'I love my partner but he's unable to find work and I'm no longer willing to struggle with him'

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Illustration photo by Getty Images
Illustration photo by Getty Images
  • Angela Grootboom* loves her partner but she is not sure about staying with a man who is struggling and unemployed anymore.
  • Relationship expert, Paula Quinsee, says  love goes beyond just looks and material items. Values, principles and other deeper traits need to be considered when choosing a partner.
  • However, it is not your responsibility look after someone else especially if they are not doing anything to change their situation.
  • She adds that while the decision to leave is not an easy one to make, if you are constantly miserable and unhappy, you should consider leaving. 


Conflicted reader, Angel Grootboom*, wrote to W24 with a question that is weighing heavily on her.

Angela wrote: "I love my boyfriend, but he is uneducated and cannot find work. He's also not educated and didn't finish high school so the chances of him finding work are slim. I no longer want to struggle with him; should I leave?"

When it comes to dating or going into marriage, a prescribed image or picture of what an ideal partner should be - expressions like tall, dark, handsome may describe the perfect man. That's what many would call a high value man. But in real life, it's not always possible to tick all the boxes.

So what should you do if it's the financial box that's unticked, and may never be?

Relationship expert Paula Quinsee says this image or picture is may be superficial, and it does not go into enough depth as to the type of person we want to have as a life partner.

"Deeper traits such as values, faith, beliefs, culture, hobbies and interests, family and career aspirations are essential," Paula says.

"When you don't do the self-work upfront to be clear on what is important to you, it will pop up down the line. You then realise that you had pre-set conditions and criteria such as money, material things, intellectualism and lifestyle, which can be a deal breaker."

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If, like Angela, you are feeling a little guilty about wanting to leave your partner due to finances, Paula helps you make her make a decision with the tips below.

How can you deal with the guilt of leaving your partner while they are at their lowest?

  • You are not responsible for your partner's situation in life. They are where they are by the decisions they have made to date, not you. You can support them through their journey, but they ultimately need to take responsibility for their healing and changing their behaviour or situation.
  • Reflect on your views and expectations – is it the job or his lack of education that's the issue or something deeper. For instance, have you now realised that money is important to you and as a result, you do not see the many other ways he contributes to you and your relationship? Money is only one element of how we contribute to a relationship.
  • Ending a relationship does not have to be an ugly event. You can end the relationship with compassion, empathy and respect by acknowledging your time together and the memories you have shared along the way.
  • Personal conviction needs to come into play when deciding to leave or stay.  

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What are some of the things to do or look into before making a decision?

  • Be clear on what your values are and how they align with your lifestyle. Are you true to yourself, or are you compromising your values and boundaries, and - if so, why? What does that say about you, and why are you doing it?
  • What do you need for you to gain closure and to be able to move forward and start a new life?
  • If you have any doubts or regrets, what contributes to this, and how can you work through it to be comfortable with your decision?
  • Do you need forgiveness – from yourself for getting you into this situation or from your partner for not stepping up?
  • What needs to happen for you to move on (e.g., having no contact with your ex)?
  • What do you need to do to pick up the pieces and move forward, so you don't dwell on old times and keep yourself stuck in the past?

What are common indicators that it is time to leave the relationship? 

Just as it takes two to make a relationship work, it takes two to break a relationship. Some of the red flags to look out for:

  • If you and your partner are no longer willing to work at things to shift your relationship, it might be time to leave.
  • When you cannot imagine yourself being in a relationship with your partner in the future.
  • If your relationship is dysfunctional – you are living separate lives yet are still under the same roof.
  • There is very little engagement, communication, or connection between you.
  • The relationship is one-sided, and your emotional needs are not considered or taken into account.
  • There is abuse (verbal, mental, physical, sexual, financial) – any form of abuse is unacceptable, ever.
  • You're thinking about or are already contemplating getting divorced / breaking-up.
  • You/your partner use unhealthy avoidance/coping mechanisms such as alcohol, substance abuse, stonewalling, silent treatment, etc.
  • There is constant lying, stealing, cheating, broken promises.
  • You believe you've tried everything in your power to try and change/shift your relationship, and there is no reciprocation, or you are unable to turn it around.
  • You have underlying resentment and are not able to forgive and move forward together.

"Sometimes, you and your partner might not be aligned, and that's fine. "It's better to let go and allow each other the opportunity to move on and flourish than stay together and bring out the worst in each other, and that can become toxic. If you are struggling with your situation, reach out to a professional to help you work through it and the decision you are taking," Paula says.

Are you staying in a relationship you should probably not be in? Tell us here.

*Name changed to protect her identity.

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