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Am I subconsciously trying to destroy my LTR?
March 28, 2012 10:40 AM   Subscribe

Am I subconsciously trying to destroy my LTR? (Long)

The other day, after installing some new security measures in our home, and in the moment of trying to do too many things at once, I unwittingly left our front door unlocked when I left. Neither me nor my girlfriend were home for 3-5 hours during this time, just our pets (hers). Luckily, nothing happened! She discovered the unlocked door when she arrived home late in the afternoon and is devastated that this occurred - the main concern being if anything bad happened to the pets it would be really, really, really, REALLY BAD. As in she 'would have nothing to live for' bad. These pets she has raised for the last ~15 years, they are like her children. I'm feeling like a complete idiot, ashamed, horrified at my actions, beside myself with grief, angry at myself, extremely depressed, you name it. Her heart is broken....it's not the first time I've broken it. She has lost her trust in me. This is all so sad :( Why am I doing this????????

I need help trying to figure out if this is some sort of pattern that has been repeating itself for the last 5+ years, which is how long we have been in a relationship. Things will be fairly normal or good between us, then something will happen or mostly I will do something that is totally WRONG/stupid and it sets our relationship back. We'll make up and then eventually something else totally avoidable will take place, rinse, repeat. It's like I let my guard down or get complacent, and my lack of awareness/sensitivity is a big part of the problem.

I admit that at first, my emotional maturity was completely outmatched, and I didn't realize how ill prepared I was for this relationship until a little later. I had lied about things that didn't need to be lied about, i.e. I wasn't forthright, I cheated emotionally, said hurtful/insensitive things, I was not supportive during critical times, I was two-faced, acted aloof, not invested, even cold. Suffice to say I am a grade-A asshole. I have some pretty thick walls that were built up over the years since elementary school, and to these walls I attribute my general closed-off attitude and tendency to push others away... *which I fear might be happening here, either subconsciously or passively.* The reason I say 'subconsciously' is that over the past week, I have felt more positive about things between us, that I was seeing the forest for the trees, I felt like I was finally getting over all my terrible, relationship damaging problems. I felt strongly about letting go of all the B.S. and my hang ups, being an upstanding boyfriend/man and getting our relationship set right, and treating my girlfriend 100% the way I should have all along. And then I stupidly left the front door unlocked, compromising everything.

My girlfriend still finds a way in her heart to forgive and remain in our relationship, even through all the crap, because of her strong feelings for me - the feeling that she honestly does not want to be without me in her life. She does not have much of anything else to rely on, i.e. friends, a supportive family, except for her pets. And me, a quasi-asshole boyfriend. I love her and care about her very much, and I very much want to see this work and for us to be successful in every regard. We were seriously discussing engagement/marriage! I thought I would never get married or that I wanted to get married for a very long time. Part of me is scared by marriage, part of me knows it's the honorable thing to do - the natural progression of our relationship; part of me knows that my girlfriend is one of the greatest persons I've ever known (so there should be no fear, right?) and I have no serious interest in other women, etc. Yet there is this downright ugly cycle where I/we are doing good, I somehow begin to backslide mentally, I make a bad, bad mistake or something really, really bad takes place, and I or it ends up causing extreme pain to my girlfriend.

Ever since I the first time something happened between us (my fault of course), I know that I needed to put in a lot more effort to save the relationship. I've been in therapy pretty consistently for the last ~4 years. It's helped, but my girlfriend is wondering why this keeps going on. She is not in therapy - she was for a while, but discontinued due to her not feeling she was getting anything out of it anymore, and the fact that she feels that she can work through her issues on her own. She was had very painful life experiences, more painful than anything I've gone through. And on top of that she is extremely sensitive, has unjustified self esteem issues, is dealing with family of origin problems (who isn't), and much more, while dealing with the day to day stress of being back in school to get her bachelor's. Add to that the problems created by me in our relationship and you can understand the severity of the situation.

Just so you know, I am not trying to kick her out. I have been supporting her through all this the best I can, though very poorly emotionally. Again, I am in therapy. It seems that I am not working on this effectively. Thanks for listening.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (66 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
Wait -- leaving the front door unlocked compromised everything?!? WTF? Affairs compromise everything. Drug addiction and alcoholism compromise everything.

You guys need to be in therapy TOGETHER to figure out why a simple mistake leaves you teetering on the brink of catastrophe. This IS NOT normal.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:45 AM on March 28, 2012 [124 favorites]


You're feeling extremely guilty and depressed... why, exactly? Because nothing happened. Literally, nothing. Yeah, you were a little careless, and you should be more careful in the future, but that's the extent of it. What on earth else have you done? Because I couldn't even qualify this as a "bad" mistake, let alone "bad, bad" or "really, really bad".

Her pets --- assuming dogs & cats and not giant tortoises -- are going to die soon. They are. What happens to her then? Unless you can give me anything that says you've actually done anything wrong -- you've listed nothing in this post that is wrong -- she sounds extremely emotionally manipulative. What's actually going on here?
posted by brainmouse at 10:46 AM on March 28, 2012 [8 favorites]


Um, leaving the door unlocked for a couple of hours doesn't mean you're an asshole. It doesn't mean anything. It's a simple, human mistake. Her reaction sounds, not to put too fine a point on it, completely nuts. You may have internalized a narrative about yourself that is disproportionately harsh.

On preview, what BlahLaLa said. Couple's therapy.
posted by zjacreman at 10:49 AM on March 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


Don't go to therapy together because you sound like a textbook case of someone who is being emotionally abused and couples' therapy is not great for that.

She is overreacting in an insane way. Like, it is not mentally healthy. You are not a bad person for forgetting to lock a door. You are not "subconsciously" doing anything.

I feel horrible for you right now. Just horrible. If you were my friend I would give you the biggest hug and offer my couch to you whenever you needed to get away from what sounds like a horrendously stressful home life.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:49 AM on March 28, 2012 [52 favorites]


There is, like, a freaking galaxy of distance between I wasn't forthright, I cheated emotionally, said hurtful/insensitive things, I was not supportive during critical times, I was two-faced, acted aloof, not invested, even cold and forgetting to lock the back door. You are making an enormous category error, as is she, if you guys are putting this event in the same bin as the previous issues. If category errors like this are occuring regularly, and you're taking all of the blame for that, you two need to do some serious work on your communicating.

