Should I leave this relationship or is there hope?
September 11, 2011 5:17 AM   Subscribe

Should I stay in this relationship? Over the course of the past year and a half, I have repeatedly (approximately 5-6 times) discovered that the person I hope to spend my life with has kept information from me. I just don't know that it will ever get better, and am so much in need of an objective set of eyes, please.

I began a relationship with a man who I adore. With a failed relationship in my past (and his, too), I attended therapy, have asked some tough questions of myself, and vowed that he is the one I want to spend the rest of my life with (we are both approximately 40). I have remained steadfast in my vow to be honest with him in all things--each day I remind myself how lucky I am and how much this relationship means. And that I must always be the best person I can be for him. I don't know if I can stress enough how much change I have experienced to get answers to my role in my past relationship so that I never make the same mistake with him.

That said, this man is not perfect--who is? But I am so crazy about him, and I am excited and grateful to have found this human who makes me smile at the thought of him.

There have been disagreements between us, again, no relationship is without those. But from the beginning he has always been defensive and has assumed the worst of me. I thought initially that it was due to his past relationship or the abuse he experienced as a child. I made it my priority to be 100% reliable and steadfast with him so that he would see that he can always count on me and that my deepest wish is to be his partner and uplift him.

I have found out, as I said earlier, at different times in the past year and a half, that he has made a large purchase without sharing it with me (we live together), he has told a mutual friend that she's "hot" (something he did in an e-mail he didn't realize also came to me, and recently I learned that a friend he had in high school has been emailing regularly, with him returning the emails. In fact, we just moved across the country together, and I learned that he called her on the way. This is not information he shared, neither is it information I sought out. During the course of events, the information has just come up--often other people mentioning it to me, with me being completely ignorant about it.

I have never been a jealous person. I guess because I've always been monogamous and honest in relationships, I assumed the same of my partner. I have male friends, and I've always been sure to mention to my partner when I've had communication with them because I never want him feeling uncertain of his place in my life, or wondering anything negative. I've always been clear to everyone that I have a wonderful person in my life. And I know he has female friends. He communicates with them as well. It's the fact that he's had frequent contact with this person that he has chosen not to share with me (when he does share other communications) that causes me to wonder, is it time for me to be honest about this relationship.

Please know that I want this to work more than anything I have ever wanted. I moved across the country, took a new job, just to begin a new life with him. I am willing to hear harsh things about myself if you have such things to say, if it will help.

I am so grateful for any help you can give me; I just don't know what to do, and I don't have anyone I can ask.
posted by lucy40 to Human Relations (32 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Congratulations on all the hard work you've done on yourself. Now you need to realize that you can't change anyone else, including him. By your own words he has behaved this way "from the beginning." That means it's who he is.

The fact that you want to work on it is meaningless, I'm afraid, unless he wants to work on it, too. If yes, then go for it, and if he really means it then maybe things will change. If he doesn't want to work on it, or just says he does to get you off his back, then you're going to waste a lot of time in a bad relationship.

Maybe you feel like you have the time to lose. Maybe you feel like it's time for you to move along. But don't spend another second imagining how all your love, adoration, honesty, etc etc is going to change him.
posted by BlahLaLa at 5:34 AM on September 11, 2011 [13 favorites]


Yeah, the most innocent interpretation is that he withholds information in order to keep the upper hand. None of the patterns of withholding (including selectively hiding that he's been emailing a female friend) suggest that he has good intentions.

I would wonder whether the "hot" email was actually meant to get back to you and sow seeds of doubt in your mind and keep you off balance, rather than to engage in actual cheating.

Either way, this behaviour smells and based on my experience I would be backing away from him now, rather than trying to work things out.
posted by tel3path at 5:36 AM on September 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


I had written something longer but it boils down to this: your little inner voice is telling you something is wrong with this relationship.

You need to sit down, talk with this guy about your expectations for honesty (his secretive purchase, his ongoing communication with other women) and see if he's understanding of your concerns or dismissive.

Then you'll have a better idea if you need to move on or if there were simple communication problems.
posted by kinetic at 5:39 AM on September 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


In a context where he's flirting with someone else, you need to know what that means to him, and why he didn't share the fact he was doing it with you. Otherwise you're lost in a world of speculation and not knowing whether you've got legitimate concerns or not.

