My boyfriend and I have been together a little over two years and recently we’ve been fighting every week about my weight. He seemed really self-conscious about his body when we first started dating, so about a year ago, he began going to the gym to lift weights. This was fine, but he started to make rude comments about my not going with him to the gym. I did gain about 15 pounds the first year we were together, but I wanted to lose the weight for myself, not him. A few months ago, I decided to get serious and began losing weight. I’m now down 16 pounds and am pretty excited. I feel great about myself and am in the process of applying to art school as well. I feel like everything is going well… except with my boyfriend.
If I don’t feel like going to the gym one day, he gets upset. It seems like he’s in a rush to get me thinner, like he can’t wait to have a perfect girlfriend or something. Lately, I’ve been caught up in my school stuff and have neglected the gym for about four days in a row, so my boyfriend said that all I do is sleep all day when I could be at the gym. When he says hurtful things like that and I tell him it’s rude, he says, “I’m just being honest.” Whenever I tell him how I feel he laughs it off or says I’m being ridiculous.
I think part of the problem may be that he feels threatened that I know what I want and am on track with my life, but his company is on the verge of collapse and he has no degree to fall back on. I have encouraged and continue to encourage him to go back to school, but he gives excuses about being too old (he’s only 27) and not being able to afford it (there’s always a way).
When I try to tell him how I feel, he refuses to listen and rationalizes why I’m wrong and he’s right. Is he being controlling like I think he is, or am I being lazy and unmotivated like he says I am? I don’t know anymore. It’s to the point where I’m unhappy with him and the person he makes me out to be. — Weight on my Shoulders
Don’t you already know the answers to the questions you’re asking? If you’re lazy and unmotivated, how have you lost 16 pounds in the last few months? Why are you applying to art school and looking forward to the path you’re creating? That doesn’t sound like someone who’s unmotivated. And as for your boyfriend, if you feel like your protests against his controlling behavior are laughed off or otherwise not taken seriously, then why are you still with him?
It sounds to me like you’re looking for ways to justify behavior that you know is bad. “He’s unhappy with his career.” And: “Maybe I’m just lazy.” No, maybe your boyfriend is an asshole. Maybe he’s unhappy with himself so he wants to make you unhappy with yourself so you can both be miserable together (misery, after all, loves company). Maybe he wants to manipulate you into thinking you aren’t good enough for anyone else and you’re lucky to have him. But you are your own person. You are not an extension of him; you’re not his puppet. Don’t let him tell you how to live your life. In fact, maybe don’t even let him be a part of your life anymore.
One of the biggest frustrations I have as an advice columnist is reading letter after letter after letter from people who should not be in the relationships they’re in but who want desperately to make them work. Why? Because they’re afraid to be alone? Because they think if they hang in there long enough they can turn the person they’re with into the person they want him to be? Because there was once a spark so they believe they can somehow reignite it even if years have passed since that flame went out? Sometimes — lots of times — relationships change for the worse and they never go back to how they were before. It doesn’t mean it was a mistake to have gotten together in the first place (though sometimes it does), but it does mean it’s a mistake to continue staying together. Maybe that’s where you are now. Nothing in your letter indicated you still have feelings for your boyfriend. You didn’t say one positive thing about him or your relationship. In fact, you said everything in your life was going well except with your boyfriend. So … MOA. What is there to fight for? It’s not like you’ve been married for years and have a family together you don’t want to break up. If the guy makes you feel shitty about yourself and he’s so busy pumping iron all the time to even be any fun to be around, why stick with him?
If I’d already lost more weight than I’d gained since meeting my current significant other and he still made me feel awful about not going to the gym every damn day, I’d dump his ass faster than he could count his first rep. If you can think of a good reason not to dump him, then by all means, stay with the emotional abuser. But don’t expect him to change — at least not for the better. Dipshits rarely do.
*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org and be sure to follow me on Twitter.