-- Question for John --
My boyfriend and I been together for 2 years. He has very set opinions which are beginning to override any opinions of my own. We are from different countries and encompass two very different cultures. He doesn’t agree with the way in which my family lives and constantly tells me so. I really love him but I feel trapped.
His family is clinically tidy and obsessed with alternative medicine and he reels out thousands of far fetched reasons why he cannot breathe in my house which I find insulting and embarrassing.
He is currently in his country and I am in mine. He hangs up on me when I disagree with him on the telephone and I feel like he wouldn’t believe I would leave him until I just did — although he is obsessed with the fact that I am to further my studies here next year when he can’t follow me. I’m supposed to look for an apartment to live with him in his country for six months — but I feel so exhausted by being torn between those I love in different countries that I’ve honestly considered taking my passport and running away.
He is a lovely man and my best friend but he is very controlling and I feel like to a certain extent even if it kills me I have to to a certain extent save myself. I just can’t leave him because I really love him through all his faults — and I am torn between countries. That is agony and I feel physically and mentally at the end. Ironically, he feels the same way. How can you love someone you can’t be with to such a great extent? I haven’t even got the guts to book my flight. I feel wrong in his family house and it haunts me.
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-- Answer from John --
Unfortunately it is all too possible to love someone very much yet be in such a deep hole emotionally that you effectively lose yourself in the self-destructive relationship dynamics. And it can then seem like you are torn.
I do know two absolute truths that may speak to what you need to do.
One is that love is not enough. No amount of love — especially desperate love — can assure you of being in a healthy relationship. All it assures you of is an attraction towards that relationship, be it healthy or not.
Other things entirely are required to assure that a relationship is healthy, growth-filled, fulfilling, satisfying and in harmony with who you truly are. Love is not one of those things. In fact, to put it bluntly, love often brings up fear of loss, and the desperation that results from acting from this place of fear, in itself, usually assures you of ending up in an unhealthy, growth-aversive relationship which puts you at odds with who you truly are.
The other truth I know is that if you are truly authentic and take care of the needs within you that you truly need to honor — even if that puts a relationship at risk — then you are assuring yourself that you will end up in a healthy relationship. You simply cannot put yourself second and any relationship first. If you do not stand up for yourself fully — and back that up with real consequences — then you are not committing yourself to having a healthy, fulfilling relationship. You are cutting your own legs out from under yourself. Each of us has things within ourselves that can move us towards codependency and unhealthy relationships. Each of us can be prone to negating our own selves in relationship due to fear of the consequences of showing up and being truly authentic. If you give in to these tendencies in yourself, you will end up quite miserable. You need to stand up for yourself and back it up with real consequences.
What you are essentially telling me is that this great guy is also saying and doing things which absolutely do not work for you. Am I right about that? Be authentic and clear with that. At least be clear to yourself. And perhaps with him (see the next paragraph). And if you need to back up your clarity with real consequences — like leaving, for instance — then you have that very difficult choice in front of you. It is my observation that when people fail to truly stand up for themselves, they never end up in a happy relationship, no matter how much love they feel. You need to make the clear choice. I say, stand up for yourself. Now. Not later.
(By the way, as an aside, and I mention this to women in relationships with controlling and angry men, if there is any chance of physical violence against you if you do stand up for yourself clearly, then be smart and exit the situation quickly as the best way to stand up for yourself. A second thing I mention is that controlling and angry men tend not to change, especially because they tend to dominate the women they are with instead of looking at their own part of the drama, so if you are hoping he will soften up and see the light, give that a low probability, and a zero probability if you continue to allow yourself to be dominated by him because you are so desperately in love with him.)