I think women sometimes "overstay" their rocky or unfulfilling relationships with men, and for a variety of reasons, a few being:
A.) "I've already invested soooo much of myself, my life, and my time with this man, that if I left now, it will all have been for naught"
B.) "Well, at least he sorta/kinda cares, and it's beats being alone"
C.) "Leaving him now would mean starting all over again, and I'm too old/tired to do this again"
D.) "I should stay and work this out, because if I can't make HIM happy, then what are my chances of making another man happy?"
E.) "I'll stay and work a little harder because even though he's a schmo in one important area of contention, he's good at so many other things"
F.) "My love can change him"
GOWs are just as guilty as most women of the above defences, and perhaps even more so. GOWs tend to excuse or overlook their Ws’ faults simply because they are Ws, and in doing so, become longsuffering, overly patient, and extremely forgiving, especially when a lot of time has passed without her needs being fulfilled. However, the “waiting game” is a breeding ground for frustration and resentment, and the relationship soon suffers from a lack of growth. Years can slip by, and suddenly the GOW faces a decision: Should I stay and give him more time, or should I cut my losses and move on?
Let’s again look at the aforementioned reasons some women give for overstaying their welcome in an unfulfilling relationship with a man, and how each pertains to a relationship with a W:
A.) First of all, NO relationship is “for naught” if we take away from it a better understanding of ourselves. Staying in a stagnant, unfulfilling, one-sided relationship where your needs matter little to your W is not a healthy way to spend your time…or any MORE of your time than is necessary. Getting out of a bad relationship is supposed to feel liberating and often exciting as you embark on a new journey toward fulfillment. Sure, you can have a few regrets, but never use them to stay in an unhealthy relationship with someone who depresses you more than he uplifts you.
Granted, even the best relationship with a W can be very confusing and frustrating, but if enough time has passed for your comfort level and you are now faced with the quandary of “Should I stay or should I go?” then you need to ask yourself the following questions: Am I getting our of the relationship more than (or equal to) what I am giving? Am I happier more often than I am sad? Is there an equal balance of need fulfillment (i.e., are his grief needs are being fulfilled along with your GOW needs, and vice versa)? Is your self-esteem in tact, or is it slipping away bit by but because W can’t seem to commit?
B.) What’s wrong with being alone? And does it really pale in comparison to staying in a relationship that offers little or nothing in return for all you have given? Women who use Excuse B to stay in bad relationships do so out of fear. Perhaps they have spent too much WASTED “alone time” in the past, not using the time to discover themselves and try new and exciting things to boost their self-awareness and esteem. Thus, they are afraid to again live in that lonely world of the past where nothing much happens because she is not doing what it takes to MAKE things happen.
Some Ws are very slow to risk loving another women (besides their LW) simply because they are afraid of losing her to death, too. Thus, they offer little in the way of need fulfillment to a GOW, throwing crumbs of hope at her, such as “I MIGHT love you some day,” and dangling that carrot of hope before her face. He does so not for her sake, but for his own. The GOW is a sweet distraction from the necessary grief work he’s trying to avoid, and many Ws will say anything to get a GOW to keep him in blissfully ignorant denial. Sadly, without doing his difficult but necessary grief work, a W’s relationship is doomed to stagnancy, as relationship growth cannot happen in a field of unresolved grief weeds.
C.) Indeed, unbalanced, unfulfilling relationships can be very draining, tiring, and time-consuming. As well, surviving a relationship of this kind often sours a woman from wanting anything more to do with ANY man, as she tends to measure all future possibilities by the same past bad experience yardstick. Again, this is fear talking. Every man you let into your world runs a 50/50 chance of being another schmo unworthy of your time and effort. However, let’s not disregard that OTHER 50% chance of the next man possibly being Mr. Right-For-You! Wallowing in an unfulfilling relationship because you’re tired means you are settling for less than you deserve simply because you can’t imagine making another exhausting effort with another man. But imagine this: have you considered the fact that the next man won’t be so overwhelming? You’ll never know until you try. Happiness just may be one date away.
D.) I’ve always said that the life of a GOW is NOT for every woman. This is not to say that if you cannot make a go of a relationship with a W, that you are somehow lacking in some superhuman quality. It just means that you are mismatched for whatever reason. My best friend is married to a travelling salesman who spends a great deal of time on the road. Sometimes they only see each other once a month. Meantime, she works full time and takes care of the house and kids. I could NOT survive such a relationship as it would be very unfulfilling and energy depleting for me, but it works for them and they are very happily married. It doesn’t mean I somehow lack a certain “salesman’s wife” character trait. Thus, don’t despair if you cannot make a go of it with a W. And don’t resign yourself to not making a new effort with a new man who just may be a better match for you than your W was. Your chances of making the next man happy are pretty good if he’s not a W, since you will have learned that Ws just aren’t for you.
E.) Staying in a stagnant relationship with a W to “try a little harder” would be like spinning your car wheels in quicksand. You couldn’t try any harder than you have. It’s not you – it’s grief! And sadly, there is nothing you can do to make his grief work easier. You could read up on grief to try to understand its stages and complications. You could whisk W away on a tropical mini-vacation every weekend. You could set up a stripper pole in the bedroom and drive him wild. But the fact is, these are all merely distractions for W that enable him to avoid doing his necessary grief work.
On the Official WOW/GOW Message Board (at juliedonnerandersen.com), there are GOWs who have waited more than a year, sometimes several, just to hear their Ws utter the words every woman needs to hear from her lover: “I love you”. But these GOWs stay with their non-verbal Ws, they tell me, because he shows his feelings in other ways and is good to her in other ways. That sounds nice…in theory. Theoretically, these GOWs seem willing to sacrifice a very important need for the greater good. But needs are just that – needy! And if you, like most women, NEED to hear verbal confirmation of your W’s feelings, then his denying you this very important need is selfish and cruel. A year or more is a long time to be with someone, be intimate, and recognize their actions as loving...yet not hear the words. You have a basic need to hear them, and he is denying you that. Why? How much more "thinking time" do you believe he needs in order to decide that the time is right for him to speak his heart!? If he's not sure by now, when DO you think he will be? And are you willing to wait until that time comes…IF it comes at all?
I think it's wonderful that GOWs, by their very nature, try to understand their W’s reasons, excuses, and justifications (and almost defensively, so we won't think he's a total jerk), but I can't help but think that this very noble understanding is, in fact, enabling him to remain "closeted" with his feelings. He might be good at fulfilling your other relationship needs, but at what cost - your most important basic human needs? That’s a sacrifice no woman should be willing to make....or wait for….or excuse.
F.) If you really think you can change a W just by staying faithfully by his side and loving him through his grief, think again. YOU cannot do Thing One to change him. The changes WILL come eventually, but only if he does the necessary grief work for himself and BY himself. And your relationship will not survive unless he can do this required grief work PLUS be sensitive to your GOW needs simultaneously. If enough time has passed without seeing any progress at all in this area with your W, then you are spinning your wheels. The only person in this instance that you can change is YOU, as you develop enough self-esteem to remember that you are worthy of a fulfilling relationship where nothing stands in the way of your needs.