Stay or Go?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I’m 43 and my boyfriend and I have been dating for 4+ years. He’s 50 and never been married. On one hand, he’s been wonderful. A loving, generous, thoughtful caregiver. Responsible, well rounded person, great sense of humor. On the other hand, he is controlling, sometimes condescending, speculates negatively about me, doesn’t seem to trust me though he says he does…… there is usually some sort of conflict between us. I am often left feeling confused and a little fearful, though he has never been physically abusive. He is hyper-sensitive, and can be hyper-critical, though he has improved considerably over the years, through much of his own personal work.

He realizes some of his problems, and doesn’t want to remain that way, is often deeply sorry and truly has tried to change over the years. His expectations are unreachable, so I often disappoint him, though I try very hard to please him. He’s working on this too. I just don’t know. He seems to love me deeply, and every time I have tried to end it….. his persistence has led us to being together again. It’s been on again off again for the entire 4 years.

will it ever get better? Or is it naive to think it will ever be a healthy safe and comfortable relationship. He says he wants to get married, but has never asked me, and when we get close, there is either an upset or a short list of things I need to come up to speed on before the relationship can move forward. And then of course, he won’t let me go……please help me. What should I do here. He’s half fantastic, and I love him so. But the other half stresses me out to no end, and is hard on my emotional well-being.

A: I know there are some people who would say that half is better than none. But that assumes that “none” is the other option. I believe you can and should go for a completely loving and trusting relationship. My vote therefore, is for you to end this painful relationship where you are so often trying to measure up or pass some test. An important clue to what goes on is that he always comes up with a new test when you get close. He’s either afraid of the closeness or he wants to keep an upper hand. Either way, you end up scrambling. I’m also very concerned that you say that you are fearful at times — another indicator that this relationship is way out of balance.

As much as your boyfriend says he wants to change, he hasn’t changed enough in over four years for you to settle for what he offers. You deserve better. Yes, you are in midlife. But that only means you still have half your life to go. I hope you give yourself the chance to find someone who loves you and cherishes you and is 100 percent wonderful.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 24 Dec 2013

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2013). Stay or Go?. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/12/24/stay-or-go-3/

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