How to balance family and boyfriend?
February 19, 2011 7:10 PM   Subscribe

I don't know what to do about my relationship with my parents anymore. Or whom to spend spring break with - this is a weightier issue than it seems.

I'm not sure where to start. There have always been tensions between my parents and me, mainly of the sort that aren't anything to worry about, but now it is at the point where my mom refuses to talk to me and I can expect either a weirdly upbeat call or a threatening one from my dad. And, well, this is all over a boy. (I know, stereotypical right?) I'm nineteen, I go to an awesome college, and I think my life really ought to seem perfect, but it isn't. For all of the time we have been together, my parents have been dead set against our relationship for multiple reasons that I fail and am honestly afraid to try and understand and have even resorted to such measures as blocking anyone who calls my cellphone (which I managed to talk them into ending only last summer), to reading chat records and surreptitiously setting up forwarding on my email account. I haven't forgiven any of this, but I'm just past the point of wanting to care anymore. The past two years has been a long and complicated process - gosh, has it really been two years? - but we aren't in a better place than before, despite compromises on both sides. The depression I sank into my last year of high school is still lingering, despite going to a therapist last semester (because of time constraints, I haven't been seen him since December). I find it hard to fit into the great school I go to. It is, in every way, a dream school. I should be head-over-heels in love with it, but instead I find myself being withdrawn and stressed and simply living from day-to-day just managing.

But that isn't why I'm posting this question. Spring break is in two weeks, and my school has a two-week spring break. I don't know how to split up my time. Fall break and winter break I went back home and I had the most god-awful time. Whatever mental improvements I made after coming to college regressed. I found myself crying every day, the way I used to. I hated it. I know my parents weren't purposefully trying to emotionally bash me but that's what they did. They can't stand the idea of my dating my boyfriend and visiting him (we go to school on opposite sides of the country and somehow manage to visit each other quite often, which you may or may not agree with, but is a topic for another day). This resulted in lots of attempts to "talk" about my relationship with him, which always ends up in 1) my parents asserting how right they are about my life and how I'm ruining it, my grades, my future, etc., which is not helped by the identity of my college and its reputation; 2) my parents interrogating me as to when I will break up with my boyfriend; 3) my being yelled at; 4) my bursting into tears (which is pretty much a reflex to the topic now...); and 5) the assumption that as the child, I am of course wrong because I disagree with my parents (if we agree, great! if they care about the topic and we do not, well, too bad for me). I know it's awful for my parents too, and I hate that it hurts them and I hate that I've hurt them so much. I feel incredibly awful about all of this. I've made both my parents cry over me too many times. I love my parents and my boyfriend but I can't do anything that makes one happy without disappointing the other. Really, a lot of my interaction with both has been influenced by the other and how much one side can guilt-trip me - I know this isn't how healthy relationships are, but it's just how things have been. Again, this is probably another topic for another day. Back to my problem: my parents want me to go back for all of spring break, but my boyfriend wants me to spend all of spring break with him. I just want to do whatever causes the least conflict. I wasn't always so avoidant, but I've learned that talking things over does very little. To be honest, I would rather just not have to see my parents all together because I know it'll just be a repeat of the two previous breaks. But I'm afraid that if I don't go home, I'll give up any slim possibility that my parents and I can repair our relationship and that it'll be a declaration that I've chosen my boyfriend over them and that I don't love or care about them anymore. Sometimes I just wish that none of this happened, but you can't turn back time and this is reality for me now. Maybe it would be better for me to split my spring break between my parents and my boyfriend, but because his spring break happens during the later half of mine, I would have to go back home first and I'm afraid that my parents won't let me leave after I go back.

**Anyway, my question in short: Do I spend my time with my parents or my boyfriend or half-half? And whichever you think would be best, do you have any tips for talking about it with either of them?

(I forgot to mention this, in case anyone was wondering, that no, my boyfriend is not some awful druggie rapist. My parents do have legitimate concerns about us - they were particularly worried about how serious we got so quickly, which is mainly the influence of my boyfriend and not me - but my boyfriend is a good person. He has his flaws but he loves me a lot and I know that he cares about me more than anything else, probably to his own detriment.

Also, from experience, going back home for break and seeing my parents won't likely improve our relationship. It'll most likely simply be avoiding the elephant in the room and acting weirdly and bouts of fighting and nothing being resolved. So the choice here is really the choice between having a more lighthearted but worried and guilty break with my boyfriend or having a crappy and still worried but slightly less guilty break with my parents that I will then regret, especially because I know my boyfriend really needs me for reasons of his own.

Last note: because there is AT&T tracking on my phone, whichever I decide my parents will know about it one way or another. Even though how I spend spring break seems like a small thing, it's really a major battle - just like how everything is with my parents. Whichever choice I make, I have to disappoint one side badly.)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (50 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
1) Get rid of the phone. Gophones are cheap, as is airtime.
2) Do you have to go to one or the other? Could you just travel, or use the time to talk to your therapist, and get your emotional house in order?
3) It can take a while to settle in to a college. It took me a couple of semesters to find the people that I really liked when I started school. It seems to me that the combination of parents and relationship are preventing you from being really present at your dream school. Instead of planning to leave again, you should be looking for opportunities to really bond with your peers. You only have four years at this institution-- do your best to make the most of it.
posted by pickypicky at 7:19 PM on February 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

Who pays for school, cell-phone, etc.?
posted by Ideefixe at 7:20 PM on February 19, 2011 [4 favorites]

I think it would really truly help if you could ask one of the mods to post for you just WHAT your parents are objecting to. As it reads your parents are either really screwed up or you are not facing major red flags in your relationship. Normal parents don't lose their marbles quite this badly over a boyfriend they don't care for UNLESS there are real reasons for it.

You are still relatively young at 19 and they might have a real point. The very fact you are wavering in where to go for break tells me they are otherwise good parents.

(ps most parents need to realize that what the poster is describing is guaranteed NOT to break up a couple. What my mom did for me and what I did for one of my children is keep my mouth SHUT till I/my child after me realized what a turkey I/they were dating and broke up voluntarily. Just thought I'd throw that in for free.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:25 PM on February 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

(we go to school on opposite sides of the country and somehow manage to visit each other quite often, which you may or may not agree with, but is a topic for another day)

Um. There are a lot of things Mefites are likely to be all DTMFAish about. This is not one of them.

I've been there before, anon. I really have. Hell, I slip back into it every now and then, when my mother is feeling incredibly prickly and I let myself be vulnerable. But as someone whose been there--my mom had a temper tantrum about my now-husband that lasted about 3 years--I can tell you that it only improves when you stop caring about their approval. They are never going to be happy about your boyfriend. So you need to stop trying to appease them--or risk making yourself miserable. Further, this is going to be a LOT easier if you just stand up to them. The best way to begin to do this is to cut the ties that let them control you. It sounds like the best way to do this would be to buy your own phone (even if it has to be a cheap pay-as-you-go). And it will likely help if, every time the boyfriend comes up, you say something like, "I'm with Boyfriend because he makes me happy. I don't want to talk about it any more" and then remove yourself from the situation. Do this every single time. Refuse to even entertain their arguments.

