#954: “I know that ‘a girlfriend is not a pacifier’ but I’m worried that I’m becoming a pacifier for my partner.”

hi captain,

i want to thank you so much for your website and lovely community and i hope this message finds you well. i’m having a hard time sorting through some relationship stuff and i’m hoping for some clarity.

i’m dating a very sweet and loving man who is still dealing every day with mental health issues due to early childhood trauma. these include ptsd, anxiety, depression (he is now in therapy for this) and nightmares. in his youth, he worked through his feelings of shame about what transpired in violent ways but that seems to be a thing of the past.

our courtship was fairly quick and we fell deeply in love, spending lots of our time together. in retrospect i should have been firmer about my need for a life and friendships outside of our relationship (especially at my age mid 20’s) but it all happened so fast. to be clear he does have friends/interests of his own but he is of the belief that our relationship is THE MOST important one in his life. he would be happy to rarely if ever spend time with anyone without/or other than me. in his words “i am the only thing that makes him happy” and “he welcomed dying before me but now wants to live as long as possible”. he constantly tells me i’m too good for him and is very insecure in our relationship. my friendships are deep and important to me and my feeling is that a romantic relationship should be something that adds to but is not the source of one’s happiness.

i was single for a long time before we met and had a very full life & was close with my family. they are thankfully still present but i spend much less time with them than i’d like because he doesn’t like last minute changes to our plans (even if those plans were netflix and pizza). i told him recently this needs to change and he agreed to work on it. because i’m the only thing that prevents him from having nightmares the idea of my being away causes him immense anxiety. sometimes i worry that he uses his trauma to manipulate me (his episodes early on often coincided with times i’d made plans with friends). we are also an interracial couple so that adds to a dynamic where anytime i express upset about his behavior or try to set a gentle boundary i am talked over, mansplained and/or the conversation is derailed due to the level of distress he’s displayed.

some of this is my fault as i’m not always good about expressing my feelings honestly and i want to hold space and be there for him. i tried to change parts of myself to make him more comfortable as he is an admittedly jealous person. i’m now doing my own work to come back to the vibrant, carefree woman i was when we met but it’s really difficult sometimes. i don’t know what to do or if the above is enough reason to leave or if i should keep showing up for myself, set clearer boundaries and love him through this.

any advice would be so appreciated,

sincerely,

trying not to be a pacifier

Dear Trying:

Thanks for the kind words!

I read your letter and I keep thinking of the person who “isn’t allowed” to be away from their job for a single day from a few months ago. They can’t even think about what they want to do next because they are always “on call.” In the short term, can you get yourself a week or even a long weekend or a few nights away from him, just to be with friends and family or hang out by yourself with your own thoughts, without being tethered to your phone to constantly soothe and “check in”?

Whatever good things this guy brings to your life (and I’m sure there must be good things here), when you’re with him:

  • You don’t see your friends and family as much as you’d like to.
  • You don’t feel like the vibrant, social person with many interests and connections that you were when you met him.
  • When you bring him your concerns, he talks over you and centers his needs above your own. Your requests for more space and autonomy are always canceled out by how much he has suffered or is suffering.
  • You feel manipulated and controlled by him.

Maybe someday this guy could be a great boyfriend, for you, or for someone. And that’s the temptation and the tragedy of the situation: You can see how very, very, very good it could be. You waited and looked for so long to find someone who would be right for you. You can have compassion for him and hold space for his feelings and believe in him and do what you can to try to get him there.

But, it’s a trap. He’s not doing the same for you. It’s good that he’s going to therapy, but he’s got to get to the realization that the things that he has suffered do not obligate you to abdicate your own needs, and then he’s got to act on that realization. He’s got to listen to you and not talk over you when you express those needs. He’s got to give you the space and breathing room that you need to live the life you want to live. He’s got to figure out how to self-soothe and get through a night without your company (the way he somehow managed to do for all the years before he met you) and without making any nightmares or anxious feelings your fault, or yours to fix somehow.

Because you need to see your friends and family and keep those relationships close and fulfilling.This is a reasonable thing to want and expect from your life.

You need social connections and relationships that are not about him. This is also a completely reasonable thing to want and expect.

You need to sometimes be able to change plans you have together. Totes reasonable!

You need to spend as many nights as you want to by yourself, without worrying about him or being a captive to his jealousy or anxieties. 100% reasonable.

You need your needs to be equal within your romantic relationship. More specifically, you need a partner who puts as much thought and emotional labor and effort into making sure you get what you need as you do into his needs. Completely reasonable.

You need a partner who doesn’t talk over you or mansplain your needs away when they are in conflict with his needs. Absolutely reasonable.

I don’t think you have that guy here, or that he’s going to become that guy for you anytime soon, and I’m so very sorry. He keeps making your reasonable needs into unreasonable things that he wants you to change about yourself to keep him happy. He puts a lot of friction up when you try to spend time away from him or talk to him about it. Even if that friction is borne out of genuine distress on his part, it’s not okay for him to put these constraints on your comings and goings and to make you do all the work of being his reason to live.

You could try some baby steps, like, planning more time with your friends and family, spending more nights separately, and shutting down the mansplaining as soon as it starts – “I’m sorry you are feeling upset, but I need this time with my friends/family/alone. I’m not doing this to hurt you, but it’s also not a negotiation, so, I’m going to hang up/leave now.” And then, importantly, physically remove yourself from the conversation to enforce the boundary, or, even better, tell him the information when you’re already separate from him, in a text: “Forgot to tell you yesterday, I can’t hang tonight – gonna go see a movie with my folks. I’ll call you tomorrow, love you!

Can you do that safely? Is your first instinct to say, “Oh wait, I can’t do that, he’ll just text me 100 times and I won’t be able to focus on anything.” Or, “Oh wait, I can’t do that, he’ll be so hurt/sad, I’ll have to cut the evening short and go take care of him.” Does the whole prospect of a night alone seem “not worth it” because his reaction will be too much to deal with it’s “easier” to just give in and do what he wants? Those “Oh, I can’t, it’s not worth the trouble” reactions in yourself are giant red flags to watch for, because it means he’s trained you to anticipate his displeasure and “correct” your behavior in advance to avoid outbursts.

If (when?) you do decide to leave him permanently, I think it is worth talking to a trained domestic violence counselor about a safety plan beforehand. You said he is sweet and kind and that is great, just, humor me here and talk to someone who will believe you immediately, who will hold the conversation in confidence, and who will help you figure out the safest and clearest way to break the news and take care of yourself.

I’m so sorry. I know you love him. I wish I had a better forecast for this being a relationship that would make you feel free, happy, trusted, and supported someday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

285 comments
  1. I think many of us have been exactly where you are, OP. We hear you, we feel you, and you are not unreasonable, not unloving, and not enough to make it better for him.

    It is with love I say this.

    You will never be able to make yourself small enough to make him better, to cure him, to give him impetus to get himself better. It will be a difficult, hard road but many of us have travelled it and will be waiting right here with a blanket and your favourite beverage.

    Much love, OP ❤

    • Madb said:

      You will never be able to make yourself small enough to make him better, to cure him, to give him impetus to get himself better.

      Quoted for truth

    • Fishmongers' Daughters said:

      Yes. That “make yourself small enough” is a great way to put it. Because… the struggle is the whole point. He’ll keep moving the goalposts, because LW’s willingness to suffer for him, to change herself for him, is *the point.* If she managed to be exactly what he demands, he would just make more demands. Which I’m sure he’s already doing throughout the relationship.

      Dearest LW, if this man did not receive unconditional love as a child, he likely twisted himself into knots trying to prove his love to his caregivers, expecting that it would be returned. That’s what love looks like to him. And that’s what he is demanding from you now. It will never be enough for him. And that’s tragic.

      If he’s in therapy, he’s already doing better than a lot of people whose traumatic childhoods have pushed them into this behavior. The therapist has the position and the skillset to help him. You do not. And sacrificing yourself for this man ultimately hurts you both.

    • Fancy said:

      I agree with this. I remember the day I realized that women don’t make men better men, only other men make men better men. YMMV and it’s not a universal principle, but it has fit many situations in my life.

      For me, it’s the reason “you will never be able to make yourself small enough to make him better, to cure him, to give him an impetus.”

      Men get motivation, strength, healthy ego growth, and impetus *from other men.* IMHO.

      Men who seek it from women are barking up the wrong tree, seeking at the wrong well, and failing themselves and their female partners. The men in my life that had this problem had passive or absent fathers and bossy mothers (patterns in partners we choose, sigh). They *wanted* to be told what to do by a woman, they expected to experience the leadership of a woman, but at the same time they needed extreme coddling and mothering by a woman.

      I was supposed to be be strong, but not too strong. Fierce, but never challenge their authority. Assertive, but never at the mysteriously wrong time. And above all else, always confident in him, always believing in him, never critical of him, and always supportive.

      The definition of exhausting, unrealistic, and impossible.

      You cannot have an adult relationship with someone you cannot calmly, fairly criticize or question, no matter how gently.

      In my experience, men learn confidence skills from other confident, good men. Men learn safe and appropriate assertiveness from other gentle but assertive men. Men learn internal safety and self-love from other men who hold a core of self-respect about themselves. This is why organizations like the Boy Scouts exist, sports clubs, and many different men’s groups. The idea is that they transmit a healthy male culture. Individual groups may not always live up to that concept, and sometimes far from it, but that’s the cultural concept. And it matters.

      I’ve seen weak, needy, demanding, domineering, traumatized man come back from interactions with strong, good men completely changed by it. And I realized it was something as a woman I could never provide. That it was unfair of them to ask if from me and unfair of me to try.

      Just as women need strong, confident, assertive women to learn ‘how to woman’, men need good men to learn ‘how to man’. I think we too often forget that, and leave men to fend for themselves, or don’t realize we can’t fill that gap for them and damage ourselves trying.

      Men gain grounding, confidence, self-respect, and growth from interactions with other good quality men. Not women. We can never do that for them on a substantive scale, not at the level of groundwork they need.

      • ‘passive or absent fathers and bossy mothers’- Ok, can we PLEASE stop blaming all perceived problems with masculinity on this dynamic? It’s overused to the point of cliche and implies we all just need to return to an imaginary time in the past when men were Men and women were Women to solve everything men choose to do to women.

        • Fancy said:

          Well, that’s why I said YMMV. This was my personal experience with specific individuals. Who specifically had an absent father (in one case) and a passive to the point of absent father (in the other case). In the first situation, the mom was bossy because she had to be. She was not an ugly person. She had children to raise and had to carry both rolls. In the second situation, the mom was an ugly person. She ran roughshod over her husband and children. Who knows why or what the psychology was there. I admired the first mom and understood her. The second one frankly scared me.

          I definitely do not want to return to some imaginary time in a fabled, not real past. Not by a long shot. The parents of my partners chose each other for some psychological reasons of their own, and carried out their lives as individuals. I am not implying what they should or shouldn’t have done as some kind of prescription. But I was left to deal with the sons that resulted from their partnerships.

          In the same way, it also goes to show who *I* pick (or used to pick). Just as these parents had their own reasons for being or not being with each other and individual people, not society caricatures, I had my own reasons for picking dudes that wanted some weird combination of domineering but submissive rescuing. Which is fundamentally irresolvable.

          I stepped away from that dynamic in relationships when I understood I was choosing these men. For me personally, I could never “fix” their internal pain. Only they could do so in the company of other men. One of these partners eventually did so. The other never did.

          As with anyone’s ‘life lessons,’ YMMV. They are not universal principles and don’t fit everyone. These were my experiences.

          • Why are you calling abusive wives/mothers ‘bossy’? That’s seriously fucking insulting to people who have been abused by their wife/mother. Say abusive if you mean abusive. The first mother you mention being bossy in a way you approve of sounds like she would not be happy being lumped in with the abusive mother by that one word. That word that brings to mind ‘oh teehee, bossy women LOL they could never actually hurt or damage anyone!’.

            A lot of people are going to have a kneejerk reaction to the whole ‘absent/passive fathers and bossy mothers’ dynamic, no matter how many times you say YMMV. I don’t know about anyone else but the reason I have a kneejerk reaction to it is because I last saw it used to explain how gay men happen. In a Christian parenting book, from the 90s. Seems like these bossy mothers (are they abusive or awesome? Who cares, lump them in together!) or these passive fathers (are they deadbeat or abused? Who cares, lump ’em in!) have a lot to answer for, given that they can also make their sons gay in a time before homophobes had caught on to ‘born this way’ and adapted their homophobia accordingly.

            I guess that’s a long way of saying, please stop attempting to use this dynamic to explain things to others, it’s insulting to pretty much everyone you have spoken about except the abusive mum who should just be called ‘abusive’ like all abusive people should. You can keep it in your head all you want, but if you start talking about it to others like you did here, you will probably find yourself insulting people.

      • Kacienna said:

        I don’t think it’s about men relating to men and women relating to women. People in general need more than one social/support/interest outlet and people in general might need professional help to be able to work through their problems and may not be in a position to have a balanced relationship until they’ve reached a certain point in their work on themselves. I definitely agree that it would be good for this guy to look for other people to interact with besides his girlfriend, but I don’t think the genders involved particularly matter.

      • ToxicNudibranch said:

        No. Just no. This is not a failure of male bonding or inadequate instruction, and reinforcing the gender binary in this fashion is pretty harmful in its own right.

        • Fancy said:

          Hahaha. Okay!

  2. Temperance said:

    LW, I don’t see anything in your letter about why you are still with this man. What are YOU getting out of this relationship?

    • More to the point – even if you are getting some needs met (you feel loved, you feel desired, the good times are really good) there are huge, huge costs to this relationship that you alone are paying, LW. These costs are not the typical price of entry in a healthy, loving, fun relationship. You will be loved and desired again, if you choose to let this relationship go and take some time out to simply be with yourself, your family and friends afterwards.

    • winter said:

      I don’t think there is any need to put the LW on the defensive like this. If they are still in the relationship, they have their reasons.

    • ‘..we fell deeply in love’. That there is a reason.

      Look, LW sounds like they are having trouble with the idea that they are even allowed to get something out of this relationship. This is a very hard lesson, and it takes everyone different amounts of time to get to that realisation. I also see a lot of self-negativity from the LW about how long it is taking and the fact that it is happening while still in this relationship. Please be kind.

      • Temperance said:

        To me, the question, while pointed, is being kind towards LW. She’s been conditioned to be this man’s support and therapist, and I think her wants and needs have been subjugated for so long that she doesn’t feel like she can have wants and needs, or that she deserves an equal partner.

    • twomoogles said:

      Well, if she wrote a paragraph about all the things she did like about him that might feel extraneous to the letter. Also when I do see people do that and then get to the problem, people tend to dismiss/pick it apart too, so I don’t really see how her writing in about the good things would really mean anything.

  3. Nelalvai said:

    “in his words “i am the only thing that makes him happy” and “he welcomed dying before me but now wants to live as long as possible””

    This is where I started having “DANGER, WILL ROBINSON!” reactions.

    I think statements like “You’re the only person that makes me happy” are secretly a forced-teaming tactic. Like, that’s what they say, but what they really mean is “if not you, then who?” and that’s not actually your problem.
    That second statement also has some hidden messages. He’s implying that he wanted to kill himself until you came along, so maybe he will do that if you leave again? That is a lot of pressure put on your undeserving shoulders.

    The Captain’s advice is sound as always, but personally, those statements are way too loaded for your own good. Best of luck, LW.

    • Ren said:

      100% agree.

    • Rhoda said:

      This makes the hair go up on the back of my neck. Years ago a woman was shot by her husband in the city I lived in, as she was trying to leave him. His relatives went on and on to the press about how “She was the love of his life” and “She was his WHOLE WORLD” and he just couldn’t bear to lose him.

      • Yes. This just happened tragically in San Bernadino, with the special education teacher whose estranged husband killed her in her classroom. Reports his social media show that he was effusive (overly, red-flag-wavingly so, to some of us) about how she “was his world”.

    • Parenthetically said:

      Yes and amen. Stuff like this sends of klaxons in my brain every time. My husband is a wonderful person and he does indeed make my life better. But he is so far from the only thing that makes me happy or gives me a reason to live. Healthy people have a variety (even if it’s a very small variety) of sources of happiness and purpose.

      LW, a deeply committed relationship doesn’t have to mean subjugating your needs and desires to someone else’s dysfunctions, however sympathetic you are to those dysfunctions and however real their cause.

      • Barbara said:

        I totally agree. Following this and the good Captain’s advice will make you (and possibly the relationship) stronger and healthier. It may prod the man to get some, or some more, professional help. Being prepared to exit the relationship, no matter the threats of self-harm on the part of the boyfriend, is important. The Oxygen Mask Rule applies here = ” take good care of yourself, before getting too wrapped up with the care of others” .

    • bemusedlybespectacled said:

      *Hozier voice* Amen, amen, amen.

      “You’re the only thing that makes me happy” is one of my immediate knee-jerk “fuck no” things for that very reason. Though I think it actually goes beyond forced teaming: it means that any attempts at fixing the situation are doomed to fail before they even start.

      Girlfriend: Why don’t you hang out with friends instead of hanging out with me?
      Boyfriend: But YOU’RE the only thing that makes me happy!
      Girlfriend: Okay, how about you stay home and read a book while I go out with friends?
      Boyfriend: I can’t, because YOU’RE the ONLY thing that makes me happy!
      Girlfriend: How about you try to deal with some of your issues on your own?
      Boyfriend: But why do that when have you, the only thing that makes me happy?

      You’re trapped in a situation where the person refuses to do any work on themselves at all, because they’ve decided that you, and you alone, are their only source of happiness. Which is bad both for everyone involved.

      • RVA Cat said:

        Note in particular the phrasing – “You’re the only thing” – THING, not person.

        • Maybelle said:

          Calling people THINGS is a weirdness in English that as a native speaker I’ve sometimes wondered at. See also, “You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me…” But in the hands if an abuser who acts to dehumanize? I feel as if they’re showing me the bulge of the gun under their jacket.

          • SarahTheEntwife said:

            Yeah, that’s a weird little linguistic quirk. When not used objectifyingly, I think it’s more referring to the event of the person being in your life as a thing. It’s like how you could say “Who’s that at the door?” “I think it’s Bob” even though it would not be at all ok to call Bob “it”.

      • I had a boyfriend who did this.

        I said, “I love that I make you happy, but I would love it even more if you learned to make yourself happy so you could be happy even when I’m not with you.”
        He said, “But I can’t do that I’m so depressed I was NEVER happy until I met you blah blah blah”
        If I ever asked him if the knowledge that I was out there somewhere and still his girlfriend and he’d see me soon didn’t make him happier than that baseline level, he was always having A Crisis and suddenly needed me more than usual.

