Advice from the Trenches: Do I stay or do I go?

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Welcome to Advice From the Trenches, a monthly feature on NRI NOW.

In this month’s advice column, writer Cathren Housley counters her own take on your questions with that of a confirmed bachelor.

Do you have a question for the column? Send your thoughts, ideas and woes to cathrenhousley@aol.com.

Mention that you’re an NRI NOW reader so we can be sure to publish the answer here!

Dear C;

I’m approaching 50 and still a bachelor. My main priority has always been the theater. When I was younger, I wanted to be an actor, but after years of being onstage, I became more interested in directing and decided to put my experience into the production end of things. Now I feel I’ve finally found my niche. I can’t imagine not doing it.

That brings me to Julia, the woman I’ve been seeing for the last few years. We began getting close during her divorce. She was married for 18 years and has already raised two kids who are now grown. We kept things under wraps during the divorce, but now that it’s over, she really wants me to move in with her. I’m torn over whether to do it.

The plus side: she’s not going to try to pressure me into having kids or supporting her because she is very well off from her settlement and wants nothing more than to enjoy the rest of her life. She’s easy to be with – no constant drama as there was in my past relationships. 

The negative: she tolerates my drive to continue working, but it’s obvious that she’d be a lot happier if I stayed home. She’s always asking me to fix things around her house, do the yard work, and watch her dogs when she’s out of town. I didn’t mind at first but now it takes up a lot more of my time than I’d like.

Things can’t stay in limbo forever with us. I don’t really want to walk away because there’s good and bad in every relationship, and perfect doesn’t exist. What bothers me most is that she doesn’t really care about theater or get behind my work. I recently met another woman who is really into theater, and the attraction I feel to her has really made me think.               Jayson Grayson

C says:

For a male perspective, I first asked Mr. X, a confirmed bachelor, what he had to say. Take it with a grain of salt – Mr. X has had some really bad relationships.

Mr. X says:

Julia was married for 18 years and jumped into this relationship with you before the papers were even signed? Wake up, JG – she’s grooming you for Husband #2. If her first husband fixed things around the house, took out the garbage, mowed the lawn, and looked after the dogs, that’s what you’re going to be doing too.

I know this game – at first she’s your ideal woman, fun, and easy to be with. Then little by little, things change. It’s always a gradual process or you’d catch on. She begins manipulating with little things, then the list grows. She’s lavish with her appreciation, so you don’t mind. But watch out, buddy, the more you give, the more she expects.

Don’t believe me? Try this: tell her you’re too busy with theater work to be her on-call Mr. Fix-It for a week or so. See how tolerant, fun, and easy to be with she is after that. It’s a good litmus test for hidden agendas. Good luck, buddy.

C says:

I may have a slightly saner perspective on your situation.

First, don’t take the new potential love interest too seriously; you don’t know her well enough to have any idea who she really is. Many men your age want something new to make them feel young and alive again, but that’s no reason to leave Julia. The newness wears off fast.

Bottom line – next to trust, what matters most in a relationship is whether each partner is getting what they need. It seems that what Julia needs is a “husband” in the traditional sense. There’s nothing wrong with that. Literally millions of men want that kind of relationship too and they’d feel lucky to find a woman with her own money, especially one who tolerated their “guy stuff”.

But what do you want? Do you enjoy being Mr. Fix-It? Are you ready to let go of your drive to work in the theater, and be a reliable husband to a woman of means? It’s a life that many people would find ideal. Do you?

Ask yourself where you want to be 10 years from now. Is Julia an important part of your own goals and dreams? When you look ahead, is your future meaningless if she’s not there to share it with you? Would she be happy for you if you lead the life that you want? Or would she be unhappy because you aren’t constantly there for her?

This is a big step and it’s not just about you. I’d have a good long talk with Julia before you decide to do anything. 

As originally published in Motif Magazine.

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