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The real trouble is this: Whenever the daughter calls him, Bob withdraws from me completely. He goes to the point of not talking to me at all for days. His libido falls flat. He needs to see the girl immediatly. He keeps little secrets with her (such as buying her presents, having meetings which he could very well tell me about, messaging, exchanging lovey-dovey pictures). He broke down in tears one day confessing he was not “cheating on me, he was with her.” This is his quote, not mine, and it’s important to say I had NOT questioned him about “cheating” at all; I had merely asked what was going on because he seemed rather stressed. This pattern comes around about a week per month. She calls and he goes off for about a week, withdrawing from me and drawing toward the girl like a thirsty man in the desert to water. Then he comes back, very sorry. He will even visits his ex’s house (and he has been abused again while there), just because the girl asked that he go there.
When Bob goes through a very emotional situation, he is torn between calling me or calling his daughter. Upon making a decision for one or the other (and I’m not always the chosen one), he declares the other one cannot know, because he is being disloyal to the first one. So, he is either in the me phase or in the daughter phase. In short, he treats his 18-year-old daughter like a girlfriend (minus the sexual side of it, which he doesn’t feel – believe me, I checked all the signs). I confronted him about this, and he went to therapy. But the therapist blah-blah-blah’d about dealing with divorce and didn’t grasp how this relationship with the daughter was unhealthy, so my partner told me I’m seeing things that are not there. But there’re there.
This week I decided to give Bob a sort of ultimatum to sort out his life; I told him we need to take a “time off” from our relationship. My son hates me for it, which makes me deeply unhappy. Sure enough, rather than finding therapy, Bob ran to his daughter and posted on social media about it. He has not contacted me at all this week except for a very lofty message in which he said “my love will always be here for you” and “I will guide you to me,” which is the emptiest thing I have ever heard. I don’t mean to be arrogant, but I’m not the one who needs guidance.
Bob is a very good man, but I think the issues are far too big for me to handle. I am hurting quite a bit, especially because of my son and because this was my healing relationship after the devastating one. I am not sure what to do about this man. Also, if he loved me, this infatuation with the daughter wouldn’t be there, right? — Tired of Competing with the Daughter
You didn’t give Bob an ultimatum and you know it. You gave him a test to “prove” his love to you, and he failed your test. You wanted to see if he’d come running to you, begging that you end the “time off” from your relationship, promising to always prioritize you over his daughter, declaring loyalty to you and only you, all his other relationships – including with his teenage daughter! – be damned. It was a highly manipulative tactic, and it backfired on you. Your problem is not with Bob’s daughter. It’s not even really with Bob. The problem you have is YOU. You have not healed from your painful past. You said it yourself that this relationship with Bob was supposed to be your “healing relationship,” which was a surefire way to guarantee that not only would you not heal, but also that you’d regress and try to pull everyone in your path down with you (in this case, at least Bob, his daughter, and your son).
You need a reckoning with yourself and, until you open yourself to that, there’s nothing I can say that will resonate with you. You are probably already drafting an email to me demanding I take this post down. You are already crafting a response in your head about how I don’t understand, how it was a mistake that you reached out to me, how you’ve suffered so much pain in your life that you’ve simply created boundaries to protect yourself from more pain and that Bob has failed to honor those boundaries by daring to continue a relationship with his teenage daughter which you WILL NOT TOLERATE, and how anyone who doesn’t see that just doesn’t understand the full scope of the situation. What I understand from the information you’ve provided is that you decided that, in order for Bob to be a good partner to you, he had to change fundamental relationships in his life, and to that I say: If someone has to change in order for you to be satisfied, he is not the right match for you.
We could debate all day whether Bob’s relationship with his daughter is healthy or whether his daughter is truly manipulative. We could debate whether his “very traditional conservative religious background” is influencing how he navigates relationships in his life, but it would be a waste of time to do so because it doesn’t matter. What actually matters is that you KNEW – you knew and you know – about these things that you find problematic and you decided to pursue a serious relationship with him anyway. You’ve dragged your son into a relationship that was doomed from the start, allowing him to bond with someone you had such fundamental issues with, and if you are “deeply unhappy” now, you have only yourself to blame. You are a grown-up who knew exactly what she was getting into. How do you think your son feels?!
