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Boyfriend won't let my friend break up with him

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My friend (F35) has been in an on again/off again relationship with her boyfriend (M34) for the past 5 years now. The first two years they were doing ok and were living together in a small town (he moved in with her pretty quickly) but after a while they started to fight a lot. They also couldn't decide on their future, kids, etc. She wanted to move to a bigger city, he wanted to move to his small village where all his relatives live. And other things weren't going great either so she decided to break up and move to the big city (5 hours away) alone. She finds a place for herself and a 9-5 job.
He then kinda convinced himself that it could be ok in the city, and they eventually stayed in the relationship, him staying with her half of the week sometimes. (His work still being close to the small town/small village area).

But at some point my friend started to have some more serious complaints. She says that when he's with her he doesn’t show her any physical affection anymore, despite saying that he still loves her. That this makes her feel so insecure, unattractive and rejected that this makes her even change the way she holds herself around other people. That the argue a lot and he sometimes stays in a hotel because she refuses to stay with him. And that she feels she’s to blame for it. That she already criticises herself a lot and with his 'help' it's like 1,2,3, to destroy her self esteem. That they basically live like brother and sister and for her it’s over, but he won’t let her go. She says it’s hard to rebuild anything new and it will take her some time to feel differently. She breaks up again but he ignores it and keeps acting as if they’re still together. And so they keep going for another year on/off.

A year later she says she finally really broke up with him this time and actually started dating some other guys. I was happy for her that she finally managed to cut it off. But after a month she started talking about her ex again: that he still has the keys to her house and sometimes comes inside her house when she's at work to 'check if there's still pictures of them hanging on the wall’ and he would leave notes for her. That he brought her flowers and gave her a ride to the airport which was “actually handy”. That his mother is very ill and she feels obliged to ask him about it, because that she can't be rude to him after “all he did for her”. That she feels afraid to slip back into the relationship again, because, like always, he just keeps acting like they are still together. That he asked her if he could stay at her place for one month because of a new job close to her house, and that she feels like she can't refuse it because he still helped her pay the deposit for her apartment when she moved in. She also sent me a picture showing a big cut in her nose. Saying it was an “accident at the gym”. (?)

No surprise, a few weeks later she announces she’s back with him, saying she wants to give another chance to the person that has been there for her the past 5 years in all the good and bad times.
Is this emotional abuse? Or is she the one playing games with him?

I know she has been in an abusive relationship before, and has a lot of psychological 'baggage'.

She describes him as pretty down to earth, a bit spoiled maybe, a nice person and quite sensitive. That he's peaceful and his parents adore him. But from the outside his behaviour feels a little toxic/manipulative?

Or is she the one always pushing and pulling him and is what looks like stalking just him being romantic?

I call her naif for not seeing how he always manages to weasel himself back with her and if she really wants to break up she could change her locks or call the police? She almost sees his behaviour as cute.

How does this work?

I would be sad if my friend is in a bad place and if she is, how could I talk to her about the bad taste I get in my mouth from this guy? Or is she just enjoying the role of drama queen and do they never really break up (only in her head) and is she making up his 'manipulative behaviour' to justify going back to him again and again.

How would you guys interpret all this?

Thanks in advance,,

Boyfriend won't let my friend break up with him

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I hope you are doing well, and safe. I know you probably worry because it's your friend, but it's still her life and her decisions.

You as a friend should probably suggest her to see a psychologist. Just to talk about things, maybe help her a bit with her self-esteem problem and also 'bagage'. It would be great for her because they teach you a lot of tips and tricks on how to deal with stressful things, and relationship.
If there's something going on, the medical professional can call the authorities and report the issue.

It's really hard for a 3rd party to analyse this situation, because I have no idea how their personalities are. Like you said, you don't even have any idea if it's her or him.

It is in fact a really weird relationship, and if she broke with him already a couple of times, I have no idea what the hell she is doing and saying that she owns him something, because she doesn't. If he decided to help with the payment, still it's noone of her business. She doesn't own him anything!

For me it really seems that she is indeed in an abusive relationship, and since he doesn't have the guts and charisma to make a point he finds always a way to win her back, and this cycle is almost like the life and dead cycle.
It's like one of the characteristics of an abusive and manipulative relationship. these people know very well what to say to make you feel bad, and make you feel like you own them something. Things like you said, like his mom is sick... and bla bla bla...

Still there isn't much you can do. As her friend try just to keep an eye to see if she isn't getting hurt and talk to her about seeing as specialist.

Boyfriend won't let my friend break up with him

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Your friend is making decisions for herself and you basically don't get a look in because it's her life. Sure, she reaches out now and then to you, but if you're a true friend you'll tell her to get some counselling, because as you post, her relationship is just a merry-go-round of abuse and you're correct, she's still carrying baggage from her previous.

Your friend is the one who needs to solve her issues and you don't have to hang around to watch it while she repeats her mistakes with this guy, otherwise you'll end up just a miserable and frustrated as she is attempting to support her. She owes this guy nothing but she owes to herself to get life in order.

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