you that not everyone else is thinking it too. Maybe some people are, but that doesn’t make you a hero for saying it. It just makes you nasty – and probably nastier than the people who are polite enough to keep their thoughts to themselves.

      • Friendly Hipposcriff said:

        Some truths don’t need to be said aloud. And some need to be told by people who the receiver can trust to say them in good faith; if you’re not that close to someone, keep your gob shut. And sometimes the timing isn’t right, and an observation – even if truthful – would cause too much hurt.

        Also, those ‘truth’ people are never ever ‘being honest’ in a positive way: they feel free to point out negatives but don’t ever go out of their way to compliment others or even give constructive criticism. In my experience they usually assume the worst of people: that someone is ‘lazy’ instead of exhausted or in pain… – there definitely seems to be an element of feeling qualified to judge others.

        (On a similar notion, I reject the theory of ‘crapsack worlds’ and grimdark Fantasy novels: yes, there’s a lot of nasty people and horrible experiences in the world, but there are also awesome people in any situation, people who are inspiring and whom you can look up to, and there’s usually someone who can find humour. If you describe only half (or less) of the world, you’re not ‘realistic’).

        • Excellent point. I think it’s good to tell the truth, so you know what I do? If the person checking out my groceries has a gorgeous hairstyle, I’ll tell her so. If person A said something nice and non-confidential about person B, I pass it along. If I think my friend is really cool, I’ll say so straight out. I figure hey, these things are all true, so why be shy about saying them?

          If someone is ‘honest’ and can only ever find bad things to blurt out, well, that tells you something about their attitude right there.

          • MrsLokiofAsgard said:

            My mother thinks she’s this positive being, full of honesty and positive thoughts. Every word that she says in the name of honesty is laced with poison. I’ve also noticed that the people who cling to that “I’m only being honest” argument are the ones who have the hardest time with that honesty when it’s lobbed back at them. My mother and I aren’t speaking right now because I had the audacity to call her on her shit with the same brutal honesty she likes to dish out. She claimed that I was being “unnecessarily cruel and vicious” to her. Go figure!

      • Every time I hear someone boast about how honest/blunt they are, I instinctively flinch, because I KNOW they’re going to be mean. There was one case where an ex-friend used this to tear me down, and it wasn’t until later that I found out she wasn’t even being honest! She just wanted an excuse to be mean with impunity!

        • Light37 said:

          I hear that and it’s like all the red flags arrive and start to dance the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. It also tells me this is someone to avoid at all costs.

    • DesertRose said:

      I saw a quote somewhere (if I remembered the source, I’d give due credit) that went something like, “People who proudly proclaim to be brutally honest enjoy the brutality more than the honesty.”

  90. Emily H said:

    My parents married when my mom was 20 and my dad was 29. He was a hapless goofball who drank too much and she had overly strict, serious parents who frowned on her having fun, taking risks, or making mistakes. They are super happy now, but my mom did most of the lifting for both of them for most of my childhood. As a result, my mom was ADAMANT that my sisters and I did not need to be in serious relationships in our teens or early 20s. She missed out on a lot of youth taking care of a husband and a family and made it clear she wanted better for us, even though she still loves us all.

    Sure, the relationship’s not always consciously predatory, but it’s often thoughtless, careless, and kind of gross to decide that nurturing your extended adolescence should take precedence over someone else’s actual adolescence.

    As a 30-something lady, I’m starting to think that people around our age who don’t take care of themselves and don’t want to take care of themselves need to find someone 10 years younger if they want a caretaker. Something about that 16-24 age, especially after a bad childhood, makes people too eager to prove their adulthood by taking on too much too fast, while by around 30, we usually pick up a different perspective.

  91. lindeseig said:

    I survived three years with an emotionally abusive, gaslighting asshole, and as hard as it was to get away, and as much reverb (in the form of PTSD) as I deal with it was the best decision I could have made. You are so much more than your measurements, or what he makes you out to be. Walk away, block him everywhere you need to, and above all take care of you in the form of therapy, checking in with a domestic violence organization in your area, truly supportive friends and family, activities on your own terms. I’m rooting for you, LW….you can do this.

  92. There’s one thing I haven’t quite seen addressed here: LW has been seeing this guy since she was 17, but he won’t be her boyfriend in public until she’s 21. So… he thinks that for 4 years she’s supposed to put her life on hold?

    LW, in four years a teenager can meet a guy and fall in love and have a messy break-up three or four times. You do not have to spend four years committed to one person even if he’s great! (memo, this guy is not.) You already gave him two years of him not being your boyfriend. You ask if your boyfriend loves you, but I don’t think he’s even qualified as a boyfriend yet.

    Go out and love yourself, and someone will meet you who loves you as you are.

  93. RSVP said:

    Excuse me while I pick my jaw up off the floor and reattach it. Of all the Darth Vader boyfriends we’ve read about on this site, I think this one has to be one of the worst.
    “I am very mature for my age, and I feel like he acts more as if he is 24/25 than a 29 year old.”
    No, he’s really more like a rather cruel 16 year old. The sort of jackass that we all knew in high school. That isn’t a good thing, acting much younger than his real age, because he won’t grow up any more than he already has. At 50, he’ll still be the same, except that he won’t be able to get girlfriends with “perfect asses” any more, so he’ll spend all his spare time on line ranting about how evil feminists have turned women away from real men like him. Also, sorry to say it, but you aren’t mature for your age, you sound just about right for 19.
    “…he thought it would make me feel special to know that he cheated on his girlfriend to be with me.”
    So, not only immature and cruel, but completely clueless about women as well. Really??? He thought you’d feel “special” being his bit on the side?
    “I wonder will I ever find a guy who can love someone that has all of the flaws he points out in me…”
    Oh, trust me, there are plenty of young men out there who won’t treat you like this. He has been gaslighting you for two years so that you have started to think this is normal behaviour. You’re just fine. You deserve better. Get out there and meet someone your own age.
    Please, please, please, dump this jackass!

  94. sophylou said:

    LW, there is a lot of you “just not understanding” in this letter, and I would like to say to you (AND TO MY 18-TO-22-YEAR-OLD SELF) that your inability to understand the situation is because the situation A) does not in fact make sense (you love him for his imperfections, he tells you that he can’t be seen with you because your ass is not good enough. What?) and B) is BY NO MEANS a reflection on your ability to understand things. Your brain is saying “does not compute” because the situation does, in fact, NOT COMPUTE.

    And in this case, you don’t have to understand, because in this situation, “understanding” doesn’t mean “grasping the situation,” it means “bending yourself into pretzels in order to accept and work with his lack of logic.” You don’t need to do that. You can say “This doesn’t make sense” (which it sounds like you already understand — in the actual sense of “understanding,” not the pretzelly one), leave, and block him. You can “I don’t understand” your way right out of there. You don’t have to understand him (and oh boy, do I know how these guys like to play the “only YOU can understand me / but you just don’t understaaaaaaaaand” cards). You understand. He’s a jerk. Listen to that. Let it take you out of the relationship. You don’t have to understand him anymore. You can leave.

    Take care of yourself, and seek out support.

  95. Brie said:

    I made it two paragraphs before the urge to scream “Burn it, burn it with fire!!!” became too strong. Oh darling lady. Listen to the wise people on this site and get yourself into a better place. You have a wonderful rest of your life ahead of you. ❤

  96. RSVP said:

    (Picks jaw up off floor, attempts to re-attach it.)
    Let’s see – when he was 27 he took up with a 17 year old. He’s been keeping her on ice for two years and expects her to wait around for another 2 so that he can “claim” her. I suppose it wasn’t a coincidence that she was just of the age of consent for Colorado when he took up with her.
    As for him being more like 24 than 29… that really isn’t a good thing. Actually, he reminds me of some of the nastier boys I knew in junior high school.

