My Boyfriend is Selfish. Why Won’t He Change for Me?

My Boyfriend is Selfish. Why Won’t He Change for Me?

My boyfriend, age 59, and I, age, 50, have been together 6 years. We were each previously in long term marriages and have kids.

During the course of our relationship there have been enough rough spots, many, I believe, stemming from his undiagnosed ADD, and perhaps even mild Aspergers, to push for counseling. After years of defensive resistance, we now see a therapist who diagnosed him, he is cautiously trying out different meds (with little effect thus far), and is helping us work toward a better relationship. The issues are his distractibility, impulsiveness, forgetfulness and frequent inability to see things from any perspective other than what works for him. Quite often our disagreements spiral down the proverbial rabbit hole. Weird, nonsensical, insensitive and incredibly frustrating. He has a difficult time processing concepts where the circumstances change and nuance is involved. It is sometimes maddening. And yet, I do love him – very much.

But I’ve also realized that who he is because of how his brain is wired might remain a constant source of frustration and angst. Me wishing he would just “get it”, and he resenting being reminded when he doesn’t. When things are good and I have his attention, I can’t fathom leaving the relationship. And other times, when care and consideration just take flight because something more exciting has caught his attention, I wonder – what am I doing here.

We are both highly educated, financially secure – he more-so (and then some) than me on both counts, well-traveled (something we do very well because I get the companionship I desire and he gets the stimulus he craves), well cultured, well read, politically aligned and family oriented. He is appreciative of me always, generous and genuine with his compliments, tells me and shows he loves me (when I have his attention) and wants to please me. He’s endlessly energetic (also exhausting), effortlessly outgoing (to the point of attention seeking), always up for something new (though sometimes ill conceived), great with my kids (he’s the fun Dad type), affectionate (sometimes in over-drive), handy, helpful (so long as it interests him), and easy-going (unless it interferes with his pursuit of pleasure). You get the idea. Some days he is the best and most wonderful person to be with, other days, it’s like watching a micro-burst of frenetic busy-ness while I’m stuck swinging at the top of a broken Ferris wheel.

Within the first year of our relationship he cheated on me while on a solo trip halfway around the world. Seems he just couldn’t resist the temptation of a pretty young thing at a party at his hotel the night before he flew home to see me – the girlfriend he missed.

Somehow, I knew he strayed. I asked repeatedly, and repeatedly, he lied. The nagging feeling lingered for months. I realized I’d not seen since his return the journal I had given him before he left – in which I lovingly inscribed “write it all down – share it with me” – as it was his habit – to keep little notebooks and jot down memorable tidbits. Months later, there was still no sharing. No journal in sight.

I found the journal sealed and tucked out of sight. The one night stand was succinctly but plainly noted, just another tidbit, referencing her age-25, “blue blood” and “spent the night”. His first reaction was not to console me, apologize or even express remorse. I was crying in a corner and instead of even approaching me, he announced from across the room how he should not write things down anymore. Huh???

He found it difficult to empathize and said he’d understand if I left him. Though he did everything I asked of him, missing was an intuitive understanding of what he could do on his own to make me feel better.

Fast forward to present day. Out of the blue he announced two days ago that he IS taking a SOLO two month trip around the world in a few months, to explore, surf and kiteboard in an “Endless Summer” experience – just because he is turning 60! He doesn’t seem to understand why I’m not fully trusting, or his enthusiastic cheerleader in this hedonistic self-absorbed pleasure driven adventure. He also doesn’t seem to understand why announcing this to his ex wife – not seeing their 12 yr old for two months – is going to result in legal fees for failure to comply with the detailed parenting plan in their divorce decree. It is ALL about him. I told him NONE of it was ok with me. Not the way he presented it as a done deal without even thinking about my reaction, Not the 2 month duration. Not with the trust issues, Not with a sense of nauseating entitlement that pursuit of this sort of pleasure was more important than his obligations to our relationship, his child, his family, his businesses, etc.

I told him if he pursued it I would lose all respect for him and he would lose me. He got defensive and angry and cast me as a controlling, leash tugging gate keeper – just trying to spoil his good time, but that he was doing it anyway. The next day, I wrote a letter detailing all the issues. He heard me, understood my points, and agreed with much of what I said. I’ve never spent two solid months with him, ever, not in 6 years. I see him 2 nights a week and every other weekend. He’s been away at his summer home most of the summer, and only occasionally with me when I make the effort to go to him. Otherwise, if it’s his time to be on the family compound he doesn’t leave.

This type of thing happens all too often. It’s like Jekyll and Hyde. This one, like the cheating, is among the worst.

Do I stay? Do I jump ship?

If it were not for his ADD that I believe leads him to these impulsive, random, illogical, impossible, reckless and insensitive thoughts and actions, I would have left long ago. It does not excuse his behavior – he is a grown up after all, but I have seen up close the strange and darker forces that can dominate his uniquely wired brain when that bright shiny thing is in the cross hairs of his pleasure seeking.

Thoughts, advice?

You get hundreds of letters. I know this one is WAY too long, but the telling was somewhat cathartic for me. So thanks for reading. I love your spot-on assessments. Your wife is lucky to have a consistent thinking, feeling, empathetic life partner.

Kind regards,


“If your aunt had balls, she’d be your uncle.”

I said that last night to the women in Love U in response to a similar question about a man who was not living up to expectations.

My client was wondering what to do with this guy – whether she should cut bait, how to get him to change – and I simply pointed out something crude I heard from my wife twelve ago.

What it means is that it may be only one change, but that one change fundamentally alters the essence of the object:

If your aunt had balls, she’d be your uncle.

If Ted Bundy didn’t murder people, he’d be a really charming guy.

If Ted Bundy didn’t murder people, he’d be a really charming guy.

If your boyfriend were less selfish, he’d be an amazing catch.

But he’s not.

You know it. I know it. Anyone reading this email knows it.

   a. He doesn’t want to change. He likes who he is.

   b.  He doesn’t have to change. You’ve stuck with him for six years despite this behavior. Why would he think that this time would be any different?

   c.  He can’t change. Whether it’s old dog/new tricks, ADD or, as I suspect, narcissistic personality disorder, it doesn’t matter. This is who he is. Take it or leave it.

Like our president, your boyfriend is an overgrown child who acts out but doesn’t pay any price for his selfishness.

Since there are no consequences to his behavior, he keeps acting out – whether it’s cheating, failing to find empathy, or taking off for two months without you.

You can make all the excuses in the world for him – what a great man he is – how charming, fun, and energetic – but that is just to ignore his big design flaw: he’s a shitty partner.

Thus, it doesn’t matter how much you like him when things are good.

How do you like being a second-class citizen within your own relationship?

If you don’t like it, get out.

If you stay, don’t expect things to change.

You’ve already taught him that he can get away with whatever he wants and you’re not going to do anything about it.

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  1. 1

    I’ve been there too- and left without looking back. I’m in the same demographic as Alison and know how narrow the pool of quality, available men tends to be as we get older. But that’s no reason to stay with a guy who clearly doesn’t make you a priority. Even more disturbing is his disregard for his parental obligation while he takes his around the world voyage-without her. Someone who truly wants a life partner would want to share that with her. And he clearly doesn’t, further evidenced by only seeing each other two nights a week and every other weekend-for six years. His “oh well” attitude about his one-night stand is a hallmark of NPD selfishness.
    Alison sounds like a vibrant and intelligent woman – and EMK’s advice here is spot-on. But only she can make the decision to stay or go. Hopefully, it’s the latter- especially since he’s told her he’d understand if she wanted to leave.

    1. 1.1

      I agree, and I think the point is that she needs to be okay with being alone. Once you are okay with being alone, and enjoying your life that way, you are less willing to accept people that do not treat you the way you deserve.

  2. 2

    Speaking as someone who has diagnosed ADD, possibly has a touch o’Aspergers… AND shows up on time, prioritizes followthrough, and has been utterly faithful in all my relationships… and has had a few long-term partners very much like myself in those respects… IMO this issue isn’t an ADD issue, it’s a *character* issue… not worth keeping him around.

    1. 2.1

      Google “narcissistic personality disorder help” on youtube. If you’ve never come up against these characters, you’re in for a wide eye opening experience!!! Evan is right. I also have aspergers and I am loyal to the extreme in relationships and if you read about it most aspies male and female are honest and loyal. This one sounds narcissistic.

      1. 2.1.1

        I have had three Narcs, I am like an expert on this. this one does NOT seem a narc. He seems Asperger. The differences are here:
        – has crazy moodswings and rage fits
        – hurts on purpose, exhibits fake empathy when convenient
        – has nasty reactions to the slightest form of criticism
        – acts like a spoiled selfish chid who simple does NOT care about anyone elses’ needs
        – is forgetful of other people’s rights, feelings and points f view but does not hurt the on purpose
        – has obsessive hobbies/passions and routines
        – does NOT go on crazy rage fits because of criticism

  3. 3

    Wow, I could have written a version of this letter some years ago. A different version, but the themes would have been the same.
    I was with a man I adored but who was a SHITTY partner (with all capital letters). He had moments of real softness and tenderness, streaks of real generosity and affection in his personality – but he also:
    * Would spend endless hours online gaming every night and every weekend. Often making me wait at the gate to his house to be let in, or wait for ages just to be greeted, just because he was in the middle of a raid.
    * Would insist that 100% of our time together was spent at his house. He would never drive to me, would never spend any time whatsoever at my house, on my turf.
    * Would rarely, if ever, engage in any activities that weren’t completely what he wanted to do for my sake. He wouldn’t watch a movie that I liked, try a restaurant that I liked, see my family or friends, or try any new place or activity unless it was entirely something he also wanted to do.
    * Would never travel or go away anywhere with me, for any length of time, even though I begged him because he simply didn’t want to. For him, “I don’t want to” was a complete and inarguable reason for turning down any request. The idea of trying to make me feel better or please me was something he either had to work very hard at, or was just foreign altogether.

    I could go on and on, but essentially, he pleased himself 99% of the time. Even the caring, generous things that he did were completely on his terms. He was not a horrible person, but his selfishness and his obliviousness to the feelings of others was absolutely breathtaking.

    I loved him, and for years I tried to get him to see things from my point of view. I was told over and over again, either directly or indirectly through his actions, that this was who he was and he was not changing. I could either accept it or leave. I felt so much compassion for him because he was living such a narrow, shallow, self-centered existence and he was not all that happy. Like the LW, I made so many excuses for him, so many excuses to stick around and try to get him to soften and change his perspective.

    I also knew that he loved me – as much as it was possible for him to love anyone. After I left him, he even asked me years later if we could get back together. I thought about it, but there was no going back for me. I did eventually walk away from that relationship, and eventually I came to see that if I ever went back to it, all that misery and frustration would just be waiting for me.

