He is pushin me away, but does not want me to leave :'(
February 2, 2010 1:59 AM   Subscribe

My S.O.'s life is falling apart and has decided to break up with me, however, S.O. has requested that nothing change. (LOOONG, so sorry)

My S.O. and I have been together for 2 years. We had been friends for 4 years prior. We have a fairly great relationship, with the exception of some communication issues that we have always been able to sit down, talk, and overcome. These past two weeks, our lives have come to an absolute shrieking mess. We had been talking about getting married and had finally saved up money to buy our wedding rings. Since he also needed a new computer, we both agreed to just buy the engagement ring and use the rest of the money to buy him a new computer. We also agreed not to spend any of the money for anything else until we bought the ring because we did not know the final amount. Unfortunately, he went ahead and bought his computer. I was so upset and felt like he was not prioritizing us, but he argued that he felt it was ok since he left more than enough money plus more for my ring. I had let it go because I felt it was a valid issue and he still insisted on getting the ring, so we bought it.

Flash forward a few days and he finds out one of his good friends from high school tragically died. Flash forward two more days, he finds out his grandfather was in the hospital and is on the verge of a stroke. Add the fact that he has this new job with a huge learning curve that he feels he is not getting and fears they will fire him.

With everything going on, I tried to be supportive. I asked him if he was going out of town for the funeral (so we could set aside money) and he said no because he thought it would look bad to take time off from his new job so soon. I decided to take this as set in stone and proceeded to plan our anniversary (it was this Saturday) and ran the plans by him (to which he was happy about). Then, I overhear him telling a friend about his plans to go to the funeral. I was upset because a) he did not tell me he had changed his plans and b) he forgot about our anniversary plans. I understand that funeral trumps anniversary, but I felt like he wasn't keeping me in the loop.

Long story short, we got in a huge fight (my insecurities fueled that he may not have wanted to get the ring and forgetting our anniversary was some hint that he wasn't really committed). I said I wanted to take the ring back because it felt like it was putting too much pressure on us. He got upset at the fact that that meant I didn't want to marry him and completely shut down. Frantic that he wasn't talking to me, I (stupidly) gave him an ultimatum that if he didn't want to talk to me before he left, we were done. So he said we were done.

Flash forward to now: he is back from the trip and while we had texted throughout the weekend discussing that we would try counseling, he comes home and says he no longer wants to try. He said he was done trying and that "life is just so overwhelming right now and I am so tired." I would have understood that if it was a clean break, HOWEVER, he stated the following things:

1) he does not want to move out and does not want me to move out.
2) he does not want to publicize that we have broken up to anyone.
3) he has requested that i do not date anyone and has agreed not to date anyone.
4) he still wants to hang out and has not asked me for space
5) when I asked him (because we are very close and very compatible) how I deal with little things, like sending him a text when something funny comes up or if I want to see a movie with him, his reply was, "then text me. tell me the movie and we will go."
6) he reiterates that he is still very much in love with me and cares for me deeply.

All of this defies what a clean break is and I am not sure if he is just overwhelmed and breaking things off with me is the one thing he has control and say over and he just wants to exercise that right or if he truly wants to break up. I feel that if he was done, he would be done with bags packed and would have another place to live lined up. We have so many good things in our relationship. We are kind and patient and loving and are on the same page with one another 95% of the time. Our friends always comment how envious they are of us because we are so great with each other and truly work well with one another in having a successful life together. It was just a horrible, horrible week.

PLEASE, anyone, inform me of your past experiences. Give me insight on how I should approach this. He is not a malicious person that would do the whole "have my cake and eat it too," so please consider that. I am willing to stay in this situation and be his friend and put him first, but I am so scared that I am losing him (or have lost him).
posted by penguingrl to Human Relations (73 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Give him some space. He's lost a friend, his grandfather is ill, and he's stressed about money and the new job. Just let him grieve, gather perspective, and collect himself. Right now is a really stressing him about the relationship. It sounds like he doesn't want to break up. But you gave him an ultimatum, so he gave you what felt like the easiest answer. Just give him some space, drop all relationship talk for a while, and figure out where you are at once he has processed everything. From your enumerated list there, chances are very good that you will stay together. It seems to me that, most likely, the reason he has not asked for space (even though he needs it) is because he doesn't want to push you away.
posted by molecicco at 2:16 AM on February 2, 2010 [6 favorites]

Stick by him. The world has just shat on him from a great height, and he needs some time to get through it. If he really, truly wanted to be done with you, he would be making moves towards it, he would have found somewhere else to sleep (or would have demanded you do so).

Reading your post, I get the impression that he only reason he broke up is because you gave him the ultimatum. And, you know what? You were upset, that's okay. The fact that he came back and doesn't want anything to change is a nice, clear indicator that he still loves you.

Give him some time. Be there for him. You don't need to put him first in everything, just acknowledge that he's lost in his own little world at the moment and is trying to find his way through.

Once the fog clears, you guys will be back to where you were before all this happened.

You haven't lost him. Not by a long shot.
posted by cheaily at 2:21 AM on February 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

I (stupidly) gave him an ultimatum that if he didn't want to talk to me before he left, we were done. So he said we were done.

You gave him an ultimatum at the dumbest time possible. He made the dumbest response. He's aware of this, and, per your comments about his communication with you, hasn't worked out a way to get back to having a relationship; given that his list of "things he wants" basically boil down to "I want to have something that is basically identical to a relationship", it seems that a relationship is what he wants.
posted by rodgerd at 2:24 AM on February 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

He loves you. Stop talking about the relationship, and just help him with logistical errands that will make his life easier. The relationship will go back to normal. This is a good opportunity to show that you have his back during hardships.
posted by cheesecake at 2:30 AM on February 2, 2010 [15 favorites]

My first response is "Please, everyone just relax a minute!" shouted at the top of my lungs.

Seriously, just relax a minute. So much to deal with in so little time and you're both just giving up because it's all so overwhelming. I get that it's overwhelming, but if you are going to be married, stuff's going to be crazy as shit sometimes and you have to be a united front against the world.

He has a brand new job and losing it is probably terrifying. Losing his friend is also terrifying. AND potentially losing his grandpa just adds to the shit.

If you would both just CALM DOWN and TALK TO EACH OTHER for just a few minutes, it's probably going to be just fine. Really. I'm an old lady, but just talk to each other like the friends you claim to be and the lovers you claim to be (sorry about the all caps shouting, but really, y'all, this is the foundation of relationships here).

Be a friend and love this person. I know that it's the hardest thing to do right now, but that's what needs to happen. Sit down, make your pros and cons list and TALK with your guy. It isn't the end of the world to have all this stuff happen. He's just freaking out, and so are you.

Figure it out or give up and start over. I mean that in the kindest way possible.

I hope you two can work it out. Best of luck to you both.
posted by lilywing13 at 2:33 AM on February 2, 2010 [5 favorites]

I think you've learned a lot in the last few months. The lesson, in case you haven't gotten it yet, is that life sometimes intrudes on your plans. Is a computer more important than an engagement ring...yes, if it's necessary for someone's livelihood, it is. Does the death of someone close make your partner flaky and forget anniversaries? Absolutely, and worse.

Here's the thing. You had a big 'ol dose of Real Life (tm) when you were expecting wine and roses. Them's the breaks, and that's what marriage is all about. If you can't deal with that, and by your post, it seems that you can't, then this is not the time to get married. You sound incredibly immature, unsupportive and unreasonable to me, and if you didn't break the engagement off, then your fiance should have. He should count his luck stars that he's free of someone who would put their anniversary ahead of the funeral of his friend.

