Q: Me and my son's father has been together for four and a half years and we are in love. But sometimes I feel used by him. One minute he shows affection towards me, though only in private, then the next minute we are arguing. He leaves me at home alone for the rest of the day after I get home from school or work. Sometimes I have to beg him to stay at home and spend time with me. I have to beg him to help me clean or just to let me run errands in my own car. I am so confused. I feel that he loves me but he still doesn't understand how a real relationship is supposed to work, even after four years. Should I stay or let him go? -- Tina, 22
Dr. Susan: Having to beg your mate for attention and help and a little freedom is certainly not what you expected when you joined up with this man. Even though you never signed the marriage agreement, the fact that you have a kid together means you've made a commitment. Both of you should take that seriously and try to meet one another's needs so this relationship lasts. The short answer to your question: No, don't "let him go." But also, don't simply stay and allow the status quo to continue. If ever a man could benefit from counseling, it's your guy. If he doesn't spend time with you, he's killing any love you feel for him. It should be possible to work out a schedule whereby he does some household chores, though perhaps not exactly when you want them done. That's a universal issue among couples, so be patient. I don't understand why he won't "allow" you a little freedom (freedom to run errands when you want to!). Arguing, of course, takes two people. If you can learn ways to express your needs that don't push his buttons, that will take you a long way toward waking this man up. Tell him you would like him to be a 21 st century man as a good model for his son, too. Right now he sounds like a selfish old-fashioned tyrant. You don't have to tell him I said so, though, not in those words.
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Advice for Her
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.