"I love you, and I choose to be here. ...Of course, if this doesn’t work out, I get deported." I could use your perspectives on choosing to be in a relationship despite sometimes feeling trapped in it?
For the record, I’m carefully asking this question while the relationship is good, I’m happy to be in it, and there is as little emotional immediacy to my question as possible. I’m interested in things that I can add to my skillset for the future, if or when they’re needed. So, with that in mind:
It’s important to me to have my relationships be things my partners and I actively choose to be in. I don’t want to fall into inertia in them, or to find that we’re staying together because of the sunk cost fallacy or similar. I don’t believe relationships are necessarily failures just because they come to an end, or that they should last forever, and I’d rather end something that couldn’t be fixed than let it drag out and make the participants miserable. I think both my partners and myself deserve better than that.
However, my relationship with SomePartner is an imbalanced one in many ways. For one, I’m financially dependent on him because I’ve been disabled and too sick to work a steady job for years. He is my carer when things are really bad, and has literally had to help me get to the toilet and back at times. So if I didn’t have him, I’d be struggling to survive on Disability payments and having to rely on strangers as carers for my personal hygiene needs.
Furthermore, we’re currently expats, living in a country where we don't have citizenship. We’re here on the strength of his qualifications; he’s on a working visa with a partner provision. There’s no way I’d be able to secure a visa to live here as a disabled dependent without him. I wasn’t joking above the fold; if I break up with him, I do get deported when the visa expires, or sooner if someone decides to report the split to the Immigration Bureau. I'd be leaving behind a lot here that I'd miss - awesome friends, mentors, a good therapist and a great healthcare team who seem to be making progress on untangling my health issues after years of getting nowhere. Also, I’d either end up back in the city where this
is my social circle, or moving to a place where I didn’t know anyone - which is a daunting prospect when I’m partially housebound.
I was a very independent person before my health deteriorated; I’d been living on my own since I was 16, and being able to support myself was important to me. I still feel that loss. This ties into my feelings about freely choosing an interdependent relationship - I valued knowing that I would be okay if I wasn’t in a relationship, and therefore knowing that I wasn’t rushing into or choosing to stay in one because I was scared to be alone - for any reason, financial, practical or emotional.
So while I’m on the whole happy in this relationship, there are times when I do start to feel trapped in it. In moments of conflict or dissonance, if I find myself questioning the relationship, I’m acutely aware that choosing to leave would mean huge changes in my life. Which leads me to wondering just how freely I get to make this choice to be here.
This is not about a lack of commitment. We’re committed enough to each other to have been together for over ten years, and to have moved across the world together. We have been through series of stresses that would stretch credibility in a work of fiction, and when our backs were to the wall we were both there for each other. However, my history in friendships and relationships is one of holding on too long rather than jumping ship too soon. I’m working on that in therapy, but as I consider how to recognise the point at which a relationship can’t be fixed and should be ended, it occurs to me that my level of dependence on my partner complicates things.
So I’m curious about how others approach such situations. Commitment and interdependence make it hard enough - how do you weigh up these additional factors in making such a decision?
SomePartner did actually leave me some years ago. He was dealing with untreated dysthymia and the weight of the aforementioned stressors; when I tried to bring up issues with him, he ended things between us. He reconsidered, sought treatment for the depressive issues, and we reconciled a few months later. However, during that time I had more than one person tell me that I had to
work things out with him, because there was no way I could support myself even if I was getting Disability, so he was basically my only choice. I hated
that, and I argued vehemently against it.
But I don’t want the seed of that idea to ever take root in my mind.
I know I’m hardly unique in having significant factors tying me to my partner, or even being dependent upon them. So for those among you with similar values, how would - or how do
- you reconcile this?