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