The first five months of our relationship were heaven, with no problems at all. I will say, however, that one red flag did come up in our second month when she asked, “Are you on your period?” But then she said was “joking.” Then, after around five months of dating, Karen’s ex started to reach back into her life (sending texts and even sending flowers) because he was jealous. She told me every single time when her ex would reach out or do anything. Nothing was hidden. I told her it was best for us to ignore him unless his behavior became harassment or stalking. This went on for at least four months and started to cause tension. Around this time, Karen moved back in with her grandparents to help them out financially. Since I visited often, I’d see the toxic behavior that Karen had witnessed all of her life.
So, long story short, I feel like Karen is toxic, narcissistic, definitely aggressive, and controlling. An example: I mentioned to her that I think I want a new car, and her response was, “You should try to have a plan about marriage, a home, and children first.” She has asked why it took me three years to propose to her. She has also emasculated me and called me names at times, and had given me an ultimatum that if we weren’t married at two years, we were done. She has broken up with me at least twelve times. I’m beginning to feel like our marriage would be miserable. On one hand, I have the most amazing, wonderful, caring, loving, fiancée (she cooks, cleans, and is affectionate, caring, and loyal) but on the other hand, she can be vengeful, intimidating, and a hateful demon.
I want our relationship to work, but I don’t want to be miserable the rest of my life. I already have cold feet about marriage. — Cold Feet After a Month
I’m going to do something I don’t do in this space often and offer a relationship rule that can and should be applied universally, to every couple everywhere: If you have broken up twelve times, don’t get married. Don’t get married, don’t get engaged, don’t get back together. Your twelfth breakup should be your last. Honestly, your third breakup should be your last — three strikes and you’re done. If you’ve had twelve breakups in three years, you’re averaging a breakup every three months, so to feel ready for another breakup a month after proposing fits your pattern. That pattern is your relationship dynamic, and the likelihood of it changing is close to zero, even with extensive therapy (which I recommend to both of you in order to have successful relationships in the future and to avoid repeating a similar pattern and dynamic with new partners).
Look, you can blame the dysfunction of your relationship on Karen and her upbringing as much as you want, but the truth is that you are engaging in an unhealthy dynamic as much as she is. YOU are clearly getting something from this roller coaster ride. The highs and the lows deliver something desirable to you. I’ll spare you the psychological armchair analysis of what that might be, but you need to know that your not walking away after the second or third breakup – your proposing to a woman you’ve broken up with TWELVE times and think of as a “hateful demon”—-signals something amiss in your psyche as much as in hers. This doesn’t mean you’re broken or unworthy of love or a bad person any more than it means those things for Karen. But it does mean that not only is this a very unhealthy relationship that absolutely, 100% should not progress forward in any capacity (especially marriage!), but also that you both need to do some inner work — ideally with the help of good therapists, and obviously independently and not as a couple seeking guidance for moving forward since you should not be moving forward together — before you engage in partnering with someone again.
My husband and I are old, and my ex-DIL and my grandchildren have never, ever recognized my birthday. My ex-DIL’s family never contributes anything, and yet it’s like we are expected to give. My son wasn’t a good husband and I’m sorry for that, but my ex-DIL had issues too, and she did get a very good monetary settlement. She lives in a real nice townhouse, drives a new car, and travels. All of my granddaughters grew up well with a beautiful house, a pool, etc.
Anyway, I will go to the shower in June. I’m not crafty. Some grandmothers make beautiful quilts and I wish I could do that. I thought I’d give a nice card and a generous check….. but, I am beginning to feel like a bank. I need advice. — A Very Weary Grandmother
Readers won’t know this about you, but you and I have emailed back and forth a few times a year for about six or seven years now. What I know about you is how much you crave to be heard and seen and empathized with. What you don’t know about me is that in my email I have a folder labeled with your name where I save all your emails (there are nearly 50 now). When I don’t hear from you for more than a few months, I worry. I reach out on occasion to check on you. I thought about you this past year during the pandemic and hoped you and your husband and your daughter were staying safe. I read your emails to my husband sometimes. Every once in a while, he’ll ask if I’ve heard from you and ask if you’re ok.
I don’t think you’re a regular reader of this site these days, but I know you’ve checked my social media to see how I’m doing, how my kids are growing, what “anti-Trump rally” I’ve been to recently (as you said once). Please know that I see your value and your worth and your humanity. I see what a loving and devoted wife and mother you are. I see how challenging life has sometimes been and how you have strived to make the most of it despite the challenges. I also see the pain you’ve felt in what you perceive as neglect or lack of care from some of your family members (and the list of those family members is long and winds through all the branches of your extended family tree). I am sorry that you haven’t felt the love you give returned to you in the way you’d like. My hope for you is that you will give yourself that love you crave. My hope is that you will see inside yourself what I’ve seen over these past seven years of our penpal-ship: the kindness and the vulnerability and the love.
This may be hard to hear, but there’s no amount of money or material possessions that you can give others that will: a) adequately reflect the love you wish to express (because love is at such a higher value than these things); and b) will bring you the return of your love that you crave. Just as your family members’ material possessions – their houses and pools and cars and sailboats – do not reflect the quality of their humanity, neither do the gifts you could bestow reflect the relationship you would wish to have with them. So, release this expectation from your life. Give without expectation of anything in return (including love, I’m sorry to say). Give within your means. Give what feels good to give and don’t give more than that. These family members are not wanting for anything. They don’t need more than what you want to give, I promise. And if the value of what you give them has no bearing on how much more they will express love for you, I wouldn’t worry about how much less they’ll express it either. Liberate yourself from this unhealthy dynamic and I think you’ll be in a more peaceful place – one with less resentment – to receive the love that is given to you freely, from the people who can clearly see your value (and who may or may not be related to you).