The only way to get that knowledge is to ask him. Then be as cool and level headed about judging the sincerity of his response as you can. If it seems at all evasive or dishonest, I'd say it's a bad sign. On the other hand, if he's honest and open about it, and his concern was (eg) he was afraid of upsetting you while maintaining a friendship with an old friend, he might yet turn out to be a keeper.

But we're not the people to ask. You need to talk to him. Calmly, directly, and assertively. Good luck.
posted by Ahab at 5:39 AM on September 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't have anyone I can ask.

Yes, you do. You ask him.

The thing is, while some of what you have discovered could and maybe should set off alarms, you first have to know if he was being consciously deceptive. Are these all subjects that the two of you have agreed should always be discussed (big purchases) or disclosed (contact with female friends)?

If you have agreed to a shared budget, then of course big purchases should be discussed.
If you have agreed to "allow" one another to have friends, then no, emails/calls/contact/compliments need not be disclosed.

But this hinges on what the ground rules are for your relationship. If you haven't discussed any of this with him (prior to moving together/moving in together!), do so now. You cannot assume anything, you have to be explicit. Neither of you can read minds, both of you come from different backgrounds and have differing individual ground rules. You have to set your Couple Ground Rules together.

Personally, I would be much more leery of your statement: "But from the beginning he has always been defensive and has assumed the worst of me."
posted by likeso at 5:45 AM on September 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


On not-preview, Ahab and I seem to be on very similar pages.
posted by likeso at 5:47 AM on September 11, 2011


when i think about a healthy relationship, i think of one that is balanced and consists of give-and-take from both your side and the other person's side. this relationship is truly unbalanced, and i know that it can be difficult ending a relationship when you still like the person, but answer this: how can you be with a person that consistently keeps information from you? by the sounds of it, you have worked through a lot of things that affected your life from a previous relationship which is great; however, staying with someone like this will only result in unhappiness and will be counter-intuitive for all of the work that you have done in order to better yourself and your life. i would leave now before the situation escalates and your unhappiness becomes even greater. a SO can be hard to find, but it's not truly worth it being with someone if you don't like the person and the love, respect, and honesty aren't mutual.

sometimes, you can't spend the rest of your life with someone, and sometimes, that is the best option even though leaving is the most difficult option. you are working on yourself and you deserve to be with someone that respects you, is honest with you, likes you, and loves you.
posted by sincerely-s at 5:49 AM on September 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Re: the large purchase - it's difficult to offer advice on this without knowing how you both stand regarding finances in your household. For example, have you agreed that once bills are paid the remainder of your income is your own to spend as you wish? Are you supposed to be saving for a house together? Paying off debts? Saving for a blowout holiday? If the former; the bills are paid etc., then it's really up to the individual unless it has ongoing implications past the inital outlay (e.g. a Maserati which costs a hundred dollars a month to insure, or it's on HP)

On preview, what likeso said.

The female friend - as Ahab says, you really need to talk to him about it. You are like me - every facet of your life is open to your partner because it's the way YOU would like to be treated and you have nothing to hide. If your partner doesn't reciprocate then you suspect something is off. It drives you mad!

Tell him how you feel. Can you meet these women? It will definitely put your mind at ease.
posted by veebs at 5:58 AM on September 11, 2011


If an old female friend of mine got in touch, I might reply, I might not, I might mention it to my partner, I might not. Pretty much the same would apply if a male field of mine got in touch. My behaviour either way would not indicate I wanted to fuck either of them. He emailed and then talked to someone on the phone and then didn't confess? Perhaps because there was nothing to confess to.

Has he agreed to live in the panopticon model of life you subscribe to? Does he realise the depth of the daily truth sessions that you require?
posted by biffa at 6:15 AM on September 11, 2011 [22 favorites]


I thought initially that it was due to his past relationship or the abuse he experienced as a child. I made it my priority to be 100% reliable and steadfast with him so that he would see that he can always count on me and that my deepest wish is to be his partner and uplift him.