My suspicion is that you (plural) got into the pattern of you (singular) taking all of the blame for issues in your relationship, because in the early years, well, you were causing the problems. That does not mean that every problem is always caused by you, or your responsibility.
posted by amelioration at 10:49 AM on March 28, 2012 [42 favorites]


Wait: "She discovered the unlocked door when she arrived home late in the afternoon and is devastated that this occurred - the main concern being if anything bad happened to the pets it would be really, really, really, REALLY BAD. As in she 'would have nothing to live for' bad." She is aware that, like, pets have a very limited lifespan relative to humans, no?

Dude, get out. The wording of your question is full of obligation and need, not love. Phrases like "the honorable thing" scream to me that you're doing this not because it brings you joy and happiness but because it's a function of your culture and you feel compelled to obey it.

I realize everyone else is recommending couple's therapy, but given the rest of your question I think you're in the wrong place, being emotionally abused, and need to take unilateral action. Extricate yourself from this. Now.
posted by straw at 10:50 AM on March 28, 2012 [16 favorites]


Perhaps yes, you are subconsciously trying to destroy the relationship because she's an awful person to be with.
posted by Melismata at 10:51 AM on March 28, 2012 [10 favorites]


There's a lot of very negative self-talk in this post. You definitely need to address that with your therapist. You should not be feeling this level of awful for something so (relatively) minor.

Leaving a door unlocked is not the end of the world, and it certainly isn't something that should compromise a healthy relationship. At worst, it's a mild disagreement followed by a shared promise to be more careful in the future.

A good relationship is a balance, which means you're both making an effort to be a good, "100%" partner. What is she doing, besides overreacting and causing you pain?
posted by fight or flight at 10:52 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I feel like there are three or so paragraphs missing in the middle of this, where you detail what you've actually done wrong. Cheating emotionally is a bad thing to do, but it sounds like it's in the distant past. Leaving the door unlocked by accident while updating the security on your house? Does not make you a quasi-asshole. I don't understand why this is producing the catastrophizing that's happening in this post, but I suggest you talk to your therapist about why you take a simple mistake as a damning referendum on your character, and whether your girlfriend is really devastated or you're just taking her brief anger to mean way more than it does.
posted by c'mon sea legs at 10:52 AM on March 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


This whole post confuses me.

I don't see that you have currently done anything wrong.

If she can't see that, then it is a sign of bad troubling things under (her) surface.
posted by LeanGreen at 10:58 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Your girlfriend sounds awful. Please stop taking the blame for everything. You are not an asshole. Your girlfriend is manipulating you emotionally.

Treating a door accidentally left unlocked as if it is putting your whole relationship in jeopardy -- that's not just being dramatic, that is an emotional freakshow.

She needs to be in counseling far more than you do, if the things you say in your question are true.
posted by jayder at 11:03 AM on March 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


I found your description of your relationship disturbing. Everything is your fault? You are uniformly terrible, and she is wonderful? That is not a healthy partnership, that is a disaster. You should feel that you and your partner have more or less equal worth and equal power in the relationship. It's not just that forgetting to lock the door is not remotely a big deal. It's not just that she is overreacting in a blatantly manipulative and extreme way. It's not just that you make excuses for her and express harsh criticism of your own self and role. It's not just that you sound unhappy in the relationship and use words suggestive of obligation rather than love. It's that, and also that you're not seeing clearly. She has nothing to live for once her pets die? She has no friends, difficult family relationships, and creates intense drama in your life? But she doesn't need therapy because she manages her own issues, plus everything bad she feels is always your fault?

This situation is just awful. I can't imagine believing the things you believe about yourself. It sounds really painful. Please consider the possibility that the story you have of your relationship is not accurate.
posted by prefpara at 11:03 AM on March 28, 2012 [30 favorites]


Also, even if in the past you did things that are really bad like cheated on her, that doesn't give her the right to hold all power or to make you feel this terrible about a door.
posted by prefpara at 11:03 AM on March 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


Man, if leaving a door unlocked is the trigger for this much angst, I hate to tell you - having kids or going through a major life event is just going to be over the top. My wife leaves things unlocked all the time, heck so do I. We lose keys, we forget to pay bills, we occasionally forget to charge a cell phone. We are human, and especially with 3 in door animals and a toddler, this stuff happens _all _the_time_, it sounds like there are some ridiculous excuses being made for fundamental trust issues, because this is just offsides.

If you can't abstract yourself from the ins and outs of human fallibility, then it's a problem, because no one is perfect and no one does things perfectly constantly, and it's not the end of the world when it happens.
posted by iamabot at 11:04 AM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Does your girlfriend have some issues with post traumatic stress? Because that's the ONLY way I can see leaving a door unlocked becoming this big an issue that is (somewhat) understandable.
posted by jbenben at 11:05 AM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Something is seriously amiss here - I am really disturbed by your post. If this is true:

As in she 'would have nothing to live for' bad. These pets she has raised for the last ~15 years, they are like her children.

she needs to be in serious, probably year-long therapy. I can't even comprehend what it means for your relationship - like, really, if her pets all died (which I sincerely hope they don't), your presence and continued existence means nothing? Nothing else means anything? And I speak as someone who loves the pets I have like children.

Then this:

I'm feeling like a complete idiot, ashamed, horrified at my actions, beside myself with grief, angry at myself, extremely depressed, you name it.

does it come from you or her? Cause if it comes from you, I think you really need to bring this up with your therapist. And if it comes from her - I'm sorry to say, but you are in a severely abusive relationship.

I don't even know what to say about all the rest, because the way you speak about this one incident causes me to question whether all the rest is quite what you seem to think it is. I;'m also inclined to think that if you are subconsciously sabotaging your relationship, your subconscious has a point. As matters seem to stand from your post, this is not a good relationship to be in.

