Savage Love Letter of the Day: The Boyfriend Experience


If she's in grad school, she might qualify for a 30 minute session with a law student. Definitely need to see a lawyer if there is a potential custody battle.
Good God. This guy is a manipulative sicko. DTMFA, get a good lawyer, and for fucks sake get into therapy. Putting up with this level of crazy for four years is not good. Protect your son, protect yourself.
Dude sounds useless. DTMFA
He was dumpworthy a few months in, good god.
i do not understand people.
Google "how to leave an abusive relationship". Learn about this. You need to know. This guy may not beat you and will probably threaten to hurt himself before he ever physically lashes out at you, but he is an abuser. This is not going to be easy.
I don't know how you stayed with him for so long. This sounds miserable. Get out now, and good luck.
(Not LW, obviously, it's too late for her.)
She needs to stop escorting, full stop, before she leaves him. No criticism of escorts, but he's a manipulative dick who will use that against her, to get custody, to get out of child support, to keep control over her.
I will never stop being heartbroken by young, obviously intelligent women who know how to use their words wasting time and emotion on guys like this. I remember this. I've done variations on this (minus the kid). And I desperately wish there were some effective way to communicate to LW how much she is over-estimating her command of the situation and how much she needs to just WALK THE FUCK AWAY.
Does anyone have good advice for how to respond if he threatens suicide? Because this guy probably will.

I'm no expert but I think the short answer is you have to be able to call 911 on it. So think through what would prevent you, and work out how to deal.

Please get a divorce lawyer. Good luck.
Locking your phone with a password is how you get him to stop reading your emails. Then leave.
@13. Emails may be on a communal computer, or they may even have a shared account. Get a new email address, g-mail, etc...they're free. Don't let this dick know what it is.

I will also side with the majority. Get out of the relationship ASAP. This guy's troubles are deeper and blacker than a coal mine. I'll also second @10's motion. You'll have to stop escorting 'til the dust settles.
@12, threatening suicide...ahhh yes. A common tactic of abusers. Just ignore it, LW. Or if you feel safe enough, you can call 911 and tell them he's threatening suicide. I've been known to call an ambulance on someone who tried that tactic after I had moved to another state to get away from them. Oddly enough, they never felt "suicidal" again.

LW, you need to do a disappearing act. Just, "poof" and you're gone. Imagine waking up one morning, relaxed and free. That can be in your future...a normal life.

Dan, that link is really good.
"having my phone searched and emails read is a deal-breaker for me. I don't know how to get him to stop"

Deal-breaker = You leave.
LW, let me just add, you are not defective or a dumb person for having stayed this long. It happens to a whole lot of smart good people. After they get out they often do better (therapy can be helpful).

If you are thinking, he's not abusive, he means well and he's a good person -- that's okay, please read the "how to leave an abusive relationship" advice anyway, and take whatever seems relevant. You may see places he would follow the pattern even while you wouldn't say it's who he *is*.

If you do know anyone who would give you help if you asked, this is a time in your life to accept help and feel good about it. Accept help towards a better place to raise a child, if that gets you there.
Oh good grief. TBE, life lesson: If someone is so jealous they check your phone and "forbid" you from looking attractive (!!), they are NOT suited for ANY kind of open relationship. RUN from this one, and if the next one is in any way similar, RUN a mile from him/her too.

(See, Capricornius, I did that again too.)
Sad story of circular craziness.
LW, please get your papers in order, and organize a place to move to, with your child.
As Dan said, keep any written confirmation from this crazy man that confirms he knows about your work. If you haven't got it, then without him knowing, record it.
Prepare for your exit quietly, papers, clothes, what he won't notice, get out of the house. Then one day, while he's out, you take your child and leave. Write him a long letter, leave it there for him.
Maybe move back home for a while if you can. A long way away from him.
So, can I point something out that should be blindingly clear in hindsight?

LW already knew her husband had issues around her being sexual with other men from the first experience with the co-worker.

