Dear Wayne and Wanda,
I am currently struggling with my boyfriend and I am in desperate need for help. It all started early last year. I was having problems with my parents (they even threatened to throw me out of the country) and my boyfriend asked me to move in with him. Tired of the daily arguments with my parents, I moved in with him and his family.
He promised me that within three months, we would get our own apartment, and I believed it. The first couple of months were fine. We were getting situated, we were looking for apartments and I was trying to fix things with my parents. As the months went by, my boyfriend was trying less and less. He started gaining weight, he started acting like a jerk, he would never help take care of our dog. Every apartment I brought up, he believed he had a good reason for why it was not a good fit for us.
All he does on his days off is play video games. By now I have fixed my relationship with my parents and yet my boyfriend never wants me to make the 15-minute drive from where we currently live to my parents' house. He just can't stand my parents. There is a language barrier but that had not been a problem at the beginning of our relationship and now, for some reason, that is a big problem.
I tried to break it off with him, giving him all the reasons why it's not working anymore and he threatens to kill himself and promises to make things better. It's fine for a couple of days and then he goes back to the same thing he's been doing. He hasn't even attempted to get a driver's license, so my commute to work is 20 minutes longer because I have to drop him off first. I'm so close to losing my job because of how often I've been late. He doesn't even offer to pay for gas anymore. What do I do?
First of all, your boyfriend threatening to harm himself should be taken seriously and treated as urgent. For professional guidance on how to proceed and support him, call the Alaska CARELINE (1-877-266-4357/HELP), Mental Health Emergency Counseling line (907-563-3200) or Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255), and definitely reach out to your boyfriend's parents to tell them what is going on. Even if you think he's just saying these things to scare you and keep you close, his words should be taken seriously.
That serious issue aside, you've still got a tremendous amount on your plate — and all of it points to a draining, unhealthy relationship, where this man is taking extraordinary advantage of your vulnerabilities and your kindnesses. I didn't hear you name one positive benefit to you through this relationship. Instead, I heard you explain a dynamic where you're consistently neglected and taken advantage of by a person who sounds very depressed and in need of professional support.
It's very hard when we care about someone and see them spiraling to walk away. We feel responsible and we want to do something to help, to fix them. But sometimes these problems are bigger than us and we must reach out to our support networks and professionals to muddle through. I urge you to not try to manage this massive bundle of dark, confusing issues by yourself. Reach out to someone who can provide support and guidance for your boyfriend, and who can support you in breaking the dysfunctional cycle and you untangle yourself from this unhealthy dynamic and break away to start fresh — and single.
Fully agree with Wanda and completely confirm your intuition — it's time to stop worrying about everyone else and time to start focusing on your own happiness and welfare. And, as you already know, what's best for you is to quickly exit this mess — your relationship with your boyfriend and his parents' home.
I know — it's really hard to end things. And your probably depressed, definitely manipulative boyfriend isn't going to make it easier. But remember: You deserve to be happy. You deserve to be around people who love and support you. You deserve the opportunity to have your hard work translate into success and independence.
Your boyfriend and your current living situation are preventing you from thriving and growing. So break up with him, leave his place and don't look back. Don't reply to his calls or texts. And don't feel guilty for taking care of yourself. You gave him more than enough chances to be a better partner and he's let you down and dragged you down every time.
Hopefully your parents will let you move back in with them, but don't view that as a permanent fix. Use the free (or cheap) room to save your money while you continue looking for an apartment of your own. Embrace this moment of growth and keep the momentum going. Months and years from now, you'll look back on this with pride for the way you stood up for yourself, for doing what was best for you, and you'll remember this as the start of your journey down the road of adulthood.
Want to respond to a recent column, point out a dating trend, or ask Wanda and Wayne for wisdom regarding your love life? Give them a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org.