My boyfriend is mean to me

He had a hard life but do I have to put up with it?

By Cary Tennis

Published May 15, 2013 12:00AM (EDT)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       (Zach Trenholm/Salon)
(Zach Trenholm/Salon)

Dear Cary,

Since the beginning of our relationship, of one year, my boyfriend always criticizes everything. He had a hard time when his father died because of alcohol, when he was about 12 or 13, and he considers himself to be very  mature because of that. I never had such a thing going on in my family. He is socially awkward, and just because the world isn't made for him, and how he wants the world to be, he just stays inside, since then, playing video games all day. He has a very sharp mind, he got into the university to study maths. But he left it. I'm always trying to remind him how smart he is and that he shouldn't leave it behind. He always says, "And what do you know?"

All I know is that I love him and I don't want him to be sad. And he calls me immature. When we are hanging with his friends I almost don't talk in order to avoid his criticism of me later when heading home. When we started dating he said that one of the reasons that he's dating me was that I was very mature. And now he takes it back.

I grew up with no friends because we were moving a lot and I don't have friends. I spend every summer or holiday completely alone. He says, "You haven't found the right people, the mature ones." I say, "I haven't managed to." And he changes the subject. He can't even say, "OK. Relax, you will find them someday, I believe in you." And then I get back home and I cry alone while he's at his house playing video games and not giving a shit (excuse me).

What do I have to do to make him understand how this whole thing makes me feel? I know I should try talking to him. I tried and I got nothing. He believes that only he had a hard time while growing up. I had one too. And he compares our past, saying that I shouldn't be talking because he had a harder life than me and then quits. There's nothing I can say when this happens. If I try talking to him again about this thing he will say, "So you think that I am one more jerk and asshole like I don't know who other you were dating in the past." He is always talking about the past. Mine or his. He will never let go. I have stopped talking to him about my past a long time ago. He started caring more about the person I was than the person I am now. Because the person I am now is the one he fell in love with.

Any advice on how to change this will really help! I need your help. Otherwise I can see a breakup on the horizon and I really don't want this.

What Do I Have to Be?

Dear What Do I Have to Be,

Though it will be painful, you have to break up with this person. He is going to need years to learn how to treat other people with respect. He may have a hard life ahead but you do not have to suffer with him. You can find someone who will be kind to you. So you need to break up with this person.

It will be hard but you can do it. Just tell him in simple words that you are breaking up with him and will not be seeing him anymore. Wish him luck in life. Tell him you hope he finds happiness and love. Then walk away and do not contact him anymore.

It is fine that you wish he would understand how you feel. But he is incapable of it right now. The only way he is going to come to understand how you feel is by growing up, and you cannot wait for him to grow up. He is right when he says you are more mature than he is. You have to find someone who can treat you well.

He has been deeply hurt by the loss of his father but you cannot help him with that. He will need to live with his anger and sadness until something opens up in him, until he finds his way. If you stay with him he will just mistreat you.

The one thing you may be able to do is in some way indicate to him that there is help for people who have lost a parent to alcoholism. There are groups for adult children of alcoholics, and there are groups for the family members of alcoholics. When he is ready, he may be helped by such a group. Right now, it sounds like he is too young and angry and afraid. But if you plant the seed of knowledge, it may come to him later after he has had more life experience, and he may get some help and even be grateful to you for mentioning it. But you can't change him. He will have to do this in his own time.

Meanwhile, make friends in a new social group. Find some people who, like you, have moved around a lot and know what that is like. Find some people who, like you, have very few friends. If you moved because your family was a military family, find some friends who also come from military families. If your family moved because they were dissatisfied with each place they came to, or because of changing jobs, find people who have been through that also. If you do not like large groups, then just be friends with individuals. You need friends. You can find them.

In the meantime, do not despair. You will be OK. You have been raised well and you have a kind heart. Someone will recognize this and value it.

Since he will not say it, I will say it: "OK. Relax, you will find them someday, I believe in you."

Cary Tennis

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