I know it's awful for my parents too, and I hate that it hurts them and I hate that I've hurt them so much. I feel incredibly awful about all of this. I've made both my parents cry over me too many times.

Why do you feel awful? You have nothing to feel awful about. You know they're wrong. You know your boyfriend makes you happy. Your love life is your choice, and they are adults, and in control of their emotions. And so are you. Don't let yourself be bulldozed. Be strong.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:27 PM on February 19, 2011 [14 favorites]

Get your own phone, get your stuff from your parents' home, and tell them you'll be happy to visit when they treat you like the adult you are now prepared and old enough to be. Make sure they aren't authorized parties on your accounts, don't have authority to make changes at your school, etc.

Spend spring break doing whatever is healthiest for your heart, mind, body, and pocketbook.

Unless there's something you're leaving out here, anyway.
posted by SMPA at 7:27 PM on February 19, 2011 [14 favorites]

You are still relatively young at 19 and they might have a real point. The very fact you are wavering in where to go for break tells me they are otherwise good parents.

Respectfully, St. Alia, the relationship between OP and her parents sounds guilt-ridden and emotionally abusive, particularly in terms of the degree in which her privacy is being violated. As a child who has been in her position, the guilt often has nothing to do with whether the parents are right or good and everything to do with the sort of emotional manipulativeness that the parents lay on. Constantly.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:30 PM on February 19, 2011 [6 favorites]

Respectfully, St. Alia, the relationship between OP and her parents sounds guilt-ridden and emotionally abusive, particularly in terms of the degree in which her privacy is being violated.

Oh, absolutely. They are handling things in a terrible way. But that speaks more to their parenting skills or lack thereof than whether or not they have a point. Which is why I feel it would be very much helpful to have more details.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:33 PM on February 19, 2011

You're an adult, and spring break isn't a traditionally family-type holiday, so I think you should do spring break for yourself. Maybe split it between seeing your boyfriend and spending some time by yourself. Travel, explore the city your school is in, stay at home reading, whatever makes you happy.
posted by hattifattener at 7:33 PM on February 19, 2011

I think the health of your relationship with your parents is probably more important than your relationship with a college boyfriend, who may or may not be there for the long run. This is not to say you should break up with your boyfriend: quite the contrary. I think you need to make it clear to them that you love them, you will always love them, but that you are approaching adulthood and are a sovereign being. You choose to be with him or X,Y, and Z reasons, and that's that. In order to show this, I think you need to go home for at least part of your break--to just go stay with your boyfriend might do irreparable damage to an already tenuous relationship. Don't do that. In order for them to eventually accept your relationship with him, they need to understand that he is not going to take their place.

On another note re:

I find it hard to fit into the great school I go to. It is, in every way, a dream school. I should be head-over-heels in love with it, but instead I find myself being withdrawn and stressed and simply living from day-to-day just managing.

I've had a similar experience during my college career (I'm a bit older than you now at 24, and have a little more perspective). I think during childhood and high school, we are taught to expect that college will be some magical, liberating experience where we all blossom into beautiful, unique flowers. I know very few people for whom this has been the case... it certainly hasn't been for me. College is hard, growing up is hard, cutting the parental umbilical cord can be especially painful (as it sounds you know). Even going to your "dream school" (as I also thought I was) can't ease this transition. I suggest you allow yourself to "just manage." Aim for ok (just for now!). Let yourself struggle, flounder, be sad, be apathetic, be happy, be hopeful (always hopeful, underneath it all!). Expecting everything to be perfect is an unrealistic expectation to set for the world and especially for yourself. Eventually you'll come out on the other side of all this a wiser, more complex, and more empathetic person. And I'm confident that life will be rosier, post quarter-life crisis.

Be patient both with yourself and with your parents! Good luck!
posted by faeuboulanger at 7:34 PM on February 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

(I am personally wondering why, if these parents are so controlling, with the cell phone and such, that they aren't threatening her with for example, not helping pay for school. Something just doesn't quite make sense here, to me.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:35 PM on February 19, 2011 [5 favorites]

Dear Anon,

I've been in a similar place. Parents who are used to controlling things, even if they have the best intentions, can freak out when you are less under their control. Being at college is one big scary thing for them.

My advice is to be kind to them, but be kind to yourself first. If you had a friend whose parents were monitoring their phone calls, you'd probably tell them to get their own phone. Do the same for yourself - take care of yourself.

Take control over things like your phone and email and finances, as much as you can. Even if seems unnecessarily hard, if you can afford it, the tradeoff is almost certainly worth it - you'll have more sanity and peace, even as you have to pay for more things.

Good luck!
posted by zippy at 7:37 PM on February 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Either stay put or visit your boyfriend. Visiting your parents seems like it'll only make things worse.
posted by luckynerd at 7:39 PM on February 19, 2011

Looks like you're missing one big option--you ask about balancing your family and your boyfriend. What about your self? Your family doesn't own you, your boyfriend doesn't own you--you own you. It looks like you're needing some distance, breathing space and balance. Would it be possible for you to have a short visit with your family, a short visit with your boyfriend, and some time on your own?
posted by Corvid at 7:40 PM on February 19, 2011 [9 favorites]

Do you have to go home? I am guessing you live in the dorm. I don't know how it is there, but I was able to pay a little extra to stay in my dorm over breaks, which I chose to do once or twice in order to avoid my parents/preserve my sanity. My parents weren't nearly as bad as yours, but they did still try to control me from afar by making me rely on them financially. I wanted to break free of their control, so I got a part-time job. From then on, when they threatened to cut me off, I called their bluff and told them to go ahead because I had a job and could get more loans if I had to. Luckily, they really were just bluffing, so they didn't cut me off and they backed off a lot and our relationship improved. But the point is you need to challenge their attempts to control you and basically find ways to not allow them to do it. A good example of this is what pickypicky said- if you get and pay for your own phone, that's one way they can't control you anymore. If you don't go home for spring break, that will show them that you don't need them for a place to crash, and you make your own choices regarding stuff like that now that you're an adult. For what its worth, I went through this with my parents WITHOUT having a boyfriend they didn't like on top of it. Having a power struggle with your parents during college seems to be pretty common. It seems like the boyfriend is just a complicating factor. I'd just refuse to engage in conversation with them about it. (This is another tactic I used with my mom, when we were talking and she would start telling me what to do, what I was doing wrong, etc. I would just tell her "I'm not having this conversation with you, I'll talk to you later." And ended it. And it worked.) If I were in your shoes I'd probably just refuse to have any conversation about the boyfriend whatsoever.

