Dear Thelma,

I have a good job and earn good money, while my boyfriend is struggling to make ends meet.

We have been living together for two years, and I end up footing the bills. I have also supported him in his business by lending him money.

I remind him occasionally that he needs to return my money.

Lately, I incurred some huge expenses, so some spare cash would be good.

So far, he has not returned any of the money he owes me.

When he has extra cash, he would buy things to make himself happy. He also bought me a birthday present but I ended up paying for it.

He does not help out at home either. I work from 9am to 6pm, while he stays home and plays games on his laptop.

I often find dirty dishes piling up in the sink or scraps of food on the table. He asked me to list down chores that needed his attention. Initially, he co-operated but later he got lazy and gave excuses for not doing those chores.

Well, if he cannot contribute financially, at least he could help around the house so that I can come home and relax too. As it is, I end up doing all the house chores, including cleaning up after him. I think he is taking me for granted.

I also resent the fact that he is not spending time with me. We have not gone on a date for months now because he is either tired or has no money to spend on me.

He goes out late at night to meet up with friends and comes back in the wee hours of the morning.

He has time for his friends but he has no time for me. He makes empty promises of spending time with me on my day off, but when the day comes, he would say he is busy or he would be out with friends, and I am left all alone in the house.

He has many plans and shares them with me. Some of his plans seem feasible but when I want to discuss them with him, he would give all kinds of excuses to avoid a discussion. I really want to help him but he is evasive.

He has promised to marry me but I doubt he would do so. I have never met his friends or his mother despite many promises that he would introduce me to them. My parents also have a poor impression of him.

I do not want to leave him as I think he is just going through a bad stretch. Besides, he has nowhere to go if I ask him to leave. I am confused as to what I am really upset about – his taking me for granted, or the fact that he is not making enough money to repay me.

What should I do? Should I ignore him and let him be, force him to talk to me, or leave him? – Abandoned

Dear Abandoned,

Let’s itemise: you pay rent, groceries, utilities, do the cleaning, and you give him money. He spends this on going out with his friends and yet he has no time for you.

Look, when decent people are going through a tough spot, they are still there for their partners. Sure, they can’t go out for dates, but they can arrange movie marathons at home, cook you something (eggs are cheap!) and they are thoughtful. And most of all, they are super proud to have a partner who loves them for who they are.

As for the business ventures he says he has, you are getting a lot of talk but you have almost no information about what he’s doing. If a bank offered you this type of investment, would you go for it? I don’t think so!

You should ask yourself something: what exactly are you getting out of this relationship?

You are there, loving and giving, but I don’t see him contributing anything except for sales talk to get more money out of you. In fact, this man has so little respect for you that he doesn’t even tell his mum and dad you exist.

For over two years this man has never bothered to tell his family about you. All those family gatherings, all those festive seasons, and somehow he didn’t tell them about this amazing girl he is living with? The wonderful woman who is helping him in every way from washing his socks to giving him money so he can be home and play computer games?

Let’s be blunt: this man isn’t into you. He’s using you.

Relationships go up and down, but it worries me that you moved in with a man when you had not met his family or his friends.

Abuse doesn’t just mean slaps and nasty comments: it can come in the form of not being treated with respect and of being emotionally abused. I think your relationship may fall into that category.

You have been in this relationship for two years which suggests the potential for long-term damage. The way you mention that he has promised to marry you – as if being an ATM combined with maid function is a good life goal if it comes with a ring – sets off alarm bells.

I think you should talk to a feminist therapist who specialises in abusive relationships. Ask around, or consult with All Women’s Action Society (AWAM) or Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO).

You should have several therapy goals. Firstly, gather a support network. With your work and having all this stress, you need to connect with good people – friends, family and those who are positive in your life.

Secondly, sever this relationship. This won’t be easy because you have a soft heart. Also, people who see a soft life being taken away from them, may not go easily. So please, plan with the therapist and have your dad or a brother or cousin support you. Change the locks immediately. If you have security, tell them he is no longer allowed access.

Thirdly, examine your relationship, find out where it went wrong and make a list of points where you had a gut feeling it wasn’t right. Use that information to protect yourself in the future. People tend to repeat patterns in their love life, so be sensible and know yourself so that this is a one-off error.

Fourthly, I think you should look into self-esteem training and you might want assertiveness training too. This can be woven into your sessions or you can look for workshops. Ask HR at work to hold some! Believe me, there will be lots of people who will benefit.

Finally, give yourself time to recover and forgive yourself. People get into pickles all the time, so don’t beat yourself up over it. Learn and move on. Make lots of nice friends and be happy. Don’t rush into a new affair through loneliness or wanting to forget. Take a year or more before you start dating again. And when you do, take it slow.

Above all, don’t despair over your future. There are lots of wonderful men out there who are kind, gentle, generous, and warm-hearted. Thankfully we’re also getting to the point where they’re doing their share of the laundry, dusting and other housekeeping. Sounds good, right?

So in the difficult days ahead, remember that you are taking steps towards a happier future by putting your life on a better, healthier footing. – Thelma

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