You mention that you've been to therapy, but has he? Especially to deal with his experiences of abuse? Your efforts to show him that you're a good, honest partner he can trust unconditionally are totally rational, but being abused may mean that his mind rationalizes trust and honesty in different ways, such that no matter how trustworthy you've shown yourself to be he'll still have an impulse to protect himself and never lose the upper hand. Are you sure that he's dealt with his own issues as fully as you've dealt with your own, and that he's as ready as you are to be in an honest, genuinely trusting relationship?
posted by amy lecteur at 6:16 AM on September 11, 2011


and vowed that he is the one I want to spend the rest of my life with/ my deepest wish is to be his partner and uplift him.


It sounds to me like you really want to be in a committed relationship and that you've decided that he's the person you're going to partner up with. But you don't sound all that compatible in some pretty key areas, to me, and you definitely don't sound happy. Did you make that vow about spending the rest of your life to him or just to yourself? Does he know about that? This is usually a decision that a couple makes together.

He is who he is. He's not going to change unless he wants to. It doesn't matter how much you want change. You can either accept him as he is, or break up and find someone who treats you the way you treat them.

And, you don't have to make this work. The fact that you moved with him and changed jobs .. well, yes, you've invested a lot, but if this relationship isn't making you happy or giving you what you want and need, then you should end it. Don't let the move and the job cloud your decision. Really, it comes down to either continuing on as is, or standing up for yourself and being true to yourself. Don't let your age factor into this; he's not your last chance at a life partner. Maybe all the therapy and work you've done has led you to ask this question, because you know you're not happy.

It is not your job to "uplift" him. All you can do is be the best possible you. That's what you have to offer. And you deserve someone who thinks you're fabulous, beautiful, awesome and unique, and who shares your values. And then the two of you, maybe, will vow to spend the rest of your lives together. When it feels right, there is no need to ask internet strangers what you should do.

You're smart and you're stronger than you think. Wishing you all the best.
posted by Kangaroo at 6:52 AM on September 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


But from the beginning he has always been defensive and has assumed the worst of me

It sounds like you're doing the same of of him. From the little information you've given, there's nothing inherently wrong with anything he's done. It seems like you have fundamentally different relationship styles - whether you can make it work, we can't say - have you discussed your requirements with him?

It sounds like you have huge trust issues. Honesty doesn't mean having to tell your partner every banal detail of your day. He emailed a friend from high school and didn't mention it ... yeah and? I really don't see the big deal there, I sometimes hear from and respond to old friends, even an ex and I don't tell my bf about it because there's nothing to tell and he wouldn't be even remotely interested. There are also lots of far more interesting things that I don't tell him either - because I forget.

Calling a mutual friend hot - depends on context, there's nothing wrong with a guy giving a female friend an ego boost. Do you know for sure he didn't know that you would get the email too? Do you expect him to not find any other women attractive or just not tell them?

Again, the large purchase depends on the circumstances, what did he buy? When you say he didn't share it with you, do you mean he didn't discuss it with you before making the purchase, bought it secretly and hid it from you or bought it but kept it for himself (ie literally didn't share it). Your financial circumstances are also relevant, did he buy it with his money or shared money? Does he earn significantly more than you?

There is a difference between intentional deception/being economical with the truth and failure to mention details that seem insignificant/unimportant. If you require complete disclosure of everything then you need to make that clear to him and let him decide whether that's something he can live with.
posted by missmagenta at 7:17 AM on September 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


So, when you found out about the purchase or the comment about the friend or the contact with the other friend, what did you say to him?

I think Biffa's "daily truth sessions" characterization is harsh, but there's merit in asking you whether you and he have shared your expectations with each other regarding this kind of thing. Not all couples are super careful about telling each other about expensive purchases--or some might differ on what they consider expensive. Likewise, not all couples share a lot about who they socialize with, and not all couples have the same expectation as you regarding compliments or flirting.

I'm not saying that your feelings or preferences are invalid. I'm just saying that they're not universal. If you haven't, I think you need to sit down with him and talk about what you want. "I don't want to 'supervise' your friendships with women, but I would like to know about them. I feel [left out/awkward/sad/whatever] when I find out about someone you've been in frequent contact with who I had no idea existed."--something like that.

