June 17, 2012 at 11:12 pm #30484
My boyfriend and I have been together for two years. I am 31, him 32. We love each other very much, and I would say that we are very compatible. We see the world in a similar way, can talk about anything, and have shared values and goals. (We don’t live together, but we share the value of not wanting to do that until after marriage.) We got together after I had been single for 3 years following a long relationship with my ex. In those 3 years, I discovered a lot about myself and found inner strength I never knew I had. I realized how dependant I had become on my ex, and how that was not a pattern I wanted to repeat. I’ve always liked how with my boyfriend now, I feel like I’m with him because I want him, not because I need him. I’ve maintained close friendships with girls, make sure to give the relationship space, am much better able to occupy my mind with something else when my boyfriend and I hit bumps in the road, instead of obsessing or falling down the rabbit hole like I did with my ex.
Cut to yesterday afternoon. My boyfriend and I were enjoying a lazy Saturday afternoon, him playing video games, me doing work. His phone rang, and I nudged him with the phone to let him know it was ringing. He reacted by rolling his eyes and looking annoyed, and I got angry. I told him that treating me like that was disrespectful and it was important to me to be with someone that respects me. He said he realized how destructive contempt like that is, and he was sorry. But, he said, he has been feeling annoyed with me sometimes lately, and the feeling is confusing him. And, it even makes him question whether he’s truly the right guy for me. This is his longest relationship, and I let him know that I think it’s normal for couples to get on eachother’s nerves once they pass that honeymoon phase, and I told him that the important thing is that he try to express his annoyance in a constructive way, so it didn’t come across so contemptuous. But he seemed to be really mulling over why he feels annoyed, and what the significance is of that.
Our conversation kept going, and he talked more about his fear that he can’t be what I deserve. We both have talked about wanting marriage in general, and we’ve had a few conversations recently where we both talked about starting to see each other in that role. He said yesterday in our conversation though, that while he doesn’t feel like I’m pressuring him at all to get married right away, he worries that he hasn’t grown individually the way he wants to, to be in a place to get married.
We’ve talked about these fears before, we’ve always been able to talk, even about uncomfortable things. But the scary thing is, yesterday, he kept saying “I don’t know” and looked extremely upset and crying. I began to feel a huge pit in my stomach, like he wants to break up but couldn’t summon the courage. I tried assuring him that I love him as he is now, that I support his growth because I want him to be happy, but that I have no desire to change him, or any man, and frankly it’s too much pressure to expect a relationship partner to do that for you because change has to come from within.
I offered to leave so we could think, which I realize now was a bluff I was hoping he wouldn’t call. But he did. I didn’t leave at first, we talked a bit more, but then he brought up me leaving again so we could both think about things, and we hugged, said how much we love each other, and I smiled and told him that I knew he was going to be fine. He cried more than I did, I cried very little. I was trying very hard to keep it together, to remain the strong person I feel like I’ve become. But as soon as I left I felt like I was in shock. He’s never asked me to leave before like that.
I regret that I offered to leave, I regret that I feel like I made one disrespectful action into him not respecting me as a person. I’m terrified that he’s just keeping me in limbo while he gathers courage to dump me full out. And even if he doesn’t dump me, if he comes back with anything other than a strong assurance of wanting to be with me and respecting me, then how can I be happy in the relationship if I do decide to stay? And I hate that I’m so terrified and miserable and feel like all the hard work and strength I accomplished when I was single is failing its first real test.
I’ve been on and off the phone since yesterday with close girlfriends and my mom. They all have different opinions as to how long I should wait to contact him, if at all. Some say I should take the power back and contact him. I feel like, knowing him, and knowing that he thrives on alone time, and also considering that he’s the one who asked me to leave, I should give him space and wait to hear from him, within reason. I was thinking I would just see how I feel and see what happens, but if I haven’t heard from him by Tuesday evening, call him up to check in and see if he’s ready to get together and talk.
