Am I being irrational in wanting a break-up?
October 21, 2008 1:25 PM   Subscribe

Am I being delusional in thinking we should be apart?

I might have to dissent slowly away from my relationship with my SO of 5 years. Because I realized that I am tired trying to live up to his expectations and standards. I understand that I am not who he wants me to be and that I can only be myself. Most of our problems stemmed from sex and he would tell me constantly that he was not getting enough of it from me. It's fine to say something once in a blue moon but he has been saying it more than usual, like every week. So, long story, short, I tried to initiate a break-up as tough as it was to do because I care and love this man. And he cares for me too, I know. But I realized something in our relationship had to change or I couldn't stay. I told him he has control issues that need to be dealt with aside from our sex life. Well, now he is believing that it's my OCD and that I am not thinking straight. (I have been very clear headed these past months.) I told him to not assume but he is trying to plant seeds of doubt in my head and he is calling my friends to not get advice for his behavior but to say I am depressed and they should pick my brain. Am I being unreasonable and irrational about my relationship? Because I always strive to do more for him while trying to balance my feelings but it's still seemingly never enough for him to stop lecturing me. Am I being unreasonable in thinking it's better if we parted ways? What would you do if your significant other was consistently disappointed in your love life and you felt under the gun to perform?
posted by InterestedInKnowing to Human Relations (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
If the sexual incompatibility has become that much of an issue, and if he's really that down on you for it, I think you're being completely reasonable.

If you aren't inclined to have as much sex as he wants, he's basically asking you to stick around and deal with his complaints and feel inadequate and helpless for as long as he wants. That's unreasonable.

It's not bad of him to want more sex than you do, but it's not cool for him to force you to stay with him when you're not well-matched in that regard.
posted by Nattie at 1:33 PM on October 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


Being apart won't fix your relationship. If he's disappointed with your sex life, and you create more distance, you're practically inviting him to stray.

Try couples counseling.
posted by BobbyVan at 1:35 PM on October 21, 2008


Am I being unreasonable in thinking it's better if we parted ways?

No. I mean, it may be an odd decision for anybody else, but one can at any moment chose out of a relationship.

What would you do if your significant other was consistently disappointed in your love life and you felt under the gun to perform?

Honestly, I'd first ask myself if he's right. And if I concluded he was, I'd ask myself why. Does it mean I'm not into the relationship? If not, then why is he saying it? What is triggering this?

In any case, here's how I'm reading your issue, in very few words: you want out of this relationship; he's noticed that, so he's pushing it, trying to make you change so you'll stay. If you do want out, then be out. Stringing it along will only make it worse.
posted by neblina_matinal at 1:38 PM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


If you're feeling controlled and unhappy, it's time to go, particularly if he's unwilling to address the ways that you're unhappy.
posted by amandarose at 1:43 PM on October 21, 2008


I told him he has control issues that need to be dealt with aside from our sex life. Well, now he is believing that it's my OCD and that I am not thinking straight. (I have been very clear headed these past months.) I told him to not assume but he is trying to plant seeds of doubt in my head and he is calling my friends to not get advice for his behavior but to say I am depressed and they should pick my brain.

That is abusive. He is trying to keep you from breaking up with him by convincing you that you're crazy. It's a sick form of manipulation, and it's totally unacceptable in a romantic relationship.

DTMFA, fast.
posted by paultopia at 1:45 PM on October 21, 2008 [15 favorites]


OK, this is the part that sends up a red flag in my head: I told him to not assume but he is trying to plant seeds of doubt in my head and he is calling my friends to not get advice for his behavior but to say I am depressed and they should pick my brain.

He has expressed his desire for more sex. You have responded that you feel controlled, uncomfortable, and "under the gun to perform". His response is to accuse you of a mental disorder and call your friends to try to get them on his side? That does not sound like a healthy or productive way to solve this (rather common) relationship problem.

I don't know whether you need to break up with him, but I would not feel safe with someone acting in this manner.
posted by muddgirl at 1:48 PM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wow. This sounds pretty miserable.

It doesn't sound like your partner listens to you in any meaningful way. Instead of addressing the issues with the relationship, (and his contribution to them) - he's trying to convince you - and your friends! - that you just don't know your own mind.

You deserve better than to be lectured to and being made to feel sexually insufficient. You are not delusional, unreasonable OR irrational because you don't want to be treated that way.

