Is My Male Friend Emotionally Abusive?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I am a woman in my late thirties and I met a younger guy, 24 years old at the time on the internet, randomly, who turns out to be local to me. Actually we really first met at a taco place where he used to work, when I went there to eat once, but we barely talked at that time and I didn’t really pay attention to him, as I thought he was too young for me. About six months later, when we “met” online, he remembered who I was from my one little unclear picture I sent him, which to me shows me I made an impression on him even back then.

Even though it was emotionally intense for us from the beginning, for a while it was only online chatting and phone calls for us. Even though he wanted to meet me, I thought he was too young for me and thought we should just be friends. But after a year and a half of just talking, he finally hunted me down and met me in person, and we have known each other and had an off an on sexual relationship for almost three years now. He is almost 28 now.

From our first conversation, I have always had a feeling that he is the perfect guy for me. I don’t have that feeling often, I hardly ever like any guys, and maybe twice in my life felt the same way about a guy. And from the things he has said to me, it seems that he has felt the same way towards me. We are often very romantic in our conversations.

But we have had a strange relationship. He feels he is too young for me to get serious with me and I feel the same way too. He is well known locally in the music community and very social, and I am not, and I just don’t fit in his scene. Nor do I want to. I feel I just couldn’t compete. So we have kept our relationship in the shadows for years now.

He is very good looking and meets lots of beautiful younger girls. But he always sees me on the side, for years already. And I feel guilty because eventually the girls find out about me and I have somewhat ruined several relationships of his over the last few years. I ruined his last longterm relationship with a very nice beautiful younger girl when she caught one of my emails, and now he is single again. On the other hand, he always seems careless with my emails, so sometimes I think he wants to get caught.

On one hand, after years of coming back to me, he shows this tremendous loyalty to me. We have discussed how we will be together for the rest of our lives, even after he or I gets married. On the other hand we don’t have anything real. Whenever I try to get him to call me more, especially when he is single, he kept saying he was too busy. So he doesn’t seem to want to take it to the next level. I think we could maybe could compromise and take it up a notch. But he doesn’t want to compromise at all, and I basically get a take it or leave it offer.

Whenever I decide I’ve had enough, and want to leave it, and even hint at “leaving” him, he starts getting very insulting. His insults started out more minor, like using the word “stupid” with me, like the first time he said if I didn’t stop my stupid comments he would ignore me for good. Then it started getting worse, like when he found out I was afraid of him giving me AIDS, he started yelling and threatneing to give me AIDS, like a crazy person. Then when I told him I was just worried he was using me for sex now he started bringing up how he is just using me for sex. He uses that one a lot now and he still brings that up everytime we argue. Then he starts ignoring me and will just suddenly drop out of my life not take my phone calls for weeks and months, which he knows I hate. But I know that his mean behavior is always triggered by me suggesting we should end things. So in a sick way, it’s almost romantic that he cares that much.

We are not talking right now. He told me to disappear. But he’s done that to me before, and when I call him back, and act like I want to start things up again, he acts so sweet and passionate and then comes back to me. I think I could get him to come back again if I called him again and acted like things would go on again. I am pretty sure I see his car do slow drive by’s my house fairly often.

I know I probably shouldn’t call him. But I can’t find anyone else I like as much. Even if I know he is emotionally abusive, sometimes I think better that, than to live my life in total dullness and blandness. The lows are there but the highs are there as well.

What do you think?

A: I think you’ve decided that half a loaf is better than none. The two of you have made an arrangement. He’s been clear that you can take it or leave it. When you try to change it in any way, he finds ways to get you right back to the original deal. You don’t ruin his relationships. He sets it up so no one (including you) can get really close. Your relationship works for him. It sometimes even works for you.

But some part of you is restive, wondering if indeed this is all there is. I’m on the side of that part. As long as you stay entangled in this secret not-quite-relationship, you are not available for someone who could love you truly, openly, completely.

I realize you’ve been hurt in the past. But you have at least half your life to go. I hope you will start meeting people your own age who can share the experience and understandings that come with being part of the same generation. I hope you will actively look for love and nurture it when when you find it. If it’s all just too, too scary, I hope you will find a therapist who can help you rebuild your self-esteem and give you encouragement along the way.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Sep 2010

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2010). Is My Male Friend Emotionally Abusive?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/09/21/is-my-male-friend-emotionally-abusive/