Are my close friends clouding my relationship judgement? Also, guilt of breakup.
August 21, 2010 3:11 PM   Subscribe

Did my friends influence my choice to break up with my girlfriend too much?

Some back story: I am an 18 year old straight male, starting college in a couple of days. The majority of my friends are female, and whenever I am dating someone, all of my female friends seem to become my girlfriend's new close group of friends. However, when all of my friends seem to become agitated with my GF (whether her being unknowingly insensitive to them, or taking offence to something I didn't take offence to, etc.), I seem to almost side with them subconsciously and act differently around her. The same thing happens if my friends are really enjoying my GF's company. Recently, my friends have stopped spending time with my GF because she acts seemingly unappreciative and (please forgive me for this) a bit "dumb" sometimes.

We broke up today. My girlfriend (who is 19) and I dated for roughly 4 months, and we have seen each other nearly every day of those 4 months. She liked me more than any girl I've been with, so much to first spring the word "love" on me. She has a tendency to be very unappreciative of her mother (complaining that she never asks her mother for anything when she yells at her, but I've observed that she does), and does a number things some would consider to be absent of common sense.
An example:
I can't sleep when someone else is in my bed with me. GF likes to sleep with me in my bed. She acts sad and disappointed when I say that she can't sleep over because I need rest, and I feel guilty because she'll say things like "Oh, it's really, it's fine" in a I-know-what-you-really-mean tone. I feel guilt-tripped quite often when she does things like this. My friends hear of this and get mad at her because they say she's controlling me with guilt and is being selfish. I agree, but they get exceedingly more passionate than I do about these things. I believe this subconsciously transfers to me.

I had recently been complaining to my friends about some of the more ditsy things my GF said/did and most of them had the same relative "you need to break up" response. I had thought about doing this for awhile, but never had the courage to actually do it (I make her very happy according to her - more than she makes me) until this morning, following the night she came to see me (about a 40 minute drive). She was understandably shocked when I hinted at breaking up this morning. Essentially, the break-up took 2 and 1/2 hours, mostly her saying "I don't understand" repeatedly because I had seemed fine the night before. I kept explaining to her that my feelings for her had faded (thought the true reason was that I found her to be quite immature sometimes, and less intellectual than I had first began to believe - I know that sounds terrible), but she stuck to saying "I just don't understand, why? I'm not grasping this."
When it was all over, she left with a teary "I love you" which made me exceedingly uncomfortable and feel awful.

The whole time I just wanted to say "I'm sorry, I'm sorry" and fix everything, and take back everything I said, though I know it was for the best. But what I'm wondering is if I'm just blindly following whatever my friends are outraged at.
posted by Evernix to Human Relations (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
All of this is small potatoes. What matters is that you're heading off to college in a few days. You're right to start that adventure unencumbered. Don't worry about the GF and all of this drama and go have fun.
posted by carmicha at 3:37 PM on August 21, 2010 [11 favorites]

What carmicha said.
posted by InsanePenguin at 3:41 PM on August 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you are hearing what you really think more clearly after it gets reflected to you from them. E.g., You: "she did XYZ.... that kind of bugged me, is that weird?" Them: "She did that!? Of course that bothers you! And that's like when she did that other thing to you last week. Remember how much that bugged you?" You: "Yeah, I guess I have been feeling annoyed a lot." If this is the case, listening to them is appropriate. And over time, you might work at knowing more clearly what your own feelings are.

That said, sometimes things can bother friends where they would not bother you. E.g., Them: "She was late? I hate late people." You: "Actually, lateness doesn't bother me. I'm usually late myself." Them: "No way, late people suck, dump her." If this is what happened, it would be wrong.

One other thought. It sounds like you feel bad in part because she was taken by surprise. That makes sense if you've been talking about your relationship issues with your friends rather than with her. It's good to have good friends and to process with them, so I'm not saying you should shut out your friends. But within a serious relationship, you should discuss how things are going with your partner, too. That way, if something bugs you, they'll get advance notice and have an opportunity to reconsider how they treat you.
posted by salvia at 3:44 PM on August 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

You're 18. Treat this as a learning experience. This particular relationship? Whatever. How many people stay with their girlfriend since age 18, in the long run? Not very many. You're starting college in a couple of days, man! You have your whole life ahead of you!

