Am I staying for the right reasons?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker


I’ve been with my guy for almost 2 years. We met when he was 23 and I was 15 and I became infatuated with him. I had a crush on him for 24 years before we finally got together when I was 39. He’s been married twice before, I’ve never been married. We moved in together about a year into our relationship. We took over and renovated an apartment which I moved into about 3 months into our lease. I was unemployed at the time, and was living off of unemployment and the kindness of my parents. Money became tight for both of us, and after 7 months he became unable to pay his half of the rent. For the next 4 months we only paid my half of the rent. Still having no job, I decided I needed to leave and move back in with my folks, with whom I’d been living before I moved in with him. I said I’d still pay half the rent and half the utilities. He seemed OK with this arrangement.

A few months later I got a job, but I decided to still move back in with my parents so I could pay off the debt I incurred while I was unemployed. He also has debt that he’s struggling to pay off. He owns his own business which has taken a hard hit from the bad economy. These months he doesn’t know where his half of the rent is coming from. My job actually pays well, and if I stayed at my folks I could be out of debt in 12 – 18 months.

Here’s the problem. We had a fight the other day, during which he told me he’s been unhappy for the past year — basically since we moved in together. He says he feels like I never want to take chances and like I’m always afraid to do anything. He says he feels like he’s spent the past year watching me sleep (I’m a night person who suffers from depression), and he’s not sure if we have enough in common fundamentally to make it work. He said he’s hanging on by a thread and sometimes feels like he should just kill himself.

Needless to say I became very upset. I told him we could work out our problems, and decided that since now I have a job, I can move back in. I’ll still be able to get out of debt in less than 2 years, and I’ll be able to help him out.

But I’m wondering if I’m moving back in out of love, fear, or obligation. I was very hurt by his comments, which weren’t entirely untrue, and I can’t believe he was unhappy for a year and never said anything. That makes me both sad and mad. His comment about hurting himself I think comes more out of frustration than actually wanting to hurt himself, but it still scared me. I guess this novel I’ve just written is my way of saying that I’m not sure what to do. Do I stay with him and help him out, or do I cut him loose and move on?

A: I can only begin to imagine how disappointing this might be. After 24 years of carrying a torch for this fellow, you’re finding that the reality may not match the fantasy. You’ve certainly given it a reasonable try.

While you’ve been trying to figure out how to be responsible about your financial situation, he’s been only making it worse for you. Yes, I understand that the economy has been a problem. But he could be working a second job, cutting expenses, or looking for a less expensive place instead of depending on you and asking his landlord to accept only partial payment. If that weren’t enough, he blames you and uses the emotional blackmail of a suicide threat to deflect your concerns.

I wonder what his former wives would say about this man. It might be instructive to learn whether there is a pattern to his behavior.

I can’t tell you what to do, of course. I do suggest that you take a big step back, stop supporting him financially, and date for awhile before making a bigger commitment. That will give you a chance to see if he is capable of standing on his own two feet as an equal adult.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 23 Jul 2009

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2009). Am I staying for the right reasons?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 31, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/07/23/am-i-staying-for-the-right-reasons/