By Hara Estroff Marano, published on May 3, 2011 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016
I have been in an on-off relationship for three years with a man several years older. I am 22. He is more advanced in his career as well as more emotionally stable. From the start, he has voiced disapproval of me: my need to go to the gym, a job I had, my interest in acting, that I have dated women. He tells me I am immature, selfish, and that parts me are ugly. Yet he assures me that, as long as I change, I will be an acceptable long-term partner. I feel inferior around him, uncomfortable being myself. This is a fault of mine and I would feel this way around anyone I am intimate with. I am terrified to cut him off, yet I feel far more confident whenever we break up. Should I cut the ties for good?
Everything is summed up in your statement: "I fear that this is a fault of mine." Why are you so focused on possible faults you may have, and why are you afraid that there are more to be discovered? And where did you get the notion that one has to be, or even can be, perfect to qualify for a better relationship? You have chosen a boyfriend who has labeled strengths as faults and is focused on faults real and imagined because you are focused on faults, which allows him to confirm your worst fears. He has discovered that this is a way to keep you coming back to him. The attachment is built around your insecurities, which he feeds.
Instead, you need and deserve a relationship built on your strengths, one that brings out the best in you. The fact that he is older doesn't mean he is wiser or that you must cede to him all authority to make judgments. His willingness to distort the truth to keep you attached is a form of meanness verging on evil. If you're really all those things he accuses you of, why would he want to be with you? It's time to start trusting your own intuition—that you feel best when you're not with him. Confidence is the magic elixir of life. Everyone is attracted to it. Yet you allow him to destroy this precious asset.
You're at an age where you are working out the kinks in yourself and your life. Just because there are things you might want to change about yourself doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you. It means your standards and aspirations are high. I think you know it's time to say goodbye to this guy.