Dear Wayne and Wanda,
I am a 22-year-old woman, and I am struggling in my relationship with my boyfriend of 3 1/2 years. We are in constant disagreement over finances. Two months ago, he told me he wanted us to join his parents on a trip to visit Venice, Italy, this summer. I told him I’d love to go (obviously) but was concerned about money. We live with his parents and have been trying to save up for our own place. In addition to that, I have some medical bills to pay, and we have committed to attending an out-of-country wedding in 2024.
He said he’d pay for my ticket. I objected initially because he is already $30,000 in debt with college loans and other expenses. But he insisted, so I relented. Time passed, he didn’t purchase tickets, and the prices for airfare went up significantly. Next thing I know, he’s texting me for money to make up the difference, saying I “promised” to go and I can’t back out now. Of course I sent him the money. This is a classic example of how I feel like he is constantly manipulating me to get his way.
Admittedly this isn’t our only issue. He has repeatedly found ways to get money from me or talk me into things I don’t really want to do. Another example: Recently we were at a house party, and he wanted to hook up in his friend’s bedroom. I felt extremely uncomfortable doing so, plus I’d had a lot to drink, but he said it had always been a fantasy of his, and so I relented. I felt gross about it afterward. Also in the past, he has threatened to break up with me after big fights. A couple times, he’s disappeared on me for long stretches, and he’s told me if he’d “hurt himself” because he was upset, it would have been my fault for not communicating better.
I’m seriously thinking about ending the relationship, but I really do love him and also feel like I’d be walking away from someone who needs my help.
He does need help, but not from you. You’re a young woman with your whole life in front of you, and if you stay on this path, that’s going to be a life of dysfunction, disappointment and debt. Here’s the straight talk: You should never remain with a person who is consistently deceptive and manipulative, and you should absolutely never, ever stay with a person who is sexually coercive and controlling. That kind of behavior is dangerous and disrespectful at best, and demonstrates that not only is he objectifying you, he’s continually exerting power to control you and make him feel better about himself.
He seems to be a man generally out of control. You’ve shown no evidence he has a shred of self-regulation, instead doing whatever he wants to feel superficially good, whether that’s booking a trip he can’t afford and racking up debt, threatening self-harm to dissuade you from logic, or seeking self-gratification in totally inappropriate venues, just for the heck of it.
Things with him will not get better. They will get worse. It is sometimes hard to walk away from a relationship when we’ve put a lot of time in because it feels like we’re abandoning an investment. But in this case, I recall the wise words of an old friend: The quickest way to get out of a hole is to quit digging. Walk away from this guy now, before his behavior escalates even worse and you end up violated, hurt and broke in more ways than one.
So, you just wrote 300-plus words illustrating red flags, situations of manipulations, general distrust and rising anxiety involving this man … and then you close with, “But I really do love him and also feel like I’d be walking away from someone who needs my help.” What exactly do you love about him? You failed to mention that. The way he makes you feel about him and yourself? How your attempts at communication ignite his dramatic mood swings? That he uses you as his personal no-fees ATM? I can see the attraction — lots to love with this guy.
Sure, he definitely needs some help if he ever wants to be a decent boyfriend and human being, but that shouldn’t come from a girlfriend who he’s manipulating and controlling. What you think is love and help is really you giving him the green light to further walk all over you — vocally, physically and financially. It’s you who needs and deserves some serious love and help right now. And you wouldn’t have written to us if you didn’t recognize the terrible situation you’re in and want our voices to confirm that for you.
So, trust your gut, which is screaming at you. Trust Wanda and me, who are giving you the real-deal view that you asked for. Just don’t trust him when he comes crawling back with a nice-guy routine because it’s all a lie. He’ll be back to evil boyfriend the second you take him back. Cliche alert: You’re young and have your whole life ahead of you. The longer you keep this type of toxic person in your life, the longer it will take for you to get rid of him, heal from him, and even trust new friends and potential partners. Don’t waste any more time carrying this baggage and man around. Run from him. Block him from everything. Forget about any travel plans or money he owes you. Bill it to “Life lessons that will make you stronger and wiser.” Good luck.
[Our relationship is miserable, but when I tried to break things off my boyfriend threatened to kill himself]
[I supported my ex when he was in jail, then he dumped me — and I can’t move on]
[Ask Sahaj: My partner is sure he wants kids. I don’t know what I want.]