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The Vacation-less Relationship
Dear Dating Coach,
I am a 43 year old, divorced (13 years) female who has been in an (8 year) on and off again relationship with a 48 year old, never married man. He is turned off by marriage, due in part to coming from a family where each parent was married and divorced several times and only two of their five adult children have been married.
His well off mother likes to take her grown children and their spouses on yearly vacations, but significant others are never included. I have suggested to him that he tell his mom that he would like me to come and that I will pay my own way. He refuses to do this and has told me that I am being ridiculous due to my jealousy. In addition to the family vacation, he takes a 5-6 week (solo) trip every year, and I have joined him for a few days on some of these, but never for very long. I am sick of standing on the sidelines, feeling left out and unimportant. This vacation issue is the biggest problem in our relationship and is tearing us apart. I'm OK with not getting married again, but want to have a fully inclusive relationship, which this is not. Am I being ridiculous? Should I end the relationship or try to learn to live with this? --Always on the Outside
Your feelings are never ridiculous. They are important to you and are a good barometer for gauging your needs and wants. When they are diminished like this the message is that they, and you, aren't important enough to take seriously. No wonder you are considering ending this relationship.
It would be a very different situation if your boyfriend listened to and validated your feelings, even if the outcome was the same and his mother still did not ask you along the next time. Even if he was struggling with the decision to go without you or stay home in protest--at least you would be getting the message that he cares about how you feel and values you (and the relationship)at least as much as the one he has with his family of origin. However, this is not the case. His refusal to consider your feelings has placed you on the outside, looking in. He appears to have made his choice, them.
Your last question is a good one. It seems you will have to make a decision to live with the relationship as it is, or end it and look elsewhere for one in which you feel like an equal and valued partner. This is not something anyone else can decide for you, but I will say that you appear to know what the right answer is for you already--you just need to trust yourself enough to follow through with it.
(from October 2007)
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Toni Coleman, LCSW
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