        So I finally said, “You must be very used to feeling unhappy. I’m really sorry that’s how things have been for you. But I also have to have my own life and my own things, so if being away from me for one extra day is going to make you feel the way you usually feel, then I’m afraid you are going to have to feel that way for one more day because I have to do this thing.”

        And he went absolutely bananas. So, that was the moment I knew this guy was far too needy for me to ever be really happy with him.

    • Ubergaladababa said:

      Yep, both of these points are spot on. And OP – that doesn’t mean he’s intentionally manipulating you or that he’s a bad person or that he’s aware of how controlling those statements are. He can have totally good intentions and still be really harmful to you by treating you this way.

      I spent months of therapy working out the damage caused to me by these exact kinds of statements from a dear friend who was flailing in his own depression and trauma. “You’re the only reason I’m alive” may sound, and even feel like a compliment or a statement of love in the moment but it is so, so much pressure and makes you responsible for something you have no ability to fix.

      I love the pacifier metaphor, but it sounds to me you’re more like his lifevest, or a lifeguard. Even if you love him, even if he needs you, you need to do everything in your power (even leaving him) to make sure that he doesn’t pull you under water so you both drown.

      • lisakoby said:

        This.

        LW – you changing won’t fix this or make him safer. It just won’t. It will make you miserable, and will eventually sour anything that is sweet between you.

  4. Karyn said:

    Either break up with him, if you think ripping the band-aid off is the best policy, or try to institute some new boundaries.

    He doesn’t like plans being changed? Not unreasonable. Calendar things out in advance. He gets four evenings a week with you (or three, or whatever you feel comfortable with. Not six or seven.) Maybe you make one or two hard and fast, Tuesdays and Fridays are for the two of you. Maybe you don’t, and take things week-by-week. But 3-4 nights a week are going to be you and your family, you and your friends, you and yourself. It might be hard at first. Do things that require your phone being tucked away; if you dig it out at the end of the evening, and find 57 messages from him, only answer one. “Just finished up here, heading home now, see you tomorrow like we planned!”

    How he reacts to this will tell you what you need to know. If he tries to tell you you don’t (or shouldn’t) need these things, ditch him. If he claims he needs you more than that, tell him that he’ll be all right for a few hours–agree to text him goodnight those evenings, if you’re willing to, and think it will help. Tell him that planning in advance like this will reduce or eliminate the last-minute changes that throw him off balance. But the fact of it is not up for negotiation.

    If he takes longer than two or three weeks to adjust to this, he is not the right partner for you right now.

    • +1 Very astute advice here. It gives him a chance to work on himself and carves out the very necessary “you” time.

      Also : “Those “Oh, I can’t, it’s not worth the trouble” reactions in yourself are giant red flags to watch for, because it means he’s trained you to anticipate his displeasure and “correct” your behavior in advance to avoid outbursts.” How I wish I’d learned this 30 years ago. Be better than me and take this to heart now 🙂

    • I agree–I don’t like last minute change of plans myself, and the calendar would go a long way toward helping things, if he’s up for it. Helps establish a routine to get comfortable in. This way you’re still giving, but also ensuring that you’re getting your needs met, which is super important.

      tl;dr: great advice

      • Saira Ali said:

        I haaaate last minute changes of plans too. And it makes me wonder if this dude is maybe just silently expecting he’ll get to see the LW on such-and-such night, even though it was never explicitly confirmed with LW? Because knowing how much changes to plans upset me, my partners don’t put things-with-me in the calendar unless they are very confident they can keep those plans, barring emergencies. And LW sounds very conscientious so I have a hard time imagining she’s just willy-nilly cancelling things she’s agreed to.

        • Nanani said:

          Oh that would be gross and scary, like HE PLANNED to spend the night with LW but never actually asked? So any actual plans LW makes are “a last minute change of plans”? All manner of nope even without everything else going on in the letter.

          • JenniferP said:

            Right, “My sense of entitlement to all of your free time means that if you make other plans with someone it might be “rude” and “cancelling on me at the last minute.” Also, in the comment I deleted the boyfriend “jokes” that the LW is a “bitch” for doing this.

          • Yeeeeah that’s definitely not the same thing I was talking about with Tree, because that smacks of “I’m going to put you on the hook for not being psychic and anticipating my needs” and that is grounds for a one-way NOPE rocket ticket.

          • A guy I briefly dated in my early 20s tried that on me. He didn’t last long.

            Interestingly, he actually spelled it out — it’s always a bit surprising when abusive people just come right out and frankly tell you what they’re doing.

            It first came to a head when he called me up one Sunday and told me he thought we could go do X and Y. I said that sounded lovely, but I already had plans for the day. He sputtered a bit, then said that it was hard for him to make plans for us when I didn’t keep him fully informed of my schedule. I said that’s not how it works — if he wants to spend time with me, he can ask. He does not get to decide how to dispose of my free time. It took a couple of repetitions before he sighed and said okay.

            He wasn’t done with that one though — he then launched various attempts to push it, such as getting a bit testy when he wanted to do something last-minute and I already had plans. I promptly told him from now on if we hadn’t agreed on plans 2 days or more in advance, I was busy.

            He promptly asked me to spend the coming Friday evening “doing something”. I said sure, if we agreed upon plans by Wednesday evening.

            Wednesday evening came, and there wasn’t a peep from him. I made other plans for Friday.

            Friday night, when I got home after being out for the evening, there was this very weary-sounding voicemail from him left quite late saying that he guessed *sigh* that he was supposed to *sigh* do something *big sigh* with me that evening *huge gusty exhausted sigh*.

            I didn’t respond.

            He called in the next day or two, and sounded really puzzled at my chipper tone when I answered the phone. He asked if I’d gotten his voicemail. I said yes. He began to repeat *SIGH* that he was sorry *sigh*, he guessed *sigh* that he was supposed *sigh* to do something *sigh* with me the Friday night that was just passed. Sorry. *MOTHER OF SIGHS*

            I airily told him not to worry about it, that I hadn’t even been home, that I’d gone out for the evening.

            That brought him up short. He began sputtering that he thought we were supposed to do something that evening, in an accusing tone. I cheerily said that since I hadn’t heard from him by Wednesday evening, I made other plans, and look how well it had worked out, since he wound up not wanting to go out Friday evening anyway!

            I kid you not, he actually tried a couple more iterations of umbrage that I had not stayed home waiting by the phone for him. I kept telling him cheerfully to look at how well it all worked out that I hadn’t.

            I was ready to be done with him by that point, but I didn’t punt him quite yet out of a morbid curiosity as to what “I should control your time” performance he would put on next.

        • Anonnnnn said:

          This is what I worry about. As a teenager I dated someone that sounds a lot like OP’s boyfriend. We spent a ton of time together – some time almost every day. What counted as “plans” to him was much looser than what counted as “plans” to me, so that without me even realizing what was happening every evening became his and if I wanted to hang out with someone else I needed to plan it weeks in advance. And if one of my friends brought their SO and I didn’t bring him, all hell would break loose.

        • Kelsi said:

          Yeah I’m really wondering if that’s not the case–I was in a situation that was awfully similar in some ways, and it was pretty much that. We lived about an hour apart, so weekends were the only time we could see one another–but somehow that turned into all weekend, every weekend, from the minute I got home on Friday to bedtime on Sunday (when I’d crash and he’d drive home) were AUTOMATICALLY his time. If I wanted to make other plans, I always felt like I had to clear it with him first because I was somehow cancelling with him. But since I worked M-F 9-5, and he worked not at all…this meant I spent NO time with my other friends, whereas he could go out on weeknights if he so chose (he mostly didn’t).

    • I really like this advice. It seems like LW is struggling with whether things are “bad enough” to break up (which I totally get, I was with my jerkface emotionally abusive first boyfriend for 5 years because I thought it was normal not to like your partner and to fight all the time), but you’re totally right, she can gather all the data she needs by starting to set some boundaries. The advice to have a time limit in mind is great too, I bet it’s going to be really, really tempting to give him one more week and then just one more and then just one more because he’s really struggling and eventually, enough is enough.

      And LW, is it so much that your boyfriend doesn’t like it when you change plans as it is that he assumes absolutely all of your free time belongs to him whether or not you ever actually said “let’s watch netflix and eat pizza together”?

      While I’m at it, you really, really don’t have to hate your boyfriend or think he’s not trying to get better or have an ironclad case to present to the breakup tribunal (I stole that from another CA commentor but I forget who). You would be “allowed” to break up if he was lovely and respectful in every way and you just weren’t excited about seeing him. You would be allowed to break up if you were totally unable to explain why you wanted to. It’s your life, nobody else is entitled to be a part of it.

      • vivinator said:

        “And LW, is it so much that your boyfriend doesn’t like it when you change plans as it is that he assumes absolutely all of your free time belongs to him whether or not you ever actually said “let’s watch netflix and eat pizza together”?”

        This. Right here. I was in love with a boyfriend who would duck out of plans his friends would try to include him in every weekend because he assumed that we would be spending the whole weekend together doing whatever. But he would never communicate that to me and then he would put all sorts of hurt feelings on my shoulders when I wanted to spend some time with my friends for an evening since he and I had no defined plans. He felt entitled to every weekend with me whether or not we had even discussed weekend plans. It was not good, LW. I felt beholden to him, I felt like I couldn’t have time to myself or time with my friends, and I ultimately realized that he was guilting me into spending time with him which was so so dysfunctional for us both.

        • LW said:

          unless i let him know in advance and i checked in that the plan works for him it is basically assumed we will be together.

          • MrsLokiofAsgard said:

            I have a relative who does this with anybody she’s dating. She assumes that all free time is to be spent with the person she’s dating and then acts put out when he doesn’t tells her he’s got other plans. It makes me crazy and I’m not even dating her!!! I’m married with kids and I know what our calendar looks like and still I check with my husband to see if we’re hanging out together or if we’ve got separate plans. Why? Because we’re two people who love each other very much but who have different interests and activities and it’s not reasonable (or healthy!) to assume that our free time will be spent together all of the time.

          • vivinator said:

            I remember how I felt when I was dating him and I remember how freeing it was to break up with him. I felt so much lighter afterwards because I could finally be me again, for a lot of reasons. And it wasn’t easy coming to that decision and I’m sure you’re thinking through a lot right now. Just know that there are a lot of people here wishing you the best. No matter what you do, I hope you find a way to feel like yourself again. Because that’s really important.

          • Sheelzebub said:

            That’s not okay on his part. You have a right to your own life and your own plans.

          • Yeah, that’s a kind of entitled assumption.

            I do get where he’s coming from (you described a very heady start to the relationship, and I totally understand there being an early start during which you *did* spend all your time together), but I don’t think it’s resulting in a good or healthy place. “My time defaults to belonging to you” does not have to be the new normal.

            (And it’s okay to set boundaries now, even if you never set them before. The Captain has a lot of good advice about how it’s okay to respond to “but you never said anything before!” with “I’m saying it now.”)

            Jedi hugs, if you want them. Please take care.

          • Shadow said:

            That is not a fair assumption*, especially from someone who can’t deal with changes to plans. If he can’t cope with changes to plans (or refuses to cope when he can just bully you into compliance), then it is on him to set a clear threshold for when plans exist and when they do not, and to confirm with words that plans exist before getting huffy over so-called changes to them. “You didn’t say anything so I assumed you were coming over” is not a clear threshold.

            *If he were treating it as “well, if you don’t have anything else going on, you’re always welcome to come over”, then that’s one thing, but you’re describing something a lot more like “unless I’ve preapproved your plans you have to come over”, which is not okay. Which…why does you going out need to “work for him”? What about that might not work for him?

          • winter said:

            That would feel so smothering to me. I don’t know how I would look forward to meeting anyone – be it a friend, family, partner – if they worked under that assumption.

          • “It is assumed”

            I suggest that you will be happier if you operate on an opt in model.

            That is, unless you have specific plans to see him, you don’t.

          • Jenesis said:

            “i checked in that the plan works for him”

            Nthing the “noperocket, evil bees, flee”.

            Your schedule cannot be entirely dictated by what he preapproves of. I’m assuming you’re both grown adults who have jobs, and responsibilities, and such? What if you have to work a weekend? What if you unexpectedly get sick? Does he expect to be able to demand your presence to tend to his own illness (which, from the sounds of it, isn’t actually making him any better)?

            Even if your life and your schedule were entirely dictated by your own wants, it still wouldn’t be reasonable of him to expect this.

            Look, I know that trying to get a regular therapy schedule fucking sucks. It’s still not on you to do all the emotional nurturing work for him. However, if you care for suggestions: You say he has friends. Are they all male? Is he stuck in the “bros = fun, females = emotional labor” mentality that unfortunately plagues so many people in this day and age? Does he have trusted family members? A religious figure? What if he could call a crisis support hotline instead of frantically texting you when you’re not physically there?

            Relationships are built on compromise. Refusing to accept a slightly subpar option so that the other person can have “any options at all” is a huge red flag.

          • MuddieMaeSuggins said:

            I don’t normally get all het up about passive voice, but perhaps it would help to make a point to use the active voice to remind yourself that these are choices he is making, not random diktats from the sky. It is not assumed. *He* assumes.

          • Kelsi said:

            I have been exactly where you are. Exactly. I am so sorry–I didn’t want to hear it then, and I’m sure you don’t want to hear it now–but this is not going to work out. It will be heartbreaking and hard and very, very uncomfortable for awhile if you leave, but I promise you–I PROMISE you–that you will be a thousand times happier once you get out.

    • Also, LW can turn off her phone whenever she is out. That may keep him from pestering her at least some of the time.

    • Laura, here said:

      I recently learned that when I Block a contact on my phone, a call from that number can still leave a voicemail. It just goes to another folder at the bottom of my voicemails, and I don’t get any notifications. But, they were also texting me, which I did not see, and I learned they were getting Recieved notifications for texts that I never got. This clearly was feeding their dragon of connection. I’ve now turned off the Send Read Reciepts for that blocked number.

      I mention this as it’s prehaps a tool you might find handy during those times you want to focus on your family.
      The person I’m doing this with is someone I’d barely met before they started acting as if I’m their lifering. At the same time, their sarcastic disregard for my safety in choosing a meeting place demonstrated a contempt for me that I have grown enough to recognize and face head-on. I have directed them to call 211 and named our local Family Services center, so they could get real help from a social worker, and recover their life.

    • thetigerhasspoken said:

      I would find this level of planning exhausting and horribly claustrophobic. If I was with someone who needed this much planning, that would be a compatibility issue for me. But I agree LW would benefit from reconsidering her boundaries.

      LW, how do you feel about how you want to structure your life? Do you like to plan? Do you like a lot of free time? Do you like to stay busy and spend lots of time with different people? Do you need a lot to time alone/on your interests? How much time do you like to spend with and interact with (this includes text messages) your partner? These are important questions to ask yourself and measure how compatible your (current or future) partner is with you.

      I don’t operate well with lots of plans and structure, especially ones that center around another person. What I have found works is the stance of: “assume we will not see each other unless we specify otherwise.” Not everyone is ok with this. Many people (and it sounds like your bf) are of the opposite stance and operate with the expectation that we are hanging out unless otherwise stated and expect A Reason for those times we are apart. That makes me feel cagey and trapped and is a dealbreaker because it drains me.

      Honestly, I don’t see a lot of evidence your partner would be ok with this, or really any boundary that you set. But I think it’s important for you to consider what boundaries feel the best FOR YOU rather than trying to figure out what you need to do to keep your bf from freaking out/not freaking out AS BAD.

  5. Sheelzebub said:

    LW, I’ve been there. I’ll be blunt: He isn’t going to change. If, this early in the game, he says he’ll “work on” allowing you some breathing room, I don’t see things getting any better. If it’s bugging you now, it’s going to be untenable several years in, and he’ll be more dependent on/possessive of you, not less.

    “he welcomed dying before me but now wants to live as long as possible”. This is just not okay. It strikes me as incredibly manipulative; he’s flattering you while putting the responsibility for his well-being on you. If he means this, he needs more help than you can give him. And you’ll be miserable.

    The things you want–to see your family and friends, to have your own life, to not have this relationships take up all of your time and attention–are reasonable. You are not responsible for his feelings. You are not responsible for his mental health.

    I am sorry. I know it’s hard. And FWIW, I think you’ve communicated your needs very clearly. Clear enough for him to know what they are so that he can dismiss them, mansplain them to you, and talk over you.

    I think the Captain is right and that her advice is spot-on.

    • Agreed. Any time someone makes you responsible for their well-being, it’s a red flag.

      Also, I was in an interracial relationship where similar tactics were used, along with gaslighting and guilt-tripping. It got worse, and unfortunately, because I thought the situation was temporary (a la “sick systems”), I figured making myself smaller would *also* be temporary and that things would get better in the long run. They did not get better in the long run. I am currently in therapy because of the damage to my mental health from being treated like a doll or an emotional punching bag, and the self-blame I still have for wanting reasonable things or responsibility for ex’s mental health.

      LW, you seem like a sweet person, based on your letter. Please listen to the Captain.

    • LW said:

      thank you ❤️
      for awhile i felt that maybe i was the unreasonable one for wanting a life outside of our relationship.

      also we have discussed what more time with friends/family looks like and he’s expressed resistance to it being a weekly occurrence (even if it’s just once a week). i can’t even fathom turning my phone off while i’m away from him. he would absolutely trip if i did so.

      • Redgirl said:

        LW, I’ve been in a relationship like this and I know how easy it is to start thinking you are the unreasonable one, the selfish one, the one who isn’t giving enough. I’m out of that relationship now and it’s like walking out of a fog and seeing clearly. It’s perfectly reasonable (healthy, actually) to want a life outside your relationship. It’s perfectly reasonable to want to see friends/family weekly (or even more!) It’s perfectly reasonable to want to be able to turn your phone off for a while when you’re away from your partner (or even better, not to need to because your partner respects your time away enough not to interrupt it). And there are lots of guys out there who are totally fine with this. I know you love your partner and I know you want to help him, but I don’t think this relationship is good for you and, frankly, it’s not really helping him, either. Instead of healing and learning to take care of himself your partner is using you to avoid doing that hard work.

        You can love him and wish him well without being obligated to fix him. Frankly, you CAN’T fix him.

