how do i solve this convoluted problem?
August 25, 2011 10:31 AM   Subscribe

physical health & mental health, 'secret' boyfriend, and my family... what do i do?

my situation is just too complicated. i probably don't make sense. im sorry if you can't understand... but i promise it's a good story.

i live in america but for the last 3 months i came back to my parents' house in a far east asian country to rest. my body and mind have completely fallen apart during the last year. im about to go back to the states; i have barely gotten any better during these months and i can't tell my parents why, probably never.

i've been in a relationship for 1year 4months with the man i consider my soulmate. we have been living together for 14 months. i am a 20 year old female and my boyfriend is a 33 year old male. it may sound weird but we didn't know our age when we first started dating, it wasn't important. all we knew was that we are similar in so many ways (worldviews, flexibility, list goes on) and that we are a perfect match. he's a sensitive person- he isn't afraid to show emotions. he doesn't hit me, lie to me or be mean to me. i've never met anyone this perfect for myself. if anything, i am the mean one, and im always the one who is a victim of a mean person. i am happy when i am with him, save for the times when the reality hits me. we love each other so much. I DON'T WANT TO BREAK UP WITH HIM. but everything is telling me to break up with him...

first of all,
my boyfriend lives in his hometown, a good part of a suburb. he moved back there because of his mother who is elderly and wants company. there is no grocery store in this town. neither of us drive. i have no immediate access to fresh ingredients to cook and eat healthy, so this entire year we both ate take-out. also, even if i do want to cook at his house, i can't because my boyfriend is extremely messy and his clothes and things are everywhere including his kitchen, and i do not want to add to the mess. the clutter became astronomical when i stopped cleaning up after him after 5 months of living with him.

when i moved in with him i didnt move in completely. i can't tell my parents about my boyfriend (details later) and so i have a dorm in the 'city' where i have most of my things and most of my clothes at my boyfriend's. he lives really far from the 'city' where i go to school and where he works. it's about 1.5 hour commute, and it usually takes more than 4 hours out of our day to get ready, walk to the station, and the train ride. he doesn't have any problem for me, never before did i have to travel 4 hours every day because all my life my short 10-15 min trip to school was already stressful enough on me. but this year i commuted with him- OUT OF LOVE. almost every single day. this was something that would have been impossible for someone like me... lazy and easily stressed. at the end of this year i had to juggle both finals and a stressful internship, + 4 hour commute (+ birth control pills.) i did this by barely getting any sleep, 1-3 cans of red bull every day for 2+ weeks, and take-out. ON TOP OF THIS...

every summer i visit my home country for a few months. this time, i promised my boyfriend that i would go to korea for 3 weeks and come back and spend the rest of the summer with him. i told my parents that i would find an internship or go to summer school for the rest of the summer. it takes me an entire summer vacation to fully rest... 3 weeks of being home was a disaster because... when i went back to america my body and mind couldn't handle it anymore because of 20+ hours of traveling in total. i couldn't stop crying for a few days and my love for him disappeared for a couple days. i become extremely depressed during that time. after i gave it some thought, i decided that i should go back to korea and spend the rest of my summer vacation at home and putting my body back together.

for the last 3 months i literally did nothing but go to the doctor's and exercise. i couldn't go to sleep until past 2am and couldn't wake up until noon, i had spliting migraines every day and diarrhea- 2 times every day, etc. but i didn't start getting better until now that i stopped taking my birth control pills and got proper treatment from my doctor. one of the things my doctor told me about my body was that i had lost so much muscle mass in just a year. it had to do with hormone changes and my stressful lifestyle- long commute, eating take-out food, and driving my body until it can't handle no longer.

i realize now that my body is weak. i can't be like my boyfriend who can do so much and not be worn out like me.

i have mentioned my birth control pill. i have been taking it for a few months and i did not realize until now that it has been killing my mental health. when i didn't take the pills, i used to get somewhat depressed right before i had my period. when i did take them, it got to the point that i sometimes couldn't control my crying for days.

when i came to korea to rest for 3 months, i couldn't go to sleep at night. when i turned off the lights, i would cry and clutch my chest until i fell asleep. when i woke up, a bad anxiety would take over my heart and wouldn't let go all day. of course, all of this also has to do with things other than birth control pills. my body has been ruined this year, and if the body is not healthy, the mind cannot be healthy. it could be because i miss my boyfriend a lot. i woke up next to him every day for a year and i don't have him nex to me now.

i am concerned about my health. a majority of the reasons why my body has been ruined are from lack of time, commuting and no access to good food... i want to be with him, but these these things are killing my body.

i don't want him to move because he wants to be with his mother. i don't want to tell him to move for my health reasons. that's not what i want for him. i don't want to be selfish.

but the other thing is that...
i have kept my boyfriend secret to my family because my family is far east asian and my boyfriend is african american. i told my mother last year when she confessed to me she is no longer speaking to my father because of many deep serious issues. i thought it was a time where i can share intimate thoughts with her... and i thought she would be 'cool' with me having a black boyfriend. she's the one who taught me to treat everyone equally... instead, she flipped out, and threatened me that she will have to talk to my father if i continue this relationship. i lied to my mother that im no longer with him since then because i can NEVER let my father know about my boyfriend. my father has very serious anger management issues and gets very violent if something does not happen according to his desires. in reality, he is the one supporting me with college tuition which costs a lot. if my father does find out, he will disown me, beat me and my mother up to death, and say to my mother 'see what "treating everyone equally" has gotten your daughter' it's unfortunate, but that's just how things are in these parts of the world... it's a tragedy.

