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I'm in the worst non-relationship ever and I don't get myself out.
May 26, 2012 11:15 PM   Subscribe

I'm addicted. To a person. And much like addictions to other things, I know I need rehab, but I'm not ready to go there. What can I do to manage until I bottom out/finally wake up/he drops me?

If you care to read any of my other posts, yes, it's this same guy.

We've been on and off now four times since we met at the end of November and I'm basically all out of excuses for going back to him.

He doesn't want to be in relationship, even if he did, has doubts about me, we're all wrong for one another, and him being in my life has brought nothing but tears and misery.

My friends are clearly (and justifiably) over it. I can't afford therapy. I'd consider AL Anon, but I'm not really down with the whole 12 step thing.

I've done everything short of telling him to leave me the F alone. Blocked him on all social media, don't initiate contact, have stayed away from places he may be, erased our text threads, took him out of my phone (though I have his # memorized) etc.

I pray he won't get in touch with me or that he meets someone else, as much as that would destroy me. I do believe time heals wounds and know for certain I'll be fine without him. The past couple of weeks were fine, even though it was hard not hearing from him. I knew/believed it was for the best and felt good that I didn't have a weak moment by caving and contacting him. I figured I was on to something when even being drunk wasn't enough for me to go there.

But just a simple "hi" from him via text after that couple of weeks of zero contact and I'm at his beck and call like nothing ever happened.

I'm fairy sure if he suggested I jump off a cliff with him, I'd take his hand and not ask any questions.

I'm lost. I'm sick of myself. I know he's using me, I know it's not going to end well. In some ways, I'm not sure why I'm bothering to write this.

Any thoughts/advice/stories are appreciated.
posted by patientpatient to Human Relations (24 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
Replacing him with something else can help - do not make it another person or a substance - but a class of some kind always helps.

Doing something different and new but something you're excited to do that gets you meeting new people to just be around - different dynamics shift things, allow you to step back from what you were so close to.

It's not enough to cut him off, you have to distract yourself, and replace him, but in a positive way.
posted by mleigh at 11:22 PM on May 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


You say you're addicted to him and you liken your addiction to him to an alcoholic's addiction to alcohol. While going to Alcoholics Anonymous may not work (mostly since, you know, it's a person and not alcoholism you're dealing with), both your relationship with this guy and an alcoholic's relationship with alcohol can be viewed as habits. Bad habits, and to differing degrees of course, but habits nonetheless.

I just finished reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. I strongly recommend reading it. The short of it is, all habits have a cue, a routine and a reward. You want to identify your cues (whatever makes you want to reach out to him/respond to him), *change* the routine (so not responding to him, not contating him) and gain the same reward.

Of course, if the reward is actually time/attention from him, the same cue/new routine/same reward thing is a little off. So think about what the reward is. You obviously keep going back because you're getting something from it. Find out what that is. Is it attention? Is it a certain feeling? Try to recreate that feeling or attention in another way, preferably with other people.

I had an ex like that, to an extent, but it was basically through sheer willpower that I never went back. It was exhausting and I wish I'd changed my habits the way this book describes. I think it would have been a hundred times easier.

Seriously, though, read the book. It's a good read and it ought to make you think about your own habits from even a slightly different perspective, which may be all the help you really need to change your habits with regards to this guy.

Good luck. :)
posted by juliebug at 11:25 PM on May 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Deglamorize this in your head.

You have a habit you want to change. That's all. Don't think of it as a sexy addiction that sucks your very soul away until you must leap from the windswept cliffs. Think of it as a dull, blah, old habit. Old news, boring, just as if you were in the habit of eating the same junk food burger every Tuesday by default, but you're not even enjoying the junk food burger anymore, so it's time for a change.

So, can you do that? Can you keep yourself occupied with other engaging, exciting, interesting, more-glamorous things? Find new, interesting people to think about?
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:38 PM on May 26, 2012 [19 favorites]


I've done everything short of telling him to leave me the F alone.

