Am I in the wrong relationship or am I expecting too much perfection?
posted by anonymous to human relations (35 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
THis is going to be long so my apologies. I'm having trouble discriminating between when it's time to end a relationship and when it's time to push on through. I'm a 26 year old female. Ideally, in the future, I'd like to settle down with one partner, have a family, and remain committed to each other. I've been known to be idealistic, but I think that a lasting partnership is possible if expectations aren't too high and if both parties are willing to work on their problems and accept imperfections.
That being said, the general consensus on metafilter seems all too often to be DTMFA. There's always a chorus of responses telling the asker that they can do better, that there will always be other people, etc. When is it time to settle, even if your mate isn't perfect for you (will anyone ever be)?
I'm in an eight month relationship and am at a crossroads concerning our future. I really love this woman, but we've had problems since the beginning, some small but annoying and some major and intimidating. I will outline most of them here. I've expressed doubt about our compatibility and whether or not we should continue, she responds that I'm being unrealistic about what a relationship is really like, and that everyone will have problems they have to work through. Sometimes I think she's clinging to this because she's getting older and wants to settle down, but I always wonder if she's right and I'm just expecting things to be too perfect. Here's some of the worst problems:
1. We fight a lot. I've always been a pretty conflict-avoidant person, and this has worked well for me most of my life. The conflict that I do have is usually subdued and teary, not explosive and angry. My girlfriend has had the opposite throughout her life, and I feel that being with her I'm becoming more and more explosive and angry, which I really don't like. I think that this is partly because in order to stay even or feel heard with her during conflicts I feel like I have to rise to her level (although we have talked about it and she's worked really hard on being more calm during conflicts...to the point where she doesn't yell at all, etc), and partly because the way she fights infuriates me and our fights seem to spiral out of control. She takes everything extremely personally, reads into things and makes conclusions that are completely out there, and pathologizes everything I say/do/etc.
2. She's much older than me. By ten years. We both want children, but I want to have a career first, which will be at least another 6 years of school. Her biological clock is ticking and she wants to bear a child in the next few years. Although we have similar ideas about wanting a family, I feel like I'm much more ambitious career wise. She's in her mid thirties and hasn't really started pursuing any one path. She's committed to music and that's going well, but doesn't make any kind of income from it. She works part time but has trouble even doing that. I hate being concerned about money but I am. She also has a lot of debt. It would be okay if I wanted to take on a provider role, but I've always wanted to be a stay at home mom, or at least a 'stay at home with the kids I birth' mom. I'd like a partner with whom I can take turns taking time off work and not have our budget fluctuate like crazy. I don't want to be the primary provider, I want it to be more equal.
3. I feel like she pathologizes everyone a lot. Mostly herself, but her friends and family and me too. She's diagnosed herself with clinical depression, GAD, PTSD, and fibromyalgia. While I believe that she's been through some terrible experiences and does experience pain, I'm not sure that all of her self diagnoses are completely correct. I've never brought this up with her because she's had trouble with her family accepting them, even a doctor who told her she was 'victimizing herself'. The sad truth is I almost agree with the doctor...she does often assume a really strong victim mentality that is hard for me to deal with sometimes. In addition, she diagnoses her family "my mom is crazy...i think she has ptsd" and makes me feel like I'm more fcked up than I ever thought I was (I have depression and anxiety, which are treated and under control). She also criticizes her mom for things that I feel like she's doesn't notice herself doing "my mom uses her health for attention...she whines about the smallest things...her ankle's not really that bad she just wants pity and attention". It's hard for me to hear her says these things because I feel like she does it too but could never say this to her because it's such a sensitive topic, and I think it would upset her too much that I was negating the truth or severity of her pain, etc.
4. I have the urge to flee during fights. Recently whenever I say I need to go (calm down, be away from her for a while) she can't handle it and says that she feels like she's going to self harm, and like she feels suicidal. So I end up staying, resentfully. She went through a medication change recently and so I attributed her decreased ability to cope to that, but I still felt like it was manipulative (I had an ex who threatened suicide every time I tried to break up with him...it was an awful experience and worked to keep me with him much longer than I wanted to be). I also feel like I can't handle the depth and severity of her problems sometimes. That at 34 she still gets the urge to self harm. I called a suicide helpline and bawled and bawled as I told them about it, and hadn't realized how deeply it was affecting me until then.
5. This seems like a minor problem, but it's become a major one. She is always late. Always. Whether it be to a date, to work, to a jam, to whatever. She just cannot get out the door on time. She's managed to find jobs (nannying, receptionist) that don't seem to mind her flaky schedule (or so she says...I'm wondering if they're just not saying anything). She has a job right now that I'd like her to keep because it's near my house, but she just seems to show up whenever she feels like it, and takes so many 'sick' days (where she feels queasy or something, often I feel like I would still go to work for the things she's taking the day off for). Lately whenever she's late for meeting me I've been getting unreasonable angry, and she says she feels scared of me because I seem out of control. I know I'm overreacting, too. It just seems like she apologizes every time, and then never makes much of an effort to get out the door earlier. She says this is who she is, she's been like it her whole life, and I should try to be more understanding. It seems self indulgent to me.
5. I'm not without my problems. I have depression and anxiety that are exacerbated by stress, and put too much pressure on myself concerning school, which leads to minor panic attacks sometimes. I am moody and can be grumpy and know that I sometimes take it out on others. I'm idealistic and sometimes expect too much from both myself and others. I often freeze in the face of stress and end up spending a couple of days in bed rather than doing what I have to do. Sometimes I'm confident and sometimes I wonder how anyone could ever love me or want to be with me. I'm kind of awkward.
6. She's got a lot of great things about her. She's independent, a fabulous a dedicated musician, an amazing communicator, deeply committed to me, funny and sweet, beautiful, understanding and empathetic, honest and earnest. We're pretty sexually compatible but there's been a pretty long lull for the past while.
When it's good it's good, but it feels like it's too often bad. We're in couple's counseling and while it does help, I often feel like it's not worth it. We are also both in individual counseling. I've talked to her about a lot of these issues and not at all about others. I worry that if we broke up I would regret it, or wouldn't find anyone that quite compared to her. Anyone as faithful and honest and compassionate.
Some outsider insight would really be helpful to me right now. It seems like a lot of real life people I talk to think we should break up, but this is the first time I've really layed out all of our major issues (according to me, I'm sure her version would be different). I wish she could post her version as well so that you'd have a more complete picture but I guess I'd like to know your opinions based on my experience of this relationship.