Relationship Issue: Is it Me?
November 7, 2018 11:53 AM   Subscribe

My boyfriend is condescending and egotistical and things he says and does makes me cringe... yet, he loves me and treats me well and makes me, for the most part, happy. Is it me that has the issue, other people, or him? I'm embarrassed of him at times, but other times, he makes things so much better. What is wrong here?

This is a long post with a little bit of TMI, so if that isn't your thing, I understand... Also, I've searched hard for a prior post with a similar issue, but none really hit the nail on the head.

I'm a middle-aged man. I've been dating/living with the same guy for about 2.5 years now. He treats me well, he loves spending time with me, and he is generally affectionate. The problem is that others don't see him the way I do, and that really bothers me. I've been told (or he's been told directly) that he is condescending, egotistical, and/or inappropriate on more than one occassion. He says things when we are in public, especially with my family, that make me cringe so hard I have started to try to avoid family gatherings. I have lost my best friend because he got into a fight when him and I got dragged into it so that my friend said I needed to choose between them because he couldn't be around me any more when he is. I chose love, I guess, and lost a friend. To be honest, he, indeed, is condescending to people and, yes, egotistical- he always has a story to one-up anybody else's story, he talks about himself ad nauseum to the point where it sounds like he's done everything in the world, owned everything, and had every job possible and can do all of it better than anyone else. Even I, myself, cannot make anything, do anything, or just take a damned picture on my cell phone without him telling me how I could've done it better or how he learned from (insert name of Master of Craft) to do it the "right" way. He doesn't buy or eat things unless they are "premium". He spends money he doesn't have on crystal, collectibles, and historical artifacts, and he will openly insult someone's clothing, hair, cooking, etc. but sees this as 'just being honest with them'. When I try to explain this, he gets defensive and says he would want people to be honest with him and he's not going to change who he is to please other people. He also says that if people don't like it, they don't need to be around him. All well and good, except I'm watching our circle of friends shrink to those who will either tolerate him or call him out on his bullsh*t. To make things worse, he doesn't have a job and is on government assistance for 'disability'. I pay for everything. I own our very large house (which we moved into because he got into such bad fights with neighbors at the small condo I loved that we had to leave and he refused to live in anything less than 3000 square feet). I own our car. I pay all of the bills, groceries, etc. He pays his cell phone bill and his mother's outrageous cable bill (we don't even have cable, but she 'needs' a $250/month cable package) and he pays monthly on the kitchen island he insisted we had to have installed in our overly large kitchen. Everything else is on me - even when he takes "our" car for the day and goes shopping or stops to eat, it's my credit card that gets charged. Also, we've had sex maybe 6-7 times total in 2.5 years. This makes him sound like a horrible, terrible person, but he loves me and I can feel that. He was honestly and completely shocked and hurt when he asked found out that several people agreed that he was "condescending". I can't take care of the house we own by myself- it requires upkeep and painting and handyman work, and he does ALL of that without me even asking. He takes out the garbage. He also decorates VERY beautifully for every holiday season, so much so that many people compliment me on how beautiful our home is. It's not that he's living outside of our means, either, I can afford everything, so that's not even the issue. He takes care of me when I'm sick, he fights battles I don't have the strength to fight, he is in my corner no matter what and I can honestly say that. I guess the problem is the cringe factor and it bothers me so much that I've considered leaving him because of it. Some examples:

-My brothers and sisters-in-law are talking at my parents house about a news item of some kid who did things he wasn't supposed to do with his teacher. He breaks in with, "Well, I blackmailed my music teacher into having sex with me when I was in high school." HOLY CRAP! YOU DO NOT ADMIT THIS IN PUBLIC- EVER. My sister-in-law actually told him that he needs to keep things like that to himself. Also, I'm not sure that this is even true - we've talked for 2.5 years about EVERYTHING, and I'd never heard it.

-My Dad was not a fan of a senator who died while in office. At dinner at a restaurant, my father made a simple comment to this effect, upon which my boyfriend breaks into tears and storms out. He later tells everyone that this was a relative of his and hurt him very much. This was complete news to me, he had never mentioned this and I can't find any proof that this is true. If there is a connection, it's a very loose and distant one.

-A friend bought an item she was very proud of. When she announced this, he responded with, "Oh my god! You DID NOT BUY THAT- it's junk! You should bring it back and buy ______."

-My brother invited everyone to his house for Thanksgiving this year. When I told him this, he became very upset because he says his wife can't cook and he is NOT going to pretend that he likes the food, so don't expect him to and her turkey and dressing are too dry and bland. Why wasn't HE asked about who was going to cook for Thanksgiving this year? I was so angry with him, and he seemed not to understand why.

-He throws the "F" bomb and the "C" word around freely, even in front of my parents who, I've explained to him, are old white southerners. My father actually told him the second time he was every at their house to stop using those words or leave his house. He still does it to this day, though, even though it has been less.

When I confront him about any of this, he becomes very defensive and refuses to listen to reason.

Is the issue with me? Am I caring too much about what people think? Or is the issue with him? If so, what is it? Is there a way to adjust this, or is this a relationship I need to begin thinking about leaving? Like I said, I know he loves me and he's never been abusive to me and he really is, beneath it all, a very caring person (he will volunteer to help anyone in my family who is sick or needs help with anything, whether he knows them well or not; he also is the person who facilitated my sister-in-law and parents making up after years of not speaking to each other). I don't know what to do or how to fix this. It would be easy if her were a monster, but he isn't.

Any advice or insight would be much appreciated.
posted by jspierre to Human Relations (67 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Nah, he's a monster. You need to think about leaving. He's got you Stockholm syndromed. Just a casual Google of abuse information online will confirm this, from the spending to the isolation to the demeaning of everyone around you.
posted by Mistress at 11:57 AM on November 7, 2018 [56 favorites]

Is the issue with me?... Or is the issue with him?

Just so you know, these aren't mutually exclusive. It's possible for part of the issue to sit with each of you.

