I have recently reconciled with a man who I have been previously involved with for many years. We always end up breaking up because he seems to be a workaholic.We are in our mid 50s and have both been married before. This time he is offering me a more serious commitment and marriage within a year. I am approaching his offer with hope, affection, and caution.My family (he has met them all before) have invited us and his dog to join them at Christmas (2 days). He says he can’t come because Christmas is too hard for him (he had a difficult childhood). I am thinking oh no, red flag, red flag! He isn’t going to be ‘able’ to ‘be there for me’.I know he wants a relationship but I am concerned that he may not be able to give enough of his time and attention to one. It seems to be clear as a bell, but in my mid fifties I need to also bear in mind that I have left every relationship I have ever been in. That is why I question my own judgment so much.Are we fatally flawed or can two mature adults work on accepting each others flaws enough to build a future together?
What an intelligent question! I heard you say that you have left every relationship you’ve been in and I sense that you are wondering if your expectations are unrealistically high. The bottom line here is that you need to be clear on your own bottom line; that is, you need to decide what you will and won’t tolerate, and what you can let slide.Clearly this man is damaged goods (as we all are) and his damage takes the form of avoiding too much intimacy by overworking and shying away from social contacts that he knows will trigger painful feelings. That’s his piece of the equation.You get into trouble when you take his problem personally. Instead of saying to yourself, ‘there he goes again, using his habitual defense mechanism–avoidance to escape a painful feeling,’ you become self-referential and say, ‘he won’t be there for me.’ Once you insert yourself, it’s easy to go to the next step and feel hurt, left-out, etc. , etc.In reality, he isn’t doing anything to you. He is simply just doing what he needs to do to cope. If you can get to the point in your own self-growth where you don’t look to your partner to fill your own voids, you will find it much easier to accept his own limitations.When you no longer need to view your partner as your ‘filling station,’ you will be amazed at how little you need from him and how much easier it will be to accept his and other peoples’ flaws.