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Help me accept what I don't understand.
August 1, 2014 6:22 AM   Subscribe

Yeah, so this relationship didn't work out. It's been three months since we ended things, but I can't come to terms with what happened, mostly because I either: don't want to accept the hard truth, or what I believe are hard truths aren't really true.

For about a month and half after the incident described in this linked post, things were idyllic. We went on a weekend away together, spent a lot of time hanging out, talking, laughing. Then, every weekend in April, he was busy with things he'd planned before we met. Whenever he left, it was out of sight, out of mind for the most part. One weekend he ran a 3-day relay race. I'd heard from him a few times during the race, but the day he actually got done - nothing. Which was totally fine by me when he explained what had happened (phone died, no charger, etc), until I noticed that he'd had time to change his Facebook profile picture but not send me a brief text letting me know he was okay.

If this sounds petty on my part, I get it. But I was still okay with that until it became clear to me that his hobbies and FOMO (fear of missing out) were actually his top priority. He was gone every weekend in April, but during the week spending time alone together wasn't a priority. Whenever we'd plan date night, he'd show up late. Or invite friends along. Or try to stuff in as many activities as he could with friends, but not plan things with me 1:1. To make matters worse, we have a mutual friends circle that we both did things with - but not as a couple, because he didn't want people to know we were dating in case things didn't work out. It was as if spending time with me alone wasn't exciting enough - there always had to be other people around. I would ask my friends if I was being ridiculous for getting insecure about his actions, but many of them (both male and female), said that my concerns were somewhat valid. I was advised to temper my reaction to some extent (after all, we'd only been dating 3 months), but my friends also said they'd never let a man treat me the way he did.

Regardless, the time we spent together was amazing. Our chemistry was off the charts, we had fun, the sex was good. I didn't realize it, but I fell hard. I ignored the little red flags - how he would describe negative qualities of his exes, but never did a gut check that it may have been his actions that prompted their reactions; the fact that he kept saying we weren't bf/gf or in a relationship, but we were exclusive; the fact that he said he had trouble being accountable to any woman because he'd been burned so badly in his marriage. On my part, I thought that being ultra-flexible, being available, and showing him how much I valued him would demonstrate to him that I wasn't his ex-wife. He'd kept repeating that I checked off all his boxes for what he wanted in a partner, so I thought that that would be enough for him to want to make the relationship work.

It just got worse. Maybe he became complacent, and I became too "available". I tried communicating with him using the "I love spending time with you, would you like to..." type conversations; or "I love getting texts from you, do you think when you're gone you could text me a little more?"; except, we started having these 'talks' every ten days. Or he'd go out with his friends and not get back to me for 6-7 hours. This from a man who would text me for hours when we first met (honeymoon phase)? It came down to something very simple: to me, the lack of texting signaled disinterest, but when I talked to him about it, he said he wasn't a texter, that I was the 'perfect girl', and that he wanted things to work. In hindsight, I became this clingy, needy, yucky person that most definitely wasn't her usual self. Subconsciously, I knew I wasn't being treated well. He attempted to text/ stay in touch more, but the intimacy that comes with progression of a relationship wasn't there. Why did I continue to give him a pass? Because he'd do little things here and there that made me feel special. Little gifts, put air in my tyres, rides to the airport. But he'd still show up late to things I planned as a couple, because he was 'on a doggy playdate with his dog's favorite playmate', or 'he got lost on his way back from his friend's birthday party, and left too late.'

The final straw for me was after the chaos of April (when he was really busy with work and his social activities), when I planned a date night. He wanted something calm and relaxing, so I planned a couples massage - it was the first time in his life he'd gotten a massage. He said he was going to be late so I pushed back the appointment. When he finally showed and I asked him why he was late, he said he'd had an impromptu happy hour at work that he had to go to. I was crushed. This was the second time in two weeks that I felt like I meant nothing to him. The week before, he'd invited me to an event the following weekend (we hadn't seen each other in ten days). The day of, we went to breakfast, and ended up having sex at his place (my idea, not his). Immediately after, he said, 'Sorry, I invited X and Y from our group of friends to this event, and they don't know we're dating, so you can't go with us.' And pretty much asked me to leave. Did he intend to disrespect me? No, he didn't. Was it inconsiderate in the extreme? Yes.

I gave it a couple more days, and on a date night when we were supposed to meet at 8 and he showed up at 930, I unloaded all my frustrations. I called him a 'walking red flag', told him that even having sex with him was hard because we had no emotional connection (things I regret saying and have since apologized for). He was definitely very affected by my words, and with his pride and stubbornness, I should have known it was the nail in the coffin. He said he'd felt the emotional connection recently lacking as well, to which I responded that I didn't think you could build an emotional connection with someone who wasn't there physically or otherwise. He said that his being busy, and wanting 'separate' lives had been a problem for girls he'd dated in the past, but that when he met me, he'd found himself wanting to make time for me. I guess he'd reverted to his old, true self. He said he wasn't ready to be accountable to any woman, but that he'd asked me to be patient and would get there. He said his uh-oh moment was my reaction to his shenanigans in costa rica. That at that moment, he'd had doubts as to whether we were compatible. We ended things two days later (he wanted to), and I have been a wreck ever since.

