If you have to cry, go outside
June 9, 2010 8:59 AM   Subscribe

LDR to (short-term) living together. I am going to go crazy.

I am 23; my boyfriend is 25. We have been dating since I was 18. This is my first serious relationship.

After about 9 months long distance, he has moved in with me for the summer. I am going to go crazy having him around, in my space, and would prefer not to go crazy. I snap at him when I shouldn't, and it's not fair.

Full, special snowflake story:
Last May, I graduated and then traveled in Asia for a few months (and was as in-touch as I could be). He moved a few hours away for history grad school. Neither of us have cars, but both our locations are well-served by trains and buses. We saw each other once or twice a month, but then, much to my dismay, not for six weeks at the end of each semester while he finished things up at school. This was a him-imposed cleavage, and really, really frustrating to me.

I have been thisclose to breaking up with him because of the distance and the poor communication. Our communication styles and my communication needs don't seem to mesh long-distance. I don't think the details are important, as that's not the immediate issue. I love him and for the past year, have decided that the pain of separation (marginal cost) does not outweigh the marginal benefit (being with him). Right now, the pain of breaking up with him is also far, far higher than the pain of not talking to him. I think.

Anyhow, he has an internship in my area for the summer. I have two roommates (who are good friends and great housemates) that I've lived with for the past few years. I have my own room and bathroom. He moved in with me in June, and will move out in August. He'll also be going back to his city several times this summer.

I am pulling my hair out. The patterns I've developed for my life are all in disarray. Sometimes, I can't stand to be touched - and to me, it seems like he is always, always touching me (either affectionately or sexually). I get overwhelmed and overstimulated. I try and be patient, but eventually my anxiety reaches a breaking point and I lash out at him and snap. Then he feels bad and gets all sad, and I feel really guilty and bad, and then feel like I have to let him hold me or play with my hair or grab my chest. And I don't want him to, and the cycle starts all over again. I also get really frustrated with the way he talks to me - it's like he's reverted to the way we used to talk to each other when we first started dating - like, baby talk. I find it endearing in small doses but most of the time, and especially around others, I prefer to be spoken to like an adult. And as soon as I ask him to treat me differently, he forgets. I've asked him approximately 6,783 times not to touch my injured arm/hand. He stops for maybe 20 minutes, and then will start again. I ask him to please not look over my shoulder as I'm reading. He'll stop, and then leave the room and return and read aloud over my shoulder.

We have very different energy levels. I am an anxious person (please, no "go to a therapist" - I spent way too long in bad therapy to go back right now, and am not interested), more so when I'm under stress. I am currently rehabbing a fairly serious injury; I started a new, high-pressure job that requires a commute a few months ago, and am still finding my balance. I am dealing with a very ill family member. I get home and want to relax by doing quiet activities. It takes a lot out of me - physically, with my injury, and mentally - to go out after work (though I do things, like a language class, errands, chores, and volunteering, and maybe one social thing, during the week, and quite a few social things on weekends). And then, once at home, I am exhausted. I might have a thyroid disorder (runs in the family), but it's also very likely that I am just running myself ragged with stress and doing a lot with what I am able to do. But he would prefer to go out to happy hours and places that are inaccessible to me (I use mobility aids with my injury) or hard for me to get to, or just places I don't care to go. He then gets hurt when I refuse to participate.

He also has little interest in hanging out with my friends. I love and have co-opted his friends while he's been gone, so I like hanging out with them. But I'd rather go to Happy Hour with a friend he doesn't know/care for then go play Wii with his friends that I can't stand.

His internship is very low-stress and casual; he says he has little to do. He works 9-5; I work around 8:30 to 6:00 and then have physical therapy 3x a week at 7 besides (plus volunteering and class). I feel really guilty that I'm not interested in doing all the things that he wants to do. I also feel like he is more and more likely to move to his area permanently (ie beyond the next year and a half) the less and less Awesome Girlfriend I am.

