Thursday, September 14, 2006

Dismaying Story #53: The Once in a While Boyfriend

Today's story has a unique twist -- it was submitted simultaneously to me and to Useless Advice from Useless Men. We agreed that both sites would post a response today. After you have a look at the story below, you might want to wander over there and see how they dealt with this issue.

Dear Andrew,

My boyfriend tells me he likes his time to himself on nights and weekends, meaning he doesn't want a girlfriend, yet he does. He loves a casual relationship. His initial excuses were that he lost track of time. Then he added why are Friday and Saturday nights more important than any other day of the week? I tried to talk to him about this and he said, "Oh, you're back to that ... again."

I told him I want to break up and he blew me off, saying I'm just crabby. I emailed him a strong letter saying the same thing and more. He stormed over and he argued me out of breaking up.

I got tired of this and posted a profile on a dating site. My profile is so diluted because I'm not really free to date, didn't get my permission to break up. He's aware of my profile, he's checking up on me.

I think this guy just hates to lose. He can't agree to a break up if it's my idea. Sooner or later he will find someone else and then he'll have no problem calling me up to break it off, because it will be his idea.

I'm really writing this to myself. I've just got to kick myself hard enough to stop being stupid.

Signed, Can't Seem to Kick Myself

Dear Can't,

If he doesn't want to see you, this guy is definitely not into you. You'll recognize him in Chapter 2 of He's Just Not That Into You by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo. (Yes, Faithful Reader, you've seen that book before, but when the shoe fits...) He is also arrogant, self-centered and doing his best to dominate you. Do yourself a favor and walk away, today.

But you already know all that. Your letter makes that clear. The important questions to me are these: When you so clearly want to leave, why have you not done so? Why do you feel you need a guy's permission to break up with him?

A relationship only works when both people want it. If one of you wants out then it's over, even though the other person may not be happy about it. That's just how it works. Trust me, you don't need his permission. He can't force you to want him or to spend time with him. Lock the door, hang up when he calls, refuse all requests to get together -- he'll eventually get the hint. If he doesn't, then he falls into the stalker category. That's where police and restraining orders come in, though the vast majority of break ups never come to that.

What bothers me most is that you clearly feel powerless in this situation. Something in your past has trained you to react in this way. This is not about "being stupid." There are other powerful factors at work.

This sounds like a variant of battered woman's syndrome. You have not said anything about physical abuse but there is clearly emotional abuse involved. This syndrome is characterized by learned helplessness, low self-esteem and no psychological energy to leave, which is a good description of your situation.

Whether it happened with this guy or not, something in your past has taught you to feel powerless in relationships. I suspect some part of you believes you don't deserve any better. You know this guy is no great shakes but you're convinced the next one will be cut from the same cloth anyway, so why bother doing anything about it. More than that, you allow him to make decisions for you, even if that is not what you want. You just don't have the energy to do what is needed.

It turns out this guy is not your problem. Your real issue lies within yourself. You must find a way to heal your spirit, to convince yourself that you are fully worthy of a place in the world, that you are just as good as anyone else, that you truly deserve happiness and fulfillment in your life. I can't tell from your letter what inner demons from your past are haunting you, but you need to drag them out into the sunlight where you can reveal their lies so they will shrivel and die. This can be difficult to do alone. Professional advice from a therapist or psychologist can often be tremendously helpful.

Emotional power is a funny thing. If you believe you have none, then you don't. If you truly believe you have it, then you do. Once you find yourself a healthy dollop of self confidence, I doubt you'll ever have trouble with this type of situation again.

All the best,

Okay everyone, I'm on my way over to Useless Advice from Useless Men now to see what they have to say on this issue. Are you coming?


  1. well Andrew i guess we should be waiting for our useless brother to post this story :)

    the taxi bill to his blog and back here again is on you by the way.

  2. I see the other response is up now, and it's everything they advertise :o)

  3. I see what you are saying to her and you’re right but I sense fear in this letter to which makes me ask if he is violent.
    She knows she is being used and knows what she has to do but she is scared to do anything about it.
    There is something missing from her letter.
    I have seen people stay in a relationship when they shouldn’t have I have stayed in a relationship when I shouldn’t have a wasted that time.
    I also think she shouldn’t even have a profile on a dating site until she deals with the problem at hand before it becomes a bigger problem by bringing someone else into the picture.

  4. Yes, I went to the useless site. And found plenty of useless information! Thanks for the referral!

    As for this case, I think your advice was superbly put. I really couldn't think of anything to say to a woman who is looking for permission from a man to break up with him. (I mean, except for useless stuff.)

    Although I would recommend she (and every woman) read this book:

    I think most of our instinctual selves are broken.

    Check it out and tell me what you think.

  5. i do not think that she "fears" him. i think that she simply loves him and by mentioning the break-up issue over and over again, she just wants to make him change his behaviour with her. his efforts about changing her mind and rushing over to her house and everything gives her a little comfort each time, i believe. it makes her think that, " Oh well, yes, he wants me, maybe this time he would change his behaviour." so she stays. but this apparently has become a vicious circle with no desirable outcome whatsoever. so i think that this guy doesnt love her. she should accept that and move on. for starters she can make herself trully accept that the guy "does not want her bad enough". that should help her take her next step stronger, which would be dudging his calls and locking up the door and etc.