I feel powerless and hopeless, like if I let myself believe this isn’t a break up, I’m setting myself up for more pain. My body is reacting like this is already a break up- I can’t eat or sleep, being alone with my thoughts and not calling him is like torture. It’s some comfort that the old me would have not only broke down and been unable to leave him when he asked, but the old me would also not have the patience to give him space. But I still feel terrible inside and like this person that I love so much and who I know loves me is in the process of rejecting me. And right when I was beginning to let myself see a real future with him.
What would you guys do in my situation? I know I can’t convey all the nuances of a relationship or a human being. But, any words of wisdom would be so appreciated. Thank you.June 18, 2012 at 2:53 am #30486
This post was heartbreaking. Reading through it, I could feel that same sad-stomach-clench right when you mentioned it. You see, my last serious relationship, we ended up having a lot of “discussions” like this. I put in scary-quotes because here are three things that sucked about what we were doing (and we were both guilty of these things in turns), that I see shades of in your post. (I couch these things in terms of my own experience because a) I could be totally off and also b) I’m a narcissist.) Anyway:
1) He’d say something very general was wrong that I had no hope of specifically addressing – so it was like “Newsflash: Just A General Disclaimer That I’m Unhappy Being With You.” That’s not a constructive conversation to have with your partner; it just sows doubt and unhappiness, possibly – or deliberately – in a passive-agressive way.
2) He’d express general fears and doubts about me, I’d doubt if I really loved him or knew what “love” meant…and we’d SAY THAT TO EACH OTHER. NO. Your part of the baggage/dealbreakers is something you work out with a non-judgemental friend or family member or therapist; then come up with specific examples of things that need to change with your relationship or demonstrate why you need to leave/whatever and approach your partner when you’re ready. Leave the door open and give your partner a chance to respond, but know what you want…don’t instigate loaded, gut-wrenching conversations “just to see where they go” forcing your partner to hold your hand while you explore questions like, “Am I better off alone?”
3) He’d couch all of these fears in terms of his “feelings” so they were sacred and just had to be respected at all times. And I’m hypersensitive and ALL ABOUT feelings…but not when it’s really just a way to lash out and blame every recent frustration on each other, and then shut down all further conversation. Hurt feelings do not entitle someone to a Freely Be A Dick punchcard.
4) I was the more emotionally in-touch partner, and I felt he took advantage of that by holding me to higher standards and not pulling punches that he really should have (and DID know better about), and unfortunately, forcing me to do most of the heavy lifting, emotionally: “explaining” all the time, helping him “explore” his feelings (about ME! wtf) and “encouraging” him to express himself when he would just clam up and give non-committal answers (in a seemingly strategic way – the Silent Treatment/radio silence eats at me like acid.
Holy Projecting Poster, Batman. But I hope that explains why it makes me sad that he’s just saying he’s “annoyed lately.” It’s not the worst thing to say, and it is honest, but it’s neither helpful nor kind to you. (Not to mention…in long-term relationships, if we ALL expressed it EVERY TIME we were “annoyed” with our partners, we’d all end up alone. You have to expect the ups and downs.) And I know this post makes it seem like my ex and I were such jerks – but we both are really good people! Just both needed to grow up a bit more and learn to treat our partners with a lot more respect; that is, people with feelings of their own, instead of perfectly-logical emotional sounding boards. I am ten times more respectful to my current partner and our worst fights are better than most people’s trips to the store. Not that they don’t get heavy sometime, but we adhere to guidelines and do our own emotional legwork. So I hope I’ve circled this back around to my point: he may be a great guy and you sound like an awesome lady; and you may even be in the same place with the big issues and getting ready to settle down…but it sounds like he still hasn’t learned these tools, and until he does, gut-wrenching conversations like this will happen every time something changes (or stays the same) in your relationship and wouldn’t it suck to not get a say in that? Anywhoo, I’m sorry if I made things worse…either way we’re here for you!June 18, 2012 at 2:53 am #30487
Um, FOUR things.June 18, 2012 at 8:28 am #30490
Thanks for your response Summertime! I don’t think you guys seem like jerks at all, and I appreciate hearing your story. I’m sorry you had to go through that. I know every situation is different, but you’ve given me some good things to think about.