So on what freaking planet does it make sense to add (a) swinging and (b) escorting to this marriage? LW should have known darn well she was playing with fire by doing that. It really makes me question the veracity of her entire letter, because the whole thing (right down to appealing to a columnist and set of commenters who are predisposed to endorse swinging and escorting, i.e. forum shopping) strikes me as an manipulative attempt to enlist others into co-signing her BS.

This isn't an attempt to let LW's husband off the hook. The behavior LW described is also manipulative and controlling. The two of them obviously should not be together.

But by LW's own admission, we know her husband suffers from depression. It would take very little to talk someone in that condition into accepting renegotiations of the marriage he did not want. His actions actually seem like the classic passive-aggressive BS someone with depression employs in response to the kind of manipulation I suspect LW has been engaging in.

I highly suspect we're not getting the full story here. LW strikes me as the kind of person who is going to do whatever the heck she wants to do come what may—very selfish and self-centered. I'm not at all sure she is the one who should be raising the kids.
12-Beaver, re: threatening suicide. I mostly concur with 15Sandiai. I wouldn't suggest ignoring it. In conversation, he says suicide. She calmly calls 9-1-1 or whatever suicide hotline she knows about, and either in his presence or not, she tells the person on the line exactly what he said. She might say that she hopes it's not a real threat but that she wanted to hand it over to the experts because she couldn't be sure. Whether sirens can be heard in the distance as an emergency crew shows up or something else happens, she's done the right thing. Look at it this way, on the unlikely chance that it's real, she gets him in the hands of the mental health experts. If it's not real, he's still in the hands of the mental health experts. No different from calling the fire department for smoke that didn't turn out to be a dangerous fire.

The planet where he can use these things against her. The planet where he can fuck other women but her fucking other men means he gets a free pass to treat her like shit. The planet where he is an adult who can say 'no' and end a relationship if he doesn't want an open relationship, but didn't. The planet where he tells her one thing and does another.

I think the planet is called 'Earth'.
True Corydon @ 20. She's as batshit crazy as he is. Perhaps we need to call social services and get them to take the child.
Or one of them has to stop this madness, and as the wife has written in, she has to start to untangle the mess or walk away and protect the child from being around this sick story anymore.
@20: As constructed, the letter is simple. They need to end.

I don't know what calling her a liar is going to change there, they are a shitshow of a pairing.

Are you suggesting that she stay with the sociopath she got together with? Are you suggesting that she "made up" suicide threats and psychological manipulation and thus she should be forced to stay with him forever and ever?

Your suggested response isn't particularly healthy.
And again, if even a tenth of what she said about him was true, it's still be dump territory. I don't see what's so implausible, the manipulator and someone insecure enough to find themselves in these scenarios. It's sadly not uncommon.
My ex used to threaten suicide all the time. It was a control tactic. I stopped doing what he wanted me to do. (Come home.) I told him to call the crisis hotline. Magically stopped. He also had severe untreated depression. He magically (again) obtained treatment after I left. I generally won't get involved with anyone with severe depression unless they have a track record of taking care of it themselves. I myself have struggled with both anxiety and depression, but like any disability, one must learn to function. This guy sounds a lot like my ex, all the way to the swinging. She needs to dtmfa. She needs to document all of this. I really hope she had no paper trail of doing more than escorting. She needs to keep her kid away from that hot mess of a father and her current job will make that much harder.

The one right decision I made was not having a child with my ex. If there is one thing I am going to hammer into my girls it's not having kids until they are positive that the person they are having them with is stable and good. With a child, lw will never get away from this guy for the foreseeable future.
In our first foray into swinging, my ex pressured for it. He had (has) a cuckold kink and wanted to see me intimate with another guy. I didn't sleep with the guy but made out. Phew did my ex push for it, as in physically! The next day he trashed me up one wall and down another as a slut. Enough that I called my brother (who is very sex positive) about it.

Never under estimate the willingness of a person (men or women) to use whatever tools are at hand to manipulate and brow beat their partners. Some people don't care about fairness or logic (I asked her to do it, I can't punish her for doing what I wanted).

I was about the same age as lw.

