DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’ll start from the beginning. I am a sophomore in college and during my freshman year, I was in a abusive relationship. It got extremely bad and there were legal issues so we broke it off. The guy was taking a lot of drugs and so he eventually had to go to a psych ward around December-January.
I recently got into a relationship around February and my boyfriend is a great guy. He is everything that I’ve ever wanted, in terms of compassion, and kindness. He is not possessive but restricts me from doing things at parties. In my previous relationship, my ex would be okay if I kissed other girls and just had fun. But, my boyfriend now doesn’t approve and would get mad that I kissed my best friend. I feel restricted because of this and I just want him to be okay with it and how I am.
Also, my boyfriend and I got into a bad argument because he was mad about me kissing my best friend (this was two weeks later). I thought he got over that, but he was so disrespectful that it started feeling like my old relationship. He kicked me out of his apartment at 3AM, when we are in a long distance relationship. I live around 3 hours away driving so I did mind going back home. But for those two days, I felt like I was reliving my previous relationship because of the lack of communication.
I found out my ex got into a psych ward around January (he called me to tell me) and my boyfriend was extremely supportive about the situation. Now, my ex wants to hang out and talk after he completed his meds. My boyfriend and I were okay with this at first, but now, my boyfriend doesn’t feel comfortable with it anymore.
For some reason, I don’t think I should be in a relationship. I feel restricted, but I care about him a lot. I want to be able to have freedom, but also have him by my side. I know I should not hang out with my ex, but why do I feel so restricted?
DEAR QUIETLY QUESTIONING: You have a classic BUT letter, QQ. That is, it starts out with “everything is great…” and then there’s a “but” that goes to undermine everything you just said. In this case, it’s “my boyfriend is a great guy who’s everything I ever wanted in terms of kindness and compassion, BUT he also dictates my actions and controls what I am and am not allowed to do.”
I mean that’s a “call 1-900-Mix-A-Lot” situation, because that’s a REALLY LARGE but.
And frankly, other s--t you bring up makes me wonder just how kind and compassionate your new boyfriend is. I mean, kicking you out of his place at 3 AM when you were presumably staying there (since you mention this is a long-distance relationship) is not cool at best. Neither is having a yelling fit over how you behave with your best friend. Like I was telling Lines Lines, there’s a difference between saying “hey, I’m feeling a little insecure, I would appreciate some TLC and reassurance” and “I demand that you never do X, Y or Z again because it displeases me, even if it was what you were doing before we started dating.”
Telling you how you’re allowed to behave, what you’re “allowed” to do at parties or how you interact with your friends not cool and, honestly, it’s a big ol’ red flag. It would be one thing if, say, you had asked for his help making sure that you didn’t accidentally drink too much and act a fool at parties. It’s another thing entirely for him to say that you’re only permitted to do X or Y but not Z, because he’s in charge and he doesn’t want you doing those things. Or, more to the point: he can want things but he’s not in a position to demand them. Especially when these are things that were part of your life beforehand.
Now in the name of fairness and consistency: context changes everything, and there’s context we’re missing here. You mention that he has issues with your kissing your best friend. What kind of kissing are we talking about here? Are we talking about an affectionate peck, or are we talking about open-mouth sloppy make-outs? If it’s the former, then he’s definitely being a controlling dick and it’s a big goddamn warning sign. If it’s the latter… well, I could understand why this would bother him if he was expecting a monogamous commitment. But at the same time, that’s the sort of thing that needs to be talked out in advance. One of the reasons I tell people to really discuss what monogamy and infidelity mean to them during the Defining The Relationship talk is to avoid these precise conflicts. Everybody has different ideas about what “monogamy” means and what is or isn’t permissible; assuming that your partner is on the same page as you without actually discussing it is a great way to blow up a relationship. It’s also the time that you establish what you are or aren’t willing to give up for your partner. If being physically affectionate is part of your friendship with your BFF, demanding that you give it up for someone else’s insecurities is a pretty good sign that you and they aren’t compatible. And if they’re dictating how you conduct friendships that existed before you and they got together, then that’s a good sign to take off like all of hell and half of Hoboken were after you.
(I will say that I’d be uncomfortable with your hanging out with your ex too. Frankly, I have a hard time imagining a scenario where I’d be comfortable with my partner hanging out with an abusive ex who either got committed or sent to court-mandated rehab. Not, mind you, because I’d be worried about their cheating but more about their physical and emotional safety.)
Like I said to LLEAL, it’s good to trust your gut, as long as your gut is trustworthy. Right now your gut is telling you that being in a relationship is a bad idea. I think in this case, you should listen to your gut. To start with: you leapt from one emotionally fraught (and potentially traumatic) relationship straight into another with what sounds like very little time in between. If things were as bad as you say — and you hint at things being pretty goddamn bad — I think it would’ve benefitted you to have time to recharge, heal and process everything that happened. Taking the time to just recover is incredibly valuable, and helps make sure that you don’t go from one awful relationship to another, just because it doesn’t immediately resemble the first awful one.
Y’know. Like you did with your current beau.
Like you said: you’re feeling incredibly restricted and held back by your boyfriend. I think you should listen to that feeling. That feeling is trying to warn you that this isn’t a relationship you want to be in. I know you say he’s everything you want, that he’s kind and compassionate. But compassionate people aren’t known for having weeks-long tantrums that culminate with throwing people out in the street, nor do they insist on dictating what other people are and aren’t allowed to do in their lives. And let’s be real here: abusers and toxic s--theads don’t go around wearing signs that say “Hi, I’m a Toxic S--thead!” Quite the opposite really: they’re Crouching Nice Guy, Hidden Douchebags, hiding their s--ttiness behind superficial charm and love-bombing their targets. And to be frank, that sounds like your boyfriend. The little you’ve shared may be missing details that could change things, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that he’s setting off my Spidey-Sense pretty damn hard.
My advice: go with your gut and dump him. You should be single for a while — both to give yourself time to recover from your ex, but also because your current boyfriend doesn’t sound like a prize either. Taking some time to figure out what you want in a partner and — importantly — what you are or aren’t willing to put up with is going to be incredibly important for you. If your being physical — to whatever degree — with your best friend is important to you, then you don’t want to date someone who’s going to have a problem with that. If going to parties and getting wild is important to you, then, again: you want to date someone who’s cool with that. You’re a sophomore in college; you don’t need a babysitter and it’s incredibly presumptive (AT BEST) for a guy you’ve been dating for a handful of months to take it upon himself to “protect” you from your own choices. That’s clearly not something you asked for, nor something you want.
So my vote is wash your hands of him. Dump him with the quickness and live your life. But I also would say that you should kick the other dude to the curb as well and ignore his requests to get back in contact. Both of these dudes sound like a world of harm that you absolutely don’t need; better to let them both get taken out with the trash and you go on to live your best life without either of them in it.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, email@example.com