On being brainwashed by a creep

He wants separate bedrooms once we move in together. He thinks it will prevent our relationship from falling victim to routine and boredom that slowly kills every long-term relationship and that separate bedrooms would help “keep the fire burning” by making us “miss each other”. Sex and intimacy as well as private space are important to us both so I understand what he’s afraid of but just the thought of this “solution” makes me feel rejected, unwanted and scared of potentially being treated instrumentally (come on, he wouldn’t bother to come over only to have a chat or give me a hug). I’ve told him this and given him alternatives but his idea of compromise is trying it at least for a while anyway. Is his way the way to go? Am I overreacting? I feel like I should recognize the superiority of his rationale and suppress my emotional needs because he’s older, more experienced and generally more “fixed” in his bachelor way of living… Should I?


Wait, what? You feel like you should recognize his superiority? You feel you should suppress your emotional needs? Fuck you. You should be ashamed of yourself for even typing that. Seriously, fuck you. You don’t even deserve my advice, but I’m so pissed at your manipulative piece of shit wannabe cult-leader of a boyfriend that I’m gonna throw you a bone.

Here’s my only advice: RUN FOR THE FUCKING HILLS. I’m dead serious. End the relationship immediately and walk straight into the nearest therapist’s office for some deprogramming. Try not to pass by any Scientology buildings on your way there.

Honestly, this whole situation has more red flags than the opening ceremony of the Chinese Olympics. Do you even hear yourself? An older “superior” man “fixed in his bachelor ways” tries to sell you on a roommate style living situation to “keep the fires burning,” and despite every fiber of your being screaming at you that this is all wrong, you feel compelled to follow along and “suppress your needs” because he’s “more experienced.”

Do you have any idea how creepy that all sounds? You’re basically agreeing to be a live-in fuck toy, unworthy of entering the master’s bedchamber unless you’re attending to his needs. Take a step back and realize how far you’ve strayed from your true self. Maybe you’ll start to notice how much you’re being exploited.

This selfish conniving manchild has managed to wash whatever brains you have, but there’s still some deep-down instinctual part of you that knows this is all wrong. It’s that tiny little voice in the back of your head that won’t stop bugging you, even though everything you’ve been trained to think says you’re overreacting. You are not overreacting. You’ve barely even begun to react.

Please, listen to that tiny voice. It’s on your side. It’s desperately clinging to your best interests, and one day it will save your life.


96 thoughts on “On being brainwashed by a creep

  1. A says:

    “come on, he wouldn’t bother to come over only to have a chat or give me a hug”
    Is this what you want? Is this all you think you deserve? CT’s advice is spot on. I totally get separate rooms for personal space, but the excuses he gave are stupid. You’re dealing with the tip of a very dense iceberg with this dude. Walk away.

  2. M says:

    All other factors aside, different rooms doesn’t seem like a horrible idea if both people want their own space, especially if you’re moving somewhere that’s not very large or you find it hard to sleep comfortably in a bed with another person. I don’t know, maybe I just haven’t thought through the potential issues with that setup. I agree that her wording is alarming, though.

    • CharChar says:

      Different rooms is fine if it’s what genuinely works for both people and there are no fucked up power dynamics at play, but that isn’t this. This is a straight-up toxic situation.

      • M says:

        Dude, I know. I was the second person to comment, so I just felt the need to throw out that different bedrooms isn’t an inherently terrible idea. I wasn’t sure if someone else would say it.

      • Red Cat says:

        My ex snored, badly. It was so loud that previous housemates had asked him to move his bed to the other side of the room or move out. When he moved into his own place, I found I just couldn’t get a good night’s sleep if we shared a room. He absolutely refused to do anything about his snoring, saying I was the one with the problem (big fucking red flag), so I moved into the spare room.

        I’d always get up early and climb into his bed so we could snuggle. After a few weeks, I realised he never came to my room for sex, a cuddle, a kiss goodnight, etc. He was using our sleeping arrangements to avoid intimacy, and was too cowardly to tell me and/or break up.

        The relationship didn’t last long, but as a hot, restless sleeper, I love the idea of sleeping in separate rooms. I can’t sleep if my cats are on the bed (too hot, and I kick them), and as I get older I need a cold bedroom and a very thin blanket to get a restful sleep.

    • Faith says:

      Superior rationale? Girl, no. That’s not how fair relationships work. You know this though. If he can’t meet your needs, you’re MUCH better on your own than under this twat’s thumb.