    Alison, you do not have to sacrifice your happiness just because you love this man. You do not have to save him from himself. There are so many people out there who are so much less selfish, so much more genuinely empathetic than this man. Go find one of them. Don’t put yourself through years more of this – Leave. One day you’ll probably wish you’d left sooner.

    1. 3.1

      I sometimes think you and I are living parallel lives, Clare.

      Between all my relationships, I’ve had guys who took off for days without notice, who stayed out all night without explanation, who were selfish in bed, who were selfish with their time/money, who complained about spending time with my family/friends, who cheated without a lot of remorse (or any), who always wanted to choose the movie we watched, who generally were of the attitude, ‘this is what I want, join me if you like’ …who on the night before my birthday pretty much ignored me and sat doing who-knows-what on their phone (I suspect chatting to other women)… etc.
      All the while telling me how much they loved me.

      It all sounds ridiculous in hindsight, but at the time, especially if you would never do those things yourself (to a beloved partner, no less), you make excuses and desperately want to find out *why* they are acting this way towards someone they love. You think, or certainly I do, if you can figure out why you can change the behaviour. It drives you insane!

      I personally can’t get my head around why someone would keep doing things to people which drive them away or even just really upset them. I’m pretty sure I will never understand it, hard as I try. But sometimes you have wake up calls. I had two myself over the weekend. One happened as I was chatting to the girlfriend of one of my (lovely) guy friends. She’s a little older than me and had her dating struggles. But now she’s in a great relationship. I asked her what was different about this relationship. She said “it’s so nice to be with someone who puts your needs as high as their own”. It was like a light bulb went off and I wondered why on earth I was giving the time of day to guys who only think about themselves (like the guy in this letter). The second came the following day from my sister in law who told me that I need to accept that some people are just arseholes (I always think there’s a reason and they can be changed).

      I have to believe, and can imagine, that when you’re with a great, unselfish guy, you won’t be worrying about the nasty people out there and why they are the way they are. You’ll just be enjoying the good relationship you have. I think we all deserve that, Alison 🙂

      1. 3.1.1


        It’s funny you mention the birthday thing because the birthdays I spent with the guy I described in my post (maybe 4 or 5 in total) were all shit. He never asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday or had any interest if I told him. He’d sulkily take me out for dinner (that was supposed to be as short and convenient for him as possible) and half-heartedly fling a present at me. He always made me want to cry on my birthday.
        Other girlfriends of mine who have been with very selfish men report similar things about their birthdays with these guys, so it must be a thing – the one day that it’s supposed to be all about you and they seem to resent it sooo much.

        “It all sounds ridiculous in hindsight, but at the time, especially if you would never do those things yourself (to a beloved partner, no less), you make excuses and desperately want to find out *why* they are acting this way towards someone they love. You think, or certainly I do, if you can figure out why you can change the behaviour. It drives you insane!”
        This. I’m sure my staying with this guy must have seemed insane to friends and family watching, but I was so desperate to figure him out and save him from himself. Somewhere deep down I knew I was the stronger one of the two of us, and I was going to help him to love. But the cost to myself was just way too high. For many chronically selfish people, I think the selfishness is just incurable. I eventually got beyond sick of being unimportant.
        I think the sad thing is that, if it’s true that these people don’t change or don’t change much, they are dooming themselves to a life of failed or unhappy relationships, and they will never really understand why. The guy I described now has a girlfriend of a year or so, a seemingly lovely person. She diligently packs her bag to come and stay at his house every weekend, driving to him because he can never be off his own turf, watches his movies, puts up with his all-night gaming and tolerates a relationship which is going nowhere because he cannot live with anyone because he is too selfish. The very presence of someone in his house for extended periods of time irks him. I feel sad for both of them – she is eventually going to leave and he is going to be left wondering what went wrong.

        I’m glad you had those wake-up calls. As miserable as this relationship was for me, leaving it was a HUGE wake up call for me, and for that I am thankful. The quality of the guys I dated got better and better after that (they could not have got any worse), and I will never ever go near a guy like that again.

        PS. Do you sometimes think you’re still single because your standards have got much higher and you have a clearer idea of what will make you happy than you used to (a good thing)?

        1. Marika

          I’m mulling over your PS, Clare…

          Not sure about that. I’m actually rarely totally single, as in there’s always someone I’m seeing or dating (or trying to figure out!!). My sis in law forced me to think about what I want – specifically – exactly how I want to be treated. I’d always avoided that as I *don’t* ever want to be labeled a selfish, entitled princess. But perhaps I could stand to be a bit more selfish.

          I know what it would look and feel like to be in a great relationship. I have some role models of that (you included). My blocks are, I stay too long with guys who aren’t like that but trigger my attachment system (I get predictably and strongly triggered), and I find it hard to sort out actual deal breakers amongst the nice ones.

          For instance, the date I described last week was perfect. As in, we both were clearly trying to be kind and good to each other. But: he’s Sth American, English is his second language and he doesn’t have permanent residency (yet). So conversation was a little strained – which I don’t mind – I’m just not sure it would work for a relationship. I’m also not worried he’s trying to use me for a Visa. I have plenty of friends from o/s who go through the process, get PR and he’s working hard at it. I just don’t know if I want to get too attached to someone who may have to leave at some point. And I have no idea how to explain that, kindly, to someone who doesn’t get the language nuances and without hurting him. So I’m sort of stuck in analysis paralysis, not wanting to throw away a good man, definitely not wanting to hurt him, but also wondering if this is too messy.

        2. Clare


          To me it sounds as if your instincts and your self-awareness are working very well.

          It is evident, to me anyway, that you put a lot more thought into choosing a partner than the average person, and even though you might have the odd stumbling block to work through, you are well aware of what these are. This high level of awareness can keep you single as easily as negative “issues,” but I think it does this for the right reasons – even though you may rarely be fully single, your awareness will hopefully keep you from getting too entangled in relationships that aren’t right for you.

          All of this tells me that you are on the right track.

          (By the way, the thought that you are giving to whether or not to get involved with the South American guy is an exact example of what I was talking about. A person with less awareness would either never have gone near the situation at all, or would have hurtled into it head-first, guns blazing. You are not denying yourself the experience but are weighing the situation – a very good thing, in my opinion.)

        3. Marika

          Thank you Clare. I really appreciate the kind words. And feedback – because I mostly feel like I don’t know wtf I’m doing!

          I’ve decided it makes no sense to keep seeing someone where the language will be a barrier, at least for the next few months or so (he’s taking extensive language classes), as it’s very hard to get to really know someone without in depth conversations.

          I waa also thinking last week (it was Father’s day), is this a guy I could bring to a family gathering? The answer is no. Not that my family decide these things, but I recall one of the things that helped Evan decide his wife was the one, was how well she fit into his life and family. I’m trying to make more logical decisions.

          If anyone has any suggestions on what I should say to him, I would appreciate it. Nothing too complicated – the Aussie accent is hard enough to decipher for an English speaker 😉

          I really want to handle this well. It was only one date, but he’s a really good guy.

        4. Clare


          For what it’s worth, I think straight up is the way to go in situations like this.

          Say you think he’s a great guy, that you had a really lovely time with him on your date, but you feel that his situation is too uncertain for you to get involved with him.
          If you want to keep the door open, you could offer to be friends or ask him to get in touch with you once he’s sorted out his residence.
          Otherwise, you could just wish him luck and say it was good to meet him.

    2. 3.2

      Clare, Marika,

      Could you both give me a bit of an insight as to why you would stay in a relationship like you described for so long (or longer periods of time)? I understand that you would want to give the person an honest chance. But it seems like so many women go way beyond that.

      Is it a determination to make a relationship work (in a positive sense, like a commitment to the relationship, rather than just quitting). Or do you think fear of being alone plays a factor? Fear of failure?

      You see this quite often in the women you meet or those around you. And I’ve always wondered how anyone could stay with a person like that – love or not.

      1. 3.2.1


        The dating and relationship motivations / drives of someone completely different from you can be hard to explain. As we said, we couldn’t fathom/accept why someone would treat us badly who loved us (as I truly believe these guys did, as much as they were able). So we felt if we could figure it out and fix it (them), it would be best for both of us. Also, some of us enjoy making others happy. And when guys like this are happy and getting their way, they are great to be around.

        You may understand this bit – these guys always have *something* that draws you in. If they were completely douchey and nasty always, they wouldn’t attract anyone. They are exciting, unpredictable, funny, they teach you new ways of looking at the world etc…

      2. 3.2.2


        Everything that Marika said.

        I can explain to you very explicitly why I stayed with the above guy. The reasons were crystal clear in my mind. But they may not make much sense to you.

        * Like Marika said, he was a truly impressive, extraordinary person in some ways. If he wasn’t, I would never have given him the time of day, or I certainly would not have stayed a fraction as long as I did. He was one of the most intelligent people I’d ever met. Also, despite how neglectful he was, our relationship was uniquely comfortable and cosy. He gave me my independence and space and there was a kind of bliss surrounding our relationship when things were good. I can’t explain it better than that – you had to be there. In addition to this, he ticked a lot of the “social proof” boxes that I looked for – very well-educated, great family, good looking, had his own house and very comfortable financially. If it hadn’t been for his character flaws, he’d have been the total package.

        * I really believed that I loved him deeply. And in fact I’d say that I did. It’s not easy for me to walk away from someone I love, no matter how flawed they are. I had a lifetime’s worth of experience of putting up with my parents’ pretty serious flaws, so I had broad shoulders.

        * There was a fair amount of brainwashing going on. He had a very assertive, intimidating way of talking and he would always rationalise his behaviour and try to make me believe that I needed to be more accommodating and accepting of him; that my desire for more time, affection and consideration was needy and indicative of something wrong on my part.

        I will say that, in spite of how distressing this relationship was, it sky-rocketed my self-growth and relationship skills. I learned things through dealing with this guy that have served me very well. I also wised up very quickly – once I saw through what was going on with him, I could never be taken in again.

        So, it’s hard for me to regret it – everything happens for a reason, is what I think.

      3. 3.2.3

        Hi Sylvana,

        I use to wonder the same thing about why people stayed in those type of relationships.

        I think the answer is simply the bad doesn’t come out/show until the woman/man is emotionally hooked/in love.

        Also according to Helen Fisher love goes through phases: lust, attraction and then comfort. My guess is that because of the high volatility of those type of relationships the person abused stays in the lust phase. Like the research they did on gambling that showed that the uncertainty along with the “constant” extreme highs & lows keep people coming back.

