Vail Relationships column: Help, I’m engaged to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Dear Neil: I’ve been with a man for 21 months, but our relationship has been a constant roller coaster. He has issues with drinking, lying and keeping things from me. He has admitted to living like he was a single man while he’s been with me. Every fight he blames me for, throws a tantrum like a 3-year-old and threatens to leave.
We’ve been engaged for more than a year, but his behavior holds me back from wanting to marry him. I don’t feel he is as committed as I am. Things always seem to be about his wants and needs — not mine. Any advice?
Stuck in Oldbury, United Kingdom
Dear Neil: I have been in a very serious relationship for more than two years with my fiance. Within that time, he periodically becomes a completely different person and has up and left the relationship perhaps 10 times. Recently, he fell into this distant mood and it lasted a month. When I told him I was here for him and we would work it out together, he got even more distant.
He claims he doesn’t mean it, and that he is not being himself. But this takes an obscene emotional toll on me, and I can’t keep letting him do this. Do I need to let him go?
Lost in New York
Dear Stuck and Lost: This feels like a rerun of the old movie/book “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” — a person who turns into someone entirely different. Although there are several personality disorders that may fit these behaviors (narcissistic, borderline, dissociative disorder and perhaps alcohol addiction and commitment phobia), I am only going to concentrate on what I would recommend the two of you do about your respective predicaments.
So first I’m going to state the obvious. If it feels like you are more committed to a relationship than your partner is — you’re probably right. You have more invested and are trying harder than your fiance is. Second, you are both engaged to men who are not acting as if they want to be engaged to you, which is a very bad sign.
Third, if this is what engagement looks and feels like, when people are known to be on their best behavior, what do you think marriage would be like with these men? If they can’t behave in a loving and committed way while engaged, then you are not likely to have a happy or stable relationship in marriage.
My advice to both of you: End these relationships. You’re not in a relationship you can trust and rely upon. Marriage is supposed to make you feel you’re better off with someone than you are alone. To me, the both of you would be better off alone — or with someone else.
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.
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