He Won't Marry Her -- After 16 Years!

Q: My boyfriend/partner of 16 years won't ask me to marry him, claiming it's because of my various faults, from possessiveness to jealousy. And yet the very fact he won't marry me makes me nervous around women I see as a threat, and then I'm extra possessive. I've come to see he's a flirt, uses porn and often has excuses to see female friends behind my back. I can't expand my life because I am too worried about losing love after 16 years together. He called me an old woman too, which really hurt. I have threatened to leave but he knows it's nearly impossible for me to do that. I love him really with all my heart. I gave him an ultimatum to pop the question but he just laughed and said NEVER will I marry you.

I am so tortured now. I wasted an investment of 16 years thinking I would have a fabulous life together but the truth is I can't sleep at night because dreams of his affairs surface, images of porn hags appear, and his hatred for me seems real. I gave up my career to be with him and now he says I don't earn enough and if I did x, y, z it would make it easier to marry. Should I give up? I look after him hand and foot, all needs met and run the household very well. I don't mind doing it nor his laundry and ironing. I thought relationships were forever but maybe they are not. -- Anne, 49

Dr. Susan: Your story is a sad one, Anne. Simple answer: Give up and get out now. More complicated answer: Get some counseling to figure out why your self-esteem is so low that you've let yourself be emotionally abused by this character for so long. Your threats and ultimatums to him are always empty, and you're obsessed with keeping a relationship going that is going only one way (to meet HIS needs). His various insults and "complaints" about your flaws are irrelevant. He's just trying to keep you dangling (and laundering and ironing and so on) as long as he can get away with it. He has no compelling motivation to change, no reason to be faithful or to limit his porn or to consider your needs.

If marriage and the joy of a loving and mutual relationship are what you've been investing in, wake up to the fact that the market has crashed and it's time to get out. You're still young enough to learn how to respect yourself, so you can eventually hook up with someone who respects you, too.

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