#940: “My wedding is in 20 days and I think I gotta cancel.”

Ahoy Captain and Commentariat!

I feel horrible for writing in with this question because Fiancee and I are supposed to be getting married in roughly 20 days. This was the healthiest relationship I’ve ever been in and the most serious, but I’m so stressed out I’m about to snap.

We met two years ago, started dating formally at the end of 2015, she asked me to marry her in March 2016, I said yes even though it felt a bit rushed.


1) Fiancée has a small dog that shits and pisses everywhere in the apartment. When we moved in last June she assured me this would stop now that it was away from her abusive stepdad. NOPE. I’ve told her several times how much it frustrates me and asked her to please clean it up and train the dog, but she just acts frustrated or depressed with me for asking and defensive of Dog. Though she does clean the carpets maybe once a week, Dog is still not housebroken. I am so done dealing with this creature. I want it gone.

2) She acts entitled toward my money (apparently it became “our” money when she moved in), her constant spending has run me $1,000 in debt, and she won’t stop even when I tell her we are out of money and to give me back my cards. (I am the only one currently employed.) I’ve raided my savings account to cover expenses so many times it’s practically empty. I have also brought this up several times to no avail. Her spending habits have me so stressed I have contemplated suicide.

3) She is so messy: dirty clothes all over the bathroom, bedroom, and closet; dirty dishes in the bedroom with moldy food on them; piles of garbage covering her side of the bedroom floor; and dried food left on the kitchen counters and stove after cooking, to name just a few. I have OCD and anxiety, and the mess is driving me insane. I’ve asked her to please clean up after herself several times, but nope. She literally screamed at me last night for bringing it up. She later apologized, but that’s not something I want to deal with forever.

4) We originally planned our wedding for Earth Day 2018, but in January she woke me up in the middle of the night — when she knows I won’t remember anything — and convinced me to bump it up to this coming Feb. 27. When I didn’t remember, she got angry and hurt (at least I think she did; her favorite way of being playful and joking is to act offended by something I did or said, so I have a hard time telling the difference), questioned my commitment when I was hesitant about keeping the new date, and claimed we had to because same-sex couples might not have that right given Trump, and I caved in and agreed.

This is not actually okay with me, but I’m too scared of hurting her feelings (she has a past history of suicide attempts), really dislike emotional confrontations, and don’t know how to deal with the potential fallout, since we live together.

5) I’ve got the feeling more than once that she’s just using the relationship to get out of her stepdad’s house, get more financial aid for when she decided to go back to community college, and to get on my health insurance. But I also have PTSD and depression from past abusive relationships, so this could legit just be paranoia.

6) Finally, she doesn’t have a job, doesn’t go to school, and we don’t have kids, and spends most of her days in bed watching Netflix, outside working on various projects watching Netflix, or playing video games. I’m honestly tired of bankrolling her extended vacation from the real world while I’m stressing out making ends meet and have very little free time.

Despite all this I love her very much and would love to make it work; she is kind, funny, talented, and smart, tells me often how much she loves me, that I’m beautiful, that I’m her muse for art projects and the love of her life, is physically affectionate, and does small things like bring me food when I’m busy or make me gifts from the raw materials I buy.

On the one hand I really want to spend my life with her because the good stuff is so good! But on the other, I often daydream about being single with just my cats in a clean, organized, dog-free home. We love each other a lot, but after almost a year of living together my opinion is that we don’t have compatible living styles.

Aside from breaking her heart and possibly forcing her to move back in with her abusive stepdad, my main concern with breaking up is who will get the kitten we rescued and raised since she was a day old. I honestly think I should get to keep her because I have income and can care for her, plus her step-dad hates cats and her mom is allergic. But Fiancée got to spend more time with Kitten when she was really young because I couldn’t stay up with her all night due to my job.

Can you please give me some scripts to 1) ask that she fix the above problems or I’m gone (without sounding like an asshole), 2) if she agrees, scripts to postpone the wedding to make sure the fixes stick and aren’t just lip service; or, if she doesn’t agree or she does but the problems continue unabated, 3) scripts to call off the wedding and break up?

Thank you in advance!

~Would I be dodging a bullet, or losing the love of my life?

PS: Please, no How to Train Your Dog tips – I do not like Dog and do not want to waste any more of my very limited free time dealing with it more than I already have to.

[She/her pronouns]

Dear Dodging,

Time to cancel.

I am sorry that you are living out this object lesson in “feelings of love and attraction do not actually add up to long-term compatibility in close quarters with another human being.” I am sorry you are living this out under the pressure of “I might lose my right to get married at all.” It’s unconscionable that this would have to be a consideration for human beings in our country. I’m sorry that you and your fiancée have differing needs and values around money and day-to-day living and these are not gonna be resolved in the next 20 days even with the best of intentions on everybody’s part. And I am so sorry, but there is no universe where “I don’t enjoy living with you and I don’t think we should get married this month after all” isn’t going to lead to serious upheaval and hurt feelings, no matter how you deliver the news, but let’s see what can be done.

This is an honesty zone, so let me be honest: This relationship is draining every part of you and I think it’s gonna end. I know you’re not quite ready for that, so I’m designing a slower exit than the “change your locks and your phone number” ending I otherwise might, one where there are some chances to save things if she changes her behavior. I don’t think she will change her behavior, not in enough time to repair what’s already been broken, but if you need to hope and to use the word “we” for now in order to save yourself, okay.

You say are a survivor of past abusive relationships. I don’t think that makes you paranoid or unreasonable when you see red flags in subsequent partners or situations. I think that makes you entirely reasonable and possibly more able to spot potential problems than people who have not survived what you survived. If something in your gut is telling you “this feels crushingly familiar,” you could do worse than listen to it and let it protect you. For what it’s worth, I see a lot of red flags here, too, the two biggest being: The way she pressured/manipulated you into moving the wedding date. The way she screams at you when you try to have conversations about shared living space and finances. NOT OKAY.

Remember, also, that the awesome, loving parts can still be part of a bad relationship. If people were assholes 100% of the time it would be easy to avoid them, but I’ll bet even broken-glass-guy did *some* stuff that felt like love, that felt like home, that felt like belonging. We have a great ability to truly love people who are fundamentally incompatible with us and our happiness, the tragedy of which almost makes me believe in a cruel prankster Cupid and invisible-yet-pointy arrows sticking out of our backs.

The people we love are more than their economic contribution to a household or how many chores they do, and it’s possible to make agreements that one partner will support the other during a time of illness or stress or for more happy reasons like going to school or “I’ll make the money so you can make the art.” There are all kinds of accommodations that people make around disability, aptitude, economic circumstances that don’t look like a 50/50 split of every little thing. The thing is, it has to be an agreement between you, given willingly and freely. Not something that is taken, where the other person flops down on your couch for an eternity and lets you handle all the hard things and the hard work and then screams at you if you ask for something different.

It is okay to be angry at someone who sees you struggling and working all the time, who has been asked to keep unnecessary spending down, who has been asked to do some household chores or at least clean up after herself, and who offers no effort to make anything better. If she can’t work right now, then, okay, that’s a conversation, like “I think my depression is bad enough that I *can’t* work right now, and this is really is the best I can do around the house, so, how do we handle that together so this relationship is workable for you?” (Aggressive mental health interventions, budgeting together to hire a cleaner to keep the house in a state that makes you happier, staying in love but having separate living spaces, etc. There is stuff that can be done, or at least tried.)

She’s a fellow adult, and she’s got some heavy stuff going on and she’s been through some stuff in her life, but you need her to not keep garbage in your bedroom. If she loves you she will get that and do her level best to stop keeping garbage in the bedroom. Do we think she is doing her best to not keep garbage in the bedroom? (Spoiler: No, I do not).

Say she literally can’t stop keeping garbage in the bedroom. Okay, that sucks and it’s very sad and she needs a lot of help, but it’s still okay for you to want to spend your life with no garbage where you sleep, whether that means that you stay in love but live in separate spaces or whether you find someone else to spend your life with. Having standards for how your living space can be, having standards for how you want your partner to treat you (like, “Please don’t spend all our money when I’ve asked you not to“) and setting boundaries about what you need doesn’t make you a mean or selfish person who is somehow failing at compassion.


It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to tell your partner the truth about how you’re feeling. It’s okay to set boundaries about what you need in the place where you live. It’s okay to want love to be better than this.

Logistics time: I think there are a few things you must handle fairly immediately:

Step 1:  Stop bleeding money.  Work only in cash and/or your checking account if only you have access to it, set aside enough to cover food & necessities & an affordable small allowance for fiancée for the next couple of weeks. Report your credit cards lost and get replacements that only you have access to. (Closing the accounts outright will affect your credit score and your ability to get credit. You need to build up as much financial liquidity as you can right now so don’t do that).

Step 2: Have two awful-but-necessary conversations with fiancée. Both of them suck and I don’t know what the order is, but they are true and you need to have them. Maybe that’s the way to start: “I have two very stressful things to talk about and I don’t know where to start – can you hear me out while I say both of them before jumping in?”

Conversation A: “The wedding is coming up fast, and the closer it gets the more I know that I am not ready to take that step. We need to postpone.”

Conversation B: “We are almost entirely out of money, and we can’t continue on as we have. The stress of being in debt and depleting savings is weighing on me constantly, and talking with you about it hasn’t worked before now, so I’ve cut off the credit cards until we can get out of debt build up some savings again. Until [timeframe], our weekly allowance for non-necessities is $____, half for me and half for you, and when it’s gone it’s gone.”

She will have lot of stuff to say and very probably have an explosive emotional reaction. This is understandable and valid, anyone would be upset in her shoes. She’s gonna say, at very least: You’re not committed to me. You don’t love me. You’re gonna force me to live with my abusive dad. You’re being controlling about money. You’re treating me like a child. What if we miss our window to even have this right?

Let her say her piece.

Then you:

  • I do love you and I would give almost anything to make this work.
  • Living together isn’t working, though. Between the mess and the constant spending- I’m incredibly unhappy, stressed, and uncomfortable in my living space all the time, and while the good parts are good, this unhappiness isn’t going away. It’s been a year…when do things get better?
  • I’ve tried talking to you about the spending and about the mess, and it results in a) screaming at me and b) no changes whatsoever – I still live in a house full of garbage and crusty food, we’re broke and getting broker, and talking about it honestly gets me screamed at. So if talking about it with you won’t solve it, what do you think will solve it?

The points to repeat/come back to, when she argues/yells:

  • I upset enough about household stuff and money that it is making me have suicidal thoughts. For my own well-being, I need to put the brakes on things.
  • I know that I can’t commit to a life where things at home stay like they are now/I can’t get married without a vision and a plan for how this all changes.
  • I hope very much that we can work on that plan together, but step one has to be postponing the wedding and getting our finances under control.
  • Keep the conversation focused on yourself and your needs. “I am unhappy.” “I am not ready.”

Some things to leave out of the conversation right now:

  • The dog. I’m with you – the dog’s gotta go, either with your fiancée wherever she lands next or to a nice no-kill animal rescue who will train it up and foster it with loving kind people who know what to do with it. Moderation note: Dogs are for people who want dogs and the Letter Writer doesn’t want a dog. Respect this boundary in the comments or learn to love having your stuff deleted.
  • That said, she’s an abuse survivor who fled her old home into yours with a beloved animal. She’s not actually ever going to agree to give up the dog and if you bring the dog into the “postponing the wedding” conversation it will be a distraction you don’t need right this second. Trust the order of operations and file the dog under “business for another terrible conversation.”
  • The kitten you got together. The cat may go with her someday or it may stay with you. The kitten is gonna be loved and fine wherever it goes, and there are bigger fish to fry in this initial conversation.
  • Joblessness/aimlessness/Netflixness. Bringing this up right now is gonna create or add to a shame spiral that is counter-productive. It’s another conversation for another time, like, hey, if you hate this whole “allowance” thing, one way to take some of the financial stress off us/give you more spending money is for you to find a job, too, what’s your plan about that, exactly?

She may well ask: 1) Are you breaking up with me? 2) Are you kicking me out/sending me back to live with my Dad/making me homeless?


The answer to these things, realistically, is, “I don’t want that but I also can’t answer that right this second. I’m sure about the wedding, I’m sure about getting finances back under control, I’m sure I care about you. We can figure out the rest, I needed to tell you those two things today so we can make good decisions.

You’re gonna have a sucky Tuesday & Wednesday this week, and again, I’m sorry, but you gotta take these steps quick to protect yourself (from her running up a ton more debt) and to tell her the truth about where your head is at so she can make good decisions about her life. Keep framing it that way, too: “I know this is heartbreaking, but I need to be able to tell you the truth about how I feel.” You owe her the truth and you told her the truth.

Other fairly immediate steps (also not necessarily in the ‘right’ order):

Step 3: Stop the Wedding Juggernaut. Some deposits may be lost, but cancel everything that can be cancelled, return everything that can be returned, and inform everyone that needs informed – officiant, venue, guests. Don’t worry about crafting something perfect, send a simple email to guests like “Our wedding is being postponed, so we won’t see you on [date]. We’ll let you know when there’s a new date.

There may not ever be a new date, and that’s okay right now. You don’t have to decide that, just tell people you invited what’s up with February 27. You’re the one calling it off, so, take on the job of doing the awkward work of those calls and emails.

Some people will call to find out the story and some will call you to offer support and I can feel you cringing to your soul but this is a GOOD thing. You both need Team You(s) right now, and this is a quick way to summon them. A script might be: “It’s very embarrassing and hard to talk about it, but we take marriage very seriously and taking some time to work out some stuff was the right thing to do.” 

Step 4: Assemble Team You(s) and tell them what is going on. 

Do not shame-hide. You need your friends and family. She needs her friends (& any non-abusive family). One or both of you is most likely gonna need a place to stay, and somebody who knows a good place to re-home dogs, and somebody who knows a good entry level part time job. You need people who know what’s going on and who are poised to be your sounding board and to offer concrete help. You also need people who you can tell the whole truth to about what’s been happening in your house and how it’s making you feel. You’re not being disloyal if you seek support.

Step 5: Put some mental health support in place for both of you. If you decide to do couples’ counseling, cool, but I think you both need individual resources. You need somebody who is there 100% to help you manage your anxiety stuff and to help you make good decisions about what will bring you a happy life, so don’t stint yourself, ok? Since you mention a history of suicide attempts on her part, some of this support needs to be crisis support, like, writing down hotline numbers and figuring out “If she had to check herself into a hospital, which one near us is the right one?” Hopefully you won’t need it but write it all down as a safety net in case you do.

Step 6: The Future????????

There is a whole list of medium-term and longer-term issues that are above my pay grade and that can’t necessarily be figured out right now. I think you gotta live separately, whether or not you break up. She needs to find a source of income and make some plans for herself toward going to school. I don’t know how to solve that for y’all. One reason I stressed finances so much at the beginning is that if you have some savings and financial liquidity that can be a “Hey, we’re breaking up, but here’s some money for you to move to a new place and get you set up for a couple of months- I really don’t want you to have to go back to your Dad’s place” fund.

Whatever happens, I want you to remind yourself:

She has choices about how she treats you. She has choices about whether the wakeup call of “Oh shit, I’m not getting married right now after all and my partner is really unhappy with things” is enough to spur her to make some changes in how she treats you, your living space, etc. Also, speaking of choices, one forseeable consequence of pressuring & manipulating someone to move your wedding date up by a year is that they will balk when the time comes. One reason you’re in this situation now is that she steamrolled you before.

Cancelling the wedding is 100% the right thing to do. It will hurt like hell, but you should not marry someone you are not sure you want to marry, and telling them that news IS actually doing right by them even if they don’t want to hear it or agree.

It’s okay to want love to be better than this. “Relationships take work” our culture says, but yours is too much work and the wrong kind of work and it’s okay to stop wanting to do the work if it’s not making you happy.

You don’t have to solve someone’s whole life in order to leave them. I hope very much that your fiancée is able to get a job and a place of her own and live with her dog that she loves and begin the slow work of taking care of herself financially. I know that part of it is weighing on you hugely, like, you very much don’t want to banish her back to an abusive situation. But your apartment and her dad’s place are not the only two buildings on earth. You can be kind and offer help and support, but as the saying goes, “Don’t set yourself on fire to keep other people warm.

I don’t envy you the conversations and the work ahead in these next weeks, but I look forward to the time that you can’t quite see yet, where you have that peaceful, quiet (dog-free) place to live.

Much love,

Captain Awkward

P.S. I hope you have some good friends who take you to dinner on February 27.

P.P.S. Pledge drive week is on! Find out more here.





712 thoughts on “#940: “My wedding is in 20 days and I think I gotta cancel.”


    okay turning off capslock

    and repeating everything i just said

    1. I don’t think these kinds of comments are really helpful. I understand the impulse, but “this isn’t what a healthy relationship looks like” isn’t very informative and yelling “get out” or “just run” is not terribly useful advice for someone who is afraid her partner will end up having to move back in with an abusive family member.

      LW, the Captain’s advice here is very good. There are red flags here, and you are very, very much within your rights to want a clean and organized place with only cats and no dogs, and to not be in debt when you make enough to live on.

      Like the Captain, I too am very worried by the way she woke you up in the middle of the night to change your wedding date (!!!) and by the way she screams at you when you ask for things to change. I don’t know if things can be fixed or not, but I think you are absolutely 100% correct that marrying someone who does those things is not the right move.

      A healthy relationship is built on trust – and the trust that both partners can bring up how they feel and ask for the relationship to be something that works for them is probably the most important. You deserve to have that in the person you marry.

      And I also want to say that if you decide you want to break up, and she isn’t able to support herself independently (because she isn’t willing/able to do what it takes), you can still decide to do what is right for you. It would be a great kindness if you give her some money to get herself settled, but I don’t think you should feel trapped in the relationship if you can’t.

      “I’m sorry, I can’t do this anymore and need to break up” is enough, if that’s what you decide.

      1. i totally agree with azaleas. anyone in this sort of situation can’t hear it when it is yelled at them as if it is an emergency. they are living this emergency every day and it has become normal. they already feel shame and like they are the one doing something wrong. they can’t admit how bad it is or it makes them even more stupid/wrong for staying. if it were that simple and easy, they would have already left. i know it breaks our hearts to see someone suffering. and we imagine that we would be able to leave such a mess without question. maybe some people would have left earlier, but it takes most people SEVEN tries to leave an abusive relationship.

        i have had one relationship that i might call abusive (we were horrible, emotionally/verbally, to each other), and YET, it was so hard to leave behind. it felt like a failure because we couldn’t interact like compassionate humans. like if i could just find the right things to say and do, it would stop being so *wrong* and i could leave feeling like we’d tried our best rather than spiraling worse and worse. the Captain did a spectacular job of providing specific next steps and perspective that is hearable by someone struggling with a relationship like this. we could all learn from it.

        OP, your heart is right that getting married with these unresolved issues isn’t the right choice for you. you get to decide when and who you marry. sending lots of love for speaking up for yourself and/or creating a home that feels safe and clean for you.

    1. And take the kitten with you! I am so so sorry, this is a terrible situation all around.

      1. Please don’t guilt a person in this situation about caring for a pet. Read the Captain’s letter again. LW wants to keep the cat, but if events transpire that she can’t resolve this situation *AND* keep the darn cat, then she’s not doing something wrong by not taking it. These kind of reactionary comments are the exact opposite of the Captain’s thoughtful, practical, compassionate advice.

        1. Okay, but if LW wants to make a unilateral decision to take the cat, for its welfare and/or as an emotional service to herself, I for one think that is allowed. She doesn’t have to get her fiancee to agree that her taking the cat is the right thing. She can simply take it.

          1. Yeah, I got to that part, and had one thought:

            LW, when/if it comes time to break up, I would see if you can find a friend to keep your cats (and the kitten) for a few days. Because honestly, your girlfriend strikes me as the sort of person who *would* take the kitten (possibly even the cats) out of a sort of spite, feeling that she’s OWED the kitten, whether or not she can care for it.

            But I dunno, if you can have a real conversation and come to a mutually agreed conclusion about the kitten, that would probably be best. But still…be. careful.

          2. On a related note, beware of shared custody (catstody?). While it’s true that not-great people, or people who are not great with you personally, can and do deeply love their pets, it’s also true that people will use a shared pet as a way to stay in contact with an ex, which can lead to all kinds of demands, attempts to reconcile, or attempts to sabotage new relationships/life decisions. I think it’s probably wise, in this situation, to assume that someone is going to have to make a clean break with the kitten. Which made me terribly sad to even *type,* I know it’s not going to be easy, but…someone’s going home without the kitten (As King Solomon taught us) either way, so it’s really a question of ending the relationship definitively, versus dragging out the inevitable for who knows how long, at who knows what cost.

        2. As a person who left an abusive relationship, one of the first questions the cops/lawyers ask you is if you have any pets. The abuser often threatens or actually hurts/kills the pet in order to re-exert control over the person who left. The LW should make arrangements for all of the pets.

          1. Wow, again, super guilt-trippy. Yes this is a thing that happens in some cases, but there’s no indication here that LW’s partner is liable to do this. Not all abusive situations are the same.

            I redirect again to CA’s take on the matter: “The cat may go with her someday or it may stay with you. The kitten is gonna be loved and fine wherever it goes, and there are bigger fish to fry in this initial conversation.”

  2. Oh, LW. My heart hurts for you. You do not deserve to be screamed at. You do not deserve to sleep in a room with garbage. You do not deserve to be woken up out of a sound sleep to be pressured into moving up the date of your wedding. You do not deserve to have your savings depleted and your credit put in peril.

    The Captain gave some excellent advice. I’d add to that–hide those new credit cards. If your bank has safe deposit boxes, get one under YOUR name only and put them in there. Don’t mention the box to your partner.

    Like the Captain, I see many red flags here. You deserve to have a partner who treats you with respect. If your partner’s past with her abusive step dad is what she says fuels her behavior, well, I’m sorry to hear that, but it doesn’t lessen the impact it has on YOU (and you have your own issues).

    The other thing I would reiterate that the Captain peppered throughout her response: It’s not your responsibility to help or fix your partner. She has to do this herself. She has to apply to go to school. She has to look for a job. Yes, maybe if you have these difficult conversations, she’ll change for a while. Maybe she won’t. But you cannot be expected to do it all. She knows you’re under pressure and she knows you are not happy. You have made it clear. She responds by screaming at you and being manipulative. How long can you live with it? Assume this will never change, or any changes will be temporary. Is this something you want to spend your life dealing with?

    Hugs to you. Please let us know how you’re doing.

    1. Also, on the credit front, it might be a good idea to make sure Fiancee doesn’t have access to things like your SSN. My ex-husband used mine to apply for credit in my name. Credit that he then maxed out and didn’t pay. Yeah, it’s fraud and identity theft, but since we were married it turned out to be astonishingly difficult to prove. Keep an eye on your credit report for the next year; if you can afford a credit monitoring service get one.

      1. Sometimes you can walk into your bank and ask them to check your credit, and many credit card companies will phone you to tell you that suspicious charges have appeared on your card. In the ‘States, I think there’s something called Credit Karma that’s free. Or supposedly free.

        1. Yes! Credit Karma is an app. It’s completely free (unlike other services that start free and then charge you). It will help you keep tabs, and gives you info about what’s changed. You can check it as often as you like without it affecting anything.

          And once you’re in a better place, and ready to start saving again, please check out digit.co It’s another app that gradually automatically saves from your bank account, at a pace that matches what is in there. It’s safe and you can withdraw at anytime. Once your accounts are free from your partner’s interference, set it up and forget about it. A few months down the track, you’ll suddenly discover a nest egg you might really need.

          Financial security will make you feel much better about everything else that’s going on, and give you a stronger foundation to decide your future. Be strong! Jedi hugs to you..

          1. OT, but I’m really pleased to hear about Credit Karma! My credit monitoring service (paid for by my company, but only for a limited period of time because of Reasons) is about to run out, and I was hoping to find an alternative. I don’t have any special reason to need it, but even so I’ve found that keeping an eyeball on my credit history/activity gives me major peace of mind.

          2. Quick caveat about Credit Karma: it doesn’t give you your Fico scores, but rather your Vantage 3.0 scores, which are not used nearly as often as fico. It’s a great app I use to monitor factors contributing to credit info. I’d recommend the MyFico forums for credit score repair info, they’re gurus at it over there.

          3. Also, many credit cards are now providing you with your FICO score for free — American Express, Discover, and the Citicbank MasterCard all have this benefit as well as some others that I haven’t been able to confirm. So you can use Credit Karma for your report, and an existing credit card account for your score.

      2. I thought of this too. Credit reporting might be wise at this point, if only to keep tabs on what accounts are opened in your name. (Do some research if you go this route–some of them are scams–but there are also reputable ones out there.)

        1. In the US, Annual Credit Report (https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action) is a site you can use once a year for free to check your credit. It’s a great habit to be in anyway, and if you haven’t done it in the last year, it’s worth doing after you cancel the cards just to see what the damage is. It’s the only federally approved site for this that’s free; other places like FreeCreditReport.com ask for your credit information and charge you.

          1. There are three credit reporting agencies and you’re allowed to pull the report for each once a year, so if you stagger them you can do a check every 4 months for free.

          2. @ stellanor, although given the circumstances it might be wise to pull them all now to look for anything hinky, and then stagger later when you are monitoring. They really do report different things – when my husband was working on repairing his finances there were different items on each report, so I’m glad we pulled them all at once.

      3. YES YES YES

        When you report your cards missing and request new ones, also put a credit lock on your account. Identity theft and hacking are pandemic, and pretty much every financial institution will be MORE than happy to help you with pre-emptive steps. Just tell them you’re worried about the security of your personal information and ask for a lockout period — I’d suggest 6 months.

        1. Replying to this comment to give it more bandwidth. PLEASE ask for a credit lock and tell the nice customer service person that you’re worried about your information being stolen when you report your cards stolen. SO MANY BEES HERE

      4. Recently lots of credit card companies have also started offering credit scores to all their members. I’m guessing that they’re a bit less beefy than what a separate credit monitoring service can give you, but some of them give lots of info. Capital One, in particular, will show me all the accounts I have open, the balance last reported to the credit agencies, the percentage of on time payments, and some other information, too. I’ve also got cards with American Express and Citibank, which give credit scores but I don’t think they have quite as much information.

        So even if you can’t afford credit monitoring, see if your credit card(s) do this, and keep an eye on those reports if so!

      5. You can call the credit reporting agencies and request a hold be placed on your account. This requires you to personally authorize any credit checks, so no accounts can be opened without express permission, you can even add a unique verbal password.

    2. LW, keep your banking info safe on your computer! If you dont have an Admin level already set up, do this now. Use a non-dictionary password. Create separate User-level accounts, one for you and one for ex-fiancee. Create a new, User password on your account.

      1. Yes. I would in fact change every password I could think of, even if it has nothing to do with finances or shopping. Someone behaving as abusively as the fiancee here may not be above doing vindictive things with various accounts. And she doesn’t deserve free access to Netflix, either.

        1. Yes! At the very least, and whatever else is decided, the netflix, cable and internet access have to be canceled right away. The explanation can be as simple as “I can’t afford them.” Let her put it together with the over-spending in other areas. The LW undoubtedly needs internet, but there is usually access at work or even at the public library.

          1. And lock up any video games she doesn’t own. Not to punish her (though that’s what she’ll most likely think) but to free up her time to get up off her butt and do something productive.

          2. Okay, I think that’s a little off base. Fiancée isn’t the letter writer’s child. She has the capacity to decided to support herself financially even if there are video games around. Unlike with Netflix, the video games won’t be charging the LW anything. Is this really a priority in a difficult and overwhelming situation?

          3. Ok, I have to call this one out: cutting off the internet is not a reasonable thing to do here. The internet isn’t some luxury waste of time, it’s a central and necessary part of modern life. It’s as absurd as saying she needs to cut off her phone. If ex-fiancee needs to get a job to support herself, not having internet access is going to make that *much harder*, not motivate her to do it.

  3. As a friend of someone who had similar (but different) warning signs – they did go through with the wedding, and divorced a month later. Its better to throw the brakes on now before you legally entangle yourself with this woman. Its hard, its not fun and its uncomfortable, but its better than getting lawyers involved if you can’t resolve these issues down the line.

    1. Yes to this.

      Another thing: I tend to be too suspicious, but her sudden desire to hasten the marriage to me it seems related to your growing discomfort with the cohabitation. Perhaps she had sensed your exasperation at the many unresolved issues, and she thought to move up the date to silence your doubts and concerns? To secure herself a safe position as your legal partner?

      1. I think you’re onto something. To me it looks like the fiancée is doing everything she can to make sure the LW cannot get out of the relationship, because that would mean she’d lose her free source of income, food and housing.

        1. Yes, it’s not at all uncommon for someone who is afraid that a relationship is on rocky ground to attempt to make the relationship more permanent in some way so that you “can’t” just leave. (You still can, of course, but that’s the idea.) This is most infamous in cases of birth control sabotage, but it can also take the form of pressing for other kinds of commitments that are hard to untangle–cohabitation, pet ownership, making a major purchase (like a car) together, planning an expensive vacation just far enough in the future that they hope you feel you can’t break up at least until after the vacation is over, or, yes, marriage. The more threatened they feel the relationship is, the tighter the instinct to cling.

          It’s particularly difficult because the ambivalent partner may feel guilty about being ambivalent, and assuage the guilt by being agreeable. A friend of mine was having ambivalent feelings about one of her boyfriends… and while right in the mioddle of that ambivalence, bought an expensive car with him, and she said later that she was pretty sure she’d done it to compensate for feeling like a “bad person” for thinking of dumping him. She was rueful as she said this, because of course joint ownership of a car actually made the breakup much, much more complicated and harder when it inevitably happened anyway.

          1. “It’s particularly difficult because the ambivalent partner may feel guilty about being ambivalent, and assuage the guilt by being agreeable.”

            So much this! That’s why I reluctantly agreed to the new date, and because I felt like an awful jerk for balking at the idea.

            Fortunately canceling will not be a financial issue; her idea for the wedding was to have a friend of hers who recently got his certificate to marry people online to handle that part and we would just say vows in a park somewhere and then apply for a license at the courthouse, and keep the ceremony for our original date.

            I thought that seemed fraudulent to our families, mine in particular, who would not be invited because they were hesitant enough about me marrying a woman to begin with (they know I’m bisexual but this was the first time ever I got engaged and I guess they hoped I was straight), and would raise alarm about the pushed up date. Essentially they would be kept in the dark and think the 2018 ceremony was the actual thing instead of basically a stage play.

          2. It IS fraudulent. She wants you to lie to your family so she can marry you in secret? Pardon my French, but what the fuck?

            This sounds, to me, like she’s trying to get you away or at least distance you from your family, and isolating someone from their support networks is something abusers do. My hackles are up and not coming down anytime soon.

          3. LW, if you have doubts about her honesty … are you 100% sure you actually had that midnight conversation you don’t remember in which you agreed to something you don’t want to do?

            You say she knew you wouldn’t remember it. Have you made midnight agreements you couldn’t remember before? If so, has anyone other than her (or a previous, abusive partner) ever witnessed them?

            Maybe you do forget and it really happened, I don’t know. But if you were too sleepy to recall, I’m not sure that counts as fully conscious agreement, and, well, it’s a question worth asking yourself. If she’s learned messed-up values and knows you’ll believe her if she tells you about an agreement you can’t remember, that must at least be a temptation.

          4. B. to be fair, I’ve known several couples (including my own parents) who secretly elope for logistical reasons after already setting a later, public date. My parents (who eloped for tax purposes and “weddinged” three months later) never told my grandparents that they were already legally married. It’s not necessarily anyone else’s business.

            Assuming, of course, that BOTH partners are on board for this, rather than one pressuring the other into it.

    2. Yes, and it is 1000% important to point out that LEGALLY ENTANGLE part. Marriage is not just a happy ceremony plus a bunch of rights. It comes with a huge passel of legal OBLIGATIONS. For example, LW, if you’re in a community property state (California is not the only one), your new wife will be entitled to half of anything you earn or gain through your work. No matter how many hours she spends lounging on the couch while you work, no matter how many bills she runs up without your permission. No matter how much her dog shits on the carpet or how many times she screams at you. Also, if you decide the relationship is not working, then you can’t just divide up the books and the funny coffee mug collection; you have to go to court and get a judge to OK your dissolving the marriage, and you may have to get a lawyer to protect your rights if your wife doesn’t like the idea of you walking off with your credit cards and the kitten.

      I promise that you don’t want to make it *harder* to extricate yourself from this situation, or protect yourself from being screamed at or having your credit cards misused.

      1. 100% this. I barely make enough to support myself (my income can vary widely from month to month due to job quirks), much less pay her half. The spectre of divorce proceedings has haunted me lately, and it’s a relief to know I’m not off-base.

        1. Your instincts are spot-on and full of win. This is the best thing for both of you. Now, this woman can go forward and live a full life.

        2. You’re so very ON base, LW. When I read this I was just ticking through my head people I know who have gotten divorced, and so many of them are people who a) got married even though one or both partners was reconsidering and b) were filing for divorce by their second anniversary. It’s so hard and so expensive, even under the best circumstances. You are absolutely doing the right thing in preventing that eventuality.

          1. I’m sorry for you, LW, but all my instincts say “Run!”.

            Perhaps honest and direct discussion of your problems is what your fiancée needs to seek help for herself, and to change for the better. But now she isn’t in the right frame to sustain an happy relationship with you. And it is slowing sucking your energy and well-being and mental health, so please take care of you, whatever choice you’ll take. Hugs!!!

        3. You absolutely are not, and that she is in a big hurry to nail down the legal part but not the “celebrating our union with family and friends” part is telling.

        4. To LW Here–I was a financial mess when my partner and I (both lesbians) got together; I was working but getting behind on my bills. After a year of dating, I asked her about moving in together and she bluntly told me it wasn’t going to happen until I got my finances in order; she had supported her previous girlfriend and wasn’t doing it again. I got my shit together, got a better job, and doubled down on my bills. A year later we got a place together and it’s now been 20 years. Your girlfriend could change, but unlike her, I was not manipulative or abusive. I didn’t scream or defer responsibility; I just dug in and did the work b/c I recognized the truth.

          In addition to other advice you’ve received: if you two get separate places, change the locks and don’t give out keys! Keep your boundaries firm until trust is restored. Good luck!

  4. I’d like to recommend that you have the new credit cards mailed to you at work, if that’s an option.

    1. Yes. Credit cards she can’t have access to = she should literally never see them or know they exist.

      1. Yep. If they reissue the cards with the same numbers (sometimes it does happen, or they’ll change just the security code on the back), insist on new numbers because you have reason to believe your card was compromised. (Which, in fairness, you do.)

        1. The key there is say the cards were stolen. I just ordered a replacement card online and it came back with the same number so make sure to specify stolen in order to get new digits.

  5. LW, the Captain’s advice is kind and thorough and I highly recommend following exactly those steps. Someone who does not take into account your mental health issues and yells at you when you ask her not to spend all your money is not being good to you, even if she occasionally brings you sandwiches while you’re busy. I am sending you so many Jedi Hugs and hope that the conversations you have with her turn into the right kind of wake up call.

  6. It’s okay to love the good things in her but not want what you are dealing with on a practical level.

    A relationship needs to be a bunch of reasonable and negotiated compromises between both people and this sounds like it has very few.

    Speaking from experience I can tell you that the bad stuff will only get worse.

    You don’t say how old you are – but she sounds young or very young ?

    Having this, these conversations will be super tough – and there will be many tears, bad feelings and probable heartbreak.

    This *might* be a major wake up call for her. She will need to live elsewhere and sort her shit out. There is a very slim maybe that she can, will get her life together to the point where there isn’t dog poop and garbage underfoot, and she can work to be a respectful and loving partner, some day. However – things as they are, are really, really not okay.

    Any lost deposits, etc. from calling the wedding off will still be MUCH cheaper than lawyers and a divorce. Without a lot of soul searching, heavy lifting and growing up you will not ever have an equal partner.

    1. I’m 28 (soon to be 29) and she’s 24. I know it’s not a huge age gap, but sometimes it feels like it is…

      1. The emotional maturity gap may be (much) larger than the physical one. Though my former partner was 30, her behavior shared some similarities to what you’ve described (It felt like I was living with a teenager at times). The Captain’s advice is spot on. Jedi Hugs.

      2. Feeling like there is a significant maturity difference in a relationship is never healthy. It sounds like she has yet to develop some very basic life skills and know teenagers who are more capable than what you describe.

      3. LW, you’d probably feel the same if you shared the same birth year. You’re being an adult – earning money, saving for a rainy day, planning for the future. You’re considering the long-term effects of things – this does work for me, this has a toll on my mental health and needs to stop. She seems to live in the moment. And whatever the reasons behind that are, she doesn’t appear to have understood that a partnership means considering the effect of her actions on you. That is an extremely immature attitude. Unfortunately, it might not change when she’s 34, 44, … not unless she makes an effort to change.