The thing is, I know in my gut that he loves and respects me very much, and I know that we are very compatible people. I honestly believe that these things are exactly what is scaring him- that just like he said, he feels like he isn’t who he wants to be as an individual, and even though that’s his issue and not mine, and even though the pressure isn’t coming from me, he feels pressure and it’s like this relationship has to come to a head. I also think that being occasionally annoyed with your partner is totally healthy and normal, but since he hasn’t really been in a relationship this long before, this whole coming down from the honeymoon phase is confusing for him.
I want to tell him these things. But he asked me to leave on Saturday so we could both think things over, so I feel like the ball is in his court. If he can’t come around on his own at this point, then what kind of happiness could I have with him? I feel like all I can do is sit on my hands, and wait, and it’s kind of killing me.
I talked to my dad last night, which is not who I normally talk to in a crises. And he was sort of more helpful than anyone I’ve talked to. He made it very simple- I need to decide what exactly it is that I want, I need to decide whether this relationship is fulfilling my needs, and whether I can be happy in it, and then I need to be open and honest with my boyfriend. And that’s all I can do.
The thing is, I am stressed about how I will hold together when we talk again. As much as I want to tell him my side of what’s happening, which I explained above, I ultimately believe that if someone wants to be with you, they will work through the road bumps and be with you. But if they don’t, no amount of convincing is worth it. Because I don’t want to have to convince someone to be with me. Even if I’m successful, how can I be happy feeling like that’s what happened?
Thanks for listening, DW universe.June 18, 2012 at 8:53 am #30492
I think @Summertime hit the nail on the head, so to speak. I’ve had partners behave that way, and I’m ashamed to say that I’ve done something similiar when itching to leave a relationship. You could be right that he just doesn’t understand his feelings of annoyance, being inexperienced. But even if you’re his first “real” relationship, you don’t need to be the one to teach him these things. Keep that in mind.
If you get over this hump, his tendency to give you these “newflashes” could continue every so often. Are you willing to deal with this? When you guys speak to each other again, & if you decide to continue the relationship, you’ll have to make sure he understands that “I’m annoyed, but I don’t know why, maybe we’re not right for each other?” is not an acceptable way to check in with your relationship.June 18, 2012 at 9:07 am #30495
I’m sorry this happened to you. Reading your post was like deja vu for me, cutting back to so many similar conversations I had with my ex. We talked about marriage and how compatible we were a LOT, and I heard over and over again how much I deserved it and he wanted to get to the place where he was ready for that. But there was always a very vague excuse as to why it wasn’t perfect enough. I have certain personality traits that bug him but he can’t elaborate on that, I’m not the perfect partner because I’m not able to help with EVERYTHING. Well, in my case, he ended up never being ready and we broke up. Now, a month and a half later, I’m starting to see that all of his bullshit excuses were just that – bullshit excuses. The real issue was that he was afraid entering into a real commitment and couldn’t overcome that fear, despite our love and compatibility.
While you certainly could have just ignored his little eyeroll, avoiding that one little fight doesn’t mean the problem wouldn’t be there. It sounds like these negative feelings have been building in him for awhile, probably as the relationship gets closer because he’s getting scared. Are you even sure that he was being genuine about not wanting to live together until after marriage? Or was that just a ploy to keep you around waiting for a marriage he never intends to initiate while not having you around 24/7?
My advise would be don’t call him. Make him miss you and think about how much he values you. Make him fear losing you. If you have so many feelings you want to express to him and have to contact him, write him a letter or send him an email expressing everything you want to express. When you put it out there in written, asynchronous form, he can’t refute anything you are saying like he can on the phone. He can either read it or not read it. If he doesn’t even bother to read it, he stopped caring and the relationship is over.June 18, 2012 at 9:19 am #30496
Also, I think his tears had nothing to do with the possibility of your relationship ending. If that were the case, he wouldn’t have wanted you to leave. It sounds like he was crying out of guilt, as well he should be. Just because you’ve been with someone for a long time doesn’t give him a license to freely be a dick to you as he pleases.June 18, 2012 at 9:22 am #30497
Hi Anna- Just to answer your question, I know the living together thing was not a ploy, it’s a value that is very important to both of us.