Things to reflect on, internalize, and carry into other, future relationships:

1. Outgrow peer pressure. You shouldn't need to ask if your friends are influencing you, because you should DECIDE WHOLEHEARTEDLY that they are not, because you are allowed to do whatever you damn well please with your own life. I deeply hope this is one of the first things you learn in college. It is for a lot of people. Haters gonna hate, gossipers gonna gossip, parents gonna pressure, those Jones are gonna keep buying nice new patio furniture, and not a bit of it ultimately matters for your happiness. To use a dorky-sounding but utterly, deeply true phrase: Listen to your heart. The rest is meaningless white noise.

2. Don't kiss and tell. Don't tell people, except your shrink and maybe your mother, but DEFINITELY not your buddies (male or female) intimate details of your relationships. Unless you're totally fine with your girlfriend laughing with her friends about that time you did something really stupid, or exactly how big various parts of your anatomy are, or whatever. It's just something you don't do, unless you really have to, and even then you find someone trustworthy and discreet to go to for advice.

In this case it doesn't really matter whether you listened to your friends too much or not. You needed to break up, it was the right thing to do. You needed to get a fresh start at college. Put her out of your mind. In two days you're going to have enough to think about anyway.
posted by Nixy at 3:49 PM on August 21, 2010 [8 favorites]

I think the fact that you are wondering if you are being influenced by your friends shows that you are in fact being influenced by your friends.
posted by lakerk at 3:52 PM on August 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

How involved your friends are in this issue seems fairly irrelevant considering you clearly weren't that in to this girl and didn't really have any desire to stay with her. You would only have to worry if your friends were against you dating someone you really cared about, which isn't the case here. And if you ever do really care about someone, then you shouldn't care what your friends think. You made the right choice in breaking up with this girl because you didn't like her very much, and I'm guessing you won't feel guilty for very long.

I might suggest you try to overcome this problem of sleeping with other people in the bed. I can imagine this girl must have felt quite bad after you two spend the evening together, and you then state "I need my rest" and tell her to piss off. It seems unfair to criticise her for not agreeing with you in the tone which you would like. If you expect your future girlfriends to cheerfully shuffle off into the night when you decide you can't bear to sleep next to them you may encounter difficulty.
posted by Spamfactor at 3:53 PM on August 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I agree with the above, to make sure that you don't tell these friends lots of details. A relationship consists of you and a girlfriend, not five other people plus you and a girlfriend.

Be wary that it could get rather uncomfortable if a girl is made to feel like she's dating all of you at once when getting into a relationship with you.

About this relationship that just ended - you seemed incompatible anyway since communication was lacking/not respected on several levels.
posted by cmgonzalez at 3:55 PM on August 21, 2010

Uh, the sleeping thing tells me you guys weren't right for each other anyway. Furthermore, your aversion to people in your bed will almost certainly affect future relationships.
posted by rhizome at 3:56 PM on August 21, 2010 [10 favorites]

Your friends were doing what one kind of friend does (in my experience, more often women than men, but this is a gross generalization): supporting you by seconding you. So they were functioning as an echo chamber and, to the extent they influenced you, probably exaggerating your petty complaints.

This is completely independent of the question of whether your grievances against your GF, or your fundamental incompatibility, or your transition to college, warranted a breakup . . . so it's impossible to say whether your judgment was materially impaired. Nor does the fact that you feel like a jerk afterward say very much. This stuff is hard, and rarely free of second-guessing, whether by others or by ourselves.

I think you're matriculating along more than one axis.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 4:14 PM on August 21, 2010

Next time you break up with someone, don't wait until after you have slept with them one last time. They'll (understandably) feel extra betrayed and used, knowing that you had sex with them knowing you were going to spring the "It's not you, it's me" routine on them in a few hours.

Otherwise, I think you are overthinking this. Breaking up because you just aren't feeling it is pretty normal, and with enough time it'll happen to you, too.

And what Nixy said about kissing and telling. Don't go telling other people intimate details about your partner, unless maybe you've triple-checked that your partner is ok with that kind of disclosure first.
posted by Forktine at 4:17 PM on August 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

If she had absolutely no idea that this was coming, it sounds to me like you two could have done a much better job of communicating with one another. And if you had communicated better, the problems you had could have been addressed and possibly fixed.