      4. It can be! I dated someone across 28 – 23 and it was actually a huge gap in skills and experience.

      5. A lot of life can be lived in that age gap. At 24 I had decided, on a whim, to move to a different state with no job, no car, no plan. I ended up working a retail position, bumming rides off of new friends, and still didn’t have a plan. At 28 (nearly 29) I was living with the man I would marry and was working on finding a position at a company with good pay, benefits, and retirement plan. We were already talking about our future together in far reaching terms (marriage, children, retirement, etc).

      6. At 28 I had just met my future spouse; at 24 I was living with a girlfriend, working minimum wage part time jobs, and taking large periods of time off to travel and “find myself” (hence the minimum wage jobs). 24 is still a period of a lot of growth. That’s not dismissive of her or of you, but those four years can be huge. I mean, I’m two years older than my partner and when we first got together even those TWO years sometimes seemed like a gulf.

      7. I’m of the opinion that the age gap narrows the older you are. There’s a much bigger difference between 28 and 24 than there is between 44 and 40, regardless of individual maturity. My spouse is 3 years younger than I am (44 and 41) and I don’t even remember there’s a difference in our ages anymore.

  7. “This was the healthiest relationship I’ve ever been in and the most serious…”

    The more I think about that, the more it makes me want to cry. I’m so sorry, LW, but I agree with the Captain about the probabilities here. Fiancee has to learn to be a grownup before she gets married.

    1. I was about to say just this. Please, please believe me, Anon: there are other people for you out there, people whose lifestyles match yours, with whom you will be able to build healthier relationships. Love and Jedi hugs for the coming days. ❤

    2. If this is the healthiest relationship that LW has ever been in, I don’t think I even want to know what the less healthy relationships were like.

    3. “Take what you liked and leave the rest” LW, what you have learned about yourself, your heart, what you have to give and what you want- have just made you attractive to the people who want those same things.
      I am not running my A game with my clothes and finances, etc right now, but I am getting attention from a whole new sort of person. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

  8. It was brave of you to write this letter.

    It takes so much bravery to tell a person you love, “this isn’t healthful.”

    It’ll take bravery to enact some-or-all of the Captain’s wise, compassionate advice.

    I believe in you.

  9. OP, I canceled a wedding once. It was not at the 20 days out stage, but it was pretty well planned.

    I was amazed at the outpouring of support from both families, who both talked about how brave we were to decide we weren’t ready to make that choice and pull the trigger, rather than hide our heads in the sand and go through with something we didn’t want to do.

    You’re gonna be okay.

    1. That is so amazing and wonderful that you had such a positive experience. I have known people who went through with weddings they clearly didn’t want to go through with, and it was almost always because they thought their families and friends would be awful to them (sometimes partially the case, I am 100% certain), and I’m so glad that you had the courage to do it and that your families were so supportive.

    2. I have two broken engagements to my name. The first was in high school and nothing was planned out. The second hadn’t got to the point of reserving venues, but I had the materials for my dress and had started on the veil.

      OP, my life is so much better without worrying that my spouse will fuck up my computer against my express requests. That is not a thing that I was prepared to live with, and I’m so glad I don’t have to. Your situation sounds worse.

    3. Speaking as a wedding vendor, I once let a bride that I really liked take the entire amount that she had paid And apply it as a “credit “toward a new wedding at some ambiguous point in the future and she found a partner worthy of her, which has now happened. People will work with you. Speaking as someone with mental health issues who has been suicidal in the past, I just want to say that I believe you are worthy of someone who treats you better than this. You might not think that you are worthy, but you are. You will be amazed at how great fair, equitable and healthy love can be.

  10. I know someone who’s in a relationship like this, except 10 years on. She’s absolutely miserable and, at the end of the day, doesn’t want to go home, has to use psychological distractions so her wife will give her less grief about getting a new laptop (that they can totally afford), and they barely talk; when they do, my friend has to walk on eggshells around her wife so her wife doesn’t completely lose it. It hasn’t gotten better, it’s gotten worse as time has gone on, and things are not good.

    I hope you can resolve this because nobody deserves to have a partner that screams at them when they bring up legitimate issues honestly. That’s not a partnership, and you deserve to have a partner who actually works with you to create your life together.

    1. I am so sorry your friend is in that situation; honestly I’ve worried that things will get worse after saying “I do” because of California’s legal policies surrounding divorce. Plus she used to be in school for criminal justice and says she still has contacts with some of the lawyers in town, and if that’s true I’d be in trouble because there’s no way I can afford an attorney.

      1. I’ve never known a situation that was bad before a marriage to get better after the marriage. For me, I just ended my marriage of 20 years. I felt ambivalent when I said “I do,” and I never got happier, although I kept hoping and trying. I wish I’d had Captain Awkward back then, to tell me that it’s okay to want more out of a relationship, that you can love someone and still decide you don’t want to marry them, and that worry and guilt are not strong reasons for staying. Best of luck to you!

      2. You know how to avoid that: don’t get married. In fact, if someone threatens you like that, run a mile. (Chances are they’re empty threats. She might know people from school, but they’re unlikely to work for her for free on a dodgy case just to do someone they once went to school with a favour.)

        But that’s irrelevant. The relevant portion here is ‘she threatened you with legal repercussions if you don’t do as she says forever’.

      3. Putting on my lawyer hat …. that’s a threat on her part. A silly one at that. A Criminal Justice student wouldn’t really be working with family law attorneys. That being said, don’t marry her, especially if you are in CA.

        1. Co-signing this. At best, she might know some people who can ask around for names of divorce lawyers, who she’d still have to pay. Possibly out of your pocket. So don’t marry her.

      4. Having read most of this and been educated by your updates (thank you) the Fiancee appears to have started a lot of things and not finished them. Buying textbooks and sitting in a half-dozen class sessions is very different than attaining a degree. I’m inclined to see this statement of hers as coercion and bullying.

        These MMA and legal people may have a vague memory of her. She ain’t all that.

      5. It’s a good rule of thumb to never remain in a relationship with someone who threatens you with legal action. That way lies a Judge Judy-style life. It doesn’t matter if its a bff or your wife’s favorite brother; if they see law instead of ethical behavior as a way forward, they should not be in your life. Getting engaged, marrying, go out to dinner with — also things you should never do with someone who makes you *think* they would utilize legal action against you for any reason. Or none.

  11. LW, please listen to the captain, she’s given you such a wonderful and kind advice.

    I’m afraid I’m unable to be as kind in this case. I’m sorry, but right now my instincts are screaming “DTMFA” in bright, glittery letters.

    I believe you about this relationship’s good, lovely things. There’s no doubt in my mind about that. However.

    The fact that this is the best relationship you’ve been in so far does not mean in any way that this is the best you can aspire to. You deserve to be loved by someone who doesn’t make you live among garbage and dog piss. You deserve to be loved by someone who doesn’t spend/steal your money and who doesn’t compromise your future by getting you into debt. And I promise you that the world is full of people like that, people whose cleanliness and financial boundaries are compatible with yours. If you decide you want to, you will meet and love some of them. Some of those will love you back.

    You can love people who are not good for you. People who love you can hurt you. Those are things that can and do happen. But, LW, you deserve so much better. There’s love out there that does not make you feel like shit 80% of the time.

    Please, LW, dodge this bullet. You aren’t being paranoid about this.

    1. Your comment hit me right in the gut because it’s so true. I thought I was being unreasonable having these boundaries, especially around money. It seemed so shallow to keep bringing it up. And the cleanliness issue. What really gets me there is that when we first got together she said she loved cleaning and being organized and would not mind at all doing the brunt of the housework. But after we moved in, nope. Very few things get cleaned unless I do it myself, and sometimes after work I just don’t have the energy.

      1. If she’s undergone major changes in her habits or personality, it’s possible that she’s suffering from depression or something like it. I say this not to diagnose but for you to consider looking into if you’re really serious about staying with her. And, with that being said, mental illness is not an excuse for her to treat you poorly, or to demand that you hang around while she does so. You are still allowed to do whatever you need to do to be healthy and happy (cancel the wedding, move out, break up) even if she walks in the door tomorrow with a gold-plated diagnosis from the Deity-Monarch of Psychologists.

        1. That sounds less like a change in habits and more like a completely disingenuous description of habits not being borne out. Not everyone who doesn’t keep their house hygienic is depressed. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

      2. You are not unreasonable, shallow or materialistic, not at all. Having boundaries is a good thing. You are allowed to decide what you want and don’t want in your life.

        I believe Fiancée lied to you about her cleaning habits (or at the very least told you what she thought you wanted to hear) in order to get access to your home. It’s awful the way she treats you, refusing to even clean up after herself.

        Wishing you lots of strenght for the coming days. Whatever you decide, you can do this ♡

      3. You have one boundary that would be a deal breaker for me (one more reason to say ‘DO NOT GET MARRIED’): I am so done dealing with this creature. I want it gone.

        Your partner had the dog before she moved in with you; they come as a package. And anyone calling my cat/dog/horse/gerbil ‘it’ (I realise that might just have been for the sake of the letter) would raise my hackles. “Your animal needs to go” equals “you need to go”.

        That said, your boundary of wanting to live in a dog piss-and-shit free environment is 1000% reasonable. What I’m saying is that if your fiancee gets rid of her dog because you tell her to she will forever feel resentful, which will put your relationship on a very bad footing; twice over if she (or your brainweasels) then use that to guilt you into accepting other things you find unacceptable: but you made her give up her beloved little doggie, so you should now put up with [x]. That way lie dragons. Getting rid of the dog will make your life a little bit better, but it will not solve anything and it will create an irreparable rift between you.

        I am not, let me repeat this, saying that you should continue to live with fiancee, dog, and dog shit on your carpet. *NOBODY* should live with dog shit on their carpet, including the dog. Your fiancee had plenty of opportunities to try and stop the dog shit from happening; she didn’t take any of them, not for her own sake, not for yours… and not for the sake of her dog, who does not deserve to live in constant stress and filth, either.

        As for the money: I think it’s reasonable for the person with more money to be supportive of the person with less; it’s reasonable for the person with less money to make contributions to the household, both financial and otherwise; it’s reasonable for a person with little or no income to strive to create income by whatever means they do so, including training. The ways in which these happen are up for negotiation between partners; but one person does all of the income creation and all of the supporting and all of the paying… nope.

        So even if you were lacking all of the other red flags – the manipulation, the shouting, the outright refusal to meet you even half way – these are excellent reasons to break up, never mind get married.

      4. I’m gonna be honest, LW. I think making you live in squalor is abuse. ESPECIALLY if she knows you have OCD and Anxiety.
        I have a friend with mobility issues–he can stand and walk, but only has so many steps a day, y’know? It hurts him to do either. His first wife knew that when they were married, but despite him repeatedly asking her to, she refused to clean up after herself, to put things back where they went, etc. Which mean he had to walk around the house more to get things that should have been Where They Belonged–he was in more pain most days because of it. And like your gf, she would get so mad when he’d talk to her about it.

        That’s not reasonable. That is abusive. You have a basic standard that you NEED–literally NEED–to live a healthy life. It’s something that your gf refuses to contribute to, actively makes worse, and then gets angry at you when you ask for help.
        (Incidentally, they got divorced amicably enough that she was a reader at his second wedding–and she introduced him to the woman he married. So it wasn’t that she was scum and a horrible person and he hated her. It was just that being in a relationship with her wasn’t healthy and made his life worse.)

        Nevermind the dog crap.

        Which…hoo boy, if you hadn’t said the age difference, I would’ve thought it was my roommate’s ex-fiance you were talking about. She had a horrible little dog that yapped every time the door open and lived in her room on puppy pads–seriously, she thought puppy pads worked like cat litter, like they weren’t for “just in case” but were for the dog to actually just poop and pee on. She left it alone in her room all day, sometimes for days.

        And the thing is? For the longest time, the both of us thought she hung the moon. It was only when she broke up with him by cheating on him with a guy she was a supervisor for that the scales fell off, y’know? And by then, we were all stuck together on one lease. But it was like, before that we’d seen the red flags but sort of shrugged them off. Oh, I had to clean up after B. made a huge mess in the kitchen. Well, I’m not always tidy either. Oh, B. keeps buying expensive grande coffees and food at Starbucks, even though she’s always broke. Well, I mean…I’m not the boss of her. Huh, I asked her to do Thing awhile ago. She said she’ll get to it. But I really need Thing done… And so on. (Later: huh, B doesn’t really seem to…take good care of her dog. But it must just be because things are so chaotic right now. I’m sure she loves her dog and once we get everything settled, she’ll train it properly.)

        We had really, REALLY wanted it to work out (I’m including myself in this group because we were all living together at the time, and she was my BFF’s first girlfriend who actually liked me, that I was actually friends with on my own terms). So we’d taken all that a a sort of “price of admission.”

        Once the relationship was over, there was a period of rage and of mourning (mostly because of how it happened), but then there was this…relief. Like. We didn’t have to make excuses to ourselves for her behavior anymore. We fixed up the apartment so that it’s nice and reasonably organized, and we keep it fairly clean. We have two lovely cats that only pee or poop in their litter boxes, which are clean. And BFF is in a much happier relationship, and is glad that he dodged the bullet of being tied to someone like B.

        Also, like, we had months of feeling relief and joy every time we opened the door and that stupid dog wasn’t around to yap and stink.


        Cap is being awful nice with the giving your fiance an opportunity to change, but I think that’s being over-optimistic. I think really, you might need to pull the plug.

        But at any rate, definitely put a concrete time-limit on things. Maybe you tell her what it is, maybe you don’t. But know in your head and heart: “If things aren’t Better [and have a concrete definition of what Better is. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it should at least involve you not living in squalor] in ___[2 months, 3 months, etc]___, then this is over.”

        Best of luck to you.

        1. >> Once the relationship was over, there was a period of rage and of mourning (mostly because of how it happened), but then there was this…relief. Like. We didn’t have to make excuses to ourselves for her behavior anymore. <<

          I'm going to frame your comment, especially this part. I recently distanced myself from a friend, and the first thing I thought was "Finally I don’t have to make excuses anymore" What a relief!

          1. I was in a bad relationship for 10 years, and scared to leave, but when I actually left – OMG, it felt SO DAMN GOOD to just not have to worry about her reactions and feelings and hysterical weeping anymore. I sound absolutely heartless when I say this, but the hysterical weeping was used as a weapon against me for so long (i.e. long, hysterical-weeping phone calls about Important Issues, until 3am, the night before I had an important exam), that it was just such a relief to be alone. To go home to a clean, relaxing house. To decide what movie to watch. To not have to watch my every word like a hawk for fear of setting off an emotional reaction. To just veg and relax when I was tired after a long day’s work.

            Seriously, it felt SO GOOD to finally be free. LW, you’ll feel it after you leave. Imagine going home to a clean house with no dog in it and relaxing all by yourself. Wouldn’t it be nice?

      5. It’s not shallow to want to stay out of debt by avoiding unnecessary purchases; it’s basic good sense.

        Also: you aren’t rich. It sounds like you’re busting your butt to keep the bills paid. Try not thinking of it as money, but as time: the money she spends against your wishes represents time in hour life you spent grinding away when you could have been doing something more fun. Meanwhile, she’s spending all her time having fun, and spending money so that you have to work even harder and have even less fun. There is a very big difference in the quality of life the two of you are having, to a degree that is not fair, and the unfairness is coming from her. It is not shallow to notice when a relationship isn’t fair.

      6. I thought I was being unreasonable having these boundaries, especially around money.

        LW, having boundaries and clear ideas about money is one of the most eminently reasonable boundaries to have. One of the main causes of divorce is disagreements about money; it’s really important to be on the same page with your life partner about that before you legally bind yourself to her. A characteristic of a healthy couple is that they have talked about their habits and boundaries around money and have worked out a way for BOTH members of the couple to be comfortable. Those boundaries look different for every couple: some couples do combine finances completely, but there are just as many couples that maintain separate bank accounts even after marriage.

        The fact that your fiancee assumed that your money was hers just because you had moved in together is troubling. It means that the two of you had not had an open conversation about finances before you tied yourself to each other financially by living under the same roof (I can understand why, if conversations about tough issues usually end in her screaming at you). It also means that your fiancee feels comfortable running roughshod over your discomfort with her financial habits. It also means that you don’t feel comfortable enough to assert yourself in these matters. If you don’t feel confident enough to do that now, when she is NOT legally entitled to your money, you’re going to have a very hard time doing so after you are married, when she is.

      7. Sounds to me like she’ll say whatever is expedient to get her what she wants: “I love to clean and organize” … “But Trump!” … “But evil stepdad!” …

      8. I thought I was being unreasonable having these boundaries, especially around money. It seemed so shallow to keep bringing it up. And the cleanliness issue.

        Okay this definitely deserves a support pile-on 🙂 It is completely and utterly reasonable to have boundaries around money and cleanliness. Leaving aside a long and deraily discussion about whether capitalism is fundamentally a good idea, we live in a capitalist society and you literally must have enough money if you want to keep living indoors. YOU ARE NOT SHALLOW IF YOU WANT TO KEEP LIVING INDOORS. You are not shallow if you don’t want to be scared about money all the time. You are not shallow if you like to be sure you can pay all the bills every month. You would still not be shallow if you had more than enough money and just didn’t like your partner spending it as they pleased without even asking if that’s okay.

        And cleanliness! You are so absolutely entitled to be comfortable in your own home! Picking up literal garbage and confining dirty dishes to the kitchen is the absolute minimum standard of acceptable roommate behaviour. You are not shallow at all to want your home, where you *live* to be minimally sanitary. Cleaning is not just you being terrible and too picky and unreasonable, it’s about avoiding infections, vermin, insects, and food poisoning, as well as not destroying any chance of ever getting your damage deposit back and, you know, a basic level of comfort in your own home. IT’S YOUR HOME YOU ARE ALLOWED TO WANT TO BE COMFORTABLE THERE.

      9. Re: “Unreasonable boundaries.” It is not unreasonable to expect that you will be dating/living with/marrying an equal, with whom you have a mutually supportive and responsible relationship — any more than it is unreasonable to expect that gravity is down or that roofs keep the rain off.

        All marriages and LTRs have a back-and-forth flow of need and compensation. But this imbalance in self-care and the work of life together, does not appear to be a temporary situation. Can you realistically see her stepping up to provide or care for you if you got sick and had to be out of work for six months? What if a parent or another family member needed medium-to-long-term help? Could she pitch in and help make that happen? Not her willingness or her intent or her “good heart” – is she capable of it?

        Has she ever been responsible for herself? Does she even understand what it involves? It’s not just about the broad categories of “job” and “chores.” It’s all the day-to-day labor that makes civilized, healthy, sustainable life possible – planning and executing on getting yourself and your household fed, sheltered, clothed, medicated or taken on wellness visits; complying with obligations like taxes, car tags, library fines and voter registration; maintaining friendships, family relationships, and social groups; participating in your community; finding ways to get your emotional needs met in appropriate ways…and on and on. Adulting, in short.

        It is not unreasonable to want to marry an adult. That is completely reasonable and right.

        1. This! She may genuinely not be capable of this right now for reasons that aren’t her fault, but she’s acting like a teenager who expects their needs to be met with minimum effort from them. Which is a fine relationship between teenagers and parents, but is really really not an okay dynamic between people who are married to one another. LW, you are not her parent, and you shouldn’t have to act like her parent.

      10. Having healthy boundaries is not unreasonable, especially around money and cleanliness. My friend who has been married to his wife for 20 years is finally working towards leaving. He is a relatively neat person who has a healthy relationship with money, but he married someone who is the opposite basically – she has piles of clothes, empty boxes, etc. all over and has a very unhealthy relationship with money (but thinks she is fine; to illustrate, more than once he has tipped someone scooping ice cream with a dollar bill and she reached into the tip jar and took it back out because “she knows their money situation better than him and they don’t have enough to tip like that”). These two things are huge and they never changed with time – in fact, they got worse.

        Like you, my friend could not truly talk to his wife about these or other problems – she intentionally or unintentionally behaved in such a way that it was easier for him emotionally in the long run to just give in and let it go. Like you, he has a history of abuse and that can sometimes lead you to accept and let go of things other people might not. She never screams at him, but she will argue to exhaustion and derail then later gaslight him (“I never said that” or “you never mentioned this before”); or at the worst case, she will walk away and ignore him for days or weeks. He has told her more than a few times that if she keeps doing these behaviors, especially the ignoring him one, he would have to leave because it hurts him so much and she knows that but keeps doing it anyway.

        Long story short, she never changed her behavior and now he is leaving. Well, she is “changing” her behavior now that he is truly leaving, but she really hasn’t – she has just suppressed her behavior for a few months in an attempt to get him to stay now that it affects her. I am afraid that your partner will pull a similar behavior once you have these conversations with her. I agree with the Captain that it is best to postpone the wedding and live separately if you want to give her a chance to prove that she will truly change.

        Tl;dr: your healthy boundaries are healthy, and mismatches around cleanliness and money will NOT get better with time. (I do believe that people can change, but it takes sustained, substantial effort that most people simply cannot or will do.)

  12. LW, I’m reading a lot of shame in the way you keep throwing out the “20 days” timeframe, as if you are a bad person for calling off the wedding on such short notice.

    I want to give you a gentle reminder that this timeframe was not your idea. I know you “agreed” to it, but I could also make the argument that Fiancee was 100% not engaging with you in good faith when she extracted that agreement out of you in the middle of the night.

    Had you stayed with your Earth Day 2018 timeframe, you wouldn’t be feeling this stress about calling it off the way you are now. And yes, I get it, I totally get the reason why Fiancee wanted to move the date up, given the political/legal context. It makes sense. But it doesn’t change the fact that that date is not good for you, was never good for you, and you are not a terrible person for canceling now, or later, or ever.

    1. I’m guessing that the real reason Fiancee wanted to move the date up was to trap the LW, given her other abusive behavior.
      The middle of the night conversation makes me very suspicious. Trump is just an excuse.

      1. Exactly. It’s a legit reason to move up a date IF both parties have a respectful discussion about it, and both are 100% OK with it. That’s not what happened here. This is just one in a whole parade route of red flags.

      2. Honestly, yeah. Given the other behaviors, waking you up in the middle of the night to “talk about” something like this is not cool.

      3. Yup. Given that LW has no recollection of agreeing to move up the date, I strongly suspect that the fiancée is lying about that.

        1. I wonder who among them did all the rescheduling of venues and whatnot after that 3 am conversation?
          I’m guessing nothing Partner was responsible for actually got changed

          1. Good point. LW might want to take it into account when she starts cancelling reservations. Also, fiancée might try and boycott her by offering to take charge of that and then forgetting.
            On the other hand, they may have planned a simple wedding, one of those where you just go to the courthouse and sign the papers and have no party after. That would change matters.

        2. The disappearing engagement ring off LW’s nightstand. Could be kittehs saying Nope Mom, Nope (cats know; my childhood cat peed on everything of my abusive Dads, I could high-five her today) but I wonder if the Fiancee saw it and took it.

        3. I had a couple of “don’t you remember? We agreed that X” conversations in one relationship and I came to the conclusion later that gas lighting was definitely possible as I really, really didn’t recall, and the thing I had supposedly agreed to was something I had much logic and feelings against.

          Also, I agree that a new credit card with a new number that she doesn’t know about is definitely in order. Keeping it in a safe deposit box that she can’t access would be good.

      4. Yes. I suspect that Fiancee’s vampire senses are tingling, as LW is clearly reaching the end of her rope with the situation. Locking LW tighter into the relationship with a wedding is a lot less effort on Fiancee’s part than addressing her own poor behavior.

      5. Even if she is just that terrified of Trump (I am!), her anxiety is for her to manage. If she was having a panic attack at 2 in the morning, it might or might not be okay to wake LW up, based on previous conversations. It’s definitely not okay to ask her to make serious decisions at that point.

    2. It also sounds like LW was rushed into this from the beginning, since she mentions that the proposal itself felt a bit rushed.

  13. When you assemble Team You, do you think there is anyone you might be able to stay with for a couple days? Captain isn’t directing you to kick your partner out immediately, and I understand all the good reasons why (you still want to save this, her home is abusive), but right now that home is no good for you, and unfortunately, it will probably get worse in the short term. If you have someone you could stay with, it might be good to move out for a couple days/a week. Otherwise, I worry you will end up having to do a bunch of emotional labor to try to manager your partner’s feelings in all of this in addition to all of the stress you already have. Your letter sounds like someone who is just so exhausted and so completely in need of a calm place to just lay down and have a rest for a while. It isn’t selfish to prioritize that.

    1. Eh…careful. We don’t know if both of their names are on the lease. LW wouldn’t want to potentially lose her apartment. I agree that some space is ideal but she should talk to someone who’s been through this before — and in her state — before leaving for days at a time.

      1. Unfortunately both of our names are on the rental agreement. I talked discretely to the landlord today and they said the only way to get Fiancee off the agreement was if she voluntarily gave them her 30-day notice to quit. I feel so stuck, and I’m not sure what to do short of moving out myself. But I have nowhere lined up, have nowhere to crash (my dad does not like cats and I have 5, fosters included), and would also need to give a 30-day notice.

        1. If it comes to this, do you have a friend who could take a couple of cats for a month? Two friends? I’ve often had people drop off their cats with me when they had sudden business trips or funerals to attend: you might know someone who’d enjoy a temporary pet situation. (I am not up for longterm pet ownership rn, but I like having one.)

          But if you’re feeling paralyzed by logistics, please don’t let that fear prevent you from calling off the wedding, if nothing else please give yourself that gift. Remember, you’re only calling it off 20 days in advance because she pushed it up by 400 days within the past few weeks. This wasn’t your timeline.

          1. Good advice. I’ve definitely done temporary cat fosters for friends, or even friends of friends (not anymore, because my current cat is a territorial jerk), so this might be worth looking into.

        2. LW, I don’t know what your friends and family situation is like but I’m just going to throw this out there: from reading your letter, you sound like a very responsible and conscientious person. The kind of person who, if they needed an emergency loan to cover a security deposit or short term living expenses, would work to pay it back within a reasonable time frame. I’m guessing your friends, family, and possibly employer know this about you, and that counts for a lot. There’s no shame in asking for temporary help if you need it, especially if without the fiancee, your cash flow situation and ability to repay a loan or favor would quickly improve.

        3. LW, if you explained enough of the background to your dad that he would understand the importance and urgency, do you think he could put aside his dislike for a short time? Even a couple of weeks would help.

          Please don’t be afraid to reach out to people and ask for help. A logistical issue like “what happens with our lease” shouldn’t be the thing that keeps you trapped in this house.

    2. Agreed. As much as it would be lovely for LW to be able to say, “I know I’ve dropped a gigantic bomb on you, so I will stay elsewhere for a few days to give you time to process and come up with next steps,” it could jeopardize LW’s legal claim to the residence in some states/contexts. IANAL, so I recommend consulting with one – either a divorce lawyer, or a housing lawyer. If you rent, see if there is a tenant resource center in your area.

      Good luck, LW. So much less terrible to call this off now, while legal entanglements are at a minimum. You may not feel this way at the moment, but you deserve better.

    3. IANAL but I’m basing my answer on my knowledge as a leasing agent and apt Mgr.

      -Nicole, I hear your kindness in your words but Nope. Rejected and left alone with LW’s stuff, in an apartment that Fiancee has no financial stake in? LW will come home to wreckage. These are exactly the stressors that push people to start fires.

      As Fiancee has lived there for a year, even if she’s not on the lease, her tenantcy likely has to be handled as if she was. She may even be able to claim half of the deposit.

      It may possibly help in evicting her to have the building’s staff inspect the unit, though getting a Perform or Quit could complicate things for LW.

      LW, do get legal advice please!

      1. Having the building’s staff inspect the unit could cause the LW to lose her home. Garbage throughout and a pissy/shitty dog do not a happy landlord make.

  14. My computer is glitching so I’m going to add an apology in case my comment shows up more than once. Feel free to delete it Captain. (Sorry!)

  15. I am angry at your partner, LW, and I’ve never even met her. She has more red flags than a Communist rally in North Korea. Get out while you still can and remove her from any joint accounts.

    1. Very manipulative. Waking someone up in the middle of the night to insist on moving the wedding up? Oh yes, that’s someone who wants to snag LW quickly so that it’s hard to get away.

      1. Frankly I think the only reasons it’s ever appropriate to wake someone in the middle of a sound sleep is for something like “I am having weird chest pains and need to be taken to the hospital” or “Do you hear that weird sound downstairs? Should I call the cops?” or “[Important loved one] is literally dying right this minute and you should come to the hospital” or “I think I smell smoke.” I have had severe anxiety that made me feel like I really needed to wake my partner right then to discuss something, but I sit on that feeling until the morning, because it is inconsiderate at best (and often outright manipulative) to ruin someone else’s sleep to make me feel temporarily better.

        (Okay, people also get a pass for completely involuntary things like coming out of a nightmare yelling.)

          1. My moment of considerable embarrassment was when I was visiting my inlaws in the country and I heard horrible wailings and screechings. It sounded like someone was being actually murdered, gruesomely,. I woke my partner, who said with sleepy annoyance, “That’s a coyote” and rollled back over.

            (In my defense, it DID sound like a murder.)

          2. @Turtle Candle it is a true fact that coyotes sound like murder.

            Important question that luckily happened when no one was sleeping in my household: “Did something crazy just happen in the football or do I need to call the police?”

          3. About that – I tried not to wake my partner too early when I went into labor because it was like 6am and I knew the near future held a lot of really poor sleep…
            First time that was fine cuz it was like 21 hrs total anyway
            Second time it was more like 3 hrs and that was not my best idea (should have started hustling when things were immediately 2 min apart but I was maybe in a little denial things would hustle like that)

            So yeah, I think it’s pretty terrible to wake someone up for anything that’s not threatening life and limb (and my husband does the same for me)

        1. This is a not relevant to the main post, as the LW said she never remembers anything that happens when she wakes up in the middle of the night, so it’s terrible to wake HER for a serious-but-not-emergency discussion. Her fiance knew that when she woke her up and started pushing to change the wedding date, thus the fiance’s behavior was appalling.

          I don’t think you can generalize from that to all middle-of-the-night conversations.

          Turtle Candle, it would make me sad to find out in the morning that I’d been sleeping peacefully all night next to a lover who had been having an anxiety attack as quietly as possible, wanting desperately to wake me up and talk but afraid it would be inconsiderate to disturb my rest. Yes, undisturbed sleep is valuable. Being able to comfort somebody I love is also valuable. The intimacy of being trusted with that middle-of-the-night vulnerability is also valuable. This is something partners should talk about, before they end up in an O. Henry story.

          1. “it would make me sad to find out in the morning that I’d been sleeping peacefully all night next to a lover who had been having an anxiety attack as quietly as possible, wanting desperately to wake me up and talk but afraid it would be inconsiderate to disturb my rest.”

            Me too. And my husband has said the same thing, which is why I woke him up one night last week to ask him to snuggle me, because I was in a swirling vortex of panic. He did so without hesitation, because he loves me. I do not think he regrets the ten minutes of sleep he lost.

          2. I think this is murky water and depends a lot on the degree and frequency; nudging someone once and a while for a snuggle and a sleepy “there there” is fine. Waking someone up / keeping someone up for extended talk therapy sessions more than once or twice is pretty unhealthy for the partner and probably for the relationship in general, unfair to expect, and I think Turtle Candle is right to work on other coping skills if that was what their anxiety was demanding.

          3. Oh gosh, B, I absolutely agree with that. I think there’s a big, important difference between, “Help, urgent thing, need snuggling but am getting help to manage this at other times” and “Must talk through this chronic thing every night while not bringing in other people with expertise,” though.

        2. I also think it’s appropriate to wake your partner up if you’re feeling sick or having a panic attack and need care. I don’t like the idea of my partner being in distress and alone when I could be helping, even if all the help I can provide is comfort. Different people have different expectations about that kind of thing, and ymmv.

          However, even in the most generous “Wake me up anytime you need me” interpretation, that would be about needing practical or emotional support, NOT needing to have a discussion about something important or make a decision.

        3. I disagree with this assessment. Obviously waking someone for a Move The Wedding conversation is not okay. But I have spent weeks reminding my partner that he is allowed to wake me if his nightmares wake him up, that I will fall back asleep quickly and it’s okay to need me. Mostly he does okay with just snuggling up to me when I’m sleeping, but once in a while he needs a hug and semiconcious love. I think what it’s okay to wake someone for depends on the person, and it’s a conversation to have when you start sharing bedspace with a new person. Because everyone is different.

          1. I notice you mention you’ll fall back to sleep quickly. I suspect this may be one of the things that is just different for people who can fall asleep from people who can’t. To me, a full night of sleep is a fragile thing that once broken, probably won’t be recovered, and the next day will be noticeably worse than if I hadn’t been awakened, and that will probably throw off my whole week. So I wouldn’t put that on someone else unless I was experiencing enough distress that I really couldn’t handle it on my own. I’m not going to be resentful of a partner for waking me up, but it means something different to me than it seems to mean to others.

  16. One thing that I want to say that might sound a little weird: It is 100% okay to want to be with a partner who desires to be employed.*

    I say this becasue sometimes it’s easy to fall into the trap of “love is so much more important than money, I must be a terrible person to want my partner to be at least trying to be employed, I must be awful and unsupportive, how shallow I must be to even think about breaking this off because of that, blah blah blah.”

    My feelings on this come from two experiences:

    – A dear friend spent most of her twenties supporting a boyfriend who was a musician and who wanted to pursue his music career full-time, and who wanted to live as if he was a rockstar before he actually achieved rockstar levels of success. She ended up working two jobs and scraping and pinching, only to find that he’d blown hundreds of dollars on a new jacket or buying rounds at the bar. Whenever she brought this up (in a “you either need to start bringing in more money–a part-time job, maybe–or start following the budget”) he’d pull out this whole thing about how important his art was and how she wasn’t supportive enough and that was why he wasn’t successful and couldn’t she just be supportive? This did not end until she finally got fed up to the tips of her ears and dumped him. (Partly because she found out that the vast majority of the time he was “working on his music career,” he was actually doing nothing of the sort.)

    – I had a boyfriend myself who, while not that level of bad, would have a crisis of ennui every few months and start to talk about uprooting his entire life for whatever was at that moment most exciting to him. He was going to hike the Appalachian trail! He was going to go to a silent meditation retreat for six months! He was going to train to climb Everest! If I was anything but 100% enthused about his latest I’m-bored-so-let’s-change-everything, I was unsupportive and focused on “trivial things.” Even though these things never happened, I realized after a while that I simply need more stability in my life than I could get with a “I’m bored! Let’s ditch everything in our boring normal lives all of a sudden!” conversation happening every six months. More to the point, I realized that needing that was perfectly okay. I wasn’t a shallow, unsupportive, materialistic bitch. I was just someone whose emotional health required less “excitement.”

    That is not to say that this kind of arrangement can’t work beautifully. It is absolutely fine to support someone as they pursue their art career, or because their illnesses (mental or otherwise) make working impossible, or even just because you can and you want to. The problem with both of these scenarios is that when one partner said, “hey, I’m not really happy with this arrangement” or “we really simply can’t afford to live like this,” out came the heavy-duty blaming and guilt-tripping.

    So if you get any kind of pushback about being shallow or unsupportive or whatever when you attempt to discuss the financial end of this, know that you are perfectly well within your rights to want what you want. You are.

    * – I realize that especially with considerations like mental health and economic realities, “desires to be employed” may not be the same as “is employed,” which is why I’m framing it specifically in the former way.

    1. I think this comes back to the idea of consent. If I’m going to be in a situation where I’m supporting someone, I want us both to *agree* to that, and figure out how long that’s going to be for (long enough for getting $degree? an attempt to start a new business and we’ll stop it after 5 years if it’s not working? possibly forever if X, Y, and Z?) and anything else that might come along with it.

      Like, I can for sure see situations where I’d either support or chip in for someone… but it has to be something I agree to. Not something I’m manipulated into, not something that’s a fait accompli. If it’s “our money”, then it has to be *our* money. Either we’re in this together, or something’s wrong.

      1. Yes, I completely agree. And it needs to be possible to revisit the arrangement, too; I had a pair of housemates, a couple, who had the arrangement that Jane would cover expenses while Sally went to school. Sally’s schooling was covered by her parents, along with a small stipend, but Jane covered the lion’s share of their part of the rent, plus food and what luxuries and entertainment they could afford. (Sally occasionally worked very part-time, but that money was entirely discretionary for Sally and didn’t go into the household budget.)

        This went well, as I understand it, for the first four and a half years (I only lived them for the last year or so of that period)… at which point Jane discovered that Sally was nowhere near graduation. (I don’t mean in a “it often takes more than four years to actually complete a BA” way, I mean not even close.) Sally had, largely unbeknownst to Jane, been switching majors pretty much any time she got anywhere near graduating; she had a lot of credits, but nothing that was going to add up to a degree in the foreseeable future, especially if she kept on switching majors.

