Friday, March 24, 2023
HomeRelationship AdviceMy (28F) fiancé (29M) had a very sheltered upbringing and I feel...

My (28F) fiancé (29M) had a very sheltered upbringing and I feel like I’m often guiding him through basic things in life.

I (28F) have to guide my extremely sheltered fiancé (29M) through life and sometimes it’s exhausting.

To preface, I’m not really looking for validation, I just feel like if I get this out on a throwaway account I’ll feel better. I have an amazing fiancé. He’s kind and funny and handsome and loving. We’ve been together for 8 years and we have a healthy and happy relationship. However, his extremely sheltered upbringing has been a source of frustration for me at times.

He wasn’t aloud to have friends over to his house growing up. He couldn’t go to parties. The family only ever took two trips: one to Disneyland, and one to the south to visit family. He never cooked. They didn’t go to restaurants. He was raised to fear everything. The whole family are germaphobes. The kids couldn’t be in a room with the door closed. They didn’t fly on airplanes or use public transport. He wasn’t aloud to take highways when driving. They didn’t carve pumpkins on Halloween, they didn’t dye Easter eggs, they didn’t make hand turkeys for Thanksgiving. The silent treatment was used heavily and often. They never went swimming, the kids don’t even know how to swim. The list goes on. Also, none of these choices came from money issues, they were always fine financially.

I feel like because of his upbringing, he missed several pivotal milestones, and I sometimes feel like I’m showing him basic life stuff. And I don’t mean to make it sound like it’s all bad. In fact, it often creates lots of really good memories for us. I got to teach him how to make a jack-o-lantern. I got to see him experience national parks for the first time because I took him. His first time cooking for me was adorable (chicken Alfredo with jarred sauce and the chicken was frozen Dino nuggets). He tried sushi and Indian food because of me.

But other times… explaining basic practices and social conventions almost brings me to tears. Trying to explain to him that if he’s invited to a wedding and the invite says “plus one,” it means he can take me and that I want to go, but he doesn’t take me and then he’s surprised at the wedding when his friends ask where I am. He didn’t know you bring SOs to events in your life. If he cooks dinner, he can’t do two tasks without asking me if it’s the right move. Every time we fly I have to explain to him that it’s ok to bring snacks because the “no more than 3 oz” doesn’t apply to solid food. Every. Time. I can’t sit quietly and watch TV without him asking me every 5 minutes if I’m OK because being quiet and NOT mad as such a foreign concept to him. He’s uncomfortable being in separate rooms and will follow me around. If we’re watching TV and I get up to get water, he’ll get up to follow me. He doesn’t clean. He leaves out video game controllers, gundam models, bald done projects, etc. I got him a nice camera to take pictures of our adventures together, he only uses it to take pictures of his gundam models for internet contests. He wants to spend every day and every night in with the blinds closed and the lights off. He still doesn’t drive in highways. He can’t run more than one errand in a day. He’s not advancing in his career because he doesn’t eat lunch with others or socialize with them, and he skips the social/networking events that aren’t “required” but everyone (except him) knows are required. The first time I took him to the beach, he didn’t know there would be fish in the water (it was the Pacific Ocean). Now he won’t go at all because his dad sent him a story about sand mites. He constantly bites his nails and rocks back and forth as a nervous habit. He puts empty food containers back in the fridge if there is even a teaspoon of sauce left.

I know I sound whiney, but this stuff obviously doesn’t all happen at once. It all just built up over time and I didn’t realize it until today when I was trying to explain to him that married couples typically spend the holidays together and don’t separate to spend them at their respective family’s house. This was after I found out he made plans to spend Thanksgiving with his family and told me when it was too late to get my tickets back home. I love our relationship but I just needed to put this in the universe. Thanks for those who read this whole thing through.

Tl;dr my fiancé had a super sheltered upbringing and as a result missed a lot of formative milestones and while I’m so lucky to have him it makes some things difficult and my frustration is at an all time high and I just needed to vent.

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  1. You need to separate the good from the bad and get him some good therapy. That’s a messed up childhood and there’s a lot to unpack there, particularly if he’s forgetting or questioning the same things over and over. As much as you’re going to have to go through some of the difficult things with him, you’re not his substitute parent and there are probably things he needs to work through that you simply don’t have the ability to help with.

