Bully Boyfriend

28 Aug

Dear LetterBalm: I think I’ve gotten myself into a bind. For almost a year, I’ve been seeing a man who’s been divorced for a couple of years. I’m in my mid-40s, divorced with no kids. He has three children, ranging in age from 16 to 23, who live at home and do little to help him. This means he has minimum time for me. I’m trim, and I always try to look my best when I see him. He’s sloppy and overweight, and he tells me how to dress and act and what we do on our infrequent dates. This bossiness makes me anxious because I remember how hard I worked to please my parents who pretty much ignored me in favor of my brother and sister. My parents had an abusive marriage, and they split up several times, which devastated me emotionally. I know I have to get out of this, but I panic about losing him, and I’m crying all the time. What can I do?

–Don’t Want To Lose Him

First, dry your tears. Then, take a deep breath and think about your situation. You’re dating a man with three uncooperative children old enough to know better. He’s fat, slovenly, unattractive, bossy and probably a controlling bully if given the opportunity, which you seem to want to grant him. You fear rejection from him because your parents hurt and rejected you time and time again. Consider this: What would your parents say if you showed up with Mr. Wonderful? They’d have a field day criticizing you and your wretched choice. Ms. L.B. says it doesn’t take a brilliant person to suggest that your unresolved parental issues have damaged your self-esteem. You’re repeating your behavior of trying hard to win your boyfriend’s attention as you did with your parents. Seek therapy, even just to begin to feel better. When you’re stronger, have a (carefully rehearsed) brief conversation with your boyfriend at his home. Don’t make excuses, and don’t let him steamroll you. Then leave, because you’ll be finished with him:

Walter, I’ve come to the conclusion that you’re so involved with your children and your home that there is little room for me. You need time to tend to the responsibilities of your family. It’s only fair to both of us that we not see each other again. I truly hope you find someone who can appreciate you. This is the last time I’ll speak to you, so I want you to know that I wish you well and hope you and your kids have a good life. Goodbye.

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