        I have no idea whether Sally was doing this on purpose to prolong the “being supported by my parents and my girlfriend’ period, or if she was easily bored, or had no clue how degrees worked, or what. I do know that a big part of the reason I moved out was that it was exhausting to listen to them have long fights (more mutual-sobbing fights than screaming fights, but still) about Sally being upset that Jane was “going back on her promise” to “support her while she was in college,” and Jane being upset that they were going to be living on a shoestring for basically ever because Sally was not only nowhere near a degree, she wasn’t even willing to agree to a plan that would get her graduated in a reasonable timeframe. (The other part of the reason was that Jane had, I think in desperation, started to do to me what Sally did to her: lean on me increasingly for financial help, often by simply assuming it rather than asking, because she couldn’t support Sally indefinitely on her own and was panicking.)

        It’s definitely a consent thing, and part of the thing about consent is that it needs to be informed and open to negotiation, not just dropped in your lap as a fait accompli.

    2. >I realize that especially with considerations like mental health and economic realities, “desires to be employed” may not be the same as “is >employed,” which is why I’m framing it specifically in the former way.

      As someone who was unemployed while engaged in a romantic relationship and cohabitation, I agree wholeheartedly with you. At least, the fiancé should not squander LW’s money and put LW in debt. Personally, I was very careful about spending, and we made a lot of sacrifices to save some money for our future.

    3. This is really beautifully said, thank you! I tried to describe the same thing below, and may not have succeeded.

      Both my husband and I have been unemployed or underemployed due to disability (thankfully not at the same time!), and we’ve made it work by communicating lots and making sure we were okay with the arrangement. By contrast there was a year that he was unemployed for non-health-related reasons, and he was miserable, and I was increasingly miserable, and it just about broke our marriage. I don’t know if there’s usually that obvious a difference, but there certainly was for us. Now that I know what it looks like, I’m definitely not putting up with the aimless, unemployed partner thing again. (I don’t expect I’ll need to, either.) It is 100% okay to want a partner who is self-supporting to the best of their abilities.

    4. Agree completely!

      It’s about tangible investments in the relationship. It’s about feeling that you’re rowing together, equally yoked, both putting the same percentage of yourself into things.
      Another way to frame it would be what practical or logistical resources does someone bring to the table in a relationship?

      For most people some of those tangible investments from their partner need to be money. It’s not materialistic, it’s realistic. Bills don’t pay themselves.

      For partners who aren’t in a position to bring in income, it becomes about conservation. What can they do to save money?
      I’ve been a support spouse for a couple years now. Between my own health issues, our children’s/parents’ health issues, and working, it turned into a pick two situation.
      So part of my job became stripping our budget down to the bare essentials, finding lower cost alternatives wherever possible, and doing the emotional labor of making the situation suck less.
      I’ve used my social skills and networking skills to find us many of the things we need/want/enjoy for free or for barter.

      It’s a difficult job, and some of my issues are with mental health. Sometimes I’m great at it, but I’m not always able to be consistent, and sometimes I suck. Even so, every effort leaves us in a better position financially than we would be otherwise, and keeps Spouse from feeling like he’s rowing a full boat alone.

      Which is what it comes down to.
      Is your partner the kind of person to keep working as best they can with the resources they have?
      If sacrifices have to be made, do real, practical, helpful sacrifices come from them too?
      If they have disabilities have they/are they setting structures in place to manage them on their own or with outside help as much as possible?
      Or are you killing their soul/just don’t understand/being unreasonable by asking for them to contribute as much as they can of the resources they have, since that’s what you’re doing?

      1. Yes! I’ve been reading this feeling some similarities with my own situation but also not at all and I think you hit the nail on the head @espritdecorps – it’s the difference between a partnership and a one-sided rowboat going about in circles and taking on water. LW is rowing and rowing, stopping occasionally to bail water out, and her fiance is doing everything to make it sink. Maybe not intentionally, but there’s no amount of teamwork or being in the muck together.
        My gf has been unemployed 6mo (the initial quitting an awful job that was making us both miserable was mostly by my prompting, but given the current mess of the world getting a new job has not happened as quickly as we initially planned). BUT: 1) she’s actively looking 2) she doesn’t spend my money, at all (other than household expenses, food, etc. Which isn’t to say I’m a terrible miser or anything I buy her nonessentials but she doesn’t take liberties) 3) she doesn’t make the situation any more difficult than it already is 4) she helps out around the house 5) caters to my current broken state (chronic arthritis which is in the worst flare ever) without complaint 6) we can talk about finances fine, she comforts me when I get stressed out by them and have the occasional feelings-bomb (understandably things are tight) and we both work towards cutting costs 7) I could go on, and on. But what matters is that these 6 months, while tough, have not been awful, I have not felt alone in it, and our relationship is bearing the stress well.
        This is just one version of how it can work (of many!), but however it does work you deserve someone who will at least bail out the rowboat while you row.

        1. The rowboat analogy is spot on.

          We initially agreed that I would support us while she went back to school, but after I bought several of her textbooks she went sporadically for a few weeks and then dropped out. After that had asked her to please find work, but she told me not to bring it up because her family ties work with worth and it was triggering for her. I tried not too, but our row boat was leaking cash and I didn’t stop mentioning it. She says she’s out in some job apps, but I don’t know if I can believe her – she said she applied for one place and I later found the empty application beneath a pile of trash in the living room.

          I am glad that you and your GF are finding a way to make it work out! Best of luck to you both.

          1. It really sucks that you can’t trust your partner to tell the truth about applying for jobs. Like, putting aside whether you have a right to want your partner to be working (I think you do), there’s no good reason for her to be lying about it.

            This is reminding me so hard of my crappy ex who would “apply to jobs” but then I’d find out he’d done something to sabotage the application and was only applying to one every couple of weeks.

          2. LW:

            As someone who came out of an abusive family situation and took a while to get back into one piece, I can see a situation where everything your partner is doing is sincere, and done not out of malice or manipulation but reaction, exhaustion, depression, habit, and fear.

            I think that still may mean that she’s not in a good place to make the kind of commitment that marriage means — the one where you are both capable of putting in, as well as drawing on.

            I have the utmost sympathy for you both. This situation sucks. And I think your worries and instincts are dead on: It is probably not the best choice for either of you to get married this year, if ever.

          3. LW, may I add that even if she has a mental health condition that makes it hard or impossible for her to seek work/go to school/clean up feces/not scream at you/not put you in debt…you are STILL allowed to leave.

            One thing I read in your post (and I know this is true for me so I am probably projecting as well) is that while you KNOW what is ok and not ok – do you feel like you’re allowed to have boundaries? Or like you’re allowed to enforce them even if they inconvenience or hurt someone else? Because you are. You absolutely unequivocally are.

            Somehow this took a long time to click for me with my ex spouse. He was depressed. He didn’t work but stayed home and watched porn, spent money, and binged on junk food all day. He played a sport in the evenings that ‘was the only thing he felt good at’ and therefore I needed to support him in having that Small Bit Of Peace In His Life by letting him spend all the money on sports gear and clothing, and never be home when I got home from working three jobs while also going to school full time AND preparing for a military deployment (I still can’t believe I did that).

            He refused to seek counseling on his own. He went with me to a few counselors a few times and lied to them (and me).

            I tried for years to be understanding. He would tell me he was a horrible partner and felt so guilty and the conversation went from ‘you’re not horrible, you have a legit mental illness’ to ‘ok so you have a mental illness, what are you going to do about it?’ to just not being able to talk to him at all about it.

            I couldn’t ‘pressure’ him. He would said he wasn’t ready to talk about it right now. ‘Ok, when will you be ready? Is this weekend a good time?’ And when I’d ask him over the weekend, he would say he hadn’t thought about it. But it wasn’t because he didn’t care, he said, it was because it was so stressful to think about.

            Did I believe he had a legit illness? Absolutely. Was he showing me through his actions he was completely unwilling to work on it? Uh, yeah.

            I still struggled – I wouldn’t have left him if he had cancer, for example, so why would I abandon him during a mental illness?

            One difference is that refusing to treat an illness is a choice. Refusing to treat an illness that hurts the one you supposedly love is a mean choice.

            I have PTSD; my now-spouse is AMAZINGLY supportive of my therapy and the overall process. It’s something we are working on together. It’s not something I’m avoiding and therefore leaking out all over him unchecked.

            Plus, i thought, if I left Ex, he would have no way to support himself and wasn’t that a mean thing to do?

            It is not my problem. It just isn’t. Him not working had no consequences when he was with me. (Me being on the constant edge of a nervous breakdown from working all the time because he wouldn’t work, wasn’t enough of a consequence to him). It sounds like your Fiancée’s actions also have no lasting consequence to her. She can choose to not work and watch Netflix and spend money, and what would be the natural outcomes of those actions for most people (lack of food or housing, much less new clothes) don’t happen to her. So if living in garbage and personal desire to contribute isn’t a factor for her, then I don’t imagine that normal consideration for her partner’s distress would motivate her much either.

            I had to learn the hard way that I should have lawyered up in the beginning. I didn’t feel I had the right to exert my rights and desires over his. But I do. So please take the advice, and invest the money you can’t afford into a good lawyer. There are quite a few legal aid options out there, but please find out what they are and what your rights are. I can tell you now it feels SO GOOD to not worry about whether the money I had this morning will still be there when I try to buy groceries this evening. No more feeling out of control. No more feeling violated.

            I wish you the best. You deserve to be happy. You deserve to only be stressed by normal stressors. You deserve to be respected. You deserve to feel safe in your own skin and your own home.

          4. Her family ties one’s worth to work and that’s triggering for her? Two things: 1) How convenient for her (as I commented upthread, it sounds like she’ll say anything to get her way); 2) She’s got a double standard on triggering. It’s very unfair for her to use triggering as an excuse when she won’t change her behaviors that are triggering for you.

          5. Ughhhhh, I am not from an abusive family, and the work=worth hit me hard anyway.

            That said, I also tie work with eating food and living inside a building. Those things are very important to me.

      2. Yeah, I mean, my mom hasn’t worked outside the home since I was born (I’m 32), but that doesn’t mean she’s not contributing to the household–she manages the budget, does the lions share of the cooking and cleaning, et cetera… and my father makes enough to support the two of them without feeling constantly squeezed. It works for them. But it has to be a decision that both parties make.

  17. Oh LW, this is not a good relationship or a good living situation or a good engagement. This is the opposite of all those things. The Captain has offered some really good advice, and I urge you to take it. I know it will be tough, but so worth it.

    And honestly, it would be a perfectly acceptable reason to call off a wedding at 20 days notice just because you’ve realized that you NEEDED that extra year plus to save! Weddings are so expensive (SO EXPENSIVE) even when you’re trying to do it on the cheap. Like, I read your letter and cringed at the idea of moving the wedding up to Feb 27th on little better than a month’s notice. How. How is that even supposed to work. How.

    Also, I’ve been the partner crying and begging the other person to do something, anything, to take some of the burden of household maintenance off me, and it’s a bad place to be. When you live by yourself, you will be amazed by how good it feels.

    I got my own apartment after my hoarder husband died, and things stayed where I put them and messes were just one person’s worth of mess, and it was glorious, glorious. And I knew my current guy was The Right One when instead of coming home to unexpected messes, I came home to unexpected cleans.

      1. I love unexpected cleans! My 10 year old son gave me one yesterday. Hubby and I walked into the house after work and our son had tidied, swept, and even folded and put away a load of laundry. When I asked him why he said he did it because he wanted to see us happy. 🙂

          1. LOL! I think it’s him! I have a daughter who is 11 and she’s not so conscientious. In fact, after he proudly stood there showing us his handiwork she announced “I just sat here and watched.” At least she’s honest, right?

    1. “I’ve been the partner crying and begging the other person to do something, anything, to take some of the burden of household maintenance off me, and it’s a bad place to be. When you live by yourself, you will be amazed by how good it feels.”

      I agree with this so, so much (and noveldevice helped me to really come to terms with that relationship!)

      Living in a house full of garbage is depressing and stressful and bad for your health. Living with and supporting someone who thinks so little of your needs and desires that they won’t even clean up after themselves is also depressing and stressful and bad for your health.

    2. My partner recently graduated and is still job hunting. I work a slightly better than minimum wage service job. This means I’m out all the time in class or at work, and he sits in our room (yes, one room; our situation is odd) all day alternately making phone calls, sending emails, filling out applications, and playing CS:GO or Overwatch. There have been many surprise cleans, including a memorable “omg, but where did you put all the boxes though?? The floors are so clean?!” day. He does this to demonstrate with actions what he says constantly in words: “I know you’re working hard to keep yourself afloat, and I appreciate you and want to do everything in my power to support you”. If he had money, he’d help me with rent or tuition. Since he does not, he does housework.

  18. You can love her all you want, just not in the same messy pissy house with combined finances that she feels free to use for whatever. Do not get married.

  19. The Captain’s order of operations is wise, I think. First make sure that things won’t get worse (by cutting off her access to your bank accounts and calling off the wedding), then worry about the other shit. Literal shit. Ugh. I love dogs, but I would not live with an un-housebroken dog either, and I DEFINITELY wouldn’t be willing to live with someone who doesn’t clean up after their un-housebroken dog. This is an entirely reasonable boundary for you to have. But the Captain’s right, it’s not the first battle to fight right now. If she can’t work with you to resolve the spending issue, there’s little point in even attempting to deal with the dog.

    You mentioned she blames a lot of her behavior on her past experience of being abused. But you mention you’ve been abused as well. So her abuse is a valid reason for her to do all the unpleasant things, and your abuse means your judgement can’t be trusted about her doing unpleasant things? That’s… convenient. For her. Please challenge that narrative, at least in your own mind. Because honestly, it doesn’t matter what your past experiences are, the current situation is not working for you and it needs to change.

    My husband did the bed-and-netflix thing for about a year at one point, and got progressively more grouchy as the year went on. It was Bad. It almost broke our marriage, and we didn’t have the additional issues you’re facing. My therapist told me over and over that it was okay for me to expect him to get a job. I’ll tell you the same thing – it is okay to expect your partner to share the burden of making a living. That is an okay boundary to have. You may have had a different arrangement up to this point, but if you’re feeling resentful and used, it’s not working, and it’s okay to say ‘hey, this needs to change’. But as the Captain says, this is a conversation to have with her a ways down the road if the first few steps go well.

    Good luck. This is going to be really unpleasant for a while, but you’re absolutely making the right choice to do it now. A coworker of mine called her wedding off within a month or two of when it was scheduled. She told me afterwards that she expected people to give her grief for it, but she was really surprised by how much support she got. Pretty much without exception, people understood and were glad that she was taking steps to limit the damage – even the people who knew and really liked her fiance. I hope you find the same is true for you.

  20. This is abusive. It will not improve.

    She needs a serious mental health intervention. You cannot save her.

    You cannot save the dog. Ask around about rescue/rehabilitation groups. Where I live the “gay mafia” run a bunch of dog rescue groups. (This is the joking term they use for themselves).

    If you keep the kitten, know she will use it as leverage to stay on your life, figure out how to manage that by setting boundaries (e.g. Set Visitation days).

    Please see if there are any LGTBQ support groups in your area that help w abusive/unhealthy relationships. There are specific dynamics at play that aren’t the same in heterosexual relationships.

    Find out what free legal services (e.g. Legal Aid) are available where you live and if you qualify.

    If you make too mich cash, thetr are a lot of attorneys out there – myself included – who would help you through this for a reduced rate/payment plan.

    Where do you live? I may be able to look up potential help!

    Remember you aren’t alone in getting into this type of situation. You are no less of a person for finding yourself in this place.

    1. There are specific dynamics at play that aren’t the same in heterosexual relationships. Yes. Yes yes yes. It’s allowed to be different, it is different, that’s okay, it’s harder to recognize, LW: you are okay, other people have been there, this is not an uncommon kind of bad relationship for queer people to be in. Lots of people have gotten through this one and been okay.

    2. I live a few hours north of Los Angeles. My town is very conservative, but there are some LGBT help services I think I can apply for. At the very least, I think I could use some counseling. I used to go at least once a month, but the money problems have prevented that for a while now.

        1. LW–another lawyer here. There’s a website http://lawhelpca.org/ that is sponsored by legal aid & the state bar with some basic legal info about housing & family law in CA. I don’t practice in CA, and if I did I still wouldn’t give you legal advice in this context, but I will say it would behoove you as part of your planning for this difficult conversation to familiarize yourself with both your AND your fiancee’s rights if you break up. You may have options you’re unaware of, and she may have rights that you’ll want to plan around. I’m not saying this to delay your conversation at all–but preparation really can help you avoid unfortunately legal situations.

          I also agree with what other folks are saying here–you should believe whatever you think is truest/helps get you through this about your fiancee’s intentions. That doesn’t change her actions, or the impact they’re having on you. And even if she’s operating out of panic/depression, I agree that the pattern of “this feels rushed and procedurally unfair” is worth paying attention to. As is her failure to adequately care for her dog–which is what she’s doing.

      1. Hey, LW, recent California divorced person here. The things people are saying about California being a community-property state can make divorce costly to the higher earner in an unbalanced situation like yours. The baseline is splitting any money or other assets 50-50 and negotiating over household goods, the car, whatever. You could even end up owing her financial support, if she is “unable” to work. Since you’ve been together for a year already, the court might take into account the term of your relationship in its entirety, not just the period since marriage, in determining whether assets like money could be excluded from the division.

        Do not get married to her.

        Do get her out of your apartment ASAP.

        Cheap insurance for anyone with an ureliable domestic partner is to get a post office box and immediately forward all your mail to it with a PO forwarding order. Change every password you have and don’t make the new ones easy to guess (a password manager like 1Pass is great for this). And yeah, cancel the credit cards. Do not tell her you are doing this, walk out the door in the morning and just do it.

        There will be drama. It is not your drama.

        Good luck. You will feel so much better about yourself and your life when this is behind you!

        1. Don’t cancel the credit cards, but DO get the numbers changed.

          Cancelling the credit cards means a hit to LW’s credit score, because it means a drop in the average age of all of her accounts (which is one of the things your credit score is based on). Someone mentioned upthread reporting them stolen so they’d give you new numbers. Do that, and then do what Ex’ed said and get P.O. Box that your partner doesn’t know about and store the cards in there.

        2. Urgent note about the PO box — if you put a forwarding order on your mail from your home to your box, the PO will send notices to both. The notice sent to your home shouldn’t contain the new box number, but it will still tip off your fiancee that something is up. DEFINITELY get the PO box (yes, I’m shouting), but maybe just change addresses with companies really quickly instead. If you leave the apartment, then put a forwarding order on since you’re already going.

      2. If you aren’t part of the local gay community already, I highly recommend getting involved in it going forward. There must be some group or organization where people congregate. I’m in the middle of the rural Kentucky and while very few people are out, there are a few organizations where non-heteronormative persons congregate.

        One of the few lessons I think that you should absolutely take away from this is that you need a strong community of allies around you. Often, other non-heteronormative persons and heteronormative allies will be willing to help complete strangers because they understand what you’re going through.

        I don’t know how far it would be for you to drive to Fresno, but I do know there is a gay scene there. I had a friend who lived there and found many people who helped him out when his partner died.

        Often, the communities in the smaller conservative areas are actually more tightknit and supportive of strangers than those in big cities. Something about being in the foxhole together.

        Just keep remembering that you are not bad or stupid for having this happen. This happened because you have a big heart and you want to care about others and care for them.

        1. Serenade, I love your last line there. It is good to want to love people and help them! And also good to realize when it’s time for a change.

      3. Are there low-cost counseling services in your area? Some of these may be linked to religious services, which may or may not be problematic for you, but some places/some counselors will work on sliding fee scales and it may be possible to find somewhere. It isn’t the same but there may also be online options which could at least provide some support for you.

      4. Another good resource is The Network/La Red: http://tnlr.org/en/ They’re a “survivor-led, social justice organization that works to end partner abuse in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, BDSM, polyamorous, and queer communities.”

        Based in Boston, but they have a hotline for general support, advocacy, and help with safety planning, and would connect you with legal aid

        Best of luck ❤

  21. ‘It’s okay to want love to be better than this. “Relationships take work” our culture says, but yours is too much work and the wrong kind of work and it’s okay to stop wanting to do the work if it’s not making you happy.’

    SO MUCH THIS. I was in a relationship where I didn’t even realize that I was doing well more than half of the work to keep it going and when I finally ended it I felt so much unexpected relief. I hope you feel similar feelings of relief, LW, and that you take Captain’s spot-on excellent advice. Best of luck and Jedi hugs, my dear! You can do it!

    1. My ex constantly reminded me that “relationships take work.” It was a way to convince me to accept my unhappiness.

      1. I am married. Happily. A friend of mine was married. Unhappily. She would compare her marriage to mine and say things like that. We would talk all the time and she’d sigh heavily and say “I know, I know – relationships take work”. Eventually I snapped and said Yes, relationships take work but they should never feel like a job you don’t want to go to!

        1. Yes, this! Relationships take work in the same way that a favorite hobby takes work – the kind of work that sweeps you up and makes you forget the time and oh hey, wow, it’s been three years lookit us go!

          Not “Well, if I say it this way, Partner will freeze me out, but if I ask that way, Partner will cry, but I can’t not ask, because we really need to lock the doors before we leave, so maybe I’ll just shoulder one more thing so that we don’t get robbed again oh I’m so tired of this, why do I even bother…” That is not the kind of work that a relationship requires.

          1. Yes! I know logically that there was a time I didn’t know my hubby but because I honestly like being with him love him it feels like I’ve known him forever. My friends who are in similarly happy relationships report that they feel the same way. I’ll share a story and he’s looking at me with that interested “how does this end?” expression and I realize – wow he wasn’t around for that! It’s all blurred.
            My friends in unhappy relationships report that they remember the time without their partner vividly, usually said with longing.

  22. If you haven’t gotten your credit cards back, cancel ALL of them and start over with other credit cards that she doesn’t have access to. Make absolutely certain that they don’t have the same numbers as the old cards. You’d be surprised how many banks will just replace a card with another card carrying the same number, even if the previous card was stolen and the thief still has the ability to use that number to buy stuff online.

    1. Get replacements even if you have all the cards back. People can memorize card numbers or record them or have them saved on accounts. Change passwords to things like Paypal, any online ordering with its own account, and Amazon 1-click.

  23. oh my god, are you me from 4 years ago? In case you are, DON’T GET MARRIED. Please please don’t get married. ESPECIALLY in Trump’s America. If somehow they fucked up same-sex marriage and you had to get divorced, do you want to move to a state where same-sex marriage is legal, just so you can get legally divorced in the same way you got legally married? Thing is, it’s extremely easy to do a tourist marriage like we did, where we went up to Massachusetts to legalize the thing. That concept does not exist for divorce. I had to move to another state to get divorced in the pre-Oberfell days. I was lucky enough to have family to stay with, but it sucked.

    PS My ex was the best, healthiest relationship I ever had, but funny thing, after I left her, I met a woman who 1. works, 2. cleans, and 3. cares about my feelings. So now I have a new best healthiest relationship, and sometimes when I thank my girlfriend for doing the dishes, she pats my hand and says, “Of course!”, surprised that I’m thanking her for something so small.

    1. Oh wow, I never thought about the fact that getting a divorce could be loads harder than getting married. Thank you so much for commenting with your story! I’m sorry you had to go through all that trouble to get yourself safe and separated.

  24. When she moves out, buy a blacklight and some of that enzyme spray that pet stores sell for removing the smell urine and feces. Otherwise it’s there for a surprisingly long time and may trigger your pets to urinate on the same spot to mark territory, if they haven’t already done so. The blacklight helps to find every last puddle.

  25. Both you & the dog deserve better. You both need to go to a nice rescue where someone will take some time helping you learn the skills you need to be in a healthy relationship. In the dogs case as it’s cute & little a rescue group would be it’s best choice in your case you need to get your money safely under lock & key, call off or at the very least postpone the wedding & then look at getting some therapy.

    1. Gotta admit, the dog breaks my heart a bit too, because it reminds of of BBF’s ex, the Terrible Roommate and her Horrible Chihuahua. I hated that dog so much. But at the same time, I felt horrible for it, because it had clearly gone insane (I’m not being hyperbolic. That is a thing that happens to dogs that are, say, shut in a small, dim room with no stimulation and limited interaction for days at a time, while living in their own mess). It needed someone who could genuinely take care of it, and it would’ve probably turned into a decent enough chihuahua. But Terrible Roommate wasn’t that person. And even when she finally moved out, she still wasn’t that person. The dog was not my problem, and I don’t waste a lot of time thinking about it, but sometimes I feel bad, because it’s still with her, and I deeply doubt that she’s changed enough to become a responsible pet owner.

      That’s one thing in Cap’s response that needs changing, I think. Dogs aren’t “for people who want them”–they’re for people who want to TAKE CARE of them. And who will. Plenty of people want a dog, and especially young, out-on-their-own-for-the-first-time folks figure they can TOTALLY HANDLE it, and then they just…don’t.

      But the dog should not be LW’s burden to bear. I sincerely doubt that ex-fiance will be able to train it to not crap everywhere. I want to say, “well, then it needs to be rehomed.” But I know that might be a nearly impossible thing too–even people who don’t take care of their pets can still love them.

  26. I agree with the Captain, calling off the wedding is the very first thing you need to do. Until and unless she shows some commitment to making the relationship better for you, getting married is just signing up for a deep deep debt-pit of divorce in the future that will make your current financial issues look like heaven.

    Second, listen to yourself. This is how you describe your feelings:

    I’m about to snap
    so stressed I have contemplated suicide.
    I have OCD and anxiety, and the mess is driving me insane
    I’m honestly tired of bankrolling her extended vacation

    and her actions:

    she literally screamed at me
    her favorite way of being playful and joking is to act offended by something I did or said
    [she] questioned my commitment when I was hesitant about keeping the new date

    and most important:

    I’ve got the feeling more than once that she’s just using the relationship
    we don’t have compatible living styles
    This is not actually okay with me

    YOUR mental health is as important as hers. YOUR needs matter. Please read your own letter, and ask yourself “If someone else described this relationship to me, in these terms, would I consider it abusive?”

    Good luck. You deserve better.

    1. You are absolutely right. If a friend told me this was their situation, I’d urge them to leave. I shall take my own advice, so to speak. I feel horrible, but if a guy had been doing these things I’m pretty sure I’d have told him to get lost. I think I over-romanticized the relationship and blinded myself to obvious red flags.

      1. I don’t know if this is a pattern or just my experience, but I’ve met my fair share of queer people who stayed in bad relationships far longer than they wanted to, because society is constantly telling us we’re promiscuous and uncomitted, and I guess their way to fight against that type-casting was showing way more comittment to a bad situation than what they actually wanted to. And, well, the “us together against the world” rethoric is a classic in manipulative/abusive relationships because it works.
        Point being: this happens to lots of people and you are not dumb or stupid because it happened to you. Not. At. All.

        1. I also stayed with my first girlfriend for way too long, partly because she was exclusively lesbian and I was bi and she was super paranoid that as a bi woman I would leave her for a man, and I stayed to prove her wrong. That was not a good thing to do!

          Internalised homophobia and biphobia can work in all sorts of ways to make us stay in bad relationships. It turns out that making yourself miserable is a really bad way to combat prejudice and stereotypes.

          1. Oh sweet jeebus, you too? This is a big problem for me…I too feel a sense of obligation to stay because I don’t want to contribute to bad stereotypes about bi people, even though there is no one else in the picture.

          2. That kind of negative expectation (“All Xs are bad people, so if you, an X, do something I don’t like or that makes me unhappy, you are living down to my expectations of you”) is actually a form of manipulation, LW.

            When someone says “You’re not like the others, who were all bad people who left me over stupid stuff like me being mean to them and not getting a job”, they’re trying to make you live up to “not like the others”. Especially when they are incredibly bitter and vituperative about their exes, who *were* “the others”. Somewhere inside you know that if you leave, they’re going to talk about you the way they do “the others”. It’s normal not to want that to happen, which is why it works as a manipulation tactic.

          3. Ughhhhh.

            When my verbally abusive ex girlfriend wanted to, well, verbally abuse me, it was always how I was going to leave her to “[explicit description for fellatio]” because I couldn’t get enough of that D.

            Never mind that, on average, I’m actually more attracted to women.

            It was really hurtful, and only got more hurtful as she kept saying it with every fight.

          4. What noveldevice said. Also, you didn’t put those biphobic stereotypes in place, so is not your fault if anything you do lives up or down or sideways to them.

      2. Hi LW, I’m another bi woman who tolerated emotional abuse from a female partner (one who had severe depression and a scary family background) for a long time before making a change. I couldn’t even admit that it was abuse, all the while knowing deep down that if a male partner had done the same things I would have scrammed much earlier in the relationship.

        I won’t throw more advice on the pile at the moment, because you seem to be doing okay on that front. Just wanted to say that if you need someone to talk to about it, I’m here for you.

        1. Me, too. We’ve been broken up a whole year as of this very week and I still catch myself thinking “hey, remember when she responded to you singing song lyrics with a sarcastic ‘do you relate to that’ because *other lyrics in the same song* were more valid to her? add it to the File of Ways She Made You Feel Bad On Purpose, item 3,456.” I am so glad we broke up. It was a horrible thing to go through but it was also being set free.

      3. I just wanna say, you are so brave and lucid LW <3. Go you all the way! Be your own girlfriend! Respect and love and care for yourself, first and foremost. Best of luck and let me tell you, plenty of people cancel their weddings 🙂 and they do not regret it!

  27. Yo, LW. One of the reasons why I’m always glad when people specify their pronouns: you are not the first she/her person engaged to a she/her person I’ve seen in this dynamic. This whole “you must tread water your whole life to keep me afloat while I yell at you” thing does seem to be a common form of abuse in w/w relationships. You did not invent this. You need to start finding ways to have your own space – your own financial space, your own garbage-free space, your own mental and emotional space with a counselor. Best luck. Best wishes.

  28. Mini tip: For potential members of Team You, use the Cap’s above script. For people who you know aren’t going to be team you and that you don’t want to accidentally fall into nosey conversations with, you could maybe tell a half lie and say ‘weddings off because money isn’t great right now, and we want to make sure we can have the day we envisioned for ourselves.’ Just to protect yourself from possible gossip or interference 🙂 I really hope you and gf can find happiness, together or apart. xxx

  29. One of my best friends cancelled her wedding two days before it was supposed to happen. It was difficult, emotional, chaotic, and also absolutely the right thing for her to do. To this day, 12 years later, she still marks the anniversary of the day she cancelled the wedding. She goes to a local wine bar, orders a nice glass of red wine, and reads a book. She reminds herself of the day she decided that her happiness was worth causing a little gossip and embarrassment, and she thanks her past self for the gift of her current happiness.

    People cancel weddings. It is a thing that happens. It is not crazy, it is not wrong. It is, in fact, the only responsible and mature and right thing to do if you are not 100% sure about marrying the person. Your partner deserves someone who is thrilled about marrying her. You are not that person, at least not right now.

    Do not marry someone because you feel sorry for them, or are worried about where they’ll live if you don’t get married, or because you’re afraid of talking to them about the problems in your relationship. Please, do not do that thing.

    I have gone through a divorce once. It was a very smooth divorce with no fighting, no children, and no real property to divide. And it was still (a) incredibly stressful and inconvenient; (b) time consuming; and (c) expensive to pay the court fees. If you have money issues with this woman now, do you really want to go down that road? Do you want her to potentially have legal rights to part of your income (in the form of spousal support)? Believe me, cancelling the wedding and having hard discussions about money boundaries might seem scary. But it’s so much better than what could happen if you stay quiet and go along with it and then have to disentangle yourself later after more suffering.

    Be strong. This is going to be hard. But future you will thank you for doing it.

    1. I knew a woman who had to be so drunk she could hardly repeat her vows to get through her wedding. She wanted to leave him standing at the altar, but she saw all the people who’d come etc and she said later that she just couldn’t face the embarrassment. They finally divorced after he sabotaged her birth control, spent all her money, and threw her through a plate-glass door while she was holding their baby.

      Going through with it after you realize that you really don’t want to just, I think, draws everything out. It’s still going to happen, usually, just so much more painfully.

      1. On the very rare occasion my mum tells the story of her first wedding to a dude who ended up being abusive and neglectful, she says that when she was walking down the aisle the voice in her head was saying ‘no no nononono’. She ended up a lonely, broke, working single mum, worried that this guy would kidnap her kid and take them overseas, and with a broken nose that she has always hated the look of (and I’m sure worse too, but the nose is what I know about) from him.

    2. “To this day, 12 years later, she still marks the anniversary of the day she cancelled the wedding. She goes to a local wine bar, orders a nice glass of red wine, and reads a book. She reminds herself of the day she decided that her happiness was worth causing a little gossip and embarrassment, and she thanks her past self for the gift of her current happiness.”

      Oh, how I love this framing. Brava to your friend.

    3. Yes. My mom left her first fiance “at the altar” (as she says). She later married my dad to escape the shitshow that was her childhood home exploding due to my grandfather’s leaving my grandmother for his second wife, and that.. well. That marriage lasted 15 years and produced me, but ended when my dad finally stopped denying his own sexuality and came out as gay. (He’s been married to my stepdad for nearly 10 years now.) Yeah, my family is a shitshow.

      Current partner is in the middle of a divorce (almost there, yay!) where he and his (soon-to-be) ex wife were together for 5 years, and separated 5 months after the wedding; he says he had warning flags months before the wedding and felt he couldn’t cancel it because her family spent SO MUCH MONEY on setting it up. Now they’ve been separated for 3.5 years and are spending lots of money paying for lawyers and a private judge to try to get them legally un-married.

      Despite the circus that is my immediate family and their history with marriage, my entire point is this: It is so much better to cancel a wedding when the relationship has so many red flags and angry bees than it is to try to dissolve a marriage when those red flags get bigger and those angry bees get angrier and your own mental health dives even lower. Not only is it easier legally and financially, but it is marginally easier emotionally (note: easier, not easy).

      It’s hard. But as S said above, your own words, LW, indicate you really Do Not Want this to go forward. Please do what you need to do to take care of yourself. CA’s scripts and order of operations are good.

      If you can, please consider investing in a therapist. I’ve found a good therapist can be invaluable in helping you head up Team You.

    4. I should have cancelled my first wedding, but I talked myself into believing that my feelings were just nerves. It’s really, really no fun to have the first thought on the day after your wedding be, “What have I done?”

      1. I should have cancelled my first wedding, but I talked myself into believing that my feelings were just nerves.

        I wonder how much our normalized idea of weddings as big, complex, expensive staged performances contributes to pressuring people into marraiges they don’t really want. You appear to have interpreted anxiety about the relationship and marraige as anxiety about the performance event, leading you to dismiss it. Without the pressure to have the sort of wedding ceremony that itself makes some subset of people anxious, you – and probably many others – would have been more clear about the source of the anxiety and thus the best way to respond. And many other comments are noting that the commenters knew they didn’t want to get married but were overwhelmed by the daunting amount of labor and possibility of social censure for canceling once the plans for the ceremony were in place. (The expense may be a barrier or only seem like one due to sunk cost fallacy: the deposits plus more would be spent if the ceremony did take place, so canceling is going to be at worst no more expensive than not, but since lots of people anticipate financial support that may be withdrawn if the wedding is canceled, the people to be married may personally be on the hook for more money if they cancel.) The cynic in me wonders if the coercive function of big weddings is part of the reason we normalized them in the first place.

        I don’t mean to fault anyone for wanting what one wants if an elaborate ceremony is part of that, or even for opting to try to make that happen; you do you. I do think there are a number of reasons to consider planning a less logistically complex ceremony/party for which the couple (or whatever number group) can afford to personally pay even if one would prefer a more normatively complex and expensive setup.

    5. I really do love that. I mean, not that she wound up in a situation where she had to cancel her wedding, that’s stressful. But what a great way to reframe it–as an annual celebration of a gift you gave yourself, of choosing emotional health and happiness.

    6. I called off a wedding 3 days before the date because my fiancé started screaming at me. It was like I woke up from a very bad dream. All of the emotional and verbal abuse throughout our relationship became very clear in that one second and I instantly knew it would only get worse. I told him he had to leave my house (thank God he hadn’t moved in yet), and when he wouldn’t, I called the police. That moment of clarity saved my life. Yes, I had to call many people, people who had plane tickets, and who had bought things, and I was on the hook for a second mortgage for the (many) wedding expenses, but you know what? My life was WORTH it.

      LW, your life and happiness is worth so much more than guilt and being screamed at for no reason. I’m a dog lover, and I wouldn’t live with someone who didn’t discipline/clean up after their pet. Healthy animals don’t foul their nest. She needs help, but you are not on the hook (and maybe not even the right person) to provide it.

      You have been given great advice–I know you will find the courage to love yourself enough to leave a bad situation.

      1. Girl in the Stix, you’re a tough cookie to call off a wedding 3 days beforehand! I don’t know if I would have had the cojones. Sounds like it was the right call, for sure.

        I’ve known a few people who’ve called off weddings at the last minute, and they all said it wasn’t nearly as bad as they thought it was going to be, because the people who loved and cared about them didn’t really care about eating some rubber chicken and getting to do the Electric Slide: They cared about the people involved and wanted their long-term happiness. Except for a very few s**theads who might say, “But I bought a dress already!” – and who cares what they think? – people are more understanding than you might expect. Particularly people who are married and who know that being happily married is a great gift – and being unhappily married is to be avoided at all costs.

