This is a preview. The full article appears in Neil's book: Love, Sex and Staying Warm: Creating a Vital Relationship
Dear Neil: I have been with my fiancé for over a year now. We are expecting our first child shortly. I moved to his town to be with him, and I just don’t like it. The town we are in is very small, and it feels like there are no opportunities here. We are living with his parents, trying to find a place to rent, but nothing has become available. He has a pretty good job, and that’s why he says he doesn’t want to move, but he isn’t looking for or applying for any other job either. I try to talk to him about it, and he just gets upset.
But I am miserable in this small town. I gave up my family, friends and my work in order to be with him, but he won’t do the same for me. Plus, I want to go to college, and that isn’t an option here. I don’t want to leave without him, but I feel stuck here. What do I do?
Small Town Nebraska, USA
Dear Small Town: Read the next letter.
Dear Neil: I am in a long-distance relationship with a man in Canada. Recently he made arrangements to talk with me by Skype for the one-year anniversary of my father’s death, but his friends came over and he cancelled me and went out with them. This is not the first time he has let me down in order to be with others. He keeps making plans to Skype with me and then cancels at the last moment. Besides my father dying, I have recently lost both an aunt and an uncle. I also have children who are having issues, and I want him to be there for me.
He says I expect him to be there all the time, and that something is always happening to me. But there are moments that I truly need him to be there for me, and he isn’t.
Alone in Lafayette, Indiana
Dear Small Town and Alone: The issue presented in your two letters is ultimately about the request: “Would you make important to you that which is important to me?”
If your partner makes important that which you say is important to you, you will feel loved, cared about, valued and even cherished. If your partner doesn’t do it, or does it for a while and then stops, you won’t feel loved, cared about, valued or heard, and conflict is likely to escalate in your relationship. The two of you will then be in a power struggle: you become increasingly agitated and demanding, and your partner is likely to feel that you’re nagging, needy and self-absorbed—so s/he is more inclined to resist you.
The result is often a couple frozen in a cold war with each other. He won’t do what’s important to you, so you’re not going to do what’s important to him, either. In fact, you might be tempted to withdraw things he wants and values (affection, sharing, free time, empathy, sex), because you’re now hurt, angry and offended that he didn’t honor your needs and feelings. As a couple, your chances of surviving this battle diminish the longer it goes on.
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