If he's not open to discussing those expectations and sharing his own, then I suggest couples counseling so that you can have a neutral third party mediate, and if he's not open to that, I suggest you consider whether you're both committed to making the relationship work.
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:36 AM on September 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Personally, I would be much more leery of your statement: "But from the beginning he has always been defensive and has assumed the worst of me."
posted by likeso at 5:45 AM on September 11 [1 favorite +] [!]


I cannot agree with this sentiment more. While you phrase it as almost a throwaway comment, it struck me as the problem more than your description of anything else he has done "wrong". People who love you fully will always assume that your motivations are from the best in you, not the worst. Coupled with defensiveness, it is really toxic.

I have had quite a bit of experience with defensive people who would also assume the worst in me and it is soul killing. When I have had to deal with this, I ended up in a destructive spiral of trying to prove how kind, generous, caring, etc. I was and in the process, I compromised my beliefs and sound decision-making. What I discovered is that those who assumed the worst in me choose to do so to manipulate me into getting what they wanted.

I am not sure how this might apply in your current relationship, but I think it is worth looking at. You seem kind and generous and caring in your post and I would hate for you to be bending over backwards to prove yourself worthy to someone who should already know it.
posted by murrey at 7:36 AM on September 11, 2011 [26 favorites]


"But from the beginning he has always been defensive and has assumed the worst of me."

Why would you want to be with a partner that's making you pay for other people's mistakes? If his exes jerked him around, that's got nothing to do with you - but why are you so eager to win him over when he's not doing the same for you?

In my experience, people who expect you to hew to a different standard than they themselves are willing to conform to don't make good partners. They're good at pushing nice people away until they can blame the collapse of the relationship on them instead of taking the blame themselves, though.

Sounds like you're so wrapped up in taking 100% of the responsibility for making this relationship work that you've already sacrificed everything else that could have swayed you from doing so - and I think that's a terrible mistake. He's not as invested as you are.

They say that the one who loves less controls the relationship; are you OK with him being in control? Or would you rather be in love with someone who loves you in the same way you love him?
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 7:58 AM on September 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


You are being the love you wish to have - bravo!!!

Doesn't seem like he's doing the same for you.

I am willing to hear harsh things about myself

er, NO. This is not your fault. Quit taking the fault while putting him on a pedestal.

No offense but it just seems like he's treating you badly while you're trying to convince yourself that you deserve such poor treatment. You don't. You're going above and beyond here, and he's.... not.
posted by Neekee at 8:00 AM on September 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I began a relationship with a man who I adore. With a failed relationship in my past (and his, too), I attended therapy, have asked some tough questions of myself, and vowed that he is the one I want to spend the rest of my life with (we are both approximately 40). I have remained steadfast in my vow to be honest with him in all things--each day I remind myself how lucky I am and how much this relationship means. And that I must always be the best person I can be for him. I don't know if I can stress enough how much change I have experienced to get answers to my role in my past relationship so that I never make the same mistake with him.

So, a couple things.

"A" failed relationship? Just one? Does this mean you've had one relationship, or that you've had a bunch, but there's just the one you regard as "failed"? If the latter, why is that one the one that gets tagged as a failure? If the former....well, like anything else, navigating relationships (romantic, platonic, etc.) successfully is largely a thing of experience.

I don't know if I can stress enough how much change I have experienced to get answers to my role in my past relationship so that I never make the same mistake with him.

You're putting an awful lot of weight on yourself here. Most people make a lot of mistakes in relationships, again and again; while they may not repeat exactly the same mistake every time, the repeated mistakes are often in the same category (e.g. communication), though they may be of greater or lesser degrees.

And I guess I lied, because this is the third thing, which is more than "a couple": Why have you vowed that he is the one? Is it because he is awesome and makes you feel awesome, or is it because you really really want to spend the rest of your life with someone?

One last thing: like a lot of other folks here, the fact that from the beginning he assumed the worst of you raises a lot of flags for me.
posted by rtha at 8:53 AM on September 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I sent you a memail.
posted by foxhat10 at 9:00 AM on September 11, 2011


Sometimes I get hung up on wording, but reading the way you've worded your post makes me sad.

I have remained steadfast in my vow to be honest with him in all things--each day I remind myself how lucky I am and how much this relationship means. And that I must always be the best person I can be for him.