We keep seeing each other at work, and at social events. We're perfectly fine, on the surface. He assumed I had moved on, until a week ago. I laid my pride and dignity aside, and told him that the insecurities I was dealing with when we first dated (lack of my own social circle, not having friends/ activities) were no longer valid. Which is true, because now I'm so busy I don't know which way is up at times. The difference is, I'd make time for someone I cared about. He agreed that we'd spent some amazing times together, that we had great chemistry, but he truly believed we wouldn't work out. Why? Because he said he's going to do things with his friends sometimes, and not include me. Or that he'd do things with his friends first, and then with me. Or that he'd tell his friends things, and not tell me. He said this was why it was difficult to be with him - but what he didn't realize is that I'd be okay with that. What I did want is balance (something we'd talked about when we first dated, and he was confident he'd be able to do). He said he was looking for a (I quote) co-parent, but that he wasn't willing to settle, but that he hoped he'd find someone as kind and gentle as I am. He said he'd never met someone who was kind even when she was mad, and that he'd had to get used to someone who wanted to do nice things for him, like cook him dinner or bring him soup when he was ill (doesn't everyone do that?!). And he also wanted to find someone who could sit with him in companiable silence and do her own thing while he was busy doing yardwork, or reading, or puttering around his boat (which I'd demonstrated I was able and willing to do, I guess).

Here's what I don't understand. We are perfect on paper (his words), and we have great chemistry. I wasn't asking for much - just balance. He agreed I wasn't asking for much with the texting. But he also said something incredibly offensive: while agreeing that I never bugged him with texts or calls and mostly left him alone, that every time I 'talked' to him about being more communicative, he felt that he'd be 'rewarding' that kind of behavior if he actually began texting more. And he felt it wasn't sustainable because his mom, ex-wife, and brother all had the same issue with him and it wouldn't change. Am I crazy, MeFites? Was I asking for too much? Is it really that we aren't compatible or he isn't mature enough or ready for a serious relationship (he says he is)? Is there any girl that would be okay with this kind of behavior that also cares about him, and would also display the qualities that he said he loved about me? I've been broken up with before, so this isn't a case of being rejected. I fell in love with an idea of him - shades of a man who did sweet things for me, who initially complimented me and gave me attention, and wrote me the sweetest Valentines day card, ever. Who told me after our first weekend away together that 'this thing has legs and we're going to make it'. The man who tattooed his wedding ring on his finger because he thought his marriage was going to last forever. It's been two years since his ten-year, horrendous marriage/ divorce, so is it possible he's just not ready for a serious relationship yet? Will he be ready for it with the right person, and I just wasn't the right one? Was all of this my fault because I was too needy? If I'd met him a couple years from now, would things be different? I understand that after ten years of being in a loveless marriage, two years is a drop in the ocean. I have a doctorate, I'm beautiful, and I have no lack of attention from the opposite sex. Yet, the heart wants what the heart wants. Please help me fall out of love with this idea of a man by telling me what I need to see that I don't see. Thank you, MeFites. :(

Throwaway email: effzeezee@gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (40 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
You weren't asking for too much. And frankly, I think what he said about "if I were to text you more it would just 'reward' that behavior" was his flaily attempt to come up with a cover for what he was probably REALLY feeling, which was that he actually DIDN'T like it when you texted that much.

You had great chemistry - when you were both in the same room. But for whatever reason, he didn't put enough of a priority onto getting into the same room with you often enough for your needs. Mind you, that doesn't make you personally needy or anything - your expectations were normal. He just couldn't match them for whatever reason.

And there are valid reasons he could have for not being able to make "getting into the same room with anon" a priority. I'm facing a similar time-management issue with Object d'Schmoop - we also have great chemistry when we're in the same room, but he is in grad school in another state. Something like that cuts into the amount of effort he can expend on getting into the same room with me, and it is a perfectly valid reason for him to just plain not have the time to expend. The thing is, it is also perfectly valid for me to have decided "okay, well, then, I guess this isn't gonna work out because I need more than you can offer." (I didn't, but there wouldn't be a jury in the world who would have found me unfair if I had.)

And that's what it comes down to - no matter how valid his reasons for not being able to make you a priority, you still get a vote in whether or not you are okay with what he can offer. You decided you weren't okay, and that is fair.

Him trying to blame you for his own time-management skills, however, is unfair.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:32 AM on August 1 [1 favorite]


Chemistry is it's own thing. Your chemistry with someone is not a predictor of how suitable that person is for you. Presumably Eva Braun and Hitler had great chemistry and amazing sex, but that doesn't make Hitler a good person or, you know, suitable for dating.

At the end of the day, how you feel about someone does not make them suitable for dating or for a relationship, because your feelings are yours but their behaviour is theirs. You actually do not want things to "work out" with this guy because this guy is a douche. He pushed back the couples date he had asked for to go to happy hour? He refused to let people know you were dating? And chucked you out 10 minutes after having sex so his friends wouldn't find out? None of that is about your behaviour, it's about his own shitty, shady ethics.

He told you he wasn't ready for a relationship, and then showed you, repeatedly, he wasn't ready for a relationship. Believe him.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:39 AM on August 1 [43 favorites]


Arg, hit post too soon.

So as I said - this guy blaming you for his own time-management issues is un fair and immature.

