#1074: “My boyfriend loves smoking weed more than he loves me. What to do about his weird ultimatums?”

Dear Captain Awkward,

Okay, so I just typed my whole question and realized it is wayyyyy longer than 400 words. The 400 word question is:

My boyfriend gets defensive and dramatic when we have a conflict. While I try to offer solutions and compromises to our problems, he gets to a breaking point and responds with, “Well, then let’s just break up then,” or, “Well, then I don’t want to hang out with you tonight/you made me not want to hang out with you.” This doesn’t seem fair and I have told him often that it’s not okay with me to just drop a bomb like that in order to end what could be not a big deal. These kinds of terrible conversations usually end poorly, then he smokes some weed, then he comes back and apologizes and says he won’t do that again -> the cycle begins again. I would love if you have any advice or a script for what to do if you’re arguing and someone says, “Well, then let’s just [dramatic end].” I would rather not do this, but: am I supposed to call his bluff and let him leave? When he says it, it feels a little bit like a less concerning version of, “If you (don’t) [action], then I will [self-harm action],” or am I way off there?

The whole fabu story is:

My boyfriend (male, he/him) and I (female, she/her) had a classic meet cute in 2015. Me: flat tire. Him: AAA truck driver changing the tire. I asked him out and we had a great first date where he revealed that he would have asked me out if he had not been working, but he wanted to be professional (applause break). This made me feel better about his desire to go on the date. I also, as I do on all first dates, asked him if he smoked, because I refuse to date people who smoke any sort of anything. He said that he used to, cigarettes and weed, but that he had quit “a while ago” to focus on his goal of entering the military (he was 24, no college degree; now 27, and me 28) to better his life.

A few things happened next, in this order and from my perspective:
– Two months later he was rejected from entering the military due to his psoriasis.
– He went from very communicative and sweet via texts and calls to aloof and almost avoidant. It was like pulling teeth to get him on the phone or to make plans.
– He focused a lot of time on hanging out with his cousin. Cousin is in his 30s, is hiding from a felony(ies?) in Oregon, and lives with his mom in California. Boyfriend was, when we met, living with them in a town about a half hour away from me.
– Because he spent more time with Cousin, Boyfriend began smoking weed again, though it seemed to be occasional, once or twice a month.
– Four months into the relationship, my roommate left in a dramatic fashion. Boyfriend offered to move in. He did move stuff in, purchase a TV, and pay rent, but he still spent majority of his time at Cousin’s house.
– Six months later we decided to find a different place because he wanted a garage to work on cars and I wanted a more peaceful town. We found one and moved in. I did the work beforehand of, “Let’s make sure we don’t stop dating each other. You’re not around much in this current place, and I’m not clear how that will change in a new place. Are you sure you don’t want to get a studio for yourself or live with a friend before making this commitment? We are now going to make decisions as a team. Are you in this for building a life together?” He said he was on board.
– I had fallen very much in love and was trying to be patient with the new smoking habit and poor life decisions. I agreed to move in as long as no smoking happened inside of the house. He agreed.
– Many, many things happened after the shine wore off (or that wore the shine off) such as he smoked in the house while I was on vacation and then turned it around on me when I asked him why and could he please not do that again and to respect my/our space (apparently that makes me controlling), but what it all boils down to is that smoking marijuana slowly went from once in a while to every day all day/can’t function without it/is using phrases like “I need it” and also smoking cigarettes and also getting faded on weed and alcohol often.

We have had many fights about the marijuana because I am concerned for his wellbeing. He and I disagree on whether the drug itself is beneficial, and so with him I mostly focus on the fact that not-oxygen is entering his lungs, shortening his lifespan (and his Married Friend is concerned about the getting faded). I have told him that I really prefer him when he’s sober and asked him to please lessen his usage, for example, only on weekends. Whenever I try to have calm talks about this with him and explain that a compromise is not an order, and that if he does not like the suggested compromise, he can counter-offer, and if we try that compromise and down the road it is not working, we can come back to the table and re-assess and adjust, the conversation quickly devolves from calm (mostly devolving on his side, though in early convos I will admit to engaging in teary emotional warfare) as he becomes defensive and combative, tells me that I am controlling, that no one can tell him what to do, that I am unreasonable, etc.

Then he smokes some weed and 20 minutes later he is apologetic and everything I say is correct and he loves me and he will try not to treat me that way again.

Welp. I think you know where this is going.

After a lot of these, he moved out and back in with Felon Cousin. This was not my favorite decision because Boyfriend said that he needed to move out to grow up and find himself and have independence. This is what I had tried to see if he needed pre-move in, and I guess maybe he had agreed to move in on wishful thinking? I don’t know. I can respect that impulse to want space, but I personally don’t see how moving in with Felon Cousin and Felon Cousin’s Mom who smoke weed together and play video games when Mom is not at work is conducive to Boyfriend getting his life together. I tried to say this more tactfully and respectfully. I told him I can’t make him stay, but that I hear his goals (wants to do something in the music industry, wants to build his own house someday) and that I’m not clear on how this step achieves them, etc. He considered this, but he still moved in with them. (This is a big deal for me because he now lives an hour away, I do not have a car, and I am not interested in being there anyway since the house CONSTANTLY smells like weed. I did express that also, albeit politely and not in a, “If you move there I’M NOT VISITING YOU/DATING YOU,” kind of way, just in a, “No thanks, not my scene,” kind of way.)

Believe it or not, we are still “dating”. The headspace I am in right now is that there is a piece of him that cares about me, and a piece of me that cares about him, and that a substance abuse problem is getting in the way. Because we will have been together three years this March, I am doing my best to navigate this new phase where we do not live together. There is no sex right now, and I have made it clear that I am going to be treated VERY WELL. Sex will re-enter when he’s ready to have adult conversations about commitment. And Captain, you will not believe this. He is a better-ish boyfriend after moving out. I went East to family for Christmas alone to heal while he moved out, and when I returned, he picked me up from the airport with flowers. He has been calling me daily and responding to texts and Snapchats. He has made plans to take me on a dates and then been on time for those dates. He has been more responsive to his mom and interested in hanging out with his more immediate family, whom I adore. If we had just met at the beginning of the month, I would be smitten.

Except there is one thing that is not going VERY WELL.

He still does the poopy treatment -> weed -> everything is great. I have been in therapy for a long time, even before I met him, and have now made it to a point where I can stay completely calm and objective in an argument with him. It’s like I have an out of body experience. When we lived together, we’d be in an argument and he would often pull the, “Well, then let’s just break up,” card. I explained many times how that is NOT okay, and he stopped doing the break up version of it, but he still pulls a version of that threat. In our most recent fight about whether or not he would smoke on our date, he was like, “I don’t want to hang out with you anymore tonight.” It made me stop mid-sentence, which is what he wanted, and then I said, “I’m sorry you feel that way. I would still like to hang out with you. I don’t think this problem we’re having right now is insurmountable and I’d really like it if you could tell me how you’re feeling so we can move on and have a good night.” He continued to be surly/defensive/give me the silent treatment. He started smoking. He let me have it (I was glad for this actually since he has such a hard time opening up) and said that I am so pushy; that he often says he doesn’t want to talk about something and I just keep going and keep pushing, and that’s frustrating for him, and no wonder I am so isolated from friends and family.

Okay. He is not wrong. When he shuts down, I do try to come at the issue from different angles to get him to open up, and I should respect if he doesn’t want to talk. However, too often he doesn’t want to talk as a verbal slap in the face to me, not because he has nothing to say. Additionally, I am an entire coast away from my home base, and I have two very, very close girl friends, and I am emotionally satisfied but also don’t hang out with humans that often. So in this instance, it felt like he was implying that I was so combative and disruptive that my friends and family have purposefully distanced themselves from me. I asked my best friend and she said she loves me and this is not the case for her with me, and I trust her. (Family is a different story and I actually think we should all communicate MORE but that’s a question for another day.)

In truth, I suppose I really should be respectful if he says he does not want to talk, even if it’s because he is being rude, but I really do not feel like it’s fair to make a judgment call about my character in order to end an argument. It puts me in the position of defending myself instead of focusing on how to resolve the current issue. Well, I guess in this case, his own separate issue was, “How do I get her to shut up?” So I guess it succeeded.

There’s a lot of problems in this “relationship”. I get that. On the whole, I try not to let it bother me to the point that I fixate, and I am active. I go to the gym. I go to therapy consistently. I just got a new job as a substitute teacher. I am taking an improv class. I am pursuing freelance photography. I adopted a cat. I contacted a neighbor about fostering more kittens. I am doing my best to live my own life. As frustrating as everything I just said above is, with my support team I can handle what he throws at me.

However, I am fixated enough on the “I’m going to leave” bit that I felt like I needed the Captain’s perspective. I would love if you have any advice or a script for what to do if you’re arguing and someone says, “Well, then let’s just [dramatic end].” I would rather not do this, but: am I supposed to call his bluff and let him leave? When he says it, it feels a little bit like a less concerning version of, “If you (don’t) [action], then I will [self-harm action],” or am I way off there? Feeling quite gaslit lately and like I am holding him at arm’s length due to this … emotional abuse? Do we call it that?

I am sure that as this relationship has evolved I have not been a perfect partner, and I hope this letter doesn’t read as, “I am great and he sucks, how do I get him to stop doing this stupid thing,” but at this particular juncture I do feel as though I am doing work, especially emotional work, that he is not doing. That doesn’t necessarily make me better, but it does put us on an uneven playing field. Personally, I feel like if he quit the weed, he would be more emotionally available to participate in … everything. However, he has made it clear he is not up for that and so I don’t even broach the subject anymore. When I have strong moments, I feel like I deserve a non-smoker, or at least a smoker who doesn’t pull that emotional nonsense. When I have weak moments, I am definitely pulled in when he is treating me well and thinking that if he can have some more corrective emotional experiences where we have a fight and he stays through the fight to its resolution, he will see that when you love someone you don’t just leave. I feel like I need to say that if he does not stop with that emotional nonsense, I will not be available as any sort of version of a girlfriend, however, he seems to be just as in denial about his terrible emotional behavior as his substance abuse.

When he wants to get physical now and I am rebuffing him, he moans something along the lines of, “I just want to please you,” into my ear, and it takes all of my willpower not to retort, “I WILL HAVE A SPONTANEOUS ORGASM WHEN YOU CALL ME AND SAY, ‘I just went to therapy for the first time,’ BUDDY.”

*Sigh* I don’t know. I give up and give to [insert deity].

Much love,
Exhausted

Dear Exhausted:

Hi! Upon reading the 400-word version, I thought:

DUMP THIS MELODRAMATIC ASSHOLE HE IS TOO MUCH WORK

Upon reading the long version:

HE TOO MUCH WORK, STOP TRYING TO CULTIVATE THIS DUDE LIKE A GARDEN (a garden of weed).

While I think it is quite possible to abuse weed just like alcohol or any other substance, I generally do not have a problem with people who smoke or otherwise ingest marijuana. I think it should be legal and the people who were locked up for selling it should be set free, wholesale, like, yesterday. WITH reparations and licenses to sell legally if they want them. (Plenty of people have different opinions and I hear there are entire internet sites where they discuss and debate the nitty gritty of those things all day. I’m not really interested in hosting that larger debate here, so if that all perked up your ears and your debate-typing-fingers I hope you’ll run free and find them.)

On a personal level, I have asthma and haaaaaaate the smell and 100% could not live in close quarters with someone who smoked it in my living space all the time or, more importantly, who *changed how they treated me based on whether or not they were high at the time.* I think it’s okay for people to have red flags or limits around substances and look for partners who are compatible with their own practices and beliefs. For example, I think the people in my life who are huge stoners are generally happier when they share living space and romance with their fellow stoners, and folks like you and I should strive to live with fellow not-stoners. I think potential roommates should put stuff like “are we a smoking house or no” into written roommate agreements, and if you find you are not compatible around that you should find other more compatible folks to live with. Note: Your boyfriend actually handled this correctly by moving out to a place where he could comfortably smoke weed instead of making you uncomfortable in your space.

In conclusion: Your boyfriend loves smoking weed. It makes him happy. He is never going to stop. He literally can’t even be nice to you unless he is high at the time! It’s okay not to like that, but you are going to exhaust yourself forever if you keep trying to change him. You’re not actually the boss of how he manages this part of his life. His ultimatums are basically constantly daring you to break up with him. So yes, call his bluffs! Call every last one of them! Or better yet, gently set him free to be with his one true love (Spoiler: It’s weed!) and set yourself free to hang out with people who are more compatible with you.

263 comments
  1. Don't Shoot the Messenger said:

    Shit got dann! That letter exhausted me so much I couldn’t finish reading it — much less imagine spending a single minute with Stoner Moaner Guy. Send that guy an African Violet of Nope and carry on living your best life. Better men for you are out there, promise!

    • A+ yes to this comment. I can’t even tell you when my shoulders hit my ears but boy did they.

    • stellanor said:

      I’d been spending my morning struggling to defeat inertia and take the dog outside and like 2/3 of the way through the letter I was like, “To hell with this dude I am taking the dog out!” so… thanks for that LW?

      Also please take the dog of your emotions out and dump this dude. You’ll feel so free and relaxed when you’re not dealing with all this BS!

      • Montanna said:

        TAKE THE DOG OF YOUR EMOTIONS OUT

        Thank you for this. I’m gonna use it all the time.

    • graciesonnet said:

      Seriously, I got halfway into the “short” question and was like, “why the eff have you not kicked this man-child and his felony friends to the curb already?????”
      Be strong, OP. Be strong by booting this chuckle-head over to the closest dispensary, changing the locks, putting his stuff on the lawn, blocking his calls, and generally ridding yourself of this smelly ball and chain.

  2. larielera said:

    General rule of thumb–if a relationship exhausts you, and the other person doesn’t make a reasonable effort to stop exhauting you, nope out of there.

    • Green Door said:

      Yes to this! It’s not even about the weed. It’s about the WORK. Relationships are supposed to be fun, motivating, uplifting, and give you hope for some kind of positive future. All this one sounds like is work, work, work, and a lot of disappointment. Stop working and put that energy into finding someone whose lifestyle is a better match for yours, LW!

      • larielera said:

        Exactly. You expect there to be a certain quid pro quo in relationships, but if it begins to feel like a whole other job? If you spend your day replaying your frustrations with that person? Time to move on.

        • The Awe Ritual said:

          >>>>>Exactly. You expect there to be a certain quid pro quo in relationships, but if it begins to feel like a whole other job? If you spend your day replaying your frustrations with that person? Time to move on.

          Soooo… are you interested in a time machine to go back and holler at me in 2003? I mean, I probably wouldn’t listen, but think of all the stock tips and warnings to your favorite recently-deceased actors, musicians, and artists.

      • Exactly. The right relationship will be easy. You will know it when you are in it.

        • Working Hypothesis said:

          I don’t think good ones are always easy. But they always nourish you far more than they drain you, and do so without your having to pull and yank and haul at them to try and force them to yield up a smidgen of emotional nutrition.

          • larielera said:

            A relationship is not going to be easy 100% of the time because life happens, but a decent partner is going to make an effort to listen and compromise if you bring up something that is NOT working for you. The BF doesn’t seem willing to do that.

          • larielera said:

            So, I could have phrased my comment above better. The right relationship feels “easy” because you don’t have to waste so much time and energy trying to make the other person see that yes, you do have needs, and yes, they should be met.

          • servogirl said:

            In a good relationship, I think even when there is conflict/”work,” it’s work you want to do and it’s work you share.

    • Rodon said:

      TBH, I think LW’s exhaustion is mostly her own doing. She’s trying to change her boyfriend even though he doesn’t want to. That would be exhausting even if he were an all-around decent guy.

      • larielera said:

        Yeah, but we’re heavily socialized to feel like “being there” when someone has problems means “fix their problems.” It was a legit epiphany to realize that some relationships (this goes beyond romance) are too much work and it’s a net negative to remain in them. I think LW has started to realize that and she’s really looking to have those feelings legitimized, not a way to fix the relationship.

      • Yeah, I think so too. LW and her boyfriend are mismatched, which sucks, but it happens. People grow and change all the time when they want to, but you can’t *make* them do that.

      • johann7 said:

        Agreed, and I don’t mean it in a way that’s trying to blame LW or drag her down, she just needs to recognize that one cannot force other people to change, and all the effort she’s pouring into that is making her miserable. They’re not compatible, he doesn’t want to change to be compatible with her, she doesn’t want to change to be compatible with him (though she seems a little more willing to compromise); they should split.

        • larielera said:

          Johann the LW actually sounds like she would make a really awesome girlfriend. She’s wasting that one someone who can’t/won’t reciprocate.

        • Zillah said:

          I actually think that when it comes to substance use, compromise is often a recipe for disaster. It doesn’t have to be substance abuse for that to be the case, either – if someone is fundamentally so uncomfortable with a substance that they don’t want to date people who use it, compromise is often more about manipulation or panic and less about actually changing.

  3. Run, girl, run!

  4. MrsLangdonAlger said:

    Oh LW. This relationship is full of bees. Stoned bees. I hope you get out because you deserve better.

    Also can we have a commenting note asking people to refrain from comments about how great weed is and how the LW shouldn’t have a problem with weed? I feel like this is one people get super defensive about.

