My Ex Keeps Promising to Commit, But He Never Follows Through

Man pointing his fingers on the side

Hi Evan:

I think I know the painful answer to this one but here it goes.. I married a guy 10 years younger than me (then 31/21). It was great for the first 3 years, and then he left for no good reason. One day, he just said "I want to be married but I want to be single too". He said that he would only be gone 2 months. Well, 2 months turned into 18 months. He came back but was never, ever home, so I kicked him out.

Now he’s back, saying that he wants to come back and really try. BUT he wants to come back in a month. The problem is that my kids really love him and I do (or did…I don’t even know!). All I know is that he has caused me more pain than anyone ever has. I keep thinking that he will grow up, and I always hope that he will start making better decisions in all aspects of his life for his own sake. But it never seems to happen. When is enough enough? I have been waiting for him to grow up for 6 1/2 years now. Do I give it another month or tell him “Adios”? He is a nice guy but one really lousy husband/boyfriend so far.


Dear Candace,

I’d like you to meet my friend, Ben Franklin. Ben has a few words for you that might be helpful:

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

An asshole is a nice guy 80% of the time.

Hate to be the one to break it to you, C, but you’re acting a little insane. Then again, all of us do when we expect others to change for our benefit.

How are you acting insane? Let me count the ways.

I married a guy 10 years younger than me (31/21). 21-year-old men, with rare exceptions, are not ready for marriage. Too little life experience, too little money, too many hormones.

I want to be married but I want to be single, too. Isn’t that like saying “I want to be a vegetarian, but eat meat, too”?

2 months turned into 18 months. The single part of marriage can be somewhat addictive, I’ve heard.

He came back but was never, ever home. If a tree falls in the forest, but sleeps around when you’re not looking, did it really happen?

Now he’s back, saying that he wants to come back and really try. BUT he wants to come back in a month. And I’m going to start my new diet as soon as the holidays are over…in 2014.

I keep thinking that he will grow up, and I always hope that he will start making better decisions in all aspects of his life for his own sake. You mean, for YOUR sake. He IS making decisions for his own sake.

When is enough enough?

Now that you’ve read what you’ve wrote — and had it plastered right in front of you with semi-sarcastic commentary — it’s your turn to answer the question, Candace.

When is enough enough?

Only when you say it is.

Only when you determine that your life without him is better than your life with him.

Only when you realize that you will never have a stable healthy relationship as long as he’s in the picture and owns a piece of your heart.

You say he’s a nice guy, Candace. He’s not. To borrow a quote from my book, “Why You’re Still Single”: An asshole is a nice guy 80% of the time. Assholes don’t torture old women or throw puppies out windows. Assholes do exactly what your “husband” is doing to you. They’re unreliable, emotionally abusive, and they lie — all while they’re charming you and claiming their devotion to you.

To make this crystal clear, Candace — you’re in a relationship with a jackass, but it’s not the jackass’s job to change.

You want to stop his selfish rampage over your existence?

Throw him out. Refuse his calls. Move on.

Because at this point, it’s not his fault for being a liar.

The harsh truth — the one that you already know — is that it’s your fault for not having the strength to walk away.

Join our conversation (12 Comments).
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  1. 2

    That’s the word, Evan. There is nothing to add, because I think she knows the answer already.

  2. 3

    I jsut read that quote today elsewhere, and they attributed it to Albert Einstein. Hmmm, great quote but I’ll have to check that out.

    I do agree with your advice to C — when is enough enough? When she feels that it is. A note about her kids — it’s helpful for kids to have some stability. If they are his kids, also, I hope he can stay involved in their lives more consistently instead of off and on / back and forth. Wishing them all well.

  3. 4

    Point out that even an asshole is nice 80% of the time is a good observation.

    1. 4.1

      Yeah, ‘an asshole is a nice guy 80% of the time’ is a fantastic observation/reminder; I’m writing it down…This letter is such a good eg of why we need to have some dealbreakers and stick to them!

  4. 6
    Dating Headshots

    Nothing I can say better than what Evan just did. Time to move on. Find your inner strength. Moving on will not be easy but neither was your relationship.

  5. 7

    Word. Throw the d-bag out and don’t look back. 21 year old guys are a notoriously flaky, douchey lot–I know, because I was the prince of them all. He needs to be bonging beers and chasing skirts, not married to an attractive, mature woman like you. Move on, sister.

  6. 8

    The only thing that this dude will understand is very clear cut, firm, strong boundaries. Even IF you are in love with him, it matters not. The price you have to pay to be with him is too steep. And it’s breaking your children’s hearts to have this person drift in and out of their lives. How long must they keep suffering the loss? Basically you are two diametrically opposed forces and as such, you cannot peacefully coexist in the same place. Be the fabulous woman you know you are and move on.

  7. 9

    He wants his cake and eat it too. Marriage doesn’t work like that. It’s hard enough on you that he is 10years younger, and the thoughts racing through your head, but he made that commitment, and should have stuck by it! You don’t need that aggravation. Have a long, sincere talk with him. Tell him to put up or shut up. In other words, you want a spouse, not a drifter. As far as him “growing up”, remember that there is a big difference between chronological, mental, and just being a mature adult. How much longer do YOU want to go through this? As the saying goes, “SH*T, or get off the pot!

  8. 10
    Bamwine Job

    My girlfriend told me that we should stop having sex till we get married and she had never even talked about it neither has she ever thought of it.
    I have been with her for one year now and all this time we’ve been doing everything.

  9. 11

    An arsehole is nice 80% of the time? I never thought about that.   And now I realize that it’s probably quite true.

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