these are the thoughts haunt me when i sometimes remember the reality of the situation... i can't tell my parents. i'm not brave enough to tell them about my boyfriend because someone or all of us will end up seriously getting hurt, and it's a guarantee. i don't want to lose my family either. i don't want my father, mother, and i to completely break off into each of us and no longer become a family. it's just too painful.

a reminder: i don't want to break up with him. i love him too much, he is my soul mate. i can't imagine ever being without him. and i seriously think we had some sort of a relationship in our past lives... if that's possible.

to sum it all up, i can't be happy with him or without him. when i'm with him, i can't be healthy and i will always be haunted by my family who will eventually disown me.if im not with him, i can be healthy and i will have my family, but i will not be able to forget about him ever. i don't think i can become 'just friends' with him. there is a special connection between us that i can't explain. it's frightening to even think of breaking up with him. both of us will be scarred for our lives. i would probably go mad...

so my questions are..
how should i go on about my relationship?
if i should stay with him, how do i handle my family?
how can i take care of myself and still be in our relationship?
how can i tell my boyfriend that i can never tell my parents about him?
is there any solution in our relationship? and my conflict within myself?
posted by zazie to Human Relations (40 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
There is absolutely no one on the internet that can answer these questions for you. You will get opinions, but that's it.

If you can't answer them yourself, you need to speak with a professional councilor or therapist.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 10:50 AM on August 25, 2011

Err... Counsellor that is.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 10:50 AM on August 25, 2011

Wowie zowie. I can't believe I read the whole thing. My thoughts?

- First things first: there is NO ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIP ON EARTH which is worth destroying yourself. NO RELATIONSHIP. If he is truly your "soulmate", he will be understanding and supportive of any changes you need to make to get healthier and happier.

- You cannot continue living with him. Commuting for upwards of four hours per day is MADNESS. It does not matter how much you'll miss him, how much he'll miss you... NOTHING matters as much as healing your physical and emotional health. You need to live closer to school, and you need to do it SOON.

- This does not mean you have to break up with him! This does not mean that you love one another any less! It means that you're getting your priorities in order. YOU first, THEN the relationship. It is not "romantic" to wreck your body and mind for love. It's horribly sad.

- If he really, truly loves you, he will find a way to spend time with you. I cannot be emphatic enough about this. There are lots of AskMe questions which say, in a nutshell, "I haven't heard from my boyfriend in a month - could it be ___ or ____ or ____?!" And the answer is invariably the same: if a man loves you, he will move heaven and earth to be with you, within reason.

- Do not attempt to drive a wedge between your boyfriend and his mom. However, if she is just lonely, not ill, perhaps there are other ways in which he can help her. There are lots of social programs and activities for the elderly... in America, at least, it's no longer accepted that adult children MUST sacrifice a portion of their lives to live with their aging parents.

- Do not tell your parents about him now. Do not tell your parents about him in the future. Telling them will be tantamount to poking a bear with a stick - a bad idea and dangerous to boot. Once you are no longer reliant on your parents in ANY way - financially or other - you can tell them, but you CANNOT do so in person. Your father sounds like a domineering, abusive kinda guy, if you'll forgive me for saying. You don't cross a man like that in person if you can avoid it.

In summary: you need to make YOURSELF your #1 priority now... and your boyfriend can and SHOULD make you his #1 priority, too. You've been giving your all for him, and it's really hurt you. He should definitely pitch in to help heal you and move towards a more sustainable relationship arrangement.
posted by julthumbscrew at 10:55 AM on August 25, 2011 [27 favorites]

(on preview, WinnipegDragon is right.. but here is some opinion - and take it as opinion)

Not sure where to start, but I'll (try to) avoid any commentary about 'soul mates' and love at your age..

Regardless, you should first commit to yourself, not your boyfriend. Two reasons - if you aren't healthy, you can't be there for him. Two, he should support you being healthy. If he doesn't then you aren't meant for each other.

So, you should live in your 'dorm' alone or with whatever roommate you have. You should eat what you normally make yourself, and not just go with your boyfriend's bad habit of take out food.

If he loves you, he will make the commute to see you. You seem to have given everything up in this relationship and he nothing. Totally understandable he wants to help take care of his mother, and he should. Though that should include him cleaning up after himself.

You can be with him and healthy - as long as it is clear your health and eating habits come first.

On the birth control issue - many MeFi's I'm sure will come and tell you that there are many different pills that have different effects, and you should talk with your doctor about what will be a better pill to counter your depression.

I understand your issue around him not being Korean, so you'll have to make the decision to keep it going on in secrecy until you are independent from your father (and when you are, then making the decision if giving up your family is worth the relationship with your boyfriend. I would NOT make that decision now, as you are young and still have a long life to live so keep your options open as long as you can).

Again, if your boyfriend loves you, he should understand your culture and your family issues to agree to supporting you in that.

So: move back to your own place. Make your own food. Stop eating takeout.
The relationship will naturally have to 'slow down' a little, since he will need to commit to coming to visit you. Hopefully he's gainfully employed - if so, he should invest in a car to make that easier.
Keep it from your family. If in a few years, it's the real thing, and you have gained financial independence, you can make a decision then.