        This is probably why women in the comfort stage of a relationship/marriage are more ready to walk away if they see any signs of abuse. The lust stage is addictive.

        1. Lynx

          Adrian: “I think the answer is simply the bad doesn’t come out/show until the woman/man is emotionally hooked/in love.”

          And, for some of us, the bad we finally saw is mixed among shared life events: career struggles, mortgages, miscarriages, children born, parents died.

          It’s the sunk cost fallacy — you’ve invested SO much of yourself. It is incredibly hard to accept the wasted investment.

        2. Michelle

          Lynx, I find your answer fascinating! I never heard of the “sunk cost fallacy.” I’ve read many books, taken philosophy, psychology and the like, but never heard of this… I am Very impressed there is a name for it. I also think this coupled with the physiological fact of giant release of the bonding hormone ‘oxytocin’ plays a negative role in women’s lives here in in bad relationships, whereas, it’s function is practical and necessary for not abandoning babies on earth. This bonding hormone is as strong as a morphine addiction. It’s released in tiny amounts in men and huge amounts in women during orgasm, creating a ‘false’ ( or real depending of the relationship) bond to the person associated with the orgasm. This hormone is also released in high amounts when breastfeeding. The hormone brings a comfort and a type of high that the women believe is “love” when it is clearly not. She returns to the person giving her the orgasm despite the fact he may be a danger to her. The oxytocin high lies in a way that it’s misinterpreted as a binding love. I suspect this is where men perceive women as ‘crazy’ because men do not have this physiological binding mechanism in place; therefore. when a women acts upon this function, men run for the hills thinking women are crazy when it is they who created the release in the first place! This is nature bonding her to his orgasm ( not necessarily “in love with him” ) and she doesn’t know this fact either so it looks crazy especially when the man doesn’t respond in kind or she’s crazy in love with a felon in prison. It just doesn’t add up until you know this fact. It’s hard to fight this addiction because it blinds end to truth for a while until the pain becomes greater than the high.

        3. Adrian

          Hi Lynx,

          You wrote 2 very great nuggets of wisdom in a previous thread a few months ago so I’ve been looking forward to the chance to speak with you; you come off as very intelligent but not in an arrogant way.

          Anyway yes I agree with you about the sunk cost fallacy (If you are reading this Michelle the term comes from Economics). When I was a teen my friends and I called it the used call dilemma. You know that old car that you just keep sinking money into to get fix until you’ve actually spent more on repairs than it would have cost to buy a new car. However in you mind all you can think of is that you don’t want to get rid of the car that you had your first kiss in or that you picked up your new born baby brother from the hospital in or…or…or…

          Yes the few memories of good times are keeping you from seeing that it is time to let the car die, to let the relationship die. Unfortunately like anything that we are emotionally attached to, just because we see the bad doesn’t mean that we have the strength to let it go.

        4. SparklingEmerald

          Hi Lynx – “And, for some of us, the bad we finally saw is mixed among shared life events: career struggles, mortgages, miscarriages, children born, parents died.

          It’s the sunk cost fallacy — you’ve invested SO much of yourself. It is incredibly hard to accept the wasted investment.”

          Did you buy Evan’s e-book “Believe in Love” He discusses the “sunk cost fallacy”. I can totally relate to that. He shares a story from a woman named “Anna” who described her experience with sunk costs. Her story described my situation perfectly.

        5. Lynx

          Michelle: Glad I was able to introduce you to a new concept, since it sounds like you have done considerable research into the chemistry of bonding!

          Adrian: Thanks for the comment, “you come off as very intelligent but not in an arrogant way” , although I definitely feel the older I get, the greater my awareness of all that I do NOT know. If only I were as smart as I *thought* I was in my 20s…

          Sparkling: I did not (yet!) read “Believe In Love”, I know I should. I was married for 20-something years and there is a depth to a relationship of that duration that cannot be replicated. It’s not that I wish we were still together — it wasn’t right for either of us — but those one-of-a-kind shared milestones won’t happen again. Buying your first house, landing the dream job, having your first child, and all that. At mid-life, it seems difficult to believe a new relationship can have as much texture.

        6. SparklingEmerald

          Lynx said “Sparkling: I did not (yet!) read “Believe In Love”, I know I should. I was married for 20-something years and there is a depth to a relationship of that duration that cannot be replicated. It’s not that I wish we were still together — it wasn’t right for either of us — but those one-of-a-kind shared milestones won’t happen again. Buying your first house, landing the dream job, having your first child, and all that. At mid-life, it seems difficult to believe a new relationship can have as much texture.”

          When I first got divorced after 23 years, I said “Never again” and really didn’t want to even date or meet men. Long story about how I “accidently” got into the dating game again, but once I did, all my feelings got stirred up, so I decided I was up for a “committed, monogamous, non-cohabitating relationship” but just did’t think marriage was necessary. I am well beyond child bearing years, I owned my own home, was financially secure, so I didn’t need to pool my income with someone else’s to buy a home, so absent procreation or the lifestyle boost that comes with combining two incomes, I didn’t see the point of marriage. After I read “Believe in Love”, I thought “Hmmmm, he makes some pretty good points about marriage, and I just might consider it, if I met the right guy, but that ship has pretty much sailed” I at least became a little more open to the possiblity of marriage after reading “Believe in Love”

          Well that ship hadn’t sailed and I did meet a wonderful man almost 5 years ago, and we have been married over 2 years. We will never have the milestone of having a child, at our age a silver anniversary is unlikely, and we each own our own home (we live in mine, we use his for storage and as a guest house because our homes are within walking distance). But guess what, while we don’t have THOSE milestones, there are some really WONDERFUL delicious things about a late in life marriage. No worries about finances. We earned our keep in our youth, we bought our homes, we built are retirement savings, so we never went through a financial struggle and we never argue about money. Also, are children are long gone out of the nest, so we have been blissfully child free the whole time, and we never had to deal with the drama of “blending” our families, because our children are grown. Best of all, he was retired when we met, and I retired shortly after we married. Being RETIRED together is such a treat. Like being two teenagers on summer vacation and mom and dad aren’t home ! We can plan our vacations as we please, no checking in with two employers and scheduling our time off. We can go to a matinee in the middle of the week. We can sleep in until 10AM and binge watch TV in our PJ’s all day if we want too. We can go catch some live music and stay out as late as we please (at our age we, it usually doesn’t please us to stay out past 10PM anyway) Our life pretty much belongs to us, no children to hamper us, no financial struggles, no employer to answer to. It is a GREAT life !

          Even when I started dating again, I wasn’t really expecting to have that googly eyed feeling, a comfortable companionship with physical intimacy was all I was expecting. But with my guy, we both had a “giddy” feeling when we first started dating. Granted, it wasn’t that crack cocaine type high from my youth, but it was more than a comfortable, cuddly, companionship than I was expecting. I still fondly remember our 3rd date, walking down Central Ave after a festival, hand in hand, wildly swinging our hands back and forth, stopping to kiss every few feet, laughing and joking about our shameless PDA’s, and being completely unable to wipe those silly grins off our faces. And those sweet love letters via -emails he sent me when were first getting to know each other. NEVER thought I could feel THAT again, but we both did.

          So never, say never. Love can happen at any age. I won’t go as far as to say if you keep trying love is guaranteed, because it IS harder as you get older, but it IS possible, but only if you try, and TOTALLY worth it if you succeed.

  4. 4

    They all said it better than I can. He’s not going to change. He’s even leaving his kids for two months. It will always be about him. What about you? Even if you don’t find someone else–it’s not easy out there–it’s better to be alone than be treated like this.

    The cheating was definitely a red flag! He never even said sorry because he’s just sorry you found the journal not because of what he did. Not because of the the betrayal of trust.

    You can have people in your life who treat you with honor, respect, and prioritize your needs sometimes. This guy isn’t one of those people. Truly wish you the best, Allison. Cause you deserve the best.

  5. 5

    She had no business reading a journal that was “sealed and tucked away.” She shouldn’t have even been looking for it in the first place. Snooping may be a less serious offense than cheating, but it is still a breach of trust.

    I spent too many years using my partners’ failings as an excuse to not look at how my own behavior was keeping me stuck in subpar relationships. Now I always try to show up as my best self no matter what. I’m still single, but I feel better about myself and my relationships.

  6. 6

    This sounds much more like NPD, not Asbergers, not ADD. As a scientist, I’ve worked with many of us who are somewhere on the spectrum and what is being described is almost opposite of how Aspies act. I too am in the writers demographic and know too well how hard it is to find a partner our age who is healthy and high functioning, or functional at all for that matter. However, tis better to risk having to stay alone than be involved with someone who will never make you a priority.

    1. 6.1

      strongly disagree. I have dated several nars and one Aspie and he sounds like a total Asie. No mention in the letter of any disctinctive NARC trait, other than the lack of empathy which is also seen in Aspies.

      1. 6.1.1

        Yes, a lack of empathy is seen in Aspies depending on how far along the spectrum they’re on but usually that bad an Aspie really cannot do relationships from the get go. Don’t have the social skills and are poorly put together. The two narcs I dated (and dumped) began to act just like this, one both in the workplace and in private life. Bottom line: Doesn’t really matter, it’s crap behavior that no one should tolerate. Even if this dude resides somewhere in the DSM V (diagnostic and statistical manual), it’s their responsibility to handle their disorder and no one else’s.

        1. mara

          agreed, he is a shitty boyfriend that is all we care about;
          i had an aspie an dhe was eaxctly like this dude. i had two narcs and they were waayyyyy worse; the thing is here I really don’t see much NPD at all, other than lack of empathy …the typical rage, where is it?

  7. 7

    Wow. Just wow. I’m sometimes shocked at what women will put up with. It’s sad to hear stories like this.

  8. 8

    Jump ship. You’re intelligent and compassionate but doing more of that work than he is. On the face of it, his individual justifications have validity – you can see that – and that is causing you to second-guess yourself. He has a medical condition. Two months apart from the 12-year-old is not the end of the world and not something that really warrants court action, despite the detailed paperwork. You *are* trying to ruin it for him. You should not have read his journal. But these are truths that have weight in isolation, not heaped together in a smack-yo-head jumble of where-do-I-get-a-look-in-throughout-all-of-this? He did lots of things to you, too. Whoppers, in fact: cheating, sustained lying. Consistently defaulting to his own prerogatives, never yours and obviously not his child’s.

    Leave. Your deeper needs are not being met. He’ll continue to ensure that his needs *are* being met whether you are there or not. You can flatten your back against the wall and edge out of the room and he won’t really notice, so do that. When you find better you’ll wonder why you stayed so long. I had one of these men, once, too. Now I have a better one and he isn’t “misunderstood”. You won’t breathe at all for a while, but once you push beyond that stasis, it’s such a satisfying exhalation.