I can’t help a grown woman who pits herself against a teenage girl and demands her partner choose sides, as if he can only love and be loyal to one person. I can’t help a woman who seeks healing not from within herself but in a relationship with someone who has to change in order to meet her needs. Contrary to your argument, you DO need guidance, and you clearly need help to see how dysfunctional your tools of manipulation are – how they are hurting your son and keeping you from the kind of love and healthy relationship you want. With humility and the guidance of a great therapist, there’s hope for you, but you have to be willing to take responsibility. Are you?
How can I get my husband to stop eating us out of house and home? He eats EVERYTHING. I have to shop two to four times per week and spend between $100-$200 each trip just to have something at home to eat for the kids – I have two kids from a previous marriage who live with us 70% of the time – and myself. Things that would last me weeks will last him a couple days. When I cook huge meals (about three times per week), he eats all the leftovers for lunch plus all the snacks at home. If there aren’t leftovers, he’ll buy takeout for lunch instead. Before he moved in, I spent roughly 1/3 of what I’m paying now for groceries for myself and the kids, and he doesn’t see this as an issue at all. He says that he doesn’t “need” any of the groceries and that he’s fine with tuna and eggs every day, but then he still won’t make the tuna or the eggs and will eat everything else in the kitchen. He swears he spends money at the grocery store – he picks up a few things throughout the week like dog food, dish soap, and milk when we run out — but it’s not even a small fraction of what I’m spending. He feels the quarterly car maintenance he takes care of makes up for some of this, but car maintenance never cost me more than my mortgage per month. He is twice my size and needs twice the calories, but do I need to pay for all of those extra calories or should he be considering the rest of us when he grocery shops to even out the grocery bill that is costing me more than the mortgage? Do I stop shopping, lock up food, label it, bite him?
On top of the groceries, I pay my own personal bills, most of our household bills, mortgages on two rental properties, and household necessities. He pays his personal bills, mortgage for one rental property, and overhead for his business (he is a mechanic). He makes a little more than I do, but with my rental income and child support it evens out. I pay everything for my two kids. I should also add: While this has been a major issue for years before I was pregnant, now that I’m five months pregnant, he is risking his life (or at least his fingers) eating all the low fat cream cheese and apples. I really need advice. — A Wife Who is Also Freakin’ Hungry
The short answer is to make a family/household budget and decide, based on income, an equitable amount for each of you to contribute to the expenses. It’s absurd that you’re paying the mortgage of the home you live in plus all the household expenses and an average of $400 a week on groceries while he’s contributing nothing to your household. The longer answer is fuck that noise – why did you marry someone who is so thoughtless and has such a seemingly nonexistent sense of responsibility to you and your family?! He doesn’t financially contribute to the household, he doesn’t grocery shop for you, he doesn’t cook any meals. What the fuck DOES he do? Maintain your car? Big whoop!
Obviously, this is bigger than your husband eating all the snacks. This is about equitable contributions to the family, respecting the needs of each other, and making some self sacrifices for the good of the whole. This is about your husband stepping up as an equal partner and not just being another mouth in the house you are responsible for feeding (literally, in every way). Putting a lock on your snack cabinet isn’t going to fix this. Setting a can of tuna at his spot at the dinner table isn’t going to fix this. Sending him to the grocery store once or twice a week with a big list and his own debit card to pay for everything isn’t going to fix this (though all of these actions certainly might offer some short-term help while you address the larger issue). What you need is a relationship overhaul – with the help of a therapist and maybe a financial advisor – to ensure that you are both contributing equally and equitably to the household in a way that feels right across the board. Not every contribution needs to be financial, but every contribution needs to add up to equal value from each of you so that neither one of you is taken advantage of. You’ve got four months to figure this out and put it into practice before a newborn will undoubtedly throw any equilibrium out of balance and demand you re-adjust. Good luck!