August 7, 2012 at 11:56 am #35946
Never done this before. I tend to stay away from ask-people-on-the-internet-their-opinion because situations (as evidenced by so so many letter updates!) are nuanced and complicated. But I’m really lost right now. I’m doing this under my regular name because some of you know a bit about me. Maybe that will be helpful. I don’t know.
I’ve been with my boyfriend for 7.5 years. We’ve always been madly in love. Seriously. I love the fuck out of that man. He’s brilliant and funny and kind and we know each other better than anyone else. We were young when we met (19 and 21) and have broken up (briefly) a few times. The last time was over three years ago. We moved in together about 6 months after we got back together. Hope that timeline is clear enough.
We’ve always had certain issues. Some of it has to do with our attachment styles (my mom abandoned and psychologically abused me- she’s mentally ill) and his mom has always leaned on him HEAVILY emotionally and financially (I think she’s mentally ill as well) and physically and emotionally abused him growing up (a few exs: punched him in the face when he was 8, threw a chair at him another time, refused to let him attend his father’s wedding when he was 13, etc.).
I need closeness and he needs space to deal with issues. It’s pretty basic and it leads to cyclical bouts of extreme happiness and misery. I started going to therapy about two years ago to get myself emotionally even and deal with some trauma. It helped me grow tremendously. I’m far more independent, confident in my own skin, and happy. Buuut (there’s always a but isn’t there?) he would never fully commit to me. I’m talking marriage, but it’s also stuff with money, and not including me in big decisions. He can be really distant to the point where it feels punitive. We can talk for hours about politics, and religion and writing and other intellectual stuff, but when it comes to “us” we’re absolutely shitty at communicating our needs. He is way way worse than I am. My emotions, for the most part, are on my sleeve.
After a while it became clear to me that he was never going to open up without dealing with his issues, and I suggested therapy. He was against it at first, but eventually started going (sporadically) about 6 months ago. About 2 months into it his therapist was telling him to break up with me (I asked him bc he was acting weird out of the blue; he wasn’t being cruel). I found this… strange. Unless he was depicting our relationship as toxic and abusive (it’s not) I can’t imagine how she wouldn’t be working through his basic communication issues and why he doesn’t feel safe being open and honest with *anyone*. Instead she just told him to end it after only a handful of sessions. I found this highly unusual and asked him very specifically how she said it, and if she “led” him to it. He said she sometimes leads him to it, but often outright tells him to dump me because we’re unhealthy and he’s unhappy. Two months and she’s telling him to throw away a 7+ years relationship where our lives are very much intertwined without ever having even met me? In over two years my therapist has never ever given me such direct advice. He’s been to a session with me btw.
This is how he’s been putting it to me in the past few months: he loves me, but not our relationship. I agree with him. There are many wonderful things about us, but we just don’t operate the same way. Our day-to-day life has become cold and miserable. My head tells me we should probably end it, but my head is pretty garbled right now. My heart can never imagine not being with him. I cannot overemphasize how much I love this man. Is this just a case of people who love each other being incompatible? Or just not at the right stage in life? I am absolutely sick over this. Idk what I’m asking, just… help.August 7, 2012 at 12:00 pm #35948
Why don’t you guys try going to couples therapy?? I feel like you should try that before you make any real decisions.August 7, 2012 at 12:08 pm #35949
Have you considered going to a therapy session with him? What are his thoughts on it?
If you both love each other and want it to work I don’t see a way that it can happen without going to therapy together.
And I also think you might need some space from each other. If he can’t have basic conversations with you about money and include you in big decisions after 7 years I don’t see this working. Maybe he does need some time on his own to work on his issues. I would give it a time limit though, say try a break of 3 months with you both going to therapy separately and maybe together somewhere in there and figure out if this relationship is right for you.
I know it’s hard to throw 7 years away, but do you really want to stay in a relationship where you describe the day to day norm as cold and miserable?
I’m so sorry you’re going through this!August 7, 2012 at 12:08 pm #35950
I suggested that to him a while back. I was a bit pushy about it, which really bothered him, so I agreed to let it go for awhile. His opinion is that if we need it now and we’re not married, then we’re doomed out of the gate. He can be very very stubborn.
At this point, though, I don’t know what the hell else to do. If I suggest it and he shoots it down, we’re going to break up. If we don’t go, we’re going to break up.
