How should I deal with my on-again, off-again relationship? Should I try to fix it, or should I just break up with her? (Ridiculously long and detail-heavy question.)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
So, some background info: First off, I'm a guy (in case that matters to people). This girl and I have been seeing each other on and off for the last 3 years. We got together when we were both in pretty bad mental states, so things like different personalities/goals/values weren't really on our minds back then. We both just needed someone to be in each other's lives so we wouldn't feel so bad about how empty our own lives were. And for a while, it worked, and all was good. We spent nearly all of our time together that first year, and somewhere along the way, we fell for each other hard.
The flip side is that spending time with someone allows you to learn more about each other, and over time we have both realized that there were a lot of ways in which she and I are "incompatible". Examples include:
- She's much quicker to jump to fighting, insults, and arguments. I have a generally more supportive, calming personality (and would like that in my significant other).
- She is also a lot more stubborn about her values and goals, and rarely, if ever, sees another person's point of view (namely mine).
- As a result of the previous two points, it's incredibly difficult to communicate with her. This one point is the most makes the fact that the following issues exist much more problematic.
- She's pretty outgoing and social, whereas I am much more content to stay in most of the time. (More a problem for her than for me.)
- I'm definitely on the conservative side of the social values spectrum; for example, I place a high value on things like dressing modestly (it's a religious thing), and am strongly anti-smoking. She is a definitely more liberal than I in regards to these two issues (for example, she smokes on occasion).
- She much happier in a big city setting, whereas I'm much happier living in suburbia.
- She also wants to be a hot-shot doctor of some type (think surgeon or cardiologist), whereas I want to live a life where I have a lot of time to spend with my (future) wife and kids. Ideally, I'd like to marry someone who also plans to spend a good deal of time with me and the family. (This is another aspect of my socially conservative tendencies.)
- While she and I share the same religion, we have different understandings of the role that that religion should play in our lives. I definitely want it to play a very prominent role in my life, while she is content to have it play a much smaller role than I. (Another aspect of my socially conservative leanings.)
It's important for me to say that when I started realizing how different she and I were, I definitely started holding back in the relationship (e.g., not saying 'I love you'), and only recently have come clean with her about how much I was holding back. (This is mostly because I was in another relationship more than a few years ago in which I did not hold back at all, and was emotionally devastated (to put it lightly) after that relationship ended supremely badly.)
As it stands now, I am trying to figure out what I can do to either fix this situation, or extricate myself from it amicably and with a minimum of drama. To that end, there are many different thoughts that are running through my head:
First and foremost, I love this girl completely and with all my heart. That never fails to complicate things.
My brain tells me that if she and I do not share compatible goals and personality characteristics, then she and I will not have a happy and fulfilling future together, no matter how much we love each other [now]. My brain also tells me that our values are the things which make us successful, and that it is important that I find someone who shares the values that I hold dear.
My heart tells me that nevertheless, love is not something that should be discarded effortlessly, that it should be cherished and handled with care.
Another part of my brain, or perhaps my heart, makes me ask: "Am I overreacting about these different issues? Should these issues be less important to me than they are? Should I try to stop holding back from now on, and see where things lead?" It also makes me ask: "Should we try to work things out? HOW should we try to work things out, if we do? If I do decide to try to work things out with her, what indications should I look for that we're making progress? And therefore, when should I know to give up?"
And then my brain tells me: you know you're probably just trying to delay the inevitable by thinking that way. You already know what things are important to you, and you're just trying to find a way to please everyone and get out of what needs to be done. Your thoughts on love are wrong, or are at least misguided in this situation, and are holding you back from what you know you need to do. You've been in this on-again off-again relationship for the past 3 years, so do you really expect things to change for the better?
(For the record, we're both in our early 20's, so this is not a high school relationship. Also, this is only the second relationship I've ever been in, so that might explain why I'm having so much difficulty with either figuring out what our options are, or breaking up with her.)
So ... what the hell do I do? Should I re-enter this relationship with the mindset that I need to stop holding back emotionally, and see where things lead or how things improve?
Should I bring these different issues to her, and tell her that I want to be with her, but we need to come to some sort of compromise on these different issues?
Or, do I tell her that I have nothing but the utmost respect and love for her, but after 3 years, it's clear to me that our values/goals/personality/etc are incompatible ... and that it makes more sense for me to show her that love and respect by splitting up with her and allowing her to find someone who will share those values and goals with her?
(And if breaking up with her for good is the right decision, how can I justify it to myself and make me believe it so that I actually go through with it? If you couldn't tell from the post, I have a pretty bad case of breaking-up phobia...)
Thoughts, experiences, and general advice on how to get over my fear of being the one to do the actual breaking up are all welcome.