Who’s the jerk here?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I’m 37 years old, I live with my boyfriend and I just had his baby 4 months ago. During my first trimester, he made a serious error in judgment, he cheated on me. I always suspected as much but only recently did he actually admit it. I asked him if he loved me and his response was no.

So I told him to get lost, and that we could raise the baby seperately. He told me that he wants to raise the baby together as a family and that I should stick around since he might change his feelings about me. This of course prompted me to go to the courthouse and pick up paternity/custody papers. I have not filed them yet, in hopes that this may work out. He shows remorse and has been very affectionate to me. I find this confusing since he has made it very clear to me that his attitude towards our relationship on an emotional level is rather unsavory.

I am striving towards marriage while he is still playing the old I don’t know what I want song and dance. I translate that behaviour as a sign that this is not going to work out, and I most certainly do not trust him. He is a good father to our son, but he makes a lousy boyfriend. Is he scared or is he a jerk? Am I a jerk for giving him a second chance even though he says he’s not in love with me? I realize that it is in everyone’s best interest for us to make this work, or is it?

A: It doesn’t help anybody to identify the “jerk.” It’s only in everyone’s best interest to make the relationship work if it will really work. It doesn’t look promising. You and your boyfriend aren’t kids anymore. You know that you can’t make a family with someone you don’t trust and who says he doesn’t love you. He knows it too.

My only guess is that your boyfriend doesn’t want to lose contact with his son. His only solution is to keep you on a string. Surely you two can do better than that. He can be involved as a father even if the two of you can’t make a good couple.

Your boyfriend seems to be leaving it to you to be the one to say “enough.” You’re doing all the work of the relationship so it looks like you’ll also have to be the one to do the work of separating. Start doing what you need to do to make a home and a life for yourself and your son. Then have some serious talks with your boyfriend about what it would look like for you to go your separate ways but to keep him connected in a very real way with his little boy. If he is responsible enough for you to feel confident that your son is safe with him, it would certainly be a good thing for the boy to have a father. But if you know you can’t entrust him with your son’s safety, his good intentions aren’t enough.

I’m sure that this situation is disappointing and painful for you but you can’t change it by being passive. Your first obligation now is to make a good home for your son. If your boyfriend doesn’t step up to the plate, I hope you will someday find a man who is man enough.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 2 Mar 2009

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2009). Who’s the jerk here?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/03/02/whos-the-jerk-here/