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QUESTION: Hi there,
I have a very complex, complicated situation.
My boyfriend and I have been together for 2.5 years almost 3 years. Also should mention that we are of different cultures, religion. I am catholic and he is punjabi sikh.

We have had our ups and downs, good times and bad times. But I'm at a crossroads at this point of our relationship. I love him deeply and will do anything to make him happy, but I find we're in a stagnate relationship.

When we first started dating, he confided in me that he had a attachment disorder from when he was a toddler. I didn't know what that meant so I went online and read some articles on it. I found out that he has a hard time commiting, trusting and being in relationship. Despite knowing these things, I still want to be with him and thought it was something we can work on together.

After our many fights, angry spats, many threats to break up and and lack of communication. I always try to forgive him for his angry outbursts and ways of dealing with confrontation.
I will get tired and frustrated of not having a "normal" make up and started to resent this attachment disorder as it is always in the way of making us a perfect couple. He has come along way, as he is able to realize his mistakes, apologize when he did something wrong and show concern when I'm mad at him.

However, I still think we are behind in the grand scheme of things. After, 2.5 years together I have yet to meet his family and him meet mine. Family gatherings, weddings occasions are something we sometimes fight about as he does not invite me and uses the fact that we live 40 mins away from each other as a excuse.

I can't talk about it with friends as they don't think its normal for being together this long and progressing soo slowly. I've been told on many occasions to break up with him and everytime I try to explain, they think i'm making excuses for his behaviour. But i find they don't understand the situation; it's not a typical "boy can't commit, he's not serious about you" situation.

I have thought about breaking up on some occasions when things got tough but I don't want us to be another failed relationship. I don't want to be another girl who gave up on him.

So my questions is, what can I do to make this work? What can I do to make him understand he can trust me so we can communicate better so we can progress to a place in the relationship we can both be happy in?
I don't want to pressure him into marriage or a future he's not ready for, but I have to know is it worth waiting for? Am I going to wait for him, and then not get the future that I want for us?
I know your not psychic but any advice/comments will be helpful

thank you!

ANSWER: Hello Sandra!

So, let's get this absolutely straight: you don't have the relationship you want and the excuse is "attachment disorder"? That about sums it up, right?

Frankly, that's a pretty good game! He gets to pull some ridiculous excuse out of his ass and you just put up with being unhappy. He doesn't have to change or grow or anything else. He doesn't have to introduce you to his family (because that might cause a real commitment on his part!) and being 40-minutes away is the excuse you accept.

Sandra I have to tell you, he's got a pretty great situation. You? Not so much.

Let's look at this from a different perspective. I believe (in my wildly optimistic way) that people who want to be in mature, adult relationships need to deal with their issues BEFORE they start going after and expecting these relationships. I know. Crazy, huh?

You seem to think that all of this is somehow a permanent, congenital situation that he has absolutely no control over. (Shhhh! Don't tell anyone this: he DOES have control over it!) Of course, if he took responsibility for the situation and realized that he wasn't the only one in this relationship; and, if you stood up and expected the kind of relationship and treatment you deserved, well, this would be quite a different situation then, right? You bet it would.

Sandra, I see this sort of thing all the time; far more often from women than men but as your situation shows, it happens from both sides: someone claims something like this as the "rule" for the rest of the relationship! Women often say (when they first meet someone) "Oh, I'm kinda insecure, you know?" and that becomes THE EXCUSE for every little ridiculous game she wants to play.

Your boyfriend did this with his "condition". The problem with this sort of thing is that we're talking about adults here (right?) and adults have responsibilities not just to themselves but to others. If he wants to be in a happy, healthy relationship, he has to deal with these issues. If he can't or doesn't know how then he needs to come to someone like me that will help him fix it; but either way, it's HIS RESPONSIBILITY to fix these things. It's NOT YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to tiptoe around them and use them as an excuse for why your relationship is a disaster.

So, with THAT understanding, let's look at your questions:

How do you make this work? Both of you need to stop making these ridiculous excuses for why things are so fucked up. Then, you need to both take responsibility for fixing them. What can you do to make him trust you? You can't. Trust isn't something you "give" another person. Trust is almost entirely internal. He doesn't have to trust you! You've never expected it of him so you don't get it and when things explode, well, you know - TRUST ISSUES! It's all very convenient albeit not very healthy!

You see, you're focusing on the wrong things. Instead of making yourself live up to your side of the bargain and expecting him to do the same thing, you're trying to fit everything into a neat little package that simply won't hold it. Change your package, change your relationship, change your life!

Pressuring him into marriage is an entirely different conversation. The amount of time you've been together has absolutely nothing to do with the "format" of your relationship. You're no where near being "marriage-ready", but consider this: what is marriage anyway? Just like you have a non-resident (not living together) relationship and that is a one "format" that's all marriage is too - it's a format of a relationship; NOT THE RELATIONSHIP ITSELF. You need to understand the difference.

I have absolutely no way of telling whether it's "worth it" or not to wait. You have a lot of work to do to get things where they need to be to even be able to ask the question. The answer then is; can you fix what you already have?

Best regards...

Dr. Dennis W. Neder
CEO/Executive Producer
~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.
BAM! Productions
Remington Publications
818.334.8826
http://beingaman.com
Producers: "BAM! TV" and "Love and Sex"


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi

I'm Sandra's boyfriend and I want to add a few things to this conversation.

Yes I might have an attachment issue and have an attitude when i get upset that can look like i dont  care sometimes, say  things that may sound hurtful, act like I don't need her, but this is only when I'm upset.

