uestions about love, dating, and relationships frequently get tossed my way. Never mind my own less-then-perfect relationship record, or that I struggle as a mother, sometimes lack patience, and I hold no degree in counseling. Here are a few answers to questions I’ve collected.
• Q: For the past three months I’ve been dating a man I’ve known for a long time. Although he is still married, he no longer lives with his wife and assures me he wants a divorce. He and I have an excellent time together — we laugh, play, have great sex and talk at length about life. The thing is, I’ve noticed he’s made no progress toward actually filing for divorce.
The other day he mentioned that he didn’t think his wife would “get her shit together” and he “wasn’t getting any younger.” Now I’m wondering if he truly does want a divorce. I’m confused. What do I do?
• A: I apologize ahead of time if my answer sounds brash, but occasionally we all need a harsh reminder of reality.
My question to you is this: Why should he bother getting a divorce? After all, you’ve been happy to date him without asking that he be fully available. He’s having all of his buckets filled by both you and his wife. What incentive does he have to change anything?
Let me use a metaphor. Suppose men and women each have a certain number of buckets they need filled by a partner. There’s a bucket for emotion fulfillment, sexual fulfillment, material fulfillment, intellectual fulfillment, fulfillment in day-to-day life, and so on.
For example, let’s say you’re dating a guy you really like. He’s kind, the sex is great, you have wonderful dates and he even helps you with the dishes. But he’s emotional aloof and not intellectually stimulating enough. After trying to coax out this side of him and getting nowhere you may decide that the nice guy who’s good in bed and knows how to do the dishes isn’t exactly going to fill your intellectual or emotional buckets. Even if the relationship continues, it’ll never be truly satisfying.
Now, let’s say you meet someone else who you find intellectually brilliant and emotionally giving. But he’s also a slob, has no drive for success, and his material world is falling apart. Still, shortcomings aside, he can fill the emotional and intellectual buckets your nice guy can’t. If you were to develop a relationship with him you’d be emotionally and intellectually stimulated, but never fully satisfied, either.
In an ideal relationship, one person fills each of our buckets. On occasion, when that isn’t happening, we either fill them ourselves or have a healthy and open conversation with our partner about what we need to feel replenished.
The man you’re involved with now is having his emotional and sexual buckets filled by you while his wife fills the others. What would happen if you stopped giving him what his wife doesn’t? Would he have the incentive to work things out with his wife and continue his marriage? Or would he realize he needs things she can’t provide and actually file for divorce and work to make himself as fully available to you as you are to him? If you continue on the path you’re on now, your buckets, unlike his, will never be full.