How do I untrain myself to alter my plans for men under all circumstances?
June 17, 2010 2:50 PM   Subscribe

Snowflake relationship question: How do I keep this quasi-relationship from stressing me out?

We met at a party a few months ago in my home city. Then, he left to go back to where he works, in country A, and I went to country B, where I now live. We had amazing sexual chemistry and a lot in common. (Despite the distances, we travel in similar circles and have many friends and acquaintances in my home city in common.)

We've been keeping in touch via Skype for the past few months, talking on average every few days.

I like him a lot, but some things about him concern me. I don't think he cares enough about privacy and discretion. All of his ex girlfriends think he is an asshole. In a few months, I had made plans to move to my home city, and he has some plans to move there too. However, I may want to change these plans. I like where I am, and I've gotten an opportunity to stay here.

My family is very traditional. Even though I don't have much contact with them anymore (abuse, etc.), I still have this voice in my head that changes my plans whenever a man is involved. I feel like I am compelled to do whatever it takes to build and maintain the relationship. I have screwed up SO MANY opportunities in order to be with men that it is not funny. It usually isn't conscious -- I'm just now getting to the point that I'm realizing that I can be my own highest priority, not a man.

But it's still stuck in my mind. I know that if I continue to maintain this relationship in any fashion, I'll start to modify my plans to suit him. Since I'm not completely sure what I want to do with my life, it just seems to make more sense to go along with what seems like more of a sure thing, a good idea, etc., even if it's not.

On the other hand, I really like him, we have great chemistry, and a lot in common. Conversations flow smoothly, and I feel at home with him. He's doing really interesting things and I want him to be a part of my life.

Questions: what should I do? How do I "dump him"? Should I just say, let's see where this goes?

I think for someone else just letting it simmer and seeing what develops would be good, but I know myself, and I won't really buy into my own plans while this relationship is still a possibility.

Anyone have a similar experience of being trained to change your plans to be with a man under all circumstances? How did you untrain yourself?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
All of his ex girlfriends think he is an asshole.


That's your alarm bell. Heed it.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:05 PM on June 17, 2010 [13 favorites]

It's OK to modify your plans to accommodate having/keeping a loved one in your life, if that person is worth it. It doesn't sound like this guy is worth it, though.

"All of his ex girlfriends think he is an asshole."

If all the reviews from previous customers are bad, why would you want to buy the product?
posted by Jacqueline at 3:06 PM on June 17, 2010 [17 favorites]

Yeah, the ex-girlfriend thing is a red flag the size of Texas.
Any chance of downshifting into friend status?
don't change your life for this one.
posted by angrycat at 3:22 PM on June 17, 2010

How do I untrain myself to alter my plans for men under all circumstances?

Okay, so hindsight is 20/20, and the future is unknowable.

I have screwed up SO MANY opportunities in order to be with men that it is not funny.

That's the hindsight. That is clear as day. Now you're facing a situation where the future is unknown. It feels like you should go one way. You really want to go that way. But something new is telling you there might be a problem. Good.

Take another look at your past. The really clear part of your life, unlike your future. Look really hard at it. You probably felt similarly in those past situations to how you do now. Keep looking. Think. You've been here before. You do know what your possible future looks like. You know that the feeling telling you to mold yourself to him is not right for you.

That's how you reprogram yourself. You get stone-cold rational. You analyze and you separate out your feeling from your logic. You make a decision for a reason and you remember why, so that if you start feeling like turning away you can shine that cold light on it and get back to your chosen path. Be mindful and be intentional.
posted by whatnotever at 3:40 PM on June 17, 2010 [7 favorites]

I second whatnotever. Be very rational and honest with yourself. Follow through with thinking of your possible future--with a heavy dose of realism. Imagine very clearly several of the not-great scenarios you fear you're headed toward if you hang on to this guy. A lot of the thrill of a bad-for-you romance is the vague knowledge that what you're doing is not good for you. Be strong and look at this fully in the face for what it is: a hurtful cycle that leads you to unhappiness.

Remember: a strong, happy YOU is much more likely to attract a strong, happy man.
posted by eralclare at 5:16 PM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Anyone have a similar experience of being trained to change your plans to be with a man under all circumstances? How did you untrain yourself?

Yup. And let me tell you, it's a real eye opener when you hit 40 and realize that you haven't been living the life you wanted to lead, in fact, you haven't been living for you at all. I'm just going to assume that you are not yet 40, and boy do I envy you the insight that you have now.