Seriously lw, did you start dating my ex?
Fairness and logic, thank god, came to my rescue in my twenties. I was such an emotional basket case but I kept telling myself, "what would you tell your (mythological) daughter?"

And that steered me clear.

I often as myself what my sixty year old self would say.

Lw, do that.

Okay, will stop spamming. Cya later.
Even if he has shown no signs of physical abuse up to now, that may well be because he felt he had you securlely under his thumb. So yes, you should investigate how to leave safely, and ideally, at a time he is gone for the day and is not expecting it.

I will also add to PLEASE do all internet research at the library or an internet cafe. If he reads you history and finds out you've been researching leaving it could go badly for you.
DO NOT DTFMA. Wait to get out. I'm gonna echo #10 here. If she is/was escorting and doesn't' have her story and everything else zipped up airtight a court will take her kids in a heartbeat. 'Do we leave the kid with a hooker?' is how the courts will see this and their answer will inevitably be a resounding no. At best her husband won't get them either since he keeps threatening to kill himself but that's an at best. Her escorting plus kid & needing a divorce is the biggest mess you can possibly have in life unless there's also drug abuse bundled in there as well. Document everything, tread lightly & plan every step to safely and successful get yourself and kid out of that mess.
Corydon @20: Good point. If your relationship problem is that your partner is an insecure, controlling twat, "let's open the relationship" is really REALLY not going to fix things. I don't read Corydon's comment as suggestive that LW is lying, but that LW is equally fucked up. And this I can easily believe.
@26: That's what's always so gross about the people who say that everyone should always "support" their mentally ill partner without distinguishing the cost to the healthier partner or specific manifestation of illness.
@31: They're suggesting that she's "as bad as", which is completely irrelevant to the discussion.
@30 maybe it's not a bad thing for her kid to go to foster care for a while. There's a whole lot of crazy going on both sides here. And the father has some custody rights if she runs away with the kid.
Swing with Lucrezia Borgia and then invite her to a BYOB potluck?
Even if he has shown no signs of physical abuse up to now, that may well be because he felt he had you securlely under his thumb. So yes, you should investigate how to leave safely, and ideally, at a time he is gone for the day and is not expecting it.

I will also add to PLEASE do all internet research at the library or an internet cafe. If he reads you history and finds out you've been researching leaving it could go badly for you.
Part of PLEASE's problem is she turned to escorting because of a "desperate financial situation" so she may need help dealing with finances in order to break free. There are resources to help...this link offers several that may be useful. Maybe other commenters know of some as well.…
@12, 30: They're not married.
@32. Yup. And it changes you as the "healthy" spouse. I am a lot less tolerant than I used to be.

@38. Even if not married, if he's an involved father (depending on the state) he still has rights to parental involvement. They will likely need a custody agreement.

That is the part that always gobsmacks me. "Oh I don't want to get married.... " but "I'll have a kid with the dude(tte)." I never talk to my ex. Ever. I didn't from the day the judge signed off on the paperwork. Why? We'd split funds already. The money was done. And no kids. Had we had children, that would have been a very different story. Divorces suck, but its the kids that tie you to someone.
sandiai @15 and others, Disappearing might sound good, but she needs to talk to a lawyer first. He presumably has parental rights and disappearing (with the child) and depriving him of those rights would almost certainly be illegal and possibly seriously criminal. I don't think anyone was suggesting that she disappear and leave the kid behind.

Since I recently outed myself as an attorney, I need to add caveats: I'm not representing anyone here, not a family or criminal lawyer, am licensed in a state that is probably not the one where LW lives, only advising that she consult with a lawyer, unlike me, who can get to the bottom of these issues with her, and, in case I didn't mention it, I'm really not representing anyone here..

