Stuck in a bad relationship? Maybe loneliness is to blame.
Posted April 5, 2010
A 64-year-old woman named Sherrill—not her real name—emailed me. She wanted my opinion about a relationship she had recently terminated with a man age 66.
“Sometimes you’re willing to put up with more than you should because you hate being alone,” was the most significant sentence of Sherrill’s email to me. She explained that loneliness is likely the reason she endured a two-and-a-half-year, on-again/off-again relationship.
After reading the rest of Sherrill’s email, I think loneliness was only part of the reason she stayed with the guy for two and a half years. Low self-esteem was the other. I mean no disrespect toward Sherrill. I admire her courage for sharing her story. But, this is how I see her situation and I’m not going to sugarcoat it.
Sherrill said, “We met on the Internet and the chemistry was there, but it was not a 50/50 (or even a 60/40) relationship. Perhaps it was from his divorce 12 years prior that he had forgotten how to give, or how to take care of another. I thought I could live with it, but found that my needs weren’t being met; I started to feel resentful and exhausted for always taking care of and seeing that he was happy.”
My first comment
Why would anyone spend two and a half years in a relationship where he or she is receiving less than 40 percent of the benefit? Sounds like she expected him to take care of her. As we age, we shouldn’t count on someone else taking care of us or making our lives better, we must do that ourselves. Loneliness often clouds clear thinking.
Sherrill said, “When we broke up last year, he asked if we could see a counselor; I reluctantly agreed. We’ve been to counseling every week for nearly nine months, but he still can’t see that his behavior is often selfish and rude, and I feel unloved.”
My second comment
Sherrill reluctantly agreed to counseling. Here again, she did something he wanted, not what she wanted. It boggles my mind why couples would spend nine months (or more) in counseling if nothing is being accomplished. Think of all the money being wasted.
I was involved in a stormy relationship once. We agreed to go to counseling. As we walked from the parking lot to the counselor’s office my partner said, “Don’t tell the counselor the truth.” It was evident that nothing was going to be accomplished. Apparently, she didn’t want to be embarrassed. We never went again—think of the money we saved by only going once. Of course, we broke up not too long after those famous words.
Sherrill continued: “We never lived together, but spent weekends together. A few weeks ago we went away for a long weekend and it was a disaster. It was all about him, even though he said he was trying to make the weekend special for me. I realized he still has no clue as to who I am or what I need.”
My third comment
Sherrill, thank heavens you had the good sense not to live with him. You say, “He has no clue as to who I am or what I need.” You are as guilty here as he. Why did you think he would change after two and a half years?
Sherrill ended with: “It’s sad but I can’t live the rest of my life being a mother or caretaker to this man. I want and need more. I am seeing the counselor alone now. I need to figure out why I give so much of myself to my own detriment.”
My final comment
Sherrill, it’s not sad that you can’t go on forever being a mother or caretaker to him. It’s wonderful. And stop going to counseling. The counselor must love you for all of the money you’ve spent. Instead, smarten up and stop being a wimp and take responsibility for your own happiness.
I’m happy to say that Sherrill has ended the relationship and has stopped being an enabler—trying to make someone else happy. But does she have the fortitude to go forward and not cave in to him again? For her sake, let’s hope so.
Tom Blake is an expert on dating after 50, 60, 70 and 80. He is a syndicated newspaper columnist in Southern California and the author of four books and several electronic books (ebooks). He has made multiple appearances on The Today Show and Good Morning America. To receive Tom&rsquos free Finding Love After 50 E-newsletter, visit FindingLoveAfter50.com.