My girlfriend of 2 1/2 years dumped me. It was the first serious relationship of my life. I am 35 years old. I'm scheduled to see a therapist next Wednesday, but I need some help coping in the meantime.
posted by apostate street preacher to Human Relations (32 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
First, just to get this out of the way : I am not suicidal. And although the breakup has made me depressed, I would not characterize my normal state as "depressed". I do, however, suffer from Pure O OCD, so I do have a problem with recurring thoughts, and that may be making my mental state worse. I actually set up the appointment with the therapist before I got dumped; I picked this therapist specifically for his experience dealing with people who have Pure O and other forms of OCD.
Second, I ask ahead of time that you please be gentle with me. Perhaps you see elements of yourself and past/current partners in my story. You may feel emotionally charged about that. But please remember that I'm a human being, I'm in a bad state of mind right now, and I need some help.
Third, since this is a long question, I will mark out the part that you may want to skip if you're in a TL;DR mood.
This was my first serious relationship. It was actually my first relationship that lasted longer than 4 or 5 months. We fell in love. We spoke about marriage in a matter-of-fact way, as something that was destined to happen. We promised to be there for each other forever.
[HERE STARTS THE PART THAT TL;DR PEOPLE MAY WANT TO SKIP]
It was a unique relationship. She was 10 years younger than me. A few people were judgemental about this, but her parents were not, and neither were the people who knew us well. Oddly, we both had about the same level of relationship experience going into it : her longest relationship had been 9 months. We were very different people. I'm extroverted, she's very shy and introverted. But we always saw our personalities as complimentary, or at least we used to.
We had some pretty serious communication problems. She would say that things were okay when in fact she did not feel okay about things. Issues in our relationship would come up, and we would discuss them until we reached a resolution or a compromise. She would say that she was okay with the resolution or compromise, when in fact she was not okay with it. She would be upset about something and keep it to herself for months, and then only bring it up once she'd reached a boiling point. She would rarely volunteer her feelings about things; if I noticed that she was unhappy about something, it was up to me to keep asking her questions until she'd finally reveal her thoughts. We had talked about these tendencies, and I had identified them as things that could destroy our relationship. She would grudgingly agree, but then do nothing to improve her communication skills.
To be fair, she did say that I was a difficult person to argue with. She said I was very opinionated, and didn't make her opinion feel validated. Part of me didn't get this, because half the time the only way I could even get her opinion was to ask her questions until she would finally reveal it. But there was truth to her complaint; I can be very opinionated. I'll argue an issue's logical points without thinking about the emotional side. This is something I need to work on. However, when we broke up, she admitted that she pretended to be happy with resolutions or compromises simply because I had tired her out on a given subject. This does not strike me as healthy.
A few months ago, we almost broke up. She informed me that, during a weekend apart, she had considered breaking up with me over a bunch of things that had been bothering her over for last 8 months. This really threw me for a loop, because it meant that for those 8 months, I thought she had been happy, when in fact she hadn't been. And it dawned on me that I had no idea when she was happy or when she was just being quiet. It made me re-evaluate things, and not in a good way. My mind was in a bad place for a week. My OCD came back briefly. However, we stayed together because it seemed like we'd found a way to work things out. I asked her to please, in the future, tell me about things that threaten our relationship, and not to just wait until things got really bad. She agreed that this was something she needed to change, and was very sorry for doing that to me. Of course, she didn't change.
I mention this because when she broke up with me, I asked her, "Why didn't you bring up [X, Y, and Z issues] before?" To which she responded, "Last time I did that, you flipped out and your OCD came back". I couldn't believe that was her takeaway from the situation. I "flipped out" because she had been keeping serious issues to herself for 8 months, not because she confronted me with them. I was very clear about that at the time. I mentioned this again when we were breaking up, but I don't know if I got through.
The night we broke up (last Wednesday), I knew something was up the moment I walked into the room. I asked, "Are you breaking up with me?", to which she replied, "Kinda." We proceeded to talk about [X, Y, and Z issues], and were able to talk them through pretty well. I asked, "Do you still want to break up with me, or do you need to think about it?" She said she needed to think about it. However, after I got home and realized she'd already picked up all her stuff, something in me clicked. If this is what it took to make her communicate -- a breakup threat --- then we really shouldn't be in a relationship. I called her up and broke up with her.
[HERE ENDS THE PART THAT TL;DR PEOPLE MAY WANT TO SKIP]
At first, I felt really good about the breakup. I was glad that I would no longer have to deal with our bad communication dynamic. She promised to stay away from my friends (they were all my friends, she didn't really bring any friends to the relationship), which was good.
But things got progressively worse over the next few days. I've been drinking A LOT. Sunday night, I sent her a very long text message basically saying, "We can work it out, I'm prepared to meet all of your demands and then some." Yesterday morning, she agreed to talk by phone, even though her initial plan was "no contact for a month". She was quite resolute about wanting to break up. I tried to make the case that our relationship was basically sound, and that we just had some fixable communications problems. Finally she said, "I don't want to fix this". And so far as I'm concerned, that was the end of it. She asked me not to contact her again. I don't foresee us getting back together.
I realize now it probably wasn't a very great relationship. It was a relationship where I had to do all the work : pay for everything; organize our social life; initiate and guide all of our emotional communications. I loved her because I was able to reveal my true self to her; I had never felt that kind of acceptance before. However, she was never truly open with me, and now I wonder if she really did accept me or if she was just keeping quiet. Recognizing these facts doesn't make me feel better, though.
I feel terrible. I can't concentrate on work. I'm drinking a lot. All I can think of are the good times we had together. This was the first serious relationship of my life. I have no experiences to guide me here. I'm estranged from my family, which is a good thing, but it means I don't have any family members to talk to. I've already burdened a number of my guy friends with this, and they've been helpful, or as helpful as they could be. But still, I have this sickening feeling in my chest, and I can't think of much else. I have an appointment with a therapist next Wednesday, but I need to somehow deal with myself in the meantime.
So what to do now? How do I move past this and get on with my life? Any coping skills or advice you have will be welcome.
And is there any lesson to take away from this relationship? I would like my next relationship to not have the same communication issues. I realize that I need to work on being less opinionated. Will it be difficult to find someone who doesn't have the same communication style as her?