I'm just a silly little girl with grownup problems.
February 27, 2009 2:16 PM   Subscribe

Okay. I've been dating my boyfriend for 7 months, and living with him for 3. We've been having some problems, and I'm seriously considering moving out, so... what do I do?

He's considerably older than me (I'm 21, he's 37), and it's causing problems in the bedroom. I moved in with him in part for convenience, but neither of us thought we'd live together forever. Here's where it gets complicated.

He's great about absolutely everything except the fact that we don't click sexually. I try not to make a big deal about it, but if I even say anything it turns into a gigantic fight. It's been getting to me and I'm starting to feel as if I'm too young to be living with anyone. I've talked to him about it once before when I told him that my friend and I wanted to move in together and he commenced trying to convince me to stay. He told me I've got such a great situation because I don't have to pay rent, etc. and was very convincing.

I work two part time jobs but I'm also a fulltime student. If I move out now I'll barely make ends meet, but I think I have to bite the bullet eventually.

Here's my problem... I am so scared! And I don't know why. I think it may be that I'm scared because he wants me to be afraid to leave... as in, he wants me to stay and he's encouraging my nervousness about moving out. I lived on my own before I moved in with my boyfriend and I have two friends who want to move in together, but I'm so nervous! Why is that? I've been trying to wait until the summer, but I'm not sure I can make it that long.

As you can see, I am totally confused. Does anyone have any advice or opinions or... anything? He treats me like I'm a pet moreso than a girlfriend-- he turns me down for sex regularly and actually wants me to gain weight so I'll be more snuggly... It's all so damn confusing!
posted by big open mouth to Human Relations (46 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

sounds to me like you are more than ready to move out and be on your own again. nothing in your question points to a long term situation, fear of change is natural. move out, find someone your own age, rip the band-aid off quickly
posted by Think_Long at 2:22 PM on February 27, 2009

Everything in your post points to "move out ASAP", and then I got to this:

he...wants me to gain weight so I'll be more snuggly... It's all so damn confusing!

Nothing confusing about it. He wants you to change your body, with the possibility of negative consequences, to meet his needs. So rather than "move out ASAP", my advice is "RUN OUT ASAP".
posted by baphomet at 2:25 PM on February 27, 2009 [11 favorites]

This is really simple: it is not going to work out. Any time you spend not leaving him will be time wasted. You are young, and can afford to waste time, in a way, though it all adds up, so it's up to you how you want to play it. But I guarantee you'll be happier without this guy, even if things are tighter financially. There is no question you will be happier! You know this too!
posted by cincinnatus c at 2:26 PM on February 27, 2009

Move out, the age difference is severe, you have a lot of life to live, he is looking for a "pet" or "cuddly toy."

He'll never take you seriously, plus at your age you SHOULD be living with multiple roomates, exploring the world, not keeping some old man comfortable.

He can buy a dog.
posted by Max Power at 2:27 PM on February 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

You're not a silly little girl, your boyfriend doesn't know better than you just because he's older, and your living situation isn't working out for you. You're an adult, you get to call the shots when it comes to where you live and what you put up with in a relationship. Refusing to have conversations about relationship issues isn't healthy, and insisting you stay in a living arrangement you're unhappy with is unfair. Make plans with a friend or friends to move to a new place you can afford, tell your boyfriend you're moving out, and move. You may need more roommates in order to afford a new place, you may need to cut back on spending, but it can be done. This isn't as confusing as you're making it out to be. Talk it over with a friend (new roommate) and do it.
posted by Meg_Murry at 2:28 PM on February 27, 2009 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Don't diminish yourself--you're not a silly little girl. You're a grown-up and have been one, legally, for three years. There's something that sounds really unhealthy about this situation--he's encouraging codependence and insecurity in you; he's encouraging you to feel like a little girl when you're not. Though the set-up you're in sounds cushy, the price seems much more dear than a couple hundred dollars of rent money every month. Turning you down for sex? Wanting you to physically change yourself?