My assessment, however, is that this is 98-100% on him. He seems terrible, even if you are sometimes happy.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 12:00 PM on November 7, 2018 [36 favorites]

Yup, what Mistress said. Your boyfriend is a narcissist (look up narcissistic personality disorder and read about it). I'm so sorry you're having to go through this, but you'll be better off in the end.
posted by ATX Peanut at 12:01 PM on November 7, 2018 [22 favorites]

Being that unkind or uncaring of my family and friends feelings would be a dealbreaker for me even if there were things I liked about the romantic partner
posted by raccoon409 at 12:02 PM on November 7, 2018 [50 favorites]

This reads like you're making yourself a pro and con list - and let me tell you, it's pretty obvious reading through it which side wins.

Your pros - that he loves you, does some chores, takes care of you when you're sick - these are bare minimum things you should expect from any partner. The negatives are not things I would want in a person I had to talk to for more than five minutes.

Somebody doesn't have to be a terrible monster 100% of the time for you to be allowed to break up with them.
posted by something something at 12:04 PM on November 7, 2018 [66 favorites]

Dude. Run. Get out of this before he's alienated your friends and family so badly that you find yourself without anyone else to turn to. This guy sounds ghastly. HE loves you? Your friends and family must love you like crazy to have put up with him for five seconds.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:06 PM on November 7, 2018 [39 favorites]

Is the issue with me? Am I caring too much about what people think? Or is the issue with him?

The issue is definitely with him but also you if you continue to see him. Even if my partner treated me well, this behavior towards people I care about would be a deal-breaker.

You've talked to him about it, and he refuses to take ownership of his behavior. Now it's on you to determine how you handle it.

My advice would be offer, once, to do some sort of counseling where he can shape up and learn how to interact with humans. Give him the opportunity to reform if he is such a good partner in other ways, but when he refuses - and I'd bet good money he will - it's time to leave if you value everyone else in your life.
posted by jzb at 12:09 PM on November 7, 2018 [3 favorites]

This makes him sound like a horrible, terrible person, but he loves me and I can feel that.

I'm really sorry, but he does not love you. He loves the financial lifestyle you provide for him and the "love" and care you feel are him keeping you just happy/placated enough not to withdraw your considerable financial support. He has already told you, directly, that he is not going to change. He will not even stop using the most vulgar profanities in the English language in front of your elderly parents. He's certainly not going to become a kind person or have sex with you or even keep you exempt from his terrible criticism for much longer. You could hire an amazing interior designer to give you a beautiful holiday home for every Christmas, Easter and Talk Like A Pirate Day with a fraction of the money you will save on not having this awful man in your life.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 12:13 PM on November 7, 2018 [105 favorites]

This relationship is so insanely bad that I literally started laughing in disbelief while reading your question. How did he manage to get his hooks into you and convince you to buy this giant fancy house all in the span of 2.5 years? This is something to examine in therapy after you dump him.
posted by cakelite at 12:14 PM on November 7, 2018 [48 favorites]

Other people have covered why you should break up with him, but I want to add that I actually think you should consult a lawyer (and perhaps a support entity for emotionally abused partners) so that you can disentangle him from your finances and home as safely as possible. I'm so sorry.
posted by lalex at 12:18 PM on November 7, 2018 [66 favorites]

I pay for everything. I own our very large house (which we moved into because he got into such bad fights with neighbors at the small condo I loved that we had to leave and he refused to live in anything less than 3000 square feet)

Just reading that one line made me feel very concerned for you. Everything else you typed has my heart breaking for you. None of those things are something I'd wish on my worst enemy. Good people avoid making their partner miserable, they don't insult people who their partner is close to, and they don't make life repeatedly harder for the other person. They are also not demanding and dependent in this weird way. Good people want to make things more harmonious for their partner and partnership. (You know, like you are doing by completely supporting him financially, and tiptoeing around to spare his feelings, and bringing him along to join in on family events, etc.)

I am so sorry you're going through this. I've seen lots of dependent people do an amazing job of convincing their partner they love them, as long as they are being completely supported by the other person. The fact that you'd suggest maybe something is wrong with you or these innocent sounding bystanders-- it's a really alarming conclusion based on the things you are describing. There are other people out there who will love you. You wont meet them as long as your world is dominated by this person and all the ways you are supporting them. I wish you so well, and therapy could really help parse this all out if that's an option. Good luck.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 12:19 PM on November 7, 2018 [23 favorites]

As with any abusive relationship - you've only been 2.5 years with him. It will absolutely escalate to him mistreating you. the way he mistreats everyone else.
posted by Tarumba at 12:23 PM on November 7, 2018 [19 favorites]

He treats me well, he loves spending time with me, and he is generally affectionate.

I also want to tell you that, money aside, cursing and weird attention-seeking antics at family parties aside, this just isn't true. He criticizes your cell phone pictures. He isolated you from your best friend. He got you kicked out of your own home. He isn't attracted to you or interested in sex with you. This is not how a good partner acts. A good partner would ask you if you want help with your photography skills and respect your answer. A good partner would say, "Well, it's true your friend Jim isn't my favorite person, but I see how important he is to you. When you want to hang out with Jim, I'll go see a movie." A good partner would think, "Wow, my awesome boyfriend jspierre loves this condo, I need to either figure out how to get along with the neighbors or have some serious conversations with him about moving to a home that meets BOTH OF OUR needs." A good partner will be more or less matched with you in levels of attraction and interest in sex.

