I am a 50 year old woman who is divorced and tired of living alone. I have been in a relationship with a 48 year old man for two years, however, the last year has been hell.He lost his job due to company downsizing. He has not been able to find another one that pays as much as the other one did, so he is working full time, making $6 less an hour and then working two nights during the week and Saturday nights as a handyman for friends of his who bought an old house that they are renovating.He still isn’t making enough money to pay the bills but refuses to sell his home and look for a smaller one. He also has several cars that he refuses to sell because he says he worked hard to get these things and he doesn’t want to lose them because he says at his age he will never get them back.We usually get together every Sunday but he often is so tired that we don’t do anything but sit around and he sometimes falls asleep. I have told him that he is killing himself to keep things that he doesn’t even have time to enjoy but he doesn’t see it that way.We live an hour away from each other so that makes it hard to see each other on weeknights. He is a very loving man and I know that he is a one-woman man also. I know he loves me but I’m not sure if he loves me as much as I love him. I have never felt this much in love ever before.Last Sunday we did not get together because he was very sick. We were supposed to get together today but these people whose house he’s working on called and said that their pipes were frozen to the one bathroom and a pipe was leaking from another bathroom into the downstairs.Don’t these people think he has a life?! He went to help them and I am left alone and missing him. He is there for me if I REALLY NEED him. He helped me cope when my dad passed away. I tried to tell him that it would be easier on both of us if we’d either get married or just move in together but he doesn’t believe in just living with someone and he doesn’t want to even think about getting married until he can support himself adequately.My head tells me to move on and find someone who I can BE with and think about marrying because I want to get married again. I like being married. But my heart says to wait for him. I am so confused. I love him so much.What can I do?
You presented the problem so well that I feel like I’ve known you both for years. Your question to me is whether your should follow your heart and wait for him or find someone else who you can be with.Before answering this specific question, I want to share some of my thoughts about what is going on with him. My first thought is that your boyfriend is terrible stuck, like a rat in an exitless maze. He is running, but going nowhere, caught in a state of terror and desperation, but not making progress.Let’s expand upon the rat analogy. When a rat in a maze hits a dead end, what does he do? He backs up and goes another way. When he hits another wall, he backs up again and finds another route.Humans can learn something from rats. When we get into binds, instead of thinking creatively, we keep hitting our heads against the wall, repeating over and over again the same behaviors that aren’t working. This is your boyfriend’s case. He is running in circles, working himself to death to keep his toys and his big house but he is too exhausted to enjoy what he’s working so hard to keep; above all he can’t enjoy his life with you.The first thing I would ask him is why he places material possessions ahead of his relationships. The choices he is making to keep his stuff is leaving him too exhausted to have a life with you. He needs to find out the answer to this question.He also needs to see that he clings to an unhealthy belief and it is this very belief that fuels the impasse in which he finds himself now. I am referring to his statement that if he gives up his toys he will never replace them, because he’s too old. This belief fuels his desperate attempts to hold on to his possessions at any cost. He needs to understand where this belief is coming from and then work to modify it.He needs to see that people rebuild their lives at all ages. I heard yesterday that Judith Kranz became a bestselling author in her fifties. The man who invented Kentucky Fried Chicken was in his sixtes or seventies when he created the company and became a millionaire. The list goes on and on.A tree grows every day of its life until it dies. Why can’t he see that he can and must keep growing? His lost job was a dead tree limb that was cut off. He has other limbs. Why can’t he grow leaves from the living limbs? When he does he will acquire new toys. The makes and models of the cars he has can be bought again.If he begins to look differently at himself and his place in the world, everything becomes possible. He can go back to school; he can change careers. The bottom line is he needs to stop thinking the way he thinks and see the possibilities.His lost job can be an exciting life transition and opportunity for personal growth. He needs to see that how he is handling the challenge isn’t working, then back up and find another exit to this maze. After you point out all that I said, the ball is in his court.Time isn’t going to fix this problem for him. He could stagnate for the rest of his life and starve the life out of you in the process. You need to set a deadline for yourself. If you see him moving forward and taking steps to get out of the maze, then I am sure that you will feel comfortable hanging in with him during his transition.What you can’t do is let him take you down with him as he dies a slow death. If he remains married to this path, then he will need to be seen as a dead limb in your life that you will need to sever so that you can continue to grow.Let me know what happens. I hope that he isn’t too stuck to hear my words and grow from them.