He Cannot Tolerate My Working in a Dutch Massage Salon, Wants Me to Quit

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Reader’s Question

I am a 20-year-old Chinese girl studying in the Netherlands.

During weekends, I work part time in a massage salon and that is where I met my boyfriend. He is 23 year older than I am and is a very decent man, but he has been living with his partner for 13 years and they have two children together. He does not want to have two women at the same time and he told me he will decide who he wants to be with by the end of this year. After all, we just have been together for 3 months, and it is too early to make that decision. Now there is a huge problem in our relationship: he wants me to quit my part-time job, while I told him I need money from that job.

Studying abroad is very expensive and I do not want to spend my parents’ money. This job pays much better than other jobs (e.g., cleaning in the restaurant). I cannot do many other jobs because I don’t speak Dutch (my study is in English). I told him that I need money from this job. But he just cannot tolerate the idea that I work in a massage salon. He thinks it is a threat to our relationship. What makes him worry more is that I feel less and less uncomfortable about this job. He thinks it is harder to trust a person who doesn’t mind working in such places. Now it has reached the point that I have to choose between my job and him. I asked him whether he thinks it is fair that I have to quit my job while he lives with his partner. His answer is yes. He said that he is risking his family and everything he has from the last 13 years, while for me, it is just a part time job, which should be much easier to give up.

I can see he loves me very much and he is not someone who easily falls in love. But I do not understand why he cannot think about me on this issue. He makes me feel he cares more about his feeling than my living standard. But if I ever told him this, he would be very hurt and even angry, and he would make me feel so guilty about ever thinking so negatively about him. And he constantly wants me to show him affection and love and attention, while I am not a very demonstrative person. I tried very hard to show him but it does not seem enough.

Now I feel so much pressure, and I am so tired and confused: should I carry on with this relationship?

Psychologist’s Reply

I think you need to decide what you want from a relationship — what you need, and what is reasonable to expect.

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In your account, you haven’t mentioned any of your own feelings. You have financial need, and you can’t ask your parents for help. You don’t speak the native language, and you have found lucrative work in the massage industry. Because you refer to it as one of ‘those places’, I assume that there is limited sexual contact with your clients or at least the expectation on their part of limited sexual contact. To the extent it’s true, you’re becoming comfortable with this impersonal relationship with men. It serves your purpose financially, and you can remain emotionally uninvolved. It is in this context that you meet this man, an unmarried but coupled man, who wants to continue an affectionate relationship with you without jeopardizing his family. Then, he is troubled by the fact that he has to share that physical affection with other clients, but he does not want to support you or offer any security or commitment. How do you feel towards him? You don’t say. What can you expect from a man who wants a deeper relationship with you? You don’t say.

I get the impression that you are very lonely. Alone in a foreign country, far from family and everything familiar, it isn’t much of a stretch to believe that you are hungry for someone to care for you and listen to you. While it’s common to meet a romantic partner in the workplace, I wonder whether meeting at you particular workplace hasn’t set you up for disappointment.

Consider that the man you have chosen is unavailable. There is no grey area here. He is available to you, or he is not. Since he is in a relationship, that means he is not. If he becomes available in the future, then you may have a chance for a more involved relationship. If you are uncomfortable being the ‘other woman’ who is by definition kept at a distance, then you have to make a choice. Use this choice as an opportunity to decide what you hope for in a relationship and whether it is worth holding out for that. It’s not enough to leave a relationship, you also need to know where you’re going. Otherwise, you’re vulnerable to repeat this, to get yourself into a similar situation with another man. Ask yourself if you can tolerate being alone rather than being less-than-loved in a romantic relationship.

After all, one would hope that a relationship would leave you energized and creative, not tired and confused, especially after only three months. If this relationship looks like love and feels like love but leaves you so drained, then consider that it might not be love, but love’s imposter. Looking at your relationship in this way will hopefully direct your thought back to you and what you feel, what you want. Then you can decide what to do.

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