Also, if you're going to school, they should have mental health counsellors available for students. Start seeing a therapist.
posted by rich at 10:56 AM on August 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

OMGTHERAPYNOW. Your college should have mental health services. Please use them.

Also, get off the hormonal BC and get something low hormone or switch to an IUD/condoms.

Move out and move closer to your college. If you really want to stay with the boyfriend, that may be the only way to do it. Living with him is killing you. But the best thing you say about him is antithesis - what he is not. He's not mean. He doesn't hit you. That's not exactly a glowing recommendation. I'm leaning towards DTMFA, but again, I don't think you're there.

If you can't move out, look into a grocery delivery service or CSA. At least that would get you something to work from.

As for your parents, I wish I could offer some advice. Honestly, I think a lot of your anxiety is guilt, and there's not many solutions to that, short of cutting off communications, or possibly some anti-anxiety medication. If you think your father will literally kill you and your mom, don't tell him.

And as someone who fucked up part of college because of a bad relationship, I would tell you that school is more important, and it's something you'll regret forever. You owe it to yourself to do as well as you possibly can. If breaking up (even just on a trial basis) is the only way to get your head back in the game, do it.

And if you really can't give school your all, consider taking a semester/year leave. It sounds like you have a student visa now, so that may not be possible.

Finally, I just want to hug you. All these things suck - there is no mistaking that. You don't deserve any of this. You deserve someone to take care of you and love you and try to make you happy. I want that for you SO MUCH.

Memail me if you want to talk.
posted by guster4lovers at 10:56 AM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is a lot of drama. Have you told your boyfriend that your current lifestyle with him is causing you so many medical and emotional problems? If he is actually your soulmate, he's going to want to work with you to make it a better living situation for both of you. In fact, is he aware of ANY of this? The stuff with where he lives, his mother, the cleanliness of your shared house can all be addressed if you just have a conversation about it. It may be in your best interest in general for both of you to learn how to drive.

Talk to him about it.

Talk to your doctor about getting on another form of birth control that doesn't make you so depressed.

Talk to a counselor or therapist about the rest of it.

And as far as your parents go, while I sympathize with how hard it must be to be dating someone they don't approve of (even if their reasons are completely unfair and bigoted), if they're in Korea and you are in the US, I can't imagine your dad will actually hop on a plane to come beat you. The distance there is a good thing. I'd just keep it on the DL from them for the time being, while you work out the rest of it.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 10:57 AM on August 25, 2011

Can you scale back the relationship with the boyfriend for a while? Live in your dorm in the city, have a short commute to school, eat healthier, and try to get your body healthy again. See the boyfriend on the weekends or have him come up and visit you. I know you consider him your soulmate but you are only 20. Now is the time to focus on yourself and your schooling. And take advantage of the medical and mental health clinics at school.
posted by jabes at 10:58 AM on August 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

Before can I really give much of an answer - and it is not going to be a conclusive answer because in this case a conclusive answer doesn't really exist and if it did, the internet would not be the place you could find it - I need a little more information.

It seems to have become clear at some point that living along with him at the same pace he does is incredibly taxing on you. You can't commute the way he does, you can't eat the way he does, and you can't do anything better in terms of eating while living with him because he is very messy.

Some of these things seem like issues that could be ameliorated with compromises from his part. When all of this became clear, did he ever suggest maybe meeting you halfway, or staying at your place instead of his, or trying to be a little neater so you can cook (maybe even cook together) and not have to eat takeout? You have a dorm in the city - if you share a room would it be completely out of the question to come to an agreement with that roommate where the boyfriend can stay with you some nights?

What I'm asking here is, did any of the above possibilities ever come up, and if so, how were they dealt with?

Once I have this information I might be able to attack the bigger problems a little better.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:58 AM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

You sound like you might want to break up with him. My question for you is, do you believe there is just one soul mate for each person? When you're 20, you have a lot of personal growth left to do and it's hard to know what type of person you really want to be with. It can change quite a bit! At least, it did for me.

If you break up with him, it's not because your parents told you to or because you're not "treating everyone equally." It's because the situation is not healthy for you. People break up for this reason all the time. It's fine. Take care of yourself.
posted by Knowyournuts at 10:59 AM on August 25, 2011

There are lots of AskMe questions which say, in a nutshell, "I haven't heard from my boyfriend in a month - could it be ___ or ____ or ____?!" And the answer is invariably the same: if a man loves you, he will move heaven and earth to be with you, within reason.
posted by julthumbscrew at 10:55 AM on August 25 [1 favorite]

Quoted again for truth. I wish I could favourite it a million times.
posted by guster4lovers at 11:00 AM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Your questions are not the best questions to ask. I think you should ask yourself why you are creating so many problems in your life? You have created a chaotic, exhausting world in which your mind and body are breaking down, and you cannot be honest about your life with your family.

Here's a hint: you can't really have a "soulmate" until you honor yourself by making a life in which you are healthy and fulfilled. If this boyfriend is your "soulmate" he is the mate of your damaged soul. Take a break, get healthy, work on your issues and you will find that you won't settle for someone who has so many issues of their own, and who is so oblivious to how his choices are hurting you.

