Dear Dr. Archer,
My boyfriend and I argue quite a bit. He has wanted to cheat on me for a long time, I can tell. For the past couple of months he hasn't committed to me, but as of last night I got upset with something he said.
He asked the question, "When are you putting the kids to bed?" He said it so sarcastically, and said it again at 10:00, 10:30, 11:00 and 12:00!
I stopped talking to him and just took my children to bed. That's when he realized I wasn't talking to him, so he went back to doing his own thing. He said he wanted to spend time with us, but it didn't look like it.
After I put them to bed I went to lay down to see if he'd come see me, and after a while I got up to see him. We argued about the situation and he knew I was waiting for him to come see me so he just sat there like a lump on a log, watching television.
He didn't like what I was doing, saying I was playing a game he doesn't like to play. He left and hasn't been home since. I'm worried, because this happens often.
I do little things like that to see if he really wants to be with me and that he really does want to spend time with me because most of the time when we argue he says he's only here because of the kids.
I'm always looking for proof that he loves me, and just being here with me isn't going to cut it for me, because he says he's here just because of the kids. That hurts me so much, so I'm always doing things to see if he really wants to be with me. I love him and am crazy about him.
We've been in a relationship for five years, off and on, but in the end we always get back together. I'm always scared he's going to leave me again, going to cheat, talk dirty to other girls, use me, say hurtful things just because he's angry -- all these things stay in my head and I always think about them.
I trust him, just not all the time. I always think when he's gone to school or gone to see his mom or anything away from me that he's doing all these things. I want to be happy with him, but sometimes it just doesn't happen or doesn't last long because of all of my insecurities.
There are two sides to this situation, BUT I will address your role and what you can do to make things better. After all you can only control your actions, not his. You are smart to realize that your insecurities are causing problems.
He must feel something for you, Erica, for him to keep coming back. However, if you continue playing these immature games with him, I guarantee you will drive him away, and one day he will decide to stay gone, permanently.
Relationships work when they are fun and rewarding. Your jealousy is destroying that.
My advice? Apologize to your boyfriend for treating him so poorly. Tell him you're going to work on your self esteem, not only for him, the relationship, and your children, but also -- and most importantly -- for you. Now, let's get to work. Here are five things I want you to do:
1. Quit twisting reality into imagination. The next time your boyfriend asks you what time you're putting the children to bed, take that as a sign that he wants you all to himself because he wants to spend time with you. DO NOT ignore him and go to bed, waiting on him to come seek you out. That's a sure-fire way to start an argument every time.
2. Quit being so controlling! That's a sign of insecurity, and so is needing to know that your partner really loves you, and asking him over and over again. It's tiring and puts incredible, unnecessary tension into the relationship. Nothing, nothing, nothing is certain in life. Enjoy the here and now.
3. Give the man and the relationship room to breathe! Let him have his alone time, just like you should have yours. It's healthy and can strengthen your relationship.
4. Stop trying to read his mind; it will only cause you more anxiety. Quit asking him what he's thinking. Even if he tells you, you probably won't believe him. Trust him until he proves otherwise.
You’ve given no indication that he has ever cheated on you. Give him the benefit of the doubt. It's the best thing you can do for yourself, for him, for your children and for the relationship.
5. Don't rely on him for reassurance; reassure yourself. Go with the flow of the relationship and enjoy each and every day you have together. Focus on what's good in your relationship. Insecure people constantly look for what's wrong. I challenge you to look for what's right.
You will feel better about yourself, which means your children will have a happier mom and your boyfriend will have a happier mate.
Ok, time to start acting like a responsible, independent woman and mother. Trust me on this one. You have a much greater chance of gaining his love and respect by acting in a mature manner than clinging onto him and playing games.
Remember: no one can control your actions but YOU. Good luck.