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Is my RL a dead horse or does he deserve this chance?
December 29, 2012 8:51 AM   Subscribe

Another question about my LTR: how much should I try to give another chance to my potentially EUM partner?

I'm at a loss for how to proceed. My relationship has given me more grief than I expected. I guess maybe that's my answer but I'm the sort to want to exhaust all interventions before I give up on a RL. (Maybe I'm a little codependent.) I'm trying to determine whether I'm being too optimistic and this is a dead horse or whether he is really trying and I should cut him some slack while tapping my foot. Emotionally, I have one foot out the door and he senses it.

Previously, my problem has been that he turns back into a bit of an *** after he gets back on my good side (meaning he gets a little complacent or selfish or lazy), until I am exasperated and then he tries again.... and that cycle is a bit toxic so I'd like to just have a RL where he's doing these things without the threat of losing me. I don't know exactly how to make that happen. It's like he can't be bothered unless he's afraid.

We're coming on eight months together. I see him in a group several times a week, and sometimes we get lunch (usually at my suggestion). I told him I feel like there is something wrong with the RL because he only wants us to stay the night together once a week. His response: "I'm very introverted and with X hobby in the week I don't get much time to recharge." I ask if this level of contact issue has come up in other relationships and he says it has. He is introverted, and passive, but I feel like those are excuses.

Combine this with my recent communication about making plans - namely, I don't care if he's passive, if he wants to date me he has to make plans more because I'm not going to carry that burden anymore. Him not making the effort to see me has made me feel bad about myself at times, and made me doubt he has any genuine interest, and I'm the kind of girl who needs regular reassurance built into a relationship (doesn't have to be grand or direct or even verbal but I need consistent proof of being appreciated). I almost feel pathetic because I've had to tell him more than once that I need to see proof that he cares and wants to be dating me. Part of me thinks I should have left a long time ago because of that.

There was a big fight around six months and I lost some of my feelings due to how he reacted to me. I've told him this... thinking he'd fight for me somehow. He tried a little but not nearly what I expected.

So that's all the stuff that puts it in the "why am I still doing this" category. However. He seems to have gotten the message. He's planning things a LOT more, and far more in advance. He's trying to see me more. In the past he'd make an effort to act on feedback but it was kind of formulaic as in "I'm not really feeling this but you want it so here." Kind of a plug and play vibe. This time is different - it seems more genuine like he really gets it. And he's trying to do more to show the world that we have this bond that others can't enter.

I mean, if I cry over something he has done, he ends up crying too. This last time he tried to hide the crying. I'd like to think that means something, for a hyper-masculine person to be like that with me, but idk.

I don't know if I'm being too understanding and lacking in self-respect to even allow him this chance to fix things, or what. I'm confused about the relationship. I (think I) want it IF he can straighten up and treat me the way I deserve to be treated (without prompting from me... I mean is it even possible that he cares for me if I have to remind him that I don't see it consistently wth). I want it if he can show more emotional honesty. I want it if he can somehow behave in ways that will make up for how my feelings changed after that big fight.

I've been very unhappy with it lately but when I'm physically with him I'm usually happy. Or frustrated but he makes me laugh. And since my latest talking to him I'm happy more often. But my friends and family act funny when he comes up in conversation ... probably because they know I haven't been treated well. I just can't bring myself to let it go until I'm absolutely sure he's just totally wrong for me, because our opposites attract stuff does make for good chemistry.

How do you decide when you're done with a relationship? How can I encourage him to behave in a desirable way even if he's not threatened with me walking away? Am I just putting myself through a longer process of hurt by allowing him a chance to fix things?

Another question: to me if you care for someone and they express a problem you try hard to fix it and it's fairly easy to remember their concern. He does try to fix things but it's like if he doesn't see me for a while, when he sees me again he forgot the issue. I've heard from others this is a common "male" thing, and is why women talk about "training" their men to get them reoriented to the desired behavior. So is it true that any initial effort means he cares even if he seems ultimately forgetful? I feel like if he cared he wouldn't forget my love language is different, for example. But he has to get reminded. Am I unrealistic on that stuff?

