Together and apart

Dear Counsellor,

I have a child with a man who is 15 years my senior. The relationship is not working. I am living at his house. He said that I can stay, but we are in different rooms. He earns much more money than I do. I am a teacher. I want to improve myself, so I do not mind living at his house. However, a second child came about, and he still wants me to live in the house but in separate rooms. He claims that he is mature and I am too irresponsible. He does not like to lose an argument. Because he is smart, he thinks he knows more than I do on every subject. He is a good father. He spends time with the children and provides for them. However, my best friends believe that I should move out and start another relationship as this one seems to be toxic. What do you think I should do?

Maria

Dear Maria,

Every woman deserves to be in a healthy and loving relationship. What counts is the time a couple spends together, laughing, feeling appreciated and genuinely enjoying each other’s company. Couples that love and respect each other support and value each other’s opinions. Both partners are open to dialogue and negotiation and will always find a win-win during disagreements, and won’t constantly criticise their partners. Your man, however, seems to be emotionally detached that’s why he calls you immature and irresponsible. It appears your relationship wasn’t built on a solid foundation of genuine love, respect and intimacy. Such criticism makes you feel undermined, demoralised and less special. Worst of all, sleeping in separate bedrooms because of arguments, resentment and feeling disconnected only leads to further problems.

Although some couples choose to sleep in separate bedrooms for a variety of reasons, including the need to get better sleep, we all have different attachment styles, and the idea of a sleeping arrangement may vary greatly from couple to couple. Sometimes separate bedrooms are a reflection of the fact that it’s an older or wealthier marriage, and that they invest more in their sleep. Yet other people worry that their sex life would suffer if they didn’t share a bed. The thing is, every couple is unique. There are couples who don’t sleep in the same bed but have great marriages, and are emotionally and physically connected. There are also couples who sleep in the same bed who are unhappy and don’t have sex. The general consensus depends on the two of you if you choose to do so with love and understanding.

Unfortunately, your situation shows that you’re so uncomfortable with his decision. You will need to find the right balance between doing things with your man and being independent. Communication is key because the issue of lack of emotional connection isn’t going to fix itself if you keep quiet, yet divorcing the father of your children will have emotional and physical effects on your children’s’ lives.  Men aren’t mind readers so you need to tell him that you don’t feel valued and that this hurts you. Talk to him, listen, share ideas and discuss things you like and dislike, including your future plans.

Notably, there are a few things you should always be ready to endure when you choose to settle down with an older man.  Physically, he is less vigorous than your younger self. Emotionally, his needs will significantly differ from yours as you have very distinctive social, physical, financial and sexual preferences. And socially, navigating through the various social circles, including family and friends, can be challenging and may not go down well with him. Just be sensitive to his moods and his reactions to these prospects. Don’t merely rely on your best friends’ words, rather, follow your heart and decide the future of your marriage.

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