  97. Myrtle said:

    LW, thundering applause to you for your skills in seeking outside help, and in choosing a forum where your needs will be validated.

    Some other things about this predator- it is OK to ask yourself, what’s in it for you, to have this relationship? Does this person model skills or abilities that you want for yourself? Do you want to emulate his career and health choices? It gets hard to keep our goals from being skewed, when we chase another.

    I’ve seen too many predatory criminals of this sort have problems with the law, children with multiple (jilted and angry) partners and with non-payment of taxes. The ones I knew had weapons.

    Do not let your birth control methods be where someone else can alter or destroy them. An STD panel is something to get for yourself, as you don’t know what you’ve been exposed to.

    I would advocate not saying goodbye to this person. Just ghost. And Ive kept their number but titled it “Criminal” and made a silent ringtone for it, so I could block it. Create new social media identities. Put locks on your credit (costs less than $50.)

    Getting free of the addiction on a day to day felt like my skin was being pulled off with pliers. What’s worked for me wasn’t so much transferring to new forms of stimulation, but teaching myself to feel the pleasure of smaller, less exciting rewards in everyday life. I’ve relearned to feel the burst of pleasure that comes from seeing my dishes or laundry finished and put away. A big favorite is paying my rent and bills. Emotional regulation took some time for me to learn- “refrain” is my secret word, to give me time to assess instead of react. After you’ve got the big parts sorted out, one thing I’ve used when my brain revs up and wants to chew on the old stimulant, is to substitute a “word game” where I’ll tell myself to think of twenty words that start with letter_, as quick as possible. It crowds out other thought.

    I went a while to a couple different 12-step groups… and I like the YouTube channels “Thrive After Abuse” and “Richard Grannon” as there was a lot I needed to learn about systematic life-ruiners. And the day finally came when I thought of that last person and felt the right emotions- disgust and revulsion. I hope this is helpful. Please keep taking such excellent care of yourself.

  98. artk2002 said:

    LW, the answer as CA and all the others have said, is “no, this boy does not love you.” He is an abuser, both verbal and emotional, using “love” as an excuse for his abuse. He’s using your desire to be loved as a tool to control you. He’s using your attraction to him as a tool. For your sake, please break it off with him. Now. Just completely disconnect. He hasn’t done anything to deserve any kindness in any breakup. Then go get yourself some help. A number of resources have been suggested — investigate them.

    I’m a guy. An old guy, even. Old enough to be your father (I have two sons about your age.) I know guys. I know good ones and I know bad ones. This is one of the bad ones. I’ve known good love and I’ve known bad love. This is one of the bad ones.

    Despite all the romantic literature, love isn’t supposed to hurt. We don’t hurt the ones we love. We don’t put them down. We don’t try to control them. Love is there; it’s not withheld at a whim. Whatever his feelings for you are, they are not love. A good relationship helps you feel better about yourself; it doesn’t make you feel torn down and unworthy. You deserve a better relationship that what you have here.

    His demands that you aren’t physically perfect enough for him? Just a way of using your insecurity to control you. I’m sure that every time he says something hurtful like that you have this strong urge to prove to him that you can be. But no matter how close to his ideal you become, it will never be enough. That’s because this isn’t about having a “perfect” you around, it’s about controlling you.

    The “can’t be together until you’re 21” bit? Again, that’s control. You’re hooked and he’s keeping you on the line. Instead of finding a life for yourself, he’s encouraging you to put things on hold for that magical day. And when you turn 21? There will be some other excuse for not moving forward with the relationship. Then another. Then another. You could fix your ass and then some other thing would be wrong. You don’t like the right movies, or you now need a boob job. Always with the promise of “if you do this one thing for me, we can be together.” Bullshit.

    He can’t be seen in public with you on NYE because you’re not “perfect”? That sounds to me like both control and is a big sign of a major cheater (which we already know he is.) The reason he can’t be seen in public with you is because someone he knows, or worse, one of his other squeezes, will see and all hell will break loose. Cheaters are good at compartmentalizing their lives. The one GF you know about could be 5 or 10, all hidden from each other. (By the way… if you’ve been intimate, get yourself tested. Jerks like this don’t care what diseases they spread and if you are intimate with him, you’re being intimate with everyone else he’s involved with. Yukk. Dollars-to-donuts that if the subject comes up, he refuses to use protection because reasons.)

    A few last things. You may well be mature for a 19yo — personally, I wouldn’t take your self-assessment or his on that. We’re bad judges of ourselves and he has a vested interest in grooming you. Ask some independent people like good friends or teachers. But even then, mature at 19 is still missing a lot of experience. My sons are both mature (at least in my assessment) but they still do bone-headed things because of a lack of experience. Finally, the next few years are going to change you a great deal. Please don’t feel rushed to find “the one” in a hurry.

    • slythwolf said:

      Good call on the getting tested. I got tested when I got divorced because there was the tiniest flicker of doubt in my mind that I might possibly have been cheated on, everything was fine, but better safe than sorry.

    • slythwolf said:

      Oh also, it’s not just lack of experience – at 19, the part of your brain responsible for grokking the long term consequences of things has literally not finished forming.

    • This is awesome advice, and the third paragraph is something I wish were taught in schools.

      I don’t often agree uncritically with Paul’s various epistles, but 1 Corinthians 13 is an exception: love is patient and kind. Love protects, trusts, and hopes. It isn’t boastful, arrogant, rude, self-serving, cruel, or resentful. (I’m drawing from more than one translation here, but the meaning is close enough.)

      There have been a handful of times over the 15 years we’ve known each other that Mr. OtherBecky has come to a therapy appointment with me so that we could work on something together. After maybe the second time we did that, my therapist mentioned at my next appointment that she had noticed each time that we’re reflexively polite to each other. A lot of couples, she said, don’t say enough positive things to each other, and lasting relationships are sustained by small kindnesses rather than grand gestures.

      LW, it doesn’t sound like this man is very kind to you. At least, not as much or as often as he should be.

  99. Oh goodness! I barely made it to the end of your letter, LW, and it hurt so much. You deserve so much better. I know your feels, deeply, and I just want to say that if you walk away now, you will be doing a wonderful thing for yourself. I was stuck on someone for so long, getting hurt over and over, being manipulated and verbally abused and I stayed because I loved the person. And I thought they loved me too.

    But let’s say they did, in fact, love you. Let’s say what they feel really is love. Is this the KIND of love you want? Is that the kind of love that will satisfy you every single day? I can assure you that it isn’t.

    I left the aforementioned person and found someone who made me feel truly loved, in the way that I knew I wanted for years to come. Please find that for yourself and let this garbage of a man find his own way. You’re worth so much more.

  100. Druidspell said:

    Dearest LW: I’m sure that by the time you read my comment, you will have already come to a decision about what you want to do with this relationship where you’re unhappy, disrespected, and mistreated.
    But please, if you get to my comment and you still need some support to get away, trust me– If you have to ask a stranger to determine whether someone in your life loves you? They don’t. If you can’t tell based on their actions and words whether or not they love you; if their version of love is so twisted from the version of love that you’re offering and that you want, need, and deserve: they do not love you.
    You deserve to be loved, LW. You deserve to be treated respectfully and kindly by people who understand how lucky they are to have you in their life. You deserve to feel like you aren’t last on their priority list, or like you’re only a backup plan if something better doesn’t come along, or like they don’t appreciate or even like you very much.

  101. Everyone here wants to rage vomit on your boyfriend. Send him a photograph of you eating a doughnut with one hand and flipping him off with the other followed with no response to him ever again.

  102. maggiebea said:

    Mine was only 2 years older than I. I was 19 and eager for the adventure of falling in love. He was gorgeous, and funny, and knew a few dozen things I didn’t.

    He kept telling me I needed to ‘shape up’ in order to ‘stay’ his girlfriend. The first time I stood up for myself he phoned me in the dorm at 3 am, crying, because he couldn’t believe I would ever hurt him that way. The second time I stood up for myself he threatened suicide.