    1. 8.1

      Amanda, this is so well said: “You can flatten your back against the wall and edge out of the room and he won’t really notice, so do that.” This is it in a nutshell. Allison the letter writer writes so well which makes one only want the best for her. She should follow your advice, and do this right before he leaves for this two-monther, or do it while he is gone and almost be over him by the time he gets back.

  9. 9

    My fiance is similar in that he suffers from ADD (diagnosed in his 40s), has a hard time seeing others perspectives, empathizing, does not do well with change and is horrible with nuance, but there is one main difference between this LW’s man and mine, he has not cheated, and if someone told me he cheated I would be in absolute shock. With reference to the ADD alone, I do think that with counseling and recognition he could change, a bit. But he will never change totally. First that’s who he is, and even with treatment he can only change so much, and second he’s not in his 20s meaning he’s lived this way for so long, it’s so hard to change fully. I respect that he went to counseling, I respect that he is trying. But cheating, cheating has nothing to do with ADD, or with any other mental health diagnosis. That’s a choice that he made. Sure part of his diagnosis may not allow him to see why him traveling again would hurt you, but what my fiance has learned is that even if he does not understand why it hurts me, (and he will try) he understands that it DOES hurt me, and that’s all he needs to know. Every relationship has it’s good parts, it’s good days, even with total jerks there are good days. But I think what this writer needs to ask herself is is she okay with being cheated on? Is she okay with him traveling the world without her when she does not trust him, and finally can she accept him on his worst day? I think the answer is no. So she needs to move on. She CANNOT change him. One final note I thought it was odd to mention how much more he earned than she did. I am not sure why that is relevant here, other than maybe she wants to stay with him for financial stability?

  10. 10

    #1. Always remember they know exactly what they are doing.
    #2. Ignore the words believe the action
    #3. It’s not your fault, it’s his.
    #4. You will never win this.
    #5. It only gets worse.
    #6. There is no “why.” He just is. He knows that. When will you accept it?
    #7. He will never and can never REALLY love you.
    #8. He was an experience to shoe you what you don’t want. No more no less. He will continue being that until you FINALLY decide to choose yourself and stop accepting scraps. You are worthy and lovable, act like it.
    #9. Stop making excuses for him or his behavior. See above #1.
    #10. Welcome to the world of narcissistic personality disorder aka “teaching women to stand on their own two feet and choose themselves, one asshole at a time.” When you start reading into all the signs and projections , you’ll smack yourself how obvious it all is. Then, pick yourself up and go “no contact.” The only way to not waste another moment of your precious life.
    You already know what you need to do. Don’t wait.

  11. 11
    Mrs Happy

    “My boyfriend is selfish. Why won’t he change for me?”
    Drum roll… He won’t change anything for you, because he is selfish.

    (And people don’t change. Especially at 59. Plus, to be blunt, he really likes his life and freedom and self absorption and getting his own way, more than he wants or likes or respects you, so why on earth would he want to change? Try to see it from his point of view to understand his actions: there is no advantage for him in changing, and he doesn’t feel any drive to be ‘nice’.)

    Alison, I’m fascinated at why you’ve stayed in this relationship. You must be an interesting person.

    1. 11.1

      ‘You must be an interesting person’.

      That’s needlessly mean. She’s writing a letter asking for advice, of course she isn’t going to spend equal effort to enumerate all the positives of the relationship and guy. But she clearly…likes him a lot. She has human feelings, that’s why stayed in the relationship.

      1. 11.1.1
        Mrs Happy

        Gallilee, it was not a needless or a mean comment. Why would you interpret it as either? I meant what I actually wrote (I usually do): Alison would be interesting to talk with, i.e. I’d be curious about her and her background and the reasons for all her decisions over the 6 years she has stayed in her relationship. Being interested in others is not mean.

        1. Gallilee

          Ok I thought ‘interesting’ was euphemistic. There’s a tone in this thread of ‘what on earth are you doing with him at all?’
          Of course there are hugely attractive things about this man/relationship, she didn’t spend equivalent time on that stuff because she’s asking for help with the negative stuff. That’s the nature of asking for help…

  12. 12

    To echo Evan and those above, though more succinctly. My grandmother told me a long time ago “what you see is what you get” with men, especially men at this age. Very few people change fundamentally in the ways this man would have to change; and that is only after extensive self work, therapy, and it can take years if it happens at all. There are some “sunk costs” you’ve invested in this man and it’s got some strong ties for you because of it, but you do have better options; including being alone. You ignored a boatload of red flags and now you are in a mess. Time to face reality and abandon ship on this one; you have time to have a happy life with someone else. His ADD and Aspergers is an excuse, as per above lots of people with these challenges live happy, loving, healthy lives. Let him find his match, probably someone as screwed up and narcassistic as he is.

  13. 13

    Have been alone for most of the past ten years waiting for an amazing man. DO NOT SETTLE! I’m 58 on Sunday and have the man of my dreams. They are out there, but you have to do your own healing and find the reasons why you don’t feel worthy of a real partner. I’m in the healthiest and best relationship of my life (with much help from Evan). Now go find yours!

    1. 13.1

      That’s wonderful Lynn. All the good news stories warm my heart. Thanks so much for sharing yours!

      Perhaps some of us would benefit – I certainly would – from hearing a bit more about your journey and what turned things around for you, If you are happy to share?

      Give that man of yours a big hug [and more 😉 ].

    2. 13.2

      “but you have to do your own healing and find the reasons why you don’t feel worthy of a real partner.”

      Thank you for saying this. People miss this part or gloss over it. Once you start to love yourself, choose yourself, and heal…healthy boundaries and just pure love for yourself won’t even allow a person to stay in relationships like this for 6 years, no matter how much you love a person. That’s not saying that any of it easy…hardest task EVER. Especially when you’ve been conditioned to put others needs before your own. And now you have to learn a new way of life. But if the new way leads to happiness, self-worth, healthy boundaries, and someone who reciprocates the love you give…then by all means, walk away, mourn the loss and move on. We gotta stop making excuses for the emotional abuse we endure and calling it something else.

  14. 14
    A Random Guy

    I’m most amazed by how the readers here are not reading between the lines and seeing this woman for what she is. She loves the lifestyle that his personality type has achieved and she pathologizss the personality type that got him there. If he didn’t have so much financial success, she would have been gone years ago. And no, I don’t care what her counselor says; a man who can devote his undivided attention to his career to get him where he is does not have a pathological problem with attention.

    If you want his stuff, stay. If you want love, leave. But really: that journal bit made me think that this letter is one major, elaborate prank. If I were him, I would have left her already. If I were her, I would acknowledge the obvious reality that the guy spends a tremendous amount of time away from her in his summer home (as well as going “solo” for two months) because he’s doing the same thing with another woman who’s also wondering how she can make him commit to her.

    1. 14.1

      A Random Guy, I agree that the whole journal part made this story seem fake, it was so creepy (also, see what I wrote below). Evidently, she wrote this with a straight face: ‘I realized I’d not seen since his return the journal I had given him before he left – in which I lovingly inscribed “write it all down – share it with me”.’

      How controlling is that? Even if – or especially because – this was something he had enjoyed doing on his own, she shouldn’t insert herself and make him share everything he writes down with her. Ugh. No wonder he holds her at arm’s length. If anything, he wanted to believe the best of her, but now feels so stifled that he needs to go away on his own for 2 months. I feel as though all her fake concern about his custody situation isn’t nearly as dramatic as she paints, and that she just wants to use that as leverage to try to get him to stay.

      Beyond that she should leave him, HE should leave HER.

    2. 14.2

      you clearly have no idea how Aspergers can be;
      they have hyperfocus on their career (usually they make their passion unto a career since they give zero fucks about any other . subject matte thant the ONE thing they obsess about, and most of the time it has to do with computer or science)
      At the same time they can suffer comorbdity od ADD
      As for this whole theory about this woman being some sort of goldigger nah, she clearly is inn some sort of codependent trap she thinks it’s love.
      godiggers are detached from emotions.

    3. 14.3

      Totally agree!! She sees this man twice a week and every other weekend for six years!! Either leave because it’s not what you want and your emotional needs aren’t being met, or stay and accept him and the relationship for what it is.

  15. 15

    In my experience, most educated and financially secure people have their impulses under control. Unfocused people who act before they think will frequently struggle at life. When a 59 yo out of the blue decides to go on a 2 month surfing trip, I would be alarmed. My advice would be to make sure he can truly afford his lifestyle. Impulsiveness tends to destroy wealth.

  16. 16

    The thing I really stuggle to understand with with people like this guy, many of who I’ve known/dated, is that they *have* had consequences for their poor behaviour. It’s the only part of Evan’s reply I disagree with – he makes the point that the BF has no reason to change as the LW keeps sticking by him. But his ex wife didn’t. If he didn’t care about losing that relationship, surely he cared about losing money, his house, his son…

    Yes, he’s leaving his son for 6 months, but he’s still a parent. And a parent who is good with her kids. I’m sure he misses not living with his son.

    I know people with a string of failed relationships, lost contact with loved ones who cut them out, all sorts of financial liabilities, etc. They have plenty or reason and impetus to change. What’s it going to take?

  17. 17

    You don’t know his mindset. What would he lose? His girlfriend? Maybe he doesn’t care that much. He can get a new one tomorrow. Its sounds brutal but that’s the price for dating the super educated, successful person.

    I think she should end things, mainly for her own sense of self worth and respect. But if she goes that way she’ll have to accept that if she wants to date a type A personality, things will be similar. Or she could date a nicer guy who isn’t killing it in the business world. Compromise…

    1. 17.1


      Am I to understand that you are saying people who are successful in the business world (actually we don’t know that that is what he does – all the LW said was that he was very well-educated and financially secure. He could be an award-winning scientist for all we know) are more likely to cheat? More likely to leave their partners and children to go off on surfing and kiteboarding holidays for months at a time?
      Doesn’t seem very likely.

      That “nice” people, who are less likely to do such selfish things and more likely to prioritise their partners, are not likely to be successful as well?

      Finally, are you so sure he would be able to get a new girlfriend tomorrow? Not a new date, but a new actual girlfriend? Are there an abundance of women keen to have a relationship with a man pushing 60 who behaves as this one does?

      I don’t question your assertion that the LW should leave. I just seriously question the other conclusions you have drawn.

    2. 17.2

      @Galillee Or she could date a nicer guy who isn’t killing it in the business world.

      He does not seem like a successful Type A killing it in the financial or business world.
      From the description, he appears to be a self-absorbed academic with some assets and property that allow him to eschew responsibility and live out some “I’m a globe-trotting adventurer-literati who refuses to live inside the box” type.