This man is not a good partner. He's an asshole. You sound like a nice person with a nice circle of friends and family and a rewarding career. There are lots of men out there who would be interested in dating you and able to be a good partner to you. I hope you move on from this dude so you can meet one of them.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 12:23 PM on November 7, 2018 [78 favorites]

Everyone is piling on already with the DTMFA, but the behavior you describe sounds SO egregious that I wondered if it's possible that your partner is on the spectrum? This isn't the disability that you mentioned, is it? If not, then I think it would be worth your time to dig around to find out more about spectrum disorders, including adult diagnoses and treatments as well as how others have handled and gotten support for living with or leaving a partner who has ASD.
posted by pinkacademic at 12:24 PM on November 7, 2018 [2 favorites]

It sounds to me like you know what you need to do and that you're asking for internet permission to do it. I give you internet permission to break up with your boyfriend. He sounds like a jerk.
posted by number9dream at 12:27 PM on November 7, 2018 [6 favorites]

Geez, normally it's a woman who writes in saying, "My boyfriend/husband is great and really loves me, but he treats me and everyone around me like garbage all the time, what can I do to get him to be a little nicer to me?" It's kind of nice to know this isn't exclusive to heterosexual relationships.

This guy is ruining your life. Save yourself. Who cares if he's "on the spectrum?" A grown person who cannot behave decently towards the people in his life does not deserve to have people in his life.
posted by praemunire at 12:28 PM on November 7, 2018 [19 favorites]

Wow, you're kidding. What do you get out of this relationship other than feeling loved?

This isn't a typical relationship. If you get a lot out of it emotionally and feel that your partner would be responsive to therapy, it might be worth trying couples counseling.

But I strongly suspect that what you need is a therapist for yourself and a legal consult.

How would you say that you got into this relationship? Did you just...drift into it and sort of get used to it? Have you dated other partners who treat you better? Do you feel on some level that you don't deserve to be treated well? What kind of relationships do your family members tend to have? (I have a friend who really struggles with recapitulating the bad family relationships she witnessed, and at one point in her life had an Awful Partner a bit like yours. They split, she's much happier, he hasn't changed.)

I recognize that your partner may be coming from a place of personal pain - the whole "I insult others and need to buy things to feel good about myself" thing seems like one kind of self-protective response to homophobia, tbh, especially with the helpful and kind side that you describe. But unless he is able to address that and try to change his behavior, it's going to be destructive to you.
posted by Frowner at 12:30 PM on November 7, 2018 [4 favorites]

Man. As someone whose partner is kind of critical and sometimes overly blunt, but truly loving and supportive in many important ways, I was all prepared to jump in and defend your guy but SHEESH. He sounds like a nightmare.

A good partner might be more assertive with neighbors than you like; but a good partner will BACK OFF when you tell them that makes you uncomfortable. A good partner doesn't pick so many random fights with people that you're forced from your home.

A good partner might still totally hate your sister-in-law's cooking, and heck, might even tell you so. But a good partner doesn't throw an enormous tantrum over the prospect of conceivably eating dry turkey once in their goddamn life.

Yeah, some people put their feet in their mouth so often their sneakers have toothmarks. But the point is that some of those people *are working on getting better about it*, not doubling down on it while watching their partner's social life implode.

It doesn't matter whether the dude loves you. He might love you. But he's ruining your entire life. DITCH HIM BEFORE YOU EVEN FINISH READING THIS SENTENCE.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 12:31 PM on November 7, 2018 [28 favorites]

Sometimes people write that don't think they should break up with a partner because s/he checks all the boxes (nice, attractive, supportive, etc.) but doesn't make the writer happy. In those cases, it doesn't matter if the person is "good," s/he's not good for the writer.

You appear to have somewhat the opposite issue: From an objective standard, based only on your own description, your boyfriend seems like a "bad" partner. Yet you say he "makes me, for the most part, happy." If that's true, then perhaps he's good for you.

But that's hard to believe, again based only on what you yourself wrote. For an issue that's as important as this, and about which you are clearly struggling, therapy is the obvious next step. (Since you wrote, "is this a relationship I need to begin thinking about leaving?", I'm assuming you're not ready to "DITCH HIM BEFORE YOU EVEN FINISH READING THIS SENTENCE," though if you did you'd get no objections from anyone here or any of your friends or family.)
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 12:48 PM on November 7, 2018 [4 favorites]

Yeah, I too read this with a lot of compassion and benefit of the doubt for your partner. But by the time I got to the end, it was so lopsided that I agree with the other posters. You're being used. And I know how it is to feel like, "I'm too smart to be being used," "I'm getting something out of this, too," "If I were being abused I'd leave." It's time to disentangle yourself and take a good hard look, because what you described is someone who placates you just enough that they can keep using you to get the things they want.

You deserve better.
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:50 PM on November 7, 2018 [8 favorites]

You buried the lede here. Just reading the top part of your question, I was ready to come to your boyfriend's defense. But after reading the rest of the details, man- he is using you. This isn't going to get better.
posted by wondermouse at 12:57 PM on November 7, 2018 [2 favorites]

it's possible that your partner is on the spectrum

Some of his stuff seems pretty Aspie- his swearing, his insistence on "honesty", and general unwillingness to adjust his behavior to social expectations. I recognize some of his conversational traits too- the one-upsmanship is a conversational style that seems to come out in some aspie folks.

That said, someone can be aspie and an asshole- or an aspie and a narcissist- or an aspie and not the right person for you- or an aspie and abusive. So this can't weigh one way or another on how to think about your relationship, but reading up on the Autism spectrum might give you a framework, even if he's not diagnosed.
posted by BungaDunga at 12:57 PM on November 7, 2018 [6 favorites]

JFC, being a raging asshole does not mean someone is autistic. This guy does not sound anything like the many lovely autistic people I know. Nor is that relevant, as autism is not a get out of jail free card for being a raging asshole.

Anyway, he may not be a monster 100% of the time but he certainly doesn't seem like he's bringing more joy to your life than misery. Which is a very, very low bar to meet in a relationship in the first place.
posted by randomnity at 12:59 PM on November 7, 2018 [47 favorites]

He treats me well, he loves spending time with me, and he is generally affectionate.

This is the baseline for a relationship.

You need to understand that love is a feeling, but partnership is a choice. Is this the choice you want to make for yourself? Do you want to grow old isolated with someone who is critical and tedious?

