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February 19, 2018 - Welcome Guest!

Advice » Relationships

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She won't go away

Question:

My boyfriend and I just moved in together and I'm slightly concerned for our future. He had broken up with his "friend and five time lover" of 15 years after what he called an abusive relationship -- the push me-pull me type where he would go running every time she needed a shoulder to cry on, then eventually she would pick a fight to make him go away.

After their last argument, he said he was finally done with her. That she'll never change and always be controlling and manipulative. That was nine months ago and she just found out we're living together. I bet you can guess where I'm going with this ... She's back! And she's really, really sorry for treating him so badly over the years, again.

Everybody who knows and cares about him, including his family, agrees this is a toxic relationship. I clearly see the pattern of abuse they share yet none of us can convince him to let her go for good. If I say anything about it, he accuses me of being insecure and that I should be more forgiving of this woman who has only said nasty things about me and our once peaceful relationship.

My question is -- do I quietly sit by and watch her manipulate the man I love? Let him go rescue her and wait for him to be hurt again? Am I being insecure? Will he ever get over her completely? Thanks in advance for your advice. Frustrated!

Kris, 35-year-old woman

Answer:

Dear Kris,

It's not a nice thing, being caught in the bind you have described. All three of you in this unfortunate triangle are suffering. Probably your boyfriend is the worst off: whatever he does, he will feel guilty of hurting someone. And clearly, he must be a caring person; otherwise the manipulations wouldn't work on him.

I think you know the solution to the problem already. My guess is that what you are looking for is validation, not advice.

Every choice is going to be painful, so you, and your boyfriend, need to do what is most likely to minize pain overall. However, his past record is that he has given in to pleadings, and tried to avoid hurting this unfortunate other woman. Only, the picture has changed: now you are in it.

Kris, part of the blame for this kind of problem is the romantic myth that is so prevalent in our society. 'Love' is looked on as some almost supernatural force, people look for 'soul partners' so they can be 'happy ever after'.

If this myth is true, why does every second marriage end in divorce, never mind what happens to unmarried couples? People expect things to be perfect. When they are not, they are disappointed. Clearly, this can't be the perfect partner, so they go looking elsewhere.

But of course there is no thing as a perfect partner. All human relationships involve good and bad, friction and misunderstanding. Even the hottest love affair will pale in time, and if it isn't replaced by friendship and a good partnership, there will be nothing left.

How does this relate to your problem? This woman believes that only this man can be for her. But when she lives with him, reality gets in the way. She breaks up with him, but... you also love this guy, and quite rightly want to fight for being with him.

But suppose you broke up with him. It's not true that you'd be lonely for the rest of your life. There is any number of other men who would be compatible with you and make a good partner for you.

So, you can afford a gamble: try 'tough love'. Tell him that he can choose. If he wants to keep you, he has to tell her to go.

I feel sorry for the other lady. She clearly has troubles, and I wish she would seek therapy for them. Of course, you are not in any position to suggest this to her. My guess is that if your guy can be made to honestly believe that he will lose you unless he stays away from the other woman, then he will stick by you.

Good luck, Bob

This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 30+ years of experience as a psychotherapist. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith". Bob is now retired from psychological practice, but still works with people as a counselor.

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