I can't dump him—so should I dump him?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Question

I've been dating my guy for almost three years now and we have a problem. Over the years he's pulled away and come back again, often breaking up with me so that he could go off and re-find himself. Actually, that makes it seem frivolous. He has very dark childhood memories that have made him almost incapable of experiencing love or intimacy without needing to shut off.

Over the years he's used drugs and alcohol to avoid his feelings but recently he's gone to extremes. When I offer to help he says he has to do it on his own. When I ask him if he's doing it, he says he's working on it. I know he's been seeing a spiritual advisor but it's been two months since he said he'd see a therapist. This would still be fine, but he's also still smoking up way too much.

He hasn't been in my bed for six months even though I know he hasn't been with anyone else. He says he loves me, and I know it's true, and when he's around he is everything I love: funny, good in bed, sensitive, caring.

To complicate things more, I've started seeing another guy and my real love doesn't even seem to care. I've dropped hints that I'm moving on but he isn't even trying to keep us together. He just calls every once in a while, depressed and crying and apologizing for not being good enough for me. Should I leave him? I could heal his pain myself, but at some point I also have to take care of me. Does "letting him go" so that he might one day come back to me sound realistic at all? How far should I go to help the man that I want to have babies with? get back to being the same man I fell in love with? Please don't tell me to dump him and be finished with it, that's not even an option.

WANT MY MAN TO HEAL

Answer

Just to be clear, you did ask me in the same breath if you should dump him. Feeling a little insecure? Out of sorts? Conflicted? That's because it is fucking wretched to be in a relationship that offers little to no stability. So the big question is: what makes you so unworthy of some healthy love?

I suggest taking a long, gentle look at your own life instead of focusing all your energy (I apologize for being so blunt) on a depressed, sexless drug addict whose most significant emotional contribution to your relationship currently seems to be the guilt he feels about treating you so poorly. Maybe you're too scared to do this because of what you may find out about yourself—it's often easier to fret over someone else's flaws than to sort through your own—but you'll get nowhere with him if you don't feel right yourself.

You ask if letting him go to see if he comes back seems realistic but that implies there's anything realistic about the existing situation. It also implies that offering your unreturned encouragement has done anything to help him or change his mood. To say nothing of the biggest red flag of all: the lover. The minute we begin inviting partners to a relationship in order to protect ourselves from it rather than enhance it, we really need to ask ourselves why we're remaining in it in the first place. Though I often josh about teaching a workshop called Hey Swampy: Competitive Non-Monogamy for the Alcoholic Urbanite, it's just damaging, plain and simple.

Listen, babe, if you can't leave this man then nothing I say is going to make you, but it takes a lot of energy to be with someone who is so deeply hurt. If you're going to stay, please do yourself a favour and find a good therapist so that at least somebody's giving you some support.

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