I don't want to be Betty Draper
December 11, 2009 2:35 PM Subscribe
My seemingly happy and egalitarian relationship actually feels like Mad Men. Can I stop it?
We started out as an egalitarian couple. He would come over, I would cook, he would do dishes. Costs of dates were split, and now we have a joint account for shared expenses since we live together. There is no drama or fighting in our relationship and it appears superficially as one of equals.
From the inside it no longer feels that way. His attention drifted away from me gradually over six months after we started living together. He had me around whenever he wanted, so I dropped to the bottom of his priority list. I have a regular 9-5 job, but he is a graduate student and keeps weird hours. He stopped coming home for dinner most nights, and will only come home to eat with me if I cook and say that I want to eat together, and he doesn't have some urgent meeting or project.
We won't go out on a one-on-one date unless I say specifically "I want to do X, not with our friends." Otherwise most outings are for social events, not for us. Forget presents, surprises, or other romantic gestures. I don't ask for these things because I'll probably be let down, and more importantly it would make me sound like a gold-digger. It would ruin the idea that I am a cool, low-maintenance girlfriend who is interested in a relationship based on mutual support.
I have said I feel undervalued. I do 75% of the work of having a life together. I make him coffee every morning, and I went to pick him up from campus the other night because it was raining hard and I didn't want him to have to walk. The last time I needed to go to urgent care because of an arm injury, I drove myself with the bad arm because he was too busy to drive me.
I am fine with this in the short term because I have a little more free time than him, so I don't mind chipping in more than 50% to help him finish his PhD, but it goes mostly unacknowledged that I do this, even though I have pointed out twice that I want some (any!) recognition for sacrificing for his academic and personal success.
He says he knows he hasn't been good at that, but he wants to improve. He still feels the same about me, it's just graduate school. All I get is verbal praise, and since his actions fail to change, I'm starting think he's insincere.
But, if I protest any more strongly, I'm ruining every idea of who I am as a woman and how I should behave in relationships. I'd be a nag, the pathetic kind of super-woman who has to micromanage everything and doesn't have an emotionally equal relationship because she bargains for chores or material goods. She can't get what she wants without whining or drama or manipulation. I thought if I was just kind and relaxed (like I was at the start) I would get my needs taken care of.
Now I don't think I can get that out of my current relationship, and I doubt I'll get it anywhere else.
I don't know how to get what I want in a way I respect. I've tried asking nice, and it hasn't worked. Any other way (bargaining with more sex, withholding or increasing affection to "train" him, threatening to end an otherwise satisfying relationship unless he shapes up) is despicable and manipulative.
Do I give up with this person and hope one day I'll meet someone who's going to respond to me as an equal? Is there any way to save it without making demands that destroy the concept of having a relationship that's naturally balanced and caring?