Q: I have been with my boyfriend for four years, and we have a beautiful two-year-old daughter together. The problem is, I am not happy and haven’t been for some time. He has treated me extremely badly in the past. He puts me down in front of other people, which is hurtful and embarrassing. I’m also extremely frustrated about the amount of housework I have to do. I work full time, yet he expects me to do all the cooking and cleaning while he sits on his butt. I told him I was very unhappy and even started withholding sex from him to make my point. He responded by trying to do more things in the house, but he still yells at me and at times is so selfish that it boggles my mind. My problem is that I still love him and want to stay together for “my family.” I don’t feel sexually attracted to him, yet I have to force myself to have sex weekly. I know I should leave, but I don’t want to hurt his feelings. This is pathetic, I know, but what do I do? — People pleaser
Dear People pleaser: Wow, you’re not kidding! You’ve been a people pleaser for so long that you don’t even know what you want — you’ve become a doormat. I know you’re not going to want to hear this, but you have helped create this situation by not setting boundaries about what you expected from your boyfriend in the first place. You decided to do everything yourself, and he merely took advantage of the situation by opting to do nothing. You’ve had low self-esteem since your teenage years, and you’ve always sought love through giving. Unfortunately, some people see this as a sign of weakness and think that you willingly put up with abuse and neglect. You don’t realize it just yet, but it’s in you to be more powerful. First, however, you need to take charge of the situation. Your first challenge is to do things that bring you happiness outside of the relationship. There is a big world out there, full of new experiences, and you need to feel that you’re a part of it. I can see you painting, for example. Once you own up to your role in this situation and make changes, I believe that you’ll meet a man who pays you many compliments. This will give you a much-needed ego boost and perhaps the courage to finally change the ground rules at home. You have a wonderful and kind heart; one day this man of yours is going to realize it, and, in short order, you’ll have him eating out of your hand.
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