Ask a counsellor: 'Why won't my partner finalise his divorce?'

Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine tells a frustrated girlfriend that perhaps it’s time to take a stand.

The problem
“I started dating a man over three years ago, but didn’t find out that he was still married and had not finalised his divorce until after a month of dating him. We fell in love very quickly, but I told him I don’t want to date a married man.

Read: Golden rules of an amicable divorce

“He and his wife haven’t been together for seven years now, and don’t communicate with each other. He told me he isn’t going back to his wife and that they both want the divorce, but it’s still not happened. His wife started dating someone else, but when he found out her divorce wasn’t finalised, he broke up with her. She then asked her husband to get the papers together and I helped him with it; she signed it and sent it back, but that’s as far as it went.

“This has been an issue throughout our relationship, and he tells me that he loves me and doesn’t want to be without me. We had a plan to move in together, but I do not want to get financially involved with him while he is still tied to another person. He promised he would get the paperwork over to his wife but still has not done so, and every time I bring it up, it ends up in a fight or we break up for a bit. He comes back promising me again that he wants only me.

“This is also causing an issue with his adult children not respecting me or wanting me at family functions. People that know him think he is still married – they don’t know about our relationship. What could possibly be stopping him from wanting to move on with me? Please let me know your thoughts.”

Read: Are you too critical of your adult children?

Fiona says
“You may have been together with this man for three years, but it would seem he isn’t willing to commit himself, for some reason. Either that or he’s just lazy! It doesn’t sound as if he is still hoping for a reconciliation with his wife, and it certainly sounds as if she has moved on. She might be the best person to help you, as she’s already lost one relationship because her relationship with her husband hasn’t been ended officially. Asking her for help, though, would be controversial and probably difficult.

“He keeps promising you that he wants to be with you, but he doesn’t keep his promises. He allows his children to show you a lack of respect and furthermore allows his friends to think he’s still married. In my view, it’s not just his children who are showing you a lack of respect – he is too.

“I think you’re absolutely right not to move in with him and you certainly shouldn’t get financially involved with him. Whatever his reason may be for not finalising his divorce and moving on, he is hurting you. Either you put up with this and continue to feel hurt, unsupported and unrecognised, or you call a halt to it.

“You say that when you bring it up, you end up in a fight and break up – well maybe it’s time to take a stand. Bring it up – tell him you’ve had enough and are tired of waiting for him then, when he tries to come back to you, refuse to let him, until he is available to do so.

“Yes, it will hurt – but you’re hurting now. Yes, it may mean the end of your relationship – but what sort of a relationship is it, if you are being treated this badly? Time to call a halt and move on to someone who appreciates you – and who is properly available to do so!”

Read: Rise in ‘grey divorces’ sparks warning from legal experts

If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to [email protected] for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

What advice would you give in this situation? Let us know in the comments section below.

– With PA

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