The Vine: June 6, 2012
It's another one of those "what do I do with him" letters with probably way too much back story.
I've been with my boyfriend for almost 5 years. We started dating a year after I divorced. I have two children, a 13-year-old son and a 9-year-old daughter.
For the first two years, all was beautiful. We were all happy and content. Come year 3, bad things happened — I developed sepsis as a result of an infection. While in the hospital for 12 days, I was also diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Thankfully, all that was healed and I'm healthy now. Boyfriend was awesome — supportive, took great care of me while in the hospital and helped me get through the months afterward while I was recovering. Point of note — he did not interact much with my children — their dad is pretty great and my parents pitched in to help out there, and it did bug me that he didn't help much with the kids but I let it go 'cause I was so sick.
After I felt better, I really wanted to concentrate on the future and wanted to talk marriage. Boyfriend balked, saying what we had was fine and he wasn't sure about being a stepparent because of his experiences with his monster of a stepmother. I was suffering from some pretty severe PTSD after all the illness and became very co-dependent and clingy. Boyfriend became distant and avoiding. After what was undoubtedly the worst holidays of my life, he broke up with me in January of last year.
Cue the depressive nervous breakdown, seeing a fantastic therapist who helped me see that I'd smothered boyfriend who'd also been terrified of me dying, my finding myself again and becoming happier than I'd been since the illness. By September, I was ready to date again and move forward. Mind you — Boyfriend had never stopped emailing, texting me — we even had dinner a couple of times. He was always insistent that he didn't want to be married to me, be a stepparent, but he couldn't let me go as a friend.
Last September, I was at a football game with a girlfriend and two guy friends. It wasn't a date at all but I ran into Boyfriend at the game. He tried to kiss me and I wouldn't let him. He asked if I'd meet up with him and his brother after the game to hang out and I refused — I explained I was with friends, we had plans and I was going to hang out with them. The next morning, he called — almost hysterical. He said he'd considered suicide the previous night because it had just hit him that he'd thrown away me, my kids and a whole life together and he wanted to try again. Please please please could we. I was totally shocked. After all, just that previous May, I'd kinda asked him why he kept seeing me, he indicated he'd love to get back together but not with my expectations of marriage, the stepparenting, etc.
Of course, like a dog who can't get enough beatings, I tentatively eased back in. I insisted he keep going to therapy and pushed for couples counseling. We went once but the therapist felt Boyfriend needed some time to work on his issues and then bring me in. That did not happen and after the therapist flaked on two appointments, Boyfriend quit seeing her and we haven't looked for another.
Boyfriend asked for me and the kids to move in with him and said he wanted to get married too probably as we moved in together. I was thrilled. It wasn't a proposal but it was good. We started improving my house and getting it ready to sell and I really felt like he was committed.
We are now six months later. Boyfriend has made some significant changes in himself — I see that he tries very hard to be open and talk when he's upset rather than hide and avoid. He doesn't interact with the kids as much as I'd like but he has tried to be more involved. So, what's the problem?
When I bring up any concerns about our relationship, he accuses me of having "insecurities" and he feels "like he can't do anything right." These aren't insecurities — they are concerns I have I want to discuss (usually about him not spending time with me and my children). When he consistently refuses to spend time with us, isn't it natural I'd feel concerned given the history? Also, I've asked about marriage. But he's "not ready to talk about that or do that."
So, he wants me to sell my house, move myself and my children in with him and he now refuses to discuss marriage — telling me he's still not ready and he doesn't think I am either. I feel like I'm being asked to give up my biggest financial asset and have…nothing. If something happens again where he freaks out over responsibility, he can just kick me and the kids to the street and I have nothing financially stable. If something (God forbid) happens to him, his family (who highly disapprove of their precious older son being involved with a divorcee with children) would have no problem kicking me out. If there's another medical crisis, legally, we are nothing to each other.
I'm really feeling done here. I am tired of trying so hard — to work through all this, to forget all the history, to give up the idea I'll ever be in a secure marriage with a man I dearly, dearly love. I am ready to pitch an ultimatum — at least let's get engaged or sign power of attorney or SOMETHING — or I'm done. I'm tired of waiting for something that apparently will either never happen or has to have so many perfect conditions that it's an impossibility — like he's setting us up to fail.
Sars (and Nation) — do I walk? Does this relationship seem viable? Aren't we way too old for this drama?
Tired of Settling
Boyfriend is content with the level of commitment he has now. It doesn't ask too much from him; he doesn't have to give anything up; you say it's not enough for you, but your behavior indicates to him that you'll tolerate the relationship as is. Yeah, occasionally you have to have a fight about it, but then he rolls out the insecurities line, and that's the end of it. I don't think he does that on purpose, or in a manipulative way, but he has learned that it works, and that he won't have to produce a ring or a pre-nup or anything else that raises the game.
And there's nothing per se wrong with the relationship as is; not everyone has to get married, a guy can act as a parent without a piece of paper, blah blah blah…except, of course, that you aren't happy, and the guy in question isn't really doing much parenting, and to paraphrase a sage ex of my own, for this relationship to continue, someone will always have to be unhappy.
You two don't want the same things; that's that. You don't really say whether the kids have gotten attached to the guy, and the fact that you don't mention that as a factor in your decision-making is probably all the answer you need. Boyfriend loves you; he wants to want to create a new family with you and your kids; it's just not something he actually wants. For some people, that does change or evolve over time and depending on the circs. But for others, it doesn't, and you've had more than enough time to see whether it might. With him, it won't.
It's not about you, or how he feels about you, or that you want too much from him. You've done nothing wrong here; you've hoped, is all. But what you're hoping for is not coming.
Now, if you decide you can live with the status quo, hey, go for it. That means the status quo, though; I would definitely not move in with the guy, not under the circumstances you describe. If he wants you to give up your home, he needs to up the ante, and not just a promise ring and a nebulous "let's get married…later." Paperwork and a date. Cash on the barrel.
And again, you won't get that. I would say that even asking you to move in is him trying to buy time, because he loves you, but it's not just you and he's not sure he can carry that whole package. I have been him, so I don't judge the guy, and I can tell you he feels like shit that he can't be something he isn't — but he can't. Break it off. Taking another run at the relationship was understandable; sometimes the time off does move the ball, emotionally. But sometimes it's just like, "We really care about each other — why can't this work out?" and as unsatisfying as "because it…just can't sometimes" is, you've got to accept it and move on to the next thing before you both get really bitter.
Short-term, take the house off the market. Tell him you've got to protect yourself and your kids, and you don't trust him to come around on the marriage thing. Tell him also that he needs to go back to therapy, where maybe he'll learn to listen to your concerns instead of immediately guilting you out of the conversation.
Or tell him you're done. Not meanly, just: done. "I have a family. You want just me. That's not realistic, and I'm done pretending for you. Goodbye." It's tough, and he'll be sad, but I'm betting he knows it's coming, and it's time. You tried, and nobody "failed," but for it to continue…you know. So, don't continue.
Tags: boys (and girls) kids