Responsibility or happiness? Jane or Kathy?
I am in my early 30s, male, only child. My parents are very hardworking overachievers who made huge strides for our family, going from penniless rural China to a comfortable middle-class life in the UK. Perhaps because of this, I have always been ambitious and driven to succeed, to make the most of the much easier start in life that I got thanks to my parents (compared to them).
Before the age of 21, I was very much a successful high achiever myself. Top grades at school, got into an elite university, you get the idea. However for reasons too complicated to get into here, I ended up dropping out of university and spiralling into a serious bout of depression as I fell away from the life of success that I had been used to, closing myself off from most of my former peers, because it was too painful to be constantly reminded of my status as a loser in contrast to their continued successes. It is harder to be a loser when all your friends are winners than just being a loser among other losers.
Various ups and downs followed in my 20s, but overall it was pretty grim until 2017, when I made a fresh start in a new city. That's where I met a girl, let's call her Jane.
When I met Jane, my life was sort of back on track. I wasn't successful by any means, I am still not, but at least my head was in a better place than it had been, and I was moving in the right direction. We met through a mutual hobby, and although it wasn't love at first sight, I was drawn to her lovely smile, and in time learnt what a caring, kind and wonderful human being she is. Oh, and I think she's beautiful. After a period of courtship, we officially became a couple in early 2018. Our courtship and early relationship was wonderful, carefree and happy. My only concern at that point was our age gap.
You see Jane is 7 years older than me, but she does not look it at all. In fact, most strangers would assume that I am older and that she is in her late 20s. There was no deception on her part, she revealed her true age when I made my feelings about her clear. At that point, I was already infatuated with her, and although her age was not ideal, I decided that if we could be happy together, and she was willing to be with me whilst I was still very much in the process of rebuilding my life, then I would be happy to spend the rest of my life with her, and accept the age gap. The main consideration I had was that because I (we) want children, we should get married and start a family as soon as we were sure about each other. However, problems arose quickly.
She is the middle daughter among a family of three sisters. Their parents had health and financial issues that forced the sisters to take care of their parents, more than the other way around, for almost 20 years. This robbed all three sisters of their youth and freedom, living very close-knit, co-dependent and closed off lives for years. Unbelievably, none of the three sisters have ever had a serious relationship and I was Jane’s first boyfriend in her late 30s. This is unbelievable because Jane really is beautiful and sweet, and if she put herself “out there”, guys would have queued up instantly. Unfortunately, instead of viewing me as a welcome addition to the family who could help them out, not to mention make Jane happy, her sisters (especially the eldest one) treated me as a threat to their family unity and accused Jane of trying to escape her responsibilities.
To give you an idea of how absurd Jane’s sisters are, they accuse her of “not doing enough” for the family, even though they all live in a house (rent free) for which Jane paid the biggest chunk of the deposit and has been solely responsible for the mortgage for over a decade. Just last year Jane was naïve enough to pay for the entirety of roof repair costs (~£2,500) and “borrow” her elder sister £8,000 even as she started to escalate things more and more. None of that money has been returned to this day.
We nearly broke up 3-4 months into our relationship because I could not tolerate her sisters’ psychotic interference and drama, but persisted because Jane gradually realized that appeasing their every tantrum was not working. As she began to stand up for herself and fight for our relationship however, her eldest sister responded in the only way she knew – escalation. About 5-6 months into our relationship, Jane was physically assaulted by her elder sister at home and literally driven out of the house she co-owns with her. (And still solely responsible for the mortgage.)
All of a sudden, Jane ended up living with me. Obviously, this had its benefits for our relationship, but she found the transition very difficult. She had never left home before, never had to make decisions for herself, never lived with strangers before (I own my own house, but for financial reasons, two of the rooms are rented out to lodgers), never did much of anything by herself before. In her own words, she is a very needy/clingy person who limpets onto people. Having suddenly lost her sisters, she now limpeted onto me.
I found this sudden change difficult too. I am an only child, I have been used to a degree of privacy and independence all my life, and used to rebel against my parents’ infringement on that basic liberty. Obviously, I enjoyed spending time with Jane, but I also liked to have my own time and space, hang out with the lads etc. Jane’s clinginess got so over the top that she would insist on going with me when I went to the pub to watch football with the lads, even though she has absolutely no interest in football, and would proceed to sit there all night barely talking to anyone.
She cried so much about so many different things, from lodgers (she wanted them gone), to me not spending enough time with her (we lived together!), to her issues with her sisters etc. I am mentally in a much better place now than a few years ago, but it was becoming quite overwhelming to deal with. I seriously considered breaking up with her, but I didn’t have the heart to do it, she had been kicked out of her home for me, she had lost her family for me. Even though it was not my fault (I tried 3 months of appeasement to try to resolve the issues diplomatically, but her sisters never even agreed to sit down with me to talk about anything because I was an outsider), I felt partly responsible for the troubles in her life. So, I persisted and kept on trying to take care of her to the best of my ability.