Maybe you should. And tell him to ignore you if you 'relapse' and try to get in touch with him.
posted by J. Wilson at 11:46 PM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Did you change your phone number? If not, do that. See if your phone company can put a block on his number, so he can't call you..
posted by themanwho at 11:52 PM on May 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


Check out the book Attached. What you're describing sounds a lot like anxiety. You are probably somebody who needs closeness, safety, and intimacy in relationships. You're having a sort of stress response to your attachment system being activated by a guy who can't be there for you. An extreme stress reaction. The ups feel great and the downs feel miserable. It feels like being crazy, but at the same time, it feels right, because our entire brains as monogamous creatures are wired to find security in people we care about, and to be miserable when they aren't around. There are dudes out there who won't do this to you. My suggestion would be to do something cathartic-- write a letter or a song, take a big symbolic action to get this guy out of your heart. And start dating someone else. Or find someone-- some other relationship--- to give you the security and closeness that you need right now. On the contrary to what you wrote, you know why you wrote this question. This guy isn't the one.
posted by kettleoffish at 12:06 AM on May 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


(Apologies in advance for the candour. You did ask for it)

I'm addicted. To a person. And much like addictions to other things, I know I need rehab, but I'm not ready to go there. What can I do to manage until I bottom out/finally wake up/he drops me?

A bit overly dramatic. You're not 'addicted to a person'. Well, maybe you are. You sound as if you prefer a life of staying in a place of drama, rather than a life of getting what you want and moving forward. If drama is what you want, then more power to you.

If you care to read any of my other posts, yes, it's this same guy.

So already, you want me to go read your other posts and bring me into the fold of the story. I can click on your name, see your other situations, and now I have the context for this one. You may say 'I am offering the full story like'; I say you want company in your serial drama. I will not read your other posts about this man, for I refuse to enter into the dramatic world being created here.

We've been on and off now four times since we met at the end of November and I'm basically all out of excuses for going back to him.

Yet you go back to him, I presume? Thus, you are not 'addicted to a person', you are repeatedly making the same bad choice.

He doesn't want to be in relationship, even if he did, has doubts about me, we're all wrong for one another, and him being in my life has brought nothing but tears and misery.

It is bringing something else to your life, something that keeps you coming back. If all it brought was pain, then you would not return. But it's bringing pain + (something you are looking for). The solution is to find out what else you are looking for. What is this shitty situation providing for you that you need? Why do you keep breaking your own heart to get it?

My friends are clearly (and justifiably) over it. I can't afford therapy. I'd consider AL Anon, but I'm not really down with the whole 12 step thing.

Your friends are signalling to you that you are repeating the same choice with the same consequence over and over. It's drama. People like the story the first time they see it, but the four time? With the same plot? They want to change the channel.

I've done everything short of telling him to leave me the F alone. Blocked him on all social media, don't initiate contact, have stayed away from places he may be, erased our text threads, took him out of my phone (though I have his # memorized) etc.

You are not trying to break up with him, you're playing a game with yourself. The way that looks if you're broken up is that you will go on with your life. If you see him, it will be awkward or painful or you leave the situation at that point. You are playing a hide-and-seek game from your own emotions. Maybe it' to give yourself the ability to say 'I tried to fix this' but the result is this:
You do not WANT to stop seeing him, and it would hurt you to see him and not interact. You know he's bad news, thus you say, 'I will try to ensure our paths don't cross, but if they do, I am at his mercy'

Listen to that a few times. You are in essence saying that you cannot control yourself. You do not have an addiction to a person, you need to sack it up and grow up a bit. If you're going to go through this BS, at least own it and have fun with it.

I pray he won't get in touch with me or that he meets someone else, as much as that would destroy me. I do believe time heals wounds and know for certain I'll be fine without him. The past couple of weeks were fine, even though it was hard not hearing from him. I knew/believed it was for the best and felt good that I didn't have a weak moment by caving and contacting him. I figured I was on to something when even being drunk wasn't enough for me to go there.

But just a simple "hi" from him via text after that couple of weeks of zero contact and I'm at his beck and call like nothing ever happened.


I feel for you, I really do. The solution has nothing to do with him. You need to stop responding to the idea of being with him.

I'm fairy sure if he suggested I jump off a cliff with him, I'd take his hand and not ask any questions.

Again, drama. I am getting tired of reading it actually. You don't like the answer. The answer is that this relationship or whatever it is, is bad for you. Why are you stuck in it? What's it doing for you? You're focusing on the outcome, but what is the input? Are you lonely? Do you have low self-esteem? Are there some big hairy ugly problems facing you that you are desperately trying to ignore? Until you get super honest with yourself about what this dramatic distraction is letting you avoid, you will probably circle around in drama to avoid it. Maybe with this, but I'm willing to bet it appears other places. You don't have an addiction to a person, as I've said, I think you have something that you need to sort out, it's painful to do so, and thus you are filling your life with drama and noise.

