I am friends with a couple who’ve been together a long time and have this same challenge. Too long to throw the relationship under the bus. The guy in question had a very difficult childhood. Single parent, bio father absent, passed around in the family. Mother remarried and stepfather was cruel and didn’t want him, so he pretty much raised himself. Kicked out of his mother’s house at 18, had a really hard time for a while after that. Basically learned he has to do for himself and couldn’t trust anyone to care about him. Got it together responsibility wise and is okay today except for what sounds like exactly the same problems you face in the relationship department.
He has weak or no confrontation or interpersonal skills, no courage when it comes to letting his wife know what he wants and what’s important to him because of his past. He’s basically just a big ole people pleaser because that’s what’s worked for him until now.
He’s put her in a position of authority over him in his head because he loves her and obviously she’s important to him, but he’s scared to death to make her angry in any way because he can’t face the consequences of her anger or disappointment. He has unmet needs and in order to meet them it’s anger her or do damage control (lie). She’s pretty hard on him because she expects a lot, didn’t understand what was happening and felt constantly betrayed.
I think they went to therapy and there was a lot of discussion and debate but from what she’s told me it’s getting better albeit slowly. The wounds of his past are slow to heal but she sees progress. They want to build trust and save things so that’s what they’re doing.
What’s glaring in the situation for me is, is the lying being done that of an emotionally immature individual in order to meet a need or is it malicious? I mean, are these lies told to cause pain? And is there glee in the knowledge the one being lied to is hurt? Is there like, a narcissistic one-upmanship going on? Or are they more the coping mechanism of an individual who needs to work on himself and to date doesn’t have the skill or ability to start. Like a hungry child would do when you leave it in a room alone with a big piece of chocolate cake and ask it not to touch.
That’s what I’d ask myself before I ended a relationship I’d invested so much time into. One more thing, I’d throw the ultimatum out the window because those don’t work for anyone except to cause a lot of regret.* There isn’t a reason to draw a line in the sand because when it gets to that point the one who’d be justified in doing so usually doesn’t because what’s the point? If they’re smart they’re already packing and heading toward the door.
Bottom line: Either you love this guy, think he may be worth a chance, see a future together all things considered and are willing to do the work it takes to get through this and help him (and you – you aren’t his authority figure and it sounds like this is a role that’s been thrust on you and you’ve accepted) grow and develop past it, or you’re done and gone. Only you can make that call. Best of luck either way and no judgment. Know thyself and what thee can tolerate. Just don’t be surprised if you run into this same problem with someone else.
*One of the most bitter conversations I’ve ever had was with a woman who gave an either or ultimatum, ended a marriage then went on to watch him make someone else a wonderful husband because his next wife was willing to find out why things happened instead of doling out consequences when she wasn’t satisfied. Former wife told me looking back she was certain whatever caused the rift between them was a growth phase and she wished she’d have stuck it out instead of trashing the relationship. Hindsight 20/20.