I really love him. I can't imagine being without him.

I feel really bad talking to him about anything, like the future, or what is frustrating me. I have never been one for confrontation; I never learned how. Also, given that he is living with me, and that our social circles intersect, and that he doesn't have a lot of money right now (we split some stuff, including rent, but he currently owes me rent; whoever goes to the store pays, but I go more. I have more money than him as I am working private sector and he's going through school), I don't think I could have an honest conversation about potentially him living elsewhere or the future of Us.

How can I adjust better? How can I communicate to him about

He is trying really, really hard, and I realize I probably sound like a huge, demanding bitch. I am just trying my best. I apologize if this is repetitive and for any grammar problems; this is upsetting to write.

Throwaway email - throwawaywords@gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (32 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You are not a huge demanding bitch. But no one tells you that relationships are hard, no one tells you that being in love does not mean that the minute you cohabit that everything is sunshine and flowers. It does not require that you be in each other's space 24/7 or OH NOES YOU'RE NOT REALLY IN LOVE. It means you have to figure out how to deal with different approaches to money, to sex, to using the bathroom, to privacy. YOU HAVE TO FIGURE THIS OUT. It is not conflict, it is figuring out.

"Hey, you know, when I get home from work, I am freaked out from a crappy commute and I need 10 minutes to decompress."
"Oh but I work an impersonal job and I am just so HAPPY to see a human I like and it's you."
"Okay but if I go in the bedroom and don't come out when I come home could you not follow me? That means I'm not ready for people?"
"Oh, I get it. I can do that"

See? It's just that relationships do not vest you with psychic ability and everyone thinks that unless you can psychically intuit your partner's every want or need, that your relationship is bad. When it's actually quite the opposite.

Mr. M. and I were in a LDR for two years, and spent summers together, and then he moved in for good, and I will tell you there were horrifically bad moments during the first six or 9 months where he was irked that he had less room in the closet and I was irked that he had no furniture but yet moved into a lovely furnished apartment and was going to complain that he had one foot less of room in the closet. He started paying for stuff when we went to Ikea. I started being religious about making sure my clothes did not extend one centimeter into his closet space.

For us, it got easier. Not that there still aren't moments. I hate that he leaves the lights on all over the house, he hates that I leave shoes all over the house. Every once in a while I walk around turning off lights, every once in a while he has to pick up and straighten every pair of shoes. But we both KNOW that this our stuff because we've talked about it.

You? You don't have any time to yourself. At all. You need you time. You need quiet time. You need to be able to sit and read a book or stare out the window without the boyfriend coming in and bugging you. It takes negotiation to figure that out and talk about it and it will hurt and then it will get easier. Or it won't get easier, and that is how you know that you are not meant to cohabit.

I ask him to please not look over my shoulder as I'm reading. He'll stop, and then leave the room and return and read aloud over my shoulder.


he would prefer to go out to happy hours and places that are inaccessible to me (I use mobility aids with my injury) or hard for me to get to, or just places I don't care to go. He then gets hurt when I refuse to participate.

These two are absolutely inexcusible, and the latter is a glaring red flag. If he cannot handle your different mobility needs he is not a long -term partner. Because it means that he cannot accept the challenges that will arise in your relationship. What if god forbid you got cancer? He can't handle not going to happy hour because it's physically tough for you to go there? What is he going to do when something *really* bad happens.

There is nothing wrong with you. I don't know you but I feel like we would be friends if I did. I wish you lived in my town because you need a girlfriend to take you out for a massage or something. Or even just on a drive somewhere where you don't have to talk and just listen to the radio for three hours. I don't mean that to be creepy - but I hope you have a friend who can do this for you, because you need it.
posted by micawber at 9:14 AM on June 9, 2010 [15 favorites]

It sounds to me like you have just grown apart. If you've been dating this guy since you were 18, this is pretty normal. It could be that you're just not ready to live together yet, but if you can't even talk to your boyfriend about the future, it sounds like this isn't a great relationship for you to be in right now.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:14 AM on June 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

p.s. he is not trying hard. at all.
posted by micawber at 9:15 AM on June 9, 2010 [4 favorites]

Here's what you need to tell him:

"I really love you. I can't imagine being without you.