I mentioned that Object d'Schmoop has no free time and can't be as available, and that I've nevertheless decided not to shut the door on him. But one of the biggest reasons I made that choice is because Od'S was honest and open with me about what was going on - "look, this is what my priority has to be. I like spending time with you, but here's my situation. Here's what I can't do and here's what I can." He's not doing a bait-and-switch of "oh yes let's be a couple" but then saying "oh but sorry I can't see you for three months and you should be okay with that". With him it was more like "I can't be part of a couple right now, and I understand if you decide that that's not enough for you or if you want to also date other people or whatever."

Od'S was open and honest with me about what he could and couldn't do, so I could make up my own mind. Your guy is not. Maybe the reason is that he's not being honest with himself, either, but he's not being honest with you about what he can and can't do, so you didn't get the chance to decide whether it was something you would be okay with.

But he has shown you how available he can be (not much) and so now you can decide accordingly. What's more, he's also shown you that he doesn't always communicate this kind of stuff very well.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:42 AM on August 1 [3 favorites]


I thought that being ultra-flexible, being available, and showing him how much I valued him would demonstrate to him that I wasn't his ex-wife.

But... that wasn't what you wanted to be! That might have been the best way for you to hold on to this guy, but it wasn't sustainable, because that's not who you are.

This guy doesn't sound like he was ever going to prioritize you over other stuff in his life (and by "other stuff in his life" I guess I mostly mean partying). Maybe that would be OK for some women, but it wasn't OK for you, and that doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you. It just means you and this guy weren't really right for each other.

I started this comment with the intent of being super-fair to your guy but I am finding it hard to hold in: this guy seems like such an asshole.
'Sorry, I invited X and Y from our group of friends to this event, and they don't know we're dating, so you can't go with us.' And pretty much asked me to leave.
!!!!! You'd been dating for months! He invited you to the event first!

"Did he intend to disrespect me?" Who the hell cares! He did disrespect you! Hard! The only way I could possibly be compelled to care about his "intent" in this situation is if he immediately recognized what an asshole he was being and apologized and explained how he was going to make it right and make sure it didn't happen in the future.

But seriously, even if he weren't such a jerk, some guys you're just not going to be suited to. This one you weren't suited to because he is a jerk.
posted by mskyle at 6:43 AM on August 1 [7 favorites]


This guy doesn't want and/or isn't ready for a relationship. You want to be with someone who is actually, you know, available and a participant in your relationship with him.

It sucks that you guys had good chemistry but weren't compatible or in the same place, but there it is. You knew this, deep down, but you tried to be accommodating, and as you see that didn't work in the long run.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:50 AM on August 1 [6 favorites]


This is going to be hard and blunt, but it's meant in the manner of ripping off a bandage, not to hurt:

His priority was not spending time with you. His priority was not valuing you. His priority was himself, period, and he didn't mind trampling on you to get what he wanted. Honestly if you had stayed together it would have been awful, and may well have escalated into more controlling behaviour.

My suggestion? You really need to stop dating for a while. You get very attached, you bend over backwards when they do nothing for you, you ignore the red flags they keep sending, you get needy, and then you feel broken when nothing 'works.' Ask me how I know what this feels like.

Work with your therapist on these issues. Once you've started coming to grips with them, ask your therapist's advice on whether it's a good idea to start dating again. (My guess: if you have to ask, you're probably not ready yet. But it's good to ask.)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:02 AM on August 1 [25 favorites]


Oh honey you guys didn't have great chemistry, you had sex. You were his booty call, his relationship you have when you're not having a relationship. No one over the age of 10 has a "secret" girlfriend with good intentions. Please do not pine for this guy. Do not remember his words, remember his actions. A guy does not say I want to be with you forever then fob you off for the month to go play with his friends.

You deserve a guy that is ready to shout from the roof tops & tell passing strangers he's lucky enough to date you, that cancels on his friends to spend time with you. That drives you a just little bit crazy sending you silly texts when you can't be with him. That doesn't see a relationship about "rewarding" a partner for behaviours like he's training a dog.

Take a deep breath, grieve for a relationship that may or may not have existed how you saw it and take from it lessons about what is important for you in your next relationship.

Sorry if this sounded harsh, it sounded to me from your question that you wanted a reality check. This is how I saw it reading what you wrote about him. feckless ffm's advice above is perfect (also possibly the weirdest nickname ever)
posted by wwax at 7:07 AM on August 1 [28 favorites]


To make matters worse, we have a mutual friends circle that we both did things with - but not as a couple, because he didn't want people to know we were dating in case things didn't work out.

Woah, totally apart from everything else, this is fucked. Friends casually date and break up all the time and it's no big deal. It's really fucking weird that he would try to keep this a secret!
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:15 AM on August 1 [30 favorites]


It sounds like you both have a lot of maturing and growing to do.

A lot of women have this idea that if they're better than the last woman, the guy will shape up. Dating is not a meritocracy. It's about finding people who are pretty decently happy with each other. You could be perfect and he might still not want to date you. If he says you're not girlfriend and boyfriend, you're not girlfriend and boyfriend. Stop trying to push people to do things they don't want to do by being "perfect". It's not going to happen and it's a waste of everyone's time because you can't sustain it.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:18 AM on August 1 [22 favorites]


In brief, you need to see that this guy would never love you or give you what you wanted as long as he knew he were invested in him.

You were not expecting too much. His crappy behavior had nothing to do with your "neediness" or history, except that your lack of healthy boundaries/self respect let this relationship go on longer than it should have. You accepted his bad behavior and then blamed yourself for it, to me that's the crux.

