When do you know to give up?
October 25, 2010 5:49 PM   Subscribe

Am I in the wrong relationship or am I expecting too much perfection?

THis is going to be long so my apologies. I'm having trouble discriminating between when it's time to end a relationship and when it's time to push on through. I'm a 26 year old female. Ideally, in the future, I'd like to settle down with one partner, have a family, and remain committed to each other. I've been known to be idealistic, but I think that a lasting partnership is possible if expectations aren't too high and if both parties are willing to work on their problems and accept imperfections.

That being said, the general consensus on metafilter seems all too often to be DTMFA. There's always a chorus of responses telling the asker that they can do better, that there will always be other people, etc. When is it time to settle, even if your mate isn't perfect for you (will anyone ever be)?

I'm in an eight month relationship and am at a crossroads concerning our future. I really love this woman, but we've had problems since the beginning, some small but annoying and some major and intimidating. I will outline most of them here. I've expressed doubt about our compatibility and whether or not we should continue, she responds that I'm being unrealistic about what a relationship is really like, and that everyone will have problems they have to work through. Sometimes I think she's clinging to this because she's getting older and wants to settle down, but I always wonder if she's right and I'm just expecting things to be too perfect. Here's some of the worst problems:

1. We fight a lot. I've always been a pretty conflict-avoidant person, and this has worked well for me most of my life. The conflict that I do have is usually subdued and teary, not explosive and angry. My girlfriend has had the opposite throughout her life, and I feel that being with her I'm becoming more and more explosive and angry, which I really don't like. I think that this is partly because in order to stay even or feel heard with her during conflicts I feel like I have to rise to her level (although we have talked about it and she's worked really hard on being more calm during conflicts...to the point where she doesn't yell at all, etc), and partly because the way she fights infuriates me and our fights seem to spiral out of control. She takes everything extremely personally, reads into things and makes conclusions that are completely out there, and pathologizes everything I say/do/etc.

2. She's much older than me. By ten years. We both want children, but I want to have a career first, which will be at least another 6 years of school. Her biological clock is ticking and she wants to bear a child in the next few years. Although we have similar ideas about wanting a family, I feel like I'm much more ambitious career wise. She's in her mid thirties and hasn't really started pursuing any one path. She's committed to music and that's going well, but doesn't make any kind of income from it. She works part time but has trouble even doing that. I hate being concerned about money but I am. She also has a lot of debt. It would be okay if I wanted to take on a provider role, but I've always wanted to be a stay at home mom, or at least a 'stay at home with the kids I birth' mom. I'd like a partner with whom I can take turns taking time off work and not have our budget fluctuate like crazy. I don't want to be the primary provider, I want it to be more equal.

3. I feel like she pathologizes everyone a lot. Mostly herself, but her friends and family and me too. She's diagnosed herself with clinical depression, GAD, PTSD, and fibromyalgia. While I believe that she's been through some terrible experiences and does experience pain, I'm not sure that all of her self diagnoses are completely correct. I've never brought this up with her because she's had trouble with her family accepting them, even a doctor who told her she was 'victimizing herself'. The sad truth is I almost agree with the doctor...she does often assume a really strong victim mentality that is hard for me to deal with sometimes. In addition, she diagnoses her family "my mom is crazy...i think she has ptsd" and makes me feel like I'm more fcked up than I ever thought I was (I have depression and anxiety, which are treated and under control). She also criticizes her mom for things that I feel like she's doesn't notice herself doing "my mom uses her health for attention...she whines about the smallest things...her ankle's not really that bad she just wants pity and attention". It's hard for me to hear her says these things because I feel like she does it too but could never say this to her because it's such a sensitive topic, and I think it would upset her too much that I was negating the truth or severity of her pain, etc.

