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Not sure if it's trust or communication that's the problem here.
January 27, 2012 7:08 PM   Subscribe

If my boyfriend says he's coming home late by txt, and I want to know more basic information, like who he's hanging out with, maybe also where, how can I communicate my need to know (for my own peace of mind) without coming off as insecure or controlling?

I wish I could be the sort of girlfriend who, if he ONLY says "I'll be home late." and nothing else, I'll just say "Cool! Go have fun!" while he drops off the face of the earth for that time. But unfortunately, I start getting anxious when that's all he'll tell me.

My history: Having been cheated on in the past, I do have trust issues which unfortunately bleed over into my current relationship, and while I for the most part think he's the loyal sort who (at least because of his aversion to drama) wouldn't cheat, that 1% of possibility otherwise can freak me out a little in the face of barely any communication or reassurance from him.

I should point out that he's very attractive, charming, and a shade narcissistic, but at the same time, lovable, sweet, and somewhat naive/oblivious when it comes to interpersonal relationships. He lives completely in the moment, and has a preference for logic over feelings. So... I don't know if he understands my problem.

I really want a relationship where he tells me at least basic information so I can just go back to what I was doing in peace, without wondering. He's an efficient guy of few words, so I don't expect bff-level detail at all. Just "I'll be home late. Going out with C. and her friends." Or "working late", something I can picture. Something that indicates that he is ok with me being privy to little details of his life even when I'm not there and it has nothing really to do with me. To me, it's a matter of closeness/intimacy and I'd value that he'd be upfront, instead of sneakily telling me after the fact. I want to be given the chance to trust him on his word.

Once he says more stuff, I feel it is up to ME to trust that. But when he barely says anything... just "I might be home late." and then basically hanging up via text, despite me texting him 1 or 2 questions to find out more, I find it harder to trust him or do anything except feel helpless. I am given the task of making up stories while I wait, and there are too many possibilities and unknowns that it makes me worry privately: "is he hiding something? why? are we not close?" and go into analysis-paralysis.

Am I totally unreasonable, insecure, or controlling to want him to say a little more (especially without me prodding him for it)?

I apologize for such a lengthy tale over nothing. I don't know if this is my issue to get over and just TRUST, or if he and I ought to communicate/compromise more somehow.
posted by Sa Dec to Human Relations (86 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
Have you tried telling him about how you're feeling? Starting with the background and seeing if he volunteers to be extra-vociferous on future text informing you of a late-night outing?

Beyond that: Someone who has been married a very long time told me a few years ago: Trust your partner implicitly until they clearly demonstrate to you that they're untrustworthy. I think they're words to live by.
posted by arnicae at 7:11 PM on January 27, 2012 [14 favorites]


I would find this unreasonable if I were on the receiving end of it. However, not everyone would. The only way to find out whether or not he can give you what you want is to ask him. Let him know that you worry about him and feel more secure if you get a few details. It's then up to him to decide whether or not he wants to give you more information, and if he decides not to, you have to decide whether this is the right relationship for you. Personally, I think you'd be better off doing what you need to do to get over this, but I recognize that the kind of relationship I want isn't what everyone wants, so you need to find out what he wants.
posted by decathecting at 7:12 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


This suggests the problem (to the extent there is one) lies more on your end than his.

What decathecting said.
posted by phrontist at 7:15 PM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Simply reply: "what's up?"
posted by sanka at 7:18 PM on January 27, 2012


When my partner does that, I respond with a 'wassup?'

That's always done the trick.

For that matter, the tenants of our relationship are "Honor, Courage, Commitment, Integrity, Communication, and Loyalty". We stress the 'communicate' part often. Works for us.
posted by matty at 7:20 PM on January 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


I really want a relationship where he tells me at least basic information so I can just go back to what I was doing in peace, without wondering.

Narcissistic people don't typically function this way, IME. YMMV.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 7:25 PM on January 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


I find your situation very odd. Why in the world would you be viewed as insecure or controlling to ask why he's going to be getting home late? I would honestly expect my significant other to ask that (and I don't even live with mine).

I really do not "get" these relationship dynamics where merely asking basic information is viewed as controlling.
posted by jayder at 7:30 PM on January 27, 2012 [59 favorites]


You may be in some sort of self-reinforcing feedback loop, where you are having anxiety over anxiety. I think the best thing for you to do would be to face your fear head on, by trying to detach yourself from the need for confirmation of his whereabouts at all.

To do this, I guess you'd have to be able to wrap your head around how much happier you'd be if you didn't have to worry about it.

You could think about people who are in the exact same situation as you who respond differently and think about the thoughts they are thinking. Specific people you know, who you don't see having these worries.

Remind yourself that every time you've been in that situation, things have turned out okay.

Remind yourself that even if your SO is cheating on you, you'll be okay.

I think it would make a huge difference if you were the one making the decision to do things this way. "Honey, I get nervous and anxious when I don't know a lot about where you are, but I'd like to address it by learning to work through it. Please help me by not letting me know when you're coming home for the next 3 months unless it's over something time-critical."
posted by alphanerd at 7:30 PM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


The conversation in question was:

Him: I may be late
Me: oh
hanging out with ppl?
Him: Yeah
Me: can i have more info?

And that was that. I noticed he checked his phone a few times, but I guess he chose not to answer back. Albeit maybe that was because later I told him that his not answering made me anxious/upset, so he decided to tune out?

@arnicae: Since this has happened before, he's fully aware that I prefer to know the small details in advance.

@phrontis: Definitely having a busier life outside might alleviate a lot of this, but I'd still feel like we weren't communicating on a level I'd prefer...

I'll try the "what's up?" and (try my best to!) leave it at that from now on.
posted by Sa Dec at 7:31 PM on January 27, 2012


I'm suspecting what These Birds of a Feather suggested - is he doing this as some sort of power play (he goes out and has fabulous time with friends while making you wonder what he's up to, keeping all your attention on him, making him feel more edgy knowing he's transgressing his partner's boundries)? Other than that it's just rude. Sorry, but I respect my SO enough to respond to their texts, especially perfectly reasonable ones regarding my whereabouts and company when they are my live in partner. Does this guy know about your issues?

I'm not sure this is something for you to work on. If he showed basic respectfulness you wouldn't have to worry at all.
posted by everydayanewday at 7:32 PM on January 27, 2012 [31 favorites]


It strikes me as pretty rude that he texts you with his pronouncement but then immediately goes incommunicado and refuses to respond when you text him back. That doesn't really sound like someone with an "aversion to drama" (he has to know that that kind of black/white behavior creates drama), it sounds like someone who just wants to do what he wants and not really worry about his girlfriend's feelings... or maybe even wants to actively push her away to the distance he prefers. Certainly not very invested in being charming towards YOU in that kind of interaction.

If he's oblivious that this makes him come off badly to you, results in you being unnecessarily anxious, and isn't a positive force in your relationship, then you need to tell him that, and give suggestions on how you can BOTH be happy and chill with the fact that you'll do things separately from time to time. For example, it wouldn't be unreasonable to ask if he'll call you instead of text when he's not going to be coming home, just to chat and connect with each other for a minute before he goes back to work or out with whomever. If you're in a relationship, and it sounds like you're living together(?), that's not just common courtesy -- it seems like a pretty basic level of care and interest about how and what your loved one is doing.
posted by argonauta at 7:32 PM on January 27, 2012 [23 favorites]


That exchange you posted is fuckinh weird.