I made it my priority to be 100% reliable and steadfast with him so that he would see that he can always count on me and that my deepest wish is to be his partner and uplift him.


These statements sound like obligations more than desires. They sort of sound like you're primarily taking on these obligations to demonstrate your integrity, to him and to yourself, moreso than because you love him and you want to do these things.

It would be less unnerving to read "I want to be 100% reliable and steadfast." Just that. Because you love them and you want to be there for them. It would be less unnerving to read "I want to always be the best person I can" rather than "I must" - again, because you love them and they, in turn, make you want to be a better person.

You don't use the word love, at all, in your post.
posted by nakedmolerats at 9:13 AM on September 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


first of all, everyone has a string of failed relationships behind them until they don't. That's how relationships work. You absolutely positively immediately need to stop branding yourself as someone who fails at relationships.

Second of all, different relationships roll different ways. Lots and lots of people here will tell you "If he didn't mention X, that's bad, and he's hiding things from you and you are DOOMED to a life with a lying bastard." Well whatever. People draw different boundaries in their relationships regarding privacy. I mean, I'm vaguely aware my husband is in touch with people from school and uni through Facebook. I have never asked him who these people are, nor do I know how far these conversations extend. That's down to two factors: 1) I don't think it's any of my business, and 2) However far it has extended, I trust absolutely that it has never extended somewhere that would make me sad.

So, you know, the way our relationship works is that with enormous trust comes enormous responsibility. I'd be fine with what you describe because I am both that confident in my relationship and that trusting of my spouse. (There's also a self-confidence thing - I'm pretty awesome really, so if he fucks this up he's a fucking fool.)

As to the "she's hot" thing, well, so what? I mean, is she? Again, that wouldn't bother me. The world is literally filled with smokin' hot women and I don't think my spouse put on blinders when he married me. Nor did I, for that matter. I have never understood the point of pretending otherwise but at the same time I understand that in a lot of relationships, that's not something either partner ever wants to hear.

The point is that we are both comfortable with the level of privacy and disclosure at which we operate. We are well matched this way. Other people will have different boundaries, but the boundaries have got to match. If the don't match, you have to negotiate them, and if you can't negotiate them, you have to split.

Having said all of that, if hot girl is also the woman he's emailing, I'd consider asking to see the emails if the little voice in my head was really telling me something is off. To me, this would signal a breakdown in trust and regardless of what was in them, my next stop would be to put our mutual asses into therapy.

Which is more or less where I think you should both be, anyway.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:15 AM on September 11, 2011 [10 favorites]


Curious. I read this as him selectively hiding only a few interactions with other people when he habitually mentions others to you; and that the few interactions he's been hiding had other suspicious elements. I didn't infer from this that you want to keep him in a "panopticon" but that you had spotted a pattern which made you suspicious. Is that the case?

What was the level of privacy/disclosure in previous relationships? Did you have a policy of full disclosure and are you assuming that all relationships are/should have that level of disclosure? Or are these things that make you suspicious, things that you would consider innocuous if other elements of the pattern weren't present?

You say he's always assumed the worst of you from the beginning. What would he assume about you if you were making large purchases and not mentioning them, and how does he react when he finds out you have interacted with someone and not mentioned it to him? What would he assume about you? If he'd assume you were a cheating cheater, then I think it probably is fair to have the suspicions that you have.
posted by tel3path at 9:26 AM on September 11, 2011


I am so crazy about him, and I am excited and grateful to have found this human who makes me smile at the thought of him.... But from the beginning he has always been defensive and has assumed the worst of me.

