Dear Thelma: My boyfriend is a bum but I can’t leave him

  • Family
  • Sunday, 10 Jun 2018

A relationship with this guy is one-sided.

I love to work and I love to feel busy. Working gets me away from all the problems I’m about to explain to you now.

I’ve been in a relationship for six years, and in that time, my boyfriend has been fired, or abandoned his jobs. I have been with this kid since I was a young teenager and have always been the one with money in my pocket. If I wanted to go out with him, I’d buy the dinner and drinks. If I wanted to shop and he liked something and had no money, I would buy it for him.

Lack of communication has always been an issue with him. I would always be the one texting or calling him, the one asking to see him, but he would always be either already doing something or have something come up. He has been an aspiring musician/producer for longer than I’ve known him. I have been very supportive and would give my feedback but it would never be enough. He would criticise my comments or find the feedback not good enough.

It came to a point where I was not a priority anymore and I would have to beg for his attention, and pretty much chase him down if I wanted to see him. He would write songs about me with offensive lyrics and describe our relationship negatively, which I found embarrassing.

I broke up with him many times because I was fed up with being unappreciated and unacknowledged. I would find him out with his friends drinking at all hours of the night even when he told me he wasn’t going out. Nothing I would say or do, no matter how much I’d threaten to leave would make him change. I was always the one to run back, and that resulted in him doing the same rubbish again and again.

After a few years, he suddenly developed severe anxiety, depression and physical health problems. I always tried to come up with solutions for him to feel better and would offer my presence as comfort.

He would make doctor appointments but would constantly not turn up. When he was given medication, he would not take them properly. He neglected all the suggestions given to him and later complained that he was still feeling sick.

Finally, it became so depressing and hard to deal with the lack of communication and appreciation that I had to leave the relationship. We were apart for about four months. During that time, he made an effort to get better and we started to talk again. Eventually, we got back together. Things were great and he did exactly what I wanted in the relationship, but he eventually got fired from his well-paying job due to calling in sick and being late a lot.

It’s been four months and he still doesn’t have a job. I go days without hearing from him, and I find myself begging for him to text me, wondering where he is and showing up at his house, worried he had done something to himself. I constantly find him just laying in bed, and he would look at me without emotion or anything to say. Now, I am depressed and self-medicating to feel good.

He was forced to move out of his mother’s place and into a friend’s where he is living rent-free for a few months. He is homesick and is weaning himself off medication cold turkey and this is affecting his mental health. His new place is a five-minute walk away from mine, so I figured we would be seeing each other more often, but I was wrong.

He is trying to run his own business because he believes he is too good for a regular nine-to-five job. I have given him grief many times for being egotistical and acting like he’s the smartest person in the world, always talking down to me and underestimating my intelligence. He's had so many chances to do right, and understand that this is a two-person relationship, and if he wants me to respect his wishes, there needs to be compromise. I cannot go for days on end without hearing from my partner, and watch him respond to other people’s texts but not mine. That is another issue – I am so paranoid that I keep tabs on his personal social media because I realise I am not a priority with him.

I find myself wanting to look for what I don’t have in other guys, and for that I feel guilty, until I realise how this relationship is not something I want. I try to talk to him about what I need from him and he groans and says I give off negative energy and he doesn’t want to talk about it.

It is very hard to leave someone who has been through hell and back with you, with family and friends. He knows me so well and I’m scared that I will never find that type of connection with anyone because when things are good, they’re really good.

What should I do? Should I ignore him and let him be, force him to realise what is right in front of him, or leave? – Unacknowledged

Dear Unacknowledged

He ignores you for long periods, and when he does engage, he runs you down. And you’re wondering what you should do?

My dear, what on earth are you thinking? My advice is to block him: from your phone, your heart and your bank account. Cut him out of your life completely.

I can see you making excuses for him, and he does have problems, but from your letter, he doesn’t want you.

Let me break down your letter into simple steps, so we can see what was going on.

You started by buying his attention. He took the free dinners, drinks and gifts but made it clear he wasn’t interested. You were the one who had to contact him; he was not contacting you.

However, you kept begging for his attention, calling and texting, and also trying to involve yourself in his interests.

He was sometimes positive but more often than not, he’d be nasty. He ridiculed and ignored your opinions routinely, and to cap it all, he publicly humiliated you with those songs.

Despite this, you kept at it.

Occasionally you’d pull away but then you’d go back. Even though nothing ever changed.

Is that a fair summary? Because if it is, you should understand what’s going on.

First, when it comes to love, it’s good to reach out but once you are rejected, the healthy thing is to move on. Trying to force a connection with an unwilling party can only result in pain and suffering.

I think you should examine how you connect with people. How are your relationships with your mum, dad, siblings, extended family and the people you work with? If this is a pattern in your life, then you must try and understand where it comes from, and make an effort to change it.

Second, I want you to consider the process of addiction.

Generally speaking, reward encourages behaviour. For example, if you pull the lever of a slot machine and it gives you a chocolate, you will pull the lever again. Common sense, right? And you’d think that if you always get the chocolate, you will keep pulling the lever.

Wrong! Experiments show that constant reward leads to loss of interest. It is intermittent reward that keeps us interested.

If you want to get someone addicted, you use an on-and-off reward system. This is the principle that fuels social media addiction: not knowing which of your posts will go viral is what keeps you hooked into posting more and more.

With this man, you knew to walk away but you couldn’t because you were desperate for those very short feel-good moments when you thought you’d made a connection. The thing is, he’s not interested in you. He’s said it over and over again, and he’s shown it by his actions.

Yes, he has issues. But he does not want you to help him. And as he has a family and friends, and he is in his own way trying to change, you have to respect his wishes and leave him alone.

So, what does the future hold for you? You deserve happiness, and there are lots of wonderful men who would love to have a girlfriend like you.

You say this started when you were a teen, and it’s been six years. That should make you 25 years old or younger. For goodness’ sake, start dating properly. Make lots of friends and enjoy yourself. Build up a great social network, and as you go along, learn what kind of partner you want in your life.

If you have trouble with this, you might benefit from talking to a therapist. But really, my advice is this: walk away from this man and start a happy life.

Is something bothering you? Do you need a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on? Thelma is here to help. Write to Dear Thelma, c/o Star2, Menara Star, 15, Jalan 16/11, 46350 Petaling Jaya, Selangor or e-mail Please include your full name and address, and a pseudonym. No private correspondence will be entertained. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, usefulness, fitness for any particular purpose or other assurances as to the opinions and views expressed in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses suffered directly or indirectly arising from reliance on such opinions and views.

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