‘Starting Over’ Asked:
After several years I realized I had surrendered myself to a man who was not committed to me. We never married, we have a child together whom I love dearly, but I finally came to understand that I was carrying the entire weight of keeping the family together.
I have been the consistent income earner, paid the bills at the home he owned, and created a family atmosphere. I have finally expressed my disappointment only to be dismissed. I started separating myself and our child from him physically and financially. But it is so hard to separate emotionally. I have given so much for so long that I feel shortchanged, especially since I am the one that has to step up for a change since he is fine as it is.
Help me help myself in this new year.
Dr. Zoe Answered:
There comes a time in a woman’s life when her eyes are opened. Once they are opened, you can not un-see what you have seen. You have persevered and single-handedly created a semblance of the family that you so desired. Sometimes you can go about your life, giving in a relationship, not realizing it’s not working because the reciprocity isn’t there. You’ve been doing it all and he’s doing very little.
You can no longer carry the relationship on your own. Yes, he is fine as it is because he gets all of the benefit with very little effort.
You may find that when you demand better, he will step up. Your main contribution to the demise of this relationship is that you have not required him to play his part. This new year should be about understanding why you do not demand the respect you deserve in your relationship. Understanding your part in the equation can be painful, but that’s where the growth happens. I’ve been there, done that, so this comes from personal and professional experience.
Part of demanding better is making a clear boundary that you will leave the relationship if he isn’t willing to be a complete and true partner—including marriage.
You have been shortchanged, but I caution you against developing resentment or bitterness. We learn through the trials in our lives. Our job is to recognize the lesson and apply our knowledge to the rest of our lives. Beating yourself or others up for not being what they ought to have been in the moment is a waste of the present and a waste of your future. Thank him for the lesson, and find out if he’s willing to be a real partner. If he is not, move on—physically.
The emotional separation process is always difficult when you have loved with an expectation of the future. Give yourself some grace. It will take some time. Keep putting one foot in front of the other, doing what you know you need to do for yourself and your child. Feelings often take longer to catch up to what we know logically. But they will catch up.
It helps to minimize contact, reduce reminiscing, dive into a passion, and increase friend and family contact. You’ve got this. It just takes a little grit and grace!
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You’ll love this podcast episode from This Grit and Grace Life: When to Leave an Unhealthy Relationship with Your Man – with Dr. Zoe Shaw – 024