Ten years after we met I still don’t have an engagement ring from my boyfriend Bill.
We have both been married before so I understand his reluctance to settle down again and take a chance on marriage, but this is ridiculous.
Every birthday, every Christmas, every Valentine’s Day I keep hoping for the little box, but it never comes.
He supports me financially and I appreciate that but I want the security of marriage. I’ve been (secretly) dating other men recently as I try to get up the nerve to leave this relationship once and for all, but every time I think I am close to pulling the trigger I can’t do it.
I know you can’t probably tell me how to get this man to propose to me but do you have any suggestions or insights about my situation? I feel like I have invested a decade in this man and I don’t want to start over!
(Readers: this may sound familiar. I warned you as the book is finished I’ll have some re-runs. Sorry!)
This isn’t a relationship, it’s an arrangement.
Either accept what is really going on here (and what is not) or make significant changes in your life that will lead you to the kind of relationship you need and a man willing to “put it ring on it,” as Beyonce would so tactfully put it.
Just the Facts, Ma’am
Thank you for your letter and for being so forthright with me on the phone yesterday. Readers, here are the particulars:
- Amy and Bill don’t live together and have no plans to in the future.
- They do not have children together.
- They do not own anything together.
- Amy has had several affairs since the relationship began.
- She suspects Bill has strayed as well and admits to regular snooping in his house, on his phone, and on his computer. Her Nancy Drew impression has led to the discovery of evidence that Bill is parking his Mercedes in someone else’s garage from time to time, so to speak.
- When I asked Amy why she hasn’t confronted Bill about the other women in his life, she admitted reluctance to do so because: a) he would then know she violated his privacy; b) that could anger him enough to break things off; thus c) the money train would not be pulling into the Amy station any longer.
Amy, what struck me as most odd about your letter or our subsequent conversation was the glaring absence of one word: love.
You don’t love this man, and he doesn’t love you. You both cheat on each other regularly and he clearly does not want to commit to you. Why you both stay in this “relationship” is beyond me, as I can’t figure out how either of you benefit in any meaningful way from your continued association with one another.
Being financially dependent upon a man who doesn’t want to be your long-term partner is a risky proposition. At any moment, he could find himself a new playmate/gold digger and pull the plug on your support.
How much financial distress will you be in if the money is gone tomorrow?
If the answer is “I’d be fucked,” your actions are foolhardy and will betray you. I may not be able to predict exactly when the end is coming, but make no mistake about it: it’s coming. You need to be prepared.
When I asked you why you think you left the word “love” out of our communications about this relationship, you insisted that was a simple oversight, and that you do love him. Maybe you do love Bill, but I think your version of love has more to do with keeping your butt in his butter dish than supporting, caring for, and being a partner to this man.
Time for an Impressive Quote
Noted head shrinker Erich Fromm observed thusly:
Immature love says “I love you because I need you,” but mature love says “I need you because I love you.”
That Fromm was a real smarty pants, I tell you! If he were alive today and treating you, Erich would likely scold you for basing your “love” on financial dependence and maintaining it through chicanery.
As for the ten years you have “invested” in this man and your desire to see your investment pay off in engagement dividends, your perspective on RROI (Relationship Return on Investment) could use some adjustment.
Marriage to this man is the last thing you need or want, because an unhappy dating relationship will not magically convert into a happy marriage. That’s like buying a cubic zirconium and expecting it to transform into a diamond.
Whoops! Sorry to bring up a touchy subject there…
This Experience is an Education
Yes, you’ve got ten years into this thing, but that doesn’t mean if it ends without marriage you’ve wasted your time. Instead, take this for what is it: a remarkable opportunity to learn and grow from the experience. A period of intense navel-gazing is probably in order so you can understand why you have spent a decade in a very dysfunctional relationship.
You told me you are 43 and afraid to do what it takes to support yourself because you think it’s too late to start over. I’m going to disagree with you and point out that based upon my experience, it is never too late to start over and make your way in the world.
Your letter would lead some to think you are a mercenary grifter. If you are not, it is time to stand on your own two feet without Bill’s money.
Would it be better if you hadn’t spent the past ten years dependent upon a man who never intended to marry you? Yes. Is it too late for you to become self-supportive? No.
One More Impressive Quote
There is an old Chinese proverb that comes to mind here:
The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is today.
Stop waiting for this man to bring you flowers and a ring and plant your tree. End your toxic relationship filled with neediness, cheating and snooping.
After you have spent some time developing yourself and becoming an independent woman, look for a man who is seeking the same type of long-term commitment you are.
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