So sorry - for both of you.
posted by miorita at 11:06 AM on March 28, 2012 [22 favorites]


been doing dumb things for 29 years but my wife thinks that is part of my charm.
posted by Postroad at 11:07 AM on March 28, 2012 [20 favorites]


It takes two people to make or break a relationship and it seems like both of you have had a lot of negative experiences which have affected how you interact with each other.

Her reaction is over the top although it's understandable that she was upset but she shouldn't have reacted in that manner. You can't control others (as you are probably aware of), but how you treat yourself is important. Stop putting yourself down. Treat yourself more kindly. You were not and are not a grade A-asshole, seriously. People make mistakes and people learn from these mistakes.

However, based on this post there seems to be a cycle that occurs where things are fine, you do something that she perceives as negative, you develop a negative perception of yourself because of her reaction, conflict ensues in an unhealthy and destructive manner, and finally you return to the point where you two attempt to move past the conflict.

I used the word unhealthy because your past experiences have affected how you two interact during the conflict. This causes a lot of tension in the relationship and for both of you individually.

Although you attempt to move past things, it does not seem like the conflict actually gets resolved. That is the problem because conflict continues in this cycle over both small and large things.

It's good that you are getting therapy, but she needs therapy individually, and you both need therapy together as a couple. A third party such as a therapist would be beneficial for your relationship. That way the two of you can discuss the past in an emotionally safe environment with an unbiased person.
posted by livinglearning at 11:10 AM on March 28, 2012


Your girlfriend needs to go back to therapy.

I pretty much agree with everyone else saying this relationship sounds, honestly, kind of awful, but I try to avoid DTMFA responses as everyone else tends to take care of those.

Girlfriend. Therapy. Immediately.

You may even want to consider finding a new therapist if your current one isn't telling you how crazy this sounds, because it sounds pretty crazy.
posted by krakenattack at 11:11 AM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Her heart is broken"
over an unlocked door. Just wow. Sure, you should apologize and try not to do it again, but the rest is crazypants.

What's really hearbreaking is your description of yourself. And her obvious (and possibly oblivious) manipulation of your emotions. It sounds like she's had a rough time in her life... many, many people have, and yet still manage to treat people kindly most of the time.

You say she thinks she can work out her problems on her own. It doesn't sound like that's going so well! And let me tell you something else. You are NEVER obligated to stay with a person who treats you like crap. And that's what she is doing, despite those in between times when things are "fairly normal or good".
posted by Glinn at 11:12 AM on March 28, 2012 [11 favorites]


I'm generally in favor of believing what people tell you about themselves. But I don't believe you're an asshole, not for the reasons you've given here, at any rate.

I was in a relationship with someone who is a terrific person, but we were really mismatched in terms of who thought what was important in what ways. We were each "too" sensitive to things that the other person wasn't sensitive "enough" to.

I don't know if you should break up or not, but for god's sake, the stuff you say you've done are the marks of a distracted person (happens to everyone sometimes), or a person who is learning (also happens). Not the signs of some unforgivable asshole. If you *really* believe this about yourself, you need some way of getting some different perspectives. Good luck.
posted by rtha at 11:14 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


It sounds to me like you both are in urgent need of therapy, and possibly to split up for awhile while you work on yourselves. You both have so many issues it's impossible to tell if you're even right for one another.
posted by orange swan at 11:15 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah. Leaving the front door unlocked is a mistake. A minor, easily make-able mistake.

Prior to meeting your GF would you have felt as guilty about a small mistake like this? If this feeling is something that is being foisted on you by your girlfriend then there is something majorly out-of-whack here.
posted by dgeiser13 at 11:16 AM on March 28, 2012


Heavens to Betsy: as other pointed out, the door is a non-issue.

I once came home after leaving both the front door unlocked and the front window WIDE OPEN, and I was all OMG SORRY SORRY SORRY! Then my boyfriend joked about how maybe Yeti was finally able to sneak in and eat all our snacks. Once we determined no snack-theft occurred, we made out a little. And then ate snacks.

I wasn't forthright, I cheated emotionally, said hurtful/insensitive things, I was not supportive during critical times, I was two-faced, acted aloof, not invested, even cold. Suffice to say I am a grade-A asshole. I have some pretty thick walls that were built up over the years since elementary school, and to these walls I attribute my general closed-off attitude and tendency to push others away

I am going to take you at face value, and assume that you have done assholeish, insensitive things (as opposed to being made feel as though your normal behavior was abnormal). Let's say you did all that.

Isn't there the possibility you did so because, you know, you're been negatively impacted by being in a relationship with little emotional support, in which you have been made to feel bad about doing totally human mistakes like leaving the door unlocked? Lots of people act out-o- character when embedded in negative circumstances, and find that they are far nicer and forthright when surrounded by nice people.

This is a possibility.
Maybe we don't know the whole story, and there's more going on.
But frankly, you might want to discuss with a therapist, as suggested. Because, from this perspective, your relationship seems broken, but not in the ways that you think, at all.
posted by vivid postcard at 11:21 AM on March 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


I am really sorry your girlfriend made you feel like you just about ruined her life because you forgot to lock a door. Don't worry, you're not subconsciously trying to destroy your relationship. You are not a bad person. You are not so screwed up you can't even figure out how you're screwed up or anything else like that. You're just a normal person like the rest of us who occasionally forgets things! It's just part of life. Sometimes mistakes turn out to be near misses in hindsight. That's how it goes.
posted by Cygnet at 11:23 AM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Please read Facing Codependence, by Mellody, Miller, and Miller. I say this all the time, but you need this so much.

What you did was not a betrayal. What you did was not disrespectful. What you did was not "trying to undermine" your relationship. What you did was making a mistake.

The "rules" of your relationship seem to be that everything you do that is not perfect is terrible and a deliberate affront. That's a horrible way to live.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:24 AM on March 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yes, your girlfriend is definitely overreacting. As a point of comparison, I once left my KEYS on a PLANE in a FOREIGN COUNTRY and my girlfriend (who was traveling with me) did not freak out like this. I mean, she did a little bit. Only to be expected though. PS they were at lost and found in the airport.

