Update: “Feeling Controlled” Responds

updatesIt’s time again for “Dear Wendy Updates,” a feature where people I’ve given advice to in the past let us know whether they followed the advice and how they’re doing now. Today we hear from “Feeling Controlled,” (LW2) the 30-something woman who was quarantining with her boyfriend of six months and bothered that his ex-girlfriend, whom he refused to inform he had a new girlfriend, kept calling and texting. “He says he can’t ignore her or tell her about me, because he’s afraid she’ll kill herself. I, of course, hacked his phone and know he texts her first every day and tells her he can’t answer because he’s working but he misses her and it will all be ok.” She was also upset that he refused to actually call her his girlfriend, and that he was asking her to leave the house they were staying in because his mom was returning there in a few days. Despite all this, she asked what I thought about them moving in together soon. Her update below.

So, just to clarify a little: We’re talking about living together because he might move out of his mom’s Westchester house if she sells it, and if we want to stay together, it would be easier to live together. It’s more a practical discussion than a relationship step and also might be six months away. Also, we are exclusive, which is why his resistance to the word “girlfriend” is weird; he refers to me as his girlfriend to his friends and his mom knows about me, but he says he’s not ready for a girlfriend in the traditional sense and he won’t say what he thinks that is.

Anyway, I did leave about a day after writing you. He cried and begged me to stay, and I said I would if he either stopped texting his ex or told her about me. I’ve been in a lot of open relationships and honestly don’t mind him talking to her if she knows. He said he wasn’t ready, and I said, “I hope you regret this.” I then blocked him, but he called a day later from his landline to say he knew I was reading his texts, so I fessed up. We kept talking, but I still wanted the ex to know, and he still refused. So then I called her and told her in a 35-second call. She told him to tell me to go fuck myself. They’re still talking and so are we, and I’m going to a family house upstate and he might come, but I still want him to detach from a woman who threatened to sue him when he didn’t pick up her calls one morning. She’s toxic, and he’s in her grasp, but I love him and I want him to be happy. She was clearly very emotionally abusive and manipulative, I know how hard it is to truly get away from those relationships without support.

Your relationship sounds incredibly toxic, and moving in with someone for “practical” reasons who isn’t “ready for a girlfriend in the traditional sense” (i.e. he does not want to be beholden to you, he doesn’t want to commit to you, and he wants the freedom to do whatever the fuck he wants to do) is just setting yourself up for more toxicity and disappointment. You clearly don’t trust the guy. You’re behaving like a jealous teenager, calling his ex-girlfriend and plotting how to get him to pay more attention to you and keep him on the hook (like blocking him after a disagreement and dangling a “family house upstate” in front of him). And the kicker is that while you think it’s absurd that he won’t detach from a woman who threatened to sue him for ignoring her for one day, you miss the irony of how you refuse to detach from him despite his refusing to treat you like a girlfriend, kicking you out during quarantine and sending you to the epicenter of a pandemic, and lying to his ex about your existence. Moving in together is the last thing you should be discussing with this guy.

If you’re someone I’ve given advice to in the past, I’d love to hear from you, too. Email me at wendy@dearwendy.com with a link to the original post, and let me know whether you followed the advice and how you’re doing now.
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  1. WWS This is not an update – this is just a continuation of ridiculous bullshit that no adults should engage in. Your BF has made it 100% clear he is not going to stop talking to his ex – not because he is worried about her supposed mental instability but because he thrives on pitting two women against each each other, its a power trip. I guarantee you he is telling her that you are the “emotionally abusive and manipulative” one. His friends and family do not see you as his girlfriend, just some girl he is dating since he refuses to call you girlfriend and kicks you out of the house. It doesn’t matter if you move in tomorrow or six months from now, your relationship is toxic, dramatic, and unhealthy. He is not interested in committing to you, and honestly you are just as bad – stop reading his texts, calling his exs and honestly block his number for good. Your pot stirring is not going to make him commit to you.

  2. Bekahtravels says:

    Omg… What Wendy said… You and the ex don’t sound that different, manipulative and controlling! This won’t end well, but it will end. Take a break from dating and discover why you are attracted to men you seek to control versus be in a balanced relationship with.