  2. This doesn’t sound like being sheltered, it sounds like mental health issues (which, to be clear, were almost certainly caused or at least exacerbated by his upbringing). Nothing that can’t be worked on, but he REALLY needs a professional. It’s great that you’re there for him, but he needs someone to help him unpack all this

  3. This is beyond your paygrade. Your partner needs therapy, right now, no excuses. What his family did to him was abusive, the silent treatment is considered abuse. He carries trauma from it. Plus he wasn’t allowed to develop a sense of self. I really feel for him, since my family was also abusive (in other ways) but all his family did to him was not fine and not just being “sheltered”, what his family did was because they wanted total control of him. Nothing is fine about everything you describe that he experienced.

    If your partner refuses therapy and refuses to learn how to be an adult and function in society, you have two options: accept that he’s deeply traumatized and decide if what he brings to the relationship is enough to compensate for the fact that he doesn’t want to address the trauma and heal, thus making you his “mommy” for life, or wish him well and move on because you just can’t be his therapist and he absolutely needs one.

  4. His upbringing wasn’t JUST sheltered, it was abusive. Not to armchair diagnose, but I have cPTSD and some of these things sound like problems I still have to this day. I’m sure therapy has been suggested a million times already but, ya know. I’m not saying your frustration isn’t valid, but maybe this would add a new perspective for yall.

  5. I think my husband has had to do this for me a lot. I was raised in a cult that severely isolated us from the world and my parents were not emotionally healthy people. Domestic stuff I was fine with but the social stuff…eeep. Sometimes I still need people things explained to me. Therapy took care of my anxiety (cbt) and that made a huge difference. When you’re full of anxieties and insecurities, there’s little room for perception, foresight, or awareness — so you don’t even catch that you’re not fitting in and you don’t see how your mis steps put people off of you.

  6. He’s got a major case of learned helplessness, which is a natural response to the type of environment he grew up in.
    “Learned helplessness occurs when a person who has experienced repeated challenges comes to believe they have no control over their situation. They then give up trying to make changes and accept their fate.”
    His parents made him think that he can’t actually control the outcome of a situation and it’s better to just avoid it, lest he get overwhelming anxiety. Now apply to that to every situation you come across in life, and you’ll understand why he can’t stand the thought of being alone or going into natural water. IANAD but it sounds like could have a pretty serious anxiety disorder (or more than one) after all of his parents’ fear-mongering during his formative years. In addition, he doesn’t understand social cues, but not only that, he doesn’t understand the impact on his life by not paying attention to them. The only way to recover is therapy, high-grade quality, and lots of it. The question is, will you have the patience for him to go through therapy or can you love him as he is today?

  7. I had a sheltered upbringing. Only half as sheltered as your fiancé, and mostly because of a long term illness that kept me isolated in my formative years, in addition to my parents not teaching me very basic stuff (tying shoes, doing laundry, cleaning properly) but the past few years I got better and worked on it and started seeking life experiences and tried learning on my own.

    I’ve got some way to go, but my milestones were late. Only this year as a 23 year old did I learn to tie my shoes (I still need to re-learn sometimes because I forget) I learned how to do my laundry PROPERLY, got a proper full time job to save enough to move out, I’ve known how to cook pasta and frozen food most my life, but I try to learn new recipes. Also started dating at 22, and got my first girlfriend ever about 1 year later.
    I also had never ever been drunk once, until a year ago. People are weirded out by it. I also sought some counceling during this time, but not full on therapy.

    What I’m trying to get across is that I think I’ll eventually get there with time, but only because I’m conciously putting effort into it. Your fiancé needs to do the same. If you really love him, help him out, get him to seek counseling/therapy, but if he doesn’t put in the effort himself, it’s not gonna work.

  8. I guess first and foremost, he needs therapy, a lot of therapy.

    I think secondly, you might benefit from some as well if only to really explore how you feel currently about the situation, and if you can handle feeling the same or similarly moving forward.

    Even with therapy, I’m sure there are things you’re just gonna have to accept are here to stay – and you need to decide if you *do* want to stay. Neither choice is wrong, but you can’t keep him warm and comfortable while you’re shivering and miserable in a corner.