  6. great book - cathouse terri - must read for every woman!!

    and andrew - thanks again for your sensitive response..

    now off to see what other useless stuff i can read today -- grin

  7. Good advice Andrew."A relationship only works when both people want it. If one of you wants out then it's over, even though the other person may not be happy about it." You could not have said it more clearer.

  8. The thing that stuck out the most for me was "...didn't get my permission to break up." You could be right that this is another variant of battered wife syndrome...but I also agree with Kat. I think this lady actually doesn't want to stop seeing him, she just wants things to change, and by telling him she doesn't want to see him anymore, it gives the desired reaction of him giving her attention. By all accounts it doesn't sound like a 'real' boyfriend/girlfriend relationship to me. How can it? He doesn't appear to want anything to do with her until she tries to get away from him. Maybe he's a control freak and it really is all about who wins? namely him.

    He appears to have taken away any power of thought from her...she needs to get out. He really IS not that into her or he'd be treating her a lot better, spending more time with her, and she'd KNOW it was her choice to live her life how she pleases.

    When she wrote that email to him about breaking up...if he really wanted to be with her?'d think he'd be running over with flowers and apologies etc to make things right...not storming over and arguing with her. He practically bullied her into staying.

    She deserves better.

  9. I just want to add another twist that may be getting overlooked.

    Maybe your writer is from a divorced family. In my experience, I have always felt unworthy and have a large fear of abandonment. This tends to make me hold on WAY to long. Thus the first husband that controlled my every move, up until I saw my own son grab a broom and crack his own father upside the head. What a wake up call.

    Although, she may not have been abused in the physical sense, there may be deep seeded feelings like I have had to deal with that prevent you from making that fast cut off.

    The sooner she realizes this, the sooner she can take action and total control. NO ONE should control anyone but themselves..

  10. As a woman who WAS in an abusive relationship for ten years and three kids later, I have to say that when women are in abusive relationships there is NOT always a reason why the woman is in it - it is NOT always because she was abused by her parents, it is NOT always because she was missing something in her life from her parents, it is NOT always because it was learned behavior.

    In my case, it was PURE the Older man/manipulation and charm...and then pregnant!

    I was seventeen-years-old when I met my EX and he was Twenty Four years old. I came from a very LOVING childhood and both my parents are still married.

    My EX was a charmer, manipulator and I was a PEOPLE PLEASER!!!!

    Then I got pregnant and the rest is history.

  11. I think it's time she changed the rules without saying a word (or asking permission) I wonder how he would react if she simply began to be busy on Friday and Saturday evenings herself? If she were no longer sitting home waiting for him to pay attention to her, but out with her friends having a jolly time without him, I bet pretty soon it would be HIM wishing she would spend some time with him. Having fun with her friends instead of waiting around will also make HER feel better about herself all the way around, no matter what that dumb guy does. I mean, why not spend time developing relationships with people who really like you and want your company...and who better than your friends? She also needs to get caller ID, and learn to stop answering all of his calls. Let that loser wonder.

  12. Since he doesnt want to see her on the weekends she should be dating! Someone else! I couldnt believe it when she said she hadnt gotten permission to break up....who needs permission to do anything? We are not children.....this is her life she is talking about.... he is bad news, she needs to get away from him like, yesterday! But of course not knowing her, its easy to say what she should do. maybe she has low self esteem, maybe shes one of those women who is not happy unless a man is controlling her. And if she is she will probably stick with him till he dumps her.

  13. Why do women always think that they can change the guy in their life, if they try hard enough?
    Change yourself and run, don't walk out the door! I just can't imagine a life with him --- sounds like a barrel of laughs!

  14. I received the following email from the letter writer:

    I wanted to thank all the posters and say that all of them are right in their own way.

    I have been emotionally abused and I also still love him. There is that fear factor that I didn't see. I saw it in the posts. My boyfriend talks over me, and even rocked confidently in my rocking chair tonight to tell me how I'm wrong and he's right. I fought with him about this. I finally remembered the right thing to say. I told him this is not about being right or wrong. We are a bad match.

    He wanted to fight about this because of the things I posted. It doesn't make him look like a jerk. We are not a good couple. Period.

  15. I fully believe that. It is not about being right or wrong. It's about being honest. Neither one of them is being honest about what they want in a relationship.

    Note to beachwriter:
    Yes, I was also in an abusive relationship. I found it strange, as I was a confident, dynamic person who came from a solid family background. I have three sisters who also chose abusive relationships the first time around. After puzzling over this for a number of years, I finally concluded that the reason we were so willing to settle for assholes is because we had such a good example in our father, we expected all men to be like him! I think we honestly thought that if we loved our men enough, they'd turn into good men! (Blame movies like "The Sound of Music" for that crap.)

    We're older now and making much better choices in mates, whether he's mister right or mister right now! :)

  16. He's not going to change.The sooner she realizes this the better.If she still wants to be used and thrown none of us can help her.

  17. that guy sounds like a complete tosser!