  3. SalisburySteak says:

    Separate bedrooms aren’t the huge deal people make them out to be. Sleep patterns and schedules differ. If it makes her that uncomfortable then she should leave or they shouldn’t live together but I think the advice would be different if SHE wanted separate bedrooms and he didn’t.

      • Anna says:

        How do you know though? What indication is there that this guy isn’t treating her right, or that he’s putting words in her mouth? (I’m genuinely curious)

        • tunsgram says:

          Are….are you joking.

          “I feel like I should recognize the superiority of his rationale and suppress my emotional needs” recognize the SUPERIORITY and SUPRESS HER NEEDS?
          “he wouldn’t come over for a hug or to talk” what kind of relationship is that???

        • Betty says:

          You don’t see the evidence in her saying he has superior rationale and thinks she’s overreacting and how she still wants to be with him when he wouldn’t even come over to say hi, making her apparently feel neglected? And she still wants to live with him. You don’t see how that points to an imbalance of power?

          • Anna says:

            There is always a power imbalance in a relationship. I was asking coquette for the reasoning which made her think it was very likely to be an unhealthy power balance.

          • Strangely Rational says:

            Coquette addressed this directly in her post. The explanations you just read are pretty clear. If you can’t see it even with that, I don’t think you’re going to.

          • Anna says:

            I’m at least 10-15 years younger than you dear (if you’re using the same pseudonym and are not lying about your identity) so you can shove your condescending attitude up your arse.
            I understand what CQ’s saying and I’m not trying to say she’s wrong, I’m just asking for her to point out hard evidence, like quotations from the text and deductions from those quotations that are lead to their logical conclusions.
            I am not asking for the opinion of a bunch a sheepish idiots that would rather pretend to be fucking illuminated than ask a fucking question (or answer a fucking question for that matter – I mean what the fuck is wrong with you guys, shut the fuck up if you have nothing original or intelligent to say).

          • Anna says:

            I mean seriously what the fuck is wrong with this people in the comment section that will answer to say “you are wrong to ask this question because it doesn’t show complete intellectual support for what CQ writes” but you won’t even try to answer that question, debate its validity or question its premise, you just want to shut it down.
            And I’m not attacking you in particular, Strangely Rational, I think you’re smart and this concerns mostly other commenters. But seriously what the fuck ?

          • WhoAmI says:

            Anna, are you one of those people who think you have to find something to disagree with to prove you have a brain ? Because no.
            Also, as other commenters have reported, the evidence is pretty obvious here.Saying your partner does something that hurts you, and then saying in the same breath that it’s totally normal, or that it’s punishment for you not being at your best, or that “he knows best anyway” are typical symptoms of someone being trapped in an abusive relationship. Remember Tangled ? yeah.

          • Perspectivator says:

            Anna. Why would you think that the poster is in a healthy relationship if they have to ask an advice column whether it’s okay to feel the way they do? Even further; why should they ask permission to react. Everything in that post suggests subservience, not just a slight power imbalance.

          • Nina says:

            Responding to your response from below: I’ve been in plenty of heterosexual relationships. Not all straight people have power issues. It’s pretty ignorant to assume that only straight people have those issues, by the way.

          • WhoAmI says:

            True. Gay and bisexual men can be a MESS when it comes to power dynamics in their relationships. It’s like being queer catalyzes their struggle with virility toward extremes.

        • The Derpy Bear says:

          Anna, this is not a case of “sheep” following what CQ says. I have learned a lot about how people can be manipulative and it is pretty clear that this person’s BF is being a manipulative asshole.

          • Rainbowpony says:

            I agree, but I would defend Anna here. She’s not even disagreeing, she’s asking coquette how you can tell.

            I think it’s pretty obvious, but as some one that has always remained somewhat socially naive, I too benefit when people explain how they read a social situation.

            Yeah, and I love coquette, but I do think some commenters veer into hero worship here. Come on, this place is for critical thinking.

          • The Derpy Bear says:

            Fair enough! Everyone has different ways of learning. What is clear to me might not be someone else an vice versa.

            I have been reading this blog for 5/6 years and there have been tons of things I have not exactly agreed with but this is one of the situations that I do 🙂

          • The Derpy Bear says:

            Anna, don’t be too hard on yourself. I have been in your position before. In fact, I think anyone who says they haven’t is a liar. No one knows every single thing there is to know in the world.

            I realised I was being a little judgmental when I said it should be obvious why it is manipulation.

