Social Question

Seek's avatar

Can you help me give relationship advice to my younger sister?

Asked by Seek (34714points) April 16th, 2014

Yeah, yeah, TL;DR.

My little sister (she is twenty-two) is living with a boyfriend of two years. They’re living next door to her parents, having just moved into their own place a few months ago.

Recently, she’s opened up to me through texts that she is unhappy in the relationship. They have fundamental differences in their expectations of the future – she wants children, he doesn’t – and they have incompatible sex drives. She’s upset at the lack of physical affection in their relationship. She feels he’s more interested in his “toys” than in her.

Originally, I encouraged her to talk to him, to make known her issues and go from there. When she did bring up the fact that she feels she needs more affection – “Just to be held sometimes” – his response was that it’s not going to happen because it’s not something he’s ever liked doing, and it’s not that he doesn’t love her, because they’re like best friends.

She knows the relationship is over. She has told me she “loves being with him” but doesn’t know that she’s in love.

I asked her what she would say if her best friend came to her saying her boyfriend was unaffectionate, didn’t want children, and was uninterested in sex. Her response was “Damn. :-(”

She is worried that if she breaks up with him, that it will break his heart. And she doesn’t want to hurt him. Meanwhile, she’s in a relationship that’s dooming her to unhappiness.

She is asking me what she should do, or what she should say. Frankly, I’m not very good at the whole “feelings” thing – I never learned to understand my own, much less understand someone else’s enough to inform their actions. I’ve given her all the logic I could – “If you’re not in love with him, why would you be willing to give up the chance to be a mother for him?” “Your happiness should be more important to you, because you have to live your life, not him”.

But it’s not what she needs. She isn’t thinking rationally, so rational suggestions aren’t helping.


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19 Answers

thorninmud's avatar

I often find myself in the position of listening to the relationship puzzles of others, and I resolutely avoid any form of advice. The best I can offer is actually what you seem to be already doing: ask questions. People in these situations need to come to their own conclusions, but they have blind spots caused by their emotional entanglements. Questions posed by someone with a less encumbered perspective can help reveal these.

zenvelo's avatar

I’ll respond with an answer to this typ eof question I heard on Savage Love Podcast.

She doesn’t want to break his heart, ask her at what point will it be okay to break his heart? Because she is either dooming herself to being in the relationship for ever, OR she will eventually break his heart. And if she really cares for him, it is nicer, better, more humane to do it sooner rather than later. That means today, not next week.

kritiper's avatar

There are three things that you must keep in mind when trying to educate some people.
1. Some people learn.
2. Some people only learn from their mistakes.
3. Some people never learn!

You sister’s friends may be the best teaching aid you have, so let them do the work for you.

janbb's avatar

You can tell her that a “friend” of yours was in a marriage like that for nearly 40 years and was unhappy a good part of her life until he walked out on her. Would she prefer that situation?

CWOTUS's avatar

I’m going to sort of second what @zenvelo and @janbb have said.

I forget who said it, but I recall hearing once that “a rut is just a grave with the ends kicked out”. They’re in a rut.

She can break it off with him temporarily and take time apart to consider the relationship and her needs. That’s an entirely reasonable thing for her to do, especially if she has asked for more and he has flatly told her “it ain’t gonna happen”.

If he’s not begging her to come back and protesting about how his heart is breaking after two to four weeks, then she can realize that he’ll survive perfectly well without her. (It’s about time that she realizes the world really doesn’t revolve around her, anyway.) At that point she can leave without looking back.

KNOWITALL's avatar

You can’t meet Mr. Right if you’re still with Mr. Wrong.

LuckyGuy's avatar

How are his testosterone levels? Is he “enthusiastic” about other things?

If he tests ok, then she needs to make the decision.

kevbo's avatar

If she acts from her heart, her decision cannot be wrong for anyone. Even if it causes pain on the surface, ultimately it will be best for everyone.