I also don't understand how they can track your email, don't you have a password? Can't you make a new email address they don't know about? Are you using their computer when you go home? Seriously, you can get a netbook for a few hundred bucks and lock it with a password. If you want your parents to back off, you need to restrict their access to your personal life. Getting a part-time job will help you with this, as you'll be able to do things like pay for your own phone/ laptop/ whatever. As far as spring break goes, I probably would not go home, in an effort to avoid them and also to send a message to them about my independence.

It's unfortunate, really- the way you describe your boyfriend, it actually sounds like it isn't going to work. But I bet even if you did reach a point where you wanted to break up, you probably wouldn't want to give your parents the satisfaction of knowing they had won. That's why it would be good for you to simply stop telling them what's going on with him. Ideally, they wouldn't know whether you guys were even together or not. That way if you did break up with him they couldn't rub it in your face.
posted by GastrocNemesis at 7:43 PM on February 19, 2011 [4 favorites]

I'm of two minds here.

Firstly, you are too old for your parents to have that much control over who you have contact with. Stuff like monitoring your chat transcripts and having access to who your phone can receive calls from - that's the way you parent a ten year old, not a college student.

You are an adult. Who you talk to is your own business. Who you date is your own business. Your conduct at school is your own business to the extent that you're not flunking out and your parents aren't throwing good money after bad keeping you there. How you spend your school vacations is also your own choice. As long as you're footing the bill for travel, where you go is your decision. If you don't want to spend spring break with your parents, that's up to you.

All of that said. When I was your age, I had a boyfriend my family didn't approve of. I went against their wishes and moved in with him. Long story short, they were right, he turned out to be a huge asshole, and had I taken their advice I could have avoided a lot of heartache. Now I give a lot more credence to what my family and friends think of the people I date.

The flip side of that, though, is that I'm a grownup. I have respect for what the people who care for me think of my relationships, but they don't get to make decisions about who can call me on my cell phone or who I can chat with online. I listen to their input, but they're not in control. If your parents won't treat you like the adult that you are, they're not up to the job of weighing in on who you should be with.

But ultimately, my answer about Spring Break is just do what you want. If you love your boyfriend and want to see him, and you can pay for the trip yourself*, fuck your parents and go visit your guy.

*All of the above assumes you're not being entirely supported by your parents. If your parents are funding your break, you have little choice but to do what they're willing to pay for. This is probably a great reason for you to start working toward self sufficiency, at least in terms of spending money or the ability to save up for stuff like this.
posted by Sara C. at 7:53 PM on February 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

I can't really figure out from your post whether your parents have legitimate concerns about the boyfriend (is he controlling also?) or are just being overbearing in general. Have you ever really gotten to the bottom of what they don't like or are freaked out about with your relationship? If not, try to do that (I'd suggest over the phone, so there's slightly less guilt tripping possible). If you know what bugs them and have tried to assuage them, then skip this step.

I know this isn't quite the same situation, but my family and I are extremely different politically and when I went off to college and came home from breaks, they would make remarks that were pretty hurtful about political positions they knew I held, or occasionally try to draw me into some political discussion. I think the first time it happened I simply said "I'm not going to talk about that", and I have stayed silent ever since. It is hard and sometimes makes me feel like I'm getting an ulcer, but it's also satisfying to just refuse to play the game when I know they want to cut me down. They don't do it nearly as often now. In a weird way, I think my absolute silence makes them more aware and somewhat ashamed that they're trying to bait me.

It may not be a great long-term solution, but they may need a dose of simply staunch refusal to talk about it before they get that this is not a family decision. Come up with a particular line - "I already know your feelings about my romantic life and I'm not open to discussing it further". Repeat if they start in. Attempt to change the subject. Leave the room or the house for awhile if they persist. Even better, tell them this upfront before you make any plans to visit home, so they know that you're not willing to do what happened the last two breaks again. Good luck.
posted by nakedmolerats at 7:57 PM on February 19, 2011

Grow up, cut the cord. You're wasting college by devoting all your emotional and mental energy on your parents and your boyfriend. Figure out what YOU want and think is right, and do it. Nobody can tell you what to do - and certainly nobody has the right to demand your presence anywhere - much less to spy on you via cell phone!

Reading between the lines, I think your parents are tremendously controlling, and you've picked a boyfriend who is too.
posted by yarly at 8:08 PM on February 19, 2011 [33 favorites]

You need to make time for therapy if you need it. You are the most important person in your own life and always should be. Make time for yourself. You deserve it.

Next, you do whatever you want to do with regards to staying with your boyfriend. For the gap week, go couch surfing, stay in a motel. Do whatever you need to do in order to get out from under your parents whose controlling behavior is just unacceptable.

Look, I understand that it can be tough for parents to let go, but it's not right to eavesdrop and spy on you. You really need to take proactive steps to get a separate email account and phone. If they're paying for college, be prepared to deal with them no longer doing so, if you decide to defy them, however. But if you want the right to be your own person, you have to fight for those rights...and there may be consequences. You just have to decide what you can live with,
posted by inturnaround at 8:26 PM on February 19, 2011

As a couple others have mentioned, I honestly can't tell from your post whether you have crazy parents and are attempting to be a good and dutiful daughter despite that, or whether you are making incredibly poor life choices and they are trying desperately to protect you.

I'd come down on the side of "crazy parents" just based on the tracking, except that a few things you say about your boyfriend -- he guilt trips you, he pushed you to get serious fast, he wants the whole two-week spring break -- raise some tentative flags for me.

"Really, a lot of my interaction with both has been influenced by the other and how much one side can guilt-trip me - I know this isn't how healthy relationships are, but it's just how things have been."

While you may be stuck with your parents, if you see the relationship with the boyfriend as unhealthy, WHY are you in it and putting yourself through this pain? Like, why are you replicating the drama with your parents by seeking those qualities in a boyfriend?

The only thing I can get from this at all is that you NEED to make time for therapy -- you have a LOT going on here -- the parents, the boyfriend, the long-distance, the school-hating, the depression-recovery ... GAAAAH. I feel overwhelmed on your behalf. If it were me I think I'd see NOBODY for spring break and spend some time with myself.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:35 PM on February 19, 2011 [14 favorites]

Your question is so wracked with pain it makes me sad. When I was first on my own, there were a few issues that brought out this domineering impulse with my parent, and the only thing I found that worked to set boundaries while maintaining a relationship was firm but kind honesty. Basically: "I know you have strong feelings about Topic X, but so do I, and as an adult it is my responsibility to make my own decisions about it. It's extremely painful to me that you value controlling my choices over respecting my independence -- so much so that if you want me to spend time with you, I insist we avoid Topic X altogether." Then, I backed this up by ending communication the moment my boundary wasn't respected -- hanging up the phone, physically leaving, whatever. I allowed for some silence and periods of no contact. Our relationship now is far warmer and loving than it ever was in those days.