  30. Could you scope out housing for homeless people and/or housing for abuse victims before starting the conversation? That way, when the crying begins that she has to move in with Abusive Step-Father, the calm answer could be that you’ve spoken to Helpful Social Worker who knows about options.

    But more than that, have in the back of your mind some scripts that you don’t actually say but that you are thinking: Someone who loved me would care about MY financial well-being. Someone who loved me would want me to live somewhere that didn’t stink of dog shit. Someone who loved me wouldn’t take advantage of my vulnerability.

    1. If you do try to provide her with other options (whether the Captain’s suggestion of whether you could maybe pay for her housing for a month or two, or providing her with resources for other sources of housing/help), be prepared for the answer to be her explaining in great and nitpicky detail why they won’t work. That doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be kind to provide her with those resources, but you’ll want to be ready to not get sucked into a long dissection of all the options (spoiler alert: the conclusion of that discussion will be “there are no other options, so you have to live with me and support me forever”).

      I’m not sure I have a really great script for this, but maybe have it in your back pocket that you’ll need to say, “I know this isn’t a perfect solution to the problem, but the way we’re going on is untenable and I am not going to continue it. These are just some possible resources you can use in finding an alternative.” Or something.

      1. I completely agree with this. In fact, my first thought when reading this letter was that LW should get one friend to get Fiancee out of the house while another friend helps to change the locks, cancel the credit cards, and gather up Fiancee’s belongings so they’d be waiting for her in a neat pile outside when she got back. Either that or for LW to move and leave no forwarding address. Trouble is, that advice isn’t helpful because, if LW had the inner resources to do such a thing, she wouldn’t be in this situation in the first place. But this solution ISN’T mean, and LW needs to meditate on that. Fiancee is the one who’s being mean. Fiancee is the one who’s gaslighting and breaking promises and taking advantage and manipulating. Fiancee has been abused and is likely depressed, and while it is reasonable to try to help with those problems in the form of helping to find alternate housing or treatment, an offer to help isn’t an offer to solve the whole (unsolvable) problem.

        1. Something else that might help is the language of sympathy. By comparison, when a friend tells me about something I can’t do anything about, an illness or bad weather ruining plans, I express how sorry I am that my friend is in such a rough spot. I don’t jump to the conclusion that it’s my job to cure a badly timed flu or to do something about a snow storm. Similarly, when Fiancee cries about how she has nowhere to live or can’t go back to Abusive Step-Father, LW can say how sorry she is that Fiancee is in such a rough spot. She can do this without jumping to the conclusion that it’s her job to save Fiancee.

        2. I’d suggest ‘rent a storage locker for three months and give ex all of the keys’ rather than ‘pile them up outside’. (Disclaimer: I don’t know how that would work out with the storage facility. Maybe it would be better to engage a moving company.) Point is that

          – LW gets the stuff out of her house and divests without being indefinitely responsible for it
          – ex gets access to their stuff
          – ex gets three months in which to find other arrangements FOR her stuff.

          This might not work is the stuff is full of dog shit, however.

        3. It might be very tempting to move her stuff out and change the locks, but it is almost assuredly not legal in CA (LW mentioned her location in another comment). Sure, her fiance might not KNOW that, but she also might, and could cost LW a lot of money and trouble for breaking the law.

          If they can’t come to a mutual agreement on how to separate, LW will need to talk to a local attorney familiar with landlord/tenant law.

        1. You need to be very careful with this – my understanding is that after 30 days, someone is a legal tenant and whether or not they pay rent is irrelevant. I hope I’m wrong about that but LW, you may want to get advice from a legal clinic before you just change the locks.

      2. Once upon a time, almost a year ago, I did this for a live-in relative. I asked them to move out – with six months notice – and gave them a collection of applications for subsidized senior housing in the area. I told them that the waitlists were updated in month N. I had senior services visit to discuss options with them.

        Nothing would work. It was all impossible. The binder was shoved in with “my” documents.

        (I had known that would be their response, which is why it took many years to tell them to leave – I had to get to the point where I was willing to legally evict them and ruin their chance at other housing – to be ready to follow through if their response was “no”)

        But, you know what? They left.

  31. This is sufficiently like the abusive relationship of eight and a half years that my partner was in (the dog, the middle-of-the-night waking, the agreements that you don’t remember making, the inability and unwillingness to follow a necessary budget, the disinclination to clean up after pets, the general unwillingness to contribute to the household, the railroading into cohabitation that you aren’t comfortable with) that one of the friends that my partner and I have in common spontaneously contacted me to give me content notes so I’d be braced before reading it.

    I’m so, so sorry that this is happening to you right now, and I hope you can get out as painlessly as possible.

    Getting out of it early is *oceans* less expensive than divorce and later-on splitting up, and I don’t see this getting any better for you. I’m very sorry. My partner just dropped $2000 on the initial fee for a lawyer to help sort all this out, and will probably be paying more later.

    Do you have any fear that confronting her about these issues according to the Captain’s script would cause her to escalate her abuse to physical violence? Does she have access to deadly weapons?

    A “sense of humor” that involves doing things that make you scared and panicked is abusive, not funny.
    Interfering with your sleep can be abusive, if it’s made a habit.
    Getting agreements out of you in ways that you’re not equipped to resist is coercion, which is generally abusive.
    Insisting that you live in an environment which may be actively hazardous to your health is abusive.
    Making sure that bringing up issues with her is confrontational, and making confrontations with her as unpleasant as possible, is an abusive tactic.
    The cycle of good times following terrible times is a classic abusive technique, too. If you can, don’t think about how good the good times are. I’m sure they’re very, very good — or could be, if only [list of issues goes here]. How bad are the terrible times?
    Threatening or attempting suicide in response to bringing up legitimate issues is abusive. If you confront her on these issues and she attempts or completes suicide, *it is not your fault*. Period. End of argument.

    Whose information is on the lease? Yours alone? Hers too? (I assume you’re renting? Homeownership makes all of this even more complicated.) I know it may sound like overkill right now, but consider what you would have to do in order to physically leave her, if she turns out to be incapable or unwilling to physically leave you. You may get stuck with

    Even if you will be able to get her out of your space within a reasonable amount of time, you may want to see if you can get crash space with a friend for a night or two after you bring this up with her. Being physically out of the same space as she is will probably do wonders for your stress level, if you can manage it.

    If you do take a physical break from her, it can help to secure your delicate/expensive/easily converted stuff from her, whether that involves locking it up somehow or taking it with you.

    Good luck.

    1. Ack, I left a thought unfinished in there.

      If you find that she won’t voluntarily move out, and you rent, you may have the option of ending the lease and moving yourself, your pets, and your stuff somewhere else. If you’re legally responsible for the apartment and she’s not, you may get stuck with paying for the carpet replacement/etc. caused by the dog’s damage, but that may well be less overall money than sticking with her longer would have cost. (Please read up on tenant law and/or consult a lawyer in your area! I don’t even play a lawyer on TV.)

    2. Unfortunately she does have access to weapons; her newest obsession is with knives and swords. She is also a former MMA fighter.

      She’s never hurt me in the past and has said before she doesn’t have it in her to do so. She has jokingly acted like she was going to backhand me for saying or doing something dumb, but I’m pretty sure she does this with all of her friends.

      1. Well then she is A LOUSY FRIEND. And a lousy marriage prospect. And dangerous.

        Seriously, back when I was A Mess From Abuse, I “joked” about smacking people too. Can she learn not to do that anymore? Why yes, yes she can. Can she learn it somewhere else, where she isn’t driving you to the edge of suicide? Why yes, yes she can. With the help of a metaphorical swift kick to the behind, if necessary.

      2. Oh. Oh no. LW, you need to get her out of your life as quickly and safely for you as possible. She has access to deadly weapons and is a former MMA fighter who occasionally threatens to hit you. Please be safe.

          1. Oh, god!

            I don’t know about MMA but I do Jiu Jitsu and I will tell you, that is not okay. When we do martial arts, we may horse around with EACH OTHER, but we do it very carefully and with full awareness of when to stop. There is a reason why safety is drilled into our heads from day one – because we know how easy it is for things to go pear-shaped and the best fight is the one that doesn’t ever happen. To even pretend to backhand you is Not Cool.

            Side note: I don’t know how things are in the US, but in the UK, the police have a special consideration about martial artists and self-defense, basically treating us as a highly skilled person (and therefore, if we end up in a fight, we have a higher responsibility – the presumption being that we know how to de-escalate with minimal harm). Sorry if I’m side-tracking, LW, but the Spiderman maxim is in play: With great power comes great responsibility.

            Also, MASSIVELY side-eyeing the whole “don’t have it in me to hurt you” kind of platitude. That’s… like, basic stuff in a (romantic) relationship. Not some sort of special consideration. (Is there any situation where you have to ‘have it in you’ to hurt others? Violence in self-defense is usually considered last resort, and only to the point where the other person is no longer a physical threat.)

          2. Dittoing what K said.

            I’ve trained in various fighting styles and once, when talking about treating them and their friends like adults, my kid made a mock-fear joke about how I hit my friends and I drove the conversation to a screeching, enormously uncomfortable halt and talked about consent and why sparring is different than “hitting ones friends” and to please, please never joke about that because it’s. not. okay. and if anyone ever jokes about hurting them that they are not. your. friend.

          3. I think that might be a thing in the US too? My black belt from McDojo is a long way behind me, but I do seem to remember hearing something about that. It might not even be an official thing, but if a person with Martial Arts training gets in a fight and causes serious harm, they could potentially be looking at more trouble.

            That’s just borrowing future trouble, tho.

            LW, I’m so so sorry. This person just sounds like she’s downright unsafe. My friend had a crappy boyfriend who would “joke” about hitting people (usually me. I annoyed him most, but that’s also because I saw straight through him the moment I met him), and how very tough he was. It was really more of a “feeling things out” than a joke, and while he never actually snapped and tried to hit me (or her, that I know of), it certainly didn’t make him a pleasant person to be around.

            I really think this whole mess is just abusive.

            ESPECIALLY if she knows you’ve been in abusive relationships before. Like, her favorite kind of joke is to make you think she might be angry with you??? That’s crappy enough already, but to do that to someone who’s been in an abusive situation is just…sick.

          4. “Also, MASSIVELY side-eyeing the whole “don’t have it in me to hurt you” kind of platitude. ”

            Because as well, why did that even come up? Healthy partners don’t need to assure you that they wouldn’t hurt you; it’s not on the agenda at all. Mix that with ‘pretend’ threats of violence and ‘pretend’ outrage so you never know quite when you’re safe … and honey, I don’t think you’re safe with her. I think it’s time to start working out how to protect yourself.

          5. @K Also honestly: How does that come up? I never had to reassure someone that I didn’t have it in me to hurt them because … I didn’t threaten to hit them??

            -Content note for gory example-
            If it is a situation of “remove this splinter from my foot so I am not in pain when walking”, okay. But I’ve got a feeling this is not what we’re talking about.

          6. [Content note for abuse, domestic violence, etc.]

            (So I absolutely agree with all of the stuff about this partner being horrifying BUT as someone with an abuse history? Yes, my healthy partners have on occasion ended up reassuring me that they are not going to hit me. Most recently, last night: I’d knocked something over in a way that did no actual damage, and was wobbly enough already that my hindbrain jumped straight to being convinced I was going to be screamed at or hit or probably both. So I curled up into a small cringing ball — on my partner’s lap, because I’ve established that moving toward him is actually better than moving away from him when I’ve been triggered — and asked him to reassure me that he wasn’t going to hit me and wasn’t going to yell at me. He did. It de-escalated, because I can trust him. There are ways this can come up.)

          7. To me, that’s part of the “it wouldn’t come up.” Because in that situation, it did come up: you asked for/needed that specific reassurance, rather than it coming out of nowhere. It’s the people who just bring it up in conversation or out of nowhere who worry me.

          8. kabarett – Good to hear, but I don’t think LW’s situation is comparable. You get scared of partner violence because other people have hit you (which is awful, shame on them); your partner reassures you because somebody else put that fear in you. And from the sounds of it, they only do it when you ask.

            It’s the unsolicited reassurances that are worring, because if LW didn’t ask ‘Are you going to hit me?’, the question must be coming from inside her partner’s head. Which means the thought in there is ‘Shall I hit LW?’

            Meanwhile, LW’s fear of her partner is coming from things her partner does, like being emotionally explosive and collecting weapons. In that situation, the promise is less ‘I know other people have hurt you but I won’t’, it’s ‘I know I’m acting like I might hurt you, but what are you going to believe, my actions or my words?’

            I think the unspoken rider to ‘It shouldn’t even come up’ was ‘unless somebody has good reasons to be scared of violence that come from outside the relationship’ and/or ‘unless the scared partner is the one who brings it up.’

            Glad you’re in a better place, good for you.

          9. Yep, I absolutely agree my experiences don’t appear to be in any way relevant to the LW’s situation and realised after the fact that I should have made this very clear in my initial comment — just, I had a twitch about the possibility that people would read the discussion and think that if the topic ever came up, in any way, that meant their relationship was automatically unhealthy. Which… because of weird edge-cases like mine, I don’t think it does. I am 100% in agreement that the way the LW’s conversation happened is a threat, though.

      3. Oh, man.

        I hope this doesn’t sound too grim, but I think this is something to take seriously. I think it’s escalation, and I think she’s doing it on purpose, as a threat.

        A fixation on violence – including a sudden interest in weapons – is very common abusive behavior, and it often happens when the abuser notices that the abused partner seems to be disengaging from the relationship. I don’t know whether or not she would actually hurt you, but in the context of everything else, this is a form of aggression designed to keep you in control, not neutral behavior.

          1. She’s joking about it to desensitise herself to the idea of actually doing it. When she’s ready to treat a real hit as a joke (or otherwise not real, not a bad thing, acceptable to do in her mind), you -will- get hit.

          2. I definitely think that this is a bad situation and the LW should skedaddle, but I don’t agree that joking about violence = working up to commit violence. I mean, sure, if she brings it up regularly and/or creepily, that’s absolutely a warning sign. But, as a martial artist/boxer/all-around jock-type, I gotta say that my jock-type friends would totally jokingly pretend to punch or backhand somebody (heck, jokingly putting a friend in a very loose headlock isn’t super uncommon) and it is genuinely all in good fun. If anybody’s actually angry, all of that stops —- it’s only used when things are loose and fun.

            So repeated or creepy mentions of violence (or if she’s doing this when tensions are high), definite warning sign, I agree. But I don’t agree with saying that folks who joke about that sort of thing are all working up to it. It’s a very friendly sign in jock culture.

          3. I agree with Rorie_Lee. LW knows the specific dynamics of her relationship best, of course, but this is something my brothers and I do a lot with each other, and it’s harmless roughhousing. I wouldn’t do it with someone I didn’t already have that dynamic with, because it can go really horribly wrong if someone has a history of abuse or takes it the wrong way, but to me it’s not IN AND OF ITSELF necessarily a red flag.

      4. That’s a really bad sign. “Jokes” about violence are a common part of the escalation path to real violence, and breakups and their aftermath are the highest risk time during a relationship. She’s also not the first person I’ve heard of acquiring deadly weapons about the same time a relationship starts falling apart. It may be worth calling a domestic violence hotline before going through with this talk – they’ll have experience helping people set up plans for avoiding violence during a breakup. Hopefully it doesn’t escalate to that level, but this is one of those situations where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. (And I’m sure the hotline people would be thrilled to get a chance to head off a bad situation rather than getting a call afterwards!)

      5. OK, now I amend my “She’s a tenant” premise. The call is coming from inside your house, LW. I’m concerned for your safety.


        Violence always escalates.
        – –
        You did not cause this woman to be like this, you cannot change her, and you cannot cure her. You can save your life.

        I’m south of you, so same laws. I once had to be extracted from a home where the male had a loaded gun under his bed and his wife was off her meds and would come into my room while I was asleep, to stand over my bed.

        The cops arrived immediately when I called. No sirens. They were smoothly efficient, chatting up the couple while standing in the front door as I shoved stuff into my car.

        1. PS Thanks for telling us the whole sitch, so we can help you. You are doing really well, LW.
          If you’re writing us on a device your ex has access to, please consider wiping your browser history.

      6. LW I am also a martial artist. This woman knows how to hit you properly and efficiently. It was bad enough that she was using pity to control you. As soon as she hits you I guarantee she’ll wail that you triggered her and she always wanted to hit her stepfather but he’s bigger/crazy etc. The second time there’ll be no wailing. Hey, you knew she lashes out when you stand there/make that face/do that thing. Why’d you make her do it.

      7. “I don’t have it in me to hit you” is a thing only someone who has thought about it would say.

        Even if she doesn’t really *intend* to use a weapon on you, the simple fact that they are there A) makes it more likely (because it’s more likely when they’re around, kind of like I’m more likely to eat a Triscuit tonight because I have a box of Triscuits right now) and B) creates an atmosphere of threats because your house is now filled with knives and swords owned by someone who is actively making you unhappy and doesn’t want you to leave.

        1. Rule of thumb: using a weapon to frighten someone is using it. Letting them know it’s there is, sometimes, using it to frighten them.

        2. Yes this exactly. She’s telling you she’s thought about it. She’s telling you it’s not out of the question.

          I am pretty certain she’s doing this with the function of threatening you while maintaining deniability. It may also be functioning to wear down her mental inhibitions against violence.

          Please call an abuse hotline and tell them what you’ve told us, and get their advice on how to proceed. Before confronting her. I don’t know that she’ll hurt you, but the risk is unacceptably high to subject anyone to. Be safe and strong.

        3. Yes. This reminds me of a different but similar situation where a man said to me, “I would never try to hit on you or anything, I think of you like one of my nieces.” Spoiler: if he really thought of me like one of his nieces…either he is incestuous or he would never have said the first bit because you would never have to tell your niece you are not attracted to her like that!

      8. Also, going to reiterate — get your cats out before you have the break-up conversation. Your discretion whether to take the kitten or let her keep it. But the pets that are yours? Get them to safety. That way when you have the conversation, you’ll only have to think of your own safety.

        (Maybe you can say they have a vet appointment? Time for their shots?)

      9. I had friends in high school who were very physical with each other in terms of joking violence, but I noticed they only ever did it with each other — i.e. only with the friends who initiated or voluntarily joined in that kind of roughhousing. Opt-in. And of course none of us were trained martial artists!

      10. Anyone who feels the need to say they don’t have it in them to hurt someone is remind that person that they could hurt them if they chose. Being unwilling to hurt our loved ones is something people normally take for granted.

      11. LW, my parents have been together for 36 years. My dad is abusive–emotionally, verbally. There have been a handful of physical abuse directed at inanimate objects etc in the past but he’d never laid hands on my mom or any of us kids.

        Until Christmas. Right after I left their house on Christmas night, he assaulted my mother. She tried to leave the room when he started screaming at her, and he grabbed her hair and pushed her onto the couch. Her neck is still injured. He blamed it on emotions, he didn’t really mean it, it was a mistake, blah blah–but somehow he managed to act 100% pleasant while company was over for dinner. He deliberately waited until he was alone with her to attack her. Because she dared to walk away from him.

        He is in his late 60’s and in horrible health. He was able to hurt her anyway.

        I don’t care how “incapable of hurting you” she is. She has weapons. She knows how to hit a person. She believes she is the only one who deserves control. Keeping you in your place is literally her lifeline right now.

        She will hit you. Maybe it’ll take years, but She. Will. Hit. You.

        Get OUT.

      12. LW, I worked at a domestic violence shelter for a year and came to appreciate how valuable it was because when women wanted to end their relationships, they could just disappear. They weren’t there in the house for the ex-partner to scream at and refuse to be broken up with; they weren’t in familiar places to be found and harangued. They were just gone, and the danger of the riskiest part of a relationship–the breakup–was substantially reduced. We had a lot of women who came in for just a few days–as long as it took to get the locks changed, or to nail down a new apartment–and then were back out, living their lives.

        Here is a questionnaire to estimate risk of physical violence for same-sex female relationships. It’s not unknown for people to go from no violence during a relationship to trying to hurt or kill a partner who is leaving/has left them–If you find yourself checking more than a couple “yes”es on that list, I encourage you to take steps to keep safe when you break up, like not cohabiting after you tell her it’s over or not being alone in a private space with her. Consider using resources like staying at a friend’s place or retreating to a women’s shelter for a couple days until you have a home to yourself which she does not have keys to.

        Please be careful. You deserve a better life.

      13. I know you’re already out and I’m so so proud of you. But this right here in the most crimson of red flags. Combined with her “favorite way to be playful and joking around is to pretend she’s offended by something I’ve said or done” – which leaves you in a constant state of confusion as to whether she’s really mad and how you can make it up to her. That’s straight up bullying and emotional abuse.

        And I’m side-eying the fuck out of her sudden interest in swords and knives. You start to express some dissatisfaction in the relationship and your living situation and coincidentally her newest passion is weapons that she could very easily use to hurt you? Gee, I wonder if that was calculated?

        And I don’t believe her whole “don’t have it in me to hurt you” thing either. She IS hurting you. She’s fucking up your home and your life and your finances and screaming at you when you object. That’s pretty effective hurting. Also, most healthy partners don’t even have to mention they would never hit their loved ones. What does she want, a cookie?

        also, her first instinct when you broke things off was to call in reinforcements to guilt you and get you back on STBX’s agenda of not working or making your life better. This does not speak well of her intentions for your mental health.

        I’m so glad you got out. I am not buying her poor, helpless babe lost in the woods thing for one second.

      14. She’s never hurt me in the past and has said before she doesn’t have it in her to do so. She has jokingly acted like she was going to backhand me for saying or doing something dumb, but I’m pretty sure she does this with all of her friends.

        A specific, unprompted denial of something that should go without saying (because interpersonal violence simply isn’t okay in one’s relationships) is an implied threat, so much so that it’s a cliche humor trope. People who are actually averse to this kind of violence don’t tend to make mention of that fact for the simple reason that it doesn’t occur to them as a possibility that would ever need to be denied (in the same way we don’t go around introducing ourselves as not being torturers or genocidists, though as someone White and male-presenting, I may have to start qualifying all my interactions by noting I’m not a supporter of Orange Mussolini nor his merry band of neo-Nazis). That she denies it means she’s thought of it means it’s not actually a zero possibility. Threatening everyone around her doesn’t make the threats less serious, it just makes them more common; it doesn’t make her look better, it makes her look worse.

        The more I’m reading, the more I think you need to review the posts for strategies on protecting yourself when leaving a violent, abusive partner, LW, even if you think escalatiin is unlikely.

        Re kaberett below, that’s a prompted denial warranted by context; if those are the only circumstances in which it’s come up, it’s less concerning, though in combination with the other behaviors, there are still red flags aplenty.

    3. I know it may sound like overkill right now, but consider what you would have to do in order to physically leave her, if she turns out to be incapable or unwilling to physically leave you.

      Sadly, that’s a really excellent point. Somebody who is already struggling to pick up garbage and throw it out is going to have a really, really hard time getting themselves packed and moved even if they have nothing but good intentions and totally agree it needs to happen. It may well be easier for LW to remove herself from the lease/rental agreement and move herself out than nag/push/cajole/pack for Fiancee until she does it.

      1. How we did my partner’s escape*, in case it’s helpful to anyone else needing to flee on short-ish notice:

        My partner had already been asking their Team Them who might be willing to help with the breakup. Some friends had offered crash space in their spare room. My partner had made copies of their important computers’ hard drives, and had ensured that those backups and their vital paperwork — birth certificate, social security card, etc. — was stored safely offsite (locking drawer at work, I believe). They took to taking a few days’ change of clothes in a laundry basket in the car. These were in case they had to flee with no notice. They also asked some friends of the ex to take custody of the ex’s firearms, secretly. (I’m not sure what the legal interpretation of “I secretly took your firearms to some friends of yours, but don’t worry you can have them back in six months, because I’m scared you may shoot me” is.)

        My partner confirmed the offer of crash space. They asked their local Team Them who could help with boxing and transporting things, and picked a day when the most people were available. My partner is a conscientious objector to Facebook; I am not. I blocked the ex on facebook so the ex would not see the post even by accident, then tagged my local friends in a post asking if there was anyone local who could help out (I am several hundred miles away, and my presence would not have improved things; the tagging boosted the post to the friends of those tagged, increasing the radius of likely helpers). It was also a day when their ex was likely to be out running errands in the evening, and the ex turned out to be. It was planned to be a one or two hour operation in the house, plus transporting, unloading, and pizza.

        We came up with a plan for managing the ex if the ex was in the space: one of the people on Team Moving Stuff would remain with the ex at all times, to insulate the ex from my partner and to hopefully make sure the ex did not try to go for any weapons.

        My partner’s ex was very environmentally aware, and would have noticed things being pre-packed. So nobody pre-packed. But boxes were collected, and we made a visual packing list. My partner took pictures of everything that they wanted to pack (and I also asked that they take another set of pictures of the place and their other things, for visual proof in case the ex went for vandalism) and we sorted the packable contents of each room by priority.

        We wound up doing it in google docs slides, with one image per slide and a text template with information on what it was, the room, the priority, the location in the room, volume estimate in terms of boxes, and any special notes.

        I then sorted the deck into sections with headers and volume estimates: the general move plan with a schedule and roles, the top-priority stuff that my partner was packing themselves, and then each room by priority. This turned out to be helpful, as nobody doing the helping was really familiar with the house and the stuff.

        The top of the list was the cat, the vital medical equipment and meds, and the computer. The rest of the list went down by a combination of sentimental value, difficulty and expense to replace, ease of packing, and likelihood that the ex would somehow mess with it. The idea was that the list should be sorted such that if the ex came home halfway through, it would be possible for them to just flee with what was already packed, if the ex got abusive or violent.

        More boxes than you think you need are always good; the plan was that any left-over boxes should remain for the ex to conduct their own packing. I think it wound up overflowing into tote bags as well as boxes, because I do not believe there were any left-over boxes. Some stuff on the planned packing list got left, but due to the sorting, it was mostly low-priority.

        We did not wind up using the message that I helped my partner draft, to be sent to all the ex’s friends that my partner has contact info for, to inform them that a) the breakup was real — low on details and high on We Couldn’t Make It Work, Please Be Supportive In This Hard Time, and b) a request for them to please help extract the ex before the move-out date. Because the ex was likely to both pretend to the friends that they were still together (because of certain precedents) and also not logistically have things together to coordinate a move within a month, even a move to storage. (Once a move-out date is set, my partner may well wind up using that message.)

        * My partner is the homeowner, so after the legal proceedings to get the now-ex out of the house complete, my partner will return. So the flight here will be temporary, and didn’t involve any furniture besides their desk chair.

        1. I need to thank you for writing out this list in such great detail. I’ve already copied it, highlighted the most relevant parts in neon blue, and stored it in email to myself for secure future reference.

          I’m in a situation* that’s shifted one drop at a time from ‘unhappy’ to ‘intolerable’ over the past 3+ years (of a relationship that’s lasted more than a decade). The cup of misery finally overflowed a few weeks ago – on New Year’s Day, ironically enough (because I don’t subscribe to the whole notion of New Year Resolutions, but boy did I end up with one for 2017 nonetheless) – and I ended up going, “This just can’t go on any more, I have GOT to get out of here”.

          …And yet, in the past several weeks, while I’ve repeated this sentiment to myself pretty much every day, I’ve spectacularly failed in taking practical steps towards putting it into action. It’s true that I tend towards being lazy and irresponsible, but right now (in fact for a very long time now) I am also incredibly depressed, and utterly overwhelmed, and have had just no idea where to even start on taking the initiative to follow through with that resolution. So (amongst many other useful comments in this thread!), your comment is invaluable in giving me some steps to focus on things I can actually DO to forward getting myself out of the mire of uncertainty and inactivity.

          *My situation is thankfully not even slightly close to being as terrible as LW’s – my partner is not abusive or frightening (if anything, I worry that *I* am the one be[com]ing the toxic partner in our relationship), but IS extremely resistant to any prospect of change despite the fact that we are mutually miserable together (because ‘better the devil you know’ I guess? IDEK). I feel like I’ve tried everything else within my power, and all previous attempts to discuss leaving or changing things up in any significant way have been brushed off, placated with empty words, or outright ignored, each time it happens rendering me more depressed and useless than ever; thus the Escape Plan has become a necessity, even if it’s only as backup for when I try something else less drastic (and it fails – again).

          1. Hey, way to go you for deciding it needs to happen! Sometimes we need awhile to convince ourselves and get used to the idea – it sounds to me like you’re getting there.

            If you’re looking for suggestions (ignore if you’re not!) I’d try, every time you find yourself thinking “I have GOT to get out of here” add on “and I AM going to get out of here”. Let your brain keep going down that path and soon you’ll start thinking about next steps. People who would help you move? Places you could stay? List any legal entaglements that need to be addressed? etc.

            If you’re better with detailed plans and just don’t know where to start, maybe figure out where you’d like to be, set a date, and work backwards from there.

            Best of luck, you can do it!

          2. Hey. Hey. Hey. (I always think of Cap’s kitty when I say that.)

            I don’t know you. Maybe you’re lazy and irresponsible, but I think it’s more likely that you are depressed and overwhelmed, and super bummed about your relationship having become intolerable. Depressed and overwhelmed makes it hard to find a starting place, difficult to keep up with routine tasks, and makes everything just *exhausting*.

            So I think maybe, WHEN you get out, you will take some time to get actual useful sleep, which I bet you aren’t getting much of, and then discover that you can work on depressed when you’re not so overwhelmed, or vice versa, and maybe you’re not even slightly lazy or irresponsible. 🙂

            I’m not going to put together a game plan for you (even though I want to! because I have been there! and I want to help people who feel like I did!), but I think you can put together a game plan for yourself that gets you out of your situation in a controlled and sustainable fashion.

            I believe in your victory.

        2. This x1000

          I did something very similar when retrieving my things when I left an abusive situation. I can’t recommend having a plan in place and documenting as much as you can enough.

  32. Despite all this I love her very much and would love to make it work; she is kind, funny, talented, and smart, tells me often how much she loves me, that I’m beautiful, that I’m her muse for art projects and the love of her life, is physically affectionate, and does small things like bring me food when I’m busy or make me gifts from the raw materials I buy.

    Your partner is good to you in all the ways that are easy and low-effort and none of the ways that require even a tiny bit of effort or sacrifice. To the extent that “cleaning up after yourself” can constitute sacrifice. Don’t let her shine you on about this. It’s an easy trap to fall into for us folks who were raised on a media diet that told us that True Love Will Just Work and nothing else matters. That’s a load of bunk, and in a lifetime many of us will love many people who never the less are not good to us and/or good for us. People who never make decisions on our behalf except when it’s easy and quick are not good matches for us.

    1. I’m keeping this point in my pocket for the next time I’m trying to explain why someone’s partner is bad for them and they come back with a list of “redeeming qualities”. Easy and low effort. Such a good way to put it!

      Was it Gavin deBecker who said to approach kindness/niceness and charm as a deliberate act, not a character trait? It’s so true. Anyone can be kind when it suits them.

  33. I really feel for you, LW, this situation is so difficult. The Captain’s advice is well worth following. You come across as a genuinely considerate person.

    I remarried after 5 years of separation from my children’s father. The relationship was & continues to be abusive. I had thought I would never repartner as I was afraid for both myself & my children. I did years of therapy & came to a place of contentment.
    I met a wonderful man who seemed to fit into my family & we embarked on a relationship which ended in marriage & another child.

    What started so beautifully has become a nightmare. He is almost a carbon copy of your fiancée. No job, rubbish on the floor, screaming & yelling instead of discussion, questioning my committment to him, endangering my family’s financial safety…. Not healthy behaviours, basically.

    I still love my husband, but I’ve finally asked him to leave. It was sitting in marriage counselling saying, “I just wish my husband would speak to me,” that did it. It blew me away that my aspiration in relationship had become “being spoken to”. Never mind being cherished, valued, challenged, inspired, supported, encouraged, enjoyed…

    I can’t help my husband anymore without compromising myself & you can’t help your fiancée either. They have to want to get better & giving the free ride is enabling on our part. Yes, they’re special, yes, we love them. Would you behave like they are though, because I sure as hell wouldn’t.

    Best of luck, learn to trust yourself again, you can & do make good choices for you. You’ve fought for your own identity already as an LGBQT (hope that’s right?) person & that’s a tough journey in this world. Draw on that strength & know you can do anything you need for you.

    Bless ✨

    1. I’m so sorry you’re having to walk this path again. I wish you strength, hope, and a future where you and your kids can have a safe, happy life. I hope you have a Team You to support and love you, and that you can extricate yourself from your situation with the minimum of fuss, money, and time.

      Jedi hugs if you want them.

    2. I’m so sorry you’re going through something similar to what I am going through. You make an excellent point that I am basically enabling her, and that no matter how much I love her, anything I could do would only further compromise myself and my precarious financial situation. I need to think of my kitties, who are like children to me (and yeah, I know that sounds kind of silly), and myself. I feel so guilty putting myself first after almost five years of romantic interests telling me otherwise, and a toxic religious upbringing that’s probably the root of all my self esteem issues.

      Anyway, I hope everything works out for the best for you and your kiddos. Jedi hugs!

      1. I know I have no magic wand with which to make those guilty feelings disappear, but please know that this internet stranger is proud of you for wanting yourself to come first. You are a great person and you deserve to be loved and cared for, and it is difficult but we have to learn that it’s ok and necessary to love and care for ourselves.
        We’re rooting for you, LW.

      2. Furry kids are totally legit. I’ve got them too. 😸

        I have a great team me & my kids rock. They are often who inspire me to say, “This isn’t good enough.”

        My counsellor said to me, “What does little you want?” Little me just wants to be allowed to be myself & find a space of contentment. There’s no guilt in that.

        Toxic Religion sucks. I had terrible esteem issues from that too, but once you decide to forgo the guilt & remember to do opposite of almost everything they tell you to do as a woman, life gets better.

        Take really great care, LW, it’s okay to just want to be content. This is such an informative & supportive blog, a really lovely community.

        Remember to put you first & things do get easier. I love us warriors! ❤️

      3. I need to think of my kitties, who are like children to me (and yeah, I know that sounds kind of silly), and myself

        Sometimes it’s a heck of a lot easier to prioritise the wellbeing of someone or something else that you’re responsible for than it is to prioritise your own wellbeing. It might be that you need to get out of the relationship before you can extend that same compassion and entitlement to self-respect and safety to yourself.

        If focussing on what’s good the cats works for you, it’s not silly at all!

    3. Angle-a, I’m so sorry to read of your story. it’s heartbreaking that you were in that again. “I did years of therapy and came to a place of contentment” I’m hoping means that you can regain that peace. The best thing for both you and even your spouse’s own recovery is for you and your children to reclaim your best life.

      The wonderful thing you are doing is modeling boundaries and principles for your children, which breaks that internalized generational victim-to-abuser chain. Also, you just helped me out as I sometimes wonder if with time, I might be able to get with a charismatic someone from my past. I’ve been working on my ME 2.0; they are a professional victim who abuses their family. I’ve been thinking about your story since I read it. Got my Nope on again. Best wishes to you.

  34. LW – just letting you know that you don’t have to name your partner’s behavior as anything in particular other than “very bad for you personally.” That is more than enough to leave. It will always be enough.

    1. Yes.
      “Break up” does not equal “Brexit”, you don’t actually need a referendum to get out. Not feeling happy and fulfilled is a good enough reason. Wanting to stop is a good enough reason.

  35. LW, I’m you from an alternate reality where your partner is a dude, and you go ahead and marry him, and then you have kids and are married for ten more years before you finally walk out with just your clothes because you’re so sick of all of it.

    Run. RUN. There are red flags everywhere, and those flags are actually made up of Evil Bees, and each Evil Bee is holding its own tiny red flag.

    You’re not a bad person to want a partner who contributes to the relationship in some way, rather than just taking. You’re not a bad person to want to not live in filth and squalor.

    Your partner is abusing you. It won’t get better.

    In the alternate reality, I ended up making Partner’s house payment for the better part of a year, only to have him try and take full custody of our kids so that he could continue to be supported (he failed, but holy moly, it was expensive and stressful).

    Another thing I picked up on is your worry that you are “making” your partner move in with her abusive stepdad.


    No, you are not. Partner has options. Partner could crash with a friend. Partner could find a roommate on Craigslist. Partner could go to a shelter. Partner could sleep in a tent in the woods. If Partner chooses to move back in with her stepdad, for whatever reason, it is not your fault.

    Best of luck to you, LW, and Jedi hugs from the alternate reality.

    1. Oh man, I’m so sorry you’re going through something like this too. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.

      I think she has other options, and I would be willing to give up to $500 so she can care for her reptiles, her cat, and Dog, whom I don’t hate; it’s a sweet animal, but its antics have put me in Bitch Eating Crackers mode where it is concerned.

      I’m glad your situation seems to have ended well for you, all things considered. Jedi hugs back to you!

