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Staying in a bad relationship. Stop blaming it on loneliness when it’s low self esteem

By Tom P Blake - Finding Love after 50

“Sometimes you’re willing to put up with more than you should because you hate being alone,” was the meat and potatoes of Sherrill’s (not her real name) email to me. She explained that loneliness is likely the reason she endured a 2 ½ year on-again/off-again relationship.

After reading the rest of Sherrill’s email, I think loneliness was only part of the reason she stayed with the guy for 2 ½ years. Low self-esteem was the other. I mean no disrespect toward Sherrill. I admire her courage for sharing her story. But, this is how I see her situation and I’m not going to sugarcoat it.

Sherrill said, “We met on the Internet and the chemistry was there, but it was not a 50/50 (or even a 60/40) relationship. Perhaps it was from his divorce 12-years prior that he had forgotten how to give, or how to take care of another. I thought I could live with it, but found that my needs weren’t being met; I started to feel resentful and exhausted for always taking care of and seeing that he was happy.”

My first comment: why would anyone spend 2 ½ years in a relationship where he or she is receiving less than 40 percent of the benefit? Sounds like she expected him to take care of her. As we age, we shouldn’t count on someone else taking care of us or making our lives better, we must do that ourselves.

Sherrill said, “When we broke up last year, he asked if we could see a counselor; I reluctantly agreed. We’ve been to counseling every week for nearly nine months, but he still can’t see that his behavior is often selfish and rude, and I feel unloved.”

Next comment. Sherrill reluctantly agreed to counseling. Here again, she did something he wanted, not what she wanted. It boggles my mind why couples would spend nine months (or more) in counseling if nothing is being accomplished. Think of all the money being wasted.

I was involved in a stormy relationship once. We agreed to go to counseling. As we walked in, “My partner said, ‘Don’t tell the counselor the truth.’” It was evident to me that nothing was going to be accomplished. We never went again—think of the money we saved.

Sherrill continued: “We never lived together, but spent weekends together. A few weeks ago we went away for a long weekend and it was a disaster. It was all about him, even though he said he was trying to make the weekend special for me. I realized he still has no clue as to who I am or what I need.”

Comment: Sherrill, thank heavens you had the good sense not to live with him. You say, “He has no clue as to who I am or what I need.” You are as guilty here as he. Why did you think he would change after 2 ½ years?

Sherrill ended with: “It’s sad but I can’t live the rest of my life being a mother or caretaker to this man. I want and need more. I am seeing the counselor alone now. I need to figure out why I give so much of myself to my own detriment.”

Final Comment: Sherrill, it’s not sad that you can’t go on forever being a mother or caretaker to him. It’s wonderful. And stop going to counseling. The counselor must love you for all of the money you’ve spent. Instead, smarten up and stop being a wimp and take responsibility for your own happiness. Single singles are responsible for their own happiness.

I’m happy to say that Sherrill has ended the relationship and has stopped being an enabler—trying to make someone else happy. But does she have the fortitude to go forward and not cave in to him again? For her sake, let’s hope so.


Comments about this newsletter: Several readers wrote that I was out of line advising Sherrill to stop her counseling. That I was too harsh on her, that she still needs counselor guidance. I agree I was out of line. Who am I to say that someone should or should not have counseling?

I should have said, I hope Sherrill's counselor is teaching Sherrill to help herself and if not, she should find a counselor who will help her teach herself.

One reader said I'm too focused on money--I'm not sure where that came from but I will admit that spending money on a counselor for nine months or more with no results isn't for me. Gosh, at least change the counselor to get some results.

So, Sherrill, I apologize for giving you wrong advice. I'm not a licensed therapist, not even a licensed columnist, whatever that means. I'm just presenting the man's point of view of dating after 50, 60 and beyond, trying to share a little common sense. And now back to our regular programming.

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