    The only way I got out of the relationship was that two classmates took me aside and pointed out that I didn’t have to stay in it at all — and that it wasn’t “what love is.” And helped me cut off contact. And helped me talk about how much I missed the excitement of his amazing kisses (the only part of the relationship that was really good).

    Not very many years later I learned that this exact sequence had been his pattern since he was 14, only with some of his girlfriends it had lasted longer. And led to violence.

    Just RUN away as fast as you can.

  103. maggiebea said:

    I’ll just mention that, having been in a few Long Distance Relationships, it’s clear to me now that the main reason they seem to work is that we only see each other in “no-responsibility” zones and don’t spend enough time together to discover (and learn to live with) each other’s flaws. Converting a LDR to an every-day-in-the-same-house relationship can be done, but it’s challenging. And it requires treating each other LOTS better than this !@#$ has been treating you.

    • slythwolf said:

      I wish I could remember where I had seen this but someone, somewhere, has given the advice that LDRs are only really viable if the relationship didn’t start out that way and there’s a plan to move to the same city within a year or two. Exceptions exist – I know someone who’s been happily married for over a decade and met their spouse online when they were living in different countries. But as a general rule it seems pretty sound.

      • MellifluousDissent said:

        I don’t know if she invented it, but this sounds like a Carolyn Hax-ism to me.

        Also, I tend to agree with it – I’ve tried a couple of LDRs, and the one that worked was the one where (a) it didn’t start out that way; (b) it included a definite plan to be together within a fixed time-frame; and (c) we were close enough together, geographically, to see each other every 4-6 weeks and were living in the same time zone. Not to say other types of LDRs can’t be done, but I tend to think it’s much, much more difficult and requires a level of relationshipping expertise that is difficult to have at 19 (since, at 19, we mostly haven’t been in the serious dating world long enough to build up that kind of expertise), and that is even more difficult to have when you’re 29 and “act[ more as if [you are] 24/25 than a 29 year old.”

      • Vicki said:

        Yes, exceptions exist, but not only are they rare, and they are nothing like this situation. My long-distance partner says things like “Thank you for being in my life” and “you are good for me,” and is in no way like the guy the LW is dealing with.

  104. MoragLachlanMaclachlan said:

    Dear LW, sending you Jedi hugs and a huge dose of solidarity. I managed to get through about half of the first paragraph of your letter, and then I was saying ‘walk don’t run to your nearest exit.’

    I really feel for you, and I hope the Captain’s reply and all the comments here will remind you that you are not alone and that you really need to get away from this guy. We are all willing you on and wishing you happiness and freedom from this nagging, insidious, abusive, relentless criticism. He is completely out of line. You deserve infinitely better.

    I am so glad you wrote in, it is an amazingly brave step. All the best to you :).

    And thank you, Captain, for the image of throwing the ball of paper into the heart of the sun. Brilliant :).

  105. slythwolf said:

    Either all asses are perfect, or none are. (Paraphrasing Terry Pratchett’s Feet of Clay.)

    LW, you are amazing, and I hope that you can keep taking care of yourself in ways that make you feel strong and healthy, and keep asking for help and outside opinions when something doesn’t feel right. Those are great ways you’re already giving love to yourself that is better and truer and more real than anything this douchewaffle is capable of.

  106. Private Editor said:

    I got less than one paragraph in and my shoulders had already hiked up so much around my ears that they were about to achieve low Earth orbit. My shoulders, that is, not my ears. Dear LW, I am so sorry that someone who should have respected and loved you chose instead to treat you horribly, and I send you my best hopes and wishes that you will awaken your inner rageasaurus and drop that asshole with a quickness and then go on to live a joyous, terrifyingly amazing life surrounded by people who will love and cherish you for the awesomeness that is you.

  107. sophylou said:

    I think my comment got eaten, but I wanted to say that I was really struck by your concerns about not “understanding” his behavior or your own feelings etc. Your ability to understand things is fine. Your struggling with “understanding” has to do with the fact that he and his actions are not making any sense. And if he’s anything like the guy I got disastrously entangled with at your age (hey there, eighteen-year-old me!), making sense is not on his agenda: it’s about controlling you and keeping you handy to address whatever particular need (emotional need, sexual need, whatever) he might happen to have. If you’re confused, it’s because you’re getting extremely confusing messages. You’re fine. The situation isn’t. It doesn’t have to be understood.

    (This goes double if you’re getting “no one understaaaaaands me but yooooou!” messages and their close corollaries, “and now *you* don’t understaaaaand me either woe is me I must kill myself!” messages — close corollaries because the first one sets you up for the second one because NO one can be the all-perfect understaaaaander of the first message set).

    Not understanding is a big red flag here, but it’s also in a way a path to freedom. “Not understand” your way on out. “Why is this guy talking to me this way? What city is this that he lives in, where people will stop him and mock him cruelly if his date doesn’t have a perfect ass? Are there roving ass-police there? I don’t understand! How did I get here? This is so strange!”

    You may not, to use his terminology, “understaaaaaand,” but the fact that you already tried to break up with him once suggests that your ability to understand (that is, real-world, actual understanding) is fine. Use that to be understanding and loving to yourself. Lose this guy.

    • sophylou said:

      (Sorry — sure way to get your comment out of moderation is to repost :S )

  108. “I wonder will I ever find a guy who can love someone that has all of the flaws he points out in me…”

    Oh, dear LW. You are 19. You have been dating for maybe 5-6 years? (Maybe less? More?) You will find that guy, and it’s going to be 10000x better than the game this joker is running on you. Trust that.

    This man has been a valuable part of your life. He’s taught you exactly how being in a shitty relationship feels so that you will know this feeling if it ever creeps into your life again, and you’ll know to run far, far away from whomever is making you feel that way. But now that he has taught you this lesson, it’s time to continue your journey beyond him. Say thank you (to the universe) for having had this experience so young, block his number, and get on with the fabulous love life you deserve to have.

  109. Lw you seem like a smart mature girl who deserves so much better. If you are feeling at all reluctant to believe that this guy is no good for you I want you to do be a favor. Think of a girl you admire and care about, could be a friend or a sister and re read your letter as if she were telling you about her relationship. What would you tell the attractive smart loving girl that you care about?

    Because I think you would be telling her to kick this guy to the curb. You are better off alone than with someone who treats you like this. You are enough you don’t need any guy’s “affection.” especially when it looks like this.

  110. latterdaze said:

    LW, i dated someone who treated me very much like this when i was your age. As someone who has been in your shoes, I hope you leave him behind and are able to banish his cruel words from your mind. You deserve to not be picked at and undermined like this. You deserve so much better.

  111. Part-time Jedi said:

    The previous 270 comments have all expounded upon all the ways in which this guy is a total asshat, and why you are 10,000 times too fabulous for his bullshit. Be free of his asshattery posthaste. I don’t have anything novel to add to that.

    But I do want touch on something I noticed in your letter, which is his pre-occupation with your physical attractiveness above all else. As young women, we are taught in a thousand ways, both explicitly and implicitly, that the most important thing we can do is be beautiful. We might be smart, or funny, or kind, or strong, but none of that really matters unless we are pretty. All of our self-improvement time and effort should be spent on altering our bodies and faces and hair and nails and clothing to be more in line with a particular standard of beauty.

    I want to call this narrative out for the bullshit that it is. Being pretty isn’t bad, and it can be fun when it’s done on your own terms, but you don’t HAVE to be pretty. You have so much more to offer yourself, a partner, and the world than being pleasantly decorative.

    And knowing that, not just in your mind but deep down in your heart, makes it much harder for people to use attacks against your physical attractiveness as a tactic to distract you from their own, much more grievous, flaws.

    • CommanderBanana said:

      THIS.