      1. 17.2.1
        Yet Another Man


        Her boyfriend is definitely not an academic.

        From the LW’s letter to Evan:

        “Not with a sense of nauseating entitlement that pursuit of this sort of pleasure was more important than his obligations to our relationship, his child, his family, his businesses, etc.”

  18. 18

    Okay, I can’t believe I’m going to write this, as usually I empathise with and defend women. HOWEVER… my take (different from Evan and most commenters, but similar to A Random Guy and Galilee) is that this boyfriend that most of you think is horrible is not necessarily narcissistic.

    It’s just a classic case of HJNTIY – but with a very controlling girlfriend who clearly is much farther along in the relationship in her mind than he is.

    He can take her or leave her, but she’s not leaving, despite that he cheated (probably didn’t see her as being a serious gf) and wants to go on a two-month tour without her, which is perfectly within his rights to do. Some read narcissism into his behaviour. I see someone who simply doesn’t take the relationship seriously. Notice, SHE is the one claiming that his vacation will cause legal problems with his ex – the ex may not care at all. Many parents I know that do not have main custody are fine with going away for 2 months if they know their children are in good care. It does not make them horrible people.

    So, that’s my take. The long letter from her is just an avoidance of the facing the truth: HJNTIY. What I agree with Evan on: she should walk, but somehow I think she’s going to stay.

    1. 18.1


      I avoid labeling people (narcissist, bipolar, avoidant, whatever you like) at all costs – I loathe this modern tendency of people (who are not professionals) to diagnose others whom they have never met (or had limited contact with) and often only read a few paragraphs about from one *biased* source on the internet.

      So I’m not going to go near the narcissist label.

      And I agree, the LW’s boyfriend may well be JNTIH. He may well not see a future with her, or see the relationship as less important to him than it is to her.
      However, *none* of that excuses his behaviour towards her, in my opinion. Cheating on someone, and being completely unapologetic about it, is horrible. Sticking it out for years in a relationship which you believe is going nowhere, while concealing that fact from your partner, instead of breaking up with them and letting them go, *is* horrible.
      He may not actually be a narcissist, but his behaviour in this relationship is not that of a stellar human being.
      *Not horrible* is not a terribly high bar to clear for human behaviour.

      Yes, perhaps she should have seen the writing on the wall and left this man a long time ago, but his slate is far from clean. He ought to have broken up with her knowing how much she loves him, or been honest with her about the cheating and how he feels. At the very least, this man is selfish. And being not into someone does not excuse you from subpar behaviour towards them.

      I think that’s what disgusts me about people like this – not the fact that they don’t want commitment, a future or a secure loving relationship. They are free not to want those things, or to want them with a different person. But it’s the lack of honesty about it. If you don’t have strong feelings about someone or want to be with someone else – tell them. What you shouldn’t do is cheat on them or keep them hanging on under false pretenses.

      1. 18.1.1

        You expressed that far better than I could, Clare.

        Let’s remember, jo, this is a relationship of SIX years! If we assume, for argument’s sake (without being armchair psychologists) that he has narcissistic/selfish *tendencies*, then things like ‘she should have known I wasn’t that serious’, or ‘she shouldn’t have read my diary’ are the sort of re-direction tactics people with such tendencies use to move the focus and accountability from their own behaviour on to the other person. It often works too, as the other person is generally less selfish – or the relationship wouldn’t work – and will take pause to wonder if all the problems in the relationship are in fact their own.

        Six years into a relationship, IMO there is an implied mutual responsibility and respect. You shouldn’t have to ask for your boyfriend of six years to be faithful and considerate. Cheating is never okay and you would expect the other person to consult you before booking an overseas holiday – and it would be completely fair to expect they would want you to come along. IMO.

        1. Selena

          “Six years into a relationship, IMO there is an implied mutual responsibility and respect. You shouldn’t have to ask for your boyfriend of six years to be faithful and considerate. Cheating is never okay and you would expect the other person to consult you before booking an overseas holiday – and it would be completely fair to expect they would want you to come along. IMO.”

          Sounds reasonable to me.

          But…from the letter:

          “I’ve never spent two solid months with him, ever, not in 6 years. I see him 2 nights a week and every other weekend. He’s been away at his summer home most of the summer, and only occasionally with me when I make the effort to go to him. Otherwise, if it’s his time to be on the family compound he doesn’t leave.”

          That doesn’t sound like a boyfriend. It doesn’t sound like a serious relationship. It does sound like a Friends With Benefits situation though. IMO.

        2. Marika

          All I’m trying to say is that a. the LW’s needs and assumptions aren’t unreasonable – people are calling her ‘controlling’, [her tone is fearful and far from controlling], and b. selfish people use all sorts of justifications for their behaviour – many of which are being thrown around here.

          I had a strong suspicion something was going on with my ex husband, so I checked his credit card statement and caught him in a lie – and clearly cheating. He tried to mangle the conversation into me invading his privacy – which was of course ridiculous as in a marriage you share assets. Obviously we had a very well defined relationship, but my point is I know this tactic of turning everything back on the other person to avoid accountability very well.

          Friends with benefits don’t cry on the floor when they find their partner cheating. Friends with benefits rarely spend a lot of time with the other person’s kids – and be a ‘fun Dad’ with them, friends with benefits don’t tell the other person they love them. This intelligent guy knows this relationship is way more than that.

          The LW can and should leave. But if people just keep moving on, he’ll just keep doing these same things to the next woman. I can understand her at least wanting to try to hold him accountable for his immature and hurtful behaviour.

          And yes, she shouldn’t have read his diary. It was a desperate act, though, IMO, not a controlling one.

        3. jo

          Marika, with all care… I believe you might be missing three points.

          1. It is possible for two parties to be on different pages about the depth of their relationship. In this case, it is very probable. She might not see him as FWB, but he probably does see her that way, given the infrequency of their meetings for 6 years and his making no effort to see her this summer. We are only hearing the story from her side, so casual behavior toward her kids on his part, etc., may be a reflection of what she wants rather than how he feels.

          2. You write of his ‘tactic of turning everything back on the other person to avoid accountability’. But he didn’t do this. At least, the OP didn’t write anything that suggested that he did. We the readers were the ones to suggest alternative ways of looking at it. It doesn’t make us selfish; we don’t necessarily do this in our own relationships.

          3. Finally, regardless of her ‘fearful’ tone, she can still be controlling – and I stand by my belief that her actions were precisely that, the way she described them. Her obsession with the journal is not analogous to your husband’s credit card situation: a wife has every right to expect much more, especially when finances are involved.

          By the way, controlling and fearful are not mutually exclusive. In fact, it is often fear or losing someone or something that makes a person overly controlling.

        4. Marika


          Maybe…my strong suspicion though (yes, we’re only hearing one side, but love has been said, it’s been several years and kids at least partly integrated into each other’s lives) is that he wants it both ways. A girlfriend to love and miss one day, then a casual partner to pull away from when he feels like it, all completely on his terms. Pretty confusing for her and selfish of him. I’m not really missing your points so much as disagreeing with your assessment of the situation.

        5. Selena

          Marika: ” A girlfriend to love and miss one day, then a casual partner to pull away from when he feels like it, all completely on his terms.”

          It’s the fact that she has agreed to his terms for the past 6 YEARS that some of us are addressing. What has she been getting out of this casual-ish relationship? If she wants a different kind of man, someone who is more of a partner, someone who at the least, doesn’t WANT to be away from her for 2 months at a time, why has she kept this situation going year after year?

          In the letter, there seems to be the notion that if she could get him on the right medication, he would turn into the partner she wants. What if he never did?

          Calling the man selfish/NPD/ ADD/on the spectrum/whatever doesn’t address HER issue. Which is figuring out what kind of a relationship she wants and understanding why she has chosen one like this.

          I wonder if in some ways this relationship was not a bad fit for her – there is a lot of freedom in it, which might have had appeal after a long term marriage that ended in divorce. And I suspect the real reason she is upset is not the two month separation per se, it’s the idea he might have sex with someone else because the relationship, such as it is, is not solid.

        6. Marika


          LW loves him, is probably anxious and is confused and desperately trying to make things work. Love is not always logical. Anxious people in love don’t always act logically.

          Like Clare says below, I just think some of you are being extreme and unnecessarily demonizing her. I also think it’s completely ridiculous to call a 6 year relationship where I love you’s have been exchanged and children integrated as FWB, or to think it’s possible this man could see it as some casual fling.

          Otherwise agree she should leave and not read diaries.

        7. jo

          Marika, you don’t have to call it FWB if you don’t want… but it’s obvious that HJNTIH. It makes no difference if they’ve been together 6 years. Someone who has truly committed to a woman doesn’t keep her at arm’s length the way he’s obviously doing, with the zero effort to see her this summer, the 2x/week meetings when they’re close, and now 2 months away from her. Tom10 wrote earlier (interestingly, in a conversation with Clare, I think) that it doesn’t matter what a man says – what matters is what he does. And this man is putting in no effort. Which shows where his heart lies (i.e., not with her).

          Like I wrote at the beginning: classic HJNTIY. People can call it by a different name if they prefer, but that’s what it is.

        8. Sandra

          ” I just think some of you are being extreme and unnecessarily demonizing her. I also think it’s completely ridiculous to call a 6-year relationship where I love you’s have been exchanged and children integrated as FWB, or to think it’s possible this man could see it as some casual fling.

          Otherwise, agree she should leave and not read diaries.”

          I agree with this and am glad someone brought it up. The FWB label is thrown about very liberally, it seems, to denote anything other than an enmeshed five-to-seven day a week relationship.
          As for the journal – She gave it to him to be a travel journal to share travel stories. Ok, she should not have snooped, but exotic travel seems to be a mutual passion they shared.
          As for what she gets/got out of it – he is probably fun, exciting, a good lover and very cultured. I imagine he checked off all the boxes of what she imagined she wanted.

        9. Marika

          jo, that’s probably true. But she *is* definitely into him. And I would disagree if you think he could possibly be unaware of that.

          It is also possible for a man (/person no doubt) to be in a very well defined serious relationship and still be completely selfish. I’ve experienced that. Whether or not that is the case here, it’s a definite possibility.

        10. Selena

          Sandra: “The FWB label is thrown about very liberally, it seems, to denote anything other than an enmeshed five-to-seven day a week relationship.”

          I see FWB as a euphemistic shorthand to describe non-committed relationships.

          People can be committed without being married, living together, or seeing each other every week. Any particular lifestyle does not fit every couple.