            There have been tons of times where information is obvious to others but I have no idea what people are talking about!

          • Anna says:

            Don’t worry Derpy Bear, I’m usually particularly good at acknowledging when my internal critical analysis of an explanation isn’t good enough at explaining the full thesis, and I have no shame in asking questions. This isn’t being hard on myself, for me it’s just being myself.
            I also really appreciate when people can question a mainstream opinion and are willing to revise their own opinion 😉
            Side note : it’s part of my job to report domestic violence, and even aside from that, it’s really important to me personally to get all the information that could help identify potentially dangerous domestic situations.

          • M says:

            Totally agree. It’s obnoxious, and sometimes it seems like people are just parroting her and literally copying her writing style. So I feel for you, Anna. You just wanted some clarification. I’ve been a CQ reader for 4-5 years now, and while she’s fantastic there have been more than a few of her responses I’ve disagreed with and a handful that I’ve found repugnant. Actually, there was one response she gave to a question (back on the original tumblr version of dearcoquette) where she was such an unreasonable asshole to the OP that there were like 120+ comments and almost all of them were negative. It’s also the only post by her I’ve come across from the original blog that wasn’t also reposted on this one. Or maybe it was on this one, but she just deleted it. Can’t remember. Either way, it was nice to see people give a variety of responses in the conments. Assuming that someone who disagrees with CQ is doing it simply to give a contrarian opinion is pretty ridiculous, to be honest.

  4. Ali says:

    Jesus. I’d never want to date someone who’s so emotionally distant towards me that I’m 100% convinced he wouldn’t come over “just” to spend some non-sexual quality time with me, shared bedroom or not.

  5. Sat says:

    My first boyfriend was 10 years older than me and whenever we disagreed on something I talked exactly like this. Girl, get out. He’s 100% not worth it, not even for one more second.

      • Commenter 43 says:

        Actually Coke, I’ve been here almost as long as you have. She did need some tough love, I’ll give you that, but come on. “Fuck you.” “Seriously, fuck you.” “You don’t even deserve my advice”. “Do you even hear yourself?” “…has managed to wash whatever brains you have…” etc. I dunno, maybe it’s me who is unusually soft, but I think you only lay it on this thick when the asker is the one being a dick. Anyway. I love that you are writing more and you are clearly happier, so I’m very happy for you (and us readers). 😉

  6. RR says:

    Holy shit. The OP must be someone new here. How could any old reader type those last few sentences in a letter to CQ?

    Also, Coke, the OP may not deserve your advice but they very well NEEDED it.

  7. coskel says:

    been there done that. FOR 12 YEARS.

    Run, don’t walk.
    It won’t get better, and he will continue to chip away at your self-esteem like the narcissist he is.
    It took a ton of therapy for me to see it.


  8. Light37 says:

    There is nothing wrong with separate bedrooms.

    There is everything wrong with having to suppress your needs so that Mr. Superior will be willing to slot you into his life.

  9. dime-sized-amount says:

    Coke is on it.
    Girl, do not ignore this shit. This guy is going to gas light the fuck out of your psyche until you cant have a single thought of your own without his approval.

    Seriously. Go watch some Jessica Jones and dump him. I don’t care if he’s making six figures and has semen that tastes like pina colada. Everything about the way that question is worded makes me feel nauseous. Don’t rationalize your way back into him. This is bad news.

  10. OP says:

    Hi, it’s the OP here.
    Let me start off by saying, it was a big mistake on my part writing immediately after the fight with my bf.
    You probably won’t believe me if I say that he’s actually very respectful and supportive. I’m a person with a horrifyingly low self-esteem and commitment issues. I blame it on my screwed up family (alcoholism and other psychiatric diseases, cheating, emotional blackmail…) and being bullied at school. What I wrote – more importantly HOW I wrote it – makes him look like a manipulative creep but the truth is, I feel the need to suppress my emotional needs around everybody out of fear of rejection. I have, ever since I can remember. And he encourages me not to. He wants an equal, independent partner. With him I’m finally learning how to express my needs and feelings, but the fear of not being good enough persists, for now. Not because of him though.
    Believe me when I say, that wording came from projecting my fears onto him, not him mistreating me. The idea of living in separate bedrooms just freaked me out.

    • The Coquette says:

      Everything you just wrote in the above comment confirms exactly what I assumed to be true about your relationship, and if you were capable of recognizing the self-contradiction and internal inconsistency within this very predictable rush to his defense, you wouldn’t have needed the advice I gave you in the first place.