Right now I feel like we have very different energy levels. I am currently rehabbing a fairly serious injury; I started a new, high-pressure job that requires a commute a few months ago, and am still finding my balance. I am dealing with a very ill family member. I get home and want to relax by doing quiet activities. It takes a lot out of me - physically, with my injury, and mentally - to go out after work. And then, once at home, I am exhausted."

It sounds like you're fine with him going out to places that are inaccessible/hard to get to without you, you just don't like the way he acts hurt when you don't want to go. That's a great starting point. If he goes out to places you don't want to/can't go and you stay home and have alone time, that sounds like a win-win. But he needs to knock off being hurt when you don't go. Approach him on this point using the reasonable and restrained language you use in your question.

Good luck, and take care of yourself.
posted by kate blank at 9:16 AM on June 9, 2010

You've gotten thoroughly sick of each other but you're staying together through inertia.

Your question contains so many references -- some more explicit than others --to you failing to communicate with him:
I get overwhelmed and overstimulated. I try and be patient... ["Patient" is code for not communicating, right?]

I feel really bad talking to him about anything, like the future, or what is frustrating me. ... I never learned how. ... [This is an excuse: you were never taught how, so you can't do it. Well, sometimes you just have to do things in life even if no one ever gave you a lesson.]

I don't think I could have an honest conversation about potentially him living elsewhere or the future of Us.

Sorry, but a good relationship requires communication. If after 5 years you're not able to talk to him about major issues, and you just keep getting irritated by everything he does and keep it bottled up more and more, I think it's time to end the relationship. Take a break, find yourself, and look for someone you're more comfortable being open and honest with.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:25 AM on June 9, 2010 [11 favorites]

You can't imagine being without him because you've never been without him. At the very least he needs his own place to live as soon as possible.
posted by amethysts at 9:27 AM on June 9, 2010 [5 favorites]

I feel really bad talking to him about anything, like the future, or what is frustrating me.

I think some people veer between being so afraid of confrontation that they don't say anything and then finally getting so fed up with the legitimately annoying stuff their partners do that they snap and yell and turn it into an angry fight about the particular instance of a behavior, rather than a serious conversation about the behavior itself.

If you love him and want the relationship to endure, you have to learn how to talk about these things. You say he's trying really hard, but... no, he isn't. You need to find a way to tell him he needs to try harder--ask what you can do to help him learn not to touch your injured arm, maybe you can establish a routine when you get home so that he can have specific cues that let him know to give you some space, maybe you can move your computer or workspace such that he physically can't read over your shoulder (or get one of those screen covers that obscure the screen from certain angles). There are solutions to the problems you're talking about, and there are ways you can help, and there's some work he's going to need to do. But none of that can happen until you start to talk to him like an adult. Perhaps you should think of your non-confrontation habits as being every bit as childish as his "baby talk"--and work to change your communication accordingly.
posted by Meg_Murry at 9:36 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry, I've got to be Brutally Honest: This is not a match. Being in love does not guarantee compatability -or even a workable relationship. It also does not guarantee you'll never be in love again, so take heart: It's not a choice between him or nothing, ever. (Just him or nothing [right now].)

It's not you, it's not even him, it's the two of you together. Take a deep breath, grab a box of tissues, and apply the breaks.
posted by Ys at 9:36 AM on June 9, 2010 [12 favorites]

I agree with the possibility that the two of you may be much different than you were at the age of 18 is worth investigating.

HOWEVER you didn't ask that, you're asking how to make things less crazy. In which case @micawber is absolutely on point. It's a matter of learning eachother's comfort zones and not taking them perfectly. I don't think it's that he's "not trying," but that he doesn't truly understand.