That you're unhappy is clear. You have a right to be happy. Start by making it clear that you need to move out for your own sense of independence and well-being, and don't take no for an answer. If he can't see that your independence and well-being are important, then it's time to DTMFA.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:28 PM on February 27, 2009 [6 favorites]

You can move out, or you can be a kept woman -- or, to put it bluntly, a young woman who is being asked to play the part of "older wife in relationship where the spark has gone".

That's not really healthy for either of you.
posted by holgate at 2:30 PM on February 27, 2009

"He's great about absolutely everything except the fact that we don't click sexually."

I don't see how he is great about everything when he is using guilt to make you stay. His immature reaction to a problem you are both facing as well as wanting you to gain weight, and telling you also fall outside of my parameters for "great". I don't think you need to feel guilty for moving out.

You are scared, make sure your soon-to-be-roommate friend knows that and is willing to push you a little. Make arrangements to move without telling him, so he can't talk you into staying or act like his feelings are hurt. Tell him once everything is set, you have put down a deposit, signed a lease, etc. No amount of free rent is worth living with someone you can't stand to live with.
posted by soelo at 2:32 PM on February 27, 2009

Best answer: You lived on your own before, and you can totally do it again. If you've got good potential roommates lined up, all the better. Lots and lots of 21-year-olds pay rent to live in roommate situations with friends and make it work, and have a great time. It's doable. This is your life, not his, and if you want to move out, you damn well should. Trust your instincts. You are not a silly little girl; you are a woman who has the right and responsibility to make her own choices about where and with whom she lives.

I think it may be that I'm scared because he wants me to be afraid to leave... as in, he wants me to stay and he's encouraging my nervousness about moving out

He treats me like I'm a pet moreso than a girlfriend-- he turns me down for sex regularly and actually wants me to gain weight so I'll be more snuggly

I have to say that these two things set off all kinds of alarm bells for me. His wanting to control you and to encourage feelings of fear and dependence in you are very bad things. They're the kind of qualities you see in abusive relationships...it starts off with controlling, isolating behavior, and turns into more direct violence. I don't know the specifics of your relationship, obviously, but from this question it sounds like a) you don't want to live with him anymore, and b) he's doing some really uncool and manipulative things to keep you there. Unacceptable. Move out.
posted by aka burlap at 2:34 PM on February 27, 2009 [5 favorites]

He told me I've got such a great situation because I don't have to pay rent, etc. and was very convincing.

This sounds like a big waving red flag to me. There are a ton of good reasons he could have given you to stay, and "I pay for all your stuff!" isn't one of them. If you mentioned leaving, and his first reaction was to try to make you afraid to leave...well, in my opinion, that's an excellent reason to get out of there, and quickly. Don't let anyone make you dependent on them for your physical or emotional well-being.

Financial security is a powerful motivator, but the truth is that almost everyone has to struggle a little financially at your age, especially when they're still in school. You'll make it somehow; we all do. And living with a good friend could be a great deal more fun than staying with a boyfriend who makes you feel uneasy.
posted by tomatofruit at 2:38 PM on February 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

The fear is very powerful, and it's normal. Most people who live with a partner find it very very hard to break up with them, even if it's clearly necessary. And the financial aspect is also very scary, for good reason. Don't try to convince him about any aspect of your moving out. Don't even consider his point of view -- that's not relevant. He'll say it's not logical, it's against your interests, you're unreasonable, over-reacting... He's dismissing the most important reason to leave, and that's the reason you need to keep coming back to: "He's not right for me."

Naturally, you want to lessen the fear -- but you can't. Don't keep looking for ways to make your anxiety go away. Manage it as well as you can by talking with friends, avoiding second-guessing yourself, and reminding yourself that the terrible feelings will diminish greatly as soon as you've left. Let your motto be, "I'm on my way."

Make a simple plan, not "the best plan," and keep moving forward. Line up a place to stay, at least temporarily. Gather up some bags, and some cable ties or twine to group your clothes-on-hangers, think of a way to carry your books so they're not in heavy boxes. Get help to take your stuff out all in as few trips as posssible -- and don't plan go back to pick up a few last things.