You obviously like him a lot. It would help to have some examples of his defensiveness and "assuming the worst" about you ... do you mean he assumes you might cheat on him? Assumes you lie about things? Something else?

he has made a large purchase without sharing it with me (we live together)

If you are sharing expenses and he's reliably paying his fair share of them, why do you expect to be privy to every purchase he makes? Perhaps he is afraid you would think he is extravagant. Perhaps he is embarrassed to have you know he is "spoiling himself." And details and context matter -- was it a $10,000 suit? Was it a car? A condo? Was it an expensive life insurance policy? A Rolex watch? Why should he have shared it with you? If he is paying his fair share of the bills, failing to tell you about a large purchase does not have to be a big deal. Why do you think it is? Why assume the worst?

he has told a mutual friend that she's "hot" (something he did in an e-mail he didn't realize also came to me

Again, details and context matter. Was your friend lamenting that she's ugly and no guy will ever want her, and your boyfriend said "Don't worry, you're hot, guys will definitely want to date you"? Or did your boyfriend write her and say, "Hey cutie, just wanted to write and tell you how hot you are." Those things are totally different, with totally different implications for your relationship and level of trust. Which sort of thing was it?

recently I learned that a friend he had in high school has been emailing regularly, with him returning the emails.

You said that you both have opposite sex friends, and that you would tell him about your contacts with male friends so he's never unsure of his place in your life. Is it possible that his emailing with the high school friend is totally innocent and he's not quite as fussy as you about disclosing every opposite-sex-friend-contact that he has? Do you have ANY reason, other than the fact that she's a woman and he didn't tell you about the e-mails/phone call, to be concerned about his relationship with her?

I've always been clear to everyone that I have a wonderful person in my life.

Do you have any reason to believe he has NOT been clear to everyone about you being a wonderful person in his life?

What strilkes me about your question, and your complaints about him, is that YOU seem to be assuming the worst about him. Why do you not give him the benefit of the doubt about these things?

The tone of your question is very careful and methodical, bordering on fussy in your expectations of him, and it makes me wonder whether some of your expectations feel suffocating to him. Sometimes it's a bit much to expect someone to sit down with you and formally disclose every contact they've had with an opposite sex friend. Sometimes, for various reasons, it's embarrassing to reveal every way that we splurge in purchasing something, perhaps because you have different expectations about how money should be spent.

Nothing you've described sounds like a deal-breaker, not does it sound (without more details) like he's necessarily done ANYTHING wrong or inappropriate.
posted by jayder at 9:34 AM on September 11, 2011 [9 favorites]


Realistically, every time I had an "off" sense about something small it was not something small.

Defensive people are very difficult to communicate with and generally unpleasant when things go bad.

I don't know what to tell you because in a similar relationship I would probably keep going with it...but I also think staying would be a risky decision likely to lead to heartache.

Good luck.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:50 AM on September 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


a man who I adore
vowed he is the one I want to spend the rest of my life with
each day I remind myself how lucky I am and how much this relationship means
I must always be the best person I can be for him
I am so crazy about him
my deepest wish is to be his partner and uplift him
made it my priority to be 100% reliable and steadfast with him
I want this to work more than anything I have ever wanted
I am willing to hear harsh things about myself [...] if it will help


These jumped out at me from your post.
You seem to be very, very invested in this relationship. What is unclear to me, is what this relationship is really like. From your description, it could be either
A. you're with a decent guy who treats you well but your low self-esteem causes you to question things; or
B. you're with a jerk whom you're bending over backwards to please

Either way, it seems like you're in denial regarding your own desires. Your deepest wish is to uplift him? Come on. Are you open with him regarding your needs? Are you getting what you need from him? Are you even comfortable asking him for what you want? Do you feel safe talking to him about your insecurities with r/t his female friends?
Do you think it's wrong to be jealous?

Also...
is it time for me to be honest about this relationship

sounds you haven't been open with him about things that bother you
If a thing really bothers me, and I don't talk about it, it's usually because
- I do not feel secure in the relationship
- I am afraid of 'rocking the boat'
- the other person has dismissed my concerns in the past
- I am afraid that my concerns are unreasonable and I should get over myself
Does any of these apply to your situation?

I wish you all the best.
posted by M. at 10:32 AM on September 11, 2011 [9 favorites]


You don't trust him. You say he doesn't trust you. Either get into couple's therapy and work to establish mutual boundaries and trust (may be a long shot), or leave if the current situation is untenable for you.
posted by txmon at 10:35 AM on September 11, 2011


Get into relationship counseling with him. It will help you see things far more clearly and he will learn how his behavior is not meeting your needs.
posted by 200burritos at 11:10 AM on September 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are you dating my ex? I swear to god, my ex did all of this the four years we were together, but also included lying about going to the library to study and then blowing 1k at the casinos...

