I started a relationship with a man last year. He has three sons and two daughters from his two marriages.
His first wife filed for divorce when he was going through a rough patch – his business partners cheated him. During the time they were together, he had several affairs. The second wife cheated on him and he filed for divorce. As far as I know, this was because he was spending a lot of time at work and he had neglected his young wife. She felt lonely and got involved with another man.
His two daughters and two younger sons live with him; the eldest son is with his mother.
Early on in our relationship, we had talked about marriage. He told me that his family is now my family and he wanted me to be on good terms with his children. He told all his friends that we would be getting married after we moved into our new apartment. He had applied for a low-cost flat and was shortlisted.
He also has a disabled brother under his care.
When we first met, he was broke and could barely survive on his income. I helped him financially in whatever way I could. Now he has found a new job and is financially stable.
All this while that we were together, I did all I could for his family. I rushed to his house after work to cook dinner for his kids. I made sure his house is clean and comfortable. I began my role as a wife even though we were not officially married. I supplied food to his family when he was broke. I am very close to his two younger sons and I care for them like a mother would.
Over the past two months, his attitude suddenly changed. He refused to talk to me and ignored my presence in the house. I sensed something was wrong and tried to talk to him. But he just avoided me.
One day, I couldn’t take it anymore and confronted him but before I could finish my sentence, he ran off. Then he texted me to tell me that I had not done anything wrong. He said he did not want to talk about our relationship at the moment. He said he needed time to think about it. He said he had failed in two marriages, and did not want to fail in his third marriage.
He said we could remain good friends and I am still welcome at his house. He said everything could remain as it is now. He put all the blame on himself.
I do not know what is going on. I am confused. What does he mean when he said he wanted us to be good friends but everything can remain the same? I do not know what to do with him. How do I get him to sit down and talk? Should I continue to care for his family and wait for him to come around or should I just break it off and move on without him?
I still love him. If we could sit down and talk things over, I am confident that our relationship can last a lifetime. I am not ready to let him go just yet. Please help. – Confused
In this situation, you will have to accept that most annoying of phrases: it is not you, it’s him. There is nothing you did or did not do to find yourself in this situation.
You have committed yourself to this relationship. Because of his children, your commitment runs deep as you started to function as a mother and wife. Your expectations were boosted by the fact that your relationship moved fast and he treated and regarded you as his wife.
You took this seriously, and did what you thought was expected of a wife. You understood and supported him. You invested your time and energy in the relationship. You also invested your money in this relationship. You helped look after his home and children. Of course, you did this because you wanted to.
However, we are all human and are prone to wanting something back as well. After all this, you would expect him to see through his promise to make you his wife.
All of a sudden, however, he turns silent and tells you that he cannot commit himself. He wants to be friends and yet expect things to be the same.
The confusion you are experiencing is completely acceptable and understandable. You should not, however, take any blame for this.
After two failed marriages, it is possible that he is having commitment anxieties.
Instead of facing his fears, he chooses to run away from them. He runs away by first avoiding any communication on the matter, and then telling you that he cannot proceed with the relationship.
This raises many concerns. First is his fear of commitment. While you see how he was the affected party in his previous marriages, he is not free from blame for the breakdown of the relationships. There is a pattern of commitment aversion. He was having affairs outside of his first marriage. As for his second marriage, regardless of the age of his wife, a committed relationship means providing care and support as well as attention. Everyone has to work. And, many people work very hard.
He seems to have worked hard to rebuild his life. This is commendable, of course.
The second concern is his aversion to talking and working through problems. What you are facing now is just one problem that is common in relationships. What matters is the willingness to address the problem and to commit to working on it for the sake of the relationship.
You have to ask yourself if you are willing and able to see past these aspects of his behaviour and history, and still commit to a relationship with him. You can still do it, but it will require a lot of strength and work from you. The work is not just physical, but also emotional. You risk having to face roadblocks and silence when there are problems. There may be times when you will feel completely alone and even neglected. You will feel like you are doing a lot and getting very little in return. You may have to find satisfaction from being a mother to his children. Many people accept this as part and parcel of their relationship. The downside to this, however, is that it builds resentment, which slowly poisons relationships.
Sure, with enough time and “proof” of your commitment – which he will have to decide on – he may feel comfortable enough to know that you won’t leave him. But would that change his pattern of behaviour? Only you can tell as you know him best.
It would not hurt, at this point, for you to take some time off from the relationship to gain perspective. It may let you focus more on how you feel and think about things in a neutral way.
Instead of asking yourself what he means by friends, what do you think it means? What kind of behaviour is acceptable in friendships and what is not? Would you expect your friend to cook and clean for you and take care of your children? This can be expected under certain circumstances only. Otherwise, it will be a situation where a friend is being taken advantage of.
A break from the relationship may even help to ease some of the pressure he is feeling and he may be able to speak about what he is thinking and feeling. Do not rush into any decision. In this situation, it is important to think of yourself. You are not being selfish by doing so.
A relationship involves two people. Both have an equal role and responsibility in nurturing and building it, not one person alone. When this is expected, though, it takes a lot of courage and resilience to see oneself through. Many people understandably falter and it is all right to walk away.
Sometimes, it is enough to know that you have given it your all, and your best. This may be better than ploughing through things with difficulty and becoming angry and hurt. – Thelma