It definitely sounds like you are being led into always feeling like every single problem in the relationship is your fault, and oh by the way there are lots of problems. Sometimes people forget things - your girlfriend needs to understand that.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 11:31 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wasn't forthright, I cheated emotionally, said hurtful/insensitive things, I was not supportive during critical times, I was two-faced, acted aloof, not invested, even cold.

These are really bad things, yes. But reading the rest of this question I have to wonder if you even did these things at all. I have to wonder if in fact you smiled at another woman once, and you said you'd buy milk but you didn't, and you were a little stressed or out of it a few times when she wanted more attention. This whole things seems so abusive to me. Though I'm not an expert, I'm pretty sure convincing the abused partner that everything is horrible and their fault, then letting it go for a period of time when the abused partner thinks things might be better this week but is still on edge, then unleashing another accusation of "it's horrible and it's your fault" is basically an abuser's job description.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 11:36 AM on March 28, 2012 [14 favorites]


Tl;dr -- your girlfriend is what we call "crazy" and you have what we call "terrible self-esteem".

Here's something to remember: you can find someone who is nice and sane and doesn't make you feel bad about yourself all the time, and when you do, you will wonder what the hell was wrong with you for being with this woman for however long you were.

Work with your therapist on improving your self-esteem. You have dignity and your feelings are just as important as anyone else's. Just putting that insight into practice will transform your relationships.

Part of me is scared by marriage, part of me knows it's the honorable thing to do - the natural progression of our relationship; part of me knows that my girlfriend is one of the greatest persons I've ever known (so there should be no fear, right?) and I have no serious interest in other women, etc.

You should be VERY scared of marrying this woman. You don't sound like you love her; and how could you, she sounds like an incredibly unhappy person who makes you miserable. Part of you knows this. Maybe you're not interested in other women because you don't feel like you deserve better than a hypernegative drama queen.

Yet there is this downright ugly cycle where I/we are doing good, I somehow begin to backslide mentally, I make a bad, bad mistake or something really, really bad takes place, and I or it ends up causing extreme pain to my girlfriend.

Jesus. This sounds like a never-ending emotional disaster that's always all your fault. Why in the world are you with this person? What are you getting out of it?

Please, for your own sake, seriously consider that you're in a deeply unhealthy and clearly unhappy relationship, and that the central relationship of your life need not be like this.

In a good relationship, your partner makes you feel good about yourself. They are kind. They take responsibility for their own feelings. You work through problems together in a spirit of love and positivity. They don't kill your soul with crazily melodramatic emotional manipulation.

You know deep down that this relationship is a catastrophe. Allow yourself to accept that, and move on by working on yourself.
posted by clockzero at 11:39 AM on March 28, 2012 [12 favorites]


I've been in therapy pretty consistently for the last ~4 years. It's helped, but my girlfriend is wondering why this keeps going on.

The reason why "this keeps going on" is because YOU'RE not the one that should be in therapy.

She is not in therapy - she was for a while, but discontinued due to her not feeling she was getting anything out of it anymore, and the fact that she feels that she can work through her issues on her own.

She is so wrong about this that it is VISIBLE from SPACE how wrong she is.

YOU are not the one jeopardizing this relationship, not by a country mile.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:40 AM on March 28, 2012 [35 favorites]


This is crazy. You are enabling her crazy behavior and in a show of "support" also acting crazy. Stop it.

A reasonable adult will not be heart broken, beside themselve, wracked with grief over this. Nothing happened. Not to mention, feeling like you would have nothing to live for if something happens to your pets is a red flag, because hey, if they are 15+ years old, something going to happen to them sooner rather than later.

There are real tradegies in the world, this is not one of them, go find what its like to live outside of this awful, insane bubble you two have created.
posted by stormygrey at 11:41 AM on March 28, 2012 [7 favorites]


a complete idiot, ashamed, horrified at my actions, beside myself with grief, angry at myself, extremely depressed,

These would be appropriate feeling if you'd gotten drunk, passed out, dropped a cigarette, and burned the house down. They are profoundly out of proportion to having left the door unlocked.

You need to be in individual therapy to decide if this is genuinely a healthy, loving relationship that you want to stay in because it actually augments the quality of both your lives.
posted by scody at 11:49 AM on March 28, 2012 [7 favorites]


Marriages survive when one partner accidentally leaves the baby in the back seat of the car and their infant dies. Your relationship barely survived something that happens weekly in my household.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 11:49 AM on March 28, 2012 [20 favorites]


Yet there is this downright ugly cycle where I/we are doing good, I somehow begin to backslide mentally, I make a bad, bad mistake or something really, really bad takes place, and I or it ends up causing extreme pain to my girlfriend.

Alternate definition - When you / both of you are doing good, she is unable to cope with the lack of drama, and finds a way to create it via something you did or whatever "takes place", and uses it to get you to that apologizey-you-are-awesome-I-am-nothing place she needs to feel good about herself.

I mean, I recognize that you are only giving one specific example (and maybe you chose a really benign one on purpose because you knew if the other things you did involved embezzlement or sleeping with her mother we'd be all over you and not her), but seriously, unless her pets are helper monkeys or can otherwise turn doorknobs unless the door is kept bolted, you didn't do anything wrong -- you made a mistake. She is loudly and clearly telling you she values these animals more than she values you. Is that really what you want in a relationship?
posted by Mchelly at 11:50 AM on March 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


(Oh, sorry: I see that you're in therapy. Then I would say that you need to focus in therapy on developing a healthier sense of perspective, and on figuring out the ways you can be a happier, healthier individual, and whether this relationship is actually good for you -- not for your girlfriend; FOR YOU -- or not.)
posted by scody at 11:51 AM on March 28, 2012


I ordinarily wouldn't chime in simply to say I agree with what everyone else is saying, but your post is so full of doubt and self-loathing that I would like to give you all the confirmation that I can: you are not an asshole and this is not normal. I advise you to put thoughts of marriage on hold, and I firmly believe that counseling for the two of your together is mandatory.
posted by Specklet at 11:51 AM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Both of you have issues. She picked you because you have low self esteem and can be easily guilt-tripped. She doesn't have anyone else in her life, so she looked for someone who would be easy to control and shamed into sticking around.

