Choosing the Right One to Marry
When Is It Time to Say Good-bye?
Dear Dr. Harley,
I don't normally write to problem pages, but I don't know what else to do in this case, so I have to turn to someone. I have been going out with my present boyfriend for almost three years. We have had recurring problems, which I think can be easily fixed, but which my boyfriend thinks are impossible. He thinks I don't trust him. To a certain extent he's right. He can be very physically affectionate and is always attentive to my physical needs. However, I often feel alone in this relationship. When I am feeling down, instead of giving me the support I need, he gets angry with me. When he isn't with me, it's as if I don't exist. He doesn't phone and it has happened that I would arrange to ring him and when I ring he isn't there and doesn't ring me back to say where he is. He also has a problem with apologizing. When I try to explain that his actions hurt me, he gets angry with me and tells me I should trust his and know that he doesn't mean to hurt me deliberately. Of course, I know he isn't doing it deliberately, but his refusal to apologize has caused me great pain. He swears that he loves me, but I certainly don't feel like he loves me.
The problem is compounded by several factors. My boyfriend was unemployed for a long time and has moved away from me to find a job. I thought at the time that it would be a good idea, as it would give him a much needed ego boost to get a job.
But now he doesn't want me to come over to be with me. He says that it would lead to marriage and that he isn't sure if it would be a good idea. As far as I am concerned, after going out for three years, I am as good as married to him and I want to work on our problems.
I don't know what to do. I love him very much. I have told him to check out your web site in the hope that he will understand me better and be more willing to work at our relationship.
While you may feel that your relationship with your boyfriend is just like being married to him, you are not actually married. Moreover, the problems you talk about, his not including you in his life, are tell-tale signs that he is not very committed to you. You may love him, but apparently, he doesn't love you.
Be sure to read my two Q&A columns about living together before marriage ("Does Living Together Prepare You for Marriage?" & "What Is It Like to Be Married After Living Together?"). You didn't say that you ever lived together, but I am guessing that you did live together before he moved away for his new job. I want you to be aware of how and why living together almost always leads to divorce after marriage. The very frustrations you are experiencing are typical of these relationships and eventually get so bad that the couple can no longer tolerate each other. And it usually is the very worst right after the baby is born. In many cases, the husband runs off with another woman at the very moment that his wife needs him the most.
I don't think I would try so hard to catch this man. It isn't that you can't do it -- you probably could get him to marry you. But after you have him, I don't think he will turn out to be what you had hoped for. He is not considerate of your feelings, and gets angry whenever you point that out to him. How long can a marital relationship like that last?
My advice to you, based on what you wrote, is for you to let your boyfriend go if that's what he wants to do. You should love the man you marry just as much as you love your boyfriend, but he should be a man who cares as much about your feelings as he cares about his own. You don't have that man right now.