I know what you guys mean about the newsflashes and excuses. I don’t know yet if that is the case here or not. I do know that the thing I love most about him is his honesty. I know that when he tells me something, it is his honest truth as much as he knows it.
I think the bottom line here is, he needs to decide if a relationship with me is really what he wants. And that can’t come from me, it has to come from him, if there’s any chance of this working out. So as much as it hurts, I have to give it time and just see what happens. I know how I feel, all I can do is be honest when the time comes.June 18, 2012 at 9:24 am #30499
Seeking Strength, I feel you, I really do. And I agree with Summertime’s thoughts.
From my own experience, the whole “you get on my nerves sometimes” thing is a sign of immaturity. This isnt something that your SO should be saying to you. Also a sign of unraveling of a relationship. Sorry if that hurts, but again, is just my experience. I think that for you all to get back to a “happy place” where you exhibit good communication with each other, you need to go to couples counseling. There you can work out these feelings and annoyances or whatever.
Good luck, and keep us updated!June 18, 2012 at 10:06 am #30509
Maybe I didn’t comprehend this whole scenario….but poking with a phone may very well be perceived as annoying…and starting a long argument about respect based on an eye roll seems a little over the top to me. Could be that if this is a common issue he is just sick of things he does being misconstrued as gigantic, relationship direction discussing, conversations…
Again…not saying I’m right here, I have a limited snapshot of your relationship. But if I rolled my eyes at my gf for jabbing me with a phone that I knew was ringing (and therefore probably didn’t want to answer anyways) and she told me that that showed I didn’t respect her and she wanted to be with a guy that respected her I would be wondering if I could be what she wanted me to be too.June 18, 2012 at 10:16 am #30510
And on the flip side. If he is annoyed you are interrupting his video game focus he needs to put his big boy pants on and gtfover itJune 18, 2012 at 10:16 am #30511
I know what you mean Budj, and believe me I’ve replayed the scenario over and over in my mind and I wish I hadn’t reacted like I had. He couldn’t hear it ringing because he plays video games with his head phones on, so I thought he might want to answer it is all. I could definitely see how from a third party perspective, especially, my reaction seemed over the top. I think that what was going through my mind was, that he’s been a bit snappish lately (which I already talked to him about and which he was actually getting better at) and I wanted to nip it in the bud and get him to reassure me, especially because I know how destructive contempt is to a relationship, and that’s how I interpreted it. He even apologized, and it was like I didn’t want to listen to him. I regret that.
My problem is, what do I do now? I can’t take it back. I can apologize again, but it’s become this thing now where I’ve asserted that I don’t want to be disrespected, so I almost feel like it would appear doormat-y if I just take it all back. And also, he seemed to think there was more to it to, like maybe he doesn’t respect me after all? Why would he think that from just one incident? I don’t think he would.
I just want to be strong and honest and clear when we talk again. I want to be assertive but not unreasonable, and I want to be understanding but not naive. I love him, but I know it takes more than that. And just sitting around in limbo is torture.June 18, 2012 at 10:19 am #30514
i agree with budj… unless this was the straw that broke the camels back kind of situation, you both are making a way big deal about this.
did you read the article wendy posted on friday links about being annoyed at a SO? might be a good read for you..June 18, 2012 at 10:20 am #30515
Basically, I just feel like it’s kind of a sticky mess now and I can’t fix it alone. He has to want to fix it too, in all my love life experience I have learned the importance of reciprocity. So the ball is in his court, and I don’t know how to take back power, other than just ending things. That’s really not what I want though. So, I feel stuck.June 18, 2012 at 10:23 am #30517
Katie- Part of me feels like if I tell him I overreacted, he will lose respect for me or something, like I’m not willing to stand up for myself? Maybe that is weird, but I can’t help but feel it.
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