Jerking Her Around

Q: I'm 30 and have been living with someone for four years. We've planned six different wedding dates and he did not come through with any of them. Then to top things off, he's still married and has not done anything to get a divorce from his wife. He has promised me many times that he would get one, and I keep telling him I'm going to leave if he doesn't. He knows that this situation is hurting me but he obviously doesn't care. Should I just leave and say the heck with it and go on with my life without saying anything else to him? The longer this goes on, the less respect I have for him. -- Dana

Dr. Susan: I'm a little more worried right now about the respect you should be feeling for yourself, Dana. You've allowed yourself to be manipulated and lied to for a long time now. Your boyfriend hasn't been taking your threats to leave seriously, and no wonder -- they've apparently been empty bluffs. He keeps saying he'll get that divorce and marry you, and you keep saying you'll leave if he doesn't, but nothing has changed in four long years. It's a kind of dance or game the two of you play together. If you don't change something in this maddening system, then I pretty much guarantee you that nothing will change.

Try this: while your boyfriend's home, slowly walk around the house with a notebook, making a list of all the things that are yours. Begin to put a few things in a suitcase. But be ready to follow through if he doesn't get scared. If he asks what you want from him -- as if he doesn't know! -- tell him to call a lawyer or legal aid or his wife or whomever and make an appointment to start the legal process of that divorce. Tell him you'll go with him and then be sure he actually does something. If he puts it off again, decide if you want to stay living together with this married man for the next part of your life, with no legal protection and no assurance of anything, or if you'd rather be free to get on with your life in some other way. If you can't tolerate the way things are, then find yourself another place to live. His needs are being met, so he has no reason to change. Take care of yourself.

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