      I can’t remember where this quote is from, but being pretty is not a price you pay to take up space in the world.

      I am constantly amazed at how many guys I meet who really do seem to think that woman owe it to them to be attractive, and act as though women they find unattractive are being “unattractive” AT them. I went on a date or two with a guy who could NOT stop talking about how much he disliked heavy women, as though heavy women were some sort of weird conspiracy out to get him (my personal theory is that he had pantsfeelings about them but couldn’t reconcile this with his internalized belief that only thin women could be attractive, but I didn’t stick around long enough to find out because he was awful).

      If you’ve ever been screamed at or catcalled, it’s kind of the same thing – men reacting with rage because they either find you attractive and believe you owe them your attention, or are angry at you because they don’t find you attractive and they believe that you owe them that.

      It sucks. It’s wrong. You don’t owe looking one way or another to ANYONE.

      • The quote I am guessing you’re referencing

        Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked “female”.

        is from Erin McKean, on her “A Dress A Day” blog: Quote Investigator chased it down at http://quoteinvestigator.com/2014/06/03/prettiness/ , and the initial post is at https://dressaday.com/2006/10/20/you-dont-have-to-be-pretty/

        (I love that quote too.)

        There are several other people who have observed that you don’t owe prettiness to anyone, but the phrasing of it not being rent you pay for the space is hers.

        • Kat said:

          Oh god, that quote made me tear up; that’s such a succinct way of putting it! Beautiful, thank you for sharing (with citations!).

        • CommanderBanana said:

          Thanks for finding that! I think it’s such a powerful quote.

          The question of why dudes (and it always seems to be dudes) get personally offended at women who they don’t find attractive is a mystery for another day.

    • B said:

      Yeah – at first I wasn’t interested in dating, and thought “conventional attractiveness, pfffft, who cares as long as I am hygenic, healthy, and interesting?” – had some interest and dates anyway but nothing serious.
      College I got lonely and had a crush on the wrong guy – flirty and nice enough, but non-committal and liked conventional media-women looks.
      And I was depressed started to question myself – should I make it my goal to work hard to look some way someone else wanted me to (not how I would want to on my own)? Would I be lonely forever if I did not? There is a message out there that that is the case, but it is NOT TRUE.
      I eventually reached the limit I was willing to bend for this crush (embarrassingly far but not devastatingly far – I would ask myself “if I do this and he doesn’t change, would I regret it / feel really bad about it?” – if the answer was yes, I didn’t do it – people can change but usually don’t)
      After a year or two I found someone else I was very attracted to /and was attracted to me for who I am/. And so on.

      To the LW:
      It is easy to buy into the beauty myth, especially when someone you want does. But it is a lie – love comes from within. Please stop chasing this guy and find someone who makes you feel good about yourself and is committed to you; it will take a little time but there are plenty out there,

    • Mel Reams said:

      I can’t second this hard enough. The idea that women are only valuable if we’re decorative enough is such bullshit.

      Even if you were the ugliest person ever to be ugly, LW, you would still deserve to be treated with respect, kindness, and basic human decency by your partner! Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked “female”.

  112. Caryl said:

    Dear wonderful, strong, georgeous, capable LW,
    I got half way through your letter and got a pit in my stomach and teared up- I married this man. He was my high school sweetheart, was good looking and made me feel special and valuable because he loved me! He also made me feel small and unattractive and not quite good enough and scared he would leave at any second and so very much in love. I supported him endlessly – moving cross country, putting him through grad school. Meanwhile he’d ask if I was going to the gym that day, tell me I just didn’t look the way I did when we first met and that he just “wasn’t as attracted to me as he first was.” So I dug in, worked out more, encouraged more and labeled it a phase that all relationships go through.

    Then he told me after two years of marriage he had been having an affair for a year and walked out.

    I was betrayed, devistated, but had enough of myself left to pull myself up, call my mom (find your support) and show him the door. It was hard and it was lonely and I stilled loved him and still wanted to call him every time some little thing happened in life, but that gets easier. It’s a habit, a mental tic, to think “oh I should tell him x” or “I wish I had his opinion on y” or “I just want my person to talk to and be there” because that is comfortable. But you can resist – I did.
    And the beautiful thing is, if you make it stick (counseling totally helps) one day you will look back and think “oh my I almost lost myself in that relationship, thank god I didn’t become a shadow of this amazing person I am now!”
    You are young and beautiful and have VALUE that he doesn’t see. Run, don’t look back, but remember the amazing strength and courage you had to do it!

  113. LW, I would bet my own dime that, even by narrow conventional standards, you are a beautiful woman. You know how I know that? This guy has told you straight-out that it’s a shibboleth for him. There is no way this selfish, shallow, empty-hearted bastard would be with you if you didn’t already look great. He didn’t see an unattractive woman and fall in love with her personality; that’s not who he is. He saw a desirable girl and set about annexing her. You are beautiful, and he told me that with his every action.

    You gave him the benefit of the doubt for two years because you’re a good and generous person. You’re now seeing through him because you’re a strong and smart person. Trust me, even without your beautiful ass, the world is full of good, kind, loving men who will see those qualities in you, fall in love, and hardly believe their luck if you love them back. You can get that. You can have that.

    Another quote from Bancroft occurs to me:

    “If this is your partner’s style, you won’t necessarily ever be sure whether he is really having sex with other women or if he just flirts because he enjoys the attention and likes you to feel threatened … Chronic infidelity is abusive in itself, but the Player doesn’t stop there. He is irresponsible, callous in dealing with his partner’s feelings, and periodically verbally abusive. As the relationship progresses, he may start to go for long periods giving his partner next to no attention and barely speaking to her, so she feels shelved … When she asks me whether I think her partner will ever settle down and be faithful to her – if they get married, for instance – I answer, ‘He may some day, but what you will have then is a faithful abuser.’ His promiscuity is a symptom of a deeper problem: he is incapable of taking women seriously as human beings rather than as playthings. With that mind-set, he’ll be a destructive partner whether he cheats or not.”

    He’s hurt you enough already. Now it’s time for better days.

    Everything in your letter says you’re an attractive, sincere, loyal and intelligent person who had the bad luck to come into a predator’s orbit. ‘All men are like that’ is something bad men tell women so they won’t realise there are better options and get the heck out of Douche. You deserve a million times better than this.

    • slfisher said:

      What is this Bancroft you’re citing? It sounds pretty cool.

      • Grannarchy said:

        Lundy Bancroft in his book “Why Does He Do That?” Required reading for everyone.

      • Lundy Bancroft: Why does he do that?

  114. LW, sweetheart, once you have dumped this m-f-ing arsehole and blocked him in every medium known to humanity, I would really like you to head down to the nearest store and purchase the following things:

    * A vibrator;
    * A body pillow;
    * A back scratcher; and
    * An electric blanket.

    These four items will, combined, give you everything you could possibly be getting from this current boyfriend of yours, with a lot less hassle and aggravation, and on a more consistent basis. They’ll probably wind up cheaper in the long term, too. (Plus, none of them give a damn about how you look).

    Please keep this test in mind for future relationships as well – can you replace your partner with a collection of objects and wind up in a much less stressful situation? If the answer to that question is “yes”, then the answer to “should I skip this relationship?” is also “yes”.

    • lisakoby said:

      I love this. SO much.

      • Right? When you aren’t feeling well and skip the gym, the electric blanket will give you a warm hum. It will not criticize the shape of your ass.

    • Light37 said:

      And a puppy, because they don’t care what your ass looks like. They just love you because you’re their person.

  115. My dear LW,

    Please please please get team you together and ghost this guy. I side eye anyone my age or older dating anyone under 25 (*SOMETIMES* I am ok with 21 but seriously depends on the people involved in relationship). As a 31 year old, my cut off is 6 years younger. Even then, 6 years is a big deal for me.