      Of course I believe you, and I feel for you, but at the same time, there’s nothing more I can tell you. That would wasted breath, because I already know exactly what’s going to happen.

      • OP says:

        I must admit, I don’t understand.
        If it’s just my fears and low self-esteem projected onto him and he’s actually a good man actively trying to help me grow a feeling of self-worthiness then why should I run?
        It’s only this one thing that we disagree on that trigerred a panic attack in me and many people here say that having separate bedrooms is, in general, okay as an idea.

        • Sat says:

          Girl, just no. You are making excuses for him and he’s bad news. You can’t see it yet, but if you dump his ass and get help, eventually you will. We’re telling you this because we’ve been there and our friends have been there and all of us have said the exact same things to try and excuse them and blame ourselves for how bad we made them look. Get out of that relationship. Don’t move in with him.

        • Barefootsie says:

          Since I think Coq has decided to take a break, I might tag in for a second.

          The key here is that, whether you were fresh off a fight or not, your doubts funneled into the response of suppressing, not expressing. Since you’re in a place of admitted self-doubt and low self-esteem, the dynamic that woudl be set up *because of the reasons HE wants the separate rooms* is not healthy. Period.

          I have started down this road, and trust me – it’s not a good one. You will start to question yourself more and more, and let go of more things that you want and need. His idea of compromising is “let’s try it my way for a little while” – that doesn’t cut it.

          I’ll give an example from my personal life that I saw later on was an indicative death knell. I was in a desperate situation – I’d been couch surfing for six months, (he didn’t want me to stay with him because “he’d lose privacy”), and when my boyfriend and I could get together, we’d maybe go to dinner but just watch Netflix. He wanted to watch “Last of the Mohicans” when I came in the door. OK, cool. We did. Then it suggested “Harold and Maude,” which is one of my all-time favorites. I said as much and maybe we should watch it.

          He replied that he wanted to watch another Daniel Day-Lewis movie after dinner. I found myself “compromising” that we’d watch that and then watch 10 minutes of H&M and if he liked it, we could watch the rest of it. He begrudgingly agreed.

          That same voice that’s piping up in you started piping up in me. I knew something was wrong (I really should have stepped away multiple times before, but that’s the hindsight thing.)

          Coquette is giving you the best advice. Trust me on this. He may be older, but that doesn’t mean wiser. That setup would be a trap for you. Get out now.

          Good luck.

        • RocketGrunt says:

          Anything that triggers a panic attack is a damn good reason not to move in. It doesn’t matter what you’re panicking about: if you’re panicking, something is wrong.

        • Anna says:

          Girl I feel for you. I’ve also sometimes painted my ex partner in an overly negative way after crippling episodes of depression and self doubt. Sometimes it’s hard not to turn legitimate anger onto oneself and one’s choices. And I’d like to give my two cents.
          This won’t be the guy with whom you’ll end up, keep that in mind. But if you love him and feel like he’s good to and for you and you actively want to share a some period of you life for him then go for it.
          But you should have boundaries and enforce them. At the end of the day it’s less about what seems logically or arguably right than what makes you feel right. Lack of reciprocal emotional care is one, and if you feel like he can’t give you that then leave him. Independence and self value are also important, trying to be an equal partner is not enough, if you want to love him and make your relationship work you actually have to be an equal partner. Age and relationship experience are differences, not things that makes someone superior or inferior to another.
          A more practical piece of advice would be to propose an alternative solution to the bedroom situation : have a masters bedroom and let him have his den/office with a sofa bed. Have a minimum number of nights where you sleep together all night, and a minimum amount of time to spend together in the bedroom (let’s say an hour, reading, watching Netflix, whatever) each night. If he can’t do at least that then it’s not a compromise.
          Also take care of yourself. You are more important than the relationship in fine. If you’re not ready to move in or you need time to get yourself care then take that time.
          I don’t know anything about your guy, he could be a good guy lacking in emotional vocabulary or empathy or he could be a complete sadist or he could be somewhere in between, but I feel like I know you and I want you to know you are not stuck, this doesn’t have to be a dilemma, you can do whatever the hell you want, just take care of yourself.
          PS : Needs are not overwhelming, they are reasonable. You seem like a pretty functional person but if you’re constantly feeling overwhelmed but emotional triggers to interpersonal situations, just know that’s fine, it’s a perfectly common response to a difficult childhood, and if you haven’t already, you can find a therapist that will help you deal with that on an everyday basis and in the long term too.