4. I have the urge to flee during fights. Recently whenever I say I need to go (calm down, be away from her for a while) she can't handle it and says that she feels like she's going to self harm, and like she feels suicidal. So I end up staying, resentfully. She went through a medication change recently and so I attributed her decreased ability to cope to that, but I still felt like it was manipulative (I had an ex who threatened suicide every time I tried to break up with him...it was an awful experience and worked to keep me with him much longer than I wanted to be). I also feel like I can't handle the depth and severity of her problems sometimes. That at 34 she still gets the urge to self harm. I called a suicide helpline and bawled and bawled as I told them about it, and hadn't realized how deeply it was affecting me until then.

5. This seems like a minor problem, but it's become a major one. She is always late. Always. Whether it be to a date, to work, to a jam, to whatever. She just cannot get out the door on time. She's managed to find jobs (nannying, receptionist) that don't seem to mind her flaky schedule (or so she says...I'm wondering if they're just not saying anything). She has a job right now that I'd like her to keep because it's near my house, but she just seems to show up whenever she feels like it, and takes so many 'sick' days (where she feels queasy or something, often I feel like I would still go to work for the things she's taking the day off for). Lately whenever she's late for meeting me I've been getting unreasonable angry, and she says she feels scared of me because I seem out of control. I know I'm overreacting, too. It just seems like she apologizes every time, and then never makes much of an effort to get out the door earlier. She says this is who she is, she's been like it her whole life, and I should try to be more understanding. It seems self indulgent to me.

5. I'm not without my problems. I have depression and anxiety that are exacerbated by stress, and put too much pressure on myself concerning school, which leads to minor panic attacks sometimes. I am moody and can be grumpy and know that I sometimes take it out on others. I'm idealistic and sometimes expect too much from both myself and others. I often freeze in the face of stress and end up spending a couple of days in bed rather than doing what I have to do. Sometimes I'm confident and sometimes I wonder how anyone could ever love me or want to be with me. I'm kind of awkward.

6. She's got a lot of great things about her. She's independent, a fabulous a dedicated musician, an amazing communicator, deeply committed to me, funny and sweet, beautiful, understanding and empathetic, honest and earnest. We're pretty sexually compatible but there's been a pretty long lull for the past while.

When it's good it's good, but it feels like it's too often bad. We're in couple's counseling and while it does help, I often feel like it's not worth it. We are also both in individual counseling. I've talked to her about a lot of these issues and not at all about others. I worry that if we broke up I would regret it, or wouldn't find anyone that quite compared to her. Anyone as faithful and honest and compassionate.

Some outsider insight would really be helpful to me right now. It seems like a lot of real life people I talk to think we should break up, but this is the first time I've really layed out all of our major issues (according to me, I'm sure her version would be different). I wish she could post her version as well so that you'd have a more complete picture but I guess I'd like to know your opinions based on my experience of this relationship.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (35 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I was going to say that most of those items on your list are just annoyances and that you can work through that stuff given time (or learn how to deal) but #4… that's a line crossed, if you ask me. That's emotional abuse and the point where I'd be looking for an exit.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:57 PM on October 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

Do not put a baby in this woman until you are absolutely sure you are ready. Satisfying her biological imperative is not your responsibility.
posted by hermitosis at 6:05 PM on October 25, 2010 [5 favorites]

Either this is a really bad relationship, or you've written it in an incredibly damning way, and either is a good reason to GTFO.
#1 - That could be normal differences in fighting style, could probably be worked out in therapy.
#2 - Major differences in values, goals, and approach to money? Probably a dealbreaker. You only deal with this stuff if you're super-happy in daily life. Which you're not.
#3 - Victim mentality and pathologizes others. I can't tell if you're over-labeling her behavior here or not, but it sounds like you find this incredibly annoying.
#4 - You feel the urge to flee and she won't let you go by using threats to harm herself as a manipulative tactic? Dealbreaker. You find yourself bawling on the phone? This is more than you can handle.
You guys are both already in counseling together and separately. I think you can say you've done all you can, and this is not going to work. Also, if this is the second person you've dated like this, you might try being single for awhile.
posted by salvia at 6:09 PM on October 25, 2010

In a lot of ways, I think I'm a very different person than you are, but I want you to know that not all relationships must have fights. Mrs. Advicepig and I disagree from time to time, but I can't think of a single time it escalated to anything that could be described as a fight.

