Troubled Relationship (Ya Think?)


Dear Robin:

I have been engaged to Peter for 4 years but have resisted marrying him for several reasons.  His family has treated me like crap from the beginning.  They hate that I am Catholic (they are Christian Orthodox) and have never told anyone that Peter was divorced. We were invited to his cousin’s wedding in Nov 2010 after we were engaged, and people looked at me like I had two heads because they didn’t know who I was.

We live like we are married and have told his family that we did get married in hopes it would make them accept me and treat me with respect.  That didn’t happen.  The family still refers to the ex-wife as Aunt Karen, but they won’t call me Aunt Theresa.

Peter wants to go home to celebrate his birthday with his twin sister.  I gave him a few conditions that need to be straightened out if I were to consider attending:

1. His mother must stop referring to his ex wife (who they hated) as her daughter in law.
2. I will not see his two older siblings who have actually cursed me out.
3. His twin sister will refer to me in front of her children as Uncle Peter and Aunt Theresa, not Uncle Peter and Theresa.

I’ve been put in too many bad situations over the last five years and I want assurances I won’t face that again. At the father’s funeral, they had posters and slide shows of photos including from Peter’s wedding.  Of course there was not a single photo of me.

Besides the issues with his family, whenever Peter gets angry he curses, insults me and preys on my deepest insecurities. The next day he acts like nothing happened. The F word gets thrown around you f-ing whiny little bitch, you dipshit, you pathetic loser, etc. and he has never apologized.

He has asked me to just be quiet when he’s angry and we saw a counselor who agreed and said I should let him rant in his “man cave.”  Last night I just did that, but he kept going on and on and on – I sat there watching tv ignoring his little tantrum, until he finally said he doesn’t have sex with me because he’s not into me (Peter has low testosterone, by the way).

Robin, I lost it.  I told him he was a bald, fat, ugly limp-dick piece of shit. I told him he destroyed me and that what he said was code for telling me to have an affair.

My son has gone through lots of trauma during my divorce with his father when he was 11 and has one more year at home. He has spent more time with Peter than he has with his own father and Peter treats him like a son.  He is finally doing well and I can’t uproot his life when he’s entering his senior year.

I love this man and he is usually good to me but I’m not sure I should marry him.  We have talked about getting married in the next few months.  What do you think?


Dear Theresa:


You just couldn’t throw me a softball on a Monday, could you?  Your question troubled me so much that I had to bifurcate the question and the answer into two blogs.  In the meantime, I solicited and received a significant amount of feedback from readers offering their opinions on what you should do.  This column is damn near writing itself today, so thanks for that!


As I see it, you have 4 problems:

1. His family hates you, in part because of the baby Jesus;

2. Your sex life is bad because of low testosterone (or so you think);

3. Your son’s relationship with Peter and how your son may be impacted by #4

4. Peter has an extreme temper and is verbally abusive.

Let’s get right to it and address each issue along with it’s DKN.  “DKN” stands for “Deal Killer Number.”  The DKN is rated on a scale of 1-10, 1 being “eh, no big deal,” and 10 being “run, run away now, don’t even take time to grab your favorite Yurman bracelets and the Labradoodle!”

1. His family hates you and your religion.

Ah, the joy of religious differences, without which we wouldn’t have people blowing each other up and fighting over crappy spots in the desert that don’t even have wi-fi.

images-17 images-20

Happily for you, these people live far away and you don’t have to deal with them all the time.  Unhappily for you, most of them (with the obvious exception of Dad) are in good health and thus will be in your life for as long as Peter is.

Since you and Peter are not observant in your respective religions and you aren’t going to have children (’cause yer eggs are old plus he’s got that little impotence issue) I don’t see how his parents could be that concerned over your religious differences, especially since you told me they aren’t really religious at all, they just pretend to be.

So the real problem is that they don’t care for you.  Being in a relationship with someone whose family doesn’t like you is very, very difficult and as you already know, the subject of the strife between you and the wolves who raised your fiancé is so stressful that he flies into a rage when it comes up.

I won’t address all the particulars of your points regarding how you want the family to treat you when you visit because demanding respect never yields it.  I feel the same way about demanding an apology – whatever you get is worthless and not genuine so why bother?  Does it really matter whether they call you “Aunt Theresa” if you know they are praying for you to have a severe Cuisinart accident when you make the hummus for the birthday party?

I am deducting points given the geographical distance between you and his family and the optimistic hope that anger and hatred are stressors on the heart and body which will lead to early death.

DKN: 5.5

2. Bummer sex life and low testosterone.

Here’s what you know already about Low T:



This is a medical issue I am unqualified to comment upon, although given the list of symptoms above I can see how this must be very hard on you both.

Well, perhaps I chose the wrong adjective there, but you get my point.  The good news is he is being treated and the prognosis is, um, upbeat.  Regardless, I would caution you against making too many assumptions about the effect his condition is having on your intimacy level.  There seems to be a lot of other trouble brewing in your relationship.

DKN: 3

3. Let’s talk about the kid.

Creating a successful blended family is truly an art, and when your kids love your partner you know you have done well.  In my case (lest anyone forget, it’s all about me!) I know my son would be devastated if Mr. Patience and Understanding suddenly became less so and hit the road in search of a woman who didn’t require such patience and understanding.


