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Dear Breakup Girl,
Over a year ago, I started "dating" this guy. He was my chemistry tutor, and
I dropped the course but held onto him. He is mid-divorce and has two kids,
but that's not the problem; I love his kids and have gotten close to them. He
told me in the beginning not to expect a lot, as he's not so good at relationships,
etc. I thought, "Sure, I'll play along." I was seriously enjoying this guy's
company, and he is awfully cute. Time passed; we were still "not expecting much,"
but spending most nights together and doing all the relationship stuff.
He tells me he loves me, in spite of telling me at the beginning that he'd
never say it. He slowly becomes more and more physically affectionate. He starts
to seem more sensitive than I was expecting. But he's still a very busy, career-oriented
man. Then there's time with the kids. I realize that I'm not going to be first
in his life, and that's okay. But sometimes he turns into an ass and ditches
me to hang out with friends. We are talking not showing up, no phone
call, no nothin'.
At one point, I'm this close to dumping him. Don't know why I don't,
really. But I don't. He ends up telling me he just wants to hang out with his
friends, doesn't know if he's ready for this much commitment, blah blah blah.
I say, "Okeedoke," and back off. Don't call, leave him alone. That
lasts about a day, when he's back to calling and wanting to be with me lots
So things get better. Lots better. Little vacations. Movies, evenings with
friends, phone calls "just 'cause." Never a night apart. Love love love, but
always in a sort of "safe zone." I think he wants to avoid anyone feeling ownership
feelings, so there's always that little "hands off" area with each other's personal
lives. So, this is a pretty durned good relationship. Maybe he's not the most
cuddly or sensitive or tender, but he's a levelheaded guy who cares about how
people feel and makes me laugh. The first REAL MAN I've been with.
We celebrate a year together. A couple of months later, we're closing on a
big white house: yard, garden, trees, space, cats, two cars, kids on weekend.
He cooks for me. He rubs my feet. He does his best to make everyone happy, because
he knows I gave up a lot more than he did when I bought this place with him.
He feels (and I had a hand in this) guilty that I gave up my free, quiet weekends,
my own apartment, etc.
In sum: I have a hardworking, dedicated, gorgeous, sensitive, funny, manly
man, and I find myself constantly looking for something to bitch about. I'm
not happy unless I'm mad about something. "Why doesn't he do the dishes? Why
is he late? Why doesn't he e-mail me back after I write to him? Is he attracted
to her? I'm sick of rubbing his head, why won't he do mine? Why isn't he romantic?
He must not really love me. Why won't he leave me alone? Why won't he spend
time with me?"
What is wrong with me? I find myself concocting stories about some awful thing
he did, just so I can be angry at him. Then, when I see him, I'm still quietly
seething over some imagined insult, and he has no idea why I seem grouchy. Why
can't I just be happy? Why can't I accept that my boyfriend may not
ever marry me, and he may not ever write me a love poem or sing me to
sleep, but that he'll keep food in my belly and a solid roof over my head and
give me a kiss on the forehead and an arm around my back when we fall asleep.
He loves me, and if I paid attention, I'd see it more often.
And then there's this. Lately I've been seeing articles, interviews, etc.
about living-together-but-not-married relationships. Some say it's a bad idea.
Some say it's okay. I would like to marry him, but it's not imperative or anything.
(He's still legally married anyway...) But I wonder: why doesn't he want to
talk about a future together? Why doesn't he want to talk about getting married
or having kids of our own? Why doesn't he talk about things beyond grad school?
Sometimes, I feel like this is a temporary arrangement, in spite of having bought
a house together and living together and all that. He seems to value our relationship,
and all of the things that he said would never happen did. I never thought we
would live together so soon; I thought that if it happened at all, it would
be after college. It seems like he just doesn't want to plan anything.
He doesn't want me to say, "Do you think we'll ever get married?" He seems to
want to play it all by ear, and the problem with that is that I start to wonder
why he can't commit. Isn't that silly? I guess I'm frustrated that I
can't be happy with things as they are, and if more happens, yay! I always seem
to be looking for something to be hurt about.
Sometimes, I get a little peek into how he really feels, and it boosts my ego.
He noticed in the address bar on the computer that I visit breakupgirl.net,
and he asked me in a whiny voice why I was there. So maybe he's just the perfect
But, uhhhhhh! I can't help being this way! I find myself checking on the computer
to see what sites he's been visiting (porn).
