I'm mid-20s, in a one-year "relationship," head over heels in love. I can see myself with this woman for the rest of my life.
I've had some meaningful relationships before her, but I believe she's "the one," my soul mate.
The issue: Her boyfriend of over four years.
She's repeatedly told me she loves me, we "act" like we're in a relationship together, we talk and hang out more than she does with him.
Also, they carry very serious baggage – i.e. her having to give up her family if she chooses to be with him long-term.
She doesn't want that to happen.
Yet she won't break it off, although she's fallen in love with someone else (me) who will not force her to decide between a relationship and her family.
This situation doesn't seem to be changing.
Is it time to back away?
The Other Boyfriend
Yes, back off. You already know where this situation is leading.
He has a hold on her of some kind – perhaps they shared some bond that she’s kept secret from you, or she’s attracted to the “forbidden” nature of their connection.
Meanwhile, her frequently expressed “love” for you is very self-serving. She gets to have a “boyfriend” she can display to her family, while also keeping up a long relationship with someone else.
This isn’t the game you signed on to play. You’re sincere and open. She’s a mystery, since you have no idea what will happen if you just hang on.
Walk away. You’re young and have many opportunities ahead to find a girlfriend who values you alone.
When my brother-in-law first visited our house, his wishes had to be respected, as he was a guest. But when we went to his house, his wishes still were first, as the boss.
Once, my sister had left cleaning materials in the hall after disinfecting the powder room and he told her sharply to get her stuff away, waving his hand in disgust.
Another time, my sister cooked a very complicated soup and saved him some in a bowl as he came home very late after work.
He dropped the oily wrapping from the soup and didn’t pick it up.
I cleaned the floor but felt he didn’t show respect for her cooking or her cleaning.
Another time, my sister asked him to get something very high up in the garage. After he helped her he left her to put back the big heavy ladder.
My sister’s always on his side and defends him no matter what others say.
Maybe he’s like a candy – hard on the outside and sweet inside (which only she sees).
Is my brother-in-law just full of himself?
You touch on the nerve of what causes you concerns: Your brother-in-law may be an abusive husband, or he may be a hard-worker who acts the tough guy before others but doesn’t threaten or abuse your sister.
Be supportive of her – close contact, helping out when visiting her, staying in frequent touch by phone.
Ask gentle questions that may lead her to confide e.g. if you notice anxieties about how he’ll react to something she’s said or done.
Proceed carefully. If he IS abusive, he may try to isolate her from you and others.
However, if you hear or see evidence of abuse, help her to plan safely to leave him and get help.
Women’s organizations such as the YWCA and women’s shelters can be found online, but use a secure computer at a library, if needed.
FEEDBACK Regarding the new team leader being obstructed by the hostile, autocratic former leader (June 19):
Reader – “Being efficient in taking good decisions depends on hearing the "people's voice" or the so-called “brainstorming” method of getting the best option for everyone on the work team.
“To be on more neutral ground with this critical member, consider having a box of ideas available for improvements in the work, assuring anonymity.
“Voting by all on the team would decide what’s better for everyone. It might take more time, but it’s worth it.
“That former leader must be reminded in a friendly manner that teamwork is much more effective and he/she would be more respected and appreciated.
“There are other people who might have great ideas but are shy to speak up. Or, they comment behind your back, which isn’t healthy for a new leader.
“Discussions will occur through the idea box, rather than behind your back.”
Tip of the day:
Walk away from second-place contender in a relationship.