You really need to grow up and realize that it isn't all about you. Marriage is two people living their lives together. That means - sickness, tragedy, anger, love, happiness, depression, disappointment...everything. Every fart, zit, burp and hiccup is going to be part of your shared life. If you can't cut him some slack at this very difficult part of his life, you won't make the first year of marriage, guaranteed.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 2:47 AM on February 2, 2010 [19 favorites]

Poor bugger. So much stress. If you love each other, there's no rush to get engaged, married or whatever. Just be cool. Quit with ultimatums. That's no way to have a relationship, it's only the way to end one. After things become easier for him, say 3 or 6 months down the track, try having a rational discussion about where your relationship is headed. I even think that couples counselling is pointless at this time (and I often recommend it) because he just doesn't have the room for it. Cut him some slack, don't expect romantic gestures (though common courtesy is still important), and be kind to each other while he deals with all this. One of these events is terrible enough but all of them on top of each other, and the girlfriend shouting "what about me?" is really not good.
posted by b33j at 2:52 AM on February 2, 2010

Response by poster: To The Light Fantastic, I understand that funeral trumps anniversary. No questions asked. I am well aware and as I mentioned before, I only went through with plans because he had told me he was not going. I would like to elaborate that I was taken aback that he was not opening up to me about his plans, or even his grief, and what he was going through, which is something one should be able to do with someone you plan to marry. You keep them updated on your life, you share your feelings, you share your plans. Yes, a lot happened and he got flaky, I understand that. I reacted poorly, I understand that.

I am aware that it isn't about me, I am fully aware of that and I sincerely apologize if my post has come off as anything but sincere and truly regretful of my own actions. That is why I am willing to step back and be his friend and support him in any way that he needs. I am not a selfish person. The computer purchase was nothing but for entertainment purposes, otherwise I would have completely understood its priority. The computer was not for work or anything school related and he actually has two other computers, he just wanted one that was newer and top of the line.
posted by penguingrl at 2:56 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

From past experience i've found that when men are overwhelmed they shut down some component of their life. Unfortunately, often this is the relationship part because it requires dealing with the needs of another person when they can't even look after their own needs.

stick through it. his terms of the break up don't make it sound like a break up at all, rather a need for some emotional distance.

it also requires strength on your part (and perhaps close friends to express your constant frustration to) and awareness that if you continue placing pressure on him that he might just move away further.

a similar situation occurred with a friend a couple of years ago. it lasted two weeks. they're now building a house together.
posted by skauskas at 3:21 AM on February 2, 2010 [4 favorites]

Have you guys broken up or not?

It's really not that clear. The first thing to do is sit down and ask him whether you guys are together or not. he's had a terrible time recently, fair dues, but that doesn't give him the right to pass that time on to other people. You deserve and have the right to expect a clear answer to that question. What happens in a month's time (you guys break up or get back together or whatever) isn't on the plate right now). Worry about that when it comes.

He probably should talk to a counsellor of some kind, if only to help him process everything that's happened in such a short space of time. This is for his sake and yours. He's obviously not coping very well with everything that's happened, and who can blame him? Until that gets sorted, though, you're both going to be in for a fun ride. The faster he gets himself sorted, the better for both of you.
posted by Solomon at 3:21 AM on February 2, 2010

I was taken aback that he was not opening up to me about his plans, or even his grief, and what he was going through, which is something one should be able to do with someone you plan to marry. You keep them updated on your life, you share your feelings,...

It can take a long time for that to happen in a relationship. Ideally, it's true, but in reality, when we are confronted with something we have no practice with, like grief, we don't have the vocabulary to discuss it, and sometimes it's especially hard to talk to those closest to you. I guess that's where the friendly bartender comes in!

Good luck, relax like everyone else has said.
posted by bwonder2 at 3:24 AM on February 2, 2010

I understand that funeral trumps anniversary.
How about grief prevents celebration? Have you had anyone important or close to you die? Did you feel like celebrating some other event around the same time? Many people find themselves unable to. It seems a little callous of you to assume that because he can't get to the funeral that he is therefore free to concentrate on romance.

even his grief, and what he was going through, which is something one should be able to do with someone you plan to marry
Also, I think you need to understand that many people prefer to grieve privately, and do not wish to discuss their feelings or open up. It's possible that's how it is for your boyfriend. Pushing them to do so is not kind and loving, it's disrespectful. Later you might do well to ask him about how he deals with strong emotions, what kind of companionship he prefers. Assuming you're entitled to his deepest thoughts just makes this all about you all over again.

Yes, a lot happened and he got flaky

I don't think he was flaky. I think he was under enormous pressure. He forgot some things. Maybe, even, he was angry with you for your lack of consideration but because he loves you, he didn't want to take it out on you. Or maybe he didn't want to hear another argument about money and the so important ring.

The computer is another issue aside from everything else. Later, when things are better, you will have to make decisions about what's okay to purchase, and what's not, about when partners feel comfortable with the other's financial decisions and so on.
posted by b33j at 3:26 AM on February 2, 2010 [10 favorites]

Yes, a lot happened and he got flaky, I understand that.

I think you need to understand grief a little better; it's not logical, or planning, or anything like that. There are countless stories of people who didn't want to go to a funeral/wake/whatever, only to change their mind at the last second. Grief hits people at different times and they deal with it different. It's not them being flaky; it's them not being sure what to do.

I doubt that he would've been in much mood for anniversary plans anyways; there's no reason to have planned your anniversary on the day it actually happened if there's a tragedy in the way. In the future, if this type of thing happens, give some space between pain and celebrating.

As for your current predicament, it doesn't sound like the two of you are done. You should do your best to be supportive, to make him feel like you understand his needs a little more and let him know you want back in the relationship. Do this for a while, but don't let it go on indefinitely; at some point, you'll need to tell him that you can't be his friend who's acting like his girlfriend/fiancee. Best of luck!
posted by Hiker at 3:39 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

In one of your previous relationship Asks you said:
I don't do it voluntarily, but I realize that when I start to feel secure and emotionally comfortable, I start to do things to sabotage the relationship.
Dishing out pressure and ultimatums when he's stressed over other things might fall into this category. If you want to keep the relationship going, you should probably try to dial the drama down a few notches.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 3:45 AM on February 2, 2010 [6 favorites]

Yeah, sounds to me like you need to be a little less Dawson's Creek in your interactions in a relationship. That aside, he sounds to me like the sort of guy who has dug himself into a big hole and just wants to stay there waist-deep for a while while he decides if he wants to keep digging, or start filling it back in. Furthermore, "nothing changing" while being "broken up" is a stupid situation and won't last. Either tabula rasa or just forget it.
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:31 AM on February 2, 2010

Okay, here's my two cents.

Go to your boyfriend (yup, he's still your boyfriend) and give him a big hug. Tell him you are sorry for giving him an ultimatum and that you aren't going anywhere. Then put your needs on the back burner for awhile. It is probably going to take a while, maybe a few weeks, but things will settle down. That's when you bring up the relationship stuff. Give the SO some time to calm down and use this time to show him that you'll be there for him "For Better or Worse."
posted by TooFewShoes at 4:37 AM on February 2, 2010 [9 favorites]

Response by poster: To TheophileEscargot, that post, although was posted from my account, was not a situation I was going through personally. A friend of mine and I share this account and that was not a question I posted. If you look at the post, it is states on April '09 that the relationship was already 2 years. My (ex)boyfriend and I just hit 2 years this 2010. The drama in that issue is not from my life, so I do not want anyone's advice to be judged by the existing drama from this post and the drama from that...which would make anyone look worthy of being dumped for being drama-ridden.
posted by penguingrl at 4:40 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I agree with what everyone else is saying -- focus on supporting him, ignore any insecurities that you might have, prioritise his needs for a while, and help him get through this. He just needs a safe harbour from all the other storms going on in his life.
posted by ukdanae at 4:50 AM on February 2, 2010

Wow thats screwed up. He sounds like he doesnt want to spend the money on getting his own appartment.

You have two choices .

1. you guys are broken out and move out of this appartment or what ever and find your own places.

2. you guys are still together.

Do not live together if your not together. Will just make things difficult. Do not let him use you as just a way to save him money.
posted by majortom1981 at 4:53 AM on February 2, 2010 [5 favorites]

Without reading any of the other replies:

Regardless of the fact that he is in a very bad place right now, I would urge you to NOT agree to this setup he wants.

This is the reason why people ask for setups that your boyfriend wants: because they want to have all the good things, the benefits, that come from being with you, with NONE of the responsibilities.

