She tells me I don't love her enough, she tells me she loves me because of that.
January 20, 2009 3:31 PM   Subscribe

RelationshipFilter: We have a good relationship in most senses. Once a month or once every two months she complains about something that happened recently. After talking about that, she tells me that something I did 3 weeks ago hurt her. Then, she complains about me in our relationship. Finally, she tells me that she loves me because of how I am. - I'm confused.

For the recent stuff, I try understand her complaints. I apologize for the things I feel are my fault. I explain my reasoning behind the things I think are a misunderstanding. I do the same for the three-week old stuff if I remember the situation. If I don't remember, I tell her so and apologize if I made her feel bad.
I try to emphasize how much I would prefer if she told me about this kind of thing when it happens.

Then, after much talking and discussing, we get to the root of everything, according to her. The fact that I don't love her as much as she loves me. Which is true, I guess. I love her but I'm not IN love with her, I don't get butterflies on my stomach nor anything like that, things she tells me she feels. She tells me she would like me to act more romantic, more passionate about our relationship, and I've tried. But it feels like it's never enough for her. Finally, she tells me that maybe she loves me _because_ of that, _because_ I'm not all over her all the time. She tells me that I complete her, that I'm a big part of her life.
Last time we 'Talked' she told me that maybe she's a masochist or something to feel like that.

After these talks she acts like nothing has happened and expects me to do the same, while I'm non-plussed and not in the mood for romance.

These talks stress me out, I dread them. They always make me feel bad and guilty. I start thinking (and I've told her during these talks) that maybe she would be happier with a guy who is in love with her and do all the stuff she wants. This normally brings the 'but I love you because of how you are' part of the Talk.

I don't know what to do. On one side we seem to have a really good relationship, on the other side she periodically tells me all this stuff which makes me doubt about everything.

What should I do?

Facts:
- We have been together for a little more than three years.
- We are both 23, part of the same program at college. We share some subjects.
- She acts more 'emotional' than me. I tend to be more practical. This tends to be a problem in these Talks.
- Currently, we are on different countries and will continue to be for a couple of months. Last Talk was through IM a couple of days ago.

throwaway account: confusedrelationshipfilter@gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (26 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
You're young, dump her.
posted by delmoi at 3:37 PM on January 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


Instant messaging is a medium almost perfectly designed for misunderstanding and miscommunication of meaning. If you want to be less confused, start out by communicating through a less confusing technology. Give her a call.
Now then: a three year old relationship doesn't require constant butterflies-in-the-stomach romance. She shouldn't expect The Love Of A Thousand Burning Suns infinitely. She should expect honesty from you, which you can give her by making clear your expectations of the relationship. One of those, of course, should be that you expect her not to make you feel guilty.
What are the rest? That's the question you've got to answer between you.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 3:50 PM on January 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Actually my answer was pretty legitimate. This guy is young, this girl is young, this is how relationships work, get the experience while you can and move on.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:51 PM on January 20, 2009


We have a good relationship in most senses.

I love her but I'm not IN love with her

We have been together for a little more than three years.

Does not compute. Three years is too long to be in a relationship when you aren't in love and the other person is. Such a mismatch could be fine in a relatively new relationship, like maybe three months, but three years? That's not fair to either of you. End it.
posted by Meg_Murry at 3:52 PM on January 20, 2009


You do not want a girl whose life you "complete". It means she's needy and not independent.

Start seeing other women. Nothing's hotter, sexier, funner, liberating, more fulfilling than being with a girl who already has it all together- with or without you. Good luck, my son.
posted by Zambrano at 3:52 PM on January 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


Lets say first that you are good when you try to understand her complaints. Good people often forget themselves in the process, that's why I go on writing like I do.

...The fact that I don't love her as much as she loves me. Which is true, I guess...

You are making this up.
Look, the only way for your relationship to survive is that she learns to tell you right away when you've done something that she finds hurtful, and is done with it afterward, or after a reasonably short discussion about the issue at hand (and nothing much else).

She tells me she would like me to act more romantic, more passionate about our relationship, and I've tried. But it feels like it's never enough for her.

