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September 20, 2014 - Welcome Guest!

Advice » Relationships

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Self-Esteem, Co-dependency, and a Controlling Boyfriend

Question:

I've been with my boyfriend for 2 years and I am beginning to lose who I am as a person. He criticizes the way I dress, he constantly calls my work number asking what I've been doing, and when I tell him, he gives a grunt to say "yeah right" as if he does not believe.

I am 41 years old and prior to meeting him, I was single for 16 years. I am almost losing myself; my dreams are put on hold because I spend so much time doing what he wishes. I have not socialized with my friends in those two years - which he claims he has no problem with. Of course, when I mention going out, there's always an issue.

There are so many underlying issues with myself. I see that I am co-dependent and I also suffer from anxiety that heightens whenever I'm with him. It's kind of toxic sometimes being around him.

With all that said, I took a look at my situation and realized that I was indeed losing who I was as an independent, strong, witty, sociable, fun woman, and I want it back. I am fighting him hard every day in my mind. I am learning to say no and to walk away, and to do what I please. At this point, I don't care if the relationship ends. I just want to be free.

How do I proceed on freeing myself without losing myself?

Mel, 41-year-old woman

Answer:

Mel my dear,

You have not only asked the question but you have answered it too. I think that in the process of writing it, you have found what you need to do with your life, and why. And you have the inner resources to do it.

I suspect that by now you have told him to go. If not, what's in the way? Don’t worry about labels like "co-dependent". They don’t explain anything, but are just a shorthand pattern of behavior. The pattern is that over a couple of years, you have allowed another person to control you, and you have fallen into the habit of doing everything his way, and not respecting your own needs and preferences. You now see the situation for what it is. All that is needed is to act on your understanding.

You may have an inner fear that at 41 you are too old to be single, and that you may never find another guy. I don't know anything about you except what you wrote here, but I am certain this fear is unrealistic. The world is full of lonely men of your age, who are respectful and caring rather than controlling and abusive. They yearn for a woman just like you.

You used to be "independent, strong, witty, sociable, and fun". You still are, but have submerged these qualities, pretended to be someone else, in order to keep this man happy. Only, of course, it didn't. The more you gave, the more he demanded, and that kind of thing never ends.

So, go back to being yourself. You can do it.

Bob

This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 31 years experience as a psychologist and is registered with the Australian Psychological Society. He practices in Australia. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith".

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