This includes taking your interests into consideration in their decisions, caring about your feelings at all, being kind or even treating you with the bare minimum of human decency, not sleeping with others, not lying to you, etc.

I think many people think, that people ask for this setup just because they "need space" in some abstract way, they they only don't want to *feel* obligated to do the above things, yet they will continue to do them. No. They have asked for this setup because they do not want to keep doing those things and this frees them up to stop.

The setup your boyfriend has asked for is, in my opinion, very not normal. Not agreeing to it, in my opinion, would not make you a non-supportive, ungrateful girlfriend, friend, or human being. Supporting your boyfriend, or anyone, does not mean you have to agree to anything demeaning. Insisting on being treated with 100% basic respect, no matter what the circumstances, is not selfish.
posted by Ashley801 at 4:56 AM on February 2, 2010 [17 favorites]

I'd agree with everyone saying that you probably ought to just stop talking about your relationship with him for the moment.

I might have a skewed perspective on this but it seems to me that your expectations had set up a fairly narrow course for how he was allowed to deal with the buying of the rings and the grieving process and when he deviated from that expected course the problems arose. It seems that his actual behavior is not very much in line with your expectations for him, regardless of whether those expectations are reasonable or not.

I would agree with others that the relationship isn't really over at this point. What you're calling him "pushing you away" is simply the way he reacted to your expectations of him - to your ultimatum which you required him to respond to one way or another.

It seems to me that you'll need to decide yourself whether you really want to continue the relationship when his behavior is so out of line with your expectations. The way you've described acting makes it look like you're trying to force him or train him to react to specific situations in specific ways and I think that continuing to do that will be stressful on you and him and on the relationship. (And I think that you should ask yourself whether you'll be too disappointed and hurt, if he simply never comes around to acting and feeling as you expect him to in these sorts of situations. Don't stay with him in hopes that you can eventually change him to act and feel in the way that you want him to.)
posted by XMLicious at 4:59 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

The point of this is, if he doesn't want to be with you as a gf, and you want to be supportive of him, be supportive of him as a friend. Not some hidden quasi roommate booty call I-love-you-but-I-don't-want-to-date-you type thing. Otherwise I think you will end up being jerked around, having your time wasted, and ultimately being really hurt.
posted by Ashley801 at 4:59 AM on February 2, 2010 [4 favorites]

(You should ask your friend to get her own account if you want to avoid similar problems in the future.)

Please listen to TooFewShoes. Even if the previous question wasn't referring to you, you are sabotaging the relationship. Your follow-up responses seem to imply that you expect him to deal with grief in a certain way--namely, in a way that is centered around your relationship. This is unreasonable, and more, he's going through a very unreasonable time right now, so even if it was reasonable it would be silly to think he'd be able to react totally reasonably.

Mostly, it seems like you're taking his actions way, way too personally. I don't think any of the things he's done have anything to do with you, at all. He clearly doesn't want to break up--and just said he did because you issued a totally over-the-top ultimatum at a time when he's emotionally exhausted. Go to him, offer to act like that conversation never happened and then back off for a week or two. No discussions about rings, marriage, or what his actions mean about his feelings for you. He's dealing with way too much to have a sane discussion about any of that.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:59 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

You need to chill.

Seriously. It seems like you're trying to make everything about you when all I see is a very wounded, seriously grieving boyfriend who doesn't know which way is up anymore who wants a time out to catch his breath.

You went too far and played chicken with the relationship. You lost. If you want to change things back, you have to admit that you were wrong and that you should have been more understanding.

You shouldn't be engaged right now because you're not on the same page. Maybe one day you'll get there again. Maybe you won't. Don't force it.
posted by inturnaround at 5:03 AM on February 2, 2010 [11 favorites]

All of this defies what a clean break is and I am not sure if he is just overwhelmed and breaking things off with me is the one thing he has control and say over and he just wants to exercise that right or if he truly wants to break up.

Oh, and he doesn't have control over this. You told him you were taking back your engagement ring--something any reasonable person would have seen as ending the engagement--and then, when he got upset and hurt by it, told him that if he was upset and hurt he needed to break up with you. This is crazycakes!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:04 AM on February 2, 2010 [21 favorites]

Back up. Go talk to your (now ex-) boyfriend and apologize, explain that you freaked out and were wrong, and see if he'll take you back. You screwed up, badly, and as everyone else has said your best bet at reconciliation is to communicate that and hope he recognizes that and is willing to cut you some slack.

That said, your theory about his exercising "the one thing he has control " over suggests (to me, at least) that you are thinking about this in terms of a tit-for-tat exchange of power, rather than a set of continuous compromises. Long term relationships aren't governed by anything other than communication and forgiveness, and it sounds like you guys hit a rough spot and stopped doing both. If that resonates, then might want to examine the foundation of this relationship and possibly your approach to relationships in general, lest the same problem arise in another form later.
posted by ellF at 5:24 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Well uh, to be blunt, neither of you is ready for marriage in my book, so it's good (ok maybe not good, but good) that you've backed off of that plan for now.

You're both stuck in that exciting cycle of codependency and grief, and you seem to have no identity outside of "Us." He doesn't seem far removed, but you let yourself get your panties in a wad about nothing and acted in an immature way that, quite frankly, would have resulted in the same response from me. He also needs to step up to the plate and take some ownership of his life and his relationship(s). I'll take flak for saying that, but I stand by it.

There is no pseudo-half-time-kinda-relationship here. There either IS a relationship or there is NOT a relationship. You need to STOP telling him your every move, you need to STOP asking his permission, you need to STOP budgeting "our" money, and you need to treat him like a roomate you tolerate. You need to make him a lower priority for your social outings, you need to do things on your own, and you need to do what you want to do---which includes telling your friends "you're taking some time off for now" or something similar if they ask (no need to broadcast it.)

Dude'll come back once he has time to wrap his mind around everything AND sees that you're capable of life without him. Probably, anyway. This means no interim fucking, no making out, no sleeping in the same bed. Feel free to crash at a friends house for a couple nights w/o telling him in advance...like, as you're walking out the door "I'm going to Phoebe's tonight for a girls night, ttyl!".
posted by TomMelee at 5:27 AM on February 2, 2010 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: To ellF, my mention of the "one thing he has control over" was not about power. I simply meant that with everything going on in his life, the problems I gave him during his time of need, is the only thing he has a say in. He did not have a say in losing his friend. He did not have a say in watching his grandfather become more sick. I was stating that when things fall around us, we have no control over asking things to slow down or to take turns, they all just crash around us with no regard of how we can, if we can, take it all at once. To clarify my statement, I said that as the issues I added to his life was something he could say "enough!" to and has. A decision that, after reading everyone's post, I am coming to grips with as nothing short of fair, just, and what I deserve. I am not a selfish, self-centered person and I truly see now how such actions paint no other picture. I fear that I have lost him, deservedly so, yet would like to make amends, even if the best I could hope for is to be a friend in his life. He is such a wonderful person and I could not imagine my life without him. With my recent mistakes, I see now that I might have to imagine my life differently, but I would still like him to be some part of it. The things I listed that he wants offer me some hope, however, I do not want to push my luck and I certainly don't want to make things worse. I do not know how to approach the situation, either by giving him his space (which, if he wants to re-conciliate, could read as me giving up on us) or by being there for him (which could read as I am not getting the message that we are done or that I am actually doing some good by rebuilding on what I screwed up on).
posted by penguingrl at 5:33 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Your ultimatum was likely percieved as pushing him away at a time when he was really hurting. I'd apologize and go to therapy.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:34 AM on February 2, 2010

Yes, it's time to stop freaking out. None of this is about you, except the part where you made it about you by getting dramatic.

