Am I a fool for your love?
August 13, 2009 12:35 PM   Subscribe

Relationship Filter - I have been dating this woman for 7 months and we have hit a big snag...

We are both 39 and knew each other as kids, but lost touch for many years. We connected again 7 months ago and have had a very passionate relationship until 2 weeks ago.

She had a huge falling out with both her father and sister within days of each other and just disappeared for two weeks. I finally heard from her in a message where she stated that she is emotionally numb and doesn't think its a short term thing. She said that she feels she has nothing to offer me or anyone else and just wants to be alone. She broke up with me.

I love her and want to be with her. She made me promise to never give up on her and I will hold to that promise. i know that some will call me a fool, but i know we are great together and can have a future. i also know that there is a lot of baggage there, but I am willing to stand by her while it gets sorted out...

The other issue is that she is also going through a divorce and custody thing right now too... I know... a lot on her plate..

So my question i being a fool, or a romantic?

Do you give up on someone you love? Or do you stand by, knowing that this will pass....
posted by keep it tight to Human Relations (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Be her friend. Help her get to a therapist. Help her get back on her feet. If you want to be a hopeless romantic, maybe she'll come back to you after she's recovered from all this. Otherwise, you'd still have a good friend. And you'd be one.

It sounds to me like she needs friends right now more than she needs lovers.
posted by brina at 12:41 PM on August 13, 2009 [14 favorites]

She sounds depressed to me. I don't think there's a ton of harm of trying your best, as long as you give up when it's reasonable -- and keep perspective on what "reasonable" is. Can you go to her place or otherwise approach her in person? As long as you make it clear you're just trying one last time and won't step on her toes if she's completely sure that she wants to break up, then something might come of it.
posted by Nattie at 12:42 PM on August 13, 2009

oh man. this is not easy for you, i'm sure.

i don't know exactly what the right answer is but...

if i were you, i would stand back for a while and just be a good friend to her. she's dealing with the shitstorm from her parents PLUS divorce PLUS custody stuff?

she has a LOT on her plate, and i'm not surprised she said that she needs space to deal with it all. that is probably sapping all of her energy stores, leaving very little left over to deal with what sounds like a pretty heavy duty relationship.

so, it sounds like she's asking for a bit of space -- not so she can go run around with other dudes, but so that she can deal with all the stuff in her life.

it's completely up to you whether you walk away or wait. if you choose to wait, you may have to resign yourself to just being a friend for a while, until she's ready to deal with a romantic relationship again. she may, at some point, also decide she just doesn't want that relationship with you.

if you walk away, well, you walk away.

for me, i set certain deal breakers for myself -- it was either a length of time, or a certain action. "if he does this, i'm out." etc.

so maybe there is a bit of a gray area there too -- it all depends on you and what you can put up with, and how long you want to wait.
posted by unlucky.lisp at 12:56 PM on August 13, 2009

Let her know that you are there when she needs you. Be a shoulder to cry on. When a person is depressed they will often isolate themselves. It is very hard to be a friend to someone who is depressed but that is when they need one the most. Make sure she knows that you aren't asking for anything in return at this point (if you can do so sincerely).
"Do you give up on you love? Or do you stand by, knowing that this will pass..."
Don't give up. Do stand by. It WILL pass....with time.
posted by Wendy BD at 12:56 PM on August 13, 2009

Seconding what brina said, and I'd add that probably what she needs right now is someone to help make sense of her life and help her organize it. That is a lot to have on your plate at one time, and it's good you realize that, so as to not take her distance personally. I think she's wise for backing off, and I think you're wise for allowing her to do so.

Make it clear to her that you're there for her and will help her in whatever way she needs. If you can help her get to a therapist, that would be the best thing.

One thing: Do not have sex. It will only confuse matters. She may have a moment of confusion and want physical closeness from you, but she won't be [truly] emotionally ready for a while, probably. Be a friend, keep things as friends for now, and see where that leads you.

Love can make us do foolish things, but sometimes those can end well. If in six months, she doesn't seem to be making much personal progress, you should probably set a date (for yourself) as to how long you'll be her friend only, because it doesn't sound like that would be what you'd really want in the long run (perhaps too painful?), and there's not anything wrong with that.

Hope it works out for you both, for the best.
posted by metalheart at 12:58 PM on August 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have a very good friend who has repeatedly told me she feels like she doesn't have anything to offer me, but she really does. Reassure her that she does have something to offer you and help her out like Brina said. It does sound like depression.
posted by IndigoRain at 12:58 PM on August 13, 2009

Seconding brina. Don't think for an instant that "standing by her" and "not giving up" are enough to get her through whatever it is. Get it into your head that you personally can't save her. She needs a support system, and you are not strong enough to be that entire system, especially when she seems pretty intent on destroying whatever support she has now. You can forgive one instance of her disappearing for weeks and then breaking it off with you. Bet it hurt, tho. Try doing that dozens of times.... how long do you think you'll last trying to save someone intent on taking you down with them?

