Morgan Absher is an occupational therapist in Los Angeles who hosts the podcast, “Two Hot Takes” where she and her co-hosts dish out advice. She writes a weekly column, sharing her advice with USA TODAY’s readers. Find her on TikTok @twohottakes and YouTube here. You can reach her by email at Mabsher@gannett.com or you can click here to share your story with her.
Question: “I am a 39-year-old female and my boyfriend is a 33-year-old male. We have been together for five years. There are a few things I can’t handle and have voiced my opinion on, but I get called crazy or just get ignored. Communication for us has been minimal for the past two years or so.
He is still married to his ex. While he has promised a divorce, he refuses to get one now unless I pay for it. He and I are intimate three times a month and only when he wants to. He doesn’t compliment or acknowledge any of my social media posts or things I send directly to him (like racy pictures).
What has recently made me upset and is my last straw, is that he decided he wanted to take time off for his birthday. I am not mad that he wants to go and do something alone for his birthday. I’m more upset that he didn’t ask if I was doing anything for him, which I always do, and didn’t ask if I wanted to go. I’m mad that he can take time off for his own birthday, but can’t take off for my birthday or our anniversary. The past two years he has done nothing for both my birthday or anniversary.
Am I wrong for being mad?”
Answer: You’re not wrong for being mad, but my real question is why are you staying with a partner that isn’t meeting any of your basic relationship needs?
There’s a popular saying, “If he wants to, he will.” Your boyfriend doesn’t even seem to be trying. The fact that he isn’t actively pursuing his divorce himself is a pretty big red flag for me. Why is he comfortable being married to his ex?
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Besides that though, there are other issues at hand. Your boyfriend doesn’t seem to appreciate or respect you. He brushes you off, calls you crazy and fails to establish basic communication. Communication and trust are at the core of sound relationships. If he’s been unwilling to hear you out for the past two years, unfortunately, I don’t think this is changing any time soon.
How can you have a partnership with someone who refuses to acknowledge or even talk to you? Your boyfriend is also failing in meeting your basic need for connection – whether this is by a lack of intimacy, ignoring your spicy pictures or even making plans on his birthday that don’t involve or acknowledge you.
There’s a relationship therapist named Dr. John Gottman, and he talks about “bids” being an important aspect of relationships. These bids are what he calls “fundamental units of emotional connection.” But more or less, these are moments where we try to connect with our partners. Your partner is ignoring any bid you try to extend, which in turn can create resentment, decreased trust and lack of connection — none of which are good for a healthy, long-lasting relationship. You may be interested in Dr. Gottman’s book, “What Makes Love Last.”
You shouldn’t have to demand or beg someone to pay attention to you, spend time with you or be in a relationship with you. You deserve to feel supported, communicated with and loved in your relationship. Based on your story, this relationship does not seem like one that is promoting a safe, happy, healthy environment for you.
All the best,
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