Q. I have been in a relationship for almost five years with a man I met when I was 24. He’s now 45. For the first two years, things were great. He started to meet people in my life, and I did the same. He hardly made an effort when it came to people I know, though. I met his family and tried my best to show them I love him and am making an effort. He lives with his dad and pays rent there. I hate it that at 45 he’s still talking about the fact that “he will be there for a while.”
He tells me when his friends have something negative to say about me. He never apologizes unless I consistently nag him. He’s never wrong. He acts like everything is fine. I barely kiss him; the sex is a nightmare, pretty much. I told him if we aren’t on the same page mentally and emotionally, I won’t be interested sexually at all. He continues to act like everything is fine.
When he comes over I just want to draw instead of interact with him. I keep mentioning how important growth is but ... his idea of growth is moving into my apartment, one I’ve worked so hard for. Maybe that’s selfish, but it just seems like he is riding my coattails instead of working to build something new for us. When my lease was up we had a chance multiple times, and he still is living at his dad’s. I can’t take him seriously.
I start feeling crazy, like my standards are too high. But I know they aren’t. I feel so stupid, like I’m a person in love trying to coax a grown child to want to grow up and be responsible for his actions. How do I get out of this pattern?
A. “I’m a person in love...”
Are you in love? It doesn’t sound like love, at least not anymore. You don’t want him to move in with you. You don’t want to kiss him. You might not even like him at this point.
The only question is why you’re still with him, and I assume you’d say, “Because maybe he can change.” I’m telling you he won’t. It’s been five years. Also, he’s never been the right partner. You want someone who cares about the people in your life. That’s not him.
Clearly my advice is to break up with him. But first, think about what you’ll need in the aftermath. You’ll want to let your community know this is happening. You’ll need to lean on people — to have reminders that you’re not really alone. Also, think about how you want to deliver the news. At your place? At his, so you can leave right after? That would be my vote. Be clear about the boundaries.
If you can’t get your head around the idea that it’s necessary — and possible — to let go, it’s a good time to seek counseling. You’re stuck in a routine with this man, a hamster wheel you can jump off at any time. You’re not crazy to want to (please don’t make that your go-to word). You’ve learned so much from this relationship. It’s time to use those lessons to breathe on your own, and eventually find someone who inspires you to draw ... in a good way.
You didn’t say a single nice thing about him and some of the things are downright awful. (”I barely kiss him; the sex is a nightmare, pretty much.”) Is this what you want for yourself at 29?
You have a really good idea of what you want in a relationship and you are not getting it where you are. Break up with him and start dating. You’ll see there really are other options.
Listen, I am not going to dog this guy for living with his dad — maybe the dad has medical needs. ... But you should break up with him over his treatment of you. Why such low self-esteem? Come on, break up today and start working on yourself.
Send your own relationship and dating questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Catch new episodes of Meredith Goldstein’s “Love Letters” podcast at loveletters.show or wherever you listen to podcasts. Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters.