Life Partner, Business Partner, Manipulator — And I Can’t Afford to Get Rid of Him

Reader’s Question

My partner and I have been together for 10 years. I have recently come to realize that he manipulates every situation to benefit himself and to justify his behavior. He always puts a negative spin on any suggestion I make, even when the suggestion makes sense, and turns around a bad situation he has created to put the focus me. He tells me to keep quiet when he thinks he’s taking command of a situation, but as soon as something goes wrong, he asks me to make the decision. When I do make a suggestion, or remind him to do something he has forgotten, he can’t express gratitude, but immediately says something like: “Oh, I was just thinking about doing that.” He recently claimed he has stopped smoking but has been smoking behind my back. When I confront him, he turns the tables on me, yells and tells me to keep quiet because I’m making a fuss about nothing.

My partner and I are in a business venture together. He does things without telling me (e.g., allowing a customer to put money into his private account, making extra deposits into our business account, etc.). The tax services would have certainly questioned these transactions. I told him I couldn’t allow more than the legal amount to be put into our business account, so he went about accepting the extra money another way, without consulting me. I’m afraid that he is doing other things that I am not aware of that could cause us trouble for our business. He says that I am blowing things out of portion.

This man is also a people-pleaser with a huge ego, wants everyone to think he is great and expects me to take a back seat in all situations. It seems like I’m the brunt of all of his frustrations, while he is pleasant to everyone else. He was brought up by a father who always screamed instructions, and never spoke normally to his 2 children. His father was also a controller. Both his parents were alcoholics in their old age, and I think that if I had I not been around, my partner would have followed suit. I don’t allow alcohol in my home, unless there is a special celebration or get-together. I know this must be an extreme frustration for him, and when he is away on trips, he drinks. Although he says he doesn’t drink a lot, his constant denial and blaming others lets me know that he can’t be honest about this.

I want to tell my partner to leave but I KNOW that this will cause all sorts of repercussions for our business, which I cannot afford to let go of because it is my livelihood. I am 66 and cannot start up another business at this late stage of my life. Our business was started 11 years ago, and if it were not for me, he would not be in the position he is in now. I KNOW that have been the main promoter of our business, and it has been successful because I control the accounts. He is useless with money, and we would have nothing, had he been in control. I have not idea where to take this or what to do now.

Psychologist’s Reply

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You are in business, so you know how to keep accounts. But there are some aspects of your story that simply don’t add up. You indicate you are the true backbone of your business but will face dire consequences and the prospect of having to start a whole new venture if you get rid of your partner. You also complain your partner is a controller from a family of controllers, but you understand his upset that you set such a stringent limit on alcohol use in your home. Finally, you indicate that your partner has an inflated opinion of himself and his personal power, yet you insist that if it weren’t for you, your business would have failed and your partner would be an even more troubled character.

Of course it’s not possible to make a reliable assessment of your situation from this distance, but there sure seems like there’s enough here to suggest that you both could benefit from visiting with a counselor. Because you’ve been together for 10 years and are fairly well along in life, it will be difficult to make drastic changes. But perhaps you can learn to reach some compromises in your personal as well as professional relationship. You might even learn that you’re more alike than you might care to admit. It takes a certain kind of personality to venture into an independent business enterprise. And it’s not that uncommon for two headstrong personalities to clash both in their business ventures as well as at home.

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