As others have said, having a kid in this f-ed up situation was probably unwise, but we all make mistakes. This one just will be harder to fix well than most mistakes since there is person out there who presumably loves and is loved by both her and her useless boyfriend. If they can stay focused on the kid's well being, they should be able to solve this problem in a decent way.
I read the whole thing wondering how someone could hate themselves enough to allow themselves to be treated like this (it doesn't sound like he even lured her in with a few months of niceness ). Then I got to the part about the parents. That explains that!
Totally agree with @10 @30 - can't believe Dan missed this. Manipulative piece of shit + sex negative court system + BREAKING THE LAW (escorting) = you lose your kid. You also might get kicked out of grad school and get a criminal record and never get a good job.

Unless LW lives someplace sane like Canada, Germany or certain parts of Nevada where escorting is legal / decriminalized.

LW, I hope you can get your own therapy if you can afford it / find a sliding scale / shelter that might have free services to unpack having survived the abuse, as people in relationships with abusers often have trouble seeing the red flags next time around. Plus if you like swinging and want to continue, get GFs you can be open with about sex life, to vet your new potential BFs for red flags, so you're not flying solo. Good luck! (And good god, how does anyone have time for a young child, swinging, escorting, grad school, work?)
My last sentence is not a criticism LW, just that I wish we had free child care, free education, etc., so that parents of young children aren't so stressed out financially and people who do escorting do so by choice, not by economic necessity.
RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN!!!You boyfriend doesn't have clinical depression, he is a dangerous and manipulative psychopath! Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233 . They will help you get in touch with your local shelter, give you an advocate/case worker to help you. DON'T.USE.YOUR.PHONE OR HOME.COMPUTER!! Buy a disposable phone that you keep secret. Disable location tracking. Pack & MOVE.OUT. when he's at work. Ask the police to go with you when you're moving out! Get a protection order for you AND your child. Get a new place in a large apartment complex or shared campus housing that have lots of people around at all times. Change your phone number. Never go anywhere alone! If you can't move safely, just take your important papers and your child and RUN

Please, LW, your boyfriend is seriously disturbed and dangerously volatile and HE.IS.ESCALATING. You have a child!!! You need to get far, far away from him. Can you transfer to another Grad program in another state?

Do you have family that you can send your child to for the summer?

Does he have a gun? Tell the police if he does. Make sure they know he has mental problems.

* Do you have NON-ABUSIVE trustworthy family you can send your kids to?
Unless the mother entered the father's name on the birth certificate, he has no parental rights to the child. If she left with the child, he would have to ask a court to order a DNA test of the child and himself to establish parentage. It certainly sounds like the father (and possibly the mother) are not making any time to actually parent this poor kid, he might not do that.
Yes Sarah, the child is mentioned in passing while all the crazy takes up the space.
Then she says she loves him, and the sex between them
Is good. This is the payoff for both of them. Indulge in this mad dance with each other but the sex is good.
You may love him LW, you are not good for each other. Find some other work or suggest he does. Move towards ending this, as all three of you are in madland.
It wasn't until I had a person who was, "in love with me, " try to commit suicide (no pulse, had to have the heart - shock machine) that I realized how much they hated me. With a lot of therapy we ended up friends (briefly) before our lives drifted apart. My point? If someone new in my life says they are sometimes suicidal, I give them the hello line # and I walk away. If a friend who is already a friend tells me that, they get all the good support I can give. But I avoid suicidal people because I'm not a therapist, and that's what they need. What I need is to protect myself from the damage they can inflict.
Help line number
Holy fucking Christ. How do people get into these shitshow relationships?