When you ask "hanging out with people?" the answer is not "yeah," it's "yeah, Mike and Jennifer."

I agree with the commenter above who says this is a weird power play by your boyfriend. Sorry, he sounds like a game-playing loser.
posted by jayder at 7:35 PM on January 27, 2012 [24 favorites]


Him: "Hey babe, I'll be home late tonight"
You: "No probs. What are you up to?"
Him: "blah blah blah"
You: "Sounds fun. Catch you later"

To me, that would be a completely normal conversation and not at all controlling on your part. If he thinks this is intrusive, then that's his problem not yours. If he doesn't answer after "what are you up to", then that's something you have to discuss with him explicitly.

On preview, I don't think you you're out of line with what you're doing but I might be a bit annoyed with the tone of "can I have more info".

If I had to put on my psychic hat, I'd guess that this is just a small battle in the larger war over him thinking you're overprotective and you thinking he's being withholding. Both of you are probably right to some degree, and I think you're both going to have to compromise on this to make it work.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 7:35 PM on January 27, 2012 [11 favorites]


The guy 'tunes out' your anxieties and feelings (refuses to reply to a text because you told him not replying to texts worries and upsets you)?

This guy's learning curve would be too steep for me to even bother with.
posted by everydayanewday at 7:41 PM on January 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


Neither of us are phone people, so it's always a tad awkward if he calls instead of texts, and also he tends to leave things to the very last minute, so I wouldn't be surprised if he started that conversation just before stepping into the subway, hence the dropping off bit.

But yeah, asking him to call instead would also be a good solution.

@no regrets, coyote: When I said "can I have more info?" I wasn't sure myself if I should have put it that way... that's why I'm asking: what IS a good way to put such a thing to elicit basic info from him without my coming off as *needing* particular bits of information that yes, he could withhold if he wanted to. He does play games with me all the time where my patience is sorely tested. But I chalk off most of it to him being "boyish", "mischievous", "roguish", which part of me enjoys.
posted by Sa Dec at 7:47 PM on January 27, 2012


Do you live together? If so, it's absolutely reasonable to know where he's going and who he's going with. A simple "staying out late" does not fly in my living-together rule book!

If he's actively avoiding telling you what he's doing, it's a huge red flag to me. Either you can confront it now, using some tactic that someone else has shared, or you can just continue saying nothing and he'll become even more suspicious when he thinks he's getting away with something.

It is not insecure to ask who he's going out with, and don't let him make you feel like you're being crazy!
posted by katypickle at 7:52 PM on January 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


@argonauta: Hmm... you hit something on the head. I just assumed guys of his nature don't like drama, but you're right: he often consciously and unconsciously incites it, when he's with me in person. He kind of likes when I "overreact" to some silly disaster he's caused -- it usually makes him grin with pride.
posted by Sa Dec at 7:55 PM on January 27, 2012


@katypickle: Yes, we've been living together for almost 3 years now.
posted by Sa Dec at 7:56 PM on January 27, 2012


I think you need to have a conversation with him directly about this. Tell him that when you ask him what he's up to, he should just tell you so you don't have to wonder and/or tease it out of him. If he can't accept that that is a normal, healthy, communication pattern between people who care about each other then you've got a much bigger issue.

The 'right way' is to say, "What are you up to?" and for him to just answer and not play games. Next time he doesn't text you back, just call him. It's not weird to talk on the phone. It's weird to sit and wonder and work yourself into an anxious lather when a quick phone convo will settle things.
posted by amanda at 7:57 PM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Your boyfriend is basically not being very nice, from the conversation you posted above. It's not that you need to know every detail of what he's up to, but it's just basic courtesy to answer loved ones' questions in the spirit in which they're asked. When you ask, "hanging out with people?" a good response would be, "Yup, I'm with Brad and Jennifer, and we're going to ____ for a couple drinks. I should be home around 11 pm." That's considerate of you, let's you know what's going on, when you can expect him, basic information that live-in partners should know about each other. That "Yeah" of his is game-playing (and don't excuse that on the basis of it being "boyish" or "roguish" etc.). and just rude. I've been in this sort of dynamic before, in a mercifully short "relationship" and it's just exhausting.
posted by peacheater at 7:59 PM on January 27, 2012 [15 favorites]


My ex used to do that sort of thing to me all the time. Just announce he wouldn't be home, no info on how long he might be or what he was doing. If I asked, he moaned and sounded all put-upon. Then one of those people he was hanging around with ended up pregnant, and the father wasn't her husband. I'll give you one guess who it was, though. Oh, he was also "not a phone person" and liked to live "spontaneously." I come to see now that those were all ways of controlling me and denying me the decency and respect anyone else in his life would have gotten.

Your partner shouldn't have any problem telling you what they're doing if they're not going to be coming home at the previously agreed-upon time. This is an issue of basic respect and an acknowledgement that he cares about your comfort. This may not be a DTMFA issue for you, but think carefully about the place he accords you in his life. If this is part of a larger pattern of withholding and refusing to engage unless on his terms, you may want to know where your nearest exit is.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 7:59 PM on January 27, 2012 [13 favorites]


Further, it's also weird for him to not just be straight with you! 3 years living together? Why he want to make his woman wonder? Sheesh.
posted by amanda at 8:00 PM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah, the fact that he grins with pride when you "overreact" to something he did also sets of alarm bells for me. Your relationship shouldn't be a game, he shouldn't be trying to catch you out or prove you wrong.
posted by peacheater at 8:01 PM on January 27, 2012 [18 favorites]


But I chalk off most of it to him being "boyish", "mischievous", "roguish", which part of me enjoys.

This translates to "immature", "not emotionally ready for a relationship" in my book.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 8:02 PM on January 27, 2012 [20 favorites]


He kind of likes when I "overreact" to some silly disaster he's caused -- it usually makes him grin with pride.

Whoa now! Really? He creates a disaster, you react strongly, and he is entertained and proud of this?

You guys have been together for three years. He knows what upsets you and he is using it for entertainment.

If it is as you described it then that is a Red flag.
posted by Shouraku at 8:03 PM on January 27, 2012 [30 favorites]


Seems like there's a dynamic here where you're reluctant to be "vulnerable" in the most basic and expected ways. It just kinda goes without saying -- especially if you live with someone -- that you tell 'em who you're hanging out with. Not so much for them to keep tabs on you, but more to include them in your life, you WANT them to know what's going on with you. And so, when that info is not forthcoming, it is naturally unsettling to you. And you shouldn't apologize for finding it weird and unsettling. And honestly, this is a rather cheap, crude way of jerking your emotions around, it's not even subtle; I hope he isn't too pleased with his roguish manipulation here because in the scales of roguishness, this isn't even junior varsity, it's pee wee league, it's the sort of thing that really exposes a childish character and an infantile pleasure in hurting you. Like I said above, this guy sounds like a waste of your time.

But I chalk off most of it to him being "boyish", "mischievous", "roguish", which part of me enjoys.
Most of us call it "immature."
posted by jayder at 8:04 PM on January 27, 2012 [9 favorites]


I was actually in a similar situation a couple years ago. I hated keeping my phone on me, and my then-gf hated not being able to get in touch with me.