This is much more than a sexual frequency issue: there is nothing more maddening than someone trying to redefine your own experiences for you. If I were being treated like this, I'd walk away and never look back.

And as a matter of fact - I did, and I've never been happier. Good luck.
posted by Space Kitty at 2:02 PM on October 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


@paultopia,

Take it down a notch or two. For all you know, maybe the questioner is in fact depressed... ... maybe the boyfriend is genuinely trying to help her by talking to her friends. Maybe the boyfriend is being a jerk, but maybe it's in response to the questioner being distant?

The point is, we only have one side of the story, and certainly don't have enough to call the other party abusive.
posted by BobbyVan at 2:13 PM on October 21, 2008


BobbyVan: I disagree. Responding to complaints with attributions of insanity is pretty much straight down home plate classic abuser behavior. It's strategy #1 in the book. The probability of an abuser's doing it is so high, and the probability of a normal person's doing it so low, that our friend Bayes rule dictates extreme suspicion of anyone who does it.

You don't genuinely try to help someone by responding to a breakup suggestion that way.
posted by paultopia at 2:17 PM on October 21, 2008 [4 favorites]


"I understand that I am not who he wants me to be and that I can only be myself."

There's nothing wrong with being you. Some guys get off on the idea of finding someone who they can berate into being who they want them to be. That works for a while, but rarely forever. Usually the person snaps at some point.

I wouldn't bring this up except for the calling friends to get them to tell you that there's something wrong with you part of all of this. He's doing that because he can feel he's losing control.

Have you called YOUR friends? I know you think they all love him. But if you take them out for coffee and confess any part of this to them, you may find you have more allies than you think.

From what you have written here there are control issues. Sex here isn't about just wanting to do it more, it's about control - again, at least from what you've written.

I think you need a break to get a clear head. He is going to fight you tooth and nail to take it, because he knows he is losing his control.
posted by micawber at 2:17 PM on October 21, 2008


Well paultopia, the fact is that the lack of a sex drive can be a symptom of depression. It could also be a symptom of a broken relationship. But given that the questioner is sincerely asking if she is being irrational tells me that, on some level, she thinks she may be responsible. I'm not taking sides here, but I'm not going to rush to judgment and say DTMFA either.
posted by BobbyVan at 2:25 PM on October 21, 2008


I've been in a similar situation and eventually I left him--and I found out my low sex drive wasn't as low as I thought it was with a different partner who didn't pressure me for sex. Even if you are depressed, the conduct you describe on his part is troubling. I second micawber's advice to call on your friends anyway, because they may be more help than you think. But mostly I want to say "trust your gut and your heart" because if you're ready to leave, you should. There is nothing wrong with being yourself, or with having a low sex drive.

Looking at your profile and doing a little math, I see that you must have started this relationship when you were 19. I started dating my ex when I was about that age and divorced him in my late 20s. I'm now married to someone more compatible with me and tremendously happy. You may love your SO and not be able to live with him. There is someone out there for you to love who will love you back as you are, low sex drive and all.

(Manipulating the friends and suggesting you have mental problems is a real red flag for me. The OP's SO may not be emotionally abusive, but my ex was and I had the same reaction as paultopia. YMMV.)
posted by immlass at 3:16 PM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


BobbyVan, do you think calling up your girlfriend's friends and telling them how depressed she is sounds like a good way to help someone you love? That's surreal. If you really think someone has a problem like that you go with them to the doctor, you don't publicly humiliate them.

If you think anyone who questions their rationality in a situation like this is naturally irrational, you would always (ALWAYS) be siding with arrogant manipulators and blaming the victims. Just because someone lacks confidence doesn't mean they deserve what they get.

OP: I think you're entirely justified in asking for space here, either temporary or permanent. The fact that he refused to hear your request and merely deflected it underscores the need to move on. He's not listening to you. And calling up your friends to disparage you and discuss your mental health is just NOT ON.
posted by Hildegarde at 3:36 PM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


BobbyVan: given that the questioner is sincerely asking if she is being irrational tells me that, on some level, she thinks she may be responsible

amazingly, that kind of creeping self-doubt is also the intended outcome for the person who is telling her that she is being irrational.
posted by paultopia at 3:56 PM on October 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


This brings back unwanted flashbacks for me. Controlling relationships suck, and I'll have no part of them. I think my opinion/advice is clear.
posted by iguanapolitico at 4:35 PM on October 21, 2008


Hildegarde,

Since they've been dating for 5 years, "her" friends and "his" friends have likely merged. If she's being distant, I could completely understand why he would contact her friends to discuss things... his motives aren't necessarily bad (but could be).