          The LW makes the point that she and her lover have not spent 2 solid months together EVER. Presumably by his choice. Also, that she only saw him a couple times over the summer because she went to him – otherwise she wouldn’t have seen him at all. He doesn’t sound committed to me. At the least, he doesn’t sound “all in” as far as the relationship goes.

        11. Jeremy

          Selena, you wrote, ” people can be committed without being married, living together, or seeing each other every week.” Depends how we define “commitment” , didn’t it? I’ve honestly never understood the way most people perceive that word to mean a well-intentioned promise. “I’ve ‘committed’ to joining a book group.”. “I had sex with my bf because he told me he wanted to be exclusive. Finally a ‘commitment’.”

          To me, a commitment is a promise enforced by self-accepted negative consequences for breaking. “I lost my downpayment when I reneged on my contract. I guess that makes sense, because I had made a ‘commitment’.”

          By the way I define it, indeed one can not be committed when one is not married, living together and seeing each other every week. One can be well-intentioned toward a monogamous relationship with that person, but one is, by definition, not committed. Can walk any time, consequence-free.

          We are, of course, free to define commitment however we chose. I just find that those who adhere to the first definition tend to confuse their ideas and their terms. Tend not to see the difference between partners when one commits the first way and the other commits the second. Pretty big miss.

        12. Selena

          Hi Jeremy.

          You wrote: “By the way I define it, indeed one can not be committed when one is not married, living together and seeing each other every week. One can be well-intentioned toward a monogamous relationship with that person, but one is, by definition, not committed. Can walk any time, consequence-free.”

          I understand your definition, but I suppose mine is broader. I believe people who don’t have a marriage license can be as committed (maybe more so in some cases) than those who do have one. And while a marriage license certainly is a commitment there is no guarantee how long it will last as divorce stats prove out. License or not, there can be consequences to breaking the commitment.

          Some people do not see each other every week – long distance due to school, work, military, etc. Doesn’t make them less committed than the couple who has dinner together every night at 6.

          Some people can have a commitment without combining households at a particular point in time. They are “there for each other” and that may matter more than to them than living under the same roof.

          I’ve always felt calling an agreement to be sexually exclusive in early dating a “commitment” is asinine. It could be a first step in that direction, but it very well may not be. To quote a line from the “Mary Poppins” film: “That’s a pie crust promise. Easily made, easily broken.” Smiley emoticon.

      2. 18.1.2

        just a note;
        no one is diagnosing anything here. Suggesting to look into something is by no means a diagnose. It is what it is: a suggestion to educate on a subject to see if there is the possibility of a true diagnosis.
        Back in 2001 I dated for three yeas a guy who sounded a lot like this guy and who decided also to go alone on holiday for a month and a half n Brazil.
        He was selfish too, and seemed just like this guy to not ive a single shit about anyone else but himslef.
        He also exhibited other very peculier behaviours; while highly intelligent and an expert in computers, he didn’t laugh at jokes (one exemple), he didn’t look at me in the face when I was speaking.
        He had already seen at least four different psychologist for what most people defined back then as ‘spoiled rich brat attitude’
        I was losing my mind dating him.
        He was crazymaking.
        I was just a student in Mass Media Studies but after much research I came up with the idea he wight be Asperger.
        I took him to this specialist. She diagnosed him.
        FOUR doctors before could not find the cause of his behavior, he was wasting time in analysis when he basically is an autistic individual, high functioning but autistic, nevertheless.
        This is one story. I could tell you five or six more from my life on many doctors NOT diagnosing a condition, and a random person actually not a doctor correctly doing so, and saving the person’s life.`That is what happened to me with my mom. To myself with my autoimmune condition.
        To a frined with lymphnode cancer (his 19yo girlfriend diagnosed him, when all doctors dismissed his symptoms).
        So for the love of God, stop with this ‘you are not a doctor! you cannot diagnose!’. No, I cannot, but I can give my opinion and ask a doctor, or five, if it is right.
        Feel free to scut the internet for more stories like mine, like that person who found out she had cancer because commenters on youtube told her etc.
        Or those women with breast implant syndrome that are saved by youtube videos when all doctors ‘dismiss’ this serious autoimmune condition.
        doctors are just people. People make mistakes.
        One more reason to be vigilant
        had I trusted doctors I’d be bald and sick by now.

      3. 18.1.3

        Clare and Marika, he cheated sometime in the first year according to the OP’s letter (see above). At that point, he may not have seen them as exclusive, no matter what she thought. And despite that it’s 6 years, they only see each other 2x/week and every other weekend – and even less frequently these summer months! I’d say there is a huge disconnect in how she and he view the seriousness of the relationship – hence, different expectations. He might see it as nothing that he’s going away for 2 months, since they’ve hardly seen each other all summer and she didn’t seem to mind.

        Clare, re: ‘he should have broken up with her’ – Evan has written often, and I agree, that if the woman is dissatisfied, she should initiate the change. I would agree with you that he should break up with her if he is dissatisfied, but for all we know, he could be perfectly happy with the current arrangement. Personally, if I were in either of their shoes, I would have left – but we are not in their shoes. And it doesn’t appear that either of them is walking.

        1. Selena

          @ jo,

          I also see your ‘take’ on this letter. Many people- either gender- would not be satisfied with the time limitations of this relationship as described. The fellow seems fine with it, and I have to wonder if the woman was mostly okay with it having gone along for 6 YEARS.

          I suspect what worries the OP is that he might cheat again while he is away if the opportunity presents.

          I would not be surprised if she picks up where they left off when he returns from his 2 month trip.

          She might be best served by seeing the counselor on her own while he is gone to figure out herself and what kind of future she truly wants.

        2. Clare


          I already agreed that the LW should probably have broken up with him (see my comment re: “she should probably have seen the writing on the wall”), but my point was just that his behaviour is not stellar either.

          His cheating and being unapologetic – and there is nothing to suggest they weren’t exclusive at the time – alone qualifies him as at least moderately selfish. He might be satisfied with their current relationship, but she’s not and has voiced that to him repeatedly.

          While Evan supports and encourages women to leave relationships in which they are not getting their needs met, he does not condone men who ignore their partners’ feeling because, hey, it’s working for them.

        3. jo

          Clare, I’ll step away from this debate, because it seems as if there’s no use in getting stuck on how bad the man is on the badness scale (FTR, I never said he was blameless). It just doesn’t matter.

          Selena, what you wrote is exactly what I think she’s worried about and what will happen yet again after the trip. And I agree with your advice to her, because she does need to evaluate what will make her happiest, and appears to need an outside perspective.

        4. Stephanie

          @Clare, No one has suggested that his behavior is anything approaching stellar. We are suggesting that the LW has issues of her own. Her behavior is not excused just because he may have acted worse. Not only is she not apologetic for violating his privacy, she seems completely oblivious to her own transgression.

          If she wants a healthy, loving relationship, she would be well-served to practice a little self-reflection so she can become more attractive to better quality men. The reason I’m calling her out more than him is because she is the one who wants something better.

        5. jo

          Stephanie, exactly. As A Random Guy and I were sharing above, we’re amazed by the whole journal story: how the OP could tell it with a straight face. Giving her man a journal, telling him to share everything he wrote in it with her, and then hounding and pestering him to share it after he returns and then breaking into his private belongings (yes, that journal was his, not hers)?

          If a man I was dating for less than a year acted that way to me, I’d take off, because I’d see that as possessive, control-freak behaviour.

          Of course, we could go into why he hasn’t broken things off. But like I wrote, he’s not the one seeking advice (at least not here) and could be fine with how things are. So we can only offer thoughts on what SHE can do better.

        6. Clare

          Jo & Stephanie,

          Fair enough.

          I don’t necessarily agree with how extreme you have made her actions sound, but I do certainly agree that everyone leaving a relationship should reflect on their own behaviour and see what they can change in the future, because that is all we can control.

        7. sylvana

          I will never understand the “obsessed with privacy” people. What do you people have to hide? When I’m in a relationship, I leave my wallet out, my phone doesn’t have a passcode. And I tell my partner they’re more than welcome to look if they want, because I have nothing to worry about. I’m not hiding anything, so they won’t find anything. And I honestly wouldn’t care if they looked through them without my permission.

          What’s the point of being in a relationship if you are so obsessed about keeping things secret from you partner, even if you’re not doing anything wrong?

          She gave him this journal to write down his travel experiences – a passion they both share. Personally, I think he should have handed it to her to read, since they do share that passion, and it was given to him by her. And the sheer disrespect of not just cheating, but actually writing it down in a journal she gave him is mindboggling. And then, on top of it, leaving this journal with its volatile entry where she can get to it. That’s blatant abuse of trust, even pushing into taunting territory.

          I pretty much agree with what Clare said in the comments on this one.

        8. Stephanie


          I have nothing to hide. What matters is that HE didn’t want her to see it. Relationships can’t survive when people don’t respect one another. As I said previously, we should always try to show up as our best self, even if we are dealing with a loser.

          Based on what she said about her boyfriend, he is pretty much worthless as a serious partner. I’ve been (and stayed) in a very similar situation. I’m not blaming her for his shit. All I’m saying is that she is focusing on his BS instead of looking at how her own actions and beliefs are keeping her stuck.

      4. 18.1.4


        I am not “demonizing” the LW. *I* don’t care she hunted down his journal thinking it might reveal evidence he slept with someone else. It’s what she did after finding the evidence I find curious. “I was crying in a corner and instead of even approaching me, he announced from across the room how he should not write things down anymore. Huh???”

        What does she do? Stays with him for another 5+ years.

        Presumably she was getting enough of what she wanted from this man to keep the relationship going, but I think the reason she is so upset about his proposed 2 month excursion is that she doesn’t trust him to be faithful.

        From the letter: “When things are good and I have his attention, I can’t fathom leaving the relationship. And other times, when care and consideration just take flight because something more exciting has caught his attention, I wonder – what am I doing here.”

        Suggesting she examine what she is doing there and what kind of future she really wants is not demonizing her.

        1. Marika

          I didn’t say *you* were demonizing her, Selena. Others have made, IMO, some pretty over the top statements about LW and how controlling, creepy, possessive..etc etc she is and how ‘no wonder he pushes her away’.

          Anyway, we can go back and forth forever – I just disagree with those making her out to have some major issues. I just see her as hurt and confused.
          I’m also making the point it is *possible* he knows this is a relationship but still wants to do whatever he wants whenever he wants. That happens with some very selfish people. I’ve experienced it, Clare has and no doubt many other people.

        2. Clare


          “I’m also making the point it is *possible* he knows this is a relationship but still wants to do whatever he wants whenever he wants. That happens with some very selfish people. I’ve experienced it, Clare has and no doubt many other people.”

          I was going to say something similar, but didn’t know if I still wanted to get into it on this thread. But then you said it, so now I will.