I'm lost. I'm sick of myself. I know he's using me, I know it's not going to end well. In some ways, I'm not sure why I'm bothering to write this.

You are writing this because 1) you want attention, and or 2) you actually want to solve the problem.

Any thoughts/advice/stories are appreciated.

God knows you need many thoughts, a bit of advice, and probably no more stories. Stop telling yourself stories, that's what's gotten you into this situation. You are telling yourself a story about this fellow. It's a bad story, but you just keep on telling it. What is the story you refuse to tell? Maybe you've had a hard past and need to make piece with it. Or maybe you never learned how to function in relationships correctly. Or maybe you have PTSD from something a buried fear.

Whatever it is, it seems to be preventing you from living the life that you desire to live. Thus, please adjust accordingly. This boy has no power over you. Every moment, you can end this entire situation by simply walking away from it. Thus, what is it that has happened to make you believe that you do not have that power? Because you do.

I would advise you to exercise it, for chances are this boy is not the problem. He is a toy you are playing with either 1) because it's fun and you like the situation, or 2) because you are avoiding something else. Whatever it is, you need to own your life and enjoy it.

If he's using you, you are also using him. You are not a victim of anything but your own decision-making here. Good luck.
posted by nickrussell at 12:09 AM on May 27, 2012 [56 favorites]


2) because you are avoiding something else.

nickrussell may be on to something there.

Avoidance was the first thing that came to mind as I read your post, patientpatient. Is there something going on unrelated to your love life that's causing you anxiety? Is this guy just a convenient foil for your worrying mind?

(e.g., for me, getting all obsessive and angsty over a non-relationship usually has something to do with insecurities about finances, or some feeling of not being able to take care of myself.)
posted by quivering_fantods at 12:22 AM on May 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you have a smart phone, you can get apps that block calls and texts from specified numbers.
posted by victory_laser at 2:07 AM on May 27, 2012


Two-stage process: work out what you're getting from him/this situation, and then work out where else you can get it.

I know AskMe can be all "ah-ha, you secretly lurrrrrrve the drama!" on occasion, but I don't think that's such a terrible thing. So what if you do? 'Drama' can be broken down into its component parts, and those component parts can be found elsewhere, in ways that are better and healthier for you.

Maybe there's some level of emotional intensity that you want from your life, and you're getting that here. Maybe your brain craves complex emotional situations it can obsess over and untangle. Maybe there's something appealing about the unpredictability, or the being intermittently wanted/needed by someone you find so fascinating, or you can't stand to give up on situations when you don't feel like you're in full control or understanding of what's going on. Maybe parts of your life are boring you, and you feel like they shouldn't be because hey, you're an adult, and it's supposed to be boring, but your brain still wants more excitement whatever you tell it and so it seeks that here.

These are not terrible things to want! But you can split them up and scatter them among a wide range of friends and hobbies and other activities, and be just as fulfilled - in fact, a lot more fulfilled - than you are from the present situation. Maybe friend A is really good at deeper meaning-of-life conversations, and friend B is fantastically unpredictable and just the person to suggest an impromptu trip to Madagascar (or maybe none of your friends are really hitting that spot, and it's time to branch out and start making new ones as well). Maybe you can take up some a sport that'll give you that thrill and intensity of feeling like you're on top of the world. Hell, I know I can absolutely obsess over people in my life who make omg no sense why would you do that - but I can satisfy that tendency by reading Mad Men recaps instead, of all things.

You can have a life that feels better than this. You just have to make it yourself.
posted by Catseye at 4:04 AM on May 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


I'm going to recommend another book: Beyond Codependency. It doesn't really matter whether your situation is classically codependent or not. What the book is about is teaching you how to detach from other people, to stop looking to other people as the center of your life, and start recognizing and living your own inner life instead. It helps you work out how to start making choices that actually make you comfortable, hopeful, serene and happy instead of choices that make you act obsessed and feel miserable. It can help disabuse you of myths about what people who make you feel crazy are doing in your life, and particularly of the myth that you just aren't in control of what you feel and think.

