My 50 year old boyfriend has been living apart from his wife for 5 years, with visits approx. once a month (maybe more) with no sexual contact. We met 6 months ago, and have a great relationship in every way.He agreed to get a divorce since he had been wanting to anyway. He told her about our relationship last month and stated he wanted a divorce. She panicked and has been trying to get him to change his mind. He is standing firm because he doesn’t want to lose me. He went down last week (she lives in CA, we live in OR) to see her.He said she is learning to cope with the impending divorce. He slept in the same bed with her (I asked him not to), but no sex occured. He said he has no desire to have sex with her, and has not for the last 5 years (she’s overweight). I don’t feel it’s right for him to share a bed with her under any circumstances.He said is was platonic (I really do believe him). He said he may have to visit her again in the future and she’s asked him to wait till after the first of the year to file the divorce.Am I being unreasonable? Should I let him get his divorce next year, or force the issue now? I don’t want to appear overbearing and inflexible. Help!
For the time being you need to stop focusing on devising behavioral strategies to ‘fix’ the problem and work at understanding the feelings surrounding this issue. If you focus on understanding the feelings that are causing his stuckness and work those through, you will have a better chance of achieving a resolution to the issue. If you try to force behavioral change down his throat, you won’t be making any progress on resolving the issues that are causing him to drag his feet.Even if you can force him to divorce her sooner, his issues will still remain unresolved, and he will stay tied to her even after he’s with you. Plus, there is a great risk that he will resent you for pressuring him into divorcing before he’s ready.Let’s get one thing clear. By putting all the responsibility for the delay on his ex. , he is not owning the fact that he is also reluctant to divorce. He needs to own that he is the author of his fate, and that the delay serves him on some level. He needs to access the part of himself that is conflicted about ending the marriage and work those feelings through. In order to achieve this end, we need to help him to understand what feelings are causing him to delay the divorce.Does he feel guilty to leave her? It sounds like she has convinced him to wait so that she has time to adjust to the impending divorce. By asking for time, it sounds like she is playing him. He needs to ask himself why he is allowing this? Is he being ruled by guilt? Does a part of him hope to get back together with her if she loses weight? When a person can’t let go of his spouse, it’s often because he sees his spouse as a parent. When such a transference arises, it is common for the person to experience all the same feelings for the spouse that he felt for his parent.For example, I have a patient whose mother made him take care of her when he was a young boy. He did what was expected but resented his mother. In his adult relationships, the man invariably caretakes his partners and resents them at the same time. I don’t know your guy’s history, but we can only guess as to how his mother manipulated and guilt tripped him into doing what she wanted. Perhaps his mother was needly and helpless and made him feel that it was his lot in life to care for her.Your guy sure seems to think that it is his job to keep his ex. psychologically afloat. Clearly, his ex. has learned how he is wired and she is pushing the same buttons that his mother did, for sure. Or maybe his mother didn’t love him unconditionally. Perhaps she manipulated him with the promise that she would, one day, love him if he was an obedient enough boy. This type of parenting is the opposite of the unconditional love that a child needs. When love is held over a child’s head, and offered conditionally, the child grows into an adult who is constantly trying to please in order to be loved.Is he hoping that his ex. will love him for taking care of her feelings? You may be wondering why a grown man would relate to his ex. as though she were his parent. For one thing, we humans are creatures of habit, which means that we gravitate to people who remind us of our first love objects (our parents). We also recreate childhood relationships in order to heal the wounds of the past. Since your boyfriend’s ex. is his transference object (his symbolic mother or father), his unconscious mind doesn’t want to give up the hope that he may, one day, heal the wounds he suffered from his mother and/or father.This is why your guy is finding it hard to let go of his ex. . Giving her up means, to his unconscious mind, that he won’t have a chance to heal his childhood wounds. . In order to free himself of the attachment, your guy needs to become conscious that his ex. represents a mother or father figure; he needs to figure out what childhood wound he is trying to heal through her; and he needs to make an honest assessment of whether he can, in fact, heal that wound if he sticks with her. When he becomes conscious of his mother transference and works it through, he will be able to move forward with the divorce without your prodding.The divorce needs to come from him, not from you. It would be good for him to begin therapy. It is unlikely that he is going to be able to identify and resolve the issues on his own. Meanwhile, you need to set a date for yourself in terms of how long you are going to wait for him to resolve this issue. You don’t want this man to come to you with a gun to his head.You want him to move forward on his own. Otherwise, he will be going from one mommy to another. And, the last thing you need in life is a case of terminally chapped nipples!