My father was your partner in the last 25 years of his alcoholism. All I can tell you is that everyone, including me, pitied my dad's partner and that when the serious illnesses of old age settled in, my father's partner of 40 years opted to go into a different long term care facility than my dad.

It was 100% the right decision but it was so sad that after decades together, my father's behaviour meant all they had was one another, and in the end, not even that.

Make the choices future you will thank you for. (And do it before you're on the hook for palimony.)
posted by DarlingBri at 1:03 PM on November 7, 2018 [10 favorites]

(to be clear there are lovely aspie people! there are also ones who are also assholes, I've known both, and in my experience some of the ones that lean on the asshole side have tendencies toward these specific sorts of behaviors, and so do I sometimes)
posted by BungaDunga at 1:09 PM on November 7, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'd suggest you get into therapy to get a reality check on what it means to be treated well. While you're waiting for your first appointment, go read the archives of Captain Awkward. Your guy is an abuser and an asshole who is isolating you from your family and friends.
posted by matildaben at 1:15 PM on November 7, 2018 [5 favorites]

he will openly insult someone's clothing, hair, cooking, etc. but sees this as 'just being honest with them'. When I try to explain this, he gets defensive and says he would want people to be honest with him and he's not going to change who he is to please other people. He also says that if people don't like it, they don't need to be around him

You have just described every asshole I've ever met. Run.
posted by Ragged Richard at 1:24 PM on November 7, 2018 [9 favorites]

I'm usually one of the more forgiving folks in these threads, quick to advocate trying to work through issues in counseling. But if this isn't a clarion call to DTMFA, I don't know what is.

By the time you finished writing the above, weren't you starting to believe this, too?
posted by she's not there at 1:25 PM on November 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Here are the good things you've said about your boyfriend:
he loves me and I can feel that
I can't take care of the house we own by myself- it requires upkeep and painting and handyman work, and he does ALL of that without me even asking.
He takes out the garbage.
He also decorates VERY beautifully for every holiday season, so much so that many people compliment me on how beautiful our home is.
He takes care of me when I'm sick,
he fights battles I don't have the strength to fight,
he is in my corner no matter what and I can honestly say that

These are lovely things but I don't think any of this is worth someone who doesn't want to have sex with you and is driving away your friends and family members with his criticisms and negativity. Someone who can't or won't work yet is spending money like mad. Someone who made you move into a gigantic house you weren't sure you wanted.

I think you're looking for his approval or agreement about his personality, about leaving the relationship. You aren't going to get it. Is this the energy you want in your house, your bed, your life? I don't think so.

You have our permission to leave this relationship. Sell the monstrosity of a house and re-connect with your family and friends. Good luck.
posted by bluedaisy at 1:30 PM on November 7, 2018 [11 favorites]

Please, please start thinking about how to leave him without destroying your financial and personal security. This is not how a good-hearted person behaves and I think that there's a very good chance that he's manipulated you into thinking this is what healthy love looks like. I assure you it's not. He's a user and he's likely an abuser as well as he's been diligently collapsing your support structures and your relationships.

He's cruel and it's not something that will change. No amount of occasional reasonable behavior can overshadow that he's deeply cruel and sadistic toward others. Please get out and get the legal and therapeutic support you need to do it completely and with your own security in mind. This cannot be fixed. Also, don't be tricked into getting into couples therapy with someone who has abusive traits. It's a total no-no and only puts you in an even more vulnerable and dangerous position.
posted by quince at 1:30 PM on November 7, 2018 [6 favorites]

When you are free of him, you will realize what a weight you have been carrying around. It will be as if you suddenly lost two hundred pounds -- and you will have.

You are a loving person, and your love is a strength, not a weakness. Don't let anyone (inside your head or outside of it) tell you that your love means you're a sucker or that you belong in this situation.
posted by Countess Elena at 1:33 PM on November 7, 2018 [13 favorites]

OP, I get a sense that underlying this question is there might be a little fear in you. Fear that this is "as good as it gets"; fear that this is what relationships are like one way or another; fear that you don't deserve more than what you have and you're being ungrateful, unappreciative, inflexible.

None of this is true. Those traits you describe in your boyfriend - protective and loyal, contributing to making your home a lovely place to live; loving you - you can have all those things in a boyfriend, that doesn't alienate your friends and family. Hurting people you love and care about is not the act of someone who loves you. Good partners change behaviours for their lovers all the time, whether they believe they should or not.

Please do not shackle yourself to a relationship that will see you isolated from all your family and friends in a few short years, and spending all your money on day-to-day living. You can have more; you deserve more. You are a great partner and are entitled to the same in return. Believe it.

Best of luck.
posted by smoke at 1:38 PM on November 7, 2018 [40 favorites]

he gets defensive and says he would want people to be honest with him

Here's honesty for him: he's a gigantic fucking asshole.
posted by notsnot at 1:51 PM on November 7, 2018 [18 favorites]

Your partner is an abusive narcissist. He does not love you, and he does not desire you sexually. He wants the lifestyle you can supply him with, as seen by you paying nearly all the bills and him refusing to live in less than 3000 square feet. If he loved you, he would care that he's destroying your other relationships, driving away your best friend, being rude to your parents, being socially inappropriate, etc. If he loved you, he would not have driven you out of your prior home.

Please hear me about this, if nothing else: when a partner drives away your friends, choose your friends. You didn't pick "love". You picked the idea of love. This man is not capable of loving anyone besides himself, and this situation is only going to get worse.