    I have a friend who just turned 21 last week. I have known him since he was underage. While he is aesthetically pleasing, I would not ever date him. Instead, I encourage him to find people nearer to his age. And on his 21st gave him tips for drinking (like my general rule of 1 cup of water to each pint of beer or 3 shots to help keep hydrated and to avoid hangovers) and what not to do after a night of heavy drinking should he wind up with a hangover. To his credit (I also linked him to medical studies backing up hangover stuff and how to avoid alcohol poisoning and such), he listened, read the links, and did further research. I got a thank you text from him for it. I figured that I have the experience so why not share (also asked prior to sending all that and he very enthusiastically said he’d love the tips and such). And I would like my friend to be safe (and he even had a DD). He has expressed romantic type feelings for me before. I told him that while I am flattered, I wouldn’t even consider until he was at least 25 and/or done with his schooling he wants to do and starting the career he wants. Because I *KNOW* first hand the power differential when age comes into play.

    I’m willing to bet, your instincts and/or gut are telling you to run (even if only quietly). Do so. The only positive I can see from what you’ve said is that you know what you *DON’T* want.

    You are a beautiful person and I am willing to bet that you are even more so when doing things *you* genuinely enjoy. Ghost him. Get team you. Block him everywhere. Surround yourself with actual friends and not enablers (unless the enabling is to help you heal or to continue doing the things you enjoy/ed before he came and ruined shit). Anything of his or that reminds you of him or that he gave you should go in a box. That box should go to a trusted friend. And when you are ready, throw it away with them. Or burn the things inside (safely in a fire pit with a bucket of water next to you in reach just in case or for when done if just in case doesn’t happen). Or shread all paper type things when ready (I can’t express properly in words how when I did all 3 how freeing it was afterwards). If you are fb friends and tagged in his stuff, untag yourself then unfriend/block him. You don’t have to tell friends all the details but tell them that he’s an abusive partner and if he tries to contact them about you, a) you don’t want to hear about it no matter how ‘reasonable’ it sounds b) don’t give him information c) you expect them to respect your decisions.

    Remember, you don’t owe your friends or even him an explanation. Also, is it possible for you to move at all? Or are you in a gated community? If so, go through the channels and make sure that if you are renting that your landlord/s know not to give him any info or to contact you on his behalf. If gated community is it guarded in anyway? guard patrolling or that you have to check in with to get on property? If so, let them know as well. If he finds ways to harass you, document EVERYTHING.

    Another thing you can do when you think of him, if you have cookies/biscuits/whatever you whatever you whatever you like to dunk in liquid,

    (I hope that shows if not, http://i.imgur.com/cN3m7Vd.jpg)

    (Image is a black and white photo of a cookie being dunked in milk and says “when I dunk my cookies, I pretend they are you and hold them under until the bubbles stop”)

    Do as the image says and pretend the cookie/biscuit/etc is him and drown them and then eat and enjoy (for me, it’s a satisfying non violent way to feel better but ymmv).

    You deserve so much better. Someone who isn’t going to complain and compare you to everyone else and put you down. I believe in you. You are strong. And remember Labyrinth, repeat that he has no power over you.

    And remember, you want people to uplift not put you down. Also after all the photoshopping, the models don’t even look like their photos. So if you don’t look like one, you can take comfort that they don’t either. Also, kickboxing could be a good source of getting feelings out as well.

  116. Emily said:

    HE IS A PERFECT ASS.

    • Jenny Islander said:

      ba ha ha like button like button where’s the like button

      Scrolling down to the (current) end of the replies and seeing this was just perfect. Because he is. He is a perfect ass.

      • fancifulscientist said:

        It’s so dead on that I have a secret 1% hope that we’re being trolled.

        His assitude is complete, total, perfect – much like our complete, total, and perfect disdain for this dude.

  117. CommanderBanana said:

    My dear LW, I have so many more thoughts and feelings on this, but I promise you, I promise one day you will look back on this guy with a mixture of contempt and mild disbelief, and it will not sting anymore, and you will have trouble remembering his face, and you are going to be 100% okay, and better than okay. From someone who has been there, oh god have I been there, it is the truth.

  118. “Besides telling me that we can’t be together until I’m 21, he also tells me he can’t be with a girl who doesn’t have, in his words, “a perfect ass”, so he constantly is harassing me about going to the gym and working out…”

    Right here is where I did a big Lana Kane “NOOOOOPE!” I kept reading, but I didn’t need to. This guy is a Grade A entitled, faithless jerkwad who needs to be shown the curb ASAP. You are WAY too good to waste one more text message on this creep. Mentally launch him into the sun and get on with being your fabulous, amazing self.

  119. Linden said:

    Jesus Christ on a pogo stick. I don’t want to believe someone as horrible as this BF exists, but unfortunately I do.

  120. JoanofAnon said:

    LW, I had a pretty similar relationship. Older guy (28 I think to begin with?), we first met when I was 15. We were friends, and he gradually pushed boundaries in a way I was okay because hey, I was a teenager and I wanted and in some ways needed the attention. Our friendship became ~weird~ by the time I was 17, and we started ‘dating’ when I was 18. He was an absolute dick, but you know what? I liked him. I feel gross about myself looking back just for the fact that I liked him, but I did. Then I loved him. It is hard to admit that I loved him.

    I have struggled with my mental health my whole life, and that is the vulnerability he chose. I think your boyfriend has chosen your appearance. I think for your boyfriend and mine, that’s a calculated decision to pick a vulnerability which is supported by society, which you don’t (yet) have the strength to fight against, which he can see will hit you hard and grind you down. He is doing this on purpose.

    He’s doing this on purpose because you are better than him, he knows it and it is his only chance at keeping you. Seriously, it is his *only* chance at someone anywhere near as good as you. I think everyone has covered these points a lot, but I wanted to say it again.

    I also wanted to say though, that one day you find someone else, and that someone else will really love. Not just want you, not just think of you as a prize, but truly cherish and respect you as a human being. Someone who knows that one day you will be old, wrinkled and tired and who will think you just as lovely then. Someone who will look at you 3 years into the relationship when you’ve gained weight because you sit at a desk all day and your roots are showing because you don’t have the time or money to get it re-dyed right now and there’s weird bumps on your tummy because bodies are weird and they will. not. care. Because you are still you, and they love you as a person, not an object.

    And it will hurt so much because of what you’ve been through before, but it will also be great. That first person? Might not be the one for you. But that’s okay, because there will be more people who truly love you. There will be friends who will adore you your whole life and there will be co-workers who respect and look up to you and there will be lovers who *care*, whether they are in your life for a week or a lifetime.

    Break up with him so you can find these people, and so you can see the ones who are already there.

    • slythwolf said:

      There is a fanfic that I love in which character A isn’t sure why character B likes their face/hair/body/whatever so much, and character B keeps saying, “Because it’s yours.” THAT is what love is.

      • Big Pink Box said:

        I always say that I don’t love my wife because she’s beautiful, she’s beautiful because I love her.

        This is the same woman who broke my habit of criticising myself because (in her words) “You’re criticising the woman I love. Please don’t do that”. She’s fantastic. I was ripe for the picking by a manipulator or victimised, my lifelong self-hatred would have been the perfect weapon to control and abuse me. I’m so lucky that I have someone who loves and cherishes me. I wish everyone else had the same luck

  121. Myrtle said:

    I came back to give this a reread and LW mentions zero other voices from her tribe saying Hellno to this man’s abuse of her. That often happens and makes these criminals seem to have more merit. The people at your gym greeting you, LW- the ones you see every visit, who are also pursuing healthy goals and enjoying the work- let their smiles and feedback get louder. And “being mature for one’s age” is something I had to do, too. Whatever is behind this, don’t let it take you over. It’s time for yard parties and a road trip with friends to go see your favorite band. Find the age-appropriate things in your world and go be a part of them.

