Dear Dr Victoria, I have been going out with my partner for 2 and a half years. When we first started seeing one another, he said that he didn't want to get into a serious relationship and I was fine with that as I was just out of a serious relationship too.
But things were great and there was real passion. Three months in, he told me that his female friend (who he had a casual sexual on-off arrangement with) from The States was coming over for a week. My heart sank and I ended it. But I kept texting him and a few weeks later we got back together. Other than a brief break last year, we've been together ever since. This other time we split last year, I told him there was no chance of us getting back together so he started to see another girl for a couple of weeks. I changed my mind because I missed him so much, so I rang him and told him how I felt and we got back together.
He tells me all the time how much he loves me and asked me one night - when he was quite drunk – he asked me if we should get engaged next year and he said he'd get me a ring in the pawn shop. To be honest I don't believe in marriage as I see marriages falling apart all around me. It makes me feel suffocated and I told him so. I told him that I'd like to be his life-long partner but no marriage and he seemed fine with that.
He works away all the time and goes out at night once or twice a week and gets drunk with the single guys he lives with. Sometimes they go to nightclubs. He's usually away all week and only comes home at weekends. This all causes me a bit of anxiety but he keeps telling me there's nothing to worry about. I often wonder though as last week he made a comment that sometimes he loves having me as his girlfriend and sometimes he doesn't. This was just a few days after his American female “friend” had emailed him (he said he hasn't replied to her). He'd not heard from her for over a year but now she's is living in Europe.
I don't know what to believe or do. He says he's a monogamist but he's admitted to cheating on all his ex girlfriends. He says he has never cheated on me but I don't know what the best course of action is for me. Should I believe him and relax a bit or am I being a fool who'll only end up getting a slap in the face?
Dr Victoria replies:
On first reading, your email sounds like your boyfriend is a bit of a player - he'll never stay faithful to you and maybe you should just tell him to sling his hook. But, reading between the lines I suspect there's a lot more to it than initially meets the eye.
You've pointed out all the reasons why you shouldn't trust your boyfriend but what about all the things you love about him? Why are you with him, besides the passionate physical relationship? You've told him you want to be his life-long partner, so you must think quite highly of him. There are many other contradictions in what you say. You say that when his casual female friend came over, your heart sank, but instead of telling him how you felt, you ended the relationship. He was being up front with you, why didn't you tell him what you thought? You say that he has talked about marriage, and you claim that marriage isn't for you because you fear it would fall apart, but actually you feel suffocated by the idea.
You're also quick to point out the comment your boyfriend made about how he sometimes loves having you as a girlfriend but other times he doesn't. Rather than take his individual comments out of context and then see this as evidence of his intentions to cheat on you, why didn't you ask him exactly what he meant by this? If he was just mad at you because he wants to live with you or marry you and you keep running away from any commitment, perhaps he was justified in his comment. But if he meant he'd quite like to be free and single, be able to play the field or hook up with his American friend whenever he pleases then that's a very different matter.
How about you start being honest with yourself. What do you really want from a relationship? If you met the right man - one who'd get you a proper ring and one who you'd be able to see more than just weekends when he wasn't out with his house mates, one who didn't get drunk twice a week and who hadn't cheated on all his ex-girlfriends, would you actually like a more conventional relationship? And commitment? Don't get stuck in the trap of believing that you're happy with a casual weekend relationship just because that seems to be all that's on offer at the moment. Try to separate out what you really want and need in the long term from what this man is able or willing to offer you. This isn't about him; it's about you and what you want – not just now but in the future too.
If you want more, if you think there's a chance you can get that with this man, then tell him what you want. Stop beating about the bush and tell him what you think when he mentions his casual American friend. If you want him to spend more time with you then tell him. If he's got time to get drunk with his friends and go to nightclubs twice a week then he's got time to spend with you and to start doing something constructive with his life. It's natural to be suspicious if you don't see him from one weekend to the next but all that time you know he's out partying. Quite frankly, it's hard to see how this sort of lifestyle is conducive to a serious long-term relationship – unless it's part of your lifestyle too.