    • Clorinda said:

      It’s not the weed. It could be video games or weightlifting or crochet or literally any other thing. It’s that he is not the right guy for her and they are making each other miserable. I noticed that she referred to their “relationship” in quotes. Read what you wrote, LW, and cut him loose. You’ll both be better off with more compatible partners.

      • DesertRose said:

        I agree. The weed isn’t the primary problem from where I stand. The primary problem is Dude’s utter lack of regard for LW and/or their relationship. As he is right now, he is not a good partner for her, and they would likely both be happier (eventually, because breaking up can suck a lot in the short term, even if it’s necessary and a good thing in the long run) if they went their separate ways.

        • MrsLangdonAlger said:

          I mean, I agree that the boyfriend’s behavior and disregard for the OP are the main problem. But the OP also states she doesn’t want to date people who smoke, which is perfectly valid. So my comment was really meant to avoid people feeling the need to tell the OP she shouldn’t have that preference.

          • DesertRose said:

            Oh, indeed. I didn’t mean to sound like I was contradicting you; I meant to agree.

            There are any of a zillion reasons, none of which are the business of us Internet Strangers, why the LW doesn’t (or anyone might not) want to date someone who smokes (whether tobacco or marijuana or an e-cigarette or whatever). She’s allowed to have whatever preferences she has, and this guy can’t be a good partner to her (at least not at this point in his life and maybe not ever) for a variety of reasons, not just the weed smoking.

      • M Dubz said:

        I am now imagining a crochet addict and how that might tank a relationship, and it is both hilarious and sad.

        “Honey, why did you spend our vacation fund on 500 skeins of hand-carded merino?”
        “It was just so… beautiful!”

        • Go read any fiber arts forum ever and enjoy all the posts about people who just snuck $200+ worth of yarn into their house and then lied to their partner’s face about where it came from (“Oh, this old stuff? I got this ages ago, I just brought it out to wind!”). Or who hide yarn in their car or behind stuff in closets etc so their partner won’t see it.

          So yeah. It happens.

          • M Dubz said:

            Oh I am 100% sure it happens. I knitted just long enough to know how pricey quality yarn is. It’s just a tragicomic combination of wholesome and deeply dysfunctional.

          • Yeah fortunately my husband hasn’t gotten to the “You bought MORE fabric and patterns?!!” stage yet, but I could see it happening. I guess I’m lucky our hobbies are about the same level of expense.

          • spd said:

            My husband is there with me and plants for the garden. (I also stopped buying them when he was like ‘cool story but can we chill on replacing the pre-existing landscaping you don’t like with new plants for a while because I want vacation and not new ceramic pots?’)

          • Glittering Girl said:

            My aunts have an agreement: Should Mary be, say, hit by a bus, Susan will drive overnight to her house and somehow abscond with all the embroidery stash hidden under the guest bed so that the widower will never know just how much money was sunk on it…

          • Ginger said:

            This is my mom, who finally FINALLY stopped buying more yarn and instead is working through her hoard…a change definitely related to improved mental health all around! (This is like…many many rooms full of yarn I am talking about here, it was bad.)

          • thisgenlioness said:

            My habit of choice is sewing, not fiber. I like to sew on the couch and occasionally I lose pins. My beloved spouse does not usually find them with his bottom.

            Check out the text of this Fiber Artist’s Oath (it’s at the bottom of the page), and see how much of it involves interpersonal relationships:
            https://geekcalligraphy.com/art-prints/fiber-artists-oath

        • SqueakyHammer said:

          “Oh well we sometimes feel we are to blame in some way for what our gran’s become. I mean, she used to be quite happy here til she stared on the crochet. Now she cant do without it, twenty balls of wool a day sometimes. If she can’t get the wool she gets violent! What can we do about it?”

          • MsMildew said:

            “This used to be a nice neighborhood before the old ladies started moving in.”

        • C baker said:

          THIS IS A REAL THING THAT HAPPENS.

          You think you’re joking, but… noooooooo.

        • TC said:

          There’s an acronym for it in fibre world — SABLE. “Stash acquired beyond life expectancy”

          • Private Jane said:

            If anyone asks if I actually neeeeeeeed all those books, cloth and yarn my house is filled with: It’s for insulation. Honestly.

      • I completely agree. Boyfriend could be fixating on fitness or some similarlly healthy habit and it would still be an issue that he was prioritizing it over LW. Everything in the letter makes it seem like they’re just not right for each other.

    • Doyle said:

      I love weed and smoke it every day, and this LW should DTMFA. It’s not the weed. The weed is a macguffin.

      • Jessica said:

        Yep.

      • Nanani said:

        This. It’s legal in a lot of places, including where I live. I 100% support this.
        I still wouldn’t want to share my living space with a smoker.
        Dealbreakers are dealbreakers, legality of the dealbreaker is just a distraction.

    • purps said:

      Okay here’s my story. I fell for several years for being the “cool girl” about my partner at the time smoking, like, a lot of weed. A lot. Weed is not addictive! It’s practically a vegetable! Okay, sure. I was not going to be unhip about this.

      Well, if it was crochet or weightlifting then this would be a person who crocheted while driving and could not function without crocheting. This would be a person who put me through multiple cycles of “I’m crocheting too much and I know it, this is a real problem” followed by dramatic gestures of throwing all the crochet hooks in the garbage followed by waking up at 5 a.m. to turn the apartment upside down looking for any scraps of forgotten yarn. This was someone who dealt with all life problems by getting super super crocheted. This would be someone who turned most discussions of whether it’s safe to have just crocheted when driving for your job – which involves transporting vulnerable people – into a bunch of accusations about how I didn’t understand how natural merino wool is and probably agree with police violence.

      If someone is treating you like their addiction is doing the driving, then I don’t care if it’s model trains or quilting. In my personal case, I found a lot of clarity when I said “Ohhhh. My partner is an ACTIVE ADDICT. I am getting put through the cycle that happens to many loved ones of active addicts. I don’t have to agree any more that it looks exactly like an active addiction and is playing out exactly like an active addiction but SURELY CAN’T BE because of the specific nature of the addiction.”

      I realized at the end of that relationship that I basically did not know my partner at all, because the majority of the time I knew him he was never sober. I did not know his real personality. (It was mean.) It’s OKAY TO NOTICE THAT. It doesn’t mean that you think pot should be illegal or that the prison industrial complex is good or something.

      • purps said:

        p.s: LW! Saying this is not saying “you should try harder to fix this guy.” He does not want your fixing. He wants to do what he is doing now. People do what they’re going to do for as long as they’re going to do it and there’s very little that anyone else can do to make them do otherwise. At this point you guys have a dynamic that sounds pretty locked-in, and you are also doing what you’re going to do for as long as you’re going to do it, re: bashing your head against this problem. (And I would agree with what other people are saying about there not being much relationship, and add – at this point how much of your relationship is just this conflict and your feelings about trying to make him behave differently?)

        I have no idea what’s happening in your actual life, but in my life I would wonder if, idk, it sounds like this guy likes to trace this regular trajectory through conflict and unhappiness back to relief? Like the train of this relationship is on a circular track that keeps visiting the same stops? It really sounds like there’s a lot of ping-ponging in this dynamic up to CONFLICT and then back down and then up to CONFLICT and then back down. It does take two people to make a dynamic, and I am wondering if maybe you… just need to get out of there. Like, all the way out of there, break up with him and block his number out of there. Drama is its own kind of sharp hit of catharsis sometimes and, I mean, something is definitely up here with that, you’re not wrong. But like, what if instead of really trying to further excavate this dynamic and disassemble it you just… left. What if it wasn’t your job to repair this situation. What if maybe you guys just don’t actually get along and that’s okay. What if we’re not compatible with everyone and sometimes it’s over things that they probably should be doing differently for their own sakes but whatever, everyone on the planet can’t be your job.

      • monologue said:

        This so hard. I just got out of a really similar experience where the weed was used as a distraction from a hard drugs addiction. Literally getting stoned all day every day to avoid doing harder drugs all day every day and as self-medication to avoid the ups and downs of daily life. I think drugs should be decriminalized and only hardcore traffickers should get arrested, but weed addiction is a thing and it can affect relationships.

  5. skblue said:

    I agree with the Captain on general weed policy. On the other hand, I have also dated a guy who couldn’t go a day (or a few hours) without smoking weed and as a non-smoker myself, it got old. His personality didn’t change when he smoked, but he rarely wanted to leave the house or do anything besides have Netflix marathons. LW, you sound like you are awesome and have a lot going on in your life, you don’t need to be putting so much work into this guy!

  6. Lizards80 said:

    Oh, honey.

    I don’t think his ultimatums are ultimatums. I think they are statements of preference – he literally would prefer to break up than work through – and you’re doing the emotional work for him to convince him otherwise. And he doesn’t want to be convinced otherwise.

    You are not his therapist. Wanting him to have more corrective emptional experiences so that he doesn’t break up with you when you argue…that breaks my heart. I was in a relationship where I did some of the emotional labor you’re describing and reading it is just making me want to cringe in recollection and want to cry with grief over how much I was hurting and rejoice in relief and celebration at how good I have it now.

    He isn’t interested in quitting smoking – a deal breaker for you. He isn’t interested in working on your relationship where it counts. Replying to texts with someone you barely care about is basic communication. Flowers and airport ride sound really nice but that’s the nicest thing you said he did. And I can’t imagine what would make up for the fundamentally different approaches you have to life and this relationship.

    What do do about his ultimatums? I would not even wait for the next one. I would just say you’re done, and be really done – even if he comes back because he thinks it’s hot that you stood up for yourself with basic self respect. There are SO many people out there that are so much less work, and even ADD things to your life that are good! And who help YOU grow in delightful ways. And who are willing to invest a similar amount of emotional labor as you.

    TL;DR: DTMFA

    • denali denali said:

      I co-sign this comment. It sounds like you’re working SO HARD, LW, and he doesn’t really even want that effort from you, let alone try to do work himself. Let him peace out, and keep on doing all the awesome stuff you’re doing for yourself without trying to drag him along into your life.

    • Amy said:

      Agreed. He’s trying to take the easiest path out, and LW, so far you’ve been trampling yourself down until staying with you is the path of least resistance for him. But to maintain that, you have to keep being the smoothly-trampled path, without giving any room to your own needs or wants. And the moment some need of yours pops up and roughens the path a bit, he turns away from your relationship–it isn’t worth even the slightest effort to him.

      You deserve better than that.

    • e271828 said:

      Yes, THIS.

      And don’t be surprise if he either promises you anything and everything or lashes out angrily at you when you call time on this yo-yo. A guy who habitually issues ultimatums as threats knows what he’s doing (on some level), and he may not like losing control.

      I’m saddened that you describe yourself thus: “I have not been a perfect partner…,” please please do not think that because you are a human being and not made of stainless steel perfection, you deserve less than kind, respectful, considerate treatment from anyone in or out of a relationship. The baseline is so far above this guy’s head. Leave him down there and rise.

      • Zillah said:

        Yes. My experience with people who use weed to excuse very poor treatment of their partners is that they fucking thrive on (and often encourage) mentalities like, “Well, I’m not perfect, either.” You don’t need to be perfect, and the issue isn’t that you aren’t perfect. It’s that you have fundamentally different ideas about how to treat people you theoretically care about, and his involves be a jerk.

    • Alli525 said:

      YES. THIS. And, OP, even if you don’t immediately DTMFA (which you probably should), the next time he says “Ugh you just said something that makes me want to leave/not be on this date anymore” … get up and leave. Do him the favor and end the date right there in that moment. Then if he wants to start the whole smoke>apology>more-BS song and dance later, at least you’ll have shown him that his careless statements are being taken seriously, and he needs to watch his mouth and his attitude if he has even the slimmest hope of keeping you in his life.

  7. Lily said:

    To me this read like weed was being blamed for just total incompatibility. Also I think it’s not okay to withhold sex until someone gets therapy. It’s okay to withhold sex for lots of reasons but not to be manipulative.

    • Tiny Orchid said:

      I don’t think “Sex will re-enter when he’s ready to have adult conversations about commitment” is the same thing as withholding sex until he gets therapy. I read it as wanting to be intimate with someone emotionally and physically, not just physically.

      • brownstargirl said:

        Yeah, agreed.

      • Ros said:

        This.

        And also he’s not owed sex no matter what he does or doesn’t do. No one HAS to bone anyone.

        • Guava said:

          EXACTLY. She comes right out and says she’s not feeling emotionally close to him, she doesn’t trust him right now. Resentment is a libido killer. She shouldn’t have to force herself to have sex with him just to prove she’s not controlling.

          • thisgenlioness said:

            “She shouldn’t have to force herself to have sex with him just to prove she’s not controlling.”

            When you spell it out like that. Damn.

            Excuse me, I need to go comfort my former self through this retroactive revelation.

          • MsMildew said:

            I too got some ‘ick, manipulative’ vibes about the no-sex-right-now thing too, but it was *entirely* because of this bit LW added
            “When he wants to get physical now and I am rebuffing him, he moans something along the lines of, “I just want to please you,” into my ear, and it takes all of my willpower not to retort, “I WILL HAVE A SPONTANEOUS ORGASM WHEN YOU CALL ME AND SAY, ‘I just went to therapy for the first time,’ BUDDY.””

            Because to me that is not LW saying ‘sex comes into the picture when we can discuss things like adults and I feel emotionally close to you again” but “I would love to have sex and will start doing so again once you start doing this arbitrary action that I have decided will make you stop smoking pot”

            Which I understand LW could be trying to make a joke here! And totally may not mean it that way at all, and is not framing it to BF that way either. But it still comes across as very gross and manipulative, especially in light of LWs own admissions of disrespecting BFs life choices, rejecting his boundaries, and trying to control his behavior so it is to her liking (Ice & Indigo has a great comment below that talks about this & some other things.)

          • No. And, given that she apparently wants a sexual relationship, she probably shouldn’t be with someone who turns her off.

          • Zillah said:

            Which I understand LW could be trying to make a joke here! And totally may not mean it that way at all, and is not framing it to BF that way either. But it still comes across as very gross and manipulative, especially in light of LWs own admissions of disrespecting BFs life choices, rejecting his boundaries, and trying to control his behavior so it is to her liking (Ice & Indigo has a great comment below that talks about this & some other things.)
            I was in a similar relationship dynamic before, and I think that this is pretty uncharitable to the LW. It seems to me – and maybe I’m projecting a bit – that she thinks that therapy would help him deal with the issues that are making him a bad partner, and like going to therapy would be a really big step in the right direction in showing that he’s willing to work on his issues. I think that she is wrong, but I don’t think she’s being gross and manipulative for grasping at straws at what would make her boyfriend a less shitty boyfriend.

          • Zillah said:

            Which I understand LW could be trying to make a joke here! And totally may not mean it that way at all, and is not framing it to BF that way either. But it still comes across as very gross and manipulative, especially in light of LWs own admissions of disrespecting BFs life choices, rejecting his boundaries, and trying to control his behavior so it is to her liking (Ice & Indigo has a great comment below that talks about this & some other things.)
            I was in a similar relationship dynamic before, and I think that this is pretty uncharitable to the LW. It seems to me – and maybe I’m projecting a bit – that she thinks that therapy would help him deal with the issues that are making him a bad partner, and like going to therapy would be a really big step in the right direction in showing that he’s willing to work on his issues. I think that she is wrong, but I don’t think she’s being gross and manipulative for grasping at straws at what would make her boyfriend a less terrible boyfriend.

    • adgisga said:

      Um, it’s okay to not have sex with someone at any time, for any reason, because sex is not something that is ever owed. LW doesn’t want to have sex with him until she feels secure and comfortable with where they are commitment-wise, and that’s 100% okay.
      Sex is not a need or a right. He is not entitled to sexual access to her body.
      Anything else is rape apologism.

    • MrsLangdonAlger said:

      Withholding sex isn’t really a thing, at least not here. He is not entitled to sex. No one is.

      • EllenS said:

        +1

      • spd said:

        Withholding sex is a thing, and it can be an abusive thing (I’ve had “no sex for you until you agree to stop asking me to do my share of housework/lend me money/let me break your stuff” explicitly, and yes, that’s manipulative and abusive).

        But it isn’t what the LW is doing–her boyfriend seems to ONLY BE NICE TO HER when she’s not having sex with him, and “it’s great that you’re nice now but I’m not going to have sex with you again until I’m reasonably sure that will continue once the sex is back on” is a different thing from withholding intimacy from your partner as a club to beat them into not having boundaries, which is what withholding sex is a form of.

        But withholding sex to trample someone’s boundaries is a thing, and it’s a not okay thing, and I hope it never happens to you.

        • SS Express said:

          Yep! “No sex for you until I’m comfortable having sex with you (and I won’t be comfortable having sex until I feel respected and cared for in this relationship via xyz behaviours)” is totally reasonable and not what I would call withholding. The lack of sex is a natural consequence rather than a punishment. But “no sex for you until I get my way with unrelated things and prove to both of us that I’m in charge here” is not cool.

    • One hundred percent agree.

    • bats are cute said:

      Alternate read: LW is withholding sex until BOYFRIEND stops being manipulative.

      Which will be never.