          The point you’ve made here is why I didn’t immediately jump to the “HJNTIH” conclusion. Some people are convinced the “HJNTIY” is the umbrella reason for most disinterested, uncommitted or non-loving behaviour in a relationship, but that’s just not the case.

          I have extensive experience of my ex – whom I described earlier in this post – I know him better than anyone. I was in an on-off relationship with him for 5 years, and I have been close friends with him for another 5 years since then (yes, we successfully transitioned to friendship, even though he asked for us to get back together as I no longer want to be with him). Anyone looking at our relationship in pure isolation *could* have made the argument that he was just not that into me… and I might have said “fair enough.”

          Except – that I have seen all of his relationships since me, and I have extensive knowledge of his relationships before me, and he has behaved the same way in *all* his relationships. He keeps every woman at arm’s length and insists on very selfish terms in *all* his relationships. Some women stay, most eventually move on. You could say that maybe he just hasn’t met “the one” yet, but I don’t think that even he would agree with that sentiment. This is just who he is. He likes things a certain way. He’s not willing to change. It’s got nothing to do with his love or otherwise for the woman in question.

          I’m not saying that’s the case with the LW’s relationship – we just don’t have enough information to say. But, as Marika said, what I do know is that selfish people do exist. And the way they are is no reflection on their partner or the quality of the relationship.

        3. jo

          Clare, I think I understand your responses better. By your last comment (and especially last sentence), you seem to think that HJNTIY is a judgment of the woman, and also see it as related to your own past situation.

          HJNTIY is not a judgment of any woman. Even the best women in the world have had men who were not that into them. I dare say all straight women have had this experience, so it is universal – not unique to you, this OP, or anyone else. It’s probably also true with the genders reversed (SJNTIY).

          That’s also why HJNTIY isn’t exclusive from selfish men; that is, a selfish man can still not be into women. It’s not enough to say that how he treated you is the same way he treated others, so maybe he was into you after all. Surely the point was that he wasn’t into you *enough* to make you feel cherished, secure, and consistently loved – which is why you wisely chose to leave him. After all, he was into someone (if not you or those other women): himself.

          I hope that explains my take on this OP’s story, and that you don’t feel personally implicated re: the HJNTIY comments. I was not thinking specifically of you, Marika, or anyone else who’d been in a situation like this (including myself) when writing it: just of what this woman wrote of herself and her man.

        4. Marika

          Jo, if I may – and of course Clare can tell me if I’ve missed something, as this was mostly a comment to her. But I feel your definition of HJNTIY is quite different from the standard definition.

          HJNTIY is sort of a light-hearted way to express to someone that this guy just doesn’t see enough of a future to value you properly; but there is nothing wrong with you or him or anyone’s relationship skills. The HJNTIY guy probably treated many a woman well in the past, and will in the future, but not in this instance, for whatever reason he’s too “meh”.

          A HJNTIY guy isn’t, for instance, going to counselling or trialing medications to keep the ‘NIH’ woman happy. He’d be most likely to disappear, purse someone new or just text for sex.

          Contrast this to the ex Clare refers to, my ex-husband and I strongly suspect the guy in this letter. There’s a pop psych term for it – crazy making. These guys [/women too] very much want unconditional love, they just can’t seem to give it in return. It goes much deeper than HJNTIY – which isn’t the generic solution to every relationship issue – or couples counsellors would go out of business! I would imagine the LWs boyfriend’s ex wife – who he was clearly ‘into’ enough to marry and have kids with – probably would have the same to say about him as LW.

          The LW could do some reading on the topic of ‘crazy-makers/crazy-making relationships’, could read Attached and other books about adult attachment/relationships, to try to understand herself and this dynamic better, and to try to avoid it in the future. She’s looking for answers, not generic catch phrases.

        5. Mrs Happy

          1. He is really selfish. He will cheat when the opportunity arises, and have no remorse. She has to decide whether to stay given these realities. These are 2 huge things.
          2. Whether he is JNTIHer is a secondary issue c.w. his enormous horribleness.
          3. Of course she shouldn’t have snooped in his diary, but that is standard human behaviour when people fear their partner is cheating, and not as bad as cheating.
          4. Giving someone a diary “so we can read it together” – gosh he would have resented that, and he is much too avoidant for that to be comfy; no man I’ve ever known would warm to that idea on so many levels.

        6. Clare


          No – you don’t understand my responses better now.

          My personal experiences were given here merely to substantiate my point of view. I don’t have a personal stake in this situation. Nor do I believe that HJNTIY is a “judgment” of women.

          I simply believe that it just isn’t TRUE in many cases.

          A selfish person can love *very* much and still behave selfishly.

          But I think trying to illustrate this point of view to you is an exercise in futility.

        7. Clare


          You took the words out of my mouth.

          Guys (people) like this will tell you they love you – and mean it, but their issues far transcend their ability to like, love or be “into” someone.

          If they simply weren’t that into the person, or into relationships in general, they’d waltz out of them. But they don’t. They often fight hard to keep them.

          But they lack the insight, willingness or ability to see or change the blindspots that are damaging their relationships. And you’re right – it’s why therapists and couples counselors have jobs.

          HJNTIY was a catch phrase coined by Greg Behrendt out of a Sex and the City episode. I’ve read his book, and it’s a far cry from a more detailed thesis about deeper issues in human behaviour, like the book “Attached.”

          It’s cute, simple and applies in many cases. But it’s far too simplistic for many others.

        8. Clare

          Mrs Happy,

          “Giving someone a diary “so we can read it together” – gosh he would have resented that, and he is much too avoidant for that to be comfy; no man I’ve ever known would warm to that idea on so many levels.”

          Agreed. Even the loveliest men I know would, at best, have laughed off this suggestion indulgently, and at worst snapped that they wouldn’t have the interest or the time. If a man is going to do this, it’ll be because he wants to, not because he’s been asked.

          I wouldn’t be surprised if this was part of the reason the LW’s boyfriend tucked the diary well out of sight.

          All that said, I think it was a well-intentioned and innocent move on the LW’s part. Not one I personally would have appreciated, but some people are simply not sensitive to these things. I don’t think she had any idea how it would be received by her boyfriend.

        9. Jeremy

          The diary thing would have been, for me, a total deal-breaker. I wonder if his recording his affair in the diary was a subconscious or passive-aggressive way to end the relationship or retaliate against her? Some small desire to get caught and have the fallout either end the relationship or reassert his independence? I could be reading too much into it, but I agree that the OP is trying to fit this man into her conception of who he should be instead of accepting/rejecting who he is. And that should be her take-away message – that people don’t change because you want them to – hence Evan’s balls/no balls. You have to find a partner whom you can accept as he is, including the qualities you don’t like. Especially the qualities you don’t like.

      5. 18.1.5
        Yet Another Guy


        The LW’s boyfriend’s behavior is very common when it comes to age 50+ divorced men (it is also more common with age 50+ women than you would like to believe). At this age, there is no reason to be faithful a person unless one cares to be so. It is not like one is looking for a partner to marry and raise a family. Most of us have already had that gig. We sacrificed and put our needs last for years, so many believe that it is all about us now. As long as a person is okay with our behavior, why should we dump him/her? The LW gave this guy license to behave as he so desired. It sounds like he is keeping her around as his steady while keeping his options open. Trust me, that is a very common behavior in age 50+ divorced men. Heck, I had been guilty of it until I met my current girlfriend. I did not get rid of women I was dating with whom I was having sex for moral reasons. I got rid of them because they were attempting to dominate my time to the point where I could not meet other women. A guy may be not be that into you, but that does not mean he will not attempt harvest fruit from the tree if you allow him to do so. It sounds like this woman lacks a spine.

  19. 19

    I have dates Narcissists, he does ot sound like one. He sounds like he has Asperger. Dated one of these too. ugh. TERRIBLE BOYFRIENDS. Why did you stay after he cheated?
    Sounds like he has serious issues, and you have codependency (stems from low self esteem/non existing boundaries/childhood abuse)

  20. 20

    Sylvana: “What’s the point of being in a relationship if you are so obsessed about keeping things secret from you partner, even if you’re not doing anything wrong?”

    I share the sentiment, but I don’t find it applicable to the letter as written.

    -the two people in question had been seeing each other less than a year
    -they weren’t married, or living together, they were dating.

    -“somehow” she knew he strayed. She asked about it repeatedly and repeatedly, and he denied it.
    – Months went by, with her wondering about his journal. She finally found it; “sealed and tucked away”. He never blatantly left it out to taunt her.

    If one mistrusts the person they are dating for MONTHS why wouldn’t they break it off?

    Why is it acceptable to go through the belongings of the person one is dating because “they have a feeling”?

    What happens if one doesn’t find anything? Do they just continue on and on because of their own insecurities? What if the person they were dating never did anything wrong? Does that even matter?

    If someone I been dating less than a year did that I’d likely see it as indicative of a serious issue on their part and not one I would want to deal with.

    The woman in the letter eventually found what she had been looking for. It’s the *looking* I see as being questionable given the circumstances at the time.

    1. 20.1

      Thanks, Selena. Seems that you and I see lockstep on this story. FTR, Marika, I am not demonising a person for one action that I believe to be possessive, controlling, and yes, therefore creepy. Haven’t we all done such things in our romantic lives? Let’s just hope that for this woman, it was not and is not a pattern.

      Believe me, having been in such a situation before, I get that some women take this story personally because they have encountered such men in their lives. Of course it hurts terribly to be so much in love with a selfish man: repeatedly hurt, in fact. But at some point, we have to take some responsibility for getting ourselves out of these situations – there is nothing to be gained by constantly criticising the men. What are we doing to make our situations better? And what is this woman doing? She must have learned over 6 years that she can’t control him. The only person she can control is herself. Stay or leave, she must own her decision.

      1. 20.1.1


        If you re-read what you wrote at 14.1 – it was pretty extreme.

        I also think you’ve made lots of assumptions, not in the letter, about how ‘casual’ this 6year, kids-integrated, I-love- yous exchanged, gone to counselling-together
        relationship is. A couple of you also somehow think that cheating in the first year of a relationship isn’t a big deal??

        It sort of read like you have a vested interest in the person not being treated well somehow being to blame for that, which I would strongly disagree with. I’m completely over my ex-husband now so it’s not *personal*, as such, but I do remember how much it hurts at the time. You already feel bad enough without being labeled creepy and controlling.

        The last paragraph of your most recent comment seems very fair and reasonable, though.

