Dear Nina: I am in a relationship with a 48-year old man and we are together to determine if this could possibly be long-term. I would like it to be but I feel he's stalling. I say this because we have been off and on-again for over 6-8 years. It always seems that at the third month of us getting back together and I ask "Where is this going", we break up–again! Presently, we are together and trying to see if we work but I feel we both have some issues with trust. I have changed the way I ask questions and I feel he’s opened up more but we both seem to guard our hearts. We had similar ex-spouse problems and have fun together but I’m not sure if we will ever be long-term and if not by the end of this year, I feel the need to end it and move forward without him. When he goes out-of-town, he will give me a quick call and then nothing in-between until he's headed back to town. He has business in this city and his son lives there.
I know that he has other family there too but he is so secretive with calling me. His recent visit, he texted me to let me know he arrived. When he calls, it always when no one else is around. I know you want to be respectful to your company but if he has a room in his son's house—what's so wrong about calling me? It bothers me and I feel he’s hiding something. Also, whenever he's out of town he would stop by my city (we live about 1 hour from each other) on his way back to his resident/city. This time he said it was late and he was tired. This could be true but I've known him to leave his son's earlier and he would stop by but I wonder if there is someone he's flirting/dating there? I am disturbed by his behavior and he gets defensive and accuses me of not trusting him. We do live a distance from each other but not so much that we couldn't plan other activities together. He says he has so much work in the evening and I realize that. But I feel you make time for what's important to you. Nina, what is your advice?—Linda
Dear Linda: Usually when someone has as many reservations as you have expressed about this guy, it is for a good reason. You're right—people make time for things and people that are important. Behavior always tells the true story of a relationship. Your story points to many, many red flags, among them the secrecy, the lack of effort to talk to you when he’s traveling, the defensiveness when you ask questions, and the frequent break-ups.
Six to eight years is long enough to know what you have. Instead of devotion, what you have is a relationship of convenience—when it's convenient you get together. Instead of commitment, you have resistance to openly sharing about what you want out of life, what you want together, and your dreams and plans for the future. Instead of emotional security, what you have is instability, constantly breaking up rather than working out your issues together. Instead of contentment and joy you have fear of getting hurt, of having to be there for someone else, and/or of having to deal with the work of a real relationship.
Sounds like you're dating the Wounded Guy, but it also sounds like you are dealing with your share of emotional wounds as well. Two frightened people do not usually combine and create a healthy, loving relationship.
Here's what I know for sure: the only person you have control over is you. The place to begin is for you to define what you really want in a relationship. Set aside this guy in your mind for a moment and ask yourself: What do I want my life to look like in five or ten years? Create a vision of your life including a loving relationship and what that looks like to you. Now, go back and compare the relationship you have to the one you want, and the life you want. I think you already know the answer—this is going nowhere. But you have a choice to make: to continue settling for less than what you really want, or to remember how strong you are and move on.
If you haven't already, read Temptations of the Single Girl so you can understand the choices and behaviors that led you to this place. Get support from family, friends, and a good coach or therapist. You can have the life and the love you want if you are willing to do the inner work needed so you can recover from the past and create and believe in a new future.
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