Please stop thinking about what you did wrong in terms of driving him away, he is an emotionally stunted asshole who will not be a good partner to anyone. He liked you because you were nice, and he was happy to keep sleeping with you and getting positive attention from you as long as you never complained or demanded anything of him. In other words, he wants a doormat who will serve his needs and never demand anything in return.

It's actually a sign of unhealthy boundaries and probable relationship issues when someone merges with you so strongly on the first few dates and tells you "you're the one". It's very enticing but it's not healthy, really. The dynamic you describe fits the codependent/narcissistic pattern (with you as the codependent). You need to spend time with a therapist working on why you were sucked in by the emotional intensity/romantic proclamations of this guy and why you hung on when he was clearly stringing you along once he knew you were committed. You need to learn to assert healthy boundaries and consequently attract and be attracted to men who will respect you.
posted by lafemma at 7:30 AM on August 1 [7 favorites]


Is there any girl that would be okay with this kind of behavior that also cares about him, and would also display the qualities that he said he loved about me?

Probably. And he'd probably find some way to treat her like shit also, because treating people like shit is apparently his MO for the moment.

Honestly, some guys just talk a really good game. Some of them aren't even bad people, they just can't admit to themselves what they really want or who they really are. Some of them really really want to want to love you and settle down, but in their heart of hearts they just don't. They like their lives and they don't want to change them. And even the most personality-less, crap-accepting, lie-down-and-take-it person is still going to require them to change their lives in one way or another, so they'll chuck her, too.

Will he be ready for it with the right person, and I just wasn't the right one?

Maybe? Isn't that sort of tautological? You're asking, "will he have a relationship when he has a relationship." Well, yeah, sure. But the only thing that matters is, he will not ever have a relationship with you.

But, in the meantime, you can probably rest pretty assured that he isn't going to actually get his shit together anytime soon, even if he suddenly turns up with some Best Girlfriend Evar. My ex chucked me over (and the, um, many many other people he was banging secretly) for some girl who was apparently Super Miss Right and he was so over the moon, that he just HAD to be exclusive after a week and a half. But since he's been emailing me ever since, trying to re-establish contact, I'm kind of guessing that he's still the same old asshole. Assholes gonna asshole, you know?
posted by like_a_friend at 7:35 AM on August 1 [11 favorites]


It seems like you have a good set of markers to avoid the next time around. Nobody should hide a relationship with you. You are valuable and a person who deserves your affection should be proud of that!

And the talk about "rewarding" your behavior made my heart sink. I am so sorry. That is so callous and unacceptable.

You will meet someone who treats you well; hold out for it, and don't compromise even if (especially if!) there is some elusive "chemistry" afoot and you're having regular/good sex and [other excuses].
posted by magdalemon at 7:56 AM on August 1


Am I crazy, MeFites? Was I asking for too much?

No, not in the slightest. Even if you were asking for something unusual (which you were not), you have the right to your own needs and to have your partner work towards meeting them.

Is it really that we aren't compatible or he isn't mature enough or ready for a serious relationship (he says he is)?

I don't know either of you personally, but from your description it sounds like you definitely weren't compatible in some really important ways, even though you may have seemed so in others.

Is there any girl that would be okay with this kind of behavior that also cares about him, and would also display the qualities that he said he loved about me?

Probably. There are all types of people out there with different needs, wants, and different combinations of personality traits. The good news for you in that is that there's probably someone out there who will mesh with you in the important ways!
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:11 AM on August 1


Reading your question is painful to me for many reasons. Many of us have been where you've been.

You've been conditioned to react and behave in relationship to men and their needs for your whole life. You don't know what you want for yourself, you don't put yourself and your own needs first, and you are waiting for validation of your person through the love of a good man. This is textbook patriarchal culture bullshit thinking. I know because I grew up in a similar environment and squandered much of my youth waiting for Prince Charming to tell his friends we were actually dating. Or for PC to invite me to go on group outings rather than expect me to wait for his phone call after said outing was done. Or for PC to show up at 10 when he'd said he'd be by for dinner - which I'd shopped for, prepared and planned to serve him - at 8.

Explaining his behavior is pretty easy. He doesn't respect you. He likes you, he thinks you're hot, he likes sleeping with you, he likes that he can have what he wants from you and still not miss out (FOMO? Wha? This is not A Thing grown-ups with serious relationship intentions reference) on time with friends. But you bore him because he doesn't have to keep chasing you AND you make excuses and self-flaggelate when he lets you down time after time after time after time. Is he a monster? No, he's just not serious about you and feels entitled to behave this way because he's getting his needs met and that is his priority. And he fed you a little line every now and again to keep you within arm's reach. This is not a strange occurrence. This happens All. The. Time.

So, that is, oddly, the good news. You're not so warped. You're not so different from lots of women. You've been sold a bill of goods and now you're panicking because you're in your thirties and you should be married by now! You should be settled by now! You should be having kids by now! You should be blah blah blah. No. You should get selfish. You should turn your focus on yourself, get into therapy to figure out how your upbringing shaped your view of male/female relationships, and how to permanently untie the Gordion knot of shame, guilt, regret, pleading, anger, begging, rage, bewilderment and need that currently hinders you from enjoying your life one your own terms. You should travel. You should get out of your current social circle and throw yourself into at least one unknown, unexplored, wild card thing.

