Can you really be addicted to a certain kind of sadness?
Ugh...I hate that song. My boyfriend has serious intimacy issues but is trying to work on them. I feel intermittently insecure/frustrated/sad/angry and I don't know how much longer I can take it...
posted by entropy33 to Human Relations (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Backstory: dated a guy from college through my mid-twenties. Great guy, though lots of trouble early on - first real relationship for both of us. Moved together to attend grad school but he was incredibly depressed and had been for years and we'd started drifting apart, not being physically intimate, etc. I broke up with him, had a rebound, which I'm not proud of as the guy was a really good guy and I hurt him a lot. Then I met someone I fell totally and completely in love with. He had...a lot of problems, though. Untreated bipolar, manipulative, not very nice to the point where he was certainly emotionally abusive. We lasted 2.5 years, much of it long distance and it really killed my self-esteem. He finally broke up with me (just as I was defending my dissertation proposal and moving to a new city to do my dissertation research, so that was rough) but we stayed in touch off and on for another 9 months because he wanted to be friends and I couldn't let go.
Then I finally decided I couldn't handle it anymore and went no contact for real. I didn't tell him, I just did it. Since the breakup I'd dated a little, but nothing could stick. Right before I finally ended contact, I started hanging out with this guy I liked quite a bit. He was fun and funny and personable but he had this air of sadness and, imo, hidden depths. Turns out he'd been recently dumped by a women who'd strung him a long for over a year, including periods of actually being together. I know this woman and she's actually pretty cool...just emotionally unavailable. So the guy and I started hanging out, having deep, emotional conversations about our pasts and our issues. Admittedly, mostly we talked about him.
Eventually we hooked up and it was pretty good. Then he went cold and distant. For a month. Then we hooked up again and the deep conversations ramped up and we started doing really fun things together. It's been on and off for a year now, even though we currently live in different cities. And it's been pretty bad. He's a borderline alcoholic, clinically depressed (though treating it), hates his job and his life though actually his life is really pretty good. He makes a lot of money, he's in good shape, he has great friends though he keeps them at a distance and has a tendency to lash out at the closest ones whenever he's drunk. I've been the recipient of the worst of the lashing out. He's gotten black-out drunk and called me names, he's lied to me and lied to his friends about me and probably worst of all, we had somewhat unprotected sex for many months before he told me he had herpes (I didn't get it, though that doesn't really make it any better).
All along he's said he's not ready for a relationship, he can't handle a relationship, he's not sure he loves me, as he's never been able to love anyone, he's not yet over his divorce of 7 years ago, he has abandonment issues because he's adopted, etc. Listen to people when they tell you who they are/what they want. I know. Of course, whenever I'd back off, he'd chase me, hard, sucking me back in with some weird combination of his pain and misery and ability to make me laugh.
He has strung me along, no question. He wants me and loves being with me but he's so messed up (he says) and isn't sure he'll ever be capable of a real relationship. Yet things have gotten much better recently. He's much more open about the fact that we're seeing each other (he used to hide a lot of our interactions from his friends), he always responds to texts/emails/chats/calls (though he still doesn't initiate all that much), he's generous and sweet when I visit him, and, most importantly, I think, he says he really wants to work on his intimacy and communication issues. He says it. But I'm not sure he's really doing it. It's still excruciatingly hard to have any conversation that touches on emotions with him. He just gets defensive and withdraws.
He depends on me very much for emotional support and I depend on him for...I don't know. I don't know what I get out of this or why I've stuck with it for so long. He's funny and can be sweet and he's good in bed and a great cook. He obviously does care about me when he's not being incredibly selfish and self-centered. He tells me I'm one of the smartest, most interesting people he's ever met, which has been really nice to hear, given the way my emotionally abusive ex would constantly put me down (he was a a professor, I'm still a lowly phd student...but mostly he was just an unkind, unhappy person). But current ex is not intellectually curious, he refuses to ever initiate plans (though he'll latch onto other people's), he's lived in one place his whole life, has never gone on a trip alone, he says he wants to do more than exercise and get drunk most nights with his friends...but he doesn't.
So what's my problem? Why is it so hard to let go of an alcoholic 38-year old who's caused me so much pain? Am I just emotionally unavailable myself? My 3 most significant relationships have all been with people with serious problems being emotionally open and generally a tendency towards serious depression, which should perhaps tell me something. But I love him, I really do. Maybe I'm addicted to the intermittent positive responses or to the signs of progress, tiny and incremental as they are. I don't know. All I do know is that I'm really frustrated with him and with myself and I need to do something about it.