She's successfully broken down your ego, so she knows you will never go away. She just needs to "check in" every so often to ensure that you feel sufficiently worthless, lest you develop any self worth and leave her, like everyone else has.
posted by deanc at 11:54 AM on March 28, 2012 [17 favorites]


You want us to tell you that leaving the front door open was no big deal, and she’s the crazy one to berate you for it. You want us to reassure you that you’re trying so hard and it’s so unfair of her. From the way you wrote this question, you obviously truly believe that leaving the front door open was no big deal. You can’t understand why she cares, and haven’t bothered to really understand it, instead dismissing it as irrational or fine to indulge when it’s convenient but not something she should really get upset over.

And a lot of people have taken that bait.

I have pets that I love dearly, and if they were to get out, especially on someone else’s watch, and either never return or get hit by a car or something, I would have a really hard time forgiving that person, ever. Maybe you can’t understand her feelings about her pets, because you don’t love them the same way she does- fine, that’s not surprising- but I’m sure there’s something you feel similarly about that you can substitute and use a bridge to empathizing with her. I think maybe you’re not really thinking it through- sure, nothing happened, but if her cat had gotten run over? She probably would have broken up with you, not even to “punish” you, but because it would be impossible, even if she was trying with all her heart, to forgive you for that. Taking it a step further, realize that women may often see carelessness with pets as a sign of potential carelessness with children, and you’ll realize why it’s even more important.

Yes, it's a small mistake, and the right thing to do is for her to either forgive you and move on or have it out- not to harp on it. But I can understand her point of view- and even if she was being irrational, I think it's transparent that you framed the question to make it seem that way while, which deserves to be noted. It's better to admit your feelings instead of sublimating them and trying to get validation from other sources.

But that aside, because clearly this incident is the tip of the iceburg.

It's like I let my guard down or get complacent, and my lack of awareness/sensitivity is a big part of the problem.

This really struck me as the ring of truth. It’s a sin of omission more than anything- you’re just not thinking of her, not putting your effort into the same priorities.

Suffice to say I am a grade-A asshole.

Forgive me for saying this, but I’m always deeply skeptical of anyone who loudly proclaims how they were “such an asshole.” It’s very hard for people to truly change, and usually requires an epiphany and deep thought, deep emotion, and transformation. When people mess up and are capable of seeing it, they generally may SAY everything horrible about themselves (sometimes in a bid for sympathy) but really don’t actually feel that bad about it. It was an acceptable risk, to them.

I think you’re thinking of relationships with this model of performance- you perform being “the good boyfriend” and doing the right things, and are rewarded. But that’s not the best model of relationships, though it’s very common. I find the best model of relationships is to cut yourself out of the equation- in other words, it shouldn’t look like this:

Her --> Me --> Her happiness

It should be more like this:

Her ---> her happiness
(oh btw, me)

Take yourself out of the equation, and just try to let her be happy with as little credit or performance as possible. If you’re really thinking of her and caring about her, this should be easy to do without drawing attention to yourself. But the other side of the coin is that you're not responsible for her happiness or lack thereof, either. It should just be something you'd like to see for its own sake, not to get you "credit."

the feeling that she honestly does not want to be without me in her life. She does not have much of anything else to rely on, i.e. friends, a supportive family, except for her pets.

Aha. Hidden in this is some flattery of yourself. Some of the best advice I ever got was along these lines: I was lamenting how I couldn’t get close to anyone because I just ended up hurting them, and everyone fell in love with me and wanted to marry me and I just couldn’t give them what they wanted, because I had the potential to be so powerful in that I could make or break their life, but was too messed up…on and on. And my friend just looked at me, and said, stone cold, straight-faced: “I think you’re giving yourself too much credit.” It stung. I was shocked: Of course I broke hearts! Of course they’d been hung up on me! But it was the best advice I’ve ever gotten. My exes didn’t need me. They never did. And they’re all doing fine. It was purely my vanity talking.

And there’s also possibly some fear that she doesn’t love you for you, and is just clinging to you. Which may even be a bit justified, but is slightly hypocritical.

Part of me is scared by marriage, part of me knows it's the honorable thing to do - the natural progression of our relationship

Do not get married while you feel like this. Do not get engaged. Give it some time. If you don’t feel a strong “yes” towards the idea in six months from now, do the right thing and break up so she can find someone else.

And on top of that she is extremely sensitive, has unjustified self esteem issues, is dealing with family of origin problems (who isn't), and much more, while dealing with the day to day stress of being back in school to get her bachelor's.

I sense some anger or hostility under the surface here. If you want to play the blame game, it’s better to just admit it to yourself. Do you feel that she’s too needy? Less exciting? Are you resentful? These things can be worked out, but first you have to admit them to yourself. Therapy is a good place to talk about this.

To be brutally honest, I think you need to break up. This seems like a learning relationship for both of you.

But you, in particular, need to learn to be honest with yourself first.
posted by quincunx at 12:11 PM on March 28, 2012 [18 favorites]


I want to join the echo chamber here for Specklet's reasons - you need some input from outsiders about how completely off-kilter this sounds. I really really hope that you are leaving out the part where you are a crazed meth addict who murders hookers and hides them in the crawlspace, because seriously...what you are describing as your GF's reaction to a simple human mistake that WE HAVE ALL MADE is so wildly outside the range of normal that really, what you're doing to cause this reaction should be much closer to the "serial killer" end of the scale than the "forgot to lock the door" end, MUCH closer. Your GF sounds addicted to drama, and it sounds like you are being abused. Get out, or put your foot down about her behavior. Going by what you've said, the problem here isn't you. Really.
posted by biscotti at 12:18 PM on March 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's very possible that you're in an emotionally abusive relationship. First of all.

However, this question is so confusing that I'm having a really difficult time sussing out what happened. You left the door unlocked? Is this a pattern? Do you do this all the time? Have you had many discussions about treating her pets poorly or not taking care of your shared apartment/house? Either she's addicted to drama/abusive, or there is a major piece missing.

Since you're anonymous, can you share some of the other incidents that have led you to call yourself an "asshole"? Either it sounds like you need to get out for your own self-preservation, or you're both at the end of your rope and becoming very manipulative and/or passive-aggressive.
posted by stoneandstar at 12:21 PM on March 28, 2012


Do you often feel like you are walking on egg shells around her?

