Even when the person you care about seems to have disregarded most, if not all, of your needs in the relationship you may find yourself making excuses as to why they’re treating you a certain way or why you need to stay with them.
But sometimes the situation becomes too much and we find ourselves becoming loyal to long-suffering.
How exactly do we cope with feeling trapped in a relationship that is no longer offering us the support that we first found in it?
Nadia* a 48-year-old woman finds herself in a similar position with her partner, 60-year-old John*, who is completely dependent on her for financial and emotional support.
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While he, on the other hand, lazes around the house, watches tv and refuses to assist with chores or try to find a job.
“I am 48-year-old woman living with my 60- year-old male partner. He has no money, and no job, no retirement investment. Nothing, so he is completely broke.
I am working and supporting him fully. I understand there aren’t many opportunities for males of that age, but my partner is becoming either lazier or depressed.
He shows no will to change his situation, he smokes all day and watches TV constantly. He packs the dishwasher but many times leaves it for days before actually running it to do the dishes.
He seldom cooks but he keeps the pool clean. However, I do also have a helper on Saturdays to clean up the house (house is only cleaned once a week) and a gardener once a week.
I’m becoming quite resentful and distant and he doesn’t seem to understand why. He feels I’m not intimate and he becomes needy or depressed.
With him broke he has nowhere to go and I feel extremely trapped. I’m not sure how to talk to him as he has a very thin skin, and gets depressed easily and I don’t want to push him over the edge”
Nadia finds herself in quite a difficult predicament and so we spoke to Cape Town based relationship expert, Shelley Lewin, and she lists why women like Nadia often choose to stay in relationships that smother them.
1. Too much selflessness
Selfless people often believe their own needs are not equally valid. This is not true. Your needs are valid. You need a partner, not a dependent.
2. The fear of being seen as unkind
Kind people are often taken advantage of. They feel too guilty to break the cycle of kindness and to be ‘unkind’. Be self-respecting, before this costs you severely financially and emotionally.
3. Trying to keep the peace
Harmonious people prefer to sweep issues under the carpet in order to avoid confrontations. Conflict is a healthy and constructive part of relationships. Challenge him to step-up or move-out.
4. A low self esteem
Self-deprivation is often a sign of a low self-worth. When we value ourselves and our worth, we don’t deprive ourselves of healthy connections (we don’t allow others to treat us badly or take advantage of us).
We also spoke to another expert, Paula Quinsee and she shared the following advice.
“I recommend that a person in this situation should sit down with her partner and explain how she feels about the situation, suggesting possible solutions and other ways he can contribute to the household e.g. sharing of chores.
It’s important that at the same time they discuss the possibility of him being depressed as a result of not having any sense of purpose to keep him motivated.
Being in a situation like this can have a severe impact on one’s self-confidence and self-esteem.
If needed, you should explore support structures you can put in place to assist him deal with his emotional state whilst giving him practical tools to deal with his situation or getting professional help.
You can also explore alternative options of him bringing in an income such as part time work, making items to sell, learning a new skill etc.
If you don’t discuss what you are both going through, the resentment will continue to fester and could end up blowing up into something bigger and uglier.”
Are you going though a tough situation with your nearest and dearest? Share your thoughts with us here.
* Not their real names.