What I found annoying and controlling was when she would constantly ask me where I was going to be and when and with who, justified by the fact that she didn't know if she'd be able to reach me.

What I didn't find controlling was when she actually brought it up in a calm manner and asked me directly to try to communicate with her better about my plans. I was happy to make more of an effort since she asked, while her previous behaviour had just made me want to be less reachable.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 8:04 PM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Never ask a yes/no question unless you will be satisfied with only getting a yes or no answer.

On the other hand, the fact that he answered only 'yes' indicates to me that he purposefully withheld information that any reasonable person would know you were expecting.

That said, when communication in a romantic relationship begins to develop the dynamics of a deposition, it's time to reevaluate either the communication atmosphere or the relationship itself.
posted by The World Famous at 8:14 PM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


So my options thus far are:

1. I can calmly ask him to communicate with me better about his plans. Wait for the results and act accordingly.
2. Ask him to not contact me about his late nights for a trial period so that I can practice detachment and acceptance. (That's advanced.)
3. Be casual and say "What's up?" and let him reply whatever to that.
4. Ask directly about who and where, if that's what I want to know, since it really is normal to ask such a thing.
5. Talk to him about his "game-playing"? (I don't think that would get through to him -- he's never serious. He'll just deny it with a big "Whaaa?".) But maybe he'll take it seriously if I calmly tell him that I need more respect and consideration. I feel like I've done this before in other ways, just not effectively.
6. Not live with him anymore, so I don't have to know.
7. Reconsider the relationship.
posted by Sa Dec at 8:19 PM on January 27, 2012


I vote for (1), (4) and (7).
posted by jayder at 8:28 PM on January 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


I vote for 4 and 7 as well. Really good advice.
posted by Shouraku at 8:35 PM on January 27, 2012


Yes, with #4 I should add that it's best if I ought to call him, or have him call me, instead of txt.

Thank you so much for your advice!!! Seriously.
posted by Sa Dec at 8:49 PM on January 27, 2012


If he showed basic respectfulness you wouldn't have to worry at all.

THIS
posted by anadem at 9:04 PM on January 27, 2012 [9 favorites]


I do have to note that it is troubling to me that you have trust issues that are bleeding into your current relationship several years later, because even though I also think he's baiting you, I do think that part of this is something you have to get over yourself, and the other part is him stepping up as a partner.
posted by sm1tten at 9:04 PM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


he tends to leave things to the very last minute, so I wouldn't be surprised if he started that conversation just before stepping into the subway, hence the dropping off bit.

This... seems weird. And on purpose. It is not the behavior, at least, of someone who feels like he has an active role to play in helping this relationship flourish, even amid all the mundanities of life. If he were thinking fondly of you, and wondering what you're up to and how you're feeling today, and/or wanting to vent to his favorite person, you, about the annoying meeting he has to be in tonight or share the cool thing he'd learned or the crazy conversation he overheard at lunch or suggest that you guys try that new Thai place Saturday night because So-and-so gave it a rave review or whatever... he'd be thinking, "when's a good time I can call Sa Dec to make sure we'll have at least a few protected minutes to chat before I go to x?" It's not about giving you the chance to grill him about x, it's that it matters to HIM, not just you, that you actually connect with each other. What's up with x should flow pretty naturally in that kind of vibe. In contrast, "Babe, I've only got a second, yeah, big stuff going on, whoops there's my train, okay talk to you whenever thxbye!" is, like the text, just the bare, bare minimum of checking the "I told her" box, which is currently the only obstacle that stands between him getting on his way to be charming with all the people at x.

I'm a little worried about this guy, actually. It sounds like you both have been reinforcing the "she's the affectionate emotional one" / "he's the terse, low-EQ, cavalier, it's-not-my-fault-i-just-don't-get-this-stuff" dynamic, and then you add things like this:
He does play games with me all the time where my patience is sorely tested.
He often consciously and unconsciously incites [drama], when he's with me in person. He kind of likes when I "overreact" to some silly disaster he's caused -- it usually makes him grin with pride.
It sounds like you've been trying to laugh these things off and chalk it up to his unique personality and that you ought to be a better sport or whatever, but where does that stop? How much for granted is he taking you, and in what direction is that heading? How much lower is he learning that he can keep incrementally dropping the bar of what kind of loving/respectful/empathetic treatment he's expected to show you in order to get all of your love in return?

I don't think this is about the risk that he will cheat, or techniques for you to push aside your anxiety about whether he might be cheating. I, too, would start with 1, 4 and 7, with a lot of thought in 7 that will maybe help you start other conversations, and express other needs, about how you want to be together as a couple. Right now, he does many things that make you anxious and nervous, and feeling like there must be something YOU should be doing better to fix it.... Please be careful about that.
posted by argonauta at 9:06 PM on January 27, 2012 [12 favorites]


Yes, we've been living together for almost 3 years now.

Whoa there. Until this I was totally assuming you were in a fairly new relationship. At this point you should really be able to sit down and lay out your (really very reasonable) requests. Knowing AT LEAST the basics of what someone you've lived with for 3 years is out doing late seems like part of the package.

Do you guys communicate well about other stuff?

Also, I 2nd this: I vote for (1), (4) and (7).
posted by grapesaresour at 9:22 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah. I've been in relationships before where this kind of thing happened. I think he is getting off on being vague and mysterious and "proving" that he can have a secret life without you (not that he's doing anything shady with that life, but just proving that he can).

I think women often feel like they have to be the extra-cool girlfriend that doesn't ask any questions to prove that they're not insecure or controlling. It's not controlling to want some vague idea of where your partner is or when they're coming back, so that you know when you SHOULD be worried if they're not back yet. Personally, I'd be really wary of anyone who tried to tell me that that basic of information was too much to ask.
posted by nakedmolerats at 9:34 PM on January 27, 2012 [12 favorites]


@argonauta: "Babe, I've only got a second, yeah, big stuff going on, whoops there's my train, okay talk to you whenever thxbye!"

Actually if he did that I would be totally understanding. I mean, it gives me some contextbto work with. But the general pattern is that he'd say he'll be late, and then I have to tease information out. I've said before to him that it's like pulling teeth and how much I hate it. His not being open with me enough magnifies every other small anxiety that I might brush off if he "showed basic respectfulness" about my needs.
posted by Sa Dec at 9:42 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, you definitely need to talk to him. The basic script is

Hey, when you do X, I have the reaction Y. I know Y isn't always rational, but it's how I feel. How can we work together to figure something out that works for both of us?

If you can't have that kind of conversation with him after three years, it's a HUGE RED FLAG. communication is essential.
posted by insectosaurus at 9:51 PM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


@nakedmolerats: Yes!

I think he is getting off on being vague and mysterious and "proving" that he can have a secret life without you (not that he's doing anything shady with that life, but just proving that he can).

That makes a lot of sense, because he truly values his independence over anything else, to the point where he comes off as self-centered when I don't think he necessarily intended to.

At the same time, he has time and again refused to break up when I got too overwhelmed by the drama he was bringing to my life and asked that we should take a break. I get the uneasy idea that if he did stop loving me (to the extent he does now) he wouldn't let me go properly (maybe also because he's so dimly aware of his own emotions) until someone else new and sparkly entered and motivated him to.

