Dear Wayne and Wanda,
I’m writing to you as I lie in bed next to my girlfriend of four years. When we met, there were sparks everywhere, like we were dragging a muffler down Interstate 95 doing 150 miles per hour with nothing in our way. We lived 45 minutes from each other and made it work. From the very first date, she told me, “I’m getting a divorce soon.”
Weeks turned into months. The months turned into a year and then some. Her husband realized how serious we were. He sold the house out from under her and their children, ages 6 and 8 at the time. She moved in with me, a good 50 minutes from where the ex lived.
Fast forward four years after the start of our relationship, and the furthest she’s gotten to divorcing is printing a few pages from an online divorce template, that he even signed, and still … no filing of papers, he’s hidden all of his assets, he hasn’t paid a dime in child support. And still she won’t divorce him.
I have made it perfectly clear of my desire for them to be divorced, as the rest of her family has as well … but to no avail. My dreams of ever getting married are slowly diminishing.
She hates change and we talk very little about our future. I don’t see them getting divorced any time “soon” anymore. She is intimidated by him; she chats with him about life, so very nice, and then tells me how’s she so sick of him. Meanwhile she has lived with me all this time, and her kids are here much of the time too.
Is an ultimatum necessary? I want to marry her, but I don’t know if she feels the same way. A guy can’t ask a woman who is already married to marry him. Maybe I just need to hear what others would do?
It’s concerning that after four years of standing on the edge of hoping you can one day soon marry your girlfriend, you’re still not even sure she wants to marry you. Granted, the “would you ever want to marry me” question isn’t necessarily first-date material, but it’s a reasonable question for mature adults to tackle when of a certain age and in a relationship of a certain duration — especially when kids are involved, and especially when you live together.
So, first step: better communication. Sometimes these conversations are hard, because we are afraid we will get an answer we don’t like — answers that could even put an end to a relationship. But speaking of putting an end to relationships, your girlfriend is still someone else’s wife. Even if only on paper, even if her ex is not providing emotional, financial, or sexual security, she is unable to move on. Why? After all the time you’ve invested, you deserve straight talk and answers. As long as she’s holding still, so are you, moving no closer to your dreams.
And I would challenge you to reflect on your own wishes and goals. Do you want to marry her simply because you’ve stuck it out so long? Has the way she’s treated you reflected the care you’d expect from a lifelong partner? Don’t avoid tough conversations because you’re afraid of hard-to-hear answers. That includes when questioning yourself.
My man, I’m sorry, but your girlfriend is the queen of rebounds — Dennis Rodman’s got nothing on her. And you, once full of bounce and optimism, are now slowly, quietly deflating.
For four years you’ve gone above-and-beyond for this woman, her kids, her husband and even your dreams of a relationship that shall not be expressed. Four years! You could have gotten an undergrad in psychology and started working on your masters toward becoming a couples counselor in this time. Or finished a bunch of online courses and started offering virtual therapy sessions. But you still can’t tell her what’s really important to you?
At what point are you going to ask for what you want? Her divorcing her husband. Her making this relationship official with you. What will it take? A pep talk from Wanda? Check. Tough love from me? Check. A long look in the mirror? Seems like you’ve been doing that. You’re miserable and in an unhealthy situation, and it’s not going to change unless you drive it. So it’s time to tell her everything. And if the change translates to a breakup, that’s lame, but so be it. You’ll instantly be in a better place and will ultimately be just fine. There are plenty of legally single women out there looking for ridiculously loyal and hardworking men, and they do not come with the baggage or manipulation that your girlfriend does. Good luck, buddy.