You can do it. The first step is articulating your problems and asking for help.
posted by Scram at 11:01 AM on August 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

Find a therapist/psychologist/group to discuss this with. This is too much, and the answers you'll hear on the internet won't be what you want to hear. You have too many questions, not enough life experience, and I think you're not fully aware of your emotional state. You don't sound like a happy girl, even when you say you're happy, in your relationship. You're describing an abusive relationship with your father. You need to speak to an unbiased professional.
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 11:03 AM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, honey. I wish I could give you a hug! You need a hug right now. Do you have a pet or a cousin or even a stuffed animal you could hug? I think that would help a lot.

Okay, now that I've said that, I want to very gently tell you something. When you read this, I want you to hear the voice of a trusted friend who wants the best for you, because that is the tone of voice I am using. Okay?

This problem does seem convoluted. But it's actually a few separate problems, and a lot of them are related to just...being 20! That's all. Being 20 (and 19 and 21 and 22 and for some of us heck right up until say 25 or so) is a really weird time. You are forming an identity separate from your parents, trying new things, meeting new people- and for YOU, personally, you are doing all of that in a new country, away from your family, your familiar language, your favorite foods. That's HARD.

Here's what I'm thinking. You haven't ruined your body. You're going to be fine. If drinking too much Red Bull and eating a lot of take-out killed 20-year-olds, no one in most of the Western world would live to turn 21. Seriously.

It sounds like the birth control pill you were on was really really really not working for you. That happens! It might mean birth control pills aren't for you, or that you haven't found the right one. Keep working with your doctor on that!

It sounds like your relationship with your boyfriend is really important to you. That's good! But it also sounds like the logistics of your relationship are not working for you. At all. That's not so good! So here's what I think you should do. I think when you get back to school, you should move back into your dorm (and get on a meal plan if you can). You should go to visit your boyfriend on the weekends, and if he works in your city, he can visit you on lunch breaks or after work. I'm not telling you to break up with him, just to focus on being healthy, working on school, and having the peaceful life you need right now.

Here's the thing- if you and your boyfriend are going to be together for a long time and are right for each other, the two of you living apart for one or two or threes years right now WILL NOT hurt your relationship. As long as you are honest, open, and act with good intentions, your relationship will survive. If he's 'the one' now, he will still be 'the one' two years from now. Okay? Okay.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 11:04 AM on August 25, 2011 [12 favorites]

I read it through, here are my thoughts:

1. He needs to clean up his act. Seriously, 33 year old men shouldn't live like pigs. You don't have to clean up his mess. He needs to make the place hapitable, especially if you are going to live there.

2. Learn to drive. It'll be ok, its a little scary at first, then either get a car or a zipcar and get yourself some decent food.

3. Takeout is bad for both of you, you must find a way to not eat it constantly.

4. I have been with men who wanted to live with/close to their mothers. The reality it, its rarely the son taking care of mom, just sayin.

5. Is he actually taking care of you in anyway? I mean, does he see what a mess you are becoming and just doesn't care enough to make your life better? Or does he want you to fill a very certain roll regardless of what it does to you?

6. If you are going to stay with him, you have to tell your parents eventually. Seriously, assuming you want contact with both, you gotta do it. I presume you're going to want to get married or something at some point. Your dad can't hit you from across a continent and a lot of ocean.

7. Happily there are lots of different BC options out there! (Do not have a baby with this man right now, he can't even feed himself properly)

8. If you break up, YOU WILL BE FINE!!! What? YOU WILL BE FINE, sure tears, whatever, but there is no reason to go mad, or crazy or be scarred for life. I haven't heard anything here about his great points, and the age difference and everything else screams to me: You Are Being Used. I could be wrong, but this is what I hear sounding out. (Think of all the glorious healthy eating, short commuting, blissfull sleeping you can reclaim!)
posted by stormygrey at 11:07 AM on August 25, 2011 [4 favorites]

This seems really lopsided, you do all the work in this relationship, all of the sacrificing. Do you see this? Hon, this relationship isn't working for you because it has worked you nearly to death.

Also. This person isn't who you think he is exactly.

- Being messy is not OK. Making your GF live in slovenly conditions is ESPECIALLY NOT OK.

- Do you think it is truly loving of him to make EVERTHING in your life (from commuting, to cleaning, to schoolwork, your meals, your internship, your relationship with your family, your health, and your future) more difficult to outright impossible? Really?

You are mixed up. I'm not saying this man isn't important to you on a deep deep level, because clearly he is. I am saying that you are mixed up because even when you have this feeling about someone, you still have to make the right (sometimes hard) choices. You've made every bad choice under the sun for this man. I think it is time you start living in the city again and concentrate on finishing school, eating well, and repairing your mind, body, and spirit.

- Stay in school.

- Find an alternative method of BC. No hormonal pills or implants or IUD's!!! You are physically too weak for that right now. May I suggest these non latex condoms? They don't smell funny like regular condoms do (in fact, they have zero scent) and they really are whisper thin. You can't feel them at all.

Good Luck.
posted by jbenben at 11:07 AM on August 25, 2011 [10 favorites]

I think you need to talk to a counsellor to help you get your feelings in order.