TL; DR Am I deluding myself in giving this man a chance anymore? Do you have any idea how I could know for sure?
posted by hungry hippo to Human Relations (35 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
tl;dr - if you have to keep goading, threatening and cajoling someone into giving you what you need or want in a relationship, it's more trouble than it's worth. Move on.
posted by shoesietart at 8:57 AM on December 29, 2012 [14 favorites]


DTMFA.
posted by eustacescrubb at 8:59 AM on December 29, 2012


I think the key here is you say you are "very unhappy". That's a good indicator that it's time to end the relationship.
posted by Eicats at 8:59 AM on December 29, 2012


It sounds like you are a little bit good for him, he is learning from you how to be in a relationship. But he is not good for you, you are learning to settle for less than you want and deserve, and are starting to feel crummy and second-guess yourself.

So both you and he are putting his needs first, and neither you nor he are putting your needs first. It's in no way an equal partnership and you are recognizing that it never will be. You will probably be much happier if you find another grownnup to spend time with.
posted by headnsouth at 9:01 AM on December 29, 2012 [10 favorites]


I just want to know what EUM means.
posted by selfmedicating at 9:02 AM on December 29, 2012 [74 favorites]


Why are you with him? I can't find a good reason in this long, long question for you to even want him.
posted by xingcat at 9:03 AM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


headnsouth - yes... I told him in my mind, ideally a RL means each person puts the other's needs first. Then I looked at him and said, "I don't think you see it that way." I am definitely done placating. And I'd like to think I'm done settling as well.
posted by hungry hippo at 9:04 AM on December 29, 2012


Yes, I agree with shoeseitart - good relationships aren't this hard. One of the best things about a good relationship is how easy it is most of the time. That comfortable togetherness allows the two of you to focus your energy outward into enjoying life and accomplishing things together.

Also, in my opinion, opposites may attract, but I've found that they're harder to live with than a person who shares many of your personality traits with just a few differences.

The relationship you describe would be too hard for me.
posted by summerstorm at 9:04 AM on December 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Look, I wouldn't say DTMFA, because I really don't think this guy is a MF. He doesn't sound like a bad guy, he just doesn't sound like the right guy for you.

You need a lot of reassurance, a lot of time spent together, a lot of the man making the plans. He's an introvert, needs some time on his own, like to have his own things to do. That's not wrong, but you're taking it personally. Other people who have different needs might be quite happy with his approach. I wouldn't, but that's why I wouldn't date a guy like him.

I think you should leave, because he is disappointing you just by being himself, which is not something that you can change.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:05 AM on December 29, 2012 [8 favorites]


Being introverted is not an excuse, I should add. It's a personality trait, and it is only as negative or positive as your perspective makes it. If he never says or does loving things for you, that's different, but I'm not sure if that's what you're describing or not.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:09 AM on December 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


EUM: Emotionally Unavailable Man

I'm with him because we have good chemistry. He balances me out because he is opposite of me in most ways. We do have one thing in common that most people wouldn't and it is fun to share together. He can be really funny. He cooks (I don't). We have some fascinating intellectual conversations and he isn't intimidated by my intelligence like other guys have been. He's good with kids. I love the guy. He's the first person I've really felt attached to in a relationship. (Granted that happened before all the nonsense, but it's hard to wash my hands of it because I love the goober.)

treehorn+bunny I thought about that, how I'm getting upset because he's just being himself. But in the beginning he was an introvert who also showed me he was into me. That changed. I don't necessarily need him to act like an extrovert. There's days where he's acted the way I need for my needs to be met, and it didn't really require much initiative. It's just not consistent. I don't need a lot of the man making the plans but I need him to do maybe 25% of it. He wasn't.

Okay, per mefi rules I am done elaborating in this posting area but you're all free to mail me if there are concerns or questions.
posted by hungry hippo at 9:11 AM on December 29, 2012


This sounds like a poor match. I'm not clear on why he's staying with you, either. I'd cut the losses, move on, and look for guys who innately meet your desired level of contact.
posted by ellF at 9:22 AM on December 29, 2012


Just goes to show that choosing a partner based on some kind of checklist of things you think you need rarely gives you the kind of support and relationship that you actually need.
posted by softlord at 9:26 AM on December 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


He's not giving you what you want (and I don't blame you, a lot of people would want more after eight months from someone they're sleeping with) and he has made it clear that he doesn't want to give it.

You are 100% focused on him and how you can figure out a way to get him to do what you want instead of what he wants. You'd be much better off looking for someone who wants more than a minimal relationship nor has to be bludgeoned into spending time with you.

If you know abbreviations like EUM, you probably know this already.