I guarantee that as soon as you're out of there, you'll feel relieved. You'll have a new set of difficulties, but you'll work those out. I really wish you well.
posted by wryly at 3:10 PM on February 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've got such a great situation because I don't have to pay rent, etc.

Here's how to get over your nervousness, and get out the door: How much is 1/3 of the rent you would split with your friends? Not too much, since you can cover it, right? Now, he's named that as the price, for you.

Without judging, I'll say that's outrageous. Either you are not for sale -- and how dare he imply it. Or, if you consider these types of trades to be acceptable, you should up your price considerably!

I'm about his age, and I think this is ridiculous and creepy. It's not about the age difference, it's about him. Screw up your courage and leave... and I will bet you that in 6 months you'll never even think of him again.
posted by Houstonian at 3:15 PM on February 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

>actually wants me to gain weight so I'll be more snuggly

Alarm bells here, too. No well-balanced man wants to dictate his partner's body size.

I suspect that the true motivation is that a woman with additional weight will be less self-confident and more easily manipulated.

Listen to Dweezil Zappa: Run Like Hell.
posted by yclipse at 3:16 PM on February 27, 2009 [4 favorites]

Best answer: He's manipulating you and you deserve to have the most awesome sex you can imagine whenever you want it.
posted by rhizome at 3:19 PM on February 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

He treats me like I'm a pet moreso than a girlfriend-- he turns me down for sex regularly and actually wants me to gain weight so I'll be more snuggly...

He's controlling and a narcissist: he doesn't see you as a real person, but as an actor in the story of his life, who's there to fulfill a purpose. Get out now, before he manages to change you into what he wants. Free rent isn't worth that.

Good luck.
posted by sinderile at 3:23 PM on February 27, 2009

Good sex is one of life's simple, free (mostly) pleasures ... and each of us deserves the type of sex life he/she desires. At 21, you should be having the time of your life sexually. Move in with your friends and stick to a careful budget. Being confused about making decisions is natural but as Dr. Spock would say: "Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do."
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 3:24 PM on February 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

He sounds very controlling and manipulative to me. As baphomet and others said - run, don't walk, for the exit. Or to term it another way - DTMFA. I speak as a 36 yr old male.
posted by arcticseal at 3:25 PM on February 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Alarm bells here, too. No well-balanced man wants to dictate his partner's body size.

He most certainly does if his partner has an eating disorder and is dieting herself to death. To me this reads as his attempt to chide OP about being too skinny in a nice way- along the lines of, say, convincing one's SO to bathe more than once a week by saying "a nice-smelling body is better for snuggling."

Having said that, any 37 year old man who'd have a 21-year-old partner is probably an immature basket case but this aspect of your story might not be what people think it's about, at all.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 3:35 PM on February 27, 2009

He's twice your age, DTMFA !
posted by kldickson at 3:37 PM on February 27, 2009

When an old man dates a significantly younger woman, it's often because the age disparity allows him a measure of control he can't satisfy with someone closer to his own age. This generally signals that he's not mature enough to be in a serious relationship where he doesn't have the majority of the control. Paying all the rent is just one way of reinforcing this. When you said "pet", I think you hit on the basic dynamic.

You're on the spot, and know better than any of us here, but the whole situation sounds dicey to me, and you should take a hard look at whether or not you see yourself have a relationship of equals with him for the long term.
posted by fatbird at 3:38 PM on February 27, 2009 [3 favorites]

This guy wants you with him regardless of your own quality of life. Because he is older and has financial resources, he feels can play on your lack of life experience in order to have power over you.

The weight thing is classic with these type of people. It would not surprise me if, after you gain weight to be more "snuggly" and then try to leave him, he tells you that no one will want someone as fat as you. So on top of being financially dependent on him, you too fat to ever find another man- this is how he may play it out to you.

