Guilt is trapping her.

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Q: I have been in a committed relationship for 3 years now, with a woman who I love very much. For the past year, my child, my gf and I rented a house with my ex-husband, (the father of my child) because he is terminally ill and we wanted for his/my child to spend the little time he has left close to her. My current gf says she understands and she was the one who suggested we help my ex out. He is not able to do much, creates heavy tension between my gf and I because he eats all the food, is inconsiderate with us by not leaving anything for his child or us, and really spends very little time with my our daughter, because he likes to sleep during the day and is up all night waking everyone up.
In the last 2 years I can count with one hand the times my current gf and I have had sex. When we have had sex, she just lays there. When the sex is over for her, she turns around or goes to sleep. Three years ago we used to have wonderful sex, enjoyed each other and pretty much had a great relationship. She keeps saying she loves me and wants to be with me, when I ask her. I asked her today if she loved me and she said; “yes I love you, but having your ex around is now too much. He is inconsiderate, doesn’t spend the time with the little one and things are too stressful for me.” She also said; she wanted to move on her own, or to move with me only, without my ex. If he moves out, he needs to go to a retirement home, or nursing home, because he is not able to care for himself anymore. My daughter will get to see him very seldom, and he will be pretty much out of her picture. I feel a tremendous guilt because I left him to be with a woman 7 years ago, and then he got severely ill. A lot of what I do for him is because of guilt, because I really don’t even like him too much. I am very confused in what I need to do. Please help me, give me ideas, I have noone to ask. What do you think I should do?

A: The first thing I think you should do is find a counselor who can help you sort out this very, very complicated situation. I can give you a little help here but you’re going to need some ongoing support to untangle yourself from your guilt.
Let me remind you what you just told me: Your ex isn’t appreciative and is taking advantage of you. You are including him in your household so that he will have a relationship with your daughter but he doesn’t spend time with her. Your girlfriend has been supportive of this arrangement but is running out of patience. You stand to lose a loving relationship with your gf because you feel somehow obligated to a man you don’t even like.
My guess is that the atmosphere in your home is full of resentment. This isn’t healthy for any of you – including your ex. The care in a retirement home or nursing home will probably be at least adequate and will be served up without the guilt and resentment. I strongly suggest that you research his options and show him the door. Visit often if you like. You may find yourself able to be more compassionate when your energy and resources aren’t being constantly sapped. Further, the irony is that he may end up a better father when he has limited, structured visits. (Now he is able to fool himself that he can always spend time with her later but later never comes. )
I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 13 Aug 2006

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2006). Guilt is trapping her.. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 30, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2006/08/13/guilt-is-trapping-her/