How do I salvage a fractious relationship?
September 16, 2009 4:26 PM   Subscribe

Relationshipfilter: Is there any way to salvage our relationship once and for all?

Me and my ex-girlfriend have been trying to work things out, but, lo and behold, we just had another huge argument.

This all started about 18 months ago. We were living in a tiny flat together, we were both getting a bit claustrophobic. We had a huge argument, the sort that starts earthquakes, and she left me. I thought that was it, and I'd never see her again. We didn't speak for a while after that, and both moved out of the flat.

Weirdly, we both moved to the same city because of our jobs. We got in touch again, and things went swimmingly. It was great.

At the time I lived with a guy I got on with well. He'd just broken up with his girlfriend, and seemed incredibly depressed about his situation.

The ex went on holiday, and we'd agreed that when she got back we'd find somewhere to rent together. When she came back, I got cold feet about the whole moving in idea. I told her I'd rather stay with my friend for a few more months, until the end of our contract. Neither me, or my girlfriend were under any pressure to move out of our then houses, and I thought she'd be fine about it.

She wasn't. She totally flipped out, saying me not wanting to move in meant that I didn't love her. To me, it just felt wrong. My friend was really down about splitting up with his girlfriend, and I felt sorry for him. He was easy to feel sorry for. I wanted to see him through the next few months, as he was talking about moving to a bigger city and having a fresh start (he did move to a big city, and I've never seen him so happy).

Months passed with me and my ex not talking. Then, out of the blue, she contacted me. We met again. I was overjoyed to see her, and there were obviously romantic sparks between us. She told me she'd bought a flat. After years of renting, she'd managed to get on a scheme to get a mortgage and a flat on her own. I was unbelievably happy for her.

We got on well for a bit longer, but then things went wrong again. It was great when we were together, but we were ignoring the bigger issues. I hadn't seen her parents for ages, and they'd soaked up most of her tears when we split, so understandably they didn't want us to be together. She had a new set of friends she didn't want me to meet.

The whole flat thing didn't help as well. I was (and still am) renting a place - I don't earn enough to be able to afford to buy. We discussed me moving in, but it's tricky because she owns the place and I'll be paying rent to her, so she won't let it happen.

Every time we argue, though, she brings up the fact that I had a chance to move in with her, but didn't. I do love her so much, and I know that she's the one for me - I really do want to start a family with her. For all the arguing, 99% of the time has been the best, happiest days of my life.

But it just seems to be going round in circles. We'll get on really well, then we'll have an argument about something petty, and it'll turn into a full-blown fight (not physical). Then we won't speak for a month or so, then see each other again, repeat ad nauseum. We had relationship counselling a few weeks ago, and it seemed like we were getting somewhere. But tonight's argument threw me off balance. It's a horrible situation to be caught in, each time we argue it becomes more and more painful for both of us.

What can I do to restore her faith in me? And how can I sort out the housing mess? I've said I'd be happy to pay her a lump some of cash to cover what she's spent on the flat so far, and I really don't mind about the whole paying rent to her thing. The way I see it is that I'll be investing in our future.

I apologise for rambling, and I hope this all makes sense. And I hope I don't come across as too much of an asshole.

Thanks in advance
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
jesus, really? be done with this. unless you want to go through this drama cycle over and over again until you get a divorce.
posted by violetk at 4:33 PM on September 16, 2009 [7 favorites]

Too much drama. Move on.
posted by modernnomad at 4:33 PM on September 16, 2009 [4 favorites]

This sounds like the textbook case of "need to consult a therapist."
posted by Sara Anne at 4:33 PM on September 16, 2009

Time to find a new partner. Stop beating a dead horse.
posted by davejay at 4:35 PM on September 16, 2009 [5 favorites]

Could it be that you like the overwhelming feeling of reconnecting more than you do the day-to-day work that a relationship takes to continue long-term? Re-kindling a romance is a whirlwind affair, and from the way you describe your relationship, it seems like you both are kind of make-up junkies.

