Monday, September 08, 2008

Satisfying Relationships Require Compromise, Not Ultimatums

Hi Terry,

I have just discovered your blog and I love it! It is great how you empower women and share their struggles and show that yes, in fact, we can find the right one.

I am one of the many who are still searching for Mr. Right. I thought I had the right guy, but, things ended in a fury of disappointment, sadness, and mislead expectations. What is your opinion on ultimatums? You have mentioned the woman giving the ultimatum about marriage, but this is the man giving an ultimatum.

The man I was dating was what I thought of as "the one." We met in graduate school, and he is from one part of the US, and I am from another(near where we went to school). We had dated about one year, and it was pretty serious. We contemplated marriage and had looked at engagement rings, etc. We both are very close with our families, and I knew that after school, he wanted to move back to his hometown to eventually take over the family business and help out his aging parents (he is the only one).

I understood his reasons, and know that they are very important to him. We had all sorts of fun together over the past year, but, as time went on, it was clear he was moving back to his town, and wanted me to move there, as well. I considered the idea, had some reservations about when I would see my family, what compromises he would make for me, etc. I chose to look into the move, researched apartments, jobs, etc.

The problem was, I never felt supported and did not feel that he really understood what a HUGE undertaking it would be for me to move my entire life, start a new career, and have to make all new friends down in a new town and culture, when he was going back to his old friends and life. He wasn't putting himself in my shoes. We started fighting a lot, and everytime I tried to discuss things, it would be the same argument over and over again.

I tried to make him see that I was willing to move there, but I needed to feel that he was supportive of me, and that he would commit to me, not just the zip code we were moving to. He told me he never could even consider moving to another place even if I didn't like the area (I didn't think I wouldn't like it, but, I had to see both sides of it). Basically, I needed to know that he would be there for me, and that if the tables were to turn, he would do the same for me. I never quite felt that from our discussions and arguments.

He even went as far as buying a house to "surprise" me with, saying it was "for us," etc. In our fights, he didn't fight fair...he was always trying to make me feel bad for not moving, making sarcastic comments about my family and how I "would never leave them," etc. He said that he was going to be in his home city, and if I wasn't going to be there, he needed to "move on."

I was so shocked by all of this, because for the first 9 months of our relationship, it was great. He never treated me like that. Anyway, this fighting went on for a couple of months, and I could tell he was distancing himself, he wasn't telling me the normal everyday things in our life, etc. I finally brought it up again, and he eventually gave me an ultimatum in the middle of yet another fight, saying if I didn't move there, we were over.

I mulled over it for 2 weeks....because, I was willing to move, the city was wonderful, I loved the area, I knew we were considering marriage, and I knew that you have to give of yourself in a marriage. All of the other things added up in the relationship...he was funny, nice (when we weren't fighting), had money, got along well with my family and friends. I ended up breaking it off with him, because I felt like it was all about his life, and his plan, and then he wanted me to be the "girl" to fit in the picture. We went back and forth in "discussions" for the next month and a half while broken up...and I was miserable. He had moved 2 months before we broke up, and was going on with his life.

I was so upset that I went down there after a month of being single (because he asked me to), to see if we could work things out. He said he had thought a lot about things, and was wanting to work it out. Well, I went down there, and nothing had changed, he still had the same thoughts about everything. I came back, and sent him a letter explaining my feelings and how I love him, but, I cannot be with someone who said he won't compromise for my happiness, if I should need it, down the road. I never heard back from him in and it's been over a month and I'm upset all the time. I wonder if I made a mistake...I wonder that if I had just moved there, would things have been fixed and we would be just like we had been before? I am on my own now, starting a new job in a new town (still in the area where we attended school) and I am so lonely, I am upset a lot.

I miss him, but I wonder, why didn't he fight for me? Why did he have to give me the ultimatum? If I was really the one he wanted to marry and live with for the rest of his life, why would he just let me go? I was willing to move there, but, I couldn't get him to understand that I needed his support and love for moving there, instead of fighting with me and ultimatums. If you could offer any advice, I would be greatly appreciative.


Dear A-

Thanks for the very kind words.

I don't like ultimatums, no matter who's delivering them. They tend to be used by controlling people, and I'd say your ex-boyfriend definitely qualifies as controlling (Exhibit A: that scary little detail you included about him surprising you with a house).

I'm very sorry about your situation. You obviously loved this guy a great deal, and it hurts when things don't work out the way they could have (if only the guy had his head on straight). I'm sending good thoughts your way.

But I have to congratulate you for your excellent instincts and also for having the sense to follow them. Another person in your situation would have told herself she was being selfish or silly, and besides, the guy makes great money so she might as well be grateful and go for it.

You did the wise thing.

If you'd ignored that clanging bell in your head and followed him down to his great life in his great town and his great friends, sooner or later you'd be kicking yourself. His sarcastic comments about your family (you know, those people you love and would no longer be able to see) would come back to haunt you. They would eat you from the inside out.

And if you didn't find a job you loved, or if you didn't make friends as easily as you'd hoped, you'd be sorry about that, too. You would rightfully start to resent this man for snatching you away from everything you held dear, and you would probably begin to hate him.

Sure, it's possible you could temporarily distract yourself by fixing up a house and raising a couple of kids, but soon enough it would burn you that your old friends wouldn't be able to visit your house. And you'd hate it that your family would have to watch your children grow up through emailed photographs.

I don't know why this guy didn't fight for you, but be glad he showed his limitations now instead of later. Can you imagine being married to him and having life be all about him, him, him? His career, the restaurants where he wants to eat, the friends he wants to see?

What a drag.

You're lonely now and perhaps feeling a bit off your game while starting a new job. Please know that eventually the job will get easier. You will feel more comfortable among your new colleagues. You still have your family, and you will make new friends.

You are beginning a new adventure in life, which blessedly does not involve entanglement with a person who consistently puts his wants and needs and happiness above your own. You know that you can do better than him. In time, your strength and confidence will return. You will likely attract men who make your happiness a priority because you will give off a vibe that will let them know that you're not one to waste time with people who don't.

You deserve a pat on the back. I wish you the best in everything life has to offer.