Don't you see that this is too much stuff at a time for her to confront you with? This smells to me like she's got some emotional deprivation issue hidden away (which most likely has nothing at all to do with you).
I only say all this because I've been so there, and it took me years after a much delayed breakup (due to my trying to understand her complaints) to figure out what had been going on.
The fact is, you can only be how you are in a relationship. You can't act more loving than your natural manner of showing love allows for. If you aren't a jerk (and you don't seem to be one), this is what your partner will, or ought to, love in you most of all: straightforward, natural sincere behavior.
You cannot ever become a dream prince who is exclusively defined by her standards, let alone by her not-feeling-loved-enough agenda. She needs to go to her parents for that (or as a grown up: to someone professional who can help her out of the mess).
Good luck to you, you deserve it.
posted by Namlit at 3:58 PM on January 20, 2009


Three years and you're not in love with her?
Dude, wtf?
posted by meerkatty at 3:59 PM on January 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


What is happening is that she is unhappy but in love. She tries to express this, but your solution (lose the one she loves) is so scary to her that she immediately backs down, preferring to stay with her current, known, unhappiness, rather than face that unfathomable unhappiness. Then she tries to be happy and tries to have the flawless relationship she wants, until her unhappiness builds to bursting again.
This will keep repeating until she can find happiness and security in the relationship, or the relationship ends.

My brutal guesswork is that this is her first long-term-relationship, and she's botching parts of it (as we all do the first time), and she has a world of pain ahead of her that will either forge her into better relationship material, or kill her idealism and have her settle for something unhealthy.

In the long run, the best thing to do might be end the relationship sooner rather than later. But that will not be pretty, and it could go either way. She could become Better Stronger Faster. Or she could lose her self-confidence and dreams.
posted by -harlequin- at 4:00 PM on January 20, 2009 [11 favorites]


Of course you're a big part of her life, you've been together for three years. However, you're both in college, and young. Honestly, maybe she's not the best fit for you, and it certainly seems that you're not a great fit for you. You're not in love with her, she feels much more strongly toward you.

I think you should break up with her, keeping in mind that you're doing it because you want you both to be the happiest people you can be, and clearly that's not happening when you're together.
posted by Night_owl at 4:03 PM on January 20, 2009


What is happening is that she is unhappy but in love.

I also suspect that she can't be happy until she finds her groove and learns how to be happy on her own - without anyone to "complete" her. This is something she probably isn't going to do within the relationship, because she is seeking happiness by barking up the wrong tree.
posted by -harlequin- at 4:08 PM on January 20, 2009


Though she doesn't realize it now, she wants someone -- but not you.

Though you don't realize it now, you want someone -- but not her.

Though you both have this in common, you're not doing each other any favors.

Let each other go.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:19 PM on January 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


You do not want a girl whose life you "complete". It means she's needy and not independent.... Nothing's hotter, sexier, funner, liberating, more fulfilling than being with a girl who already has it all together- with or without you.

100% TRUTH. (And, it should go without saying, it goes both ways -- girls who have it together love guys who have it together.) "Completing" someone sounds romantic, but it's largely just codependency gussied up with lyrics from Hollywood soundtracks.

It's hard when that first long-term adult relationship starts sputtering (hell, it doesn't necessarily get any easier after that)... but you are both young, you seem to have different needs and expectations, and it sounds like it's simply time to move on. There's nothing wrong with that, even as it's painful to face.
posted by scody at 4:28 PM on January 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


I was thinking "therapy therapy therapy" (for her) until I saw that you were both 23.

Dump her.
posted by desjardins at 4:40 PM on January 20, 2009


If you're not in love with her, freakin' leave. You're wasting her time, of which all of ours on this earth is limited. Even if, after you, she goes into a series of shittier relationships than yours, she could be better spending this time flicking from one to another, making different mistakes, and learning something about relationships.

You can learn something too: if it ain't there, it ain't there.

You're messing with her head if you let her get into this pattern of trying to make you show you feel something you're just not feeling, and behaving like that's a normal relationship. She couldn't do it if you weren't a willing accomplice - and communicating it's even possible, and that she's not wasting her time - by staying.

You might do well for your own purposes to figure out WHY you're staying so this doesn't happen again. Think about it and be sure (if this is the case) that you're staying for the wrong reasons, then don't compromise on what you know is right and GO. You both could be happier.
posted by springbound at 4:46 PM on January 20, 2009


Want to know what happens when you continue down this road? This.

Things will either go one of two ways. You'll either break up, or you'll convince yourself that you're somewhere that you're not.

Has anyone ever felt like a relationship wasn't worth it, but then got over that?
posted by dentata at 5:26 PM on January 20, 2009


"These talks stress me out, I dread them. They always make me feel bad and guilty. I start thinking (and I've told her during these talks) that maybe she would be happier with a guy who is in love with her and do all the stuff she wants. This normally brings the 'but I love you because of how you are' part of the Talk."

Thanks for writing that paragraph. It helped me understand how my husband has felt in the past, and I needed that perspective. He has trouble saying it. :)

We had a lot of these Talks in the last year, but none since I started anti-depressants. I tend to over-think stuff, especially when I'm depressed and overwhelmed, and I had this vague sense of dis-satisfaction that changed how I saw everything in my life, including my relationship with him. I got really irritable and touchy about stuff, and little things would happen and I would roll them around in my mind and pick at them and nurse this simmering resentment that built up until it boiled over into a Talk three weeks later.

