I searched for, and found, an old friend on Facebook. I hadn’t heard from her for about 12 years, but we started talking. She told me that she had a boyfriend, but we kept talking anyway. When she flew back here to visit family over the holidays, we went out. She said that she is not happy at all in her relationship. Her boyfriend has cheated on her several times. They live together, and I know that she hasn’t left yet because she is comfortable. So do I wait for her to come around, or do I move on? I know that she really likes me, and her mother has also told me this.
Of course she likes you, honey. You’re a sweet connection to her past and the hope of a better future. But right now, you are also just a pleasant distraction. She claims to be unhappy with her cheating boyfriend, and you think it’s because she is comfortable. Most people who have settled into the rhythm of being betrayed continue the same missteps, even after changing partners. So if you get involved, your love interest may have difficulty trusting you. She might express irrational worries about the relationship ending. And, if she’s not particularly aware, she might cheat on you, inflicting the pain inflicted on her. Oh, it’s possible that she will suddenly be ready for a healthy relationship with you, but don’t count on it.
Whenever something difficult comes up in my relationship with my boyfriend, I try to be proactive. I ask him what he thinks or how he wants to resolve the problem. He always says, “I don’t know.” When I try to encourage him to talk to me, he withdraws or shuts down. This relationship is really important to me, but I find myself getting really angry when he refuses to work on our relationship. What can I do to help him?
Trust his words. When your man says he doesn’t know, you push for a response that you like better. It’s like telling him he’s a liar. Even if you believe he needs to participate in resolving the conflict at hand, back off a bit. Try saying: “OK, then maybe we can revisit this situation at another time when we’ve both had time to think about it.” This allows you to blend his style of conflict management (waiting it out) with yours (immediate resolution). The challenge will be not to sink into his neurotic edge (avoidance of the problem) or yours (parenting your partner into a solution you deem viable).
When you do initiate another conversation about the dilemma, be patient. Don’t try to fill any silences between question and answer. Let it be. Get comfortable with long pauses. Ask one question and wait for an answer, holding the space with affection. Pushing a conversation forward can result in one partner flooding with emotions. At that point, he or she is unable to articulate anything, except a need to completely escape the conversation (or the relationship).
All around me people are falling apart financially. Yesterday, another co-worker confided that he is losing his home. I am barely getting by myself, but whenever I hear these stories, I feel the need to buy a grocery gift card or do something nice. However, I am also aware that some of the people who lost homes and who I have gifted with something have taken really nice holiday vacations with their kids. Am I a sucker?
You have a generous heart and the desire to create community. But if you give more than is comfortable for you financially, you are taking advantage of yourself. In those instances, it’s easy to judge the people you have pitied.