Anyway, things happen. I had a four-day weekend planned for my birthday this year, and due to 1. work being behind schedule and 2. a death in my fiancé's family, I ended up spending a lot of that time working, and shared our fancy birthday dinner for two with my fiancé's father, who was in town for the funeral. Big deal! I did the work, went to shiva, had a fine time with his father, who bought us the fancy dinner—and then two weeks later, when we were able to relax again, had an awesome time going out.
posted by limeonaire at 5:47 AM on February 2, 2010

Pretend you are someone else and read your question with as close to an objective point of view as you can muster. Or (this is almost always a useful tool) tell the same story, but put reverse the roles - in this story, you have a number of burdens stacking up on you and instead of supporting you or giving you space, your partner kept poking at you and finally, in an act very similar to "kicking you when you were down" and/or "sabotaging the relationship", they gave you an ultimatum: "stop trying to deal with the problems in your life and pay attention to my drama right now, or we are done". What would you do?

Also, READ The Light Fantastic's comment instead of just rebutting it. There and in your post you say "I understand" in places where it seems like you really don't.
posted by foobario at 5:52 AM on February 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you, foobario. Rereading not only The Light Fantastic's comment and everyone else's, I appreciate the harsh reality you have all given me. As much as I would love to hope that I have not lost him, I understand why I may have. I should not have made it about me at the worst possible time, but I did. I realize that, after we had spent time designing our wedding rings, I did NOTHING but give him more than enough examples how I am not ready to be married due to my immaturity and, from what I have realized, my selfishness. I was not being the best girlfriend and I certainly was not presenting myself as a good example for a wife. I did kick him while he was down. I truly, truly get that right now and I think by standing aside and putting my S.O. first will not only teach me how to be selfless, but will teach me to grow up.
posted by penguingrl at 6:03 AM on February 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Ashley801 wrote was I was going to say.

Ultimatums are never a good idea, you've learned that now, but you were not at all off-base feeling like he was disregarding your feelings given the series of events that led up to it.

Your boyfriend is really overwhelmed right now and probably isn't well-equipped to deal with interpersonal stress, but what he's asked of you is to continue enjoying the benefits of a relationship without being accountable to you. I'd urge you to think very carefully before you acquiesce to that request. Don't let feelings of guilt lead you to making a decision that's not in your own best interest.
posted by trunk muffins at 6:14 AM on February 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

I tend to think neither of you is really ready for marriage but also that you two aren't really broken up.
You know you were wrong flipping out when he was in a bad way from the emotional turmoil of his friend's death and his grandfather's illness. You should apologize for that sincerely and calmly. I don't think this is an unforgivable sin, but something that you should have apologized for immediately upon realizing you were in the wrong. In the future, apologize early when you know you were wrong. I think you should be able to apologize, make it clear that you don't want to break up, get him to agree if that is what he wants, and move on. This is not an hours-long conversation at this point, this is a few minutes done calmly but with sincerity.

However, I completely disagree with those that seem to believe this guy gets a free pass from totally cutting you out of the loop because he was in a bad state. No, you don't get a free pass from communicating with your partner pretty much ever. He doesn't have to sob on your shoulder or pour out his soul, but he should be able to state simply and clearly "I am feeling very stressed out right now and I need you to put up with me while I get through this". You have a right to ask that of him. In some follow-up conversation to the one where you apologize and the two of you get back together, you should state that you expect to be kept in the loop in a basic way. Not telling you when he decided to go out of town? That isn't like forgetting to tell your SO you're going out after work. You have to make travel plans for that shit, and you deserved to know what was happening. Again, it wasn't worth your throwing a fit over at the moment, but it absolutely was worth bringing up after he returned and things had died down a bit.

To me though the real eyebrow-raiser here is the fact that he thought it was ok to go out and buy a toy with money the two of you had saved without consulting you and then basically waving off your concerns after the fact. WTF. To me that adds a bit of a dimension to this story that is not at all irrelevant. This guy seems to be taking you for granted, and frankly, the whole "let's keep everything the same except be broken up" piece feels like adding on to that. You did the wrong thing, yes, but have some self-respect. If you're broken up break up, if you're not don't. You did not commit a sin so bad that you need to accept any terms he comes up with to get forgiveness for it.

Finally though, damn, let the therapy thing go. You have two weeks of bad shit and suddenly you need counseling? No. You need to tone down the freaking out, and he needs to do a better job of not taking you for granted. Just say that and try it out for a while. If you are still fighting and having problems, then hell, try therapy, but pushing "OMG we need therapy" over text messages while he is at a funeral is definitely a crazy overreaction if the rest of the relationship is really as nice as you describe it.
posted by ch1x0r at 6:15 AM on February 2, 2010 [11 favorites]

I had an answer written about how with everything going on his life you were just adding even more drama and he just couldn't deal with it. So he came up with this "secret breakup" idea to cut off the drama. He doesn't want to lose you, he just doesn't want to deal with the relationship stress you're adding. You need to be unilaterally supportive of him right now. Relax about your own emotional needs for the moment. Give him some time for things to get back to normal.
Your ultimatum was likely percieved as pushing him away at a time when he was really hurting. I'd apologize and go to therapy.
OMG not everyone needs therapy! What is it with pushing therapy on everyone in AskMe?
posted by delmoi at 6:20 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thank you, foobario. Rereading not only The Light Fantastic's comment and everyone else's, I appreciate the harsh reality you have all given me. As much as I would love to hope that I have not lost him, I understand why I may have.
I don't think you've lost him at all. He still cares about you, he still wants to be around you. Just be supportive and over time see what happens. He will probably be ready for things to get back to "normal" in a few months.
posted by delmoi at 6:21 AM on February 2, 2010

You do not need to leave. You need to calm down.

He does not want you to leave. He wants you to calm down.
posted by majick at 6:23 AM on February 2, 2010 [10 favorites]

Watch what he does, not what he says. He 'wants to break up' but is hanging all over you? Then he actually wants to be with you, for whatever reasons, maybe not good ones. He's not trying at all to make things livable? He either can't or just won't. (Maybe he's an asshole? Or just very sad?) He's lolling about, acting all sad? He's sad. Not terribly complicated.

Quit thinking about your anniversary and assorted time-marking nonsense. Get over that shit. Forget about the ring. If you pull through this time you'll be more ready for all that.

And stop 'explaining' yourself. Just listen and figure out how everyone here is interpreting your words.

To my eye, this guy's gotta be part of life at the moment - make new things happen, fill up suddenly-empty space. That can be hard when things are (from his perspective) working hard to depress him. He fucked up the engagement thing on purpose - no adult is so stupid and heedless as to forget such a discussion - so obviously he's got some problems to work through. Emphasis on 'work,' mind you. Best thing you can do is be a part of him becoming a healthy non-asshole capable of standing by his decisions.

He doesn't need another throw rug, in other words, so don't be one.

And stop treating your fear as if it were part of the situation rather than your imposition upon it.
posted by waxbanks at 6:26 AM on February 2, 2010

Flash forward to now: he is back from the trip and while we had texted throughout the weekend discussing that we would try counseling, he comes home and says he no longer wants to try. He said he was done trying and that "life is just so overwhelming right now and I am so tired."

This sounds like serious depression. If he's in the grip, it could be the depression talking. But as someone who is 11+ years married, staying married is about being willing to engage the process and work on things and commit to working on them, no matter how hard.

I would have understood that if it was a clean break, HOWEVER, he stated the following things:

My initial take was that he wants to keep you as a convenient concubine and not have to hassle the whole "relationship" thing, that way he can walk out whenever it's convenient, no strings attached.

That may be an overly cynical view. I'm not saying move out right away. He's been through a lot and for the sake of the friendship you two have shared, it's not a bad thing to give him some compassion and not push things.

But at some point soon the two of you need to move out of relationship limbo. Either you're on the track to marriage, or you're just roommates who aren't dating other people but aren't going to become more than that.

But if it's the latter and that's not what you want, then you have to move out and move on. Because you will eventually (or he will), and then ti's just a matter of how long will you drag it out.

Your profile says you're 24, I'm assuming he's similarly aged. Trust this old man; You're still young. This may be one of those relationships you look back on and think "I could have done that better". We all have them.

Not all broken things can be repaired. Some broken things we can only learn from. But depression talking or not, what he's suggesting is untenable for more than a week.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 6:43 AM on February 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

It was a dick move for him to buy the PC first. I can see how that could make you think he doesn't prioritize your relationship in quite the same way that you do.

