It’s time again for “Dear Wendy Updates,” a feature where people I’ve given advice to in the past let us know whether they followed the advice and how they’re doing now. Today we hear from “Mr. Max” who wrote in last month because he was frustrated that after eight years with the same woman – and even living together! — she refused to put a label on their relationship and wanted to remain “uncommitted.” He wrote: “It’s taking a heavy toll on me emotionally and I’ve started to think that she probably doesn’t love me and I’m not sure if my love is enough to keep us together anymore. I’m on the verge of leaving her for good this time. What do you think?” His update below.
One of the things you mentioned is that I treat Jane as some delicate creature that needs saving and you were absolutely right. But there are several reasons for it. One of them is the fact that she came to this country as a refugee after she lost both of her parents as a child and she was raised by her aunt in the US. And even though she has done incredibly well for herself, she doesn’t talk much about her childhood or her family. I’ve always viewed her avoidance of dealing with the subject of her past to mean that she is still affected by it, and I wanted to help her through it if she only opened up to me. I can see now that I probably exaggerated the weight or sensitivity of her emotional baggage (and of course saying things like “I want to protect her” in my previous letter didn’t help my case much).
Another reason is the fact that -and you’ve called this one correctly- I need her more then she needs me. She really didn’t have any problem walking out on me in the past. She’s a bit quick at getting rid of unwanted people in her life and she doesn’t seem to appreciate relationships. I guess I ended up taking more of a passive role because I didn’t want to scare her off.
Anyway, we finally discussed our relationship in-depth. She tried to avoid talking about it at first, but I insisted and we ended up arguing on and off for several days. I took your advice and I was completely honest and vulnerable with her. We had many difficult conversations and, even though she hasn’t opened up to me about her past yet, I’m very pleased with the outcome. We acknowledged our relationship and we discussed the possibility of marriage in the future. I believe we’ve reached a huge milestone and I feel more secure in my relationship with her, which is something I’ve never felt during the last eight years. So thank you.
That’s wonderful – I’m glad to hear it, and I sincerely hope the trust continues to grow between you. I can’t imagine the weight of her past — losing her parents and coming to the states as a refugee — but I am certain the experience is something that will always “affect” her, of course. In time, I hope she sees in you a kind of emotional refuge, and that you will be a source of comfort for each other. Best wishes!
If you’re someone I’ve given advice to in the past, I’d love to hear from you, too. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a link to the original post, and let me know whether you followed the advice and how you’re doing now.