We broke up but we want to be with each other....
December 29, 2009 10:37 PM   Subscribe

How can we fix our communication problem so we can be happy again?

My boyfriend and i of 11 months broke up 3 nights ago. We had been recently not getting along at all- he suddenly didnt wanna talk as much, but never gave me a heads up and i never asked what was up, he only said we talk alot as is, so i got upset with him, and we became more distant because of that. (long story short) Things were fine before we got into that mess, and i realize now that all it was was bad communication.

When he broke up with me, we werent upset with each other. We had taken a few days to cool off beforehand. All he said was that he didnt want to go out any more, and that there wasnt a specific reason or thing i did wrong. I told him what i felt caused our not getting along and he listened to me. We ended on a neutral note, knowing we were still friends, and didnt talk the next day becuase he was with family. The morning after that, he asked how i was doing. We talked a little, and it was nice because it had been a while since we had a truly good conversation. He was beginning to soften up, which was a relief because he hadnt seemed like himself since before we started arguing about him not talking.

This morning, I brought some clothes he had left at my house over, plus the present i had gotten him for christmas before we had broken up. It wasn't a big present, so i didnt feel like an idiot giving it to him now that we were just friends. I could tell he felt guilty though. He thanked me alot, told me i didnt have to do that, and gave me a big hug.

Shortly after i got home, i told him there was more that i needed to say to him that i felt was important, but i was hesitant because i didnt know if it mattered anymore. He told me he still wanted to hear it and I just told him that i felt that if we couldve been more open with each other about what we wanted/ needed, then things wouldve been better. He told me that he was sorry but that he didnt know what he could do about the break up. We ended up talking for quite a while. He told me that maybe somthing good can come out of this for me, because i could probably do much better than him anyway. That upset me a bit, because he's never thought very high of himself, yet he is probably the best person i know because he truly means well and has never done wrong to anybody. He said this was hard for him breaking up, and i mean alot to him still. He said we can be friends but we still care for each other (like thats gonna be easy)

Then, tonight, he texted me just saying that hes sad. When i asked him why, he got hesitant but said he was sad about the breakup, and he had also talked to his friend about it. He said he wants to be with me, but when he is, he gets tired of it. I told him again that if we could just communicate better what we want/need, and possibly take time from each other sometimes just to be alone or spend time with friends, then maybe things could be ok. He said he didnt know, and mentioned again that i should try to see other people, because he knows i can do better than him. I told him that he is the best person i know, and that i dont wanna do that.

I just need help and advice because i keep telling him that hes a good person and he says he doesnt think so. I really dont know what to say to make him know that he really is. Ive known him long before we started dating even and hes always been a great (but lacking self-confidence) person. I dont want him telling me that hes sad about the breakup and wants to be with me, but then to tell me that i should see other people and that i can do better than him, because he sounds so...pitiful. I dont want to be without him, he means so much to me, but its not like i would just jump back into a relationship with him because i know that there are issues like communication and space that we need to resolve. What exactly should we do? We both want to be with each other, and he means so much to me. How do we fix this? :/
posted by xopaigexo to Human Relations (24 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I'm going to be very blunt. Don't get back with him. You'll think yourself later. You deserve to be with someone who doesn't get tired of things so easily. 11 months is not a long time and if he can't handle that, he's not an ideal long-term partner. Believe me when I say that I can empathize with your situation.
posted by ishotjr at 10:48 PM on December 29, 2009

I have no advice about the breakup, but I did notice one thing about your question that might help with communication. Try to be more specific than just saying he's the best person you know. What traits and behaviors make him a good person? What specifically is he talking about when he says you can do better?

I find conversations to be more productive with my husband (and son and friends) when we stay away from big generalizations about each other, whether positive or negative.

Good luck.
posted by simbiotic at 10:55 PM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

It is not your job, in a relationship, to make the other person know that they are "a good person" or to make them have self-confidence. Only he can do those things. The sooner in your life you realize this, the happier and more fulfilling your relationships with others will be.

This guy seems to have given you all the reasons under the sun for you not to be together, over the past months. Here's a question: why do you feel like it's a good idea to be together--what are you getting out of this relationship?
posted by so_gracefully at 10:57 PM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Your boyfriend specializes in mind games. You seem to feed off this drama. You both seem young and immature. What should you do? Do each other a favour and break up. Go find somebody who will love and respect you and not leave you feeling heartbroken and insecure all the time.

lesli212 is right on the money.
posted by futureisunwritten at 11:05 PM on December 29, 2009 [4 favorites]

A good rule of thumb is that if you post four questions to AskMe about a relationship, and there's a fifth where he acts insensitively about your legal/emotional ordeal, you should probably not be dating. Regardless: your now-ex is telling you he wants space, then telling you he's sad when you're gone, then telling you when he is with you he wants out. Put those together and what he is really telling you is "I am either emotionally or intellectually incapable of having an adult relationship because I don't know what I want."

