Insight, advice, perspective required for relationship dramas/attempt to become emotionally unstuck (longggggg)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a mid/late 20s female. A year ago I left a LTR with the guy I thought I was going to marry as I found out he'd been cheating on me with a MUTLTITUDE of other girls, both emotionally and physically since day 1 (literally). I left as soon as I found out and never saw him again (I had moved state to live with him a year before so I flew home). I was gutted in a way I just couldn't believe, absolutely shattered and it made me question EVERYTHING knowing that what had been the most important and best thing in my life had just been a big lie. But since I got home I realised that a) he'd really been treating me pretty badly, b) I had no self esteem whatsoever and had totally given away my sense of self to that relationship to try to make it work and hope he'd love me and c) I was actually anorexic and some of the things he'd said to me had not exactly been helpful in this regard. I was deeply ashamed of the fact that he'd cheated on me and only told a handful of people what had happened, and not in detail at all, as I felt it reflected badly on me, but I was determined to get my life together and make changes and feel better. I started therapy, got my life sorted (work, hobbies, study, reconnected with my friends), did a HEAP of introspection and reading and whatnot, started to like myself and love my life in a way I never ever have before, am now well into recovery for my eating disorder, and even went on a few dates despite being emotionally totally unavailable. I was aware that I had MASSIVE trust issues and the idea of a relationship was the least appealing thing on earth and I really had no faith in anyone's ability to be faithful or even genuinely love another person.
Not long after I moved back I joined a sports club which was a huge part of me getting my life back together, in particular one of the friends I made there I saw almost every day and as well as being a lot of fun he was a massive support and one of the first and few people I opened up to and trusted. About 9 months later I realised I had feelings for him but ignored it for quite a long time as I didn't know what to do with it.
To cut a long story short, after a few false starts (any time "us" was on the table I felt like I really didn't want it, but as soon as it was agreed we were just friends I felt comfortable with him and wanted to be with him), we decided to give "us" a try. We talked through my concerns and he was great, but after about a week I started jumping to conclusions about him, assuming he was dodgy or trying to trick me, that he was probably laughing about me with his friends - all kinds of ridiculous stuff. I was way too scared to talk to him about it or ask if we were exclusive or what was happening, and decided he just saw me as a booty call. I became more distant, really hot and cold and avoided him a lot of the time and just generally acted like I only wanted a booty call too. I hated that I was thinking that way about someone who had been more caring than anyone in my life had ever been, who I'd trusted more than anyone, but I couldn't make it stop. I kept thinking I could think my way out of it - that I'd be able to decide whether I wanted to just keep things casual or be exclusive, whether I wanted to be with him at all - but I chopped and changed my mind a million times a day. This made me anxious all the time as I knew it was unfair to him, but I was scared to talk to him in case he laughed at me for thinking we were in a relationship, or in case he wanted to be in a relationship and I didn't. I just didn't know what the hell I was doing. Finally I told him I just didn't know what I wanted, and I needed to step back from "us" to work it out. He was great about it, told me to take as long as I needed to get myself together and then decide, he'd be here for me either way, and as soon as I left I realised I really did love him but I tried to keep it broken off. We didn't last long apart (maybe a week!), but as soon as we were seeing eachother again all my fears came back. Finally the other day I told him that I needed us to just be friends. I knew it wasn't fair on him - I love him and I know he deserves better, I wish I could be the way I used to be, loving and affectionate, but I keep freezing up, and it's no good for me either as it causes me massive anxiety. I think I need to spend some more time being single and establishing myself as my own person before being in a relationship. I also need to work through my fears about being cheated on and made a fool of, and my uncomfortable feelings about casual sex (the fact that I've slept with less than 10 guys, almost always inside a relationship, makes me feel insecure - this really only started after I found out that prior to being with me, my ex used to go out with the express purpose of sleeping with random girls 3 nights a week - I felt like there was something wrong with me that I didn't do that, it made me feel somehow inferior). So anyway, I told him I wanted us to be friends and ended up crying for about 2 hours, we talked through a lot of stuff and I actually opened up to him this time - why I was so hot and cold and what I was scared of. We both agreed that we can still care about eachother whether we're together or not, but this is really hurting me. I know I need this time on my own but I wish I was just ready to be with him NOW. It also hurts like crazy to think that he'll be sleeping with random girls all the time, which is fair enough as I can't give him a relationship, but makes me feel absolutely horrible and also brings up a lot of the same feelings I had with me ex. I want to get to the bottom of why I'm so terrified of him doing that when I know that a) he cares about me and wants to be with me and b) I can't be with him because of my own stuff.
Sometimes when I'm out at clubs or whatever I can't help thinking of what my ex would be up to in a place like that, it's made me feel really uneasy about other single people going out to hook up even though I know it's normally just harmless fun and when I was single I wanted to do it too and it didn't mean anything bad, but it just brings up that sick feeling I had the day I found out what he'd done.
I feel like I'm a bit stuck when it comes to trusting, when it comes to sex, when it comes to relationships, and it's mostly because of my ex, but I don't seem to be making much progress moving past it. I want to change the way I think about these things. I want to do the right thing by the person I care about most in the world. I want to use this time alone to start to feel ok and not threatened by other people's sexual history, by my own lack of (whether this means I need to start sleeping around or not I have not quite worked out - I have a feeling that it makes me feel like I am not as attractive or something, but maybe it would be good for me to experience it to get comfortable with the idea and realise that it's just something to do), basically I want to take this time out to get myself emotionally unstuck in this area so that when I am ready for a relationship, hopefully with this guy, if he is available at the time, I feel comfortable to ask for what I want, to ask him to be exclusive, to be open and affectionate and all that without being afraid that it's all a big trick and that I'm making a fool of myself.
I'm really sad that the timing is so bad for us - we get on really well, we accept eachother as we are, we know eachother really well, we both care about eachother SO much - but because of my issues I'm just not ready and as much as I keep trying right now I just can't love him in the way he deserves to be loved.
I guess the crux of the issue was that if I wasn't so scared that I was going to get hurt or made a fool of, I could just love him and it would be fine, but as much as I try to make myself I just can't "let go" and I always start to feel myself switching off from him and becoming disinterested as a defence mechanism. I tend to avoid my feelings a lot of the time (hence the anorexia) but am working on this - but in this case I'm TERRIFIED to admit just how much I feel for him as I'm STILL afraid that I might be making an idiot of myself. I am extra terrified to ask him if he was sleeping with other girls while we were together - if he wasn't it would help me a lot but if he was, well, it's my own fault for not asking him not to but it will gut me in a way I don't think I'm ready to handle.
Am I making the right decision to take time apart or am I just running away again? What should I do now? Is there something I'm missing?
Sorry this is so long and all over the place - but any insights you can give me into any of it will be most appreciated. Throwaway email email@example.com