Q. Here’s my situation. I’m 37 and I’ve been dating a guy for three years. He’s 40. Early in the relationship, I found out he was seeing another girl and me at the same time. It wasn’t that big of a deal because I didn’t consider us exclusive at the time. However, I later found out that he continued to see the other girl even after telling me he just wanted to date me.
Needless to say, there have been lingering trust issues in the relationship. Obviously, not good. In addition to that, we have lived together for two years, and it hasn’t always been rosy. He drinks a lot, has some OCD issues, and can be pretty selfish sometimes.
Yet for some reason, I can’t seem to end the relationship. I know that he’s not going to change (he’s even admitted it, saying, “This is me”), but I’m afraid that if I end it, I won’t find anyone else I like as much. I’m not even concerned about finding someone better. I just want to make sure I don’t downgrade. Leaving really scares me because I struggle to find people I even like to hang out with. I worry that I’m never going to be satisfied with anyone, and then it will be my own fault I’m alone.
I do love him. He feels like family at this point. We even have a dog. Yet I can’t help feeling as though something’s not right. I sometimes wish I could date someone else, someone more active, less of a drinker, and more helpful. I also feel somewhat bummed when I hear about girls getting engaged or having kids because I feel as though he ruined that fairy tale for me (keep in mind, I know relationships aren’t always like the movies . . . but still). Do I really want to marry the guy who cheated on me? Do I want to have kids with an alcoholic who may never change? But every time I try to leave, I chicken out. I realize no one’s perfect, including me. So then I start to question my desire to leave. It makes me wonder if I’m being too greedy. My dream guy probably doesn’t even exist.
I don’t want to waste more time, seeing as how I am 37. Yet I feel stuck and afraid to act, and I’m scared of sabotaging my life. My boyfriend would have a family with me if I wanted to. How do I determine if it really is time to leave or if I’m just wanting too much?
ON THE FENCE, Western Mass.
A. Nobody’s perfect, but that doesn’t mean that you have children with a guy who drinks too much. It’s not about wanting a fairy tale; it’s about wanting trust and stability.
I can’t promise you that there’s anyone better waiting in the wings. I certainly can’t promise that you’ll find someone quickly. But can you really live like this forever? You’re not asking for Prince Charming, by the way. You say that you want “someone more active, less of a drinker, and more helpful.” That’s a pretty fair list.
If he were open to change, I might tell you to work on the relationship. But he’s made it clear that what you see is what you get. And for you, that’s just not good enough.
Think about what the 47-year-old version of yourself would tell you to do. Would she tell you to stay? Or would she say, “Run now — because you’re only 37!” Something tells me that she’d want you to take the leap and keep looking.
“Yet I feel stuck and afraid to act, and I’m scared of sabotaging my life.” You’re sabotaging your life if you stay with him.
You basically said you like nothing about your relationship . . . but, but, but . . . you have a dog and you really like him! You don’t trust the guy and you have lots of relationship problems, but you really like him? I really don’t understand your letter. You’re welcome to settle if you’d like to, but I’d actually recommend therapy to figure out why this relationship is good enough for you. Some people do wind up alone, and that’s sad, but isn’t it better than being in a miserable relationship? Good luck.
Therapy will help you with your self-esteem issues, and take a good hard look at why you can’t leave. You’re 37, it’s not like you’re 85 years old.
If you only live once, is this the way you want to live? You already know what to do. Why do you need other people to tell you?
Learn to like things about yourself and be satisfied with yourself. You’ll never find love if you always try to meet or fill the expectations of others.
Even if you think this is the last train out, you’ll be much better off missing it.
Only you can break the inertia you seem to be wallowing in. Do It. There is more to life than having an alcoholic, OCD, selfish man you seem to have glued yourself to.
I understand you are afraid because you don’t have any confirmation about your future, but don’t be too afraid to leave a mediocre situation. Don’t aim for mediocrity.
I completely understand familiarity and comfort. However, three months out of this relationship, when you are doing what makes you happy and not worried about an alcoholic you can’t trust at home, you will look back and wonder what took you so long.
TRUST ME HDLORALEE
What’s that? Do I hear something? I think the crowd has started a “No Settling” chant and it appears they are attempting to start a wave. Welcome to Boston.
Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters. Meredith Goldstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.