This sounds like a really unhealthy relationship. I'm fairly possessive over my (indoor) cats, and I would get upset if you left the door OPEN, but accidentally leaving the door unlocked is not in any way "devastating." I can understand how your girlfriend is emotionally attached to her pets - I am similarly attached to mine - but this is not a big deal.

I'm not sure couples therapy would work right now...and I'm not in a professional position to say this, but I think your girlfriend is the one who needs therapy. Maybe you too...and then down the road, maybe couples therapy.
posted by fromageball at 12:21 PM on March 28, 2012


I think quincunx raises some really interesting and good points.
posted by biscotti at 12:29 PM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


One of you is wildly overreacting to your very minor lapse of attention in failing to lock the door. It's not clear to me whether that person is you or your girlfriend. Could be both, I suppose.

Seriously, unless you've left out a lot of relevant information here, every single step in the chain of reasoning from "I left my door unlocked" to "therefore our pets might have DIED!!" to "therefore my girlfriend would have "NOTHING LEFT TO LIVE FOR!!!" to "therefore I am an asshole and am subconsciously trying to DESTROY OUR RELATIONSHIP!!!!" is completely irrational and wildly overblown.

In a normal relationship the emotional consequences of that perfectly common error of accidentally forgetting to lock the door would be the following:
She: "Hey, you left the door unlocked."
You: "Oops! Sorry!"
exeunt omnes
...instead of the overdramatic wailing and gnashing of teeth you two seem to be engaged in.

To be as blunt as possible: at least one of the people in your relationship is a nut job, and the other one has been with them so long that they can't see the crazy for what it is anymore.

I have no idea which of you is which. Your therapist probably does. Ask them.
posted by ook at 12:42 PM on March 28, 2012 [15 favorites]


did she at any point thank you for the time you put into updating home security? or has it all been a massive blame game about the minor mistake? do you find that you have a miles long "honey-do" list that you're being badgered about not completing but when you check off an item she just focuses on the things you haven't done? when was the last time she really showed gratitude for you? you for her? if both of you have a no good, very bad day with heaps of stress, who's stress takes priority? is it the same person every time? you say you haven't been there for her, but has she been there for you?

i used to think that relationships were hard work - that it was always like taking two pieces from different puzzles and trying to shove them together - that was part of the beauty and pain of love - that you'd always feel the places where you didn't line up with your partner. then i got together with my husband and i realized that relationships can maintain a constant supportive atmosphere without spirit breaking work.

you deserve that kind of love - does it really matter who's at fault if you're both so unhappy?
posted by nadawi at 12:56 PM on March 28, 2012 [10 favorites]


[Do not turn this thread into a fight. If you have issues with others' comments or with the OP you need to respond to them using respectful language.]
posted by jessamyn at 12:59 PM on March 28, 2012


What "BlahLaLa" said way back at the beginning of this thread.

Dude, you need to stop walking on egg shells. I mean, leaving the front door unlocked, even it you live in downtown Detroit, is not something to destroy a relationship. You say "my bad", learn not to forget the next time, feel bad about for about 1/2 hour and then you move on.

It is not like you slept with another woman or purposely recorded over the wedding video.

I'd consider couple's therapy if I were you.
posted by WestChester22 at 1:44 PM on March 28, 2012


My husband is a security FREAK, and it never seems to devastate him when I accidentally leave the door unlocked. He's unhappy about it, he makes his noises, and I try to not forget, but sometimes, I do. He somehow manages to still trust me and love me and make me feel good about myself.

You have to know (and if you didn't know before, now you do) that this is a terribly unfair and over-dramatic reaction on her part, and I have to agree with others, sounds like you are being manipulated and are going along with it willingly due to guilt from your past shitty behavior. That's gotta stop, doesn't it? You're a horrible person for forgetting to lock the door? Seriously? No. NO NO NO.

The fat lady is singing, the cows have come home, the cookies are burnt, however you want to phrase it. I would put this in the category of "Things that happened in this unhealthy relationship I had once" and put your relationship out of its misery. There are healthier relationships out there, there is a healthier way to interact with your SO.

But if you're determined to stay, you sound like you need to bust your ass in therapy regarding your crapola self-esteem. It's a frigging door. You are not a jerk in any way for forgetting to lock the door. Write yourself a note and stick it to the door "LOCK ME!" (what else could you do, whip yourself?), and for the love of all that is good, don't stay in a relationship you don't want to be in. Time is ticking.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 1:49 PM on March 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


Leaving the door open and leaving it unlocked are two very different things.

Most pets can't turn a doorknob, and most people who check to see if your door is unlocked by turning the knob are either close enough friends to know there are pets inside, or distant enough strangers that you have a lot more to lose than just pets.

Did I miss something here? I'm pretty sure the OP isn't saying he left the door open.
posted by Mchelly at 1:49 PM on March 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


I was waiting for a post like quincunx's so I could try to understand some side other than the pile-on, which I generally agree with. But quincunx's post is important too: you need to be honest with yourself.

I felt very similar to you for most of ten years. I was in therapy for a lot of that time, and she was in therapy too. But I was never honest with any of my therapists, and never honest with myself. I'm now struggling to get a divorce started and there's incredible amounts of pain and sadness and difficulty everywhere. If you've been in therapy for four years and your therapist(s?) has never suggested that you might be in an emotionally abusive relationship with someone on the borderline spectrum, I suggest finding a new therapist. Not that that suggestion is necessarily true, but if this is the first you're hearing of it, your therapist is not really working with/for you.

Don't even consider getting married until you've substantially changed the fundamentals here. No walking on eggshells, no self-flattery about how important you are to her, no making excuses for yourself or your partner. It can be really, really hard to be honest with yourself even in the best of conditions, and you are living in some sort of warped alternate reality right now so it'll be even harder.

I'm sure some things are your fault. I'm sure some things are her fault. Fault isn't the issue here: the question is, how to know what a healthy relationship looks like and how to find your way to that. I'm still working on this myself and I'm sure will be working on it for a long time.
posted by xueexueg at 1:58 PM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


There is no reason leaving a door unlocked should ever trigger a response of this nature. Not even if you have post-traumatic stress.

