My partner won't get divorced.

I feel like he's grown comfortable with "our arrangement." I, on the other hand, feel lost. I've lost my inner spark and have lost my way, it seems. I feel invisible. 

Here’s The Thing is an advice column/newsletter where I mostly yell at people to either stop dating someone or ask their crush out or to go through their grief. Or I talk about weird things that came to my mind that no one is paying me to write about. I can never decide if I should capitalize the “the” in Here’s The Thing or not; apologies on lack of consistency. 


AN ANGEL:

I am hoping you can knock some sense into me. For the past 3 years I have been in a committed relationship with a married man. He is 57 and I'm 47. He is separated and has been living outside of his home for over 1 1/2 years now. 

He has not begun filing for divorce yet, which really bothers me. His excuse is that he doesn't want to deal with it now due to his wife's violent and irrational behavior. His wife has threatened to kill herself in the past over jealous rage. She also threatens to contest everything if there's a divorce, and claims she is unemployable so he will be forced to support her financially forever. He feels he will be left completely broke once alimony, if any, is awarded.

My boyfriend also has an 18 year old daughter, whom he adores and is very overprotective of. He still pays both of their rent and bills. His wife is still under his insurance and they still file taxes together. He claims that as long as his daughter lives under her mom's roof, he'll take care of her.

I feel that there's an enormous amount of guilt for separating and leaving his daughter during her last year of high school. His wife, of course, uses this against him. The daughter seems to be used as a crutch (on both ends)

For 3 years I have been hidden. We only see each other Fri-Sun. We stay at my home and don't go out. We haven’t gone out...at all...for the last 3 years. I dont even know what it feels like to get dressed up to go to dinner with him. We just sit in front of the TV, eat snacks, have a few drinks and of course, have sex. His closest friends know about me, as well as, his immediate family, but again, we have never been in any social setting in public. 

His wife found out about me due to evidence she discovered. Of course, she didn't take it well. His excuse for not being able to fully tell her the truth and come clean about me was out of fear of losing his daughter and the violent reactions that may result. 

Listen, I know he loves me. He's been quite generous and thoughtful when it comes down to anything I need. He's always worried about whether I have enough money to cover my bills condidering that I'm a single mom without child support. 

Every month, he usually gives me some money, not much, usually between $250-$400 approximately. He's always there for me, though.  I also have 2 teenage sons (14 and 19) whom he has been wonderful to. He's actually been a better father figure to them than their own father.

Still...I feel empty...like something is awfully wrong here. 

I feel like I'm standing on the sidelines waiting for my turn. I hate that feeling. It makes me feel like I'm not being valued enough. He tells me that this is the way it has to be for now...but it's already been 3 years! 

When will I become his priority?

In my mind, if a man wants to be with a woman, he will do ANYTHING to be with her and will do anything and everything not to lose her. Am I right? Or is that some kind of cliche?

I feel like he's grown comfortable with "our arrangement." I, on the other hand, feel lost. I've lost my inner spark and have lost my way, it seems. I feel invisible. 

I refuse to go into 2021 still feeling like this. I feel like a mistress (even though he claims I'm not). He actually gets super angry when I tell him this. I am deserving of full commitment, even though he claims he's 100% committed to me. So, why is he stalling his divorce???? He has no assets, no child support to pay, no significant amount of money, either. 

I had a serious and heated conversation with him and told him that if he does not file for divorce, stop hiding me like some dirty little secret, fully commit to me...and set a plan in place for our future...then it's over. 

We haven't spoken for 3 days now. It hurts me because I love him but I think it's time that I love myself, too. So, did I do the right thing? I'm confused. Not sure if I'm being selfish.

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SOPHIA:

First and foremost bringing this issue up is ABSOLUTELY the right thing to do. I don’t know how you brought it up and I can’t say if the way you handled it was perfect or not, but you were right to bring it up. There is NOTHING selfish about asking for the bare minimum in your relationship. Of course you feel empty, of course you feel like something’s missing. Something IS missing: him caring about you.

I know you say that he loves you and your children and I’m sure that he does on many levels. But he seems to genuinely have a hard time with treating people like they deserve to be treated—you, his ex, his daughter. He seems to be incredibly bad at boundary setting (both over- and under-doing it), and you’re bearing the brunt of it. Side note: I wonder if part of what is appealing to him about treating you like a mistress (which is exactly what he’s doing) is that it keeps you from ever becoming a wife or a family member, which is probably something he doesn’t associate with being attractive or passionate because of his last relationship.

How can you going along with his version of your joint relationship for THREE FUCKING YEARS and then asking for what you need possibly be selfish? I mean, if things were fair or equal (not that they always need to be or are) he’d spend the next three years doing things exactly how YOU want them done. Dinners out every night! Seeing each other more than just weekends! Hell, maybe even your own place together or a wedding or something! I don’t know! He’s the selfish one. The fact that you have any questions about that concerns me. This man is selfishness personified.

To be a tiny bit fair to the person not writing this letter, something which I am forced to do on occasion, I will say that divorce is hard and messy, especially with children involved (something you may well know). There is a version of the world in which a reasonable, loving person says “I would like to wait to divorce my ex until my child is 18 for a whole host of legal and financial reasons. If you’re ok with waiting until then, I really sincerely appreciate that sacrifice, but if you’re not, I understand. If you are, let’s make a timeline together that works for both of us.” HE DID NONE OF THAT. He doesn’t have a plan, he doesn’t have a timeline, HIS WIFE NOW KNOWS ABOUT YOU AND HIS DAUGHTER IS NOW 18 AND HE STILL WON’T TAKE YOU OUT TO DINNER. WHAT THE ABSOLUTE FUCK ON EARTH IS THIS MAN DOING?????

DOES HE NOT THINK YOU COULD FIND SOMEONE WHO WOULD LOVE YOU BETTER???? Because trust me, you can. I swear to you that you can get better love than this. I also swear to you that you deserve better love than this. You are right to not just ask for it, but to demand it. I know it’s a little cliched, and I don’t want to take the focus off of you or put pressure on you to preform your life for your children BUT I think that if you were to think about the kind of love your children deserve in their future, the kind of love you hope for them to have, it would look NOTHING like your relationship with this guy.

Now this is not to say that you have to end things right now with this man. He might be able to step up to the plate and provide the kind of love you deserve. His initial reaction to you asking for it doesn’t seem promising, but it’s possible. I will say that it’s somewhat damning that he had to be asked, BEGGED even to love you well. That’s not a great sign.

But there is a possible—not guaranteed—path forward for you two. It would look like you both WILLINGLY and WITH EXCITEMENT AND ENTHUSIASM FOR THE FUTURE TOGETHER sitting down to discuss what you both need out of the relationship and how to get to that point together. It would look like you deciding on a timeline for his divorce filing together that he adheres to. It would look like you guys talking about finances together—how much is he going to give to his daughter, how much is he going to set aside for you and your guys’ future goals, etc. It would look like public dates and bringing you around his family and friends as his partner.

If he is not willing to do those things, or god forbid, to sit down to talk about the state of your relationship, then there is no real path forward. There just isn’t. You didn’t take it off the table, he did. You may, of course, still choose to stay with him but please know that the relationship will not change. What is going on right now works best for him and he either doesn’t know or he doesn’t care how much it doesn’t work for you.

Someone will love you like you deserve to be loved. I don’t know if it will be him; it’s time to lay out what you need and to find out if it is.

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