Dear Wendy: “My Fiancé Doesn’t Appreciate Me”

A few years ago when I was in college I was engaged to someone who was a little older and made me feel bad because I was always broke even though I was broke with a purpose (getting my bachelor’s degree). Now I have a job that pays me decent money but the hours are long. My day starts at about five while my current fiancé sleeps till about 8:45. Sometimes I get home much later than him and what little time I have left is spent looking up scholarships (I’m trying to continue my education and get another degree), studying for certifications (I work in Information Technology), and going to the gym (to try to avoid gaining weight like many of my counterparts who work behind desks). When all of this is done I have usually only a couple hours to myself during which time he harps on me about housework (which I try to keep up with but it’s hard with everything else that is going on). I feel exhausted and unappreciated to the point that sometimes I feel like moving out. I don’t know what to do. I feel I am very understanding when it comes to his shortcomings (he is constantly complaining that he is broke and therefore takes me out almost never). I feel like he should be more understanding with mine. — Tired of Being Tired

Your entire schedule is filled with things you’re doing for yourself. You’re working long hours at your day job, researching scholarships to get another degree, studying for certifications, and then going to the gym so you don’t get fat. What are you doing for your fiancé? How are you investing in your relationship? It sounds like you really can’t even be bothered to do much housework when you’re done with all your self-work. And housework isn’t even relationship work! When are you spending quality time with your fiancé? When are you nurturing that bond? And what exactly is it that you feel your boyfriend should be showing appreciation for? That you spend something like 18 hours a day basically ignoring him?

Geez, no wonder you feel physically and emotionally exhausted. You’ve let your well go dry. It’s great that you’re so ambitious and have poured yourself into advancing your career and keeping in shape, but you’re neglecting one of the biggest things that brings people joy and keeps them centered and grounded and emotionally fulfilled: you’re neglecting your relationship(s). If you want to burn out at a young age, keep doing exactly what you’re doing. If you want to lead a happy, well-balanced life, ease up a little on the career path and make some room in your schedule for your fiancé and friends. A life filled with nothing but work, work, work, is an exhausting, sad life indeed.

And let’s talk about your engagement for a minute. Nothing in your letter indicates you’re excited about getting married or that, frankly, you even have the interest or energy to devote to a marriage. And what about planning a wedding? When do you have time for that? Maybe it’s better to hold off on tying the knot — or even thinking about tying the knot — until you have have a better grasp of life-work-love balance, huh? Marriage is a HUGE commitment and there’s no reason to jump into it, especially when you’re so overwhelmed with managing your own needs. Marriage is about managing the needs of both yourself and a partner. It doesn’t seem like you’re quite ready for that step. If I were you, I’d slow things way down, take a deep breath, and find some balance in the present before I hurled myself into the future headfirst.

I’m 54 and was married for 28 years to a man I really didn’t want to marry to begin with, but at the time I wasn’t emotionally strong enough not to. I tried over the years to believe that it was a good marriage, but, he was narcissistic, stingy with money and even stingier with his affection towards me. I’ve been divorced for two years, purchased a home for myself and have been “dating” for about a year and a half. I’m currently seeing a man who I’m crazy about. The problem? He travels a lot for his job and I really only get to see him once every month or so for a few days at a time. He’s good about emailing or texting to let me know where he is and where he’s going next, he forwards jokes to me and he calls me about once or twice a week.

What concerns me is that I spend the time between his visits and calls doing nothing — just waiting for him to return. I work on my home projects (some) or watch TV, all the while feeling lonely or bored. I don’t have many friends outside of work (my two best “girlfriends” both passed away a couple of years ago) and it’s hard to get anyone interested in coming over or doing something with me. Everyone else that I know is either married, too young to hang out with me, raising young children, etc. I’ve talked with my counselor and she encourages me to find activities that I like to do and that don’t involve others … but, when I do something, like take a walk on the beach or go to a concert alone … it just stings more because I AM alone and I realize it even more.

I’ve talked with my boyfriend about the future, and that’s even scarier. I’m approaching retirement soon and he says he’ll work at least 10 or 15 more years … as long as he’s able to. So, that’s a long, long time for me to be doing nothing while “waiting for him to return.” I got divorced because I believed I deserved more in a relationship. Now, I’m thinking that I still deserve more in a relationship … but I’m dreading going through with breaking up and looking for someone else again. Would it be better to learn to be happy with my own companionship, and stay with this man I adore but rarely get to see or would it be best to go our separate ways and try to find a partner who isn’t gone all the time? — Life Part Deux

It’s great that after a long, troubled marriage, you’ve found someone you “adore,” but not so great that you hardly ever see him (or talk to him, for that matter) and that you’re just as unhappy and lonely as you were when you were married. My question is: why have you become exclusive with someone who is so unavailable to you? Why not continue seeing him when he’s in town, while you keep your dating options open? Do you even know if he’s being exclusive to you? It’s hard to imagine that he is if he’s only finding time to call you once or twice a week. That sounds much more like a casual relationship than a serious, committed one. I say tell him you enjoy his company and friendship, but that you spent 28 years being lonely in a relationship and you’re done with that road. If he wants to keep seeing you when he’s in town, great, but you’re going to start seeing other people in the meantime. It’s ridiculous to “wait around” for someone who may not be available to you in the way you want him to be for another ten or fifteen years. You’ll be almost 70 by then!

In addition to your counselor’s advice that you find activities you can enjoy doing alone — thus learning to enjoy your own company — I’d suggest a bigger focus should be building your social circle back up. I’m so sorry that you lost your two best friends in the last couple years, especially as I’m sure you could have used their support through your divorce. But, you’re only 54. You’re too young to never have friends again. So get out there and make some new ones. Do a little research and find groups and classes to join where you might meet like-minded people. Maybe there’s a retirement society in your area, or some sort of women’s group. You could pick an organization or two to volunteer for, too. There’s nothing like helping others to boost your spirit and improve your emotional well-being. My point is, there’s no reason you have to continue living such a lonely, isolated life. It makes me sad to think about you sitting there alone in your house waiting for some guy to come around a couple days a month and show you a little attention. You’re better than that, right? Come on, embrace your new lease on life! You’ve earned it.

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