Please make a safety plan and get out. I know dating is hard for a lot of us LGBT folks, but I promise, there are great guys out there who will get how awesome you are for YOU, and who will want to have sex with you, and who will not just see you as a means to a fancy lifestyle while casually destroying everything else in your life.
posted by bile and syntax at 1:55 PM on November 7, 2018 [11 favorites]

Though he may treat you decently now, it is only a matter of time before all of the bile he spits on other people will be aimed at you. It's inevitable. If I were you I'd sell my house, take my money and run run run. This man will try to take you for everything you have, and believe that he deserves it. I'm so sorry you're going through this, but at 2.5 years, you still have a good chance to disentangle yourself from this person before it gets too difficult. And, remember, you don't need to consult him in this decision, your life, your money, and your time are all your to do with what you choose. You sound like a decent guy, you should spend your time with someone who cares about others.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:58 PM on November 7, 2018 [10 favorites]

Listen, there's a way to be honest with people, but it's time- and place-contextual. For example, if someone says, "Hey I'm really not sure what I think of this hat; what do you think? Should I return it?" it might be fine to say, "Well, to be honest, I think the color doesn't suit you and it makes your head look sort of square, so maybe you could look for something in another color" or something like that. But honesty as a cudgel is just a backdoor way of being a prick while patting yourself on the back for being authentic. It's horseshit.

And my mother in law is, I kid you not, the worst cook I have ever encountered. So I say to my husband, "Dude, your mother is the worst cook I've ever encountered" and he nods sagely and agrees that his mother is very likely the worst cook I've ever encountered, and we have a good laugh and move on. I do not say this to her face, nor do I refuse to go to her house for holiday dinners. I do what a decent human being does: I go there, push the food around and sneak a lot of it onto my husband's plate because he'll eat anything, and tell her the meal was great. I bring nuts and protein bars to eat in private later when I get hungry.

This is what normal partners do. Your partner is not a good person. Make plans to dump this guy as quickly and safely as you can.
posted by holborne at 1:59 PM on November 7, 2018 [19 favorites]

Your partner sounds like he might have a personality disorder.

When I confront him about any of this, he becomes very defensive and refuses to listen to reason

I don't think he is in your corner at all. His refusal to consider your feelings, or how his behavior affects others is selfish and uncaring.

He doesn't really want people to be honest with him as he claims. He can bebop around hurting feelings willy-nilly but when you bring up how his behavior is hurtful, he grows defensive.

And add in a meager sex life on top of all of this drama-filled buffoonery. A relationship doesn't have to be like this. Life doesn't have to be like this.
posted by loveandhappiness at 2:05 PM on November 7, 2018 [5 favorites]

Adding my "This is not how this is supposed to work" to the chorus. After you talk to a lawyer and find a therapist, be sure to run your credit report.
posted by snickerdoodle at 2:07 PM on November 7, 2018 [10 favorites]

He's a terrible person, BUT he's being nice to you so he doesn't have to work. It's just the price he has to pay to live cost-free in a 3000sf house and spend all your disposable income. You're a meal ticket, honey; he's smart, he doesn't bite the hand that feeds him. And, in fact, the more he drives away your friends, the more dependent you'll be on him. It's all good as far as he's concerned.

I tell you right now that if you call up that best friend who told you to choose between them and said, "I'm going to dump him, please help me do this" you'd get an enormous "OH THANK GOD" and you'd have an absolute champion to help you get through what is going to be a really ugly breakup.

Please do this now.
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:20 PM on November 7, 2018 [61 favorites]

Oh my Lord. He sounds like a raging narcissist and this relationship sounds terrible. Please escape and look for an amazing partner who will treat you well and be an equal partner!!
posted by DTMFA at 2:25 PM on November 7, 2018 [4 favorites]

Right from the first paragraph where you were describing this relationship, I was thinking, "oh, sounds like a classic narcissist"... From Love-bombing you to make you "feel" like he loves you, and making his affection be craved like a drug; to one-upping everyone who speaks of anything that they're proud of having accomplished; to downright criticizing others choices and belittling them in public... and then you went on and named specific instances of these very things without hesitation, and it sounds like these are easy to recall because it is so typical of him. ---> RUN!
posted by itsflyable at 2:41 PM on November 7, 2018 [5 favorites]

As another gay man, I just want to add to the ringing chorus of PLEASE DTMFA. You deserve and can have so, so much more. You deserve a partner that will love & bond with your friends and family, and will love YOU, emotionally and physically. There are men out there for you.
posted by profreader at 2:45 PM on November 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

I could never, ever stay in a relationship with someone who treated my friends and family so horribly. Dump him before he isolates you further.
posted by sarcasticah at 3:23 PM on November 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

You framed this, roughly, as "He is bad to others but good to me." You seem to be thinking that how he treats you is of primary importance. That feeling is understandable.

Following that thought: if his actions hurt others with no negative effect on you, perhaps that would be acceptable. However, it is crystal clear that his actions that hurt others also hurt you. He hurts you every time he insults someone you care about or pushes away someone close to you or forces you to make major sacrifices for him. His actions are consistently and routinely making your life worse. And it's not just in the moment -- it's not just that you cringe every now and then -- this is major, long-term, persistent harm to you.

Happiness and a good life do not reside solely in one's relationship to one's partner. The connections we make to friends and family are critically important as well. Those connections are valuable, and they are difficult and slow to nurture and build. Do not throw those away because the connection to your partner feels good enough.
posted by whatnotever at 3:34 PM on November 7, 2018 [15 favorites]

Oh, jspierre, no. Almost every single thing you list about him as a positive is what most people would require to be with someone at all -- to love and show that love, to take out the trash and decorate for holidays and do upkeep of the shared home, etc. There is literally nothing you've described that isn't the bare minimum for even having a relationship.

Everything else about how he behaves is problematic, and problems like these do not get better when left alone. My father had Narcissistic Personality Disorder and this rings ALL of the bells regarding everything I've ever learned. (IANAD, and of course it could be a number of other psychological and/or neuropsychological situations, but I believe it's obvious to see that you need a therapist to work through the issues you have with accepting far less than every person deserves, and he needs a therapist to work on his antisocial behaviors.)

As for the sex, well, if he were perfect in every other way, if everyone loved him as much as you did, and he was kind to everyone you knew, I'd still think (granted, as a straight woman) that that's a major issue worth talking about with a therapist.