    • flrpwll said:

      Why would she *want* to have sex with him, if he can’t keep his shit together?
      The entire situation sounds absolutely exhausting, and I can’t blame her at all for withholding (eg not wanting to have sex) until he can show her that he’s willing to sort himself out.

      • And maybe she doesn’t trust the boyfriend to have her back if she gets pregnant unexpectedly. Lots of women can’t take hormonal contraceptives, and most of the barrier methods have fairly high failure rates.

    • Cora said:

      Withholding sex is an active decision, which can include times that you really feel like doing it, but refuse for blah-blah reason. She’s not withholding; she’s just not attracted to him anymore. That’s a natural, unforced thing.

  8. Dude, I just want to say, my partner smokes some weed daily to deal with anxiety and chronic pain (along with going to physical therapy and regular therapy and taking tumeric), but also is getting As in school and treats me, themself and their friends really well. There are people who can use weed regularly, medicinally or otherwise, and be awesome. (I almost said “dope” but ha ha, no.). Your dude is not that kinda person right now. I consign with the Captain. He doesn’t have to be an ax murderer for you to dump him, and I think you deserve someone who has his shit together more.

    • Inahc said:

      Yep. Also, smoking is not the only delivery method. There’s edibles, topical creams, and probably more.

  9. B said:

    LW, you said a dealbreaker at the start was smoking. He said he wasn’t smoking anymore. Now he is smoking a lot. He gets mad when you try to tell you this is a problem for you.
    Stick with your guns and break up. NGL I skimmed the last part of your letter it seemed like a bunch of justifications about how maybe you aren’t perfect. So what? You don’t like the smoking. He’d rather treat you like garbage than fess up that he won’t stop smoking. Relationship over man, relationship over!

    • I'll think of a clever name later...maybe, said:

      Exactly. No apologies have to be made for not wanting to date someone that smokes. He wants to smoke. Therefore you are not compatible. People have all kinds of deal-breakers for themselves when it comes to relationship (age, size, hair color, hobbies, location, etc). Yours is no different. The more time you waste trying to change this guy into something he obviously has no intention of becoming, the more time you spend feeling like this.

    • MsM said:

      Sometimes I feel like the more effort a letter writer puts into providing every last little scrap of context in case there’s something in there that might make “you need to end this” not seem like the blindingly obvious response, the more “you need to end” this is the blindingly obvious response.

    • Breakups are hard, but this strikes me as the sort of situation where once LW has had some time and space to get over it, it’s going to be very much a “why did I stay so long?” and not a “why did I ever break up with such an amazing boyfriend, with so much potential?” kind of thing.

  10. Cyberwulf said:

    Fuck me, LW, please dump him. How long are you going to wait around for him to get his act together? It’s not that he smokes weed anymore, it’s that he spends all day blitzed out of his mind (how is he holding down a job? is he holding down a job? please tell me you are not giving him money) and acts like an asshole to you. “Oh this is why you have no friends” wtf is that.

    If your love was enough to make him quit he’d have quit by now. He’s not going to.

  11. Sorabain said:

    If the weed is that much of a dealbreaker for you, then it’s probably for the best to let the deal (relationship) be broken.

    • Sheana said:

      Yeah, agreed. If you don’t want to date a smoker, don’t date a smoker. He wasn’t a smoker when you met, but guess what? He is now. Either deal with it or leave. He is who he is.

  12. Cara said:

    “and no wonder I am so isolated from friends and family.”
    “I have two very, very close girl friends, and I am emotionally satisfied but also don’t hang out with humans that often.”

    This feels familiar. When I was in my late teens/early twenties, I went through a stage of being fiercely anxious about having few close friends, exacerbated by a tempestuous falling out with two friends shortly before leaving high school.

    I thought there was something wrong with me, that I was incapable of making close relationships. My Vader Ex, who was my main confidant, agreed… repeatedly, and at length.

    Over two years later, it is now crystal clear to me that the WHY NO CROWDS OF CLOSE FRIENDS?? anxiety was baseless. I never have more than a couple of close friends (outwith my immediate family; I am very close to my brother and sister, who – surprise surprise – Vader Ex decided ‘didn’t count’). I tend to like keeping myself to myself unless I have great chemistry with someone. The idea that I couldn’t possibly be healthy/happy without more close friends was a byproduct of my own anxiety and the expectations I was projecting onto myself.

    The thing was, this was an anxiety that it suited Vader Ex to feed. If he could persuade me that I had A Problem, then he could get me to modify my behaviour in a way that suited him. If he could imply that everyone agreed there was A Problem, then so much the better. This came up for a whole variety of stuff, from “good friends call each other on the phone every day, no excuses” through to “you’re a bad friend for not asking me lots of questions about this awful stuff that happened in my past”, and often came with the rider that “other people agree with me; no I’m not going to tell you who they are because that would be breaking a confidence; no I’m not going to stop telling you about other anonymous people’s opinions because you won’t believe me otherwise”.

    I think something similar is going on with your partner – especially because he is using a moment of so-called “pushiness” in a private, intimate, one-on-one discussion and somehow trying to extrapolate it to every relationship you’ve ever had. He has NO IDEA how you interact with other people one-on-one. He’s trying to make you worried about an area of your life you are entirely satisfied with, and in doing so, trying to make you change your behaviour in relation to him.

    It’s a big red flag to me. I would keep a careful eye on how often he does “EVERYONE has this problem with you” type bullshit, and in what situations.

    • mathematicalelph said:

      This was basically last week for me. I have a couple friends I talk to regularly, and none of them are in my city, and this has caused me a lot of anxiety since I faded out of my college friend group last year. (We all turned 21, and they got excited about drinking, and I didn’t.) So there have been a lot of spirals of “I’m BROKEN, and I’m such a huge INTROVERT so I’m not capable of TALKING and therefore I will NEVER MAKE A FRIEND AGAIN.” And my partner saw that, and sat me down, and said “In this moment, are there five people who would be happy to answer the phone if you called them?” And it turned out that there were. Some of them were relatives, and many of them were several hundred miles away, but Team Me exists. And he reminded me that I have made friends, and I am a good person, and I will make friends again.

      All of this is to say that you are not broken, and there is no single quality, especially not so-called “pushiness” that will isolate you from every other person you know or will know. You deserve support, not blame, if your boyfriend thinks you’re feeling isolated, and it doesn’t seem like he is willing to give it to you.

      • Palgolaki said:

        Lifelong introvert here. When I was young and depressed about it, my dad told me, “Look, you just need two people in the world who would bail you out of jail if necessary. If you have two people that care about you that much, you’re ahead of the game.” And that was, and continues to be, a very comforting thought. What your partner told you (and that was a very good way to handle that, gold star to your partner) made me think of that.

        • MuddieMae said:

          You also need two people so you can complain to one about the other one. 🙂

          • Boo! said:

            And they can complain to each other about you! 🙂

            Seriously though, I love both the partner and the dad’s statements above. I’ve always kept small circles and every once in a while I worry about whether that’s not healthy. But I have at least that many people for each of those things and it just made me happy to think about it.

            Actually, probably it’s more realistic to say, I have five people who would let me go to voicemail because they’re at work, but would be happy with the theoretical idea of hearing from me. I think they would all be willing to bail me out of theoretical jail, but only three would be able to make it happen in real life.

  13. TootsNYC said:

    When someone says, “let’s just break up, then,” that means they want to break up.

    So, break up.

    Who wants to be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t want to be there?

    Break up, and let yourself grieve, and then when you’re recovering, you’ll discover all sorts of freedom and space and energy!

    • Anon, Goodnight said:

      Yeah, saying that regularly is an attempt at a backdoor break up. They don’t want to be with you anymore, but they don’t want to do the dumping.

      • Alli525 said:

        My father had to obtain a second WIFE (and cheat on my mother with her) before my mother decided to divorce him. She didn’t decide and actually file until a year after he broke the news.

        • Alli525 said:

          (That is to say, some people will go to EXTREME lengths to avoid being the Dumper.)

          • JenniferP said:

            Never forget the man who said “your dog’s nickname of baby is disrespectful to our future children!” a few months back!

          • (Out of nesting) Captain, I sent several people to read that story and the levels of OMG WTF I got back would probably have been just as validating for the LW there as our comments were.

      • I had a boyfriend like that once. I could tell the relationship wasn’t going well, but he would never say why. Eventually things would come to a head and he would say things like, “I’m not happy, and I haven’t been for a while.” I would ask if he wanted to break up. He wouldn’t say so, he would just keep saying that he wasn’t happy and he wasn’t sure where things would go from here. This cycle would repeat. I kept telling myself that if he wanted to break up, surely he would just do it, so he must still want to be together since he hadn’t broken up with me yet.

        But in the end, he did not want to be together, and when I finally gave up on it all and initiated the breakup myself, he was more than willing to accept. All that time he had wanted to break up. He just couldn’t be bothered to do it himself.

        LW, don’t waste your time on someone who can’t give you the relationship he knows you want but also can’t be bothered to simply end things. End things yourself and be free.

        • halfmanhalfshark said:

          I, too, had a boyfriend like this once who would brag about how he’d never dumped any of his previous girlfriends, but just treated them like garbage until they broke up with him. And I, sweet dumb naive thing that I was, thought “Wow those silly women! I’d never do that!” And then of course he started treating me like contemptible garbage but I showed him that I wasn’t like his previous girlfriends! I didn’t break up with him! For like a year! I just hung in there and let him treat me like garbage! Yeah!

          Which, you know, in hindsight was a mistake but to limited my credit, when I finally did end the relationship, it was epic and involved selling his prized possessions for pennies on the dollar (he had stolen a significant amount of money from me (I know)) and boxes on the lawn and some actual noises of regret from the jackass himself. But it would have been even better had I stopped returning his calls as soon as he started bragging about how deftly he mistreated other women. I’d rather have that year of my life back and not have a good break up story to tell on the internet 20 years later.

        • Ah, yes, my former husband would say: Whhyyyy are weeeeee marrrrrried? instead of I’m not happy, can we talk about things?

          We broke up once when we were married about seven years (his idea), but circumstances (his active duty during Operation Desert Storm, seriously) brought us back together, and then broke up for good just past 11 years (my idea).

      • Zillah said:

        Ehh – I actually disagree. I think it can be that, but I think it can also be a tool to control/manipulate you. I had an ex who did that a lot, and when I finally started saying, “maybe we should,” he started trying to control me in other ways instead. It was all about making me scared so I’d stop challenging him on things like not doing chores and being nasty to mean and sneaking weed into the apartment despite knowing that it gave me severe asthma attacks.

  14. slfisher said:

    After years of trying to get people to change their mind when they make breaking up noises, I no longer do it. You threaten to break up? Kthxbye.

    • spd said:

      +1 to this.

      Also after years of being in relationships where I *didn’t* want to break up but kept having the same fight where I said “I was very clear upfront that I don’t want a relationship including X. You now keep asking for X. I will never be okay with X. Given that, are you okay living without X/on your way to being okay without X, or should we break up? Because I am tired of having this fight, I have been 100% clear with my expectations and needs around X and they are not changing.” And my partner going “no, I want to be with you more than I want X, I will stop asking for X and will be fine without it,”

      That I should just break up if the conversation happens 3 times, because my partner is lying to me and/or themselves about actually being capable of doing the relationship I need/want.

    • Saaaaame. After all the ridiculous shenanigans my first boyfriend pulled, I decided that no one would ever attempt to break up with me and then walk it back ever again. If you try to break up with me, you succeed whether you actually meant to or not, because fuck that noise.

  15. ErikAG59 said:

    Would it be too much drama or make you feel like the bad guy if you dump him when he says maybe you should just break up? Then you can dump him at any other time of your own choosing, when you are prepared and Team You is ready to help you through the post-breakup feelings.

  16. Vicki said:

    I don’t know if this is actually a good idea, but: what if, the next time you talked to him, not in an argument, you said something like “I’m tired of you saying you don’t want to be with me whenever we disagree. If you say that and we’re together in person, I’m leaving; if it’s on the phone, I’m going to say goodbye and hang up. You can say you don’t want to talk about a subject, that’s fine, but if you say you don’t want to hang out with me, I’m going to believe you, and we won’t hang out that night.”

    And then act on it.do it: Don’t give him the chance to do the “now that I’m stoned, I want to see you, as long as you don’t bring up what we were arguing about” thing. The thing is, this idea feels a bit like emotional judo: give him what he says he wants, and it’s not disrespectful to act as though you believe someone. And if most/many of your conversations with your datefriend feel like conflicts where you’re trying to find the right tactics, or the right response to the other person’s tactics, there probably isn’t a tactical solution to the problem.

    A less tactical variation might be to, again when you aren’t actually arguing, ask him what he expects you to do when he interrupts an argument by saying he doesn’t want to hang out with you because you’re having an argument That might be informative, or it might get him to stop and think about whether what he’s doing is a good idea.

    • OtherCleo said:

      Why all that effort? he isn’t worth the work, AND he is emotionally abusive (the way he tried to wound LW with that cruel remark about her friends and family caps it). TEAM DTMFA.

      This is one of the saddest letters I have ever read. The worst are the last paragraphs where LW second-guesses herself over and over. Oh honey. Run free!

  17. glomarization said:

    The correct response to “Let’s just break up, then,” is “OK.”

    • Sheelzebub said:

      This.

    • MsMildew said:

      100%

    • I’m still laughing over the time I did this.

      Ah the endless dance he did of popping up based on some excuse he had come up with for trying to attract my attention, then kind of posturing around waiting for me to just sort of fall back into being with him.

      It didn’t work. So he’d sulk off for a while and then pop up and try it again. Oddly enough, he never tried something adult and reasonable, like apologizing. And it was interesting to .see what he came up with to try to have a reason to talk to me — it would be ridiculously mundane stuff that really didn’t need a reply. So I wouldn’t reply.

      At one point, I wish I were joking, he suggested we get couples therapy — and he clearly thought he was a really swell guy for offering to do this and offering to pay for it. You could just about hear the, “I’ll get that bitch some couples therapy! Bitches love couples therapy!” He was utterly staggered when I said I had better uses for my time than going to couples therapy with an EX-boyfriend. At that point we’d been broken up longer than the length of the original relationship. Dude, the ship has sailed, already.

    • Pebble said:

      I totally did this with my first boyfriend when I was 19. It was great. He was trying for the shock treatment to make me realise that I had to shape up and start acceding to his emotional vampire demands EVERY time, instead of just when it wouldn’t disrupt my entire life too much. It backfired on him very badly.

  18. TootsNYC said:

    You said you’re doing all the emotional labor.

    What OTHER labor are you doing all of?

    If you stopped calling or texting him, what would he do? He lives an hour away and is stoned a lot. Does he ever reach out to you on his own?

    I have this feeling he doesn’t.

    Do an experiment: Create a vacuum and see if he moves to fill it.

    Try waiting a half day before you text him back, or return a phone call.
    Never reach out first; let him initiate any conversation.

    Never say, “when will I see you?” or “are you coming over?” Never initiate any plan to get together. Let that be something he suggests. And if he suggests, leave a vacuum so that HE is the one to say, “I’ll come over on Friday”; don’t YOU be the one to suggest the date or time. Your line: “It would be good to see you.” >>stop<< Leave it dangling there.

    Leave the vacuum.

    I think you will find the results interesting.

    • bats are cute said:

      I approve this experiment.

    • 5 Leaf Clover said:

      I disagree. Guys like this tend to step up when they feel someone is pulling away, so he might actually “pass” this test. See for example bringing flowers after she went away. As soon as she pulls away he will again do the minimum necessary to make her think he’s changed. But romantic gestures are so much less important than the day to day. He has already failed the most important test and you already know exactly what kind of boyfriend he is. It is time to go.

      • TootsNYC said:

        and in fact, I went back and read the letter again, and he HAS done that “stepping up” bit for a while. It doesn’t last, so….

  19. BigDogLittleCat said:

    When his response to your trying to talk about an issue is to say he doesn’t want to hang out and maybe you should break up, call his bluff. He is using the threat of leaving and/or breaking up to manipulate you, and it will hang over your head forever until you call him on it. As long as he thinks that’s acceptable behavior, you will never ever be able to trust your relationship with him because you’ll know that at any moment, he’ll pull the “let’s break up” card.

    I am close with someone whose fiance couldn’t handle conflict thanks to a family in which anything less than perfect agreement was The End of The World. The last time he tried to leave during an argument she told him that if he went out that door, he’d better take all his belongings with him because she wasn’t going to go through life under a cloud of emotional blackmail, never knowing when he might walk out on her. Stopped him in his tracks.

    They are still happily married 30 some years later because he’s a good guy and really wanted their relationship, so calling a bluff isn’t necessarily the end. But if the other party isn’t willing to work with you to resolve disagreements, if every disagreement can trigger the nuclear option, all you’re doing is putting off the inevitable.

    Frankly though, save your time and energy and DTMFA. This isn’t your fault, you’re not being pushy or demanding, and his trying to tear you down is unmitigated bullshit. You sound awesome but even if you weren’t, you don’t have to be perfect to deserve better than a human dumpster fire.

  20. lowbudgetcyborg said:

    Add me to the “just dump him” chorus.