However, everything that happened afterwards was a dick move on your part. You need to stay there, keep the drama to a minimum, and remind him why he fell in love with you in the first place.

Then he'll come around.
posted by sid at 7:00 AM on February 2, 2010

I think you really, really need to give this some time. If I understand your question correctly, he lost a good friend unexpectedly less than a week and a half ago and just (as in the last day or two) got back from the funeral. Obviously, he's not dealing with it in the best way and, as others have said, should be communicating with you more.

But, it also seems like he's grieving ('Life is just so overwhelming right now and I am so tired'), which is not the time to bring up anniversary plans and asking him whether he's going to the funeral so you can budget it in. I would suggest that more caring responses would be, 'Do you want me to come with you? Would you like me to book your ticket so you don't have to?' And also, 'How are you feeling? Do you want to talk?'

It sounds to me like he knows he's overwhelmed and likely to make a decision he'd later regret, but he's also so emotionally stung-out that he can't deal with you asking if he's really commited to you at this time. For what it's worth, it also sounds to me like you're most upset about the computer purchase and that was never completely resolved.

Let the man grieve. Don't have the 'are we really through?' conversation for at least a week. Move to a separate bed, if that would make you feel better, and even start looking for an apartment (it will probably take a week at least for you to find one any way). And, by all means, start being a good friend to him and ask him if he's doing alright and if he'd like to go for a walk with you. Leave your insecurities and relationship worries out of it for the time being, show how unselfish you are and be there for him in what must be an absolutely horrible time for him.
posted by brambory at 7:05 AM on February 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

Give him time, do not focus on "us" and where things are "going". Things go the way you both take them. You need to be supportive of him. I cannot imagine my SO haranguing me about an upcoming anniversary if someone in my family died and I had a funeral coming up and a new job and a friend just died. I mean, what you've described as your actions sound incredibly selfish. I know they're probably built on a lot of waiting and hoping and planning, and my guess is all that has been a focus for you for a while and it's really hard to shift gears, but you've got to -- for the sake of the man you want to continue to love and support for the rest of your life. So, for his sake, please focus on helping him with logistical stuff, give him breathing room, and drop all of the "oh no where is our relationship going" questions and as many other demands as you can until he's *apparently* become ok with his situation, fallen apart again a few times, and then actually become ok with life again.
posted by lorrer at 7:35 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, and also, I don't think he, the person you normally know, broke up with you. The strung-out, grieving version of him did. So right now tell him you're extremely, completely sorry you put him on the spot at such a horrible time and were so selfish, and that you want to never do that again. Then, once you've supported him and he's gotten through most of his grief and seems stable again, you can try groveling and reiterating that you put him on the spot at the worst time and I'm guessing he'll take you back -- again, once he's back in his normal frame of mind.
posted by lorrer at 7:39 AM on February 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

You're not a bad person and you almost certainly haven't lost him.
posted by brainwane at 8:04 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

He did a dumb, inconsiderate thing by spending money you had mutually agreed not to spend. I think you need to separate that in your mind from everything else that has happened, and I don't think it's fair to try to work that out right now, but I do want to acknowledge that he did the wrong thing there.

Given the current situation, I think it would be healthy and reasonable to do one of two things: 1) You both agree to put off decision-making (counseling, break-up, marriage, all of it) for the time being and stay where you are; OR, 2) You both agree to break up, temporarily or permanently, and go through the motions of an actual break-up (move out, don't see each other, etc.).

I'd lean toward option #1. I don't think that this is a good time for the two of you to be making major decisions about your future plans. That said, while he deserves a great deal of patience and care as he grieves, you still deserve to be cared for, too. It is not caring to say "let's break up but not tell anyone and pretend like we're still together"--regardless of the grief he's going through. It doesn't make you a bad person to seek a better solution than his proposed fix, and I suspect that it's possible to find one that is both supportive in the way he needs and respectful of you.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:28 AM on February 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

When I was just a little younger than you are now, my mother died unexpectedly. Like, one day she was going to the doctor for back pain, the next day she was diagnosed with metastatic cancer, and the third day, we watched her die. I was completely unprepared for it. I reacted by basically shutting out everyone in my life, including my boyfriend of four years. I alternately ignored him and snapped at him, I canceled plans at the last minute, I even forgot his birthday. He was absolutely wonderful about it. He took care of all the crap in my life, held my hand through the funeral and all the associated drama, and made sure that I had everything I needed. And I kept pushing him away.

I'll give him credit, he put up with it for a good six months. But it took me more than a year to get "back to normal," and he eventually couldn't handle it. We broke up about 8 months after she died.

I tell you this not to say that you should be like my boyfriend was and take whatever your (ex?) fiance dishes out. Rather, I wanted to point out that he may not be ready to talk about this in a week, or a month, or six months. I think it's totally fine for you to back off now and give him some space. But, for your own sanity, you need to figure out how long you're prepared to live the way you're living now, not sure of what he'll do or say at any moment and not knowing whether your relationship is going to survive. Don't tell him about it or give any ultimatums. Just know for yourself what the limits of your tolerance are. And then, in a month or two months or six months, you'll be able to make a decision for yourself about what you want in life and whether you can keep waiting for him.

When we broke up, I was furious at my boyfriend for abandoning me when I needed him. Now, looking back on it, I don't blame him at all. Because my grief was holding us both hostage. And you need to make sure that, while the focus of your relationship right now is on taking care of him, you're also taking some time to safeguard your own feelings. A relationship can't be all give or all take, and balancing that is one of the hardest things we have to figure out how to do.
posted by decathecting at 8:42 AM on February 2, 2010 [5 favorites]

I haven't read all the comments, so I apologize if I'm repeating someone, but I wanted to comment on one thing you said:

I would like to elaborate that I was taken aback that he was not opening up to me about his plans, or even his grief, and what he was going through, which is something one should be able to do with someone you plan to marry

From personal experience, that's a super shitty position for you to be taking. I have some stuff in my life that I sometimes think about and it makes me upset. Partners in the past have tried to force my hand in talking about these issues. Talking about them does nothing but make me feel worse. It doesn't help even a tiny bit in the long term, and makes things drastically worse in the short term. With one partner, forcing the issue felt very much like abuse, as he was basically requiring me to do something for which the only effect was pain. I shouldn't have to talk about my problems in order for someone else to feel better about themselves! One SHOULD be able to open up if that opening up will be helpful to them. If that opening up will only cause more grief, though, than the other person should be able to support the person in pain however is most helpful.
posted by brainmouse at 8:56 AM on February 2, 2010 [10 favorites]

I would like to elaborate that I was taken aback that he was not opening up to me about his plans, or even his grief, and what he was going through, which is something one should be able to do with someone you plan to marry.

Be careful of "shoulds" in your thinking - that's a path towards disappointment, depression, and anger.
posted by _paegan_ at 9:52 AM on February 2, 2010

You need to be there for him and put yourself aside for now, at least when it comes to the relationship. Although you guys are technically broken up, judging by your list you'll end up back together once everything clears out a little.

I was in a similar situation and one of the reasons we ended up back together was because even though we were failing at being friends I still checked in on him and did little things to make sure he was O.K. when he lost a family member.

A few months down the road (or maybe less than that, who knows,) he'll look back and see that you were always there for him. However in the meantime I'd suggest you put the relationship-talk on hold. He still wants to be with you, he just needs time.
posted by biochemist at 11:28 AM on February 2, 2010

So a guy is going through a really hard time and instead of being supportive his partner gets insecure and demanding. She has shown her true colors and I think he is right to end the relationship.
posted by y6t5r4e3w2q1 at 12:14 PM on February 2, 2010

Whether it's the situation or not that spurred him to this I couldn't say, and you definitely did yourself no favors by picking now to provoke this confrontation... but what he is doing now is testing the waters with you. You drew the line, he called you on it -- not really shocking, since whoever makes the ultimatum usually loses. There's pretty much two ways this can go:

- you back down and hang around, which basically tells him that your lines mean nothing because you're so desperate to keep him around; he will never respect them again, and inevitably test them again later with worse antics.