Also, do you both have places to be alone? I remember feeling frustrated and antsy at simply not having a space of my own, causing me to bug my girlfriend and constantly want to go someplace else.
posted by jander03 at 9:49 AM on June 9, 2010

Don't let anyone tell you that "you should just break up with him"

All we have is your side of the story in which you admit many of your own character flaws.

Just talk with him. Not angry talk. Real talk. If it works it works. If not you are better off for talking it through.
posted by lakerk at 9:53 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

"I try and be patient,"

Stop it.

If he does something you don't like, tell him right away. It helps no one to suffer in silence and then snap.

"feel like I have to let him hold me or play with my hair or grab my chest."

You never have to let ANYONE touch you. The more he does this and you act like you don't mind, the more you will resent him, and start to cringe when he tries to touch you. Not good.

The secret to communicating is to work through the weird fears you have about what will happen if you communicate.

Yours is that he won't move there.

Try telling him you're afraid that he won't move there if you tell him when he does stuff that bothers you.

If he keeps it up with the sadness and guilt-tripping, it doesn't change what you need. It means he is sad or guilt-tripping you. That is his problem to deal with, not yours to deal with by subjecting yourself to a bunch of shit that you don't want.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:55 AM on June 9, 2010 [5 favorites]

I think you two should reset the default to you NOT wanting to be touched unless you specifically give him permission.

Maybe he needs to start getting active, enthusiastic consent for touching instead of ASSUMING that you want it unless you push him away. Especially sexualized touching like breast-grabbing. It's not comfortable to feel constantly vulnerable to unwanted touching in your own home.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:00 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I feel your pain. It's always tricky when a LDR goes straight to cohabiting. It sounds like the best way to save your sanity is to get some physical distance between the two of you asap. That means at minimum enforcing ground rules about personal space, down time, etc. If at all possible, have rooms or blocks of time that are yours and yours alone and defend them, and try to make sure he has the same. This does not make you horrible or cold or a bitch. You can't make him do anything, but you can make your needs perfectly, unapologetically clear and see what he does with that info. Next step: get him out of your apartment altogether. Can he stay with one of his friends, at least for awhile? Ultimate solution: see what life is like without him. If I were you, I'd skip straight to this last step, because as other posters have pointed out, lots of red flags/unacceptable behavior on his part....
posted by phisbe at 10:08 AM on June 9, 2010

There is absolutely no reason for you to have someone living in your home that makes you feel this angry and uncomfortable. Whose fault it is ends up being fairly irrelevant, but it's pretty clear (and should be to him too) that whatever financial benefits there are from living together are outweighed by the fact you can't stand to live with him.

I would sincerely doubt the relationship has much of a future, though. I wish I could find a reason you two are together in there, but it looks like every major part of a relationship doesn't work in yours and I don't understand why you are together. Seriously:

- communication doesn't work (he doesn't listen when you tell him not to touch you);
- physically incompatible (in terms of needs);
- intellectually in different places (different friends and ideas on what is fun);
- different places in life financially;
- different levels of motivation;

Any one of those would be huge hurdles; the entire list is just a relationship that shouldn't be. Sorry.
posted by Hiker at 10:28 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

You sound seriously over-extended. Maybe he has the impression you don't really have any time or energy left over for him. He might be reacting to this impression by being extra-clingy.

Your post is rather defensive and inflexible sounding. If you want this to work, you'll need to take responsibility for your emotions, your reactions, your feelings - and communicate honestly and directly with him. And of course, he'll need to do the same. Working out living with a partner is not always easy, progress goes in fits and starts, possible solutions may be tried and discarded before solving problems.

Like in micawber's example, for a while my job was incredibly stressful, and my husband really did not get my need to decompress when getting home. There was yelling. There were fights. We tried some different things, but eventually we worked out that I would say, "I need to decompress," go into the bedroom and shut the door. He would not talk to me under any circumstances until I came out again. For this to work, I had to be very aware of my needs, and he had to respect my boundaries.