To do this successfully, you must first believe wholeheartedly that you do have your right to privacy and boundaries, that loving family relationships don't include manipulation, and that whatever pain you and your parents feel as a result of you standing up for yourself is better than the pain you're all suffering now. You have to be brave and strong and it's scary as hell, but it gets easier. (It helped that I was financially independent. To afford school and avoid massive debt I had to take several years off to work full-time, attend a community college, and finish at a State U. Even during a better economic era, it was hard and unpleasant enough that I honestly can't say that I would have refused money to maintain independence. There just wasn't any money to refuse. I truly hope this doesn't have to be part of the consideration for you.)

I'm assuming that your boyfriend has normal human flaws and hasn't been abusive or controlling of you himself. If he is abusive, your parents' over-the-top control would still be inappropriate but would be a lot more understandable. If he's hurting, manipulating, or controlling you too than you've got to get away from him -- not necessarily to your parents, but somewhere you are safe.

If your boyfriend's a good guy there's no reason you shouldn't spend your break with him. If he's not, strike out on your own. Either way, gather the courage to talk honestly with your parents about your expectations. Low-cost counselling through your university could help a lot here. It can get better. Take care of yourself. Good wishes from strangers don't count for much, but you've got mine.
posted by melissa may at 8:41 PM on February 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Well, at 19 when I was faced with choosing between guilt-trippy parents and a 'he loves me, really!' boyfriend the choice I wish I had made was option #3--myself. I regret dating that mediocre guy my parents loathed, and I also regret going home like a good girl every break. I wish I had gone with a bunch of girlfriends to the beach and drank too much and gotten a sunburn --except I didn't have a bunch of girlfriends because I was too busy trying to work things out with mediocre boyfriend or guilt-trippy parents. But then I'm not you.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 9:15 PM on February 19, 2011 [38 favorites]

"my boyfriend really needs me for reasons of his own"

Red flag for me. No adult man "needs" someone.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:25 PM on February 19, 2011 [18 favorites]

Thinking of this as Parents vs. Boyfriend is setting up a false dichotomy.

In this black vs. white dilemma you will always lose. In fact, YOU are the one doing all of this to yourself. (I know you don't agree yet, but stay with me until the end - ok?)

My feeling is neither of these parties (parents or boyfriend) have your best interests at heart. It's too much. Stop ruining your emotional well-being and college experience for this bullshit.

- You are 19 years old. WHY ARE YOU ALLOWING YOUR PARENTS TO TRACK YOUR PHONE? Get your own phone.

- I also want you to let the mods know (a) what the objection to BF is, and (b) if your parents pay for college or living expenses. Thanks.

In short, your relationship with your parents will be almost non-existent within about 10 years based on how they've bullied you thus far. You won't cave in to their emotional and/or financial blackmail forever... so why not grieve the relationship now and move on from them? At least in your heart, accept that they are behaving in ways that are incompatible with your well-being. After the bf, they will likely object to your choice of major, roommates, your choice to work or go to school abroad, your choice of husband, where you buy your first home, how you raise your children ..etc...etc...etc.

I'm not sure what to do about the boyfriend. He doesn't sound like a keeper in the long-term because there is a selfishness on his part buried in how effed up and out of control this whole thing has gotten.

Make alternative plans that don't include the boyfriend or the parents for spring break. Get your head together and re-focus on college!

Sorry for the tough talk. You're obviously very bright. Please step outside of this situation and see if you don't agree with at least a majority of what I say. Viewed from the outside, I hope you can agree you are participating in a dynamic that always makes you the loser. You can stop playing this game. Anyone who truly loves you wouldn't put you in this position in the first place. Best of luck as you move forward into a happier Life.)
posted by jbenben at 9:31 PM on February 19, 2011 [4 favorites]

I'm afraid that my parents won't let me leave after I go back.

You're 19. How would your parents prevent you from leaving? By cutting off funding or something like that?

You are way too dependent on the parents (and boyfriend) for a person your age.

If you cannot tell your folks that you're getting your own phone and setting up independent internet access (whether that means getting your own laptop or netbook or whatever), then whether or not you should visit them over spring break is the least of your worries. YOU ARE A LEGAL ADULT! Start acting like one.

I'm not saying you should purposefully alienate your parents, but you do need to set some boundaries. If they are really controlling, this could involve your enrolling at a different school where you can be self-sufficient. It almost definitely involves taking a part-time job, but at 19, you should be doing that anyway.

To me (and apparently to several others who posted above), your boyfriend doesn't exactly sound like a prize. You need to set some boundaries there too. Tell him you want to spend some time with your parents to mend fences (or build them, more like), and then do it. This may not be fun, or how you'd like to spend the ideal vacation, but it really has to be done.

To answer your specific question: I'd split the vacation, and spend the time with both parties explaining, with love and respect, your intentions and plans. None of them can control you; only you can do that. If money is the issue, you have to figure out a way to resolve that and separate that concern from the ridiculous level of manipulation and control your parents and boyfriend are exerting.

And seriously, college should be fun. These should be some of the funnest years of your life! Please get to the bottom of why this isn't happening for you, and don't be afraid to make some changes!
posted by torticat at 10:02 PM on February 19, 2011

I could have written this post back in college myself. Except my boyfriend got fed up with me and dumped me and well... the relationship with the parents improved a lot. But then again, mine are guaranteed not to like anybody I date, ever, because they are Taking Away My Baby, so... yeah. Everyone reading this who comes from a saner family will probably tell you to tell your parents to fuck off, but it's not that easy.

I suspect that her parents are paying for everything because there's no way people like that aren't paying for everything. Which is going to influence my answer, speaking as someone who has been in this crazy. Unless you can somehow 100% financially support yourself without their help (and as I recall, given FAFSAs and the like, you may have serious trouble paying for tuition if they refuse to contribute now, and getting emancipated from that was fairly difficult unless you get married to your boyfriend), I would not piss off the crazy. It's not worth it to do it NOW while you still need them to at least get through college. I would go home and suck it up and be miserable for 2 weeks, because you won't hear the end of it if you pick your boyfriend over them. Realistically, your parents will be around for life. Your boyfriend... is less likely to be.

(Whatever their reasons are, I suspect these people wouldn't like him no matter what. And it is difficult for a guy who is dating a girl like this, because he is probably thinking, "She's over 18, tell them to suck it, and pick ME.")

Thing is, she can't really tell them to suck it and ditch them as parents until she can financially support herself. Crazy people will do anything to keep you with them, and right now they've got the purse strings for 3 more years and can really screw her financially if she's not on their "good" side. If I were the poster, I'd look into getting a job (though good luck with that) just in case, at the very least, and try to wean off of their support as much as you can. But... you can't really go independent until YOU are independent from them and don't depend on them for anything.

