Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.
Difficult situation, words of wisdom needed.(37 Posts)
I am 34 years old and have been with my boyfriend, who is 40, for 6 years. I love him. He is unquestionably lovely - super clever, kind, attractive, interesting.. All the good stuff. Despite this, I feel frustrated and unsatisfied, but I don't know if this is simply life/the (almost) 7 year itch or if it is serious and I need to change things.
DP has a chronic health condition which, while it is controlled to a certain extent by medication, still comes on in bouts, and basically makes him physically and mentally exhausted. It is made worse by stress and overexertion.
Sometimes he is able to live a relatively normal life, but he goes through phases of a month or more where he is just exhausted all the time, and unable to socialise or walk long distances or really do anything much other than read Twitter on his phone or play computer games. Before his illness he was something of a high flyer - think 1st class degree from top uni and then very well paid job in the city. Ever since I have known him he had been either off work on long term sick, or working reduced hours, then 2 years ago he agreed to a (very good) payout from his employers and no longer works. He used to love his job, was great at it and very well respected (despite only working part time) which tbh I found very attractive. He currently spends his time organising repairs to the house he bought with the payout and caring for his dad who has a terminal illness (he visits his parents for 1 week per month to give his mum a break. Spending time with his dad often causes him to be ill in the week after as the stress catches up with him).
I have a high stress job which is quite all consuming (I care deeply about it , work long hours, weird shifts, lots of after work socializing) and the difference between our lives makes me sad for him and also sometimes resentful which I know is totally unreasonable.
We both want children in theory. I have never really felt "broody" and the thought of having to look after a child terrifies me, but I'm aware that it can't be put off forever. We obviously don't know how the stress and exhaustion of having children would affect his health. We've done the maths and could afford to have one child on my salary and his investments but I'm concerned that if he gets badly ill I could end up doing everything, plus I have always wanted to take time off/ go part time as a mother and the idea of having to work full time is depressing (I know there is no good reason why the mum should have this privilege rather than the dad but that's what I want).
We have talked about marriage. Previously it has always been me pushing for it and him saying the he doesn't want to tie me to him given his health problems, but lately I've been wondering whether, if he asked me, I would say "yes".
I try to talk to him about looking for another career (he could never go back to his old job as it is it is just too relentless and high stress) but he sees it as me pressuring him and gets really unhappy and stressed. He has loads of transferable skills but he has lost a lot of confidence.
Our sex life is great when it happens but that is very very rarely, mainly due to his illness but also to my exhaustion from work.
Lately I've started to get even more consumed with work, and to go out drinking with colleagues more. I don't know if this is a symptom or an additional cause of how I have been feeling at home.
I don't know what to do! Re reading my post I sound like a heartless bitch. I love him and the thought of basically abandoning him is horrendous, but the reality of what the rest of my life might be like is starting to terrify me.
Please talk to me and tell me what to do (hopeful..)!
No you dont sound like a bitch but it does sound as if you both have completely completely different lives.
He neds to live at a certain speed, and you need to live at a completely different speed.
In my experience, your speeds should be fairly close, or at least your energy levels.
Is his condition ever likely to improve? Or is he someone who will never be able to go full time in any career, regardless of how gentle it is?
That really is a tough one... I can't tell you what to do (but hopefully other people will be along soon with some actual advice!), but I just wanted to tell you that you don't sound like a heartless bitch at all.
Can you say what the prognosis is for him long term?.
What ever he's suffering from is it likely to improve, deteriorate or remain much the same?.
I don't think your heartless as such, its a lot to take on someone with a severe illness.
I can totally see your dilemma OP and I think you have to try to simplify your decision if that makes sense. Can you see yourself being happy with this man forever? If the answer is no then, difficult and selfish though it may seem, I think life is too short to stay in a situation which doesn't have at least the potential to make you happy. Looking at it from his perspective I would never want someone to be with me if they weren't 100% sure they wanted to be, I also wouldn't want to limit someone's options in life because my own were limited, especially if I cared about them. There are an awful lot of factors that aren't quite right in your OP and an awful lot of doubts, you only have one life and you should live it for you.
I also have to add that there are people here who have ME and CFS etc and they have kids and are SAHMs and so on. It can be done, but with a lot of help undoubtedly and a lot of recognising what they can and cannot do and giving themselves permission to lie down cos they know they have to etc.
