I'm 21, female, in a six-year on/off relationship with my high-school sweetheart.
We love each other. But I have many issues with the type of man he is.
From early on, he’s demonstrated excessive alcohol use. I initially brushed this off as being a carefree teen, but at college he’s notorious for his alcohol consumption.
He's also using weed at least once daily but has experimented with other drugs (not repeated).
His grades have slipped dangerously low, his weekends are filled with parties, and his health has been compromised.
We haven't officially dated for four years, just been “together" because I've been too scared to accept and become part of his chaotic life.
Naturally, I've tried to change him throughout the years, lecturing him about how he needs to calm down and how he's not meeting the standard of a man I need in my life.
I even drew up a written contract to help him curb his nicotine addiction. This year I gave him the ultimatum of shaping-in or shipping out.
I requested he show me some visible lifestyle changes (without a deadline).
But I’m underwhelmed by the lack of progress and I’m emotionally exhausted.
My instinct tells me that if I remain with my partner, I’ll be motivating him and begging him to change for the rest of my life.
Except there’ll be kids involved and many of life's complications.
He’s promised to try again and has asked for more time next year. Do I stay and invest more in him, or explore who I am and avail myself to other potential love opportunities?
At A Crossroads
Take a healthy break for both of you. He needs to clean up his act, for himself – not just you.
If his excess drinking persists, his lifestyle will drag you both down.
But, even now, he has potential for heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, liver disease, and more (besides the negative behaviours prompted by addiction.)
Step back from feeling responsible for trying to change his habits. Your relationship is also unhealthy – ultimatums from you, begging from him, no meaningful progress.
You’re too young to carry this burden, which is his to handle.
Stop contact for six months, but do NOT promise to automatically get back together.
Meanwhile, if you date others, don’t look to shape someone else into your “standard of a man.”
Each person already has his/her own character, values, potential strengths, and weaknesses.
You need time and experience to feel that you’re with someone you respect, trust, and admire, as well as love. So far, it’s not this guy.
FEEDBACK Regarding the husband who’s moody, critical, controlling, and verbally abusive (Oct. 7 ):
Reader – “Thank you for your response to my situation.
“I’m in counselling, and we’ve been in couples’ therapy this year, unfortunately without much change.
“I’m trying to get the courage to end the marriage, but I feel very guilty because I don't want to cause him pain.
“I also worry about the effects of breaking up on my young son.
“I’ll keep you posted if you’re interested.”
Ellie – I’m interested and hopeful for your well-being.
The counselling (plus legal advice) should help you make a safe and equitable plan.
Feeling guilt is unnecessary.
His continued verbal abuse can be more emotionally harmful to both you and your son, as the effects of a break-up. And, it may escalate to physical abuse.
Unless he shows real change, protect yourself and your child through a legal separation /divorce.
FEEDBACK Regarding the university student whose hometown boyfriend doesn’t want to keep dating her if she returns to school, which is several hours’ drive away (October 6):
Reader – “My husband and I (happily married 16 years, together for 20 years) started dating while we were both in school and living a similar distance apart.
“We maintained a long-distance relationship for three years of schooling and one additional year while we were engaged.
“This was before the days of Skype, texting, Face Time, or even regularly available email!
“We depended on phone calls, snail mail, and trips back and forth on the weekends to visit each other, while both maintaining heavy coarse loads in health care university programs.
“It’s not easy, but can succeed if both people are truly committed to making it work.”
Ellie – “Committed” is the key word that must apply, if any long-distance relationship is to succeed.
Tip of the day:
It’s not a partner’s responsibility to save the other from addiction and poor choices.