There's a lot more to your post that I hope someone else will pick up on, but do know that there are relationships where people can disagree and work things out without fighting. You don't have to put up with fighting just to avoid being alone.
posted by advicepig at 6:09 PM on October 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

I... wow. I didn't have to get to number four. Disagreeing in a relationship is normal, occasional fights are normal. But fighting a lot, being completely uncomfortable in the fights? Never ok.

Honestly, your first number five would be a dealbreaker for me. Let alone the emotional abuse and blackmail in number four! The fact that you even question whether you should stay makes me think you need to be alone for awhile to realize how good life without fear and fighting and chronic lateness can be.
posted by ldthomps at 6:11 PM on October 25, 2010

I should note that my comment above is after trying to see these things from her side and in the absolute most optimistic light. #1, maybe workable. #2, only worth addressing if everything else is excellent but #1 proves it isn't. One could stop right there, but #3 is more evidence that on a day-to-day level you're not enjoying this enough to deal with #2. Then #4 provides a "oh HELL no" level of time to go.
posted by salvia at 6:20 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I used to think it was normal to have some fights, even though I was not the type to fight. Then i got out of that relationship and am now happily married for 3 years to someone I never fight with. We just talk things out if we disagree, and we want to make each other happy so we can compromise. We never shout or hang up on each other or slam doors or break things or cry, all the things that used to go on in my other relationship. Turns out he was the one who liked to fight... I just happened to be pulled into it! Anyway, that's why I think you should move on, although I see numerous red flags in your post. You sound like you're doing a version of "I don't want to leave her because I'm not good enough and I don't deserve better". That's never the right answer. You should only stay with someone for positive reasons, not because the other people out there might be worse.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 6:28 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

These annoyances will only get worse over time - I think you should break up and find someone you are more compatible with.
posted by meepmeow at 6:37 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Every good relationship will have problems that need to be worked through, but your's doesn't sound like one of those.

You're 26, only 8 months into a relationship (that's right, I said "only"), and it's not working for you. Your life trajectories are different, and that's only going to become a bigger problem. She may be a great person in many ways, but it's OK if you don't want to be with her in the long run....or even right now.
posted by Sublimity at 6:44 PM on October 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

Totally agreeing with everyone who says you are being very reasonable to want a relationship without fighting that makes you fearful/uncomfortable/exhausted.

Heck, I'd to so far as to say you deserve and can nurture a relationship that is not fighty.

With someone else.

That someone else out there for you does not threaten self harm, respects your anxiety, and is working on developing time management skills.

Lastly, an adult who regularly gets fired from (or otherwise leaves jobs) due to an inability or unwillingness to meet the expectations of the jobs does not quite qualify as independent. Neither does an adult who threatens self harm in the face of differing argument styles. And while I know nothing of the nature of her debt, I suspect there are facets of that which show perhaps a dependence on easy credit. If that is the case, that's not an independent woman.

I'm adding my voice to the choir which sings, be gentle and loving to yourself for a bit before you pursue another relationship. And I'll suggest checking out DBT for the mindfulness and interpersonal skills.
posted by bilabial at 6:57 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

So, you fight a lot and when you fight, you have the urge to flee, and when you try to flee, she threatens to kill herself?

Yes, you should leave her immediately. There's no explanation of that signifies a good relationship.
posted by Marty Marx at 7:00 PM on October 25, 2010 [7 favorites]

If you decide to work things out:

- Stick with the couples counseling, ask your counselor to focus on helping you guys learn to fight/argue better since a lot of your immediate issues seem to revolve around that.