If you have times that you don't want to be touched, perhaps you could have a code. Wear a hat, or a red bracelet, when he should give you physical space. Yes, you'll need to be reflective and very aware of your own mood for this to work - buy hey, your guy isn't psychic.

Finally, while his sulking about you not going out with him does sound bad, your post doesn't contain any info about how he really feels about any of this - having less money than you, living in your place, you being incredibly busy and stressed, how he thought this summer might be, why he doesn't like your friends, the fact that you "co-opted" his friends.

Please, just talk to the guy. Tell him how you feel, and ask him how he feels, what his expectation were for this summer. Listen to him, try to work to solutions togther.
posted by Squeak Attack at 10:28 AM on June 9, 2010

I don't think a shared history together or past romantic links are a sufficient reason to stay together, and that's all I see here.

It's evident that you are trying to make the relationship work. Perhaps you're not doing a good job of it, perhaps you're making an outstanding effort, but it's obvious you're trying. I see nothing on his part that indicates effort by him. He sorta just assumes you'll be there for him because you always have been -- why should he change anything when everything has worked in the past?

You talked about the transaction costs of breaking up vs. staying together, and I think that's a really honest way to evaluate it. Here's another metric: If you already knew him (let's say you were good friends, or maybe roommates) but had never dated, would you start dating him now? If not, why are you with him now? I suspect you are incorrectly weighting the transaction costs and undervaluing the future problems you will have with him.
posted by Happydaz at 10:30 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have to say, given your long history together, the relatively young age at which you started dating, and the fact that this is your first serious relationship -- I think perhaps you needed some time away from him, and now that you no longer have it, you're realizing just how much you needed it.

Sit him down, and say exactly that. Say that if he stays this close and you continue to feel this way, you're going to break up, and so the only way this is going to get fixed is if you and he find a distance somewhere between the previous long-term relationship and the current right-on-top-of-me relationship.

See where it goes from there. After all, given your history, isn't this your first time truly alone on your own terms? It's a wonderful thing, and you shouldn't give it up unless you really want to.
posted by davejay at 10:41 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, and:

"feel like I have to let him hold me or play with my hair or grab my chest."

Grab your chest? That's immature and disrepectful. You don't have to let him do anything. You are completely within your rights to say "okay, you know what? that needs to stop, now." He's completely within his rights to respond "okay, then I'm leaving, because that's what I need in a relationship" -- but then you benefit, because who wants to be in a relationship with someone who thinks your body is his property?
posted by davejay at 10:42 AM on June 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

note: all of the touching, and any touching at all, is disrespectful if you don't want it, you tell him so, and he doesn't respect your wishes. however, the chest thing in particular -- a person shouldn't have to be told that, unless they're still a chlid
posted by davejay at 10:43 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've asked him approximately 6,783 times not to touch my injured arm/hand. He stops for maybe 20 minutes, and then will start again.

I find this part really worrisome. You had a serious injury to your arm and hand, which a few months later requires 3x weekly therapy and mobility aids, but he is doing things to your injury despite your asking him not to, and he can't seem to remember for 20 minutes not to? That's not being forgetful, or putting his needs above yours, it's him telling you that you are wrong about what you need, and that his needs are more important than your health and recovery. This is a bad precedent. Stop asking him to not touch your injuries, and start walking away from him when he does so. The other problems have other solutions, but don't leave this problem out.

A lot of the advice given here is really good: tell him when you aren't in the mood to be touched -- and when you are, talk to him about what kinds of things you want and don't want to do to decompress, don't wait until you're furious and lash out.
posted by jeather at 10:57 AM on June 9, 2010 [12 favorites]

1) Tell him in no uncertain terms: "I do not like it when you touch me or speak in baby talk. Please stop."

2) If you think you might have a thyroid condition, get tested for it. It's a simple blood test, and the condition is very treatable.