      • Proffie Galore said:

        “i can’t even fathom turning my phone off . . . . he would absolutely trip if I did”

        Around these parts, that there is called a Darth Boyfriend. Run. Please run. Or rather, get your escape plan in place (as Cap suggested), enlist your family and friends, and then, carefully but ASAP, get out.

        • rikibeth said:

          Slip out the back, Jack

  6. PBnoJ said:

    This whole thing is heart-breaking, but especially this:
    “we are also an interracial couple so that adds to a dynamic where anytime i express upset about his behavior or try to set a gentle boundary i am talked over, mansplained and/or the conversation is derailed due to the level of distress he’s displayed.”

    The idea that being in an interracial relationship assumes, creates, or empowers this kind of dynamic is so awful.

    Jedi hugs to you, OP, if you want them.

    • if the LW is white and the boyfriend is a POC, the LW could feel obligated to give in to him to make up for her racial privilege.

      Also, does anyone else have Iron Maiden’s song “Run For the Hills” in their head after reading this letter?

      • LW said:

        i’m a poc and my partner is white just to help y’all understand the dynamic referred to in my letter ❤️.

        • I’m a poc in a lady-lady relationship with some similar dynamics sometimes. Something I have found helpful has been to say explicitly “I am setting this boundary because I need this if we’re going to be together” and conjuring every badass, steely lady-strength I admire in others. This has become a mantra in my house. “I am telling you about my feelings even though it’s hard for me because, for now, I want to be with you. If I didn’t, we wouldn’t be together right now.”

          This sucks, LW. I want things to be easier for you. I want you to feel as vibrant as you wanna be. SENDING SO MANY HUGS.

        • Thanks for clearing that up. I appreciate it.

        • Page said:

          Honestly that just makes it worse. He’s got the privilege, but can’t handle you setting a boundary or being upset about his behavior? No. Just no.

          • wondering said:

            Frankly, this sounds like white fragility packed on top of male entitlement on top of the mental illness that creates such anxiety for him. Sounds like a very difficult situation for LW.

      • I’m trying to quash Sting’s “Every Breath You Take”, but I think our music selections are coming from the same place.

        • I was so happy to learn that Sting *hated* how people took that song. It wasn’t a love song, it wasn’t ever meant to be. Which is good, because it never sounded like one to me.

          • rikibeth said:

            Yeah. I was 13 when it came out and I have to admit, Sting’s soulful, anguished expression in the video really sold the bridge – “Since you’ve gone I’ve been lost without a trace/I dream at night, I can only see your face/I feel so cold and I long for your embrace/I keep crying, baby, baby, please…”

            But what I couldn’t see at 13 was just how much the rest of the song made it clear that she was right to get the hell out.

  7. johann7 said:

    😦
    I was really hoping the letter would pivot. LW, please set and enforce the boundaries you need, per the Captain’s advice. Your boyfriend’s reaction will tell you everything you need to know.

    If he accepts that his problems are his to manage and doesn’t push back against the boundaries, he is probably troubled but dedicated to getting better and legitimately invested in not making his problems your problems. You might be able to manage a relationship with him in this case, though you are certainly not obligated to do so, and you should reconsider if you find yourself withdrawing from important relationships again or if you are feeling otherwise restricted.

    If he can’t accept the boundaries, he’s probably both troubled and a manipulative jerk, and you need a clean break.

    I’m so sorry you’re in this situation; there’s a narrative where this all goes much better, but it may well not be the situation in which you find yourself, and it’s not worth remaking yourself entirely to entertain an unlikely possibility. Whatever the outcome, I wish you well.

  8. Maggy said:

    I was 25 when I met my now-wife, and she was the first person I lived with other than my parents. When we met, I had uncontrolled/untreated PTSD, anxiety, and depression (from an assortment of terrible things that happened to me as a teenager/college student). Being with her was one of the things that gave me the motivation to finally seek treatment, and those first couple of years were HARD.

    Even now, when I would say that I’m mentally fairly healthy, I still have nightmares and trouble sleeping when she’s not home. Then and now she has to travel for work up to once a week, and sometimes the anxiety was so intense that I could have panic attacks for up to a day or two after she came home. During all of this, I NEVER said to her that it was somehow her RESPONSIBILITY to prevent this from happening to me. She was no more obligated to stay home to prevent my panic attacks than she was obligated to be my inhaler to prevent my asthma attacks. Rather, it was MY responsibility to work on my mental health so that it wasn’t so hard for me when she was gone. We adopted a dog (was in the plans anyway, but it was one of the things that helped), I went to a psychiatrist who prescribed tranquilizers to take just for nights she wasn’t home, I talked to a couple of people who would let me stay over when I needed it or could come over if I was having a meltdown. My wife supported me during this process, but it was my process and my journey. She was just the cheerleader.

    And don’t get me wrong, this process sucked so bad! And my wife found it really stressful too, because she loves me and doesn’t want to see me suffer. It’s natural to worry about a partner who is going through things like this. But because we were in a healthy, mutually supportive relationship, she still went on overnight work trips, and even on some overnight fun trips with friends. These were valid priorities! Our relationship was better for it.

    I’m a little worried because right at the end you threw in “if this is enough reason to leave.” You don’t need a reason to leave. Wanting to leave is enough reason to leave — just because he leaves the toilet seat up or you’ve decided you prefer redheads or because you think he’s a shitty boyfriend and you don’t like the person you are with him. You don’t have to justify yourself if you want to leave.

    If you stay, though, remember that sometimes what looks like helping is actually just enabling.

    • gemmaem said:

      That sounds really tough. Thanks so much for this comment, though, because it really helps to see an example of what managing a difficult problem without leaning on your partner for everything would look like. It’s great that you were so creative in looking for more possible solutions.

    • Ginger said:

      If you stay, though, remember that sometimes what looks like helping is actually just enabling.

      Quoted for truth. I remind myself of this a lot.

    • Spider Hero said:

      Thank you for sharing this. I really appreciate seeing how an alternative to OP’s situation would be (having been in similar and not feeling I could ask for better).
      So sorry you went through that, but you did so in a kind, thoughtful way that preserved your loved one and relationship and I am in awe of your strength.
      I have so much to think about! Thank you!

    • Furbaby's Mama said:

      Right now I have pretty severe anxiety/depression because of pregnancy and not being able to take meds. Once or twice I have told my partner I need them to come to bed with me and cuddle, or that they are the only one who can soothe an incipient panic attack. However, I never put that on them at any other time, and it is certainly not a blanket *all anxiety attacks are their responsibility to solve* – just the immediate one where I need that attention. Once I can go back on medication I will and it will go back to being me managing my issues with their loving support.

      • Turquoise Dragon said:

        All the jedi cuddles if you want them. I am lucky enough that my depression doesn’t need medication, so I didn’t have that added stress during my pregnancy, but being pregnant can be really hard in ways you never anticipated, even if you planned the pregnancy and are excited about it. Speaking as the parent of a four-month-old, being NOT pregnant is so awesome I can’t begin to describe it, and we very carefully planned the pregnancy. Hold on a little longer, it gets soooo much better.

  9. PBnoJ said:

    My longer commment was possibly eaten by the internet – in short, Jedi hugs if you want them, OP.

    • winter said:

      First comments (with an email adress or also the first comment in a thread) can be eaten by spam. The Captain fishes them out when she gets to them though 🙂

  10. “you’re the only thing that makes me happy” well, you’re not a thing, you’re not a shiny bauble to keep him distracted from everything else in the world. do not sell yourself short, LW. You deserve someone who complements you, not accessorizes you.

  11. It’s never good to be the ONLY thing that makes someone happy.

  12. consolare Garcia said:

    I’m concerned about your safety. The longer you stay, the more dangerous it gets because the more he thinks he can’t live without you and that you owe him.

    • B. said:

      I’m also concerned about the LW’s safety. Too-quick descent into relationship + confirmed violent tendencies in her boyfriend’s past + isolation from her friends and family + “you are the sole reason for my life, peace and happiness” + race and gender privilege favoring the boyfriend = DANGER. ABORT MISSION

  13. Private Editor said:

    Oh, LW, I am so sorry. This person is not treating you the way a good partner should. Please heed the Captain’s advice. It’s good advice. Like Wastelanderone said, we’ve been there and we’ve got your back. All the Jedi hugs if you want them.

  14. allreb said:

    Oh LW, I’m sorry. It sounds like you’re dating a slightly amped up version a guy I used to — who was brilliant and fun, but also had mental health issues that manifested as severe paranoia and anxiety at night. He couldn’t fall asleep if I wasn’t there… and guess what? I couldn’t sleep if I *was* there, for various reasons. But guess which one of us always ended up getting their sleep? He would promise me every day he wouldn’t call that night no matter how upset he got, because I was so exhausted and sad and anxious myself from dealing with him…and then he’d call anyway, and cry and/or otherwise freak out, if I didn’t go help him. So I always did.

    I felt a lot like you did — that I just wasn’t enforcing my boundaries enough, so it was kind of my fault, too. I just didn’t want to leave him to be upset when I could help! And I didn’t want my refusing to help to make things worse! And I ignored the little voice in my mind that said this was unfair and I was unhappy, because I loved him.

    We eventually broke up. He was devastated. I was sad… but so, so, SO relieved.

    (He called me a few nights after we broke up – anxiety, etc. I ignored his call. I felt so guilty, but relieved about that, too.)

    If you’re changing yourself to try to avoid making him jealous, if you’re not feeling happy and engaged in your life because of him, and if he’s not listening to you when you’re unhappy… those are not good signs. If you, like I did, have that little voice saying that maybe, maybe it would be easier and better for you to just end it, please listen. Because it WILL be a relief. And you deserve to sleep at night just as much as he does.

  15. Tree said:

    I agree with most of this advice, but I don’t know if texting him last minute to say “sorry, I forgot, but I’m [insert other activity] tonight” is the best thing. Personally, I like having advanced notice if plans change, and I’m not a needy person – I just like being able to plan my evening. When my husband texts to say that he’s going to dinner THAT EVENING with some friends, it annoys me far more than if he gives me a few days’ or even a single day’s notice. It’s just common courtesy.

    I’m not sure, in this case, if it would send him into a more serious panic, or if this would be something the LW would want or not want to deal with – I presume you know better, LW – but it seems excessively callous to dismiss his feelings like that. I know part of the advice is designed to get him to deal with LW’s having a life of her own. To that end, I think the best options are a) commit to working on this issue with him, more seriously with him. Set boundaries (say – “I’m going out on x day” and give him plenty of prep time, then commit to ignoring your phone whilst out, for example), encourage therapy, and be prepared to be in it for the long haul, because this is going to take a LONG time, or b) plan to break up as soon as possible. It’s up to you, LW, to decide which you want, but don’t engage in mind games and dishonesty.

    • Yeah, I wouldn’t like this either–a last minute text that didn’t convey extenuating circumstances (illness or some other emergency) would raise red flags, namely that the person in question did not value my time or me. And it hurts a lot to be treated this way.

      • Tree said:

        Precisely. If it happened often enough, even a perfectly independent person would start to feel deserted.

    • I see where you’re coming from, although I have to admit I don’t have a huge amount of sympathy for boyfriend here. If he makes it a terrible experience to tell him about changed plans in person then he doesn’t get to complain if he gets texted instead.

      That said, I hate changing my plans at the last minute too. For me it’s less about what my husband is doing than about what I’m doing – if I was planning to go home and have people-free quiet time then dammit I want my people-free quiet time 🙂

      I think there’s a compromise to be had, though. What if LW were to text boyfriend early in her day while she was at work about her plans with friends the next day/in two days/whatever? My thinking is that if she texts early in the day, then boyfriend gets most of a work day to have his feelings about her plans and mentally prepare to spend an evening alone. If he still guilt trips her even with that much notice, that’s a really bad sign.

      • Tree said:

        Yeah, I can’t say that I have a lot of sympathy either, but if the LW is going to cut ties, she should cut ties and be done with it instead of slowly stringing him along while avoiding him with last minute plans. It’s up to her to say how much notice she’s willing to give, or how much she thinks would be cruel vs. necessary, but saying “I’m going out with friends tomorrow,” is not unreasonable to me. Saying “I’m going out with friends this evening,” at say, 4PM when I had a reasonable expectation of having dinner together (or whatever) is kind of annoying, and might trigger my paranoia and feelings of rejection. Everyone is different though.

        • JenniferP said:

          Your views are noted. Nobody needs lectures about “common courtesy.”

          Let’s drop this derail. The LW is a considerate, courteous person in a controlling relationship. The boyfriend doesn’t like her making plans that don’t include him even when there is plenty of notice and negotiation, so, one tactic for buying breathing space is to treat it less like asking for permission and to move the default away from “every day is OUR day.” It gives less time for anxiety to build up.’

          Also, if my husband texts me at 4 pm and says “I am grabbing dinner with a friend after work, don’t plan on me for dinner” it would be just fine. We own Tupperware, he was probably the one who was gonna make dinner, I will see his ass later, or, tomorrow, or, every day for the rest of our lives. My point being that this stuff is negotiable and negotiated over time. You and your spouse have a different understanding, ok. The LW is not being *allowed* to negotiate this in a way that works for her, so the suggestion was don’t treat it so much like a negotiation.

          • Karyn said:

            Cap’n: Can I derail to squee about you saying ‘my husband’? Late to the party, but congrats on the wedding, and best wishes to you both!

          • Anonnnnn said:

            Yep. People have different amounts of advance notice they like and that’s okay. But if you are someone who haaaaaates last minute plan changes, I think the trade off you need to be willing to accept is your partner not making plans with you as often.

            My husband and I are both pretty chill about last minute reschedules (especially for plans that amounted to “pizza and Netflix”), but I’ve had past relationships with boyfriends who really didn’t like that. We made it work by only scheduling 1-2 nights a week together. Different people have different solutions, but LW’s boyfriend is clearly not using common courtesy with her (to put it VERY MILDLY) and the appropriate response is NOT to let him monopolize her team by making her feel bad for seeing her family and friends.

    • hbc said:

      Regarding the last minute changes, this might just be a basic compatibility issue that interacts very badly with the bigger issues. If she has a close relationship with her family and they tend to operate on a 4-12 hour “Who’s available?” window, and he needs the week mapped out in detail, he could be the least clingy person ever and it’s still not going to work.

      It could be a moot point, because I get the sense that he wouldn’t protest if she had a night away planned and then decided to show up at his place with no notice. But it’s still worth looking at whether some incompatibilities are being rolled up into the “he’s unwell” explanation that don’t belong there.

      • Tree said:

        That’s a good point, thanks. My husband’s family is perfectly okay saying “let’s have dinner tonight,” at 3PM and not understanding why that might not be okay. My family is more accustomed to making those plans a week or so in advance. Neither is particularly needy, it’s just a different mindset, and something that I’ve had to convince Husband of myself (yeah, I’m working until 5, so if you want to go have dinner with your friends I’d like to know before 4:45).

    • Maria said:

      I get people who don’t like quick changes to plans. I don’t like quick changes to plans. But the problem is seeing free time with no definition as “planned” and that’s not LW’s responsibility to manage for her boyfriend. And honestly, unless I am doing something that was for the benefit of the other person, I do think it’s a little unreasonable to see last minute changes as a lack of courtesy, unless you’ve already made clear your expectations on that time. Committed relationships tend to have more expectations on that kind of time than less committed relationships, and shouldn’t be compared.

      • “But the problem is seeing free time with no definition as “planned” and that’s not LW’s responsibility to manage for her boyfriend.”

        Thank you so much for setting this out so clearly.

      • winter said:

        Good point. This isn’t actually about last-minute changes to their (OP + boyfriend’s) plans. It’s about OP making regular plans for themself and boyfriend being upset because his imaginary plans fell through.

  16. Flora said:

    Whenever I hear of a man who doesn’t need the company of anybody but his girlfriend and wants her to be the same, I think of the immortal words of Cyndi Lauper… some boys take a beautiful girl and hide her away from the rest of the world. Even if LW wanted to live that way, it’s inevitable that she’s not going to stay the same vibrant person he fell in love with if she’s stuck in a cave all the time. Strength to you, LW.

  17. Msconduct said:

    LW, I’m so sad to think that you feel less than you were before in this relationship. There are so many terrifying red flags here around control and manipulation. BEES! BEES!

  18. tuxbox said:

    [i]Is your first instinct to say, “Oh wait, I can’t do that, he’ll just text me 100 times and I won’t be able to focus on anything.” Or, “Oh wait, I can’t do that, he’ll be so hurt/sad, I’ll have to cut the evening short and go take care of him.” Does the whole prospect of a night alone seem “not worth it” because his reaction will be too much to deal with it’s “easier” to just give in and do what he wants?[/i]

    Had a friend like that, and yes, I genuinely would make decisions based on what the fallout was going to be like from my actions. Or I’d make up a lie to avoid the fallout just so I could do something I wanted and not have to deal with the repercussions. Did it suck? Yes, yes it did suck. Is it a sign that something is horribly wrong with the relationship/friendship? Very much so. Did I know how to get out of it? Absolutely not, because I was petrified of dealing with the fallout, of my friend doing something drastic to themself, and because I genuinely cared for my friend, and there was always this hanging “what if my friend does something terrible because I set a boundary they don’t like and then they have a wigguns and it’s allllll my fault????”

    It’s a terrible way to live. I don’t recommend it to anyone.

    There is a good ending to the story… my friend eventually found someone and moved on to better things and I got my freedom/life back without worrying about fallouts or blowups or anyone hurting themselves. I also got something else amazing… a lesson on never letting someone do that again and setting up a solid boundary.

    • LW said:

      hi ca,

      can you delete my first reply? i’m pretty sure he’s not familiar with the site but i just realized that response is far too specific for my comfort. the FEELINGSBARF convo literally just happened and i typed before i thought.

      ❤ i will consider my anonymity more in my next replies.

      • JenniferP said:

        I got u.

        What I saw in that now-deleted reply is that when you give him reasons for wanting to hang out with someone who is not him he tries to plumb those reasons to find inconsistencies or ways they are not Good Enough. 😕🤔

    • Cassandra said:

      My god I wish I’d realized all this sometime between 2008 and…about a year ago. Would have saved me a lot of anxiety, guilt, and misery. Being afraid to say No to someone is the reddest of flags.

    • That is a Grade A manipulation tactic, mental illness or no. An adult should not be rewarded for acting like an infant. I’m glad you were able to get away from that dynamic.

