Advice: Relationships Should Be Better Than This

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

I’ve been involved with a man, “Marc”, for six months now, and I really like him. He’s got a lot of admirable traits that most of us look for in a man. He’s gregarious, he’s honest, and he’s well-mannered and respectful. And, of course, he has baggage.

Marc was married before, but it ended poorly and he’s skittish about relationships. I get it. He’s also got this friendship with another woman that, frankly, I find confusing, and I don’t know if she’s just a friend or a romantic rival. They’ve been friends forever and I don’t mind that. But, he tells me things, particularly that she wants a relationship with him, but he’s not willing to give that to her yet. Honestly…I don’t know if I need Marc to be that honest with me. You know what I mean? He’s also told me that he loves her, and I don’t know if that means love-love, or friend-love. I’m so confused.

The other woman currently lives in another state but is considering relocating. Closer. Like, to our town. Marc says that her moving closer won’t necessarily mean he’ll want to be with her, and whenever he says that my stomach just plummets. Why is this even an option? I’ve been the girlfriend who’s been around, and caring, and am now emotionally involved. She’s just been some figure in the distance. What can I do to make him see that I’m here? Or should I try and protect my heart and walk away?

–Lost in Love

B&P: Oh my dear. No, no, don’t walk. Run away, far and fast.

B: I’m going to take issue right off the bat with this sentence: Marc was married before, but it ended poorly and he’s skittish about relationships. I get it.

No, you don’t. You don’t get it, because you’re not even listening to him. You say he’s honest, and you’re right. You just need to hear what he’s actually saying, and not what you want to hear (or decide to justify, if you don’t like your initial interpretation). He’s basically saying, over and over again, “I don’t want to commit to you.” He says it when he tells you he’s skittish. And he really says it when he says that this other woman moving closer jeopardizes the relationship you’re currently in.

Please note: by “relationship” I mean, you and Marc know each other and have some regular communication, but you also have relationships with your hairdresser, your co-workers, your mail carrier, etc, etc. The word “relationship” does not necessarily mean, you know. Relationship. Moving on.

P: And here’s the thing, when you’ve had a bad marriage and you’re skittish, if you’re a grown up, you do a couple of things: 1) you get some counseling and work through your issues, 2) you’re up front, not that you’re skittish, but that you’re unavailable. Oh, and 3) you probably don’t date someone here, while you’re planning on moving someone in from far away. So that’s him. What about you? As Terri says, and trust me the Bartender has heard ‘way too many of these conversations from intoxicated, broken-hearted people on the other side of the bar, you’re pretending that he’s interested in you. Why go out with someone who is not going to be in a relationship with you? You’re wasting valuable time or you’re using him as an excuse not to move into a grown up relationship while indulging in the drama that must ensue.

B: Now. I am not saying Marc doesn’t enjoy your companionship, and it’s possible that on some level he cares about you. But honestly, you sound like you’re a relationship fluffer as far as Marc is concerned. You’re enough to keep him aroused and entertained (on his terms), but not so much that he will take the relationship all the way.

Despite his vaunted honesty, dear, he is behaving dishonorably. What he’s doing is manipulative. Telling you that your place in his life is not secure, while “honest”, allows him to keep you at arm’s length and at the same time, keeps you walking on eggshells. Have you ever felt a moment’s peace inside this relationship? Have you ever felt secure, like you’re “home” with him? All you’ve told me and Ann about are successive instances of insecurity. NOT feeling loved. NOT feeling appreciated. At the end, you posit that you don’t even know if he knows you’re really there. WHAT. Though from him end, I wonder if he gets a real turn-on from it; he keeps knocking you down and you keep coming back, begging for more. This relationship—again, I use the term loosely—is so one-sided even you admit you’ve disappeared into it. Do you determine your sense of womanly worth by whether or not you’re with someone? I’m not being facetious or mean, it’s a yardstick people often use—men and women—to measure themselves.  You’ve already signed on to this and have agreed that this is your dynamic these last six months. Do you see it changing in a year? Can you live with this for another three years? Five? Do you still want knots in your stomach and eggshells under your feet twenty years and a few kids from now?

