Vail relationship column: Choosing unavailable men
VAIL CO, Colorado
Dear Neil: Awhile back I met and grew close to a guy who was in a 10-year relationship with someone else. He always told me to be open to meeting someone else. So I met someone else, and we started dating. Things were complicated from the beginning because his life ambition is to become a Catholic priest. So he enjoys my company and wants me by his side, but he also feels drawn to explore the priesthood. But I am in love with him, and don’t know what to do. Can you advise me about what I should do?
Lost in New Zealand
Dear New Zealand: It appears that you have gotten into the habit of choosing unavailable men. A man who’s in a 10 year relationship with someone else is not likely to become yours, and a man who feels called to be a Catholic priest can perhaps become a great friend, but he cannot romantically belong to you and also keep his vows.
The bigger question for you (and for the woman who wrote the letter that follows) is why you’re in this position at all. What is it about unavailable men that appeals so much to you?
One possible answer is that such men are emotionally safe. A second possible answer is that emotionally unavailable men represent a challenge, which is another way of saying that you may get excited by the possibility of taking an emotionally unavailable man and making him wild about you, totally committed to you, completely yours. The only problem with that is that making an emotionally or physically unavailable man completely yours is often next to impossible to do.
Often this theme come from childhood, where you kept trying, over and over again, to win the affection, attention, approval or love from one or both of your parents, which you couldn’t win. It would then be familiar in adulthood to pursue a person who is very difficult to win over – as if you’ve decided to repeat childhood patterns over and over again until you succeed in winning the man who is extremely difficult to win over.
Be willing to look at what you’re getting from attaching to men who aren’t able to fully attach and commit to you. It’s a lot more fun pursuing (and being pursued by) someone you can actually catch.
Tell the aspiring priest that you want a love relationship with a man you can keep, and ask him to consider if there might be other ways of him serving God or the church without becoming a priest. If he is open to this, perhaps he can both serve his faith and keep you. If not, he can’t be yours.
Dear Neil: I’m in a 3 year relationship with a man, and we’ve been living with each other. Each year, he has traveled to New York, staying two months with “friends.” On his second trip, I discovered that he was staying the whole time with a woman who is smitten by him, and who treats him like a king. She has since been diagnosed with cancer, and has been in the hospital seriously ill. He still wants to go there for two months and be by her bedside in the hospital. He will not negotiate. He does not want me to go to New York with him because it will hurt her feelings, and he will not go for a shorter time. Just before his third trip, I told him that if he went, I was moving out.
He went. I moved out. So we are now living apart and missing each other. Is there any way to resolve this?
-Alone in Wellington, New Zealand
Dear New Zealand: Your man is clearly in two separate intimate relationships at the same time. That is why he doesn’t want you to come with him to New York, and why it would hurt her feelings if you did. Even if the other woman were to die, there is no assurance that the gentleman you’re involved with will be faithful to you, because clearly he finds it acceptable to carry on multiple intimate relationships at the same time – and then to misrepresent the truth to you.
If you can live with this lack of trust – and if you can accept sharing him with another – you can keep him. If you can’t accept things the way they are now, you’ll be a happier woman if you were to let him go and move on.
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Westminster and Boulder. His column is in its 20th year of publication, and is syndicated around the world. You can reach him at 303-758-8777, or email him through his website: http://www.heartrelationships.com.