My boyfriend and I met a little over five years ago and a lot of really tough things has happened since then. When we were first dating he was an ambitious up-and-coming artist who was in college, owned a home, worked several jobs, and had a solid a 5-year plan. This was very important to me because I wanted someone who was as ambitious as I was with the same values and sense of humor, and in Brad I thought I had found that. Fast forward a year and a half, when Brad received some very bad news. His house had burned down while he was away. I offered him a place to stay while he got his world back together and after some hesitation he took it.
Since that time a number of really rotten things have happened to the man. His favorite aunt died of cancer, he was laid off at work, he nearly lost all vision after it was discovered he had acute retinal necrosis caused by taxoplasmosis, and finally last year his father passed away. Due to the eye-complications he has a lot of problems seeing fine detail which, for his art, was completely heart-wrenching, and the final straw after he lost his entire art portfolio in the fire. He took it as a sign that God did not intend for him to become an artist and ever since has been struggling to find a new mission in life. It’s as though the past five years have completely sucked all the ambition and energy out of the man and he’s constantly wrought with guilt not making anywhere near as much money as I do and insecurity not knowing where he’s going in life. We’re both 27 now and had talks about wanting to get married and have children by the time we’re 30 — an age that is fast approaching.
I’ve tried to encourage him to get a job but in today’s economy he has had no luck. He’s back in college now trying to get a new degree but he doesn’t even like the careers that the degree will get him. He complains about not contributing to our finances yet doesn’t actually obtain a job. He gripes over his health and well-being about how fat he’s becoming but doesn’t keep up a workout regime. Part of me is tired of the excuses and wants to see results, and part of me is more empathetic and recognizes that he’s had a lot of really rotten things happen to him in a very short amount of time. I’m just wondering: should I change my life goals and expectations to meet his? — Distraught in New Hampshire
No, you shouldn’t change your goals and life plans for him, but if you love him, you should definitely encourage him to seek therapy and treatment for his possible depression. If he does and is able to get better, you may way to think about compromises you can make and adjustments in your expectations to have a future with him. For example, he may never be the financial provider you hoped he might be, so you need to decide if you’d be willing to be the major breadwinner in the family. If you both want a family one day soon, how would you feel about him being a stay-at-home dad? Also, with his vision issues, you may be called on to be more of a care-giver — and at an earlier age — than you’d planned on when you first met him. Are you OK with that?
On the flip side, if he refuses therapy — you should decide for yourself how much longer you’re willing to wait for him to go (three months maybe?) and continues to show no signs of changing his life, it’s probably time for you to move on. It’s unfortunate what has happened to him these last few years, but let’s face it: life is full of hard knocks; no one is immune from them. If you can’t be with someone who can roll with life’s punches and eventually pick himself up and dust himself off, better you realize that now than before you make marriage vows to him, you know?
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