          • Anna says:

            Woops, I’m suddenly feeling regret for assuming without evidence that the OP is a woman. Sorry and please feel free to correct me or completely ignore this lapse, as you prefer.

        • Rainbowpony says:

          It’s not whether it’s a good idea generally, it’s whether or not it’s a good idea for you in this context.

          I don’t know if this is useful….

          Speaking from experience, if you come from a messed up background and you have bad relationship patterns, one of the first things you might do in realizing those bad relationship patterns is to see that you often have strange or overeactive or inappropriate or unusually stong emotions for the situation. For example, I use to fall for people that I didn’t even know or fall hard for assholes. The first thing I did in response to realizing these emotion patterns was to, IN ERROR, think that all my emotions were wrong, and to discount them. I think you sound a lot like me at that time in my life.

          Although I had started to make changes, I was still pretty unaware of my emotional and self-esteem issues, and since I didn’t validate any of my feelings I was even more vulnerable to assholes then I had been.

          I think you are in that spot.

      • Noora says:

        I have never once disagreed with you in all my years reading your blog until now. A friend lead me to an article about the harm of sharing bedrooms (subconscious fighting about blankets and space etc.) and relating it in retrospect to my own ex-marriage, I have absolutely decided on separate living spaces, and if I were this man, I would feel stifled that my partner would not at least try out something I have come to believe in strongly. On your assertion that she would be treated as a fuck toy, I don’t know if you’ve been in a marriage or long term and heavily involved commitment, but in the space of the bedroom, that may be what she wants. That is what I want much of the time, and if you’ve looked into Tantra theory, that is the feminine sex self. Also recommend this ted talk:

        • Hubby and I came up with a brilliant but simple solution to blanket hogging. Multiple blankets. We both like to cocoon and be fully wrapped in a blanket, so now we just each get our own. We don’t really have a hard time sharing the master bedroom in our place so I can’t speak to space, but we mostly share the front room anyway.

        • Karen in Montreal says:

          Anybody who takes Esther Perel seriously for relationship advice needs their head examined. She’s the most narcissistic fake I’ve ever read (and no, her degree wasn’t in couple’s therapy …), and openly advocates lying to your partner. Blergh!

        • Chris says:

          Yeah, no. This has to do with what the couple wants together. I’ve been married 13 years, and didn’t get married to sleep alone.

          This is about what both partners want, and she doesn’t want this.

  11. sonya says:

    Oh dear. He is not a great man. He is really not.

    You’re not going to listen though. You’re just asking for advice and then ignoring coke’s sage wisdom – because you are filtering what you want to hear. I repeat, you are looking for what you want to hear. You want to validate to yourself that your relationship is not unhealthy when deep down you very well know it is.

    No man can “help” you grow feelings of self-worth outside of a therapeutic environment. You don’t grow these feelings, you seize the opportunity and make the necessary choices to grow as a person.

    Your panic attack was triggered by your cognitive dissonance. You know he is wrong, but you’re scared to speak up so you look for validation on the internet to confirm what you’ve always believed about yourself: that he is right and you are wrong. You have major self-esteem issues. Please get some fucking therapy.

  12. OP says:

    Ok, I asked for the advice so of course I shouldn’t be dismissing it just because it isn’t what I wanted to hear. So I won’t. I am listening. But also wondering – what exactly, except for my wording, triggered your vigorous reaction?
    I value your judgment immensely, Coquette, you always seem to read between the lines so aptly. But you only know what you are told, written about, the way it is written not always so accurate. So I do acknowledge you may be right. But there is possibility you misjudged the situation, which is reasonable scepticism, I suppose. Thus, I am asking, how can I verify this in real life? What can I do or ask him to verify whether his intentions are good or harmful?

    • Sat says:

      I commented elsewhere already, but: you can’t verify this with him, because he will never tell you the truth. He’ll never say “oh yeah, I’m just trying to control every single thought you have”. Trust us and get the fuck out.

      • Elizabeth says:

        I don’t approve of commanding people to get out of situations that you think they’ve been pressured into. If they do trust you, and if there’s an immediate problem, then immediate problem solved! But the underlying habit of knuckling under to others is just reinforced.

