Home » Ask the Therapist » Should I Walk Away?

Should I Walk Away?

Asked by on with 1 answer:

From Germany: My boyfriend is in his early 40s, but has never had a relationship that lasted more than 3 years and has never been married. He is very smart, has a great job and supports his family back at home, however, he seems to have a dominating and criticizing mother. He says he was verbally and even physically abused by her and once they even spent a year not talking to each other.

The last time I broke up with him, he had 10 sessions with a psychotherapist, where they spoke about his mother and also his emotional “cocoon” in which he tends to hide to prevent other people from hurting him. He says the therapy helped and he has gotten rid of the cocoon feeling.

I moved in with him a year ago, and since then have been feeling like I do not belong in his house and overall I was stupid to give him another chance. He has strict rules about where things should be placed and how things must be done, and if I fail to do things the way he does, he gets really upset and gives me a silent treatment. He is constantly cranky and any small detail can set him off. If I, by mistake, buy a wrong kind of sauce to go with his fries or smth similar, he treats that as a sign I do not love him.

I am tired of trying to follow his rules and not overstep his invisible borders. I feel like I have suppressed most of my needs and wants in order not to bother him and not get him upset. I am not as pedantic and clean as he is (no one I know is). He is never physically abusive, just overall cranky and not talking to me.

On the other hand, he is generous and caring, makes sure I am doing well at work, the dog has been taken out and we both have everything we need. He takes me on dates, to movies or to see my friends.

We have been together for 3 years, so I no longer hope he will change. But can you help me pinpoint the reason what causes this behavior? Is it his mother? Or is he trying to get his inside world in order by tidying up everything around him?

Should I Walk Away?

Answered by on -


No, I can’t add more insight into what causes his behavior. He needs to pursue more therapy if he is interested in that.

Of more concern to me is whether you want to sign on for this treatment for the rest of your life. It’s true that everyone comes with some wonderful qualities and some not so wonderful qualities. You are correct that you can’t change him. Only you can decide if his generosity and caring outweighs his crankiness and need to control the environment in order to relieve his anxiety.

I suggest you stop trying to analyze him and instead focus on whether you like the life you are creating together enough to commit to it for the decades to come. If you do enjoy his company but don’t enjoy living with him, you might consider maintaining your own place in order to enjoy his best qualities and limit the time you feel you have to follow his “rules”. Separate residences might be a relief to you both.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Should I Walk Away?

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). Should I Walk Away?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018 (Originally: 2 Mar 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.