- you stand your ground, and take him at his word: you're done. You act accordingly, because he doesn't get to ask you for anything after breaking up with you.

Now, if at some point he gets his head straight, wants another chance, and you're still into the idea... then you make him start over from scratch. That's up to you, just please avoid setting yourself up for worse treatment down the road by allowing him to believe he can keep you in hand. Whatever else you do, refuse to be kept in hand.
posted by Pufferish at 12:34 PM on February 2, 2010

Regarding the computer...

You say he purchased this purely for entertainment purposes and has two others. I currently have two computers, an older machine I use as a "media center" and my new machine that I use to play computer games on. I am a big computer gamer (even though I have an xbox and wii) and it is the primary tool I use to relieve stress. If he has an older machine that can't handle the games he wants to play, an upgrade might have been needed.

More to the point, his actions might indicate how much stress he has that he is willing to make a purchase like that given the situation just so he can get rid of some stress by gaming or whatnot. My girlfriend tells me that girls cope by talking to people about their problems...they don't want solutions, they just want to talk.

Well, guys approach it differently, we like to have concrete answers/solutions to things and move on and when those don't exist (such as not being able to do anything about the fact that a friend is dead, etc.) sometimes guys just need to play their games and be in their own little world until they are past the emotional minefield and can deal with things.

Accept this, support it, deal with it--because like it or not that is what he may need to do in order to cope with life at the moment. You may not understand but that is irrelevant as this isn't really about you to be blunt.
posted by Elminster24 at 12:44 PM on February 2, 2010

You boyfriend's life just exploded into chaos. He's grieving and dealing with tons of stress. This is the worst time to make life changing decisions like ending a relationship. It sounds like he knows that but feels stuck between a rock and a hard place because of the ultimatum given to him by you. If I were you, I'd show empathy by acknowledging that life has dealt him some significant blows recently. Then I'd offer to him to take a step back in the relationship, put the ring away in a drawer, and work on getting through his current crisis. As things settle, I think you'll find that everything will get back on the track you thought you were on. Once things are back on track, you're going to need to sit down and talk about how both of you handled this recent road block. Wait to process this though, until after things settle down. It sounds like you are both operating too defensively to be objective about it now. Good luck.
posted by dchrssyr at 12:44 PM on February 2, 2010

Give me insight on how I should approach this. He is not a malicious person that would do the whole "have my cake and eat it too," so please consider that. I am willing to stay in this situation and be his friend and put him first, but I am so scared that I am losing him (or have lost him).

Give him some time, a couple of weeks or a month. Supply support, backrubs, warm meals and blow jobs. When things have calmed down a bit, ask him if he really wants to break up. If he says yes this time, then yeah, that's it, time for separation. But I'm betting he'll say "No, sorry I was just really stressed out and half crazy from everything".

He's stressed right now and you're providing more stress at one of the worst times in his life. Ease up.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:16 PM on February 2, 2010

Ugh, I've been restraining myself from replying again, but this put me over the edge: Give him some time, a couple of weeks or a month. Supply support, backrubs, warm meals and blow jobs.

That is an absolute recipe for the OP getting used and hurt. You supply backrubs, blowjobs and meals to someone you're in a (healthy, reciprocal) relationship with. Not someone who has told you you're not his girlfriend, but you can't tell anyone, and he still wants to live together. And have sex. Are you honestly saying that a guy who has said something like that can be "won back" with enough blowjobs? I've seen plenty of women try to do that, with the same result every time.

The OP went about this all in the wrong way, particularly throwing down ultimatums. That doesn't change the fact that being bereaved doesn't give you the right to treat everyone around you crappily and have them all kowtow to you. I say that as someone who has been bereaved, myself. That probably will be a very unpopular opinion, but I don't think it's healthy to tell the OP, "his friend and grandfather died so he can act however he wants, and you have to do whatever you can to make him happy regardless of what it does to you."
posted by Ashley801 at 1:29 PM on February 2, 2010 [12 favorites]


Sorry for yelling. This is a long thread, I wanted to make sure you saw this comment.

The computer thing and the anniversary thing are demeaning (to borrow a word from Ashley801, who's first comment to you I can not nth enough.) Both times he has failed to communicate with you as a partner should. Both times he's clearly demonstrated that you are second to what he wants when he wants it.

You wrote: He is not a malicious person that would do the whole "have my cake and eat it too," so please consider that.

Yes, I did consider that. And my answer is above in big bold caps.

Sure the guy is having a tough time, but you seem to indicate you've run up against this selfish streak before in this relationship. I'm not surprised. Usually when nice folks are under extraordinary stress and they lash out, they fall all over themselves apologizing once they catch a breath. Your BF? Not so much. Instead, he's bargaining for your continued relationship services with even less reciprocity from him towards you than you were getting before you guys "broke up."

Also - what is this bullshit about "please don't tell our friends!" Where then, exactly, does he expect you to turn for emotional support while he puts you through this tough time??

I disagree with everyone who that stated or implied that you 'kicked him when he was down' by issuing the ultimatum. You wanted to get through to him and the situation (that he created!) was very heated. I get it.

When you live together and plan to get married - you work as a team. Hardship or tragedy for one is hardship or tragedy for both.

If the kindest thing you can do right now is to move out and give him space to get himself together (since what he's proposed thus far isn't in anyone's best interests and it truly seems like the guy isn't thinking straight) then do that. He's confused. He probably won't sort it out with your (biased) help. Be strong for both of you, be prepared to give him true space by moving out. You'll know if this is what's needed when the time comes.

I've given you a lot to think about. Essentially, I think his recent problems and the way he's treated you are two separate issues. Long-term, I think you will find this kinda of bs will wear thin. For now, just do what ever feels "right." You can't make a mistake here. Whatever you choose will work out to the highest good for both of you.

-Be well.

PS - it's a red flag when someone you are intimate with asks you to keep their mistreatment of you a secret from friends and family. Don't fall into that trap. Keeping his secret means you will be carrying the weight of his shame. It's not your burden to bear, so don't pick it up! Share what's going on with others if you feel like it. You need the people who love you, don't shut them out.

posted by jbenben at 1:33 PM on February 2, 2010 [14 favorites]

"When you live together and plan to get married - you work as a team. Hardship or tragedy for one is hardship or tragedy for both. "

Let me clarify that...

He acted like his friend died so only he gets to be effected. But that's not how marriage works.

There are TWO interdependent people in your relationship who also share a household. Intimate! When something bad happens to one person, the other hurts, too.

Your boyfriend would know this if he held you in the same regard you hold him.

I won't say that your boyfriend doesn't love you, but his feelings for you are perhaps less mature/developed than yours are for him. Hence the selfishness he shows when he's in pain.

I hope that helped clear up my meaning some from my original comment.

Good luck
posted by jbenben at 1:44 PM on February 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Are you honestly saying that a guy who has said something like that can be "won back" with enough blowjobs?

He never left. He's just trying to have some control of his life as it falls apart. What with everything going on right now he doesn't and shouldn't have think about his relationship. It's her turn to take a chill pill, be supportive and loving and put a slight hold in their plans. Later, when her life falls apart he should supply her with love, support, backrubs, warm meals and blow jobs. But for now, she needs to lay off.

but I don't think it's healthy to tell the OP, "his friend and grandfather died so he can act however he wants, and you have to do whatever you can to make him happy regardless of what it does to you.

Look, it's put up or shut time. This couple is talking about getting married, spending their lives together and his life just fell apart and now, NOW she's choosing the time to give out ultimatums and demands? Bad choice. She can either go for the gold with the guy she says doesn't have a malicious character and they can grow together or she can hold back and let him kinda flounder around. They could still survive, sure.

But if she or anyone else, male or female, is in that position, I recommend going that extra mile and being supportive and loving and not pressuring the other person. Being able to selflessly give like this, to a person you love in their time of need is a gesture that speaks volumes. At the very worst a person will look back and be able to say "I really tried and put myself out there. He didn't want though and that hurts like hell, but dammit I loved them and tried."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:59 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Last comment from me, because evidently something about this thread is striking too much of a nerve, so I probably shouldn't read it anymore.