  9. He didn’t know fish lived in the ocean? Did he go to school?

    But in all seriousness, he sounds like he needs therapy or couples therapy so you can have a third party to help navigate this. Obviously every family has their own weird things and conventions you realize aren’t normal when you grow up, but obviously your in-laws took this to the extreme.

    For the wedding invitation incident, for example, when you tell him what “plus one” means, does he not realize you’re right? What does he think that means? Did he ever ask the couple if he was allowed to bring you along?

  10. When he doesn’t know how to do something, do you ever let him figure it out or tell him to look it up? I have a hard time believing that even after 8 years of you holding his hand and walking him through every aspect of adult life, he’s truly incapable of doing things himself. A toddler knows they need to put their toys away.

    I suggest therapy for both of y’all. Sounds like he feels a need to be babied and you feel a need to be needed and you’re both feeding into each other’s issues.

  11. I’m going to answer you by sharing my experience. I wish I had asked this myself. I will say I love my husband, but right now the mental labor I have to do with him is really taking a toll on our relationship. Your post is something I could have written to a lesser degrees. My husband’s parents were quite as strict by they did cause him to miss some things that I consider normal for our generation. It’s frustrating because I grew up very poor and he did not so when he lacks experience or doesn’t understand my struggles it really breaks me.

    My honest advice is to take a step back and really consider if you want to keep carrying this burden. It *is* a burden even when you think about all the good times. You had to put all of those things together. My husband is better in some ways and in others, has gotten worse even though I do my best to hold him accountable and ask him to figure things out. The more he comes with me on adventures the more he relies on me to make plans. He likes doing things but he doesn’t ever come up with ideas. Even if I do the legwork and research things it can be hard too get him to do more follow up. I broached a road trip with him and could watch him short circuit and freak out because the idea of that was so unknown.

    Sometimes I think he dated me because I was ‘fun’ and he wanted to be with someone who he could experience life with. Even if he ‘gets better’ these things will only go away. Really decide if you are ok with this. If you want kids, take even more time to decide if you are ok with your fiance still behaving this way, raising your kids, and possibly teaching the kids these behaviors. I’m trying to keep this from getting too long, but really look at things and decide if this is how you want to live your life. I’m currently doing the same.

  12. honestly sounds like he was abused and he may struggle with some disabilities.

    editing to share — you can love someone and also outgrow them. it’s not your job to raise them or teach them how to get out into the world. it sounds like he’s honestly holding you back OP.

  13. Your fiancé needs to set up an appointment to see a therapist. Plain and simple. It sounds like his childhood was filled with neglect, and while you can definitely support him and guide him, the responsibility cannot solely fall on you.

    He needs to make efforts to talk to someone about this. Someone professional, who’s job it is to unpack these kinds of upbringings.
    If you continue to try to do it all on your own, you WILL burn out. It sounds like you may have already burnt out.

  14. Sorry this makes no sense. He doesn’t let
    You get a drink of water alone because he can’t be alone in the living room, but doesn’t invite you to weddings and holidays. Ask him how that makes sense?

  15. Agree with others saying therapy, but after EIGHT YEARS he still doesn’t understand how to plan holidays as a couple? He doesn’t clean?! Something is seriously off here. He needs help, but he also seriously needs to step up his relationship game. He needs therapy, but you two could also benefit from couples therapy. Also recommend reading All the Rage. Why is he 100% reliant on you to teach him some of this stuff? Isn’t that why the internet was invented?

  16. He seems to be more than sheltered, he is missing big context clues about social norms that he should get after being explained to him by you.
    He might have more going on that you can see on the surface.
    He probably needs a mental health assessment and probably (social) therapy.
    He also seems to be rather stubborn and is not listening to your explanations.
    You can try and see if there are books out there that can help his situation, and if it doesn’t improve maybe suggest doctor/therapy.
    Good luck

  17. This is odd, I’ve met people from closed families, cults, rural areas, and those with similar backgrounds to your boyfriend watched movies and TV and therefore knew about the outside world.
    Are you sure there isn’t more going on with him, like an undiagnosed condition?
    He should be the one to initiate learning, and maybe he doesn’t want to which is why it all falls to you?
    Has he improved over time? Has he initiated going places or making suggestions of things he would like to do or learn? If not then he doesn’t want to learn, if it all cones from you he might feel pressured to do what you want because you have replaced his parent.
    He’s an adult and needs to create the life he wants….so what has he told you about what he would like his life to be like?