3) You have a needlessly busy schedule, which is causing you an incredible amount of stress/exhaustion. Consider cutting back on the volunteering/social outings, at least until your injury heals. If you're doing these things to avoid returning to your house....I think you already know what needs to happen.

4) Don't hold a grudge against your boyfriend because he was busy and stressed during the last month of grad school (exams/thesis). I'm frankly impressed that he kept up with an LTR during it at all -- very few people are able to successfully manage and balance the stresses of both.

5) You had a bad therapist? Not surprising. Most of them are crap. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try a new one. If you don't like him/her, don't book a second appointment, and move on to the next name in the phone book. Keep doing this until you find one that you like. It sounds like you want somebody to talk to your issues about, and therapy is an obvious place to do this.

6) "I really love him. I can't imagine being without him." I won't jump on the DTMFA bandwagon just yet, but that sounds a lot like Stockholm Syndrome. You may need to reevaluate your relationship, especially int he light of the admission that you've been dating this guy for your entire adult life. If you don't enjoy the company of your boyfriend or the people he keeps company with, why the hell are you still dating him?

7) To reiterate #1, you really need to communicate better. Your boyfriend can't be "there for you" if you're not letting him know what's going on.
posted by schmod at 11:07 AM on June 9, 2010

Well, I had a LDR, and it was great at the time because we had plenty of space, and when we did see each other, we were on our best behavior and it was special occasion time. But when I moved to the same city as him (not even the same house), it became so difficult. Day to day life and daily needs made me realize that we weren't a match. It's easier when your time together is special, harder when you have to live the other parts of your life in front of each other.

I don't know if this applies to you or not. I'm just saying that it is entirely possible to love someone and have the two of you not be a good match.
posted by Knowyournuts at 11:24 AM on June 9, 2010

Sounds to me like you are not very compatible. He's affectionate and physical, and you seem not to be. This will loom large over the rest of your relationship.
posted by eas98 at 11:33 AM on June 9, 2010

Sounds like he doesn't have much to do.

I think it can be easy for people on the internet to say "DTMFA" because they only hear a few complaints but obviously don't feel the same things you feel.

But sticking ANY two people together in the SAME ROOM for a ton of time is just a recipe for insanity. Even if you two love each other, after so much time not spending a lot of time together all the little things that irritate you really can start to add up.

But I think what's important is just to tell him and keep telling him. If he's reading over your shoulder, tell him to stop. If he stops for a while and then does it again, tell him to stop again. Make sure to tell him right away when something is bothering him.

The goal isn't to make him feel bad but to learn what not to do quickly. If he gets all pouty, ignore him.

In fact, because you touch him when he gets all mopey and depressed is actually working against you. It's teaching him subconsciously that "Acting guilty and sad = physical contact."

Instead, when he's not annoying you should initiate contact. Make it a reward for being good. Which, sounds like a bad thing to say, I mean you want him to treat you like an adult and I'm saying to treat him like a toddler or something. Oh well.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't break up with him. But if you don't want too, for whatever reason, then just be clear every time he annoys you.
posted by delmoi at 12:05 PM on June 9, 2010

My reading of this, which may be inaccurate, suggests a certain amount of inflexibility on your part. Yes, the things he's doing sound pretty annoying, even if one charitably assumes all the attention is due to excitement about getting to spend a bunch of time with his girlfriend. Of course better communication has to address these things before they escalate to a breaking point that leaves both partners feeling bad. And he certainly needs to be rapped with a cluestick regarding touching your injuries and trying to take you to inaccessible places.