Try dating a little more casually for a few months. Live in your own spaces, and see one another only a couple of times per week. If you find yourselves growing closer, then extend the time you see one another, but I wonder that you'll both grow bored and start another relationship-killing argument.
posted by xingcat at 4:36 PM on September 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

In relationships, there is no "once and for all." They are dynamic, organic things.

You 2 have a very turbulent thing going on. Try to take it down a couple notches. Spend time with her. Learn about her. Share fun times, difficult times, secrets, etc. Try to see things from her point of view. Give her the opportunity to see things from your point of view. Accept her. Pay the most attention to the good stuff.

When arguing happens, try your hardest to stay calm, and focus on your desired outcome.

You don't come across as an asshole, but there's too much focus on what's gone wrong in the past.
posted by theora55 at 4:38 PM on September 16, 2009

She totally flipped out, saying me not wanting to move in meant that I didn't love her

2009-09-16 15:54:54.815 RelationshipFilter[44814:207] flakeyBehaviorAnalysisModule: Flakey threshold exceeded; core dumped.
posted by Palamedes at 4:39 PM on September 16, 2009 [30 favorites]

Why would you want to get back together with someone who 1) doesn't want you to meet her new friends 2) has parents that think you suck and hasn't bothered to persuade them otherwise 3) can't seem to get over the fact that you were kind to your flatmate 4) is weird about you "paying rent" to her, even though you're both grownups? And that barely scratches the surface of all your more personal past relationship baloney. Really, I'm half wondering if you're pulling our leg with this, because it doesn't even remotely read like something workable. If a friend told you this story, you'd surely tell him to DTMFA.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:40 PM on September 16, 2009 [6 favorites]

Oh, lord. Do you really believe that if you sort out the house situation, you'll live happily ever after, even though you admit that you have huge fights over petty issues fairly regularly?

Sorry for the armchair psychology, but ... to my ear, "99% of the time it's the best" + picking HUGE fights over imagined slights, followed by long periods of non-contact, then re-connecting + claiming "you don't love me" if you don't do something + very controlling behavior (not wanting you to meet her friends, trying to control where you live, not accepting your solutions for living situations) + overall uncontrollable drama & arguments = behavior that reminds me of someone with Borderline Personality Disorder.

Now, I'm in my armchair here, so what do I know? I will say this: Even if she's not BPD, she doesn't sound like a stable or mature person in whom to "invest in your future." Please, I beg you, don't even think about having children unless she changes really, really radically. If you're arguing over this petty crap now, I can't imagine what would happen if you added an infant/toddler into the mix.
posted by ROTFL at 4:40 PM on September 16, 2009 [4 favorites]

A few things:

1. The counselor should be asking you about how you fight, and helping you to discuss your differences effectively, without escalating. That's a whole thread in itself, but at least you should be thinking about it. Learn how to set aside a discussion when it is clear there will be no productive outcome. Fight fair, no name calling, and don't dredge up the past. If you need to resolve past issues, discuss them directly, and reach agreements about them.

2. What are her parents like, what kind of love do they show for each other and her? She grew up learning how love is expressed, and expects the same. Same for you. Your expectations will be different from hers, depending on how you grew up. You need to talk about your expectations of each other.

3. Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. Discuss them. Set them. Respect them.

4. Nurture the relationship. Don't get lazy. This can be very hard.

If she - or you - won't do the above, then the only other option is to get out of the relationship. You cannot change her, and she cannot change you. Make a situation you can live with, better yet, one that makes you both happy. If you can't do that, then either tolerate the misery forever, or get out. Things won't get better on their own.
posted by Xoebe at 4:44 PM on September 16, 2009 [5 favorites]

If your relationship is this unstable, why on earth would you want to enter into a complicated financial relationship with this person? What you've described sounds like every episode of Judge Judy.