  18. You have every reason to find this exhausting, because it is. He may be a nice guy, but that doesn’t oblige you to be his mother. And I’m not entirely convinced he’s as incapable as he lets you believe.

    You need to set boundaries and some serious requirements if you’re going to stay with him because the setup you have now isn’t actually helping him. It would be one thing if you had to explain something one time. But you say these issues repeat, and that’s a big problem.

    He needs a psych eval and treatment. You need to sit down and lay out what you will and will not do, and tell him it’s time to take some initiative because if he doesn’t the relationship is not going to last.

    ETA: if he’s going to rely on you for help, he needs to trust and respect you enough to believe you when you explain something. The wedding “plus one” situation. I think it’s total BS. He supposedly doesn’t know this stuff. You explain it. If he wasn’t sure you’re to be trusted then simply searching “what does plus one mean on a wedding invite?” should have provided the answer.

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  20. Singing: Therapyyyyy!!

    The weight you’re carrying right now is that of a mother, psychologist, AND life partner. That’s not fair to you, or your relationship. He NEEDS therapy, for both your sake. This is and will continue to take a huge toll on your relationship.

  21. So, what are you getting from this relationship? No shade, he sounds exhausting. New experiences are fine, but he can’t even function in real life. How can anyone like this really know and understand you? The social cues, how can he read you? Surprise you? Excite you? Just seems like too much work as a significant other. Friend, maybe. Not sure about husband material. Good luck to you

  22. This…isn’t just his horrible upbringing. This is more – and he needs help that you cannot provide.

    I’m not going to say you need to leave, but do not get married until he has seen a doctor and therapist.

  23. Check into Autism-Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Rigid ways of thinking? Particular about his environment? Hyper-logical? Autism varies but there’s usually some tell-take signs. It’s often hereditary so adults will look back and think “but my family is normal” only to realize that their version of “normal” is actually considered “odd” by most.

  24. Wondering if he’s on the Autism Spectrum? That would be a place to start. Rocking back and forth with fingers in his mouth are signs in addition to his lack of connection with coworkers.

  25. It sounds like you’re raising him, what do you get out of this relationship. I can’t imagine all of this happening and still being sexually attracted to him. It’s not your job to teach him all of this and a relationship should be give and take, what does he do for you? I’m not sure why you’re dating let alone marrying this guy.

  26. Try doing this at the age of 50….I am a shell of the person that I used to be and i feel likenhis mother. Please think long and hard before marrying him.

  27. God this sounds exhausting.

    Listen. I’m in my 40s now. I was raised *very* similarly to your BF. Controlling narcissistic mother and milquetoast enabler father.

    When I moved out at 17 I didn’t know ANYTHING. I didn’t even know who I was. I remember one of my only friends coming to my apartment and looking around and saying “There’s…… nothing in here”. And there wasn’t. I had nothing I liked, no hobbies, no style, no celebs I admired to put posters on my wall. I didn’t fucking EXIST.

    I had zero life skills. I didn’t even know how to scramble eggs.

    Guess who had to figure that all out. ME. I realized pretty early on I wouldn’t ever have a quality relationship of any kind or attract healthy friends or partners if they had to spoon feed me life.

    It shouldn’t even be your responsibility to find him therapy. For chrissakes a nearly 30 year old man made you a meal with *frozen dino nuggets*? As a fun joke, sure. But this isn’t “adorabe”, it’s sad. You know he did that unironically…… right? He thought chicken Alfredo was fine with dino nuggets.

    His issues aren’t his fault, but they ARE his responsibility. He isn’t able to show up for an adult relationship. He is a project. What if you have kids? What of you have pets? Could you really leave him home alone with an infant or animal and think they’ll be well cared for or even alive? Do you really think he wouldn’t burn the house down?

  28. Are you sure you want to deal with this for the rest of your life? It sounds tedious and couled make a person become resentful over time, especially if you have to go over things again and again.

  29. I don’t really have an advice to give and since you are just venting I guess you’re not looking for one either.

    But I can share a similar experience I had.