- She sounds like she might be better off developing some form of work-at-home self employment or home business than trying to work a traditional job. If you can afford to support the family during the startup phase, she could work on that while birthing and staying home with kids batch #1. If she's successful, she could end up earning enough to pay off her debt and be able support the family in a few years when you're ready to birth and stay home with kids batch #2.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:04 PM on October 25, 2010

I was in a very similar relationship as you are in a few years ago. If you stay, you will be expected (and, based on her age, required) to have children when you don't at all feel ready (i.e. career-wise). If you stay, you are committing to accepting and working through the oh-so-many things you don't like about her and the relationship. In the end you have to decide whether or not she's really worth it.

P.S. I agree with everyone regarding #4. This is a BIG BIG red flag, buddy!
posted by mrrisotto at 7:16 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I feel like you can work together to overcome a lot of this, but these two things are serious issues and frankly, potential dealbreakers:

- This seems like a minor problem, but it's become a major one. She is always late. Always. . . . It just seems like she apologizes every time, and then never makes much of an effort to get out the door earlier.

The thing about the lateness strikes home for me because growing up, my dad was always late to everything. Always. And since I was a kid who relied on him for rides to school, soccer games, social events, etc, it meant I was always late too.

Once I began to drive myself around (in high school), I had the same habit. But you know, as I started getting closer to 18, and the time when I would be leaving the house to take care of myself, I realized how deeply rude and inconsiderate it was. In one gesture, chronic lateness says, "My priorities and my time are more important than yours." And in my dad's case, it also adds, "I am validated by you waiting around for me." I was 17 and I knew that wasn't the kind of person I wanted to be, so I dropped that habit like a hot rock.

However, that is a habit and can be changed, with a desire on her part to do so. But the other thing:

- she can't handle it and says that she feels like she's going to self harm, and like she feels suicidal. So I end up staying, resentfully. . . . That at 34 she still gets the urge to self harm. I called a suicide helpline and bawled and bawled as I told them about it, and hadn't realized how deeply it was affecting me until then.

You are 100% correct that by the time a person is 34 they should not be threatening self harm, and if her depression is that bad, she needs to seek professional help (another example of mature personal responsibility.) This behavior is a serious violation of your trust and this alone can be enough to warrant a DTMFA. Like, what's actually going to change after she has a baby? Do you want the mother of your children threatening to hurt herself (or even going through with it)? Do you want your kids to grow up with that as an example?
posted by lhall at 7:18 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

This jumped out at me:
Sometimes I'm confident and sometimes I wonder how anyone could ever love me or want to be with me. I'm kind of awkward... I worry that if we broke up I would regret it, or wouldn't find anyone that quite compared to her. Anyone as faithful and honest and compassionate.

There's no crystal ball to tell the future, but let me tell you that those women are out there. Don't imprison yourself with your fears of what might come to pass.

When is it time to settle, even if your mate isn't perfect for you (will anyone ever be)?

When you feel safe disagreeing with your partner because it doesn't turn into drama. When your partner is a functional, reasonably mentally-healthy adult who takes responsibility for their own finances, actions, and seeks help when they need it.

Is that this woman?
posted by canine epigram at 7:36 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think I had this relationship, too! Only, it lasted 7 years and was incredibly difficult to get out of and took me about three years of therapy to fix many of the terrible co-dependent warped behaviors I had developed. Oh, and I'm still dealing with the debt accrued taking care of her. Awesome.

In my experience, not being on the same page in regards to career goals, finances and having serious arguing style differences are three huge problems to fix in a relationship. Being chronically late is, to me, a sign of serious disrespect. I personally will not tolerate chronic lateness. I have been fighting with my brother over this issue for YEARS!!

No relationship is perfect. We all have flaws and we show our vulnerabilities to our partners. BUT, you can find a flawed human being to love who shares your values, who treats you as a partner and approaches relationship problems as your teammate not as a manipulator. The title of your post indicates to me that you know what you need to do. Leave this relationship and find some one who is a better match.

Good luck.
posted by rachums at 7:58 PM on October 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

I worry that if we broke up I would regret it, or wouldn't find anyone that quite compared to her. Anyone as faithful and honest and compassionate.