This book quite literally saved my sanity. Had I not read it in my late 20s, I have no doubt but that I'd have opted in to a much longer string of "relationships" that were entirely unrewarding and unproductive for me under the guise of having some star-crossed, romantic curse to always be the one that loved more. Ppppffffft. It also did wonders for my relationships with everyone, not just lovers. Friends, family, co-workers - it explicitly, clearly you what it is and isn't reasonable to expect of yourself and from others.

Get the book! Lots of libraries have it, it's been in print forever. I recommend reading and also doing the writing/sketching assignments it gives you, which are really the way you kind of break through your own BS and start making some honest assessments of what you're doing to make your relationship life more difficult.
posted by Miko at 7:17 AM on May 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Tell him to leave you alone and block his #! You can do all the tbeorizing and therapizing you want, but until you cut off the noxious stimulous nothing will actually help you feel better. I didn't believe it myself when I was in a similar situation, but even one text or one short meeting can set your healing way back. Eventually you'll be able to tolerate seeing him if you have to (same social circles or whatever) but for now you need to cut him out entirely.
posted by yarly at 7:33 AM on May 27, 2012


But just a simple "hi" from him via text after that couple of weeks of zero contact and I'm at his beck and call like nothing ever happened.

What's actually happening right now? Did he text you and then you got together? Or you talked? Or you had an emotional reaction to something that was just a text and went no further, and you're beating yourself up over that? If it's the last, don't worry; eventually this will taper off on its own. This is not like being addicted to drugs or alcohol, because drugs and alcohol will always be available, whereas chances are this guy will move out of your life. However you may repeat this whole dynamic. I agree with quivering_fantods; obsessing over something self-contained, like a pseudo-relationship, is very comfy compared with obsessing over say finances, which you would have to actually do something about.

I dated a guy whose M.O. was to drop in and out of my life. One thing I discovered was that he had a rotating group of girlfriends and exes that he would hold at arms length. He'd get in touch with these people periodically and they would be so incredibly excited to hear from him. No doubt this was really good for his ego. One day when we were broken up but still hanging out, he called another woman in front of me-- or picked up when she called-- and her entire half of the conversation was audible. She sounded so pathetically eager to get together with him, and he was enjoying the hell out of it. After that, his behavior just seemed comical to me.
posted by BibiRose at 7:43 AM on May 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I agree with other people that the way you're framing this for yourself is not doing you any favors. When I was in a similar situation (but sort of on the other side) I had this narrative that we were both being caught up in something beyond our control. I had some good friends who sat me down and very firmly informed me that this was bullshit, that what was happening is that I was repeatedly being offered sex, I wasn't turning it down, and because I wasn't turning it down I was experiencing and creating some very predictable emotional fallout.

I know that you want to believe that there's something about this person that touches your soul, but let's keep in mind what's really happening here. Have you seen this? When he contacts you, your brain releases a little squirt of dopamine. That's it. That's the entirety of why you feel this way about him. The good news is that you can get your brain to do that about other things. So block his calls or change your phone number (c'mon, really, you're not serious about moving past him until you've done one of these) and go find your brain chemicals somewhere else.
posted by Ragged Richard at 7:58 AM on May 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


"I've done everything short of telling him to leave me the F alone."

This is the final step, you know. It won't be over until you do it - which is why you haven't. Don't go looking for other solutions because there aren't any. Tell him to not contact you again, or admit to yourself you're not ready to end it yet. The solution is right in front of you.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 8:33 AM on May 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Draw two circles on a sheet of paper. Draw arrows going out of one, and different arrows pointing into the other.

---> O <---
<--- O --->

These represent your ability to choose your own emotions -- not on the basis of feelings, but on the basis of thoughtful decision.

The top one represents the choice to act strictly defensively, that your feelings are consequential or reactive to incoming situations and constantly dealing with the outside trying to enter your world. A visual to think of might be the tall grasses of a field that were whipped back and forth in a churning motion as the wind sweeps over them.

The bottom one represents the choice to feel on purpose.. that your feelings are active or cause consequence, with intention and deliberate action. A similar visual would be like the wind, that whips the tall grasses back and forth.

In every possible situation you encounter, forever, in your entire life, you choose one of these two options whether you realize it or not.

