His father controls him

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My boyfriend and I (both early 20s) have been dating for the last year and a half, and it's been going great. He's shy and awkward and isn't the best conversationalist, but he's come such a long way from when we first started dating. He's such a great man and we really do love each other. Yes, we've had some disagreements here and there, but we make sure we don't have big fights and that we always work it out together.

But there is one problem – his parents, specifically his father. He has a ruling thumb over my boyfriend and is an unbending, stubborn man. His father takes almost 50 percent of every check that my boyfriend gets from his job (he works extensive late shifts). His dad also makes him do an unreasonable amount of work around their house. My boyfriend wants to leave and get his own place, but with what his dad is doing, it seems like it's never going to happen. His father doesn't let him see me more than once a week, and there's a curfew even though my boyfriend is in his 20s.

My boyfriend also used to go to college with me but has taken some time off because of his work schedule. But his parents don't know, so he has been lying to them and instead comes to see me for a few hours. I don’t really like him lying.

What I'm really struggling with is the fact that my boyfriend talks about marriage in the future (when we're much older and done with college), but his parents run such a big part of his life. I tell him to try sticking up for himself, but all of his older siblings did the same and got kicked out, and he's afraid that will happen to him and he won't know where to go. My family is completely different, and my mom has told him he is welcome whenever and that he could stay with us, but he doesn't like being a burden and wants to do it on his own.

But it's really straining our relationship. I feel like we're a couple of 15-year-olds. I'm afraid when we're married it's going to be no different. (I do know marriage is still a long ways away.) So sorry for the novel-long question, I just haven't really dated before this relationship.

– Struggling

"I just haven't really dated before this relationship."

Well, that's part of this. I'm here to tell you that you do not have to stay in a relationship that isn't working for you. Yes, you love this man and want to be with him, but he can't be a real partner. You want to grow with someone who's free to be by your side. Meanwhile, your boyfriend has made it clear that for now, at least, he wants to stay at home, even if it means working too much and telling lies.

You're mapping out a marriage, but let's not go there yet. Instead, imagine the relationship you want. What does it look like? How often do you see the person and what kind of things do you do? Then be honest with yourself. Will your boyfriend be able to join you on that kind of journey? Ever? If the answer is no, please consider changing your plans and walking away. I know it's painful, but some breakups are like this. It's not always about falling out of love.

Worth mentioning, it kind of sounds like one of the reasons you're still in this is to help him – because you feel bad for him. But your participation validates the status quo. You don't want to do that.

– Meredith

Readers? Is there a way for the LW to make this work?