Fear of hypothetical future regret is not a great reason to keep doing something that isn't working and isn't making you happy.

To my mind, faithfulness, honesty, and compassion should be bedrock minimum requirements for a relationship, not superlatives.

the general consensus on metafilter seems all too often to be DTMFA

I'm not sure that this is such a bad thing. I may be biased by my own experience, but I think breakups are good. A breakup can free both partners to find more suitable matches.

This may seem a little off the wall, but here goes: In the spirit of the classic Monster.com ad, can you imagine your younger self saying, "Someday I'll start a relationship with my life partner, and when it's good it'll be good, but it'll feel like it's too often bad"? You don't have to settle for that, and neither does she.
posted by Orinda at 8:02 PM on October 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

Others have made good comments about only being 8 months in and this pile of unhealthy behaviors on both ends. I just wanted to point this out:

That at 34 she still gets the urge to self harm.

You are 100% correct that by the time a person is 34 they should not be threatening self harm

No she isn't.

Self-harming is not something one grows up out of. The stereotype is of young girls looking for attention, but the reality is that it's a complex series of coping behaviors that are affecting people half your age, twice your age, and yes, your girlfriend's age as well. It just seems like you feel like her parent, but part of this may be you looking down on her issues as if she were a child.
posted by cmgonzalez at 8:06 PM on October 25, 2010

Pretend you don't know her; that you 've never seen her; that you know nothing about her.

Pretend, further, that some random MeFite has written the post above... and you are reading it, with an open mind.

If you do that... the answer will probably be very clear to you.

As, indeed, it already is-- so listen to what your instinct-- and yeah, most of those you know in real life, and pretty much everyone on this page-- is telling you about this situation.
posted by darth_tedious at 8:12 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I was in a relationship like this once, and it was even a second time around with an ex after we had an excellent-yet-ill-fated first go around. For one reason or another, we made each other absolutely crazy: arguments would devolve into either of us thinking in terms of all or nothing, bad sex, dredging up the past, pretty much everything you can think of. We just had to break up because this time, the chemistry was all wrong and regardless of how much we thought it should work on paper, IT DIDN'T. We both wanted it to work so much, but I think that was exactly the problem: the relationship was too intentional.
posted by rhizome at 8:15 PM on October 25, 2010

How many AskMes do we get along the lines of, "My girlfriend is wonderful in every way, I want to find out how to make her life full of unicorns and roses!"? Not very many. I would guess the reason so many answers are, rightfully, DTMFA, is that by the time someone is compelled to ask randoms on the internet, it's already really bad, and the person knows in their gut that they should leave but is hoping someone, anyone, will tell them they're wrong, because it's hard to leave.

I could have written your question about my ex. What immediately struck me in your writing is how manipulative and controlling many of these behaviors are, and I can tell you from painful experience that they will get worse, not better. You are at a prime point to get out.

Also, be aware that something called reproductive coercion exists; not saying your partner is doing it, or would go as far as some of the recent news stories have reported, but pressure to act on a desire to have children can certainly be controlling, and lasting.

Good luck.
posted by stellaluna at 8:17 PM on October 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

This is very, very unhealthy:

4. I have the urge to flee during fights. Recently whenever I say I need to go (calm down, be away from her for a while) she can't handle it and says that she feels like she's going to self harm, and like she feels suicidal. So I end up staying, resentfully.

This would not be something I could live with. Also, you are really wrong this:

I've been known to be idealistic, but I think that a lasting partnership is possible if expectations aren't too high

Happy lasting partnerships are possible with HIGH expectations. You have to like someone a LOT more and get along with them much better if you're going to be in it for the long haul.

Think about it in actual cars:

Ten-minute ride to work: As long as they're not a serial killer, who cares?
Hour-long drive to the game: They have to be sociable, not smelly, not actively offensive or rude
Week-long road trip: Can they resolve fights over who's turn it is to drive, with tact and civility? Are they good DJs? How do they handle it when the cop pulls you over? Are they neat but not nitpicky?


