Dear Dating Oracle,
I am so confused. I have been dating my boyfriend for 3 1/2 years. Things have not always been easy and we have broken up many times because I just don’t feel he treats me with the respect that he should, and half the time I don’t feel like his girlfriend.
This year, he didn’t want to spend his birthday or Christmas with me; he traveled around India for 3 months and called me once; my best friend in the whole world is getting married and he won’t come to the wedding; we go to London to visit our friends and we take separate trains home; he has friends that I have never even met; he stays over all the time but will not officially move in even though he is looking for a place and I have a spare room. But then, other times it is wonderful, and we are very much in love, and he cannot get enough of me. We laugh and have great sex and go on day trips; these times are perfect.
I feel that he wants it both ways, and the good times are so good that I put up with the bad times. Is this normal? How can I break the cycle? I feel like we have broken up so many times that I cannot face it again. I also feel like I (we) have been through so much I just refuse to give up on us.
—Hanging On in the UK
This sounds a lot more like a heroin addiction than a boyfriend. Think about it: he makes you feel awful most of the time, but every now and then he gives you enough of a high to help you remember why you liked him in the first place.
Yes, your behavior is normal. For an addict.
What you need is an intervention. Rehabilitation. A few good weeks at a spa-like inpatient facility where you can figure out how to end your self-destructive patterns and break free. In other words, you need to DUMP HIM and move on.
I know what you’re thinking: What about the good times? What about all those memories? What about…love?
No, by the looks of it, your boyfriend only loves the easy parts. You said it yourself: you laugh, have great sex, take day trips — and “these times are perfect.” I hate to break it to you, but you can get this kind of satisfaction from a first date. After 3 1/2 years, he should be able to do that plus little things, like calling you when he’s out of town, introducing you to his friends, and, most importantly, making you feel like his girlfriend. It’s not much to ask, really.
And wait a minute — you’re afraid of breaking up with him because you’ve already broken up so many times you just can’t do it again? This is sort of like continuing to hit yourself on the head with a hammer because you don’t know what life would be like without that monstrous, oozing lump bulging from above your eye.
Your behavior isn’t unlike that of an abused spouse. According to Dr. Mary Susan Miller, author of No Visible Wounds: Identifying Nonphysical Abuse of Women by Their Men, women often stay in abusive relationships because they lack the self esteem to get out of them. Perhaps you should get some counseling to determine why you want to stick with someone who does so little for you. Maybe once you get through some of your own issues and feel happier with yourself, you’ll be able to let go of this guy for good.
Once you do, let him find his own ride home.