I can say that yes I have an issue about getting married and don't know when or who I want to get married to, I'm 27 btw. However I do want to get married in next few years.

I don't have any trust issues with her, I trust her perfectly fine and I think that's one reason why we've been with each other for soo long, in the beginning the relationship was great but slowly over this year it's been more nagging and boring so then it's like she not trying to enjoy the moment and more worried and looking for things to complain about with me because I don't want to move as fast as her, which is probably because yes my attachment issue.

I'm not going to lie, there is a cultural difference so I really think twice, however this would not stop me from getting married to her.

My girlfriend  is right about things but at same time recently I've been getting more upset with her as well because she is really bent about taking things forward her parents are Portuguese and strict with her and wanting to meet families and I can understand that, but at same time she can be soo nice with me and other times she doesn't talk or doesn't think of anything new or fun to do and I love her but at times she gets me bored, other times she can really nice and fun and when she gets worried or annoyed with something then I can't stand being with her.

I know everyone has to work towards the relationship and make it better but I want someone to do more things and not get stuck in boring relationship for rest of my life.

Answer
Hello "Sandra's Boyfriend"!

I'm very glad you wrote to me. Unless I'm working with a couple, I rarely get to deal with the other partner.

Everyone reverts back into themselves when they get angry, hurt or upset. That's not an issue until it becomes the rule rather than the exception. From what you're telling me (and what Sandra stated before) that's not going on here. Keep in mind that her letter to me was about meeting the family and about "attachment disorder" - from which; I'm not convinced you suffer.

If you two are having more fights than fun it's very likely something that can be easily solved. We can't (nor shouldn't) do it via this board however. That's something that needs greater involvement.

Let's talk about marriage for a moment. I don't think you two should be talking about marriage yet either. Sandra (like many women) is on the "marriage track". She's seeing the time (and somewhat, the investment) and believes that you and she should be engaged or at least talking about it.

I don't agree in the slightest! As I explained to her before, marriage isn't the goal at all; nor is it the "relationship". It's only one format - of thousands of formats - for a relationship.

Sandra doesn't understand your issues with marriage because she doesn't share them. I've dealt with many Indian Sikhs and have a number of friends from the culture. I understand it reasonably well and know what marriage within the culture means. However, what Sandra doesn't get is that while to her marriage means all sorts of positive things (love, security, support, family, status, etc.) to you it also means many negative things (responsibility, stress, loss of freedom, loss of choice, etc.)

There are also family issues involved here. I don't know what sort of pressure you're getting from the family to marry within the culture, but I know it's there.

The far greater issue here is back to that point of marriage only being a format - not the relationship itself. Getting married rarely improves a relationship. It most often does just the opposite. Your relationship right now isn't exactly in the best of health as it is! Again, that's something we can work on together if/when you both are ready but for the purposes of answering your message, that's where you are right now.

Regarding trust: I understand your point. It's easy to lay off these complicated emotional situations as "trust issues" but as you've pointed out, that doesn't really cover the issue. Obviously, I can't know if you have problems with trust or not, but from what you've said, it's not the problem here at all.

Here's what I try to get people that are on the marriage track to understand: It's not about how much time you've been together. It's not about how many challenges you've faced. It's not about how many trips you've taken or how much fun you've had or how much you've laughed or cried together. Marriage is about need - and a very specific need at that.

Particularly with women; but sometimes men too, I explain that the job should never be trying to convince the other person to marry. Instead, the job should be only these three things:

1) Understand why the other person is putting on the brakes about getting married. Learn very clearly what marriage means to them; how they see it now and how that differs from an "ideal".

2) Determine specifically and clearly what that person needs in order to start feeling they could never live without you and would take on all that responsibility, stress, loss, etc.

3) Become that person.

All the begging, threatening, teasing, etc., in the world will never get someone passed their challenges to being married. Becoming the person of that person's dreams - and staying there - will. Once that person is terrified of losing the other, marriage is no longer "optional"; it'll happen all by itself.

In order to do that however, you both need to get this relationship fixed. That should be the only focus right now - not in order to get married, but to have the best relationship you can have - and deserve. If I can help you with that, contact me outside this group through my website: http://BeingAMan.com/contact.aspx.

Best regards...

Dr. Dennis W. Neder
CEO/Executive Producer
~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.
BAM! Productions
Remington Publications
818.334.8826
http://beingaman.com
Producers: "BAM! TV" and “Love and Sex”
Publishers: "Being a Man in a Woman's World I, II & III”

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Dr. Dennis W. Neder

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I'm able to answer any sort of question related to the approach, meeting people, dating, sex, relationships, break-ups, non-legal marriage and divorce questions, and anything in between. I've helped over 30,000 people with their individual issues. IMPORTANT: Please, PLEASE don't ask me, "what was he thinking..." or "why did he say..." types of questions! I DO NOT READ MINDS! There are 1,001 reasons why someone does what they do, says what they say or thinks what they think. If you *REALLY* want to know what they were thinking, saying or why they were acting that way - go ask them! Be sure to check out my FAQ's on my website at: http://beingaman.com. You can email me directly at: dwneder@beingaman.com.

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I am the author of the books "Being a Man in a Woman`s World I & II" and "1001 Places and Techniques to Meet Great Women" and 11 others. I`ve spent the last 20 years studying the art and science of every aspect of relationships, and have answered over 30,000 letters from readers all over the world. My main focus is men`s relationships with women, but I also have many female readers and answer questions for them regularly as well.

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Doctor of Philosophy

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