In other words, I feel like I might possibly be getting used as the Ms. Right Now who gives affection, cooks, cleans, and accompanies him, since we've talked about marriage, and what I know from that discussion is that he's not planning to even think about that until we've been together for at least 5 years. And I'm going to be 31 next month... he's 28. Anyway, wow, this AskMe is getting off-topic right?

It's truly an up and down relationship, at least until we really get on the same page. Last night we had a great time with each other... today not so much. It's hot and cold with him.
posted by Sa Dec at 9:58 PM on January 27, 2012


@grapes are sour: Do you guys communicate well about other stuff?

I don't know anymore if we are. I thought we were not too bad at it. He certainly found out when things would upset me and we'd have long talks about it at my initiation. But he did seem mostly put upon by that, mostly reluctant to do anything to work with me to improve the situation. The whole "O-kaaaaayy...." with a sullen face response as if his logical take on it should have been enough and my feelings simply irrelevant was typical.

What IS good communication? Uh, I'll search Askmefi for that. Thanks.
posted by Sa Dec at 10:09 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


You've been living together for 3 years, and you're afraid of overstepping by asking him why he'll be home late?

Am I totally unreasonable, insecure, or controlling to want him to say a little more (especially without me prodding him for it)?

You are not unreasonable or controlling for wanting this basic information, not even a little tiny bit. I fully expect my SO to volunteer this information, without me having to ask for it. I expect that courtesy from him, and he expects the same from me. We tell each other to have a good time, and see you later. I can't even imagine how stressful it is to be in a relationship where such mundane interactions turn into mind games and power struggles.

Wanting to know why your SO is going to be home late is not a sign of insecurity. But being afraid to express your reasonable needs to the man you've shared your home with for the past 3 years? Yes, I'd say it sounds like you don't feel secure in your relationship, and it's totally understandable why you feel that way... your boyfriend quite clearly enjoys toying with your emotions. And by the way, it's not cute or mischievous, it's straight up manipulative and disrespectful, and that's why you feel anxious and unhappy when he does it to you.

On preview, he's 28? He's way too old for any of this to be excused by boyish youth, innocence, or naivety. Independence does not entail treating your loved ones without any concern or empathy for their feelings. To be honest, when I read your original question I assumed you were both very young and in the first few months of your relationship. I hope you see now that your wanting to be informed of his whereabouts is perfectly valid, and I hope you're able to have a serious talk with him about why this is bothering you.
posted by keep it under cover at 10:09 PM on January 27, 2012 [11 favorites]


Anyway, wow, this AskMe is getting off-topic right?

Actually, I'd say it's getting on-topic.

You've agreed with a number of people in this thread that your boyfriend is exhibiting some pretty shitty behavior. Here are some of them:

-He refuses to provide even a little information about what he's doing, even though he knows it's important to you.
-He intentionally keeps you in the dark and makes you uncomfortable to prove some kind of point about his independence.
-He rolls his eyes and acts put upon when you communicate your feelings to him.
-You tried to break up with him a couple of times, and he wouldn't let you (!?!)
-He creates drama on purpose
-He seems happy when that drama upsets you (!!!)
-You feel taken for granted, and suspect that he may be just waiting until he meets someone else.

Some of this stuff is pretty bad. The one in bold is really bad. I can't tell you what to do with this information, but I thought it might be useful for you to see it all in one place like that.
posted by Ragged Richard at 10:18 PM on January 27, 2012 [39 favorites]


he has time and again refused to break up when I got too overwhelmed by the drama he was bringing to my life and asked that we should take a break


I am VERY concerned about the "refused to break up" part of that statement.

That's the type of item you tend to see in lists containing other items like "stalked me after the breakup" and "threatened me with a weapon".

Maybe what I'm hearing you say is not what you're intending to say. But it concerns me nonetheless.
posted by mie at 10:19 PM on January 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


This:
"Independence does not entail treating your loved ones without any concern or empathy for their feelings. To be honest, when I read your original question I assumed you were both very young and in the first few months of your relationship."
is spot on. My husband and I are pretty independent people, but that doesn't mean we devalue each other or act as if concern for one another is a burden.

This:
"he wouldn't let me go properly (maybe also because he's so dimly aware of his own emotions) until someone else new and sparkly entered and motivated him to."

and this:
"He certainly found out when things would upset me and we'd have long talks about it at my initiation. But he did seem mostly put upon by that, mostly reluctant to do anything to work with me to improve the situation. The whole "O-kaaaaayy...." with a sullen face response as if his logical take on it should have been enough and my feelings simply irrelevant was typical."
sound so familiar it hurts.

It really doesn't sound like this relationship is meeting your needs.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 10:21 PM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


No no, it's not that he'd explicitly say "No, I won't break up! I will never let you go!" he just wouldn't consider it a legitimate factor of discussion. IOW, he doesn't take my threat seriously. I think he dismisses it as just one more emotional overreaction on my end.
posted by Sa Dec at 10:23 PM on January 27, 2012


Then your BF is an ass. Full stop.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 10:33 PM on January 27, 2012 [27 favorites]


This guy is playing you. You deserve someone who actually cares for you and doesn't toy with your emotions.

This part:

I just assumed guys of his nature don't like drama, but you're right: he often consciously and unconsciously incites it, when he's with me in person. He kind of likes when I "overreact" to some silly disaster he's caused -- it usually makes him grin with pride.

... is not how a loving, respectful person behaves. You deserve a loving, respectful person.

If you lose this guy you are that much closer to finding a man who loves and respects you wholly, and who is worthy of your trust.

Good luck.
posted by marble at 10:34 PM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


And... you're okay with being in a committed relationship with someone who doesn't take you seriously and thinks your feelings aren't legitimate?

Maybe it's just me? but I don't understand how that is even possible.
posted by mie at 10:35 PM on January 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Well, your "threat" wasn't serious, or else we wouldn't even be having this discussion. But what does that say about the health of your relationship? You have been distraught to the point of wanting to break up, and instead of showing concern for your happiness and hearing you out, he basically laughs in your face and calls your bluff?
posted by keep it under cover at 10:36 PM on January 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


You should not be in a relationship with anyone who "dismisses" any of your thoughts and feelings and desires and requests as "just one more emotional overreaction on my end." He has every right to have feelings and wants of his own, but if he doesn't take yours seriously, you should break up with him. Full stop.
posted by decathecting at 10:36 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


The language in your follow-ups seems disconcerting. I realize the examples here might be somewhat one-sided, but they paint a picture that he is the one who proclaims what is or is not a "real" issue or problem, or sets the timing or progression of your relationship (he won't even think about marriage until at least 5 years? Really? You don't get to have any input as half of the couple?) Similarly, one partner doesn't get to decide whether or not the others' reason for breaking up is a good enough reason.

I'm not saying DTMF right now, but it sounds from this thread like you are often characterized as the "irrational" one in the relationship. Maybe you have even started thinking or questioning this yourself. Do you want this to be your relationship dynamic?

People are irrational. Love is irrational. People have jealousy and anger and guilt and all kinds of feelings that have little logical basis but are still real and meaningful. You don't deserve to feel like your emotions are not valid.
posted by nakedmolerats at 10:41 PM on January 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


At this point, I think there is one vitally crucial point that I have not seen clarified.