A lot of it was insecurity. A lot was depression, which felt like something in my brain saying "But I don't like any of this!! I don't like you, and I don't like me, and I don't like anyone!" So I would lash out, but even in the middle of that, I knew that I'm crazy about my husband and he was bewildered and hurt by what I was saying, so then you get Part 2 of the Talks, which is the "but honey I'm totally crazy about you, I don't want someone else." And that was TRUE. Yes, there are things about him that irritate me and I was lashing out at them, but I'm also totally in love with him. Doesn't mean that I'm totally in love with all his quirks! :)

Anyways, it took me a good 6 months to realise that's what was going on, and since starting anti-depressants and other things to battle depression back in November, we haven't had a Talk. It took a while for me to confront it though. It's scary. So if this is what's going on with your girlfriend, it will probably take some time. Go gently.
posted by heatherann at 7:18 PM on January 20, 2009 [5 favorites]


Agree with the "break up" advice but not the idea that it's wrong to have or want the "you complete me" feeling. Codependence is a meaningless term which generally stigmatizes prosocial behavior like self-sacrifice and altruism.

Yes, it's bad to use an addict's problems as a way to avoid your own-- that's the only situation in which the "codependence" idea has even the tiniest bit of validity-- and that's not relevant here. Efforts to try to find a valid codependence concept that is retestable (ie, if you have it on one test, you'll have it on another and the same people will come out codependent on several tests of it) have all failed. It's like a horoscope as a diagnosis.

However, the truth is that we are social beings and without relationships we *aren't* complete. Doesn't mean you need a "one true love" or that single people aren't complete or anything heterosexist or monogamist even. It just means that without friendships, social connections, family and/or a partner, we *aren't* complete and feeling *interdependent* with someone is human, positive and healthy.

But if she's in love with you and you aren't in love with her, it's not fair to her to let her stay in a situation where she's basically begging you for something you can't give and then feeling bad about herself because she can't get you to do something impossible for you.

You are both young and yes, breaking up with be painful, but it's way better than dragging out what is a frustrating and for her, basically self-destructive situation. Imagine being in love with someone who wasn't in love with you but was going out with you while they waited for something better to come along. Not good !!!!
posted by Maias at 8:27 PM on January 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


Has everybody gone off their meds or something?

"Love but not IN love" is our super-cliched way of saying "over initial chemicalswoon craziness". It doesn't mean he doesn't love her. He explicitly states that he does. Frankly, I'm more suprised that she's still reporting "Love AND in love" symptoms (butterflies etc) after three years.

But that's just an aside. Getting on to the main point, I'm casting another vote for breaking up. Not because of a lack of love on either side, but because of what Namlit said:

The fact is, you can only be how you are in a relationship. You can't act more loving than your natural manner of showing love allows for. If you aren't a jerk (and you don't seem to be one), this is what your partner will, or ought to, love in you most of all: straightforward, natural sincere behavior.

You cannot ever become a dream prince who is exclusively defined by her standards, let alone by her not-feeling-loved-enough agenda. She needs to go to her parents for that (or as a grown up: to someone professional who can help her out of the mess).


In the interests of full disclosure and baggage-revealement, I say this because I dated that girl, at the same sort of age. And I know those feeling of dread about those conversations, and the bizarre dredging up of weeks- or months-old issues. It's a whole set of guilting behaviour, supposedly demonstrating how much she cares & how much you don't measure up in comparison, challenging you to reciprocate & rise to meet her demands.

But the thing is, as Namlit said, those demands are (presumably) based on some set of fictionalised Prince Charming behaviour that she sees as her idealised requirements for romantic love, wilfully ignoring your actual behaviour, which is actually & in fact loving & supportive according to any reasonable person's definition.

Can I hazard a guess here? ie that the "hurtful" behaviour that she complains about is largely about omissions on your part, not actual acts? eg "It hurt me that you didn't take a day off work to support me; you could see how stressed I was, trying to study for my exam. If you really loved me you would've stayed home"

And that's why those conversations inspire such dread - because you're constantly being measured up against some fantasy prince, when in your own mind & feelings, you've behaved perfectly reasonably for somebody in a relationship.

(you can obviously take or leave my advice based on how much that kind of thing resembles your own situation)

In closing, Nothing's hotter, sexier, funner, liberating, more fulfilling than being with a girl who already has it all together- with or without you - yes, yes, yes, yes and yes!

ps: "She needs to go to her parents for that" - head of nail, meet hammer
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:23 PM on January 20, 2009 [5 favorites]


After three years, love doesn't require butterflies to prove itself. I mean, if you don't love her, break up with her, but also love does not mean constantly clinging to one another or feeling internally aflutter. Sounds more like insecurity on her part than lack of interest on your part (though of course, you know better than we do).