    1. Everything about the original letter and the update just screams as a person who accepts the bare minimum from a relationship. Not even the minimum, just garbage. You’ve been in a lot of open relationships? Was that by choice? Did you have additional partners or was it only the guy you were with? Why do you feel like you love a guy who treats you like shit? This is stuff you need to be working out in therapy. Just making assumptions, but did you not have the best parents? We’re usually attracted to what we’re used to. God knows I married my father. I was lucky to have an amazing one. If you weren’t its not your fault. Therapy can help sort all that out

  3. Bittergaymark says:

    Wow, sounds like you two really do have the real thing going on here. So magical, so beautiful — and oh-so-incredibly romantic. Swoon!

    Just do yourselves a favor — use birth control. The last thing you wanna do is spoil paradise with a screaming baby.

    1. A strong second on the birth control advice. No kid deserves these two loons as parents.

    2. Another Jen says:

      This is my favorite thing I’ve read all week.

  4. This is how this should have gone down:

    LW: This relationship is not working for me. You don’t seem to want to commit to me, or even acknowledge the relationship that we have. You use the word “girlfriend” to your friends, but then you say you are not ready for a girlfriend, yet you refuse to explain what that means. You show absolutely no regard for my safety or comfort, as demonstrated by you kicking me out of the house in the middle of a global pandemic. I am also not comfortable with the interaction between you and your ex. This is not the relationship that I want. So, I am leaving. I wish you well, good luck.
    Guy: [starts begging and crying]
    LW: No, I have made my decision. Goodbye. Do not attempt to contact me, I will be blocking you. [Exit.]

    See how that went? No threats, no ultimatums, just a strong woman standing up for herself. (“I hope you regret this” is a childish and petty thing to say. Always take the high road.) And by the way, never move in with someone for “practical” reasons. This creates a situation in which you cannot afford to leave if something happens. Always have a backup plan. Better yet, always be able to afford to live on your own. That way, if you do move in with someone, it will be because you want to, not because you have to.

  5. This is not love.

    Call it infatuation. Call it lust. Call it obsession.

    Love is not having to call the ex-girlfriend or worrying about a title. Love is not playing games or power trips. Love is not blocking text messages.

    You’re six months into a crappy relationship. You don’t trust him. He won’t commit to you. He lies to you. He kicked you out of the house when a virus is running rampant in the streets.

    I chased a lot of guys when I was younger that I also “loved.” I wasted so much time on dead end relationships. I spent so much time trying to get them love me, it never occurred to me that they sucked. Order a copy of the book Women Who Love too Much. Seriously, do this. Take some of the time and energy you’ve wasted on this guy and really read this book. It was a life changer for me.

    I’m now married to a guy that I probably wouldn’t have given the time of day when I was younger. He’s nice to me. He’s stable. He loves me and our kids. We have a great life together. I promise you, it is much better on the other side. All the drama these types of relationships bring forth is not worth it. The highs are not worth the lows that come with them.

  6. LW — you are a mess. PLEASE do me a favor and keep your entitled wreck of a life downstate in Westchester where it belongs, and don’t bring it Upstate. Yuck.

  7. Turns out that no one’s advice to this LW was to issue an ultimatum, not keep it, call the other woman, and consider moving to yet another location with this guy. And yet, here we are.

    Why do people like this bother writing in? If they want cheerleaders in their toxic and dysfunctional drama, I’m sure they have actual friends who can egg them on.

    Keep on banging your head into that brick wall, LW, and then wondering why your head hurts.

  8. mellanthe says:

    A ‘boyfriend’ who tells his friends you’re a GF but tells you you’re not is a dick who wants to avoid any responsibility for a relationship, but doesn’t want other people to know he’s an asshat. He’s having his cake and eating it – pretending to have a stable relationship whilst telling you he wants none of that, and spending his time mooning over his ex.

    Just like with his ex – he wants to appear available, even though he isn’t.
    And don’t kid yourself about being ‘exclusive’ if he’s texting his ex daily.

    You’re also lying to yourself. You say it’d be ok if he talks to her as long as she knows, but you later say she’s toxic and you don’t want him to talk to her. I
    It’s OK to wish people you love wouldn’t contact toxic people who hurt them – but you can’t make them stop. You say that you’ve been in lots of open relationships, but given the state of this one, I wonder if that was what you really wanted or were prepared to handle. This also has nothing to do with open relationships (nowhere do you suggest you’d be OK with him sleeping with her), so it’s telling you brought it up. You don’t have to be the ‘cool’ girlfriend. Examine your boundaries. Deal with whatever issues you can, and then make it clear to him that you have expectations for your relationship.