All that said, it kind of seems like you have things very orderly, routined, mannered, and rigidly planned out. That completely understandable given the significant changes and stressors in your life. But, even under ideal circumstances, newly cohabiting with a partner is going to bring change and needs workable compromises. And it kind of sucks to move in with someone who through word or action very much says "this is my place". Leaving the one moving in to mold themself to fit whatever leftover spaces exists in the domicile/routine/lifestyle. That may be further exacerbated by your living arrangements providing him with no private space of his own: there's the public space shared by you and your two roommates and there's your bedroom. Maybe you have made reasonable accommodations for him and living together will ultimately be unworkable. But if you haven't tried, or haven't accepted that things will change living with him, give it a shot.
posted by 6550 at 1:11 PM on June 9, 2010

Here are two possible scenarios:

You're staying together because a break-up sounds like more stress and pain, but you really aren't compatible.


You're experiencing a severe imbalance of power in the relationship right now. Maybe he's feeling somewhat vulnerable and insecure (he's living with you in your place and doesn't have a place of his own to retreat to, has to adjust to your schedule, etc. Frankly, as soon as I heard that he needed a lot of touching and baby talk, the issue of insecurity popped into my head.) Maybe you are someone who needs alone time in order to decompress and re-energize, therefore you aren't getting ANY time to de-stress because you so quickly to 24/7 with your SO.

It isn't uncommon for newlyweds to go through the type of feelings that you are expressing here. I have two close friends who began dating in college and dated for years before getting married. Even though they were madly in love and she is a completely rational, level-headed person, he still came home from work within a few months after they moved in together to find her sobbing in the bedroom. Concerned, he asked her what was wrong. She sobbed, "I keep wanting to be by myself for a little while, and I keep waiting for you to go home. BUT YOU ARE HOME!" (cue wailing) Luckily, he was very understanding and laughed and went out for a few hours to give her some space. It was hilarious and we all still laugh about it even after their fourteen years of marriage and 3 kids.

It can happen and doesn't mean that you need to break up. Only you are going to know whether these feelings are related to being tired, stressed and overstimulated or whether these feelings mark the beginning of the end. How you handle it, communicate about it, create compromises, and so forth can be a great indicator of how well you would do together if you ever do get married.
posted by jeanmari at 1:37 PM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Honestly, I'm not sure I could give a good opinion on whether you should stay together without you two living apart but in the same city with the same work/life schedules you have now. Much of the stuff you described could just be pains from moving in with each other when there was really no room and you're both at stressful times in your lives.

However, some of the stuff, like him not remembering to not touch your severely injured arm? Or trying to get you to go to places that would problematic to even get into? That's not cool. The pawing you constantly could just be something he's doing because he feels sort of adrift and clingy right now, or it could be outright disrespectful. As it is, it's obviously annoying (I cannot stand that, myself). That all needs to be communicated with him, but you said "I have never been one for confrontation; I never learned how," which kind of makes me worry that you're not actually saying "Hey. Do NOT touch that arm. Ever. Never. Not until it's healed. And, by the way, don't grope me in the grocery store. That makes me really uncomfortable." Cause if you're just saying "Ow. Please don't." when he socks you on the arm or something, that implies you can't hit that arm, but you might can touch it more gently, so it's really not surprising he keeps screwing up.

And you said he's trying, but I don't see that at all, solely from what you've written. "Trying to remember to not whine, cling, grope, or hurt my arm but doing it anyway," is not a real thing. I'm assuming there's other, nicer stuff, but we just didn't hear about it. So my vote is that he moves out ASAP, you work on communication, and evaluate your relationship from there.

On preview, I just realized I did not answer the question. As far as adjusting, I would 1) Clearly communicate things that he CANNOT do (like the arm thing) and things that you would prefer he not do (like baby talk) 2) Ask him what would be a good day to consistently have "date night," where he can be assured of one on one time with you and maybe, if you think you can tolerate it 3) see if he wants to get involved in one of the activities you're already doing. 2 and 3 come with the stipulation that if you're beat after your other activities, work, and PT, that he can go out by himself, and he can't nag for you to come along if you don't feel like it. That might give you some decompression time. (In fact, you might hint about decompression time so he doesn't hang out at the apartment and then resent you for "making" him stay in.)
posted by wending my way at 1:49 PM on June 9, 2010

Also, on my last two items, concerning "togetherness" time, I didn't really make it clear - it doesn't have to be super-regimented Date Night Wednesday. In fact, you could even ask him, "Hey, I love you, but I am way too tired to go hang out all the time, and I really need some down time by myself to get over that commute/work. But I do still want to do stuff with you. What do you suggest?" Where, hopefully, he will suggest something reasonable and not that you quit PT or caring for the ill relative.
posted by wending my way at 1:55 PM on June 9, 2010

"feel like I have to let him hold me or play with my hair or grab my chest."