  122. Polychrome said:

    Hey LW — the innocence of youth really is a special thing, attractive to everyone, depending on their own predilections. Some of those predilections are pretty terrible and include a real desire to degrade it. This man is influencing you with a squalid worldview about what possibilities the world holds, what possibilities you hold, and what relations between men and women (between humans generally) are “really” all about.

    This isn’t, ultimately, about what kinds of bodies (bottoms included) he likes but about what kinds of souls he likes: trusting and sweet, the better to turn them wary and sour. It’s clear he’s having to work pretty hard at it with you, and you still have a generous and open spirit that is confused by what he is attempting (confused because you aren’t defeated and cynical, HOORAY). The good news is, your heart and soul are still your beautiful own: the world is a much nicer place than he pretends, and when you get away from him you’ll be free to gambol all about it. The bad news is, if you stick around him for too long, his shrinky-dinked sense of the universe will be hem you in, more and more, and start to seem like all there is.

    • DesertRose said:

      Yeah, from my vantage point of middle age, young people are to be protected from asshats at a certain point of youth (say up until puberty is well established) and then gradually taught how to inoculate themselves from asshattery.

      In some ways, the world at large sucks; as we all know and this letter demonstrates in spades, there are shitty people out there. But in some ways, the world is beautiful and awesome; there are fantastic people out there and wonderful things to learn and do.

      Actually mature adults see young people like the LW and want to help her get her Asshole vaccination and then see her on a voyage of discovery of the super-cool things the world has to offer. Her soi-disant not-boyfriend is a user and a shithead, and hopefully one day for LW, he will be merely a memory of someone who took advantage of her youth for his own selfish ends.

      LW, you deserve so much better; there’s a lot out there waiting for you to discover. There are university courses to take, hobbies to try, travel destinations to visit, and, like as not, if you want it, at least one and probably more than one awesome person who will see you for the kick-ass person you are and love all of you. Go get it!

  123. Kay said:

    Oh, Letter Writer. **hugs**

    I don’t know you, but I’m so proud of you for writing this letter, writing all of this down, seeking out voices that don’t belong to him to help you figure out what is going on.

    You deserve so much more. You deserve someone who is PROUD of you, who can’t believe they’re lucky enough to have you in their life, who you know will be there for you no matter what you look like (because to them how you look is beautiful, always, because you look like YOU, the person they love), who you trust implicitly because they have shown you they are trustworthy, who makes you want to be your best self — not because of fear, but because of joy. Someone who, if they have a problem with the relationship, communicates to you gently and kindly and openly and hears and respects what you say back. You deserve all of those things. Please do not let yourself settle for less.

    Before I found my husband, I was in a relationship where the guy wouldn’t tell anyone about us, and I just sort of accepted that I was someone to be ashamed of because I was vulnerable in a lot of ways, emotionally. It seemed okay to me. And then it ended and eventually I met my husband and he just… he was so happy to be with me. He wanted me to meet his co-workers, his friends, his family. It was overwhelming, because part of me was just so damaged that I never thought anyone could see me like that. I literally believed that was not something that was meant for me. And I look back now, and I am so, so sad for that version of myself. I did not deserve to live believing that I was a liability, a secret shame. You do not deserve that, either.

    I hope so much that you find healing and strength.

  124. RodeoBob said:

    Has anyone made a “Douchebag Bingo” card yet? I really want something like that when letters like these come in. How many squares does this get check off?

    “You’re really mature for your age!”

    “I cheated on my girlfriend with you! Doesn’t that make you feel special?”

    “I can’t be with a girl who doesn’t have a perfect [ body part/type ]”

    “I’m not being mean. You just need to toughen up!”

    “I just tell you what to eat/wear/do because I care about you!”

    “Every guy thinks about cheating! It’s how we’re wired!”

    “Babe, I’m just being honest. You don’t want me to lie to you, do you?”

    • Guava said:

      “I love you, but I’m not ‘in love’ with you.”

      “If I didn’t already have a girlfriend, I would love you forever.”

      “I know you think you don’t want to be with me, but that’s just because your heart is broken right now and you don’t know what you want.”

    • “Don’t listen to [person]. They’re a user. Stick with me.”

  125. Lulu said:

    This reminds me of one of my first relationships I was in when I was in my early twenties. He was the same age as me, but seemed to use the fact that I was really insecure and socially pretty isolated at the time to have more power than me in the relationship. Anyways – he was really critical of my physical appearance too, especially about the upkeep of body hair. I had to have my legs shaved, and everything else……. I remember once coming over during exam week (when I really didn’t have time for all that upkeep), we got naked, and he stopped in the middle of it all and said something really critical about my hairy ‘situation’.

    I’m now in my early thirties, and have dated a string of men that only call me things like ‘beautiful’, and, ‘sexy’ anytime we’re together, despite doing much less upkeep, as well as all the other things that age have done to my body. And that’s because I know how to screen out guys who do anything less.

    This is one of the great things about getting older – your bulls*t detector gets better calibrated 🙂

    • slythwolf said:

      First dude I slept with said, exact words, “Now we’ve just got to get you shaving,” in reference to my pubic hair, the first time we were naked together. I had shaved, just not 100% of the hair. I remember feeling angry and embarrassed but not like I could actually put my clothes on and leave, which I really wish I’d had the confidence to do. More than that, I wish our society didn’t give men a free pass and every encouragement to manipulate us through shaming our bodies.

      • Clarry said:

        That’s one of the most horrible things I’ve heard! Criticize a young woman when she’s at her most vulnerable like that?! “WE’VE got to get you shaving”?! As in it’s just something that’s got to be done? Yikes, I can’t think of enough outrage. I’m female. I don’t shave anywhere. And any guy who doesn’t like my hair doesn’t get to be close enough to voice an opinion. Mind you, having opinions on what you like in styles of hair and clothes is fine. I have likes and dislikes too. But getting close enough to someone to have sex with them means you get to be extra adoring of everything about them. It doesn’t give you license to be extra critical.

      • Big Pink Box said:

        I’m fuming on your behalf.

        To counter that, I’ll share details of my (totally unexpected!) first “sleepover” with my now-wife. We’d gone back to her place, her two guy friends stayed for coffee and then went home. She then proceeded to try and drag me to her room, which was hilarious because I’m 7 inches taller and of a bigger build. It was like a Yorkshire terrier trying to drag a labrador across a park!

        Anyway, my conditioning kicked in and I yelped “But I haven’t shaved my legs!”, to which she fired off, quicker than a greased rat down a drainpipe, ” So? I don’t wanna f*ck your legs!”. I knew then that I’d found The One!

        • DesertRose said:

          Your wife sounds awesome (from this comment and the one above about her putting an end to your self-critical habits)!

          Also, the Yorkshire terrier dragging a Labrador image is freaking hilarious! 😀

  126. therufs said:

    Just here to cosign the 138571935 people above who have said you’re way too cool for this guy.

  127. Fishmongers' daughters said:

    My blood is boiling and I’m not going to read the comments just yet, but I’m fairly certain this article won’t have been posted yet, but it’s among my favorites, by badass Lindy West. http://jezebel.com/5904952/for-chrissakes-there-is-nothing-wrong-with-you-a-dating-manifesto

    Take a look, if you get a chance. Especially pay attention to the spoiler alert: THIS IS A TRAP. The perfect ass isn’t the point; putting you down is the point, and if it weren’t your ass it’d be something else. If you starved yourself while doing lunges and squats all day and temporarily achieved something that met his satisfaction, the “reward” of his approval would be very, very brief. Like, non-existent. Because he’d have already started hinting that your arms were an issue or something.

    I doubt I can say “dump him” with the more emphasis that’s very likely been said over and over in this thread. But I hope you check out that article. Take care, lovely LW.

    • Redgirl said:

      Yes yes yes! As long as he can keep you feeling unworthy, you won’t have the courage to dump his sorry ass and become infinitely happier by yourself or with someone who actually deserves your love.