There are a lot of sacrifices that it is reasonable to make, and things that are reasonable to put up with, when we care about someone and they are suffering/going through a bad time.

In my opinion, no matter how bad the situation is that your loved one is in, the list of reasonable things to be understanding about NEVER includes (among other things):

-Disproportionate lack of consideration for you.
-Not operating in good faith
-Playing weird manipulative games
-Your own genuinely basic, fundamental needs not being met

I'm not necessarily saying your boyfriend is doing/has done any of those things, in particular, he doesn't sound abusive. Only you can decide if he's done the others. I'm just saying, a lot of these answers seem to be saying you should completely fall on your sword for him here and I think that's absolutely warped.

Some people spend years putting up with the above list of things, because their partner has spend a long long time parlaying a problem that they have (mental illness, alcoholism, to name a couple) into a reason why they are obligated to do so. Having problems and suffering doesn't give you a hall pass to be utterly selfish. I just don't want to see your relationship turn into that
posted by Ashley801 at 2:03 PM on February 2, 2010 [4 favorites]

I'm just saying, a lot of these answers seem to be saying you should completely fall on your sword for him here and I think that's absolutely warped.

No, they're saying lay off the relationship drama for the moment, it's really not a good time. Occasionally in relationships, one has to give a lot of the support to the other. This is one of those times. No, she shouldn't do it forever or even more than a few weeks in terms of the really heavy duty focused support, but yes, if she wants to marry the guy or even continue a relationship with him, lay off the "Memememe, what about us?!" drama and bring it up at a later point.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:27 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

From your question and responses it appears you have already learned some things about yourself and matured somewhat. Good on you. Hopefully in years to come both of you will look back on this time as an positive turning point in your relationship.

To help you on to that path it may be worthwhile spending some time learning and internalising the four agreements.

1. Be Impeccable With Your Word
Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

Unfortunately you were not impeccable with your word (the ultimatum).

2. Don't Take Anything Personally
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality.

You took personal affront at your boyfriend's purchase of the computer, change of mind about the funeral and inability to communicate about his life-stressing feelings. But none of these things were really about you.

3. Don't Make Assumptions
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama.

You assumed that it was the engagement/marriage that was stressing him (taking the ring back), not the truck-load of unexpected and probably unfamiliar emotions and external stresses that had just been dumped on him. Don't assume that people 'should' respond in a certain way. Learn to think more broadly about emotional responses. Especially grief.

4. Always Do Your Best
Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgement, self-abuse and regret.

You did do your best with the skills/self-knowledge you had at the time but you now regret your response. With your developing maturity you can make your best even better and become less self-absorbed, less dependent on 'shoulds' and more open to recognising that your relationship, your boyfriend's responses, and your future (together and/or apart) requires maturity and compassion. Doing your best applies to all things, including the first three agreements.

In my opinion, the backbone of a relationship is the team-work, the support and the acceptance that each partner expresses towards the other, their relationship and themselves. But it is not tit-for-tat, it's not a equation that is weighed up each day. One person may need more compassion for a length of time before they can recover and reciprocate.

Buy the book, leave your home for a day or two and read it. Read it and write about what comes up for you when reading it. Examine yourself with a sharp eye and decide what behaviours you need to change in yourself, the ways you need to grow.

Return to your boyfriend and tell him what you have learned about yourself, your relationship with him, and your relationship with life in general. Tell him in clear terms what you want (a loving, mutually generous relationship with him) then shut up and let him decide what he really wants for himself. It may be that the experiences he has undergone has changed his ideas about his future and himself. And if that doesn't include you, so be it. By understanding the Four Agreements you will be better prepared to accept whatever comes up.

And finally I would recommend that until you guys decided you are 'back together', be affectionate but don't have sex. It will only confuse things. Be his best friend until you both mutually decide what form your future relationship is going to take. Good luck.
posted by Kerasia at 2:32 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ashley, I get the sense that you are indeed a little too close to this particular issue and as a female who perhaps with additional baggage from your past and this might be getting in the way of providing a clear assessment of the situation and interpreting it from the guys POV.

So let me reiterate what happened...he is incredibly stressed and confused due to the turbulent events in his life he has no control over and can't be held entirely responsible for forgetting to tell her something, not wanting to be bothered with the relationship issues on top of everything, etc. Then she shit all over him with the ultimatum which she rightfully admits was the worst thing she could do.

As a guy, I can tell you that despite her stupidity in handling this, he has given every indication that he is willing to try to make this work, he just needs space and to NOT have any fucking relationship pressures whatsoever--none, zilche, nada!

I understand women are emotional creatures and need that part of them fulfilled to be happy, but if she wants this to work long-term, she needs to make some self sacrifice and ignore his current behavior and just go along with it for the meantime. If it gets worse after several weeks, sure maybe time to reassess the situation then. But for right now all that would happen by bringing that up with him is once again adding stress in the form of relationship issues which he has clearly demonstrated he does not have the bandwidth to handle right now.

And to those thinking sexual favors can't help him and shouldn't be doled out, you are clearly not male. Don't try to understand it, just know that freely giving sexual favors without demanding anything in return has the net effect of LOWERING his stress level, which needs to happen significantly before there is even a chance in hell of things going back to normal. It is not required, but highly suggested as it is a good way of helping reduce his stress and strengthening the bond between them.
posted by Elminster24 at 2:35 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

He acted like his friend died so only he gets to be effected. But that's not how marriage works.

There are TWO interdependent people in your relationship who also share a household. Intimate! When something bad happens to one person, the other hurts, too.

Your boyfriend would know this if he held you in the same regard you hold him.

I won't say that your boyfriend doesn't love you, but his feelings for you are perhaps less mature/developed than yours are for him. Hence the selfishness he shows when he's in pain

What? This is like some bizarro-world view of relationships. You seem to be suggesting that the bereaved partner must by virtue of his own bereavement support the non-bereaved partner. That's just really...weird. The two situations are totally non-equivalent. It is certainly not selfish for the boyfriend to be bereaved and to need his girlfriend's unqualified support - it would almost verges on a sort of emotional abuse, actually, to insist that the girlfriend had equivalent needs here. Adults in relationships understand that they aren't always at the center - sometimes you have to put your own needs aside and take care of the other one.
posted by yarly at 3:01 PM on February 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

This sounds like serious depression. If he's in the grip, it could be the depression talking. But as someone who is 11+ years married, staying married is about being willing to engage the process and work on things and commit to working on them, no matter how hard.

When my uncle was lost at sea, while I was living away from my partner, when my sister broke her leg and I ended up living back with my parents and taking care of them all while we searched for my uncle at sea and I finished off my degree and worked I totally and utterly fucked up birthday plans for my partner. Totally. It's Christmas fucking Eve and I fucked up. I forgot to plan, to buy anything and came very close to forgetting to call. It was shit. My life at that point was totally fucked up. I made plans for Christmas, but not with him. I screwed up in a big way, particularly since birthdays are quite important for him.

He didn't chuck a tanty and make ultimatums. He hugged me and supported me and we got through it and had a half decent NY celebration and eventually got everything sorted. Ignoring grief because your partner isn't mature enough to step back a bit is not a long term solution. There's working at a relationship and then there's ignoring self for the sake of the relationship. The OP seems to expect her boyfriend to ignore his grief and stress because of previous plans and her boyfriend seems to expect her to ignore her sadness over a breakup just so he doesn't have to deal with being single. It's a shitty stupid situation and absolutely not indicative of marriage being a good idea.

(Elminster's view of handling this is just as fucking bad - asking women to not have any needs at all because WAHHHHHH I'M STRESSED is just as stupid as insisting on happy-anniversary-face while grieving. It just includes added sexual pressure when you're least likely to want to have sex since your needs are being ignored for 'the greater good' which seems to mean male happiness).

