I feel so much love for him but over the last couple of months, I can’t help feeling resentful because he severely takes me for granted and wants to spend his free time on the couch whereas I want to spend my free time living adventurously in my 20s and traveling and being outside. We have a 14 year age difference. He’s 37. He has this tendency to apologize “for being boring” but doesn’t seem to realize why he’s apologizing because he never does anything to change.
He never just asks me what I want.
He’s hard to have a conversation with at times. He has a typical, fragile male ego that turns into this uncomfortable, self-pitying anger.
He has a 13-year-old daughter who is a really bright kid. But, I didn’t necessarily think about the time commitment that a child takes when we started dating, and even though she only comes around on the weekends, sometimes I just want time to be alone with my boyfriend. I understand this is my own fault and my own selfishness.
Also, he has an ex that’s kind of always been “around” (not the mother). The ex has become less of a concern in recent months, but they used to talk every couple of days, particularly about his kid in a nostalgic way. He would very obviously (come on, I’m a woman and I’m smart) try to hide their communication. I know people can be friends after splitting up, but my partner was planning on marrying her, and was devastated for a long time after they broke up.
I felt justified for being upset when I’d find out he was helping her find a birthday gift for her mother, or going to a party with her at which his phone “happened to die,” and, “oh wait they actually also went out to eat first” and, “oh wait he also picked her up and didn’t get home until 4AM.”
I’ve questioned why in the hell I’d stay with someone like that.
And because he can be difficult to talk to, when I would bring up the fact that his relationship with his ex bothered me, he would always get REALLY PISSED and nothing would ever change or be settled and I would just feel bad for saying something in the first place. The communication between them doesn’t happen very much anymore, nor do they hang out (he’s told me that he would give me a little heads up if they do) but the pain and the trust issues still linger. He still doesn’t get that or know how to address my pain.
I am currently applying for master’s programs overseas and as much as I hate to admit it, I think a small part of myself sees that as a release, and as an escape from this life I’m living in which I’m bored and underappreciated and don’t feel challenged by anything. I don’t know if talking to my partner will even help, because sometimes I feel like we have too many compatibility issues. But, the thought of breaking up makes me feel really bad and sad.
Am I just being a resistant baby with fake problems? Are my expectations too high? Or are these issues real and valid??
Thanks for your support and for being wonderful and insightful to me and other human people.
Dear Angel Fish Fren,
You special fish. So many feelings to feel!
Your letter, much like a beautiful flower, the floppy, pre-sushi carcass of a freshly caught tuna, or, perhaps, more on-message for this column, an human pussu, has many layers, and unfolded delicately, beginning with the more superficial problems (is my BF boring?), and then became very thick (911! A child!), and meaty (!W!T!F! re: this ex???) in the central, juicy middle.
Delicious! Horrifying! Let’s dive in.
Some star things: while Pisces and Scorpio can be great friends and great partners, even soulmates, it’s not necessarily a big shocker that you two find yourselves in a relationship in which the problems mostly revolve around misunderstandings, unclear communication, and jealousy. Everything looks different from underwater; the shadow side of intuition is paranoia, and it sounds like you have gotten scrambled, and are mistaking one for the other and visa versa.
That feeling-- of second guessing yourself, of wondering if what you’re seeing is real, some kind of unfunny joke, or a bad dream-- that feeling is telling you that above all, you aren’t centered in your deep sensitivity. If you find center, you will know the difference between a gut feeling and an irrational fear.
The top line piece of advice is that you need to take time for yourself (Road trip? Solo hike?) to find a new baseline of stability. Once you do that, you probably will not need any of the following advice, but here it is anyway.
It sounds to me like you need to end this relationship.
While an age difference certainly impacts the dynamic between two people, it shouldn't cause this much confusion. 37-year-olds aren’t, as a symptom of their age, willfully thoughtless when it comes to making their partners happy.
That’s what assholes do. At any age.
Maybe you and your boyfriend are incompatible because you have different ways of relaxing-- for him, it’s sitting on the couch, ignoring your needs, and watching you cringe while he whittles your feelings into splinters with which to stick himself. For you, it’s perhaps a night on the town. A few cocktails.