        Here’s my piece:

        A) Try verifying what’s going on by sharing it with the outside world, LOTS of different parts of the outside world. Tell the story as many ways as you know how, to different audiences. If you have friends who can mediate arguments or just hang out while the two of you talk, ask them to do that, and then ask them what they think. *If* he is the way Coke and I think, then you’ll notice that most people think he’s manipulative, OR you’ll notice an intense difference between how he treats you in private vs. how he treats you while watched.

        B) The way your boyfriend is framing the idea of separate bedrooms is manipulative, because he’s claiming that there’s an inevitable bad outcome (false) and that the only solution is his proposed solution (also false). Having enough sex and rediscovering each other are skills that good couples learn to practice. There’s not one easy trick, like separate bedrooms, for that.

        C) Shit, girl, as someone who’s been in consensual and explicit relationships where I *was* a live-in fucktoy for an older man — it will hurt everyone involved if you try to suppress your needs. When people do that, it festers, and eventually it makes you erratic, miserable, ashamed and avoidant. (Sounds like you’ve already experienced some of that.)

        Even if your needs could just go away in time, I personally believe that you, your preferences and vitality, take priority over who ANYONE wants you to try and be for them. Your low self-esteem and commitment issues don’t make you unworthy of your boyfriend. I think they probably make you attracted to people like him because you feel like they can “make you better”, but I totally might be wrong, and that’s between you and your therapist.

        If you don’t like who you are, you can’t stamp it out. You can’t have someone else fix it for you. You have to look at it until you know how it works — then you can change it.

        (@dime-sized-amount — abstinence-only education doesn’t work.)

    • TC says:

      I think the thing is to weigh intentions vs consequences. It’s possible he does have the best of intentions in terms of your equal partnership, but even if he does, he has something else in his brain that means that even when you communicate your feelings of rejection and panic, he doesn’t budge to address your needs.

      I think the reason for the vigorous response is because the folks commenting here have seen that people in this kind of situation often end up with emotional tolls down the line. Often people can do damage to you even if they do have good intentions, because in spite of whatever their intentions are, they keep doing things that make you feel uncomfortable. In short, the vigorous response may be because other posters are scared for you.

      It is good to keep in mind that there are relationships that are not good for your emotional health, and that you should not be in, even if the person has good intentions.

      Very best wishes.

    • Margo says:

      It’s because she’s a perceptive woman with a solid understanding of interpersonal power and psychology.

      The way you can verify it in real life is by paying deep attention to the part of you that coque pointed at – the part that panicked when he said he wanted separate rooms. The part that the rest of you is trying to suppress and rationalize. There’s no foolproof way you can get that information from him, you have to find it in yourself and what your lizard brain instincts know to be true about the power dynamics of your relationship.

    • dime-sized-amount says:

      Yo. It’s not just about him. Its about YOU.

      You are not ready to be in a committed relationship. You need a therapist, not a boyfriend.

  13. I am equal measures elated and horrified.

    I thought I was the only one who had been dumb enough (sorry – that’s how I’ve been feeling since) to fall for this “his superiority > my needs” wannabe cult-leader style bullshit… it’s not the exact same situation, obviously, but exactly the same dynamics, EXACTLY the same. That voice telling you to run. The daily gaslighting. I want to bawl. You have no idea.

    It’s relieving to be now out of those (yes, those) relationships, and to be in intense therapy and everything, but it’s still horrifying because 1. I still have not forgiven myself for it. It feels so STUPID in retrospect. I should have known better, and it just proved how deep my self-loathing goes, despite my efforts to conceal it from myself; 2. I know I am not “vaccinated” against this. I still approach relationships with the assumption of my inferiority, of “please deign to love me, I’ll be good”. If I don’t get my shit together this is all I’m gonna get in relationships, in life… And that’s terrifying. And finally 3. that this is going on elsewhere. Not that I thought I was a special victim snowflake (maybe just a little), but to be confronted with people asking for help like this… damn. It brings it all back and makes me think of the countless others who don’t have anyone to write to, or good examples to emulate, and I kind of can’t breathe.

    Jesus fucking Christ.

    • Nihil says:

      I take feeling stupid or silly in retrospect as a sign of personal growth. I think focusing on the fact that you’ve grown is a great way of forgiving yourself for the past relationship and realizing that you have the strength to begin working through these unhealthy patterns.

