Sunday, January 21, 2007

Dismaying Story #104: Long Distance Inattention




Dear Andrew,

My man and I have not seen each other for two years. Since we are from different countries and the marriage process takes a huge amount of paper work and time, we have not yet been able to be together. We have tolerated many sad times during these two years but we hung on. My man built us a very nice and beautiful house, changed his job and is doing a tremendous amount of work all by himself. If things had gone well, we could have been together in almost two months.

I said this so you know that he loves me and is trying everything he can to get me.

We met two years ago in my country and spent a total time of 15 days together. The sexual attraction was huge but we did have a lot of silly fights during that little time. The fights mostly started because I was too insecure and I could not trust him 100%. Even though I hurt him badly with my words and actions, he still wanted me and has done so many sacrifices for me. I have tried to be an ideal partner for him. I have changed many of my bad traits, such as not giving him the silent treatment. I have been 100% loyal to him and have tried to be what he wants me to be.

The problem is that we have not had any physical contact with each other for two years straight, and that has had a very bad effect on our relationship. Our emails (we stopped talking on the phone a year ago) are only filled with sad words about how depressed and tired we both are. We accuse each other of not caring enough or not loving the other one enough.

He wants me to be an active person who works out and takes care of herself. I have failed many times but I have succeeded many times too.

I stopped working a year an half ago. I was a teacher and I liked my job. It provided enough money for me to feel as independent as I could. (I live with my parents). I gave up working because he did not want me to work in the same place that my ex did. I did not continue my university classes and dropped out. I have no self confidence anymore. Each time I suggest working again, he thinks I am thinking of long term plans for myself to stay in my country, and that makes him insecure. He told me that if I need money, he would send some. I can never accept it. I would rather drown than call for help. I need to be independent, have my own money, have my own job. I wanted to go back to university again, but again, he said no. I should wait until I go to him, then I could study whatever I like.

I am 26 years old and I feel so old. I do not go out of the house, because I do not want to get into trouble. I do not hang out with my friends. I lock myself up in my apartment and only go to my parents' apartment at nights to watch TV with them. I stopped my social life so that I won’t give my man any reason to be suspicious, so that he could relax that I don't cheat on him.

The problem is that we have not had any physical contact with each other for two years straight, and that has had a very bad effect on our relationship. Our emails (we stopped talking on the phone a year ago) are only filled with sad words about how depressed and tired we both are. We accuse each other of not caring enough or not loving the other one enough.

Last week, my man went on a business trip and he could not contact me for three days. I cried every single night, thinking that he had committed suicide or had an accident. I was going insane with worry. I wrote him many emails during those three days telling how worried I was, that life is meaningless without him, telling him about my days and how depressed I was and telling him that I loved him. He contacted me after three days and told me that he had no way of contacting me, because his cell phone did not work in that area and neither did his mobile Internet. I just sent him an email telling him that I was so glad that he is back and that I loved him.

In reply he sent me an email telling me that for once he was content, because his trip had gone so well for him, but when he read my emails, they were like a cold shower for him. He said that I do not appreciate him enough and he wonders if what he is going through is futile. He says, "Why can’t you be stronger? Why can’t you appreciate me more?"

What have I done wrong? He knows I go insane with worry each time he doesn't send me an email. Did I not have the right to worry? And I never said anything mean in my emails, only my concern for his health and well being.

I had a bad breakdown after reading his email. I replied and told him I won’t put up with his abuse anymore. He had no right to call me weak and tell me that I don't appreciate him. I set us some new rules, telling him that he should send me the schedule of his week, he should treat me the same way I treat him. I told him I will start working again, despite the fact he has told me not to, told him that I won’t let my world go around him anymore. He does not give me the care and attention I need. I told him that I won’t let him affect me in my decision making, because he doesn't care for me and my sanity.

It wasn't a nice email.

He read the email and broke up with me. He said, "You went too far. Leave me alone, we are through."

In reply I said, "As you wish," and I have not contacted him, neither has he.

Two days have passed since then.

I love him. He is the only man I want to be with. He has proven himself to be a man for life over and over again. He loved me even when I hurt him, and I want him back. The trouble is, I have always initiated the apologizing and wanting to get back together. I know deep in his heart he wants us to make up too, but he is too proud to send me an email first. I do not want him to see me as needy. I want him to come to me first. That seems impossible.

What went wrong? What should I do to get him back? Do I have to change more? If yes, what should I change? Is there anything seriously wrong with us? Why can’t I be more appreciative and give him the respect he wants me to give him? Why can’t I control my temper?

Signed, Seriously Damaged


Dear Seriously Damaged,

Assume for the moment you could patch it up with him. Here are a few things to consider.