I dunno, it seems like the void of not having much of a relationship is getting filled with obsessing and constant strategising about the relationship, and the void of not having him is getting filled with obsessing and constant strategising about him. If you took that away, there probably wouldn't be much left.

Sorry, it sucks.
posted by tel3path at 9:26 AM on December 29, 2012 [11 favorites]


I'm with him because ... He's the first person I've really felt attached to in a relationship.

Excellent! This is good, solid experience. It will be useful to you in establishing your next relationship. With someone else.
posted by feral_goldfish at 9:31 AM on December 29, 2012 [11 favorites]


All right, well, per your update then I shall alter my advice to - leave him because he's a crappy boyfriend (despite having other positive qualities).
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:35 AM on December 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


It can be a bad match without either of you being at fault. If he's making an effort and you're still not happy it just means you need someone who is fundamentally different than him.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 9:39 AM on December 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


But in the beginning he was an introvert who also showed me he was into me. That changed.

Alack, in the early stages of infatuation folks tend to be more proactive and overtly affectionate, cos hormones. When you find a compatible partner, you'll find that once the infatuation subsides it's not so bad, because in its place you have a solid, loving, mutually beneficial partnership. You both deserve that.
posted by dumdidumdum at 9:52 AM on December 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


he's an introvert and he doesn't want to deliver the level of relationship interaction you require to feel secure. It doesn't matter if that's because he's emotionally unavailable or because you're overly needy - the two of you are not a good match.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:55 AM on December 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is, what -- your fifth question about this man? You've been dating for less than a year. You have emotional needs that he is unable to meet. You're just not compatible. It's hard, it sucks, but there it is; move on from him and find someone who will make you unreservedly happy.
posted by baby beluga at 10:17 AM on December 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm not going to jump into saying whether you should stay or go because there is way too much editorializing in your post and way too few examples. I will say that people are put in to our paths for a reason and I think you still have things to learn from this or a future relationship.

The general theme that I see in your post is that you are evaluating this relationship through the lens of pop psychology. You've put your partner in a box and invented an acronym for it (EUM), so of course you're finding more and more reasons to keep him in the box. It's reinforcement bias on your part.

Emotionally unavailable men don't cry in front of other people the way you've described and it sounds like you've had some very intense and very sweet moments of trying to understand each other.

You both have issues and you've both stated your expectations and needs. Some of these expectations are unrealistic. He's making a good faith attempt to meet your expectations. That's all that you can ask of someone -- you can ask them to try. If they try in good faith and they still don't meet your expectations, then you need to either write it off as a "price of admission," reevaluate the reasonableness of your expectations or admit that this isn't a good fit and move on. But the bitterness you're expressing here? That's a relationship killer.

He is introverted, and passive, but I feel like those are excuses. Your partner was expressing one of his needs here and you have totally dismissed it. His expectation to only be together one night a week is not particularly reasonable, but I don't see any attempt on your part to understand and compromise here.

IF he can straighten up and treat me the way I deserve to be treated (without prompting from me... I mean is it even possible that he cares for me if I have to remind him that I don't see it consistently wth). This is a common conflict to be sure, but it's not reasonable to expect people to know how you expect to be treated without you communicating your expectations in real time. Your expectation seems to be that "prompting" is a bad thing because lovers should know each other well enough to foretell each others' needs. This could be reframed by you into "communicating" is a good thing, because it lets your lover know what you need and lets the two of you discuss whether it makes sense or whether there's some other way to meet each others' needs.

I'm the kind of girl who needs regular reassurance built into a relationship (doesn't have to be grand or direct or even verbal but I need consistent proof of being appreciated). I almost feel pathetic because I've had to tell him more than once that I need to see proof that he cares and wants to be dating me. Our significant others often give us the gift of helping us with our own demons and that is a great gift. But, at the end of the day, your insecurity about relationships and missing feelings of being appreciated are your own to work through and resolve and no one can do that for you. Otherwise we run the risk of turning our significant others in to our therapists.

But my friends and family act funny when he comes up in conversation ... probably because they know I haven't been treated well. What have you been telling them? If you've only told them what you've told us here, this is really inappropriate. I wouldn't be upset if my significant other was sharing private things with her most trusted friends, but I would feel very violated indeed if they were complaining about everything with everyone. Your friends might be acting funny because you've shown to them that you're no longer invested in the relationship yourself. There's no reason to say that he's some kind of bad guy that isn't treating you right.