Random internet person that I am, I think you are putting up with horrifying behavior that pushes the people who are important to you away from you. You deserve better treatment, and you deserve a better-behaved partner.

And for what it's worth, if he were not in your life, all that stuff in your home that you can't keep up with? You'd have dozens and dozens times that in funds to pay someone to do what needs to be done. You asked if it's you or him? It's him, taking advantage of you (financially, but also emotionally, because you're putting up with him doing destructive things to your relationships and to other people you love). You have the absolute right to require someone in your life to be respectful if they want to be with you; you can't require behavior, per se, but you can require behavior if the person wants to benefit from your love and your largesse.

(The sex is more complicated, but the rest of the behavior is not. It must stop or you will find yourself isolated from the rest of the world, and tainted by his behavior, and I fear, financially bereft from his actions. You have the right to say that either he goes to counseling and works on improving his behavior, or you will consider ending the relationship. You are not responsible for housing him and paying for his lifestyle.)

If you were my real-world friend, I'd literally beg with you to meet with a therapist immediately to get guidance on how to move forward in a psychologically safe way. I'll be thinking of you.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 3:49 PM on November 7, 2018 [6 favorites]

I can't take care of the house we own by myself- it requires upkeep and painting and handyman work, and he does ALL of that without me even asking.

If you weren't paying for what he spends, you'd have money to hire someone to do these things. Or you could sell the house and get a condo again, or rent for a while. Don't let this drive a decision about whether to stay with this person.
posted by yohko at 3:59 PM on November 7, 2018 [13 favorites]

I echo everybody above - you're being used buddy. Dump the loser.
posted by hoodrich at 4:05 PM on November 7, 2018 [2 favorites]

Reading between the lines I wonder if you spent a long time feeling unloveable so now you have a scarcity mentality around how likely it is that you'll ever have a loving partner. If that rings true at all, I think you should get some therapy to debunk that myth.

But do that next year.

Your best possible project for the rest of 2018 is to stealthily figure out how to get rid of this asshole before you owe him spousal support, and to somehow do it in such a way as to prevent him from cleaning out your bank accounts or stealing your credit cards.

You are in a hideously emotionally abusive relationship with a person who does not treat you well. You are not his boyfriend; you are inadvertently and nonconsensually his sugar daddy. He is using you and does not love you. It is horribly obvious to every single person reading this thread and it happened incrementally and with deliberate malicious deception and gaslighting, so you didn't quite notice. But your gut knows which is why you asked.

Please get outta there asap. But do it sneakily from him and secretly get support from your friends and family, as this awful man will 100% bite and claw and hurt and break shit and steal from you on his way out the door.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 4:53 PM on November 7, 2018 [20 favorites]

he will openly insult someone's clothing, hair, cooking, etc. but sees this as 'just being honest with them'. When I try to explain this, he gets defensive and says he would want people to be honest with him and he's not going to change who he is to please other people.

Is he radically honest with people when he thinks their food and outfits are fabulous; does he fearlessly share his feelings of joy, shame, frustration, hope, and appreciation? Or is “honest” code for “asshole”?

Unfortunately I’ve seen this relationship years down the road. Here’s where you are going: your group of friends and family who come over will shrink. From time to time there will be new “wonder friends,” people your boyfriend is briefly very very into, but they will fade as the newness wears off. During dry spells of having anyone else to argue with, you will be the new target. Not knowing when the next attack on your competence/artistic ability/clothes/cooking/etc. Comes from, you will gradually shut down. He’s in your corner? Or does he have you cornered?
posted by warriorqueen at 5:29 PM on November 7, 2018 [25 favorites]

I mean, in addition to everything else, lying to you that he's secretly related to John McCain after creating a giant scene just to, basically, make your Dad look and feel bad in public is...not normal behaviour. That's some real manipulative drama! Imagine how nice your life would be if you didn't have to manage this kind of behaviour from your partner on a daily basis.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 5:45 PM on November 7, 2018 [15 favorites]

Check out r/JustNoSO on Reddit. It's an excellent support group. I think you're going to need it, sooner or later. And yeah, they're kind of the experts that have seen many questions similar to yours before.
posted by stormyteal at 6:12 PM on November 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Narcissists can be very good at creating dependencies and convincing their partners that they need the narcissist, but that's not the truth. The reality is that narcissists are parasitic and need a host to survive. Nthing getting the support of a good therapist who has a lot of experience helping people to extricate themselves from abusive situations, and also hire a good lawyer. Also nthing to be very stealth about all of this. When he figures out what you are doing, be prepared that he will manipulate and bully to thwart you.
posted by jazzbaby at 6:19 PM on November 7, 2018 [3 favorites]

I once had a relationship with someone who sounds not unlike your boyfriend.

This person actually did have a professional diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), which is why I'm going to pause here and recommend that you not go casually Googling for information about narcissism or NPD. There is a lot of rank BS on the internet about the Cluster B disorders so if you actually are in a relationship with someone suffering from one, much of what you read won't be helpful. People also love to armchair diagnose personality disorders around here (especially Narcissistic and Borderline PDs) but this requires professional training and differential diagnosis just like any other area of mental health. I recommend you talk with a qualified psychologist for guidance.

Anyway. What really matters here is how you feel being in this relationship and how the relationship supports (or doesn't) your well-being and aligns with (or doesn't) your values.

What is the kind of relationship you really want to have?

Do you want your partner to be an active part of your family life and be welcomed by your parents and relatives, or are you comfortable maintaining those family relationships (and, later on, caring for your elderly parents) on your own? Do you want to socialize with your partner and your friends together or are you okay with keeping your own separate friends group? How is your financial stability? Are you comfortable being the sole provider, or do you want a partner who can either directly contribute more to expenses or help out by budgeting and spending frugally for your household? Is regular sex important in how you express love for your partner and feel loved in return, or are you content with that being infrequent? Can you brush off the constant unsolicited advice and criticism—some people certainly can—or do you find it makes you feel angry and picked-on?

