You're on 30 Day Probation

Dear Dr. Love,

I have been dating someone 700 km away from me for the last year. He has been alone for 10 years and I have regularly dated. I chose to tell him about my past in detail as he requested. In the past I had once cheated on someone once, and I am aware of why I did it - a type of revenge. Anyway back to this relationship, recently our relationship has come close to ending. For many months now he has been very opinionated about some of my pastimes, example: going to restaurants, visiting family- especially my mother. . . . .

I had decided that when these activities were a part of my life that I would keep them to myself - for me they are my choices and not for him to control. I have lied a few to avoid telling him about restaurant meals with friends and activities with my mother. I have been caught. Now the extreme - I am accused of cheating. He is sure that I have been cheating on him all along - saying that i am not in fact with family or friends but with someone else. I have tried everything to convince him otherwise and he refuses to be ok with me until I admit to cheating. What can I do. I work 7 days a week sometimes 70 hours and am free only in evenings mon- fri between 7-10 where I return home to call him everynight and we speak until we sleep. He still beleives that from 7-10 is when I do it.

I realize lying isn't right and it is hard for him to trust me - what do i do - wait it out. Now he says I am on 30 day probabtion but everynight its the same discussion me cheating. Or no discussion at all - he refuses to talk.

What can I do. I love him.

Answer: 

The problem is that you have lied yourself into a tight corner. Rather than confronting your boyfriend's controlling behavior (his trying to restrict your meals with friends or your activities with mom), you avoided calling him on his problem. In an attempt to avoid a head on collision with him, you lied about where you were and what you were doing, and now that he's found out about your having lied you have lost all credibility with him.

What's more, that collision you were trying to avoid has turned into a 50 car pile up. He is now treating you like a child who is being punished (30 day probaation as he puts it). I have to wonder why you aren't furious to be treated this way and why you are so willing to allow his problem to be deflected back onto you. True, you were wrong to have lied, but the fact is that you lied because you didn't have the guts to confront him on is problem.

His attempts to control you are a symptom of his pathological jealousy. He is terrified that you are going to cheat on him and his efforts to control you are designed to limit the likelihood that you will cheat. This is his problem and he needs to face it. He needs to understand where his fear of being cheated on comes from. He needs to link the problem back to its source--his childhood. Does he feel unworthy of love? Was he abandoned as a kid and does he therefore live in constant terror that his love object will leave him by cheating? He needs to own his issues and resolve them.

As long as you allow him to put you in the doghouse, you are protecting him from facing his own issues. I have the idea that you are going to find it very hard to confront him directly. I say this because you lied rather than confront his attempts to control you. Now you are in an even deeper ditch with him. Your only way out is to stand him down. You can start by saying that you totally own your mistake; that you shouldn't have lied, and that you understand that your having lied has aroused his doubts about your faithfulness. Then ask him if he is willing to look at his role in this problem. If he is, then help him to see that his attempts to control your actions led you to become secretive, which in turn made it look like his worst fear had come true--that you lied to hide the fact that you were cheating.

Next ask him to examine where his fear of being cheated upon comes from. If he isn't able to figure this out on his own, go together to couples therapy. Meanwhile, you need to ask yourself why you want to be in a relationship with someone who is so jealous that he needs to control your every move. You need to see how this relationship recreates your family history. You need to understand what wounds from your past you are recreating and trying to heal by being involved with someone who controls and punishes you as he does.

This is a tough situation. The only way out is for both of you to own what you gain (consciously and unconsciously) by performing the roles that you play in this relationship. Your role is the sneaky kid who ends up in the doghouse for lying; his role is the controlling, jealous, and outraged suitor who knows that he will be cheated on sooner or later. Understanding what purpose these roles serve is your first step on the path to breaking free. Let me know what happens.

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