        1. jo

          Marika, actually, I think you are the one who has inserted your personal wishes and experiences into these discussions, which is why you react strongly to what I and others write, even if it is not about you. I have no ‘vested interest’ in anyone being blamed or treated poorly. I would much rather this woman behave rationally and in her own best interest, which personally I do not think she has done (but Selena has made good points as to how she might, given her situation). It feels as though she keeps allowing these things to happen, and in the process may erode her sense of self-worth.

          As for the cheating within the first year: we don’t have to be the ones who decide how big a deal it is. Clearly, it wasn’t a big enough deal for her, because it wasn’t a deal breaker for her. That is the point.

        2. Marika

          Maybe I am, jo.

          I do know I can feel this woman’s distress through her letter, and empathize with her pain and confusion. I don’t think something needs to be directly *about me* in order for me to empathize – and to think that some of your [I’m only talking to you here] comments were unnecessarily harsh and unhelpful.

          No doubt you’ll disagree, and that’s fine too.

        3. jo

          Marika, again treading carefully: I think that a mistake you (and this woman, and others) have made at least in the past (if not now) is assuming that unlimited empathy is a good thing, to the extent that it involves giving someone unworthy a chance over and over again while not honoring yourself enough.

          Let’s talk about BOUNDARIES, since I think that is the key missing element in the OP’s behaviour. Healthy boundaries are when you take responsibility for your own thoughts, feelings, and actions – while not taking responsibility for the thoughts, feelings, and actions of others.

          Many who fashion themselves as empathetic (not pointing fingers at anyone), and people pleasers, believe that looking after others’ thoughts, feelings, and actions is a good and kind thing – but in fact, it is not. It disempowers both parties.

          This is what I and other readers have been trying to get across regarding the OP’s behaviour and some comments. It is pointless to keep trying to ‘type’ the man – oh he’s not really in a HJNTIY mindset, he’s more this type, that type, he really wants a LTR but he can’t give in return, but yes he really does want a relationship, let’s figure out his Myers Briggs, Enneagram, anxious or avoidant, DISC… Who cares?

          1. If he doesn’t want to change, stop trying to change him, drag him to therapy, put him on drugs, diagnose him with ADD or whatever. It’s his life. If he’s happy with how he is, leave him be.

          2. Focus on yourself. Typing him is irrelevant, determining whether or not he really, truly wants a LTR is irrelevant. Are YOU getting your needs fulfilled? If not, then regardless of his type, what are YOU doing there? Get out.

          It really is much more simple than many are making it to be. Simple, and evidently not easy in some cases. Both parties in this story need to train in personal boundaries – whether or not they stay together.

        4. Jeremy

          Jo, I think that your comment here has elements of insightfulness that should be applauded and highlighted, but also elements that I believe are incompatible with marriage. Because while boundaries are important in preserving one’s self respect and preventing one’s self from being taken advantage of, taking some degree of responsibility for the thoughts and emotions of one’s partner is absolutely critical in maintaining a marriage. 2 people each focusing on themselves will not result in a long-term relationship. Not ever. Because contrary to what so many people (and especially women) believe, boundaries are not conducive to good relationships. Rather, the strategic removal of boundaries is.

          While I completely agree with you that the OP should leave this relationship because the man seems unable/unwilling to be the partner she wants, giving her the advice to focus on herself is bad advice in isolation. To use an expression I over-use, it is the Yin without the Yang. The Yin is that she needs to have certain boundaries to maintain her self-respect and preserve her priorities. The Yang is that she ALSO needs to focus on the priorities, thoughts, and emotions of her partner. And not think that those are his problem and none of hers.

          It is not simple at all. Boundaries are not the key. No one who has successfully maintained a long-term marriage would tell you so.

        5. jo

          Jeremy, I agree 100% with you in the context of marriage. Actively considering one’s spouse’s thoughts, feelings, and actions are key when committed in this way. In this case, though, the OP and her man are not married, so the freedom to leave if it is not working out is much greater. (This goes as well to your earlier point about commitment, in the context of marriage vs. outside.)

        6. jo

          Also Jeremy, re: your point of the ‘strategic removal of boundaries’ – yes, that is what happens when a relationship develops beautifully with mutual trust. That allows the relationship to become ever deeper. In this story, I don’t see that happening – there was distrust from the start, and a lot of metaphorical (if not physical) dragging and kicking.

          And maybe that also gets to your point of yin and yang: one can’t exist (or at least, form a circle) without the other. In this story, it looks as though one person is putting in all or most of the effort without the other – the yin without the yang, or vice versa. Find the one who is willing to complete the circle with you.

        7. Jeremy

          Agreed, Jo. Marriage, or a relationship leading to marriage. The OP’s ain’t it. She needs boundaries here for self-preservation because her BF is over-exercising his, for reasons that (I agree with you) don’t really matter.

        8. Marika

          Thank you for that long explanation about boundaries, jo, but I was actually talking about empathy for someone struggling in a difficult relationship, and not insulting them and using tired clichés. Not the LW having empathy for her BF.

          I know *you* think this is simple, but LW very clearly does not. I very much doubt she’ll wake up tomorrow and suddenly be a completely different person who sees things like her relationship of 6 years completely differently. Your advice and comments may be helpful for a completely different situation and person.

        9. Selena

          Well Jo , you tried.

          It is simple Marika. What Jo spent effort to explain, EMK summed up in two sentences to the OP:

          “If you don’t like it, get out.

          If you stay, don’t expect things to change.”

          Couldn’t be simpler.

        10. Marika


          EMK didn’t only say that. He also didn’t criticise LW, call her creepy or use clichés. There’s a way to phrase things if you want to be helpful – and this ain’t it.

        11. jo

          selena 🙂 🙂 Personally I liked Evan’s line ‘If your aunt had balls, she’d be your uncle.’

          Believe it or not, I wanted to try on Marika and Clare’s empathy for the OP, so reread the letter, but it scared me even more than before – for the poor man. Not even the journal part, but being dragged into therapy against his will, diagnosed by someone, and now having to take psychiatric drugs – which it doesn’t sound like he had to do in his 59 years before, and which the OP claims aren’t even working. People: psychiatric drugs are no joke. They can have serious side effects, and he probably wouldn’t have to go through all this if it weren’t for the OP wanting him to relate to her in a certain way.

          Yes, I’m more worried for him than her. And I don’t know if anyone can see this same view. But he didn’t write the letter, so oh well.

        12. Clare


          2 things.

          First, if his part of the equation, his “type,” whether or not he was into her was not relevant, why did you bring it up? Not just once but several times?

          Second, whilst my empathy has been a hindrance to me in some situations in the past, it has also been a great blessing in others, including getting me into the relationship I’m in now. It’s not something I can turn on and off at will, unfortunately. It’s part of my make-up.

          So while you may regard any effort spent trying to understand someone who is not meeting our needs as wasted, I can’t entirely feel the same way. It’s part of an empathetic person to try and understand why people are the way they are, even if we choose to leave them in the end. It doesn’t have to be empathy that doesn’t discriminate.

          I personally don’t think dulling our empathetic abilities for the sake of self-preservation is necessary. I think you can do both – have empathy and do what’s right for you. It takes self-control though, as I learnt.

        13. Marika


          Your advice is nothing new, simplify relationships down to their basics, focus on yourself, work on boundaries: lots of people approach relationships that way. The question is, is it advice that is likely to be taken on board in this instance. Everything in the letter would suggest no. Maybe the OPs boyfriend will read it, and your last comment may well appeal to him.

          When Evan gives advice he always starts from a place of empathy and understanding. Most people who write in actually mostly tend to want understanding, more so than advice. Everyone pretty much agrees what the LW ultimately should do here. The best way to get her to see it is understanding her and where she’s coming from first. The worst possible way is starting from a place of criticism and judgement.

          I know you don’t really care, but I think it’s an important point. ‘Too much empathy’ is hardly a problem sweeping the world.

        14. Evan Marc Katz

          Hear, hear, Marika!

        15. jo

          Who claimed my advice about boundaries was new? Not me. Yet healthy boundaries appear to be very absent in both parties in this case. It’s not as though advice only needs to be repeated once. (If that were the case, no advice columnists would exist since ancient times.)

          Since we are talking about empathy, does no one else feel empathy for the man? I do. He has gone as far as to go to therapy, get diagnosed, and agree to take psychiatric meds for the sake of this OP – and now he wants to travel for his 60th b-day (not unreasonable, if you think about it), and she won’t ‘let’ him. I do feel for him, deeply.

          And that is why this post was so unusual for me. Normally, I am quick to empathise with other women, especially if they were the ones who wrote in. With this one, upon first reading, it struck me as deeply strange, and I’m not the only one who felt that way: A Random Guy also wrote this. Even trying to reread and be empathetic – you see, despite your negative comments toward me, Marika and Clare, I HAVE tried to go back and do exactly as you said – I could only feel more deeply concerned for the man, not as much the woman, being in this relationship. Especially knowing that it has come to taking drugs. It would be a lot easier to go along with all of your voices, but one would like to think diverse views can be expressed here without being ganged up against.

          And no Clare, I did not label. I don’t consider HJNTIY a label, simply a statement of someone not being into someone else. Nor did I come up with FWB (but won’t mention who did), though I used it in an oversimplification – don’t we all.

    2. 20.2

      Hi Selena,

      You said, “Why is it acceptable to go through the belongings of the person one is dating because they have a feeling? What happens if one doesn’t find anything?”

      Then we never hear about that Duh!!!

      Our actions are always justified when we do find dirt, if we don’t find anything then we keep it to ourselves because we know that most ‘normal emotionally healthy’ people will see a person doing such things as wrong.

      When I was a kid even when I lied and said I didn’t know better, my parents would always ask, “If you didn’t know it was wrong then why did you hide?”

      By the way I’m not entering into this debate I just wanted to address that specific statement of yours because I agree that many people justify a LOT of bad behavior by saying they found something while never mentioning all the times when they didn’t find anything.

      1. 20.2.1

        @ Adrian

        “By the way I’m not entering into this debate I just wanted to address that specific statement of yours because I agree that many people justify a LOT of bad behavior by saying they found something while never mentioning all the times when they didn’t find anything.”


        You win the microwave oven.

    3. 20.3


      honestly, I think she should have dumped him the moment he refused to share. She gave him the journal to write down his experiences so they could share them later. Then, when she asks him to share, he refuses. That, right there, should have been enough for her to tell him to get out of her life. Obviously, he’s keeping something secret he doesn’t want her to know, and there’s no point in continuing the relationship.

      And I really don’t care if my partner rummages through my stuff. I really don’t. If that’s what they need to make them feel better or to feel secure, so be it. As I said, I’m not hiding anything. And I just don’t feel this strong sense of needing privacy. Shoot, to this date, my phone doesn’t have a passcode on it. I disable them because it drives me nuts having to enter a code every time I want to use my phone. .

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