I also think you probably need to move out of your boyfriend's place. It's a huge commute and you can't eat well or take care of yourself while you are there. I'm sure you love him, but it's quite possible that your life will be much happier and easier if you live closer to work/school and see him only on the weekends. Or hey, maybe he can come down a couple of times during the week. But get out of there. It's not healthy for you. There are married couples who do this sort of thing for years at a time. It's not ideal, but it's very, very possible.

If you think your family will cut off your college tuition then I wouldn't tell them until after you've graduated. Yup, I'm a lying weasel. After that, well, there are a few possibilities:

1. You and BF break up and you never have to tell anyone.
2. You and BF stay together and your parents die of old age, never knowing
3. You tell them

I don't see any other options. Personally, I'd tell them and let the chips fall where they may because this sort of thing just frustrates the hell out of me. Your Dad wouldn't approve of your boyfriend? Your Dad ain't dating him. You decide what is best for you and if Dad really wants to disinherit you then I guess you know where his priorities lie and it isn't with his daughter's happiness, it's with his own sense of family honor or some such bullshit.

Oh yeah, try different birth control pills. It's possible that part of the effect they are having can be attributed to your living situation, but not all pills work for everyone. Try something different.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 11:08 AM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Choose one culture or the other. It sucks to hear that, but unless you have some family members you can count on to aid you in dealing with your parents, choose.

There are lots of AskMe questions which say, in a nutshell, "I haven't heard from my boyfriend in a month - could it be ___ or ____ or ____?!" And the answer is invariably the same: if a man loves you, he will move heaven and earth to be with you, within reason.

By the same token, a lot of people feel that if a woman loves you she will cook and clean up after you, treat you like a king and respect your decisions. But here the OP is not happy doing that, so I think it's just as weak to say he doesn't truly love her if he doesn't move heaven and earth, than to say she doesn't love him because she isn't willing to suck it up and keep cooking and cleaning for him.

Forget about therapy, unless you can find someone who is an expert in acculturative stress, which probably won't be likely. Even then they might not be that helpful.

You need to destress as much as possible. Don't dump your boyfriend yet, as everyone keeps saying. Detress, get a clear head, and all the while communicate the problems to your boyfriend. Keep it all above board.

Don't envision the worst things possible all the time and stress yourself out. That said, I completely believe your father will harm you or your mother, from whatever distance. What I am saying is it is still easy to only think of the negative possibilities of how people will respond.

i can't be happy with him or without him. when i'm with him, i can't be healthy and i will always be haunted by my family who will eventually disown me.

My advice is to destress as soon as possible, and clear your head. Then look at both cultures and as hard as it will be to do this at age 20 or 21, make a choice. Look at your probable life in both cultures, and decide which one you will go with.

Will you be more despondent losing this guy, or your mom and dad? In American culture, you basically need to turn into an adult, and live your life, while maintaining a relationship with your parents. Your parents add input, but you make your decisions. However your parents come from a more collective culture, from what you describe, and their word goes, because they are and always will be your parents.

Things are different - neither system is better or worse.

The longshot option is to wait. Don't do anything. Keep your secrets as you can, and then wait to try to bridge the cultures.

Your path of least resistance here is to go with Korean culture and drop your boyfriend. If he's your soulmate not only will he understand, he'll be around in 5 or 10 years, provided you stay single that long. Your parents are stubborn and will disown you if you choose him. Will you resent him for that? Does he have what it takes to comfort you for the next 45 or 50 years?

Imagine yourself at age 60. Where are your parents? Did you have kids? Are you happy with your boyfriend?

You're going to have to choose or you're going to have to wait. And the wait could be as long as it would be if you imagine having to go back and forth from America to Korea to physically walk your boyfriend and your parents close to one another.

Take some time, destress and then decide how strong you can be, for how long, and where you think you'd wind up.

I am sorry for you that you are where you are.
posted by rakim at 11:19 AM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Echoing everyone's suggestions about moving back into your dorm room, and focusing on getting your health, diet, school life, exercise regime, sleep schedule, birth control, everything under control.

You can still visit your boyfriend on the weekends but by being back in the city, hopefully you will gain some perspective on your situation and be able to make better decisions. For example, you should have time to shop and pick up some fruits and vegetables to take on the train, in order to prepare healthy meals over the weekend. And as others have suggested, you could make an appointment with your college's counselling services, in order to talk about some of this with an unbiased third party (as you can't talk to your family about it right now) You also don't mention any friends you have made at college or in the city, but I would urge you to connect with some of your peers and enjoy college life a little - go to parties, join a club, play some group sports. You will have time for this if you are not commuting four hours each day.

If you miss your boyfriend during the week, you could always video chat with him a little bit before bed - you are in the same time zone, so this would be easy and cheap to do! I am sure he would be very happy to see you happy and feeling better about yourself, and I'm sure this would make your time together on weekends much more enjoyable.
posted by unlaced at 11:23 AM on August 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh, also, I promise you that contrary to your assertion that "it may sound weird but we didn't know our age when we first started dating, it wasn't important," the 31-year-old man you started dating knew you were barely legal--although you may not have been aware of how much older he was at first.

Some immature men date much younger women because these women lack the life experience to question the things that the immature man is doing, like, oh, living in squalor with his mother, only eating junk food, not having a car, or insisting his girlfriend put up with a commute that wrecks her health.