I've heard from others this is a common "male" thing, and is why women talk about "training" their men to get them reoriented to the desired behavior.The idea of "training" your significant other because of their gender is extremely toxic and demeaning.

He's planning things a LOT more, and far more in advance. He's trying to see me more. In the past he'd make an effort to act on feedback but it was kind of formulaic as in "I'm not really feeling this but you want it so here." Kind of a plug and play vibe. This time is different - it seems more genuine like he really gets it. And he's trying to do more to show the world that we have this bond that others can't enter. This is your starting point. He's trying. There are two paths for you from here. 1) Either that's not enough for you and you move on amicablely (because from what I've seen here, he's done nothing wrong and is trying to do things at his own pace, meeting his own needs first). Or: 2) You accept that he's trying as hard as he can and the missing pieces are the price of admission for being in this relationship. It's clear that there are holes in your heart. We've all got them. Ultimately, it is no one other persons' responsibility to fill those holes. Ultimately, it is up to our own selves to find the resources and people (plural) who can help us fill them.
posted by Skwirl at 10:22 AM on December 29, 2012 [28 favorites]


Everything you've written says that this is a bad fit. I personally don't really think either of you is at fault. You have very different needs and expectations. I think there's a lot that you can learn from this relationship (both of you) bu the fact that you followed "it's different this time, he's trying..." with more about what you want/expect but aren't getting, and none of the "we" or "I" statements that suggest two people working on their relationship together, makes me feel like this horse is dead.

Take the energy you are spending trying to figure it out and turn it towards finding someone who is more compatible.
posted by sm1tten at 10:31 AM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, you don't give people chances because they "deserve" them, but because they earn them. If you don't think he's earned it, then don't stay with him.
posted by sm1tten at 10:33 AM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


This whole thing sounds like way too much trying and thinking. I used to be a lot like you when a relationship wasn't going well. What I've learned is that analyzing the other person is not at all helpful. They are who they are; just love them for who they are and let them do what they want to do. If you want them to do something else, ask to see if they will. It's hard to keep things that simple, but it really is that simple.

The thing is that admitting you need what you need is pretty intimate, even vulnerable (as you noted). Detaching and analyzing the other person is actually a form of distance, and it doesn't build trust and intimacy. It builds anxiety, distance, alienation, etc.

headnsouth - yes... I told him in my mind, ideally a RL means each person puts the other's needs first. Then I looked at him and said, "I don't think you see it that way."

Nor do I. Nor do you, or you'd be like "one night a week? okay, if that's what makes you happy." Plus, this is an example of terrible communication. It's what I'm talking about above. This communication puts him (his definition of a relationship) on trial. Whereas what you're really trying to say, it seems, is "I feel hurt and angry because XYZ make me think you don't care about my needs." I say that that is "what you're really trying to say," because I'd bet that even if he found an essay that he wrote in the 5th grade proving he has long seen relationships as being about caring about someone's feelings, it wouldn't change anything for you, because the real issue isn't how he sees relationships, it's how you are feeling and why.
posted by salvia at 11:13 AM on December 29, 2012 [10 favorites]


IF he can straighten up and treat me the way I deserve to be treated (without prompting from me...

Here, just as in your other quote in my comment above, you are defining right vs. wrong in relationships, and judging him for not living up to your version of right. You need what you need, but he's not a bad, "EUM" for having a different approach to relationships or not knowing what you need. You're free to go seek out someone else who will make you happy, but don't stay in hopes you can push him into doing what you want by judging and labeling him.
posted by salvia at 11:23 AM on December 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


I almost feel pathetic because I've had to tell him more than once that I need to see proof that he cares and wants to be dating me.

But, that is pathetic. Perhaps neither of you are "pathetic," but that is, and...yeah, the relationship is "pathetic" if that's an issue. Nobody's needs and wants are being met there, so what's the point?

What exactly does "he's trying to do more to show the world that we have this bond that others can't enter" mean? That sounds really unpleasant. It's not a grade eight dance; there's no need for either of you to peacock about to make clear that you have a thing going.

It sounds like you want "a relationship" way, way more than you want this particular person, and I think given "I've heard from others this is a common "male" thing, and is why women talk about "training" their men to get them reoriented to the desired behavior" it might be reasonable to posit that your beliefs about genders and relationships are perhaps not reasonable or mature, and that any relationship you enter into with these sorts of issues -- I want a relationship, person involved is secondary to having a "RL"; penis = behaviour X & vagina = behaviour Y and penis-training is desirable, etc -- is going to struggle.

