Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine addresses the common issue of hoping a dissatisfying partner will suddenly ‘change’.
“I have been living with my boyfriend for five years. I have a senior job in food retail management, earning a good salary, a small but tightknit bunch of friends, who I enjoy going out with to the cinema, plays and sometimes just for food. Given all this, I should be happy, but I’m not.
“Although I work long hours, I do all the housework. By contrast, my boyfriend works less hours than I do but does nothing around the house. Even right through the lockdowns, when he was being paid for not going to work, he did nothing except play video games through our TV.
“Our diet is rubbish because I am usually too tired to cook when I get home, and as usual, he won’t lift a finger in the kitchen. He also contributes next to nothing to the expenses of the flat, even though I know he earns almost as much as me.
“What really hurts though is that he is jealous of everything I do. If I go out, he demands to know where I’m going, who with, and what time I will be back. Even when I go to work, he wants to know what time I will be home – and it’s suffocating.
“I have often tried to explain what it’s like getting this interrogation from him, but he doesn’t seem to get it, or gets angry if I push too hard. Yet it’s OK for him to disappear out with his mates and tell me nothing. He’s like a vampire sucking life out of me, and I know I should probably leave him, but the trouble is the idea of being alone terrifies me. Do you think he will ever change?”
“Unfortunately, as you’ve been unable to change his ways after five years, I think there is little chance of doing so now. As relationships go, this must be one of the most unequal I have come across in recent years. That said, if you are determined to make one last attempt to rescue it, I suggest you contact Relate (relate.org.uk, readers in Scotland can contact relationships-scotland.org.uk) and encourage your boyfriend to do the same.
“Jealousy is such a strong emotion, often stemming from deep insecurity, and he will almost certainly need some sort of counselling to resolve it. He could do this individually or with you as a couple, but if he refuses to engage in this process, I suspect leaving him is your only real option. After all, what are you really getting from him?
“He gives no emotional support but instead creates anxiety, confrontation, anger, and unhappiness. His need to always know where you are and who you are with displays a lack of trust too. He’s freeloading on your income and, on a practical level, seems to contribute nothing except possibly acting as a bedwarmer.
Well, a hot water bottle would be a lot less bother and good deal cheaper.
“Could living on your own really be any worse than this? You know you can cope; you do everything anyway and if it’s the possible lack of companionship that’s holding you back, get your close friends involved. I am sure they would be willing to help. Then, once you have your own space, you can reset and create a new, happier life.”