Has your boyfriend by any chance had a series of much younger girlfriends who break up with him after a year or two?
posted by Scram at 11:24 AM on August 25, 2011 [17 favorites]

I'm going to be blunt.

This guy is a loser, and he's no good for you. You may not want to dump him, but the best thing you can do for yourself is to dump him.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:28 AM on August 25, 2011 [11 favorites]

We can't tell for sure, but it sounds like mr_roboto is right. Sorry, good luck to you.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 11:40 AM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Do you have any friends your age at school? I am concerned that you moved in with a much older man at the expense of school and a normal school life with people your age or who at least are sharing common life experiences with you.

I think for your physical and mental well-being, you should move back to the dorm, and really get yourself involved with classes and school activities. Do you think you'll be going to grad school? If so, go seek out professors during their office hours. Find out if there are research projects you could get involved in. This would be a much better use of 4 hours a day of your time than commuting.

And seek counseling from your school's counseling services.

Feel free to memail me, as I think we share some cultural background.
posted by needled at 12:01 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

I know it is hard to think about when you're 20, but you describe this guy as your soulmate, so I want to ask you this question:

If you discovered that you were pregnant tomorrow, would you want this guy to be your child's father?

(With his sloppy behavior and the way that he treats you?)

Like everyone else says, you need to focus on you - your health, your schooling, your happiness. Stop commuting. Stop eating take out. Move back to your dorm.
posted by k8t at 12:08 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Do you have any friends your age at school? I am concerned that you moved in with a much older man at the expense of school and a normal school life with people your age or who at least are sharing common life experiences with you.

Yeah. I lived briefly with a 20 year old boyfriend at 20, and I still feel like I missed out on friend things at the time. You never get that back! (33 year old person, who would not likely date a 20 year old and would DEFINITELY "know their age" if I came across one in a romantic possibility.) Definitely.
posted by sweetkid at 12:25 PM on August 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: he isn't afraid to show emotions. he doesn't hit me, lie to me or be mean to me

If you've grown up in a household where verbal and physical abuse is normal, then I see why it seems like a fantastic victory to find a partner who doesn't hit you or lie to you.

For those of us who have grown up in a more healthy dynamic, though, that statement of yours sounds completely bonkers.

I'm not a saint or a paragon of virtue, but out of a relationship I would expect not only a lack of abuse, but also someone who cares about me. I don't mean someone who SAYS they care about me, but someone who demonstrates that they care about me with their actions.

That includes
- noticing if I'm not doing well, and helping me fix that
- being generous in doing their fair share of "relationship work", whether that's commuting or cooking or cleaning or earning shared money.
- acknowledging and appreciating the "relationship work" I do.
- working towards a shared future together.

In my mind, you deserve someone who can give you all of those things. You also deserve a relationship in which you can be happy and healthy.
posted by emilyw at 12:42 PM on August 25, 2011 [21 favorites]

You need to prioritize you.

No relationship, particularly one at twenty need to be so taxing on your health. You love him great, soul mate, awesome, but you are twenty!

If I could go back in time I'd smack the shit out of my twenty year old self. Im only about five years back at that point, but christ have my priorities, identity, and world viewpoints changed drastically over the years.

You deserve to be healthy, you deserve to respect yourself. Do that now.
posted by handbanana at 12:45 PM on August 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: there were so many things to write down and i forgot to put down a few things in my question. i was so wound up in my feelings that i forgot to put the few positive things.

we have talked about how we can change some things so i can be less stressed out. he's trying to get promoted so he doesn't have to work 7 days (oops, didn't tell you that before) and he's cleaning up the house while im gone. he says he used to be a vegetarian, but i can't imagine him being one because he's such a picky eater.

i know that the clutter was also a big reason for my stress, and i was disappointed when he promised me that he would clean the house while im away for 3 weeks (the first trip back home) and when i came back the mess was still there. the moment i stepped into the house, that's when i felt REALLY stressed out, and my sudden spurt of depression became uncontrollable for a couple days.

now that i'm off my pill and some time to think away from him, i can think more clearly... some things need to change, and if they don't, i can't do this anymore.
posted by zazie at 12:57 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

he doesn't hit me, lie to me or be mean to me.

That's a hell of a baseline. I'm sure that you can raise the bar quite a bit higher.

If you were my little sister, I would suggest you move back into the dorm, get your own self in order, concentrate on your studies and let this guy clean up both his house and his act. I think you can do a lot better than this man, without having to abide by your parent's vision of what your life should be.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:17 PM on August 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

Okay, with the new information, here's what I think.

First: He shapes up or you get out. No two ways about it. I know it seems like you're super ultimate soulmates and I would never try to discredit or belittle what you feel but I promise that this is a feeling you'll remember fondly when you're older but you'll understand that it may have been a bit naive. I guess what I'm saying is that he needs to grow up, and if he doesn't, you have to leave, and you may find that to be less apocalyptic than it seems right now.

If he does, then this will be a lot less stressful and if you honestly think it's worth fighting for then you might try to keep it a secret from your parents until such time as you are not financially dependent on your father. It's a shitty solution but it'd also be the best one.

Second: Your parents sound awful. Get to therapy as soon as you can. It sounds like they've left you with years of accumulated issues that you really have to start sorting out. The sooner the better. Trust me on this.

