Dear Dr. Eris,
I’ve been in a relationship for over a decade. He proposed to me after 6 months of dating, but it has never felt completely right to me, which is why I’ve had a “long engagement”. There’s security in our relationship together, however, he can be very mean. My son, who has known my boyfriend as a father for his entire life, is turning 11 years old. I can see his general disdain is having a negative impact on my son’s self-confidence.
I feel that leaving the relationship would be best for myself and my son in the long run, but know that there will be heartache and tears shed. I’m uncertain in my own strength and ability to leave our relationship. Do you have any suggestions that can help me gain greater insight into my own wellbeing and strength? Is it worth the initial heartache or should I continue in an unhealthy but secure relationship?
HELP!! I feel lost and don’t know what to do…. I’m emotionally Confused and Tired.
Dr. Eris Suggests,
You say that the relationship is unhealthy but secure. The two do not go hand in hand. An unhealthy relationship cannot possibly be secure, unless you are talking financial security, which is not enough to sustain a healthy relationship.
The question I have for you is: if you knew that this relationship was not right from the beginning, why did you stay for ten years? Was it because you were a single mom and it was giving you financial security? Or, were you in an emotional slump, where you had no belief in yourself?
Being in a relationship for ten years, regardless if you are married or not, is a long time. Your son knows your boyfriend as a father, which makes this relationship and situation even more complex. Please be sensitive to this.
You say that your boyfriend can be very mean and that he is having a negative impact on your son’s self-confidence. If the relationship is this toxic, you must know that this man is your son’s example and teacher on how to treat others – today and in his future.
You are your son’s protector. How much longer do you want for this to go on?
If you haven’t already, you need to communicate your fears and concerns to your boyfriend. Tell him that you are uncomfortable in how he treats both you and your son and that you are no longer willing to continue a relationship in this manner. Tell him that you want to start being a good role model for your son and that you would like a man to be one as well. (However, you cannot say this until you mean it. I always suggest for people to not make threats if they do not intend to carry them out).
If your boyfriend says that he is willing to make some changes, then I suggest that the two of you go and see a couples therapist to see if this relationship is worth salvaging or not. You must also take responsibility for being in this relationship for the past ten years. You have a part in this dynamic – even if it is that you have low self-esteem and are unable to stick up for yourself. Do not claim to be a victim because you were wise enough to know that something was off from the beginning and did not marry him. Be honest with what your part is.
You ask if it is worth the initial heartache if the relationship doesn’t work out. The answer to this question is, YES. If the relationship continues to make you feel badly about yourself and hurts your child, it will be best in the long run.
I also suggest that you get a therapist of your own to help you in understanding who you are as a woman, your self worth, and who you want to become.
If the two of you do decide to break-up, you will need some tools on how to work with your son during the transition so that he does not become more hurt and confused – or worse, shut off. Therapy can help you do this.
I am sending you a free E-Book copy of my Book Break-Up Emergency, which is filled with exercises for you to reflect on yourself. It will help you through this difficult time – even if you decide to stay together.
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