Then I get mad. Then I feel insecure. Then I feel unattractive. Or I get mad
because he's helping his soon-to-be ex-wife find a house. Or I get mad because
he takes a day off from work to do something with his brother but won't take
a day off to stay at home with me when I don't have classes or work. I seem
to have a problem letting him do things on his own. I seem to have a problem
trusting him, and I really don't have a reason not to trust him. Things that
happened while he was still with his ex don't apply to us. I know that! So maybe
I just have too much time on my hands and too many opportunities to concoct
scenarios that I don't have to worry about. I'm going to stop now, and hope
that you'll reply soon and smack some sense into me.
-- A Bad Girlfriend
Dear Alleged Bad Girlfriend,
I understand that my title alone can be misleading. But
as anyone with this website on their address bar can attest, we are all about
prevention -- not to mention making good relationships great. Not to
mention just plain fun for all, no matter how cute/happy you already are. (And
actually, porn, administered appropriately, can serve some similar functions,
so let's set the browser-browsing aside.)
What's going on? Well, I'm not saying you messed up by
moving in. I'm really not. I mean, how fun! And hurrah! The guy who didn't always
show up for coffee is showing up for a closing?! Eeeeee! But still. Experts
do observe that "life satisfaction" is remarkably low for long-term
live-ins. Attributable to? The wear and tear of, if you will, the relationship's
permanent impermanence. For some, that's fine. But others are like, "Well,
I know where we live, but where are we going?"
Add to that the research that suggests that couples who
live together may become less enamored not of each other, but of the idea of
getting married. It's the "if it ain't broke..." thing.
(Which, I'm thinking, can especially come into play for
those who ain't quite broken up with their exes. No matter how much he may dig
you, do not underestimate the crimp this situation could put in his plans to
Plan. Look what happened the last time he did.)
Point is, could well be that it's the big white house
itself that's shaking your foundations. Maybe not. Maybe just partly. Maybe
the close quarters are exacerbating your discomfort. At the end of the day,
it kinda doesn't matter. However you're feeling -- and whyever you're feeling
that way -- you are feeling that way. If there's anything I've learned
over the years from Breakup Mom, it's (a) "You should NEVER say to yourself,
'I shouldn't be feeling this way,"' (nor "I should be...")
and (b) that she will e-mail me shortly to tell me that "whyever"
is not a word.
So about this curmudgeonly feeling. Um...perhaps that
little b*tch should be telling you something. You say: "Why can't I just
be happy? Why can't I accept that my boyfriend may not ever marry
me, and he may not ever write me a love poem or sing me to sleep, but
that he'll keep food in my belly and a solid roof over my head and give me a
kiss on the forehead and an arm around my back when we fall asleep. He loves
me, and if I paid attention, I'd see it more often." Well, ABG, maybe you'd
like to get married. (Maybe you'd like him to freaking
finalize his divorce.) Maybe you'd like a love poem every now and then.
A roof is a good thing, but do you feel that it's sheltering something precious?
I've got nothing against your boyfriend. I'm honestly
not goading. I've given you enough "reasons why" you might feel this
way that "explanation" may remove the urgency for some kind of
action. In fact, here's some good advice
from Breakup Mom on living with/loving a non-poet/lullaby-singer; bottom
line, you can't really tutor that
kind of chemistry.
That said, you may well be looking around the house for
some tangible objects about which you can say, "Oh! That's what
these empty-feeling echoes are bouncing off!" And you shouldn't feel bad
or wrong about that. Rather, I recommend that you mull over something a dear
friend of mine (same one who brought us Titration)
"I have found it very helpful to Embrace The Doubts.
For example, say all the scary stuff out loud (the stuff that makes your stomach
wobble): I think I don't love him. I think I am deluding myself. I'm afraid
this one's gonna bite the dust. I never did like his nose. Or whatever shape
your most dire fears take. They are much less scary when you name them (thank
you, Rumplestiltskin), and they do then mysteriously melt -- not away, exactly
-- but they flow more easily into the bigger picture, then, which is where they
belong. So, much as it makes me want to hurl, I try to give myself total permission
to entertain all of them, feed them canapes, ask them to stay the weekend."
It's good advice, ABG. Give your worries the guest room
for now. It might feel really crowded for a while. But see how you feel when
you stop locking them out. They might just come in, look around, and go away.
But if they turn out to be the guests who won't leave, you might need to consider
leaving with them. Not because he or you made any Wrong moves, literally or
figuratively -- but because for whatever reason, this house doesn't hold what
you need. Trust yourself. Let me know what happens. (But if it does come to
that, maybe erase this site from your cache?)
Predicament of the Week: "Chris the Lonely Bratwurst"