So yeah, be her friend, but maintain some personal distance for your own sanity. If she gets things sorted out, you might try again, but that comes much, much later.
posted by logicpunk at 1:00 PM on August 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

Whatever you do, remember that you are the only person who is looking out for you in this situation.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:13 PM on August 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

She broke up with me...She made me promise to never give up on her

This seems like the classic sign of someone who is no longer interested in a relationship with you, but doesn't want to hurt you, or possibly see herself as the bad guy, by making it definitive. Sounds like a lot of pain and uncertainty for you if you choose to hold out hope.

You could easily find yourself in a situation where you spend a lot of time thinking and caring about her, while she is no longer doing the same of you. Which will be incredibly frustrating while it lasts, and a serious blow to your self-esteem when you finally realize its over, and has been for her, for a long time.

Be there if she needs help as a friend, but it's probably time to stop hoping that you'll get back together again.
posted by jsonic at 1:31 PM on August 13, 2009

This seems like the classic sign of someone who is no longer interested in a relationship with you, but doesn't want to hurt you, or possibly see herself as the bad guy, by making it definitive. Sounds like a lot of pain and uncertainty for you if you choose to hold out hope.

I'd argue that's true when it's said in a "normal" relationship, but this woman is clearly going through somewhat extreme circumstances right now, so I don't think the same logic should be applied here.
posted by metalheart at 1:51 PM on August 13, 2009

The drama seems indicative of a larger problem, as does the "feeling numb".

She needs a therapist.

You can't be that therapist.

Nor can you promise never to give up on someone no matter what...the only person you can promise that to is yourself.
posted by kathrineg at 1:52 PM on August 13, 2009 [3 favorites]

Be there for her, but don't add to her drama. Keep your expectations set at "friend" and be realistic with yourself if you realize its something you can't accomplish without confusing it with love and desire for more, which you know she isn't capable of giving you right now.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:50 PM on August 13, 2009

My divorce lawyer told me that the first thing his prof told him was that all people getting divorced are slightly crazy for the first year. I'd say not crazy, but enduring more stress than is good for a person, esp with the child custody. I've never found anything as wrenching as a child custody argument. I'm usually quite calm, but child custody court appearances made me shake, lose sleep, and not eat for days. My advice: stand back, keep your expectations low, but don't disappear if you don't want to. Just don't expect anything from her until the dust settles.
posted by x46 at 12:25 AM on August 14, 2009

You're not a fool.

Everybody says, "don't be their therapist." That could be interpreted in a lot of different ways. Distance may not be the best course here. She's hiding from everything she cares about, stewing in depression and could benefit from an open, selfless invitation to join the world again. In fact, she asked for it: "Don't give up on me." I think the most important relationships are catalysts as opposed to the old straw that people never change for fear of alienating their partner.

Here's what being a catalyst means to me:

You're not objective. Kindly, gently declare your biases when they're relevant and when you're affected. Forgive yourself for the inevitable gaffs you will make because of your own emotions. Sincerely apologize as appropriate.

You're not trained. Encourage connection to professional resources.

You're not alone. Take care of yourself first and always first. Encourage connection to trusted friends and family and formerly important hobbies and joys that do and (most importantly!) don't involve you. Give these things to yourself as well.

You are influential. Consider your biases. Which could unfairly add complication?

You are purposefully entering into an unequal relationship dynamic. Accept that she will lean on you and you won't be able to lean back. Plan ahead to have your own support system.

Preemptively determine your boundaries and gently, kindly, directly vocalize if they are crossed.

You are no longer her Significant Other. She may date other people. She may long for her ex. Is that acceptable to you? How much can you handle? Take care of yourself first.

Know your dealbreakers. Hold your friend accountable and if something is beyond the pale and intentional, consider that it may not be circumstantial. (For instance, jsonic might be right and the divorce is a convenient angle for you both to blame to be in denial about a final end to the relationship. But since she gave up on all of her friends and family and passions at the same time, I'm going to vote, 'not likely.' (Writing that just gave me shivers. damn.)

Practice active listening and open ended questions.

You have resources that she does not. When growing in communications skills, it's easy to forget that not everyone has had the benefit of learning about active listening and good communication.

Model what it means to grieve and move on from a lost love. This is something that you couldn't do until she broke up with you. Now you can sympathize on a unique level because she is grieving the loss of her marriage (and possibly her children) and you are grieving your loss of her. Do not hide your grief or hide from it. Do not get lost in your grief either. Live your life. Spend time with friends. Throw parties. Lean on those you trust. Date other people in a healthy way if you want to. Don't miss out on opportunities for your career or self-betterment because of your promise to not give up on her. Part of that promise is to take care of yourself, because if you lose yourself, you're no good to anybody.

Consider therapy or support groups for yourself. Having loved ones experience trauma is equavalent to experiencing trauma yourself.

Thanks for posting this question. As you might guess, I have thought about this a lot for a similar lost love. It's given me a lot more to think about.
posted by Skwirl at 1:06 PM on August 16, 2009

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