Rappler's Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes.
Jeremy has a master's degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives.
Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons .
Dear Dr Holmes and Mr Baer,
I hope you can give me an insight with how my boyfriend sees me and our 6 year relationship.
He was not my type but from the very beginning he is the nice guy I didn't expect I'll settle for. He is the type who will never cheat and hurt me physically so I was really contented. We were happy and satisfied that I believed that I'm the one he wanted to end up with. Like any normal relationships we have ups and downs and lately, they're mostly my disappointments toward him. Most of the time I'm the one putting effort and giving time. I worked 8 hours away from home last year and I try see him at least twice or thrice a month because I miss him, while he visited me only thrice. I feel like I'm not his priority.
Even during weekends I don't get to talk to him that long, he never bothered calling me, it was always me who picks up the phone. Usually if we fight, at least a day or two of cooling down he will reach out, but the last time, it took two weeks before we spoke again and that's when I came home for good. I know that he is not busy with anyone else or with work because he barely goes out and he has a very passive lifestyle.
So when I confronted him finally, I was already tired of waiting for him and I realized all my disappointments, like until now he still has no plans for us, he is afraid of the future, of having kids, he feels inferior to me (even if I'm pretty much mediocre too), so I decided I wanted to end it, but I told him I'll give him a chance to save it if he wants to because I want him to fight for us, but I didn't get anything out of him he just said that he is sorry and that it's his fault and that I'm too good for him.
I just don't understand why he is too focused comparing himself to me and not in saving our relationship. I got frustrated with that conversation and after one month, he still has not contacted me and he seems to be avoiding me.
I really wanted to end it but I want to figure out what's going on with him or at least hear it from him that he doesn't want this relationship anymore. Can you help me understand his behavior?
Your input will help me how to approach him next time. I want to know if saying goodbye would be better for us. Thank you very much!
Thank you for your email.
Your account of your relationship with your boyfriend (let’s call him Sam) starts off on a low note. Sam was a nice guy, someone you never thought you’d settle for, and it would appear that 6 years later you have finally decided to do something about that.
In the intervening years, you put most, if not all, the effort into the relationship, keeping in touch when you were far away, while Sam seems to have been almost entirely reactive, not to mention reclusive.
That he barely goes out and has a very passive lifestyle may be fine for him but it is not a very encouraging contribution to a relationship with another person. Add to this the fact that he is constantly comparing himself to you and feeling inferior and there is a strong likelihood that your relationship is built on foundations of sand.
As for Sam, he appears to suffer from low self-esteem and would benefit from therapy.
Meanwhile, you report that when faced with a crisis about your relationship, Sam is concerned solely with himself. He does not wish to engage any further, perhaps like yourself frustrated at discussing the same things yet again.
You say you want to hear from him that the relationship is over. Give some consideration to whether Sam hasn’t in fact already told you so. You are too good for him, he is inferior, and he does not want to talk to you about it any more. Does he really need to be clearer than this?
All the best,
Thank you very much for your letter. You start it with a request:
“ I hope you can give me an insight with how my boyfriend sees me and our 6 year relationship.”
I hope you are not too disappointed when I say that I will not, (mainly because I can not) in good conscience, grant your request. I can try and give you insights about how you seem to view your relationship and how you see your own boyfriend, but I cannot “psychologize” him simply based on what you say about him.
In addition, I can point out that you are giving yourself all sorts of excuses to refuse what seems plain as day. You feel hanging on is a lost cause, that the best thing to do is to cut your losses. And yet, it may be too painful to do that at the moment so, perhaps as a way to stall things, you asked us what we thought.
Mr Baer was clear and uncompromising in his last paragraph: “You say you want to hear from him that the relationship is over. Give some consideration to whether Sam hasn’t in fact already told you so. You are too good for him, he is inferior, and he does not want to talk to you about it any more. Does he really need to be clearer than this?”
Frankly, I agree 100%. But perhaps because we psychologists are bound – ahem – by a code of ethics (or should be) that say that our job as therapists is not to tell you what to do, but to help you see the reasons you are behaving the way you are, what I can do is quote someone whom I think says it best.
Dr. Helen Fisher , a biological anthropologist who has made extensive research on the brain when in love, once said the most successful relationships come down to three traits. The first of these is the couple’s ability to feel empathy for one another.
In your and Sam’s case, empathy would be your and Sam’s ability to put yourselves in each other’s shoes and feel what the other is feeling.
There is no doubt that you feel empathy towards Sam. But does he towards you? Nothing you say in your letter gives any indication of that. Could it be time to say goodbye, no matter how painful it feels, dearest Donna?
One last thing, you described yourself as “pretty much mediocre.” Anyone who can write about herself and her relationship the way you do isn’t, believe me.
You have achieved what many people are not only unable to, but are unaware they are unable to: An unstinting eye when it comes to describing yourself. Because, however, you tend to judge yourself pretty harshly, it may be a good idea to occasionally do a reality check with someone you trust to be discerning and truthful to you.
All the very best,
Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with subject heading TWO PRONGED. Unfortunately the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.