When it comes to having to pick... honestly, you are screwed. All you will do is make both sides miserable because you can't 100% pick one or the other. Eventually if you get out of college and are financially independent and can have the option not to choose your parents... well, you probably should. But hell, I still haven't managed it yet, so what do I know. I have even worse extenuating circumstances of death and guilt though, so don't go by me.

Right now, my advice would be:
(a) Kiss your parents' asses as much as you have to, such as spring break weekends. Try to keep things from getting worse, basically. I can tell you from experience that it will never get better as long as you are dating, so you're just going to have to suck that particular pain up there.
(b) On your own, start job hunting and internshipping and building up work experience so that you can get financially independent as soon as you can manage it.
(c) Once you can be independent... then you can pick whatever side you want. But yeah, you'll have to pay a price of possibly losing your parents in order to have a boyfriend. Them's the breaks when you are born to crazy.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:03 PM on February 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm sorry you are going through a tough time. Like others have said, since you haven't specified what your parents objections are, it's not easy to figure out if your parents have a legitimate point or not. Regardless, their methods (email forwarding? phone tracking?) seem to be a huge overreach to have over a 19 year old (or 18 or 17).

Still, I can't help but read this through my own filter. My sister could have written this at two separate points in her college career. First she headed to college with a boyfriend, and then spent her first year on the phone with hm rather than making friends or attempting to discover college life. After that, she seemed to have a good couple of years, then started dating a registered sex offender (and yes, sometimes the list is overzealous but in this case he had done something quite awful). And we begged her to ditch him, and she felt torn between us and him. And throughout it all, I wished she had come out on the side of herself, and decided she wasn't going to live for him or us but rather go on her own and find friends, interests, passions, a career path. Invested in personal growth rather than try to make him or us happy.

In essence, I think the comments suggesting you have controlling parents and a controlling boyfriend are ringing the most true, for me. You should be spending spring break with your friends on some crazy adventure, not crying at home or nurturing some needy guy.
posted by JenMarie at 10:31 PM on February 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I suggest you find a way to spend spring break doing something worthwhile. There are many 'service spring break' programs out there - your school may even sponsor a trip you can sign up for. If you can spend two weeks making new friends, working hard, and helping people, you may find some clarity about all if these relationships.
posted by bq at 11:16 PM on February 19, 2011 [7 favorites]

If you're spending that much energy on maintaining/defending a relationship instead of investing yourself in the amazing opportunity of a superlative education at a well-regarded school, I think you should spend Spring Break where you can get your head together without input from either set of distractions.

That way, you can return to school fired-up, acting in your own best interest, and not recovering from emotional and mental strain.

You probably won't do it, but it'd make a lot of sense (and give your future self a huge sigh of relief) if you put the relationship on pause and just concentrated on school for the remainder, all up. If it's real, it'll still be there and you'll have completed something huge for yourself that will last far beyond any relationship (even the one with your parents).
posted by batmonkey at 11:52 PM on February 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

From the OP:
Thank you so so much for all your advice and well wishes. It means a lot to me that everyone has responded and that you've all offered your advice and guidance. Hug. Your posts had tough comments and comforting ones too that I really needed to hear.

I think I have to answer some questions:

As to why my parents are so upset about my boyfriend, after a while, I just stopped listening to what my parents had to say. I probably stopped about a year ago. My parents' initial reasons were that we talked to much on the phone (until very late at night the first summer we started dating, before my parents blocked his number from my cell phone and forbid me from calling him) and texted too often. My dad thought he was good-for-nothing because of his grades (3.6+ in high school - this seemed nonsensical to me). Then I think it was how serious the relationship seemed. After that it was the physical aspects of what my boyfriend and I did together.

I don't even know if they were really telling me the truth when we fought because they believe that they have to protect me by lying to me. They've been trying to be more honest and straightforward since I've come to college. They're trying, really. I'm just no longer sure they can change how they feel about him.

I don't know what their objections are now. I think one of my mom's objections (still) is a physical trait of his, one that at best has nothing to justify it other than preference. I don't understand. Maybe they're just using these superficial stupid reasons to cover up their real objections.

I know that there were problems in my relationship with my boyfriend. A year ago, I was barely keeping my life together. Everything deteriorated to the point where I was just trying to avoid any pain or change I could, and this prevented me from evaluating our relationship. If he were still the same person he was a year ago, I would break up with him. But he isn't the same person he was a year ago. He is a lot happier, a lot stronger, and a lot more secure. Our relationship has probably helped him as much as it has damaged me. I'm not giving up the person my boyfriend is now because I'm honestly really proud of him. He had a lot of problems of his own even before I entered his life, but he is so much healthier now, mentally and physically.

My parents pay for my education and my cell phone. They've stressed that no matter what I choose, they will pay for my education because I am still their daughter. But in their eyes, that doesn't mean they have to accept my decisions. (My dad has said before that if I don't do whatever they want me to do, then it is my fault that he doesn't talk to me.) I do have a job now, so my visits to my boyfriend will be on my own earnings from now on. I've kept my phone mainly because my parents have objected so much to my getting my own and because they've promised to be better. I'll definitely get a new phone now though, even though I might not be able to get one before spring break.

I have removed myself from situations and have refused to talk before. The problem is that even if I avoid our fights, my parents still feel the same way and they eventually emotionally explode. Talking about it doesn't do very much either - my parents can't compromise. Every conversation ends in their insisting that I acquiesce to an agreement and even if I refuse, there's a new one. And regardless, I think unless I break up with him they'll be unhappy. They can't accept that my disagreement actually has meaning and that I might be right or that there might not be such a clear-cut distinction between right and wrong here.

My parents have been extremely good to me. Even though they're flattering themselves that our relationship would be perfect if not for my boyfriend, I think they wouldn't be as manipulative. Or maybe I'm being too hopeful. Our other major conflict had been about colleges, which never resolved itself either because they heartily approved of the school I picked in the end. I think both of them are just desperately afraid of my disagreeing with their opinions, precisely because they believe they're so right about important issues.

I'm afraid that it's true that my relationship with my parents will never improve. I'm just lost as to what else I can try without caving into what they want.

jenfullmoon - It's uncanny how you predicted what I would say in this response. It sounds like our parents are extremely alike.

P.S. Thanks to everyone for telling me to think more about myself. I'm the one person I've been neglecting the most and I needed to be told that I have to care about me, too.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:57 PM on February 19, 2011

Dude, you're nineteen fucking years old. Who cares if your parents "object" to you having your own phone? Who cares if your dad doesn't want to talk to you for a little while? Who cares if your parents "emotionally explode" because they aren't happy with your choices?

You need to rebel. And not in the sense of dating someone your parents don't like. You need to stop letting them get to you.