I thought I was being the cool, non-needy girlfriend, but he was a lying piece of work. I never realized how truly self centered he was until I met my husband and learned that guys can be decent human beings.
posted by Yuki_other at 11:15 AM on September 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can really understand feeling insecure and betrayed by discovering consistent ongoing contact with another woman right when you were making life-changing decisions to be with him. I really feel for you on that. 

At the same time, you seem to be putting a lot of pressure on yourself here. You seem to have over the top standards for yourself and a need to prove something to yourself via this relationship (that you are good or right or trying hard enough). You seem to live in a world of harsh judgment, and it seems to lead you to take the looooong way around to solving your problems here, and also to be less generous and more critical towards him than I think you would want to be. 

You deserve a good relationship. You are who you are, and you are good enough already. He's a very different person. He has his own way of being, which is also good enough, though it may or may not be a good fit for you. What you want is okay. You can just ask for it. You need to get to a place where you feel secure enough to ask for what you want without judging him.

Here's where I'm coming from in your post:

I began a relationship with a man who I adore. With a failed relationship in my past (and his, too), I attended therapy, have asked some tough questions of myself, and vowed that he is the one I want to spend the rest of my life with (we are both approximately 40). I have remained steadfast in my vow to be honest with him in all things--each day I remind myself how lucky I am and how much this relationship means. And that I must always be the best person I can be for him. I don't know if I can stress enough how much change I have experienced to get answers to my role in my past relationship so that I never make the same mistake with him.

What jumps out at me: the past "failure," the almost-desperate determination to prove (to us, to yourself) that you won't do that again, and that you are forcing yourself to never waver in your feelings and devotion to him. The desperation seems like it must be a direct response to having been harshly judged (by yourself? by others?), so I feel sorry for whatever caused you to think you have to defend yourself like that. The side effect is that it kinda sounds like you're bragging about what a good person you are. 

That said, this man is not perfect--who is? But I am so crazy about him, and I am excited and grateful to have found this human who makes me smile at the thought of him. 

There have been disagreements between us, again, no relationship is without those. But from the beginning he has always been defensive and has assumed the worst of me.-- 


*brake wheels screeching* He has never given you the benefit of the doubt? Then why are you with him? Something really doesn't add up.

You are not painting him in a good light here. From the minute he appears on the scene, he: has a failed relationship; he is not perfect (who is?); and has always been defensive and assumed the worst of you. All the good things you say about him seem to be testaments to your own hard-earned devotedness, and all the things you say about him himself are bad. You contrast his behavior to yours negatively. If I were him and you were saying ""*I* always try to be a good partner, but from the beginning [s]he has..." about me, I would feel angry. 

It comes across as you trying to portray yourself as the long-suffering person who is being misunderstood and mistreated by someone who is not as honorable as you are. Is that how you really see it? If so, then drop all this disingenuous padding about how lucky you are, address what isn't working, and if that doesn't work, move on. OR, if you really are happy, then examine why you are portraying the situation this way here. Either way, let yourself relax and feel how you actually feel, want what you actually want, ask for it (using nonviolent communication), and then either get it or move on. That might require first making peace with the past, so you don't have to prove so much to yourself via your behavior and the outcome of this relationship. 

I thought initially that it was due to his past relationship or the abuse he experienced as a child. I made it my priority to be 100% reliable and steadfast with him so that he would see that he can always count on me and that my deepest wish is to be his partner and uplift him.

You can't cure him. Even if you could be 120% reliable and steadfast, he may have residual hurt, anger, habits, etc., and these may influence how he treats you. Trying to change how he treats you by behaving 100% perfectly is the kind of thinking that leads people to tolerate abuse, by the way, so it's really important to stop assuming that there is any sort of direct cause-effect relationship there. (Also, on preview, +1 to M. for calling bullshit on this "deepest wish" line.)

I have found out, as I said earlier, at different times in the past year and a half, that he has made a large purchase without sharing it with me (we live together), he has told a mutual friend that she's "hot"... and recently I learned that a friend he had in high school has been emailing regularly, with him returning the emails.