I'm not siding with anyone... my advice is to find a neutral party, like a therapist, counselor, priest, etc., to mediate/facilitate a discussion... that is, if she thinks the relationship can/should be saved.

Anyone who thinks they can diagnose abuse or adjudicate right vs. wrong on a completely subjective question like this is highly presumptuous.

And Paultopia, I'm not saying that anyone is irrational here, necessarily. I'm just not ready to point the finger. It's more irresponsible for you to call her boyfriend abusive than it is for me to suggest that she might not be seeing things 100% clearly. Even totally rational people need an outside perspective sometimes... and the AskMeFi crowd, on the basis of one-sided information, is probably not the best place to get this sort of relationship advice (other virtues of the hive mind notwithstanding).
posted by BobbyVan at 5:07 PM on October 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


You've asked four questions in the last six weeks about how to communicate with your boyfriend. In all of them, you indicate that you blame yourself for the problems in your relationship and that he blames you, frequently and vocally, for the problems in your relationship. You've never indicated that he takes any responsibility for his part in making the relationship work, or that he reassures you that the two of you can work together to make things better, or that he wants to make compromises to make the relationship work better for you. It always seems to be about how you can change to make the relationship better for him.

I'm not saying that he's abusive or controlling (though the facts as you present them are not incompatible with him being abusive or controlling). What I am saying is that he doesn't seem to be a very good partner for you. You deserve a partner who is a good fit for you from the start, and to the extent that change is needed to make things work, is willing to work with you to meet in the middle. You don't seem to be in that situation with this man.

I think that your instinct to break up is healthy. Though there are no right or wrong answers in cases like these, I think that you're doing a good thing for yourself. Please don't let him talk you out of it. Do what you think is right for you. Make your decision for yourself.
posted by decathecting at 5:57 PM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


"I tried to initiate a break-up"

If you want to break up, break up. You don't need his permission. You don't need for him to approve your reasons for wanting to break up as rational or reasonable. You just need to leave him and trust yourself more than you trust his manipulative behavior.

There are some good points upthread about what your past questions say about your relationship, what your boyfriend's behavior says about him, and the prognosis of your relationship. I just wanted to chime in and say that you don't need anyone's approval--not ours, not your friends', not your boyfriend's--in order to break up. If the relationship does more bad than good for your life (and it sounds like it does), and one or both of you can't or won't do the work to solve the problems in the relationship (and it sounds like he won't), then whatever else is going on, you're completely justified in making an independent decision to break things off.
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:28 PM on October 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


Ehhh... "Classic abusive behavior" is taking it a bit far without more information. Is it entirely out of the realm of possibilities that, knowing his girlfriend's history of mental illness in addition to what he may perceive as an irrational or impulsive desire to break up, the boyfriend would be sincerely worried? Is it possible he's calling her friends because he genuinely hopes someone can reach her in what he believes is a crisis state, even if it's not him?

Is it irrational for you to want to break up with him? Possibly not, but there are 4 posts about this relationship all from the last month and a half. After 5 years, maybe it's all boiling over and really time to end things, or maybe it's just a bad period and time to consider couple's therapy. We can't really know here in internetland.
posted by namesarehard at 6:57 PM on October 21, 2008


Other mefites: Also recommending reading user history.

Also, to chime in on the 'signs of a controlling boyfriend' -
I too have seen many, many controlling boyfriends tell their partners that they were the crazy one, especially in response to their unhappiness over their partners actions.
Being insecure and depressed is usually a symptom of a bad relationship, not the cause.

But sure.
Try and get him along to couples counselling.

If you get a good one - don't fear. If they see something worth saving, they'll try and work with you. But they will not tell you to stay if they see something bad.

The best thing my mother did, was take her boyfriend to couples counselling. He sat down, and told the therapist 'Why am I here? Fix her. She's the crazy one'.
Afterwards, the therapist talked to my mother only and basically told her, Leave him.
You are not crazy, and this is a bad relationship for you.