You are an adult. At this point, it's nice that your parents are still around to help you out, but all in all you can survive without them. Cut the cord. If they're not even threatening to cut off funding for school yet, let 'em dangle a while.
posted by Sara C. at 12:32 AM on February 20, 2011 [10 favorites]

Everything deteriorated to the point where I was just trying to avoid any pain or change I could, and this prevented me from evaluating our relationship. If he were still the same person he was a year ago, I would break up with him. But he isn't the same person he was a year ago.

Uh, yeah, he is. His circumstances may have changed, but if he was treating you badly a year ago, he's capable of doing it again. Do you recognise your boyfriend in any of the stories in this thread?

He is a lot happier, a lot stronger, and a lot more secure. Our relationship has probably helped him as much as it has damaged me.

Wow, that is really not how healthy relationships work. You need to consider the possibility that your parents are crazy and manipulative and absolutely right about your boyfriend. In fact, your parent's controlling behaviour has probably made you more vulnerable to accepting the same sort of crap in your romantic relationships. You don't have to tolerate it, from your parents or from your boyfriend.

Please, spend your spring break alone or with platonic friends, and figure out what would actually make you happy. It doesn't sound like any of these people have your best interests at heart.
posted by embrangled at 12:46 AM on February 20, 2011 [14 favorites]

Maybe I'm reading too deeply here, but your written English has some unusual grammatical formalisms and vocabulary choices. For example, "Every conversation ends in their insisting that I acquiesce to an agreement": not many natives obey the "genitives before gerunds" rule, and there's something just stilted about "acquiesce to an agreement". I mention these peculiarities because they're typical of English produced first- or second-generation speakers, and your father's determination to provide for your education even when you are effectively estranged from him is a very Chinese attitude.

So, are there are cultural factors you haven't mentioned yet?
posted by d. z. wang at 1:25 AM on February 20, 2011 [9 favorites]

Setting aside for the moment the issue of their disproval of your boyfriend:

It's perfectly reasonable for a college student to not make it home during every break from school. Obviously, you should be sensitive to the fact that your parents love you and miss you when you're away and look forward to every chance they get to see you, but that said, you don't have to feel guilty for wanting to make other plans for the occasional school holiday. If you've spent a decent amount of time with them in breaks prior, you should be abe to go where you want to for spring break with a clear conscience. They'll be disappointed, but they'll deal.

Clearly, though, the boyfriend problem is complicating things. The question is why, but unfortunately, you've not given us enough information to be able to advise you on this issue. The lengths to which your parents have gone in invading your privacy suggest that there problem goes well beyond just not liking the guy or thinking he's not good enough for you. And the pains you took to skirt around the question of what their problem with him is raises serious red flags in my mind.

It really sounds to me like part of you knows but doesn't want to admit that they're right to not want you to see him. If that weren't the case, I wonder if you'd even be conflicted enough to have to post this question in the first place. So while, at 19, you are legally and adult, and your parents advantage in terms of life experience doesn't necessarily make them right and you wrong, you're still young enough that you should give their feelings their due, and make an honest reassessment where it comes to your priorities.

If your relationship is getting in the way of your college experience, you should have as much of a problem with that as your parents do. College is about more than getting good grades, it's about taking control of your own education, about finding what you're truly interested in, what you believe in, and what you're passionate about. It's where you can first start to get an idea of the kind of person you might want to be. It's not about preparing for a "successful" future, so much as a "satisfying" one. If your relationship is keeping you from really engaging in this, you need to address it sooner rather than later.
posted by patnasty at 1:32 AM on February 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

The advice I would give any 19 year old girl in college:
Be selfishly aggressive about taking full advantage of university opportunities--educational and otherwise. Over boys. Over family dramas.

University is such a unique place to be. You don't want to be 40 years old and regret the opportunities you didn't explore, the paths you didn't take, that project you didn't slay so mercilessly it set you on a mind-blowing life path you never dreamed.
posted by Kronur at 5:00 AM on February 20, 2011 [14 favorites]

I'm going to throw out another possibility for dealing.

Your parents are 1. paying for university no matter what your choices, 2. emotionally blackmailing you through that (a sort of "unconditional love that forces conditions" isn't it), and 3. using a fully-paid mobile phone to enforce their unconditionally conditional love.

University is important, so is independence; I too think you should gradually work to weaning yourself from them, but I also know that university is a lot more expensive than it was even when I attended 15 years ago, and there's the whole dependent/non-dependent/their income figures into your financial aid etc. to take into account as well.

So. How's this: gradually stop talking to your parents about your relationship. Let them draw whatever conclusions they want; throw up a passive-aggressive wall of silence and trailing sentences that lead to incertitudes they can interpret any which way they want. Looks like that's what they're doing anyway; they're not giving you any support, quite the opposite. Get a cheap phone that you use to call your friends, boyfriend and so forth. Use the parent-monitored phone for parentally-approved things only. Do not tell them about the second phone.

Stressful? Yeah. But also another way of cutting the cord and living your life on your terms. So long as they're unwilling to treat you as an adult, by listening to you and considering your viewpoints as an adult (that means no yelling, screaming, manipulating, phone tracking, and so forth), you go and be an adult without their input.

I realize there are ways this could backfire, but I'm having a hard time seeing how they'd be any worse than what's going on currently...

In any case, get thee to therapy, yes. I think a therapist could help you tease out all the different things going on re: family dynamics, intimate relationship dynamics, school and whatever else comes up. I know it's helped me immensely (I come from a different sort of crazy, but my parents used a few similar emotional manipulation/bombast tactics).
posted by fraula at 5:19 AM on February 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

I think you shouldn't spend spring break with either of them. You describe your own relationship as having damaged you and are being really cagey about him. There's something wrong there and you know it. I'm not saying you should break up with him, but you should work on developing a life apart from him. Join some school groups, study groups, whatever. Get engaged in college. Don't let it pass you by because you're focused on a guy across the country who's "damaged" you. You're 19. Be a little selfish.
posted by Mavri at 5:32 AM on February 20, 2011 [9 favorites]

Spend a week hanging out with your girlfriends or even just by yourself. The world is a big place, spend a week exploring it. Then drop by the 'rents for a day or two, then the remaining days with the boyfriend. If they have issues with that, remember it's just that their issues. You can't please everyone and shouldn't be trying to do so. Be happy with yourself and your decisions and doing things that are right for you.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:41 AM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Get your own cell phone. Now.

Stop making college about the tension between your relationships between your parents and your boyfriend. You don't want to wake up in 2 years realizing that college is almost over and you've spent the time trying to manage these relationships rather than making good friends and having worthwhile academic/intellectual experiences-- which your parents aren't going to object to while also giving yourself more independence.

