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Ask Ellie: Before leaving marriage, figure out why you're still in it

Figure out why you’re staying in an unhealthy relationship, then decide your next move

Dear Ellie: Before I proceed, as my story is long, the important points are this: I’ve been in a common-law relationship since 2003, and recently found out he’s been supporting a woman and family in another country, for the past five years.

I wanted out of the relationship in 2016, as he has many issues — he’s irresponsible with credit card debt, a liar, and cheater. I cannot find any redeeming qualities! I wanted to reach out before I go into details.

Planning to Leave

The obvious question is this: Why haven’t you left? What kept you staying these past six years?

A partner with “no redeeming qualities” and with the character flaws you mention, is someone you definitely cannot trust. He’s likely also a person you cannot love either, unless there’s a very strong physical/emotional connection between you.

So, to understand why your relationship still exists, you have to be fully honest with yourself: Is there a back story or reason that explains why he’s supporting that woman/family, and why he kept it secret for five years? Does his credit card affect your household finances, and do you end up paying it off? If so, why? Do you have children together?

You’re fully aware of this man’s flaws, and say you want to leave him… well, you’re not the only long-term partner (almost 20 years now!) who’s accepted and accommodated living with someone who makes them feel hurt, angry, and badly used.

Is it better to stay for the sake of children in these relationships? Perhaps in some cases, but in many tense households of angry, warring spouses, the kids can’t wait to leave and often do so before their parent leaves. Teenagers especially feel the tension at home. Or they take sides, sometimes making the situation tougher on the unhappy parent.

Examine your life: Have you been working or pursuing an interest that makes you happy? Is there a plan for how you’ll manage financially and find your own social life?

I look forward to hearing back from you and, together, sharing some insights as to why your partner behaves as he does, why you stayed, and what’s your best plan for the future. I’m sure my readers will be interested, too. After all, most people have faced some relationship difficulties, and everyone can use some insights about repairing their own situations.

Dear Ellie: My mother’s health is failing. She has Alzheimer’s. She’s lived with me for more than a decade, since my father died. She had a rough childhood and my siblings and I knew she would never survive a retirement home. I had the space, the means, and the desire for her to live with us. Especially since my two daughters were toddlers and I welcomed the extra set of helping hands.

The problem is my husband. He can’t take it anymore. She’s definitely getting harder to live with, as her disease progresses. She’s very funny, but leaves the fridge door open; the stove on; the milk out…… we’ve also had to hire a caregiver so we can have our own lives.

How do I help my husband understand that this is what I have to do, and sadly, it won’t last much longer?

Dutiful daughter

Talk to your husband. Tell him you understand that the situation isn’t ideal, that you know it’s hard on him, and that you appreciate his patience. Explain how you see the next few years going. Ask him if she were his mother, what would he do differently? Maybe he has some ideas you haven’t thought of that could make life easier for everyone. Hear him out.

Feedback regarding the woman, who had a childhood crush on her older brother’s friend, having the crush rekindled in her married life (Jan. 1):

Reader: “It really touched me, because recently a man like that in my life asked me why I relocated to the same street he lived on.

“He appeared to be separated from his partner.

“I moved away, later that summer. I know that in your response, you meant for the letter-writer to grow up — but what if the man doesn’t want to grow up?”

Ellie: That woman’s dreams were causing distancing from her husband, yet they were still having sex together. She was seeking advice, not suggesting leaving her husband, so I suggested that she use the desire and emotions that she felt in her dreams by sharing them in conversations and lovemaking with her husband.

Ellie’s tip of the day

Figure out why you’re staying in an unhealthy relationship, then decide your next move.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.