Q. I dated a man on and off for three years. He never complimented me or told me he loved me until I spoke up about my needs and feeling devalued. He often spoke about former sexual conquests, which made me feel like he was living in the past.
The beginning of the end was when I asked why I’m unknown to his daughter’s mother. (His daughter was 1 when I met him, 4 when we broke up.) He said he would introduce me to his parents and that I would spend more time with his sister and her family, but that I could not have anything to do with his daughter. He said he did not know how long that would be the case, but he believed we could continue to grow and see.
All dates were 50-50. When we traveled on trips, I paid 50 percent of hotels and paid my own airfare. He rarely gave gifts. I, on the other hand, would shower him with gifts and acts of service. I did speak up about how I felt the relationship was one-sided, and the initial response was sometimes anger (I reacted to that by withdrawing for days at a time), and then he would make some small steps to address my concerns.
He said he did believe I was very beautiful. He didn’t know why he could not see it but did not say it. As I look at the words I’ve written here, I believe I did the right thing by breaking up with him. But it’s confusing because he offered to go to couples counseling at the end, but by that time my cup was empty and I was so frustrated that I declined.
I have some guilt over declining the offer to go to couples therapy — and that is my question. Did I make a mistake by not going with him and working on it?
A. I’m used to the other side of this letter. Usually people write in about their relationship problems and I tell them to ask their partners to go to counseling. Often I say that if a partner refuses to go, it’s time to walk away. It’s not that I think therapy is the only way to improve a relationship, but the will to go suggests a person is open to doing some work to make a relationship better.
In your case, you said no because you don’t want to work anymore — and that’s OK. You and this man stopped connecting long ago. You have different philosophies about money and gifts. You wanted to hear him tell you he loves you, but that’s not the way he communicates. This has been an on-and-off for many reasons.
The daughter issue is a big one. He’s not wrong for setting boundaries for himself and his child, but you feel excluded. I’m sure you’d rather be with someone who, after three years, would be ready for this kind of introduction and quality time. This guy isn’t it.
The line that stood out in your letter — after the list of reasons you were unhappy — was “my cup was empty.” Even if you have more energy right now, it sounds like you’re ready for something else in your cup. Something better for you. You’re allowed to move on.
You settled for being treated less than you deserved to be for three years. You even resorted to begging for emotional scraps. Please get the support you need so that you can say buh-bye to ever allowing yourself to be treated that way again.
Yeah, you’re allowed to move on. You two just weren’t compatible. The only thing you likely did wrong was stay too long. Better to make the break now before his child got attached. Who knows, maybe he was an overprotective parent and had enough to deal with on his own with the mother. Regardless, the lesson here is to assess these big deal breakers earlier on in your next relationship so you don’t arrive at this point with an empty cup again.
His suggestion of couples therapy was just a head fake. It wouldn’t have changed anything ... plus you would’ve been the one paying.
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