My boyfriend of two years has cornered me into a dry, loveless relationship. In the beginning I thought we had something valuable together, but he pulled away, eventually refusing sex (or any physical contact). He is now a friend who seeks me for an occasional dinner date. When I express my desire for intimacy or ask if he would rather find a better mate, he cries and says he cares for me, but his former girlfriend’s suicide broke something inside him so I must accept the relationship on his terms. So he can’t break up with me and when I make the decision to leave him, a great sadness overcomes me. Am I deluding myself by trying to change him under the pretense of loving him? I feel he could provide the close relationship I ache for, but how patient should I be?
Oh sweetie! You’ve already been too patient! I want you to have the relationship you ache for. I want you to be loved and cherished by a man who has the capacity to give and receive love. But you have cornered yourself into believing that longing equals love, or the potential for it. That allows you to remain in denial about reality. Now hear this: Everything this guy is doing shouts that he’s not that into you. If he was, he would go to therapy and push himself beyond his past so he could be your guy. Clinging to him won’t alter his refusal to change.
Here’s another huge red flag: He is far too accomplished at playing wounded and you are too skilled at being his accomplice. This man has not been a boyfriend for most of your relationship with him. The term “boyfriend” implies an emotional, spiritual, mental, physical intimacy that your relationship with him lacks. You may feel attached to him, but attachment is not intimate. Attachment is often a sign of neediness, even addiction. By contrast, intimacy is the capacity to be open, honest and vulnerable with another human being.
The sadness enveloping you when you consider leaving is the beginning of grief. It arises because you fear that the closure of your relationship with this man means the end of the dreams you had of a loving, committed union with anyone. Stop lying to yourself: This is not your only chance at love. That sadness also may be related to your belief that if you love someone enough you can magically change them into someone who will love you back. Shed that belief because it distracts you from admitting when a relationship is no longer working.
When I met my boyfriend’s mother she was intelligent, beautiful and inspirational. Now she’s rude, condescending and mean. She has two sons but no daughters and I was hoping to become the daughter she never had. But now my boyfriend and I fight about our families. It is important to me to have a good relationship with my future family-in-law, so should I learn to get along or give up on my boyfriend altogether?
You should find a good time to sit down alone with his mom and talk about how to heal the relationship. Before you do, make certain that your defenses are down. During the conversation, don’t try to be right. Just ask if you have done anything to upset her. If she responds with a specific situation, listen. Don’t justify your actions. After she finishes speaking, apologize. There’s no loss to you and it could ease the tension in your relationship. The worksheet at www.thework.com can help you prepare. Use it to process that desire to be the daughter she never had so you can interact with her as a mature adult, not as a young woman yearning for a mamasita.