    That said, as a partner it’s fair and reasonable to have boundaries – and exes are a common boundary couples have to agree on. Some prefer no contact, others are happy with contact within particular limits. If you find him talking to this ex a dealbreaker because it makes you very uncomfortable, then you have to let him know that this may well compromise the relationship for you because it’s destroying things between you. The problem here is that even when you did, he wasn’t ready to give up an ex for his current love. It sounds like he has feelings for her and that she’s his priority – otherwise he’d see how much this is hurting you.

    But it doesn’t sound like he will change anything. If you can’t accept being second to this ex, then you’ll have to leave.

  9. No elaborate strategy required. This sort-of relationship should be terminated. LW wants a normalized relationship and at least intermediate-level of formal commitment. She is acting wildly jealous because she can’t get that commitment. Calling sort-of bf’s ex was a mistake, just causing more turmoil. Through all of this, he is clear he doesn’t want a real relationship. So, complete mismatch. Move on, break contact. Moving him into your new place would be beyond stupid. Why such a frantic effort to gain a commitment from a guy who doesn’t want to give one and who seems more tightly tied to ex.

    His ex threatens to sue him? This means he owes her money. Just another reason to move on and not look back.

  10. IOnlyWearClogs says:

    Long time reader, first time commenter because both of this LW’s letters have really struck a cord with me. I’m an early 30s Pre-K teacher at a non-profit school that focuses on social emotional development (obviously I have a little more time on my hands than usual!) and, honestly, both this letter writer and her partner could benefit from my classroom curriculum. I have plenty of criticisms about how the situation was handled but instead I’m going to put my teacher hat on and treat this like I would if it were five year olds because that’s about the level of social emotional development that these two are at (I miss my students…). First and ALWAYS it’s important to remember that if you don’t say how you feel, you cannot expect others to know how you feel; you titled the letter “feeling controlled” but nowhere do you indicate that you had a conversation with your partner where you laid it out that you feel hurt, you feel minimalized and like your needs don’t matter as much to him as his needs, his ex’s needs or even his mom’s needs. Instead, you have expected him to just instinctually “get” that you feel upset by picking fights, leaving, or blocking him. By not calmly and thoroughly stating how you feel, you’re not giving him a chance to *actually* take that into consideration and respond in a positive way. You seem to prefer to escalate the argument in ways that don’t involve you calmly engaging with your partner by going behind his back on his phone, leaving/blocking, calling his ex (!!!); All of these strategies prevent him from being able to respond and adapt to your feelings, which perpetuates the cycle of you not feeling heard. But you’re not explaining! It’s the equivalent of one of my students walking off in a huff and refusing to tell their friend what they did to upset them. You’re setting up an inherently combative, negative pattern where no one is acting in good faith. Honestly, your partner may not be sure about YOU as a long term partner; I certainly wouldn’t want to be in a relationship with someone who didn’t communicate with me and then lashed out in the ways that you do, trying to force me to commit and cut off others through your actions. Ultimately, I think you need to reassess your conflict style and your communication strategies (and ideally go to therapy!) whether or not you stay with your partner. You cannot, and I can’t emphasize this enough, handle routine conflicts by invading privacy, threatening/leaving/blocking and lashing out at other people if you want to have a healthy relationship; you need to be able to calmly state your feelings and needs, set limits and boundaries if needed and work WITH your partner to come to a solution instead of detonating a bomb on both of your lives. You’ve done so much talking to others (Wendy, commenters, the Ex, Wendy again) without having a calm, controlled talk with your partner and I really urge you to examine why that is.

  11. I Only Wear Clogs —
    I disagree that they haven’t talked and haven’t made their desires and preferred boundaries crystal clear. Communication has occurred — repeatedly. He knows what she wants; she knows he isn’t going to provide it. The problem arises from LWs inability to enforce her own boundary. She still believes that she can change him, even though it should be increasingly clear that he refuses to change. She stated that she is ok with an open relationship, if the other woman knows about her. The other woman now know, because LW told her. LW isn’t happy, despite that. What she obviously wants is to be the clear #1 between herself and sort-of bf’s ex. Given bf’s and other woman’s reaction, LW isn’t a clear #1 — maybe she edges out the other woman by a hair, but sort-of bf obviously is unwilling to alter his relationship with ex in any way in order to make LW happier. Other woman delivered the verbal message that LW should fuck herself. Both by relaying that message and by his actions, sort-of bf is delivering that same message to LW.

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