Thursday, November 02, 2006

Dismaying Story #77: A Pressure Cooker Relationship

Dear Andrew,

I've been with my guy for five years. I kissed him after he'd swore that he wasn't sexually involved with his ex, although they did sleep together after he left her. They have a son together and she'd been having affairs all the way through the relationship.

Our sexual attraction was so strong that we just HAD to go there. But I waited to make a physical move until he had confirmed they weren't still sleeping together and I wouldn't be the "other" woman.

I soon found out he lied to me and we had a big fight. Since then I have real trouble trusting his word and we have a very dramatic relationship. I stayed with him because the bond was so strong and I wanted him to have a loyal partner, but he put me in a terrible position and it still rattles me now.

He's also terribly jealous, obviously because of his ex's exploits. He has a real problem with me not wanting sex and has been verbally abusive about it. Now he is just moody when I don't want it. I've tried everything I can think of to make this work, I'm confused whether to stay or go.

This is the longest and most angst ridden relationship I've ever had and I thought committing was staying with it no matter what problems arise. His way of dealing with problems is mostly to say we'll split up then, when I agreed once, he stalked me badly for 3 months, harassing phone calls and constant attention but I think really it's more a case of he doesn't want anyone else to have me.

I don't think he's been unfaithful but I know he's feeling under desired and I'm feeling over desired. My libido stays hidden all the time now. He constantly reminds me that I wasn't this way when we first met, which makes me feel like a freak. He's very sexual and I feel everything nice he does for me is done with this ulterior motive to have sex. I know guys need this to feel wanted and loved but to what extremes will they go to for it?

I can't be the only woman in the world to want less sex after 5 years and all the problems we've had. But he just continues to make me feel bad about it because it makes him feel bad. I think we've both just hanging on and waiting to meet someone else, which is what he did before.

I also need some financial security and to feel like my man is able to look after us but he's one of those don't worry money always comes guys. I've been trying to worry less and copy his beliefs on this but whenever I bring up things I'm worried about he mostly freaks out.

Obviously he has some amazing qualities and we have shared some wonderful times but we always seem to be in a state of flux and it's hard to relax into a happy place of feeling secure.

He has made efforts but they seem to only last for 2-3 weeks then it reverts back to the old ways. I know I'm no saint and I'm a handful sometimes but I feel it's an emotionally immature relationship. I'm afraid all guys are really like this and I might as well have the devil I know.

Please advise me, it's driving me crazy. Is love really this complicated? It feels like it's all about his desires and insecurities overriding everything.

Signed, Under Pressure

Dear Under Pressure,

Anyone who is a regular reader of this site knows that I like to examine situations from both sides. In this case, though, I am having a difficult time coming up with a viewpoint that paints your boyfriend in anything but a negative light. Yes, it sounds like he has issues and insecurities, but that is no excuse for the way he treats you.

I feel confident in what you should do, and I have some thoughts as to why you have not already done so. Let's discuss both.

First, here is my advice. Leave him. Today. Regardless of whose fault you think these problems might be, this is a poisonous relationship for you and after five years, it is not going to get better.

This isn't even a close judgment call. Let's add it up. He has cheated on you, lied to you, emotionally and verbally abused you, stalked you, shown a complete lack of understanding and empathy for your reactions to problems caused by his actions, disrespected you, and neglected your needs (emotional, financial, and everything-else-al). Your lack of libido is completely understandable given all these issues. Who would be turned on by that scenario? And these are only the issues you have mentioned in a one-page email. I bet there are more where they came from. Whatever amazing qualities you see in him and fun times you have, it's not worth the pain you are enduring.

Not all guys are like this, I promise. I am not like this. My friends are not like this. I'm sure many readers can assure you that their men are not at all like this. Love definitely does not have to be this complicated. In fact, I'll go so far as to say that what you are experiencing from him is not love at all. Love is giving and kind. A loving boyfriend wants you to be happy and tries to make that happen. It doesn't sound like this guy is trying, and even if he is, he is failing miserably.

I truly believe you would be better off to get out of this relationship. If he stalks you again, take whatever steps you feel are necessary to keep yourself physically safe. Talk to the police and get a restraining order. (And stalking is proof positive he is not the kind of guy you want to have around.)

Your email makes it clear you know this is not a great relationship. So why have you kept him? You've mentioned a couple of reasons (worried that he will stalk you again, thinking this might be as good as it gets, rationalizing about "the good times") and I suspect there are more. People who have experienced this kind of poor treatment often come to believe they don't deserve any better, and worry no one else would want them. Neither of these worries is true. No one deserves that kind of abuse and emotional neglect, and yes there are plenty of other (and better) fish in the sea.

Have the courage to make a positive change in your life. You are worth it.

All the best,

If you haven't already done so, now would be a great time to give some thought to the Question of the Week regarding trust between parents and children.


  1. I haven't had any relationships quite this extreme, but I had one boyfriend who reminds me a bit of the guy described here.

    I'm not a psychologist, but if I had to offer any advice it would be run as fast as you can and don't look back.

    It's weird how emotional roller coasters can have a strange attraction. I think we get so wrapped up in the feeling of the relationship that we stop thinking rationally. But there doesn't seem to be anything here you need and when you have breathing room I think you'll see what I mean.

    If you stay I don't think it'll ever change. I went back and forth with the boyfriend I mentioned for about 2 years and he even went to counciling briefly, but he never changed despite all the promises. In his way he liked the roller coaster and did what he could to maintain it. I chose to get off and never regreted it.

  2. Anonymous2:07 PM

    Good advice Andrew. Under Pressure, I just want to agree with Andrew that there are good men out there. I was alone for many years before I met my husband at age 28, but he was well worth the wait. Hold out for a real relationship with a strong man, and in the meantime, love yourself!

  3. Under Pressure...In addition to agreeing with everything Andrew touched on financial worries. Is he the sole income earner? If not, then take your money and run. If so, hopefully you have friends or family that you could stay with for a time until you are able to manage on your own. Please take heed to Andrew's advice. Do not let monetary setbacks hold you to this very distructive relationship.

  4. Wow! That is one scary relationship I wouldn't like to have! I wish her lots of luck and courage in breaking it and then seek for better men out there! :)

  5. Run fast as you can. There are good men out there. But hes not one of them. Get your running shoes on and get going! Dont look back!

  6. been there, done that

    what andrew said is away NOW!

    but i would add, please talk to a therapist...your self-esteem seems to have taken a beating and in my humble experience, i have found talking to someone who can be objective really works to regain your self-worth

    and most importantly - wait to go into a new relationship for awhile - at least 6 months...go out meet people, converse and have fun but don't get serious...your chances of repeating this are very great without some time to reflect on what you reallly want in a relationship

  7. Anonymous10:27 AM

    Dear Under Pressure,

    As a woman who is married to a man who has two children from his previous marriage, and the former owner of a support website/message board for Stepmoms, I totally echo Andrew's advice.

    Go, run, far & fast. This man is toxic and you know what--there ARE better men out there. You do not deserve the treatment you've been receiving, and frankly, I do think you'll be happier alone than with this man.

    In the best of circumstances, a relationship with someone permanently tied to an ex via children can be a major challenge. My husband and I work very hard at our relationship to ensure that we are on the same page, we're a team, and we remember to appreciate the differing circumstances of our lives as we approach our relationship. Communication is the key to our relationship, after a deep, deep sense of love & commitment to one another.

    Wishing you the best, and seconding the advice to work on yourself. This relationship has taken it's toll on your spirit.