Dear Wendy: “My Family Disapproves Of My Controlling Boyfriend”

I have been in a long-term relationship with a guy that my family, and more recently I, found to be controlling and critical. I dumped him several months ago and then, after a month-long break, began to talk and hang out with him again. He is more remorseful than anyone I’ve seen in my whole life and has displayed nothing but kindness, humility and love for the past several months. I am considering giving it another shot as he’s the type of person who makes changes permanently (I’ve seen this many times from him in other areas of life). The problem is, I know my family does not approve. They especially don’t approve because of their staunch traditional beliefs that a person should marry someone of their exact same religion, which I no longer agree with. I am torn between listening to my family, who I know cares for me, and giving the relationship another chance. I don’t want to disregard my family’s advice, but I’m not sure if they are just biased because of my ex’s religious beliefs. I also don’t want to risk losing a great guy that I’m so compatible with. Please help! — Stuck In The Middle

You’re a grown woman (I assume) and while it may be nice to have your family’s approval, you shouldn’t depend on it for a successful, happy relationship. Love who you want to know, and date who you want to date. After all, you’re the one in the relationship, not your family. But that’s not to say you should completely discount their opinions and advice, particularly if you think there’s some relevancy and truth in it. And you certainly shouldn’t date someone simply to rebel against your parents’ traditional beliefs. Is your boyfriend someone you want to be with because you’re crazy about him, or is he someone you want to be with because it drives your family crazy?

Let’s try to forget your family’s opinion of your boyfriend for a minute and focus on you. I’m a little concerned that you’re so convinced that after one month your boyfriend is a completely reformed man and no longer the controlling, critical person you’ve always known him to be. You do realize, don’t you, that you’ve just described the pattern of an abusive relationship? The man is controlling and manipulative — he criticizes, or emotionally abuses, his woman, sometimes even hits her until it gets so bad she leaves him. Then he comes crawling back to her swearing up and down he’s a changed man and he’ll never treat her like that again. Guess what usually happens when the woman takes him back? I’m just saying leopards don’t change their spots that quickly.

I don’t know enough about your situation to say whether your boyfriend is someone you should stay away from, but I do know that it takes most people longer than a month to change strong behavioral patterns. At the very least your boyfriend has some control issues and I think you need to do some deep soul-searching about whether you’re willing to risk your emotional well-being by staying with him. And then you need to ask yourself what your motives are. Your family may have some outdated views on dating outside one’s religion, but their opinion on dating a man who’s controlling and critical is one I’d certainly take heed of.

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