Saying, "I have a problem" is a reaction to a situation you believe you can't get out of -- you are actively choosing to be the grasses and willfully relying on others to correct it. If you say instead, "This will no longer be a problem," you act with intention, you feel on purpose -- not as a response, but as an causality, to change your feelings with decision and action.

Choose, with decision that you are responsible for, continually, to be the wind that whips around the grasses. Defy the option of becoming the grasses.
posted by Quarter Pincher at 8:49 AM on May 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


Oh, and also: Baggage Reclaim. Some good words of wisdom there.
posted by Catseye at 11:47 AM on May 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


I just did this! Am still sort of sorting it out. Fell for an amazing woman, had a very happy 8 weeks, had her very suddenly duck out of the relationship and spent a month in tailspin.

Here's what worked for me: Start forcing stuff into your social calendar. Have friends you haven't seen in awhile? Bug 'em to meet for a drink. Get your OKCupid game going. Find some MeetUps that appeal to you.

At first, all of this will feel empty and awful. It will not make you feel better. But it will keep you busy, and that's enough to get you through. Unfriend this dude, delete his number, do not look back. I realize that's hard. I made a game out of it- How many days could I go without talking to this person? It's been 6 weeks. I still miss her, a little bit, but I no longer feel that weird NEED to see her and I've been seeing someone

Its not easy, but everytime you contact him you essentially reset the clock. Good luck!
posted by GilloD at 1:12 PM on May 27, 2012


I propose that you are not addicted to him, but to love itself - that is, the comfort zone of believing you are in a relationship. He is simply the visible front of that comfort zone.

Read up on love addiction. Consider attending a meeting of SLAA - it's a 12-step program, but no matter how you feel about those, they can provide some outside wisdom.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:14 PM on May 27, 2012


Pretty soon, my love.

Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow or next week, but very, very soon, you will be SICK TO DEATH of being blown off. You will be sick of it, UP TO HERE!!!!!

All done, show's over, fat lady has sung, the cows have come home.

All done with the bullshit, all done with these crappy feelings, all done with being in line for your rightful attention.

You can be rid of him when you're absolutely, 100% done with playing second fiddle, and not one second before that.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 1:32 PM on May 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is about tolerating the emotions you're trying to escape by contacting him. Start by asking him not to contact you. Next, when you feel the urge to obsess over him or contact him, sit there with that urge and do nothing. Repeat.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:04 PM on May 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Since this is EXACTLY what Al-anon's for, I'm going to suggest you check out a couple meetings. You don't have to buy into the whole schpiel but they ARE going to have hacks that will help you get though the days. And you can be as nutty as you like about the relationship and no one will (should) think it's insane, or if it is, it's an insane everyone's been to.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:00 AM on May 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


So what will you have if this person disappears in a puff of smoke? What is your life like without them? Are you otherwise doing ok?

This relationship is filling a need in your life. It's also destructive. You need to figure out what need it is filling and find another way to fulfil it, preferably something that is beneficial.

Imagine where you would be if you had never met this person. Are you struggling in other areas of your life? Work, finances, family, home? Do you have previous traumas that you have been avoiding dealing with?

If you had never met this person, would you have dealt with any of that instead? Does removing this person from your life mean you will be forced to acknowledge what they've allowed you to ignore?

I had a friend in high school that was constantly getting sucked into bad drama-filled relationships. And, yah, we eventually told her to stop talking about it to us. It felt that her actions were partly being fed by having us as an audience to her damaging misadventures. Her home life was very bad, her father was an alcoholic and her mother had committed suicide when she was little. She couldn't deal with or fix any of that. When she was older she managed to get a bit of therapy and you could see the lightbulbs flicking on about her home life and how it had led to her current romantic problems.

I know you say you can't afford therapy, but honestly you can't NOT afford it. Stop rehashing your current drama, start asking where and how to receive professional help.
posted by Dynex at 4:02 PM on May 28, 2012


And don't be sure you can't afford therapy until you investigate it. There are different models available. Call around to some clinics and ask about how they charge. Some have a sliding scale. Sometimes you can arrange to go biweekly or monthly instead of weekly. Some run support groups that are much lower cost. Sometimes you can learn about low-cost community mental health services. If you haven't looked yet, don't assume it's not an option just because $100 a week isn't in your budget. It doesn't always have to break down that way, and you might be surprised what's available.
posted by Miko at 7:14 PM on May 28, 2012


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