Hopefully someone will be along who knows more about it, but it does happen. It just needs planning and forethought and balance.
OP I've been married to someone who was very ill and the reason we stayed together during that time was because it wasn't just him relying on me. Does that make sense? He had been organised with his finances and insurance so I didn't have the full financial strain. He had friends and wider family who could support him emotionally over issues that upset me too much. He made me feel cherished by doing everything he could to show me (and our kids) he loved me - He didn't have the energy for the things he'd done before - but new things that he thought of. Like remembering what I had on that day and asking me all about it. Taking over making phone calls and doing paperwork. Doing homework and jigsaws and reading with our DC. Lots of cuddles and kisses and giving me sexual pleasure even when he had lost sexual function himself. Involving me in desicions about his care and about what the priorities were on days he had energy. And so on. He remained a great father and a great husband because of it.
Even so, it was bloody tough. But we'd had 15 great years together first, and he was unselfish and stayed that way.
Do you see the difference with your partner?
When he doesn't have much energy he can only read Twitter or play computer games... It would only take as much energy - to play a board game with you (even if you have to move the pieces or flip his cards) or listen to an interesting audiobook together or any one of a hundred different things that included you.
Same for his attitude to you bringing up his transferable skills, really, and even perhaps your sex life. His attitudes of defensiveness and doing the minimum sound like he isn't in a good place for a relationship let alone having children.
The one thing that makes me pause is the fact that he's a carer himself. I know the emotional and physical strain of that and I wonder whether (apologies for being blunt) his father has long left and if your DP might improve quite a bit after that. If you knew him before his father was ill, do you think DP got worse at that point?
Thank you for all the replies. I have read them and am digesting..
His prognosis is frustratingly uncertain, but the most likely outcome is that things basically carry in the same, up and down and always having to be careful if too much exertion or stress.
Also not sure what you should do, but consider this:
- for a while you've wanted marriage which he didn't, so you're not really on the same page there
-his attitude if bad now will definitely worsen after the stresses of kids. Even the happiest couples face this challenge
-poor sex life: are you ok with that for life, and worse after kids? at least most get a honeymoon period as newlyweds
-pls remember, most people who leave sick partners do so because of the sick partner's tendency to be angry, selfish and manipulative via their illness. Do you see a bit of this now? Pls pause and consider
-who'll take care of You?
I can't see how he could manage parenthood if he spends much of his time resting or on twitter.
I don't see anything in this relationship for you any more. If you married or had children you would be shouldering the burden and the resentment you are already feeling would just increase.
Op you have to break up.
If you met him for the first time as he is now you wouldn't be attracted to him.
You are only staying becausen of your years together and how"lovely" he is.
But that's not what you want.
And it isn't that you've been married 30 years so only have 10 years left.
You've got the test of your life together.
To put up with no ambition no energy no zest and not enough money.
I think you should leave.
Don't stay because you think he won't meet someone else.
Because a man with his own house who is happy to sit around relaxing is actually an extremely attractive prospect to someone else.
He'll be fine.
Please don't waste your youth.
He's not your responsibility.
What is the dilemma exactly?
Do you really want marriage and 2.4 kids or is that something you think you should want and your current partners illness interferes with the 'picture' of how life should be. He's never going to be the high powered executive of his past (with all the status and financial security that included), so if you can not accept that (and there really is no law that says you should), then you really need to consider if continuing this relationship is fair on both of you.
I think you should break up with him. Resentment grows unless the root cause is resolved and that won't happen here.
You should both have the opportunity to live the life you want.
Gosh there are some harsh responses here.
Firstly - you are completely within your rights to feel the difference between your aspirations for life and the aspirations that your partner is capable of fulfilling is too great. That does not make you a bad person - it would make you capable of facing a difficult decision with honesty.
Somerville - beyond the fact the OP references time spent playing computer games and on Twitter (which, less face it aren't exactly uncommon leisure time activities) I don't see where you get the implication that her partner is being selfish. He's helping care for his terminally ill Father, at significant expense to his own health, and organising renovations to their home. By the OP's own admission she is often out socialising, there is no implication that she has any desire to spend her evenings playing board games or listening to audio books!
Clearly there are issues that need to be overcome in time about his confidence and motivation to take on other work in whatever capacity and how much it is possible with his health.