There's no one right answer to these questions—they're all things you have to reflect on and answer for yourself. You've identified some ways in which your partner supports you and is a positive influence in your life. Those things have value and you don't need to discount them. You've also identified a number of ways in which he has caused conflict with friends and family, put your financial and housing security in jeopardy, monopolized shared resources, and is mismatched with you in sex drive. I mean, he can't even restrain himself from using clearly offensive language around your conservative parents—if you value your relationship with your family that's a problem, and the problem is not with you.

I'll also back up other LGBTQ responders here in observing that growing up queer, especially in a time/place that is not very accepting, can contribute to a scarcity mindset about relationships. That's understandable—we're a small part of the population and we don't get the same support and guidance that straight people do—but it's something to be mindful of. You don't have to make do with someone who satisfies only some tiny part of your needs, and does that only at great cost to you.
posted by 4rtemis at 6:36 PM on November 7, 2018 [25 favorites]

Wait, he decorates the house beautifully for each holiday? How could even imagine leaving such a person?

Just kidding. DTMFA.
posted by Brittanie at 6:44 PM on November 7, 2018 [6 favorites]

The problem is that others don't see him the way I do

But it sounds like they do - they say he's a condescending asshole to them, and you agree. You've just decided to be one of the shrinking group that puts up with it.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 9:20 PM on November 7, 2018 [3 favorites]

Not that it's impossible that he has a real disorder, but I just feel like you need to examine your behavior a bit, because you're likely to continue to exaggerate the negative qualities of anybody else you're in a relationship, too, by enabling like this. I've been in the position of being the higher-earning partner who felt like it was wrong for me to "deprive" a partner of nice things, but as it turns out, yes, full-grown adults--and I don't think the exes of mine I'm thinking about here had NPD in the least bit--will sometimes stop putting in an effort to mitigate their own consequences if you teach them that you're always there to clean up the mess. Especially financially. You really need to be on more of the same page about stuff before you start footing the bill for everything. It's very gratifying to be the savior who fixed your partner's problems and made their life so much better, but whatever their personality defects are, you basically just magnify them by doing what you're doing here.

I think if you stopped rewarding his terrible behavior now by continuing to supply him with all the nice things in life, then you'd find pretty quickly that the "pro" column will shrink, because he's not going to be happy to have to deal with consequences again. He might in fact be a perfectly fine boyfriend to someone else later once he's had to deal with that, but right now he's had absolutely no reason to learn that lesson, because from his perspective, this is great.
posted by Sequence at 9:57 PM on November 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

I agree with everyone else that this is not acceptable behavior and this relationship is likely going to end but one thing jumped out at me. when you said he didn't work you put "disability" in quotation marks, like maybe you think he's making it up or he could work if he wants to. And maybe you're right but you do come across as a little contemptuous of him for not working and you don't think of him as a full partner in the relationship. He sounds terribly insecure and dramatic you sound kind of uninterested in him as a person beyond what he does for you. Maybe this relationship is making you both a little worse than you could be.
posted by fshgrl at 10:21 PM on November 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

What is his disability?
posted by 15L06 at 11:31 PM on November 7, 2018

*the behavior you describe sounds SO egregious that I wondered if it's possible that your partner is on the spectrum? *

Yeah, no. That's not 'autistic behaviour.' I mean, he could be autistic for all we know, but those behaviours are not symptoms of ASD.

I think it's worth really stressing that, because I can imagine that you're in a situation where it would be very easy for you to get trapped in thinking that this behaviour is not his fault, is not in his control, and is actually another reason why it would be wrong to leave him.
Abusers are really good at twisting situations like this to make their abusive behaviour anyone's responsibility but theirs.

I don't think he's acting like this because he can't help it. I think he's acting like this because it's working for him. I mean, I don't doubt that he has problems, no one acting like this is a happy and functional person, but he's ultimately doing these things because he can. He's got a loving, loyal partner who gives up friends and family for him, pays for everything, and allows him to behave as badly as he likes with no consequences. Why would he change?

I know this is hard to hear. I know none of us know him like you do. But listen, even if he loves you, he doesn't love you in a way that's good for you. He doesn't love you in a way that makes him care about your happiness or wellbeing. He doesn't love you in a way that makes you safe. He loves you in a way that's going to keep hurting you and using you and trapping you.
You deserve better love than that.
posted by BlueNorther at 1:27 AM on November 8, 2018 [10 favorites]

He also says that if people don't like it, they don't need to be around him

Well then.

Sounds like someone who knows himself all too well. You can take his advice.
posted by fraula at 2:29 AM on November 8, 2018 [5 favorites]

All these comments must be really very jarring. It sounds like you currently have far more awareness of what is feeling good in this relationship, and that you kinda dismiss or ignore the pieces that feel bad, except for the disruption that this is causing to your relationships with other people.

I'd start therapy as soon as you can. Your therapist can help you with waking up to feeling your feelings about the discomfort this is causing you, the ways that it is unfair to you.

With them, also look into this love that you feel. Is there a way that he loves you that you particularly need? Something unique about that aspect of the relationship compared to previous relationships? What's making all this worth it for you? As you get more aware of the bad pieces, it can be easy to feel frustrated with yourself like "why can't I leave? What's wrong with me??" There likely is legitimately a good kernel here, and the side of yourself that wants to hang on to the relationship has a valuable piece of information. Bringing that to consciousness, and why you need that so much, could free you to let go and go find that good thing in a relationship that's overall healthier and more fair to you.

Also, look at why this is tolerable for you. Is there something from your past that has all this feeling acceptable to you? Why does this package of positive and negative pieces feel like "what love feels like" to you?

Finally, be prepared for this to fall apart quickly. It might take awhile for you to do some of the necessary emotional prep work, but once you start setting even little boundaries, the whole thing may collapse quickly. The advice to consult an attorney about how to not have to subsidize him and his mom for years to come, even if you're not ready to leave, but so that you know how to handle things both now and when the time comes, sounds really smart.