He said he didnt know, and mentioned again that i should try to see other people, because he knows i can do better than him.

That phrase is used by many as a way to avoid blame or feeling guilt. We all hear it at one point; welcome to the club.

As for the question itself - the communication issues - I think that one look at the structure of your question answers that. You're all over the place, rambling and incoherent, and it took real effort on my part to figure out what you're saying. Trying to interpret you on the fly would be basically impossible. I'm not saying this to make you feel bad. I'm saying this to let you know that before the relationship communication issues can be solved, you need to address the difficulty you have in expressing yourself clearly.

He also has these issues. His answers are inconsistent. He does not actively engage you in conversation. He cannot express what he wants. I just can't see any way in which the two of you have a fulfilling partnership for any length of time.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:05 PM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Dude, this relationship is clearly NOT WORKING OUT FOR YOU. When you have to ask the Internet for relationship advice with four out of five of your asked questions, something is BROKEN. You're holding onto this relationship like he's the last guy on the planet; he's not.

There's a chance greater than null that the reason this isn't working out is because you're in your early 20s, not very experienced with relationships, and the sheer weight of your focus on him is both dependent and smothering. Which is, by the way, pretty typical for early relationships. That is why people normally have several; they mature and get better at it along the way.

He's made a decision to move on and asked you to do the same. Trying to convince him this is a mistake is sort of par for the drama course but you will end up in the exact same place in a month or in a year. Just take him at his word and let go - in a healthy relationship, you do not have to continually convince the other person to be there.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:09 PM on December 29, 2009 [16 favorites]

You keep asking the same question over and over. We keep investing time and energy to give you the same answer over and over. Instead of doing that yet again, the only answer that can possibly help you is:

Grow up. Stop feeding the drama. Stop looking to Ask Metafilter for advice on a broken relationship and then ignoring the advice. You are wasting your time, your boyfriend's time, and our time.

Really. Stop. Your relationship clearly isn't working. But your use of Ask Metafilter is also clearly not working. Fix both of these things at once by not feeding into the drama.
posted by Justinian at 11:22 PM on December 29, 2009 [14 favorites]

Sometimes the answer really is "you can't fix this, but you will be okay-- and possibly even better off-- moving on without each other."
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 11:26 PM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

I watched a good friend of mine go through a situation a lot like yours- guy with low self esteem, he stopped wanting to talk to her as much, it hurt her, they broke up, they got back together, they broke up again... it was a mess. And oh yeah, she was 18 and 19 at the time, which I imagine is not too much younger than you and your boyfriend. It screwed with her head a lot, and I spent waay too much time talking about it with her. And looking over your AskMe questions, I'm getting flashbacks.

So: he doesn't seem to want to be in a relationship with you. Or maybe with anyone, right now. You can like someone and not want to date them. If you do convince him to get back together, it probably won't go well. It's not your job to make him feel better about himself- and yeah, you probably can do better than this guy. Like maybe finding someone who does want to be in a relationship with you, and won't get "tired of it" after 11 months.

I'm sorry to be harsh, but you seem super hung up on this particular guy. He might be great and stuff but he is not the only guy in the world for you.
posted by MadamM at 11:36 PM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

The only way you can teach him that his childish manipulation attempts don't work is to simply stop answering when he calls or texts, no matter what he says. If you really care about helping him grow as a person, that's all that you can really do.
posted by hermitosis at 12:25 AM on December 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Take a time-out from relationships for a while. Work on being a complete and whole person independently. Then you'll be in a better position to realize that when a person walks around saying they're not worth anything, you should take it at face value and move on.

also, consider paragraph breaks, they're awesome to the max
posted by davejay at 12:43 AM on December 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

You know, being a 'good person' isn't enough that you have to stick with him. You aren't somehow obligated to only break up for "due cause" or anything like that. Even divorce they don't require that any more ;-)

Keep looking until you find someone who makes you happy.

I've seen breakups go like the one you tell above - he lost interest, didn't know why, still felt fond toward her, but the spark was all gone for him. All he could say was that he'd "fallen out of love" with her. And you know what? It happens. 11 months is not so long in the grand scheme of things; it'll hurt for both of you and it'll be lonely for both of you but you'll be better off if you make an effort to stop obsessing and look elsewhere. There are an awful lot of good men out there.
posted by Lady Li at 2:14 AM on December 30, 2009

He's been telling you since August that he doesn't really want to be with you. Since he doesn't have a lot of self-confidence, he's been unable to make that stick. He's probably telling you that you will be better off (will find someone better) in an effort to convince you that this is in your best interest, because he doesn't have the confidence to insist on it if it's in his best interest.