I wonder how old the two of you are. It sounds like you both have a lot of growing up to do--far apart from one another. Time to move on.
posted by orrnyereg at 4:47 PM on September 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

This girl is nuts. She isn't worth it. It doesn't matter how much you love her, she is a drama queen and not worth another minute of your time. Be done with it.
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:50 PM on September 16, 2009 [3 favorites]

It sounds like whenever there is a major issue, you break-up and go completely separate ways, rather than try to work through whatever the issue is. That's no way to conduct a successful, healthy relationship. Fights, even huge arguments, are part of every relationship, no matter how wonderful or healthy. It's how you deal with those conflicts that make or break a relationship. Yes, walking away is one option, but I can see you repeating this cycle ad nauseam. Try sticking with the couples therapy for a little while longer. Even if you ultimately decide this is not the relationship for you, you'll be ready to move on and have some valuable tools to use in your future relationships. Good luck!
posted by katemcd at 4:51 PM on September 16, 2009 [3 favorites]

Build on your mutual love for each other

Make a commitment (mutually) - decide you ARE going to get back together and work on the relationship from your mutual desire to stay together and evenutally have a family

Stop with the drama - no more fight than don't talk for a month; you can both do better than that

Figure out why you feelings are becoming so intense that you both want a month break at a time

Housing stuff should be fairly easy - why is she against you paying rent? Its not like you are buying into the apartment and if you get married you can exclude her apartment from the shared property...

Re: Past, it sounds like she/you are focused on past events. Try to focus on present and how you treat each other each day. If you are not treating each other with love and respect then you might want to either work specifically on that, or to decide that may its not worth continuing.
posted by zia at 4:53 PM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

"She had a new set of friends she didn't want me to meet."

It is over, my brother. Move on.
posted by 4ster at 7:16 PM on September 16, 2009 [5 favorites]

There is no such thing as "salvage a relationship, once and for all". A relationship is something that grows and changes and is basically continually dealt with.
posted by shownomercy at 8:06 PM on September 16, 2009 [4 favorites]

Ask her to marry you. Seriously. She is upset you are not together. You want to raise a family with her. If she says yes, then give it go. If she says no, then move on forever.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:31 PM on September 16, 2009 [3 favorites]

She had a new set of friends she didn't want me to meet.


Your friends don't have to be her friends and vice versa, but... not even meet them? One of the things that convinced me that I never should have married my ex in the first place, the good times notwithstanding, was when I found out that the reason that she'd repeatedly canceled or backed out of plans for us to visit her hometown--sometimes at no small expense or inconvenience for me or us--was that she didn't think that some of her relatives would approve of me. This was after we'd been married for over eight years.

Plus, her holding onto a grudge about the not moving in--you had a pretty good reason for putting it off. Time to move on.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:02 AM on September 17, 2009 [3 favorites]

Honestly, it sounds like you guys can't communicate. The honeymoon period with any relationship can be awesome, since you don't have to deal with any real issues. Fights happen, over vacation scheduling, jobs, moving, kids, whatever. Big Things will always be there to argue about, and it sounds like, for whatever reason--and it's probably both of your fault--that you simply cannot have a healthy discussion or argument with this girl. That is an incredible warning sign. Unless you are willing to and can eventually figure that out, the relationship is eventually doomed anyway.
posted by kryptonik at 10:55 AM on September 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

The movies, songs, and literature have conditioned us to believing that love conquers all, that all you need is love, etc.
They're wrong.
Even if you love someone dearly does not mean that you are meant to be together. There are differences in temperament, style, goals, etc. that are very hard to overcome. It's up to each person and couple to decide which issues can be overlooked and which simply cannot.
Try to look at this as a third person and not through the eyes of a person in love.
Are you two right for each other? Can your differences be overlooked? (doesn't really seem like, but I wouldn't know) Are you two good for each other?
If it were someone you really cared for, like a sibling, cousin, or parent, would you want them in this kind of relationship?
posted by Neekee at 9:24 PM on September 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

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