  14. OP says:

    Thank you, everyone, for your thoughts, advice and insight.
    Although I am not leaving my boyfriend, at least not now, not straight away, you did make me think and re-evaluate. I will pay closer attention to the dynamics in our relationship. I will see my therapist again (yes, I used to be in therapy) to make a “reality check” with her. I won’t move into separate bedrooms unless I feel genuinely comfortable with the idea (don’t really see that happening, though; I think I’ll just tell him it’s a deal breaker for me and if he tries to push it again I’ll wave him good bye). Oh and I’ve been reading articles about manipulation and abuse in relationships, as CAT suggested.
    Thanks again.

    • aaaianaiavaik says:

      girl, I am HIV positive because a man like this had a hold on me, and convinced me that I was crazy, controlling, and manipulative for expecting monogamy in our relationship. Once again, the details are different, but the basic structure of the relationship is classic gaslighter/manipulator. I know when you’re young and in love, your relationship feels so special and unique and like no one understands your love, but this is textbook. Please leave his ass right now. You deserve to be happy, and this doesn’t sound very happy. Be ok with being alone. It helps.

    • You’re being SO much wiser and thoughtful than I’d have been years ago. I was near-impervious to any outside suggestions (mainly because I was convinced I was too damn smart to get manipulated like that, and that all the panic attacks and self-doubt were signs something was wrong with me *alone*, not the situation or the other person). Maybe it feels weird to hear this from a perfect stranger, but I feel almost proud of you (is that weird? I hope not.)

      AND HAIL COQUETTE, without which none of this would have happened. (I always wonder how do I identify so strongly with her ideas on a rational level, but still manage to fuck up majorly every day. You’d think -again- that I’d know better.)

  15. Mango says:

    Hey, OP. Your choice is yours, I just want to offer my experience when it comes to your question when you ask why you should leave someone who seems to try lifting you up and encouraging you, as you say he does.

    I have no doubt he has told you he wants you to succeed, wants you to be opinionated and free of fear to be who you are. It sounds sweet and good-natured, but it’s actually the exact opposite and very dangerous. When he says that, but his age and actions that boast superiority are things you are picking up on, it’s because he’s using those words to throw you into doubt. To overlook his gas lighting and control.

    I was with someone for almost a decade who was precisely like that. I was younger, which in my case, definitely catered to a strong power imbalance. He would constantly tell me he wants me to be independent, happy, and freethinking, but all of his reactions to any step I took to do any of those things indicated exactly the opposite. Because in reality, he needed to be in control. He, too, dictated our living situation. He alienated me from friends. So when I got upset and pushed back, he would say “it’s all in your head, you know I always encourage you!” And it made ME feel ashamed and guilty. I, too, would get defensive of him and tell my few friends left that I was upset at the time, I didn’t mean it, he really is kind.

    And he fed off my constant insecurities and self-doubt. What made him so powerful is the things of affirmation he said. They lead me to say what you did, to my concerned friends. “You guys, he lifts me up. He encourages me. It’s MY stupid emotions, my messed up psyche, my problem.” Yes, I had problems, but he used those to control and chip away at me until I was nothing.

    I have undergone so much therapy since then, and am married to someone who constantly lifts me up **in his actions AND words** and with whom I am truly on equal footing. It took years of healing before I could be free and able to be in this marriage, I was so badly damaged.

    You have to feel the burn yourself before you take action. I know that. But just remember, saying those things to you are not the same thing as him doing them. If he did, you would be feeling better about yourself, fight or no fight.

    Therapy and solitude for a few years before stepping into any new relationship are what helped me. Regardless of this person, your first priority is yourself and to erase your self-doubt as much as possible. You are worth happiness and equal treatment. Repeat that every day until it sticks, and best of luck.

    • Mango says:

      And sorry for the bit of the ramble, Coke. This hit home hard and nearly shattered me. I felt like I was reading myself, both in original post and subsequent replies.

    • “You guys, he lifts me up. He encourages me. It’s MY stupid emotions, my messed up psyche, my problem.”

      Holy shit. This. Totally this.

      That must have been incredibly hard for you to write. Thank you for sharing. (I won’t lie and say the fact you’re married to someone who walks the walk instead of just talking the talk gives me a ton of hope).

      Apparently I’ve been naively unaware of the sheer amount of people that go through this. I assumed I’d feel relief, but it’s mainly just fear.

    • Alice says:

      This so accurately describes my relationship with my estranged husband. But I had two affairs years apart while he and I were together. He found out about the first one. Said if I did it again, he would leave me. We became swingers and in my mind the lines of our relationship blurred and I tried to get permission from him to sleep with other men on my own. (I had given him permission to sleep with other women on his own, but he never did.) He told me no, but I had already started talking with someone and it ended up getting physical. My husband found out about that one and kicked me out of the house. I’m trying to forgive myself for the pain I caused him and betraying him again, but I don’t know that I ever really will.