Stop dating. Spend the money you'd spend on your hair or makeup or underwear or time out at the bar or groceries for that romantic dinner he'll bail on at the last minute on some time with a therapist instead. Then start saving some money and go on some trips. Start running. Start rock climbing. Start meditating. Start kickboxing or knitting or cooking or going out to see music and reading as much as you can. Not so you can become the person your perfect mate will attract but because this is your life and you don't need permission to be happy in it without a man.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 8:14 AM on August 1 [47 favorites]


Please help me fall out of love with this idea of a man by telling me what I need to see that I don't see.

You seem to only see his good qualities, which is admirable, but from the two questions you posed about dating him, you obviously aren't seeing that he's kind of a total asshole.
posted by xingcat at 8:23 AM on August 1 [10 favorites]


Your question reminds me of this Captain Awkward column, and a little bit also this one, this one, this one, and this one.

I think what you're not seeing is: your own needs. What you want from a relationship. How you deserve to be treated. Putting a lot of effort into being ultra-flexible in order to fit yourself into his life, is effort you're not putting into staying true to yourself, into noticing that from day one he was asking you to compromise yourself in ways that didn't fit your life goals.

I would encourage you, as you heal from this, not to look so much toward "how can I relationship better?" because I think that would cause you to be even more ultra-ultra-flexible next time around, possibly in subtle ways you don't notice yourself doing.

Instead I'd say to ask yourself "what do I want in my life?" and make sure that respect and inclusion and reliability and all the other little things that demonstrate a person's values and definitely aren't too much to ask for, are things that you ask for (including from friends and family and coworkers and so on), and if anyone in your life is unwilling or unable to be kind and decent in those ways, then do what you need to do to take care of yourself.

If I'd met him a couple years from now, would things be different?

I think if you met him a couple of years from now, after spending those two years filling your life with what you want in your life and walking away from crap you don't need in your life, you'd see the first red flag or two, and say to yourself "hm, this guy is a walking red flag" and say to him "buh-bye," and never even become aware of the other eleventy red flags because you would already be far, far away.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 8:28 AM on August 1 [5 favorites]


Look, he has been married, and has kids. The stakes were as high as they possibly could for him to learn to be a better partner. And instead he comes out of that failed relationship behaving like a heedless, thoughtless schoolboy. Whatever his words, his actions show that he never intended to treat you like a true partner.

I know guys who were selfish during their early dating years, and then met someone who demanded more of them and found themselves willing and eager to rise to the occasion. Note that this is the opposite of the narrative that you've built for yourself -- that you will get the relationship you want if only you try hard enough. People do mature and become better partners, but this does not happen when you bend yourself to fit your partner's needs; instead, it happens when you work hard on figuring out what you need, communicating those needs respectfully, navigating conflict, and maintaining your boundaries. In love, as well as all other relationships, the "secret" to happiness is to surround yourself with good people who are good to you and who you can be good to. Work this out with your therapist.
posted by snickerdoodle at 8:43 AM on August 1 [12 favorites]


People do mature and become better partners, but this does not happen when you bend yourself to fit your partner's needs; instead, it happens when you work hard on figuring out what you need, communicating those needs respectfully, navigating conflict, and maintaining your boundaries.

Yes yes yes. It was a real turning point for me when I just sat down and thought "would I treat these people like they treat me? Why don't I think I can get a person who is delighted to see me?"

I am currently single. But when a decent guy or gal does come along, I will be available rather than saddled with a manipulative child to take care of
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:47 AM on August 1 [7 favorites]


How is one to interpret a person who says 'this thing has legs and we're going to make it,' but is intent on keeping the relationship a secret? In light of the latter, the former can only be interpreted in one way. You do not have what you think you have, you are being used/manipulated, and this can't end well. RUN.
posted by drpynchon at 8:49 AM on August 1 [1 favorite]


You were asking to not be someone's secret.

That is not too much, that is the lowest bar possible.

You are worth so much more than being someone's secret.

Do you really want to be with someone, anyone, who doesn't want anyone else to know they are with you?

You wrote a whole blizzard up there about trying to be ok with being hidden.

You deserve to be seen. Anyone who won't do that is not deserving of your time or affection.
posted by sio42 at 9:22 AM on August 1 [17 favorites]


he didn't want people to know we were dating in case things didn't work out

It sounds like what he meant was "I don't want people to know we are dating, because I only want this to be a short fling, and if I tell people that we are dating, when I try to break it off, my friends will try and convince me to stay with you. But since I already decided this was only going to be a fling, some of my friends will give me shit for it, and some of the women in my friend group will think my behavior is shitty, and possibly the word will get out that I'm a shitty person to be romantically involved with. I really can't have all that, which is why I'd prefer to have none of my friends know that we are having sex."
posted by 23skidoo at 9:36 AM on August 1 [19 favorites]


Tons of good advice, but "assholes gonna asshole" is totally going on a sticky note on my fridge.

You're not stupid, you're not alone. This is a tale as old as time for lots of women and everyone above is dead right. Read, listen, cry, go have an amazing life.
posted by celtalitha at 9:48 AM on August 1 [6 favorites]


he didn't want people to know we were dating in case things didn't work out

Whoa, you sure there wasn't someone else in that friend group getting the exact same line?

