Monday, September 12, 2005

Scrape Him From Your Life Like a Bush/Cheney Bumper Sticker

Dearest Terry,

I'm 36 years old with two boys, 13 and 15, from my first marriage. I've now been married twice and had basically five failed relationships in 21 years. This last one was 4 years. It seemed like one of the better ones, as he never raised his voice or his fist, worked steady, had a good sense of humor, but some things were not right.

He never wanted to go anywhere and hung out in the bedroom all the time with the TV and the computer. Basically, he ignored the kids. He would never help me out around the house we bought a year and a half ago. He would complain if I asked him for anything. I was unhappy in a lot of ways. I could not pull a compliment out of him, and if I cooked him a nice dinner, I would have to ask him if he liked it, if you know what I mean (like one of your comments on your blog "if you have to get the guy to marry you you'll have to get the guy to do stuff for the rest of your life).

Now he wants out. I really loved and trusted this man, believed him that the life we were building together was forever blah blah blah. Now I have my two kids, two dogs, two cats and I have to sell my house I have wanted so badly and tear everything apart.

I am stuck in the same house with him because we cannot afford to move apart until we sell it. Judging by how little he has done in the past, I can't see him moving too quickly on this.

He is staying in the bedroom beside me and acts like I don't exist. He doesn't talk to me unless absolutely necessary. He would rather hang out with the tenant that he dislikes than me. Now all of a sudden he has a newfound social life that doesn't include me (obviously).

He went to visit his mom for six days, and that time was quite glorious. I really felt that I could move on without him. Now that he's been back, I'm starting to feel upset about the breakup again and wishing we could work it out. I don't want to be dumped. I don't want to let my "baby" go. I don't want turn my life and my kids' life upside down.

We agreed he would move into the suite downstairs; that would make him self sufficient, and I wouldn't have to see him constantly. But he hasn't made the effort to move. Is there any point in trying for the umpteenth time to ask him if he'd give us another chance? On top of all this I lost my job of five years three days ago. I don't have it in me to tell him. He already thinks I'm a loser if he's dumping me-- this will just confirm it.

What's wrong with me? Why can't I find real happiness? Can this be salvaged, or am I even an idiot for wishing so? I really feel like I'm in hell. Got any advice?

- In the Dark in Canada

Dear In the Dark-

Do I have any advice for you? Where do I start?

First off, stop thinking of yourself as a loser. Immediately. You're not a loser. You've made a bad choice in letting this guy jerk you around, but that doesn't make you a loser.

Your description of him scared me a bit: You said he "seemed like one of the better ones, he never raised his voice or his fist, worked steady." The fact that he never raised his fist doesn't make him a decent man! It merely means that he may not be a terrible one. What I'm getting from this statement is that you have a history of dating abusers and men who can't hold a job. Come on! You have to set your standards higher than this.

Now, this guy wants out of the relationship. Well, good for him. The sooner you stop "looking after him," perhaps the sooner he'll move into the suite downstairs. If you're still cooking for him, doing his laundry, packing his lunch, it's time to stop. Indeed, if you were both working and contributed to the purchase of your house, it was never your responsibility to do it anyway.

It seems that he does very little for you (and why should he? You have been quite willing to do everything). I've read your letter at least five times, and I'm still trying to figure out what you ever got out of this relationship.

Let's put things in perspective:

1) He doesn't help around the house
2) He never wants to go anywhere
3) He ignores your children
4) You make a nice dinner, and he doesn't thank you for it
5) He doesn't talk to you and pretends you don't exist
6) He has a social life that doesn't include you

You mentioned that he went to visit his mother for a while, and you found the time away from him "glorious" (not "miserable," "tolerable," or "just okay"). You actually used the word "glorious." Glorious! So, where is the conflict here? Get rid of this loser (yes, he's the loser. Not you).

You also mention that you don't want to "get dumped." Why? The guy is doing you a favor. What? Are you afraid your neighbors will think you're damaged goods? Undesirable? Put back on the shelf? A sad old maid? Who cares! Chances are, the ones trapped in their own miserable relationships will envy you your freedom.

I also have to wonder how letting this individual continue to share your home affects your sons. His sorry behavior toward you teaches them that they can disrespect women and still get what they want. And his rejection of them has to be damaging their self-esteem.

Do all you can to encourage this guy to move downstairs: Inform him that he will no longer be living with you and your children. He'll have to manage his own meals. He is no longer welcome in your part of the house.

Once you successfully dislodge this person, it's time to start treating yourself like your own best boyfriend. You must learn to love yourself and enjoy your own company before you can ever hope to attract a man who'll do the same (read this sentence again, please). Money may be tight, but that doesn't mean you can't cook yourself a delightful meal, or buy yourself flowers once in a while. In other words, treat yourself as the most perfect man in the world would.

If friends, coworkers, relatives bring you down about not having a guy, it may be time to phase those people out of your life, as well. You may want to join a reading group at the library (or some other free activity) to make new friends. But you're not to date any of them until you've had time to learn to like being alone!

Spend time with your boys. Have fun with them! By loving yourself and taking care of yourself, you give them a gift. Whatever you do, don't feel guilty because there is no longer a man in their life. The man you're trying to unstick yourself from never really was.

I wish you the best of everything. You deserve it.

To your happily ever after,

P.S. When you look for a new job, please set your standards reasonably high: You need money, for sure, but you also want to work in a place where they pay you well and treat you with respect.