I think the issue about having children is a key one you need to address, how you feel it would work in practice and what you're prepared to sacrifice to pursue this. It's perfectly achievable and many people have children in much less ideal circumstances. It is worth saying that although children are hard to work physically and sometimes also emotionally, watching your children grow is a completely different experience to watching a loved one die, so the stresses your partner is experiencing in caring for his Father is not necessary a good indication of the stresses of raising a child.
You live together before marriage and children so you can decide whether this is the right choice for you or not.
You tried living with a lovely man to see if this would deliver the best future for you both. You have discovered that, sadly, it does not.
Btw, he already knows that and told you so. Listen.
The illness is a red herring. Pity isn't a good reason to stay. Fear of looking like a cowbag is a bad reason to stay.
There is only one thing in your post that made me think "You cowbag!"
It was the thought of basically abandoning him is horrendous
What you are saying there is that he is too crap to get another decent girlfriend. You are out of his league. Poor little him if you abandon him. He'll probably live on pot noodles in his pants on the sofa and never wash pining for badger, maybe buying a mail order bride one day or just dying alone in front of the playstation. Catch yourself on! He sounds lovely. He'll be fine. You aren't that special
Quickly - he's not "happy to sit around relaxing" or lacking "ambition" or "zest" - he's ILL, that's why he's exhausted. He's also caring for his terminally ill father, which is something that a lot of perfectly healthy/able-bodied people find incredibly stressful anyway.
You don't sound like a bitch at all and nobody will give you a prize for being a martyr either, it's a hard one but tbh, could he not do something, computer work maybe as he's nimble on the playstation?
I don't know OP, only you know, is he being lazy or is he as incapacitated to the point he can't actually work, how the hell will he manage a child, sorry but it's your future and it does matter.
It doesn't sound like you love him enough to make the hard things worth it. That's really sad for him . But there it is.
It is hard, but I think you need to take a good look at what your life would be like with this man 5 or 10 years down the line.
What happens when you have children? It sounds to me as if he would not be able to cope and that everything would fall on you so you would end up flogging yourself to death to cover your work and childcare and resenting him for not pulling his weight (been there in the past and managed to work myself into a breakdown - nothing wrong with my exH he is just a lazy twunt - he's an ex for a reason).
Or even if you don't have children, you are working all hours and doing the mandatory socialising and he is pottering around at home like an OAP. He might not be able to help it, but you sound like an energetic high achiever and he just doesn't.
I think it is very telling that you are taking refuge in working longer hours and socialising more. He might be a lovely chap, but he's not right for you. You are young and have every chance of finding someone better suited to you.
TBH I'd move on.
It sounds like you want to end the relationship.
It also sounds like you work too much!
How is communication between the two of you?
Could you sit down and discuss where the pair of you would like to be in 10 years or so?
Lots of bits of life are terrifying, yours sounds like those bits have clumped together, NOT like a heartless bitch.
He must be rather bored, frustrated and at risk of depression with the way his life has changed.
Could he cope with being a SAHD with nursery , a cleaner etc to take some of the strain? If you can discuss these things you have hope for a happy life.
Check the communication is still there and then decide.
Thank you for all the further responses. Sorry for not coming back to this thread for so long.. This week work has been evem more mental than usual (so much so that on Wednesday night I ended up sleeping on the office floor ) and do has been really such with a virus on tip of everything else.
I should say that dp is emphatically NOT lazy, selfish or manipulative but he is ill (thank you Bubins and tartlet).
RunRabbit - your last paragraph is of course entirely correct and a very good point.
Isetan - good question. I don't know if I do want the 2.4 children lifestyle.. I just want something .. And I feel so often that our lives are stagnating... But maybe everyone feels like this sometimes?
Oh God, I don't know! I have thought so many times that I would only want children with him, because he is wonderful and if his offspring are anything like him they would be amazing.. I'm not sure if even want children with anyone else. I just feel so stuck.
Just to add, a few people have mentioned depression, and yes, I do think he is probably depressed (but as a result if the other illness, not a cause, iyswim). He is also just, you know, human.
Oh, and communication between us on serious topics is a bit shit, tbh. Neither of us are big on confronting things. I'm going to try to talk to him this weekend though.
Bumping for anyone else mumsnetting on a Friday night.. In a bit of a state right now and don't know what to do
Join the discussion
Please login first.