Maureen’s ex-husband cheated on her and had a child with the girlfriend. Maureen has worked for almost ten years to get herself back. She tells me all the time that she does not want to lose herself again in this relationship. She is independent, as am I, and I have no wish for her to lose herself. I think we are very much in love with each other but have been having bumps for the last six months.
So, here’s my question: During the first two weeks of being quarantined, I came over to her house a lot. When her son came home, we decided it was not a good idea for me to go back and forth. We have been FaceTiming almost every day, and things seemed good although I could tell she was sad. Last Tuesday I dropped by her house to drop off some soup I made and some flowers. She did not see my texts saying I was coming over. She was very distant (and not just physically as we stayed six feet away from each other). During our conversation she dropped the bomb that she is not sure she can be in a relationship which, of course, triggered me, and I told her she didn’t have to be with me.
Later Maureen sent an email apologizing, and we went back and forth. I said I realized I had responded poorly, and it was really about her and not me. She eventually told me that my anxious attachment style was taking too much out of her. Also, it makes her give away parts of herself to make sure I’m okay. (I have no idea what that means.) A couple subsequent texts make it seem she is mad at me. She indicated that we should each work on ourselves and see if we come back together. I am not sure what to do, so I am not doing anything. I’m feeling very good and have not been needy at all over the last month. We’re currently not really talking besides the occasional texts. I think we all are feeling sad with the quarantine and that may have something to do with this. Any ideas what I should do? — Anxiously Attached
You should listen to Maureen. She’s telling you she feels overwhelmed right now and that she doesn’t have the energy or the emotional bandwidth to meet your needs. She’s telling you that the needs you have are more than she can deal with right now – that your “anxious attachment style” is “taking too much out of her.” She is telling you how she feels. Her feelings aren’t debatable. You cannot argue or justify yourself out of how SHE is feeling. You may very well be “feeling very good” and maybe you haven’t “been needy at all over the last month,” but that doesn’t change how she feels.
Also, you know, maybe you haven’t been “feeling very good”? Maybe you have been a little needy over the past month. If so, you’d be like a whole lot of us right now. These are unsettling, nerve-wracking times. It would be understandable if you haven’t been your very best self — if you’ve needed a little more from your closest relationships. There have been moments — days, really — in the past six weeks that I’ve been a pretty embarrassing version of myself, and thankfully I have a super supportive, loving partner who has the emotional capacity to deal with me when I am not my best self. Maureen is telling you she does not have the emotional capacity to deal with you, in whatever form you’ve been recently, and I think that you’re right in that this says more about where she is right now than where you are. She’s telling you that her well is dry, her cup is empty, she’s running on fumes. Even if you’ve managed to defy the odds we’re all facing and you HAVE been a really great version of yourself these past few weeks, being even less needy than usual, she is telling you she cannot give you anything of herself right now, likely because SHE is not the best version of herself at the moment.
Please honor Maureen’s request that you take some time apart, and even “work on yourself.” Continue with your therapy, and use the extra time you may have in your schedule these days to explore some hobbies, foster or nurture some interests, maybe learn a new skill or two. And think about what it is you’re looking for in a partner. Does Maureen truly fit the bill? When the going gets tough, like it is right now, do you want a partner who is going to walk through the storm with you or one who is going to tell you there’s only space for one under her umbrella and good luck keeping dry? Maybe that isn’t a fair analogy, but it’s worth considering anyway. Maureen is showing you where you stand with her right now. In a few weeks or a few months, you may stand in a different place. She may learn how much she misses you when you aren’t around. She may find room in her heart — and her life — for you after all. The question you should be ruminating on in the meantime is: is that where you want to be?
I feel like the nephew gets special treatment as I’ve been paying my half of expenses since I moved in with Dan, and I feel like I don’t have a choice but to keep living here as a hostage in our own house without rights alongside an irresponsible freeloader. I’m tired of it. Dan and I haven’t spoken for two days now. I finally snapped and broke our TV because I get personally attacked for wanting to talk about this issue and get it resolved. I feel like I’m never listened to and like I should just leave. — Tired of the Freeloader
Yes, you should leave. Dan’s silence IS his response to you. You are asking for him to give his nephew some responsibilities, to ask him to get his own place, to assure you that your feelings are valid and he respects them. His silence is an implicit response and the answer is no. No, he does not respect your feelings, and no, he will not ask his nephew to move out, and no, he will not ask him to contribute to the household. Bet once he loses your half of the rent, he’s gonna have quite some different talks with his nephew! Too bad you’ll be long gone by then. Oh, please, be long gone by then. (And, also, consider therapy for yourself. Breaking a TV in a fit of anger is not a good sign of emotional stability.)