Stuck in the Middle with You


Dear Dharma,

I love your site and read it all the time.  I feel like I can turn to you for some advice when I am not comfortable talking to a real person about things.

I have been living with my boyfriend of 4 years for about 6 months now.  Everything was great before, and now they aren’t terrible, but just ok.

I see a different side of him now, and he can be quite demanding and controlling sometimes.  Is this a typical phase people go through when a relationship matures and you move in together?

I kind of miss how things used to be, but obviously I can’t move out to get closer to him again! What should I do?

Feeling Stuck

Dear Stuck,

Thank you for the kind words and I’m glad you feel you have somewhere to turn for advice when you need it.  As a side note, though, Dharma actually is a real person… does that wreck it for you? 🙂

It’s interesting that your boyfriend didn’t show his demanding and controlling side in the years prior to living with him.  I wonder if that’s because it was more diluted?  Obviously you spend a lot more time with him now than when you were just dating.  Maybe it always existed but was just less noticeable when you had an out at the end of the day.

I’m so glad that the stigma of “shacking up” has lessened over the years, because living together is an excellent way to learn if this is the right person for you – you’re able to observe them in their natural habitat, so to speak, and assess if the relationship has the potential to go the distance.

And that’s exactly where you are – in a relationship that has moved to the next level, and you have learned some things along the way about your other half.  The words demanding and controlling are concerning to me, as they must be to you – otherwise we wouldn’t be having this little chat.

When you look 5 years into the future, what do you see?  Are you happy, or are you feeling… resigned to living with this type of behaviour?  If it’s the latter, that’s actually called settling.  Most people will tell you that settling is not really the best… and if they don’t tell you that, they should, non?

Up the ante a bit and tell me how you feel when you think about the possibility of having children together.  Are his demanding and controlling ways in any way appealing, or do you see yourself being constantly drained, feeling bullied and belittled?

So while you might be content to put up with his ways for now, you need to think about where you want this relationship to go.  I don’t know if you go along with things to keep the peace or if you stand up for yourself and face the conflict in a constructive way by letting him know you don’t like being treated this way… and if so, how he reacts.  My guess is that you keep the peace, and that’s not going to help anything in the long run.  The more he gets used to treating you that way with his behaviour going unchallenged, the more you will both get used to it.

Hopefully you have a strong enough level of comfort to be able to discuss this issue with him, because if left alone, I can guarantee you nothing will change.  And that part is pretty much up to you.

Dharma – Not a Robot


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  • Anonymous says:

    when those little voices in our head start telling us that this situation isn’t right for us anymore, it’s called intuition. we ignore it all the time and end up staying in situations much longer then we should.

    • Dharma says:

      Here, here and amen to that. Hopefully the LW will listen to those voices and not stay in a relationship that doesn’t work for her anymore. It might be a hard choice in the beginning, but the payoff will be great.

  • cronk says:

    Its the little things that count. When a man wants a women he opens the door, buys flowers, tells her how beautiful she is and does all those little things that steals here heart. In time, he takes it for granted and things get stale. He has to keep it up if he is serious over the long haul.
    The women laughs and spends a lot of time allowing the man to feel special and sexy and more or less caters to his vanity ( weather it is real vanity or stealth).

    Both have to keep it up…..over the long haul.

    I would say, go back to doing all those little things. Give it all you have and, if it still doesnt work, just get over it and move on. Try to find that intimacy you had in the beginning. But give it all you got. If he is still acting like an asshole. Show him the door. Dont dwell on all those self taught communication lessons you always hear about. If it isnt there, its not going to be. If it is worth saving, it is worth trying…..hard. But you cant put 12 ounces in a ten ounce cup

    • Dharma says:

      I like the 12 ounce/10 ounce analogy – thanks for that!

      To just get over it and move on might not be quite that easy (the right thing is seldom easy to do), but I agree that it takes both parties to keep a relationship moving in the right direction.

      Thanks for your thoughts, Cronk!

Whether you agree with Dharma or think she missed the mark on this one, leave a Comment!

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