Personally, I'd go with something like "I don't want a relationship where once a month we have these terrible conversations that question the foundations of our relationship and don't really get anywhere. We need to find a better way to deal with this. How can we do that?" Options might include A) you guys go to therapy together and figure out what's going on and how to communicate better, B) she finds a way to accept your ways of showing love or to productively ask for what would work better for her, C) uh, what else? maybe you know what you should do so that you guys can stop having those conversations?, or D) I hate to suggest this, but if this is really not working for her, maybe you guys should go different ways. All I know is that, in your shoes, I'd start to say things like "we can't keep having this same conversation again and again" and trying to channel the conversation to productive suggestions ("I really love you, how can I show it so you'll believe me?").
posted by salvia at 11:06 PM on January 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


First of all, don't let her convince you or herself that you love her less because you don't express your love in the same way she expresses or feels love. Love is impossible to measure because it's shared in so many ways. Yours is just different from hers.

Secondly, are these talks recent developments or have they been there for the whole 3 years? If they are somewhat new, the talks could be attributed to a change in circumstances (like being in different countries) and less serious than an issue that has been present for 3 years.

Finally, it's been my experience that most couples argue and most argue about the same thing over and over again. In any relationship, there will be experiences you will dread; whether it's the "Talk", going over to the in-laws, paying the bills, or shopping on Black Friday. It's just a matter of determining if, when looking at the relationship as a whole, you are happy. Only you can make that decision.

Oh, and IM sucks for important conversations. No non-verbal or vocal cues which are essential for meaningful conversation. Use google video or voice chat and your communication, at least, will be better.
posted by rmtravis at 12:11 AM on January 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


She sounds like me when I was on hormonal contraceptives... just something to think about.

Conversations like that do not have to be a regular part of a normal relationship.
posted by altolinguistic at 2:07 AM on January 21, 2009


She sounds like me when I was on hormonal contraceptives... just something to think about.

Oh yeah, I'd like to second that too. My earlier response was in regards to depression, but birth control can totally do this as well. If that's a possibility, also go gently. It's hard to realise when your brain is messed up, whether because of mental interestingness or weirdo side-effects.
posted by heatherann at 5:19 AM on January 21, 2009


My vote goes for original poster acting like a loving person. As much as we know, he just talks a lot. Usually in situations like these the "complaints" are about one and the same thing that somehow never gets resolved.
Further, this "if she does not try to be less annoying, then dump her!" advice makes me sick to just read. Even if intuitively, I'd say it would be better for her own sake, so that she can move on and try to be loved, not forever less annoying.
posted by Jurate at 6:25 AM on January 21, 2009


I don't know if you should break up. It's easy for people who don't know either of you to say. That said, I would think you would have stronger feelings one way or another after being with someone for 3 years. I'd tell her much of what you've written here and see where things go. Changing for someone rarely works out.
posted by chunking express at 7:58 AM on January 21, 2009


I had a long term girlfriend where we had these once a month conversations where she was an emotional wreck (well beyond what most people would call "normal" in the scope of female hormonal cycles.)

For -years- I kept trying to figure out what it was that I did... because let me tell you, she'd let me know somehow it was my fault.

Eventually I dumped her because it just wasn't worth it. Let me tell you... it turns out after dating after her and eventually marrying that everything I did was straight-out-of-a-damn-romance novel and my very-not-psycho-every-three-weeks-wife appreciates me immeasurably.

Don't beat yourself up over her acting like that. Maybe you could be more affectionate or whatever thing she's whining about. Maybe she could be more mature about it. Either way you're only 23 and you've got better things to waste your time on than a relationship you feel completely ambivalent about.
posted by JFitzpatrick at 8:01 AM on January 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sounds also like she's seeking a bit of drama. That can be a pain, but really, it doesn't have to be difficult to work on, if she's interested. Depression can lift a bit when you get some drama, and people can learn that as a means to get a lift, so it can become a habit. Not nice to be the source of the drama! (telling on myself, can y'all tell? I used to be the drama queen)

I'll take the womens' word that the hormonal thing with contraceptives can do this, I have the other set of those things. But it could also be something more mundane, like a lack of exercise and sunshine, or too much soul-killing routine. Some folks aren't inclined to be aware of themselves this way, so are rather clueless, and only know they feel too meh.

Could partly be an adjustment issue, in the relationship. The newness is long gone, so you make enough new newness, while getting her to understand that newness is a rare commodity in an LTR. Some of this is obvious to some people, but some folks not.
posted by Goofyy at 9:25 AM on January 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


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