Do some serious thinking and then try to be honest with your boyfriend. Tell him what you're looking for and what you want. Try to be constructive and focus on the positives – what you like about him, what you want more of, how you'd like things to be different and what you want in the future. It sounds like you've been giving him a lot of mixed messages so it's time to be clear with him. If you can't agree something or if he says yes but nothing changes in the coming weeks or months, then you'll have your answer.
Dear Dr Victoria
Am I addicted to Internet Dating?
I have not been in a long term relationship for about 5 years. 2 years ago I purchased a laptop and have been actively looking for a boyfriend using several internet dating agencies. I work full time and find every evening and all weekend, I am constantly checking my various mail in boxes for updates as well as my mobile phone. Even when I am on holiday, I will either have my laptop with me or be checking out internet cafe to log on.
My success rate has not been good to date and usually end up just chatting for months on end and then not usually getting a date out of all the hard work I have put in. I recently complained to a friend that I was feeling low, in fact I have been feeling really depressed and am thinking about taking antidepressants, she suggested that I find something to do which didn't involve meeting men. Obviously, this is a really good idea but I hated all her suggestions. I have tried looking at other options but I really just cannot see the point, when all I want is to have a boyfriend.
The same friend now thinks I should look for counselling as she feels my mental health is suffering and that I need help.
Do you think she is right?
Dr Victoria replies:
For some people, internet dating can get rather intense. But it doesn't have to be like that. As you've pointed out, you can end up constantly checking your in box, replying to any message the moment you get it and spending ages writing long emails. But this doesn't necessarily get you any closer to the elusive relationship you want.
The trick is not to constantly increase your efforts and not to subscribe to yet another internet dating service in the hope that the more work you put in, the more likely you are to find success. Instead, you need to regain some balance. You could meet the man for you in the next week but it could take another year, so you need to pace yourself. How are you going to attract the right man if you're filling all your spare time with emailing or preparing for dates? Would you truly find it attractive if you met a man who'd been spending all his free time like this for the last year?
Ultimately though, you need to decide what's right for you and learn how to prioritise. I could list all the reasons why your current mild obsession with internet dating isn't good for you and why you aren't optimising your chances of meeting the right man, but you need to come to that conclusion for yourself. Try writing down all the benefits of your current pattern of behaviour and then write a list of all the draw backs. If you do this for yourself, it will be much more convincing than someone else giving you a lecture.
If you're convinced that something has to change, start thinking about what you'd like to do differently. Sometimes it helps to think about what you would tell a friend of yours to do if she were in the same situation. There's nothing wrong with internet dating but you don't need to sign up to more than one site at a time and you certainly don't need to be emailing while you're on holiday. You don't need to enter into a three month email exchange with a man in order to get a date. If you've been exchanging emails for a week or more and he's not forthcoming, suggest you chat on the phone and then suggest meeting up. If you don't want to arrange the date yourself, just say that it would be great to meet up face to face some time soon and leave the rest to him.
If you were looking for a new job, you wouldn't waste your time with months of dialogue only to discover there wasn't even a vacancy going. So why would you do the same with your personal life? Ok, so it's not a business deal - you need to let some emotion in - but at the same time, there has to be a limit.
As for the depression, your friend has a point. Doing something else in your spare time is a great idea. But don't rely on other people to come up with the suggestions. You need to sort this out for yourself. Regular exercise will boost your mood and your confidence but try doing something else too that's just for you. There must be something you've always wanted to try.
Counselling might help, but in the first instance try the simple measures of cutting back on the time you spend devoted to internet dating and becoming more efficient in how you go about getting a date. If you have to, set yourself a limit on how often you'll check for messages. Plus do some regular exercise and take up a new hobby. If things still aren't improving then speak to your GP for advice.