I thought about suggesting a couples retreat, but I don’t know if they are generally helpful or not. Or asking him to bring me to a session with his therapist. Thoughts?August 7, 2012 at 12:11 pm #35952
I agree, at least ask him to try couples therapy. You guys have always seemed happy, I hate the thought of this not working out for you. If he says he loves you but not the relationship, try to find out if he knows what he does want out of it.
I also find it odd that the therapist would tell him to dump you. That’s strange. A good therapist should be there to guide you to your own decisions, not tell you what to do. Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do to change what has happened.
Is he happy with life in general? Is he achieving his personal goals? Is it possible that he is depressed and needs to be medicated? Same goes for you. Are you happy in general? Is there anything you can be doing to bring more positivity to the relationship?
I really don’t what advice I can offer to help fix things but please know that I’m thinking about you, that in my heart I’m really wishing for the best for you. Sending you e-hugs.August 7, 2012 at 12:12 pm #35954
Yeah, maybe try asking to come with him to one of his therapy sessions.August 7, 2012 at 12:13 pm #35955
Yeah I would ask him if you could attend a session with him. If he doesn’t want to then I would let him know that you feel like you’re at an impasse. Something has to change.
And honestly you’ve been together 7 years, if you this was a year long relationship that needed therapy I would say it was different. But, with both of your backgrounds I would say it’s even more important that you go to therapy together so that you can have a mediator help you learn to communicate.August 7, 2012 at 12:13 pm #35956
@jlyfsh I don’t want to stay in it if it remains miserable, but it’s been hot and cold for the past 7 months or so. Some weeks/months will be really good, and then it will get rough again. 7 months is only a drop in the bucket of our relationship. If there’s a chance it will get better, I’m willing to do most anything to be healthy and happy with him.August 7, 2012 at 12:15 pm #35957
Thanks, MissDre. <3 I'm about to go call a close friend, but I'll be back in a bit. You guys are awesome.August 7, 2012 at 12:18 pm #35960
” His opinion is that if we need it now and we’re not married, then we’re doomed out of the gate.”
No No No, you get your shit together before you get married-not after. try approaching him with that perspective.August 7, 2012 at 12:18 pm #35961
Yeah, I understand that I would feel the same way. I think the hardest part in all of this is that you can’t make HIM want to do anything to get the relationship back to where it was. He has to want to. All you can do is let him know that you want to make it better but you need his help to do that. And at some point for your own sanity put a time limit on how long you’re willing to stay.
Hope the phone call with your friend helps some!August 7, 2012 at 12:18 pm #35962
@jlyfsh didn’t see your second response when I wrote that ^
my heart hurts
@MissDre- he said he’s actually pretty happy otherwise, though that hasn’t always been the case, and I’m not quite sure how honest he’s being about his happiness at work. A couple of months ago he was MISERABLE at work, but he says it’s gotten better.August 7, 2012 at 12:21 pm #35963
i’m so sorry!
keep us posted on what’s going on.August 7, 2012 at 12:35 pm #35977
Ooh, I’m sorry This sounds brutal. I agree that it sounds weird the therapist would be telling him directly to break up with you. Asking to come along for a session couldn’t hurt.
I kind of have the same mindset as your boyfriend in regard to the “if we already need couples’ therapy & we’re not even married yet, then we’re doomeeeed” but I know that’s not always the case. Both of you already invested 7 years together, so it’d be worth a try (if he agrees.)August 7, 2012 at 1:50 pm #35990
Got off the phone with my friend a little while ago. She’s a former professor, and a mother/friend to me. She agreed that I should suggest a trial separation and couples therapy. She knows us both very well. I’m going to stay with her this weekend, and she’s going to help me arrange the logistics of all this. There’s a good chance I will be offered my dream job this week (second interview was last Friday- cross your fingers!) and that would sort of change what I need to do if I’m going to move out for a while.
Last night when my boyfriend and I were talking we came to a point where we said we couldn’t continue on the way we were, but our hearts wouldn’t let us just end it, so we decided to table the conversation. Tonight I’m going to tell him I’ll be away this weekend, and that we can return to the conversation tomorrow. I don’t want to suggest couples therapy or separating tonight. I think it will make him shut down completely, and I need more time to process anyway.
@Savannah- I’ll definitely use that approach. That’s my mindset as well. I just hope he’s on board with it…
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