P: Wow, I can’t say I think there will ever be kids… It won’t be enough about him. I wish I could say I don’t have any experience with this. But I bet most women have dated some version of him, hopefully for a short time. It was funny, right before Terri received this question I’d been reading an article (help, I can’t find it) that talked about why your ex would want to remain friends with you — big answer: because he’s a narcissist. He wants all the attention. And it’s an easy parallel to draw with Marc. He’s got “marriage issues,” he’s got a girl back home, and he’s got you keeping the home fires burning. And he’s so “honest” and “meaningful” and therefore must care about you, right? I wish he did. But more truthfully, I wish that you didn’t think he did. Whatever he’s saying, let’s pay some attention to what he’s doing. (A lot, and not much of it with you.)

B: I wish I had nicer things to say about where I thought your relationship could go, but I don’t. I think you’re Marc’s Miss Right Now, but I don’t think you’re his Miss Right. Of course, I can’t make you do what you don’t want to do but I can’t see a reason for you to stay. And more to it, I can’t see a reason why you wouldn’t make an appointment with a therapist and discuss your willingness to be strung along for six months, and even fall in love with the stringer. You know this relationship isn’t right, which is why you’re writing to us. But in much the same way that I can’t make you do anything, you also can’t make Marc do anything. You can’t make him love you more, you can’t make him commit (and mean it), you can’t make him stop having contact with Miss Out-Of-Towner. The only thing you can control is your behavior. Take a good, long, hard look at what you’ve got and where you’re going. If you truly, in your soul, like it, then stay. If your stomach drops to the floor and you feel that sense of panic, then I think you have your answer. Good luck.

P: I not only want you to look at what he’s offering, I would like you to look at what you want and why you’re willing to jam yourself into a relationship that gives you no place to be a valuable person. How can you move forward in your life if you’re so willing to be stopped by someone who really doesn’t care for you? Because if he cared about you — not for how you make him feel, but for you — he’d leave the relationship because he wasn’t giving you what you deserved. Nope. He’s using you and you’re enabling it. Are you enjoying the drama? I’ll tell you, drama is not love; it’s just drama. Please give yourself better. Allow yourself to deserve someone wonderful who’s ready to be in your life. Leave so you can have it.

How much louder does he have to say it?

How much louder does he have to say it?

Dark & Stormy

  • 2 oz dark rum
  • 5 oz ginger beer
  • lime wedge

Fill a highball glass with ice. Pour rum over ice, top with ginger beer. Give a stir, and squirt with a lime wedge. Enjoy!

Got a problem? Email us at bartender priestess (at) gmail (dot) com. Human non-spambots, remove spaces, insert proper punctuation. All questions will remain confidential.

Want to know more about The Bartender and The Priestess? Go here!

Thank you for reading. Now go tell all your friends about us. {{{heart hug}}}

 

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Advice: The Message is Clear, He is Stalking You

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

I’ve been dating my boyfriend for a little over a year now. I’m crazy about him, but sometimes I don’t think he feels the same way about me, that he’s sending out mixed signals.

He’s always asking me about my friends, especially if they’re guys. Like, I have to account everything I do to him. He’ll drive past my house or come to the front door unannounced; sometimes, I feel like he’s trying to catch me with someone else.

The last time he cruised my door he saw me still in my car. It was midnight and I had come home late from the gym. I was sitting in my car listening to music and surfing the internet. He stopped his car in front of mine and demanded to see what was in my gym bag; he thought I was on my way out to see someone else. The only way I could get him to ease up was by opening my bag and showing him my sweaty gym clothes.

My boyfriend has a rocky track record with relationships, and he said he was hurt badly when both of his marriages ended in divorce. So he won’t come out and say I’m his girlfriend, because of the way his other relationships ended. I don’t know what to do. I love him so much, but a part of me thinks I should end things. I don’t know how to read him. Can you offer any advice?

–Confused in Connecticut

Dear Confused,

US: Whoa.

We don’t think we’ve ever done a question with a theme song before. But let us just say it’s not “Slow down, you move too fast now.”

Nope, it’s more a screaming version of “You gotta get out of this place.” Now. Stat! You are in danger.

