Hello Dr. Buckingham,
I’m a 32-year-old woman, and I’ve been involved with a man on and off since I was 16. We were never married. We have two children together. I would say things were great for years until we turned 25.
At 25, he fell off track. He lost his job numerous times for his recreational drug use, he stopped taking care of us and we were in a financial ruin. I ended up filing bankruptcy. During this time, I also found out he was cheating. I went through his phone and found he and the babysitter were exchanging and making arrangements to meet for sexual favors.
He was sorry he messed up. I eventually took him back, but we were rocky for years.
Fast forward to age 30. I bought a home in my name and allowed him to move in. Within three months of moving in, I looked in his phone and found him, making arrangements with multiple other women.
He decided to leave, and for three years, I begged for him to do right and come back. In my mind, I figured he needed to “sow his oats” so to speak since we have been together since 16, so forgiving him would be okay. He kept saying “no,” kept sleeping with me and I’m positive other women too, which I know I’m wrong for allowing to happen.
For three years, we went on like this: Me, begging him to change while allowing him to lay with me, being there when he needed, and him stringing me along with the “I love you” and telling me if I just trusted him we’d be okay.
I kept trying. Then one day, my children informed me that he had lent his truck out to one of the aforementioned women—a truck that I helped pay for. At that moment I was done. I blocked the calls, and had decided in my mind to move on. Enough was enough.
Two weeks later, he came unexpectedly to my home and professed his love for me; he said he was done with the cheating and that his phone would be unlocked. I agreed to try things with him again.
Three months in, I went to his house to bring him dinner, and there He was, talking to the aforementioned girl in his driveway. Things escalated, and she drove off. I left too. He didn’t contact me for a week.
Then I went to talk to him to reconcile and give him a chance to explain. As we were in the middle of this, his father kicked him out of the house, and I allowed him to move in with me and the kids….things were good.
However, the phone has not been unlocked not once, though he does come home every night and makes more efforts to check in with his ETA and whereabouts. Yet, I broke into the phone and found a message that he sent out to another woman, asking if she was single and telling her how beautiful she is. That following week, he went out late at night with “nowhere to go” and stayed out until 3:30am. He came home and slept on the couch; then took a shower first thing in the am.
I again looked at his phone, and the previous woman from before had called him that same night… So of course, I think the worst.
I’m here just thinking of it, thinking it through. I am very loyal to him. He needs me. His family is broken and has turned their backs on him repeatedly. I’m the only loyal person in his life. But he won’t stop betraying me, and it’s starting to eat at me. I’ve had anxiety attacks. At this rate, I have a very difficult time believing it will stop, but I don’t want to give up if he really is at his breakthrough of doing right by me.
Like I said, he does come home every night and keeps in contact. He says he does these flirtatious things with no real intention of cheating and that he just likes to know “if he still has it.” Could he really want to change? Am I unreasonable to request the phone be unlocked and that we be friends on Facebook? (yes we’re not affiliated together on Facebook either)
His sister and his mother tell me he loves me and is trying to do right. Please help. Can unwavering loyalty change a cheating and troubled partner?
16 years LOST
Dear 16 Years Lost,
I hate to be blunt, but the answer to your question is No and No. Furthermore, you should not work so hard to be loyal to someone who is not loyal to you or himself. Your story isn’t one of distrust and betrayal; your story is one of lack of self-love and co-dependence.
Your boyfriend does not love you enough to stop hurting you. However, this is not the real tragedy. The real tragedy is your lack of innate self-love. There is nothing wrong with trying to help and support someone, but you will never find true happiness when you focus on the needs of others over your own needs.
You view yourself as a loyal person, but in my line of work, you would be referred to as an enabler, which is also known as a codependent.
Codependent individuals like you make it easier for selfish and self-centered individuals to continue in their self-destructive behavior by rescuing them.
His family members probably turned their backs against him because they got tired of enabling him. The term codependency refers to a relationship where one or both parties enable the other to act in certain maladaptive ways. Your boyfriend misbehaves because you allow it and reinforce his behavior by giving him numerous passes and making excuses.
You obviously are unhappy, and on some level, you realize that you will never be loved like you desire by your boyfriend. However, your denial of this basic fact and need for admiration allows you to completely immerse yourself into him. You are trying to prove something to yourself or fulfill a need that was not met at some point in your life.
I highly recommend that you explore all of your past relationships, including childhood relationships and try to figure out where you learned not to love yourself. Somewhere along the way, you learned to neglect yourself and learned to feel important, connected and trustworthy by taking care of other people. Feeling rejected and unlovable is triggering you to try harder to win over your boyfriend.
I’m sad to say it, but your loyalty or efforts will not compensate for or resolve your boyfriend’s psychological deficits and narcissistic personality traits.
Narcissistic individuals believe that the world is theirs to have and exhibit little-to-no empathy for others. They focus on themselves and will hurt others in order to feel good about themselves. They are good at exploiting others.
You should seriously consider seeking professional help because your lack of self-love positions you to be a perfect target for narcissistic individuals.
Also, pay more attention to your addictive tendencies. Addiction refers to the state of being enslaved to something that is psychologically habit-forming to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma. You appear to be addicted to being “unhappy” in your relationship. You will not find happiness in this relationship or any other relationship until you find and deal with the source of your self-neglect and hatred.
You are not the solution to your boyfriend’s problems. He needs professional help, and so do you. Find you and interpersonal happiness will follow. I apologize for being direct, but you need to know that you of worthy of being loved, respected and cared for.
If you have questions for Dr. Dwayne Buckingham regarding relationships (married, single, etc), parenting, or personal growth and development, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: The ideas, opinions and recommendations contained in this post are not intended as a substitute for seeking professional counseling or guidance. Any concerns or questions that you have about relationships or any other source of potential distress should be discussed with a professional, in person. The author is not liable or responsible for any personal or relational distress, loss or damage allegedly arising from any information or recommendations in this post.