      • tuxbox said:

        part of why I had a hard time separating from my friend was because of their mental illness, that I was very aware of, and I just didn’t know how to handle it without making it worse. I felt like I’d taken on this whole level of responsibility for their illness and making sure I didn’t make it worse. Except… that wasn’t my responsibility, I couldn’t shoulder that much. I could handle some of it, to some degree, but the level that I wound up being forced to carry wound up becoming unreasonable. Sure, I owed it to them to not be cruel, but on the flipside, I didn’t owe it to them to respond immediately or meet the expectations they’d developed in their head without me knowing, or adhere to a strict schedule for our hanging out/socializing because that’s what they needed for structure in their life (we’re talking to the point that it was overwhelming my everyday responsibilities). When I would try to put down any boundaries, it would escalate into crying fits, dozens of text messages, “you really hate me, don’t you” claims, and occasionally bouts of self-harm. And I knew they weren’t trying to manipulate me, they were always super upset about the outburst, they’d go back to their therapist, work on medication adjustment (they were well aware of the mental illness issues and were constantly working on it) but the emotional drain on my end just wasn’t worth it and because I’m so conflict-averse, I’d just wind up avoiding and dealing with it.

        I loved them to bits as a friend, but it was so stressful and difficult to juggle with everything else. I fully suspect that if things hadn’t changed when they did, due to outside influences/reasons, there would have been a final big blowup that would have resulted in me severing the friendship completely for my own sanity.

        • I’m sorry you and your friend had to experience that. I hope they got their meds/therapy tweaked and expanded their support network.

          • tuxbox said:

            I think it worked out for the best in the long run, although I never had to deal with it by standing up for myself and setting boundaries, which *probably* would have been one of the better outcomes, at least for me (not for them mind you, because I think it would have caused a tremendous amount of hurt and anxiety and stress for them). I would have learned more about being able to deal with the conflict instead of just avoiding it, but instead they wound up with a partner and essentially ran off and abandoned our friendship (which… caused some measure of hurt on my end, since I felt a bit put out that I’d spent so much time juggling our friendship only to have it thrown away so quickly as soon as they found a dating partner… it was very confusing for me!) I took it for a win though since I got my life back without the drama and explosions, they got a more expanded support network, and while we’re still friends, we’re not close anymore and I won’t ever let them back in the way it used to be. Once bitten and all that. :/ I can see a lot of where I went wrong getting into the friendship at the time (I was super lonely at the time and we grew really close but I didn’t need the level of closeness/commitment in the friendship that they did and demanded) so I’ve been much better at keeping boundaries up with any interactions I’ve had with them since. I believe that they’re a lot more stable with their current relationship and support network, but who knows how that could change in the future (since life is always full of surprises, good and bad) and as much as I care about them as a friend, I wouldn’t go back to how it was before. I learned a lot from it.

    • Sorry for the late comment, but god, my sympathies, and thank you for this comment. I’m currently trying to disentangle myself from/set boundaries with a friend who is behaving similarly right now and who I have felt partially responsible for for our entire friendship (due to her terrifically shitty upbringing, PTSD, anxiety/depression, doesn’t have a lot of other friends, etc.). We were roommates for awhile in college, and after graduating we were hanging out most weekends (although I sometimes put my foot down and said “I am doing X this weekend, I am not available”). I think she got used to me being generally available for whenever she wanted me. Right after she graduated college and thus we stopped being college roommates, I got into an LDR and, while I haven’t necessarily behaved well through all of it towards my friend (a handful of times I have canceled plans with her in order to see my at-the-time long-distance girlfriend, and at times I have made her feel ignored or cast aside, which I acknowledge and have tried to work on in the past), she seems to have taken my relationship with my now-wife as a personal attack on my friendship with her. And mixed in with this is a whole bunch of misunderstandings and disagreements as to what constitutes “close friends” too (no, I’m NOT mad at you just because I didn’t happen to be available to do anything with you for a month, friend, and also no, asking me the day of if I want to do something is probably not going to work, I’m sorry). I want to remain friends with her, and I do love and value her friendship, but right now I’m very frustrated because she ALWAYS makes me feel like I’m the bad guy. I…really do not think that making plans with my wife to clean the apartment one weekend or go to a movie another weekend (a movie which friend had never expressed interest in seeing with me), or posting on social media about how we’re working on a cosplay together, is unreasonable. But *shrugs* we’re working on it, anyway. Fingers crossed.

  19. BeepBop said:

    Hi LW,

    It seems like all the replies so far (including the Captain’s) show concern that this relationship is untenable. Other commenters are being really empathetic with their well wishes, but I think the subtext of every message is that, if you have the courage & will to end it, you should to end it.

    It sounds like the relationship is run on his terms (it’s all about you making comprises to appease him). Even if you love him, you shouldn’t sacrifice your personhood for the good of the relationship & his mental health.

    Sadly, unless he recognizes the way he MUST change (trying to do better is not good enough when everything is already on his terms), things will only stay the same OR could even get worse (as you become more unhappy and he senses it, or if delves into an even more troubling mental health state). You will be heartbroken in the short to medium term (be prepared for him to be devastated), but you won’t regret it in the long-term.

  20. Nopetopus Cowgirl said:

    I’ve been there and thought about this a lot. Sometimes in an interracial relationship a thing happens where the partner from the (more) Privileged Group uses racial privilege to make the partner from the (more) Oppressed Group feel small. Sometimes the OG partner uses the PG partner’s commitment to being an anti-racist ally in a manipulative way against them. Sometimes elements of both exist simultaneously in the relationship. In a healthy relationship, this can be discussed and defused and the fundamental goodwill and love each partner has for the other allow for apology, forgiveness, learning and acceptance of each other’s frailties and imperfections.

    In an unhealthy relationship both racism and the Implication that one is racist can become extremely insidious tools of emotional abuse. The key is to see that this is not actually so much about racism per se but more about the way that an abuser can tap right into the vulnerability of their partner use it to hurt them. If the abuser we’re dating a member of their own group, they’d just zero in on another vulnerability.

    Please know I am DEFINITELY NOT saying that calling someone on their racism is “just as bad” as being a racist (or that it is bad at all). I am talking about how abusers sometimes capitalize on a particular vulnerability in the context of an interracial relationship.

    For example PG partner and OG partner are snuggling in bed and there is a sudden loud bang outside. PG partner startles and jumps. OG partner (who knows PG partner suffers from PTSD) says contemptuously that only a person from the dominant group like PG partner would be so stupid and naive as to confuse a car backfiring with a gunshot.

    • Elder Grantaire said:

      Seconding this. I’ve been in a similar situation, not with race but where the oppressive factor in question was transmisogyny. I am a trans man and I dated a trans woman who used my determination not to talk over her experience of transmisogyny in this way. Any time we disagreed about anything, she would call me a transmisogynist or accuse me of being a TERF. When I wanted to break up with her, she basically said ‘Sure, of course you can break up with me. It’ll just prove that you really are a TERF’.

      It was so, so hard to acknowledge to myself that I was in an abusive relationship, because I felt like I was just validating all the assholes who say that trans women (and people of other oppressed groups) use accusations of transmisogyny to their advantage. But it’s like Nopetopus said. If she’d been dating another trans woman, she’d have found something else to exploit. It wasn’t about transmisogyny, it was about her finding a way to shut me down whenever I disagreed with her or expressed feelings she didn’t like.

    • Cyberwulf said:

      It’s too bad that the term “social justice warrior” has been perverted into a snarl word by assholes because it used to describe a real phenomenon in progressive circles whereby the least transgression (using “crazy” to describe something nonsensical, using “women” as a synonym for “people who can get pregnant”) is used as an excuse to rain down abuse on the offender.

      • RunFromTheBees said:

        People who can get pregnant include some but not all women, and some people who are not women. Your transphobia is blatant. “Crazy” is an ableist term that undermines and reinforces oppression of mentally ill people. Suggesting that any person who rightfully calls you out on bigoted behavior is turning social justice into a “snarl word” is plain as day arguing that your prejudiced views are getting backlash is somehow worse than actively upholding to the dehumanization of other people that language contributes to. Take your bigotry and leave, you damp walnut.

        • Cyberwulf said:

          RunFromTheBees, you don’t even know me. I am actually an “SJW” and a “cuck” (despite being a woman). I’m talking about people who are new to social justice and who wouldn’t dream of describing a mentally ill person as “crazy” but slip up when describing a behaviour. Or people who say “women” in the context of reproductive rights because they forgot that some men and nonbinary folk get pregnant too. But thanks for proving my point.

          • JenniferP said:

            I am in class and cannot comment at length or prune comments. This subthread needs to end and will be 💯 baleeted later. Whatever the initial intention was it did not translate, so, it is time to stop digging.

        • Cyberwulf said:

          I’m glad you think it’s appropriate to run people who are new to progressive ideas but don’t know which terms to avoid out of the movement on a rail. Which is the phenomenon I’m talking about.

      • SocialJusticeBard said:

        I found the bigot! Proudly claiming that “people who can get pregnant” are entirely described by the id category “women” is a transphobic act of violence. Cyberwulf Complaining that social justice discourse is rich while you actively participate in the erasure of trans folks, non binary folks, infertile folks, intersex folks, AND reduce all of womanhood to reproductive capacity in a stunning display of misogyny is Not A Good Look.

        • Cyberwulf said:

          …that isn’t what I said at all. Are you trolling?

        • Aris Merquoni said:

          *pinches bridge of nose hard*

          You know what’s awesome? Not continuing a derail by saying it’s unimportant that people get ignored and sidelined by discussions about how bodies work.

          You know what sucks? When assumptions about how “most people who get pregnant are cis women” result in medical professionals severely physically and medically harming both gender variant people and cis women who can’t get pregnant/are attempting to never be able to get pregnant.

          You know what would be great? People being on board with normalizing gender variance so that there is less harm in the world, rather than telling people to sit down, shut up, and accept their marginalization.

          • JenniferP said:

            Ginger’s posts: baleeted.

      • I don’t think the assholes have perverted SJW into a snarl word because the assholes are bravely taking up the cause of those poor innocent people who were wrongfully abused for just not thinking about what they were saying. I think that assholes have tried to turn SJW into a snarl word because they don’t like it when they’re called on not thinking about what they were saying.

        (And I don’t think it’s raining down abuse to point out that I (as a cis woman who has not yet hit menopause) am getting really pretty tired of being assumed to be part of the group of “people who can get pregnant”, and would dearly love it if people wouldn’t mind paying a bit more attention to their unconscious assumptions, or at least wouldn’t get snotty when I decide that if they can’t be bothered with that, I do not have the spoons to be bothered with them.)

        • Cyberwulf said:

          Oh they absolutely aren’t taking up the cause of innocent anybody. I’m saying it used to describe a behaviour whereby someone new to progressive ideas who doesn’t know all the terms to avoid gets dogpiled (see above) and abused, but now it’s an utterly meaningless term (and watch out, because the alt-right are trying to do the same with ‘racist’).

        • Cyberwulf said:

          Oh the assholes aren’t bravely taking up any cause other than trying to completely ridicule the very notion of social justice. That’s why they cut it down to “SJW” because if you actually said you were anti social justice warriors it would be clear that you’re anti social justice. (And the alt-right are trying to do the same with ‘racist’ and ‘sexist’, tossing it out there like it’s ‘f***er’ or ‘sh*thead’ every time they disagree with someone).

          • arkadyrose said:

            You’re massively (and pointlessly) derailing here.

          • JenniferP said:

            Cyberwulf, respectfully, whatever your initial point was it is not helping the LW right now. We are well within derail territory now, not all of it yours, but help me out: stop replying.

    • …I have seen this dynamic, not in my own interracial relationship, but with interracial friends who were both PoC. The continued joking accusations that one of them was racist from the other eventually drove them away.

      But yes, I’m familiar with it, although the oppressive factor here would be ableism, not racism (as you can tell I’m WoC, and my ex was white). There was a lot of rules or things having to be done his way because of his anxiety, or if I disagreed/set a boundary/expressed my hurt the topic would then go to his mental health and how that was affecting things. One of the reasons we broke up was he had an irrational thought that I was upset with him, which made him anxious.

      Meanwhile, he was not treating his anxiety.

      In the aftermath, despite having friends with anxiety assuring me that what happened to me was unacceptable, I still feel guilty from time to time for not being supportive or understanding enough of him, even though around the end of the relationship I was basically reduced to not objecting at all. It’s been a really rough year, and it infuriates me that someone would use that oppression as a way to abuse others.

      • My abuser has a particular mental problem and after we cut contact I decided to research it so I would understand a bit better. Doing this I came across a community of people who had this mental problem and were saying some really dodgy things about abuse, such as ’emotional abuse can only be done on purpose, if someone doesn’t mean to do it because they have our mental health condition then it’s ableist to call it abuse’. This plunged me into misery for a good long time, because not only did I now have to spend ages thinking back over my abuser’s actions to decide if they were on purpose or not (of course I concluded they were not because that’s what most emotional abuse survivors in the position of making a billion excuses for their abuser all the time would do. All 10 years of on and off abuse from our teens to our adulthood, all by accident. Really quite something.), but now I was ableist if I considered myself an abuse survivor. In my misery I brought my problems before a community containing several abuse survivors and asked them for help, and of course they were very angry with me for my abuse apologism. It felt like everyone was angry at me.

        I got better after a while, I learned to think critically and to not have the reaction that ‘being called ableist is the worst thing that could possibly happen!’, but it was hard because I had learned, from anti-ableism activists, that it’s fine to point out when something is ableist towards a certain condition if you don’t have that condition, but not to point out when something is NOT ableist in that situation. Now, I don’t think the person who said that was thinking about abuse apologism. But still, it had stuck in my mind. I should also say that the community I accidentally came across who were talking about abuse being only intentional were specifically supposed to be a resource space for non-sufferers, as well as a space for sufferers. That made it a billion times worse.

        These things are so hard. I am glad that during that time when I was so confused some people gave me kindness instead of dismissal.

        • Anonnnnn said:

          I went through something like this. I didn’t find the online community you are referring to, but I spent a lot of time giving a partner a pass for behavior I would not describe as abuse because, you know, he didn’t INTEND to be manipulative when he threatened to kill him self after we broke up because I “gave up on him.”

          Where I basically ended up was: it doesn’t matter whether it fits anyone’s definition of abuse. It had the same negative effects as abuse on me, and it was totally toxic and made the relationship untenable.

          • I’m sorry you went through that, and I’m glad you came to the realisation you describe. All the solidarity and Jedi hugs.

          • Elder Grantaire said:

            I went through something similar with the same ex I mentioned above…she has a mental health condition that led pretty directly to most if not all of the worst parts of our relationship. It made her terrified of losing me which led to her trying to shut down any dissent or me trying to leave with the aforementioned transmisogyny accusations. It made her go between idolising me and telling me I was the most perfect human to ever grace the planet, the only one who could make life bearable etc and calling me basically worthless, selfish toe lint.

            I looked up her condition afterwards and found those two things described over and over again in information about it. Unfortunately I also found a lot of ‘[condition] positivity’ type Tumblr posts talking about how it’s totally okay to feel this way and sort of implying that people who call those behaviours abusive are ableist.

            For what it’s worth, I completely get that it’s important for people with this condition to not feel like they’re inherently abusive and to feel good about themselves. It just made me very uncomfortable to see people being like ‘remember it’s completely okay to need constant reassurance that people aren’t going to leave you!’ when it was precisely that that trapped me in a miserable, abusive situation for months after I desperately wanted out. I get that those posts tend not to have a lot of nuance but I think there is a vitally important difference between ‘you are not a monster for having these feelings but that doesn’t abdicate you from responsibility for the consequences of acting on them’ and ‘it’s totally okay to constantly ask your friends and partners for reassurance they won’t leave you’.

          • Elder Grantaire, I feel the same way about the posts/articles, too, especially when they’re asking non-suffering readers to be more understanding. Sometimes I have to detach a bit from them, because otherwise it can really screw with my mental health and send me into an anger/guilt spiral.

            I find sometimes it helps to consider the behaviors they’re talking about, at least in my case, are isolated (e.g. flaking), and probably without the horrible context of abuse, but at the same time, I can’t bring myself to be more understanding about something that was done to hurt me and make me feel small and excluded, at least not at this point in time. Although sometimes I consider my friends with the same disorder and how I’m not really bothered, so it might really be a context/case-by-case issue, what with the gaslighting and insecurity I had with my ex. I think that distorts my view of these posts–I wish they had more nuance, but I don’t think that’s what I can ask of the writers.

        • God, I am so sorry to hear about that. I was lucky in the immediate aftermath to have friends who suffered from the same disorder my ex did, because they unanimously called bullshit on him for treating me like that and reminded me that having it didn’t excuse him from respecting me as his partner. I used to wince whenever I read articles from sufferers, asking for understanding, and wondering if I hadn’t been “enough,” although lately, it’s been “I spent the entire relationship caring about his feelings and needs, and you want more? No.” I guess I’d call it compassion fatigue, especially since I never saw even a baseline standard of kindness from him.

          Sometimes I’m angry at myself for taking his excuses at face value, sometimes I’m angry at him (and anyone who even seems to be an apologist) for demanding that I pour from an empty cup.

  21. Vicki said:

    If you want to try making this work, I’d suggest making clear that “doing nothing together” isn’t a plan, and his assumption that you’ll come over and have pizza with him also isn’t a plan. A plan is something that the two of you make together. So the two of you agreeing to get together at your, or his, place on Thursday the 20th for pizza and Netflix is a plan. But his assumption that if you didn’t tell him (get him to agree?) ahead of time that you’ll be spending Tuesday with your sister, or taking a long solo bike ride Saturday, or doing some other specific thing, is not a plan. That means that you deciding to go to a museum, or shop for power tools, or practice the ukelele without checking in with him in advance isn’t “changing plans.”

    • JenniferP said:

      100% this.

  22. Tennia said:

    LW,
    I think I’ve been pretty much exactly where you are, and it’s red flags all over. It’s just a sea of bright red flapping cloth.

    From your letter, I’m honestly curious: what do you get out of the relationship? When I was being similarly manipulated and tugged on, I was genuinely in love with the guy, but I also realized later that it soothed a kind of insecurity of mine (“If my partner is so desperate that they *need* me then they can’t leave me when I’m not good enough for them!”). If you’re staying because you *can’t* leave or “If I leave, he’ll want to die again / he’ll kill himself” then that’s a very, very, very bad sign. You sound like you want to break up and want permission: here it is. You have permission to break up with him, to set boundaries first if you’d rather, and to do it regardless of his pain and trauma and problems.

    But that’s not healthy for you and it’s heartbreaking to read about someone who is in a relationship that is making the rest of your life start to wither away. A good relationship is like a new nail polish color–something that adds to your collection and you love. This kind of relationship is one of those shitty indie brands that starts melting your nails off.

