Last updated on Jan 31st, 2015 at 09:55 am

Dear Annie
 
I have been in an on-off relationship with a man (five years younger than me) for almost four years, since my husband passed away.

I’m not sure if he really loves me like he says or if he is just using me

We both have kids from our previous relationships. He moved in with me about eight months after we started dating, as I have my own house.

He moved out for two months after I found out that he was having sexual conversations with another female. I also found out this year that he slept with his ex the day before my birthday, after we tried to make things work again.

He always says that he loves me and comes home to me every night and that he is just playing around. I did say that if he wants things to work out now, he can’t go to his ex to see his son, without me or someone else being with him. His son is not allowed to mix with me or my kids.

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Since then he has had contact with his son once (telephonically), although he still pays maintenance every month. He also needs to be open to me about everything and he should be able to give his phone to me at any time, to look at.

His parents live in a flat on my property too

Two years ago his older brother passed away (he stayed with the parents) and his parents could not afford the rent that they had to pay, so they moved in to my flat (on my house), as tenants. They do have the full run of my house, because they even have their own set of keys to the house.

We can’t do or go anywhere without everybody tagging along and us paying for everything. They are basically all free loading on me.

When I say that I have to increase the rent, then I get told that his mother is at the house to look after my kids when they get sick and if I increase the rent then they have to move out. What am I going to do then?
 
I’m feeling like the doormat who has to cook for everybody and pay for everything and they are having the easy life. 
 
Regards
Lisa

Dear Lisa

Thank you for your letter. Your first question is whether your man: a) loves you or, b) is just using you.

I think we may need a: c) he loves you (in a selfish) way and is using you.

The very definition of love of course should include words like selfless, sacrificing and putting others’ needs first. Of course these words could also be used to describe a doormat, so if we’re going to be playing 30 seconds we may be the losing team if those are the clues.

It would seem that those words may describe your side of the relationship to your man – I will leave you to pick which one is most fitting.

Just playing around sounds like a fun concept and we all want to have fun. Are you also allowed to just play around?

What about his parents? Will he be okay with his mamma just playing around? Does anyone get hurt when this ‘just playing around’ goes on? If people are getting hurt then it is certainly not an innocent fun thing! That’s like being the bullies on the playground and having fun picking on other kids.

How is this relationship going to work if his son is not allowed to mix with you and your kids and who made this rule? He is legally allowed to spend time with his child and he should be able to do that where he lives, unless you’re an axe murderer or have a crack lab on your kitchen table.

As, not only your children, but a small neighbourhood have chosen to live with you, I am going to make the assumption that there is no reason that his son could not be in your house.

Your man is not going to be perfect, well, because he is a man

(If all the men reading this write me that their women are not perfect, I will include women in the imperfect category. Until then, let’s just assume that we all agree that women are perfect.) 

This is your life. Your children are watching how you choose to live it and are learning what choices they should be making one day

Fortunately, I don’t think perfection is what we require. Taking responsibility is.

If he has been unfaithful to you and you choose to forgive him and move on with your relationship you are:

a) with a man who has taken responsibility for his mistake or

b) sprouting a horn along with a third leg and know you can’t do better, or

c) brain dead.

You are not married to this man who is just playing. He may well love you. He certainly likes you. So does his free-ride parents and I am sure Tant Stinnie down the street and the mailman will like you too if you give them a set of keys to your house, take them on your dates and pay for them.

Nobody is going to set your boundaries for you

Nobody is going to keep your boundaries unless you bite them (okay, maybe just talk to them) when they break them.

This is your life. Your children are watching how you choose to live it and are learning what choices they should be making one day. What are you teaching them?

If you love this man and you want this relationship to work for you and not only him (as it currently is) you are going to need to be the one to stand up and make some changes. You wrote to the wittiest and wisest agony aunt who ever lived…Do I need to say that’s me?….You have taken the first step in standing up for yourself.

Your man needs to understand that the fun activities in which he engages need to be fun for everyone and not just for him. If he has a weakness for other women, then open phone messages, Facebook accounts, etc., are completely reasonable for you to expect.

If he is committed to changing, he will care about how much his behaviour has hurt you

You will know that this is where he is at by his eternal gratefulness of you forgiving him and his complete transparency. If he thinks that you have merely challenged him to hide his indiscretions better, then I think perhaps you should detach what should rightfully only belong to you and keep it in a bottle until he has truly understood the concept.

As for his parents…if you choose to let them rent the flat that is fine. Is it possible for them to do their meals separately? Perhaps you can explain that while their son clearly learnt his abcs he has unfortunately not learnt to keep it in his pants.

Tell them that you are trying to work on your relationship and so some changes are going to need to be made. These changes will include walking around naked in your house, on a regular basis (so can you please have your keys back) and spontaneous, lustful outbursts on your dates, which would necessitate that they are unchaperoned.

When Mom and Dad consider that, if things don’t work out with you and fun-son, they too will be out on the street, they will be very compliant.

You are beautiful!

Love and blessings

Annie