P: There are no mixed signals here, although you seem to be under some confusion about what constitutes good boundaries in relationships. You say, you don’t even know if you’re in relationship, and he’s stalking you (did you hear that, he’s stalking you, driving by your apartment more than once an evening) and demanding you show him your gym bag? No one has the right to look in your bags. Does it seem thrilling that he’s possessive? It shouldn’t. It’s a sickness on his part. Your property is your property. His wanting to see it is his wanting to control you. You are a woman, all that language about belonging to one another is seductive and wrong-headed. You belong to yourself.

B: If you find his possessiveness thrilling, or even acceptable, then it’s a sickness on your part, too. You ought not to be subject to his demands, and allowing him to show up (my guess is, when he’s at your door unannounced, you always let him in), tell you what to do (re: gym bag), and harangue you until you comply tells me your own identity is compromised. So many of us spend so much of our time expecting someone else to make them “complete” (whatever that means), and there’s all these pauncy stories and songs and rom-com movies about finding That Certain Someone who is the other half that creates one glorious whole. I kinda blame Plato for that nonsense (and, indirectly, for those rom-coms), but here’s the thing. What it ultimately does is allow a person to relinquish ownership of his or her own life, thinking he or she can’t fully self-actualize until that other person comes along. Which is completely misguided logic, if you spend a minute thinking about it. And which leaves you open to someone else stepping in and trying to take ownership of your life, by checking up on you at all hours and demanding you present the contents of your gym bag.

P: This is already an abusive relationship. I’m not going to focus on him, because he is not looking for help. He’s already had two “failed relationships,” poor thing… I’m sure he thinks neither of those failures were his fault. I hope your writing to the Bartender and the Priestess means that you are looking for help and a way out. Because the abuse will only be repeated and it will only escalate. You are in danger. Please.

B: Seriously. If you’re writing to us trying to figure out how to save this, I’m happy to say you won’t find that  here. You mentioned his two failed marriages; has he laid on you the trip that “he doesn’t know how he can trust again, those two other women really hurt him”? Because if he did then let me help you refine your response (and start teaching you boundary definition in the process). Your response should have been, “Well, you seem like a really nice guy but you really need to get over that sort of internal anguish. I hope you get the help you need; call me when you’re more healthy.” Your response should NOT have been, “Let me prove to you that not all women are bad!” My guess is, you chose response #2, thereby taking on the burden of his past injuries and making them a factor in your role as his girlfriend, instead of pointing him toward something healthier.

P: Right now, you’re collaborating with him. If you know he drives by, why are you sitting outside? Sadly, in today’s world, it’s dangerous enough to be a woman alone at night in most cities that you don’t want to do it. But with this particular man, you’re courting trouble. Why? What do you want? You don’t need him to prove he loves you, you need to learn to love yourself.

B: He’s not mixing his messages. He’s pretty declarative, in fact. He’s saying, over and over, that you belong to him, even without giving you the official title. He’s saying that what’s yours–including you–is his. In two years, or five years, or six months or three weeks from now, when you’re sick of his BS and you refuse to open your gym bag because you just don’t feel like it, and he hits you in response, will you say that you never saw this coming? Because it’s written all over every aspect of his behavior toward you. A mixed message is, “He says he really likes chicken but he rolls his eyes whenever I make it.” It’s not, “He’s demanding to see inside my gym bag and will fly off the handle if I don’t give it to him.” That’s, actually, pretty obvious. And the lack of title is another tactic often used by abusers; they keep you needy and attached by keeping you off-balance. Again, obvious. And you need to back away. You say you’re crazy about him, but don’t give one single example of why. You only talk about his erratic behavior. Your gut knows what you should do, even if your head doesn’t want to come to terms with it.

P: Should you abandon ship? If there’s a ship at all, it’s a prison ship in dangerous waters. Please get out. You can learn about good boundaries some other time. First ensure your safety. You are worth so much more than this man. I promise you. If you need help leaving, or even considering how to leave, call the National Domestic Abuse Hotline – 1-800-799-7233 or go on line to http://thehotline.org Call them now. Save yourself. You’re the only one who can.

No joke. Get out. NOW.

No joke. Get out. NOW.

Got a problem? Email us at bartender priestess (at) gmail (dot) com. Human non-spambots, remove spaces, insert proper punctuation. All questions will remain confidential. 

Want to know more about The Bartender and The Priestess? Go here!

Thank you for reading. Now go tell all your friends about us. {{{heart hug}}}

 

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