    And if you try to set boundaries or leave and he starts trying to guilt you instead by making it about his mental illness, let me preemptively say: I am someone who has Gone Through Some Shit in my life, I have nasty shit for brains some days, and often normal-stressful stuff can knock me on my ass.

    And it’s *nobody’s* responsibility to be my 24/7 constant therapist-combo-girlfriend. When you need more than you can get from the people in your life you don’t pile that on top of them and take up all their time and attention. That’s unacceptable.

    You also might be feeling a kind of pressure to not leave, complain, or set boundaries because in an interracial couple there’s often a stereotype threat of it falling apart at the seams. Please don’t let bigots’ views of interracial relationships control your decisions–they will think poorly of the future of interracial couples regardless. (Some of them probably think my close friends’ 40-year-long-marriage is going to fail any day now. Racism is not rational.)

    Whatever you decide to do, LW, please know that you deserve a relationship that *adds* to your life, not subtracting from it.

    • LW said:

      thank you ❤

      i'm feeling a lot of concern about what he'll do without me as a big narrative for him revolves around the fact that if i leave he will have nothing to live for and never love again. my brain gets that that is manipulative but my heart? whole nother story.

      • KindaSlow said:

        CW: Talking about suicide, death

        The fear is if you leave the relationship, he won’t survive. But we’re concerned with your survival. Are you going to give up the rest of your life to this relationship? Because this is what the rest of your life will be like if you stay. If/when you leave, you’ll be able to say, “I survived.”

        LW, I survived two (2!) (apparently I didn’t learn my lesson the first time) abusive relationships in which my partner threatened suicide if I left. And I left. One ex spent two weeks in a mental hospital. One ex tried to hang himself with a guitar string and gave himself a nasty bruise. But they both survived too. Did I feel guilty? Yeah, I felt a lot of things. But you’re not responsible for anyone’s actions other than your own.
        Please take it from me: the moment anyone starts telling you you’re the only thing they have to live for, it’s time to move on.

      • arkadyrose said:

        LW, trust me on this: when he suggests he’d have nothing to live for without you? He is lying. When he suggests he will never love again? Also lying. I can guarantee you that he can and will carry on living without you.

        It’s not love if the only reason you’re in the relationship is because you’re afraid of what will happen if you’re not.

      • Sheelzebub said:

        LW, he lived before he met you. He will live if you are gone.

        This is manipulative as hell. I’ve been there–and I know how much guilt it can induce. And just so we’re clear–I have been clinically depressed. I have ADHD and NLD. So the idea that someone’s mental illness or processing issues are reason why you should put up with behavior that hurts you gets the side-eye from me. (Also: I dated someone who was possessive and gaslighting and emotionally abusive. It did not do good things for my mental health.) It is not your job to help him, and he really has no right to foist this job on you. That’s not even remotely okay.

        I think CA’s advice about taking time for yourself is excellent. I’d make it a weekend. Turn off your phone, see your friends and family, and have some solitude. Run some errands, do some chores, read, whatever. How do you feel at the end of it?

        If you make plans without him, even for just a day/night, turn off your phone for that day/evening. If he’s blown up your phone with texts and messages, think very carefully about how much of this you can live with. A year? Two years? Ten years? Your life? I’m not confident it will stop.

        If you decide to break up with him, block him on your phone, your email, and all social media. (Don’t unfriend or unfollow, block.) Let your friends and family know in case he tries to get to you through them.

        • They live together so, although this is excellent advice generally, I’m not sure how much of it is applicable in this case.

          • Sheelzebub said:

            Oh, I didn’t see her post below when I wrote this.

      • The way you describe it makes me feel like he’s set you up to be scared that if you leave he might kill someone you love.

        (That person is himself, yeah, because he’ll “have nothing left to live for” and “will welcome dying” and all that. It’s still a threat.)

        • Jenesis said:

          That is… a scarily apt summation of a relationship I am thankfully no longer in.

        • Redgirl said:

          That’s a great way of putting it. The fact is, threatening suicide to get your partner to do what you want (including simply staying in the relationship) is a form of emotional abuse. Your partner may not be intentionally abusing you, but it’s still abuse.

      • I’m in the process of divorcing my husband, and my best friend is divorcing her wife, and they’ve both used the “I’ll never love again” line. I just keep thinking of this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lOaO5guJPhc lyrics: http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/t/tim_minchin/if_i_didnt_have_you.html

        “If I didn’t have you to hold me tight
        (If I didn’t have you)
        If I didn’t have you to lie with at night
        (When I’m feeling blue)
        If I didn’t have you to share my sighs
        (Share my sighs)
        And to kiss me and dry my tears when I cry

        Well I really think that I would…
        Have somebody else

        (If I didn’t have you)
        If I didn’t have you, someone else would do

        Your love is one in a million
        (One in a million)
        You couldn’t buy it at any price
        (Can’t buy love)
        But of the 9.999 hundred thousand other loves
        Statistically, some of them would be equally nice
        (Equally nice)
        Or maybe not as nice but, say, smarter than you
        Or dumber but better at sport or tracing
        I’m just saying
        (I really think that I would)
        Probably
        (Have somebody else)”

        (There’s more, I just shared the beginning)

      • Maybelle said:

        Dear LW, it really sounds like being so close to him is adversely affecting your own thinking. Please be open to talking with a therapist who can devote a few sessions to treat your acquired trauma. Even experimenting with talking to someone on a crisis line would be some thing you can do now. Can you look up a number and have it ready, on your phone?
        Meanwhile- the best protection he can get for this treatable condition is professional help. If that requires a “reset” in hospital followed by in-patient, then out-patient therapy groups, along with the right meds and the right therapist partner, then that’s the right thing.
        A partner cannot also be the patient’s therapist and family cannot be the therapist.
        I want to stress to you that trying to do this for him will lock in the illness. They can’t get well with what you’re outlining. It doesn’t feel like it, with all the late nights and fighting that are often a part of an illness like he has, but what’s actually happening is their illness is being minimized and ignored.

        I keep noticing that illness and addictions turn everything 180 degrees. The reasons to stay (that you’ve gotten from him,) are in fact, reasons to go, leaving him with experts who can save his life.

      • carabiner said:

        LW, my boyfriend has an ex who has a similar narrative to your partner’s. i believe that she has genuine mental health problems, and i have never discounted them. however, when we first started dating she started calling him a lot (whereas there was previously months of silence), asking him to come over and soothe her or talk for hours specifically when we’d be on a date. when he’d say no she’d escalate until she was screaming in the phone about killing herself. a few times he gave in, and she was always “fine” (his word) once he got there. she would say that he was the only person who could help her, that she didn’t have anyone else in her life who understood her how he did, and that she just needed his attention and she’d “be fixed.” those things may feel very true to her, or even be factually true in some respects. however, this narrative made him feel bad (on many levels), it made me angry, it made her even more angry i think, and no one was happy. i told him it couldn’t continue–he could either “fix” her or date me, but not both. after our talk, when she would call him threatening suicide, he’d call her an ambulance. or give her the number of a suicide hotline and disengage.

        it may seem cold, but those are two things you can do to help a suicidal person without making yourself smaller in the process, or taking away from your time with loved ones. if you are concerned that your partner will try to kill himself if you break up, or if he makes those noises after a potential break up, you are allowed to help as much as you want. you can choose to block him entirely and hope for the best, you can choose to provide a listening ear, or you can choose to say, “i’m so sorry you’re going through this. i’m going to call you an ambulance.” or “here is a suicide hotline number. please call them and talk to somebody. i really want you to get the help you need.” and then hang up. does he have a good friend you could confide in post potential break up? eg: “Friend, I’ve just broken up with partner. I’m very concerned about his health, but I cannot be there for him anymore. If he calls me and I’m concerned enough for his safety, can I count on you to go check on him once?”

        as other commenters have said, his mental health is not your responsibility, especially not when it is being wielded as a manipulative tactic. separate from my example above, i once dated a man for over 5 years who was severely depressed, and we broke up because it was affecting our life together, and my life separate from him. i offered to do everything i could to help him (assistance with finding a therapist, going with him to therapy, changing our living situation, exercising and eating better with him, etc) and after over a year of trying he did not make any effort. i was fading away in the process, so, on the advice of my own therapist, i chose a date and told myself that if that date came and not a single thing had happened or improved even 1%, i would leave. that date came, and i left him that day. it was incredibly difficult, and i almost didn’t do it–this was the person i loved tremendously and was certain i would marry and start a family with. i haven’t spoken to that ex in years, and i’m pretty sure he’s still at least somewhat in his old ways, but he has survived, and i have thrived. and i so badly want this for you as well LW. breaking up with my ex was the best and most loving thing i ever did for myself. you do not have to pursue this option–no one will think less of you if you don’t pursue it or aren’t ready right now, but please just know it is an option. we are all here for you, if this is the path you decide to ever take.

      • Tennia said:

        Oh, LW.

        You might want to search on the CA archives, but there was a letter a long time on there about a woman writing in about how a friend of hers had killed himself, and his family had found reams of diary entries by him saying he was doing it because she didn’t want to date him.

        Everyone on CA agreed that it was fundamentally *not her fault in any way*. Not at all.

        I’ve had partners threaten–indirectly, in my case–to kill themselves if I left. And honestly, if they *have* killed themselves afterwards, that’s still not my fault in any way. It’s either their fault or (depending on how you look at it) their mental illnesss’ fault.

        You are not responsible for the actions of another adult human being, full stop. And quite honestly, from experience, *even when you are suicidal* and saying “if this happens, I’ll kill myself/have nothing to live for”, often you still won’t when the thing happens.

    • klopidq said:

      omg there is nail polish that melts your nails off

      I can relate to LW’s difficulties, but mostly I just wanna say how grateful I am to be reading these comments. So much gentle support for the self-loving soul within, who really wants to come out but is scared. I have that part of me. I want to help it be stronger. Y’all help it be stronger.

      Fortunately I don’t mess with nail polish, but I’m still a bit aghast that there are such sub-par things to coat your fingernails with.

      • Tennia said:

        Yeah, there was one that literally damaged people’s nails to the point where several of them needed actual dermatologists and months of recovery. Crazy shit.

        I’m glad you feel helped by these comments. I’ve lurked here for a long time and while there’s definitely advice and cultural features here I don’t like (the disregard for ex-patient thoughts, and so on) I think it is a good space to be heard and validated.

  23. dr_silverware said:

    Even if the Captain’s answer makes you think, “no way does this actually apply to my relationship, it’s too extreme,” it’s still ok to let go of the relationship. As you said, romantic relationships should add to our lives, not replace every other niche.

    You’re right that a romantic relationship should be a net positive in your life, especially early on. Now, as you emerge from the big-time emotional energy of a new relationship and the exhilarating rush of someone who needs you, it’s possible to see that this person doesn’t add more to your life than they take away.

    • LW said:

      also we live together which makes this all even harder to navigate. to be clear i am able to spend time with other people as long as it’s planned in advance so if after work we’re on our way home and our evening plan was just eating dinner together and watching tv and a friend calls randomly to ask me to dinner or a movie it’s not so much that he won’t let me as it is he’ll make me feel guilty if said invitation is not also extended to him. i care for him deeply and we have so much fun together, he’s very loving and sweet and loyal but these other parts make me so uncomfortable and i feel guilty for even writing in in some ways like i’ve been disloyal. it’s just so much.

      • dr_silverware said:

        Living together does make it feel so much more thorny, but this is why it’s a good idea to try it out and see how it goes, as you’re doing 🙂

        It can both be true that a person is wonderful, fun, generous, kind, and lovable–BUT being with them means you don’t like how you’re running your life. Living with someone, especially romantically, will change how you run your life, and many times that feels natural and ok. It sounds like you feel small and trapped. It’s ok to want to change that.

        You know yourself and your relationship, and whatever your decision is, I think you have clarity in you about it. In the way when you flip a coin you figure out which outcome you want, or when you write a pro/con list you know you really feel the con side. Good luck ❤

      • goddessoftransitory said:

        You have a lion in your house.

        Most of the time he’s gorgeous and sweet and fun and makes you feel so special–who else do you know that has a lion? Okay, so he pees everywhere, and he needs fifteen hours of petting a day, and he sometimes bites and claws but he feels bad later, and where else can a lion go? Your house is the only place for this lion, right?

        Wrong. Your house is basically the first place the lion found, and he’s tired and angry and doesn’t want to find a better fit, so he wants to put that on you–how mean it would be for you to say this is my house, and I’m tired of pee everywhere and getting my fingers snapped at every time I try to go to a movie, you need to find a better place more suited for your needs. But it isn’t true. No matter how hard it seems for a lion to find its proper place, where it can live and thrive and not be insanely dependent on one person to fulfill every last one of its needs and wants, there is a better place out there. And it will behoove BOTH you and the lion to find it, before you end up torn to pieces and he ends up shot by the cops.

        This may sound dramatic, but your relationship already is nothing but drama. There’s no quiet or peace for either one of you in it.

        • goddessoftransitory said:

          Oops, Captain! This put my actual name on there–can you change it to my selected nom de plume below? Thanks lots!

      • MuddieMaeSuggins said:

        As someone pointed out upthread, this can just be basic incompatibility.

        Your friends make last minute plans. You (presumably) enjoy being able to participate in those last minute plans. That is all totally normal and okay, and you should have the freedom to do that. He (for whatever reason) doesn’t like to operate that way. What’s emotionally dodgy is what he’s doing with his feelings and how he’s conditioned you to react to it.

        In my relationship, my spouse is far less social than I am and also doesn’t much care for last minute social plans. I live within blocks of three of my closest friends and love being able to drop by for a drink or walk our dogs together for an hour or whatever. When we were first living together, my spouse would make little jokes about how I was abandoning him or whatever, and it really bothered me and made me paranoid and afraid of his reaction.

        So we talked about it. I explained what his jabs were doing, and told him that until he stated any problem straight out I was going to ignore anything that sounded like approaching the problem sideways. I’m sure we had a couple of misunderstandings and probably a small fight after that, but we were unlearning a pattern. And now, he doesn’t make those dumb jokes anymore. I suspect he was actually bothered, but spent some time thinking about it and dealing with it on his own. And I know that if he asks me to stay home he really means it, and I still have plenty of drop ins with my friends.

        • dr_silverware said:

          Yes, though frankly I’m on the Captain’s side in saying this seems like a really damaging relationship for the LW. But sometimes having a ton of perceptive commenters all take an intense view of things can remind you of the less intense stuff, if that makes any sense. I think it’s a matter of incompatibility, and the incompatible person is also acting abusively…but as you say, it’s worth a reminder that even simple incompatibility is enough to say “enough.”

          • MuddieMae said:

            Oh, I totally agree this is not a healthy relationship. What I was trying to outline is what working on an incompatibility can look like in a non-damaging relationship. The LW’s partner doesn’t seem to be willing and able to do that work, nor are they willing to say “this is a dealbreaker to me, so I guess I’m going to end our relationship”. (I should not comment on no coffee and an empty stomach, I don’t always add all of the important information.)

            But yes, you are also totally right that the just being incompatible on social styles is a perfectly okay reason to end a relationship. “Wanting to leave is enough.”

        • Laura, here said:

          “People joke about their truths”

          • MuddieMaeSuggins said:

            For sure.

        • I think it’s really important to point out there there are ways to handle differences that take everyone’s needs into account. It really bothers me that the solution to LW and boyfriend having different plan-making preferences was for LW to do things boyfriend’s way. LW’s needs and wants count too, but boyfriend doesn’t seem to care about her getting what she wants. That would be a terrible sign even without all the other jerkery.

      • johann7 said:

        Seeing more of your responses after writing my initial comment, I can tell that this clearly isn’t a good relationship for you, certainly not in its present form. You’re feeling guilty for seeking help (as well as a bunch of other totally reasonable needs and desires of yours) – you’re literally in a position where doing something to care for your own well-being, something that has no direct impact on your boyfriend (I understand what you decide to do in response could, but the writing in to ask for advice itself doesn’t impact him at all), makes you feel guilty and disloyal. That seems to me like a big signal that this relationship isn’t boosting you up, it’s tearing you down, to a point where you don’t feel like you’re allowed to ask for help.

        At minimum, please please please work on establishing and holding boundaries that will allow you to live your life exercising your own agency, without having to clear each thing you decide to do with your boyfriend first. If this relationship can become something that will be good for you, this is a necessary part of that. If it can’t, this will make it easier for you to leave when you decide to do so.

      • Nanani said:

        The red flag-waving bees are coming from inside the house.

        • sistercoyote said:

          Someone else mentioned a “dragon made of bees” and that’s kind of the feeling I’m getting.

          LW, take care of yourself. Whatever shape you decide that needs to be.

          Just make sure YOU decide.

      • Temperance said:

        Please be kinder to yourself. You aren’t disloyal for having your own thoughts and feelings separate from what he does. Going out with friends without him is normal. If you live together, and you have plans to eat dinner and watch TV together, those aren’t really plans because you live together and share a kitchen and a TV.

      • emily said:

        If your living together him making you feel guilty about doing things with other people is even worse. Generally speaking when your living with someone your dating you end up spending a lot of time with them just by default. So for him to make you feel guilty about spending a few hours a way from him, when your currently living with, and by consequence spending a lot of time with time, seems way more manipulative.

      • tinyorc said:

        When you live together and work similar schedules, going home and eating dinner and watching TV together is not a “plan”, it’s an everyday routine. Does your SO think you have “plans” with him every single evening for the rest of your life because you are a couple and you live together? And does he honestly think you making same-day plans to do literally anything else with your evenings is “cancelling” or “changing plans” at the last minute? Because that is a totally unsustainable way to approach a relationship.

      • Redgirl said:

        LW, I wonder if it would help to distinguish between “plans” and “routines.” Plans are things that people mutually agree to in advance, like going to a specific movie, or meeting up with friends, or taking a trip. When you’re dating someone and you don’t live together, you have to make plans to get together. In the absence of those plans, you are free to do what you want.

        But when you live with someone, in the absence of plans you have routines, the coming home and eating dinner and watching TV that happens on every night between the ones that have been planned out. You spend that time together because you live together, but calling every moment of free time you have “plans” because you will be in the house together isn’t really fair. If every night is “planned,” that means any time you want to go out with friends or family you are “breaking plans.” It sets you up to be the bad guy.