      1. If you are going to give her any money, do it after you have excised her completely from your life.

  36. Just for the folks who don’t necessarily know what it’s like to date as a woman loving woman: we have to make a lot of concessions with partners. I don’t think I have ever met a fellow queer lady/human who doesn’t have a plethora of mental health issues (systemic oppression and alienation from your family/previous social groups probably will do that to you). It is, unfortunately, a staple of our community: we are disproportionately abused and neglected, and these experiences play out in our relationships. It’s not a matter of finding someone ~normal~ or ~healthy~ so much as it is finding someone conscious of their shit and aware enough not to leak it all over you. So for the folks saying “RUN LIKE HELL GET OUTTA THERE”, I say: if you’re cishet, you probably don’t get it, and tbh you should probably back off a bit.

    LW, I feel you so hard right now. I’m so sorry you’re having to make these very hard choices. I understand how you can still love Fiancee despite what she has done here. I understand how you may be hesitant to label this relationship as abusive and bad, because oh boy I can see how Fiancee is playing out her poor coping mechanisms that aren’t a reflection of her as a person.

    Newsflash: that doesn’t make it okay. Sweet, lovely people who have been hurt can still do abusive things. This is the unfortunate reality of the cycle of abuse, and holy heck have I ever seen it play out in our community time and time again.

    If you want to stick with this lady, you gotta hold her accountable for what she does. Frame her actions as A CHOICE, whether it’s subconscious or not. When she screams at you, takes your money, stays at home and plays video games instead of getting a job, that is all a choice. It could be a choice made from having a lot of mental health stuff, in which case encouraging her and supporting her in getting some professional help may be a sound plan. You are not a mental health professional (and even if you are: she is not your client! She SHOULD not be your client). It doesn’t sound to me like she’s just lazy and entitled here, but that doesn’t mean she can’t have slipped into a comfortable position where you take care of her and she just chills out and feels safe.

    The Captain has given such lovely advice here, and mostly I want to add on that if you give this a fair chance and keep trying to make things work with Fiancee and it doesn’t end up working out: that’s okay, you’re not a failure, you’re not a fool for trying. We have to fight like hell for love in this world, and it’s hard to let it go once things get difficult.

    I have so much love for you. You can do this!! There is a lot of pain coming, one way or another, but I believe in your ability to get through it.

    1. I’m not cishet and I’m tired of the implication that handling issues from damaged partners is something queer women have to grin and bear, because that’s what it’s like when you don’t go the “normal” route and get yourself a man, ladies. That is a prettied-up version of the homophobic myth that those poor queers are just not right in the head. Is it true that the pool of partners is smaller if you’re net cishet? Absolutely. Is it true that living as queer in a heteronormative, sexist society causes damage on top of all the other BS women are subjected to. GODS yes. Does that have a thing to do with the LW’s situation? NO.

      1. “I’m tired of the implication that handling issues from damaged partners is something queer women have to grin and bear, because that’s what it’s like when you don’t go the “normal” route and get yourself a man, ladies.” I want to frame this and hang it on my wall.

        Story time: once, I was breaking up with my girlfriend (reason: I was doing 97% of the emotional labour in our relationship), and when I told her that I was leaving her, she batted her eyelashes at me and told me in a charming voice that she would be right there waiting for me to come back to her, since I had “no other options” (read as: there were no other single queer ladies where we were). I told her the truth: even if I never found anyone else to be in a relationship with, I’d always rather be alone than be with her. And then I turned around and walked out.

        I understand the desire to cling to a bad relationship because you’re afraid you’ll never find anyone else for you, but even if that fear is real (spoiler alert: it’s not), you’ll always be better off single than stuck in a relationship that drains and harms you. Relationships are supposed to make us happy. Fear is a tool used against us to try and control us. A relationship should never be based on fear.

      2. I apologize, I didn’t mean to imply that this is something we need to deal with. It’s not! I am a living example of this, I left someone I loved very dearly because I loved myself enough to know I was being abused, despite knowing she was abusing me because she was in pain/playing out past trauma. You will never, ever hear me say that women need to just take abuse to be loved, because that is bullshit, I agree.

        What I more wanted to talk about is that queer women disproportionately are survivors of abuse and live with mental illness, and loving someone carrying that baggage while you are also carrying that baggage is unbelievably tough to navigate. I want us as a community to talk more about accountability and healing without falling into traps of “love will fix everything/my partner can fix me/i can fix my partner”, because this is simply untrue and unhealthy.

        Because of that, I think this has everything to do with LW’s situation. I may be projecting a little here, but she may be less willing to leave this partner because of the whole “I’m fucked up who will ever love me other than this person I should just deal” shit, or the “I am a bad partner if I don’t stay and heal this person” bullshit. It’s important to talk about it out in the open, because IT’S A THING. It exists. I have seen it play out countless times in my own relationships and the relationships of people I love. This is something I would sorely love to see end, because yikes is it ever shitty to live with.

          1. I feel like there’s some kind of implication here that like . . . relationships with mentally ill people are inherently some degree of shitty. And an implication that saying “you should find someone normal/healthy” is a problem because queer women don’t have any better choices than to be with mentally ill people, not because it’s ableist. I know you’re coming at this as a fellow queer mentally ill person, but I also know that it can be very easy to internalize ableist views about one’s self.

            It certainly seems as if the LW’s gf is mentally ill, but that doesn’t mean she has no choice other than to be a shitty gf. I doubt I could clean up after a dog either, but that’s why I don’t own one. I can’t work either, but that’s why I don’t spend a shitton of money. I know it’s not always that simple, but . . . that’s not my point.

            I feel like I’m not explaining myself as well as I’d like to, it’s 3 AM here.

          2. I apologise for implying that 😦 I meant this: I agree with emych that speaking about the intersections between mental illness, ableism, sexism and queerphobia is very important.
            What you said sounds legit to me, though I still need to think more about this whole matter.

        1. Idk this is a tender and slightly triggering topic for me; I’m definitely approaching this topic through the lens of my own abuser who did really awful, horrible things to me but hated it and was otherwise a lovely, wonderful person who I still love dearly and miss to this day. I had to leave because she was unable to stop hurting me (note: there was an element of choice there, she CHOSE to not do the work to stop hurting me, but at the end of the day it wasn’t intentional and malicious in the same way someone punching you in the face is).

          Sometimes people do really horrible things because they can’t do any better. It sucks. It’s sad. You have to leave anyway if they don’t change and that’s just a real painful thing to grieve. I’m still grieving and it’s been 9 months.

    2. Queer ladyish person here:

      I hear you on the mental health issues. God knows I have my share of those… like every other queer person I know, come to think of it. And abusive/difficult families all around more often than not. You’re totally right there.

      I’m still saying to DTMFA.

      Nobody deserves to be treated like that, least of all by their romantic partner.

      1. Oh, I hear ya. I had a similar experience in which I chose to DTMFA. I just get really riled up when I see cishet folks coming in and saying “lol just dump that person it’s not normal u can easily find someone better!!” Because, like, guess what? You really can’t. It takes so much digging as a queer woman to find someone who is a good mix of emotionally healthy but also understanding of what it’s like to live with mental illness.

        I guess, the thing that got lost in translation here wasn’t that LW should grin and bear it, but rather that I understand if she doesn’t feel like she can leave yet. It always takes me so, so long to leave romantic relationships/intimate friendships because there’s that fear that what if this is the best you can do, what if you’re being a bad lover by trying to leave, if you call it quits on this person how can you expect someone in the future not to call it quits on you, blah blah blah. I don’t think I did a good job communicating that and I apologize.

        1. Wait, you actually think that we WLW can’t do better than to be screamed at with dogshit on our floors? We “really can’t” find better?

          That is so far outside my experience as a queer woman that I am genuinely boggled. Dogshit and screaming and drained bank accounts are really, truly not my experience of the baseline of “you probably can’t do better” for women loving women.

          1. …no. What I’m saying is that it’s not easy to just break up with someone and find someone ~chill and healthy~ because like, guess what, our community is small. It’s not easy to just find someone new, and a lot of us live with personal shit. I have never dated someone that wasn’t a survivor of some kind of abuse or living with some flavour of mental illness that influenced their behaviour in some way, and I’m not just a magnet for bad partners.

            Fiancee’s behaviour is inexcusable, you will never hear me say otherwise. If it were me, she would need to change today or I would leave.

        2. What I will say is that I think this is a pretty realistic version of what abuse often looks like between two queer women in a relationship. I know lots and lots of people who have been in this exact relationship. (My therapist, also one of ours, once summarized it as “dyke whose love language is taking the trash out stays for ten years too long while her girlfriend screams at her”).

          You’ve gotta believe that your internal subjective opinion that you don’t want to get screamed at anymore is more important than someone else’s need to scream at you in order to leave that kind of dynamic, and that’s really hard. There is, probably, some complicated baggage about not believing that we’re allowed to be important to ourselves.

          Emmych, I’m thinking you’re maybe on the opposite end of your twenties? (I am juuuust rounding into my thirties). It is true that you can’t just opt out of dating anyone with baggage ever again probably, but like. It’s okay to hold out for someone who takes responsibility for their own stuff and can communicate about it? Emily Nagoski has this fantastic metaphor about how feelings are like you have just happened to come into possession of an angry hedgehog, and you’ve got to deal with your own hedgehog, dangit, you can’t just fling your hedgehog at your partner’s face and scream YOU DEAL WITH THIS. It’s okay if it takes you a while to learn that these hedgehogs are not all your problem! For sure! But also you don’t gotta get hedgehogs thrown at you.

          1. I think I was a little unclear. I am absolutely not advocating for anyone to not listen to the Evil Bees and stay in relationships where abuse is happening! I am literally a queer survivor of queer abuse; I walked away from two (TWO!!!) queer abusers last year, despite one of them being abusive because she literally could not do better.

            All I’m saying is IT’S A THING, queer ladies usually need to learn how to love each other with that extra bit of “so we’re both mentally ill and have been abused, how do we do this and not hurt each other”. Parting of loving each other while survivors of abuse/mentally ill is doing that self-work so you do know harm, and it is 100% reasonable to expect your partner to do the same for you (I recently broke things off with someone because she was unable to do this work and do me no harm). Knowing this, it’s also so easy for queer women to dig their nails into toxic relationships because OH GOSH WHAT IF NO ONE ELSE EVER LOVES ME AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH, you know?

            tbh I am really unsure how I worded this that made people think I was saying “eh abuse is cool just stick it out” so oh my god I would literally never advocate for that ever

          2. Emmych: wow, that’s a literal hell of a year. Good for you for getting out, twice. That must have been really hard, and it must have taken a lot of determination and courage.

            I think it was when you said the cishets needed to back off with the “JUST LEAVE” that everyone got their back up, because this situation as described is genuinely quite bad. And I completely agree with you that the specific shape and degree of this dynamic is something I see more often in a queer context. (YOU’RE IN CHARGE OF MY FEELINGS NOW! IF YOU DON’T DO A GOOD JOB OF BEING IN CHARGE OF MY FEELINGS I WILL PUNISH YOU! rings, uh, awfully familiar ow.) And I think that if you don’t know that this is a thing, you don’t know that it’s a thing, and you think it’s a personal way of being unhappy instead of one common way abuse between two systematically invalidated people can look.

            But like. Women are taught that they are not worth shit and should be glad that they have a partner at all left, right, and center. I was so glad to leave the heterosexual dating world where people literally act like a man is worth more than a woman in every possible context that I wasn’t braced for how many people in my life were in queer relationships that looked like “I guess I’m just going to clean up dog shit while she screams at me forever? Is this what love is?”. I think I was lucky because growing up I did know happy lesbians who were older than me, and I also heard about queer abuse that was called out as abuse, so I had an idea in my head that dog-shit-and-screaming were a bad deal. (And even so, I spent a while doing the kind of relationship where I felt like I was in charge of someone else’s problems now, nursing them back to mental health was my job in life. Before I got help for my own mental health and realized that, like, none of us can actually save each other, and people have to be ultimately in charge of their own emotional regulation. A hard fucking lesson, and one I’m still working on, but I had no chance of really addressing my own emotion reg without it).

        3. I understand where you’re coming from, but if I may, I just want to gently point out that when someone, cishet or not, points out “you can do better”, they’re absolutely right. Just getting out of an abusive relationship *is* doing better, although I understand that it’s not always easy to do.

          1. I worded in weirdly again. I blame the sinusitis. I defs meant “it’s not easy to just break up and find someone new because our community is tiny and incestuous”, not “EHHHH JUST DEAL MY GUY U CAN’T DO BETTER” because being alone is often better than sticking with shitty partners. *pops a party popper to own singleness due to that exact reason*

          2. Everything clear then 🙂 I hope you feel better soon, and my respect for getting out of a bad relationship twice in one year. Keep on rockin’!

    3. I’m not cishet and honestly this doesn’t match my experience at all. Or perhaps I’m misinterpreting–you seem to be claiming that we WLW are just inherently more damaged than cishets, so we need to learn to settle more. Or am I misunderstanding?

      1. You too, huh? Big Pink D*ke right here, who knows a plethora of queer women, none of whom are so mentally broken that they can relationship right! Smart, successful women with functioning minds, and a distinct lack of mental frailty. Maybe I should charge people to meet them, as they’re apparently so rare!

        Also, while there are those of us with psychological issues, they’re a) not compulsory and b) not necessarily related to our sexuality. Mine are the result of childhood abuse and genetic predetermination. LW deserves to feel safe, comfortable in her own home, and to be treated with love and respect. If her partner can’t do that, then she needs to go, just like a male partner who was pulling the same mindgames and manipulating LW.

        1. I’m finding this whole thread a bit perplexing, but I kind of thought relationships were relationships, good, bad or ugly & everyone has baggage in some form or other. It comes down to owning it….?

      2. I resent the implication behind the word “damaged”. What I mean is that wlw tend to have a higher probability of having been abused or are living with mental illness than straight women. I myself deal with a fucktonne of mental illness and am a survivor of multiple abusive relationships, and I am not damaged or broken.

        Because of this, we often have to navigate the extra aspect of loving ourselves and our friends/partners while being mentally ill/survivors of abuse, and all the baggage that comes with that. It’s really fucking hard to do and it’s important to talk about it within our community so we don’t hurt each other. I see the Fiancee in this situation as someone who has learned shitty abusive behaviour because she was abused, and because she hasn’t dealt with that or her other mental health shit, she’s now hurting LW. That’s not okay, but I also have a lot of empathy for Fiancee, since I have loved people just like this before/been this person in the past.

        If this doesn’t match your experience, consider yourself very very privileged. I can count on my hands the amount of wlw I’ve met who aren’t survivors of something awful or living with mental illness, and even then I might not know the full story of their lives.

        1. Yo, Emmych. I know I’m double-responding to you here, but what I had at a similar point in my life was not a less-privileged concentration of more-abused queer people, it was a social circle where the norms were that people treated their friends and partners like boundary-free sources of nonstop mental health care instead of getting waitlisted for county mental health clinic/searching out a sliding-scale therapist/joining a peer-led recovery group of some sort.

          In my experience as someone who has been on both sides of an emotional dysregulation relationship party: acknowledging the limits of what one human being can do to save another is the thing that starts to make recovery even possible. I am serious. I am for real about this.

          1. Purps, omg–you’ve nailed it. “A social circle where the norms were that people treated their friends and partners like boundary-free sources of nonstop mental health care” perfectly describes the friend group I left last year. Mad toxic, yo. I had known these people (queer women & trans people with abuse trauma and mental illnesses) from college and our “found family” had devolved into codependency hell. It massively exacerbated all of my (usually minor) issues, until I extricated myself.

            My social circle now consists of more mentally ill/abused queer and trans people, but they have a sense of responsibility for their own emotions & behavior and a willingness to seek professional help. Thank god.

            I guess what I’m saying is that the bad norms of exploiting your friends/loved ones for free therapy seems to be easy to slip into in small queer communities–but also it most certainly Does Not Have To Be Like That, and us queer folks don’t have to put up with emotional exploitation and manipulation in the name of “found family”, which is still revelatory to me.

            TL;DR: Emotionally healthy people–ones who are willing to do the work, regardless of whether they’re “damaged” or not, even if they are severely mentally ill and in a lot of pain–exist and are awesome! Do not settle for people who make their problems your problems, for the sake of past!bat lord.

          2. Bat lord omg meeee toooo. And I definitely contributed to the emotional incestuousness of the sitch! For instance, I fell into the trap of treating trigger warnings like they were a substitute for instead of an adjunct to getting help for my phobias and traumas, and then of course if I got exposed (because my brain problems are not all that minor and tend to fill the available space unless they’re contained by real MH help) I would of course be in a bad way and hard for other people to deal with because I didn’t have clinical support or real skills to calm down. Never again, it was not good for me, let alone others. Like, other people did this stuff to, but my side of the street was neither clean nor a nice side of the street to be living on.

            My social group now is if anything more mentally ill and actually slightly poorer, but it intersects with the recovery community and has a much clearer idea of the division of responsibility in taking care of your brain problems. Sometimes this is tough! I want to be able to fix other peoples’ problems! I want other people to just fix mine instead of me having to sit with my own discomfort and acknowledge how shitty it is that I can’t escape by pushing everything onto someone else. I also feel so much LESS helpless knowing that no one else can really save another person, and that there are really specific kinds of help I can ask for from other people and also kinds of help that are impossible. (“Will you sit with me and validate me while I figure out what to do” = doable. “Will you do that 24/7 while I mistreat you” = nope.) I mean, I drove a friend to inpatient this week. It’s not like I think we should just let each other perish in the woods at the first sign of trouble. But limits to help and the ability to say no also makes help more real, I think.

    4. Mental illness is not a free pass to sit looking at dogshit on the floor and screaming at your partner when she asks you to clean it up.

      1. Yeah.
        As adults with a chronic illness (which mental health issues often are) we do the best we can to plan for our illness. After a few years it’s not a surprise or a novelty, it’s our life.

        We get the best medical care we can with whatever our situation is.
        We go online and see how others are dealing with day-to-day problems common to our illness.
        We lay down what social, fiscal, and logistical resources we can during the good times, so we can ride out the bad without losing everything and starting over. Again.
        We talk with the people who are closest, figure out what we can commit to when our disease is at its worst, and we set up backups and contingencies to insure we keep to that standard.

        All that is years worth of work, it doesn’t happen all at once. But when you love someone, especially yourself, you pick up and start. Because we can’t build a life without a stable foundation, it’s a labor of love to set that floor for ourselves.

    5. Queer woman here, and I find the statement that we all have a “plethora of mental health issues” and the implication there’s no hope for finding someone “normal or healthy” really off-putting. While I recognise I have the bi-privilege of not having a super limited dating pool, I expect the same of all my partners. You need to actively work at having your ducks in a row if you want to be in a relationship with me, just like I expect of myself (and yes, I do have mental health issues – but they don’t define me). When I’m not in a place to be in a relationship, I’m not in one. I know many women in very healthy and supportive relationships with other women, and I know others who get into crap relationships and END THEM because it’s better to be single than to be in a bad relationship, regardless of your sexuality.

      Also, the commenters here are very diverse, and I find the assumption that it’s just cishet people saying “get out” pretty unfair. Abuse is abuse, whatever the gender of the parties involved. LW has already given her relationship with her fiancee a fair chance – regardless of her fiancee’s situation, LW needs to prioritise herself.

    6. I think you could just as easily make the argument that you won’t find a man who isn’t abusive to his female partner because they’re all damaged by patriarchy.

      I’ll definitely agree that there are problems in the gay community that enable abuse (the gay/geek social fallacy of “Ostracizers Are Evil” helping predators, “Abuse is something that only happens to straight people” preconceptions, scarcity mentalities encouraging people to stay in bad relationships, and of course, your “well, gay people suffer more trauma so you need to cut them more slack when they’re abusive” argument).

      However, these gay abuse-enabling problems do not in any way outweigh the abuse-enabling problems that you find in heterosexual relationships (created by fucking centuries of sexism, eroticizing rape, denying female desire, glorifying the “sacrificing woman” and “helpmeet” concepts, normalizing men who express or relieve their feelings through violence, etc. etc. etc.). As such, if you wouldn’t accept that behavior in a male romantic partner, you shouldn’t excuse it from a female partner. Life’s full of weird shit that fucks us up, regardless of race or gender. WLW don’t get a special discount on the “baseline acceptable behavior” price.

      Having mental issues or trauma is related to how you interact with others, but is separate from how you feel it is acceptable to treat others. LW’s gf here has some serious issues in the “how it’s acceptable to treat others” category, and she shouldn’t be in a relationship before she works those out on her own.

    7. When you have to leave this many replies that all amount up to “no no, that’s not what I mean” you maybe should consider taking a step back and considering what sort of message you’re putting out there. If you’re unwilling to consider that you might be starting from a false premise you should at least ask whether you just might not be able to word this in a way that doesn’t make things worse.

    8. Just chiming in here: queer women are not all mentally ill. Sometimes mentally ill people can be jerks. It sounds like LW’s fiancee has some jerk tendencies, and some abusive tendencies, and is also mentally ill.

    9. FWIW I am with you on being put off by the commentariat yelling about just leaving, especially given how the CA comments section is cis-het-woman dominated and not always suited to help LGBT+ LWs, among others. I don’t even think you expressed yourself poorly at all, as this was my first thought when I got to the comments as well.
      There absolutely are LGBT+ specific complications to LW’s situation that probably cause her a lot of anxiety, particularly when it comes to the abusive family. I was recently in a situation where I had to step away from a friend who I knew was facing homophobia and transphobia, and it made me feel like I was throwing them to the wolves, betraying The Cause, and indirectly causing another queer suicide/hatecrime/homeless death/whatever else might happen to them. It was still the right thing to do. This, plus all other anxieties about having no options etc. need to be addressed, and have been in the responses to your coment, albeit by people who think they’re arguing against you. The comments section overwhelmingly not even considering any of that felt like Straights Gonna Straight.
      However, I also think that LW was really looking for permission to leave, and judging from her response the overwhelming chorus telling her to just save herself seemed to have helped the most.

      1. 1) please stop jumping to conclusions about who is and isn’t cishet
        2) lots of people have already talked about their experiences as WLW
        3) giving a victim of relationship abuse support and strength, confirming that she is being abused, and encouraging her to get out is not “Straights Gotta Straight”

        1. + 1000
          “especially given how the CA comments section is cis-het-woman dominated”
          And on which census is this information available, pray tell? Sounds like one hell of an assumption to me.

          1. a) This

            b) Even if that were true, this community is consistently one of the most supportive, affirming, places I’ve found in twenty+ years online. I know that neither my sexuality/gender identity, nor my disability will marginalise me among the Awkward Army. Given that this is not an LGBT or disability-related community, that is a very special quality. To that end, I couldn’t give a shit what the demographics here are, because I feel safer here than I have in certain online communities I used to frequent.

            Writing people off because of some weird assumption that they’re cishet, unless otherwise specified, is bad form and bad faith.

      2. In the comments, nobody knows you’re a dog.

        In other words, unless you know us personally, you know fuck-all except what we’ve chosen to reveal, and I don’t think any of us chooses to reveal everything about ourselves in the aggregate of our comments, let alone any single one.


    10. Alright I feel like I need to clarify here since people seem to be dogpiling without reading here:

      1) I never made the sweeping statement that all wlw have been abused/are mentally ill. I said we as a community are disproportionately affected by abuse and mental illness, so it very commonly factors in to how we relationship. I am not a hermit, I interact with my local community relatively frequently, and my assessment of “I can’t name a wlw who has been abused or has a mental illness or both” still stands.

      2) I never said that LW should put up with abuse. I am literally a wlw who is a survivor of abusive relationships. I found the strength to leave because I was finally able to hold my abusers accountable, realize I couldn’t fix anyone but myself, and loved myself enough to put my needs first even in cases where I deeply loved the other person. So what I’m saying is, I get it. I get why it’s tough to leave. There are a more layers for a queer or trans person leaving an abusive relationship than a cishet person, and I probably communicated this in a clumsy way. I still stand by my statement that, unless you get it, probably coming in and shouting “OH GOSH LEEEEEAVE” isn’t helpful, because yes, LW should probably leave, but there is a lot to untangle here. I have read and re-read my post as a whole and I cannot find where I imply anything to the contrary as the takeaway message, so I feel incredibly frustrated that folks are giving me such an uncharitable reading – again, because I am a survivor of queer abuse myself.

      3) I never said mental illness is an excuse to be abusive. Literally left someone I love very dearly because their mental illness caused them to behave in such an abusive way that it took a huge toll on my own mental health. Again, not sure how people are getting another reading from that, since, I quote my first fucking post: “Newsflash: that doesn’t make it okay. Sweet, lovely people who have been hurt can still do abusive things.”

      And that’s all I really have to say on the matter. To be honest, this topic has been unexpectedly triggering for me, so I would appreciate it if folks could stop replying to this thread now. I am pretty upset and would rather shelf this convo for another time, probably another place since wow have I ever had to repeat myself over and over for folks that don’t wanna read before writing.

      On the off chance people still reply and someone has to refer to me in third person, I use they/them pronouns.

    1. Nami, that is a great article! LW, please also remember, in addition to the other excellent advice already posted – if cancelling/postponing a wedding wasn’t pretty common, Miss Manners and Emily Post wouldn’t have entire chapters devoted to how to do it with grace. You are in a rough spot and so far as I can tell, already exhibiting tremendous grace. We’re all with you!

  37. LW, here are the things that really concern me in your letter:

    1) The fact that your partner screamed at you when you asked her to clean up after herself. “I need our bedroom to be a garbage-free zone” is pretty much the lowest possible bar for cohabiting. Does your partner often scream at you over super basic housekeeping stuff?

    2) I’m getting the sense that your partner has railroaded you through several big relationship milestones regardless of your feelings on the matter. You’ve been dating for a little over a year and you’ve been engaged for most of that. I know there’s no ideal timeline for this stuff, but I’m not surprised it felt rushed. I would bet good money that your decision to move in together was also rushed, one that felt necessary because of circumstances, not because you were two adults making an active choice to cohabit.

    3) Waking you up in the middle of the night to be like “Hey do you want to move our wedding from next YEAR to next MONTH” is super fucked up, and she knows it. She did it because she knew you wouldn’t be amenable to the idea if you were fully conscious. Again, I sense that this is not the first time she’s pulled this stunt. This is textbook manipulation and it’s very troubling.

    4) “her favorite way of being playful and joking is to act offended by something I did or said” Her favourite way of being “playful” and “joking” sounds like absolutely zero fun for you. Less of a “joke” and more of a “total mindfuck”, tbh.

    Messiness, unemployment/aimlessness, and careless spending habits are all things that can be weathered and solved in a healthy relationship. This is not a healthy relationship. In my opinion, it sounds like your fiancee knows that you are about to snap and dump her, and rather than change her ways (because let’s face it, she’s getting a pretty sweet deal right now), she’s trying to get you locked into a marriage as soon as possible.

    You’re living in a chaotic whirlwind of garbage and dog piss with a partner who’s determined to sweep you along into the next big commitment before the dust has settled on the last one. At a bare minimum, you need to cancel the wedding and live separately for an extended period of time. Maybe love will find a way and you’ll decide to move in together again, perhaps even get married, but if you do, it must be an informed and enthusiastic choice on your part. (Good consent isn’t just for sex!)

    Good luck and I hope you get your fantasy of living in a clean, organized, dog-free home very soon!

    1. Motion to add “Good consent isn’t just for sex” to the list of Awkward Proverbs, because yea, verily, it is both pithy & truthful.

    2. This was the first time she screamed at me, but not the first time getting irritated with me for bringing it up. The conversation went something like:

      Me: oh wow lol we need to clean this mess up! (Referring to old fast food bags and old pieces of chicken skin and dirty, crusty dishes)
      Her: (visibly annoyed) Please don’t talk about that right now.
      Me: Okay, but it’s been sitting there for two weeks and –
      Her: ( wordless screaming)
      Me: (left bedroom in a hurry)
      Her, downstairs: I’m sorry. Stepdad would do things like randomly demanding that things get done and it triggered me.

      I said I forgave her, because abuse sucks, and I have met Stepdad and he is mean. But that was the situation that prompted me to write the letter and I’m still not really over it because I thought her response was disproportionate to my very reasonable request.

      I’m so glad to get validation on the wedding date thing. I found out about it when she asked me to take over a painting project and I was painting a little thingy that said “February.” I thought it was for a friend of hers, who is pregnant and was supposed to be having a baby shower soon. When I asked about it, she kept saying over again “You. Forgot. Our. Wedding.” in this deadpan voice, interrupting me when I tried to explain myself, and ultimately I felt so ashamed I agreed to it.

      Thanks so much!

      1. I mean, you were (sort of) present when this wedding date renegotiation supposedly happened and we were not, but it sounds to me like she made the wedding story up completely.

        I don’t think you forgot. I think you don’t remember because it didn’t happen. I also think this big reveal was planned. I mean, she just happens to ask her to help you by painting this little craft thing that just happens to specifically refer to the revised wedding date, all unawares of its meaning, and then you ask your innocent question and she clues you in? That kind of scripting – implausible coincidences, heavy-handed symbolism, moral of the story their superiority – is very common among abusive people, because they think about desires and consequences in shallow, self-centered, unrealistic ways.

        I think she concocted this fairly elaborate lie in order to manipulate you. It allowed her to define it as a done deal, something you had already agreed to, no takebacks. It allowed her to catch you off-guard and make you feel apologetic and embarrassed, so you would be extra motivated to appease her. You couldn’t “back out” and you couldn’t complain.

        On an emotional level, it also allowed her to symbolically frame your prior reservations as a failure on your part. Look at the way the scenario plays out: there she was with a unilateral demand coded as a signed agreement; there you were balking, dismayed, suddenly caught up in something rushed and uneven; and there she was making you feel like a stupid jerk for feeling shocked and unhappy.

        I think she’s gaslighting you in order to make you ignore any doubts you have – about the wedding, the relationship, or her abusive behavior. I think she knew that you were balking and set up this whole “nighttime wedding conversation you ‘forgot'” scheme in order to bypass your consent and cooperation. And lo and behold, here you are, feeling like you can’t really back out of an agreement you never made.

        People have pointed out how inappropriate it is to wake someone up in the middle of the night for a discussion that serious, but it’s also really inappropriate to respond to you “not remembering” by making you feel bad! A normal, respectful response to genuine confusion about something like that would be apologetic and reassuring, not, well, nasty. A kind and loving partner would feel pretty sheepish, to say the least, about hassling you into a major life decision when you were not really conscious.

        It doesn’t sound to me as though her behavior was playful. Taunting you about something like that is really cruel, and it makes me wonder whether she has a tendency to mock you for feeling confused and upset when she does something deeply unfair.

        1. Yeah, honestly this context only makes it worse. Like, if she’d talked about it with you the next morning, “Oh, I’m so glad we decided last night to move the wedding up, remember?” that would…still be creepy and weird, because again, who DOES that. But by doing it like this, not even reminding you once you were actually awake?

          She’s doing some twisted stuff here. The wedding date especially is why I can’t imagine trying to give this much of a chance. Because sometimes people are abusive but they don’t mean to be. They still need to sort themselves out as an adult and treat people right, but usually if they’re being abusive because of something unintentional, like depression or anxiety, they usually CAN sort that out.

          But this? That whole thing is just a deliberate CHOICE to manipulate you into a major life decision. This is not a person with your best interests at heart, and this is not a person who genuinely cares that you are happy, just that you are HERE.

          1. I agree.

            This is just unreal.

            I was giving her more of a benefit of the doubt than most people here. My thoughts were pretty much “Okay, in a real bad place right now, not able to be a good partner, needs to be single and do some work for herself, not considerate,” and then I saw this and now it’s all a big nope. This is downright creepy.

        2. LW, I know your love for her is real.

          And I don’t want to do the thing where I’d say “hell that sounds abusive” about a person and that drives their partner — who after all is closer to them than to me — even closer defending them.

          I think part of you has profoundly serious concerns about what she has done and what she might do. Not my business to push that idea, I mean that. But I hope it’s okay to say, please have confidence in your intuition that these are *legitimate things to hold in mind* even if you can’t be certain about them.

          You knew to write to the Captain and you knew important things to put in the letter. Carry on!

          1. *know your love for her is real and it has parts that are healthy for you
            I meant to finish saying there.

      2. Hm, I thought you said in the letter that you forget stuff that happens if you’re woken up during the night, and she knew this? She set you up. That’s… not a loving or healthy way to treat a partner over making a cup of tea, never mind getting married.

        1. Excellent point, Daffodil! My first husband was capable of carrying on entire conversations when woken from sleep, and then wouldn’t remember that he’d had them, let alone what was said. When I found out about this, do you know what I did? Spoiler – I didn’t use it to manipulate him! I told our friends who would call while he was asleep (he worked midnights, so sometimes friends forgot and called while he was out of it) that no agreement or plans were binding unless they talked with me or asked my husband to confirm he was awake and hadn’t been sleeping when they called. Worked like a charm!

        2. Do you know for sure, from other sources, that you REALLY forget things when you’re woken up during the night, or is this something she alone has told you? If it’s the latter, perhaps this is not actually a fact about you. Perhaps she doesn’t tell you things at all, and then *claims* she told you during the night and you just don’t remember.

          I wish you all the very best, and hope you emerge from this stronger and happier. You deserve so much better.

      3. Oh my god. She shamed you into going along with the wedding thing? By pretending that forgetting something you “agreed” to in the middle of the night is somehow just as bad as if you had forgotten something that you had a proper, fully-consenting, fully conscious agreement on?

        I am so sorry. I am so, so sorry, that is gaslighting and that is not okay. She put you on the defensive by making it seem like pointing out that you weren’t fully conscious when you “agreed” to it would just be some sort of excuse, when really you did nothing wrong in the first place.

        I’m so sorry. That’s awful.

      4. Nothing about “we need to clean this mess up” while sitting in front of said mess is equal to “randomly demanding things get done”

        You did not do wrong by her and you do not deserve one iota of all this crap.

      5. Her, downstairs: I’m sorry. Stepdad would do things like randomly demanding that things get done and it triggered me.

        This would be legit if her next words were either, “I’m ready to talk about your very reasonable request now”, or “I am not ready to talk about your very reasonable request right now because I’m still feeling unhappy and nervous about being triggered, so let’s set a time to talk about this later today / tomorrow / next week when I’m better”, *and then she brings it up at the arranged time*. And

        “I can’t control how I respond when I’m triggered but I do want to deal with this issue that upsets you” is fair enough; “I can’t control how I respond when I’m triggered and oh look this conveniently means we cannot discuss this issue that upsets you” is really not.

        (It is also super-legit if your response is, “I can’t live with someone who screams wordlessly when they’re triggered. I am sorry, I love you, but I can’t live like that”, of course.)

        1. This. Like, someone’s reaction being uncontrollable doesn’t mean you have to put up with it if it makes you feel like shit – but certainly, these things could be triggering. This doesn’t mean you have to live in filth, or have to clean up after her, and certainly not put up with being screamed at. 😦

          When I asked about it, she kept saying over again “You. Forgot. Our. Wedding.” in this deadpan voice, interrupting me when I tried to explain myself, and ultimately I felt so ashamed I agreed to it.

          This is super disturbing. Super disturbing. I mean, I’m personally very sensitive to that cold mindfuckery, but even if she didn’t deliberately get you to change the date when she knew you’d forget (dubious), this is a completely awful and manipulative thing to do.

          It’s possible all this behaviour is sprung out of trauma! That doesn’t actually change the reality, which is that you do not need to live like this to save her. It’s a horrendous position to be in, and super sad to think that maybe in a couple of years she could be more recovered and it could work? But it’s not a couple of years, you don’t know or need to know whether this is ever going to change. Her behaviour is completely unacceptable.

          I’m so sorry.

          1. Yeah, that part is really creeping me out. If you had actually sat down with someone and discussed changing the date of the wedding and they agreed, then later forgot, wouldn’t you be a little more concerned that they suddenly forgot something so important? Like, it’s go to a doctor right now time if you forget which month your wedding is going to be in, that’s a very concerning symptom. Jumping straight to shaming reeeeally makes me think Fiancee knew perfectly well that she was being manipulative and wanted to make sure the conversation didn’t go anywhere near “you know I don’t remember things when I’m not awake enough, why on earth would you try to have such an important discussion at such an extraordinarily bad time for me?”

          2. Out of threading, but Mel Reams is right. Forgetting a wedding date should be a cause for a joke about wedding-brain (if it’s a momentary glitch) or a genuinely concerned “are you okay, can I make anything easier” response if it’s a longer stretch of forgetfulness. It is not a cause for browbeating and shaming.

        2. I feel like there are some who abuse the whole trigger thing as a way to get what they want. “My stepdad would do things like randomly demanding that things get done and it triggered me”. I feel like the unsaid part of that sentence (based solely on the info provided in the letter and comments) is “so now I am going to tell you this every time you make any kind of request from me that I don’t feel like doing.”

          I think Mary has a point…unless she’s making a point to address your issue in a place/time that makes her comfortable, it’s not legit.

          1. There are definitely people who do that. It’s a side effect of our culture as a whole becoming more tolerant and understanding of PTSD in particular and mental illness in general. Tolerance and understanding is a good thing! But like all good things there are people who will take advantage of/misuse it.