Let me get this straight. He won't "let you" work, take classes, or admit to having a bad day, which means that he cares only for his own needs, not yours. He gets suspicious if you have a normal social life with your friends. He tells you how you should interact with your own parents. He criticizes you, calling you unappreciative, weak, too insecure (even though he is also clearly insecure), and saying you have "many bad traits." He wants you to work out so you will be physically appealing for him. He has all the money in the relationship, but you are apparently not important enough for him to spend some of it to come visit you, or call you on the phone. He can't even bring himself to prop you up by offering a few supportive and loving words once in a while. The end result is that you are depressed, lonely, and completely unfulfilled in your lifestyle.

What exactly are you getting out of this relationship?

As far as I can tell, the only thing you are getting is hope. Your continued involvement with him (limited as it may be) provides you with the promise that you won't have to spend your life alone.

But here's what I can't get past. When you finally get your reward, when you reach that magical day you've been waiting for and the two of you can be together ... you'll be getting together with a guy who by your own account treats you horribly.

You say the attraction was intense when you first met. Well of course it was! It's always that way in the beginning. You two were only together during the infatuated excitement phase of a brand new relationship. Lust runs high, everything is fresh and new, and of course it all looks good. Yet even during that time you say all was not well, that the two of you had "a lot of silly fights" during the only time you were together.

Okay, he built a house. He works hard at his job. He has stayed in contact for two years. Those are good things but there is much, much more to being a supportive partner than that. I'd give him a failing grade in several other departments, such as caring as much about you as he does about himself, and being attentive to your needs.

Even if the two of you had not broken up, I would urge you to think long and hard before committing to a lifetime of that kind of treatment.

And don't think he will act differently once you are together, once the stress is gone, once you are married, once the moon is aligned with Venus. Far too many people have entered marriage thinking their partners will improve in some way. Experience has shown this rarely happens. Generally, what you see before the marriage is what you can expect to get for the rest of your days.

Do you want a husband who will dictate to you when you are "allowed" to have a job or take a course? Do you really want that little say in your life? Maybe so -- some cultures treat these sorts of issues differently than others, and I don't want to make assumptions. Even if that is okay for you, though, I'd think you'd want a partner who cares deeply about your needs and wants. Have you seen that from your boyfriend?

I have to ask myself why you have stayed in the relationship this long. I can only assume you are somewhat desperate to have someone in your life, so you are willing to take whatever promise this relationship holds. That makes me nervous for you. Desperation is a dangerous emotion when it comes to making relationship decisions. Desperate people will often stay in relationships from which more self-confident people would walk away.

Are you afraid you could not find another relationship? Do you have an idealized memory of those magical fifteen days of infatuation? Do you assume that the two of you will return to that state of excited lust when you see each other again? Perhaps these are some tough questions you should ask yourself.

If you think through all that and decide you really want to make up, this is what I suggest. Tell him the truth. Open up and tell him how you are feeling and that you want to be with him. True honest expression of love and desire to be together is the way to break down barriers of anger and silence. Don't try to explain how he hurt you, just acknowledge whatever part you played and tell him you don't want to lose him.

If you end up back together, I suggest you give some serious thought to how you can find your identity in this relationship. You need to have a life of your own, even if it means he has to work through some of his own insecurities.

You've been living in a difficult situation for two years. I wish you the best of luck in trying to create a better one.

With warm regards,
Andrew

12 comments:

  1. He sounds like a puppet master.
    Instead of having his hand up her skirt he has his voice in her head making her believe everything eh says.
    If he could afford to build a house for them then he should be able to either go see her or pay for her to come for a visit. I find that if he really cared for her he would have made the effort to see each other.
    Buy cheaper nails.
    I’ve seen this before and she is probably lucky to be rid of him now before he totally messed her head.
    How can he lock her up like that and she let him?
    He is manipu;latiing her from afar adn that's because she is letting him.
    Your right this is for his own benefit not hers.
    But I got to say, looking at what she says she does have some obsessive issues.
    I don’t know if it’s a bi-product of her “Man’s” head games or if she is really like that.
    I find it strange she still refers to him as her “man” even though they have split.
    Technically he never was.

    Have a nice day

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  2. Hei Andrew.
    I had a relationship like this a long time ago. They are not together yet and yet the relationship is so restricted. Once they are together, it would get worse, I think.

    Changing to fit into another person's life is something I do not believe in. I hope she finds happiness.

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  3. While long-distance relationships do "suck", they can be worked out if BOTH parties are committed. You have to work together and not allow one person run he show.

    For the first five years of my marriage, my husband traveled for a living. He was gone 1,2,3, even 4 months at a time and would get to come home for a 3-day weekend in between trips. I sometimes went with him on jobs in the beginning, but after children it was too hard and expensive eating out all the time. We would talk on the phone every evening when he got back to his motel room up until he went to sleep. We talked about how much we missed each other, and I would send him emails with pictures of the kids playing and being goofy.

