Wednesday 24 May 2017

Dear Patricia: Control freak boyfriend has asked me to marry him

Patricia Redlich

I have been dating this guy for more than two years now. I broke up with him early in the relationship because I couldn't stand his behaviour. He was a control freak and used to threaten to commit suicide if I left him.

Well, I did leave for four months and then went back. He told me he'd changed and I believed him because I was still in love with him.

We were only together again for a couple of months when he had to go away on business. Before he left, he set up a system on my phone so that we could chat on a daily basis while he was gone. What I didn't realise was that it also allowed him to see who else I was talking to. I only found out when he got so angry that he confronted me with some comments I made to a friend.

But there are rules for me and rules for him. I found nude photos of a woman on his phone. When I confronted him, he said it was his ex-girlfriend and he had no idea how the photos could still be there. I also found out that he was chatting, very intimately, with a wide range of people I didn't know and doing so behind my back. And all this time he was controlling every conversation I had.

He still checks all my sent items, delivery reports, dialled calls, etc. And I have to report all my movements, even something as simple as going to the shops. In fact, I have to let him know in advance, as though I needed his permission.

Now he wants to marry me and I believe that if I agree, then I'll be digging my own grave. He is unable to control his jealousy and the chances are that he will never change. He doesn't help me with things such as carrying luggage or heavy shopping bags, and certainly doesn't help domestically.

He's also mean with money. When he buys something, I have to share the cost, but when it's the other way around, he's broke. He always claims he loves me, but it doesn't feel that way. I don't believe he'll ever see things the way I see them.

I need help. I'm so caught up in my boyfriend's chaos. Sometimes I feel he is obsessed with me. I don't know how to sort this issue out. Sometimes I still want him, but a lot of the time I don't. Because really, I have had enough of him and his stories and his endlessly controlling behaviour.

Now it's my turn to distrust him -- which I never did before. And we fight over the smallest things. I don't think it helps that he's from a different culture, an immigrant, although he has totally legal status here.

Patricia replies:

WELL, no, it probably doesn't help. It is easy to make a judgement call and say someone is a control freak when they share our cultural norms, but step outside its boundaries.

What you seem to be up against is a completely different approach to women -- at least it's a distinct possibility. In that situation, you are battling not with one human being who has somehow lost his way, but with a complete culture. And you won't win.

Even if this is not the case, and your boyfriend's behaviour has nothing to do with his cultural background, you probably won't win. And by winning. I mean being happy.

Not only is he controlling, he's not nice to you either. He doesn't financially pull his weight, let alone support you. I can't see any kindness there, let alone love. So, yes, digging your own grave sounds about right. That's what marriage to him would mean.

Knowing the sensible thing to do is very different than doing it. We could talk about your boyfriend forever. The real issue is why you stay with him, what's holding you in there and what can be done about it. How, in other words, can you dodge that grave you're threatening to dig for yourself. I don't know the answer, of course, but to help you find it, here are some suggestions.

All of us are scared of loneliness. We're also scared of not being loved. Sometimes that drives us into the very scenario we fear most. There is no lonelier place on this planet than a marriage to someone who treats you badly.

The key to avoiding that is hope -- the hope that we will find someone good to share our lives with. What helps us hope is self-esteem. Thinking well of yourself means you steer well away from damaging partners because you believe you are worthy of better treatment -- and because you also believe you'll find it.

Self-esteem, if you like, protects us from despair. Think about it.

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