Lowering your standards for the road-trip partner won't make the road trip more likely to be completed with two happy people.

Having high standards and picking someone who will be pleasant and responsible will make it more likely to be completed with two happy people.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:25 PM on October 25, 2010 [7 favorites]

As far as the question "when is it time to settle?", I heard this advice once: Realistically, even the best person out there for you is only going to make you happy 90% of the time. (Or maybe it was 80%. Whatever. This is third-hand advice. You get the idea.) You just have to pick the person whose bad 10% is something you can live with.

I think the person giving this advice meant to say that, "look, if someone makes you unhappy - but not miserable! - 10% of the time, that's actually pretty good. Things don't have to be perfect for them to be good."

The flip side of this, though, is that your partner should make you pretty happy 90% of the time. Yeah, expecting 100% awesomeness would be unreasonable, but expecting 80%-90% is not.
posted by mandanza at 8:55 PM on October 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

I think that the reason MeFi threads so often turn into DTMFA jamborees is that people in healthy, secure relationships don't ask about their validity on MetaFilter. Once a person is at the point of writing the bulleted list, they're really in need of a reality check.

I've said it before and I'll say it again:

Normal is no violence.

Normal is no violence, or threats of violence, against you, pets, treasured objects, or whatever happens to be lying around.

And normal is no threats of violence against herself, either.

Most people get through their entire lives without anyone threatening to commit suicide to control their behavior. This has happened to you twice, so maybe it's starting to seem normal in your brain. It's. Not. Normal. And it will never be okay.
posted by endless_forms at 9:04 PM on October 25, 2010 [6 favorites]

sometimes I wonder how anyone could ever love me or want to be with me. I worry that if we broke up I would regret it, or wouldn't find anyone that quite compared to her.

Does she ever say these things to you? If so, dump her...like yesterday.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 9:11 PM on October 25, 2010

It doesn't really matter if these things are "dealbreakers" for anyone else but you. You seem to be approaching this with a fairly level head (based on my reading of your post, anyway) but it also doesn't sound like you're very happy or satisfied in this relationship. Obviously you won't be 100% happy and satisfied all the time in any serious relationship and it seems that you recognize that (hence the asking if you're expecting too much); however, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't expect anything.

What is your ideal relationship? Is it one where there isn't much fighting but the occasional disagreement won't put you off? Is it one where your partner has the same goals as far as finance and family are concerned? Is it one where you don't feel bad most of the time? (The most reliable test I've had for staying in a relationship is how often I feel good or bad while in it; if I don't feel bad, everything else is likely mostly compatible.) All of these things are attainable, and they aren't unrealistic.

It does not sound to me like you and your partner are a good fit for one another, but my scope here is limited. How long have things been bad? You've only been together 8 months. For perspective, imagine a relationship that was mostly great for 5 years but then started having problems such as the ones you're describing. That would seem extremely incongruous with the previously established relationship and would seem to be worth trying to work through. If the relationship were only great for a few months and then went through a period of stress that was just as long as the good part, well, I think that would be more indicative of how the relationship actually will be. Most relationships start off good--if they didn't, they probably wouldn't turn into relationships.
posted by Polychrome at 1:46 AM on October 26, 2010

The type of lateness you describe is a form of avoidance. If you have kids together you'll be expected to pick up the slack.

Also - you've listed so many cons I can't imagine why on earth you're with her at all. Give yourself permission to leave.
posted by freya_lamb at 2:34 AM on October 26, 2010

Jumpin' jesus on a pogo stick, boy. Are you looking for a better view of this red flag parade?

You are standing in the rain, wondering why you feel uncomfortably wet.

Look in wikipedia, under "bullied and manipulated". There should be a picture of you on the page.

Couples counseling at 8 months? See anything wrong here?

Today, there's another askmefi post on how to avoid silly mistakes when you know they are about to happen. I'm tempted to put this post in there as a representative link.