    The two of you are incompatible. You want different things out of life and out of relationships. There is almost zero chance that you will change his mind about weed. He will never return the kind of effort you have put into the relationship because he doesn’t value that kind of emotional labor. If he valued using his empathy/sympathy, or communicating openly, or meeting you half-way with relationship problem-solving he would already be trying to do these things. (Many people who aren’t skilled at emotional labor seem to not really believe it exists– like, they think the effects of emotional labor just magically happen.)

    You have spent enough time and energy on this guy. Cut your losses. The first step to finding a nice, non-smoking guy is dumping this guy.

  21. Chatcat2000 said:

    It’s less painful to blame the weed for everything but all the problems don’t begin and end with his pot smoking—a lot of other red flags were overlooked, it seems. Hanging out with a fugitive and overstepping the boundaries of a shared living space, not to mention punishing a partner for voicing any criticism with a threat of abandonment, are a few that come to mind. That being said, there are no magical phrases to cajole a person into being someone they are not and therapists aren’t sorcerers who cast spells on reluctant boyfriend transforming theminto one’s idea of an emotionally engaged partner. I find that thinking, along with pushing to change his behavior, as boundary-less as his shoddy actions.

    Perhaps instead of focusing on how to change your boyfriend, it might be healthier to examine why you keep staying in a situation that doesn’t work for you. Making ultimatums and not following through on them takes a person from being a victim to a volunteer in an unhappy relationship. I hope you invest more in yourself and let go of trying to control the outcome of this relationship. Things become a lot clearer with space and rest.

  22. Amy said:

    When someone is to the point of suggesting breaking up, that means they want to break up. At the very, very least, they’re ok with the relationship ending–you don’t bluff with things you aren’t willing to risk losing. No matter what else this guy may or may not be, you deserve someone who doesn’t see your relationship as a low-value poker chip to risk on a bluff; you deserve someone who is as invested as you are.

  23. Rhoda said:

    It sounds like he wants to break up, but it’s just Too Much Work to actually do it. So he’s pushing you towards it. Just leave. He sounds exhausting.

    • Marthooh said:

      Yeah. He’s a prototypical stoner in at least one way: he won’t do anything decisive. He won’t stop smoking, he won’t get therapy, he won’t follow through on his life plans, and he won’t break up with you. You’re going to have to do one last bit of work here and put this relationship out of its misery.

  24. Lovely, lovely, lovely, smoke-free LW:

    You deserve so much better than to be second fiddle to Mary Jane/Felon Cousin. You can find a nice non-smoker who treats you well.

    • NameChange said:

      Seconding. LW, you don’t have to compromise on this. I realize weed is only part of the problem with this specific BF, but LW, if you are smoke-free and want to be with smoke-free people, go find smoke-free people. Honor your deal-breakers because if someone violates those when he knows you have them, that’s a sign.

  25. tawg said:

    LW, I dated an exhausting dude with whom I had many, MANY incompatabilities and I hung in there because if he could just UNDERSTAND me and fix some of his own shit, surely that little, tiny part of our relationship that felt good could somehow become the whole relationship. So I get that part of your letter, oh boy do I remember being in that place and working so hard and being so frustrated that he was being so stubborn etc etc.I hung in for so long because there was once a good period of our relationship, so obviously we could get back to that zone of good somehow. But, as I think you’re seeing with your dude, if your problem is that your partner is being shitty to you, and your partner is refusing to stop being shitty, you’re never going to get out of the shitty phase of your relationship, let alone back into a good one.

    I dumped my shitty boyfriend, and cut him out of my life completely, and I just had… so much energy. It’s amazing how much better life gets when you’re not in a terrible relationship.

  26. Toujoursgai said:

    I agree with pretty much all of the comments that are already here. I just want to point out some good news. You said it yourself, LW:

    “I go to the gym. I go to therapy consistently. I just got a new job as a substitute teacher. I am taking an improv class. I am pursuing freelance photography. I adopted a cat. I contacted a neighbor about fostering more kittens. I am doing my best to live my own life.”

    If you do decide to dump this guy, it sounds like you have a full life to throw yourself into. That is awesome! You have so many things that can make you happy and fulfilled! I wanted to highlight this in case it’s a useful factor to consider. You don’t need to cling to this guy if he’s only sucking up your emotional resources. If you would be happier coming up with great improv jokes while photographing kittens, you should absolutely be doing that instead. 😉

    • Guava said:

      Yes, when I read this, it made me want to cheer for the LW!

  27. Honestly, there’s just no compatibility here. You set a boundary. He ignored the boundary. And now you’re just dragging this out. Draaaaaaaaagging it ooooooooout. He’s not the partner you want. He’s not ever going to be the partner you want. What about this situation is fun for you? Why are you persisting? I honestly don’t get it.

  28. Anisoptera said:

    Hi LW, you specifically asked what to do when faced with ultimatums like that. Here are some scripts:

    “Is that what you want?”

    or

    “Yes I think you should go home tonight and we should discuss this more later” (then actually discuss it)

    So basically yes, take him at his word and call his bluff. This has the convenient effect of either getting him to abandon what might be an ugly manipulation tactic or to actually bring on the real discussion you probably need to be having. He’s stating preferences, and you should listen, believe them, and decide if that’s something you want to live with. From what you’ve said it sounds like you don’t want to have a relationship on those terms and you’re getting around it by not believing he’s sincere. You unstick this by believing what he says and what he shows you about what he wants, and making decisions based on that.

    I’m sorry, because that’s really really hard. It’s easy for me to say, but I know it’s much harder to do. :-/

  29. Emma Hypatia said:

    LW, I read your letter and I thought – she’s been to therapy, and IT WORKED!!!! This is a highly functional woman who understands how to be in a relationship and how to navigate the sometimes choppy waters of being with another person.

    Except, the person you have chosen to be with (for now, at least) is TOTALLY DYSFUNCTIONAL. TOTALLY.

    It’s not the weed. It’s HIM, himSELF.

    End the torture. You deserve someone sooooo much better. Definitely call this dysfunctional stoner’s bluff. If you can’t dump him outright – and I think you CAN, you are VERY HIGH FUNCTIONING – next time he plays the, “Let’s just break-up then!” card, tell him OK. Let’s do that.

    The DO IT. Move forward with it. For yourself. You cannot find the wonderful, loving, equal, relationship you were meant to have until you make room for it in your life by moving him OUT of your life.

  30. bats are cute said:

    “Feeling quite gaslit lately and like I am holding him at arm’s length due to this … emotional abuse? Do we call it that?”

    Yes, LW. We absolutely do call it that. Emotional abuse, and verbal abuse.

    What exactly are you holding onto, regarding what kind of future you have with this guy? Whether or not he wants to break up, the mere fact that he constantly hangs that over your head as a threat if you don’t let him do exactly what he wants is NOT GOOD. It’s emotional blackmail. Which is ABUSIVE. This guy is abusive as hell and he’s groomed you into excusing all of his behavior and making compromises to enable and accommodate him.

    Dump this asshole. He’s already got a foot out the door so it should be easy. The only thing I worry about is how invested he is over the CONTROL he has over you. (Not how much he cares about you, because all he cares about is the power he has over you. He plays you like a fiddle.) There is a chance that when you say “Hey, you’re right, I’m breaking up with you” he might suddenly go ballistic and fight and claw and negotiate to get back together. Because this is about CONTROL. So please take every precaution: treat him like he is a potential danger. Mail him his stuff. Change your locks. Block his number and all social media. Dump him + ignore him forever + move on with your life so you can stop wasting so much energy worrying about this horrible human.

    • Manattee said:

      Why are we calling this guy abusive? Like I think he’s an asshole and a terrible match for LW but I just don’t see the abuse here.

      • OtherCleo said:

        He doesn’t respect her choices or her boundaries, he gaslights, he makes her think her boundaries are because of something “wrong” with her. He bullies and threatens.

        • Turtle Candle said:

          Although, I mean… the same could be said of her. She pretty clearly doesn’t respect his lifestyle choices re: smoking and general ambition, she outright and specifically rejects his boundaries around when to stop talking during an argument (and admitted to refusing to let him take a break from difficult conversations), and she also seems to think that his boundaries are because of something wrong with him.

          If we’re using the terms “abuse” and “gaslighting,” I think they can go both ways here.

          • MsMildew said:

            Yeah, this is not an easy, cut & dried situation. I don’t like what BF is doing but that doesn’t mean that LWs behavior doesn’t *also* make my shoulders go up around my ears.

          • Zillah said:

            I think that it can actually be really damaging to look at situations like this as both people being abusive, in part because when one partner engages in gaslighting and emotional abuse, of course the other partner responds in ways that look crazy and maladaptive from the outside. I could have written that part of the letter a few years ago, and it’s still true that there are things about my behavior that weren’t great.

            However, “not great” is not the same thing as emotional abuse or gaslighting. My ex habitually and intentionally used deeply personal and awful attacks on my character that were designed to upset me to end discussions that he didn’t like, and then he said that I was being unreasonable when I was too upset to stop crying and/or to end the conversation immediately. It’s a tactic that a lot of people who mistreat their partners really, really like.

            Is the LW reacting perfectly here? Absolutely not. At the same time, he’s gotten her to the point that she’s grateful that he attacked who she is as a person – I don’t think it’s reasonable to call her abusive because she’s responding to manipulation, and I’m not clear on how she’s gaslighting him at all.

          • Ice and Indigo said:

            Also, it’s just not accurate that LW has been ‘groomed’ to ‘excusing all of his behavior and making compromises to enable and accommodate him’. She’s not at all excusing his behaviour: she’s very clear that she doesn’t like any of his life choices, and she keeps arguing with him about them. She’s only enabling and accommodating him if you take the line that any weed smoking whatsoever is unacceptable, which is a highly debatable view. If she’d been groomed, she’d be blaming herself a lot more, but her self-esteem seems pretty solid and her self-care is pretty good. If LW is feeling confused, I think that at least some of it has to come from the cognitive dissonance in seeing herself as someone who ‘refuses’ to date a smoker, who is, in fact, dating a smoker.

            This is a dysfunctional relationship, but I don’t see abuse here; what I see is a couple bringing out the worst in each other. LW has some very firm ideas about how people should live. With a partner who shared those convictions, they could come out as being pro-active and admirable, but with Boyfriend, they’re coming out as trying to control life decisions that are ultimately up to him. Boyfriend has a liking for weed and for hanging out with his low-achieving family, and doesn’t want to be pressured to change that. With a partner who enjoyed this way of life, it could come out as being fun and loyal, but with LW, it’s coming out as avoidance and habit creep. When they argue, the things she does include ‘teary emotional warfare’, refusing to let him leave, and pushing. The things he does include avoidance, ultimatums and below-the-belt strikes about her family.

            I really doubt that either of them likes the person they’re becoming in this conflict.

            I don’t think either of them is gaslighting the other, so much as they’re yelling at each other from opposite sides of a geyser, and the geyser is sending up constant jets of ‘we have completely different values’, and everything is getting scrambled in the steam. Quite possibly both of them are wondering if they’re going a bit crazy by now. Dating someone who has different values from you doesn’t have to be abusive to be quite the mindf*ck.

            LW, try framing it that way: you and he have completely different values. You’re convinced your values are the correct ones; of course you are, that’s how values work. But an incompatibility in values is one of the worst things a relationship can have. Suppose you say to yourself, ‘He’s a great guy in a lot of ways and has some really good qualities, but some of his values conflict with values that are really important to me.’ Doesn’t that free you from the burden of trying to square the circle, explain why you care about him AND why you guys aren’t working out, and point the way to the door out of this relationship?

  31. megpie71 said:

    LW, to be honest, the biggest issue in your “relationship” with this guy is while he’s busy trying to communicate he isn’t interested in a long-term relationship with you using every means short of hint-dropped-via-low-orbital-anvil, you just aren’t listening to him. The hints that he just wasn’t interested started being dropped way back when he didn’t make it into the military. They’ve continued in a greater or lesser fashion since then, and they’ve included the out-right statement “maybe we should break up, then”.

    Do the guy (and yourself) a favour, and take the hint.

    • Samovar said:

      Am I the only person who thinks LW and her boyfriend are more than halfway broken up already? He moved an hour away and she took time out of state to “heal,” they aren’t having sex, and he’s spending most of his time doing an activity that was originally a dealbreaker for her.

      OK, he still takes her phone calls and picked her up at the airport. He doesn’t want to be the one who ends it. He does not sound like a proactive man. But he’s so clearly trying to get her to end it!

      There are no practical barriers to breaking up, and what is she even going to lose? The (admittedly strong) neurochemical benefits of “having a boyfriend.” But nothing else in her life is going to change, except she will suddenly have more energy and free time to put into a life that, except for her boyfriend, sounds awesome.

      • TootsNYC said:

        I think she doesn’t even have to officially say, “I’m breaking up with you.”

        She can probably just stop texting first, or even texting back.

        • TO_Ont said:

          Yeah, sounds like they would both be relieved.

          This letter was so exhausting to read. It sounds like an utterly exhausting relationship for both of them. Seems like she is trying to mold him like a piece of clay into the imaginary person she would prefer (maybe a real version actually exists of that dream person! go find him), and he seems to be trying to quietly end things with her without having to have a confrontation about it.

          Just walk away, LW. In the long run it will be a weight off both your shoulders.

        • TO_Ont said:

          Yeah, sounds like it would be a relief for both of them.

          This letter was so exhausting even to read, I can’t imagine being one of the people living it.

          Go, leave the guy in peace to his quiet, relaxing life of video games and find someone you respect as they are, who wants the life you want. Or even just enjoy your fun and high energy life without a boyfriend.

          You can’t mold someone like a piece of clay into the person you think they should be. I don’t smoke or drink and probably couldn’t happily live with someone who did a lot of either, either. So… I don’t. But my tolerance for people trying to tell me how to live my life is even lower, so I have as much sympathy for him as for you.

          Go off in your separate directions so you can both be gloriously yourselves.

    • aebhel said:

      Yeah. The problem with this relationship is that HE DOESN’T WANT TO BE IN IT, and he’s actually communicated that, pretty clearly, on multiple occasions. Should he step up and decisively initiate a break-up? Absolutely. But he’s not able to do that for whatever reason, so it’s time to cut your losses. No amount of loving emotional support is going to make him want to be with you if he doesn’t.

  32. BigDogLittleCat said:

    I asked him out and we had a great first date where he revealed that he would have asked me out if he had not been working, but he wanted to be professional (applause break).

    Yeah, this has been bugging me, since I’m questioning how much he deserved that applause, because I sure as hell hope that making romantic overtures to a client is a fire-able offense for a tow truck driver.

  33. Am I the only one who has a problem with LW’s habit of responding to “I don’t want to hang out anymore tonight” with, basically, “Well, I do, and that’s more important, so we’re going to talk about this because I say so”?

    Ultimatums aren’t ok, but neither is insisting on being around someone who’s just said they don’t want to be around you.

        • MsMildew said:

          Nope! Not just you or Novel

      • Definitely not the only one.

        LW, I get wanting to fix things! I do! But it might be a really good thing to bring up this refusal to back off with your therapist, and see if they can help you figure out how to handle this healthily?

    • Remy said:

      No, I found that objectionable, too. In that situation, where A is saying “I don’t want to hang out with you anymore tonight,” B should let that be the end of the immediate conversation, not try to get in the last word or tease out other strands of the argument. The LW (B in the scenario) says When he shuts down, I do try to come at the issue from different angles to get him to open up, and I should respect if he doesn’t want to talk. However, too often he doesn’t want to talk as a verbal slap in the face to me, not because he has nothing to say. — isn’t that even more of a reason to stop and go away? I don’t even think it’s a bluff, necessarily. He doesn’t want to keep talking about it. So don’t. And if your discussion/conflict resolution styles are yet another incompatibility, it gives you an easy way to end the relationship.

    • spd said:

      This bugs me as well. It sounds like the conversation might be “I wanna go smoke some weed” and she’s like “I do not want to be around that” and he’s like “okay well then I will leave to do that and don’t want to hang out more tonight sober” and, while personally I would not want a long-term partner who preferred smoking weed to spending time with me on a regular basis, it also sounds like the LW wants him to hang out with her on her terms and when he isn’t able to comply with her terms (but would be fine hanging out otherwise) she is calling that “shutting down,” when actually it sounds like respecting her boundaries around weed.

      It sounds like both LW and boyfriend have some boundary issues, but this particular example sounds a lot like LW wants to enforce her boundaries (around weed) but is only okay with her boyfriend respecting that boundary in *one specific way,* which is by ignoring his boundaries around having a partner dictate when he will consume weed (“I don’t want her to have a say in my substance use”). She has a boundary about weed, he has a boundary about weed, and the only way both of them can be enforced is by him going away to smoke the weed. It’s not great for her to choose “trample his boundaries about how much say others can have in his (legal, this is California) substance use” as her preferred method of enforcing her own boundary. It’s not super material that I think his boundary is one I wouldn’t put up with in a partner–it’s still his boundary, he’s been pretty upfront about the boundary, and she needs to respect it (probably by breaking up but also she could try letting him leave if she’s not ready to break up).

      • Anon said:

        This is my take as well. LW’s BF actually seems to me like he’s reasonably and appropriately setting boundaries. If my partner tried to tell me how I could drink or smoke, I’d probably respond in a pretty similar way – “no, you can’t control my substance use, but if it makes you uncomfortable, I can leave”. “No, I won’t stop smoking, so if this is really a deal breaker for you, we should break up.” And after a bunch of ignoring my boundaries and continuing to insist on “compromising”: “No, this is not up for discussion or negotiation, and I don’t want to talk about it any more with you.”