To give him the benefit of the doubt (and to ignore all the other indications that he treats you with wanton disregard) it’s highly possible that-- at 23 and 37-- the things you each find fun might just be too different to keep this thing going. And that’s actually OK, and as fine a reason as any to part ways.
My hunch, however, is that you’ve wrongly categorized this icky feeling of inequity in the relationship as an age difference problem, when really it’s an esteem problem.
If you are not feeling valued in this relationship, then you aren’t being valued. Period. Trust yourself.
In the words of Scorpio as hell Drake, "Know yourself. Know your worth."
The age difference, perhaps, feels greater than the sum of years between you two, because in addition to being younger than your boyfriend, you are also being actively diminished. In assuming that he is the mature one, you have given him the power to determine what’s right for you. But it doesn’t sound like he is mature.
It sounds like he is leveraging your trust to remain, first and foremost, in the seat of control. And that’s just not where love lives.
When he says, “I’m sorry I’m boring,” what you hear is, “I don’t value you,” because what you’re hearing is, “I am planning to continue ignoring your wants, needs, and interests because I am the most important person in this relationship. If you make any objection, I will throw a tantrum and accuse you of rejecting me.”
It’s this mindfuck of a “poor me” and a “fuck you” rolled into one.
This specific example may not seem like that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things (and in the grand scheme of all the other meaty-in-the-center bullshit this guy does), but this is a kind of gaslighting. Because simply, you never said he was boring. By staking his position in advance, and by blowing up whenever there’s any issue, he’s preemptively kept you from expressing your needs. He has already implicitly accused you of starting a problem, of starting a fight, of rejecting him, before you ever make a move, so you’re just stuck there, quietly watching him watch TV, afraid to express yourself.
Getting involved with someone who has a child is an extra commitment, and it’s a big deal. While your boyfriend’s choices regarding his child are, unfortunately, his own to make, it is your responsibility to determine whether you feel compelled to be in this kid’s life. It doesn’t sound like you are ready for that. And that is perfectly OK.
It’s OK to not want to date a person with a kid when you are only 23; it’s OK to not want to date a person with a kid when you’re fucking 83.
If, for any reason and at any time, something about your relationship doesn’t feel right for you, it’s not right.
That does not make you a selfish fish. It makes you self- aware and responsible.
Let’s talk about this truly gnat-like ex-almost-fiancé s-i-t-u-a-t-i-o-n. My fren, little fish, this is bullshit. You are swimming in cloudy and polluted waters! Get thee to someplace way more fresher! Your little gills! They are full of trash garbage!
There are two categories with which to consider this situation: 1.) your boyfriend’s actions, and 2.)the way he’s communicated. Both SUCK. Bo0Oooo0O!
You sound thoughtful, and considerate; thoughtful people understand that their partners are human beings with histories and complex emotions. And from that compassionate place, they can allow, forgive, and even embrace that maybe their partner still has a flicker of a flame, or a sad tear lingering in their heart for a person who done broke that shit. When you love someone, you can learn to love every part of who they are. And life is messy etc. etc.
However, a good partner would never allow the little tears from that sad, salty, muddy puddle in their heart to drip onto the smiling face of their current partner.That’s bad boundaries!
That’s fucking waterboarding!
Hiding texts, disappearing with an ex, getting involved with intimate, dating-y activities such as choosing a birthday gift for mom-- these are all big, bad, blaring red alerts. Even if he’s not cheating (which, sorry, but he definitely, probably might be), his response to you feeling hurt, neglected, and uncomfortable is abusive and literally inexcusable.
You keep referring to him as your “partner,” but does he really act like a partner? Or more like an adversary?
Getting “REALLY PISSED,” communicates nothing but his desire for dominance, or, equally bad, a desire to kick up clouds of jealousy and confusion around you. If he isn’t cheating, it sounds like he wants you think he might be (a Scorpio addicted to jealousy: *yawn* shocker).
Intentionally generating and stoking the fires of jealousy in one’s partner is a cowardly, garbage tactic to get negative attention that is reserved only for those soul-poor individuals who never advanced beyond emotional toddlerhood; it suggests a toxic, patriarchal, Capitalist mindset that value and ownership are one in the same; it suggests a black hole of self-worth that you, as his girlfriend, will never be able to fill.