Long Distance Relationship
About one year into our relationship, I got a good job offer abroad, exactly the type of big step in the right direction I badly needed to recover from the disaster of my 20s. I feel like I have unfinished business with life and I’m determined with seize whatever opportunities come my way. I hoped that Jane would support me, even though I knew it would be hard for her. She was not supportive, she absolutely hated the idea of possibly leaving the UK, leaving her old life behind.
To cut a long(er) story short, I ended up leaving afterall to pursue my ambitions. I still love Jane, she truly is one of the kindest and nicest people I know. I care about her deeply and I am desperately sorry that our relationship ended up causing her so much pain. I feel obligated to take care of her by marrying her, starting a family with her etc. BUT I am deeply worried that it will not be a happy union, and I will not be happy.
I tried breaking up with her when I went back to the UK to see her a few weeks ago, but she cried so much that it broke my heart and I could not push through with it. But the problems that led me to the decision still exists. I feel like her misfortune and vulnerability, through no fault of my own, has somehow entrapped me with responsibility that I did not anticipate.
In addition to her suffocating clinginess, complete aversion to change and unwillingness to support my ambitions:
1) Her age means if we are to start a family together, we need to do it asap. I am not really ready for a family just yet. I would like another year or two to build a more solid foundation for my career.
2) I would really like to have 2 children. Given Jane’s age, there is a significant risk that we won’t be able to have children at all, and at most, just the one. If I marry her, I cannot imagine divorcing her after finding out that we cannot have children. That would be even more heartless. But am I really okay with being childless forever?!
3) Please do not judge me too harshly for this point. But our sex life is not satisfying. Jane was a virgin before we met, she is very “vanilla” in the bedroom, uncomfortable with new positions or doing anything remotely adventurous. Whilst I do find her attractive, and she has a perfectly healthy and beautiful body by most guys’ standards (BMI 23), I have always preferred slimmer girls. No matter how much I’ve prodded her (nicely) to try to encourage her to lose a little weight, she has not been willing to take up serious exercise or weight control. I was single for most of my 20s due to my mental health, I feel like I’ve missed out on a fulfilling sex life, I’m not ready for it to be over already. Sex with Jane has become mechanical and boring. If I am honest. I want more.
To complicate matters. Whilst I’ve been in Singapore, I’ve met a local girl, let’s call her Cathy. We hit it off straight away, connected on a fundamental level about our worldview, life goals etc. She is so beautiful and intelligent that I find it quite unbelievable that she is even interested in me. Jane is pretty and cute, but Cathy is on another level, she literally turns heads when she walks in a room, just thinking about her excites me. And for some reason I don’t fully understand, she appears genuinely interested in pursuing a relationship with me.
I think I will be very happy with Cathy. She is a little younger than me, she is ambitious and adventurous, but willing to play a supporting role for me in a settled family unit, willing to go wherever my career takes me, and she wants two children as well, roughly with the same plan for the future as I have. It almost feels too good to be true, and it may still be, but for now, she ticks all the boxes.
Thus far I have not cheated on Jane. Though I suppose some of you will think I already have, emotionally, if not physically, but I would be lying to say that I am not sorely tempted. A long distance relationship is hard enough as it is, it is doubly hard when you are unsure about your future with your partner, but now imagine you have just met nearly your ideal partner, who happens to also like you! It is taking all my willpower to not jump in a taxi and head to Cathy's apartment.
Questions Questions Questions!
But what about Jane?! How could I cheat on somebody who loves me so much? Or does she love me, or just need my company? Why should I be obligated to spend the rest of my life with somebody I might not be happy with? But Jane is so good, there is not a bad bone in her, she will be devastated! Do my responsibilities matter more than my happiness? Am I a bad man to want to have a more fulfilling sex life? What do I do?! Please help me.
When your head, heart and gut line up, then it's all OK. When they don't, there's something missing. You've attempted to have a relationship with Jane but it's all too hard given her circumstances and her upbringing plus it's a LDR now. You're correct, you say you haven't cheated on her with Cathy, but you have in your mind because you have put your thoughts here in black and white.
When you're having doubts about your relationship with Jane, it's telling you there's something wrong with it and it's not your fault, but it's your responsibility to end it if it's dragging you down.
You cannot be with Cathy successfully until you have completely ended it with Jane...it's that simple. Cathy is an added complication in your life right now which you don't need because your relationship with Jane is your priority and you need to sort it first.
Going by your post it won't be easy but it's what you have to do to enable you to get on with your life, with or without her.