Good counsellor. She further suggested if there was some activity my mother used to enjoy, maybe as a child, she should try and get back into it. Get exercise, enjoy herself. My mother took up roller skating and broke up with him.


Finally, you may think that your friends all like him or think he is good for you.
This might not be true.

I had a breakup, with someone I still get along with very well, it was just a mismatch.
I'd actually persisted a little longer as I'd thought that my friends and family (specifically, the people whose opinions I value and care for) liked him very well, and that was a point in his favour at a time when I was worried I was rocking, or rather jumping out of the boat, for insufficient reason.
They did like him, but it turned out that none of them were surprised by the breakup, and they really didn't think he was right for me, but everyone was being polite and respecting my choices, and not saying anything.

Tell some of your friends whose judgement you respect that you are unhappy, and would like to break up, and see what they tell you then
This is basically the cheaper equivalent of going to that relationship counsellor, although some people can be too close to the situation.

(All of this is conditional on the fact that you seem to be somewhat insecure of your own choices at the moment - I'd tell you to be more secure in your opinions, and follow your own instincts as to what you wish to do, but I know just telling someone not to be insecure, doesn't really work. Try and do what's right for you, and as you go on, you'll find it easier and easier to make the choices that are right for you.)
posted by Elysum at 8:26 PM on October 21, 2008


Your boyfriend's conduct as described raises red flags for me as a former domestic violence advocate.

(Note that I'm not saying "OMG HE IZ BEETING YEW!!!" here-- a red flag is something to keep an eye on, not an iron-clad certainty.)

Specifically, the things that made me worry were:

(1) Trying to ascribe rational-sounding conduct of yours that he doesn't like to mental illness on your part, in an apparent effort to change that conduct.

(2) An apparent attempt to use your friends to shore up his narrative about your being mentally ill.

Not all domestic abuse involves physical altercations. Domestic abuse can include emotional, sexual, and financial conduct that serves to diminish, destabilize, or victimize a partner.

Attached is a link to a PDF of the Power and Control Wheel, which will give you a sense of just how many different kinds of domestic abuse there are, and how they can interrelate. Again, I'm not saying that I'm 100% certain that your relationship is abusive. I'm just saying that, given what you've written, it couldn't hurt to educate yourself a little about how some of this stuff can manifest.

Best of luck. Even in the most egalitarian relationship, breaking up can produce uncertainty and self-doubt by the truckload. Keep taking care of yourself, and you'll get through.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 8:47 PM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


I thought your name looked familiar. You're on the right track. Just keep going - you're seriously being so rational right now it's almost scaring me.

Did he tell you he was calling them all or did they? Either way - let your friends know exactly what's going on.

Maybe it's just my sense of humor.. but I would find it greatly amusing to now call his friends and tell them that You are trying to have a break - but he just thinks you're depressed and crazy. Could they maybe pick his brain?

Anyway, I'm rooting for you girl. It'll be a slow and tedious process, like trying to untangle and escape from a prickle bush. But it's absolutely worth the effort, the only thing you'll regret is not doing it sooner.

Take care.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 11:34 PM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm not siding with anyone... my advice is to find a neutral party, like a therapist, counselor, priest, etc., to mediate/facilitate a discussion... that is, if she thinks the relationship can/should be saved.

But sure.
Try and get him along to couples counselling.


Just a note here about counseling. If the boyfriend is manipulative, controlling, or abusive, couples' counseling is NOT recommended. Couples' therapy in these situations can backfire pretty seriously. The manipulation often carries over into the session and is used against the control-ee, making it worse.

To the OP, you don't need a justification to break up with him. If you feel uncomfortable, that's a good enough reason. Your past few AskMes indicate there are some problems with the relationship you've been struggling with. Even if you feel like it's irrational, things are not ok with the relationship right now, so it makes sense to break up, or at least take a steps to figure out what's what.

To that end, if some of what people are saying rings true, that he is gaslighting you, trying to make you feel like you are crazy and pressuring you and controling you, but you are not sure of yourself, or you you DO feel a little nutty about it, try therapy ALONE first. Talk to a professional about what you are feeling about his behavior. You can always see someone together subsequently if it's appropriate.

Good luck.
posted by Pax at 9:40 AM on October 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


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