Third: Your parents have you over a barrel right now and they have the power to basically destroy your life and it doesn't sound like they'd have a lot of qualms about doing that if they felt justified, so for the time being just make nice and maybe a couple years down the road after some therapy you'll be better equipped to talk to them about this stuff. For now, don't sweat it. For now, just take care of yourself, because you are in need of care, and love yourself, because you have to.

You can do this. Good luck.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:21 PM on August 25, 2011 [4 favorites]

This might be regressive advice but no matter how stricy and stressful your parents are, I do think you need to respect the fact that they are paying for your schooling in a foreign country, including your accomodations in a nearby dorm (and foodplan?). -m sure they expect with this agreement for you to be safe and taken care of. Instead you are somehow voluntarily living in a mess with a man much older than you (so he can honor his mother, ironically (and alledgedly)) and wrecking your health and most likely gpa by commuting 4hrs per day. How does this make sense? At the very least focus on school monday to friday and he can VISIT YOU on the weekends. If it's love he will want you to do what's best for you which is finish school and then become independent from your parents with your own job, housing etc. You can see what needs changing. Have faith in yourself and listen to what your own mind AND body is screaming at you to do: leave. Focus on school. Heal.
posted by bquarters at 1:29 PM on August 25, 2011 [5 favorites]

In my experience, as soon as it hits you that a relationship actually really sucks in a lot of ways, and you start to feel like you're losing important parts of yourself to be with the person you love, the feelings of love disengage and it becomes easier to distance yourself from what sounds like a frequently painful and demoralizing situation. Maybe not "easier," but much less of a dilemma, and something that must be done out of necessity in order to get on with your life. It becomes hard to understand how you even got into that situation and why you put up with it as long as you did.

Just warning you: it's easy to say, "some things need to change, and if they don't, i can't do this anymore," but it's really easy to end up continuing to do that for years.
posted by wondermouse at 6:34 PM on August 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

Guy here: I've been typing my brains out today so I'll be brief. If this clown was your "soulmate," you wouldn't have and have had a fraction of these woes and shoddy treatment. If he was much of a man, you wouldn't have written this question.
posted by ambient2 at 10:45 PM on August 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

Upon your update about the crying spell you experienced after coming back to broken promises and a still messy home...

Your body is trying to tell you something about this relationship. Listen to it and take positive action, or your health may deteriorate further.

Go ahead. Ask me how I know this.
posted by jbenben at 11:27 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Well, apart from what everyone else has said...

I think the reason you're not getting better is because you're living with people (back home) who you anticipate are going to seriously assault you.

But when you go back to college, you have a 4-hour commute to enjoy your bf's company.

My suggestion would be that you would feel better if you weren't near people who will assault you, so as soon as you can go back to college, do so.

Assuming that circumstances really are against your bf so that he can't come to see you... you don't have to see him every day. You can save him for the weekends.

Except that you don't like going there because he's a slob. I'm sorry to have to say that that part is not likely to change. It's like Rock-Paper-Scissors. Slob beats Neat Freak every time. That's just the way it is. If you can't stand this, you probably will not be able to stand living with him into the future.

He's actually not the only person in the world capable of treating you well. I say this not to insist that you break up with him, but just to bring it to your attention.
posted by tel3path at 6:37 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


You need to know that because you were raised in an abusive family you are only continuing what you know. The mind can play tricks on us, like thinking because this guy is not hitting you or verbally abusive that he is your "soulmate." Basically you have found a situation that is similarly confining and painful as the way you grew up. Your whole life you have had to walk on egg shells, anticipate danger, try to fly under the radar of trouble, and do what you're told or else. Your brain doesn't recognize this as a huge problem because it's pretty much business as usual.

Counselling. Now.

Fall in love with yourself and focus on your education. Until you can stand on your own two feet - own place, own job, own money - you should not be in a relationship that you are taking as seriously as you're taking this one. Man if I would have realized how freaking beautiful and awesome I was at your age - and trust me you are too, it's part and parcel with being young - I wouldn't have dated so many losers.

As for your boyfriend, there is a reason he is not dating a woman his own age. A woman his own age would not put up with this utter bullshit lifestyle.

Get well soon.
posted by it's a long way to south america at 11:06 AM on August 26, 2011 [4 favorites]

My boyfriend and I have been together for a year and a half. We lived together for about eight months, but then he graduated and I still have a year to go. He had to move to a nearby city to find work, so he's about three hours of travel away from my school and 4 hours away from my home. At no point did we consider living together anyway and having one of us commute. That would be crazy! We talk a lot during the week and visit on weekends/holidays instead. It doesn't mean we love each other less. In fact I'd say it's very unloving for someone to put their need to be with another person ahead of that person's need to be healthy and well-rested. If HE loves YOU, he will want you to stay in the city dorms during the week, at least most of the time, because he cares about your well-being. And if YOU love HIM, it would be cruel to do self-destructive things in the name of your love. Can you imagine how that must feel, watching the one you love destroy herself unnecessarily, and she says it's all because of you? If you're really soulmates, if you plan to grow old together, you can wait until the proper time to live together. There's no rush. If you're afraid he'll leave you if you don't spend every day with him, like "out of sight, out of mind", then maybe you're not really "that" in love.

There are alternatives to BC pills. I have issues with anxiety/depression without being on hormonal BC so there's no way I would ever use it. I got a copper IUD put in once I started seriously seeing this boyfriend. There are also other hormonal methods that are said to cause less mood problems. You should talk to a doctor about it.

