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Boyfriend is selfish and inconsiderate

Dear Dr. Ellen,
I am a 36-year old woman who has never been married and who has no children. For the past year and a half, I have been seriously involved with a 42-year old man who has a 9-year old daughter with his soon-to-be ex-wife, whom he has described as a "psychopath." He has been separated from her for the last seven years, and he expects the divorce to finally come through next year. The daughter lives with her mother, whom I've never met. I love this man and he says he loves me (and he is not one to use that term loosely.) He is good to me, he respects me, and he gives me a lot of affection. Yet, I cannot help but feel that I am one of the lower priorities in his life. Here are the facts: He spends every single weekend with his daughter, and one or two nights as well.

Now, I would not have a problem with that, except that when he is with her, he does not ask me to join him. He also takes holidays and weekends away with her. My boyfriend says it would be easier if I didn't see his daughter because, apparently, the first and last time I met her, the mother found out and freaked out. In her anger, she even refused to give my boyfriend access to his daughter for a week or two. I love and admire my boyfriend for being such a devoted father to his daughter. I would not expect anything less from him. I accept that his daughter is part of the "package deal." That's why I would like to get to know her better and spend more time with her. Even though I know children are, and should be, a priority for a parent, I cannot help but feel neglected as a result. My boyfriend only has time to see me late at night, when he finishes work, and we never have any weekends, even full DAYS together.

The first thing he does when he wakes up in the morning is jump out of bed to go to work or to go and pickup his daughter. We never have any time to just sleep in, or spend quality time relaxing in bed together. Occasionally, he will even cancel dates with me because his daughter needs him for one thing or another. I am not jealous of his daughter and I do not resent the time she spends with her father. Yet, I feel like a second-class citizen in this relationship. Do you think I am over-reacting? My boyfriend says he is trying the best he can to balance his demanding work life and his daughter and his relationship with me. Yet, I just cannot help but feel that he gives the other two priorities much more weight. I feel this not just because of what I've already told you, but for several other reasons. First, he has photos of his daughter everywhere in his house, but not one of me, or even the two of us together. Second, he buys her presents all the time, but he never buys me anything, not even something really, small to show that he's thinking of me. He does however, take me out to dinner once a week, so it's not because he's stingy. Third, he makes plans to do things with her, but when we are together, he is "too exhausted" to do anything interesting.

I once confronted him about all this and he replied, "I work really hard at the office. I work really hard to be a good father. When I come home at night, I just want to relax. Why should I have to work at my relationship with you as well?" It does not surprise me that he thinks like that. My boyfriend can be very selfish. In bed, for example, he never makes the effort to please me, or to spend time on foreplay, no matter how often I tell him that I need it. I also suffer from terrible back aches because of my scoliosis, but not once, not ONCE in the year and a half we've been together has he given me so much as a back rub even though I've given him massages when he is in pain. At this point, I should let you know that none of this is the result of my boyfriend having "commitment" problems or doubts about our relationship. For the past year, we have been trying to have a baby together, and we are now undergoing fertility treatments to make it happen. At the same time, however, he also says he does not want to marry again and in a way, I can't blame him, since his last marriage was so disastrous.

Am I setting myself up for disappointment? My boyfriend is a good man, and a good father. But I feel he is also very selfish and not very considerate of my needs. Am I asking for too much? What should I do? I am desperate to have children and I am afraid that by walking away from this relationship, I will lose the opportunity to do so. What do you think?
- Charlene

Dear Charlene,
For your own sanity, I would like you to either hire a detective or become one. I don't believe for one minute, what your boyfriend has told you is true. I think that he has been living a double life and is either still with his ex-wife or seeing another woman. I certainly don't think that he's spending every single weekend, plus one or two nights a week, and going away on holidays and weekends, with his daughter. You won't know until you have him followed or you do the following. I think the reason that you can't see his daughter is that he doesn't want you to find out that she is not with him as much as he says she is. The story he has given you is ridiculous and it's hard for me to believe that you are buying it. If he has truly been separated for 7 years, which is also hard to believe, then having a serious relationship is not unreasonable.

How can you think that he is committed to you when he excludes you from his daughter's life, spends weekends and evenings with her and then goes away for the holidays and weekends which don't include you? Then, when you want to do something, he's "too exhausted to do anything interesting." Do you honestly think so little of yourself that you are willing to accept crumbs from this man? Because he takes you out for dinner 1 night a week and is trying to have a child with you out of wedlock, you think that this is a devoted man? This arrangement certainly works for him. He has made his choice. He has you exactly where he wants you and he has his freedom as well.

It is now up to you as to whether you can continue to live like this the rest of your life. The fact that he is not willing to marry you and yet have a child with you is very warped. A child should be conceived when two people have decided to share their lives together. This is not the case in your relationship. My guess is that if he can get you pregnant and give you the child you want, you will be more willing to allow him the freedom he wants. You should not even consider bringing a child into this world while you are in such a dysfunctional arrangement.

You said, "He is good to me, he respects me, and he gives me a lot of affection." I think that you need to take off your rose-colored glasses and realize that this is a man who is selfish, in and out of the bedroom, and has no intention of making you a priority in his life.
- Dr. Ellen




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