As for the computer - he left more than enough for the ring, you said so yourself. So what exactly was the problem? You agreed on a ring and a computer, you got a ring and a computer. Try and work out real issues to stand on, not dramatic ones.
posted by geek anachronism at 3:20 PM on February 2, 2010 [7 favorites]

@geek anachronism
You need to reread what I wrote...I'm not saying she shouldn't have any needs, I'm saying she needs to put them on pause temporarily while he gets his shit sorted. Just because she is emotionally needy does not mean he has to satisfy that need 100% of the time when he is obviously having serious issues in his own life.
posted by Elminster24 at 7:38 PM on February 2, 2010

What is UP with the commenters laying into this dude? "being bereaved doesn't give you the right to treat everyone around you crappily" -- yes, it does. Seriously. When your best friend has died, you're apt to be a jerk to the people around you for a while; that kind of experience can and does rob people of their humanity for a bit, and within certain boundaries, you accept and support your loved ones in spite of their bad decisions during those times.

That's the key, here: you cut the people you love slack. Not, "gee, if this was convenient, I'd put up with it, but as soon as it's uncomfortable I'm going to walk out" slack, but real, sincere, self-sacrificing slack. That's what's needed here. You can get offended and whiny about how bad this guy is, fellow posters, but you're more exposing your own prejudices than anything about the OP. Note this: "He is not a malicious person that would do the whole "have my cake and eat it too." It means that this guy, on the whole, is considered to be a good guy by penguingrl.

Penguingrl, I think you've had a good bit of reasonable advice here, as well as some hand-wringing panic from folks who have decided to tear into your boyfriend. If you want to keep this guy, and love him, listen to the advice you're getting from people on how to be supportive and loving. If you want to prove your feminist cred (or whatever is motivating people to cast you as as being akin to an abuse victim), follow those posters' suggestions. Since you asked for advice, I'd strongly suggest the former.
posted by ellF at 8:05 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ashley, I get the sense that you are indeed a little too close to this particular issue and as a female who perhaps with additional baggage from your past

I understand women are emotional creatures and need that part of them fulfilled to be happy,

Wow, that's the most condescending bullshit I've heard in a while. At least I can be thankful for the reminder of why I always steer clear of the type of men who say such ignorant things.

If he is really bereaved and wanting not to be in a relationship, it's not the OP's role to ply him with blowjobs and be there for his every need. Who says he even wants that right now? It's a little simplistic to assume as such. OP, give him some space for a few days, just see how things go with him. If he wants to talk about your relationship or his life problems, then let him talk, but you should keep your distance a bit just to let things cool down. Reassess when things have calmed down somewhat.
posted by ishotjr at 8:49 PM on February 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: A little update.....

I wrote this Monday night and, after everyone pointed out my own errors, I wrote him a long letter apologizing for making it about me through a rough time. I told him I felt that my feelings were valid, however, I could have waited for a better time or for him to get through the weekend before I added more stress. He then decided he wanted to try. He said he loved me more than anything and that he really wanted us to work. We tried for a few days and he kept reiterating how happy he was. He said he wanted to keep the engagement ring so that he would have something to propose with when we were both ready and even asked if I wanted a different ring. He said he knew his screw up with the computer could taint what that ring stood for and he wanted to make sure it was the ring I would say yes to. I told him I just wanted him, I didn't need to consider marriage right now, I just wanted to focus on us being better. He insisted on keeping the ring.

Flash forward to last Friday, 5 hours after we had the discussion of the ring and keeping it, he texts me with,

"I've decided we need to break up. It is not you, it is not the ring. I just don't want to be in a relationship. Everything has just compounded and I just don't want to try anymore. Please do not ask me to talk about this, I no longer want to discuss it."

He has been looking for apartments and has been completely and utterly cold and harsh to me. I feel as if this was my fault because of my actions and what I said. I know how unbelievably hurtful all of this was. However, the only thing I do not understand is his reaction. I am a good girlfriend and this is my first, real screw up in being selfish. I have never cheated on him and am very devoted to him and his needs. Yet, he is reacting as if we had been at each other's throats for months and that this was the last straw for him. I feel like he is truly depressed. He said he was no longer in love with me. That he doesn't want to be anywhere near me. I have tried to be considerate (since we still live together as he finds another place) and he has snapped at me and told me that he and his wants were no longer my problem.

I absolutely know that I screwed up, but I did not think that one bad week would lead to this.
posted by penguingrl at 4:18 AM on February 8, 2010

penguingrl, I'm so sorry. That sounds really rough. Please stop blaming yourself--it sounds like you did everything you could to make things right. Sometimes these things are beyond our control. Find friends to be with, eat ice cream, and take care of yourself. I know it doesn't seem that way right now, but you'll make it through this--promise.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:21 AM on February 8, 2010

Yikes--that is a pretty harsh response. After your efforts to make things better and after him communicating to you that things were getting better a breakup over text is just NOT acceptable.

The VERY LEAST he can do for you is to give you closure by having a face to face discussion. I mean FFS he was about to marry you! Don't take no for an answer, corner him and make him give you answers. If you have nothing to lose at this point might as well make sure you come out of this with closure so you can move on with your life.
posted by Elminster24 at 10:06 AM on February 8, 2010

I'm a bit concerned that you think you absolutely screwed up, just because he broke it off. Out of care for yourself, for your future, you raised an issue which was hinting at less than a relationship of complete respect between you two- something you both should be concerned about. That's a good thing. The fact that it wound up as it did, means that there was a whole lot to this situation you don't know. I hope you don't blame yourself for that either.

I was once in a situation where a relationship was getting serious (engagement), and I called an issue which was a small one, but when I examined it, was actually a very large, subtle, and serious one. I didn't recognize that at the time, when I called it. I remember taking pains to be sure I was confronting him in a way that was fair to both of our perspectives, and that it took an incredible amount of forethought, energy, and emotional wherewithall to do that.

I got a break up text, which in retrospect is the best possible way to get that kind of information because there is no denying: YOU DODGED A HUGE BULLET.

You are going to need a lot of time to process this, but as hard as it is, you have to be thankful that you know what you know now. This is not a person you want to be married to. He couldn't offer the kind of relationship you want and need.

It will be healthier for you to think about this not that you got dumped, but you followed your healthy instincts to their logical conclusion. Rest your thoughts on that. Be thankful. Don't beat yourself up.
posted by iiniisfree at 4:49 AM on February 9, 2010 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: ex broke down last night. he had been acting so cold and harsh with me, yet doing the hot/cold behavior, so i texted him and told him (since we are still living together atm) that the situation was harsh and unhealthy and he needed to move out. i told him i did not deserve the treatment, especially since he wouldn't talk to me.

last night, he told me he still loved me. that he didn't want us to be with anyone else. he said he just didn't realize how unhappy he was with us and he didn't know why, and still doesn't. he said he couldn't imagine his life without me and did nothing but apologize for pushing me away and for being mean, but he doesn't know why, in his head, he just can't get it out of his head that he was done. he said it was just something in him that he couldn't change his mind and he couldn't get himself to keep trying.

very confused. i appreciate that he finally broke down and apologized for acting the way he had been. i am unsure if he is depressed. i do not think he is playing games with me because, like i said before, he is not a malicious person. i understand that his recent actions present nothing else, but i think there is something else and i don't know how to help him. i am going to still continue giving him his space, he seems to miss me when i am gone. i just don't know what to do now.
posted by penguingrl at 6:45 AM on February 9, 2010

Um, IANYP (I am not your psychiatrist) but this sounds like there may be something deeper going on here that is being compounded by the stress. That is just not a rational way to act.

Has he considered seeing a psychiatrist? Has this flipflopping reared its head in other aspects of his life?

It is quite possible he is depressed which would explain the lack of rationality and if so he needs to get help before he does damage he can't undo. Best advice is try to bring that up as delicately as possible with him and calmly but firmly let him know that while you love and support him fully, you cannot handle the sort of emotional roller-coaster he is putting you at this point and that the two of you need to figure out some way to start improving things.

Remember, communication is the key to a happy relationship and if you don't have completely open communication about these most serious of matters, that is a huge red flag right there.
posted by Elminster24 at 9:11 AM on February 9, 2010

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