By the way, your "I'm just a silly little girl" is an interesting description of yourself. If you believe yourself to be a little girl (immature, in need of guardianship, not to be taken seriously, etc.), those beliefs about yourself can make leaving him more difficult. Believe me, abusers want someone they can control, and a little girl plays right into that. It's up to you if you want to play the little girl role; there are plenty of men who will not take advantage of a woman who sees herself as a little girl, but you need to stay away from the ones who do. This guy seems to have you wrapped around his little finger and now that you want out, he is finding ways to play on your mind and keep you with him.

My suggestion to you is to LEAVE. You have friends willing to move in with you, so take advantage of this wonderful opportunity.

Please feel free to write to me at adp0223 at yahoo.com if you like. I worked for 10 years in domestic abuse and see some subtle warning signs in the relationship you describe.
posted by Piscean at 3:42 PM on February 27, 2009

You're a college-age woman who got duped into dating a much older feeder who can't perform sexually and is emotionally manipulative. I don't really see an upside to this situation. Move out tonight.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 3:43 PM on February 27, 2009

Run, run now. He's trying to control you and you don't want to be controlled.
posted by fenriq at 3:47 PM on February 27, 2009

Best answer: Woa. For serious. Run away as quickly as you can. Regardless of whatever feelings you may have, or thinking that people on here are overreacting. If you leave now, some day you'll look back and realize they were right, and so were you.
posted by aleahey at 3:50 PM on February 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

A good partner wants his/her lover to be everything s/he can be, adventurous, happy, secure and confident. Clearly, this is not a good partner. You never want to find yourself in the position of being dependent on anyone. You need to know that you can always make it on your own, if you have to. Go, don't look back.
posted by b33j at 4:01 PM on February 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm too young to be living with anyone someone almost twice my age.
posted by ook at 4:15 PM on February 27, 2009

If it's the money that's scaring you, can you move back in with your rents for awhile?
posted by debbie_ann at 4:39 PM on February 27, 2009

Move out. Move in with friends to share the rent. Date guys who are in the same place in life that you are.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 4:53 PM on February 27, 2009

The age difference is nothing; I was dating someone whom was 44 when I was 22. However, the "treats me like a pet" thing is bad. Very bad. The turning you down for sex, coupled with wanting you to gain more weight to be "snuggly" strike me as controlling as well. Age difference doesn't really matter, this guy would likely be an asshole at any age, and you should run very far away.
posted by kellyblah at 5:02 PM on February 27, 2009

I read a quote the other day, which i can only repeat from memory:

"That which must be done eventually should, therefore, be done immediately."
posted by so_necessary at 5:11 PM on February 27, 2009 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Run, sweetie. Seriously, once you're up, up, up and away, you'll wonder why you ever put up with any of this man's garbage.
posted by orange swan at 5:25 PM on February 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Hopefully all this advice has given you what I think you're looking for ~ a reason and an excuse to leave, but I'll throw my two cents out there anyway.

First, fatbird is right. When I was 22, I dated a guy that was 43. I actually ended up breaking up with him because he was too immature. I didn't really think the age difference was a problem...it's just a number, right?...but it does mean something. 60 year old men date 30 year old women because they think it makes them a stud but near 40 year old men that date 20 year old women do so because women their own age see the issues quicker. (Generalization, I know, but I'm just trying to make a point.)

Also...my ex used the same argument to keep me. "Wow, it's going to be hard out there on your own. You're going to struggle." He was the one that was afraid, and he was also wrong. You're going to be fine...in fact, you're going to be better than fine. Get out there and see what else life has to offer!
posted by kattyann at 6:27 PM on February 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Never mind the age or lack of sex or his weird ways. He's being an ass and who needs that when you're working two jobs and going to school full time?