    Finally he got a job offer to work in one place where he'd be home every night and weekend to spend with his family. He immediately took the job and we moved to another state. Now THAT is a committed man for you. He wanted nothing but to be able to come home to his family at the end of the work day, and now we finally have that. We just had to endure all that time apart and wait for God to put the right opportunity in front of us.

    I really don't like how this man is treating his wife in the letter. She sounds 100% committed, while he does not. She can't forget who she is--She is her own woman with her own mind, and he shouldn't make her feel so trapped.

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  4. it was so sad to read this post..she has put her life on hold for two years -- and for what?

    your advice - - excellent as always doc...she looks like she is on the right track -- she's taken the steps to be strong in herself...

    i'd also suggest that she consider talk therapy...and get to the real reason she allowed this kind of behavior to go on for so long...

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  5. I was once in a relationship like this woman's. It took me a long time to realize that this type of relationship is abusive. You can't see the bruises, but they are there, under the surface. Emotional abuse and the bruises it leaves are more painful and leave longer-lasting damage.

    Being a person that learns best the hard way, it took me three years to see what everyone who loves me was telling me all along: that I was being abused. Now I am happily married to a wonderful man who treats me like the smart and wonderful person that I am -- and who understands the scarred parts of me that still sometimes flare up.

    I hope for this young woman the strength to walk away and recreate the life that she deserves, with the support of her family and friends.

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  6. I've known one or two cases where a holiday romance lead to marriage. Perhaps it's the feeling of an exotic culture that naturally develops attraction between a couple, so who am I to say that there is or there isn't something there? However, in reading your letter, I got an overwelming sense of lack of maturity on your part. I do not intend to offend, and having spent a year apart from my own husband whilst going through the immigration process, I can relate to the wandering mind and doubt that one can experience during the low points of that time apart. I sense that the things you view as pleasing to him are really you submitting to him. We all make compromises in relationships, but if I work out, it's for me. If I quit working my job, it's for me, and not simply to please a jealous partner. I suspect that even if this man is dedicated to you, that you are not really ready for marriage. Twenty-six is young! I would slow down and enjoy it.

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  7. Anonymous12:27 AM

    Excellent advice given. I agree with your assessment 100%! I hope this woman has found a way to improve her self-esteem.

    http://overwhelmedwithjoy.blogspot.com

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  8. Ooo, doggies! Is this ever a dependent/codependent relationship! First, NO ONE should dictate to you what you do, and that includes exercising to stay in shape or anything else. Red Flag #1.

    Red Flag #2 - so he built you a house. Does that give him the right (or you the assumption) to be your lord and master? Uh uh. No dice, sister.

    And for Red Flag #3 - why would you cry yourself silly knowing where he is? Honey, I tell you this as someone who once felt similar to how you feel now - get your own life. Get a life separate from his. Get your own activities, ones that make you happy. If you like painting, take up painting. If you like going dancing, get your girlfriends together and go dancing. Find out who YOU are without him. You have to enrich your own life before you can stand confidently before any other human being and know what healthy boundaries are.

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  9. oh MAN! Thats all i can say about that (imagine forrest gump)

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  10. HOw does she know that the guy even built a house. Obviously she has never seen it. As to why anyone would stay in a "relationship" of this kind, I guess it would keep one from really getting out there and living a life and finding a real relationship so it miht seem safe.

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  11. I would ask this lady what she REALLY knows about this guy. I am concerned that she might be in love with the idea of him rather than him. To sit and wait for someone for two years seems a bit off. Why can't he save up and come see her? Why can't he send her the money to come see him? My immediate reaction is that he's hiding something. Besides, to let him (or anyone for that matter) dictate your life when you have done nothing but talk on the phone and email for two years is not right at all. It makes me wonder what would happen if that relationship came to fruition? Could he be abusive? Severly controlling? I would say like others have to go and get a life. Work, go to school and the like. For him to be in another country dictating a life is just stinking of underlying issues.

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  12. wow, what a painful two years you have spent. when people say: "why did you do such and such...why didn't you do this...etc." the "why" will always cause you to become defence. It sounds to me like he set you up and you fell right into the trap. I could be wrong, but now that he is content he has moved on, he was quick to tell you that it is over, which leads me to believe that it was probably over for him for a while now, then your unpleasant e-mail to him gave him an excuse to break up. You are better off without him, it sounds like the "relationship" has been way too much work for the small amount of satisfaction (if any) that you have been getting out of it. You are still plenty young enough to find someone new, someone closeer and worthy of you.

    wishing you good luck,
    cheers,
    pj

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