Hearts are broken and mended everywhere all the time. Very rarely do people die from it. I can sympathize completely, but the obstacle in her case is probably an overblown fear of what she imagines will happen if she breaks it off.

LuckyGuy's avatar

If she breaks it off she might be surprised to see that he is actually relieved.
He might also be unhappy for reasons not divulged: feeling of being smothered by family and in-laws, not old enough to want, nor able to support, children, avoiding sex because he is afraid her birth control will “fail”. Who knows?

For sure, the situation is untenable and unsustainable as it stands. She needs to act. They both will be happier in the long run. Thank goodness there are no kids

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@LuckyGuy That and your medical comment were excellent answers.
@Seek If he’s not making any effort at two years, what’s going to change for the positive in 5 or 10 years. If anything he’s probably going to get worse. They’re both young, there’s plenty of time to find someone better matched to fill what she needs. I had to make that call once, and it seriously hurt the woman. She won’t stay in a room if I’m there to this day. But she found someone else and she’s much happier than if I stayed with her. If one party is unhappy in a relationship it’s going to spread to the other at some point.

LornaLove's avatar

Hurting him is the lessor of her problems in the long term picture. I would tell her to tell him exactly what is wrong. (Kama Sutra might teach him to be a more intent sensual person, for example). Wanting kids is another huge issue, so, I’d suggest they split for 6 months. Trial separation. During that time, things can change.

If not, it is said that 6 months is also adequate adjustment period time, meaning both might just move on as they have now adjusted being apart. Or, things could really change, but the onus is on him. He will know that and take responsibility.

That’s the soft route I guess, she should just end it.

livelaughlove21's avatar

I think you’ve said all you can. I’m not big on all the “feelings” stuff either, and I like to think about things in a more logical, rational light – which many people seem to have a problem with. I say it’s simple – if she’s not happy and she doesn’t love him, then she shouldn’t be with him. She’s hurting him even more in the long run by staying with him if she knows the relationship is doomed to fail. It sounds like they’d make better friends than partners. She needs a guy that is just as affectionate as she is. A guy that’s more in tuned with his feelings and hers. A guy that will listen to her concerns and actually try to do something about them if need be. This clearly isn’t that guy. At this point, she’s stringing him along. She needs to end it – now. Unfortunately, neither you nor I can make that happen. Like I said, you’ve said all you can say. Just listen, offer your support, and let her do what she’s going to do.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@livelaughlove21 has it: “At this point, she’s stringing him along.”

Whatever she may say about wanting to spare his feelings, she’s behaving wrongly by staying. It might be hard to help her see that, though.

Cruiser's avatar

Most of the people I know who do not have kids can’t keep their hands off of each other so if she is not getting the physical attention an love without kids that is the worst possible outcome I can think of anyone willingly putting themselves through especially if the till death do you part happens.

Tell her it’s either her heart suffers till she dies or he gets maybe a couple hours of why are you leaving me heartache and he will be just fine after that.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

She answered all of her own questions, so she should leave even if it hurts. Better the sting of a bandage ripped off for a few minutes than a chronic pain in the arm for decades.

ZEPHYRA's avatar

Believe me if he wants to back out at any point, the last thing he will consider is your little sister’s feelings. So, it’s time for her to move on and focus on other more important things in her life. Plenty of time for relationships but not much for personal and spiritual development. Looks like this relationship will not offer her understanding or affection and I wonder what she is waiting for!

Smashley's avatar

Yeah, the “I don’t want to hurt him” argument. Like she’s so special that despite their fundamental incompatibilities, it’s better for him to be with her than to ever have a chance at a relationship that works for him.

poofandmook's avatar

Does she realize that he’s willingly broken hers by denying her what she needs despite knowing what those needs were?

Coloma's avatar

I’m with @janbb and @poofandmook .

Ask her if she knows how many couples stay together for all the wrong reasons and waste decades of their lives being unhappy because nobody wants to rock the boat, until the boat finally sinks under the weight of repressed resentments, and, anyone that with holds on a partners requests for meeting their needs, is not a worthy partner to begin with.

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