I am at the end of my rope

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.

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.)

You helped me to get my life back on track with your reply so I have one last question. I was going to go and live with my boyfriend next week for six months though I felt unhappy in his country. I was there for two months while he was studying and living at home. I was so depressed I only looked forward to seeing him every weekend. However, after listening to your advice I realized I wasn’t true to myself.

A light went out in my life. When we were walking he’d lose me and watch my face while I searched for him. We slept together when I was drunk and he teased me that I’d always wanted a baby and that he hadn’t used anything, which was a lie. He told me. Every girl knows what a nightmare that is. After two years together it was not meant to be, because he was too hard for me, but when I rang him up and told him I was not coming back at once, he told me he’d never make me unhappy, would never destroy me, that only awful people did that on purpose. I know he did cruel things but I found myself forgiving him.

I won’t go back but my whole life is surrounded with evidence of him and we’ve spent two years together. I’ll feel okay then suddenly I see his face in something in my mind’s eye and I panic that I have nobody to hold me at night or to hold my hand when I am afraid. It’s those shallow things that tempt me back to him. That is hard. I’m not a hard person. Quite the opposite. I’ve always hid behind others, and was in danger of becoming totally controlled by him to the extent that I would have lived just to support him in his career.

Does it mean I did the wrong thing if I am lonely and terrified and sad, or is this just an inevitably painful rite of passage? I am in my 20’s. That is all I have in my favor. I have known for so long that the man for me was not him, but I feel this huge hole in my life and I feel really gutted. I know it sounds impossible to love a man like that, but he was charming and I really did. Now I just feel myself all around me and I want to get out of my own skin. I did the bravest thing ever and I know it but how can one reconstruct one’s life when you crumple so easily with shattered dreams?

Last week we were planning the future. Am I supposed to suddenly adapt back to searching for a flat and a job or do you think it’s okay to take time out? I can’t forget the moment he left me. I didn’t know it would be for such a long time. I want to go back in time and hold him again in my arms. I am still haunted by his perfume and the feel of his jacket on my cheek. I feel really sad and have these panic attacks where I want to scream. Is it like that forever? All I want to know is that pain truly fades and that my jaded view
will dissolve.

These are known emotional reactions to splitting up, somewhat amplified by things within yourself that you can work to heal and change. The pain will fade with time, as they say. That aside, this would be a very good time to seek out some help and support in self-healing, the kind of support that will assist you to grow personally and to make sure you never — and I mean never — end up in this kind of unhealthy relationship again. There are many things that you need to look at closely in what has led you to this unhappy moment.

There were choices you made and needs you thought you were getting met, there were places where you gave away your power and authenticity, and places where you got wounded that need to heal. I cannot recommend strongly or clearly enough that the best thing you can do for yourself right now is to find a good counselor or mentor who can help you turn this painful situation into positive, empowering personal growth. You will thank them for the rest of your life and you will bypass years, or even decades, of future pain — if you learn the deeper emotional lessons that are important for you to get, right now. This is not merely a matter of waiting for the pain to subside because of the passage of time. It is a vital opportunity for you to learn the soul lessons that will move you ahead in your life, to heal the sources of inner pain, and to directly confront and deal with your own inner sources of jadedness.

This is not just about getting over some guy who has been the context of extremely unhealthy love. It is a test of you, and your willingness to take matters in hand and use this experience to grow — and to make sure this never happens to you again — not by defensively closing down to all future love possibilities, but by healing yourself, getting more whole, reclaiming your own power and authenticity, and know how to make sure any relationship to which you do commit yourself is healthy and positive.

That is your job. This is your moment of potential education and “job training” for it. I encourage you to roll up your sleeves and get involved in your own personal growth here. Forget the guy. He just came along to reveal to you your own vulnerability to falling into an unhealthy love relationship.

This is now about you, and the future quality of your life. Take matters in hand and deal with those internal factors that allowed you to fall into that hole. You never have to suffer that kind of unhealthy love again. You can overcome and heal whatever things you need to within yourself here. But you need to take action steps to do so.

Counseling is the best way. Other than that, you might want to read some books at this time in your life that shed light on what a healthy relationship is, and what tends to go wrong and turn promising love into unhealthy scenarios like you and this guy, and what you need to do about it within yourself.

Based on over 20 years of working with thousands of people to heal their relationships in my marriage retreat, I have written a relationship help book you can download now or get in print. It offers step-by-step tools and strategies:

• Learn how to change patterns that damage love.
• Heal and overcome old baggage that holds you back today.
• Improve communication skills to get effective results.
• Work through and soothe difficult or upset feelings.
• Create a powerful shared vision for overcoming problems and building solid trust.