Here's how the conversation should have gone:

Her: "Door was unlocked! Someone could have stolen our babies!" *checks on precious kittehs* "Oh, kitties are fine! But that was very careless of you and I am sad."

You: "I'm so sorry! That would have been awful if someone had stolen the kitties."

It is never referenced again.

Also, I join to add: someone who says they live only for their pets is dangerously unhealthy.
posted by corb at 3:00 PM on March 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


My girlfriend still finds a way in her heart to forgive and remain in our relationship

This is not an impressive achievement when your partner forgets to lock the fucking door!
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:06 PM on March 28, 2012


Are you sure you really left the door unlocked? I wouldn't put it past her to make it up and say you did. People who have over the top reactions to minuscule infractions are not necessarily above creating the appearance of an infraction. My abusive ex husband did this often.
posted by murrey at 4:25 PM on March 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


The house wants you to leave. It is full of bees.
posted by Space Kitty at 4:44 PM on March 28, 2012 [28 favorites]


Leaving the door unlocked is not an indicator of your subconsciously wanting to destroy the relationship. The reaction you and your girlfriend are having to it is a symptom that your relationship is unstable because of both of you.
posted by sm1tten at 5:13 PM on March 28, 2012


Your questions were "Why am I doing this?" and "Am I trying to sabotage my relationship."

The answer to the second question is easy: Yes, you're trying to sabotage your relationship, but not for the red herring, the door. Rather, you're trying to sabotage your relationship as evidenced by the weaselly language pointed out by quincunx.

Why are you doing this is a harder question to answer, but it boils down to this: you are getting something out of the situation. Whether it's sympathy and attention for a relationship that is obviously disturbed, or you feel a need to self-flagellate for some complicated reason, or you're afraid of being on your own, who knows?

You are a master manipulator. You chose not to focus on your infidelity or any more serious mistakes, you chose something that most people have done, and consider to be normal. And you asked a question in such a way that you win, no matter which way people answer. If they say, "You're right, you're trying to sabotage", then you get to leave her (don't get me wrong, I think this relationship is doomed, and you DO need to split up, yesterday already). If people say "She's screwed up, who would care about something like that?" then you get some secret sense of superiority and possibly something to throw at her in an argument. Either way, you get something you want. This makes you a master manipulator, and in my opinion, is probably a good sign that your partner is attempting to control you. In my experience weaselly people seek out a domineering (sometimes strangely) partner.

I watched this very same dynamic in a pair of very old, very dear friends, and it was repeated so many times, that I let my friendship with them lapse, ironically around the time they split up. Friend B was controlling, friend A was self-flagellating in every argument, and grubbed for sympathy. She got it, in spades. I thought friend B was very controlling. However, friend A used this as an excuse to cheat on her partner and generally behave badly. This was co-dependence x 10, and it is exactly, precisely what I see you saying.

Actually I've watched this play out more than once, it's just that the one case was so similar my friend could have written this question.
posted by thelastcamel at 7:18 PM on March 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


You are a master manipulator.

For god's sake. OP, please ignore this, you really don't need someone other than your girlfriend gaslighting you into thinking you're some kind of sociopath.

thelastcamel, it is not weaselly for the OP to bring the most recent incident to Ask rather than the long-ago ones, and please note you wouldn't even know about the emotional infidelity if he hadn't thrown that information in for good measure.

OP, if oversights and careless mistakes are a sign of "subconsciously trying to destroy" a LTR, then all of us in LTRs are subconsciously trying to destroy them. Please think about what you're saying. You will never be infallible. It's not a "cycle," it's that you periodically mess up, as everyone does. I don't know if it's you or your girlfriend trying to make these common mistakes personal, but whichever or both of you need to stop doing that.

Tell your therapist about this incident and about your reaction and your girlfriend's. I sincerely hope he or she can help you put it in perspective. Good luck.
posted by torticat at 8:47 PM on March 28, 2012 [8 favorites]


To the people who don't believe the OP can be for real, and that this level of self-abnegation must be some kind of a manipulative act, let me tell a story from Pia Mellody's Facing Codependence: Mellody's husband came home one night and said, "Honey, can you not leave so many lights on? It's wasteful of electricity."

The next morning, says Mellody, she said to her husband "When will we be starting our divorce proceedings?" She for reals thought that he would divorce her because she had committed the horrible, unforgivable sin of leaving too many lights on.

That's how codependence works. "I forgot to lock the door, which means I could have destroyed my relationship because the pets would have been stolen and then my girlfriend would have committed suicide, but thank God she forgave my sorry ass." It's messed up. The OP needs help, not you folks gaslighting him.

I don't know if his girlfriend is also a shitty person who takes advantage of his fucked-upness to bully him, or if he is just ascribing feelings to her that she doesn't actually have, a la Pia Mellody and her husband. But he doesn't have a sense that forgetting to lock a door is not, and should not be, a relationship-ending betrayal.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:56 PM on March 28, 2012 [14 favorites]


the emotional infidelity

Which might be "taking a female co-worker to lunch." Or even "seeing a female therapist" (to bookend nicely with the lady from the other day whose husband accused her of emotional infidelity for seeing a therapist).
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:57 PM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


A friend and flatmate of mine was dating a girl who would react like this. There was no emotional affairs or any betrayal (that I knew of) but I witnessed a lot of their interaction (living with them), and I once saw her scream at him and throw things at him for bringing the wrong kind of sandwich spread home. She made him feel like he was the most terrible person, and it was something he bought into.

From the outside, I could see how he could buy into it, as she was, to me clearly unbalanced, where she could be bubbly and lovely and the most fun to be with, to deep depression, to raging anger, at the flick of a switch.

Turned out she was manic depressive, that only came out after he broke up with her, she stalked him ... and well lets just say things got way out of hand after that till her family intervened and got her help. But thats not the point, the point is... this can happen, it can happen slowly and insidiously and you might not even notice it from inside the paradigm of the relationship. It wasn't until a few of us spoke with him and said "you can either live or die slowly ... in this relationship you are dying slowly".