        Now, I was married to a man who hated changes to his routine, and that’s a valid preference. But it’s also valid for you to want more flexibility. That kind of incompatibility normally would call for a compromise. It sounds like you compromise a lot by staying home, but does he compromise by letting you go out just as often WITHOUT complaints and guilt trips? (You know, so you can enjoy your time instead of stressing about the big scene he will cause when you get home?) It doesn’t sound like it. This relationship sounds very one-sided, and that side isn’t yours.

        It’s also perfectly valid to decide you don’t want to compromise on this at all, that you prefer to be in a relationship with a partner who is just as flexible as you are. Your partner can be a wonderful person and still not be a good fit for *you.*

  24. Part-time Jedi said:

    LW, your comment about how “some of this is my fault as i’m not always good about expressing my feelings honestly” made me nervous. Good partners and friends do not make you fight for your boundaries; they respect them when you state them, whether that’s done forcefully or politely.

    If you are feeling like you need to fight your partner to have your boundaries respected, I think the relationship is already done for.

  25. Oh, lovely LW. I have the extremely dubious honour (….) of being this LW: https://captainawkward.com/2014/02/06/547-is-it-my-anxiety-or-is-my-relationship-dodgy-spoiler-holy-fuckshit-its-the-dodgiest/. This line ‘i keep going back and forth and it’s so hard because sometimes i feel manipulated but he’s so good at disagreeing with me or arguing his points that i end up feeling so unsure of myself and i just end up keeping silent or saying let’s agree to disagree’ rang true to me so I wanted to link you back to the really excellent advice from the Captain and commenters in that post.

    Bottom line: someone who tries to argue you out of your very reasonable boundaries/requests/priorities/desires, has NOT got your back.

    You say sometimes you feel manipulated but then he argues with you and you end up feeling unsure… that is CONTINUED manipulation. He manipulates you, and then he undermines you by arguing with you such that you’re all spun around and you can’t stand your own ground.

    He insulted you – calling you a bitch in a joking tone after a disagreement is still calling you a bitch.

    He sulks when he’s upset and then denies sulking when you ask what’s wrong. He asks you if you ‘prepped’ for a conversation with him and presumably he means that this would be a bad thing.

    He’s framing your desire to spend a loved one’s birthday with them as unloving towards him. He’s making everything about himself, putting himself at the center all the time. He’s isolating you form your loved ones and making it far harder than it needs to be for you to see the people who care about you and want what’s best for you.

    Regarding his comment about your friends – I also kept the above ex-boyfriend separate from my friends. If you have a mind to, I’d encourage you to gently question why that might be. Does it feel like worlds would collide, that you can’t be the same version of yourself with your friends that you are with your boyfriend? Are you concerned that your friends would ‘see’ things about your boyfriend and your relationship that you would prefer they not see? Do you think they might not ‘get’ him and that you would have to ‘explain’ him or cover for him or basically do some kind of social gymnastics? You absolutely are not doing anything wrong if you are indeed keeping these areas of your life separate, but if you want to look at why, that might be telling.

    Much love, LW. Please try and take some time away from him to sit down and really imagine a future where you can see your own loved ones whenever the hell you want, where you feel great and bright and involved and connected, where you have a busy, great life full of the people and things you love. And then start to make plans for THAT life, again.

    XXX

    • LW said:

      i have no words but thank you so so so much ❤

      everything you said resonated i'm going to screenshot that response. i will heed the captains advance and consult with a DV counselor.

      • This is the best news, you have made my day, I am rooting for you with all my heart and sending you all the e-love. You are a very brave and awesome person and you deserve the absolute best. If it takes some time, if there’s some to-and-fro-ing in your own mind about whether this is the right course of action, that’s all OK and normal. Reaching out to a DV counselor will be a wonderful step; please plan a nice coffee or treat for yourself around it to say thank you to yourself. ❤

        • LW said:

          thank you thank you thank you. you made mine (a long with everyone else) i’ll keep y’all updated on how things go. i think part of me knows that even though he’s never been physically violent that i need to be extremely careful. he has a very particular set of physical skills as well as access to firearms and i know how incredibly dangerous a combination that can be when a certain sort of man feels rejected. sending y’all so much love for making this girl feel heard, validated and cared for. i’m beyond grateful.

          • Cassandra said:

            You are a very cool person and you deserve to feel safe and free.

          • Kaz said:

            OK, I’m really worried about you now. LW, you sound like an awesome amazing person who doesn’t deserve any of this, and I really hope that you’ll be back to update us on how you are free of this guy and it is amazing and you get to see your friends and family anytime you want. Talk to that DV counselor, and definitely mention the stuff about the physical skills and firearms.

          • The very best of luck, LW. When you talk to them, can I suggest a sentence you wrote to flag up?

            “in his youth, he worked through his feelings of shame about what transpired in violent ways but that seems to be a thing of the past.”

            What violent ways? Towards whom? That’s very important information.

            What worries me is that you describe it as having ‘worked through’ his feelings. I suspect that’s how he puts it, and it worries me because:

            1. Whoever he was violent against is not in that sentence. Did he hurt people? If so, where is the empathy for them? When you hurt someone, the fact that you hurt them is the most important thing, not the feelings you were working through at the time. If he talks about hurting people like he was squeezing a stress ball – well, that’s a concern.

            2. He hasn’t ‘worked through’ his feelings if he’s still suicidal and dealing/failing to deal with serious control issues. Those feelings are still there.

            In both those ways, I see a worrying lack of responsibility for his own actions. And if those actions are violent, that adds up to having hurt people, excusing it because it helped him deal with feelings that he hasn’t actually deal with … which leaves only the fact that he hurt people. How much have his underlying attitudes changed since then?

            I have PTSD and I know it’s scary. There have been times, for instance, when I couldn’t sleep unless my husband was awake because I didn’t feel safe. But well, I didn’t wake him up; he had work in the morning. I went to the doctor and worked on ways of dealing with it. And yeah, I was really suffering. If your boyfriend was just clingy, I’d be totally sympathetic to him. But if he has a violent history and isn’t taking serious responsibility for that – well, PTSD is explosive even in non-violent people. I’ve never been in a fight in my life, but boy have I ripped off undeserving heads sometimes when my alarm bells went off. PTSD means fear, but also rage, and in the moment, it can be genuinely difficult to control.

            I don’t know him and maybe he’s better than this. I’m certainly not saying everyone with PTSD is dangerous. But you know about his violent history, so I suggest you look seriously at what you know and think about what it may be telling you.

          • Sheelzebub said:

            Hugs! Please let us know how it’s going. I’ve been thinking of you since I read this letter!

          • Laura, here said:

            👍🎉💥 *scatters confetti everywhere* where’s my kazoo when I need it? ❣

    • Yay! Congratulations on making him your ex-boyfriend.

  26. Cats & caterpillars said:

    LW, the Captain’s ref. to a sick work system reminded me:
    I was caught up in a terrible paid/volunteer/voluntold job situation, but it wasn’t until i was staying with my sister on 3 weeks break that I thought seriously about resigning; the relief I felt told me, yup, end it when I get back home. Apply this to your situation – if you think through ending the relationship and moving on, what is your overall feeling? Are you (even mostly) relieved, like suddenly you have no “have-to’s”, or do you really honestly want to stay, for *YOU*, not through guilt?

    Our feelings tell us a lot if only we listen. Good fortune, fist bumps and zen hugs to you LW.

    • MuddieMaeSuggins said:

      One way to cut through the guilt is to imagine how you would feel if your partner just… disappeared. Was abducted by aliens. Faked their death and ran away to Antartica. Whatever. Aside from your shock, etc, do you feel kind of relieved?

      • This, this, this.

        When I was 22 I was with an emotionally abusive, gaslighting jerk who I stayed with for too long partly because he was the third boyfriend I’d said was “the one” before he turned out to be a jerk (… oh, young me…) and I was too ashamed to admit I’d made a mistake AGAIN. One day he was late coming to pick me up, and I realised I was thinking that if he’d died in a car accident it’d be so much easier as I’d be out of the relationship without having to do the “no, he’s not the one after all” walk of shame.

        If I’d known about red flags back then…

      • Adding to christeseaforthfinch’s comment with my own story: I didn’t realize how done I was with my ex until a night where he was running even later for prearranged plans than usual. I found myself wondering if he’d maybe been assaulted while he was downtown and something had gone terribly wrong. Then I realized that I wasn’t so much wondering as FANTASIZING about this horrible event.

        It took me another few months before I was mentally ready to pull the plug, but I think that was the day I started moving in that direction.

  27. Angle-a said:

    What a brave, empathetic & generous person you are, LW. You deserve these hard learned traits to be acknowledged. You are also insightful & self aware. All together an attractive person, would be my assessment. I try to cultivate the same values in my life & have a wonderful team me who reflect this to me & it sounds like you do too. We don’t always agree with each other but can respectfully listen & disagree & I am so grateful for their presence in my life.

    Now to my partner/husband/father of children choices. I’ve really cocked this part up.
    YOU CANNOT LOVE POTENTIAL.
    It’s there, there are moments where the rays of light brighten the darkness of that person & it all seems so worth it. But it’s not.

    You can spend years as the supporting partner, just waiting for the “issues” to be dealt with, all the while clinging to the few golden moments & it will kill you. Sometimes literally, often mentally & always emotionally.

    The golden standard is, would you accept this behaviour in yourself toward anyone else, least of all toward the person you are supposed to love, cherish & support the most? Usually the answer is no. And that’s right.

    If your partner can’t honestly & respectfully listen, hear, communicate, negotiate & otherwise interact, they’re not your partner. Everyone has potential, but until they can do the things I’ve listed & most importantly, they need to WANT to do those things, they’ll never be your partner.

    I have 4 children with 2 fathers & neither one could do those things. Guess what? My kids are paying, even more than I ever will & that sucks. The reality is, my partners promised to take responsibility but never did & I swallowed their words & loved their potential & ended up with innocent children paying their father’s price. That will never be okay & I hope you value yourself so much more than I ever did, because where I am is so much sadder for my children’s sake.

    On a positive note, the kids & I all have had counselling & they rock, despite their tricky lives. They are already on their way to amazing lives. 💕

    Captain & cohort, this whole blog/comment space rocks. Thanks. 😊

    • Spider Hero said:

      You cannot love potential.

      I need that as a tattoo or cushion or…just in my life somewhere I will see it all the time. Beautiful.

    • Redgirl said:

      “You cannot love potential” is brilliant.

      I like to ask people, “If an omnipotent being told you that your partner was never going to change, that your relationship would never get better than it is today, would you still want to stay?” If you are staying because of what *could* be, rather than what is, you are setting yourself up for unhappiness.

  28. Doppelgänger of LW said:

    Wow, are you me, LW? I feel like you took over my body and wrote this in my sleep…! Aside from living together (not at that point yet, but would have been planning it if it weren’t for all the recent drama between him and I) the similarities are uncanny. Thank you so much for giving voice to this situation exactly when I needed it, and thank you to all the kind and considerate commenters for validating these difficult emotions.

    Currently I am away from my partner for a month, on an important trip that I had planned long before we met. However, the time away has not been without arguments and a distinct lack of support from him during what has been an emotionally taxing time for me. Only with (forced) distance from the situation do I realize how manipulative and constraining it has become. I hope I will have the same strength as you, LW, to handle it with grace and put myself and my needs first.

    • LW said:

      ❤️❤️❤️ i really hope we’ll be able to move on. i’m glad that my letter reasonated but so sorry you’re experiencing something similar. i appreciate the kind words and good for you for still taking that trip. i can’t even imagine being away for a night let alone a month tbh.

  29. Jennifer said:

    If you don’t like the person you’ve become in a relationship, that’s bad news, and a perfectly good reason to break up, regardless of how it came about. And you can love someone deeply and still be a disaster together.

    I agree with a lot of previous posters that this a relationship you need to get out of, and I strongly agree that you consult with domestic violence experts before you start extricating yourself from it. When I look through your letter, I see a lot of the flags for a potentially abusive relationship.

    – The relationship getting very intense very quickly
    – your description of him as a jealous person
    – references to mansplaining
    – using his psychological issues to gaslight you when you try to discuss things
    – using his psychological issues to be unreasonably demanding of you
    – telling you that you are the only thing that makes him want to live
    – pressuring you to be less close to family and friends
    – telling you that you’re too good for him, then being very critical of how you behave
    – requiring you to justify in detail things that should be yours by right
    – the mention of anxiety episodes occurring when you had plans with other people
    – the fact that you’re learning to internalize his demands
    – the fact that you’ve tried to change parts of your personality to appease his jealousy

    And, most tellingly and sadly, that you want to “come back to the vibrant, carefree woman i was when we met “.

    • Friendly Hipposcriff said:

      “If you don’t like the person you’ve become in a relationship, that’s bad news, and a perfectly good reason to break up,”

      Yes, yes, a thousand times yes to this. That was the one thing I could cling to in my abusive relationship: I did not like the person I was becoming, I could not continue as that person.

      And strangely enough, since leaving that relationship, my passive-egressive tendencies have blown away on the wind. Funny that.

    • Rhoda said:

      LW needs to be very, very careful how she leaves him. He sounds altogether too much like a fellow in a long ago news story in my home city, who shot his estranged wife because she left him. His relatives told the press “She was his whole life” as if that was a good thing.

  30. I have nothing new to add, but I’m happy that you’re going to consult with a DV counselor. Good luck with everything and keep us posted. We’re all rooting for you.

  31. IrishEm said:

    I have nothing constructive to offer except Jedi hugs (if you want them) and fist bumps and good thoughts.

  32. B said:

    Sorry OP. You sound really nice. The solution to someone’s jealousy / anxiety is not to make yourself smaller etc; both because that is unreasonable to ask you and anyway it doesn’t work, it’s treating the symptoms not the disease. The problem is his insecurity and it will just pop up in new ways if it’s catered to rather than effectively dealt with.
    I dunno if this relationship sounds truly salvageable but I agree with Captain’s comments above; take a break for a few days and see how you feel. If it’s safe to do so have a frank discussion that you love him (if you still think you do) and to make a good life together you need the freedom to be the person you want to be, and it will make your relationship better. Then just go do the things you want to do. Make yourself a check in date- one month or whatever. Has progress been made? Enough progress to make it worth continuing? Hopefully his therapist can help process some of his feelings and help him do this.

  33. Rhoda said:

    I think the first red flag was “our courtship was fairly quick”. Whenever I hear of “whirlwind romance” or “being swept off my feet”, or other indications that a relationship was pushed along at lightning speed, it’s almost always in the context of someone having a problem with the person doing the rushing.
    I think people with serious problems such as his do tend to rush their partners into romance quickly, because they want them to be entangled quickly, before they have a chance to spot the red flags and personality issues.

    • LW said:

      @ice and indigo,

      he definitely hurt people in a physical sense and is still very prone to be aggressive and intimidating towards others if he feels the situation calls for it. according to him though the people hurt usually deserved it. he very much believes that that is just part of “being a man” and that it’s his job to protect me from other people. he has a tendency to typecast and pay close attention to others and he is always very certain he knows their intentions even with limited contact. this is very different to me, i try to be as loving towards everyone as i can and not make assumptions. this is thought to be naïveté on my part.

      • LW, this sounds a very bad situation for you. Are you able to talk to family about it and enlist their help to make a proper escape plan? I don’t want to be alarmist, and I certainly don’t want you to think there’s no point in trying because he will find you or hurt you, but I’m sure you can see there are a lot of red flags here.

        • LW said:

          thankfully yes. my family expressed concern early on about how quickly things moved but i was happy and determined to be in the relationship. they realized this and decided to express their support. now that i’ve shared my concerns they have been very honest about their feelings and worry about him. i’ve also reached out to friends and several have said i will have a safe place with them should i choose to leave. i’m extraordinarily lucky.

          • That’s wonderful. I’m glad his efforts to keep you entirely to himself have not been successful. The DV counsellor should be able to help with strategies, whether you choose to stay in the relationship or not, but knowing you have real life backup too is fab.

          • tinyorc said:

            “he definitely hurt people in a physical sense and is still very prone to be aggressive and intimidating towards others if he feels the situation calls for it. according to him though the people hurt usually deserved it.”

            LW, this is terrifying. I hate to say it, but it’s only a matter of time before he decides that something you said or did “calls for it” and invents a story for himself about why you too “deserved it”. Please get away from him as soon as possible, before he escalates his behaviour. A DV counsellor will help you make a plan to ensure this man a) doesn’t know you’re leaving until you’re already gone and b) can’t find you once he realises you’re not coming back. Good luck and please take care of yourself!

      • Oh dear.

        If you don’t mind, I’d like to say back to you what you just said to me:

        – He has a history of physical violence
        – He habitually uses physical intimidation
        – He blames his violence on others
        – He considers violence appropriate and justified
        – He has double standards about men and women
        – He’s possessive towards you
        – His attitude towards other people is hostile and he pressures you to share it
        – When you tell him you’d like to make up your own mind about people in your own time, he insults you

        Dear LW, I wanted to give this guy the benefit of the doubt because PTSD truly does suck, but right now what I’m mostly hearing is that you’re very smart to be looking for a domestic violence expert. I’m starting to suspect that you wrote in because there’s someone in the back of your mind trying to get through the message that this guy is a threat, and you weren’t sure whether to listen to them. Based on what you’ve told me – yeah, you should probably listen.

        • randomcheeses said:

          This. All of this. This guy is full of horsecrap. I hope LW gets away from him as safely and quickly as possible.

        • LW, I would highly recommend getting duplicates of your birth certificate, Social Security card, driver’s license, and other important papers and keeping them with trusted friends or family. Also, pack a bag with emergency toiletries, clothes, money, and medication and stash it in a hidden place in case you need to leave suddenly.

        • johann7 said:

          Agreed; as I read through the responses, this sounds less and less like a safe situation.

          I’m very glad to hear you have your support system intact, LW, and that you are meeting with a DV counselor. We’re all rooting for you.

        • roramich said:

          yes yes yes yes yes!

      • Traffic_Spiral said:

        Does “he is always very certain he knows their intentions even with limited contact” = “trying to stop me from having friends because the men are obviously trying to hook up with me and the women are obviously catty and gossiping about me or trying to destroy my relationship because they’re jealous”? Cause it’s looking like this may just be another way of trying to isolate you and stop you from having friends or family ties.

      • Dear LW, this last comment makes me very glad that you are planning on talking with a DV counselor. I hope you can work with them to create a safety plan for if/when you break up with your BF or even set limits with him. I’m concerned that in his mind, you might flip from being the person he loves and cannot live without, to being one of the people who he feels justified in being “aggressive and intimidating” to and he will believe you “deserve it.”
        You are very brave and I am so glad that you have listened to the part of you that is concerned about how you feel when you are around him. Will be thinking of you and wishing you the best.

