Advice

I’ve been with my partner for 12 years and he still hasn’t divorced his ex. Is it time for me to walk away?

Dear Wayne and Wanda,

Where do I start? I met my partner almost 12 years ago. A lot has happened since then — except him getting a divorce from his ex. He keeps breaking promises. He says that he is dealing with it, then something pops up that distracts him from following through. Now I’m at a point where I feel trapped.

The most recent setback was three years ago — his 33-year-old son was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The subject of divorce now is well and truly on the back burner. What kind of person would I be to even ask?

But I never intended to spend my life with someone who is legally married. He has shown he can deal with his own business and finances while dealing with his son’s illness. He said he’s made a start toward divorce by signing over the family home to his wife. However, I haven’t seen any paperwork and I don’t buy it, to be honest.

He’s fobbed me off all this time. It’s my own fault for believing in him, I guess. He couldn’t cope on his own, but I’m not sure I can be his counselor anymore. Because it feels like that’s all I am anymore. I would appreciate any advice.

Wanda says:

Nurturing relationships, over time, can come to feel like taking care of a house. We put a lot of time and energy into investing in it, so it will feel safe and make us happy. Even when things aren’t exactly as we’d like them, we know the potential, and so we stick with it and keep making payments, dreaming of that remodel down the road. And over time, the growing sense of comfort makes the thought of ever leaving for something new feel overwhelming, even scary — even if the house isn’t quite right for us anymore.

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Of course, a relationship is not a house: it’s a bond between people, a commitment, and at its best, it’s a source of comfort, support, intimacy, trust and inspiration. Just because we’ve spent years investing emotionally in another person, trying earnestly to build something, that doesn’t mean we should stay. There might be something better out there; you’ve possibly outgrown your circumstances.

Ask yourself this: After 12 years, if your partner finally made good on his long-ago promise to get a divorce, do you even really want to be with him anymore? Or do you just feel like you should stay because it will validate all these years you’ve patiently hoped and waited for him to come through and not prove you wrong? Sometimes we stay in a home because we imagine what it could be. We do that with people too. But your partner has had 12 years to show you who he is and I think he’s done exactly that: He’s someone who puts himself first. Maybe it’s time you prioritize yourself too.

Wayne says:

Love It or List It? Hmm. I think This Old House may be beyond a Fixer Upper at this point. In fact, it’s probably time to call the Property Brothers and have them short-sell this relationship in as-is condition.

Wanda and I can make analogies, metaphors and puns all day — no really, we can — but the reality is you’ve been letting someone that you love and have committed to fully slide on the most important level of commitment for 12 years. That’s 12 years of procrastinating. Twelve years of excuses. Twelve years of not handling his business. Twelve years of lying to himself, lying to you, and not pledging himself to the relationship, and thus 12 years of letting you down.

Sounds like he’s perfectly competent at paperwork. Also sounds like he’s a wiz at avoidance. And it sounds like he would do anything for you, but he won’t do that. So if you can’t count on him to ever finalize this divorce, and that is truly a dealbreaker for you, how many more days/months/years are you going to choose to stay with him? Take Wanda’s advice: Now is the time to take the best care of yourself, move on from this man, and heal.

[My partner of 16 years, who is the father of my 4 kids, has been deceitful. What should I do?]

[My boyfriend is great but won’t stay the night, and our relationship is at a standstill]

Wayne and Wanda

Wanda is a wise person who has loved, lost and been to therapy. Wayne is a wise guy who has no use for therapy. Send them your questions and thoughts at wanda@adn.com.

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