How do you untrain yourself? You have to learn to concentrate on yourself first. You have to make relationships the icing on the cake, not the cake itself. You have to get your self-esteem from who you are not what others think of you. There are going to be men who catch your eye, and whom you think would be great to be with....except.....(fill in the blank here.) The excepts are very important. He lives in another country, he has commitment issues, he drinks too much, his exes all uniformly hate him. If he wants to be with you, let him make the change - don't be the one to change to increase your chances of being with him. Be patient, do what YOU want to do for YOURSELF, and let things develop naturally, if at all.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 5:43 PM on June 17, 2010 [3 favorites]

I'm sure quite a few of my ex girlfriends don't have particularly favourable things to say about me, so I don't think its a red flag the size of texas. Certainly something to keep in mind. Possibly he has a history of picking vitriolic spiteful people to date, and only now is he turning a corner, maturing, choosing a partner wisely.

Anyway if you worry about what other people say (the voice of your traditional upbringing, his ex girlfriends, mefi) and outsource all responsibility for decision making for your whole life you won't be very happy.

In terms of doing your own plans ... I have suffered from the same thing. So if you are going to meet up with him, maybe get in touch with him during the week saying "what do you think about attending fesitval X? What about we take classes in Y?" and suggestplans you want to do with him. Be confident, sell what you want to do, that kind of thing is very attractive, and will take the burden of planning everything off him.

You like him, you want to be in his life, then make it so ... until the point you no longer want that.
posted by Admira at 9:09 PM on June 17, 2010

Ah, whatnotever is so smart!

Also, right now is not necessarily a now-or-never situation with this guy. You can explore the opportunities you have in your current location while he moves to your home town. Him being in your home town would probably increase the frequency with which you see each other, and you can therefore feel out the chemistry AND the logic of being with him.

Could you be not fully taking responsibility for your own happiness when you mold your plans around a man? Build and follow your own path unless someone you are damn skippy sure is worth it comes along. If you move to your home town now, be with this guy, and things fall apart, then you could blame and resent him. If you move to your home town now, be with this guy, and things are wonderful, you could walk on eggshells fearing he'll walk away with your happiness. Either way, the focal point is the dude; it should be you.
posted by copperbleu at 12:23 AM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Can you talk to these ex-girlfriends and find out why they think he's an asshole? I'm definitely in the "red flag" party for this one.

Of all the dudes I've been out with, I would confidently recommend them to any future potential girlfriend, just cos things didn't work out with us they are still good people, I wouldn't have gone out with them otherwise. And of all my husband's ex girlfriends, none of them think he's an asshole... I think this is kind of important. Good references mean a lot.

Maybe your guy is a real charmer in the honeymoon period then the evil, manipulative streak comes out. I would really wanna know why he gets the bad references...
posted by saturn~jupiter at 2:53 AM on June 18, 2010

How do I untrain myself to alter my plans for men under all circumstances?
Read "The Rules" Seriously. Learn what self-respect looks like so you can do those things until they become part of you.
posted by uans at 8:54 AM on June 18, 2010

All of his ex girlfriends think he is an asshole.


That's your alarm bell. Heed it.

On the other hand, he could just be attracted to assholes, in which case you may indeed be the special snowflake, or you may be more of an asshole than you realize.

No offense intended.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:36 AM on June 18, 2010

Yeah, you know you're not doing yourself any favors by subverting your own goals for men. So to answer the question of how to Untrain that training, The Dance of Intimacy is a book that gets into this, as does it's companion The Dance of Anger. They're quick reads, and a little dated, but help to show how being yourSelf, instead of what you think will help that guy out, can lead to much better relationships overall.

It sounds like you want to break it off with this guy. Do so - tell him you like him but you're not going to be moving to that city after all and long distance isn't what you want now. And then embark on doing all of the untraining you'd like to do. Good luck!
posted by ldthomps at 12:54 PM on June 18, 2010

It's one thing to change serious plans for someone you know you can trust, but making significant changes in your life for someone you just met a few weeks ago (and someone with a bad relationship track record at that) is a whole other story. It's just a bad idea! You have to keep telling yourself that you are worth being your first priority. And if that doesn't work, you might want to consider therapy. It sounds like this tendency of yours to alter your life to accommodate the man of the hour may be an issue with some very deep roots.
posted by HStern at 12:33 AM on July 18, 2010

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