We Broadcast to People How They May Treat Us 

Dear Neil: I am a 41-year-old woman. A year ago I met a man of 51 who has never been married. We have a lot of common interests and enjoy being with each other. But things have happened that have set off warning bells for me. First, he told me he has enough money to look after himself, but not me. Second, he has asked me to live with him, and has said he would like me to pay half the mortgage and living expenses, including food. When a man dates you, doesn’t he want to buy you lunch or dinner? What is he telling me? Third, he has lied to me about the presence of another woman, and now my trust is gone. What would you suggest?

Confused in Perth, Australia

Dear Confused: We broadcast to people messages about how they can treat us—either by what we don’t ask, don’t say, don’t insist on or by what we agree to tolerate and put up with. The central way we get our needs met in an intimate relationship is to identify and communicate what we need and desire until those needs are consistently met.

Your boyfriend is being clear about his motives. He wants no agreement about honesty or fidelity, and he doesn’t want to spend any money on you. In fairness, he may not have much money, but I know he isn’t offering to spend anything on you. I think you may have discovered why your boyfriend is 51 and has never married. He is in a relationship for what he can get, not for what he can give, and is therefore a very poor prospect to pin your future hopes on.

Before you let him go, however, it would be prudent for you to first tell him exactly what it is you desire from him in order for you to feel respected, pampered, cared about and valued. If he doesn’t do what you’ve told him you want, and do so consistently, let go of this relationship. You’ll never get your needs met if he doesn’t value what you want and how you feel. In the future, broadcast clearly what it is you need in order to feel happy in a relationship.

Dear Neil: Three months ago, I met someone very special. We had good communication, a lot in common and a desire to be with each other all the time. Things were going great. One month ago, her sister was diagnosed with cancer. The sister had surgery and appears to be on the road to recovery. But ever since then, my girlfriend has grown distant, and she says she doesn’t want to be in a relationship anymore. Is there anything I can do?

Rejected in San Antonio, Texas

Dear Rejected: We can’t make anyone love us, and we can’t make anyone want to be in a relationship with us. But you could ask her two things: First, what happened? Was she not very interested all along? Did her sister’s illness change her desire to be in a relationship? Why? Was there something you said or did that changed her feelings about you? Has someone else entered the picture who she’s more interested in? Did she see her life situation and yours not fitting together?

Second, ask her what it would take for her to reconsider her stance. Is there anything you could do, or stop doing, where she might give the relationship a second chance?

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