        LW – you are dating a smoker. You need to decide for yourself if you can live with that. If not, break up. If yes, then you need to accept it and stop bringing it up. You can set reasonable boundaries like “no smoking in my living space” but it’s not okay to continue to try to force the issue when he clearly has communicated that he won’t stop.

        • Zillah said:

          This is my take as well. LW’s BF actually seems to me like he’s reasonably and appropriately setting boundaries. If my partner tried to tell me how I could drink or smoke, I’d probably respond in a pretty similar way – “no, you can’t control my substance use, but if it makes you uncomfortable, I can leave”.

          I mean… except that the LW was really clear going into the relationship that this was a problem for her, and has been clear that she’s not comfortable with it. They got into an argument about whether he would smoke on their date – if you know someone isn’t a smoker and doesn’t like smoking, it’s really manipulative to treat smoking on a date with them as though it’s an option. That’s not a “reasonable and appropriate” boundary – it’s really shitty behavior. The level-headedness you’re describing isn’t in evidence in the letter, and neither is respect for the LW.

    • Kat Siddle said:

      No, I caught that too. LW is bringing a level of intensity and analysis that feels overbearing to me.

      • Muddie Mae Suggins said:

        I wonder if the LW is maybe therapizing things a bit too much. I’m pto-therapy, I’ve had several periods of helpful regular therapy and absolutely recommend it to people. But, I have found sometimes that the processing and anazlying is very attractive when the alternative is just fucking doing some sucky thing I don’t want to do.

        • B said:

          It definitely sound to me like LW is trying to be BFs therapist; generally being one’s SO’s therapist is a bad idea even when arguably successful. Too much work / not enough distance.

          • MuddieMae said:

            So, I can’t quite tell if you were jumping off my comment or just co-signing it so I want to clarify – I don’t quite think the LW is trying to be her partner’s therapist. It’s more like, applying certain principles of a specific type of therapy to everything, all the time. Like DIY couples therapy, I guess.

            I was with someone for a long time where we did this to each other constantly. Our relationship had started at the kind of small, super-“woke” college where the primary Saturday night activity was 4 white kids up until 4 am debating what the best alternative spelling for “women” is or whether or not its okay for vegans to eat granulated sugar since there’s no way to know which batch uses bone char. Add in the natural early 20s growth period and we just got into this pattern of spending hours processing things, sometimes even the smallest disagreement. Over time, and after some individual therapy where my practitioner pointed out this tendency, it really started to grate on me. I began to see how that behavior was a way for me to avoid doing things, like, say, ending the definitely incompatible and squint-and-its-abusive relationship I was in.

            As I began to work on my anxiety and avoidance and pull back from these epic “processing” fests, it really freaked out my partner. I’m not sure if he actually found all the processing helpful or if he was just afraid that any change in our relationship spelled its doom (spoiler: it was already doomed) but long story short I ended up a bit like a (more functional, less stoned) LW’s boyfriend – I refused to keep engaging because on some level I knew that was pointless, but I hadn’t quite figured out whether or how to disengage completely and break up.

          • Turtle Candle said:

            @MuddieMae, I have been there too. I once broke up with someone because I realized that we spent way, way more time analyzing our relationship than just… like… having a relationship, and it was really exhausting. It’s hard because all the processing can feel like a safety net (“we can talk about anything! surely we can talk through any problem!”) but sometimes it’s more like a spiderweb, with a spider at the center sucking the life right out of the relationship.

          • I once broke up with a fiancée because he insisted on processing our relationship 24/7/365. It only lasted three months total. Processing is for paperwork, not people.

          • Ran out of nesting, but TurtleCandle: that bit about all the processing feeling like a safety net is so concise and rings SO TRUE.

            (Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt more in control of things with a to-do list? Now keep it up if you’ve ever spent more time on a to-do list than on doing things? Yeah, me too.)

      • MsMildew said:

        “thinking that if he can have some more corrective emotional experiences where we have a fight and he stays through the fight to its resolution, he will see [things from my point of view]”

        Was the sentence that made me go WHUT. I agree with both the opinions about the boundary pushing, and the weird combo of therapy-like analysis/intensity coming from LW.

    • vass said:

      You are not the only one.

      LW, he has the right to disengage. The responsibility to, even, if he doesn’t handle his emotions well and is at risk of spilling that over someone else.

      You drew an analogy to suicide threats. That bothered me. Here’s why: suicide threats, when used as a tactic in an argument, are a threat of violence. Often in abusive relationships the threat is “if you leave me, I’ll kill myself.” What he is threatening, though, is… to leave you. Permanently or temporarily. For that to be comparable to a suicide threat, you or he would need to be in danger of serious physical harm if he followed through. As far as your letter went, that’s not the case: you’re both adults, and he is disabled but you are not his carer and he is definitely not your carer? Nobody’s safety is at risk if he follows through?

      Also: “While I try to offer solutions and compromises to our problems, he gets to a breaking point and responds with, “Well, then let’s just break up then,” or, “Well, then I don’t want to hang out with you tonight/you made me not want to hang out with you.” This doesn’t seem fair and I have told him often that it’s not okay with me to just drop a bomb like that in order to end what could be not a big deal.

      If he’s gotten to a breaking point and needs you to leave now, and then self-medicates with weed immediately after the argument, it sounds like whatever you were saying was a big deal for him, even if it doesn’t seem to you like it should be. (And if you don’t want to be in a relationship with someone who gets upset about things you don’t think are that important, that is completely valid, you can end this relationship, you’re allowed, it’s not morally or ethically wrong. But he’s still allowed to have his feelings.)

      The way you describe the earlier conversations, maybe I am reading this wrong, but the two of you were arguing, you were offering suggestions/solutions, and he would tell you he couldn’t and then you would keep pushing and then he’d tell you “maybe we should just break up, then!”? And eventually you got it through to him how upsetting you find that, so now he’s stepped that down to telling you that he doesn’t want to see you that night or that you’ve made him not want to see him that night? Am I getting that reasonably correct?

      Because if so, that doesn’t sound like an ultimatum to me. I know that threatening to break up can be an ultimatum and manipulative, and thereby emotionally abusive, but in the context you described it does not sound like it. It sounds like a boundary. He’s saying that he can’t/won’t do [thing you’re suggesting he do], and if that’s necessary for this relationship then maybe the relationship will need to end. In which case, if he does end the relationship, that is not a manipulation or abusive, because (unless one of the people involved is dependent on the other person) ending a relationship is never abusive.

      But none of that is as important as the fact that you just don’t seem to like or respect him very much. You deserve to be in a relationship with someone you can like or respect. He deserves to be in a relationship with someone whose liking and respect is not contingent on his “fixing” himself into the person she wants him to be. You’re very, very incompatible, and love won’t change that.

      • Manattee said:

        I love this comment, it’s so insightful.

        I came on here to respond to this

        ‘Feeling quite gaslit lately and like I am holding him at arm’s length due to this … emotional abuse? Do we call it that?’

        I think for me the answer is no, this doesn’t sound like abuse. But the good news is, it doesn’t need to be abuse for the LW’s unhappiness and frustration with the situation to be valid, or for it to be ok for her to leave, or for the breakdown of the relationship to not be her fault.

      • MsMildew said:

        Thank you so much for unpacking this so deftly. It was bugging me too, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why.

      • markethill said:

        Thank you for this post. I’m a medical cannabis patient for anxiety and IBS, and my mother has a very OP-esque “talk it through until we’re done” kind of conflict resolution style, so this letter hit me where I live and had me wincing in empathy for the boyfriend. I love my mom deeply, but find it really hard to live with her because I need breathing room and de-escalation while she experiences any withdrawal during conflict as rejection. I couldn’t live with a partner who had that style, and I cannot discuss my health issues and treatment with my mom in any but the most cursory ways.

      • spd said:

        “LW, he has the right to disengage. The responsibility to, even, if he doesn’t handle his emotions well and is at risk of spilling that over someone else.”

        Yep, this. For some people, including me, leaving the conversation when you can’t handle it right now isn’t a preference, it’s a need. And if my boundary of “I can’t continue this conversation right now” isn’t respected when I state it/try to act on it, my brain flips into self-defense, panic mode and starts saying anything to stop the conversation (which is *actually manipulation* and not okay), which can be anything from saying that I will end the relationship (which ends the conversation, but also sometimes the relationship) to saying really mean, vicious things that are designed to push the person to the point when they no longer want to interact with me.

        The way I avoid *being terrible* to my partner is by saying “I can’t talk about this anymore” and disengaging when I feel myself approaching “gonna blow and be a terrible person if I keep talking about this.” Sometimes, ending the conversation is the responsible, adult thing to do, and the “breaking point” language sure makes it sound like LW’s boyfriend might be like me (as well as the “this is why you have no friends” comment–that’s a terrible, never okay thing to say to a partner, and it’s also a thing I would say to my partner if they wouldn’t let me end a conversation so that they would pull back).

    • No, you are not. As someone who gets overwhelmed at times, the thought of someone badgering me when I need space is pretty uncomfortable.

    • Yeah. This bugged me too.

    • aebhel said:

      Yeah, that also jumped out to me. ‘We are going to stay and talk about this Because I Said So’ is not an okay way to behave. If someone wants to end a conversation and leave, then you damn well let them leave. Even if they’re being an asshole about it.

    • CMart said:

      I picked up on that too, but I read it more through the lens of LW assuming (rightly or wrongly) that “I don’t want to hang out anymore tonight” isn’t Boyfriend actually stating a preference, but being manipulative. And pushing through manipulation isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

      If one assumes he’s being sincere then yeah– it’s not good to squash that boundary down and insist on doing things LW’s way.

      But if one assumes he’s just using those words as a verbal temper tantrum because he thinks it’ll make LW give up on being upset about something then… eh. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to ignore the tantrum and attempt to continue on. It’s how you deal with toddlers.

      But regardless if Boyfriend is sincere or being a jerk, I think “okay, bye then” is the most appropriate response here.

      • aebhel said:

        Eh, I don’t agree that that’s an ideal way of handling it. Whether he’s exerting a boundary or being manipulative, it’s still not cool to insist on continuing a conversation that he’s trying to end. That doesn’t mean that LW has to give up on being upset over whatever the thing is; if he’s trying to act like nothing happened the next time they interact, that would be the time for her to go, ‘actually, that was really uncool and I’m still pretty pissed at you, so I don’t want to play happy couples until we actually talk about this.’

        (I mean, I actually think they should just break up, but even if LW is determined to continue the relationship, insisting on arguing with someone who’s trying to leave is basically never a successful strategy.)

      • “I don’t think it’s a bad thing to ignore the tantrum and attempt to continue on. It’s how you deal with toddlers.”

        People should not be in relationships with toddlers.

        You are basically saying that the only way this behaviour is okay is if we assume that LW’s boyfriend is being manipulative. Why start from that assumption?

        (Note that LW isn’t starting from the assumption – she’s assuming it’s genuine, and that if she can just duct-tape him down and show him that having a really long drawn-out in-depth unpleasant compromise negotiation isn’t so terrible, he’ll start to get it and see things her way.)

        • TO_Ont said:

          I think even if he was saying it to be manipulative, it still wouldn’t be OK to insist on trying to force him to talk.

          There are things that can sometimes be OK in a parent-child relationship that are just not OK when interacting with an adult.

      • TO_Ont said:

        “I picked up on that too, but I read it more through the lens of LW assuming (rightly or wrongly) that “I don’t want to hang out anymore tonight” isn’t Boyfriend actually stating a preference, but being manipulative. And pushing through manipulation isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”

        I don’t agree at all. If someone is telling you they want you to go away, or want to go away from you, you respect it, always, unless they are a child or incapacitated to the point that they need a caregiver.

        You assume they are serious. And if it turns out they didn’t actually want you to go away and were trying to manipulate you, well, you called their bluff, which is fine too.

        • Turtle Candle said:

          Hard agree. Once you venture into the land of “I don’t have to listen to what he’s saying because I know what he really means” you are on seriously dangerous ground.

    • Guava said:

      When I read the letter, I kept thinking that LW’s boyfriend isn’t fighting fair. If every discussion ends on his terms – him leaving the room, him dropping the “let’s break up” bomb – just to get her to stop talking, I can see how her frustration would mount to such a degree that she’d never feel like he heard her, and she’d just want to finish the freaking argument.

      I’m not trying to say that this is a healthy dynamic for either the LW or the boyfriend. It sounds like they are incompatible, and they are kind of bringing out the worst in each other when they fight.

    • Turtle Candle said:

      Yeah, I winced pretty hard at “When he shuts down, I do try to come at the issue from different angles to get him to open up, and I should respect if he doesn’t want to talk.” This guy seems like a giant bag of fail, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve had partners who wanted to get me to talk when I needed quiet time to process, and “coming at it from different angles” just felt like needling and harassing me to continue to talk past the point that I was willing. He gets to have boundaries too, and “I’m through with talking about this for now” is a boundary he gets to set.

  34. Oh boy. What the Captain said. But she didn’t adresss the abrupt end to arguments part, so I thought sharing my experience would help. My husband has to argue to a conclusion where someone (he) wins. At some point I can no longer take it, and it’s all just brown noise. My brain won’t process information anymore. So I say the argument needs to stop and we need to get away from each other. He takes this as an attack, somehow, and it enrages him. But the things is that attacks have to be active. Withdrawing is passive. So it’s not something I’m doing to him, it’s just something I need. The way I see it is that he is extraverting his emotions all over me (and I am the most introverted personality type, so this stresses me way out). If I tell him to stop, since he is the one taking action, he should respect that and stop. I’m not saying your relationship is the same, but maybe that your dude’s perspective is not necessarily that he’s trying to draw up an ultimatum or a threat.

    But mostly, what the Captain said.

    • B said:

      I see it both ways; sometimes my husband and I are arguing over something that really should be trivial but we just need a time out and a cool off period. However I think it needs to be clear that it’s a time out, not a complete shutdown/avoidance. Not the equivalent of a teenager saying they will do the chores “later” and somehow later never comes. It can be equally frustrating to have someone never actually address concerns you bring up, and hurtful to go from hanging out to alone for the evening. So I guess I think there should be a back-out option, but also agree pulling the plug on ALL PLANS for the night seems overkill/hurtful.

      • MuddieMae said:

        Definitely. My spouse is someone who needs a cooling off period, and honestly I probably do too lest I get too focused on “winning” the argument rather than resolving it. When we were first engaged he would just stalk off with no explanation. Nor did we have any agreement about how to come back together when we were calmer so I would start panicking and mentally planning for what I would need to do when he left me. This was an area where pre-marital counseling was incredibly helpful to us – synergy with #1073! – and we fight a lot better now.

      • Turqoise Dragon said:

        My partner also needs a time-out in the middle of arguments sometimes, and it took me YEARS to stop panicking when he walked off. We developed a process. He says, clearly and in as many words, “I need a break.” I can offer a time period, if I want one or need one for some reason. And then it’s break time. Entirely. Opposite ends of the house, someone take a walk, do not engage. And then, most importantly, it’s on him to come back. Because after ten minutes, I’ll be ready to pick up the argument again, and maybe he needs more time. So he has to renegage, even if it’s only to state that he needs more time.
        What this means for me is that I know what he needs, I know he’s not dismissing me or ignoring my needs, I don’t go back to pick up the argument and discover my sweetheart is still a firey demon, and I don’t panic about if he’s about to walk out the door forever. And on the rare occasions when I need a break, the same rules apply, including *the one who called the break has to be the one who reaches out.*

  35. Schnoebunny said:

    As someone who once frantically convinced a gas station clerk to show me their store’s security footage of my SO buying alcohol, the type of thoughts, actions and experiences the LW describes really hits home.

    Dear LW:

    1. I am definitely in the camp of break up with this man. Take care of yourself and end this relationship. What are the benefits of staying together? It’s okay to be scared, sad, frustrated, lost, or any other number of feelings as you move on and move forward *without* this person in your life.

    2. The situation at the gas station eventually led me to a 12-step group for families and friends of [substance abuse.] I have found that this has become a BIG PART of “Team Me” in a way that my own close family and friends haven’t been able to fill. There are many parts of your letter where you talk about your actions, and the actions of your boyfriend towards you, that set off flags of recognition in my brain. (I’ve said that… I’ve done that…and on and on) From seeing my own experiences in your letter, I would encourage you to attend a local 12-step group for families and friends of [substance abuse.] I feel very passionate about saying this, and I wish there were fonts and markings and symbols that I could use to remove any “corniness” from this comment, but I can relate SO MUCH and have found this program to be so *beneficial* to my own well-being! Take the idea of going to a local meeting like this as another form of self-care. Maybe talk to your therapist about it? They might have a specific meeting in your area to recommend.

    3. Take care of yourself. You have worth. It might not feel like it all the time, but you are in control. You are in control of you. Not anyone else. You. ❤

    • TheStoryGirl said:

      I was also going to offer the idea of the 12-step program for family and friends, under the support/ideas of the therapist.