As others have said, these might or might not be issues. But you can drop all this self-justification and move straight to asking him what's going on and/or stating that this is not something you're okay with. 

I have never been a jealous person. I guess because I've always been monogamous and honest in relationships, I assumed the same of my partner.

Ouch. A backhanded insult where you contrast yourself, someone who has always been HONEST, to your partner, *ahem*. If you're angry or see his behavior as dishonest, just say so directly.

I have male friends, and I've always been sure to mention to my partner when I've had communication with them because I never want him feeling uncertain of his place in my life, or wondering anything negative.

See above; you can't control how someone feels. Even if you do something 100.00% of the time, someone may still feel insecure more than 0.00% of the time. This always/never language is extreme, and though it seems considerate, it presumes a cause-effect control you do not have, and I believe it is fundamentally self-interested rather than selfless. I would not hold him to this behavioral standard. Frankly, I'm glad he doesn't act a certain way to cause you to feel a certain way (even a good way) because I don't want him thinking he can control how you feel. Sure, his behavior affects you, and we all should be considerate, but at a certain point, this line of thinking gets a bit controlling and manipulative.

...I know he has female friends. He communicates with them as well. It's the fact that he's had frequent contact with this person that he has chosen not to share with me (when he does share other communications) that causes me to wonder, is it time for me to be honest about this relationship. 

This was a great paragraph defining what makes you comfortable and uncomfortable, up until the end. YES IT IS ALWAYS TIME TO BE HONEST ABOUT THE RELATIONSHIP. Why would you not be honest?

Please know that I want this to work more than anything I have ever wanted. I moved across the country, took a new job, just to begin a new life with him. I am willing to hear harsh things about myself if you have such things to say, if it will help.

Wow, this is raw. Such pressure you're putting on yourself. Such high stakes. It makes you sound like a martyr if not outright masochistic. 

Good luck, and apologies for any ways I've misunderstood what you're trying to do. I know that you are coming from a place of good intentions. The more you are kind and compassionate to yourself, the more you stop having to defend against fears of not being good enough, and the more you honor your own wants and needs, the more you will be able to be compassionate to others when asking them if they would be willing to meet your needs and when directly addressing ways that they have thus far not done so.
posted by salvia at 12:33 PM on September 11, 2011 [11 favorites]


"But from the beginning he has always been defensive and has assumed the worst of me."

Often one of the traits of cheaters and users is to adopt an accusatory and defensive stance from the beginning. The setup is that you're somehow at fault to begin with, and thus, if caught out, his actions are then excusable.
posted by BlueHorse at 2:43 PM on September 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Everything is a little too vague to read into here (his defensiveness, his purchase, his old friends, etc). We don't know the specifics. But then I don't think we really need to.

The problem I can see is that he fails to communicate in the fashion you would like. So - you either continue to be in a relationship with him and join all the other people who are in relationships with people who don't communicate with them in the way they need, or you break up and find someone who is more in tune with you communication-wise. A rarer situation occurs when both people try to find some kind of middle ground, but you've both got to want to do it.

Take this as an opportunity to know what you need in your relationships and see whether you feel like working it through with this guy or find someone else more in tune with your communication style.
posted by mleigh at 12:49 AM on September 12, 2011


With a failed relationship in my past (and his, too), I attended therapy, have asked some tough questions of myself, and vowed that he is the one I want to spend the rest of my life with (we are both approximately 40).

AND

But from the beginning he has always been defensive and has assumed the worst of me.

So from the beginning he has systematically treated you in a way you don't like, but at the same time you have vowed that you want to spend the rest of your life with him. It sounds like you are desperate to find someone to spend the rest of your life with.

This is life. When you desperately want something from someone else, they have power over you. People can be bastards when they have power over other people; you have probably done this. This guy probably knows that he can be a bit of a bastard to you, because of the balance of power in the relationship. You need to either decide you're okay with this, or find a way to have relationships where you are not at a serious disadvantage.
posted by grobstein at 9:16 AM on September 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Please, please forgive my belated response to your generous replies; I did not see them before this moment. I am going to read and consider all of your responses and then reply, but I wanted to tell you all as soon as I was able thank you and explain my tardiness.
posted by lucy40 at 7:49 PM on September 17, 2011


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