You can live off ramen noodles for a year or two, but having to put up with this crap when you're home will drive you batshit insane and effect your schoolwork. Move out, you'll be poor but happy.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:47 PM on February 27, 2009


Wow, that "feeder" link you posted is some freaky shit. Feeder, feedee, gainer, encourager, maintainer, appreciator ... do people actually live this way?
posted by jayder at 8:04 PM on February 27, 2009

If you don't click sexually then you should just end it.
posted by tarvuz at 8:11 PM on February 27, 2009

Best answer: You're a college-age woman who got duped into dating a much older feeder who can't perform sexually and is emotionally manipulative. I don't really see an upside to this situation. Move out tonight.

Bears repeating! Run, run as fast as you can. I don't generally judge people's fetishes but the feeder/feedee fetish is all kinds of sick. I watched a close friend of mine fall down that hole when she was around your age. She was about 120lbs when she met this middle aged impotent feedee and now she's 315lbs. The struggle she goes through daily is fucking horrible. I don't think she's ever going to lose the weight because most of her inner strength, her sense of self was destroyed by the relationship.

It's scary to move out on your own, but it's a leap we all take at some point and it works out just fine. You will be fine, regardless of any bumps in the road you encounter. Once you're out and moved in with a roommate or two you will be so relieved and you'll have a great sense of freedom and happiness. You'll get to be 21 years old! We own the world at that age, don't let that pass you by!
posted by zarah at 9:01 PM on February 27, 2009

Best answer: You can live on your own at 21 and afford it. You aren't happy. You two aren't clicking sexually/having regular sex and you haven't even been together a year yet. He's trying to manipulate you to do something you don't want. He's also trying to make you do something that isn't healthy and can negatively impact your self-esteem. Don't wait till the summer--move out now.

Can you talk to some of your friends? I wouldn't be surprised if they had some concerns about your relationship and would be willing to help you and support you in moving out (emotionally, not financially).

Living on your own with friends and supporting yourself at 21 is a lot of fun, but it's also really, really rewarding. Figuring out how to do it on a tight budget is part of that. Anyone who can manage full time college and two part time jobs can manage this, and do it well. The sense of satisfaction you'll get from this will so far outweigh any sense of relief you have now from not having to pay rent. And, you are not anyone's pet. You are an adult woman who can take care of herself and support herself. You don't need a relationship with a man who tries to infantilize you.
posted by min at 10:08 PM on February 27, 2009

Response by poster: Man, I really appreciate everyone's advice. Sometimes I think back to when I was living on my own and I felt more serious, more grownup than I am now. I think my history makes me succeptible to the pet mentality. I know I'll be happier. In fact tonight I spoke with my future roommates and began setting up the steps to move out. I'm petrified (probably unnecessarily) but I am going to be gone in about a month.

ethnomethodologist, I don't have an eating disorder, I promise. I'm probably the fittest I've ever been and I try to eat really well.

There are some not-fun events in my near future. Thanks for the advice HiveMind.
posted by big open mouth at 11:16 PM on February 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: What everybody said. I'm so glad you're planning to move out - I think you'll immediately be happier. You won't miss the cash so much - freedom is worth a lot.

Another thing I would encourage you to do is begin setting up your emotional support network a little. Tell your trusted friends, and maybe relatives, that you felt it was beginning to be a stifling situation and it was affecting your sense of calm and security. Tell them you may need them to rally round you a little. Make some plans with people for the days and weeks following your move so that you have some structure and some people to talk to already lined up.

Also, something tells me that this guy is not going to welcome the news that you are leaving. I recommend you make all the arrangements in advance and plan to make a pretty darn quick move out - maybe even move your things out while he's not in the house, and wrap it up with him when he returns. Alternatively, pack up what you can, then sit down and talk with him, and have a couple friends coming over in half an hour from that appointed time to help you move out. Just take care of all this in advance. I'm concerned that you avoid a drawn-out scene with a lot of back and forth and perhaps some serious anger. Make it quick.