Apparently that reality slap made him realise that he didn't have to stay in the relationship no matter what the cost.
posted by Admira at 12:46 AM on March 29, 2012


I came into say that it sounds like you are in a relationship with someone with borderline personality disorder.
posted by Pax at 7:35 AM on March 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


More specifically, I suspect she has gaslighted you into thinking that you are an asshole. I was gaslighted into thinking that normal human interactions were inappropriate, that I was flirting, etc. It wasn't pretty.

Please explain this in detail to your therapist.
posted by Pax at 7:38 AM on March 29, 2012


To the people who don't believe the OP can be for real, and that this level of self-abnegation must be some kind of a manipulative act, let me tell a story from... [Pax's former life].

Seriously, my very real experiences sound like fiction when even I reflect on them. This situation could be so real.
posted by Pax at 7:59 AM on March 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is a staggering overreaction to a minor lapse of attention. If this is typical behavior for her, I suggest you leave this relationship as quickly as possible, and be sure to lock the door behind you on the way out.
posted by Ragged Richard at 10:41 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hello, just another voice in the crowd saying what almost everyone is saying. You're in a toxic relationship. Your therapy is not working for you based on what you said in our question. The reaction by your GF was wildly innapropriate and you don't sound like you even know what a healthy rellationship is. You need to get another therapist or be honest with your current therapist.
posted by fuq at 1:27 PM on March 29, 2012


Some of the answers which have been pretty critical of the OP are both right and wrong, in my opinion. I've been in a similar situation where a) I really hate conflict, b) I pathologically take responsibility for all relationship problems, c) I don't trust my own judgement of relationship problems, and d) in that previous relationship my partner took random small things and made them huge and blamed me for everything. What happened to me was that my reason would tell me that my partner was overreacting, but my other stuff, and my codependence, inclined me to accept her narrative. And she never, ever admitted she was wrong about anything.

And so what happened is that I would oscillate between excessive self-flagellation and then resentment that she was overreacting and never admitted that she was wrong about anything. Basically, I felt like I was kind of nuts and couldn't make sense of anything or trust my judgement about anything. If I tried to talk about this stuff with friends and family, I'd also oscillate between explaining to them the stuff she was doing and how I thought it didn't make sense, and then defend her and be critical of myself when those people would validate my point-of-view. I never trusted it when that happened because I'd think, well, of course I want to believe it when someone else tells me that it's not my fault. And isn't it better to take responsibility rather than try to avoid it?

I think that from the outside a lot of this would like like I wasn't completely sincere in my own self-criticism. That I might be picking some story to tell that is designed to make her look bad. Well, of course. As I was terribly confused internally about whether anything she did was wrong, or not, I would pick things that seemed like they'd be less ambiguous and see if other people thought she was being nuts. But then when they agreed, then I'd question my own judgement and decide that they were only agreeing with me because they were only hearing my story, not hers.

Clearly, I have a number of pathologies that were involved in this. But not all of my relationships have been like this one. In fact, only it was really like this, maybe there's been one other that was sort of like it, but not nearly as bad. And all the arguments and criticism started with her, not with me. I was always responding. I have problems, but it takes a certain kind of person to really trigger these problems in the worst way.

And, as it happens, a lot of my issues go back to my childhood and an emotionally abusive parent and in too many ways this partner was like that abusive parent. It also very strongly attracted me to her, perversely. But that's how these things work.

The point is that while I think the OPs girlfriend is pretty messed-up and possibly/likely emotionally abusive, the OP has some serious issues that are at the heart of the interaction. Neither of you will be as pathological and unhappy with someone who is not so complementary of your respective pathologies and it would take a lot for the two of you to solve these problems and fundamentally alter the relationship, which is what would need to happen. And your partner has decided that she doesn't need any therapy. That's not a good sign.

I don't really know how I could convince you to stop taking on all the responsibility for the relationship and stop blaming yourself for all the problems. As soon as you start to do that, it'll freak you out. You'll either feel like you're blaming her unfairly or not taking responsibility, or you'll find that arguments escalate even more than they already do and it will frighten you badly. Your attempt to take responsibility for everything is part of how you're trying to control the relationship, to keep things going better, rather than worse. But she quickly understood that and now she takes advantage of this instinct of yours. And you're manipulating her, also, in doing this. You both would have to completely break out of this pattern for things to get better, and it would require quite a lot of work and a lot of feeling unsafe for both of you. Unless there's a true commitment from both of you to do this (which would have to have been preceded by an agreement that there's a shared, serious problem) such an endeavor is doomed to fail. I don't like to advise DTMFA, I really don't. But I think that unless you can convince her to realize that the relationship is very unhealthy and that you both are responsibly for why it's unhealthy and you both will have to alter your behavior radically and you both will have to challenge your instincts and habits...then any attempt to fix anything is doomed to failure. And staying together just means more of this continued misery, which I think you both are experiencing. Yes, you're both also getting something out of this you value and need -- probably not being alone, primarily. But I don't think you're happy. I think you're both pretty unhappy and, speaking for myself, I was very, very unhappy feeling like my relationship was making me insane where I couldn't trust myself or my judgement and always worrying about what I might do wrong, or how to "fix" the last (usually mostly random and mostly trivial) thing I did wrong.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:08 PM on March 29, 2012 [8 favorites]


Your GF may very well be crazy, but I see a lot of unconvincing self-flagellation in your post. Reminiscent of what dubious people do which sounds like an apology but is actually a bid to have everyone else babysit their sense of responsibility: oh woe is me, I am an asshole, I did this [human mistake] and she [irrational nuclear reaction] which was so totally not irrational! Or nuclear! Of her at all! And she no longer goes to therapy because she thinks she can handle life without it! Am I supposed to say "dude of course this chick is nutz with the dramaz, DTMFA"?

To the extent your post can be taken at face value, I would say she's abusive and you should break up with her. That may very well actually be the case.

But I smell an unreliable narrator here. I cannot help but think there's more to the story, which I frankly read as very contemptuous of her whether deservedly or not, and if I am right about that, you should probably break up with her because you have a really, really bad relationship.
posted by tel3path at 5:57 AM on April 17, 2012


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