What does he do when you go out without him, and don't tell him what you're doing?
posted by mie at 10:42 PM on January 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


I guess I should bring up other stuff that's been bothering me for a while, that might be related. There's a ton of buried one-sided resentment (from me) in this relationship that continues to influence our dynamic.

I know this is weird and minor, but among the power games that he plays, one of them is to attempt to force me to eat something I initially refuse, simply because I don't like it (really spicy stuff, a giant glob of peanut butter, liverwurst). It started out as fun, but now I wish he'd stop when I say no the first time instead of trying to cajole me otherwise. OTOH, on our up moments, he likes to spoil me with food he knows I would enjoy.

@mie: well so far to the best of my knowledge he has been out with coworker-friends only. Once about 1.5 yrs ago he deliberately kept information about who he was with (a close female friend) helping her to move, which partly was because he knew I didn't like their relationship, so was therefore trying to avoid the drama of me knowing they were hanging out. I guess because he'd avoid me being upset if I didn't know. Actually with this girl he's purposely left me in the dark twice. They were merely platonic meetings physically, though.

However, that moving incident really did hurt me, because at the end of the day, I would prefer that he feel he can tell me anything, even the things which might typically upset me at first, because he believes I am strong enough to get over petty things like jealousy or fear. So anyway, after that, I have a hard time not reliving that incident every time I get the runaround. He says that that was one incident and it hasn't happened since, so I should be over it. And that's true, part of me really wants to trust he knows how much his secrecy hurt me and that he'll never do that again. But again, his lack of respect for my boundaries and needs as stated in the example above makes me question how much I really can trust him.
posted by Sa Dec at 11:13 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


among the power games that he plays, one of them is to attempt to force me to eat something I initially refuse, simply because I don't like it

As a picky eater with STRONG aversions to some things (seafood, anything slimy or raw or bloody), I think this is a serious boundary-crossing issue. This is yet another area where he shows he doesn't respect you. Food aversions are Serious Business.

I can't see how a guy who pushes you on this really cares about your well-being. It's about control, and making sure he has it.

You can find a much, much better man. Is he really good-looking, and even quite charismatic? This may be blinding you to some of his flaws. (I have been blinded in such a manner myself).

And seriously, any guy about whom it must be said "among the power games he plays", this person is NOT good for you.
posted by marble at 11:27 PM on January 27, 2012 [19 favorites]


@marble: Yes, he is quite good-looking and charismatic (in the witty hilarious way). Another thing that bothers me about him is that he goes into a kind of performance when with groups of people. To me it becomes very obvious that he's trying to come off as the most gallant gentleman toward the ladies, when I know at home he hardly makes that kind of effort toward me. I would prefer him to just be one consistent person, I guess.

I'm not blind to his flaws, but definitely his looks and upbeat, fun, nonjudgmental, intelligent personality has made me not want to give up. He's really quite a catch in some ways. Our dynamic is pretty awful though, I see.
posted by Sa Dec at 11:47 PM on January 27, 2012


I know this is weird and minor

It's really not.

If you are communicating your feelings clearly, and he is disregarding them, he is demonstrating that your feelings are unimportant and insignificant to him.
posted by mie at 11:47 PM on January 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


Yee basically gradually revealing a long, long list of reasons to dump this guy. Sounds like he's been undermining you for years, largely with your complicity.
posted by anildash at 11:58 PM on January 27, 2012 [13 favorites]


argh, I wish I would learn the difference between preview and post.

What I meant to do is emphasize the if you are communicating your feelings clearly part. This is not always a given, even if you think it is, and may represent the difference between "being a bit of a jerk, due to not really understanding the situation" and "borderline abusive". And it gets more complicated if your feelings are ambiguous - sometimes, he does this thing, and it feels cute and affectionate, and then there are times he does it when it feels controlling and insensitive, and you haven't yet figured out why you feel differently at different times so you're not doing a very good job of communicating the problem - and meanwhile he's sitting there, thinking, wtf, why is this so complicated? and getting pretty annoyed at the fact that the very same thing that made you smile yesterday is causing all sorts of crap today, and... yeah, you get my drift. There's a big difference between that sort of situation and one where someone actually, fully understands they're causing pain and keeps doing it anyway.
posted by mie at 12:01 AM on January 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


i would have a conversation with him about it because it's good to discuss your feelings with him generally

i would like to share that i personally have a strong aversion to my significant other asking me where i am and who i'm with....mostly because I feel like I what they're really asking is, 'are you doing anything I need to monitor?' i'd much prefer that when I come home, they ask me about my day, ask me if I enjoyed myself, and then I share details about what I was up to.

this is compounded by the fact that I HATE TEXTS to start with and also like to limit non-necessary phone communications with others while in the presence of anyone else. i'm also the type of person who feels the need to leave their cellphone at home sometimes so I can 'cut-off' from the rest of the world and focus on what I'm doing.

so it's possible he also has legitimate attitudes towards what he's doing, and when you talk to him, remember that his feelings exist like yours and you can compromise.
posted by saraindc at 12:09 AM on January 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm just not sensing that you're 'partners' - the dynamic you're painting sounds like you are suffering and I wonder why you're still there? It's not just looks and charm surely. More is needed in a partnership than charm.

The text conversation sequence you related made me quite sad - it was so with-holding. Then he just ignored you. He arouses, then ignores. I may have special antennae for this kind of BS, I have experience, but I think it's an archaic trigger for you. You feel anxiety and worry because you had a cheating jerk before, but before that even, you probably had experience with with-holding, dismissive figures in your life. You second-guess your emotions and you flounder at making a request for something which should be your right in a relationship - to be, and feel, respected and loved. You shouldn't need to feel plaintive and helpless in the face of simply asking your partner to tell you where he is and with whom because it will alleviate your anxiety.

I think you've got to get a bit of help on creating some self-worth and respect. Start going out to meet friends yourself. Go and have an independent life - study, join a health club, get a massage, take up kick-boxing or whatever. Nothing short circuits a narcissist's antics as a lack of audience. Don't be at home waiting all the time. Don't play the games of not telling him where or with whom you are out - tell him, show him how it should be done. Nothing OTT, just 'Will miss you tonight - am getting dinner with the kick-boxing ppl tonight, catch you after 10?' which shows a 'holding' of the other person as you pursue sometimes separate hobbies or interests.
posted by honey-barbara at 12:20 AM on January 28, 2012 [7 favorites]


Sometimes the charming, charismatic, handsome ones are the biggest dicks. Because they are banking in their charm and charisma and looks to get them out of a jam. Btw, when this DOES get them out of a jam, they're mostly proud that they charmed their way out of yet another jam. They haven't learned shit. I say this this both as someone who has been the SO of someone like this, and also as the someone who has been the charmer who talked her way out of a variety of instances where I was the information withholder. As the latter, "can I get more info?" would have made me do EXACTLY what your boyfriend did. Because I'd feel like you were being my mom and I would have immediately gone passive-aggressive. Not because I liked leaving things to the last minute, or thought you were being cute, or because I was up to anything inappropriate (although, parenthetically, in my experience, helping someone move is a kind of intimate act once you're not 22.) Because I was annoyed. Because it's like you want more info so you can approve or disapprove. I think you'll get way farther with this guy if you don't act like you're about to grant or deny permission for him to stay out late -- you are simply CURIOUS what he's up to. But I think this is a moot point. As much as I understand where that is all coing from, I also acting like this on purpose, because he knows it pushes your buttons, is seriously immature. Obviously, I don't know the dude, nor your relationship, but you have devoted a lot of time to this dude and it doesn't sound like he takes your feelings very seriously.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 12:22 AM on January 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


"But I chalk off most of it to him being "boyish", "mischievous", "roguish", which part of me enjoys."