Maya Angelou — 'Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.'
posted by saucysault at 10:26 AM on August 1 [23 favorites]


Boundaries. What you're feeling now, I think, is the aftermath of being disrespected/ not appreciated by someone you cared about - you didn't respect your own boundaries, so how can you have expected him to?

He may not be a bad person, but he's certainly in some sort of selfish phase possibly brought on by his marriage. Objectively speaking - and I do think he's a dick for some of those things he did - your perceived neediness may have made things worse. But that doesn't mean that there wasn't a problem in the first place, which was the fact that he did NOT treat you well.

This douche brought out insecurities in you that you need to work on. That said, the biggest assholes are often the ones that have insecurities the size of the Grand Canyon; you could be a Victoria's Secret model with the brains of Einstein and the patience of Mother Theresa, and you STILL wouldn't be able to get this emotionally unavailable asshole to commit.
posted by Everydayville at 10:34 AM on August 1 [1 favorite]


The only times I have known someone to improve their behavior, the way you seem to be hoping he will, are when there are clear and direct consequences. I fold the laundry nicely, and he drops it on the floor rather than putting it away? His laundry goes direct on the floor from now on, since if he does not care then I'm certainly not going to care for him.

He stands me up for dinner? If I'm expected to live with that as a pattern, then I'd need to find ways to actually live with that. Probably just start a system where if he's late I'd eat without him or invite a girlfriend to join me instead. If he shows up right when she and I are eating? "Sorry, I waited for half an hour and couldn't reach you so I figured you weren't interested and I didn't want this great dinner to go to waste." Either we can both be independent flakes or neither of us can: no double standards allowed.

I think relationships work best when both partners are giving and caring a similar amount. He's shown he'd rather be apart than prioritize your relationship. And in the other direction, if you tried to scale back to the same amount of caring and commitment he has, you'd end up with no relationship. So that seems like the place you should be, either way.
posted by Lady Li at 10:49 AM on August 1 [2 favorites]


I know what it's like to question your ability to be in a healthy relationship - so, first, I want to signal empathy with what you're experiencing. I also want to reassure you that if you're self-aware and committed to first having a healthy relationship with yourself, you can absolutely have a healthy partnership with someone else.

The thing is, learning how to love ourselves and others from a place of wholeness can often be a long process. Unfortunately, it often means dating a lot and having many relationships not work, or sort-of-almost-work. The upside, though, is that by putting yourself out there and having the courage to love, even and especially when it doesn't "work out", you're able to learn more about yourself, your needs, you desires -- and develop new relationship skills that you can hone when you find yourself in love again (and you will).

So here are a few things about the relationship you described:

1. First, stop being yourself up. You are not terribly flawed. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Your task is to accept and love your shadows as well as your light. Do not continue to make yourself wrong or believe that it would be possible for a breakup to be "all your fault". Nonsense.

2. You did a few things that really speak well of your ability to honor your truth and communicate uncomfortable things in this relationship. It's just that you did these things a bit too late. You overlooked red flags in the beginning but you did end up sharing your feelings and concerns down the line -- repeatedly. Two lessons you can learn from this is to speak up earlier and respect your needs and desires.

3. You have learned, the hard way, that chemistry, very often, means shit. Chemistry is a necessary but insufficient condition for a relationship. Chemistry only indicates attraction -- it, in no way, indicates that you are necessarily meant to be with someone.

4. You were not perfect on paper. Re-read your post above. There are a lot of issues there. I don't think your anxiety or insecurity was the main problem -- his behavior was anxiety-producing and uncaring.

5. The idyllic weekends you describe, after the incident, remind me of a bad relationship I was in years ago. It's easy to brush things under the rug and have "good, sexy times" for a while even in terrible relationships. But the reality is that healthy relationships are not about having idyllic weekends. It's about being real and authentic and loving on an on-going basis.

Honestly, what you described is not how healthy, loving people treat people they love. Going away on vacation but not contacting your partner to say you've returned? Not telling friends that you're dating???? Trading panties with another woman (not okay unless you have an open relationship) then deriving psychotic joy out of torturing your partner with this information? None of this is normal. He sounds like a psychopath to me. You might want to check out this book and see if any of the behavioral patterns ring a bell.

Also: Please do not ever date someone again who tries to keep your relationship a secret. This is not normal behavior. Further, your accepting this for as long as you did indicates deep self-esteem issues that I hope you're working on in therapy. This is not acceptable behavior at all. You need to understand this.

Basically: You dated a commitment phobe who didn't know how to love you in a way that was even remotely healthy. You also did not know how to love you in a way that was healthy, otherwise you would not have accepted his behavior for as long as you did. Learn from this experience what is that you do and do not want in a partnership. Get therapy and perhaps spiritual support to learn how to really, really, really love yourself. And promise us that you will never talk to this idiot again.

posted by Gray Skies at 11:08 AM on August 1 [10 favorites]


I didn't read your whole question and have only read a couple of the responses. I did see that he didn't want your circle of friends to know you two were dating and that he also kicked you out right after sex so that your friends wouldn't find out about the relationship. This guy? This guy is an ASSHOLE and is not worthy of this much self-flagellation. You were convenient for him. Don't beat yourself up, it's happened to a lot of us.

This energy you're spending on figuring out what went wrong? Please use it to figure out all of the ways that you are fabulous and beautiful and worthy of real love and affection. There is someone out there who will treat you like a queen, but you have to believe you're a queen first.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 11:21 AM on August 1 [2 favorites]


You have a great deal of anxiety (understandable, based on the details you shared in your other post about your former marriage) about a) finding a truly good guy, and b) the possibility that once you've found him, you'll scare him away because you "don't know" how to have a healthy relationshp.

