He won’t let me leave the friendship

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I'm 26 and in a friendship that is completely draining. I don't know what to do.

My friend and I have had a lot of up and downs. I will admit that I used to love him, and he does know that and teases me about it often. I've been feeling like everything regarding our friendship is on his terms. We text when he wants to, talk on the phone when he wants to, talk about what he wants to, etc. If I say I can't talk on the phone, he gets mad and says, "Why? You don't have anything else to do."

There have been times over the years when I wanted to end the friendship and he literally wouldn't let me. He told me we're friends whether I want to be or not. He's said that we're friends for better or worse but then says there is a chance in the future we may not be friends because he could get tired of me. He says I have all these flaws, and I ask him, "Why would you be friends with someone you feel is so flawed?" But he never answers; he just changes the subject. What does that mean?

I feel like I'm in some kind of secret side relationship with him that he likes because he can control it and me. I don't even know what to call it. Is it a friendship, secret relationship, or situationship? I need help figuring out what this is and how to move forward.

– Friends

Call this relationship whatever you want, but know it's bad for you.

He is controlling, and it sounds like he uses your almost-romantic history to make you feel like this relationship is special. It is not.

It is affecting your happiness, self-esteem, and freedom to do what you like. You have every right to stop responding to this person. If you want to send a message before you're out, make it short. "This friendship isn't what I want. Do not reach out again." Something simple.

If you have questions about how to send this message or phrase it, call this number: 1-800-799-7233. Yes, that is a domestic violence hotline, and you might not feel like its information applies to you, but you are connected to someone who refuses to let you go. You want to break a pattern of control. That hotline can help you script a message – or tell you whether to send one at all.

Your world sounds very small right now, and he's at the center of it. Tell other friends and family that you need more time and support. It's good to be surrounded by others – even one to two other people – who understand you. There are also online communities that can become a place to hang out, just to see fun people talking about other things.

Again, don't try to decode what the relationship is. Just let it go.

– Meredith

Readers? Advice? Have you ended a relationship like this or experienced anything similar?