You’ve just met the most amazing guy. He shares his feelings. He’s vulnerable. He needs you. His marriage ended recently and you can’t imagine how anyone could let him go. What was wrong with her?! He’s open and shared all the details. She didn’t understand him. She didn’t appreciate him. He tried everything. And, he’s such a good dad! It’s terrible that she has custody of the kids. It’s just unfair.
You’ve always dreamed of a relationship with someone who’s this in touch with his feelings and is able to communicate about them. You invest a lot of yourself in the relationship. This is it! He was worth waiting for. But since he’s not yet fully divorced you have to wait a little longer. But you’re committed. You’re glad to be there for him and you know you’re building a great foundation for your future.
But after a year or so it seems like he’s still where he was at when you met him. The divorce still isn’t final and hearing the details is getting tiring. You want to start planning your future together but it keeps getting put off. It’s frustrating. But you’ve invested so much into this relationship you may as well wait a little longer. The next court date is coming up and hopefully things will finally be settled. So you listen some more, you wait, and listen some more.
I hate to tell you this, but you may be “transition girl.” When someone, man or woman, is going through a divorce or a break up of a long-term relationship, they’re at their most vulnerable. It’s a devastating experience. Even people who are usually more stoic may be more apt to show emotions and talk about them. It can be very endearing. It triggers something in us – that maternal or paternal part of us that wants to nurture and protect. But, it may not be the real person that you’re responding to.
I’ve seen this situation many times. Good women with such good intentions enduring terrible frustration and too often, getting devastated when the relationship inevitably ends. Sure, some marry but there can be big problems when they do. It’s important after a divorce or major break up for that person to spend time healing and getting back in touch with who they are and what they want for their future. Their shared life with their partner was such a big part of who they were and, especially in more dysfunctional relationships, there may have been a good amount of codependency involved. Do they need friends to help them through the transition? Absolutely. But friends without romantic interests will serve them much better in the long run.
One of the biggest reasons that these relationships tend to have poor outcomes is that you become associated with the old relationship. It’s so much a part of what you connected on. When they really start healing and are ready to move away from that relationship, they often distance from things that remind them of it…and that can include you.
Understand this, to develop a healthy relationship each party needs to be in a healthy place to begin with. Emotional freedom is imperative. In the long run you want someone who is choosing you because of YOU. You deserve someone who finds you fascinating and can direct themselves to your needs as much as you do toward theirs. You may be right that they are a good person but even a good person can hurt you, often without meaning to.
So what to do if you find yourself in this situation?
1. Make an honest assessment of how happy you actually are. How many times do you feel frustrated or disappointed? Does it seem like the conversation invariably leads back to his situation?
2. Seek honest feedback from friends and family members who love you and have your best interests at heart. What do they see? Are they supportive of this relationship? Are they concerned? This is really important to take into consideration. When we’re deeply involved emotionally it can cloud our judgment. Those who love us can be more objective. It may be hard to hear but try to listen without objection. Hear them out and bring what they say to prayer.
The thought of pulling back from the relationship may seem cruel, like you’re abandoning them in their need. Although that speaks well of your tender heart, it also indicates an unhealthy codependency that may be in play here. Encourage them to seek out therapy or to rely on other friends rather than you. If they have your interests at heart they should understand what you need at this point and respect whatever boundaries you set. But they may be unable to understand because of their own level of need. That doesn’t mean they’re a bad person per se, but it does indicate that this is an uneven relationship and you’re likely getting the short end of it.
Start reconnecting with your own life and friends. Get back to doing things you enjoyed before you met him. Limit your contact to infrequent phone calls as you encourage him to find other outlets. Be kind but be realistic here. He is not in a position right now to give you what you truly need. Will he be able to some time in the future? Perhaps, but less likely if you stay in this unhealthy role with him. It’s time to consider dating others and moving forward. It may feel “right” to be exclusive because of the level of intimacy that you feel you have, but the reality is that he’s still entangled in another relationship emotionally (even though perhaps with painful emotions), possibly legally and spiritually and is unable to truly be “exclusive” with you.
Pray for guidance and for God to show you His will in this regard. Pray for courage to make the right decision for yourself and entrust your beau to God’s care and protection. Ultimately it is God who heals, not us, and as much as we may feel indispensable to this vulnerable person, it’s not true. Ask God to send someone, be it a friend or a counselor, who can help him through this difficult time. Seriously consider talking to a counselor yourself who can objectively help you assess the situation, set appropriate boundaries and chart a better course for the future.
Remember, God loves you more than you can imagine and He truly wants you to be happy…and to find someone who can appreciate you for the unique and beautiful person that you are. If someone is not legally free, and for Catholics, free to marry in the church, it’s best not to get involved in the first place. Don’t settle for a situation that’s less than God would want for you. By doing that you may be missing the right one who can truly make all your dreams come true…without so much drama. Trust. God does have a plan for your life…and it’s a good one.
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