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LOVE LETTERS

She’s in an incomplete relationship

Eight years together and no ring, plus her daughter is an afterthought

By Meredith Goldstein
Globe Staff / April 23, 2011

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Q. I am in my mid 30s and have never been married. I would like to experience this in my life. I have a beautiful daughter I have raised by myself. I sometimes feel I have failed her by not giving her the childhood I had with both parents. I have tried to find a person to share our lives with for most of hers. That brings me to “Greg.’’

I have been in a relationship with “Greg’’ for eight years. He is a wonderful man who I love very much. However, we became engaged four years ago and he won’t set a date.

I took my ring off because I feel he doesn’t want to marry me. When I mention it, he just avoids the conversation or plans a surprise trip to keep me from ending it. He was in a bad marriage before, and I think he’s scared to try it with me. I think this is unfair and he should have faith and trust in me. Isn’t that what a relationship is all about?

I don’t know what to do.

Although Greg is good to my daughter, he is not a dad to her. They don’t have a relationship I would consider a close one.

Our relationship has suffered because of my closeness with my daughter. At times I think he’s jealous of her. I actually feel guilty about it. Like it or not, I am a mother first.

As I read this back, I think: This is so obvious that it’s time to move on. But I feel stuck.

I guess my question is, when is enough, enough? How do you move on when you thought you were going to spend your life with someone?

HEARTBROKEN, Massachusetts

A. Sounds like you have a great boyfriend who isn’t doing much to be a great husband. He loves you. He takes you on trips. After eight years he still wants you. But you want more.

I want you to make a decision about this relationship based on your needs, not your daughter’s. I know that you’re a mom first — and that’s great — but you’re not shopping for a new dad for your kid. You’re looking for the right partner for you, someone who respects that you’re a parent and can give you the support you need to do the job. If your partner bonds with your daughter, that’s just a bonus.

And because I’m prioritizing your needs, I keep coming back to the opening of your letter: “I am in my mid 30s and have never been married. I would like to experience this in my life.’’ Daughter aside, you want a different relationship than the one you’re in. I can’t promise that something better is waiting if you leave — ending things with Greg is a risk, for sure — but you have to stay true to yourself. After eight years, your wants haven’t changed. Get some final answers from Greg so that you can make a real decision.

As for moving on, well, there’s no easy fix. You’ll need a new routine and some time to mourn. That’s another letter for another day.

MEREDITH

READERS RESPOND:

I can empathize with your reluctance to cut your losses. You have a significant investment in this relationship, so the cost if the loss will be steep. However, there comes the time when dissolution is the only solution no matter how negative the return will be.

BATESIE52

Sometimes it just takes writing it out to recognize it. Which you have. It’s time to say enough. I think you will get some great advice here today to support you in that decision. And I commend you on having the right priorities. It isn’t just about finding a like partner who will embrace your daughter, but also about finding one who doesn’t make you feel guilty (intentionally or not) or make you feel as if you have to pick between him or your daughter.

BOSTONBREEZE

I think you and Greg have different ideas about “marriage.’’ He plans trips to distract you from your unhappiness? Ick. Why is he avoiding the tough conversations? Sounds immature. And I am a little confused about what you want. Do you want love or a father figure for your daughter? You can have both, but maybe not with Greg. DRUNKWITHLOVE

I think the letter writer is more focused on finding a father for her daughter than a partner for life. So I don’t blame Greg. They are each responsible here. LILY

It’s also curious that she wants what is best for her daughter but admitted that their [Greg and her daughter’s] relationship was less than desirable. Yet she is still with him eight years later. That is eight years this child has failed to form a significant male attachment. That’s quite a chunk of time in a child’s life. BOSTONGAL108

Greg’s attitude toward your daughter is not going to change if you get married. In fact, it will get worse, because then he will be spending even more time with her. And you will have greater expectations of him being a father to her, which he will resent you and her for. You will be doing your daughter a big disservice by forcing this relationship with a man that doesn’t want to be a father to your daughter.

NIPPERDOODLE

Usually I agree with Meredith, but not today. Making this legal with someone who doesn’t seem to care about her daughter is a huge mistake. There was no mention of the daughter’s father, so I’m assuming he’s out of the picture. This little girl deserves to have a man in her life who cares about her as well as her mother. Regardless of his history, Greg doesn’t want to get married and he clearly doesn’t want to be a dad. She should have ended it when she took off the “engagement’’ ring, but she must do so now.

KATIEMAINE

Oh, come on. You propose, buy a ring, and then refuse to set a date for four years? It isn’t speculating to figure that Greg’s been dodging. If he didn’t want to get married, he shouldn’t have asked. You ask someone, they may say yes and want to set a date — and actually get married. Shocking, I know.

PMAC430

Edited and reprinted from www.boston.com/loveletters. Meredith Goldstein can be reached at mgoldstein@globe.com. She chats online Wednesday at 1 p.m.