Dear Neil: I have been living with my girlfriend for over 2 years. I am a faithful man and have never had an affair, but my girlfriend doesn’t trust me. I have sacrificed my friends, time with my family and job opportunities because she could not trust me. Basically, she doesn’t trust me when I am not with her, so it’s difficult for me to spend time even with my mother. When she gets angry, she is really disrespectful, and no matter how many sacrifices I’ve made for her, she judges me as “bad.” Even when I haven’t done anything “wrong,” she’ll mock me about something from the past. I have no idea about how to handle this.
Because I love her, I have given up a lot for her, but I don’t think she cares. So I’ve been letting her have whatever she wants so she will stay happy. But I feel like I’m her slave now, because she doesn’t take my feelings or my needs seriously, and she doesn’t give our relationship the effort I do. I feel I’m slowly losing myself, and I know this is unhealthy for me, but I’m afraid of being alone and not getting another chance with a woman. Any suggestions?
Losing Myself in Indonesia
Dear Indonesia: You are losing yourself because you are afraid of standing up to her, confronting her disrespectful behavior and perhaps deciding you’ve had enough.
Although you say that she doesn’t trust you, that is only part of the story. The larger story is that she doesn’t trust anyone. Unless you are leaving out important information, her mistrust is not about you, what you’re doing or who you’re with. Her mistrust functions as her way of controlling you and being in charge of the relationship. She assumes that if you tell anyone about her, they’ll urge you to leave. So she insists on exerting iron control over you and who you talk with. As a result, you cannot earn her trust—no matter what you do—because mistrusting you is how she hangs on to her power over you.
She treats you as if you’re inadequate not because you are, but because she feels so inadequate herself. Plain and simple, she doesn’t feel worthy of you, and she assumes you will eventually discover this and leave her. So she keeps you distracted and off balance by focusing on every fault, mistake or inadequacy of yours, thereby avoiding having to be accountable for her own unloving, disrespectful, unkind, mistrusting and abusive behavior.
In truth, if she cannot trust you, she cannot love you. That is how relationships work—or fail to work. You sound like a great catch, and I am confident that you could do better than this. You may be alone for awhile, but opportunities will occasionally arise, and you will have more chances with someone who is capable of loving you back. Let her go and you will find yourself again.