You need to let him go. And you need to cut off contact for a while (6 months!).

Fortunately, he's right: You can find someone better. But first, take the time to cry and grieve and find your independent self again.

In case you're viewing this in a distorted way because of your previous abusive relationship: The end of this relationship does not mean that you are unable to make men love you in healthy ways. It just means that you two weren't a good fit—maybe because of timing, maybe because of personality, maybe both. You're both good loveable people, but you're not suited to a romantic relationship together.
posted by heatherann at 3:57 AM on December 30, 2009 [4 favorites]

A few years ago I read somewhere that it takes an average of seven break-ups before a real couple actually breaks up. When you are deeply involved with someone it is really hard to let go. It never gets easy.
Unfortunately, life is sometimes tough and it helps to know that others have gone through similar experiences and how they maneuvered through the rough waters.
What the others have said about letting go, moving on and working to recognize yourself as a complete person is true. Old habits are hard to break. You may feel like it isn't you to do these things, but you must act independently of your feelings many times as an adult and do the right thing. This is one of those times. Otherwise you will look back on your life in a few years and regret this wasted time.
It helps to remember what you DO have sometimes. Open your eyes to the beauty around you. Transfer the drama of pain to the drama of life. Touch a snowflake or raindrop and feel the wetness. Smell the freshness of a pine tree. Watch a small child play. You are ALIVE and the world is an incredibly wonderful place with a new adventure around the next corner that you can't see yet, but it's there. Open your eyes... it's there. And it will be balm for your wounded soul.
posted by srbrunson at 5:25 AM on December 30, 2009

To be more accurate, he broke up with you but you want to be with him.

It's ok to feel sad and heartbroken, but why are you dragging this out? You've posted something similar each month for the past five months...and you're not listening to anyone.

Getting to the point, you need to remove yourself from any situation with this guy, who sounds like an indecisive and immature person anyway. His wavering actions aren't helping you come to any clear decision, making you look like an indecisive and immature person.

Cut this guy out of your life for a few months. You're young. Go out and meet some new people. Chances are, you will probably meet someone way better than your ex. Someone who can bring out the best in you, not the worst.
posted by mlo at 6:49 AM on December 30, 2009

All he said was that he didnt want to go out any more

i could probably do much better than him anyway

he gets tired of [the relationship]

mentioned again that i should try to see other people, because he knows i can do better than him

The first rule of relationships is to believe what people tell you about themselves. He is very clearly telling you that he does not want to be in a relationship, that he gets tired of you, and that you can do better than him (which is a totally cop-out on his part and also totally true).

It is NOT OKAY for him to yank you around like this. It is NOT OKAY for him to break up with you and then call you and tell you how he's sad about the breakup, but there's nothing you can do to fix it to make it better. But you're letting him do that.

Try playing hard to get. Don't respond to calls or text messages. Go out on a few dates with other people. One of two things will happen. He'll wake up and realize that you're not sitting at home pining for him, which will make him work harder at being with you if he actually wants to. More likely (and this is for the best) he won't realize anything, but YOU will. You'll realize that you DO in fact deserve someone who wants to be in a relationship with you and is willing to work at it, and you'll probably find a few guys who would fit the bill. You'll realize that there is much more to life than all this drama that he keeps creating and you keep feeding into. True love is not a roller coaster. Solid relationships don't break up because they're just not feeling it anymore. The best person in the world for you will be willing to work on the relationship with you, not yank you around like a puppet.

He's not the last guy in the world for you. I promise.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 7:01 AM on December 30, 2009 [3 favorites]

I'm sorry that people are losing their tempers with you. Everyone has to go through the pain you're feeling right now; most of us do it without the benefit of AskMe. I hope you can take the advice given here to heart.

The most important thing that you need to internalize is that you have no control over another person's feelings or actions. When you say, "how can we be happy again?" you really mean "how can I be happy again?", and the faster you can own that question, the faster you really will be happy. For the time being, cut yourself some slack. Do little things you enjoy. If you want to do the cliché thing of eating a lot of ice cream and watching bad movies, go for it (it's a cliché for a reason; it really does feel good). If you have some extra cash, buy yourself something nice. If you have friends you can count on, call them up and cry. Start to realize that, until you and this guy are both happy with your own lives, any contact you have with him will only make it hurt worse.

All the best.
posted by oinopaponton at 7:11 AM on December 30, 2009

I admire your initiative in trying to figure out how to communicate better with him.

