My boyfriend feels he can't trust me. I want him to, and I want to make things work, but we need to break this pattern. What now?
posted by anonymous to human relations (26 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Sorry if this is long - I'm having trouble putting both sides of the issue forward here and I want to be as fair as possible to get the most useful answers. NB we've been together for three years, and live in different cities, so only see each other on weekends. We are in our early 30s, or near enough.
The problem isn't cheating or anything 'major' such as a gambling or drug addiction. The problem is/are white lies I tell about how I run my own life. I've had problem with money in the past - for various reasons, habit, mental illness, impulsiveness, I struggle with managing my finances.I often overspend, and I've had problems when trying to sell things online as I've been disorganised and wasn't able to fulfill obligations to buyers which lead to a big headache. Long story short, I gave up the selling and am trying to manage my money better, taking a few steps to do so that would have been unthinkable a couple of years ago - paying off a lot of my debt and setting up regular savings - but I still struggle. I still have months where I have little money toward the last two weeks before payday, and I find this embarrassing but still difficult to try and break out of. I am trying, though.
I have turned to my boyfriend on many occasions to help me out with this (emotionally and mentally more than financially, though that has been part of it) and he has been happy to do so, indeed making very clear to me that I should expect and take advantage of this, and I appreciate it a lot. I feel he's been extremely patient and helpful and I value this a great deal - I have and can be an extremely frustrating person to be with at times. The downside, though, is that now he always feels I'm hiding things from him. Things I do, things I've bought. He feels I overspend and don't manage my money correctly (which is fair). He feels I need to get rid of clutter, and makes me get rid of things I don't want to as he feels I don't need them, then gets upset when I hide them away. (He has come round to help me get rid of things and I later find things that I need in the garbage bag, which he has thrown in there without asking me because he doesn't know what they are.) He says he worries that he'll come round and discover more stuff I've bought, or acquired, or find that I've run out of money for the month again, and he doesn't want to do that, and he feels he doesn't knwo what to believe anymore.
If I buy or do something I often feel I can't tell him about it because I would have to justify it, or explain why, and sometimes it's easier not to because I feel it would either upset him to see me spending money etc. or I resent having to explain myself all the time. And sometimes, I know I've made a bad or silly choice but it's too embarrassing or upsetting to own up to somebody else, so I end up continuing as though it never happened. (One example - this weekend he saw an unfamiliar box in my bag -a birthday present from work - and pulled it out accusingly, thinking I'd been spending money/accumulating junk, and I felt guilty for getting the present. I kind of see why he feels that way but I end up feeling like I'm constantly disappointing him.) To clarify, we don't live together, this isn't household money, this is my own salary. I think he gets upset because he wants to see me making sensible choices and not because it has a direct financial impact on him.
From his point of view, he feels he's been lied to so often that he doesn't know how to trust me. I find it hard to explain why I don't feel I can be honest, but when I do, he doesn't seem to understand. A few months ago, he told me he was logging into my e-mail, my Facebook account (which I rarely use), and other accounts because he said he was so worried that I was selling or buying things behind his back and not telling him. I was really upset about this, mainly because I am a very independent and often very private person and I resented the implication that I had something to hide here - plus an ex did something similar in the past (albeit not coming clean until I found out) and I thought my SO was a better man. I know his passwords and never once has it occured to me to do this, because it feels fundamentally wrong. He says he gets frustrated because he feels I need to act more like an adult, but when I'm constantly being asked to justify choices I make I find it hard to do so - to which his answer is 'Well, if you grow up, then you can prove to me you can be trusted.' I feel that in some areas I am more adult than he is, though don't use this as a stick with which to beat him in the same way. He feels as though he's been there for me during chaotic periods in my life and helped and been patient, and now, during a short time of stability and getting myself sorted out, he feels like I'm telling him what to do and I'm not entitled to do so.
I need to point out that we have a good relationship other than this and that he is very loving and caring. Despite what this question implies, we are for the most part very happy, but we keep bumping up against this all the time. I am able to be more honest with him than I can be with anyone else - I find it extremely hard to be open about certain things - which is why it upsets me that I feel I have to hide things that are perfectly normal. I just find this very difficult, particularly as I grew up with a very controlling parent and was made to feel as though I was not entitled to make my own choices or views heard - I find confrontation difficult as a result and end up crying when we try and talk about things because I feel like I'm being told off for my mistakes. When there are 'bigger' things on my mind, I feel less inclined to bring them up because I know how upset he gets about the smaller things, and I can't cope with it abd with being told how I'm all wrong (nb this is how it feels at the time for me - he tells me afterward that if I was just upfront to begin with it would save a lot of upset for both of us.)
We have discussed moving in together a lot, which can't happen for a while, because we live in different cities and he needs to find a job in mine first - something which he has not been working towards (I appreciate that it's not as easy as that and jobhunting is incredibly demoralizing, but this does make me feel like I'm the only one being told I'm not helping to keep the relationship moving forward. We have been discussing this for about two years and in that time he's applied for perhaps five jobs, while working in one he really dislikes, and I am keen for him to be happer and motivate him to change even if moving in/staying together never happens.) I find this frustrating as, while ithe situation is not entirely or indeed very much down to him, I feel like I'm treading water, living in shared accommodation with one room only to call my own, and seeing each other only at weekends as though we were teenagers instead of two people in an adult relationship, and I'm eager for this to change. Sometimes I wonder why he's going out with me at all when I can be such hard work, and I wonder if he just wants to avoid the issue because he'd rather not live with me, and I can't see why anybody would want to commit seriously to living with me because sometimes even I don't want to live with me. He says he feels I need to be able to prove to him that I can 'live like an adult', by decluttering and watching the money, but the implication that I need to prove this and not do so on my own terms ends up with my feeling resentful. The most hurtful thing he says is 'I worry you're not capable of conducting an adult relationship', but it's not clear what this means or is expected to be.
I can understand him being nervous about living with someone who could be seen as a financial liability. But I really want to break this pattern and for both of us to be rational and adult about things, adn move forward. What's the next step? How can we work on rebuilding trust?