I have just broken up with my girlfriend, because I can't change. Can you help?
posted by anonymous to human relations (54 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
This is a complicated topic, which I've tried to keep concise. Thanks in advance for reading!
I've just got back from the airport after one of the worst days of my life. My girlfriend has broken up with me.
Let me give you the (brief) background. We have been going out for three years. It has mostly been a long-distance relationship (me in England, her in Germany), but we have always managed to speak for an average of an hour every day on the phone, and visit each other at least every month.
The long-distance thing has been a strain at times, both on our finances and our time. We are both students (I'm 21, she is 20) and every period of free time (e.g. summer, easter and christmas holidays) has been divided between her place and mine. This has been at the expense of other things like holidays with friends, and time with our families.
The first time I can remember her talking about us having problems was about a year ago – she said that we would likely break up if I didn't start changing my priorities. Last year was my first year of university, and I was mostly concerned with making new friends, and going out and partying. I made time for our phone conversations, but sometimes I guess I did see the calls as a little more of a task than a pleasure – when my friends were doing something, I wanted to hang out with them, and shift the calls until later. When she came to visit though, we had a lot of fun, and enjoyed each other's company. This year, I think I've improved in this regard – partying has moved down my list of priorities, and she has in turn become more relaxed/flexible about our phone calls.
Over the last 6 months, however, things between us have been getting worse. Probably the main reason for this is what I affectionately call my “forgetfulness”. When asked to do something, especially by her, I mostly forget to do it entirely, or do it in the wrong way. For example, when she asked me to get a card for her dad's birthday, I said I would get it later, but then completely forgot about it. Or, on a recent trip, she asked me to bring some stuff from our hotel room. I brought too many bags as I wasn't sure which ones to get. This doesn't sound like much, but when this is happening literally 95% of the time, it obviously got to wearing her down, and making her think I didn't care about her.
I also am quite a passive person, something I think I got from my parents, who also avoid confrontation. When in an uncomfortable situation, I am not very likely to stand up for myself. She, on the other hand, is a strong personality – she stands up for herself, is outgoing, and loves to organise things, but she actually has little self-discipline. My passivity came across in our relationship when she would need my help, either to make her do something (e.g. study for her exams) or to help her with something (e.g. organise a holiday for us). I did not feel comfortable giving advice or telling her to do something, as I thought that she would be far better at organising than I am, and far more perceptive when it came to people. Now, I have got slowly, slowly better at standing up for myself. But the other problems are still there.
She has given me two deadlines in the past two months, saying that she wanted to see a definite change in me if we were to stay together. Both deadlines came, and went, and I hadn't changed. What did I do to change? I wrote what I wanted to change down on a list (Be confident, Take care of her, and be someone to look up to) and looked at it every other day. Then I tried to remember to be/do those things.
She arrived here, in England, about 10 days ago. On the first few days we had big arguments, mainly about me forgetting to do things, or, one time choosing to go out with my friends as I forgot that we'd discussed it and agreed to stay in together that night. We talked about it and agreed that when the end of her stay came (today) we would break up, as I'd shown her that I hadn't changed.
After that talk, we had very few (if any) arguments. We had a fun week, doing everything a couple should do, and trying to forget that I hadn't changed. This was not too difficult, as we have always got on well, apart from the arguments, and we fit well together.
Today, before she left (tearful and heartbreaking – we spent the last few hours just hugging), she gave me a few pieces of advice. 1. Don't follow other people – make up your own mind, and don't assume that they know better than you. 2. Try to look at arguments/situations from the perspective of a third person. That way you can more easily see it objectively. 3. Take responsibility for things – she said the reason that we were breaking up is because I had not changed, despite the fact that changing was entirely in my power.
This last one puzzled me, as I have obviously never wanted to be passive, or shirk responsibility, or not take care of her – it wasn't as if this was a concious choice not to change. I asked her about it. She said that my main problem was that deep down I was selfish.
She said that my forgetfulness came from not really caring or paying attention to what people were saying, because I had no real interest in it. i.e. when she told me to get the bags from the hotel, I didn't listen too closely. If she asked me to pack the car and I did it wrong, it was because I hadn't watched her packing it before – I didn't have a real interest in how she liked to have her car packed. (These are fairly trivial examples, but I hope they illustrate my point.) I hadn't changed because I had no real interest in doing so.
I would love to get back together with her (and from what she said, she would take me back), but I realise that my perspective may be a little skewed now having just experienced the break up. Objectively, it may give us a chance to see if the relationship is what we both want in the long-term, or whether we were just accepting it because this is what we've known over the last 3 years. Also, if I go back to her and I haven't changed, it will just hurt her all over again.
So this is where you, dear reader, come in. What I am hoping to do is change myself. I recognise that I have been selfish (not just with her, but also in dealings with my family as well) and I do not want to be like that any more. I want to be more analytical, more confident, and less selfish. Can you help me by giving your perception of the situation? Am I selfish/immature? If so, how can I work on myself to make me less selfish?
I realise this is a long post. If you've got this far, I'm so glad you stuck with me. I really appreciate it. Feel free to ask for any clarification you want, and bookmark this page as I will be updating the post as things progress!
Thanks in advance for your help.