Dear Carolyn: My partner of four years has an unfortunate past, including an alcoholic mother and several failed relationships due to her partners cheating on her, and has now accused me of infidelity. Her assumption is false but she keeps insisting she is right.

She also demanded that I end a friendship of 10 years because she thinks my friend insulted her and is interested in me. Yesterday she became upset because I did not provide her with passwords to my accounts. I told her I am not comfortable sharing that because we are not married and have separate finances. She has given me the silent treatment while I am traveling on business.

She has broken up with me three times, but we keep reconciling as long as I promise to change. I am exhausted and afraid of what I will be accused of next.

I am seeing a therapist and we did couples counseling, which she said was a waste because I am the one with problems. I am feeling lost and alone.

— Trust Issues

Trust Issues: How does your having an unfortunate present honor her unfortunate past?

What you describe are several markers of an abusive and/or controlling relationship. Jealousy, possessiveness, isolation, invasions of privacy, volatility. Don’t take it from me — read this from the One Love Foundation, or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 800-799-SAFE.

“Lost and alone” is how people usually feel when they're treated this way, which is, ironically, one of the reasons they stay. It is also hard to see clearly from up close.

But you feel it, don't you? Unhappy, stuck, in suspense for the next outburst? That alone is reason to leave.

You can feel sympathy for her “unfortunate past” and all the pain she still bears, and still leave. There are two main reasons for this: 1. You never have to stay with anyone. Bottom line. Free will. 2. Pain is not a free pass to mistreat others.

Terrible things happen to people — often not their fault. Competent adults are responsible, however, ultimately, for how they deal with these things.

That means we are accountable for our choices in the wake of something bad happening to us. So if our car dies, we have to call for help. If we get cancer, we are responsible for making our treatment decisions. If we have an alcoholic parent and get cheated on by multiple people, we have to take responsibility for our own emotional recovery from these traumatic things so that we don't shift the burden of our unresolved traumas on other people.

Her rough treatment by others was not her fault, but her using it to justify accusing you of lying over and over and over without evidence, prying into your private accounts, vilifying your friends, living this endless misery loop, and declaring herself blameless? This is her doing.

Staying anyway? That's yours.

If you really are as untrustworthy as she accuses, then she needs to break up with you. If she is so emotionally hobbled that she is unable to break up with you despite how untrustworthy she believes you to be, then she is not well enough to sustain a commitment to anyone.

Again, regardless — you never have to stay.

Please see this, get (more/better) help, and get out.