      Having a community of people currently facing similar struggles, and especially a one-on-one relationship with a sponsor, can help frame the issue of (potential) substance abuse, or its underlying causes, in ways that might not otherwise be possible. Life experience matters!

      12-Step can also indeed provide an aspect of “Team Me” that the therapist might not be able to, due to their professional responsibilities as a health provider (as opposed to a peer / life experienced person).

  36. Jiggs said:

    Oh my god OP, are you dating my ex-husband? (If so, RUN RUN NOW). I know from eight years of experience you can’t fix it. He’ll always be something broken at the outskirts of your life rather than a wonderful, functional part of it. He doesn’t want to be part of it. He’s hoping you’ll end it for him because he’s a coward. Do him the favour, please.

  37. Sockville said:

    You: “Haha he was probably just wondering how to get me to shut up! I should work on that.”

    ANGRY BUZZER NOISE
    Ouch, sorry! The correct answer was: someone who loves you and enjoys being with you doesn’t want you to shut up.

    Should you respond to cues that someone doesn’t want to talk by leaving them alone? Yeah, probably! Should you be left spinning desperately trying to figure out why your partner doesn’t want to talk to you? No, ma’am!!

    This is not normal! This is not a normal relationship dynamic! You deserve (megaphone) so much better than this, LW!!!!!!!!

    The smoke’s probably not great for the psoriasis.

    • vass said:

      In Colorado medical marijana is an approved treatment for psoriasis.

      • TootsNYC said:

        also Connecticut

  38. AndyL said:

    LW, it seems like you don’t want to fight, but when you do end up in one anyway you want to talk it out until it’s resolved. And resolved to you means he comes to see that you’re right and you end up with an outcome you’re happy with. Because you are a smart, good person who has been to therapy and have your life together, and obviously your together life is something so great that anyone you love would want the same.

    Unfortunately, he doesn’t want to have his life together. He wants to hang out with his felon-fleeing cousin, and smoke pot. And he doesn’t want to fight about it, because he has no intention of changing. I get the feeling that if he could have a career as a musician, or a soldier, or a circus performer without actually putting any effort into it, he’d happily take that too. But he’s currently got the life he currently wants, which is smoking pot and playing video games.

    It doesn’t matter how much therapy you get, or how together you are. You do have a great life – go you! – but it’s not the life he wants. There’s no amount of arguing, or method of arguing, that will make him give up his opinion and take on yours. You’re not arguing wrong. You simply want different things.

    If I had to pick a lifestyle – yours or his – I’d pick yours, too. In a heartbeat. The problem is, he wouldn’t and he hasn’t and he won’t.

    Dump him. Not because he’s a loser, or because of the pot. Dump him because he’s not right for you. And you’re not right for him.

    • Grits McGee said:

      AndyL makes great points- OP, this doesn’t feel like a relationship between equals. You are doing so.much.work. to try to get him to plan and think and act the way you would. And your way is a perfectly valid way, but doesn’t it feel like you’re parenting rather than dating? Can you live with the boyfriend you have, rather than the boyfriend you want? It doesn’t sound like you want to.

    • doodleoo said:

      Yes, yes, yes. Reading the letter I felt like LW was holding for dear life onto the lovely potential she saw in him during their first few weeks of dating. What he said about himself then sounded great! And ever since then she’s been waiting for him to stop being an unmotivated stoner and become the version of himself that she got a brief glimpse of. As if that’s the Real Him and everything since then has been some kind of mistake.

      LW, this is him. The guy who doesn’t want to lead the kind of life you want to lead, and doesn’t like to process relationship issues in the same way as you. I think he behaves badly and yes, abusively in a number of ways, but even if he was blameless, you would still be incompatible. That’s the heart of the problem, and the frustrating, exhausting mess you’re in is what happens when incompatible people fall in love and try to make the relationship work long beyond its natural lifespan. How much longer do you want to spend butting heads? I really don’t think the arguing and talking and working and hoping are going to suddenly bear fruit and give you the boyfriend you need.

  39. Willow said:

    His JOB is driving (AAA), and he smokes weed? So on top of all your personal issues with him, he is probably also driving (professionally) while stoned. Yikes.

    • Ice and Indigo said:

      Not necessarily; she only mentioned him using it in the house, and given LW’s dislike of his weed habit, I doubt she’d have hesitated to bring up stoned driving if it was an issue.

    • Onomatopoeia said:

      I don’t much like the sound of the boyfriend, but this seems like a bit of a leap. I drink alcohol. I have friends who drink alcohol almost daily. None of us drives after more than one beer, and if any of us got a job driving professionally, I can’t imagine we’d feel compelled to give up alcohol altogether. “Smokes weed” or even “smokes a LOT of weed” does not automatically translate to “is stoned at all times when performing all tasks, including at work”. If that were the case he’d have likely been fired long before now.

  40. LW, lots of other people have said good things, so I just want to add that this concerns me:

    I have been in therapy for a long time, even before I met him, and have now made it to a point where I can stay completely calm and objective in an argument with him. It’s like I have an out of body experience.

    That sounds a lot like dissociation, and it’s not a positive thing; it’s a coping skill for traumatic situations.

    Please take care of yourself, and get away from this guy with whom you are clearly, clearly incompatible.

    • That jumped out at me too. That’s good behaviour for a boardroom, but in an intimate relationship, really?

    • Ice and Indigo said:

      Also, it very seldom helps a relationship when one person is identifying themselves as the completely objective one. Even if you are keeping your temper and doing your best to be fair, you aren’t a neutral party: you want A, your partner wants B, and both of you are annoyed with each other even if you’re acting calm. Being objective in that situation just isn’t possible, and positioning yourself as objective is as likely to provoke your partner as it is to calm things down.

      • aebhel said:

        Yeah, having had a lot of arguments with ‘calm, rational’ people who have had ‘a lot of therapy’ (and are therefore right about everything), you need to stop acting like you’re an objective party in arguments with your boyfriend. You aren’t. It is literally impossible to be objective while in the middle of an argument, and trust me when I say that it is absolutely infuriating to be on the receiving end of this attitude.

    • ArchaicPen said:

      I haven’t read all the comments but this feels as good a place as any to add my $.02 which is to say that LW, it’s really ok to get angry about this. I hear exhaustion and frustration in your letter, and I hear you trying to approach things “tactfully and respectfully” with the right form of words. But what would happen if you just actually allowed yourself to get mad at how much energy this situation is stealing from you?
      I’m not saying you need to have a blazing row with this guy (as others have said, you need to recognise him for who he is and probably dump him) but I wonder whether part of this is that you’re adding to your emotional labor by trying so hard to be objective when you express your needs. Get mad, and channel that energy into breaking this off and building a life you actually want.

  41. Ananda said:

    My first boyfriend smoked a lot of weed. I have no problem with it, but the way he used it, especially in situations where I made it clear that I was uncomfortable with his behaviour, has resulted in me being kind of sensitive about it, so I feel you on this.

    But I don’t think that’s the most important part right now. It sounds like you want to date someone who doesn’t smoke, who is working towards their life goals, who can have mature conversations about your relationship, and who won’t say hurtful or manipulative things to you.

    I also think there is a huge difference between your boyfriend saying he wants to be alone VS he wants to break up. He may be using them interchangeably (it’s hard to tell exactly), but their intent and meaning are, generally, very different. If someone wants to be alone, take them at their word and respect their boundaries, whether you think it’s a bluff or not. Whatever the reason, it’s probably is a good idea to table things and talk when things aren’t so heated. But threatening to break up is often emotional manipulation. I don’t think you should date someone who says this, because it pretty much means that either they don’t want to be with you, or they are using it as a threat to get you to do what they want.

    You did a great job identifying the cycle you and your boyfriend get in. What do you think it would take for that to change? As the Sheelzebub Principle asks, if things stayed exactly as they are, would you stay another month? Another year? Another 5 years? How long? I don’t think you can love or reason him into changing.

  42. Amber said:

    LW, it looks like you had 2 good months with this guy and then 3 bad years after that where you have accepted having less and less of your needs met and poured more and more of yourself into making this guy into the person that you thought he was during those 2 months. He isn’t that guy, not anymore and not for a long time. That guy isn’t coming back. That guy was maybe never there in the first place. He is not treating you like he loves you and you can’t logic your way into making him into the person you want him to be. Maybe he would be that person if he fixed all the things that make him wrong for you, but you can’t fix him to be the person you want him to be for you. Go find someone who wants to be with you, who meets you half way, who wants to be the sort of person you want to be with.

  43. Katamari said:

    I may be wrong but LW and her bf sound young, like, young enough that neither of them have gained the confidence to know when to draw the line, say “this isn’t working” and just end it. I was the same in my early relationships, you hold on for waaaay longer than you should because you can’t recognize the signs that it’s already over.

    LW, it’s over. The relationship died a while ago and you’ve been frantically administering CPR to a corpse for a long time. Just look at the length of your letter, you are talking yourself in circles and getting nowhere except deeper into exhaustion. I hope either you or your boyfriend puts you both out of your misery soon and lays this relationship to rest. And I also hope that next time it will be easier to recognize the red flags that signal “pull the pin now and run”.

  44. Vanessa V Martinez said:

    Holy smokes, this letter and its response made my head explode. LW, you are already taking better care of yourself than this guy could ever dare. I can’t imagine a place in your amazing-sounding life that needs this toad.

    Captain:
    “Or better yet, gently set him free to be with his one true love (Spoiler: It’s weed!)”
    KILLED ME.

  45. I’m not surprised that you are Exhausted! Any man who you are compatible with and who truly wants a committed relationship would be lucky to have you. You are actually fortunate that this man has already moved out. He clearly has no interest in changing and he does have every right to continue as he is. He has said as much and he’s right.
    The crux of the issue is his behaviour towards you rather than the weed itself, except insofar as the Captain is right that that would appear to be his true love. As another commenter said, you might find some help in a 12-step program for friends and families of [alcoholics]/ CODA. They should focus on relationships more than on substances as such. I personally have serious reservations about 12-step programs per se but a lot depends on a given group and the people in it. There might just be a group near you – maybe a classic 12-step set-up, maybe an alternative – that could be helpful. At any rate, you are reasonably likely to come across some useful material on the theme of detaching and letting others find their own way while you focus on the things you can control like building your own self-esteem. Plus it will give you the social contact you seem to be missing right now – it could be extremely beneficial social contact if you do hit upon one of the better groups. You just have to try them.
    The way this looks, it’s not so much a matter of DTMFA as let go of the coat-tails of the MF who is A halfway out of the door. So as far as scripts go, when he threatens abandonment in response to disagreement, just say “That’s fine with me”. And you drop the rope and get on with your awesome life. The weed is a red herring there because going by what you’ve said about this guy and by my own experience of these types, he could quit smoking and still do this. You say the cycle begins again when he starts being friendly again. A good rule of thumb here is No Third Chances. You’ve already experienced this as a cycle, so enough chances. As others have said, this is where you pull up the drawbridge and lower the portcullis. Because he sounds like the type that just might go for the charm offensive once his bluff has been called. You do not go into detail about what happens when he starts being sunny again (once he has smoked), but I don’t get the impression that he apologizes meaningfully for his huffy behaviour, nor that he starts to address the original subject of the conflict in a mature way. I don’t think you’d have written your letter if that were the case.
    I wish you all the very best and would love to hear an update one day.

  46. Hmm, my comment vanished. In a nutshell, he probably won’t change so please take care of yourself. Since you’re talking of cycles you need to apply the No Third Chances rule. Call his bluff, defend against charm offensives, cultivate the social contact that you feel the lack of. Best of luck!

  47. Ice and Indigo said:

    I think the timeline is worth looking at here.

    When LW met her boyfriend, he had changed some pretty major habits because he was working towards a life goal – to get in the military. He was heading towards becoming somebody quite different from who he’d previously been.

    When he was rejected from the military, which must have been a big disappointment if he was serious enough to quit smoking for it, his reason to quit smoking went away. He then drifted back into old habits.

    I think it’s fair to say that when LW met him, he was acting kind of atypically for him. If he’d got into the military it might have become a new normal, but since he didn’t, he hasn’t become a new person, he’s reverting to the person he was before he met LW.

    And, you know, to him it may not be an unreasonable choice. His cousin has a criminal record, but he’s also family and presumably they get along. He has some life goals that he’s letting drift, but maybe they’re less serious ambitions than the military was and he doesn’t feel they’re worth making the same level of change. He could live his whole life this way and not feel too unhappy about it.

    The thing is, LW, I don’t think it’s a small thing that you ‘disagree’ about whether or not weed is harmful to the mind. If you were just concerned about the health risks, you’d be saying things like, ‘Switch to vape’ and ‘Make sure you get clean supply’ and ‘Space cakes are a thing’. ‘Don’t do it at all because it’s bad for your body’, in this situation, sounds to me like you’ve retreated to ground you can defend, while not actually having given up your opinion that he shouldn’t smoke at all because it’s bad for his *mind*. But that’s not an area where you really can ‘agree to disagree’. Either it is or it isn’t. It’s not like you disagree over something that doesn’t much affect your life together, like whether hot curry is the yummiest thing ever or a cruel and unusual punishment for the tongue. ‘You’re harming your brain’/’No I’m not’ is not a disagreement you can live with peacefully.

    Let’s talk about his accusations of being controlling. I think, dear LW, that a lot of things about him are annoying you, and that this is clear to him. For instance, you talk about being ‘patient’ with his ‘poor life decisions’. That isn’t the statement of somebody who respects her partner and thinks he can be trusted when she’s not around. Likewise, you frame the smoking while you’re away as a failure to ‘respect my/our space’. That ‘my/our’ is kind of telling. Maybe you just hate the smell of weed, and that’s why you objected, but again, if that’s the problem then I notice that you aren’t suggesting vape or brownies, which would solve that problem. You’re framing it as an issue of respect, not practicality.

    I don’t think you’re setting out to control him, but it does seem clear that you just don’t like the fact that he smokes, and you don’t like the fact that he is not so set on trying to ‘better his life’ as he seemed to be when you first met him. I think you fell for the person he was trying to be, and when the military plan fell through he lost a motivation to keep trying to be that guy. The guy he actually is now … well, would you date him if you met him today?

    I don’t think you’re trying to bully him or be controlling in an abusive way. I don’t think you’re even a bad person for thinking that having big life goals and working towards them is a good way to life. But the plain fact is that you fell for who he was, you aren’t happy with who he is, and it comes across like you do on some level feel like you need to control his life choices because if you don’t, he’ll make bad ones.

    This doesn’t make either of you a bad person. But it does mean that you are probably a bad match.

    You, from the sound of it, are attracted to motivated, clean-living people. It’s a perfectly sensible taste. He, from the sound of it, is living a relatively unambitious life in which weed is an important relaxer. Again, that’s not necessarily a bad way to be – if he smokes every time he’s stressed then he’s neglecting to learn coping skills, yes, and that may bite him later, but there are plenty of women for whom an unambitious smoker is a fine prospect, and none of them are you.

    LW, dear, you don’t really want to compromise on this issue. Look, he told you that you were being ‘pushy’, you concede that you do push, but your take-away was basically that you’re justified in pushing. (And yes, he was wrong to bring your family into it, but that doesn’t mean everything he said was equally wrong.) That is a fundamental and unfixable problem. He doesn’t want to change some things; you want him to change them. He doesn’t want to be pushed about it; you feel that pushing is the right thing to do. There’s no happy compromise here.

    You say: ‘The headspace I am in right now is that there is a piece of him that cares about me, and a piece of me that cares about him, and that a substance abuse problem is getting in the way.’ I have to disagree. There are pieces of you that care about each other, but what’s getting in the way is that there are some fundamental incompatibilities. You’re taking the line that if he’d just change the things you don’t like and do things your way, then everything would be fine. That, my dear, is a sign that the relationship isn’t going to work. You don’t like meeting him in the middle, because you think he’s wrong. Blaming it on ‘a substance abuse problem’ makes it easier for you to cast this as you just wanting what’s best for him and him as disagreeing with you because his thinking is messed up … and that’s not a happy relationship.

    He’s just not the guy you thought he was. He’s not being constructive in how he brings up the issue of breaking up, but is he really wrong to say that if you can’t reach an agreement over these major issues, then the relationship isn’t going to work? I think you should probably put each other out of your mutual misery and part now while you can still do it fairly amicably.

    • Phir Bi Dil said:

      I think you beautifully summarized what was bothering me about the letter and some responses to same, particularly “You’re taking the line that if he’d just change the things you don’t like and do things your way, then everything would be fine”. Parts of the letter and some of the responses reminded me a bit of missionaries lamenting about how those savages don’t appreciate the benefits of civilization and all the hard work that Sisters of Whatever are doing to save their souls (and I say this as someone firmly on the LW’s side in terms of life choices being made–I am very impressed at LW’s initiative, drive and success in improving her life).

      Quite frankly, not everyone wants (or perhaps even needs) to be “saved”. He’s VP Marketing of “Meat of the Month Club”, LW is a committed vegetarian and neither is willing to compromise. So, to quote a famous prophet “To you your religion and to me mine”. Ultimatums (especially passive aggressive ones) aren’t great but sometimes they provide the perfect opportunity to decide that yes, it is time to cut bait.