This means cutting the cord in a lot of ways, not just with your parents but with your boyfriend-- neither of them depend on you, and neither of them should-- that's not a 19-year-old's job. It means only going home for major holidays, spending the summer doing some kind of professional development/internship at your university or in another state (rather than living at home), and being responsible for your own computer/internet/cell phone needs.

Also, dating people who go to your own college or nearby is going to help a lot. You will still be able to have independent relationships, but the logistics will be easier and won't be in direct competition with your parents.
posted by deanc at 7:01 AM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Continuing to date someone because you're really proud of how far they've come isn't dating a 'person.' That's 'rescuing a pet.'

An adult with strength and resilience can handle a break-up. I'm not saying you should leave him, but you're describing him and your relationship's evolution in terms I reserve for the challenges of taking on a very deprived companion animal.

posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 7:51 AM on February 20, 2011 [13 favorites]

Are you sure you really want to be in this relationship? Because you seem kind of miserable, or least experiencing a significant amount of angst.

>Our relationship has probably helped him as much as it has damaged me.
Whoa, this is a huge red flag! Why has it damaged you and why are you still in it? I know you care for his well-being, but it's NOT more important than yours.

>I'm not giving up the person my boyfriend is now because I'm honestly really proud of him.

No offense, but that's a horrible reason to stay in a relationship.

If your parents did not object to your relationship, would you still really want to stay? (remember, they'll probably object to you being physical with anyone) Or have you had to go through so much in order to be in this relationship that you've rationalized it and justified it to yourself?

When I was 19, I put someone else's well-being before my own. Instead of dealing with my social and mental health needs, I did everything I could to make that person happy. it nearly killed me. I was so miserable. What was supposed to be a fun time in my life turned into my darkest moment. Don't make that mistake.
College is supposed to be about YOU. Don't sacrifice that. And don't sacrifice yourself for someone else either. No one will ever care for you more than you care for yourself!
posted by Neekee at 8:19 AM on February 20, 2011 [17 favorites]

As the parent of a 19 year old college student (and I pay the tuition), I'm really confused by this post. Just because your parents pay for school and other things doesn't give them the right to treat you like a 7 year old. Your obligation is to the get the best grades possible, because your parents deserve a good return on their money. You should also be civil to them, but by this point you relationship should be shifting away from parent-child to adult to adult. You shouldn't be there yet, but it should be close.

Your post also hinted that either your, your boyfriend, or both are overly needy. Flying cross country regularly? Constant phone calls? My assumption is that you went right from a controlling household to a controlling boyfriend, and you don't even realize this dynamic exists. You're in college, not high school, start acting like it.

I think your parents are control freaks and need to let you grow up. But I also think they are right about your boyfriend. Not that he's a loser, but that you spend way too much time focusing on him. You need to spend a period of time living for yourself, not for your parents, not for your boyfriend.

You talked about the incredible school you go to, but you also talk about how you don't "fit in". Did you ever think that you don't "fit in", because you spend too much time with your boyfriend? Maybe becoming independent for the first time in your life will you allow you to explore some of the amazing opportunities the school offers. How many visiting lectureres did you miss because you were flying out to see your boyfriend? How many clubs did you not join because you were too busy chatting with him?

You have been given a golden opportunity to excel at a school that can literally change your life. Stop focusing on Mom and Dad, stop focusing on your boyfriend and focus on growing up.

So to answer your question- Spend Spring Break where ever the Hell you want. But make the decision to please you, not anyone else.
posted by JohntheContrarian at 9:21 AM on February 20, 2011 [8 favorites]

A little suggestion as to the cell phone situation. Get your own, pre-pay or whatever, but keep the one your parents provide for you. Don't tell them about it. I am not someone who normally advocates deception, but you need to maintain some independence, and your parents overly-controlling behavior seems to call for it. Sometimes that's the only way to deal with such a fraught situation.

Here is a test for you: Contemplate how you feel about making different decisions in regards to your Spring Break. Don't think about logistics, just how you feel. That might help you clarify.
posted by annsunny at 11:00 AM on February 20, 2011

Please please please read this.

I don't agree with those telling you to rebel and go with the boy. I don't think they are carefully reading your posts, but rather reacting to your parents' overreaction. Yes, your parents are not treating you with respect. This seems obvious, but can we put it aside for a moment?

I see a lot of warning signs when you talk about your boyfriend.
Our relationship has probably helped him as much as it has damaged me.

they were particularly worried about how serious we got so quickly, which is mainly the influence of my boyfriend and not me [...] I know that he cares about me more than anything else, probably to his own detriment.

I love my parents and my boyfriend but I can't do anything that makes one happy without disappointing the other. Really, a lot of my interaction with both has been influenced by the other and how much one side can guilt-trip me
First, it is not a competition between your parents and your boyfriend. It sounds like they are all trying to MAKE it a competition; trying to hoard your love all for themselves. If you parents are guilty of chasing you away, your boyfriend is guilty of claiming all of you for himself. He should be encouraging you to work out your relationships. He should be meeting your parents and getting them to like him. He should want you to have a healthy, happy relationship with your family.

He should not pressure or guilt you into situations that make you write long, unhappy posts on the internet asking for the advice of strangers. He should be that person you can ask for advice, because he wants what's best for you and what will make you happy.

If you get married, will it always be them-versus-him? How can that possibly work, long term? It sounds like a recipe for misery.

Do not run into his arms because your parents are treating you unfairly. You need to objectively ask yourself: is your relationship making YOU happy? Are YOU becoming a better or worse person because of it? Throughout your post you use language that suggests you are giving more than you are receiving.

In my experience, someone "needing" you is always a bad sign. I'm a 22-year-old college student. I was in your shoes, once. I dated a guy who "needed" me. And you know what? It was exhausting. It is exhausting and unfair to not be able to figure yourself out and be happy because this other people's self-esteem rides on you. A relationship should make you a better, happier person. You do not exist as a means to an end for someone else.

OP, college is a time for YOU to grow. It is a short time when you can meet the best friends of your life, if you allow yourself. Ask yourself: what are you getting out of this relationship? Not "what is your boyfriend getting", or "what are you giving", but how has your relationship made you a happier person?

It sounds like it is draining you and stressing you out. Your boyfriend will survive if you guys take a break. If he really loves you, he will understand this. It doesn't mean you're admitting your parents are right - you can take a break from them, too.

For a while, why don't you take a break from your parents & your boyfriend? Make some girl friends. Go on a road trip. Flirt with other boys. Love your awesome college. Life is too short to be miserable at 19.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:15 AM on February 20, 2011 [13 favorites]

You've already gotten great advice up thread about good ways to establish boundaries with your parents, a go phone is a good idea, even if its only for calling your boyfriend and you don't tell them about it.

I was once in a terrible long term, similarly long distance, relationship that I was unable to see as such. There are a lot of red flags in even the framing of your question. Who needs you more, not which scenario do you want more? You don't sound like you are, or even were, actually that in to him and he has been able to use your lack of awareness of healthy boundaries to what he believes is his advantage.