My best to you. Have patience with yourself. If you can "leave before you get to the end of this sentence" then go for it, but if not, just focus on doing some of the emotional work to use this as a learning experience, and that will help you either get free or (longshot but who knows) maybe even renegotiate the terms of the relationship to ones that are more fair to you.
posted by salvia at 3:27 AM on November 8, 2018 [4 favorites]

quoting warriorqueen:
Is he radically honest with people when he thinks their food and outfits are fabulous; does he fearlessly share his feelings of joy, shame, frustration, hope, and appreciation? Or is “honest” code for “asshole”?

Yes. When you notice people who are blunt with their criticism because honesty is so important, it can be useful to ask: 1) are they *just* as blunt and honest about good things or their own vulnerabilities? 2) how do they respond when they are the target of similar honesty?

quoting jspierre:
he will openly insult someone's clothing, hair, cooking, etc. but sees this as 'just being honest with them'. When I try to explain this, he gets defensive and says he would want people to be honest with him

Because it sounds like when you are honest with him, he doesn't recognize it as "Oh wow, jspierre is taking the time and effort to be honest with me and I value honesty so I'm going to try to hear this and take it in. It sounds like he just brushes you off and says he's not going to change.

It sounds like "honesty" is important when it allows him to be in a power position and make other people feel bad. Not when it allows him to receive information that will help him be a better partner and person.
posted by bunderful at 5:00 AM on November 8, 2018 [15 favorites]

It sounds like "honesty" is important when it allows him to be in a power position and make other people feel bad. Not when it allows him to receive information that will help him be a better partner and person.

It's quite common for people to behave in ways they know are abusive and hurtful and then try to pretend that it's either a "joke" or "just being honest" as a coverup. One of the clear indicators that it isn't is that they can dish it out but not take it. I know I'm on the armchair diagnosis bandwagon, but regardless of the particular diagnosis - this behavior is abusive, and he knows he's doing it, and that he's hurting people you care about. He enjoys the power rush, both for hurting people and for watching you scramble and get upset.

Please get away from him. You deserve so much better than this.
posted by bile and syntax at 5:38 AM on November 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

I noticed that in your description your partner lauded his own honesty and said that he would prefer people to be honest with him, yet when you ARE honest with him he will not listen or absorb what you're saying. This seems to undercut his position somewhat.
posted by OmieWise at 6:05 AM on November 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

If all these comments are jarring, if you can't imagine leaving him and being lonely again, even if you tell yourself it's just "not that bad" or you're on the fence and walking on eggshells around your boyfriend to avoid upsetting the delicate balance you've got going here... EVEN IF all these things are true, here's what you should do first: go talk to a lawyer in secret and ask him how to line everything up legally so that when you're ready to leave, you'll have protected yourself as much as possible. Make sure you're taking precautions to put lots of your money somewhere he can't touch it, so he doesn't funnel you dry if he suspects the jig is up. Put a freeze on your credit accounts so no new accounts can be opened in your name. In short cover your ass, even if you're not going to leave him yet. And make sure you have a good explanation or two for your sudden changes. (A friend at work got his identity stolen, and it took him a month of bureaucracy to clear it up, so it's making you extra cautious? Make sure your stories don't involve anything that he would expect to be in on, i.e. accounts that would require beneficiaries, etc.)

While you're at it, do you need to cover your digital tracks? Could he be reading your email, or logging into your social media accounts, or have installed a keylogger on your phone or computer? Does he have access to your phone at all? Can you get a password manager and also enable two-factor authentication to prevent him from logging into your accounts, since he may know the answers to your recovery questions? (Remember, lots of 2FA methods will send an alert to your phone, which he may also have access to -- these security methods are mostly meant to keep out random hackers half the world away, not your shitty partner.) Make sure at the very least that you're using an incognito window to post questions like this, and to research other things like this, even if you're not actually planning on leaving him yet. If you scavenge for old posts on here, you'll find other advice like this. It's mostly geared toward straight women trying to leave abusive husbands/boyfriends, but quite a lot of it will be relevant to you. It's hard to leave abusers; take precautions to make it easier on future-you, when you're ready.
posted by tapir-whorf at 6:44 AM on November 8, 2018 [12 favorites]

Thank you all so much for your kind words, your great advice, and your encouraging and thoughtful comments. My eyes were opened in a way that they weren't before, and I was a bit surprised and embarrassed to realize I hadn't seen what was quite obviously right in front of me. It appears I have a tough road ahead of me, but this will not be the first time and I weather storms quite well. I don't fault myself for loving this person, and I refuse to become jaded because of how this relationship concludes.

I really do appreciate everything you have all said and, collectively, the voice with which the 'hive' has uniformly spoken.

Thank you.
posted by jspierre at 7:16 AM on November 8, 2018 [78 favorites]

Some people are good for our individual happiness but terrible at the “social partner” aspect of committed relationships. My ex, god love him, is a wonderful person who has never impressed a single one of my friends. I sometimes feel the need to tell him to cool it and be nicer to his friends since they’ve become my friends and he’s being rude. But his behavior to me is different and comes across differently to me given our relationship. So sometimes there is real, genuine tension between how someone is with other people and how someone is with you, that isn’t just you being naïve or blind to his bad qualities or whatever. (This is probably particularly true for people on the spectrum—it’s easy enough for some of us to learn what not to say to one particular person!)

Of course, for a lot of people, having a separate social life from their partner or having a partner be a social liability would be a deal-breaker. That’s definitely fine and there’s nothing wrong with deciding that you can’t keep dealing with the social aspects of dating this person. You might also be sick of other aspects of the relationship as well, of course.

I don’t know. I may be biased because I often befriend people who others dislike, and find it hard to bond with people who are considered “likeable.” A certain level of...lack of social polish makes communication much easier for me, and I grew up with people who were extremely blunt. But it’s definitely a trade off between that and having friends who other people like, too.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:05 AM on November 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

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