You are choosing to stay in this relationship. You are responsible for your behavior. What is this struggle doing for you? I don't believe that you love him, or that he loves you. I think you are trying to solve other problems by allowing this pain to drown everything else out. One of the things it may be doing is filling the space where you need to dwell, as a healthy grown-up in charge of her own life.

I see your posts and how they are all about him, and what you do in reaction to him. I think (from experience) that having debates about whether or not you should have your own feelings are a sign that you are in an abusive relationship.

I think if you work on becoming the center of your own life, all will become clear. You are worth it, and you are already whole. Best wishes.
posted by macinchik at 12:39 AM on January 28, 2012 [10 favorites]


I think you've got to get a bit of help on creating some self-worth and respect. Start going out to meet friends yourself. Go and have an independent life - study, join a health club, get a massage, take up kick-boxing or whatever. Nothing short circuits a narcissist's antics as a lack of audience. Don't be at home waiting all the time. Don't play the games of not telling him where or with whom you are out - tell him, show him how it should be done. Nothing OTT, just 'Will miss you tonight - am getting dinner with the kick-boxing ppl tonight, catch you after 10?' which shows a 'holding' of the other person as you pursue sometimes separate hobbies or interests.

This is the hardest part. I know it forms a huge part of the solution. I've gotten advice like this before. I haven't yet fully taken it. Part of it is my financial situation: I can't afford to spend money to meet new people, such as take classes or hang out at bars. I have two close enough girlfriends I could rely on to hang out, but they are not in my city. No family on this coast. Do you guys have any non-costly suggestions on how to have my own life? Especially ones where I can stay out fairly late (possibly as a lone female)?
posted by Sa Dec at 12:41 AM on January 28, 2012


"He arouses, then ignores."

Yep. Not worth it long-term. TRUST ME.

------

I really super duper debated posting my first thought here, but after reading all of your updates, I gotta.

-------

My personal experience with narcissists is that they are, by and large, cheaters.

Do you know if his Dad cheated on his Mom?

The biggest cheater I ever knew always declared such allegiance to his poor mom because he dad treated her so lowsy. Later on, he actually thought he was doing better than his father had because he managed to stay married to his wife for almost 20 years. Of course, he was fucking everyone in sight, including his wife's childhood best friend. Funny he never saw the connection there when his wife FINALLY left him.

Don't be her, is all I'm saying.

-------

I'm not exactly saying your guy is cheating right now. I'm saying if this guy baits you, it's a bad long-term strategy for you to try and stick it out after a certain point.

Have you reached that point yet? Only you can say.

-------

"Me: can i have more info?"

Sure this was maybe uncool, but it tells me things are already pretty bad. Your natural response reflects your feelings about your relationship. It's not good, is it?
posted by jbenben at 12:44 AM on January 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


"Part of it is my financial situation: I can't afford to spend money to meet new people, such as take classes or hang out at bars."

Memail.
posted by jbenben at 12:50 AM on January 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Part of it is my financial situation: I can't afford to spend money to meet new people, such as take classes or hang out at bars.

So your "partner" who you've lived with for 3 years has a habit of going out with other people and staying out late without you, and you can't afford to do the same, and he gets a kick out of withholding information about where he is and who he's with and when he'll be home. In addition to the rudeness and lack of consideration it seems to me that his behavior also has an element of flaunting in it. Not nice at all.
posted by headnsouth at 1:56 AM on January 28, 2012 [8 favorites]


@headnsouth: Well not exactly. If it was a typical event, it was probably another coworker thing where they talk shop and the non-coworkers would be bored. And when he does ask me to accompany him, he always pays for my share, especially these days.

But I agree with everything else. I think I've gotten more than enough insights into the true nature of my relationship to last me awhile. Thanks again everyone.
posted by Sa Dec at 2:06 AM on January 28, 2012


"Just "I'll be home late. Going out with C. and her friends.""

Is "C" the newer sparkly person? It struck me as I was reading your example that you had specifically made that reference female, so given the other information you provided, I wondered whether the presence of this person has become the focus for your concerns. If it's another case of your manchild (or childish man, maybe) casually dropping hints and names and triggering your drama-bell, then yes, he's being unnecessarily cruel.

There was a recent thread about people who treat others badly in private and behave differently in public - you may have seen it already but it's here.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 2:35 AM on January 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


All your updates - especially the food thing, ick - are making me think, "run!" But I wanted to address one little thing because I think no one has so far.

"has a preference for logic over feelings"

No. He really doesn't. Logical people know that telling the person you live with where you are and roughly when you'll be home makes sense for all sorts of practical reasons. So they can decide whether to go to bed or wait up. So they won't freak out when they hear the door open at 2 am. So they can contact you in an emergency. So someone knows to worry if you're late. Etc. A lot of people would tell this kind of stuff - not details, just "working late" or "going to a bar with Bob" to their roommates, even. For reasons that have nothing to do with feelings.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 2:59 AM on January 28, 2012 [14 favorites]


Your boyfriend gets off on making you squirm.

It's something he enjoys, like a hobby, and therefore he actively seeks out ways to generate your discomfort, anxiety, nausea, pain, self-doubt, and fear... and then dismisses your feelings as "emotional overreactions" and tells you that your feelings are "simply irrelevant" compared to his "logical" mind. He plays power games with you. He deliberately incites drama so he can grin with pride at how he's made you react. He stonewalls. He's nicer and more charming to other people than he is at home. He's "hot and cold." with you, and unpredictably so.

This sets off a lot of alarm bells for me. It's hard to see how his looks compensate for this kind of behavior, and maybe he does have an "upbeat, fun, nonjudgmental, intelligent" personality but it doesn't sound like you're benefitting much from that. He's not making you feel upbeat. His definition of fun includes mentally torturing you. He sounds pretty judgmental when it comes to your feelings and emotions and needs. Perhaps he is intelligent, but he doesn't sound interested in applying that keen brain toward figuring out ways he can make his live-in girlfriend happy, rather than anxious and unsure and walking on eggshells around him.

I have to ask: has your relationship been getting worse, or better, in the past three years? What does the evidence suggest about whether it is likely to get better, or worse, in the next five?

