Dear Thelma: I'm feeling hurt and unfulfilled as my partner mocks, gaslights me


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Dear Thelma,

Little did I anticipate the day when I would find myself pouring out my agony to you, pertaining to the depths of my current struggles.

The day had finally arrived when I could share a home with my partner, realising a cherished dream. He is my true love, my everything, since day one. Yet, amidst the beauty of our bond, there are moments of conflict and challenge.

Currently, my partner is holds a demanding full-time job, while I have recently transitioned to freelancing after tendering my resignation.

His daily commute through heavy traffic and the weight of his workload often leaves him drained.

Meanwhile, as we settle into our new abode, I'm reorganising our things and cleaning the house. We haven't bought any kitchen utensils or done any grocery-shopping yet; we've been buying food from restaurants.

Last night, he came home with dinner for us both. While he freshened up, I prepared the table and a drink for him.

After our meal, I cleaned up, swept the floors and tied up the trash bag. I asked him to take out the trash and he said he'd do it the next morning. Before I left the kitchen, I reminded him about it – and he said I also could do it. His casual dismissal left me feeling deeply hurt.

I answered, "You promised to do it tomorrow morning, so why are you changing your mind for no reason?"

Then he started ranting that I could do the same since I do not have a secure job, and I didn't pay him for dinner. He started gaslighting me into thinking I was at fault here for making him do one effortless chore. And there he was, watching hilarious videos on his phone in the living room, leaving me to cry alone in the bedroom.

His response, laced with excuses and defensiveness, added to my distress. At that moment, I couldn't help but feel an overwhelming sense of disappointment.

Reflecting on our journey together, I realise that I've often taken on the role of the provider and caretaker. When we first began dating, I never let him pay for anything; I did it sincerely and was happy to do it because that's just the way I am. When he started working, he did the same for me but he set limits. For me, I would spend on him even if I was left with only one sen. But he doesn't think nor do the same for me.

Although I do not have a permanent job yet, I still pay for my meals when we eat out. I get him flowers and gifts for Valentine's Day and anniversaries, but for him, those are just ordinary days, and he wishes me only after I wish him.

Despite my gestures of love and devotion, I find myself questioning whether my efforts are truly reciprocated. The lack of appreciation, coupled with instances of gaslighting and of him sharing our conflicts with his mother, break my heart. Though he apologises after each disagreement, the cycle repeats itself, leaving me trapped in a labyrinth of unresolved issues and unmet expectations.

As I grapple with these emotions, I'm forced to confront the reality of our relationship. Am I staying on out of love and hope, or simply out of habit and familiarity? He isn't a bad person; rather, he struggles with communication, romance, and a persistent need to be right. I defend him from everyone all the time, yet, when I'm in the same position, well, it's my flaw, I'm the problem.

A few years ago, when he almost got sacked from his job, I was the first person he called; I reasoned with him and persuaded him. And now, when I haven't got a secure job yet, I'm getting mocked.

I find myself yearning for a partner who embodies maturity and emotional depth. I don't expect him to hold the door for me, or bring me flowers, but I long for a genuine connection built on mutual respect and understanding. How much longer can I endure this?

In the Labyrinth

When living together, a mutual agreement on how to handle housework, finances and daily responsibilities are essential. There are no rules; each couple make their own.

However, there must be fairness. These discussions are laced with assumptions about power and identity. Therefore, couples who allocate jobs according to gender, income or hours spent in the home, tend to breed discontent.

My view is that both of you are living in a space, and that means both of you need to contribute.

From your letter, you two have no agreement on who is responsible for cooking and cleaning. Do you want to take on one task totally or swap around from day to day or week to week?

Cooking may be a passion, so you may have one person doing the bulk of it. However, very few people like doing repetitive and dirty work such as dishes, floors, and laundry.

For the sake of harmony, it is generally best if you divide up such tasks evenly. Alternatively, if you can afford it, you outsource those jobs and share the cost.

Which brings us to money. Clearly, you two have very different attitudes to finances. Are you sharing all your finances, or putting in equal amounts of money and keeping the rest separate?

It may seem that small amounts aren’t important but it is essential for couples to agree on these things. Some items like eating out become very costly very quickly. There are also big item tickets like fridges and holidays. Those subjects can become very contentious if not agreed on.

It’s sensible to have a budget, so you are both happy on how your common money is spent.

I think you two should sit down and have a good conversation where you make these agreements. Write it down, don’t leave it vague. As it’s complicated, review and adjust after two months.

As for the quarrels, I don’t like the tone of them. It is not typical to be in agony and crying your eyes out because someone isn’t taking out the rubbish on schedule.

From your detailed description, I suggest this is a battle about power and respect.

When you two quarrel, you describe insults and gaslighting. Fighting is normal but fighting dirty is not. You also feel he has a persistent need to be right.

This adds up to serious disrespect that will damage your relationship long-term. Also, neither of you are digging in and figuring out your expectations or what you are arguing about, so it happens repeatedly.

In addition, the two of you also can’t agree on what parts of your relationship are private and which may be disclosed to others. This leads to a cycle where you feel your intimacy is violated. Again, each couple has different views on where the lines are, but it is something that must be agreed on.

Finally, there is your simple wish to celebrate holidays with flowers or a small gift. You have told your partner these things give you joy – and he blows that off. Frankly, that really worries me.

When we love someone, we do small things for them because we enjoy seeing their joy. It doesn’t matter if we live it; we do it for our partner. If this man isn’t willing to put in minimal effort to buy flowers a few times a year, that is a red flag.

Also, you defend him from everyone all the time. Is that an exaggeration or are your friends and family telling you they see issues with the relationship?

My dear, my conclusion is that you may be in love but I wonder if you two are a good match.

My advice is to stop battling and figure out what is going on. If you are certain you want to stay, look to your common fights and make rules about how you approach managing these.

Talk nicely to each other. When discussing needs and approaches, there will be give and take, and also some compromises. That’s normal. Also, as you grow older, you will revise and update. Again, that’s normal.

Sometimes, people discover there are issues they cannot resolve. For example, some people will not clean and their partners leave them. Or one person wants kids and the other does not.

Be aware it is possible to love someone but not be a good match. That can be scary, seeing you have moved in together but I think you need to investigate this.

You are planning to spend a lifetime together, that is 50 years or more. It is essential that you ensure you are with someone where those decades are happy ones. If this isn’t the man for you, look for someone who is.

Good luck and know I’m thinking of you.

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