  128. Light37 said:

    LW, you don’t know me from Eve, but you deserve better than this loser of a dude. Black mambas deserve better than this dude.

    • Angie said:

      You have so much love to give, so much world to see, so many cute people to kiss. After you throw that tightly what a piece of paper at the sun and incinerated, you should go to iTunes and download “light of a clear blue morning quote by Dolly Parton and sing it, loudly and often. You can imagine me, an anonymous Internet commenter, playing the tambourine part behind you. One day, someone’s gonna love you so much, you’re going to be flabbergasted that you wasted even a single second on this guy. Go! iTunes! Dolly Parton! Now! 😉

  129. Redgirl said:

    I haven’t read all the other comments, but I just had to get on and respond to this…

    “I wonder will I ever find a guy who can love someone that has all of the flaws he points out in me”

    Yes. You will. I PROMISE you.

    How can I know this? Because I, too, doubted that I could ever find someone who “loved” me as much as the guy that emotionally abused me. (Actually, I found someone who loved me infinitely better). I am pretty willing to bet that about 90% of the people on this board have been in a bad relationship and thought, “But what if I never find anyone better than this?” And then…they did.

    You are a caring person who understands that loving someone means accepting them for who they are. You take care of your body, not because you think that you have to meet some ideal, but because you value your health and like the way it makes you feel when you are healthy. These are positive, attractive qualities. There will be other guys out there who are attracted to those, and the many more qualities that you have that we can’t even start to know in a short letter online. AND who won’t manipulate you emotionally. I promise.

  130. If this jerk loves anyone/anything other than the asshole reflected back at him by his ‘magical jerk-disguising mirror’, it’s the thought of being able to mold a human being who is ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL in their own right to just about everyone else in the world who doesn’t have their own version of his ‘jerk mirror’, into what he wants for the moment. Don’t be fooled, even if you did stick around and do the emotional/mental/physical gymnastics he’s demanding, there will come a day when you become that girlfriend he cheats on because your resilience LW will keep on jabbing at the back of your brain with the knowledge that comes with age. The truth behind what he does and says won’t just go away and he will find a way to explain why you aren’t ‘deserving’ of a catch (if a catch means the plague) like him, who gets attention from women who are the age you were when he started ‘blessing’ you with his attention.

    YOU DESERVE MORE AND BETTER. HE DESERVES TO BE LEFT IN THE GUTTER. By you. And all other women. You know this, it’s time to start acting on it.

  131. Eldee said:

    I am commenting for the first time ever because I dated this guy when I was 17. Except, he was 17 at the time, too. But here’s the awesome* thing: we are both now 40 years old /and he is still dating 17 year olds/. I keep tabs on him via FB and watch young woman after young woman get used by him. He can’t hold a job, or at least, has never demonstrated that he can, so he lives off of them until he gets bored of them, cheats on them, explains to them that it’s their fault, and leaves to find someone else to sponge from. He says he’s poly and gets with poly girls–and CHEATS ON THEM. And of course, he hates using condoms, because Reasons, and is always trying to get away with not. And there’s about a billion other shitty, creepy things he does.

    I keep fantasizing about anonymously publishing a website about him, to warn other women.

    It’s not your fault that you fell in love with a guy like him. There’s a reason dudes like him go after young women like you: they know you don’t yet have the experience of dealing with shitty men. They exploit your good heart and your trust and your willingness to give them chances and the benefit of the doubt. In other words, your excellent character.

    Keep the character. Ditch the loser. He’ll whine about how you’re abusing him and when did you turn so cold and mean? It’s JUST MORE LIES. Cut that dead albatross off from your neck and LIVE FREE.

  132. E said:

    I note that dude in this story has told LW that he doesn’t consider them to be dating. No break-up text is necessary, then. Also, I suspect an “official” break-up will trigger a response of dude trying to keep LW’s attentions, ’cause that will hurt dude in the ego. But if LW just ghosted, it sounds like he wouldn’t even notice, until he wanted her as back-up between other women he’s dating. By then, LW could have fully and thoroughly blocked all communucation channels. I suspect that would be the better and healthier option for LW.

  133. doctormead said:

    LW, I don’t have much to add here. Everyone else has said just about everything there is to say. But, regarding love, I want to share with you a quote from the preface to C. S. Lewis’ _The Screwtape Letters_…

    “Even in human life we have seen the passion to dominate, almost to digest, one’s
    fellow; to make his whole intellectual and emotional life merely an extension of one’s
    own— to hate one’s hatreds and resent one’s grievances and indulge one’s egoism
    through him as well as through oneself. His own little store of passion must of course be
    suppressed to make room for ours. If he resists this suppression he is being very selfish.

    On Earth this desire is often called “love.” In Hell I feign that they recognise it as
    hunger.”

    THIS is what your boyfriend’s love truly is. He is trying to eat your soul and destroy your selfhood. Don’t let him. Get out, block his ass and don’t settle for anything less than REAL love from now on. You deserve it. You more than deserve it.

    • crooked bird said:

      GREAT quote. I’d forgotten that was in there.

  134. Inkrid said:

    Email him “I’m breaking up with you. Goodbye,” ALONG with a link to this article THEN ghost him! I am always in favor of The Ultimate Last Word and he can hear it from hundreds of other posters.

    • JenniferP said:

      Sure, but I don’t want him here!

      • Angel said:

        Maybe AFTER you lock the comments…

  135. IS said:

    Dear LW:

    All the things that you mentioned he dislikes about you – your age, your body, your looks etc. – are things he knew about you going in. If they truly bothered him, why did he pursue you in the first place?

    This thread is unanimously recommending breaking up, but if that’s not something you’re willing or able to do right this second, another option is, next time he criticizes something about you, simply say “That’s exactly the way I’ve always been since before we first met. If it bothers you, you’re welcome to leave.” Then see what happens.

  136. Hepcat said:

    Ugh. This is not a house filled with Evil Bees. It is a house MADE of Evil Bees. Please get out.

  137. Light37 said:

    LW, please go read this.

    “His goal is to establish a power imbalance right off the bat. If we were to date, I would constantly be on the defensive, constantly striving to be an equal, constantly trying to prove my “adult” credentials.”

    YES. He wants you nervous and off-balance, because when you’re even-keeled he knows you’ll see how pathetic his behavior is. Guys like this don’t want an equal, they want a toy.

  138. Shaenon said:

    As a nasty old married lady who no longer gives a crap, I would like to hire myself out to lovely young ladies to laugh in terrible guys’ faces for them.

    “I cheated on my girlfriend with you. Aren’t you flattered?” LAUGH

    “I can’t be seen with a woman who doesn’t have a perfect ass.” CHOKE ON TONGUE LAUGHING

    “I see other girls and I just want to fuck them.” OKAY GO TRY TO FUCK THEM WHILE I SIT HERE LAUGHING

    Eventually they’ll go away, and the problem is solved.

    • JenniferP said:

      Ooh, could we have an agency? Or make an app?

      • Shaenon said:

        The app is users sending me their boyfriends’ comments, and me sending back pictures of myself laughing. Until the comments get too hideous and abusive. Then I send pictures of myself drinking.

        • heffalumps said:

          then I send comments of myself stabbing a raw steak and *smiling*. (I very much like this idea and would like to subscribe to your Kickstarter)

  139. You know, there’s a song about this guy:

    The girl I love
    Is on a magazine cover
    It seems they painted her just for me
    I’d fall in love
    If I could ever discover
    A little girl quite as nice as she
    If I could meet
    A girl as sweet
    I’s simply claim her
    And name her
    My queen
    For if she ever came
    I would love her the same
    As I love her
    On the cover
    Of a magazine…

    Unless he’s got a singing chorus to go with him, this guy is not worth your time. Good tune, bad relationship plan!