Please listen to Solon and Thanks, a lot of us have been there before and the world does not end when your first relationship does.
posted by Blasdelb at 12:38 PM on February 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

To answer your specific question: I'd split the break 50/50. Inform each party you will be spending a week with them. This should be you telling them -- it's not up for debate and you don't want to hear them telling you why the second week should also be with them rather than the bad parents or bad boyfriend.

That said, I think some of the above outside-the-box answers might be better... worry about yourself, get a better boyfriend, get your own cell phone, etc.
posted by J. Wilson at 12:57 PM on February 20, 2011

If this wasn't about your boyfriend, I would be absolutely sure my younger brother wrote this. Long story short: same basic story, it took him until he was 20 to realize that the girl was dragging him down and ruining college for him. He ditched her. My parents never played the "I told you so" card, and their relationship is as stable as any 21 year old boys relationship with his parent is.

Your parent's likely are controlling, but your boyfriend sounds like a drag. Why would you want to date someone who has made your life worse; complicates your relationship with your parents who, despite their flaws, seem like they care about you deeply; is ruining your experience at what you admit is your 'ideal' college; and just generally seems almost as controlling as your parents?

Ditch the guy, repair the relationship with your parents. This relationship will probably crumble on it's own (or drag out for years, ruining your early 20s) but your parent's are probably going to be in your life for a long time. They seem like good, generous people who are just worried about their 19 year old daughter trying to "take care" of an immature, unstable guy. They might be reacting in a controlling way (the cell phone thing is weird), but they seem to honestly care about YOU and what is best for YOU (aka not your relationship with your boyfriend).
posted by CharlieSue at 2:23 PM on February 20, 2011

Oh wow; I really feel for you. Your question is full of pain and you're clearly in quite a bind. I'm so sorry you're having to go through this.

I can't offer specific information relating to your specific issues, but something from my own college-and-shortly-thereafter life might be of general help. I'm the only child of divorced parents, and I got to a point in college when I realized I was really, really sick of still having the issues that defined parts of my life when I was 8 still affecting me at 18/19/whatever. I made a conscious choice, after a lot of soul-searching, that I was now an adult and that whatever happened in my childhood would no longer define me unless I wanted it to. I didn't make any kind of break with my parents - I was in a much more functional situation than you are - but I just decided to live my own life and to do what I needed to do to make myself happy in the long term. And more or less, that's what I did from that point on.

Key to this was getting my own apartment when I could leave the dorms; then my breaks were my own, with no one dictating when I could be at "home" and when I had to leave. Paying my own bills - including having my own phone! - was another big step. Time alone to think and be my own person was another major factor - all facilitated by no longer living my life based on my parents or my college residential office's schedule.

You're an adult. A young adult, yes, but an adult nevertheless. Take some time and think: what do you want? Listen to others, but make your own decisions for your own happiness. You've earned the right to be your own advocate.
posted by AthenaPolias at 2:47 PM on February 20, 2011

Spend Spring Break going on a road trip with girlfriends. If your girlfriends aren't available to do this, go on a road trip by yourself. Get away from the boyfriend AND the parents. Be an independent person.
posted by Lobster Garden at 3:01 PM on February 20, 2011

He is a lot happier, a lot stronger, and a lot more secure. Our relationship has probably helped him as much as it has damaged me.

This exactly describes my relationship with my ex and the relationship that my sister is currently in. Both relationships are/were incredibly unhealthy. Both of us were 19 when we entered these relationships.

My ex would tell me I was perfect, and then criticize my clothing, behavior, opinions, even my taste in comic books. Honestly, the only thing that he didn't criticize was my body. He was emotionally and verbally abusive, and ground my self esteem down into the ground. The worse I felt, the better he felt about himself, and the better his grades were. I think he felt powerful having me bent to his will. Somehow, despite low self esteem and depression, I still would manage to bring up how things he did made me unhappy, and to communicate my thoughts and feelings to him. This backfired magnificently, as he would twist what I said, and make me feel awful for feeling how I did, like I was horribly flawed for having those feelings. People who love you do not manipulate and invalidate your feelings like that. Healthy relationships don't damage you.

Eventually, my parents said they could no longer afford the liberal arts school that I was going to. They did this to get me away from him (something I didn't find out until last year, more than 6 years later). I struggled, I said I would get loans, then I gave in and came home at the end of the quarter. I ended up having a leg surgery a few weeks after I came home, and while I was laid up my ex came to visit. He belittled me and acted like I was supposed to entertain him while I was IMMOBILE and on VICODIN! Those weeks away from him gave me the freedom and time to heal a bit emotionally. I didn't feel any affection for him during that visit, just frustration at his neediness and lack of empathy. After he left it took a number of weeks, and emotional support from my family to build up the courage to break up with him. When I finally did, I stopped crying all the time. I felt no sadness, just relief that I was free to be myself again.

In the time after the breakup, I remembered dozens of red flags that I should have noticed at the time. Numerous incidents where I should have summarily broken up with him - I was just too inexperienced and downtrodden at the time to act rationally. He contacted me on and off for the next few years, begging to be friends. He had always been proud of being friends with his exes (he bragged about it, it was his proof that he was a good person), and I think it was a blow to his massive ego that I refused. It took me years to feel comfortable about relationships again. I was paranoid about my judgement of character, and whenever I was briefly interested in someone, red flags would fly high early on, making me wonder if I was simply attracted to the wrong sort of person. Finally, time, self-reflection, therapy, and attraction to a man who didn't raise red flags healed my self esteem enough that I was able to enter another relationship. I felt jealous and neurotic, depressed and nearly suicidal in my previous relationship. Now I am happy in my relationship. I don't have to censor myself to avoid criticism, anger or manipulation. I am loved for being myself, and I love my boyfriend for himself.

Everything deteriorated to the point where I was just trying to avoid any pain or change I could, and this prevented me from evaluating our relationship.

This is where my sister is now. People who love her have been badgering her about her situation, and she's been lying to everyone to try and avoid conflict and pain. She can't take a step away from defending her boyfriend to evaluate her relationship. This has led to my parents backing off, as constantly criticizing her choices has done nothing but make the situation worse.

Please take into account the responses that say to take this break for yourself! Have fun, be with other friends, and try new things. Disengage yourself from the massive drama that is your conflict with your parents and your boyfriend. At worst, you'll do some fun things during break. At best, your separation from the situation may give you some insight into your problems and how to solve them.
posted by Logic Sheep at 11:29 PM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Follow the money. What are your parents paying for? What have you agreed to do for that financial support? If your parents are paying for your schooling or your expenses, you are not free from their opinions of where and how you spend your time.
posted by hworth at 12:02 PM on February 21, 2011

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