By Joyce Oglesby

Q: “My live-in partner of eight years thinks he owns me. We have had a child together, and that, in essence, was the unraveling of our relationship. Before our daughter, everything was wonderful. As long as I was available to him every second, we got along great. Once I became a mother, things drastically changed. He wants sex on demand like it was before kids — and it’s not always a good time for moms to drop what they’re doing. I’m exhausted! I do everything, and he looks after himself. He goes to the gym and works out, but I never have a moment to do anything for myself. He then complains that I’m not skinny enough, not sexy enough, and I don’t pay enough attention to him. If I put him off sexually, he pouts and then argues well into the night until I finally give in. He’s not abusive and he’s a good provider, although he has me on a tight budget. What can I do to change our relationship?”

Joyce: The only one who can initiate change is you. If this is a relationship, I would seriously question how it was modeled for you as a child. You don’t have one child — you have two! And, you are nothing more than your live-in’s property. Let’s get a plan to turn things around so that you can regain your worth as a woman, a mother, and someday, a wife. And that’s where we’ll begin.

Do you want a ring on your finger? Most every woman does. But are you sure you want his? That’s something I would strongly consider before living with him another day. Yes, you have a child together. I understand how important that is for you to be able to provide for your child. I also value the significance of having a home environment for her because Mom + Dad + Child = security for every child. I am fully aware, however, that without love and respect within a home, children can grow up with even more insecurities. They may have no idea of what a true, loving relationship looks like and, therefore, will settle for equal to or even worse than what they witnessed in their childhood home.

Decide to change tomorrow by starting today. You’ve had enough yesterdays to last you for a long while. While it is difficult to consider losing a good provider, don’t underestimate the power you have to “do life” on your own. Will it be harder? Absolutely. But, you will again take possession of your body, your heart, and your life. I’ve always told women it’s important to know that you can survive on your own before you become dependent upon a man. I’m not saying I don’t love my man. I desperately do, and I appreciate everything he does for me. God created us to desire companionship, because He knew love and children are the very essence of life. But, there is a confidence in knowing that you are capable as an individual. If this means you must go back to school to get a degree, get recertified, and/or start assessing your expenditures, do whatever it takes. But stop being property and begin recognizing your value.

Put him in time-out for a while. I’ve never been a proponent of using sex as a manipulating tool. I am, however, a huge advocate for sex being a mutual fulfillment, something that enhances a relationship and is not self-gratifying. Stop the sex-at-demand game. Let him pout. He needs to be in time-out for a while. Once he understands there is more to a relationship than meeting his needs, then he might be open to seeing a counselor to begin working on a life that could be enjoyable for both of you.

Don’t be afraid. Many women have been where you are, and many are still there today. (And, remember, abuse is not always visible.) You have to evaluate who you are, where you are, and how you got there. Then you must decide what you’re willing to eliminate — the relationship the way it is, or the relationship altogether. Physical exhaustion is a good thing when you’re working as a team. When there’s only one person doing the greater part of the pull, emotional fatigue will eventually take the joy out of life. I believe you are close to that mark, if you haven’t already crossed the line.
Making the decision to find yourself again will elevate your situation.

Make a change. Start today. It would be best for your child if you can work this out together and you all live happily ever after. Remember, however, you must have two willing partners for this to occur. It won’t take you long to discover if he is amenable to change together. If he isn’t, wake up! Life is ticking away.

Struggling with a relationship issue? Write Joyce Oglesby.