And yes, that's a rhetorical question. I'm aware of how folks can spiral into dysfunction. I'm just amazed, and grateful for my totally sane wife.
I like that Dan is starting to feature letters from folks with manipulative/cluster B partners. I learned the hard way. Hopefully folks will read these letters and be saved from a world of grief.
Do not grab your child and go! This can be viewed negatively in a court case. Suggest counseling first and go to as many therapy sessions as possible. Try to find one that works with the your local court in custody cases, but do not let your partner know this. He is manipulative and has most likely been collecting 'dirt' on you that will be used against you and you need to be smart to protect yourself and your child. Get a burner phone and use this for your escorting. Tell him you have ceased escorting and find another way to explain your extra income. Being an escort is illegal and this will be used against you, most likely successfully, in a court of law. Cease having any other sexual relationships. This can also be used against you in a custody situation. Do everything you can to placate him and kiss his ass while you collect proof of his emotional abuse no matter how hard this seems. Keep a journal but not one he can find. Set up a separate email account and make sure you delete it from your history on any and all devices. You can send yourself emails journaling the emotional abuse. This way everything will have a recorded time. Make sure he does not have a keystroke device installed in any shared computer and change your passwords regularly. Emotionally abusive men are hell to deal with in the court system. Emotional abuse is hard if not impossible to prove and abusers will use your child when they see themselves losing control over their partner. The child will become the target of emotional abuse. Consult a lawyer now, but make sure to hide all evidence of it and take time to prepare your exit strategy. I'ven been through this myself.
Also, turn the tables. If he has violated your privacy, feel free to do the same to him. Look through all his shit for anything to use against him, but do not get mad and let him know if you find something. Hold your tongue and wait for court. Do not let him know you want to leave until everything is in place. And when you do leave, make sure you have enough evidence for a restraining order because often men don't get violent until you let them know you want to leave. Get as much proof of his suicidal threats as possible. This is a great indicator of emotional abuse. Secretly record fights, get a nanny cam, whatever it takes. Even if you are still hoping you can work it out, gather evidence just in. Case because ultimately, the situation will get worse not better.
If asshole was not okay with escorting (in which case, does he want to support her?) or swinging, he can tell her that, and risk it being a dealbreaker. If he thinks he is and then he isn't, he can tell her *that*, and risk that, or he can leave. Those are all acceptable adult options. Staying and being a big pouty baby, let alone a privacy-invading abusive dickbag, is not. DTMFA, and, frankly, spread the word in your circle of friends if possible: dude should not be in any relationship until he faces and fixes his issues. Which he won't, because he's That Guy, and That Guy is eternal.

And yeah, depression, insecurity, etc etc. Your girlfriend's not your therapist (doo-dah, doo-dah).
Also, while I'm sympathetic to mental illness and everything, with this guy, I'd be hard-pressed not to respond to suicide threats with "...down the block, honey, not across the street."
PRACTICAL ADVICE: Provided she feels like she can, she should send him an email outlining all of the things he has done to her, and then frame the email as an attempt at reaching an understanding. "I love you, but this upsets me, and I think it might be easier to work out through email," etc. Using that as her ruse, she can get him to confirm all of his conduct as he either apologizes or seeks to defend himself, and then use that against him in court, should she need to.

Don't have any experience in these matters, but it seems like a sensible strategy.
When I read this, I thought it was about friends of mine. But then she mentions a kid, so I'll be squee-free next time I see them.

But good god, there seems to be a lot of this going around.
@53: Trying to out-manipulate a sociopath who repeatedly escalates is a horrible idea. You can't outmaneuver a control freak who doesn't have any loyalty to you and less ethical restrictions.

She should be informed, but speaking with a family lawyer should be her priority.
This is VERY irresponsible advice for #sexwork-ers. With no police assistance, telling us to "just get out" could be fatal. If you are going to give "advice" to sex workers, maybe consider their experiences and position in society before oversimplifying a complex situation and telling her to do something that could put her life in danger and escalate an already bad situation. This is a disappointing response from Dan that shows high levels of ignorance surrounding sex work and gendered violence against us.
On top of what everyone else said, drilling into the 'disturbed' part: Wanting reassurance for hours sounds like some sort of OCD or anxiety disorder.

OCD and other anxiety disorders can be hard for folks to get help for because in other ways they may be completely rational, but the anxiety pushes them to do things that they may know, at some level, are not sane. Reassurance just leads to an endless loop and the suffer can end up trying to control the lives of everyone in the family.

Doesn't change that the LW should dump - GPS tracker, seriously? But if it feels possible, and this seems like a match, you may want to look at suggesting he get help. is a good place to start.

But meanwhile, you can't let your own life be held hostage, no matter what the root cause, you have a right to live with dignity and mutual respect.
@60: What? The patterns described are of control and manipulation, not OCD.