You are willing to put the effort and fight for the relationship until you feel comfortable that you gave it your best shot.

Some of the other postings disappoint me. When a relationship goes bad, do we run? Do we hide? Those are the easy choices.

And I'm not saying that you should aim low in a relationship. Aim high and for a win-win situation of course.

It would be ideal if both of you were willing to put in the same effort in improving communication.

There is a ton of knowledge about relationships out there.

If he is not the type that is willing to read and learn about relationships then your battle will be much harder. Trust me, I am trying to work with my girl and she refuses to learn which is essentially relationship suicide. I love her but I'm not sure I can be with someone who won't learn with me.

Are there techniques to improve communication? Of course there are.

You are asking the internet community for a reason. You appreciate the experience and knowledge of others.

I believe you will appreciate also the work of John Gottman who has studied many relationships that have both failed and succeeded.

Read or listen to John Gottman () for example.

If you can get to a point where you can both learn from such sources, you are in a better place than a lot of relationships.

There is hope in knowledge.

Yes, some people won't change or refuse to change.

But some people will surprise you and are willing to put the effort to change.

Does he have that ability and willing to step up the the plate? How about you?

With the right motivation, so much can be achieved.
posted by simpleton at 8:43 AM on December 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I briefly read some of your other postings.

You've been through a lot and have a lot of things going on with yourself including anxieties.

You will never regret learning more about yourself and improving yourself.

Maybe you really do need a break in the relationship to refocus on yourself.

It doesn't mean you have to give up on the guy but make sure you are stable yourself before trying to connect with him.
posted by simpleton at 8:52 AM on December 30, 2009

I'll go against the crowd and say all is not lost yet. As long as the two of you decide to make it work, you can. You and he are in a pursuit/withdrawal cycle which can only be broken by, well, Growing Up in two key ways.

Grown Up Communication: The manipulation and games have to go. Replace them with real communication skills. Get a book on PREP and read it together. If he cannot commit to eliminating the communcation danger signs and trying some of the corrective techniques, then yeah, it's probably hopeless.

Grown Up Expectations: There is no such thing as "The One." Sorry. No happily ever after. No other person will make him happy and enthrall him for the rest of his days. He should expect to have periods where he "loses interest" in his partner. Grown Up couples accept that reality and have skills and strategies to respond effectively. Without withdrawal, self-centered indulgence, and passive aggressive behavior. They allow each other to say, I've lost interest." They share it openly themselves when they feel it. Then they say, "But I'm committed to you, so let's see how we can get it back."

I've been married 22 years and had to learn this stuff the hard way. But its worth it. And I am blessed with a mate who is committed to being a Grown Up with me. I guess you two need to figure out whether you can be that for each other also.
posted by cross_impact at 8:54 AM on December 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

You say you want clear communication. You're getting clear communication now, but you're trying to ignore it. He doesn't want to be with you. This is what clear communication is like.

Resist the temptation to muddy it up by focusing on his self-esteem, imagining that it could be better if something was different, playing games, etc.

He is trying to communicate with you clearly. Sometimes being clear means we have to hear and say painful things. Use this as an opportunity to learn how to listen.
posted by jasper411 at 9:19 AM on December 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm a big fan of thinking I can do something to fix a relationship. Or I used to be, anyway. I'm not anymore because in the end, you end up using up all your energy on someone who clearly does not feel invested in committing. Think about this: What if there's someone out there who is better for you? Why is it so important to make this particular relationship work? Will he walk out on you one day? Do you want to be cheated on?

It's okay to express your desire for him, but don't forget the mess he's making. He doesn't care enough to not make that mess. It's time for you to refocus on being alone and meeting new men and reconnecting with your friends in a deeper way.
posted by anniecat at 9:40 AM on December 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

As long as the two of you decide to make it work, you can.

He doesn't want to make it work. Nothing he's saying indicates any wish to get back into the relationship--he just wants to have it both ways (not being in the relationship, but able to vent about how he's SOOO LONELY to her whenever he wants to).
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:59 AM on December 30, 2009

The thing is that this type of stuff takes time to work out. So what you really need is a strategy for taking the edge off while you wait for things to develop.

So, when you get lonely and want him, allow yourself to feel lonely and sad. When you are feeling lonely and sad, just let it wash over you and don't engage in any we'll get back together/we are done forever fantasies, or eat, drink alcohol or take drugs. Just feel bad. Its ok to feel bad and is to be expected in this situation. The more you do that, the more the emotions will slowly work out and clear themselves up for you. What will be the right course for you will become apparent at that point.

This will also give him time to sort out how he really feels about this stuff.

Best of luck.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:33 AM on December 30, 2009

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