I just want to tell you that YOU DO NOT NEED TO WORRY ABOUT THAT. Seriously. You will know you've found a good guy when your anxieties and neuroses surface and complicate things -- and the guy listens. A good guy will want to understand where you're coming from. He'll try to figure out what's upsetting you, and how he can help ensure that you don't feel jealous, upset, insecure, or neurotic.

This dude? Was not your good guy. The only evidence you need is that he made you feel really, really bad about yourself.

This isn't to say that you're perfect. Just that, when you find someone truly decent and compatible, your flaws will become manageable and sometimes even charming, NOT egregious sins for which you must apologize and grovel.
posted by artemisia at 11:27 AM on August 1 [5 favorites]


He was treating you badly. Many of us have been there, the after breakfast encounter and then "you aren't allowed to [play] with us"....that behavior/exclusion is just straight up hurtful and disrespectful. (I actually gasped when I read it, and I've even been in similar situations, like I said.) You deserve so much better but you have to do some work first (prob in therapy etc) to fully believe it. Then, you don't tell people (in "I love it when you..." statements) how to treat you, you will just find/gravitate towards someone who actually appreciates you. Maybe a quieter "not a player" type...someone who will be thinking "gosh, you are so wonderful, I can't wait to spend time with you" and then actually acting in a manner that denotes this. It will happen, but you have to do the personal work first.
posted by bquarters at 11:30 AM on August 1


Am I crazy, MeFites? Was I asking for too much?

No, and no.

Is it really that we aren't compatible or he isn't mature enough or ready for a serious relationship (he says he is)?

He's not ready for an actual relationship. And that makes him incompatible with you, because you are.

Is there any girl that would be okay with this kind of behavior that also cares about him, and would also display the qualities that he said he loved about me?

There are probably a couple of women out there who would put up with the way he treated you, but that doesn't matter, because you're not one of them.

Will he be ready for it with the right person, and I just wasn't the right one?


Doesn't matter. He's not ready now, and that's the only thing that matters for you.

Was all of this my fault because I was too needy?

No.

If I'd met him a couple years from now, would things be different?

Probably not, but even if they would, it doesn't matter.
posted by Asparagus at 11:31 AM on August 1 [3 favorites]


Let me just add a few things, so you get a better idea of what healthy interactions can look like, in relation to some of the issues you had with your ex:

1. My partner and I have been together about a year and have never stood each other up. Ever.

2. Everyone in our social worlds knows we are dating. This has been the case since pretty early on.

3. When we travel, we text and call from the airport. We generally text each other as soon as we land. We FaceTime when we're apart. We pick each other up from the airport. If one of us returned from a trip but did not contact the other, we'd send out a search party.

4. If a friend comes over to hang, we still have our regular bedtime chats after the friend leaves. If one of us goes out with friends, we text or call when we get home.

5. The only time we don't keep our regular schedule of evening calls is when we're traveling. If I'm traveling and I go out with friends, but forget to send a "Goodnight text" (extraordinarily rare), then I text or call first thing in the morning.. just out of respect and consideration. Or, if she's traveling and doesn't call or write on a particular evening because she's spending time with family or just exhausted (rare but it has happened) I calm myself down to contain my anxieties and just wait to hear from her until the next day.

6. We check in with each other prior to activities that might reasonably produce jealousy to talk it through. If one partner has a concern, we respect those concerns as long as we can do so while respecting our own integrity and self-respect. When jealousy or anxieties come up (e.g. "I'm jealous about your spending time with X because Y"), we talk about it and agree on boundaries we would feel comfortable with.

7. While we discuss past relationships at length, we do not bad-mouth our exes to the extent where we blame them for the failures of those relationships. We accept that they had positive and negative qualities and we definitely accept our responsibility in whatever happened.

8. We are both super interested in talking to each other. One of us texts the other every single morning. While the amount of texting has gone down since the honeymoon stage (thank God or our hands would have fallen off), the amount of talking has remained the same or even gone up.

9. We both plan activities. There is not just one of us organizing date night.

10. We like doing things alone and are very keen on maintaining our separate activities, but we are also very, very keen on being together. We are both really excited to spend time together. When she enters the room, my eyes light up. Same for her. I can always tell how happy she is to see me. Every single time she sees me.

This is my first healthy relationship. I've experienced the opposite of all of these healthy behaviors in prior relationships. Positive change and growth are possible.

I hope this helps.
posted by Gray Skies at 11:31 AM on August 1 [14 favorites]


My hunch is that is really did like you, but he has some issues with commitment or intimacy or something. That doesn't mean he didn't like you, but it means he was a really bad boyfriend and didn't give you what you needed.

You are allowed to want someone who is so excited for dates with you that they are on time (or early!). Someone who wants to call you everyday. Someone who wants people to know you're with him because you're such a catch. This guy clearly is incapable of that, whether he liked you or not.