          2. I think there’s an equally strong possibility that Fiancée’s brain may currently not be able to tell the difference between “I am arbitrarily hassling you to do this task and there will be consequences if you don’t” (controlling, abusive) and “Let’s work together to get this garbage out of our sleeping space!” (super reasonable housekeeping request).

            If she’s been so traumatized by her previous living situation that she can’t talk about chores without being triggered, that sucks and it’s not her fault and honestly fuck her stepdad for messing with her head so badly. However, as many people have pointed out, “never ask Fiancée to do anything ever again” is not a tenable solution to the problem. The only real solution is that Fiancée needs to do a lot of hard work with a trained professional to learn how to function in spite of her trauma. And she’s not ready to be a roommate, much less a spouse, until that work is well underway.

            To me, it sounds like she’s currently opting out of that work in a huge way because, let’s face it, it’s going to be difficult and terrifying, and it’s much easier to stay on an “extended vacation from the real world”. I’m not sure she even understands how urgently that work needs to happen. And that’s why it can’t be LW’s problem anymore.

            Also all the +1’s to everyone below who asked “… yeah, but did she clean up the mess after she calmed down?”

        3. I fell asleep in the middle of the afternoon. Partner woke me gently to ask if I wanted to be woken later for dinner, then covered me with a blanket and let me sleep. Later, Partner tried to wake me up like this: “Hey. Hey. Hey. HEY. HEY. Heyheyhey. HEY.” Not yet capable of words but SO ANNOYED by the impatient tone and shoulder-shaking, I made this growl/yell sound and rolled over. He apologized and left the bed. When I woke up fully, I texted him an apology AND AN EXPLANATION, and thanked him for trying to wake me up even if he didn’t do it in the best way. I also gave him tips on how to wake me up effectively and without irritating me.

          If the girlfriend reacts and apologizes without acknowledging that something can or should change on either end (“could I get a 12-hour warning on cleanup deadlines?” “Saying ‘we’ need to do something when you mean me brings up really bad memories, could you just ask me to do the thing directly?” or whatever her personal bugbears are), then she isn’t really apologizing or trying to help. She’s just controlling the narrative and your actions, and that’s all kinds of not cool.

      6. Okay, speaking as someone with clinical PTSD here:

        After she screamed and then blamed it on being triggered, did she clean up the mess? Or help you clean up the mess?

        And if it’s that bad, has she said, ‘Yeah, I need serious help as soon as possible, I’m off to bang on doors till I get it?’

        Because if not, then … she may have PTSD, but that is not why she’s so hard to live with. PTSD can make you act in shitty ways, but a decent person tries to make amends and take control. It should not be used as either an excuse or a weapon.

      7. Yikes. This is not normal behavior, and it sounds like she’s using her status/identity as a victim of abuse to abuse *you*. That conversation is ridiculous. You don’t get to live in filth and never lift a finger because your mean stepdad made you do chores, too. That’s … part of being an adult in a relationship, especially since she doesn’t contribute to your household in any other way.

        The wedding date thing is a million red flags. That’s so amazingly manipulative. I … am not trying to armchair diagnose, but I have a parent with a personality disorder, and my parent also did a lot of gaslighting and a lot of other weird shit in relation to their identity as a victim of abuse. (I don’t pair socks because my father was abusive and I had to pair all of HIS socks was the most memorable, by far.)

        I think your best course of action, if you aren’t ready to get her out of your home and terminate the relationship, is to set reasonable boundaries and ground rules, like no dogshit on the floor, and stick to them, regardless of how “triggered” she claims to be by requests that she clean up dogshit and old food.

      8. What the heck. If the mess has been there for weeks, you aren’t randomly demanding that things get done, you’re very reasonably demanding that things be done.

        What the double hecking heck over “you forgot our wedding”.

        I think you could stand to be a lot less forgiving here, because a lot of us had abusive families of origin and we don’t scream at our partners about stuff or dragoon them into weddings at a month’s bloody notice.

      9. She used “you triggered me” to derail and shut down ordinary discussions a lot, I notice.

        I also notice that she isn’t coming back with a plan to work around her triggers. Say, making a list of chores and days to do them, or noticing the dishes her own damn self? Instead she tells you to stop bothering her, and then when you don’t, escalated into making it all about what you did.

      10. “Her: ( wordless screaming)
        Me: (left bedroom in a hurry)
        Her, downstairs: I’m sorry. Stepdad would do things like randomly demanding that things get done and it triggered me.”

        Oh, ha. Hahahahaha, no. NO. Nu-uh.

        I mean, hey, maybe she was triggered. Not gonna deny that, triggers are weird and can pop up in different ways. But hoooo boy, does this ever sound like my sibling. Who I love. A lot. Who also had to deal with some Messed Up Stuff. But who is also abusive. To me, and probably (given how I know he’s been kicked out of at least two housing situations, and some Other Stuff) quite possibly to other people.

        That whole idea that by reasonably bringing up a Thing That Really Needs To Be Done (and special bonus points if it’s a Thing That Really Should Have Been Done By Now, especially if they already said they would and just…haven’t. For days/weeks), that YOU are being Unreasonable… ugh, just my shoulders are up around my ears. Because yeah, that was usually the same reaction–wordless screaming and THEM being frustrated with YOU.

        I get that nagging is frustrating and can be triggering. I can even imagine parents keeping their children paranoid by hopping out every time the kid started to relax and demanding another thing get done, sure. But “Hey, we need to clean this up” isn’t “randomly demanding.” I mean, I guess in her world, normal is “there is chicken skin and food crust all over the floor” and therefore a sudden effort to fix that would be “random.” After all, you let it go this long, so it must be fine, right? Why are you being so ~random~ and demanding that festering garbage be moved.

        It may well be a trigger. But “trigger” isn’t a carte blanche. Part of being an adult is that people WILL “randomly demand” that you do things–clean up after yourself, start a project at work, send me that e-mail, etc. She isn’t managing that or making the effort to manage that. Then she turns that around by implicitly framing you as doing something her abusive stepfather did?

        No. Noooope. Pope of Nope here to bless your Noptials.

        She is being unreasonable. And manipulative. And honestly? Wordlessly screaming at someone for a reasonable request–or heck, even a demand–is just…horrible.

        1. I’m going to be honest..she sounds immature. To me it sounds like a conversation with my kids:

          Me: hey guys, can you please put your snack plates in the dishwasher when you’re done with them?
          Them: Ok mom, we promise.
          Me (a day later and the plates sitting on the coffee table) – in a more firm voice: Hey guys, I need you to please put the snack plates in the dishwasher.
          Them: (eye roll and attitude) : Ok. Fine. Sheesh.
          Me: (later that same day) – in a near yell: GUYS. NOW. PUT THEM IN THE DISHWASHER!
          Them: OMG you’re always making demands of us! You’re so mean and always yelling!
          (If those dishes are there after that there is always yelling!)

          LW, from what you’ve said you’ve asked, reasonably, and she’s ignored you. Whether she was triggered by your follow up demand or not isn’t going to change that you asked and she ignored you. Her dog pees and poops everywhere and she’s not cleaning it up, despite the fact that you’ve told her it upsets you. She leaves dirty laundry, dishes and trash around, despite the fact that you’ve asked her to clean up after herself. She spends money and doesn’t make any effort to earn any, despite the fact that you’ve repeatedly told her that you’re on a budget. Nothing you have done is unreasonable. I’m not there…I don’t know how you’ve made these requests, but from where I stand you’re not asking anything of her that a reasonable person shouldn’t be able to handle.
          From where I stand she sounds spoiled and immature. Sure, there’s likely issues with her stepfather, but you’re her girlfriend not her therapist. If she can’t do any of the above things you’ve asked of her because of her issues with her stepfather then that’s reason enough for her to see a therapist…which, again, is not you.

          1. I mean…LW says she has met Stepdad and that he is, in fact, mean. But I’m half-wondering at this point if his meanness is frustration from having a adult stepdaughter who thinks living in a nest of two-week-old chicken skins is fine. (It wouldn’t make his meanness OK, but it might give it context).

      11. “You. Forgot. Our. Wedding.” is giving me chills. I’ve had that kind of sudden switch of mood used on me–it’s so gaslighty. It really really doesn’t sound like she’s in good faith here.

      12. I wanted to say that, in case you needed to hear it (I did, in my own abusive past relationships):

        She doesn’t have to agree with you. You can still leave.

        You don’t have to give her a good enough reason before leaving.

        You don’t have to help her understand.

        You don’t have to talk about this for as long as she wants to talk about it. You’re allowed to stop the conversation when you’re done, or tired. And you don’t have to wait till you’re ‘too exhausted to talk’ or ‘it’s 2am and I have to get up for work in 4 hours’ – you can say I don’t want to talk about this any more.

        There’s a book about verbal abuse that really helped me navigate and then get out of my (abusive) engagement: The Verbally Abusive Relationship, Expanded Third Edition: How to recognize it and how to respond – by Patricia Evans. It’s written with hereto couples in mind but the verbal abuse tactics and responses are so spot on!!

        You are allowed to do this. You don’t have to have a ‘good enough’ reason. She doesn’t have to agree. You don’t have to defend yourself. You don’t have to justify one single decision, or request or desire or boundary that you have. You don’t. You get to choose.

        1. Seconding the rec for Patricia Evans. In one of her books, she describes how abuse can escalate when an abuser thinks they have a firm hold on another person. Events like birth of a child, starting in a highly paid job (this is what happened to me) – or imminent wedding.

          1. This. My ex-H was only verbally abusive until our daughter was born. Then it escalated. Dramatically. To physical abuse, albeit very hard to prove physical abuse.

      13. I actually get where LW’s girlfriend is coming from, having grown up in a similarly abusive parental situation. Requests to clean things up still rattle me unnecessarily, and I haven’t lived in that situation for over a decade.


        When it happens, I know that A) my spouse is not my parents, and is not trying to make me feel guilty, B) my spouse would only say something if the messiness had reached a breaking point for them, C) I personally never want my messiness to get to the point that my spouse feels the need to say something because that means I’ve not been doing my part to make spouse’s life easier, D) no matter how it might trigger me, screaming would never be an appropriate response. Even if I completely lost it and did scream, and later apologized, the apology would need to be a hell of a lot more than the one you got.

        It’s entirely possible she’s still working through that stuff, but that is her work to do, and you’re not her parents. You’re not randomly asking her stop and clean up something she was unaware of. You’re allowed to not want to be with someone who can’t handle a request to clean up something that they were supposed to clean up 2 weeks ago.

        Also, I call shenanigans on that painting thing. She set you up. I thought it was sneaky enough, asking you in the middle of the night when you both know you don’t remember that kind of thing, but to bring it up this way, with the immediate guilt trip? Nooooooooo, That’s classic gaslighting.

      14. …Wait, you “found out” about the changed date because you asked about what you thought was an unrelated thing and she screamed at you for “forgetting” something she decided on unilaterally and hadn’t mentioned to you before that moment? And then she used the “forgetting” to pressure you into agreeing to the new date?

        That’s like six new levels of fucked up.

      15. Her, downstairs: I’m sorry. Stepdad would do things like randomly demanding that things get done and it triggered me.

        So. “We need to clean up this literal trash heap that has been here for two weeks,” is neither random – it’s prompted by the exietence of a fucking heap of trash, for weeks – nor a demand – it’s a stated need with implied action on your part as well as hers. It’s entirely possible that this is truly a trigger for her; she’s still exploiting concepts of trauma recovery as manipulation tactics, which both serves to undermine her own credibility and harms trauma survivors generally. (As someone with mental illness that is occasionally debilitating, I see this kind of behavior as a particular sort of problem, because every person who tries to exploit an acommodation for people like me undermines the perception of the legitimate need for accommodations, harming us all and reinforcing systemic marginalization. I don’t think this is respectability politics as much as it is “don’t scam people” politics.)

        When I asked about it, she kept saying over again “You. Forgot. Our. Wedding.” in this deadpan voice, interrupting me when I tried to explain myself, and ultimately I felt so ashamed I agreed to it.

        And this is classic gaslighting. That emotionless affect is, in my experience, a willful, intentional way to make someone else feel awful. I’m so sorry, and I’m glad you’re taking steps to get out.

      16. Wow. Okay, I have done the “Please don’t talk about that right now.” thing on occasion, when I am completely out of spoons. (The Light of My Life stays more up to date on world news than I do, and sometimes there are times when he mentions a story I am just not equipped to cope with.)

        The differences, to my mind the super important differences:

        I have not done it about rotting food in the place where we sleep. I would not do it if he was bleeding or telling me he was about to be sick. I would not do it if he came to me saying that something was wrong with the bank account and there was no money for our next housing payment. “Please don’t” is for “that’s a thing I don’t actually have to deal with right now, so I’d like to not.”

        If the LOML continues (which I want to make clear is super-rare, he is awesome about respecting boundaries on my “I cannot deal with this non-essential thing right now”, did I mention that rotting food in the bedroom is not “non-essential”), I say something along the lines of “I really cannot cope right now, please stop talking about that.” I do not follow up with wordless screaming.

        (Jesus Christ, not only screaming but wordless screaming? Something that is not even continuing the conversation but making it clear that the important thing is that the other person not be able to speak to me? This is a personal issue, but: no no no hell no.)

        That’s not okay. I understand she might genuinely be in a state where “we need to make our bedroom not have rotting food, and we means both of us so you have to do something” is a thing she genuinely cannot cope with, but that doesn’t mean it’s on you to put up with being screamed at and having rotting food in the room and also having to do the work of asking Just! The! Right! Way! to magically not get snarled at. It is not your job to set yourself on fire to keep her warm.

  38. LW, you are not paranoid. Your fiancée is treating you like your name is Mommy Mealticket. There are better women out there.

  39. Thank you so much, Captain, and everyone here!

    I have not yet had the conversation – I’ve been in bed sick all day with a really bad cold – but I will have the conversation tomorrow, when I’m hopefully feeling a little bit better. I feel much more confident with these excellent scripts and the validation that I’m not being a paranoid jerk about this.

    Unfortunately both of our names are on the rental agreement, though all the bills are in my name and all our rent checks have been from my checkbook. I’ll probably lose most, if not all, of my deposit from the carpet damage, and I’m worried that my rental history will be tarnished thanks to Dog, but at the end of the day I’d rather lose that money than half my monthly income from divorce and alimony.

    Thank you again! I will keep you updated on how it all goes. Jedi hugs!

    1. Hi! It’s great to hear from you! I hope you feel better soon and that the conversation gets you what you need. I wish you lots of strenght and luck for the tough times ahead.
      Jedi hugs back and I, for one, would love to read how you’re doing.

      1. I’m doing loads better today – yay for antibiotics!

        But I’m practically sick with anxiety over the forthcoming conversation. She came home last night after being gone all day with stuff to make my wedding dress, and if I didn’t have my all-day business trip today, I’d have brought it up then.

        I don’t even know how to bring it all up. Maybe mention the materials and segue into the Captain’s scripts? Reading the comments, and spending all day yesterday thinking it over, I think I want a full break up. This relationship is healthy for neither of us and I think in our own ways we are both miserable. And she deserves to be with someone who isn’t daydreaming about being a single cat lady.

        So! I pull the bandage off tonight no matter what. I just hope it all goes well, and will keep everyone here updated. Your support means so much to me. Jedi hugs to everyone who wants them!

        1. Good luck, be strong! I know it will be hard. But this situation absolutely needs to change, and I hope it becomes better *for both of you* in a pretty short time. Everyone is rooting for you! (And for the kitten, and honestly for the dog.)

        2. Good luck! You can do this! Please keep us updated! *sends positive vibes / jedi hugs if you want them*

        3. I’m beaming strength and resolve as hard as I can, to a point a couple hours north of LA. Please update when you can! We’re all here to support you.

        4. Good to hear that you’re feeling physically better! And anxiety sucks, but you can do this. You just need to say five words: “I’m breaking up with you”. You’ve got us all here cheering for you!

        5. Good luck, LW. Stay strong–she will pull every emotional manipulation trick there is, and it will hurt. But keep the facts in mind–you can’t trust her, you are unhappy living with her for so many reasons, and your health and happiness are NOT less important than hers. *jedi hugs, if wanted*

    2. Good luck LW!
      Just wanted to be another voice in the crowd cheering you on with this.
      You’re doing the right thing and we’re all behind you.
      Jedi hugs back!

    3. Sorta the least-important matter to address now, but you’d be surprised at what pet-specific spot treatment and a good professional cleaning can do to a carpet. Assuming she moves out, the deposit could be salvageable.

      1. If the LW’s landlord is reasonable, it might also be possible to get out ahead of this–tell the landlord the carpet needs to be cleaned and arrange with landlord and company to have the bill for it come out of the deposit, then get the rest back.

      2. The good news, LW, is that California has strong tenant protection laws, so you may not be out as much for the carpet as you fear. Check Nolo.com.

    4. Two cents’ worth from another internet stranger, if you haven’t had enough yet: the dog’s mess is probably really triggering for you (it would be for anyone) but if you bring it up, that can derail the conversation in all kinds of unhelpful ways. Stick to the two basic points of no wedding now and stopping the overspending, and likely enough the dog problem will take care of itself as one of the consequences of that.

  40. Dear LW,

    You are going to be OK, but you’re really not OK at the moment, because of this relationship. Here’s how you described your feelings about relationship: “suicidal”, “rushed”, “hesitant”, “not actually OK with me” (regarding wedding date being moved up), “too scared”, “don’t know how to deal”. “stressed to the point of snapping”, “I’m so done dealing with this” (dog), “honestly tired” (of bankrolling her ‘extended vacation from the real world’, “stressed out making ends meet”. Your relationship is making you feel like shit and is having demonstrable impacts on your financial health and mental health, and that’s not OK.

    You can see a better life for yourself: “I often daydream about being single with just my cats in a clean, organized, dog-free home.”

    I’m the LW who wrote about broken glass guy. He was similarly messy just like your point number #3, with mouldy food and rubbish and mess that were anxiety-inducing for me, that he knew was anxiety-inducing for me, and that he would not or could not tidy up. Like your point #2, although my partner didn’t spend my money directly (also your partner’s overspending on your credit cards are Really Not Okay), I lost out financially by being in that relationship, by being so stressed and distracted that I wasn’t focusing on my small business and by having to pay for expensive issues such as healthcare after being infected by an STI. Like your point #4, my ex tried to convince me to make a huge life-change (not marriage, but moving overseas away from family and friends to a country where I don’t speak the language and didn’t have work secured, as he would have) quite quickly. Like your point #5, I felt like my ex was using the relationship to feel OK about himself, to not have to look too closely at his mother’s death which related to drug abuse/his own drug abuse. Like you, I had previous mental health issues and relationship issues and was worried I was just being paranoid.

    I was in such a similar headspace as you – I was so in love with someone who I had the best chemistry and passion with, who made me laugh, who was physically affectionate, who made me feel beautiful and gave me amazing compliments. I tried to rationalise away all the bad things because I’d never been in a good relationship, I’d never felt so connected and swept away, I’d never felt like so much was possible with someone (even though the daily business of being with this person fell faaaar short of those rich possibilities).

    I had such huge cognitive dissonance over that not being enough. Especially – and I’ll be honest in case it’s a thought or factor holding you back – the fact that the amazing chemistry and sexual connection didn’t actually mean that this person adored me. I felt *so* adored and so passionate with this person. But that didn’t mean we fit together in the rest of our lives.

    It wasn’t enough. I couldn’t trust this person (I think it’s the same for you when you say ‘…postpone the wedding to make sure the fixes stick and aren’t just lip service’. I couldn’t trust them not to manipulate me (and I think it’s the same for you, with being screamed at for bringing up relationship problems). They didn’t bring out the best in me in the rest of my daily life; they brought out my weak, anxious, sad, doubting, insecure, up-and-down qualities. I wasn’t safe with them. I was so exhausted and unsure.

    You signed off asking if you’re dodging a bullet or losing the love of your life. As someone who was in a very similar circumstance, I say this with a lot of love and compassion and recognition – you would be dodging a bullet.

    You deserve so much more. So. Much. More. And more is out there. As one queer woman who got the hell out of a relationship very similar to this, a few years on, I promise you: there is more out there for us.

    You are so smart, and so hardworking, and so giving. You are kind and great. You deserve to have the kind of care shown to you that you would give out. You deserve to be with someone who doesn’t cause dissonance and doesn’t cause distress and angst and exhaustion and suicidality. Ending this relationship, or at the very least slowing it down, might feel shameful, guilt-inducing, sickening, like you are unreliably or irresponsibly ‘breaking her heart’. It’s not true. You must put yourself first. You are important, your feelings, needs and wants are important, and you are recognising important things about this relationship.

    The Captain’s advice and the practical advice of other commenters is excellent and I don’t have anything to add, except: you say you are so rushed and so busy. Right now time is being used against you unfairly. Please find some time to sit alone, maybe in a public space like a café, and read the comments, and just imagine a year or two from now where you’re rested, not exhausted. Contented, not suicidal. Where you have a dog-free, organized home. Where your efforts are supported and if you have a partner, they are met equitably. Where you come home to a place that is relaxing and freeing.

    I’m rooting for you so hard, to have that future place and life.

    1. I can’t thank you enough for writing this response. I am familiar with the story of Broken Glass Guy and wow, what a situation! I am so glad you got out. The parallels are so uncanny, and what you say rings so true.

      Speaking of rings, I lost my engagement ring about a week ago. I put it on my nightstand one night and when I woke up the next day, it was gone. I’ve looked everywhere in the bedroom for it, but nothing. Perhaps it’s a sign? I don’t know.

      You were so strong and brave to get out of that situation, and I hope I too can be strong and brave.

      1. I think you are all the good things and that you also deserve all the good things. I am certain you can be strong and brave, because you already are.

        As for the ring – maybe it’s a sign….

        Or maybe the dog ate it.

        We love you LW. It’s going to be OK. You’re just wonderful.

      2. I may be being overly paranoid here (or…just paranoid enough?) but my first thought reading that you lost the ring after leaving it on the nightstand at bedtime is: Did Not-Fiancee take it? Particularly, did she take it so that she can later guilt trip you about “losing” it and use that as a lever to get things out of you? (And possibly get money from the ring in the now.)

        1. That was what I thought when I saw that, too.

          LW, I wish you all the best, and all manner of strength to do what you need to to protect yourself.

      3. LW … being very gentle in saying this, or trying to be, but it’s very possible that your fiancee hid it, and is later going to throw a huge fit/tantrum/attack you over not knowing where the ring is. Please be ready for that. Best of luck to you.

        1. I think the odds that she took the ring to either pawn or use as guilt-trip emotional blackmail ammo are incredibly high.

          1. This thought occurred to me after the fact, that taking the ring could be gaslighting — part of making the LW feel uncertain and guilty about the loss of the ring, and as part of ‘forgetting’ the moved-up wedding date, questioning her commitment and putting pressure on her to marry. And just generally make the LW feel crazy and out of control.

            You’re not crazy or wrong, LW. I’m so glad you’re inclined to break up. That is the best, best news. ❤

      4. Ok, now maybe *I’m* being paranoid, but maybe that “missing” ring is going to come up in another guilt-inducing conversation in the near future. Sadly, I think it’s possible that the “you forgot our new wedding date” guilt is running out, so it’s time to manufacture some “you lost your ring and that shows that you are careless and don’t love me” guilt. I may very well be wrong here! It does sound like you have enough animals that one of them may have liked the shiny! But if Fiancee brings it up as a guilt-tripping mechanism, that may be a manufactured event.

    2. I’m so, so glad that you are out of there. Thank you for the update, and this is an incredibly compassionate and helpful response to the LW.

      Wishing you every happiness ❤

      1. ❤ ❤ ❤ Thank you! In large thanks to the Captain and the Awkwardeers – I kept coming back to the wisdom and compassion in the advice and comments for a long time.

  41. I’m gonna tell you from experience, there is no amount of love in the universe that will fix a relationship when your partner’s lifestyle and wants are fundamentally incompatible with yours.

  42. Hi LW. Congrats on taking action pre-wedding. I went through with mine; nearly a decade with a “partner” whose revulsion at my gender was exactly the hell you’re picturing.

    A tool you are already using is to separate your not-partner’s Words from her Actions. What she does carries more weight than what she says she’ll do.

    Her actions towards you while in your shared home are her “normal,” and her reasons why aren’t as important as knowing that these are choices that soothe her. They are more important to her than what you are asking her for.

    The Army has given you some excellent advice regarding your credit cards! I want to suggest you do this, first.
    Time to change the Netflix password, too.

    As the Captain has said that there are more homes for her than yours or her abusive parent’s.

    One thing that I’ve done was to be a resident apartment manager. This gave me an immediate place to live and I also picked up some project management, maintenence and double-entry accounting skills. It’s a stressful job to be always on call, but having to be in the building might be a plus for her. The job’s turnover is high enough that calling some management companies might net her an immediate gig and free rent.

    Following up is her job, though. She should find motivation to not go back to her parent’s.

    Be prepared for her behavior to worsen as she falls back on patterns she learned at home. (Were you told the truth about that relationship? Did you ever meet her parent? What was their version of the conflict? Did it look like the problems you’re having with her now?)

    Expect her to re-run the conflicts with her parent, with you placed in the adversarial parent role. Hide your breakables and your backup hard drive. If she won’t move out on her own, take a copy of your lease to one of those legal aid clinics.

  43. Oh, LW, all the jedi hugs. It sucks so much when you have to do something that you know will hurt someone.

    I don’t know if this is at all feasible for you, but it sounds to me like it might be possible to enjoy the good parts of your relationship with your fiancée if you two completely separated living spaces and finances. It’s really really hard to un-cohabitate without breaking up, I’m not going to pretend it’s not, but I think that kind of last ditch effort to save your relationship would suck slightly less for you than outright breaking up. Although, to be honest, I really don’t like how your fiancée treats you and hope you break up, spend some time healing, and meet a nice lady who is willing to put garbage in the garbage can. Either way, it sounds like you and Fiancée are definitely not living-in-the-same-space compatible, so something has to change.

    If it’s any help, the parents of a childhood friend of mine lived in separate houses next door to each other and seemed perfectly happy. I don’t know if they tried living in the same house first, but if you and partner kept seeing each other while living separately you wouldn’t be the only ones.

    Many others have said this, but it’s worth repeating: if you two break up and you move out or insist she moves out, that does not mean you forced her to move back in with her abusive step-dad. She may choose to do that, and she may blame you for it, but she is an adult who can look into other options. For that matter, if she does choose to move back in with step-dad, what she would really be saying is that given the choice between moving back in with an abuser and cleaning up to a minimally acceptable level and not screaming at you, she chose moving back in with her abuser.

    It’s totally possible that all of her options will suck a lot. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t have any. All of your options suck too, and it sure would have been nice if she hadn’t put you in a position where you had to either hurt her feelings or destroy your own mental health.

    Also, in case you haven’t read it already the Captain answered some letters from people in sort of similar situations (one from a person whose partner just could not give them what they needed from a relationship, and another one from a person whose partner couldn’t give them what they needed and had mental health issues and would probably have a rough time if they got divorced) at https://captainawkward.com/2012/07/23/309-310-the-broken-record/ I think the part that would be most helpful to you is You can reject someone as a romantic partner for any reason at any time, so I want to say: It’s okay to decide that someone has Too Many Problems and that you don’t want to take those on as your own. Use your judgment. Go ahead and judge. It’s not a moral failure on your part, ok? “You are Too Sad to be my boyfriend, sorry.”

    You are really and truly allowed to leave a person who would have a rough time without you. It is not your job to fix the world, it is not your job to fix Fiancée’s life, it is not your job to set yourself on fire to keep her warm. Not even if she’s nice to you sometimes. You are allowed to leave no matter how much it would suck for her to lose access to the home you pay for.

    One last thing: whether you two break up or just move into separate homes, getting that sorted out as soon as you can is the kindest thing you can do for Fiancée. It will definitely not suck less to break up or move out after getting married first. It will definitely not suck less if you let things stay the same for another year and then break up or move out. There is no amount of waiting that will make things suck less. There’s never going to be a perfect time for hard conversations. Whatever you end up doing, it’s kindest to do it soon.

  44. Hey LW!

    I just wanted to say that my beloved girlfriend also has OCD and anxiety, and I am a slobby person. We have solved this by talking to each other, and having separate bedrooms (she needs her room hotel neat, I need my books around me, this way we both get a good night’s sleep), and by her showing me what her standards for clean are and me living up to those.

    I do this because I love her. I want her to be happy. I do not want her to be stressed and upset when she comes home because I’ve left a mess everywhere. There are people out there who will love you like I love my girlfriend. There are people out there who may be slobby, but will pick up because they want you to be comfortable. You do not have to be in a relationship with someone who prioritizes their slobbiness over your needs.

    *hugs SO much, if you want them*

  45. LW, when I got out of my abusive family of origin, I too was a mess. Not that much of a mess, but definitely a mess. Things that helped me:

    1. Choosing to get a therapist.
    2. Having the other people in the household tell me that I was screwing up and that it was time for me to woman up and get a therapist.
    3. Internalizing the understanding that getting out of that situation DID NOT mean that I was all okily-dokily and ready to start adulting.

    Things that did not and could not have helped me:

    1. Having my awful behavior excused by my having been raised by deeply dysfunctional people.
    2. Having the other people in the household attempt to provide therapy.
    3. Having the other people in the household buy into my attempts to reenact my family’s dysfunctional drama but make it come out in my favor.

    Things that will definitely help YOU:

    1. Understanding that you are not your SO’s lifeline and she does not have permission from the universe to clutch on to you.
    2. Not marrying her–definitely not now, maybe not ever.
    3. Taking immediate, firm steps to insure your own material and mental well-being, EVEN IF they mean that your SO will have a tough time.

    I was going to use the metaphor “raised by wolves,” about your SO’s probable worldview, but wolf society is actually functional. Maybe “raised by the kind of messed-up society that wolves form if they are thrown together in a wire enclosure with a bunch of strangers, and then have to raise their puppies in that mess, so that the puppies inherit their dysfunction and don’t even realize how screwed up it is until they meet actual non-screwed-up non-backyard-menagerie wolves and suddenly everybody’s looking at them funny.” She has a lot of unpleasant unlearning to do. You don’t have to be around for any of it, and judging by what’s happened to you already I recommend noping out.

    1. Thank you for the reminder not to enable others. I have a history of doing that and having people do that for me as well. It did not help me no matter what end I was on.

  46. LW, I agree you need to have these conversations and that they’ll be really hard conversations to have. If I were you, I’d reread the Captain’s advice and some of the comments just before you talk to your fiancee, to center yourself and remind yourself you’re doing the right thing – for *both* of you. Fiancee doesn’t sound very happy either, and I see no reason that will change if you go on as you are. She needs to grow up a little and maybe get some therapy – and whether you two are a couple or not while she does that, healthy boundaries will encourage her toward that growth.

    One thing: if you do break up, I like the idea of providing her with a small amount of money, *if* you can afford to, so she can pay for her food and lodging for a month or so, giving her a chance to find some kind of job and get back on her feet without having to return to her stepfather. You are obviously very concerned about her safety, so I think this could help you do what you need to do without having fear for her hanging over your head. (To be clear, I don’t think you’re obligated to do this at all; I just think it might be helpful and calming for you.) But if you do this, make it crystal clear to her that the amount you’re giving her is *all* you’re giving her. Ever. Full stop, end of discussion, no matter what. And if she comes back to you when the month is up begging you for more help (which I think is likely), take a deep breath and stand firm: she cannot stay with you even for a night, and you are not giving her any more money. Otherwise, you’ll likely be supporting her for years. Remember, you are not helping her by enabling her.

    Good luck. You sound like a lovely person and I hope you soon find the happiness (and clean bedroom!) that you seek.

  47. LW, other people have covered it pretty well by now, but I am going to give you the advice I wish someone had given me when I was in my 20’s: Ending a relationship that doesn’t work for you does not make you a bad person, even if you are dumping someone who seems like they can’t provide for themselves. I spent 7 years (at least 4 years too long) in a relationship that didn’t work for me because I felt that it would be bitchy of me to dump a guy who couldn’t pay his own bills, because if I was a good person I wouldn’t care about money, right? Wrong. Please learn from my mistake.

    Now I am going to tell you something I learned just recently: Even though the world seems scarier every day (from my USian perspective) I still feel better about everything as a single person with emotionally supportive friends and family than I did in a live-in relationship with an emotional abuser.

    The breakup process is going to suck. The immediate aftermath of the breakup will probably suck too. You may miss your former partner (or at least some aspects of the relationship) for a long time. But there will come a time when a clean, calm apartment finally feels normal and you will be so glad to have gotten out.

    1. My partner has been broken up with their ex for five months, four of which involved attempting cohabitation. Every few days, and at every new step in the process of full separation and breakup, they ask me: “This isn’t overkill? This is necessary? I do have to do this?” and I reassure them that yes, this is necessary. And walk them through the “And when do you think your ex would have moved out? And how much progress had the ex made in getting a job? And what was that they said about being allowed to live with you forever?” bits, so it wasn’t just my word against the ex’s, it was actual reality-based logic against the ex’s actions, and comparing the ex’s actions against the ex’s words.

      My partner has started keeping a written log with things the ex has actually said and done, to have a record that’s out of my control and out of the ex’s control, to better detect gaslighting and other attempts to rewrite history. I refer my partner back to that from time to time.

      It is necessary to break up.
      It is necessary to separate.
      (In this case) it is necessary to take legal action, because the ex wasn’t getting out on their own.

  48. It feels like you’ve made your decision from the comments but I’d just like to say one thing about guilt. I think you feel guilty because you understand that abuse can make one desperate and can make someone behave badly. So you understand some of your partner’s behavior.

    Here’s the thing: your Fiancee’s stepdad pushed your partner into the sea. She is using you as a flotation device to get to land. You want her to get to land! But you told her you can’t breathe and she’s told you that getting to land is more important to her than you drowning. Please believe that you don’t deserve to drown because somebody else pushed your partner into the sea.

  49. Captain, your advice is excellent but there’s one part I disagree with. I haven’t read all the comments so I don’t know if someone has brought this up already.

    “The points to repeat/come back to, when she argues/yells:

    I upset enough about household stuff and money that it is making me have suicidal thoughts. For my own well-being, I need to put the brakes on things.”

    This may or may not be a good idea to share with Fiancée. LW, I hope you think hard about whether she would respect the information you are suicidal, or if she would use it against you somehow. Do you feel like you are “allowed” to have your own mental health issues? In the past, when you’ve shared something difficult or traumatic you are doing through, does she use that to understand your needs better, or to belittle or gaslight you?

    I bring this up because this letter is reminding me so much of my shitty ex (didn’t work or try very hard to get a job; blew off school after I helped pay for it; barely did chores and would act so hostile when I tried to get him to help I stopped asking; used his mental health problems as an excuse to avoid responsibility while using mine as a way to attack me) that I fear LW’s fiancée would respond in a similar way. If it were me I wouldn’t lead with “this situation is making me suicidal” but instead something like “this situation is making me very unhappy and it can’t continue.” Because frankly I do not trust fiancée with that level of vulnerability, from what I’ve read here.

    LW, I hope whatever happens, you stay safe and take care of yourself. You deserve good things, you deserve to be treated with kindness and honesty and to have your boundaries respected.

  50. Lordy, lordy, this is *so* similar to my ex-relationship. Captain’s advice is good; I received similar advice from my therapist. I especially like the separation into “immediate” and “later.” It won’t fix easily, and probably won’t fix at all, and will hurt like hell along the way, but it isn’t tolerable the way it is right now.

    In my case, I ended up with the dog, the cat, and the daughter, and made a family of it. The dog was trained, the cat was pretty cool already, the daughter received the help she needed. The Ex had some rough patches but is now safe and stable if not flourishing; we feel bad for her but she has issues we can’t solve.

  51. Um, triggers, domestic abuse and what I have to say may be utterly idiotic:

    I have been in this relationship, on both sides, [irrelevant information starts here] except that when I was in fiancée’s position, my ex-husband had backed me into a corner where I felt I was forced to marry him— triggered abusive stepfather’s temper to the point where I feared for the safety of my mother and baby brother if I did not leave. It was NOT an excuse for how miserably I behaved to my ex and myself before I finally left after years of physical and mental abuse I felt I deserved. And you know what? My ex-husband certainly didn’t deserve to be bulldozed into the role of external enforcer to my own demons! That is no way to be a husband or a human! I am happy for both of our sakes that it is over. (And still occasionally shocked to realize that my stepfather’s abusive behavior didn’t stop the moment I— “the problem”— left home, but that’s another thread.)[/anecdata]

    I don’t think that you are by any means abusive, LW, but I do think this relationship’s “check engine” light is on, and if you are to salvage it, you need to pull it over ASAP.

    If you even want it to be salvaged. It sounds like neither of you like the people you are when you are around each other.

    LW, maybe the situation is different, but whenever I have seen it and been in it, the person in your position is actually doing the other partner no favors by placing her in the position where she will call herself “parasite” and surround herself with the vicious cycle of self-perpetuating chaos and the inertia of depression. Getting out of there was super-painful, and the best thing I could have done— on both sides of the garbage-strewn bed. It’s not your job to take care of her at your own expense, but often a clean break can be more helpful to the other partner, as well.