I'm really glad you've shared what you have here, and gotten so many heartfelt responses. I know that you can figure out how to approach him and make the choices that will help you have the life you deserve, and I'm wishing you well. Please feel free to memail me if you want to chat.
posted by argonauta at 6:10 AM on January 28, 2012 [12 favorites]


I read through a lot of the comments, but at a certain point, I realized all you really need to do is visit Baggage Reclaim. There are soooo many honest posts there about dating emotionally unavailable or manipulative men. It'll make you smack your forehead, dumbfounded that you were ever blind enough to put up with that silliness. At least, that's what it did for me. Go through the list of posts and look for titles that relate to your situation. They're all (with a few exceptions) written by Natalie, the blog's founder and I gotta say: her perspective is that balanced, respectful voice that I think you're looking for. Reading her posts helped me identify crummy behavior for what it was, take responsibility for my own actions in relationships, set boundaries, and raise my standards. Good luck!
posted by pinetree at 6:59 AM on January 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


at the end of the day, I would prefer that he feel he can tell me anything, even the things which might typically upset me at first, because he believes I am strong enough to get over petty things like jealousy or fear.

Either your boyfriend doesn't think that he can tell you things without upsetting you, or he enjoys not telling you so that he can cause a reaction. Neither of these is good.

Along with that , you haven't much of a social life of your own and he has one that he is both withholding information about and leaving you out of on a regular basis. Again, neither of these are good.

What I am seeing is not healthy but what I also see is that you are both feeding this dynamic, intentionally or unintentionally. I'm not playing a blame game, just noting that both sides of this are not matching up well IMO.
posted by sm1tten at 7:08 AM on January 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sit him down. Tell him there's something important you wanted to talk about.

Explain that in the past you had your trust betrayed and that means there are lingering emotional reverberations to that. Explain that in order to keep those reverberations to a minimum, you are asking him to just provide you with all the information about who, what, where and why when he texts you if he's going to stay late.

If he gives you guff, then explain that this is most certainly a dealbreaker for you. If he won't do it I'd think this is about over.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:13 AM on January 28, 2012


When I read your update about being forced to eat foods you hate, I actually started crying. This is a really classic abuser's technique for breaking down your boundaries. If you were my friend or relative and told me the stuff you've said here about your relationship, I would be putting sheets and a pillow on my couch and figuring out when your boyfriend works so I could come pick you up.

Sorry for freaking out but I just hate to see this shit.
posted by milk white peacock at 8:12 AM on January 28, 2012 [23 favorites]


You've been together for three years....a typical, traditional "might be late getting home" text [although after all this time he should have the courtesy to actually phone you and talk to you] should be more informational, like "Might be late, going out w/X, can I bring U home anything?" or "Will be late, going out with C and friends, go ahead and eat w/out me, will grab dinner while I'm out." He should also reply to your messages before signing off. That is, he would do these things if he wasn't playing power games with you. I don't think he's cheating; if he was, he'd give more elaborate, detailed excuses ("Sorry I'll be late, Sam and Bob and I are going to grab some dinner and try to work out this problem at work before the meeting tomorrow.") - cheaters tend to over-explain and talk too much. No, he is purposely exploiting his power and control over you, as he does when heckling you into eating something you despise. He gets off on it. And even though he's not physically smacking you around (yet), this is still abusive behavior. I don't think a different line of questioning when he texts you is going to change anything; you're either going to have to get used to being left in the dark or else move on and find someone who doesn't get his kicks out of playing you like a yo-yo.
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:14 AM on January 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure if you're reading any more, but there's one more thing I'm hoping you can re-evaluate.

You never really fully come out and say it, but it sounds like a lot of your fights go like this: you express an emotion, he argues against your emotion with logic, he then expects you to either prove him wrong or dismiss your emotion.

Here's what matters, though: Emotions aren't something to argue against. Emotions aren't something you have to justify.

Emotions are an incredibly important system through which we interact with the world. Emotions tell us things about the world around us, and about how that world relates to us. When you feel an emotion, that is your body and brain telling you something. Something important. Something important to you.

Now, it's not always the case that we can correctly identify what our emotions are about. Therapy is really significant for a lot of people because it teaches them how to identify their emotions in ways they could not have done before--it allows them to see what the emotions are really about, and that lets them then actually address what's really upsetting them. But, even if one may not always have an exact understanding of what one's emotion is about, this is still true: when you feel an emotion, that means something very important is happening to you.

I think it may help you to understand your emotions as giving you knowledge. It's not that emotions just happen, willy-nilly, regardless what is "true" or "logical" or "correct." Oh no. An emotion is a way through which you access truth, a way you discern what is correct, a way of determining what the logical next step should be. So, next time you find yourself reacting emotionally about something your boyfriend does, try to do this. Stop. Close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths. And ask yourself, "What is this emotion letting me know?"

It will be letting you know something about yourself. About your values. About your needs. About what is significant for you, about what sort of creature you are, and about how you fit into the world.

And the next time you are trying to express your emotions to your boyfriend, remind yourself constantly of this: "Emotions aren't just things that happen irrationally. Emotions are judgments. Feeling emotions is a way of gaining knowledge. Emotions are a valid way of interacting with the world." Remind yourself that so that, if he tries to tell you your emotions are wrong or irrational or mistaken, you can feel to the very fiber of you being that that is total horseshit.

Because it is. Dismissing the emotions of another is total horseshit. Your boyfriend rolling his eyes at your emotions is horseshit. Can you do me a favor and say that out loud? "His rolling his eyes at my emotions is horseshit." Please. Even if you don't normally curse, please try to say that out loud. It's something you deserve to be able to say. As a person, you deserve to say that others dismissing your emotions is horseshit.

Emotions are a person's way of valuing and judging. Your values and your judgment are important. Don't let anyone belittle or dismiss that you feel emotions.
posted by meese at 9:29 AM on January 28, 2012 [34 favorites]


I've dated people like this. I think you're getting a lot of good feedback on some red flags here. You say you want to be a more direct, clear communicator, which is an awesome goal regardless of whether you stay or leave. I do wonder: even if you were a perfectly direct, calm, and clear communicator, would that work with this person?

Here's what I would say to my younger self that seemed only interested in dating narcissistic artists: life is too short! You will be happier poor and alone and reading a new book every night that you are now, twisting yourself into knots and playing emotional games and constantly wondering where you stand. Think about all the energy you've spent worrying about this person, wondering what they're doing, trying to figure out their emotions -- that's energy that belongs to you, for your own goals and dreams, and no loving person would ask you to sacrifice so much of yourself just wondering what they're up to.

I don't know if that accurately describes your relationship or not, but it's a trap in which I definitely spent some time.
posted by lillygog at 9:29 AM on January 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


Please read this post about "Help me hone my creep-o-meter", particularly the comments about mental bullying and testing behavior. (They talk about someone trying to pressure you into eating foods you don't like.)

It doesn't sound like you like this guy very much, because it doesn't sound like he is very nice to you. It is definitely okay to break up with him in that case, even after 3 years.
posted by cider at 9:39 AM on January 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


I can't believe I get to be first -- DTMFA.

This man does not respect you. If you mention the possibility of a break up, he should go into problem-solving mode, not try to call your bluff. If you have dislikes, he should respect them and not try to power-play you into doing something uncomfortable.

In a good relationship, it's a given that both people want to know what the other is up to, just out of interest. Especially if he knows you've been cheated on, his default should be to give you enough info to get on with, not to play control games.

Three years is more than enough time to waste on this loser. Send him packing.