This feeling you have, I think they call it a false belief. Please stop feeling it.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 3:38 PM on June 9, 2010

You sound so much like me. I really sympathize. It drives me nuts to have people all up in my business all the time, and I really need my alone time. I've had friends visit for weeks and I wanted to kill them, and at least I didn't have to deal with them touching me all the time! I was also the invader of my boyfriend's place for a while once and I'm still amazed that it worked out.

You really need to talk to him about this. Not just snapping at him as a reaction to an irritation - I mean sit down to a nice dinner at home together, when you're both pretty relaxed and cheerful, and say, "Look, I've been stressed out about some things lately, and I really want to talk to you about them so we can figure out how to fix them."

This is also a time when it's important to bust out the "it's not you, it's me" talk. Like, "Hey, I really love having you here, but I really need some alone time to recharge my batteries. It's just how I am." I think it helps to stress that it's not that he drives you crazy, it's that anyone up in your space like that will drive you a little crazy. It's not personal. In a relationship there can be a tendency to take stuff like this personally, because we think that if it's a good relationship, then Love! should fix everything and they should never irritate you. But that's just not true.

Anyway. I'd suggest having this talk, and then setting down some rules - maybe say that you need 30 minutes, or 60 minutes, or whatever of alone time every day, where you close the door and he hangs out in the living room. You need some space where you can relax and not worry about him bugging you for a while. I don't think there's any way around that.

My boyfriend and I have a policy somewhat like this - if we need to, we can retreat to our own space, with the understanding that it doesn't mean we love each other any less, we just need to get some space. Your boyfriend might find this weird or threatening, but ask him to think about it this way: Do you want five hours this evening together, with me being stressed out, cranky, anxious, and irritable the whole time? Or four hours together with me relaxed, refreshed, and happy?
posted by mandanza at 4:03 PM on June 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

btw: the reason I am so certain that This Is Not A Match is because of how closely your situation, and the tempermental differences described, match my current relationship. If I did not have a child, I would not be in it. PERIOD.
You don't want to be where I am now. Really. It is not a nice way to feel every day. When the "I love him" feelings are eventually smothered by your resentments over the points of incompatibility, you are left with nothing to justify the sacrifices you have made to keep the relationship stable.
posted by Ys at 4:47 PM on June 9, 2010

Sounds scarily familiar, actually. My husband and I got married when I was 20, he was 19, and the first year of living together was .... really fraught.

He was studying fulltime, and working almost-fulltime. I was very, very ill and studying fulltime. I needed to be touched, looked after, and cosseted, he needed to destress, unwind, and be by himself. We basically had 100% conflicting needs.

We worked out the following:
- By request, we could ask the other one to leave the house for a couple of hours if necessary for downtime
- 'I'm being a bear' was the code-phrase for 'leave me alone until I tell you otherwise, please'
- We shared a pot of tea on the couch every evening, to spend a little bit of no-pressure time together

It worked out in the end; here we are, 9 years later, still happily married, with somewhat less conflict. We've had the touching-thing from both ends; at times it's been me who couldn't deal with being touched, at times it's been him. Same goes for the needing alone time. And for the needing social time.

Basically, you need to sit down and talk to the other. Lay out that you need certain things, so that you will be able to fufill other needs, without feeling stressed out by them and generally negative. Keeping it bottled up will result in explosions and bad stuff.
posted by ysabet at 4:54 PM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

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