DEAR CAROLYN: I’m a mess. I’ve been with my partner for over four years and I’ve been emotionally abusive in the way that I keep breaking up with her and then getting back together just to break up again. I think I’ve done it at least 10 times, starting around 8 months in.
Usually she talks me into staying with her, but on at least two occasions I’ve changed my mind and asked to be taken back. It’s terrible for her self-esteem. Also, I am resentful toward her. Small things really irk me, like her obsession with childish things, and her at-times-poor English.
She is a beautiful, loving, caring, supportive person and we share many interests. But I have to stop myself occasionally from treating her like a child. I am in my early 30s and she is mid/late 20s. I become cold at times and embarrassed by her in public, which I feel awful about.
She loves me so much – why can’t I just love her back unconditionally, and with the respect a person deserves?
DEAR MESS: When you feel – and therefore are, for all practical purposes – unable to stop yourself from hurting someone, then you need to get good therapeutic care. I don’t consider this open to debate. Look up reputable therapists, pick some, call. Today.
To help the process along, I would like to challenge a couple of assumptions you’ve made:
“She loves me so much.” She has a strong attachment to you for sure, but what you describe is dependency. Hers on you, yours on her. Mistaking that for love is one of the reasons you’re on your fourth year of misery together and staring hopelessly at more.
“Why can’t I just love her back?” The “why” doesn’t matter after the “what” of your not loving her. It’s the end of any inquiry, not the beginning.
Implied throughout is that her enjoying, loving and wanting you are reasons for you to stay. No. Those would be reasons for her to stay. Her reasons govern her, and your reasons govern you, and any overlap is a boundary issue.
Good issues for therapy all, by no coincidence – especially the last.
DEAR CAROLYN: My husband had two kids by his first wife, one with me. Our child, early 30s, is engaged to be married. She has had no contact with his older child; none of us has. His second child also only contacts Dad when drama occurs, maybe one or two times a year, causing uproar.
Our daughter doesn’t want to invite either half sibling to the wedding. Dad is pushing for her to invite the second one. I side with my daughter because nothing good ever comes from this contact.
What say you? She hasn’t had any contact with this sibling in probably two to three years. For what it’s worth, this sibling is 15 years older.
DEAR STUCK MOM: Your daughter is an adult who can invite, or not invite, anyone she wants to her wedding. Not just a new adult, either, but a seasoned one – not that it changes my point.
Her decisions may come with consequences, but those are for her (and her intended) to anticipate, accept and absorb.
Therefore, you are not “stuck.”
You are in an excellent position, though, to remind your daughter and husband both that she is an adult who can invite, or not invite, anyone she wants to her wedding, and take responsibility for any consequences.
Any further discussion of this sibling’s inclusion is for your daughter and husband to have between them.
If you have his attention, though, then I also recommend recommending to him that he drop it.