Dear Melissa, I’ve been dating a divorced man for almost 5 years. He has a son. We are now having problems with almost everything we talk about.
I’ve been dating a divorced man for almost 5 years. He has a son. We are now having problems with almost everything we talk about.
My boyfriend isn’t happy with me because he thinks that I’m not committed to the relationship and that I don’t love his son. He also thinks I’m overly involved in religion.
He expects me to take care of his son while he focuses on his job, but very often I feel stressed because I can’t cope with him alone.
We’ve also had disagreements in the way we manage his son and now he takes over to handle it himself. Since then, he has been unhappy with me.
I do not know how to continue with this relationship. I’ve asked if he wants me to leave, but he stays quiet. I feel clueless and very lost.
Dear Lost Soul,
Thanks so much for reaching out. I’m so sorry you’re having this experience. I know it’s hard when you feel like you’re arguing all the time and feel stressed in your relationship.
How Do You Continue in This Relationship?
This really comes down to your needs and relationship requirements. In other words, the best thing that will help you is to:
First, get clear on what kind of relationship you really want. Really envision it and feel it in your soul.
What do you need and require in a relationship in order for it to work for you?
What do you need in a relationship in order to feel loved?
What is your vision for the kind of partnership that you really want?
Then, communicate your vision to your partner. Have a heart to heart about each of your visions for the kind of relationship that you want.
He has a vision for the kind of relationship that he wants. For example, he feels like you’re “not being loving enough to his son.” But he’s saying that because his vision for ow he wants his partner to be with his son isn’t being realized.
When you know what his vision is for the kind of family that he wants and what he expects, then you have the awareness and power to decide if that is a vision that you’re able and want to fulfill.
But you both have to discuss those needs and expectations, as well as your needs and desires around the kind of family you’d like to have. Your needs matter, too.
If he wants you to take care of his son but you don’t want to and it stresses you out, you do not have to take care of his son while he focuses on his job.
But in order to resolve this conflict in your relationship, you do have to talk about what expectations you both have, and whether you both can meet each other’s expectations.
And if you can’t meet some of his expectations, you can talk about what other solutions you as a couple come up with to help make it work to meet each of your needs.
You’re clashing on parenting because you have different needs and perspectives around parenting.
Getting clear on your needs, and what needs are not getting met helps you identify and communicate what you need to fix and improve in the relationship.
If he’s unhappy, it means his needs aren’t being met and his vision for the kind of relationship that he wants isn’t being realized.
If you’re unhappy, it’s because a need or requirement isn’t being met for you in the relationship.
So talk to each other about what isn’t working and what you both need.
And once you know what you’re solving for, you can come up with solutions for how to meet each other’s needs.
If he is concerned that you’re “not committed enough” and that you “don’t love his son,” you’ll need to discuss with him why he feels that way. What does “being committed enough” look like in a partnership to him? What does he wish were happening? What does he expect in terms of commitment and in how your treat his son? And also ask yourself: how do YOU feel about all that? Are you able to support that vision?
Being able to support each other’s vision for the kind of life and relationship that you both want, and having both your needs and relationship requirements met is key to long-term relationship happiness, it’s key to growing together instead of growing apart.
Also, if you want to connect more deeply with your partner, don’t engage in arguments with him. This doesn’t mean that you can’t disagree with your partner. It’s inevitable that there will be disagreements; you and him are different people with different points of view.
But arguments are totally unnecessary. Arguments usually stem from emotional reactivity and defensiveness. We “argue” to defend our point of view, and usually we make the other person “wrong” in the process.
Arguing may get your point across, but arguing doesn’t work to solve your relationship problem.
So, instead of arguing, do this instead: talk about how you feel about the issue, and state what you want and what you don’t want. Not what you want him to do, but what you want in a partnership, what you want in your life.
“I don’t want to argue.”
“I don’t want to babysit.”
“I am feeling stressed.”
“I am feeling lost.”
If you notice these statements, they’re very simple and they don’t say anything about your partner.
In my relationship coaching work with women, I help women script the exact words to say so they feel good about and confident communicating their needs in their relationship…all in a way that doesn’t escalate the argument, and avoids any defensiveness or blame.
When you make the issue about you instead of about him (because at the end of the day, it is about you — because any issues we experience in a relationship are directly related to our own needs or relationship requirements), you avoid triggering his defenses, and you make it much more likely that you’ll be heard and understood.
Also, if it feels like you’re arguing all the time, it can also mean that the both of you are focusing on what’s not working in the relationship to the exclusion of what is working.