    I dated this guy for about a year when we were 24. He also grew up extremely sheltered due to several things. He was set to be the golden child from the moment he was born. His parents had troubles concieving but his mother finally gave birth to him at 50 after literally 3 decades of trying and coumtless miscarriages. After the pregnancy her health rapidly declined and she died 4 years later. He grew up with an extremely anxious and over protective father. His grandparents, aunts and uncles also spoilt him rotten. He also had an intense fear of flying and making any decision. I distincly remember him having a full blown panic attack at a mall because he couldn’t decide which out of 2 pairs of trousers he wanted to buy. His dad wouldn’t let him drive, because it’s dangerous. He wouldn’t swim in rivers because his dad told him it’s dangerous. He would obsess about praying every evening because if he didn’t something bad was surely going to happen. He’s never been to a festival and we went to one but had to leave early because he thought the tent we were suppose to spend the night in wasn’t safe. He once forgot to wash his hands before the meal and he remembered later which caused him to vomit, saying he must have gotten some sort of poisoning because he didn’t wash his hands. His leg hurt one day and he was absolutely sure it was broken. He went to the emergency room and the “diagnosys” was that he had a bruise.

    He, much like your partner was raised like that and I don’t really think there’s anything you can do about it. I still sort of keep in touch with him now almost a decade later and he really hasn’t changed. You partner should consider therapy.

  30. OP you sound like a nice person and none of this sounds like his fault but it doesn’t sound like he’s a very good partner. Are you sure you’re okay with this relationship? Ade you scared to break up with him because you’re worried about him not being able to cope? I was in a relationship like that and it ruined my life.

  31. Girl you are a saint. Seriously he needed therapy 8 years ago when y’all got together. I don’t think I would have made it 8 years. How did he manage to propose to you?? I don’t understand how someone doesn’t understand what a plus one is. He needs a lot of therapy and honestly much less contact with his paranoid family.

  32. I mean, in all honesty it sounds like your frustration is far more centered around the fact that when you tell him X, he outright dismisses you, doesn’t consider your experiences versus his, and just…. doesn’t respect you enough to take it into consideration.

  33. Nothing wrong with supporting your LO but you’ve basically spent the last 8 years trying to bring him up to date.
    I know when you love someone you want to help and be supportive but you took over “raising” him to almost point where he is maybe now self-sufficient.
    It’s not about social media. I know a lot of people who are not using it or very limited but he wasn’t “sheltered”, he seems more like stuck in his pre-teens.

    It is what it is and I’m not judging anyone. It’s not his fault really but the question you have to ask yourself if you want to be in that position “educating” him and basically taking him by your hand for the unforeseeable future.

    I might be wrong but he needs some time to do some major “catching up”. He’s 29 and and in my opinion you cannot do this (for him). You should not do this. He might eventually “catch on” and might want to experience all the things he missed out on and you might be “in the way”. You are neither his mother nor caretaker so he will eventually catch on or you’ll be his “guide dog” for the rest of your lives.

    I’m only saying that love might not be enough and I don’t want you to be “stuck”.

    I’m not a native English speaker so I hope this makes sense 🙂

  34. Just something before everything does collide one day you might suggest individual and couples counseling because it sounds like he has some past trauma he needs to work through.

  35. This was me and my ex. I had a bad case of learned helplessness. I’m trying to learn things on my own. And I found a therapist online that I like but don’t have funds to actually go see her.

  36. Let’s figure out what is stoking your frustration after 8 years by starting with recent changes. Two of them stand out. One, he moved in. His behavior is now with you 24-7, no relief. Two, you’re getting married. Locked in for life.
    Survival is the mother of all instincts. The frustration surge that you feel is that instinct, warning against committing to a lifetime of this.
    I’m afraid that’s as far as my amateur therapist skillset takes me. You’ll need to see a real MFT before you take action. Meanwhile, I strongly suggest that you put the wedding on indefinite Hold, before you become a nervous wreck.

  37. I’m glad you are venting OP, but you have to know that your fiance needs serious professional help. I would recommend that he gets that help before you marry.

    Why does he still talk to his very abusive parents? Why have you both not gone full NC with them?

    Are you wanting to have children in the future? Please do not have kids with this man as he is. He would currently make an absolutely terrible parent because his mental health is so bad.

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