    • aebhel said:

      You say: ‘The headspace I am in right now is that there is a piece of him that cares about me, and a piece of me that cares about him, and that a substance abuse problem is getting in the way.’ I have to disagree. There are pieces of you that care about each other, but what’s getting in the way is that there are some fundamental incompatibilities. You’re taking the line that if he’d just change the things you don’t like and do things your way, then everything would be fine. That, my dear, is a sign that the relationship isn’t going to work. You don’t like meeting him in the middle, because you think he’s wrong. Blaming it on ‘a substance abuse problem’ makes it easier for you to cast this as you just wanting what’s best for him and him as disagreeing with you because his thinking is messed up … and that’s not a happy relationship.

      Repeated for truth.

    • Indie said:

      I really agree with how you’ve highlighted that a unilateral ‘let’s fix you!’ goal is not a respectful goal. Either you have common goals or you don’t.

    • Turtle Candle said:

      Oooh, yes, this is clearly and beautifully said. It’s not terribly respectful to treat a partner like a fixer-upper.

    • MsMildew said:

      Oh gosh, so much yes to this. And it was bugging me too.

  48. Msconduct said:

    This seems to me like a classic case of the frog who when the pot (ha!) is gently heated doesn’t get out and ends up boiling to death. (This isn’t actually true of frogs, but is all too true of human beings.) You’re such a long way from where you started with this guy and you’ve made more and more concessions along the way. You had good reasons for what you wanted at the start and just because you’ve invested three years in this guy doesn’t make your initial desires any less valid – yet you’re so far away from those now. Please, stop sliding inexorably down this slope and get out.

  49. I took from the letter that OP is basically done with the relationship and wanted advice on how to break it off – scripts that they could use – rather than just being told “yes, leave him”?

    To which my only suggestion is to be quick, clear, and kind.

  50. caraway said:

    LW, if you happen to be thinking “but the Captain misread his relation to marijuana”, I’d like to advise: it doesn’t matter. Oh, it does matter, it matters to him, and that matters to you — you love him! — but this is the point you may have reached, where your love doesn’t make you choose to stay. The character of his relation to marijuana doesn’t matter _to your choice_, doesn’t make you choose to stay.

    So yeah, maybe it’s not so much that he loves weed and it makes him happy, as that he has things going on in his life (lost his life goal) where he “needs it” and it’s how he copes? Why this might matter to the LW, is if it affects how she feels about leaving him with his “other love” versus leaving him in a shitty place. But dear LW, this is not a shitty place that your love can fix or drag him out of. Many times the Captain has written the one about this, where you could unblock your partner’s efforts, but you can’t do the efforting on their behalf, it’s fundamentally internal work. And if they’re not there for it, that doesn’t mean they’re bad or lazy, it just means, that’s not where they are. And you can’t make them be. And if you try you are usually actually hurting them. This is not just Altruist Sour Grapes I’m saying here, it’s sadly true.

    ALSO even if you could help him at the cost of your indefinite stagnation — not having a relationship where you can bring your emotional life, or sexual — there is a point at which you are not obligated, not even one more try. When you ask if you’re at that point, does your heart leap a little inside itself?

  51. Fishmongers' Daughters said:

    My ex-husband pulled out “let’s break up” for every big argument… Like, once every few months. And our therapist told him never to do it again, we both emphasized the devastating effect it had on the trust in our marriage, etc. But he just couldn’t help himself. I don’t think he’d ever learned a different method of conflict resolution, and he had no interest in trying.

    It was particularly effective because this was 2009 (financial crisis), I’d been laid off and was relying on him financially, and I was going to college (first gen student!) with free tuition because of his employee benefits. So this threat had its intended effect of shutting me up… For a while. But because he forced me, over and over, to imagine and plan for a life without him, that life became less and less unimaginable.

    Reader, I divorced his ass. I lived out of my car for a while and stayed in school. And let me tell you how GOOD it felt to not be working on that relationship any more. It was so liberating, and I was so much more interesting as a person when I could do my own thing without that anchor weighing me down. I have an MA now. I have a job I love which he would never have understood or supported. I have interests and passions that are getting full sun now that the shade of that relationship is lifted.

    Living out of my car sucked and I don’t recommend it (though a college campus is among the better places to be homeless), but sounds like you’ll be FINE without him. Like, better than fine. Imagine the things you and your therapist will talk about when you’re not filling up your sessions strategizing about how to maintain a detached calm in the face of his bullshit. Imagine being able to foster kittens without even considering how it’ll affect this dude who lives an hour away and is probably smoking weed as you read this, oblivious to all this work you’re doing. Imagine not REIMAGINING your life every time his plans switch from the military to autobody to the music industry. Imagine not having to explain to strangers that your boyfriend lives with his felon cousin and his felon cousin’s mom and smokes weed all day.

    I don’t see a lot of imagination in your letter, LW. I see a dogged, narrow focus on maintaining this relationship at all costs. At the cost of spending all your time and energy trying to “fix” this dude who doesn’t want to be fixed.

    Imagine if your time and energy were more valuable than that. What would you do with it instead?

      • Indie I just read that page and OMG it’s my former workplace!

        • Indie said:

          Oh the wisdom of hindsight!

    • Jenna said:

      My college boyfriend started one of his, “we have to talk” serious discussions with, “I think we should break up,” and he was shocked and dismayed when I said, “I think you’re right. Let’s break up.”
      Apparently it was a threat that I was supposed to back away from and promise to work harder, but, I was just so tired of the serious discussions of my flaws every couple months.
      He then tried to tell me he couldn’t live without me, but, I told him that breaking up was his idea, so, obviously He could live without me, and since I was agreeing with his idea we were definitely broken up. No taking it back.

      So, I’m really horribly biased, but, my reaction to “I think we should break up,” is always to seriously consider that it may indeed be the best path.

  52. Best Turkey said:

    I will say this in favour of your boyfriend, LW: he’s really made it very easy for the two of you to break up.

    Not only has he moved out, he’s moved far enough away that you can very efficiently cease contact altogether if you wished and the odds of you running into each other at the supermarket or something are low. It’s clear that whatever he thought living you was going to be like, it wasn’t like that, and his decision to move away has presumably made him happier. (After all, if he didn’t dig living with his dodgy cousin on some level, would he have stuck around as long as he has?)

    Between that and the way he keeps going for the “maybe we should break up” gambit in arguments it almost sounds to me like if you two did break up he wouldn’t be that fussed. He’s pulled away from you in terms of going to live elsewhere. He’s sniffing around after the sex because (my guess is) he’s hoping you will relent on that, just like he was able to brush past you rules about smoking, but other than that I’m not seeing how he’s invested in the relationship at all.

    He hasn’t overtly taken any steps to proactively break up with you, for whatever reason – perhaps his self-esteem is caught up in the idea of Being There for someone, perhaps he figures you’ll cave yet further on your red lines, perhaps he just dreads the moment when he is definitively Single Again, there’s countless possibilities. Either way, though, I can’t help but think that his “Maybe we should just break up!” line might be not so much a threat as a hint.

    Based on your description of him, it sounds like he’s someone who follows the path of least resistance. Smoking at yours became a source of hassle, smoking at his cousin’s was cool, so he eventually drifted off to stay at the place where can smoke to his heart’s content, rather than making the effort to respect your space. Having an argument with you makes him feel bad; he proposes leaving because he reckons that’d be easier than continuing the argument.

    I’m not saying his treatment of you hasn’t been bad – it is. Waving around the possibility of a breakup as a threat is emotionally abusive. Luckily, he’s made it a problem that can solve itself: there is no shame in calling his bluff and letting him go his merry way. Given that you are no longer living together and that you clearly have a very active and happy life separate from him, I’m not seeing that this would even be that revolutionary a change in your current schedule. Take the time to grieve the life together you thought you’d have with the guy you thought boyfriend could be but which he wasn’t, and when you are ready find yourself someone who is willing to actually communicate and negotiate like a human being.

  53. Minister of Smartassery said:

    I’m really sorry. You sound lovely. But it also sounds like he’s just not that into you. But he is super into weed.

  54. Thanksforallthefish said:

    I agree with the Captain. There are so many more compatible people out there for you.

    I dated someone who would do that sort of manipulative escalation of arguments.

    I said can you please not set your dirty shoes on the dining room table, please not eat melty chocolate in bed while using my laptop and get chocolate mess on the bed and my computer and not clean it up, please brush your teeth more than once every few days, please don’t wear my really nice Birkenstocks and destroy them because they were easy to slip on…just buy your own slip-on shoes that are cheap…I think most of those resulted in moments where he said “if you’re not ok with who I am we should break up!” Of course I argued back because I felt most item on its own wasn’t reason enough to break up. Luckily it worked in his favor. He never had to change his behavior one bit and I twisted myself in knots trying to be the “chill girlfriend” who didn’t care about all that and loved him for him. Meanwhile cultivating a dark, dank resentment that oozed out the corners of my mouth….my life is so much better since that ended.

  55. SqueakyHammer said:

    You want to be in a relationship with a sober person who treats you well, and on any given day he is never both of those things at the same time.

  56. the815 said:

    I swear Captain Awkward needs a hashtag like “and the GOOD things about this relationship are..????”

    OP must be terrified to be alone if she’s putting up with all this. Being alone is SO MUCH BETTER than being in a terrible relationship. Leaving a terrible relationship can feel SO GOOD, it’s like suddenly you get to breathe through two lungs instead of one. To be fair, it took many, many years for that to really sink in for me. It’d be easy (and understandable!) to keep ragging on the guy, but “what’s going on with you that you think this is okay and worth all this work?” is really the thing to focus on.

    Also – not to stir up drama, but there’s a really good chance he’s screwing other people if he moved an hour away. Like, she’s supposed to believe he threw that huge of an obstacle into their relationship for no good or understandable reason and that he suddenly doesn’t have a sex drive any more? Maybe it’s not kind to “go there,” but hopefully that’ll help drive home the “get out, like, yesterday” message.

  57. Dear LW,

    I was you at one point, convinced that we could work things through and that breaking up was a cop out.

    It’s not. Your boyfriend is offering you a gift. Break up and find a non smoker.

    (I too dated a smoker who said he’d quit. He didn’t. It was only one of our incompatibilities.)

    Best wishes to you

    • I dated a smoker who quit! Several times! Do not recommend.

  58. CommanderBanana said:

    I could write a 500 word exhortation to dump this guy with all sorts of reasons but just…please dump this guy? None of this sounds fun. All of it sounds exhausting.

  59. Sheana said:

    Here is another answer for you;
    I don’t smoke. But started dating a stoner. I love him and the lifestyle so I stayed. I still don’t smoke. 🤪

    • adios pantalones said:

      Sounds like LW super hates the lifestyle and everything associated with it, so that’s not a very good answer for her! Glad you’re happy, though.

    • Zillah said:

      I’m not sure how that’s relevant to this situation.

  60. Audrey said:

    I had someone who used to do this. When we were in an argument he would deflect the conflict to: “So maybe we should just break up.” In the long term, I dumped him because it was way too much work, but I also had a short term solution that stopped this behavior from him:

    When that happened, what I would do is immediately take him seriously, and change the conversation to our break up.
    Him: “Well I guess you’re saying we should just break up then.”
    Me: “Interesting, I wasn’t saying that at all I was just talking about X comflict, why? do you want to break up?”
    Him: “Well if you’re going to keep..[rants at me about thing we were talking about before]
    Me: [interrupts] Hold on! That conflict is such a small issue that it’s probably not relevant to this. It sounds like you want to break up, do you?
    Him: [More ranting]
    Me: “We don’t need to talk about that, we need to talk about this break up. If you’re breaking up with me, I need to pack up my stuff and we need to work out logistics of that.”
    Him: “ARE YOU SAYING YOU WANT TO BREAK UP???”
    Me: “No, but you just said you did, am I mistaken? Do you or do you not want to break up?”
    [I then repeat this like a robot and refuse to change subjects]

    At some point, he will admit that he just said that on whim and he doesn’t actually want to break up. I will not brush this off, I repeat that back to him:

    Me: “So you’re saying that you DON’T want to break up? Because when you say that I have to take it seriously and the other conflict is not important. I am ok with going back to our last conflict now, as we’re clear we’re not breaking up. Is that right?”
    Him: “Right.”
    Me: “Great, [subject change to original conflict].

    I had to have this conversation twice before he stopped pulling that bit of manipulation. That being said, the above is WAY TOO MUCH WORK AND EMOTIONAL BLACKMAIL AND I HAD TO GET OUT ASAP.

    I am now married to someone who has NEVER threatened a break up over something trivial. I’ve been with him longer than Darth Vader above.

    • Mustela Furo said:

      This strategy is brilliant. (Also exhausting for you…but brilliant!!)

  61. Ambs said:

    I could have written this letter 15 years ago. (Except I was also smoking pot to deal with the situation, a “solution” I do not recommend at all.) Here are my thoughts for you, letter writer:

    1. If the relationship is terrible even “just” 5% of the time, you should still break up. 95% awesome cannot make up for the verbal and emotional abuse. (And maybe this isn’t a concern for you … but I was terrified it would turn physical one day.)

    2. Seriously: Call his bluff. Tell him when you are both calm that you want him to know you do not appreciate the threats when you two are having a disagreement and that it is manipulative and counter-productive. Tell him that this is YOUR ultimatum: if he does this again, you will be taking him at his word and ending your time together immediately, because that is clearly what he wants to happen. (It’s actually not. What he wants to happen is exactly what is happening: you twist yourself into knots to try to appease him while he sulks and mopes. Don’t let him pull you into that pattern again.) Then the next time he does it, be like “oh OK you don’t want to hang out right now? Peace!!”

    3. Don’t take his calls or accept his apologies after that. Give it at least 24 hours before he gets any more of your time or attention. His Stoned Brain will panic at what he has done and want reassurances that you still love him. Do not give Stoned Brain what it wants. It will do him some good to feel serious paranoia that he has messed things up beyond redemption, because he is probably getting close at this point.

    Letter writer, I didn’t break up with my own version of your current boyfriend until after things got absolutely batshit between us and I lost all the good and warm feelings I once had for him. He was just a nuisance I had to get rid of instead of a human I loved, and I really hope you extract yourself before you reach that point, because it doesn’t feel good to feel nothing for someone you once loved a lot.

    So that brings me to 4: When you do decide you have had enough, expect him to call you after you’ve ended it and tell you that he had his first therapy session and is going back to school and getting his life together, and won’t you please reconsider the relationship, pleeeease???

    Take Captain’s advice and get out. You can do so much better than this. There are partners out there who will support you and respect you and fight fair with you and who will hold down their part of the household and bills without needing to be coddled or begged. (And who don’t smoke if that’s what you don’t want! And who respect the mutual decisions you both made about how to live together!) Get rid of this dude and go find one.

  62. Indie said:

    I think he is renting the relationship (like a house), he’s willing to spend (hang out time) on it but not effort (making changes). The key thing to know about renters is they love what they have; no responsibility; but aren’t here for the long term. They’ll leave when landlord stops providing for them. You’re a buyer, you’re making plans, seeking change and growth, willing to put in efforts now, for the long term payoff. But the effort and commitment imbalance makes that payoff impossible. He’d probably stay forever as your tenant, but hes never going to roll up his sleeves for this. Just think what kind of relationship you could make with another buyer like you!

    • the815 said:

      I remember a couple guys from OKCupid that I’d date for about a month and a half. They weren’t terrible people, things just kinda fizzled, not enough there, etc.

      But your point about not making any effort reminded me of them. I remember thinking they were like finding a table at a thrift store that I thought was cute and a good deal. But the second I try set a book or coffee cup on it – you know, ask it to actually function as a table – things fell apart. Not in a dramatic way, just kinda this moment of, “Yeah, this person isn’t there for me and doesn’t have my back. I can’t keep up appearances any more – I’m out.”

      • Indie said:

        You’re two up on me; your shopping mistakes were at least decorative (mine were neither use nor ornament) and you are a speedy learner who noped out quickly! I, alas, did not.

        • the815 said:

          Oh, it took me a *long* time to be a speedy nope-er. 🙂

    • Thanksforallthefish said:

      This is awesome

  63. Black Lab said:

    “Or better yet, gently set him free to be with his one true love (Spoiler: It’s weed!) and set yourself free to hang out with people who are more compatible with you.”

    This is very well said and great advice. I’ve lost family to alcohol, and that’s what it feels like: alcohol is their one true love, and I can’t compete. Sad, yes. But my expectations of our relationships are more realistic if I keep in mind that their number one priority is alcohol, and I’m at best a distant second.

    It worries me that your boyfriend spends time with someone fleeing felonies. Is this person currently involved in illegal activities that could harm those around him? Is it possible your boyfriend would become involved in these activities? His environment is at best not super healthy and at worst really damaging to his future prospects. Maybe this is the path he wants to take. If so, do you want to walk it with him?

    Best of luck LW!

  64. A couple of things:

    1. I’ve known couples where one was the weed smoker and the other was not. It never worked out between them.

    2 What the Captain said: This dude is far too much work. I know I’m an old married woman, but sometimes when I read stuff on here, I think, “Man, if I were young and single (or just single) I just would not put up with 1/4 of the bullshit I put up with when I WAS young and single.”

    If you have these many problems now, it ain’t gonna get better later.

