Is my relationship going down under?
We started dating about almost two years ago, we met online. I have been to see him twice, once for a month, another time for nearly two months. I love him very much, and am at the point in my life where I’m ready to commit, which is why I said yes to his proposal when I was there three months ago.
I knew he had a lot of work to do on himself to be ready for marriage, but I thought things were headed in the right direction. He has major problems with anxiety and OCD and I have battled anxiety and depression. However, I have been in therapy for over five years. He saw a therapist for about three months, and never did anything they asked.
Here’s the two main problems that are coming up: he is constantly annoying me. We talk on the phone every day and email several times a day. He is so overwhelmingly negative that all I feel like I’m doing is cheering him up. It makes me feel like I can’t talk about the problems I’m having or even talk about meaningful, important stuff (like planning to get married and getting an Australian visa). Whenever I do talk about that kind of stuff, he goes off topic. When I get frustrated, and tell him he is sending up warning signals, he gets mad with me and then promises not to do it again.
He also works part time for a business his parents own, and is always getting into trouble there. He skips work to play video games or because he needs another “mental health” day – his boss had to write him up multiple times for it, and other inappropriate behaviors like yelling at someone in the parking lot for parking the wrong way. Or getting tickets for driving unsafely.
So, I’m worried. When we were together, things were great – I mean we had some fights, but none of this was showing up. And he promised he’d change, be more responsible. Instead, I feel like he’s gone way downhill since I said yes. He keeps blaming it on circumstances, then promises it won’t happen again. I feel like it’s the ONLY thing we talk about, and I am so so tired of it. And I am so highly annoyed with him that I feel like I’m angry all the time.
When I confront him over these problems and tell him they’re not okay, he just says over and over again that it won’t happen again and “it’s not a big deal.”
But he doesn’t realize he’s killing the romance, and now I don’t feel sure about moving all the way from Massachusetts to Australia, that it might be too soon for him. It makes me crazy that I’m always angry with him. How do I stop, and remember the man I love, guide him through his problems, but not be codependent?
A: I imagine this was a difficult question to put forward, but I very much appreciate you doing so. My reaction and advice have more to do with the raw dynamics of the condition, rather than an emotional response, as you are having. That being said, the relationship doesn’t sound like it has much value, appeal, or future. I believe this is the case for several reasons.
First, you have not been together long enough to have enough experience with each other on which to base a lifetime decision to marry. Three months, even if it were all at once, would be only the thinnest slice of time to base such a huge decision on. The fact that you are not available to each other, and you are separated by half the globe, doesn’t make for a good beginning. Particularly when you are not happy with his phone calls. His negativity is a known turnoff, and you are feeling like you are at risk for endlessly taking care of him. All of these are issues you would want to sort through before you are married, not after.
He has not been able to sustain his independence, and his negativity has you in line to become his cheerleader. Not a role you want to assume.
Don’t push the river. Keep it simple. You have visited him twice, and, let me guess, “circumstances” have prevented him from coming here to visit you. Already you have invested more in the relationship than he has. Why the rush to get married? Research demonstrates that marital satisfaction decreases over time, so you need to start on the highest ground possible. If you have these many doubts and concerns and frustrating feelings I would honor them and give yourself more time to assess whether or not the two of you belong together. It sounds to me like he has a good deal of growing up to do to be ready for a mutual commitment and reciprocal relationship.
Normally I would recommend couples counseling, but in this case I am going to recommend virtual couples counseling. Perhaps you can find a therapist willing to consult with the two of you via Skype or on a conference call. This would be difficult, but in the age of travel and technology it may be an option. Perhaps one of our online counselors could help.
Wishing you patience and peace,
Tomasulo, D. (2010). Is my relationship going down under?. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 26, 2016, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/09/08/is-my-relationship-going-down-under/