It’s important to bring up issues and discuss them as a couple so that you can resolve them. But it’s equally important to mention things that you appreciate about each other.
I love how John Gottman, psychologist and clinician who did extensive work over four decades on divorce prediction and marital stability, puts it in this article on the science of lasting relationships:
“Gottman can predict with up to 94 percent certainty whether couples—straight or gay, rich or poor, childless or not—will be broken up, together and unhappy, or together and happy several years later. Much of it comes down to the spirit couples bring to the relationship. Do they bring kindness and generosity; or contempt, criticism, and hostility?
“There’s a habit of mind that the masters have,” Gottman explained in an interview, “which is this: they are scanning social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building this culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully. Disasters are scanning the social environment for partners’ mistakes.”
“It’s not just scanning environment,” chimed in Julie Gottman. “It’s scanning the partner for what the partner is doing right or scanning him for what he’s doing wrong and criticizing versus respecting him and expressing appreciation.”
Contempt, they have found, is the number one factor that tears couples apart…Kindness, on the other hand, glues couples together….Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated—feel loved.”
The bottom line is: Have a heart-to-heart with him about his needs and relationship requirements and vision for the kind of relationship he wants with you. And in this heart-to-heart, it’s important that you share what your needs and relationship requirements are, too.
Ultimately, it’s up to you how and if you want to fulfill that need. You’re always at choice in your relationship.
How to Bring Him Closer and Turn Your Relationship Around
Craving reassurance from him? Or obsessing over your relationship?
Two things may be happening.
You may have an anxious attachment style.
And/or you may be in an anxious-avoidant relationship.
Are any of these issues below coming up for you right now?
- Getting mixed messages or confusing signals about his feelings and/or his commitment toward you (and you’re left feeling rejected)
- Unsure where you stand in the relationship, and it leaves you feeling insecure
- Craving reassurance from him about the relationship, at the same time worrying about whether you’re being “too needy,” clingy, or sensitive
- Your relationship feels like an emotional roller coaster…. he’s super romantic and connected at times, but it feels short-lived
- You feel like this dynamic seems to happen over and over again in your relationships with men
If any of these issues are coming up for you, you may be in what’s called a “pursuer-distancer dance” or an “anxious-avoidant relationship.”
It’s basically the situation where you’re trying to get closer to him (make progress in your relationship), but (on some level), he seems to be resisting that closeness/commitment, or the relationship feels stalled.
And so, it leaves you feeling insecure and unsure where you stand with him.
Or…if you’re with a guy who’s really there for you, but you still find yourself obsessing and worrying, you may have an anxious attachment style and your insecurities are unconsciously pushing him away.
I’m hearing from some clients and readers that they need more support in this area.
So I’m hosting a free webinar in a few days where I’ll show you how to identify and finally free yourself from anxious attachment or heal an “anxious-avoidant relationship” so you can have the fulfilling committed relationship you really want.
JOIN MY FREE WEBINAR
The 3 Keys to Healing Anxious Attachment
How to Finally End the Worry, Confusion, and Insecurity and Have a Healthy, Loving, Committed Relationship That Lasts
Thursday, October 21, 3PM PT / 6PM ET
- The two reasons why he pulls away, acts distant, or sends mixed messages, and how to get clarity and find out his true intentions
- Four steps to knowing when to give him a chance or call it quits—so you can avoid wasting your precious time in a potentially dead-end relationship
- Why smart, strong women like you, who’ve been doing the “inner work” for a while, can still get trapped in the pursuer-distancer cycle and how to stop the emotional rollercoaster for good
- The 3 biggest misconceptions about love and attachment keeping you stuck in this painful cycle, and what to focus on instead
- The simplest way to bring your avoidant man closer and turn your relationship around and how to attract a man who is ready for commitment and eager to meet your needs
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How to Decide if He’s Right for You
Whatever the issues are in your relationship, if you find yourself agonizing over questions like…
Is this relationship worth it??
Should I give him a chance or walk away??
I totally get you. I felt the same way when I was dating, which is why I created a free guide to help you get clarity.
In my free guide you’ll discover:
- 30 questions to ask yourself to help you decide if you should give him a chance or if you’re wasting your time
- 22 red flags you should be aware of if you want to avoid heartbreak and painful surprises
- How to assess your compatibility with your partner to know if your relationship has long-term potential
Want to avoid wasting your precious time? I hear you! Download my free guide Should You Stay or Go? Relationship Choice Assessment ↴