If every time you try to address a feeling-- just, any feeling-- you end up kicked out of the garden, rejected, confused, and blaming yourself, you are being emotionally abused.
That’s what emotional abuse feels like.
His response to your emotions confirms that he is sadly trapped in the delusion that relationships are about winning or losing power, not about mutual positive regard, respect and partnership; he’s loyally adhering to the gaslighting script:
You: “I feel hurt.”
Him: “Why do you always start fights?”
The concern you voiced about his ex is more than valid, but even if it wasn’t, a good partner will listen to his girlfriend's honest and obvious pain, and respond with compassion, not with a dismissive, qualitative judgement about whether or not the concern is valid. Even if you were voicing an irrational insecurity or fear (which, again, you weren’t), a good partner would muster the empathy to “poor baby” you, not “poor baby” themselves.
Nobody is perfect, but it sounds like defensiveness and bile are the norm, not the exception.
The ex’s role in this doesn’t actually matter, but, my lowkey theory is that toxic, narcissistic abusers like your boyfriend keep a trail of lost souls (especially exes) in their wake. The timing is impeccable. It’s as though your boyfriend decided to pick up this ex-girlfriend, like an easily discarded old toy, just to show you that he could: “People like me, people want me.” I’m not sure why people like his ex remain in close contact-- perhaps it’s part of an addictive cycle, perhaps it’s because relationships with narcissists create so much confusion, it can be difficult to fully and finally end it.
But end it you must. And truly break it off.
I get the feeling that this letter represents an itty tip of the iceberg, and that you’re down in the blue depths swimming around the ice, feeling all fishy and cold and sad.
Does he love you? Doesn’t that matter?
Yes, he probably loves you, but think about the way his love makes you feel.
In your own words: resentful, bored, shouldering guilt, in pain, upset, and under-appreciated. That’s not a love that matters. That’s not a love worth fighting for.
In the words of G*e*m*i*n*i Bob Dylan, "When somethin's not right, it's wrong."
If you are waiting to break up until it “feels right,” quit it! Never gonna happen. You are probably never going to feel resolved, like you’ve “figured it out” or received clarity of any kind. You are only going to keep feeling more and more arrested by confusion. And he will likely keep pushing your boundaries with more fresh horror as time progresses.
He might make a big show of fighting for you, because more than anything, narcissists hate to lose control. Or, he might act completely indifferent as a power play to deny closure, which will hurt.
The best way to handle it is to be firm, be decisive, be concise, and then stop talking, and stop listening. DTMFA/ UUBA (an editorialized phrase borrowed from our father who art in Seattle, Dan Savage meaning: “Dump The Motherfucker Already/ Unfriend Unfollow Block Already”)!
And what a relief it will be.
I am here from the future to tell you that pulling yourself out of it will indeed feel bad and sad, but once you get distance, you honestly won’t really miss him. Because getting away from someone who is fucking with your head just feels so fucking good.
And I don’t want to hear about you picking out birthday presents with this fucking dick in 6 years!!! No friendly ex shit. Don't get caught in the wake of his boat. Un!Sub!Scribe!
So here’s the homework: go get your masters and swim away from this fool.
Read The Verbally Abusive Relationship (very important!). It’ll basically validate all your feelings and blow your mind.
Since you’re into astrology, I would research your 2nd house. It sounds like this relationship triggered a lot of stuff about “worth” and “value,” especially with regards to self-worth and how to find it, and of wanting to get “out of the house,” so it may be illuminating to investigate what’s going on in your chart.
Also, I highly recommend getting into therapy to sort out the emotional history that got you to this point, since you’re questioning “why in the hell you’d stay with someone like that.”
Finally, I would like to evangelize on behalf of the Scorpio-- they are not all shitty and bad. And I’m not just saying that because my best friend is the Scorpio who designed this beautiful website and might murder me in the night for publicly shitting on her kind. When they’re well-integrated, they are magic, sensitive, loyal beings who are afraid of literally nothing. Don’t let this put you off them forever.
But maybe date a nice earth sign as your rebound?