Q: I am 27 and have been in an on-again, off-again relationship for seven years with a man who is a month older than I am. My ex, as I cannot refer to him as my boyfriend, has told me repeatedly that he is afraid of committing to me, due mostly, he says, to the fact that I have "rage problems." I have never physically harmed him, but have on two occasions grabbed his cell phone only to discover that he had been texting inappropriately and calling other women. He continues to limit his communication with me, and I find myself becoming obsessive about calling him. I wonder constantly where he is, what he is doing, and why he is not answering my calls or texts. I've explained to him that if he communicated better with me, I could "back off" and act like the independent woman that I am. If he backed away completely, I could see myself moving on, but the moment in which I'm moving away from him BOOM he's back in my life, telling me he loves me, wants to provide for me, but just isn't ready YET.
This is a very complicated relationship, but it seems to be the typical push and pull in some male and female relationships. The more I pull away, the more he comes back to me. The more he pushes me away, the more I desire his company. It's exhausting. I am tired. But I love him. How do I move on and not act crazy calling him 30 times in a row? How do I move on and meet someone new who doesn't bore me? I know in my heart we'll be happier with other people, but I love him. Help!
– Can't Let Go, Boston
A: How does one end a toxic relationship? One hits a wall, CLG. You haven't hit your wall yet, at least not hard enough.
My advice is to contact him and ask him about that temper of yours. You need to know what he means by "rage." You say you've never physically harmed him, but you don't seem to think his rage accusations are crazy. It's time to get self-aware and find out if your coping mechanisms are destructive.
I also recommend telling him how much you're thinking about him and explaining what you want right now. And tell him that after seven years, it really does have to be right now. Most likely, he'll shrivel up like a turtle (do turtles shrivel?) and run away with his cell phone. And then perhaps you'll have finally hit that wall and you'll want nothing more than to be with someone who doesn't make you feel like a stalker. You'll want to be with someone who makes you feel good.
He has been with you since he was 20 and he wants to date other people. And his obvious need to do that has turned you into someone you don't like. After seven years, this is a habit. It's time to get a real final answer and commit to it. It's also time to take a good look at what you've become in this relationship. You should want to be in a relationship that makes you feel cool, not crazy. Trust me, when you find that kind of relationship, it will be just as addictive as this one, not at all boring.
Ask him about the rage. Demand what you want. Commit to a decision. Wipe the slate.
Readers? What's going on here? Are the rage issues a real problem? Usually these toxic relationships aren't seven-year itches, just short-term messes. What makes this one different? Did his commitment issues drive her crazy? Is there something to save here (and if so, why didn’t she say so)? And -- is the push-pull a man-woman thing? Talk.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.