I recommend trying some meetups. No rule against nursing a coke -- doesn't have to be a pricy evening. Get out there and see the awesome you're currently missing.
posted by freshwater at 9:57 AM on January 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I know this is weird and minor, but among the power games that he plays, one of them is to attempt to force me to eat something I initially refuse, simply because I don't like it (really spicy stuff, a giant glob of peanut butter, liverwurst). It started out as fun, but now I wish he'd stop when I say no the first time instead of trying to cajole me otherwise. OTOH, on our up moments, he likes to spoil me with food he knows I would enjoy.

Actually, this is emotional manipulation 101. If you call them on it, they'll be like 'lol, it's just food, c'mon you don't know what you're missing.' but it's a system to test and subjugate a person. It will escalate.

I am not kidding. That is what they're doing.

Anyway, I think this thread has evolved and shown you that your boyfriend is a manipulative and unkind person. That you had the doubt "Am I unreasonable?" at wanting to know where your boyfriend was after he blatantly acted like he had something to hide makes you pretty clearly reasonable... and sadly, a great target for his bullshit.

Maybe he can change, but I've learned in my life that anyone who delights in stuff like this doesn't want to.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:47 AM on January 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


He's really quite a catch in some ways.

NO. He's not. He thinks he's a catch, and he's got you believing it. But partners who are withholding, manipulative, enjoy making others uncomfortable, etc. are Bad Ponies, no matter how attractive, charming, funny, sexy, or clever they are. This is because being in a relationship leads inevitably to this:

Our dynamic is pretty awful though

There is no way -- never, never, never, never, never, never, never any way -- to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship with someone who does not possess the basic qualities that are the requirement of such relationships. Those qualities include basic consideration, kindness, empathy, and trustworthiness.

You already seem to realize that this guy doesn't have those qualities -- and good for you for recognizing it, and hopefully getting ready to act on it. What I want you to think about now is the future -- that is, the men you will meet down the road. Once you are out of this relationship, take some time being single to consider what qualities you want to find in future relationships. Then keep those in mind once you start dating again. Remember: it is those essential internal qualities that make someone a catch, not external trappings like looks or charm.

Good luck!
posted by scody at 11:45 AM on January 28, 2012 [16 favorites]


Late to the party. But I just had to say something about this:

since we've talked about marriage, and what I know from that discussion is that he's not planning to even think about that until we've been together for at least 5 years. And I'm going to be 31 next month...

You don't sound happy about this. In fact, you sound deeply unhappy about it. Why are you pretending you're ok with it? Why are you in a relationship where you're not getting what you want and need?

I just read your previous AskMe about this guy, and it made me very sad to see. You don't sound like you're appreciated at all in this relationship- much less cherished the way anyone would have a right to be- to the point where you are willing to play your own set of manipulative games just to try to get some crumbs off this particular table. You also seem to have accustomed yourself to a certain level of bullshit and bad treatment from this person and have developed a framework of reasoning to accept and justify being treated badly. I think you would do well to consider who you've become with this man and if it's making you a happier and better person.

I wish you the best and I hope it gets easier.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 2:50 PM on January 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


The first thing you wrote that really raised my hackles was you thinking he was "a shade narcissistic." Every time I have thought this about someone, they've turned out to be a metric fuckton narcissistic, and not in the colloquial sense, in the "I genuinely believe this person has something seriously and pervasively wrong with them that could only possibly be improved with a great deal of psychiatric help, and possibly not even that" sense.

I think the reason you're trying to find the right way to word a perfectly reasonable question is because you know you're not allowed to ask it. The game here is that he's letting you believe if you could find the right way to ask the question, he occasionally might bestow an answer upon you. But the next time you say it wrong, you will spring the trap, and be guilty of being "controlling" and I don't know what all.

I mean, it's like asking us to help you find a right way of saying "please pass the salt". Unless you said "fucking pass me the goddam motherfucking salt, you miserable ratfucker," there is almost no possible wrong way to ask someone to pass the salt. You should not even need to be looking for workarounds for stuff like this.

Then you said all the other stuff, and then you said this:

"In other words, I feel like I might possibly be getting used as the Ms. Right Now who gives affection, cooks, cleans, and accompanies him, since we've talked about marriage, and what I know from that discussion is that he's not planning to even think about that until we've been together for at least 5 years. And I'm going to be 31 next month... he's 28. Anyway, wow, this AskMe is getting off-topic right?"

By the time I read that, I felt convinced that the reason you think that is because that's what is really going on here.

Then you got to the part about forcing you to eat foods you hate, alternated with giving you your favourite delicacies, and I'm done. This is evidence that he's crossed the line from "annoying jerk with few redeeming features other than perhaps moderate good looks" into "emotional abuse through manipulation."

Although I talk about emotional abuse often on the green, I never say it lightly. It's just so heartbreakingly common.

It looks like you've stayed partly because you love him and he's charming, nice, et cetera (I mean if he were repulsive you wouldn't have got this far, obviously). But also, partly, because you don't have actual proof that he's doing anything terrible or law-breaking like cheating.

But this level of manipulation is definitely in emotional abuse territory, no question. And even if it were not abuse you would still have a really bad relationship. So there's that.

The point of that wasn't to tell you that he must be doing exactly the same thing, but I do think it's possible that he's cheating, and I also think it's possible that he's arranged things so that if you found out, you would be the last to know. For one thing, the person closest to a situation very often has the least clear view of it, and for another, he's actively controlling what information you receive. Add to this the boiling frog metaphor, which I'm sure you know, and which is how the extent of the emotional abuse has been unclear until now when you picked up the thread of the withheld information and followed it to this point.

So on the one hand, you have suspicions you can't prove; and on the other, you have the reality which you know even though you can't prove it. Your intuition that you are being used as a Stepford doormat is right.

Sorry, it sucks.

BTW, he's not a good catch. I can see him from here. You are the catch in this situation, which is exactly why he has to keep you down like this. I bet any onlooker who has caught a glimpse of what's really going on here, is wondering what a knockout like you is doing with a guy like him. I am not saying this to be nice, either.
posted by tel3path at 11:28 AM on January 29, 2012 [9 favorites]


p.s. And you know why he can afford to go out while you can't? It's because you are such a catch that he is terrified that as soon as you come blinking out into the light, some matinée idol will come galloping along on a white horse and just grab you up. I can't promise you that that will happen. But that is why he's doing it.
posted by tel3path at 12:14 PM on January 29, 2012


I know this is weird and minor, but among the power games that he plays, one of them is to attempt to force me to eat something I initially refuse, simply because I don't like it (really spicy stuff, a giant glob of peanut butter, liverwurst). It started out as fun, but now I wish he'd stop when I say no the first time instead of trying to cajole me otherwise. OTOH, on our up moments, he likes to spoil me with food he knows I would enjoy.

It's not weird and minor. It's manipulative. I was with a guy that would do this. He made it seem like I was being completely unreasonable for not liking a certain food (lemon grass was a huge bone of contention for him - he accused me of saying I didn't like it just to piss him off). It was one of those things that he made all about him - anything I did, he accused me of doing it for some nefarious reason that was against him, even if it was supposedly jokingly. He ended up being emotionally and physically abusive; he has borderline personality disorder, which I know shares many traits with true narcissistic personalities.

Like tel3path, I don't throw the concept of abuse around lightly - it's just that there are certain hallmarks of manipulation that those of us that have been there can recognize every time.
posted by Pax at 10:03 AM on January 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


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