It's sad because I have a loved one in a relationship similar to this. I saw the red flags early and warned her, but she really liked him a lot. She said she understood but she was just having fun. Now a year in, she sees him maybe once a week and I can tell she's lonely because she is head over heels for him but he isn't giving her what she needs. I think he cares for her very much, but he likes having a "separate life" and pours himself into his work, and this is truly just how he is and always has been. OP, just be glad you aren't resigning yourself to a life of spending half of your relationship missing someone or wishing you felt wanted.
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:34 AM on August 1


My hunch is that is really did like you, but he has some issues with commitment or intimacy or something.

My hunch is that he really, really liked having someone devoted to him no matter what he did.

That isn't liking someone. That's being a selfish prick. Ditto for your friend in the terrible relationship; caring for someone very much means you are as responsive and receptive to their needs as they are to yours. Repeat after me Ella, anonymous: I'm gonna wash that man right outta my hair.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:51 PM on August 1 [7 favorites]


i just want to add myself to crowds of people shouting that this guy was shit and you ARE good enough and you deserve better.

we've all been there, and that's why this was so sad and cringy to read. i had an ex tell me that we could only hang out when he wanted to because i was too needy. and i took it. and like you, i was so so broken up about the asshole after he broke up with me. i spent a few years on my own after that relationship working on myself. i traveled, did new things, did whatever i wanted to. i knew i had lost my sense of self in that mess and needed time to build myself back up.

even years later, i was still "trained" by the numerous guys who were "not into commitment" or "needed space" to not demand, to not show my needs, to go with their fucking flow. this is not how it needs to be.

some comments above shared stories of their healthy relationships. i did not think this existed until i met my now SO. i was shocked i had met someone who actually texted me to make plans, who made me breakfast, who wasn't afraid to talk about his feelings, who was affectionate towards me in public, who encouraged me to tell him my needs. yes, we still have fights, but these fights end with both of us admitting we have things to work on and talks about how to manage these issues in the future.

good things are out there. work on yourself and know that with or without a "him", you'll be okay.
posted by monologish at 3:33 PM on August 1 [1 favorite]


I agree with the people above saying that this guy seems like an asshole and that you're well rid of him.

I also wanted to point this out: you don't get a prize for being the perfect compliant, non-needy girlfriend who bends over backwards to put your boyfriend first. A guy is not going to suddenly realize how amazing you are just because you do all these things.

What you're looking for is someone who likes you for who you are, warts and all. Start as you mean to go on. Make it clear that you have needs and ask for what you want. If the guy acts like he's doing you a huge favor when he's asked to consider your needs, walk away! You really need to be on the watch out for red flags from the very beginning, and abort things if you notice any. Here are some of the red flags I noticed in your post:
Having kids but still talking about FOMO (immature and irresponsible)
Not bothering to let you know he finished his race, not showing up when he say he will, not planning things (inconsiderate, not thinking about you)
Keeping your relationship a secret (huge honking red flag here - is he ashamed of you? is he cheating on you?)
badmouthing his exes (misogynistic)
He wants you to be patient and then maybe he'll treat you better (he's seeing how long you'll put up with him)
He compliments you on cooking him dinner or bringing him soup (you're so much better than other women! = misogynistic; he can only deal with women who put up with his crap and still do stuff for him = he wants a doormat, not a partner)
He thinks he would be "rewarding" your clingy behavior if he texts more (he's telling you he's not going to change - he likes his life the way it is - why wouldn't he?)

Be glad you're out of this. There really are plenty of fish in the sea, especially for someone who's as intelligent and attractive as you appear to be. Just keep an eye out for things like the above earlier in the process - I can guarantee that there will be signs if you're observant.
posted by peacheater at 5:51 PM on August 1 [2 favorites]


Just want to chime in with all of those people who have been here before and are now in healthy relationships. They really do exist. I didn't believe it until I experienced it, but now I do. This is utter bullshit. Stop wasting your time even thinking about him.
posted by 3491again at 6:29 PM on August 1


Things can never be different with this person. He is not functioning in the same moral or emotional universe as you. You have been the target of narcissistic abuse. This was a relationship of exploitation, not love.
posted by macinchik at 11:58 PM on August 1 [2 favorites]


He said he wasn't ready to be accountable to any woman

This is the single most important statement from both of your posts.

Relationships require accountability. He told you he did not want to be accountable.

He did not want a relationship with you - he wanted an accommodating fuck-buddy. This man was never capable of giving you what you wanted, and was not interested in becoming capable.

You wanted there to be more than that between you - that is normal and understandable. Please don't fall into the trap of thinking your love "should've" changed him. Differing values is why relationships end all the time.
posted by Squeak Attack at 8:05 AM on August 2 [3 favorites]


I take no pleasure in saying this, but I would be astonished if you were your boyfriend's only 'girlfriend' during your relationship.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 12:08 PM on August 2 [3 favorites]


I think you should keep going on dates, and make an effort to educate yourself about adult relationships, and yourself.

As a young divorcee, it took me a couple of years to wise up about dating as an adult. It helped a great deal to realize that (like you), yes, I'm intelligent and attractive and have no trouble finding men interested in dating me. Greatly reduced my sense of anxiety, desperation, and need to please. I don't need to stick around for a guy who doesn't seem interested, doesn't treat me well, is too aloof or desperate/clingy, or otherwise doesn't measure up to my expectations (which have also been honed). It takes practice and time to get over someone. Putting a few guys in between that one and where you are now will take the sting out and help give you some perspective.

Psychology Today also has some good articles on understanding the psychology of relationships. Here is an article on your topic.
posted by lizbunny at 3:47 PM on August 2


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