    It would be awesome and above and beyond if you could help her find a temporary home for the dog. Maybe she can take care of it when she is forced to pull her shit together (or not), maybe she can’t, but one of the biggest regrets of my life was finding out that when I left my ex-husband, (yes, I know, shitty of me to leave a pet behind, but when I finally left, it was in a barefoot, blood-streaked, panicked run for my life) he’d just let my cat go in the woods, because it wasn’t his cat. And it wasn’t, and I had in no wise done anything good to deserve free pet boarding from my ex, but the cat didn’t deserve that. I hope I’m not veering too close to diagnostic to say that the odds are pretty good that the dog’s behavioral problems might very well clear up in a different household. A dog whose owner thinks she deserves nothing but literal excrement can very easily turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. NOT YOUR PROBLEM, but solving a problem that is SOLVABLE and helping in a way that is actually helpful may help you feel better about things, too.

    All the hugs, LW. I’ve been on the other side of it, too, and it’s so hard to be where you are! You know that there needs to be a change, and you have been so strong, and now you’ve got to be the strong, responsible one AGAIN by being the “bad guy” and making the big, scary decision that’s going to save both of you. Please take care of yourself. Your gut is screaming at you. I advise you to make the leap before it takes the decision power away from your brain.

    1. “shitty of me to leave a pet behind, but when I finally left, it was in a barefoot, blood-streaked, panicked run for my life”

      For the record: no, shitty of him to terrorize you and then punish you for fleeing by abandoning the cat. Not your fault at all! xxx

  52. The Captain’s scripts sound great. It’s possible, unfortunately, that you won’t get far into them before your fiancee shouts you down or becomes too distraught for the discussion to continue. If that happens …

    1. It’s not a disaster if she prevents you from saying what you wanted to say. The thing to avoid is letting her manipulate you into saying what you don’t want to say. (You can always take back what you didn’t want to say later, but that’s more difficult to do.)

    2. It gives you a better idea as to whether the relationship is salvageable at all.

    Good luck. You’ve got a large roomful of people cheering you on.

  53. Hi! Just chiming in as someone who left garbage and clothes and dirty plates/food etc all over the house, spends a lot of time playing video games and on Netflix, and does not earn much (minimum wage).

    I pissed off my partner. They just couldn’t take it. They have issues because they had so little control over their childhood, they were made to feel so much guilt for ever enforcing their boundaries, or expecting to be treated like a human being.

    For year – MANY MANY years, MANY – we just kind of muddled along, yes, I got better and no longer leave food or garbage anywhere it should not be. But my partner was still screaming inside, on a regular basis. My partner does not really mind that I’m really quite lazy, so long as I treat them well, and earn *some* money, and that our relationship is good overall.

    We did get married, but we had a difficult move to a city away from my friends and family, and I was deeply miserable for months. We decided not to confirm our wedding date until we were completely sure our relationship was on very solid ground, as we knew we were going to move away the following year, to another country. We almost broke up, several times, over household chores and my resentment at them for moving somewhere new. We only got married when we had no doubts that we could see ourselves being together for the rest of our lives. It is better to break up *at the altar* than get married to someone who makes you miserable and that you have doubts about. However bad it is socially – do not legally tie yourself to someone who treats you badly, and then yells at you when you stand up for yourself.

    Since I got married, we have moved several more times, and generally our relationship is extremely good. My viewing household chores as unimportant, and being quite lazy about them, continued to cause tensions. We eliminated most of them when we got a Roomba. We eliminated even more when we got a mini-dishwasher (there isn’t a lot of free space in our flat, but it’s the best 100 quid we ever spent). Meanwhile I took on more responsibility for household chores, and supporting my partner in their work by doing “wife” things like shopping, cooking, laundry, dry-cleaning; to make me feel better as I do not contribute much to us financially. But I’m still fucking messy.

    Finally it all came to a head when my partner got back from a business trip, a few hours earlier than I expected, and the house was still messy, covered in my stuff. My partner had been away from home for a long time, and was looking forwards to seeing me, and being home – and instead they found a house of crap, an unwelcoming space, an anxious and argumentative spouse who blamed them for coming home too early and for various other things too, cause that’s what I do when I panic, I try to make the other person into the wrong somehow with an unrelated argument. The end of that was that we sat down and hammered out a list of agreements that we would both stick to, in order to live together happily. If I don’t keep up my end of the bargain, I’m out on my ass (my partner pays rent and I depend on them financially). If my partner doesn’t keep up his end of the bargain, we’ll renegotiate. (But over the years my partner has done so many small things to improve my quality of life, including permanent behavioural change, so this is unlikely to ever happen or be necessary. )

    Anyway, LW, my point is that that if your partner cares about you, and how you feel about your living conditions, they WILL TRY to make changes. Indeed, those changes will probably not be enough for you – but a partner who cares will TRY. EVEN if your partner thinks these changes are unnecessary and stupid and have no meaning; they hold meaning for YOU, the person they supposedly love and care about, and that makes them important enough to try to do. Even if they say “I think it’s dumb, I will ALWAYS think it’s dumb and pointless, but if it matters to you and makes you happy, I will try my best to do it. Because you’re important to me and I want you to be happy.” (I find it useful to be able to express this personally.)

    Your partner is NOT trying. She is trying to shut down the conversation, and to make you feel bad about having boundaries.

    Even though I can see that I am far more like your partner than I am like you, I would strongly recommend that you do NOT live together. Frankly I think that you deserve better from a partner!

    Animal faeces is not something anyone should have to tolerate. It is completely reasonable to want the dog gone. A year is enough time to have toilet trained it. Do not own a dog that you cannot or have not trained (or are not in the process of training). She’s literally at home all day, supervising the dog!! A dog is not your pally-pal, human friend, it is a DOG, and dogs need to be trained or they cannot live in a house/flat with a human.

    1. EVEN if your partner thinks these changes are unnecessary and stupid and have no meaning; they hold meaning for YOU, the person they supposedly love and care about, and that makes them important enough to try to do.

      My partner and I are tidier together than we were on our own; and I find ‘I don’t want my beloved to have to come home to this’ a great motivator: any housework I do is something that _makes our lives better_. I just wish I’d learnt to show myself the same amount of love, because even on my own I deserve to live in a clean-ish and reasonably tidy place. (It got never filthy, but very messy indeed at times.)

    2. +10000000 to Roombas for people with trouble keeping neat and FOO trauma. There is just something about that enthusiastic chirrup that takes away all feeling of being judged… even if it is totally coming from inside your own head.

  54. I’m going to n’th that this relationship does not sound like it can be salvaged to a healthy one. But if you still want to try, the scrips above are great. Be aware if fiancee does take steps to change they may be short of what you need, or quickly backslide. That’s human; habits are incredibly hard to change and they’ve been entrenched for at least a year now. But have at least a few firm markers of what you want (ie, no garbage, no deficit spending, no dog doo in the house) and check in weekly if they are being met.

  55. LW, I think you should listen to your instincts here. You aren’t being paranoid.
    You say that you have been in unhealthy relationships before. Part of being in abusive relationships can be to learn to distrust your instincts, to ignore your sense that something is off. Abusers go after your sense of right and wrong, warp your view of the world and teach you to not trust yourself. Often the only sense of stability is supposed to be the abuser.
    So I think it is actually a sign of health that you acknowledge the warning signs now. Your instincts tell you that this isn’t good for your well-being in the long run and you are ready to listen to those instincts. It sounds to me like you have a fairly good understanding of what makes your life work for you (Clean house, controlled spending, no screaming etc) and it sounds you realize deep down those aren’t unreasonable requests. Those aren’t the things you’re getting in this relationship, which means at least some renegotiating is needed.
    Getting a sense of self after one might have been living with someone that’s been gaslighting and manipulating you can be tricky (I’m not saying the current partner is, but previous abuse might include this). I want to reassure you that you are on the right track.

  56. I recently learned of a phrase that gave me a tremendous amount of peace: low functioning. It’s not judgemental, prescriptive or diagnosing. Just an observation of where someone is at in terms of functioning.

    My ex is extremely low functioning and sounds A LOT like your fiancee. There is a lot of mental health issues + trauma+ learned behavior + cultural norms + enabling that groomed him to be that way and now he is so steeped in shame, making any changes is nigh impossible for him. So I left him and it was excruciating for many of the same reasons you gave of not wanting to leave your fiancee. But my life is 400,000 times better without him. Even after 5 years of living in an abusive relationship with him (abuse that he did not do on purpose, he never meant to hurt me, and none of it was calculated, but the behavior was abusive nonetheless) I still hope he gets help and feel empathy towards him. But he cannot be part of my life in any way. It took me a VERY LONG time to get here so be kind with yourself LW. Take the advice people give that resonates and leave the rest.

    If you are like me and find words and labels comforting and anti-dote to crazy-making (“hey this is A Thing!”) google “Global Assessment of Functioning.” And then maybe check out the website Out of the fog. Regardless of what is going on with your fiancee, they have some good tips and on leaving unhealthy relationships.

    And that fantasy of living alone in a clean space with cats? It’s even more glorious in real life.

    1. My understanding, as an allistic outsider, was that the terms ‘low functioning’ and ‘high functioning’ originally came about as incorrect and inaccurate terms for describing autism, and that they can be very offensive to autistic people. I was not aware of the usage of ‘low function’ that yiy describe, but wanted to warn you about the phrase’s negative connotations.

      I wanted to offer solidarity, too, as someone who was abused on and off for a decade by someone who had a highly stigmatised personality disorder. To this day I feel like an awful person for even calling what happened to me abuse (what if he didn’t do it on purpose? Oh god I know that one, and FUCK the small segment of online anti-ableism activism which has decided you can’t call it abuse if they didn’t do it deliberately, FUCK THAT), and for being out of his life. I want him to be happy and to live well, and I have accepted that I can never expect him to acknowledge, fully acknowledge, how badly he abused me and how he destroyed my life. It feels like a paradox to say that he abused me but I still want him to be happy, doesn’t it? To this day I struggle to see myself as a full person and I can be quickly plunged back into the mindset I had back then without warning.

      You have done so well to get to where you are. ❤

      1. I wasn’t aware of that connotation. And that’s unfortunate because I found it to be SO HELPFUL in understanding and explaining my ex. But I will be mindful of that, thanks.

        I’m sorry you went through that as well, and you get to define what happened to you. Pulling yourself out the wreckage of a relationship with a person like that is HARD. It took a lot of therapy and resources for C-PTSD and sites like the one above to get me to a place of peace (which is very easily rocked when I get triggered – just reading this letter triggered me) so go easy on yourself. And it’s not a paradox to acknowledge that someone hurt you, but that you don’t want to hurt him. It means you are empathetic and able to see things in grey (rather than black/white good/bad) and that’s a good thing and makes healing easier.

        Sending you internet Jedi hugs and a solidarity fist bump.

      2. Low-functioning and high-functioning are qualifiers for a wide variety of atypical medical conditions (often psychological conditions like addictions are another common usage, as well as schozophrenia, bipolar, and dementia, but it’s used for all kinds of things that impact normative functioning). Given that all mental health/illness is judged relative to social norms, and the terms are descriptive concerning the degree of functioning someone is able to maintain in their existing society, I personally think that one might as well object to classification of disorders at all if one is going to object to them (full disclosure: part of the reason I like the terms – and I do – is that “high-functioning autism” is the most useful and accurate descriptor I’ve found for my form of autism, and I don’t find “Asperger’s” and “other autism” to be an especially useful differentiation; at the same time, being pretty high-functioning, I face fewer obstacles than people whose conditions have a greater detrimental impact on daily functioning, so I don’t find the distinction additionally stigmatizing at all). Just a reminder that like any group, autistic people (I also dislike “people first” language, since I find it an awkward exception to the usual English adjective usage) are not a monolith, and anyone presuming to speak for us collectively is misrepresenting the group for whom ze speaks.

        1. Apologies- you’re right. It isn’t my place to speak on it, and thanks for informing me that the phrases didn’t originally come about as autism descriptors. To clarify, I don’t think thetigerhasspoken should stop using the phrase ‘low functioning’ in the way they are. My comment was intended to inform them that the phrase, depending on company, might be received with anything from a neutral-positive reaction all the way to ‘Oh. Fuck. No.’ This, I think, is important to tell people and I have seen very negative/hurt reactions to it with my own eyes.

          However, I feel you have read some things into my comment that weren’t there. My boyfriend describes his Asberger’s as ‘high functioning’- I know it’s a choice not a rule. I used ‘can be very offensive’ instead of ‘are very offensive. I also did not attempt to talk about the person-first language vs. alternatives issue in any way.

  57. I recently learned of a phrase that gave me a tremendous amount of peace: low functioning. It’s not judgemental, prescriptive or diagnosing. Just an observation of where someone is at in terms of functioning.

    My ex is extremely low functioning and sounds A LOT like your fiancee. There is a lot of mental health issues + trauma+ learned behavior + cultural norms + enabling that groomed him to be that way and now he is so steeped in shame, making any changes is nigh impossible for him. So I left him and it was excruciating for many of the same reasons you gave of not wanting to leave your fiancee. But my life is 400,000 times better without him. Even after 5 years of living in an abusive relationship with him (abuse that he did not do on purpose, he never meant to hurt me, and none of it was calculated, but the behavior was abusive nonetheless) I still hope he gets help and feel empathy towards him. But he cannot be part of my life in any way. It took me a VERY LONG time to get here so be kind with yourself LW. Take the advice people give that resonates and leave the rest.

    If you are like me and find words and labels comforting and anti-dote to crazy-making (“hey this is A Thing!”) google “Global Assessment of Functioning.” And then maybe check out the website Out of the fog. Regardless of what is going on with your fiancee, they have some good tips and on leaving unhealthy relationships.

    And that fantasy of living alone in a clean space with cats? It’s even more glorious in real life.

  58. All of this is such good advice. Listen to your instincts – this is an extremely unhealthy relationship and it IS abusive. It may be another form of abuse from what you’ve experienced in the past but the manipulation, the screaming, the making you feel powerless – all abusive behaviours. I agree that this relationship will probably end. If you aren’t ready to let it go yet, please do follow the Captain’s advice to protect yourself as much as possible. But I wanted to say – you are not responsible for her. She is a grown ass woman. If you end your relationship, where she goes from there is her choice. HER choice. You can’t continue to harm yourself because of what might happen to her afterwards. She has a choice in what she does. She can stay and clean up her behaviour so that you don’t have to dread being in your own house or, yes, the other scenarios that you mentioned might happen. But she can also make the choice to clean up her act, get a job (or some assistance), etc. This is just another way she is controlling the situation – you’re not responsible for the past abuse in her life (sorry if that sounds harsh) but letting her use it to manipulate you isn’t doing either of you any favours.

    And about the credit cards. Report them lost, yes. Immediately. But also ask your financial institution if there’s an additional safeguard that you can place on your accounts. As your partner, I’m sure she knows all of the normal security questions that they ask to gain access to the accounts – see if they can add an additional passcode or PIN number so that nobody can access the accounts but you. Unfortunately I think this is a necessary step, since you have already asked her to stop spending and she has refused.

    1. “I’m sure she knows all of the normal security questions that they ask to gain access to the accounts”

      Handy hint: create a series of fictional answers that have nothing to do with reality but that you can easily remember.
      For example “City in where you…” is a favorite question, so pick a city that you’ve never been to and have no association with, and use it for any question re a city.

      1. Heh, that’s what I do. After all, any of my relatives would know what my mother’s maiden name was, or where I grew up.

  59. Argh my whole comment just got deleted.

    What I was saying is that she is being abusive towards you … maybe different from the abuse you’ve experienced before but the manipulation, the screaming, the dismissal of your concerns, the running you into debt – these are all abusive behaviours. Your instincts are telling you not to get married and you should listen to them. I know you said she has been abused in the past – I don’t want to be harsh, but this is not something you can take responsibility for. She can choose the way forward for herself. If she needs help, and maybe she does, there are assistance programs that she can benefit from. But the way she’s treating you is Not Okay. You need to protect yourself and remember that she’s a grown ass woman who has options – she doesn’t have to move back in with her abusive step-father OR end up homeless, but you should make it clear that she DOES need to start respecting you or she’ll be choosing the door (and what happens after that, however responsible you may feel, is not up to you – it’s up to her).

    And the credit cards. Yes, please report them lost and get new ones sooner rather than later. I would also ask your financial institution if there is an additional safeguard you can place on your account, such as a passcode or PIN number. As your partner, I am sure she knows all of the answers to the typical “confirm identity” questions and she has already proven herself untrustworthy with money. I think this is a necessary next step.

    And for what it’s worth, I’m really sorry that you’re going through all of this.

  60. Maybe you can have a healthy relationship with her, but you would have to have some very strict boundaries in order to make it work and it doesn’t seem like things she would be ok with. You need separate finances and separate living spaces. I don’t think she means to be manipulative or abusive, but there comes a pint where intentions don’t matter. She may be trying to hurry you because she thinks marriage means unconditional love and that you will suddenly be more willing to accept the things that bother you. Marriage doesn’t fix relationships that are already struggling. If you decide to postpise the wedding instead of canceling, you should insist on premarital counseling.

  61. I’ve been with my spouse for 22 years, married 18 years. It’s work, but it’s the work of two people that love each other communicating honestly and regularly about shared goals, and changes in those goals and who we are as people and facing the crap the world can throw at you together (sickness, death, job loss, moving, kid stuff etc) even when you’re both heartsick and tired, and facing stuff from your past, and scared of the future.

    The work you’re doing (stuffing your feelings down, excusing over and over and, listening to the screaming, trying to decode the passive-aggressive ‘jokes’, being woken up in the middle of the night) isn’t what the work of a long term relationship should be.

    You’re not helping your partner, and it’s killing you inside and it is not compassionate to stay. You can get out, and the scripts the Captain is a way to protect yourself (and maybe leave) with compassion out of respect for the love you have for her. Do it now so that you’re not looking at your partner with resentment bordering on hate six months from now.

    Cancel the wedding LW. You both deserve better.

  62. LW, just chiming in to say that your gut is right and looking out for you.

    As someone who has been in an abusive relationship, I can confirm that it was better being single than being in that relationship. And also to paraphrase what my relationship counselor said when I went for counselling “Partners mental health disease is not an excuse for my needs to be not heard and met.”

    All the good wishes for your talk tomorrow. I hope you feel emotionally and physically better soon.

  63. Somehow I think when this is over Fiancee will have someone else supporting them while they do nothing but trash the living space; I don’t think she’s going to see any reason why she needs to make any changes. I give her 3 months to be cohabitating and engaged again,

    1. I’m thinking the same thing. Ms. Helpless seems very resourceful at getting whatever she wants with no work on her part.

  64. Some things that jump out at me:

    “her favorite way of being playful and joking is to act offended by something I did or said, so I have a hard time telling the difference”

    That sounds to me less like a fun time and more like screwing with your head. Her favourite game is making sure you can’t win. If both parties aren’t enjoying it, it’s not a nice joke.


    She calls you the muse for her art projects. Two things about that:

    1. How much of her time is she spending actually making art rather than just chilling out? Is it a reasonable proportion?

    2. Speaking as an artist-type and friend of many other artist-types of various kinds: that is not actually a romantic thing to say. It’s a bit worrying. The Muses were gods, not mortals with problems of their own. A human being can’t do a god’s job.

    My spouse is a helpful person, art-wise. Sometimes they’re an encouraging audience. Sometimes they make suggestions that I run with and turn into ideas. Sometimes – more often – they make suggestions and I reject them and they don’t take it personally. They work a steadier-income job than me (but I still pay my share as far as I can, including taking on freelance jobs and working hard at them). They sometimes take over childcare so I can do art time (but I still do my share around the house). They encourage me and say they love my talent. I really appreciate it all.

    They are not my ‘muse’. They are a human being I live with while I make art. The inspiration is on me.

    Maybe she’s an artist, sure, maybe even a good one, but if she’s calling you her muse … well, in this context, it’s important to remember that you’re not a magical provider of inspiration any more than you’re a magical provider of money and cleaning. You shouldn’t have to be. You have your own magic to be, whether that’s art or something else. Are you getting that chance?

  65. LW, your abuse-survivor senses are not fooling you. They are working exactly as they are supposed to.

    Also, pro-tip with trusting your instincts. Sometimes, a survivor-alarm may go off in your brain, and you may analyse the situation and decide that it is not something you need to escape from and that it is okay. Or you may analyse the situation and decide that the situation needs some work but is not The Worst Thing Ever. Or, you may not be sure how to analyse the situation objectively, and may see guidance from trusted loved ones, and they may help you come to a decision that the situation is okay.

    All of that? Is still an example of your survivor alarm working correctly.

    Fire alarms installed in houses go off when they detect something that *may* be a fire that requires attention. Sometimes the thing they detect is an arsehole trying to sneak a cigarette break in your non-smoking home. Sometimes it’s the pizza burning in the oven. Sometimes it’s a fire. The alarm is there to alert you to A Thing Is Happening, and unless the alarm is so over-sensitive that it’s going off every time you boil a kettle and preventing you from living the life you want to live, you don’t need to recalibrate it.

    All of that said.

    Here, not only is your survivor-alarm working right, but Yes. Things Are Not Acceptable At Home. Different people have different levels of needs and abilities regarding cleanliness, working, pets etc. But while relationships involve compromise, that compromise is supposed to take the form of conversations and agreements and both people maybe moving their goalposts a little closer together. It is not supposed to involve one person screaming at the other and then continuing doing the things that were upsetting the other in the first place.

    1. Love the analogy of the smoke detector! (Probably because I have an overly sensitive smoke detector in the house that screams at us if we even slightly scorch the toast. So, no worries about it not detecting a real fire.) So many times women are told they’re overreacting when they have a gut feeling that a situation isn’t quite right.
      “But what if I’m wrong, I’ll just feel so stupid” is often the response that someone gives for not following their gut. Well, so what? It’s not a crime to be wrong!

      1. I have an analogy-addition to this one.

        My neighbors a few years back had an oversensitive smoke detector. They turned it off. I guess they were going to replace it sometime.

        Their house burned down.

        Don’t turn off your detectors. Smoke- or abuse-.

  66. Practical tip: if you do have to find a shelter for the dog, be aware that there are some … disturbing allegations, let’s say, about PETA shelters. (http://www.nathanwinograd.com/?p=15160, for instance.) Saying this with the acknowledgement that I am not an expert, or even American, but you might want to play safe and find somewhere else.

    1. Petfinder is a good place to search for local shelters. If it’s a small dog there shouldn’t be too much trouble finding a home even without the housetraining, because most shelters are stuffed to the gills with large shepherd/collie/pit bull terrier/husky/labrador retriever crosses and small dogs are often rare. Unless it’s California, where “purse dogs” get abandoned in droves.

  67. Oof. I have BEEN THERE. I could have written this letter.

    One random aside – If you are thinking about what needs to happen for both of your mental health, this is not the time for couples’ counseling. A lot of folks will tell you that it IS that time, particularly the “helpful” types who hear about a postponed wedding. It will seem like a healthy and productive thing to do, but for now – wait. Abusive or potentially abusive situations do not lend themselves to couples’ counseling because you aren’t at a place where you can be honest without retribution. She needs to learn how to interact appropriately in response to reasonable boundaries set by you, which is work she needs to do solo, before you can do any sort of mental health intervention together. If you want to be a part of her getting her mental well-being together, you can help her research free or sliding-fee care available in your community and do your level best to help make sure she has a way to get there.

    Also, re: abusive financial situations. Do a full check of all your finances and run your credit. Anyone with access to your personal data can do things like open cards in your name, take out loans. I say this not to scare you, LW, but so you understand that anyone who feels entitled to put you in debt likely does not have good boundaries re: what types of financial things they can do in your name. You may even want to open a new bank account and transfer the vast majority of your cash there, ensuring she has no access. You can keep your old account open and use it for whatever shared money y’all have, but routing numbers etc. can’t be changed like CC numbers.

    1. I wanted to echo the above comment. Also think it’s important to reiterate, LW, that your ability to reach out for help and acknowledge that things are Not Okay are awesome strengths. You are brave and strong and I hope things work out as best they possibly can for you going forward.

      I also agree with @laurenscleanup. When there are unhealthy or potentially abusive relationship dynamics, such as the LW describes, most therapists would recommend against couple’s counseling. Instead, I’d like to cosign the Captain’s recommendation for 1:1 counseling. I would specificially seek out a therapist who has experience with abusive/unhealthy relationship dynamics.

      1. Yes. My partner went into couples counseling with their ex, and the couples counselor ignored signs of abuse and treated the situation as though it were a case of bad communication, and blamed my partner for not committing to the relationship with the now-ex.

        1. same thing happened with my brother and his abusive ex. it somehow became his fault that their marriage was in trouble because he did not instantly forgive her for stealing tens of thousands of dollars of marital property and transferring it to her lover.

        2. Up until last summer, I worked for an academic department that operates the counseling training program at a state university, and whilevI’m certainly not trained and certified, I learned a lot about the formal norms and regulations around counseling practice. Ignoring signs of abuse isn’t just bad practice, it’s a violation of explicit ethical guidelines here in USA (and I imagine everywhere). There are a few states where a license is not required to practice, but in all others, I would urge people to file formal complaints with both the state and professional liceneing authorities in situations like this. Our professors are extremely contientious about trying to screen out people who should not be counselors in the program (and offering guidance to those who need relatively minor corrections), but occasionally there are people who cannot be legally filtered for various reasons, and there are also plenty of for-profit degree mills that are much less concerned with their ethical obligations to the public (sadly, accreditation standards in academia have been slipping along with everything else as we’re increasingly forced to chase money, even in the public sector). Identifying negligent practitioners won’t help oneself immediately/directly, but it will help improve the state of counseling services overall.

  68. This is one of the best responses I’ve ever read on here, thank you Captain.

    I know there’s a million lines of advice above me; my only addition is: “It’s never too late to say no.”

  69. Insert NickCageBees.gif here.

    Yeah, your fiancee is up to know good by not only forcing you to marry but also forcing the wedding date to be a lot earliar (and doing all of this while you were sleeping).

    I am worried that she will try to put the date back on Earth Day in order to ensnare you again. You guys will need at least a year to sort this out before marriage comes into mind. Heck, I might even say 3. If she tries to push marriage on you, you might need to run ahead of time.

    Your fiancee is a child. And by that, I mean she has no concept of responsibility, long term planning, cleaniness, or partnership. Some people grow out of this, and some don’t. You can’t force or fix that, she has to grow up herself.

    And when you tell about postponing the wedding and the money issues, be prepared for hell. She will be pissed, she will scream, cry, make threats, and accuse. You will need to stand firm by the decision. If she gets too much, then you can leave (hell, you can leave now if you want).

    The good news is your gut feeling caught on BEFORE you married, because it is much easier to break up with someone than it to divorce from them. And she knows it too.

    1. Wait, I finially got through the comments and she’s got weapons?! And she has “jokingly” threatened to hurt you?!

      NOPE! Nopw nope nope nope nope nope sprintingoctopus NOPE

      That is dynamite ready to explode, and all it needs is a match. Forget about marriage, get outta there ASAP!

  70. Blessings from afar, LW.

    Also, the thing where someone jokes around pretending to be offended is common for people who were raised in households where they were punished for being angry. “How dare you! — no, I was just joking, don’t hit me — but now I’ve put it out there, so everybody knows how I feel, just as though I said it for real.”

    Obviously it’s a poor way to communicate boundaries, but it may help to have a sense of where it springs from. People who manipulate are often people who as children were not allowed to be direct and assertive.

  71. Money, and it making you “good” or “bad”:

    As a society, we have an utterly dysfunctional relationship with money, the kind of relationship that if it were with a human, we would have people screaming DTMFA and writing long screeds pointing out the plethora, nay, the vast horizon covered with waving red flags that is said relationship.

    Many posters have pointed out the particularly nasty and horrid goblin that is “if I were a GOOD person I wouldn’t care about money so much” that has plagued so very many of us. It’s amazing when you sit down and reason logically how tight a grip on our tender bits it really has: it’s ridiculous to think money has “no place” in love or a strong relationship, yet it’s one of our most enduring myths.

    I highly recommend Geneen Roth’s Lost and Found, which is about this phenomenon, from a very personal perspective. She and her husband lost their entire life savings in the Madoff scam, and this forced her to actually have to examine the life or death (and her subconscious really thought of it as a matter of living or dying) investment she had in remaining unconscious about money–earning it, investing it, bringing her wallet to Costco rather than “expecting” her husband to pay/be in charge of that.

  72. LW, I am just chiming in to urge you to please take the Captain’s excellent advice. I’m very worried about you, especially since you mentioned suicidal thoughts. It will be hard to make such an extreme break with the life and love you thought you were going to have, but I believe it’s the safe choice for you. Jedi hugs and please, if you can, keep us updated on how you are.

  73. It should also be noted that LW does not need fiance’s permission to call off the wedding, just like no one needs another’s permission to break up.

    You have been working on this *for a year* to no avail. The reason she doesn’t do anything about is because she’s perfectly happy with the current state of affairs, and not concerned enough about your unhappiness that’s she’s willing to change. Your efforts are met with arguments, defensiveness, and dismissiveness. Don’t let her tell you how you should or shouldn’t feel.

    I’ll be honest, I hear Bees. Apply the Sheezlebub principle. How long are you willing to live your life this way?

    Trust your gut and DO NOT get married right now. Alarm bells are ringing for a reason, and abuse-survivors often have been conditioned to ignore their own instincts. If you feel like something isn’t right, *it’s not right*.

  74. Just one more thing–if she tries to guilt you “But you SAID you’d marry/support me/take care of me for life”–you have a perfect right to say “I changed my mind.”

  75. Dear Captain, I would recommend that the future standard set of questions for a letter that sounds like there’s emotional abuse include a question or two about whether the LW fears physical abuse. The advice can become quite different, in the event.

  76. LW, when I was faced with difficult decisions that could have ultimately led to a loved one’s living in the streets and I was losing sleep worried about what would happen to them, I had an epiphany that suddenly cleared my path for me.
    I couldn’t get out of my head how I would feel if I happened to drive by and see them living under a freeway bridge and it was making me feel utterly miserable.

    And suddenly, I pictured them living with me. And I broke out into a cold sweat and almost threw up. That told me what I needed to know: I had to get out of the relationship for my own sanity and health. The physical shock of my reaction kept me firm through the rest of the ordeal. When it got difficult, I just thought back to that moment when I almost vomited on myself and doubts or fears vanished.

    If my loved one ended up under a bridge, I would be very very sad, but it would be infinitely better than if they lived with me. From that moment, I had one goal. End the relationship. For my own conscience, I did what I could so that if they ended up on the streets, I could in good conscience know that it was their own decisions that led them there, but even if I’d known for certain they’d be on the street, I knew I had to do it, or I’d probably die.

    Perhaps you can try that mental exercise of imagining your fiancee in her worst case scenario and then what your gut says when you think of continuing as you are.
    Figure out what you can *safely* do for your fiancee in terms of research or financial assistance or whatever, the operative word being *safely*, without harm to yourself, mentally, emotionally, financially. Do what you can, and if it isn’t enough, *you’ve done what you can.* Anything more is lighting yourself on fire. Be honest with yourself about what you can do and don’t take on more than you can do without sapping yourself. Beware the pernicious “should”- “I should to this” “I should do that” – that tries to make us meet some exterior standard that has no basis in reality. If in doubt, ask yourself if you’d be lighting yourself on fire, and if still in doubt, assume it would be.

    If you decide you must end the relationship, you are entitled to save yourself, regardless of the ultimate result to fiancee. If you do what you can and fiancee doesn’t step up to help herself, it’s on her if she ends up in a bad place. You cannot save fiancee from herself.

    Best wishes and jedi hugs if acceptable.

  77. Nice thing about the ‘why does he do that’ book (It had a brief note on same-sex couples I think? But a lot of it is applicable to abuse in general) is they bring up that it’s not mental health issues that cause abuse. Whatever her problems, her being abusive is unique to just…being abusive. It springs up from entitlement and for some people the entitlement stems from “I suffered ergo it’s my turn to make other people suffer” unfortunately. You need a professional geared towards dealing with abuse specifically for her to (eventually, maybe, if she bothers to try which she really isn’t) stop and that professional just can’t be the persons’ partner.

    1. “It had a brief note on same-sex couples I think?”

      Yes, a couple of pages. Including the important advice that if she accuses you of betraying LGBT solidarity by leaving her, remember that the one who actually betrayed it was her, by abusing you.

  78. LW, Fiancée may not be able to train her dog, but she’s doing her damnedest to train you. I’m so glad you’ve got validation here and have decided to make the break. I’ve got my fingers firmly crossed for you, and I’m seconding the requests to keep us posted.

    yes I have been in an abusive relationship, how can you tell?

  79. LW, I was in a bad relationship that eerily reminds me of yours, though it wasn’t as extreme as yours (the money issue definitely was similar). Two things especially jump out at me, because it was just the same for me – I was scared of hurting her feelings (or of leaving her, in fact) because she’d been suicidal in the past, and she manipulated me by having important conversations late at night when I was tired. That, and the pressure pressure pressure on whatever it was she wanted and I didn’t want, until I finally agreed. I stayed 10 years in that relationship. I wish I could have those 10 years back.

    Please please please don’t marry this woman. Marriage will tie you to her in a way that’s much harder to undo later. If you leave her now, yeah, it’ll be traumatic and yeah, it’ll be hard – but it’ll be a lot easier to get over than staying for another 10 years and then a messy divorce.

  80. I’m so sorry this is happening to you, and like others here I believe your instincts are sound. Please listen to them.

    Also: I have written a book about living large on small change, and would be happy to send you a free PDF in the hopes it will help you get your finances back on track. If you’d like to take me up on the offer, please e-mail me at SurvivingAndThriving (at) live (dot) com.

    As someone who went broke after (finally!) escaping a long-term emotionally and psychologically abusive marriage, I can say from experience that it will take time for you to feel whole again. But it’s so, sooooo worth it. I can’t imagine the life I’d be living if I’d stayed.

    Serious about that PDF offer. No strings attached! And I wish you all the healing.

  81. Note: When you’re in a relationship with someone you love who is also behaving awfully (but you love them!) (but it’s awful!) it can be really, really difficult and painful to wrap your head around the word/concept of “abusive.” If it helps you, I think you should feel free to go ahead and replace all of our “abusive”s with “unhealthy”s if you need to, for now. (You can substitute “abusive” back in later, once you’re on more solid ground.)

    Even if you feel guilty about naming something as abuse, you can probably bring yourself, even in your most uncertain/vulnerable moments, to hang on tight to the idea that everything that’s going on is “unhealthy.”

    (I’m not saying that these behaviors aren’t abusive, or that we should reframe “abuse” as merely “unhealthy.” This is a suggestion of a temporary coping strategy to help LW get through this.)

    Good luck. This is temporary. Your life does not have to be like this forever.

  82. LW: you are a normal human being, therefore this is confusing and difficult.

    What has helped me cope with confusing and difficult is to boil the situation way down into incontrovertible truths, which I cling onto for dear life. Like this:

    She has proven that she is not trustworthy.

    Therefore, you do not trust her.

    People should not marry people they do not trust.

    Therefore, you should not marry her.

    It isn’t dismissive, it’s just simpler. Wishing you lots of strength.

  83. Hi LW,

    I think you are making a very wise decision. I’ve been married for 10 years. The stuff we fought about and the stuff that annoys us about one another when we were dating– that’s the stuff that we fight about and get annoyed about 10 years in. When we got engaged, that’s what a friend of mine told me and she was right– the thing you always fight about now is the thing you’re going to fight about for the rest of your lives. Is that an argument you can have for the next eternity? You are already exhausted and suicidal, so no, call off the wedding and find someone better and more compatible with you. I promise you, you will.

    Also, as far as logistics with moving and leaving and dealing with all of the things. Look up your local no-kill cat shelter. I see you foster so you may already be in touch, but go ahead and get the cat-people network working for you so that if you need someone to house your babies for a few days or even a few weeks, you’ve got someone lined up. I volunteer at a no-kill shelter and I know our shelter will at least send out the word for people in your type of situation and try to hook you up with one of our volunteers who can take them if you need someone to. See if you can get in touch now before kitten season gets into full swing because if things look like they are going to go south in the split, it may be wise to get your kitties out for a few days.

    I wish you all the luck and peace and healing.

  84. LW: Please pay attention to your gut. Your situation seems so much like mine. I ignored my gut feelings and got married anyway. I ended up scared, crazy and considering suicide. He got more extreme as time went on and I tried to blame it on his health. I finally realized that if my daughter was in my situation I would tell her all the things that the Captain said and decided to follow my own advice.

    Your partner is showing no signs of being willing to work on her problems. I waited 35 years and had four marriage therapists who never recognized the abuse. They just couldn’t see through the manipulation. I couldn’t recognize it either, but I knew something was wrong and thought it was my fault. Even after recognizing the truth it was still hard to leave. I felt so guilty. Finally, the marriage therapist finally told me in no uncertain terms that “He doesn’t need a caregiver. He doesn’t need a guardian. It’s not a matter of physical or mental health. IT’S A MATTER OF CHARACTER!” On the way home I asked my husband how he felt about what the therapist said and my husband had no clue what I was talking about.

