Guest columnists and contributors are generously sharing their talents and insights while I’m taking some time to care for my new baby. Today’s letter is answered by freelance writer, Rachel East, AKA ReginaRey.
Recently, I started grad school. He is still in undergrad and by the time I get my master’s, he will get his bachelor’s. I also got a promotion at my job I’ve had for four years. I’m not sure if he’s feeling intimidated, but I’m pretty sure he is, and here’s why:
Last night, he called me to come over. Once I did, he said he thinks I should start seeing someone else. I should go on dates with other people and that I need to get over him because he can’t give me what I need. I cried and tried to reassure him I didn’t want that but he kept saying, “I’m a loser. You can do better than me. You’ll thank me for this; I’m doing this to make you happy.” Through tears I said, “But this is making me miserable.”
He said not to talk to him for a few weeks. He wants to see if he can do things “on his own.” He is sure this is what’s “best for me.” I am so sick and confused over this. I don’t know what to do or what to think. Please, please help me. I feel like my world is upside down. — Good Enough for Him
Being in a relationship means sometimes, you’re the shoulder that your partner leans on. In return, you get a shoulder when you’re not strong enough to get by on your own. The problem is, leaning is supposed to be temporary. But for the majority of your relationship, you were much more than someone to lean on during tough times – you were a crutch. It sounds like for at least two years, you were your boyfriend’s motivator and nurturer. When he couldn’t keep a job or get good grades, you served as the push he needed to get back on track. In the past six months, however, it seems like your boyfriend came to a very important realization – his motivation needs to come from within, not from another person.
Your intentions were good, I’m sure. But when you’re the main supplier of someone else’s drive, it can inadvertently do very negative things to the relationship. You become something of an authority figure, and your partner begins to feel like an employee who’s under-performing. It strips the unmotivated person in the relationship of their power, making them feel less-than-worthy, and in the process you lose the equality that’s critical to a healthy partnership.
Your boyfriend is right. It shouldn’t have to be your job to ensure he maintains good grades, stays steadily employed, and continuously driven. That’s his job. The good thing is, he realizes that he needs to be his own motivator. He may say right now that the breakup is for your benefit, but I think he realizes he’s also doing it for him. He wants to prove to himself that he’s capable of achievement without any help.
The question you’re ultimately asking is: “How can I convince my boyfriend that he IS good enough for me?” The answer? You can’t. Nothing you say can change something as deeply ingrained as insecurity. Can you imagine if simply telling someone not to feel insecure or unworthy actually worked?? Therapy wouldn’t exist, that’s for sure.
His confession has irrevocably damaged this relationship. If you continue with it now, his constant insecurity will absolutely end up killing it. It’s not fair for him to be in a partnership that makes him feel unworthy, and it’s not fair for you to be made to feel guilty for your accomplishments. He deserves the chance to grow and mature without anyone’s help. He’ll become a much stronger, more confident person if he learns how to succeed using his own drive. And you know what? Maybe after a few years, you two will find yourselves on more equal footing, and you can give this relationship another shot.
But for now, you need to treat this like an absolute breakup. Cut communication with him and move on. Use this time to do some necessary self-reflection. I’m sure you got positive things out of this relationship, and that your boyfriend provided for you in ways that were important to you, despite some of his setbacks in other areas. But ultimately, relationships require balance to function properly. For a partnership to be healthy, you can’t be a constant crutch. You deserve to have a partner who is inherently motivated and strong, for the times when you need someone to lean on.
*ReginaRey (Real Name: Rachel East) is a full-time Events & Promotions Coordinator and a part-time freelance writer focusing on dating and relationships. One day, after tackling grad school, she plans to be your Marriage and Family Therapist…because the only thing better than talking about relationships all day is getting paid to talk about relationships all day. You can check out her weekly column here and follow her on Twitter @MissRachelEast.