As if you need another opinion, I also see a lot of red flags here - it's kind of a classic case. An older man, insecure, dates a younger woman, takes care of her material needs to create dependence and then holds it over her head so she won't leave, doesn't meet her sexual needs but wants her to change in ways that will make the relationship feel more secure to him, threatens her psychologically with dire predictions about how unhappy she would be without him, undermines her confidence by suggesting she can't survive without him....all this is profoundly NOT OK. It's not a good relationship. It's damned unhealthy and highly unlikely to get better.

You're not a silly little girl - the part of you saying "um, time to move out" is the most mature, strong, smart part of you. You're on your own side here, so listen to yourself. Don't let his attempt to create self-doubt in you win out over your own very good instincts. I know it feels scary 'out there' - but the news is this: even if you weren't in a relationship, at your age, it feels scary to everyone. Nobody knows what they're doing or feels completely at home in the adult world when they're just getting started. You're not alone - your friends are in the same boat - and you'll get roommates and you'll scrape money together for food and beer and you'll have a really nice life. You'll be a lot more careful about who wants to get involved with you in future. You won't just leap into someone's lap because they're really into you and seem to offer you such a nice life - you'll ask, "what do I want? What does this person do for me? Are they bringing things into my life that make me happier, or are they wheedling their way close to me to feed their own needs by shoring me up in areas where I'm insecure?" You'll learn about healthier relationships by having them, and by sticking up for yourself when it's time. It's time now. This isn't going anywhere and definitely not anywhere good. Get out now, start working on yourself, and be safer and happier. Good luck and congratulations.
posted by Miko at 8:24 AM on February 28, 2009 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: God, I wish I could mark every answer as a favorite. You are all so nice, really, this was the kick in the pants that I needed to see how unhappy I've been.

Thank you, thank you.

Thank you.
posted by big open mouth at 8:47 AM on February 28, 2009

On behalf of everyone, you're very welcome. Best of luck and peace be with you. Please take Miko's always excellent advice, and also it'd be great if you would follow up on this thread and let us know how things go.
posted by baphomet at 9:58 AM on February 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

He sounds manipulative, and completely apathetic to your best interest. I realize I could be completely wrong about all this, and there's absolutely no way from this information alone to know if this is the right solution for sure, but from what you've said: DTMFA.
posted by faeuboulanger at 12:26 AM on March 5, 2009

Response by poster: Hey everyone. So, yesterday I told him. I was going to wait until I had a place lined up, but he asked me up front what was up and I just decided to be honest. He could tell there had been something bothering me and I'd been acting funny trying to keep this to myself. We talked about it, he got pretty down, but when I explained that I just wanted to live with girlfriends he accepted it. Seems as though he'll be as helpful as he can be. I was honest, he was honest (hopefully) and a big weight is off my chest. Now I don't have to sneak around about looking for an apartment. Will update once something substantial happens.
posted by big open mouth at 7:08 AM on March 6, 2009

Congratulations, that sounds like a best-case scenario. It is sad, but it seems like youa re doing the right thing. Best of luck finding a new place and a new life, with more joy and freedom.
posted by Miko at 7:40 AM on March 6, 2009

Response by poster: Alright, well, my grandmother passed away and an emergency (and stressful) trip driving to Virginia for the funeral ended today with my boyfriend breaking up with me. Best possible scenario most likely, because he wasn't upset and he says he understands (and always understood) that he was dating a 21 year old. His amazing niceness notwithstanding, I know I've hurt him and I'm sad for that. Plus I was so stressed over the weekend, everything was so horrible and awful and tonight I wanted to just be home with him, pretend for a moment like nothing was changing between us. He's only angry that I didn't tell him sooner, but I'm just so fried I can barely make sense of anything at this point. Who knows if what I've done is right or wrong, all I know is that now I am really seriously in need of a new place to live.

For serious.
posted by big open mouth at 6:41 PM on March 11, 2009

Wow. He broke up with you on the way to your grandmother's funeral? Or because you had to go to your grandmother's funeral? Either way, wow.

You made the right choice. You so made the right choice.

Welcome to the rest of your life. It's going to be better than what you're used to.
posted by ook at 8:29 PM on March 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

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