ADVICE 29: My Jealous Boyfriend


Photo Credit: Brent Stoller

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(Questions have been modified for space and clarity.)

My boyfriend and I have been dating for years, and for the duration of our relationship, I haven't really been able to hang out with my friends due to his jealousy. Whenever I would go out -- after giving him multiple days' notice -- he would get moody afterward and fire questions at me about what we were doing, etc. Eventually I just stopped hanging out with people because I didn't want to deal with his attitude. I even stopped messaging people because he would have a tantrum if I ever got a notification on my phone, demanding I read the message to him.

However, I just found out that for the entirety of our relationship, he has been sending text and Snapchat messages to another girl. They've known each other longer than we've been a couple and have no romantic history. She lives in another state, so I never worried about their friendship until I realized he was messaging her more than he was me. I had him show me these messages, and while they weren't "sexts," they were inappropriate -- cutesy messages about holding hands, flirting, complaining about me.

We have a bounty of other issues -- he always invites friends on our alleged dates; he hides his drug usage from me; he goes out and doesn't tell me about it; he consistently breaks promises. But the biggest issue is that he has given up trying in our relationship while extending copious effort into another.

It's almost as if he keeps me around for the physical aspects of the relationship, or because he just doesn't know how to be without me since we've been together for so long.

Do you have any insight into what he's thinking? Does he get something from her that I'm not fulfilling? He insists he has no feelings toward her and still loves me, but I have my reservations.

I have tried breaking up with him because I don't think my sacrifices are being reciprocated, but he starts screaming/crying/hitting things. And with it now being summer, everyone I know is away, so I would not have a support system to lean on if we did break up.

If I start talking to my boyfriend about our issues, he just ignores the topic and talks about something else, which is why I wanted to ask your advice about what course of action I could take. Sorry this is so long, but I need somebody else's input since my boyfriend gets mad if I discuss our relationship issues with my friends.
--VerboseInVain; Orlando, FL

I'm all for doing everything possible to save a relationship, but man...I'm not sure your situation is worthy of salvation. Jealousy; possessiveness; deception; disrespect; mistrust; unfaithfulness. Not exactly the contents of a Hallmark card. Any one of those offenses would send many people packing.

When you were describing your boyfriend's issues, there was one thing that caught my attention: "He just doesn't know how to be without me." You think that's because you've been together for so long, but I'm wondering if it's because of something deeper -- something that's fueling his erratic/hurtful/breakup-worthy behavior.

Clearly, I don't know your boyfriend, and I don't know his past. But has he experienced any kind of significant abandonment? Maybe his parents got divorced, or someone important to him passed away?

I ask because it seems that his attachment to you goes far beyond a (healthy) romantic connection. You've become a sort of security blanket for him. And whether you do something as innocuous as hanging out with friends, or something as serious as potentially ending the relationship, he appears to take these actions as a sign that you're abandoning him. He tries to keep control, and when he loses it, he lashes out.

Truthfully, and this may be too Freudian, hearing about your relationship dynamic -- how he invites friends on your dates; how he hides his drug usage; how he goes out without telling you; how he complains about you to his platonic friend; how he screams/cries/hits things when he doesn't get his way -- I couldn't help thinking that you're filling the role of his mother. He's like the petulant teen violating his curfew.

I don't (necessarily) doubt that he loves you, but I do question his ability to function as a well-adjusted partner. It's admirable that you've tried working through these issues with him, but in my opinion, he needs professional help from a third party who's not negatively impacted by his actions.

Besides, you don't need to subject yourself to such torment. I get that you love him, and I get that it's easy for those on the outside (like me) to pass judgment. But I read through your "bounty" of relationship issues, and I can't help wondering why you've stuck around. Do you not feel like you deserve better?

You mentioned that you've tried breaking up with your boyfriend before, but it hasn't taken. Makes sense. Breakups, especially ones that conclude long-term relationships, require a ton of back-and-forth before finally going through.

But ultimately, breakups are still a one-sided choice. It doesn't matter how much your boyfriend protests, and it doesn't matter if all your friends are away for the summer. It's still up to you. You've proved you're strong enough to function within this difficult relationship, so you're surely strong enough to end it.

So what's holding you back? You asked what your boyfriend could be getting from this other girl; to me, the more important question is: What are you getting from him?

COMING FRIDAY: Pre-Marital Sex

Need more ADVICE? Check out the most recent installments:

ADVICE 28: Talking Politics

ADVICE 27: Should I Tell My Crush How I Feel?

ADVICE 26: Surviving a Long-Distance Relationship

ADVICE 25: I'm Dating a Married Man

ADVICE 24: Love Hurts

ADVICE 23: Loyalty, Jessup and A Few Good Men

To send in a question, please complete this short Google form. All submissions are anonymous, even to the author.