  65. ohgeez said:

    I also think that feeling isolated can make a partner seem like more of a necessity and less of a bonus. You don’t need a romantic relationship! And certainly not one with someone who doesn’t seem to want to put any work in. Especially since it sounds like you’ve had a toxic dynamic for the brunt of your time. Breaking up with someone you care about is not a failure on your end, and not necessarily about how strongly you feel for that person.

    • Ugh! Don’t forget Felon Cousin! LW, you could also get dragged into criminal proceedings since your boyfriend lives with a known felon. All it takes is the cousin and boyfriend getting arrested for a pot charge. You could then be pressured into coughing up bail money for the pair of them and/or storing their drug paraphernalia/weed at your house to protect your boyfriend. Then you could end up getting arrested and jailed yourself later. Dude is not worth chancing a criminal record over.

      • MsMildew said:

        Just want to point out that LW mentioned that cousin & his mom live in California…where recreational weed is now legal, and medical marijuana has been legal since 1996. So if BF still lives in CA (or one of the other states where weed is legal) that is unlikely to be a concern.

        • It’s still illegal at the federal level, however.

  66. sarahjaneb said:

    I feel like the weed per se isn’t necessarily the problem. It could be anything – “I know you enjoy doing jigsaw puzzles, but you’re spending more time working on the puzzles than anything else, and we never spend any real time together. Also, I would appreciate it if you would keep your puzzle stuff contained to the area we set up for you. I can’t make dinner because there are puzzle boxes stacked up on the kitchen counter, and last week the cat choked on a puzzle piece and almost died.”

    Bottom line is that he cares way more about this other thing than about the relationship and about LW’s needs. It’s done.

  67. Cherries in the Snow said:

    Couple of things.

    1) I once dated a guy who dropped the “then I’ll dump you!” card as a way to control me. It worked for a long time because of anxiety. But when it finally ended, I ultimately felt SO FREE.

    2) Behaving professionally at work with women is baseline, not “applause worthy.”

    3) People change. It’s okay for your boyfriend to smoke and drink. You need to either be okay with that or dump him, not withhold sex over his head with threats of some kind of weird parental “we’ll have sex again when you can conform to my demands” ultimatum.

    If you’re not compatible, break up. If someone is trying to control you, break up. Policing your boyfriend’s substance use and using sex as a weapon is doing neither of you any favours.

  68. thetigerhasspoken said:

    The weed smoking is one of the MANY problems here LW.

    1. You don’t want to be with someone who smokes weed. He smokes weed. A LOT.
    2. You want to be with someone who is emotionally mature and can handle conflict. He cannot.
    3. You want to be with someone who makes you feel loved and secure. He does not.
    4. I am willing to bet you also want someone you can count on, you enjoy spending time with, who makes you feel safe and calm, who turns you on and (judging your letter you’re likely not asexual) enjoy sex with. And who doesn’t trigger all your How! Do! I! Fix! This! compulsion.

    Look, I was also very NO WEED SMOKERS EVER (I used smoke. A LOT. And my experience around other smokers was hugely negative so after I quit, the negative correlation was there). And then I met a dude who smoked and it wasn’t an issue at all because it didn’t FEEL like an issue (and our relationship was lovely and I couldn’t even tell when he was high). The reason I am telling you this is because I think you’re trying to logic your way around this relationship and your discomfort with weed. You’re trying to control your *feelings* and your *boyfriend’s behavior.*

    You have no control over either of those things. None. By all means keep trying if you feel compelled to, or like me, need to learn the hard way that falling for someone’s potential is going to lead you down a ROUGH road and you can’t logic/troubleshoot your feelings away. After all, you’ve been together 3 years and it sounds like you’re still basing your entire reason for being with him on those first two months where he was *planning* on getting his life together (and you seem to have put a lot of meaning on how you met).

    To invoke the Sheelzebulb principle: if things do not change, how much longer are you will to tolerate this? How long is “I can handle what he throws at me” going to be your attitude about your romantic parter?

    • Indie said:

      “You’re trying to control your *feelings* and your *boyfriend’s behavior.* You have no control over either of those things”

      Put this message in the sky!

  69. catherine said:

    Maybe this type of scenario is where the saying his ass is grass comes from?

  70. SZ said:

    Respecting when someone doesn’t want to talk *right now* is fine. But consistently avoiding any conversation about the issue at hand, and instead smoking weed and apologizing, is not something that deserves your respect. It’s a pattern, and the pattern is: I don’t want to hear any criticism or compromise in any way, so I will refuse to talk about it and issue a Relationship Ultimatum to get her to back off.

    Smoking weed can be an avoidance tactic all by itself. This guy is avoiding the part where he says “How can I make you happier?” and “I will change this particular thing because it clearly bothers you a lot.” It’s a pattern, and so far it’s working for him.

    You said There’s a lot of problems in this “relationship.” He shows no interest in fixing any of them. The next time he threatens to break up with you to avoid any discussion of changes he might need to make, call his bluff.

  71. like an angry apple tree said:

    >>I am sure that as this relationship has evolved I have not been a perfect partner, and >>
    (and later)
    >> no wonder I am so isolated from friends and family.
    Okay. He is not wrong>>

    This line of thinking is familiar, and not in a good way. When someone points out something you’re legitimately doing wrong, the answer is not “oh, I deserve to be treated badly then, because I’m not perfect.” The answer is “I will do some soul-searching and work on that, which does not at all excuse the other person’s actions.”

    I was brought up to scramble for Moral High Ground in disagreements, because according to that system/worldview, anyone who can discredit their discreditors is automatically right, and having ever made any sort of mistake means your grievances are never valid. It’s *super not good.*

    I disagree with how you handled some of the things you described. I still think your bf is being a jerk and that you aren’t suited well to one another. Nobody has to be ~Right~. Nobody has to be perfect. There does not have to be a winner and loser for the relationship to just not work.

    (Something I also do? Disassociate during arguments. I am actively working on that in therapy. I am not you, but for me it is scary, unhelpful and manipulative.)

  72. OMJ said:

    This paragraph from the letter really stood out to me:

    There’s a lot of problems in this “relationship”. I get that. On the whole, I try not to let it bother me to the point that I fixate, and I am active. I go to the gym. I go to therapy consistently. I just got a new job as a substitute teacher. I am taking an improv class. I am pursuing freelance photography. I adopted a cat. I contacted a neighbor about fostering more kittens. I am doing my best to live my own life. As frustrating as everything I just said above is, with my support team I can handle what he throws at me.

    LW, your relationship shouldn’t be something you need to distract yourself from. You shouldn’t need a support team in order to “handle” being with your boyfriend. Not on a long-term basis, not as status quo. A relationship should generally add to your life. Right now you’re working like crazy just to get your general life happiness back to a net zero. That’s not okay.

    If we were assigning number values to these things, each of the activities you like is a +1. Your boyfriend is a -8. It takes gym, therapy, job, improv, photography, cat, fostering, and support team just to cancel him out. But imagine if you didn’t have that negative sitting there. Instead of 0, these activities you love might get you to +8, or even more. You know what I’m saying?

    I’m not even going to pick at the individual issues you mention in this letter. Look at the way you talk about this relationship, and this person. You’re not happy. I’d bet you’re only holding onto it because you’re afraid of what comes next. But you’ve got your head on straight here; you’ll be okay. Let go of this guy.

  73. Alexandra Hamilton said:

    Good lord! Give up and run away! Give up *a year ago* and run away! It is not your job to fix this grown ass man. Call that bluff — or better yet, dump his ass now, first, before he gets another chance to be shitty and throw that ultimatum out there. It’s time to find a decent adult human who doesn’t smoke weed all day and treat you like shit. Seriously, please do not waste any more of your 20s on this selfish, ridiculous person!

  74. Convallaria majalis said:

    Oh, dear Exhausted, I read your letter thoroughly (both of the versions) and to me it sounds like you are doing a lot of work for this relationship – but also to improve your own life, and the latter is awesome! As a fellow human with feline family members and foster cats and kittens it sounds like we find similar things relaxing, like a loving, purring cat keeping one company.

    I have been in abusive relationships long enough – far too long – and I know how hard it is to leave. Of course there are bad people, but it sounds like your boyfriend is not truly evil. You have had many happy moments with him – but do you love him, as he is at the moment, or do you love those memories and wait for them to return? Quite frankly I fear he will never be like he was in the beginning of your relationship.

    I live in a country where recreational use of marijuana is considered illegal and since for health reasons I am unable to consume alcohol all my friends tend to be like me: they do not drink much alcohol or smoke tobacco, let alone do something which is considered illegal here. So, yes, I have absolutely no experience of weed nor do I have any strong opinions on it. Still, I find The Captain’s notions to be spot on: your boyfriend loves himself only when he is stoned.

    Knowing myself I decided I did not want to date anyone for whom drinking alcohol is important and it sounds to me that your initial resolution, when it came to marijuana, was very similar. You only yielded these restrictions because of your love for your boyfriend, but it sounds like it made you quite unhappy. The way you stood up to your boundaries is admirable.

    The Captain is right (as always): I believe, some time in the future, you might be happier with someone whose values and preferences match yours better. The story of how you met is cute, much more unusual than mine (I met my husband by OkCupid) but a lovely story of a beginning does not create a magical happy ending, no matter how much we wish it so. It sounds like you have experienced lovely times. If you let him go now, you get to keep those happy memories and an ugly breakup will not tarnish them as much.

    Keep on taking care of your awesome self, and the cat and the possible foster kitties. Reach for your lovely friends and your family. You rock!

  75. lalouve said:

    The last time a guy treated me like this, he was trying to get me to break up with him so I could be the bad guy. We’re actually friends nowadays and get along fine, but that took me deciding his drama and bad life decisions were his garden, and I should stop cultivating it.

  76. Lapis Lazuli said:

    Hon, I think him movignout of the apartment was his non verbal cue to you that the relationship is done. He is just too lazy/cowardly to say it.

    I would go ahead and put this relationship to shame. He loves weed, you don’t, he moved to a place h can smoke weed, you stated you would not go see him. This is the part where you say, “Then let us go our seperate ways.”

    Also, I am leery of someone who has to take a drug (alcohol and weed included) in order to pull a reverse Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde (raging douchebag -> drug -> person who can talk to you without snapping your neck). I don’t want to date Dr. Jekyll/Mr.Hyde, PERIOD.

    Drop this fuckass and find someone who respects you all the time, not while he is high/sober/intoxicated/generally terrible.

  77. rhythla said:

    I remember when my ex was complaining that we were not having enough sex, and I pointed out to him that it was probably because he had just been super rude to me and making me feel like crap.

    He then said, “I could go to the bar right now and say exactly what I said to you to another girl and she’d sleep with me.”

    I opened my arms wide and called his bluff: “Go ahead. Let me know how that works out for you.”

    Of course, he instantly deflated and gave me a grudging apology. Not soon after, he became my ex. (And of course, only at that moment did he suddenly want to work on the relationship.)

    LW, call his bluff. Dump him. He has basically already dumped you with actions rather than words.

  78. Heather said:

    Dude seems happy. You bug him so much he says he wants to break up, or doesn’t want to hang.
    Believe him.

    Honestly, what is there in this relationship for either of you? You worry yourself into a tizzy and he gets bitched at constantly.

    • Zillah said:

      I think the kindness and empathy you’re showing to someone who wrote in to ask for help is really inspiring.

  79. VorpalSword said:

    “Because we will have been together three years this March, I am doing my best to navigate this new phase where we do not live together.”

    Sounds like you’re trying to make this work because of the “sunk-costs fallacy” — that is, you’ve already put three years into this relationship, so you’d better make it work rather than having to start over with someone else. Some ideas here for thinking your way out of the sunk-costs fallacy: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/anxiety-files/201409/letting-go-sunk-costs

    I briefly dated a guy a couple of years ago who loved weed. We had very limited time together, so I asked him not to get high before seeing me. He ignored that request. And that was the end of that. We had a pleasant evening, but then “See ya, Dude Who Doesn’t Care What I Want.”

  80. Zillah said:

    OP, this is the most “omfg did I write this and forget it?” letter I have ever seen on here. I mean, a couple specifics are different, but I have been there.

    I get the relentless optimism and the worry that if he’d just go to therapy, he wouldn’t need weed anymore. I get the perpetually moving goalposts and the attempts to compromise. All of this makes so much deeply depressing sense to me.

    I think you should end this relationship. I don’t think that this man has the capacity to make you happy, and in a lot of ways, I think the weed is kind of a deflection. The bigger issue is that he’s treating you poorly – including smoking in a place where you live and have said you do not want weed in, which to me is a huge red flag – and using weed to excuse his behavior. Of course he’s being a (relatively) good boyfriend right now – it’s the honeymoon phase after a fight. The underlying issue hasn’t changed, so I doubt his behavior will.

    When I ended the relationship, I was so exhausted that I didn’t even cry about it. I was ultimately really, really relieved. I’m so much better off now, and I think that you will be, too.

  81. Jenn said:

    LW STOP. Stop, stop stop. Look why are bringing up him changing a tire and your first date? What does this have to with the shitty way he treats you now?

    Please stop trying to talk yourself out of breaking up with him. Stop trying to control this guy and make him into the person you thought he was on the first date.

    You’re doing what so many people do and loving a fantasy you created instead of the reality in front of you. The charming tire-changer, the guy who showed up with flowers? Those were lies. That was an act he put on the fool you, to keep the relationship going.

    If someone uses ‘I guess I should break up with you’ as a weapon and not an honest conversation about ending the relationship the best answer is ‘yes’. Yes were breaking up. Yes it’s over. Yes you need to stop calling me. Yes don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

  82. SmudgelySmythe said:

    Ohhh this so reminds me of me and my ex. Right down to the promises about not smoking in the house if we moved in together and then doing it at like, 3pm on a Wednesday afternoon when I was working from home, and gaslighting me into believing I was a dreadful control freak for minding that kind of stuff. Spoiler: he didn’t change. And now we’re not together I know he happily smokes away every night…and I couldn’t care less, and we’re really good friends. He just wasn’t right for me as a boyfriend. Somewhere out there is a really damaging myth that I’d picked up that if someone loves you enough they will change, but I’ve been around a shedload of heavy users and addicts and can say with absolute confidence that it happens about 0,00001% of the time. Al anon may help the LW although I have a few feminist issues with it, but it did help me to learn to detach and put the focus back on me. Obsessing about someone else’s behaviour can be a way of avoiding oneself too…I know it has been for me at times. Good luck LW, take care of yourself.

  83. Not gonna read all the comments, just gonna say Amen x 1000 to what the captain said.

  84. Sounds Familiar said:

    Oh, LW. I’m very late to this letter but I see so much of my very sad story in it that I needed to chime in. Please end this. You deserve better, just like I did. I finally left much too late because I too thought that he really did love me in some way, and because I too felt like leaving him while he was in denial about having an addiction problem would be sort of kicking him while he’s down (you didn’t quite say this but I am reading between the lines), but in the end I ultimately realized that I couldn’t be the one person doing all the accommodating, all the work, all the worrying, all the *seeing things clearly* for both of us.

    And yeah, the constant reek of weed didn’t help either. (Full disclosure: I used to be a pretty frequent smoker too, before this particular partner and I had even met, and long before he discovered weed relatively late in life, so I’m not a prude-on-principle about it, but when it’s all day every day and when it’s the only way he can function… it’s a real problem.)

    But on the blowing up at you, your specific question? It’s just a way for him to say “I’m unwilling to even have a tough conversation about this, much less do any work to resolve the root of this conflict. This relationship continues on those terms, or MY terms, or not at all.” Mine did the same. And in my case I feel like his desperate and unsustainable need to avoid conflict or even just challenging human engagement at any cost was actually the root cause of his whole blow-up-the-relationship-to-avoid-this-discussion habit AND of his need to be high as fuck at all times. I don’t want to project my mess too much on to you, but if this sounds familiar to you, please see while you have fewer than three years invested in this guy that he’s not fit for a healthy relationship. I spent nearly two decades with mine and I’m finally gone, but I’m just broken now because I’ll never get back all those years and it kills me. I married mine when I was your age, and I wish I knew how to make you know how shattering it is to realize you gave the actual best years of your life to someone who was never worthy of them. You deserve so much better to be stuck in a polyamorous relationship with your boyfriend and his weed stash. Be strong and let him go. Better things are out there.

  85. Sounds Familiar said:

    Oh and a thing I forgot that I want to be sure to add even though my first comment isn’t out of moderation yet:

    If yours is like mine, he’ll escalate from “if you don’t stop nagging me about not driving stoned I’m going to break up with you” to “if you don’t stop [saying or doing a thing that harshes my buzz literally or figuratively] I’m going to hurt myself.”

    And then he might just do it.

  86. Lucky Girl said:

    I dated this guy! I mean not this actual guy but one of his grizzly UK twins maybe.

    You are exhausted and you will continue to be exhausted! I let it continue for 7 years because I couldn’t get why he wouldn’t help himself when it would have been so easy to do so – I personally found it impossible to love someone I didn’t respect and 5 years down the line I still look back at the break up and give myself a big pat on the back…the relief you will feel when it’s not your problem anymore is better than all drugs.

    And I am a legalise it all kinda gal – this isn’t about being uptight it’s about boundaries and respect , no matter how many times he says things that make you feel like you’re some nagging witch. Get rid. Asap.

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