If you are not into her, you're not into her. But you spent four months together seeing each other almost every day. So you must feel SOMETHING for her. Here's a tip for the future. Nobody you meet will be everything you want. You will never meet somebody that doesn't have some qualities that annoy you sometimes. As for being somewhat immature, give me a break. She's 19. Do you never act immature?

Just take your relationships seriously. Treat your partners with respect. It's okay to ask friends for advice, but you make sure your decisions are your own and taken after a suitable period of consideration. Address problems before they come to a head and require drastic actions like breaking up.
posted by Roger Dodger at 4:31 PM on August 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

It sounds to me like you are getting your friends to repeat back to you how you feel about your girlfriend, and using them as an excuse to break up with her. It's okay to want to break up with her on your own, you don't need the external validation you seem to be searching for.
posted by jeather at 4:37 PM on August 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

If OP is uncertain about a relationship and thinks it's important enough to ask others about, then I say: let him. If in the future he finds their advice to have been beneficial or useful, good for him. Should it have seemed malicious, college affords him the chance to find different friends. Perhaps he'll be as open or more cautious. It's his prerogative as an adult in a new social scene. If he never explored why his friends said what they did, then he may have adjusted his opinions to fit theirs. That's how cognitive dissonance works.

A relationship that lasts X number of months is just that: a relationship. So what if it be months or years? Harmful relationships can drag on for years, just as delightful ones can last one night. There is no standard. Generally, the irksome aspects like "boring" or "irritating because of X, Y, Z" only compound what hurts the most and are the easiest to say while avoiding the worst character-assination-esque comments.
(Note: OP, you offered criticism of the woman and only the woman. Perhaps spelling out all nuances is a pain and almost irrelevant to your question, but it's worthwhile to ruminate on how you acted in the relationship.)

Guilt-tripping, however, is something more difficult to traverse. Being a college woman who had a relationship end like this one, with the "But I love you!" line being thrown out on the sudden break-up and all that jazz, what I can say is that it likely was an imperfect relationship. If she truly had no idea, then she is hurt. And it's not the worst that could have happened. Perhaps in the next relationship (if there is a next), you, OP, will be comfortable with whomever you sleep with, more comfortable with the communication, or less fixated on what the hell your friends think. Perhaps not.

But don't weep over the could-haves. It will do no good. Get to college and see what happens. And if you have relationship issues, try to not ask a group for opinions. People, even friends, can gang up rather than reflect, or otherwise be meddlesome dicks.
posted by SallySpades at 8:27 PM on August 21, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all the awesome advice guys, I really appreciate all of you taking your time out to help me.
posted by Evernix at 9:51 PM on August 21, 2010

Response by poster: Oh and Forktine, just fyi, we didn't have sex the night preceding the breakup (she was on her period). I'm sure things would have been 10x worse if I had done that.
posted by Evernix at 9:54 PM on August 21, 2010

If you are 18 and starting college in a couple of days, it was unlikely that this relationship would last through that transition. Better to start college off with a clean slate, I think.
posted by bananafish at 12:19 AM on August 22, 2010

Furthermore, your aversion to people in your bed will almost certainly affect future relationships.

I wouldn't say that. Sleeping next to another person is something that comes with practice. It took me quite a while (months of sleeping next to the same person every night) before I was able to easily fall asleep with someone else in the bed.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 8:24 AM on August 22, 2010

"I can't sleep when someone else is in my bed with me."

You're going to want to work on getting over that if you want to have a normal relationship. Sleeping together is the default assumption and many/most women are going to feel hurt if you never want to spend the night together.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:41 AM on August 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

Yeah, if you're going to start college in a few days you would have broken up anyway in about three months, but only after making those three months agonizing for both of you. I've seen it happen a million times. So this is largely a moot point.

Oh, and it's good that you didn't have sex with her in this particular instance, but some free off-topic advice from someone 10 years older than you: you actually can still have sex when your girlfriend is on her period.
posted by Ragged Richard at 3:16 PM on August 22, 2010

"I can't sleep when someone else is in my bed with me."

Get a bigger bed. For serious, it makes a huge difference. I can't sleep with someone all up in my space either (and neither can they; I kick.) If you're doing the dorm thing it might be a while before you set your own sleeping arrangements, but once you can, get a bigger bed.
posted by nat at 10:23 PM on August 22, 2010

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