My son would be devastated, that is, unless my husband was berating me on a regular basis.  Like me, you have one child: a son.  You share a very strong bond and you are the most important person in his life.  I can’t believe he would want you to marry a man who verbally abuses you.

In addition, if your son witnesses these outbursts he is learning that how things are in your home is normal and acceptable.  Theresa, it isn’t.  If you don’t make a change, your son will almost certainly someday rage as Peter does or react as you do: silently accepting the verbal lashing and waiting for the storm to pass.

I don’t think you want either outcome for your son, and staying in a troubled relationship for an extra year because you want to provide him “stability” before he goes to college is engaging in a year-long lie to your son and doing him no favors.

DKN: 9


4. Peter’s Temper.

I saved the best for last.  You read the comments from the blog yesterday and I really don’t need to add much else.  I’m not sure which is worse: the verbal harangues that occur every two weeks and last for a day or more or the fact that he is changing you into someone who is starting to mirror his behavior.

You and I messaged on this issue for damn near four days.  You told me over and over again how wonderful he is to you, your child and your mom and with the exception of this problem you think he is a good man.  You know what?  I can see how you would feel that way (although this sounds like classic abuse victim rationalization).

I’m not going to tell you he is a bad person because I don’t know him.  I think he was raised by a horrible family and this is what he knows.  The commenters yesterday advised you in unison to run – to abandon this relationship and never look back. Since I don’t care for plagiarism, I’ll go in a different direction and end with a witty analogy. Or is it metaphor?  Whatever.


The therapist who told you to let Peter rant in his “man cave” and to keep quiet while he does so is a fraud giving you very bad advice.  My advice, despite my lack of counseling certifications, is much better: find yourself a therapist who knows what the hell they are doing and who can help Peter break this terrible habit.

I can’t tell you to end this relationship because given your propensity to make excuses for his behavior I don’t think you will.  You aren’t ready to end things and maybe that’s because you think with the right counseling Peter may be able to change.  And he might!

But don’t marry him, Theresa.  Please.  Find someone who can help him with his problem and then assuming he is able to change, make sure you live with him at least a year with no verbal abuse.  Since 67% of second marriages fail in the U.S., you already have the cards stacked against you.  His behavior adds to those cards and almost guarantees you will end up in another divorce.  Don’t marry this man if he can’t stop treating you this way.

Sounds simple, right?

Nope.  Here’s why: you may love blackberries more than I do.


I was running last Sunday morning and noticed there were some really tasty looking blackberries ripening up on the side of the road.  I stopped to take a closer look (and also because I was gasping for air) and saw that most of the good berries were either deep in the thickets or way up top.

Either way, if I wanted to come back for these tasty little buggers I’d have to do a hell of a lot of work and I’d get plenty scratched up in the meantime.  I’m not allergic to blackberries but I am allergic to blackberry branches, so each scratch is sure to swell up and be very painful and itchy.  Not fatal, mind you, just uncomfortable.

Despite my love of blackberries, the sweet taste was not worth the pain of gathering them.  Also, we have grocery stores in my city…duh.

On the other hand, my father showed up at my house with scratches all over his arms and legs on Sunday.  Guess how he got them?


I may be very fond of blackberries, but my dad is a super fan.

Everyone has their own level of what they will put up with in a relationship in order to enjoy the good stuff.  I’ve had relationships and friendships in which the scratch of the bramble was worth the satisfaction of the berry.  I’ve also decided that some berries aren’t sweet enough to suffer injury for.

Despite everyone telling you to run and find something new, in the end if Peter can’t change you need to ask yourself if the love and support you get from this man is worth the damage to your self-esteem that you suffer each time he goes off the rails.

So, Therese, is it?  What DKN will you assess for this problem?  It’s your call.




This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. echinachea

    Did you force your pa to make his own birthday pie? (speaking of blackberries, that is:)

  2. ssirish

    Agree 100% about finding a new therapist. Theresa should consider individual therapy. Couple’s counseling is not a good idea when one partner is abusive b/c counseling brings up sensitive issues.

  3. Robin Youse

    What the Hell is “Christian Orthodox?” Never heard of it. Sounds like a made up religion and excuse.

    This woman should run away as fast as she can. There is absolutely no hope of anything but prolonged misery to be had in this situation.

    1. YouCanLeadAHorticulture

      Most likely she’s referring to Greek or Eastern/Oriental Orthodox, like Russian or Bulgarian Orthodox. The number of Orthodox Christians is approximately 225-300 million.

      1. Robin Youse

        Yes, I know what Russian Orthodox is, and Greek. But that is not what she said. So I say, “What?”

  4. LeBirch

    My unsolicited final diagnosis-low self esteem. Theresa, please realize that even though you have some faults there are no reasons to be this unhappy and treated so poorly. Every person on this planet deserves better. I have had to have this discussion with a sister of mine. She continually dated the cheating, womanizing, Nickleback listening, abusive and lying kind of douche bags.After years of telling her she could do better she finally raised her standards. Her life is SO much better. So please, either stop dating this abusive terrible example for your son or NEVER complain about this again knowing damn well you choose to live such a god awful existence. You chose this. Blame yourself for staying.

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