You write "I'm with him because we have good chemistry" but much of this is about trying to badger him into being somebody he's not. I don't think "DTMFA" applies because there's no "MFA" part. It sounds like you do not approve of his emotions for somewhat mysterious reasons -- lots of beliefs about how a "RL"/man should be, beliefs that these things are pretty fluid -- and I would've walked ages ago on somebody so excited about badgering me into making particular emotional displays that I did not feel were necessary or which did not come naturally. This sounds like a drag for both of you.
posted by kmennie at 11:31 AM on December 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


What does RL mean in this context?
posted by Majorita at 11:40 AM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Majorita, it means relationship.
posted by hungry hippo at 11:52 AM on December 29, 2012


One of the best pieces of advice I've ever read on AskMe is that when people show you who they are, believe them.
posted by danceswithlight at 12:22 PM on December 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


No you missed my point and this may be the crux of your problem. In life and in relationships each person is responsible for putting themselves first. You should not be putting your partner first. You must put your own needs first. Not wants, mind you, but needs. It took me a long time to get this, it's counterintuitive to me and I still lapse into caretaking and it still doesn't work ... but you have to put yourself first and be ready to walk if what this guy has to offer doesn't meet your needs.
posted by headnsouth at 1:37 PM on December 29, 2012 [9 favorites]


I had a realization lately about my own self-esteem and need for reassurance in relationships (both romantic and platonic). Namely, if you're insecure, and always on the look-out for proof that people don't like you, you'll always find it. It's classic confirmation bias. It works both ways, of course--be on the look out for proof that someone loves you and you'll find that, too.

But in order to do that, you have to be confident in yourself. As headnsouth says, you need to take care of yourself, and honor yourself, and find yourself lovable, rather than seeking evidence of loathing and hatred and emotional disengagement from others. Because the constant, cloying need for reassurance is something else--it's a hungry ghost. You'll never be able to sate it with outside affirmation and you'll likely end up driving even loving people away with an inability to recognize or acknowledge the very real affection they have for you. I know I have, in the past.

Frankly, it sounds like it's a lost cause with this guy--you're only going to ever see the bad and the lacking in him. So end it, if you're not happy. But I'd recommend therapy and self-love in the interim. Learn to take care of yourself first. No one else is ever truly going to do it for you.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:03 PM on December 29, 2012 [9 favorites]


Also, your question is framed in the language and viewpoint of self-help books. I have to say, I've found that many of these reinforce very negative ideas about women in relationships--that relationships need to be built on intuition rather than communication, that a failure to participate in certain societal rituals means a lack of emotional depth. It's easy to find rhetoric about how "he's just not into you"--I suspect because keeping women neurotic and insecure sells more self-help books.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:07 PM on December 29, 2012 [11 favorites]


Your relationship style and his are not a good match, from what you say. You've been dating for a while, you've asked for something different, and he's politely (it sounds like) told you that's not going to work for him. I think that you should probably break up, it sounds like you can do it amicably, and then after a cooling-off period my guess is that you'll be able to be friends or friendly acquaintances and enjoy your interactions in your shared group activity.

I don't think relationships are something to be approached with insider jargon or acronyms, though. He sounds like someone who wants sex/romance once a week and no more, and he was admirably self-aware and candid about that from what you've told us. Labeling that "emotionally unavailable" doesn't seem as useful as noting that that isn't a fit for you and what you want.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:19 PM on December 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


This sounds like one of those situations where nobody's really at fault but the relationship dynamic sucks and thus needs to end. You each have expectations that the other can't seem to meet. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, but it is wrong for the two of you. If you're at the point where you are inclined to see his nature as merely an excuse, all you're doing by remaining together is prolonging the agony.

Moreover, it sounds like you're done no matter what your future interactions are like, so it's a bit cruel to continue to lead him on like that.
posted by wierdo at 7:11 PM on December 29, 2012


Just a datapoint, but what you're saying about him is almost exactly what my ex-wife used to say about me. We stuck it out for 7 years and I really wish we both had had the self-awareness to break it off sooner.

I like Gottman on relationships. Most of what he talks about is framed as marriage, but it applies to relationships just the same.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 7:14 PM on December 29, 2012


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