      • No Longer In Academia said:

        LW, I join the chorus of people who are worried for you. There’s a reason that he’s made sure you know that he can and will be violent towards people who ‘deserve it’, and that reason is that he wants you to understand that you too can become one of those people if you step out of line. He wants you to have that little voice of fear at the back of your mind whispering, what if?

        This is not someone who needs to be negotiated with, or given another chance. This is someone who needs to come home one day and find that your friends have helped you move out with all your belongings, leaving no forwarding address. I hope you’re able to extricate yourself safely from the relationship.

      • sometimeswhy said:

        Oh, LW, I suspect that the instant you stop being “his” that you’ll become one of those “others.”

        I am so, so glad you plan to talk to a DV counselor and have solidly supportive friends and family. Good luck.

  34. Traffic_Spiral said:

    Funny thing about interracial/cross-cultural relationships: a lot of times a person will use the “it’s just my culture” as an excuse for being a jerk, when it really isn’t their culture. Regardless of the culture there are lots of guys in it that understand healthy boundaries and respect their partners’ feelings. Further, even if it is cultural, that doesn’t mean it’s ok. If he’s with you, then he needs to respect your boundaries and feelings, and if he can’t do that, why he can’t do that isn’t relevant.

    For a lot of issues, sometimes the “why” is nearly irrelevant compared to the “what.” If what he’s doing is preventing you from having a life outside him, and using his own emotional distress as a weapon to invalidate and overrule your needs and feelings, why he’s doing it (past trauma/cultural issues/loving you too much/a selfish desire to have your life and emotional energy entirely focused on his needs and whims/possession by an ancestor due to prenatal ingestion of the Water of Life) isn’t really important. The ‘why’ isn’t enough to justify the ‘what,’ and you’ll never really know the ‘why’ anyways, so don’t focus on it.

    Also, you ever heard the expression “can’t see the forest for the trees?” Well, in relationships it’s pretty natural to only see the trees (because we are all short-sighted about the things that happen to us directly) but… bozhe moi, sister, every tree in this forest has a red flag on top of it.

    – Whirlwind romance with a lot of commitment before you two had a chance to get to know each other better

    – You feel it’s your fault for not “being firmer” about the fact that you need a life outside the relationship (something that you shouldn’t have had to push for at all in a healthy relationship)

    – he puts an incredible amount of pressure on you to be responsible for his emotions “i am the only thing that makes him happy”

    – he makes indirect suicide threats to keep you with him “he welcomed dying before me but now wants to live as long as possible”.

    – he constantly tells you you’re too good for him (it’s a tactic to never have to respond to your complaints because, every time you bring it up it’s “I know, I know, you’re too good for me.” or “hey, we already established you’re too good for me, so why are you complaining when I do bad stuff? That’s just why you’re too good for me.”)

    – he is very insecure in your relationship.

    – he doesn’t like last minute changes to your plans (and because you live together it seems like he’s expanded “plans” to include “any free time you have that you haven’t directly told him you have other plans for”).

    – he makes it *your* fault that *he* has nightmares or panic attacks because “you’re the only one that can stop them.”

    – his episodes often coincide with times you make plans with friends

    – he uses the fact that you’re an interracial couple to win arguments

    – he’s a jealous person and he sees this as something you should fix by changing your behavior, as opposed to something he should fix by changing his jealousy problem

    – the relationship has changed you from a vibrant, carefree woman into someone you don’t like. That last one is pretty huge. Even if all the other ones weren’t there, this relationship is changing you for the worse. Forget whose fault that is, and forget the ‘why’ altogether: the ‘what’ of “it’s changing you for the worse” is a huge problem.

    Seriously, there’s so many red flags I’m singing old Communist anthems. Even though I’m sure he has his good points, there’s a lot of problems with this relationship.

    Also, while you obviously love him and want to help him, how do you know your staying with him is helping? It’s entirely possible that trying to “love him through” his dependency issues will just make him worse and more dependent. Maybe you leaving him will be the catalyst he needs to get therapy, work on his issues and become the person he always knew he could be.

    Finally, I’ll leave you with this song: “So You Think That You Can Fix Him” (Warning: mildly problematic views and irreverence – but you might enjoy it)

    • The LW clarified above that it is she who is the POC and her boyfriend is white.

      • I noticed that, but I read the first bulletted point and my immediate thought was that “violence is just part of being a man”, “people I hurt deserve it”, and “I know who people are based on typecast stereotypes” are all things that do get excused by a lot of white guys as perfectly normal/part of their culture.

        It’s not generally explicitly *referred* to as “part of my culture”, because they have the privilege of being part of the dominant/unmarked culture, so instead it gets brushed off as “common sense”/”everybody knows”/etc, but yeah.

        (That said, the fact that white guys pulling this stuff do not often frame it as “part of my culture” does make it reasonable to read that in the first bullet, the assumption may have been that he was the POC, and I do not mean to suggest that it was at all wrong of you to flag it. Just pointing out that the excuse is the same (“this is normal (to me)!”) even if for LW’s boyfriend it’s possible to frame it as (“this is normal, period, because default”).)

        • LW said:

          this is like spot on. all of his opinions and feelings about people and their intentions are presented as facts. he is certain of his inherent correctness in every situation so if you ever disagree you are just not seeing things intelligently or being too emotional. i used to feel capable and intelligent during discussions with people but when we talk about politics or race or gender i get so spun around i just end up listening to him as he goes on. he’s also very sensitive so i have to make sure i’m calm throughout. i’ve learned how to softly disagree but never aggressively even if the subject is a hard one for me to talk about because otherwise i’m taking things too seriously and this just a lighthearted discussion right? (sarcasm)

          • Allie said:

            LW, I’m chiming in again to acknowledge that your boyfriend is using his combined privileges against you. It’s not the most urgent problem here, but it’s another layer of hurt, and I’m sorry about that.

            You say you “used to feel capable and intelligent”. I say you still are, and I bet people on this thread and in your life would agree with me. The fact that this thread exists and you’ve already followed some of the advice shows that you’re capable of identifying a problem, efficiently asking for help (an intelligent action), and working to solve said problem.

            I think it’s natural to feel off-balance when your conversational partner is spinning you around whenever you talk about big issues that affect *your life* (politics, race, gender). It sounds like he’s saying his privilege makes him more objective– the issues don’t affect him and his resulting lack of emotion makes him “inherently correct”. This is nonsense, because the things the two of you discuss in these “lighthearted” conversations aren’t just philosophical constructs. These issues affect people’s lives (so lived experience are super relevant) and your boyfriend is choosing to ignore that. And he’s disrespecting you in the process! It’s also awful that he’s using slurs around you, especially when you’ve (politely!) asked him to stop multiple times.

            I’ll say it again: your feelings and needs matter. Your life matters. I see you, LW.

          • DropTable~DropsMic said:

            I’m glad you can see how toxic that dynamic is. I remember with my own Shitty Ex he would 1) come at any political, cultural or aesthetic disagreement as though he was the only correct one 2) get REALLY​ mad if the conversation didn’t proceed as he wanted. Over stuff like favorite bands or my design choices in art projects, stuff that had no impact on his life but challenged his sense of superiority over me.

            All the stuff about how he can’t live without you, etc? He is attached to the IDEA of you and to the things you do for him. He does not respect your opinions, intelligence, experiences, or personality.

          • Cyberwulf said:

            LW, please get away from this white boy and his “objectivity”. This behavior alone is enough reason to leave and never look back.

          • Oh LW, I am so sorry. For what it’s worth, you come across as very capable and intelligent, and I hope you get to stop being around someone who makes you feel otherwise. This sounds grindingly unhappy.

          • Lily said:

            the only thing that’s to be said about this guy’s “objectivity” is that he is objectively a piece of shit.

  35. Reading that letter made my chest tighten with apprehension. These are red flag, LW. Being a survivor of abuse doesn’t mean one cannot also be a perpetrator of it, no matter how needy or helpless they may try to paint themselves to make you their caregiver. This is speaking as someone whose abuser and rapist was a survivor and things played out pretty much that same way. Good luck and take care.

  36. Saturnalia said:

    One of the trickiest things about a situation like this is how deeply you find you’ve learned to accommodate this kind of behavior. While my current relationship isn’t perfect, it is also not abusive. However, I will still deal with normal relationship stuff through the lens of a past abusive relationship and react to conflict as though my current partner is the same as my abusive ex. While I made a conscious decision to stay in a difficult (yet lovely in so many ways) relationship that allows me a safe space to work through my previous abuse (and also gives me ample opportunity to be triggered into needing to work through my shit), I often wonder what things would be like if I could just live my present situation without the overlay of past BS. I wonder if it would be easier and happier, or if I’d be able to tell it’s too flawed to keep investing in.

    For the sake of your future self, protect your present self from believing his manipulation. I hope you can un-internalize any of his shit very quickly, and I hope you don’t find yourself repeating Variations on a Theme of Bees to allow yourself to work through this relationship through others for years. I think you are lovely and wish a better outcome for you than the one your letter makes me realize I have.

  37. RabbitRabbit said:

    The comment I love when reading about situations like this, is: “It’s supposed to be a relationship, not a hostage situation.” He’s holding you hostage to his trauma and anxiety, and in the worst situations, he’s taking *himself* hostage when he talks about how you’re the only thing that makes him happy and he has a reason to live now.

    • “It’s supposed to be a relationship, not a hostage situation.” < this resonates so hard it hurts.

      • B. said:

        +1

  38. I was diagnosed with autism by two different doctors. Like many autistics, I have a hard time with plans being changed at the last minute. I still don’t hold my loved ones hostage like the LW’s boyfriend does. He has no excuse at all for doing this to you, LW.

    • Allie said:

      Hi all, I’ve been reading here for ages, but I’ve never commented before. Thanks so much for contributing to this wonderful space.

      To the LW: I hear you on race affecting the dynamics of your relationship. It’s a relevant detail. I’m also a woman of color, and I want to say this very clearly: your feelings and needs matter. There are a lot of otherwise well-meaning people who are used to only interacting with WOC in service or other subordinate roles. Basically, many people aren’t accustomed to having to take the feelings or needs of WOC into account–they’re used to WOC taking care of them. I can’t say for sure this is an issue in your relationship, but it might be.

      The comments above have many good tips on how to assert boundaries and improve your relationship. I just wanted to acknowledge some of the social dynamics that could be making this process even harder for you, LW. Please be safe and take care of yourself. If it helps, remember that lots of us out here *see* you and are rooting for you. Your feelings and needs matter.

      • Allie said:

        Sorry, this wasn’t meant to be a reply to jennylinskyb, just a general comment.

      • LW said:

        it is. i’ve been made to feel unreasonable when i’ve tried (very infrequently) to assert boundaries around the use of slurs for example. thamk you for validating that it’s ok for me to continue to assert myself and speak my truth.

        • Oh boy. Oh boy. Oh boy.

          I believe you when you say you love him and things moved really fast.

          I also believe you when you say he makes you feel small and incompetent and belittles you when you try to set a boundary and thinks it’s okay to use violence and doesn’t like you being around other people and dismisses you as “wrong” and not just “differently opined” and resorts to stereotypes and slurs.

          LW, please, stay safe.

        • Oh, LW. I am so sorry he did that to you. It’s not OK, and it never will be OK for him to do that to you. As a fellow WoC, offering solidarity. I’ve been there. We’re considered lovely and sweet until we have needs and boundaries, and it sucks.

  39. Laura, here said:

    LW, it’s slightly buried within your story, but did you notice you wrote “Sometimes I worry he uses his trauma to manipulate me” -? And what did you think when you saw that?
    Throughout your letter, I’m struck by how grounded and self-aware you are and how I trust your assessments. The fellow, though, I don’t have the same feel for. I’ve just seen that same clutching-at-people thing firsthand, after being away from it for awhile.

    I saw that the person doing it to me had no sense of their selfhood. They thought I was their salvation. What I also noticed was that their urge to glom onto me, their enthusiasm and attempts to force team with me as I described a business idea I’m pursuing, was in fact me reflecting their own potential back to them. Who I am really had no part of it.

    I’ve suckered for the “Project Person” in the past (and I’ve attempted to be a Project Person, to others) (thought it was normal) and in both roles, it has always ended with the other person becoming utterly contemptuous of me. It gobbled up any crumbs that might have supported a better relationship. It’s been devastating in my business, romantic and family relationships.

    He can’t be fixed from without. My experience is that he won’t change for the better until he has to. As long as he’s in this relationship, he will only get more into the antisocial and unhealthy aspects. The good stuff disappears. He’s likely aware that what he’s trying to hold onto just slips away faster. He doesn’t know how to fix it. Let him “hit bottom” with his pain, and hurt enough to find a therapist.

  40. Nanani said:

    LW, I just want to emphasize that it is not and never has been on YOU to avoid becoming a pacifier. It is 100% on partner not to behave as though you were one.

    HE is the one who needs to learn that a girlfriend is not a pacifier. None of this is your fault.

  41. This is very interesting! I been in a very similar situation. I’ve learned the best thing you can do for any relationship is take care of yourself. Listen to your partner, don’t try to fix them. You are responsible for how you react or feel. People will take advantage of you if you let them. Setting boundaries and sticking to them are very important.
    Best of luck with you current situation. I know it is hard when you are going through tuff times but things will get better.

  42. i tried to change parts of myself to make him more comfortable as he is an admittedly jealous person.

    I haven’t seen any commenters address this statement so far, but to me, this leapt out as one of the many distressing parts of your letter. “An admittedly jealous person” is already a bit of a red flag; the fact that he is open enough about it that you are changing yourself to make him “feel better” takes that red flag status from “a bit” to “oh dear”. Add to that the information from your comments that he is physically violent and intimidating and that he has access to firearms, and that takes this threat from “oh dear” level to “RUN. NOW.”

    People who are so jealous that their jealousy and their subsequent actions force their partner to change parts of themselves are not dealing with their jealousy appropriately. It sounds like avoid his jealous outbursts has turned you from being vibrant, social, and open with people to being more closed off and guarded about the company you keep (probably male company in particular, right?).

    LW, please leave this guy. You sound like such a lovely, open-hearted, engaging person, and it sounds like your boyfriend is threatened by you wanting to share yourself with other people. That is not a healthy behavior, and I think you will be MUCH better off without him.

    • LW said:

      you’re so right ❤️ the few male friends i have i never see because he is convinced that men and women can never truly be friends. he thinks it’s normal and healthy to be jealous when it comes to your partner, my lack of jealousy is seen as an indication i don’t care ad much as i should for him.

      • B. said:

        My bullshit-o-meter exploded at that last one, LW.

        I’m sure you are well aware of this, but just for the record: jealousy is not a form of love nor a way to express caring. It’s very unhealthy in any relationship and here it’s being used as a way to control you and isolate you. It does not stem from your behaviour or friendships but from your boyfriend’s insecurities. And men and women can so be friends, you have the proof of that!

        PS: A friend of mine used to misdirect about or fail to mention (with our permission and blessing) our genders, sexual orientations or commitment status so her mother would let her hang out with her friends. For example, her male friends weren’t mentioned by name unless they were gay, in a relationship, or both; her mother never learned that I’m a lesbian, so I was ‘safe’ to hang out with, and so on. She was always “just hanging out with B. and the girls, mom” or “going to the mall with X and his boyfriend”: no need to mention how many of her straight single male friends were there as well.

        If your friends don’t mind this, and you need to see them in the meantime, maybe you could try this? It’s dangerous to lie to this kind of people if they catch you, though, so try it only if you feel the advantages outweight the risks.

        You can do this, LW! We are all rooting for you 🙂

      • You know who also believed that his being a very, very jealous person was right and proper? Elliot Rodger.

        • Nancy Girl said:

          Q= OJ Simpson

      • Jenna said:

        I was married to a guy who thought that his jealousy was a sign of his love, and that my lack of jealousy meant that I didn’t love him. That particular fight was never really over. I actually thought that I was “jealousy deficient” for years, but, no.
        I don’t recommend partnering with anyone who thinks jealousy is a sign of love.

      • Nancy Girl said:

        :HE: can’t be friends with women. And/or his friends have told him to stop sexually harrassing the women in their social circle.

      • Leilah said:

        I have absolutely been there. Sending you my love and support, and I hope you get out safe. I left 6 years ago now, and life is good – it’s scary, but you are definitely taking the right steps. It takes a long time after you’re out to realize just how messed up it all was… 💙

  43. Jane Austen Was A Genius said:

    “he constantly tells me i’m too good for him”

    I have learned this over and over – believe people when they tell you who they are.

    • LW said:

      i just returned from work and i’m so overwhelmed with love and gratitude for everyone who has commented thank y’all so much ❤️ sheezelbub (sp) your commentary on this website has been so important for me i cannot thank you, the captain and this community enough.

      i called the dv hotline this morning, i have a tentative plan and an appointment to get a storage unit tomorrow so i can move some of my things quietly out of our place pre breakup. i still have no idea when or how i will end it or what i will say but i’m going to take it one day at a time.

      he’s said some things in passing about how if a person thinks their freedom is more important than their romantic relationship than that relationship is doomed and that is in such direct opposition to everything i believe about love and i just cannot give much more of myself to this.

      i promise to let y’all know what happens and reach out for help ❤️. thank you from the bottom of my heart.

      • RabbitRabbit said:

        Thank you for caring about yourself this much, and believing you are worthy. Be careful.

      • FaintlyMacabre said:

        I’m so happy to hear that. Leaving is hard, but so worth it. Best of luck, and a galaxy of Jedi hugs.

      • DropTable~DropsMic said:

        Thank you so much for this update. I hope the storage unit goes as planned and you are able to carry out your plans with a minimum level of complication.

        You’re not obligated at all, but if you want more advice and support before the Captain is able to respond to you, check out the forums at friendsofcaptainawkward.com

        • Nancy Girl said:

          Oh, a last PS for people needing to move and are kept poor by financial abuse- in the US, a huge storage comany offers first month free. And they had a locks I could buy, too. You will need ID.

      • Oh LW. I am SO proud of you. You are doing such a brave, tough thing, and you are handling all of this with aplomb. The fact that you already have an actionable plan is fantastic. I am so, SO proud of you for listening to that little voice in your head/heart that realized that this relationship isn’t right; she is the bravest, truest part of you, and you honor yourself when you listen to her.