  140. Frost said:

    I wanted to punt this guy into the sun from the first sentence in. How DARE he treat you like that?! Drop his entitled, selfish, demeaning ass like a hot coal and give yourself the time and space you need to take care of yourself. Don’t settle for a jerk who belittles you and treats you like crap, there are people out there who will love and value you the way you deserve, someone who will see stars shining in your eyes every time they look at you and adore you no matter what shape your body is in. Don’t let this jerk waste any more of your time.

  141. SMK said:

    LW, I would like to give you a preview of what it looks like to win/earn this dude’s “love.” It looks like spending months at the gym, developing some VERY unhealthy attitudes about food, spending a lot of money on clothes that are very uncomfortable, flying or driving out to see him at the drop of a hat because he has finally deemed you (past me) “worthy” of his company at some event … and then he ditches you at a strange bar in a city where you know NO ONE and leaves with an ex girlfriend who was literally just walking by outside IN SWEATPANTS.

    *ahem*

    Not that I know from past experience or anything.

    (PS I now feel equally sorry for the other women in my Darth’s life, I see now that they were not my competition but my co-victims.)

    • Big Pink Box said:

      She really is fabulous. She’s this short, scrappy, funny little thing, and sometimes I still think I dreamed her into life. She even fixed my “mother is a manipulative narcissist who uses me as a chew toy” problem. A series of yorkie-nips to the maternal ankles, and a protective cordon of low growls, et voilà! A (mostly) human mother!

      I’m still figuring out how to clone her, so that there’s an army of feisty little warriors to solve problems, and to save people from abusive pukemops!

  142. RedinSC said:

    Dear LW, I hope you are able to ball up that flat piece of paper and throw it into the sun. It’s tough, but I think you can do it.
    I haven’t made it through the hundreds of comments, but my one piece of advice is don’t delete his phone number, BUT do change his name on it. So when you see him calling, instead of unknown number you’ll see Mr. He’s A Jerk, or He doesn’t deserve me, or Abusive Jerk calling. Something that can help you remember that this guy is not healthy, and that you’re worth so much more.
    Hugs to you, dear LW.

  143. Modern Culture said:

    Dearest LW,

    There is so much more out here in the world of imperfection! Get away from the abuse and his warped view of love. When I was healing from a similarly abusive relationship, my very wise therapist said, “When you find the right person, you won’t believe it at first because you think that tears are normal in a relationship.” Such truth in that! I’ve been with the right person now for 18 years and there’s nothing to compare to the ease between two people who love, respect and support one another emotionally, warts and all.

    Here’s a gift GIF of you saving yourself to love another day:

  144. jamoche2015 said:

    The only good thing I can see in the whole letter is that they aren’t in the same city so it’ll be that much harder for him to “just show up” and try to get her back.

  145. The Rat-Catcher said:

    “I see other girls and I just want to f–k them”..I just don’t know how you say that to someone you love, and he says he’s just being honest, and that he’s a guy and every guy I meet will think that about other girls.”

    Blegh. This is one of the lowest tactics in my opinion. Taking normal human sexuality and using it to justify his ugly behavior.

    I’m actually a single-target-sexuality sort of person. I don’t tend to notice people that aren’t my husband. And those people do exist, so his statement is false on its face. But the deeper deception here is that you have to continue to allow him to be gross and describe in explicit detail what he wants to do to every other woman he sees. You do NOT have to put up with that.

  146. Ugh. Letter writer, I am so sorry you have had to experience this. I, too, suffered under the “loving” attention of a complete garbage person for far too long. I was also a teenager, he was also older. He also spent an inordinate amount of time telling me how terrible I was and that I was crazy for thinking that not every relationship was as heartbreakingly awful as ours was. So let me tell you- that f*cker doesn’t love you. He is using you as ego masturbation. Subconsciously, he knows he is a piece of trash and it taking it out on you. Please, please tell him that he isn’t worth your time and never, ever speak to him again! I know it is hard- he’s been in your head twisting it around! Essentially brainwashing you into settling for him by telling you how “not good enough” you are. And he is right, in his twisted way- you are “not good enough” for him- YOU ARE SO MUCH BETTER than he deserves. I promise you that you’ll be better off without him! Be free! Be glorious!

    I have so many hugs for you, letter writer!

  147. Don't Shoot the Messenger said:

    LW, when you have a difficult task ahead of you — t’d breaking it off with this guy and then practicing self care and self love will feel difficult at first —-it’s helpful to have an inspiring, empowering soundtrack. IDK if you’re a music person or not, but I offer you this song from Laura Mvula, called Phenomenal Woman, which is my current power anthem. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7—iGdDIBQ LW, this will get easier over time, and I promise you, there will come a time when you look back and wonder, “What was I THINKING putting up with that bullshit?!” Go and revel in your awesomeness. Best of luck to you. You can do it!

  148. tapati said:

    I recently read Lundy Bancroft’s book, referenced a few times in the threads above, “Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men” and I learned a great deal even though I’ve been a volunteer at women’s shelters and am myself a survivor of domestic violence and verbal abuse. Whether or not this guy crosses the line to physical abuse, it should be noted that verbal abuse (the way he constantly criticizes you and the comments about other women and infidelity) is very damaging too–in some cases even more so. My bruises faded quickly but the verbal abuse stayed with me much longer. (And the longer you are exposed, the more damage he can do to your self esteem.)

    What Lundy’s book does is lay out the psychology of all angry, controlling and abusive men and how they operate and shift blame onto their victims and deflect responsibility for their behavior. He goes over the myths we have about abuse (myths often encouraged by abusers) and how they seduce their victims. He also makes it clear that they don’t view us as people but rather, objects they are entitled to use.

    I’d like to recommend this to every young woman as a form of inoculation because if you’ve read about their tactics, you’ll spot them right away and save yourself a lot of grief. I wish I’d had it before I met my first husband when I was 17 and he was 21.

    By the way, every abused woman I have ever met has described how her ex attacked her appearance. It’s the one point of vulnerability every man knows we have. Only abusers use it as a weapon like this. It’s designed to make us feel like we can’t find anyone else to love us. It wasn’t true in the case of any woman I’ve known who left her abuser, no matter what their appearance or age. Don’t fall for it!

    Others have said we’ve all (or mostly all) been there. Take advantage of our collective experience. You have a beautiful life ahead of you–don’t waste a single minute more of it on an abuser. When I left I found the song “No More Tears (Enough is Enough)” by Donna Summer and Barbra Streisand useful to keep me determined not to put up with him any longer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QsY066wa08E

    Best wishes for a quick recovery!

  149. Emmers said:

    This woman needs “as cool as I am” by Dar Williams.

  150. JB said:

    LW, I would like to add my voice to the deafening chorus of people saying they’ve been there, and life is so much better when you’re out of it. When I was sixteen my boyfriend was dreadful. This was a guy I’d had to buy a toothbrush and stand over him until he used it, but he managed to convince me that I was unworthy of him. That my body was unattractive, that I was lucky he’d settled for me, all of that nonsense. That sex acts I didn’t want to do were normal and mandatory and he was being so patient with my unreasonableness. His displeasure resulted in me begging for extra chances and forgiveness. He broke up with me, if you can believe it.

    I look back now and damn, I don’t even know what I was thinking. I honestly have no comprehension of what was going through my head. He was quite clearly the loserest of all the losers. Not fit to wipe my feet on. A waste of oxygen that could have been put to better use sustaining several slimy invertebrates instead. Go, run, don’t look back. If you do look back, make it to shake the dust from your feet and spit. Welcome to the rest of your (vastly improved without this millstone) life.

  151. JB said:

    Also, go and listen to a bunch of songs by women singing about how awful their exes were and how much better things are now. Howl along until you really believe it. Beyonce’s ‘Best Thing I Never Had’ is an excellent place to start – “Then you showed your ass, and I saw the real you / Thank god you blew it / Thank god I dodged a bullet”

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