Vail Valley relationships: The hazards of ‘fighting dirty’
Vail, CO Colorado
Dear Neil: I am 38 years old, and because I want children, I don’t have any more time to waste. I have been seeing “Rob” for nine months, have come to the conclusion that he’s the one for me, so I decided that we should set a date soon so we can start creating a family. Only thing was that Rob hadn’t proposed, and had shown minimal interest in us marrying anytime soon. And because of my religious upbringing, having a child outside of marriage would not be acceptable. So I accepted a date with another man, and told Rob the next day that I went out with another guy who was very masculine and romantic, and that we had a great time together. My motivation was to give him a wake up call: He needed to declare his undying love for me and to ask me to marry him already, and not make me wait any longer.
But he didn’t do that. Instead, he broke up with me, saying that we were in an exclusive committed relationship looking toward a future together, that I had betrayed his trust and that he didn’t think he could ever trust me again. My question is: What should I have done? Is there anything I can still do to win him back?
” My Clock is Ticking in Texas
Dear Texas: Author Steven Stosny has what I consider to be a brilliant answer to those questions. He suggests that you closely examine three additional questions:
– Were my actions moving us toward connection or away from it?
– Was my behavior consistent with what I value the most and with the way I want me to behave?
– Was my motivation to approach him (acting open. engaged, appreciative, nurturing, cooperative, interested or accessible), to avoid him (being unwilling to participate, uninterested, shut down or uncooperative), or to attack him (getting angry, becoming defensive, criticizing, threatening, being coercive or manipulative, being demeaning, judgmental or resentful)?
He says that if you try to get your way through the avoid or attack modes, that your intimate partner ” and for that matter other people in general ” are unlikely to respond positively to you, and will almost never care about your intentions or what your goals are. He says that what people actually respond to is what it feels like on the receiving end of your words and/or behaviors. So ask yourself what you think your boyfriend perceived your motivation to be in dating another guy. What would you guess he thought or felt you were doing? Could he have, as an example, felt you were fighting dirty with him?
Here’s what you can do ” and what you could have done from the beginning: Ask him for a face to face talk and level with him. Tell him you feel strong biological clock pressure, that you were trying to assist him in having a sense of urgency about marrying and starting a family soon, acknowledge that you dating another man and trying to make him jealous was indeed a violation of trust, acknowledge wrong doing and sincerely apologize, reassure him that you will never attempt to get your way again by acting manipulative or coercive (and live up to that promise), tell him he’s the one you want, that you will wait to marry and to start a family until he is ready, and then ask him what he would need from you in order to consider giving the relationship with you another chance. If he doesn’t agree to meet you, send him the same explanation in writing.
It may be that he isn’t as ready or as interested as you are that he doesn’t have the same desire as you to have children, or that he wants to wait another year or two. If that’s the case, you have to decide how badly you want him and how long you would be willing to wait. In the future, speak straight about what you want, and see if you can negotiate, persuade or bargain with him on issues where the two of you don’t see eye to eye.
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in the Denver/Boulder area, specializing in how people strengthen their intimate relationships. He can be reached at 303-758-8777, or e-mail him from his Web site, http://www.heartrelationships.com.