        Please keep us updated if you have the time/desire (if not, no worries). We are all rooting for you and we want so very much for you to be free, safe, calm, and happy.

        Stay safe, LW, and good luck. ❤️

      • Redgirl said:

        I’m so glad you called the DV hotline and are making plans to get out! I was commenting earlier here and then as I read further down the comments I became increasingly worried for you. Will you follow up with us later and let us know you are doing okay?

      • I’m rooting for you!

        that is in such direct opposition to everything i believe about love and i just cannot give much more of myself to this.

        Go you for sticking to your truth! Boyfriend is super wrong about freedom and romantic relationships being opposites too, you should never ever ever have to cut off pieces of yourself to fit in a relationship.

      • The more you tell us about this guy, the more obvious it is that you’re way too good for him and very smart and brave to be doing what you’re doing. You follow your heart into the life you deserve, and stay safe.

        You know you said you missed being the person you were before him? He’s been squashing that person down very hard because he knew she was roo big for him to consume. But she’s still there. She just got you on the road to freedom.

      • B. said:

        It’s great to read your updates, LW ❤ I hope everything goes with the least possible number of hitches and that you are soon free and safe. Taking things one day at a time sounds like a great idea and getting a storage unit is genius. If you'd like to store your things in more than one place (I like to have several independent hiding places, but ymmv), maybe you could talk to some of the friends who offered you a safe place and arrange for some of your things to be left there? You can always go for a visit with your biggest purse full of clothes/jewelry/items of sentimental value and empty it at your friend's place, or meet for a coffee and give your friend the stuff so they get it safely home. If you carry a plastic bag within your purse and your stuff inside that, giving the bag with your belongings to your friend takes 30 seconds.

      • Southernbelle said:

        Dear LW: as I’ve read through this thread it went from “relationship has a lot of issues, I am doubtful but maybe can they can work on it some with partner” to “this person is very dangerous and this is BAD and it is time to GET OUT.” I am so glad that you are making a plan and I hope your exit is soon and peaceful and safe.

      • MuddieMaeSuggins said:

        “he’s said some things in passing about how if a person thinks their freedom is more important than their romantic relationship than that relationship is doomed”

        Oh my goodness, this just says so much about him, doesn’t it? (None of it good, either)

        You are kicking ass! Good luck.

      • Oh my goodness I am *so* happy to hear this. All my best. Wishing you safety and peace and no-one belittling you and a space of your own.

      • Viva said:

        Sending you love and jedi hugs and many good vibes. I’m so proud of you, from your letter and comments you’re a lovely person and you deserve happiness. Stay safe and best wishes to you.

      • Thanksforallthefish said:

        Thank you for the update, I am rooting for you!

        The break-up words don’t have to be eloquent, or even in real-time. When there’s an unsafe person involved, you are 100% allowed to end things via text or email. Once you and your stuff is out of there, “It’s not working out, my feelings for you have changed, please don’t contact me again” then block everything.

        If there has to be follow-up to get more stuff out, don’t go alone. If you decide to break-up in person, still don’t do it alone. There’s no rule that says you “have to” break-up a certain way.

        Good luck!!!

        • LaMaria said:

          Very true. I broke up with a dude who had screamed at me quite a bit more than I would have liked over the 3.5 year we were together but was never, ever physically violent. When I broke up with him (spontaneously, over the phone) he insisted we talk it over the next day. I felt guilty for leaving him (another case of “you´re the only one who understaaands me”) so I agreed. In the morning his best friend called me at work to ask me to talk to let him (friend) drive me over and wait outside while we talked. I really didn´t feel unsafe but he was the fatherly friend type and I didn´t want to offend him/have him worry. Then while talking with my ex it became clear he wasn´t going to let me go. He kept pouring me more wine and when I finally started to listen to my screaming gut and got up to leave he grabbed my arm and wouldn´t let me. Still: not in a violent way, but it suddenly became clear to me that he really wasn´t going to let me leave, no matter how long I listened and no matter how understanding and apologetic I was. Thankfully he had to get up to open another bottle, I texted friend to please come up and who must have been waiting right outside because he the doorbell rang *immediately*. Ex ignored the bell and didn´t want me to get up either… So friend rang up a storm until ex gave up and went to the door and I basically slipped under his arm as soon as it opened. And even THEN it took a while for me to recognize how weird that situation was, because he neither threatened violence nor did he raise his voice on that day.
          TL;DR: please don´t give him a chance to be alone with you after he knows/suspects something´s off.

          • Thanksforallthefish said:

            Ugh that’s terrifying in this really insidious way. The gaslighty threat that is so subtle you can’t put your finger on why it’s even bad is the worst. I am a very gullible person and want to think the best of people. It took a long time (years) for me to listen to my own gut when it screamed every time my boyfriend (ex now) would try and take me to the jewelry store to look at engagement rings even as early as 2 months in….turns out my body knew he was a manipulative darth vader emotional abuser

      • Jules said:

        Serious hugs! You got this.

        I have some experience in this area, and I think you are doing the right thing.

      • Tennia said:

        “he’s said some things in passing about how if a person thinks their freedom is more important than their romantic relationship than that relationship is doomed”

        This is absolute nonsense. Love *is* freedom. Love says, I love you, go and be free. Love fights for your freedom. Love celebrates your freedom.

      • TheLazyB said:

        He sounds terrifying. You sound awesome. We’re all rooting for you xxx

      • Sheelzebub said:

        So glad you’re taking steps go get away from this situation! We’re here for you!

      • Nancy Girl said:

        LW, I could tell by the way you have been able to identify and label the dynamics of this that you were taking the reins to get free. I’m so happy.

        With my deal, I also got a storage unit and moved my things out in stages over a couple of weeks, until I was just camped out in the home. You couldn’t tell as I was careful to leave my daily things lying around. Only looking closely would someone see everything else was gone.
        Then with my next room rented, I called the police and told them the homeowner was on meds that weren’t working, that I had several times woke to find them coming into my room or standing over me as I slept, and that they’d told me they had a loaded gun under their bed.
        The cops came swiftly, very calmly told the person oppressing me that I was moving out, it was a done deal, that I was taking the last of my things out now and would not be back. It went so smoothly I tried to joke with the cops, who had their hands on their guns and did not joke back.
        At last I handed over the keys to the cop standing between us.
        The next couple days, the homeowner did drive through the parking lot of the secured building I worked in, which I probably should have reported. I was sure my best protection was the homeowner not wanting their professional reputation damaged. Their neighbors had already gotten an eyeful with the two cop cars escorting me out.

        And I was Free. And you will be, too. ❤

  44. asfalturtle said:

    Hi LW, I’m so glad to hear that you’re taking this seriously, and making a plan to get away. I think the part of you that feels he might be dangerous when rejected, is an incredibly important voice to listen to. The most dangerous time in an abusive relationship is usually when the victim is trying to leave/leaving/just after they have left.

    I haven’t seen anyone else mention this (maybe the hotline did), but I thought I would remind you to delete your browser and search history if you think he can access the computer you are using. He sounds incredibly controlling and jealous, and those kinds of people sometimes covertly monitor/spy on their partners. Please be safe.

  45. Also, LW, he may have put spyware on your computer/phone/tablet.

  46. I’ve not read the comments but from the letter, LW I have been in your boyfriend’s shoes. And in yours. Both relationships were in my very early 20s. Both me and my ex were very genuinely distressed and ill and not trying to manipulate or hurt any one.
    LEAVING MY EX WAS THE RIGHT DECISION FOR BOTH OF US.
    I’m still in the second relationship but we have decided not to live together any more. And I got a lot of therapy and I lived on my own for several years. I got better enough to now have a very healthy stable relationship with a boyfriend I live with – with several days of the week dedicated to “R (me) does his own thing without Boyfriend”. I need that now to help make sure that I have a life separate from his.

    Please do not accept any guilt or liability for leaving if you do. You are not his doctor or therapist. You can not give him the help he needs. He will not look elsewhere for that help if you keep trying to do it! My ex and I are still mentally ill and broken and struggling – but we survived and got much better through no longer trying to get therapy from our romantic partners. It’s like trying to get orange juice out of a pear – you get something but you never get what you needed.

    • It’s like trying to get orange juice out of a pear – you get something but you never get what you needed.

      I really like how you put that 🙂

  47. Yetanotherlefty, you are NOT broken. You are a survivor.

  48. Anon for this one said:

    Dear LW. When you can, when you are not dealing with surviving please read “why does he do that”.

    It’s a book about the underpinnings of abuser’s mentality. How they operate. What is in their heads when they abuse.

    It’s been healing for me. Because how could I have put up with it? How could I have not seen how bad it was? Why did I want to return even when I objectively KNEW that was the worst thing I could do to myself? How could I have guilt over leaving him and why did I stay so long? What was wrong with me???

    It showed me the psychological ways that abusers keep you in a cage. And how they trick you into not seeing the bars.

    The door of your cage is open. It will take time to heal. It will be SO GOOD though. Trust me.

  49. solecism said:

    Based on what you’ve described in terms of your boyfriend’s history and attitudes, there’s a very high probability of stalking (if not immediate violence). In developing your escape plan, be sure to discuss how to protect yourself from online and in person stalking. Here’s a resource:
    http://victimsofcrime.org/our-programs/stalking-resource-center
    This is definitely something that your Team You can help you with in terms of filtering and creating a buffer for you.

    Also, using slurs is never okay. You deserve better. It doesn’t matter if the slurs are misogynist, or racist, or the special unpleasantness of misogynoir (see http://www.gradientlair.com/post/60973580823/general-misogyny-versus-misogynoir). An intimate partner who uses slurs toward you is not someone who is safe or loving.

    Good luck. You got this.

  50. Kelsi said:

    Having been in a relationship where the person placed all the burden of his sadness on me (“You’re the best thing that ever happened to me” “I can’t live without you” “You’re the only thing holding me together”) and also cut WAY back on the time I spent with my family (he did not feel comfortable around my family and made sure to radiate I Want To Go Home vibes at max intensity any time we were around them, but also would get sad and pouty about being alone if I wanted to spend time with them WITHOUT him or implied that he didn’t have to go)–

    Run. Run run run run run. This is absolutely a bees situation and it took me five years to figure it out, five years in which I didn’t grow or get the emotional support I needed, five years in which–at least during the latter half–I was constantly telling myself things like “Well, he’s not forbidding me from seeing friends/family, obviously that would be a huge warning sign.”

    The fact that you’re asking the question? Also a warning sign. Isolating you is more than just actively forbidding you to see the people who are your support system. (Ex was smart enough to know that would NEVER have worked on me.) It can also be throwing up roadblocks–like, for instance, guilt tripping you and making every interaction you have with those people tense and miserable–so that when you end up cutting off or severely reducing contact, you believe it’s your own decision.

    • LW said:

      @kelsi ❤️❤️❤️
      thank you for this.

      i think he knows this about me too. he pulls pretty much what you described above if i spend any significant amount of time with someone who isn’t him. our relationship goes very smoothly as long as i don’t assert boundaries or speak up for myself in the tone he desires. anytime i disagree with a criticism he’s levied against someone close to me (which interpret as an attempt to subtly manipulate me into seeing them in that same light) i am naive or in denial.

      • LW said:

        he doesn’t desire.*

        • LW said:

          update/follow up question

          again thank you to everyone who has commented so far. i read this thread daily and it brings me so much strength. i wanted to let you all know i had a wonderful time with friends recently (on my own). and they all offered to help me move when the time comes and asked to be notified of the impending breakup so they can be present or very close by if it becomes a matter of my safety.

          i know it will be ending but in the interim i want to begin exercising more agency. i have plans to see friends soon and was thinking of turning my phone off. is this the kind of thing i should tell him beforehand or just like do?

          whenever i hang out without him he requests i text him from time to time and jokes about feeling forgotten/how i don’t love him as much as he loves me etc. he also calls at least once or wants to be updated on what we’re doing. all of this is positioned as simple loving interest and concern which makes it a bit difficult to know how to navigate.

          • JenniferP said:

            I’m glad you’ve got your people around you!

            The jokes that aren’t jokes combined with the insistence on “just checking in” sound to me like a way of monitoring you. Stay wary.

            I’m rooting for you.

        • LW said:

          i apologize if this double posts i wrote a long update and then it seemed like it disappeared after i hit post. i want to thank you all so much, this thread has given me an immense amount of strength. i told a few more friends about my situation and they offered their cars to help me move as well as emotional support while i stay.

          i wanted to ask some advice on turning off my phone. i’ll be seeing friends alone again and though i plan to leave i’d like to exercise some more autonomy. bf often asks for me to check in periodically by text if we’re not together, passive aggressively jokes about me forgetting about him/cheating on him/and likes to be updated on what i’m doing. this often positioned as humor or loving concern.

          if i turn off my phone for the evening and turn it back on to check in before my return should i tell him this what i plan to do? or just like do it? i’ve never done this before and i can already feel like a FEELINGSBOMB convo initiated by him if i did.

          • Squibbledee said:

            Hey LW, good job with everything you’re doing!

            In terms of the phone, what I would do is text him while I’m already out, something like: “Hey, having a great time with X, just going to be offline for the next few hours for some uninterrupted catching up. I’ll let you know when I’m coming home” – or similar. Basically, be breezy and act like this is normal – because it is normal! And the FEELINGS convo can be treated similarly: “This isn’t a big deal, I just wanted some quality time with my friend.” If he says that is a problem, maybe ask him to state why it’s a problem. Equally, if you know the end is in sight, no one would blame you for keeping your head down until you’re safe and out of there. Much love!

          • YMMV but I’d send him a text just before turning the phone off so he doesn’t have time to respond. “Hi, just wanted to tell you my phone is going to be off this evening so don’t worry if you can’t reach me or don’t hear from me. Hope you have a nice evening, talk to you later!” I say this because if you don’t tell him, he’s likely to use that as leverage against you: “I COULDN’T GET HOLD OF YOU YOUR PHONE IS ALWAYS ON I THOUGHT YOU WERE DEAD HOW COULD YOU MAKE ME WORRY LIKE THIS HOW COULD YOU DOOOOOO THIS TO MEEEEEEEE!”

          • Tim Tam Girl said:

            I would say that this depends on how safe you feel around your plans to leave, and how much longer you’ll be staying. If you think that drawing these boundaries would alert him that Something Is Up, or would give him the opportunity to manipulate or hurt you more, that’s an important factor to consider. While I do think that drawing those boundaries is critically important for you, if you are planning to leave and you’re already concerned that he might try to hurt you more as a result of that (which is common for abusers), then you may be safer if you don’t give him any indication that anything has changed until you are actually breaking up with him and moving out.

            If your plan is still to move out and that you will do so fairly soon, you may also want to consider how much mental energy you need for that process, and whether or not you have the resources to fight multiple battles at once. If you decide that the boundary-drawing battle isn’t one you want to fight because you want to save your energy for the bigger battles that may/will result from your leaving, that is valid. Keeping your head down to keep yourself safe while you make your escape plan does not mean that you’re giving in or that he’s winning; it means that you’re making a judgment call about what’s best for you. You sound exhausted even discussing the possibility of another FEELINGSBOMB conversation; you may want to think about whether the energy you’d have to put into this would be worth it, or if it would leave you more hurt and drained (and still not getting what you want/need) when what you need is to shore up your reserves.

            On the other hand, if it’s going to take a longer time before you can leave, and you feel that drawing some boundaries now will help you survive in this situation until you can get out (e.g., that time with friends/family will help you recharge, will allow you to connect with your resources and plan, etc.), then that’s a good argument for turning your phone off.

            In terms of giving him advance notice, I would say to make sure to frame it in your own head as being about what will make *you* feel safe and not about soothing him. You know his patterns; if you think that telling him in advance might stave off an explosion when you get home after you’ve gone unexpectedly silent for the evening, then giving him a heads-up would be helpful *for you*. In that case, I think the Captain’s script, “I’m sorry you are feeling upset, but I need this time with my friends/family/alone. I’m not doing this to hurt you, but it’s also not a negotiation, so, I’m going to hang up/leave now,” is a really good one.

            Finally, I think that this might be another thing that would be good to run by a domestic violence counsellor/advocate. Is there any chance you could reach back out to the person/people you spoke with earlier this week? I’m sure they’ll have some good ideas for this specific situation.

            Good luck, LW. You’re a total badass. Please keep checking in. We’re all cheering for you!

          • Tim Tam Girl said:

            I would say that this depends on how safe you feel around your plans to leave, and how much longer you’ll be staying. If you think that drawing these boundaries would alert him that Something Is Up, or would give him the opportunity to manipulate or hurt you further, then I would suggest that you try to stick to standard operating procedure for now. I think that drawing those boundaries is critically important for you; but if you are planning to leave and you’re already concerned that he might try to hurt you more as a result of that (which is common for abusers), then you may be safer if you don’t give him any indication that anything has changed until you are actually breaking up with him and moving out.

            If your plan is still to move out and that you will do so fairly soon, you may also want to consider how much mental energy you need for that process, and whether or not you have the resources to fight multiple battles at once. If you decide that the boundary-drawing battle isn’t one you want to fight because you want to save your energy for the bigger battles that may/will result from your leaving, that is valid. Keeping your head down to keep yourself safe while you make your escape plan does not mean that you’re giving in or that he’s winning; it means you’re making a judgment call about what’s best for you.

            On the other hand, if it’s going to take a longer time before you move, and you feel that drawing some boundaries now will help you survive in this situation until you can get out (e.g., that time with friends/family will help you recharge, will allow you to connect with your resources and plan, etc.), then that’s a good argument for turning your phone off. In terms of giving him advance notice, I would say to make sure to frame it in your own head as being about what will make *you* feel safe and not about soothing him. You know his patterns; if you think that telling him in advance might stave off an explosion when you get home after you’ve gone unexpectedly silent for the evening, then giving him a heads-up would be helpful *for you*. Either way, I think the Captain’s script, “I’m sorry you are feeling upset, but I need this time with my friends/family/alone. I’m not doing this to hurt you, but it’s also not a negotiation, so, I’m going to hang up/leave now,” is a really good one.

            Finally, I think that this might be another thing that would be good to run by a domestic violence counsellor/advocate. Is there any chance you could reach back out to the person/people you spoke earlier this week? I’m sure they’ll have some good ideas for this specific situation.

            Good luck, LW. You’re a total badass. Please keep checking in. We’re all cheering for you!

          • I agree with @amberxebi, though I would still brace for the inevitable FEELINGSBOMB convo when you get home. I don’t think you’re going to feel true relief and independence until you have left him.

            Thanks for checking in, LW!

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