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Ask Ellie: If you want more from romantic relationship, say so

Five years of uncertainty about a relationship is too long
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Advice columnist Ellie Tesher.

Dear Ellie: My boyfriend’s a workaholic. We’ve been in a relationship for five years but live separately. He’s often so intense about deadlines for his clients, that he stays in his one-room studio all day, then falls asleep there on the couch.

I feel badly for him and also hurt, since he knows he can stay at my much more comfortable place overnight.

He’s 33 and I’m 32. On the rare times that we spend a whole weekend together at my apartment, he’s very loving.

We get along well and help each other with our separate work/family issues. We take long walks together, and make love.

It feels great at the time, but there’s always pressure within him, worrying about work and distracted from me.

We haven’t discussed marriage or even renting a place together. I feel like we’re drifting through this being “together but apart.”

How can I find out where this relationship’s going, or whether the answer’s “nowhere?” Nothing’s changed except for my increased attachment to him.

I know he cares a lot for me but there’s no hint that he wants more than this… just more time for his work.

How can I even broach the topic, when I fear it’ll cause him to shut down or just end what we’re doing now to avoid further pressure?

Going Nowhere

Five years of uncertainty about a relationship is too long. You’re adults, with responsibilities to each other to be upfront and realistic by now.

He’s “loving” in that he’s helpful about discussing “issues,” but not about sharing his inner feelings, especially not about you.

That’s made you afraid to raise the matter, which is a signal to him that it’s okay.

But it’s not okay because he can feel/know that you’re restless, even sad, specifically because he won’t declare his intentions regarding you.

You need to state your boundaries, e.g., that you can’t allow this simulated relationship to continue without any sense of a future.

If you don’t stand up for your own needs and wants now, you’ll still be mostly on your own.

Dear Ellie: Please explain to your readers what defines post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD). It seems to currently be used for the most common reasons, debasing those who truly have or suffer from PSTD: e.g., from rape, war, abuse.

But I even heard a nurse once claim to suffer from PSTD after she experienced a broken toilet at her island cottage after a long winter.

And a neighbour claimed that her daughter (age 11) suffers from anxiety and the mother allows her to own it when I see a lovely girl out enjoying time with lots of laughter. Funny how her anxiety acts up only when she wants all her friends’ attention.

I’m not a mental health/illness denier. However too many people are using mental illness for bad behaviour.

We need some difficulties in life — they help us learn, overcome, gain self-esteem and confidence.

People glibly claiming PTSD should stop taking the spotlight from those truly struggling with mental health problems.

Ellie: From the Canadian Mental Health Association: “Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental illness. It involves exposure to trauma involving death or the threat of death, serious injury, or sexual violence.”

Yes, current references to PTSD are sometimes applied to levels of distress and anxieties less intense than the letter-writer’s examples.

But there’s proven mental health pressure on many people related to experiencing a pandemic these past near-two years.

We need more empathy, not more censure.

Reader’s commentary: Among many responses about a man angry that his wife wasn’t a virgin (Oct. 23):

“It’s none of his business if she slept with men prior to their marriage. He didn’t purchase her. She owes him nothing of her past.

“If he’d been more of a man, he wouldn’t worry that she might’ve compared his performance to other men. I suspect he came up lacking and that’s his issue. As for forgiving her… she did nothing wrong.

“It took him several years to kiss her again and longer to make love to her. His signature, “Still in Love,” tells me he doesn’t have a clue what love is.

“That poor woman has given him four children and 48 years of her life. It’s time he smartened up! Women are entitled to their pasts and their thoughts. He sees her as his property. So sad.”

Ellie’s tip of the day

When a relationship’s going nowhere, one of you will call the game or get going alone.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.