    Finally, I found proof that I wasn’t crazy and that he was manipulating me anyway he could. I started individual counseling and went to ACOA (Adult children of Alcoholics) which accepts any disfunctional family background, NOT just alcoholism. I could finally recognize the patterns of manipulation and other abusive behavior and accept that he didn’t have any idea that he wasn’t a Great Guy. He feels entitled to anything he wants and it only gets more pronounced as time passes.

    Please listen to all the wise advice you have been given by here, especially about your physical and financial safety. I believe that you know what you need to do. Please do it. You are not doing yourself or your partner any good by accepting her behavior and letting her believe that she doesn’t need to change her ways. Right now she is getting what she wants by any means she deems necessary. Her behavior will become more extreme as she realizes you are pulling away and she will increase the behavior that worked in the past.

    Eventually she will get worse unless she is held accountable and is able to recognize that she needs to work on herself. It is possible for her to change, but it will take a long time of hard work from her and she has to be the one to want it.

    You deserve better. I believe you are willing to face reality, now that you can recognize it and can act on it. Whatever happens next, I believe that you will be able to handle it and become happy and able to trust again.

    It took a year and putting up with a lot of heavy manipulation from my husband, which would be an incredibly long post. My divorce was final on Ground Hog Day (last Thursday), which is now my favorite holiday. It’s only been one week, but already I feel a lightness and relief that I thought I would never feel. I am officially not responsible for him and anything he does. There are some legal paperwork errors about the financial settlement, but I’m trying to let my lawyer deal with it. Normally I am the Fixer and Enabler in the family, but I am trying hard to stop that behavior.

    I am wishing you lots of strength and happiness for the future. From your letter, I know that you are lightyears ahead of where I was, and I wish that I was as wise then as you already are.

    1. Were we married to the same guy? My own emotionally and psychologically abusive now-ex-spouse had me absolutely convinced that everything was my fault — yet I still felt guilty and sad, and worried about HIM (!) when I finally fled.

      Out the other side now, and happier than I could ever have imagined being. Let me reiterate my suggest to the original poster: Please listen to your instincts — which are your heart and soul calling — and make the difficult, painful choice of calling off the wedding. Probably the relationship, too. The life you save WILL be your own.

    2. Many congrats on your new freedom! Wishing you all joy as you pursue whatever life *you* want, away from all of that!

      1. Weird – that was supposed to go on Lucielle’s comment. But congrats to you as well, Donna! 😀

    3. I’m very sorry you had to go trough that, but congratulations on your divorce! I wish you many happy Ground Hog Days!

  85. I-am-not-a-lawyer but I want to note that pets in california are legally considered property, so if you paid the kitten’s adoption fee/have your name on the paperwork/have exclusively paid for its upkeep (which it sounds like you have), you could have a decent case that the cat is your property.

    Good luck to you 🙂

  86. LW I’m rooting for you! Sending positive vibes to you and strength to say the hard thing. I know I struggle with that very thing so much.

  87. CN: Suicide

    There’s so much good advice here. I’d just like to quickly rebut your fiancee’s point about needing to get married now, but cause of the current horrible administration.

    In my country (Australia) we do not have marriage equality. This is due to a succession of governments who have been overly timid in their approach to this, even as an ever growing majority of Australians want this in place already. Late last year, the right-wing government suggested a plebiscite, to let the people of Australia vote on whether they want marriage equality or not. While on its face, this looked like a positive move, the LGBTIAQ+ community were almost unanimous in their opposition of this move. (We didn’t want our rights to be debated and campaigned for and against – we learned from the Irish experience that this often has devastating mental health impacts that result in deaths by suicide. We told our elected representatives that we wanted marriage equality, yes, but we wanted to do it well, for good reasons, in a way that wasn’t a Pyrrhic victory.

    The point of this story is that marriage is worth waiting for – you don’t need to grab onto the possibility knowing that it may be snatched away by bigots. Even if your legal right to marriage to another woman is taken in the future, it doesn’t invalidate the quality of relationship you have with her. A good relationship will be a good relationship regardless of the legal protections it may or may not have, and a dysfunctional relationship will not gain function overnight with legal protections in place.

    All the best for you, your kitten and your fiancee. ❤

  88. Sounds very similar to my relationship with my ex with the garbage in the house and the refusing to tidy and the spending all the money and the abusive parent. Only in my case instead of pets – a baby. I stayed with him all through my pregnacy despite the red flags becsue he kept telling me how much he wanted to be a dad and how good he would treat a child. Nope did not happen. After the baby was born i was visited by a midwife and i starteed crying about how he treated me. She referred to social services, social worker took a look round the house and asked me if i had anywhere to stay for a few days while ex tidied up – ex took 3 weeks to tidy up and still didnt manage it, meanwhile i was getting more and more relaxed the longer i was away. It really is easier with him gone. One day he just up and left the house we were joint tenants on and a month later i moved back.

    i had encoraged my ex to move in with me because i wanted to get him away from his abusive dad so at least part of me was thinking if i split up with him that he would have to go back. And despite the fact he had a sister and dozens of ‘best friends’ he couldn’t think of a single one he could live with, he also earned the same wage as i did that was enough for me to live in a flat alone for several years. You know what? He went back. So she could have all the options in the world and your girlfriend might have still chose to go back because its what she knows. Absolutely not your fault. She may plead and bargain but it is not your fault, it is her choice.

    Ive told my ex that i tried to make things better for him and im sorry i failed but i simply cannot do it anymore for him, it is up to him to learn to be on his own, he will never be happy until he can live with himself.

  89. I told her this morning. She freaked out, screamed, and she will. not. listen when I say I want out of the relationship, I’m sorry but I’m done, I want to leave, I am done.

    I say things and she tells me to my face that I don’t mean what I just said, that I HAVE to be fair and give her another shot, claims she’ll change, claims she never knew how unhappy I was, says she means it this time, that we’re soul mates and we belong together.

    I feel like a heartless monster, which she has called me more than once. In retrospect I should probably have gone with the Captain’s extended extrication plan instead of jumping right to “I’m sorry, I need to break up with you,” but I am just so done and ready to be out and done. I’m emotionally exhausted, she’s understandably distraught, but she is also verbally attacking me, is apparently going to rope her mom into it to lay on the guilt and manipulation and shame, and it’s not over yet.

    I still have lots of stuff over there I need to get, not to mention small appliances, furniture, and dishware. I took a few sick days off work, but I’m thinking about telling my immediate supervisor what’s going on in case I need more time or a lighter work load. My parents have been great enough to let me and 4 of the kitties stay with them, but unfortunately I may have to let her have Kitten. I don’t want to, but if it’s the only way I can get out unscathed…I don’t want to leave her there but she freaked out when I tried to take Kitten, so I left her there as a placating measure. If I don’t get to see Kitten again I will be grieved and depressed, but Ex-Fiancee won’t hurt her, I’m 90 percent sure.

    Now back for more…wish me luck! I sure do need it right now.

      2) It was going to suck no matter how or when you did it.
      3) Take care of yourself and stay safe.

    2. Hey, we’re all rooting for you. You can do this. You are so strong, and we’re all behind you.

    3. Good luck, LW! Stay safe – get your Team You together. Don’t be left alone at your old apartment with her.
      A trick my dad used when I had to drop off stuff at my abusers place was to have someone outside in a car with the engine running, so when he tried to draw me into an extended conversation I just said “Sorry, I’ve got someone waiting” and ran.

    4. I am so proud of you LW (and hope that’s not patronising)! I’m sure you feel awful and might keep feeling awful for a while, and that it was a scary, difficult conversation to have – I’m in awe of your guts! But it’s an investment in your current and future life. You were So Done. And you were right to be. You sound like you’re thinking clearly, having important conversations and looping in the right folk (e.g. possibly your boss) – you seem very rational and on-the-ball.

      You’re not a heartless monster at all.

      She can name-call, scream, pretend not to listen, try to shut you down, threaten to bring other people like her mom into this – but you did it and you’re broken up now.

      I hope after the immediate storm, the next little while involves time with people you find relaxing and nourishing while your shoulders come down from around your ears.

      It will be very sad if you don’t get to keep the kitten, but I’m glad you’re facing the idea that you may leave it with ex-fiance and may not see it again – I would hate if ex-fiance used the kitten as a way to keep you visiting/keep in touch/or another tool of manipulation.

      Honestly? You made my day, I’m going to go have a nice bite to eat and sit out in the sunshine and think about how great you did.

    5. BRAVA!
      That took a lot of guts, and a lot of heart, so dump that “heartless monster” nonsense in the trash.
      Stay strong and good luck!

    6. Good for you! Just remember, you don’t actually have to listen to anyone who wants “to lay on the guilt an manipulation and shame.” Take care of yourself and block, block, block!

    7. I’ve never commented here before, and I’ve never wanted an update as much as on your letter. You’ve done a very hard but necessary thing and we’re all rooting for you!

    8. Lw congrats. This is fantastic. And on the topic of heartless monsters I one time saw a series of photographs of criminals (the stabby sort of criminals) with their family. One that especially stood out is a man cradling his child. The point is monsters aren’t always heartless and aren’t always evil. It’s ok right now to feel guilty and like a monster. But remember even monsters have good in them

    9. Don’t blame yourself for wanting to be completely out of this relationship. She was treating you like shit, and that is NOT how lovers should treat each other? Now that this book is closed, you can move on to a much better sequel: A healthy new start.

      The first thing to do is to change all the cards this instant. Same with the passwords. And if she is tied to your account, call the bank to keep her out. She might try to steal your identity/cards in order to do “revenge purchasing”. You can easily cut her off before then.

      Then you can relax. You’re away from the shithole and are now in a clean house with lots of furbabies to keep you company. That sounds amazing.

    10. I’ve been hitting refresh all day hoping for an update like this. LW, brava and good on you. You did it. You’re doing it. You probably don’t need another internet stranger to tell you, but, 1. You don’t owe her “another shot”; you gave her all the shots already, and 2. Any claims that “she never knew how unhappy” you were are lies (although it may be herself she’s lying to); people don’t consciously manipulate other people to keep the status quo unless they know the status quo is making their victim unhappy. Don’t change your tune. Don’t give in to her pressure and manipulation. We’re all rooting for you. Good luck and be safe over there!

    11. You did it! LW, you are so brave!

      You are not even slightly a heartless monster. If you were, would you have taken so much of ex-fiancee’s shit for so long? A heartless monster would have thrown her and her pissing all over the place dog out on the street the first time it wrecked your carpet. A heartless monster would not care in the least about breaking exs’s heart or putting her in a position where she might decide her least shitty option is to move back in with her abusive step-dad, and a heartless monster would not have supported her all this time to the point of emptying your savings to take care of her.

      And you know, if you’re such a heartless monster, why didn’t *she* break up with *you*? I mean, if you’re so awful, shouldn’t she have made a break for it ages ago?

      Please be kind to yourself, LW. You’re doing a really hard thing and you’re doing the best you can. I know the next little while is going to be pretty stressful for you, but I hope you get a chance to read a book you enjoy or watch your favourite bad tv show or just sit still and enjoy not being screamed at.

    12. It can be hard to move your stuff out after a break up, so I encourage you to get some friends and family to help. Get it all out in one hit, even if it means your childhood bedroom gets packed full of boxes of kitchen stuff. Plus, having other people around might limit the screaming.

      But I’m so glad that you have broken up, that you have family helping you with this transition.

    13. GOOD FOR YOU. Absolutely doing the right thing.

      And no, you’re not a heartless monster. You’re a nice, exhausted person who has run out of ability to live with the kind of person who calls you a heartless monster. The fact that she tries to insult you back into line is just more proof that this was never going to be the healthy relationship you deserve.

      I hope we can keep supporting you here.

    14. “….that I HAVE to be fair and give her another chance.”

      The only things you HAVE to do are die and pay taxes. While I’m not discounting her pain, I’m urgently suggesting that you follow through with your departure.

      And yep, I had something like this happen to me as well: When I tried to leave my ex he begged and pleaded and cajoled and swore he’d change. Which he did — but not for long. It took another 17 months for me to get myself back out again, and for good.

      Sure, some people change. I don’t believe most will unless they’re EXTREMELY motivated and supported in the changing. (Generally, I think as we get older we become more of what we already are.) Right now I think you should listen to your gut and save your own life. And again, I reiterate my offer for the free pdf of my book on living large on small change; it could help you get your finances back on track, especially as regards paying off your debt and getting an emergency fund in place. (I have a whole chapter on what I call “stealth savings” tactics, and they don’t hurt.) Please e-mail me at the address I noted above if you want the book, no strings attached.

      Much luck and healing to you.

      1. Exactly. You don’t HAVE to do anything. There is no Great Kindergarten Teacher in the Sky who watches over you and judges whether you’re being FAIR or not. Said Fictional Great Kindergarten Teacher in the Sky would not say, “Now, LW, BE FAIR. You need to continue to take at least another year of this abusive bullshit while STBX gets her life together.”

        I’m always amazed at the amount of FAIRNESS and LOYALTY abusers demand while offering none.

    15. Oh, so much luck, and I’m so glad you have somewhere to go and be away from her and the mess.

      The extended extrication plan, in the face of someone who is willing to gaslight you and be abusive, is a recipe for exposing yourself to months upon months of “Do you want me to leave? Because I can leave!” (spoiler: she will not, in fact, leave) and other “If you valued our relationship, you’d _______!” and every other guilt-trip button she knows how to locate, and a few others besides. (This was the route that my partner took. My partner is now second-guessing their choices, and wanting things to be over already.)

      Someone who was actually heartless wouldn’t have put this much effort into making it work despite the dog shit and everything.

    16. LW, good for you! And the best thing you can do is let her have Kitten. She doesn’t abuse her animals, a nd you do not want any lingering ties to this woman. So glad your parents are prepared to offer you shelter.

    17. There’s a bunch of fascinating statistics available on how people who are very invested in the idea of soulmates actually have worse (and shorter) relationships — broad brush-strokes, but because: if you’re DESTINED to be together then ANY disagreement is a sign of The End Times, which… completely fucks up the ability to reasonably negotiate or compromise or anything, because that inherently requires admitting that you’re not Perfect For Each Other as is.

      Which I am NOT saying to excuse her, but to flag up that if she was unaware of you being unhappy it’s because she wanted to be; if she doesn’t want you unhappy then she should be asking what you want and listening not screaming at you and calling you names (!); if she was going to change she could have responded usefully on any of the previous occasions when you asked her to do incredibly basic household tasks and also would be showing a change in behaviour for the positive now rather than doubling down on all the shit. (My partners occasionally say “You doing this is upsetting me and I want it to change” to me. My response is, broadly, “fuck I’m sorry, I think things I can immediately do differently are XYZ, does that work for you? Am I missing anything you consider obvious? Would you like me to explain what I thought I was doing/was trying to do? No is fine, and I can absolutely see how the effect of what I was doing was ABC, and that’s not on.” Occasionally our roles are reversed. This is a way people can deal with things.)

      You are doing amazingly. I am stunned by you, and so glad of the update. ❤

      1. “…if you’re DESTINED to be together then ANY disagreement is a sign of The End Times, which… completely fucks up the ability to reasonably negotiate or compromise or anything, because that inherently requires admitting that you’re not Perfect For Each Other as is.”

        OMG this is the best explanation I have ever read on the Soul Mate Fallacy! Thank you for this. ❤

    18. Congratulations!

      In retrospect I should probably have gone with the Captain’s extended extrication plan instead of jumping right to “I’m sorry, I need to break up with you,”

      Nah. That option is for when you’re not sure if you want to break up. Or when you are sure, but the only way you can make yourself take any kind of action is the extended way. You knew you were done, and you were obviously capable of ripping the bandage off. Ultimately, this was kinder to your ex than breaking up with her in slow motion. And the hardest part is over with.

      1. I agree. The Captain’s extended plan was for if you weren’t sure you wanted to break up. The usual Captain Awkward advice, when you’re ready to leave, is just to GTFO, which is exactly what you did. Don’t second-guess yourself, LW – you did great. I’m kind of in awe of your courage, I have to say!

      2. I agree, too. The Captain originally wrote that she’d have recommended you to “change your locks and your phone number” if the letter stated that you wanted to break up completely. Since you have since decided that you want a full break up, this is the way to go.

        Honestly, any way that gets you safely out is the way to go, no matter how long it takes. As someone said in the Bathroom Camera Creepy Abuser thread, ex took all nice, easy and kind options out of your hands with her actions. She cannot keep you from leaving, but she has kept you from leaving on good terms. That is her fault.

    19. Oh, I’m so glad. I can see why CA went with a “baby steps” kind of approach because many people in situations like yours just aren’t ready to walk right out without, at least, some kind of intermediate space to collect themselves first. But I was wanting to scream GET OUT GET OUT throughout your letter and I’m so happy you’ll BE out sooner rather than later.

      I hope you get Kitten but Kitten will be fine even if you don’t, and you will have peace and cleanliness and quiet all around you!

    20. Well done on tackling the situation and good luck for the immediate future.

      You are not a heartless monster; the fact that you’re even concerned you might be one is proof that you’re not, because real heartless monsters don’t give a shit. And the fact that your ex is trying to make you feel like one and generally reacting in the way she is, in its own way, proof that you made the right call when it came to leaving her. No amount of issues on her part can constitute an excuse for trying to deny your right to autonomy, which is effectively what she is doing with this “we belong together” stuff.

    21. LW, it’s hard to see now because you’re in the middle of the maelstrom right now, but what she’s doing is pankicking because pushing your buttons is not longer getting her the results she wants, so she’s flailing and hitting all of them at once in the hope something sticks. (How can you be her soulmate AND also a terrrible monster?)

      The only true thing about what she’s saying is her sense of entitlement, and her belief that your function in life is to meet her needs.

    22. It is not your fault what happens now, my ex tried to guilt trip me for him ‘having’ to move back to abusive dad, but what happens to her is her decision and she has other options, you can try to tell her but she probably wont listen.

      I know the first few days/weeks you will feel like you should give her another chance but you should tell your team everything and they will keep reminding you of it and that you are not obliged to give another chance, thats what my family did and i am glad they kept me away until he gave up. It will trail off because she will run out of ideas but she may come back to try and convince you again, the longer you are away the better you will be at resisting.

    23. You are so brave and awesome! And if you trust your supervisor, definitely tell them enough to understand – that extra support, and knowing you don’t have to worry about your job on top of everything else, will be invaluable. Many Jedi hugs! And congrats on doing what you need to do to be safe and well!

    24. I am so glad you did this! Go, you! It’s frightening as hell and I don’t blame you for being scared. I think you were very brave to just take a deep breath and say no more.

      Her reaction was (predictably) awful, but if there’s one bright side, it’s that she’s validating your decision.

      Do not take any calls from her or her mom (WTF). Get a group of friends together to help you get the rest of your stuff out.

      I am so, so glad you’re getting out. Hugs!

    25. Oh wow, that sounds really rough, but good for you! Really glad to hear your parents are letting you (and your cats!) stay with them!

      You are not being unfair. Ex-fiance has been horribly unfair. She might be serious in that she didn’t know “how unhappy you were”–that is, she knew you were unhappy, but she was ok with that, so long as you weren’t unhappy enough to leave. You are making a healthy decision for yourself, and that’s more than fair.

      If no one’s suggested it, I’d advocate seeing if someone will come with you when you go to get the rest of your stuff. It’s always a good idea to have another person around, Just In Case.

    26. LW, you are capable of great love, and your remorse/guilt is 100% normal. Whenever you feel the pangs that you somehow didn’t do right by your ex, try your very best to redirect that love back to yourself. Netflix, blanket burrito, comfort food of choice, bubble bath… You did your very best, but she couldn’t give as much as you could, and her ‘best’ was still toxic and destructive. I hope you check back in as soon as you’re feeling up for it. I’m so glad you’re safe, and I wish you peace. We’re rooting for you, LW!

    27. LW, wishing you all the luck indeed. You rock, and I am glad you are out of this place.
      After you’ve changed your credit card and made sure that she can’t access your money, find someone to go into the place with you and get your things out. (Things are just things. Your safety is much more important.)

      You are so, so, so not a ‘heartless monster’ even though you might feel like one: what have you done? Broken up with her. Big deal. People break up with far less abusive partners every day. You’re also letting her stay in the apartment instead of trying to evict her (so she can figure out her future living situation with some leisure). You don’t owe her anything. Her reaction confirms that you’re doing the right thing – she’s gaslighting you and being emotionally abusive – I mean, WTF about getting her mother to guilt trip you? That’s supposed to make you love her?

      You did a very brave thing. Go you.

    28. As terrible as life is right now, and no matter what financial cost it takes to leave, this will all be WORTH IT when you look back and know you made the right choice. You’re being so strong and so brave and I know everyone is proud of you for choosing yourself.

    29. 1. CONGRATULATIONS YOU DID IT! It took a lot of courage and you did it! That’s awesome!
      2. You deserve someone who treats you with respect and makes you feel alive and recharged (not drained)
      3. You are NOT a heartless monster. You are clearly a caring person. Take care of yourself like you would take care of your best friend in this situation.

      Jedi hugs if you want them.

    30. Good for you, LW, and good luck. You’re so brave to stand up and say the things you needed to. You’re brave for knowing who you are and what you need. I know many people have already told you that you are not a heartless monster, and I will echo them: You are not a heartless monster. You are not heartless for ending a relationship, no matter what the reason. That said, it is okay if you feel like a heartless monster – you are going to have a lot of complicated feelings right now, and you should be free to take some space and acknowledge them. It’s okay to say “Intellectually, I know I am not a monster, but emotions are hard, and it is okay if I feel bad right now. It will pass, and I will feel better.” Give yourself the liberty to feel whatever feelings you are feeling, and acknowledge them so that you can move on.

      With respect to Kitten, you have said that your former fiancee has been kind to Kitten and good with her. Practice telling yourself: “Kitten has a home, where she is happy and loved. It is not my home, but it is her home.” It is okay if you still love Kitten and miss her, but she will be okay, and so will you.

      The internet is proud of you today.

      1. This is a wonderful comment, and I’m behind it 100%. I have been refreshing the comments here waiting and hoping for news, like a lot people I’m sure.

        LW, well done, SO well done. You are BRAVE and AWESOME and you have done such a tough thing, and I am full of respect and admiration for you. Thank you so much for letting us know. There are people caring about you and worrying about you world over, and cheering you on. Well done, and Jedi hugs!

    31. You can do it! You are already doing it!
      GO YOU!

      Her reaction of -immediately- gaslighting you is very telling, specifically telling you that you are doing the right thing.

    32. Another never-commenter who has been hitting refresh. Congratulations! It was brave of you to do this hard thing. I hope you find space for self-care and I hope that you know you are not a monster.

      Please remember you don’t HAVE to do anything, no matter what she claims and that you are not what she says you are, no matter how long or what kind of connection the two of you had.


      I am so, so, so proud of you, LW!

      A few immediate suggestions and/or to reiterate:
      — Block her and her Mom (WTF?) and any of her family members across all social media.
      — Consider having someone from Team You monitor any of your email accounts and/or set up filtering so any emails from Ex and Ex-Mom (WTF?) go into a “Do Not Look or Do Not Reply” folder.
      — Consider obtaining a second phone number and distribute this to only your closest vetted members of Team You with the instructions not to give it out. This way, Ex and Ex-Mom (WTF?) and any shared friends and acquaintances she convinces to take up her cause to Win You Back can call the old number while you continue your process of grieving and moving on. This has the second benefit of having actual records of call frequency and content of voice mails, while helping to minimize further discomfort and harm to you.
      — Yes, it is going to suck that Kitten will need likely need to be left in the care of Ex. Please avoid the impulse to make visiting or custody arrangements with Ex. Given how she reacted, she will weaponize Kitten as a means to Win You Back.

      You’ve got this. It’s not going to be easy, but you’ve got the strength and resiliency to move forward into a new chapter.

    34. I’m so happy to read this. You did it! It’s not over, but you will be fine. Go, you, go!

    35. Actually buckling down and doing this – your bravery is an inspiration to us all!
      The very fact that you feel like a heartless monster shows that you aren’t one – if you were, you wouldn’t feel bad about the feelings of others. (And as CA said, it was going to suck no matter when or how; there was no way to avoid the pain, and delaying more would’ve only made it worse). I know that logic doesn’t help with the immediate, lizard-brain feelings, but for me, it helps with the internal negative arguments afterwards.
      Best of luck!

    36. You are so brave. Thank you for posting an update; I’ve been worrying for you. All the jedi hugs!

    37. Good for you! That is so so hard, and you were really brave (as above, hopefully you don’t find that patronising). Please feel free to keep in touch (here, or there are also Captain Awkward forums if you aren’t aware), even if you just need a sympathetic ear.

    38. Another one here who’s been reading these comments daily. I am SO GLAD to hear this, LW! Seriously, that is a HUGE step you just took to take care of yourself. You’ve got this!

      I’ve never had to break up from an abusive SO, the closest I’ve come is breaking off a friendship with a very toxic-to-me person. And, just like you, I felt like a monster. It was scary. It HURT. It threw me for a depressive loop for a while.
      But at the same time…I was free. And as the months and years went by, I could look back on that time and see that yeah, Friend and I had some good moments, but I am so much better off without the constant stress of dealing with her. And I have full confidence that you’ll be able to look back on Fiancee the same way some day, and that you’ll find someone else better suited to you.

    39. I’m SO PROUD of you, LW! You’re amazing!!

      Also, people who don’t listen to you, tell you don’t mean what you’re saying and trying to say you HAVE TO BE FAIR by not holding them accountable for their actions, and drag other people in the situation to guilt you do NOT have your best interests at heart. Your STBX has an agenda. And it’s not making sure you’re happy and well-cared for.

      And when you hit your limit, you need to leave. Nothing wrong with that. Good job! You’re so brave!

      I hope this is the first step towards a calmer, happier life!

    40. You are amazing and so, so brave. You are not a monster. She, however, is behaving monstrously. Good luck, you’ve got this, and you’ve done the hardest part already ❤

    41. Yeah!!!

      I prayed for you this evening. May you have peace. May you be protected. May you have courage. May you be comforted.

      Also – your heartless monster comment caught me hard. It can be hard to not interlinked those things!!!! I wanted to tell you that:

      1. Even if you feel like one, you AREN’T one. You don’t have to make ANY concessions to her to make up for your heartless monsterness. PLEASE don’t make any concessions based on this. Unless you want to. But not out of guilt. It isn’t yours.

      2. You are allowed to not take on her assessment of how this feels. You are allowed to completely disregard it without any guilt. You are allowed to tell her feelings to fuck right off. Because this is how SHE feels. Not how you feel. Having been in a few abisive relationships myself, as well as being abused as a child and teen, I learned that I had to appease/manage others’ emotions because that was the only way I could be safe. No one was there to help me and I wasn’t allowed to have boundaries – so fixing how they felt was the only thing I could do to survive.

      One of the things I’m learning as an adult (I’m 37) is that I no longer have to do that. I can have my own emotions and desires and boundaries. Others can have theirs. It’s ok for them to not like mine. They can even have a lot of distress or even anger at mine. And I don’t have to care – because their emotions don’t make me unsafe (unless they do, in which case the answer STILL isn’t fixing their emotions but rather hardening my boundary through my own resources, Team Me, or formal resources like the police).

      Cheering and feeling relieved at your news and grateful for your update, and continuing to send good vibes your way for the transition and the continued self care (yeah for having a supportive supervisor! Pull out all the stop for self care here – future you will be grateful you did!).

    42. You did the thing! You said the words out loud! Whether or not she believes them doesn’t matter, really. What matters is you said them, and you meant them, and they are Real Things That Really Exist In The World, and that has to be handled somehow.

      The time Partner and I came the closest to breaking up, I was literally begging him to say it out loud. Tell me we’re done. Tell me you’re breaking up with me. Tell me it’s over. Because I knew I wouldn’t believe he really meant to leave unless I heard the words out loud, even though he was standing there with his shoes on and his backpack by the door. And he couldn’t say it, because he didn’t mean it yet. (He turned out to never mean it, but it was touch-and-go there for a couple weeks.) Being able to say a thing out loud has power, real power. And the fact that you can say it has a lot of real meaning.

    43. I’m so freaking glad to hear from you!
      1- GO YOU! YOU DID IT! You started getting out, and you are gonna get out. We told you you could do this, and here you are, doing it despite how tough it is. You rock.
      2- The only heartless monster here is your ex. After everything she’s done to you, after everything you’ve done for her, she dares to call you that?! To keep verbally abusing you?! She can go rot in hell.
      3- I’m so very sorry about Kitten 😦 I’m afraid your ex intends to use Kitten as a bargaining chip so she can keep controlling you. Best mourn Kitten’s absence as something you cannot change. I’m so very sorry 😦

    44. Brava, you amazing woman!!! So proud of you and all of your hard work! Please keep us informed.

    45. Maybe tell Ex-Fiancee that Kitten has a vet appointment on the day you get the last of your stuff? Then kitten-nap Kitten?

      Congratulations on breaking things off!

    46. My one thought from my divorce which took way, way too long. Do not let your ex manipulate you with stuff. Do not.

      On my 2nd trip to our vacation home to pick up the rest of my personal property, I got to the driveway and saw his truck there. Of course he wasn’t supposed to be there. Of course he was there to mess with me and to threaten my then-partner and whatever unpleasantness. At that time I made possibly the best decision I have ever, ever made. Ya know what I said? “Fuck it.” Fuck him thinking that I’m captive to this stuff and he gets to yell at me. So I drove 500 miles with a rental truck. So what. Fuck him controlling me by being there to harass me. So that house has my personal letters, my photo albums, my art. Fuck it. He can have all that. He doesn’t have the artist. He doesn’t have me. I have me. So there’s thousands of dollars of stuff there that I’m entitled to. Fuck it. It’s not irreplaceable. I’m not subjecting myself to one more iota of his harassment and abuse.

      Years later I’m still pissed that he took those personal items. But it was still so very, very worth it to turn the truck around and go home. I threw off a lot of shackles in that moment, in that driveway. I had that brilliant flashing moment of taking back 100% control of my own life. So very, very worth it.

      My ex had controlled me with stuff to that point. This dribble, dribble, BS of come get this little thing and come get that thing. Every single time, he’d go off on me while I was there. Even if he wasn’t supposed to be there. Even if I had a friend or witness with me.
      When I let the stuff go, I felt free.

    47. I feel like a heartless monster, which she has called me more than once.

      Yeah. Empathy is a great thing that has allowed human being to survive for 100,000 years without killing ourselves and most other life (on a global scale – we’ve done it locally more than once). It also has some deeply pernicious side effects, like Stockholm syndrome and opening us to easy emotional manipulation. That feeling is you acting in a way that’s in opposition to your empathetic impulse, and that is the absolute right thing to do here in spite of the response of your brain, because your ex is abusing your concern for her in particular and others generally. I’m so, so sorry. If it helps assuage your own guilt some, you might try looking at it like pareidolia: it’s an effect of a psychological system that is mostly useful but sometimes mistakes one thing for another thanks to imperfect evolutionary adaptation (or adaptation to dissimilar environments than those in which we find outselves). Instead of feeling bad for doing the wrong thing, you have to feel bad for doing the right thing. We’re all rooting for you.

    48. she will. not. listen when I say I want out of the relationship

      Fortunately, as the members of the Awkward Army know, whether she listens or not doesn’t matter. It only takes one person to end a relationship, and you’ve done it.

      All you have to do now is not cave–the manipulation and guilting will suck but they won’t be as bad as taking that first step. You can do it. We’re pulling for you.

    49. I’m come to this very very late, but I wanted to add that quite a few companies (especially larger ones) have Employee Assistance Programs that may have resources available for you. Often nobody outside of HR knows they exist, in my experience, but it’s something to ask about. The EAP at my current company offers access to counseling and has a fund that employees can apply to if they need money to cover an emergency. The other companies I’ve worked for have had something similar.

      Just something to consider, and I thought I’d throw it out there in case other commenters could use it. If you don’t want to divulge everything, you can always contact HR and just say, “There are some things going on in my personal life right now, and I was wondering if Company has an Employee Assistance Program or other resources that I can use.”

  90. LW, I wanted to make sure something else was mentioned. I work with DV survivors in California (in another area). The agency I work for often helps folks find legal aid, etc. There is funding in the state of California for nearly every county to have it’s own domestic violence agency to support survivors. I highly recommend seeking that out if you have the spoons because they may be able to help with many of your concerns. Re: your rental stuff, not sure if anyone else talked about it (I didn’t see it), but CA state law actually permits you to end your lease early in case of domestic violence (with some caveats). Here’s some more info: http://www.womenslaw.org/laws_state_type.php?id=14841&state_code=CA&open_id=14847

    Again, best of luck to you. You are brave and strong and will get through this.

  91. LW, I almost never comment, but as a dyke & genderqueer person, I just want to say that I read every word of your updates. I love you as I love all my queer friends who have ever had to leave an abusive relationship. You are not the first. YOU ARE DOING THE RIGHT THING.

    If you need more support for your heart and brain, consider contacting the Northwest Network, a survivor-run, exclusively queer intimate personal violence organization based in Seattle. If you call during Pacific time business hours, they will assign you a “advocacy-based counselor”, a kind of DV/community advocate who can help you navigate the whole gamut of logistical, legal, and therapeutic matters. They are the absolute best at this, and it’s free and available by phone. http://www.nwnetwork.org/support-for-survivors/

    LW, I promise you, you did not turn in your queer card or fail as a bi woman because you left her. This is not internalized misogyny or homophobia. You are choosing you, and I can’t wait for you to have a safe, quiet, clean, and cozy room for you and all your kitties.

    1. Another queer person here who is rooting for you, LW! Leaving emotionally abusive relationships is so, so hard, and I speak from experience.

      The Network/La Red is another wonderful organization that focuses on LGBTQ domestic violence – based in Boston.

      You are in no way heartless. You are doing what you need to do. You are a compassionate person with other people who love you. Remember those things.

  92. Congrats, LW, it will get easier from here. I was wondering if you’d update, thanks for doing so. Otherwise, in 11 days, on the 20th I would be wondering if you were entering into a terrible mistake of a marriage.

    You don’t owe her any chances to change, explain, start over, don’t get sucked back in.

  93. I checked compulsively for an update, too. Thank you for taking the time to check in, LW. You’ve got this. One foot in front of the other. Just keep swimming!

  94. I went through a similar break up, it got to me being so done – ex had spent all my money on drugs, waa mentally ill and refusing treatment – and when I broke up with him he got very angry and distressed.

    He said ‘you’ve killed my soul. I hate you.’ And I remember that sparked off an ocean of guilt. He made his mother call to emotionally manipulate me, made me wait a fortnight while he insisted on packing my things and I had moved out, theb he dropped the suitcases off the balcony, it was awful. So big hugs, solidarity, I know how raw this can feel.

    It’s not your fault that she is choosing to react this way. Her feelings are hers. Her mental health is hers. Abuse done to her in the past is not your fault. It’s natural to be sad for her and for yourself, for the dreams you both had. It’s ok to mourn that. But how she feels is how any adult feels in the face of a break up where they contributed to the demise. Her decision to foist it on you is not a fair reflection of who is to ‘blame.’

  95. She…called you a monster, verbally attacked you, didn’t listen and is going to get her mom to lay on guilt? That’s not someone who’s willing to work to improve things. Good luck and thank you for updating.

  96. I never leave replies here, but I have been following this thread anxiously. OP, I am SO PROUD of you for doing this. That took bravery and real courage. You are NOT a monster. You are NOT selfish for putting your mental, emotional, and physical well being first. I’m so, so glad you got out of there.

    Give yourself a few days (or weeks or months) to recover and catch your breath. Get your Team You together. Be kind to yourself. It will get better from here.

    I’m so glad you did this.

  97. LW, I hope you never need to worry about this, but there have been reasons to wonder about her physically attacking you. Are you staying safe? Because if you need advice on that, there’s a ton of people here I think would be delighted to help you work out the best plan.

  98. LW, your fiancee could be the best person in the world, but she is not currently the best thing for you. In my humble opinion.

    I think much of what you describe is her way of adjusting to grown-up-ness in an inadequate kind of way. If her dad is abusive, she didn’t learn how to be a non-abusive partner from him, right? That’s something she can learn in therapy, or after hurting you and probably many other people after you, or maybe never.

    If she has never lived independently in a place of her own or has always shared responsibilities, which enables her to duck those she finds unpleasant by picking a fight or pleading emotional pain (real or feigned), she probably has not yet learned how to manage finances, find and keep a job, keep a household clean, care responsibly for a pet, cook healthy meals, save for a rainy day, deal with insurance, etc., and these are learned skills, not innate things we all just know how to do. Yes, mental or emotional upsets or illnesses can make adulting harder, but you still have to, once an adult, learn proper adulting.

    When I was your fiancee’s age, I found adulting super hard and made some bad decisions. It didn’t help that I had undiagnosed illnesses and had been rais