He should learn to clean up after himself a little better, so that when it IS the right time you can live comfortably together. Don't live with him ever if he's an inconsiderate roommate. My boyfriend and I are both a little slobby and sometimes had to remind each other to do certain things, but it was never so bad that one person was making most of the messes and the other was cleaning most of it up. That is not OK here; a serious boyfriend/girlfriend is a partner, not a servant. A slobby person isn't going to turn into a neat freak overnight no matter how hard they try, but to make no effort at all is a little telling. Especially if he promised he would make an effort, gave himself three weeks to do so, and then didn't. That's serious jerk-level behavior.
posted by purplecrackers at 1:39 PM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry that I can't focus on all your questions, but the relationship aspect of your situation is gnawing at me.

Doing things to delight your significant other should come naturally. I've been in a relationship for basically the same amount of time as you, and my girlfriend and I constantly do sweet things to surprise and show the other one how much we're thinking of each other. So when you're gone for three weeks, which should have made you both frantic to see each other, and he didn't clean for you, knowing how much that would mean to you? That is selfish and doesn't sound like the sensitive man you described.

It's difficult to judge, but it makes me wonder, at 33, why he needs to work 7 days a week to get by? Is he irresponsible with money? Why does he have no car, possibly no driver's license? If he lives in the suburbs without a grocery store, how does he get around? Will you eventually have a car, and will you then be the one to drive him everywhere? Does he have friends that you like, do your friends like him, or does he just spend time with his mom? Is she kind to you? Why did his previous relationships fail, and has he been honest and open about them?

Things like cars and jobs aren't everything, but they might make him a bad match for you—are you going to school to get a career and achieve success, and will he support you in that or resent you for it?

Your update seems to suggest that you're reconsidering this relationship, and I really hope that you end up with someone who agrees that your mental and physical well-being are the most important thing, whether it's your current boyfriend or not. A soulmate should be your partner, not just a playmate. And best of luck!
posted by thesocietyfor at 2:02 PM on August 26, 2011

Response by poster: 1. in nyc you don't need cars. people who commute far can take a train into the city.

2. it's the first time he's dated someone my age. i've never dated anyone his age before. like i said, we didn't know each other's age when we met, and it wasn't important. his last girlfriend is now, i believe, 29, and the one before was older. he's been in long term relationships with most of his ex's, and the two i just mentioned were the ones.

3. even though he is tired he says he is happy with his life as it is, working 7 days a week. he used to work 5 days a week but the business didn't go well so he got fired, and simultaneously his gf at the time cheated on him so he kicked her out of the house and broke up with her, and started working 7 days a week to both support himself and forget about her.

4. he threw her out 4 years ago, and her things are still in the house because he doesn't have time to clean it up and give it to her (7-day weeks!). and he doesn't really care about it. we have to sleep in the living room because the 1 room is a complete wreck (i believe it's been that way for 4 years) and the other room has some unopened boxes and furnitures from when they moved into the house together. he says these things are still there he wasn't home much until i started dating him. i can't do anything about these things because he works 7 days and i don't want to touch those things.

i know you readers are going to be astonished, but i did get used to the way we live. when we did start cleaning, the clutter just became a part of the living space. so far we threw out 5 boxes, and that's it. it's going to be a huge process to clear out everything.

my bf says he has been throwing "a lot" of stuff out and cleaning the living area in the house... but he says he can't get to the 2 rooms! i hope he at least makes the living area hospitable by the time im back. idk what i'll do if it's still messy. it's so likely that it's clean for now but gets messy soon, and idk what i'd do then either.

im going back in a few days, and i hope it's better now.
posted by zazie at 3:51 AM on August 27, 2011

Any updates zazie? I am hoping things are better for you, whatever the outcome!
posted by unlaced at 2:11 PM on September 8, 2011

Response by poster: many things have changed since i came back!. i let him read this post and he didn't give a second thought about making my health and wellness our top priority. i am now mainly staying at the dorm and going over to his house twice a week. i have more time to take care of myself, work out, and cook for myself without having the time run out all the time.

i was so happy when i went to his house! the rooms (at least the ones that we live in) were almost spotless and clutter-free. he's started throwing out furnitures and boxes in one of the two rooms. i can tell how much time and effort he put into cleaning the house. he says he feels better now that the house is cleaner and i do too. he's been doing all of this while i was writing on AskMe...

he is working towards getting a promotion at his main job so he wouldn't have to work 7 days a week.

he has been eating healthier lately. more vegetables and no fried foods. i watched and took notes from healthy documentaries/lectures on TV in korea and i told him about the benefits of being healthy and how to be healthy. he says he wants to try the superfoods-kimchi, natto, yogurt, lentils, and olives. before, he would have never said he wants to try eating these foods because they are 'gross' to him. dunno if he is actually going to try them, but it's a change!

i saw a post from my friend's blog. it says

People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.

A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave.

A soul mates purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life…

– Elizabeth Gilbert (eat pray love)

i think this is so true to my relationship with him. we talked about our relationship and we know we are going to be in each others' lives in some way for the rest of our lives. nothing is going to change that. we are bound by something other than just love.
posted by zazie at 6:58 AM on September 9, 2011

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