Q: My partner and I have been together for ten years, living together about half that time and in a medium-distance relationship for the other half. For our tenth anniversary, she proposed. I got a job in the city where she had bought a place and was able to move back in with her a few months ago. Seems perfect, right? Maybe not.
In the time we’ve been together, things have changed a lot. We met in college and moved in together shortly after. We relocated for grad school. Or, I should say, my partner chose where she wanted to go, informed me, and I followed because I was too afraid of long-distance. Conversation and connection between us devolved somewhat when I moved away to continue my education. We didn’t keep in touch as much, and without face time with each other, it was hard to share everything that was going on in our lives. During this time, my partner made several big life decisions (moving/staying for jobs while I was away, buying a home, etc.) without me—this has been a point of conflict. More than six years into dating, we visited her family out-of-state for the holidays. I was introduced as “a friend from college.” While she later relented and has been more open about our relationship to others, it only goes so far. We’ve had conversations about my preferred pronouns repeatedly over the years, but she still doesn’t use them, saying she “forgets.” We haven’t had sex in years. The emotional intimacy isn’t there to support the physical.
She proposed, even though we had discussed waiting and making it more “mutual.” I told her I wanted to wait, to be sure of how things would work once I moved in; she told her friends and coworkers that I said “yes.” It’s made the transition to living together again somewhat fraught. She has a life in this city already, and I know no one, but when I’ve tried to rely on her for support as I struggle to readjust, none is forthcoming.
We’ve been in couples therapy since just before I moved back in, but we seem to be making no progress. It’s always the same conversation during sessions, and no conversation afterward. I try to make my needs known and to be clear and concise, often putting things down in writing to facilitate conversation later. Yet nothing has changed. I worry that our relationship, as it is now, can’t transition into a marriage, but I also worry about jumping to conclusions or too hastily dismantling a life together that we’ve spent years constructing. How long should we (or I) keep trying? Should I really “throw away” ten years together? How do I figure out a timeline for moving forward or moving out?
—Ultimately Not Seeking an Unhappy Relationship Ending
A: Dear UNSURE,
I’m not in the business of telling people whether or not they should be with their partner. As delicious as it would be to drop that hammer for someone, it would be unfair. I get such a teeny little peek into very complex relationships. I get one brief side of a two-sided story. It’s just not a good idea to pretend I can make that call.
But, honey. I mean, I can make an exception.
You list very big examples of ways your partner has disrespected your wishes throughout the entire length of your relationship. Her habitual disrespect has been coupled with constant requests for you to sacrifice, while offering no concessions of her own.
I understand the unwillingness to “throw away” the past ten years. It can feel like so much wasted time. But the real waste would be dumping more time and energy into something that hasn’t worked even after a decade of investment. You’re not being hasty.
Sure, maybe I am getting just one side of the story here, as with any other letter. I mean there’ve gotta be good times, things you like about her, reasons you stick around. But it’s pretty telling that you picked the details you did, that you describe the relationship the way you have. She won’t even use your preferred pronouns? We’re talking the basics of human respect here.
So while I could tell you to get out, I don’t think I have to. Because it feels as though you’ve already decided. So trust yourself on this one.
Get out of there.
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO ASK APW A QUESTION, PLEASE DON’T BE shy!