Vail Relationships column: Make sure your relationship is meeting your needs
February 25, 2017
Editor's note: Neil Rosenthal is on vacation. This is one of his previously published columns.
Dear Neil: I am a 41-year-old woman. A year ago, I met a man of 51 who has never been married. We have a lot of common interests and enjoy being with each other. But things have happened that have set off warning bells for me.
First, he told me he has enough money to look after himself, but not me. Second, he has asked me to live with him and has said he would like me to pay half of the mortgage and living expenses — including food. When a man dates you, doesn't he want to buy you lunch or dinner? What is he telling me?
Third, he has lied to me about the presence of another woman, and now my trust is gone. What would you suggest?
Confused in Perth, Australia
Dear Confused: We broadcast to people messages about how they can treat us — by what we don't ask, don't say, don't insist on or by what we agree to put up with. The central way we get our needs met in an intimate relationship is to identify and communicate what we desire until those needs are consistently met. Your boyfriend is being clear about his motives. He has no intention of marrying and/or committing to you, wants no agreement about honesty, truthfulness or fidelity and he doesn't want to spend any money on you.
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Is that what you want? Will you be happy and content with what he is offering? I think you've discovered why your boyfriend is 51 and has never been married. He's in the relationship for what he can receive, not for what he can give, and is therefore a very poor prospect to pin your emotions on. It would be prudent for you to first tell him what it is you desire in a relationship — and from him — in order for you to feel honored, respected, treated well, cherished and pampered.
If he balks, or doesn't consistently follow through, then drop him. You'll never get your needs met in this relationship if he doesn't value what you want.
Dear Neil: Three months ago, I met someone very special. We had good communication, a lot in common and a desire to be with each other all of the time. Things were going great. One month ago, her sister was diagnosed with cancer. She's had surgery and appears to be on the road to recovery. But ever since then, my girlfriend has grown distant. She wants to stay in touch but doesn't want to be in an intimate relationship. Is there anything I can do?
Rejected in San Antonio, Texas
Dear Rejected: We can't make anyone love us or want to be in a relationship with us. But you could ask her two things: First, what happened? Did her sister's illness change her desire to be in a relationship? Why? Was she less invested in you than she had previously communicated? Has an ex-boyfriend come back into the picture? Don't accept it if she says, "nothing happened," that's just a way of her avoiding telling you an unpleasant truth.
Second, ask her what it would take in order for her to reconsider this stance. Is there anything you could do — or stop doing — where she would give the relationship between the two of you another full-blown, honest chance?
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Westminster and Boulder. He is the author of the best-selling book, "Love, Sex and Staying Warm: Creating a Vital Relationship." Contact him at 303-758-8777, or visit neilrosenthal.com.