      I had always convinced myself that I was the one with problems and needed to defer to him because he was the “rational” one. We tried counseling after the first affair and then stopped going. He had never agreed to go before this and never agreed to go after. I now realize he was controlling and manipulative, but I still want us to be together. He has now admitted to all the ways I would complain about him being controlling or just invalidating my needs. But he says he’s done with me although he always adds the caveat that even when we divorce “that doesn’t mean there’s no chance for reconciliation.” We have a young child together so that is another reason I want us to work. I just don’t know that it can or if it even should.

  16. Z says:

    I’m glad you’re rethinking this a bit, OP. Other posters have shared more important experiences about abusive relationships, but I have a slightly different perspective that might be helpful too: I’ve been in a relationship with someone who insisted on separate bedrooms, despite what I knew I needed and wanted, and even without the abusive overtones and the truly messed up power dynamics others have described, it was a disaster.

    We moved in together under what was basically a misunderstanding about how our sleeping/living situation would play out in practice, and it slowly became a bigger and bigger issue over time. The really catastrophic thing was that once we were living together, there was no space to solve this problem or even to pause the fight—it was constantly renewed every night when we went to bed and every morning when we woke up together or separately. It was the most miserable, corrosive time I have ever spent in a relationship.

    Even if you don’t yet believe others about how terrible the dynamics are in your relationship (and I really think they are right, I’m afraid) and even if in principle separate bedrooms can be a fine set up when it is a mutual and mutually suitable decision, please take my word that profound disagreement about this kind of set-up, particularly in the absence of true compromise (and it doesn’t sound like he’s prepared to compromise on this) is, in and of itself, fatal to a relationship. Please, please stick with this instinct not to move in with him on these terms—and seriously consider what it means for your relationship that he simply, flat-out won’t compromise on this issue, while you will. I wish I had done both these things much earlier. Good luck to you, OP.

  17. OP says:

    So, not sure if anybody will ever read this, butI thought y’all deserve an epilogue. The therapist said she saw nothing manipulative in his behaviour and my reactions were typical for someone in a new situation (i.e. first serious long-term relationship) and every relationship needs to establish their own dynamics that work for both partners. I left with a decision not to break up but to put my foot down and I ask for what I need and deserve, instead. A couple of days ago, though, I started with him a conversation about my worries and doubts which resulted in us breaking up because “he cares for me deeply but has too much emotional baggage to ever fall in love again” and also “we want different futures” and the compromises I suggested were unacceptable to him. I couldn’t stop crying for a day but then I started feeling lighter, more free and calm and simply joyful, and now I am sure that it was the right decision.

    • The Coquette says:

      It’s been a big month. This ended well for you, and I’m glad you feel joyful. Honestly, I’m not the least bit surprised that he ended the relationship the very moment he was no longer able to control you. (Yet another sign that he was a manipulative creep.) You’ll start to see it yourself once you get a little distance from this relationship. In the meantime, enjoy being single, and keep working on all that stuff you mentioned as the source of your low self-esteem. (You might want to find a new therapist, though.) Feel free to write in and keep us all updated.

      • OP says:

        You’re not gonna like this. I’m supposed to go over to his place this weekend to pick up my stuff but I’m hoping that when I do, he’ll ask to get back together. I miss him. His touch and warmth. I know there are some big differences between us but I’m hoping we could make it work. I want to move on but it just hurts so bad right now…

        • The Coquette says:

          You’re the one who’s not gonna like this. You can address this comment to me all day long, but this is you talking to yourself. You already know what’s wisdom and what’s weakness. It’s not my place to give you permission to fuck up. You’re gonna do what you’re gonna do, and the consequences will be yours to bear.

        • Anna says:

          So what happened in the end ?
          I’d be delighted to get an update dear OP, but whether that happens or not, I only wish the best for you!

  18. Kylie says:

    I’m with C to the Q on this one: He wants an arrangement so he can bring girls over and they don’t question him living with a roomate. Take the advice – GTFO. There’s nothing wrong with having separate bedrooms? Not at all, in fact, I know a few people who have that living arrangement…my grandparents, and Henry the fucking VIII.

    If you’re hell-bent on compromising, do it by trying it the normal way, sleeping together, for a few months, and soon enough you’ll catch him cheating.

    Best of Luck

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