This feels wrong for all the right reasons. Listen. Listen. Listen. Then act. Acting is really hard, but this is not a ship you want to sail.
posted by FauxScot at 4:28 AM on October 26, 2010

You've enumerated particular concerns -- fighting, age difference, pathologizing, threats, lateness, debt. I think the biggest problem is one you mentioned repeatedly but didn't highlight with its very own number and paragraph:

she responds that I'm being unrealistic

and, similarly,

She says this is who she is, she's been like it her whole life

You aren't going to make headway against these problems because she doesn't want to make headway against them, or at least not enough of them to make the relationship a good fit for either of you. This is the cement that binds the otherwise manageable problem-pebbles into an immovable concrete pier.

It seems clear that you aren't happy in the relationship, that the two of you don't share the same priorities and goals, and that you are so far staying with her out of a lack of self-esteem and a fear of permanent loneliness. You are doubtful (as you should be) that your fears are sufficient reason to stay together, so you're clinging to some supplementary rationalizations -- She's independent (no, she's not), a fabulous a dedicated musician (why do you care?), an amazing communicator (again, no, she's not), deeply committed to me (so long as she can control you with threats)... understanding (provided you refrain from raising certain subjects)...

She is not the gem you're trying to convince yourself that she is; she's just a person with some long-term problems, who isn't a good match for you. Neither are the qualities you supposedly value in her nearly so rare in other people as you fear. Faithfulness, honesty and compassion can seem terribly rare when you are personally down on yourself and on life, but they are not, in fact, rare when you're personally ready to find them. Focus on making yourself ready for them. This relationship is not helping you with that.
posted by jon1270 at 4:38 AM on October 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

I worry that if we broke up I would regret it, or wouldn't find anyone that quite compared to her. Anyone as faithful and honest and compassionate.

To generalize, I think the problem a lot of people have is that they value the good qualities of a partner so much that they feel as though they need to stay in the relationship no matter how many bad other qualities may be. In reality there are some deal-breakers that just make it impossible to be happy in a relationship, which vary from person to person.

An extreme example would be physical violence, everyone should consider that to be a deal-breaker, but there are still people who stay in physically abusive relationships because they still love the person who is abusing them and they are blinded by the good qualities. The closest thing you've mentioned to a universal deal-breaker is the suicide threats, that is extremely manipulative and destructive behavior, no one should have to put up with that. The fights, lateness, debt, differing views on having children, victim attitude, and other issues you mentioned can all also be deal-breakers depending on how tolerable those negative behaviors are for you.

No one is perfect, but that's not the point. The question is whether or not you are compatible with any given person (both their good qualities and bad) and can realistically make a relationship work with them and feel happy and satisfied overall. There are definitely people out there who do not have any of the negative traits you mentioned. You may not end up being compatible with all or even a large number of them, but just going by odds alone it's doubtful that your current partner is the absolute most compatible person for you. The bottom line is that if you're not happy in a relationship because of serious issues that can't be worked out in couple's counseling and whatnot, you shouldn't be in that relationship.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:19 AM on October 26, 2010

Other people have been giving very good advice about red flags, talking about how you can or can't change your SO, and learning what are or are not "normal" behaviors, but I just want to stress this bit just a little more:

You are only eight months into this relationship. Eight months ... and you're only 26. It's not that I don't believe that a) someone can find the person they're meant to be with forever in that short a period of time, or b) find True Love at 26.

But I also think that the early days of a relationship are called the "honeymoon period" because it's supposed to be the easiest time, the time when you're still on your best behavior and enamored of each other and willing to set the other person first in ways you probably won't later.

If you're this emotionally distraught after only 8 months, and if your SO is treating you this poorly, then it doesn't bode well for the long term.

And that's fine. It's not a "failure" to date someone, realize they aren't right for you, and move on; that's actually a successful dating relationship because it achieved its goal, which is to realize incompatibility. There is no reason on earth that you should feel responsible for or bound to someone after so short a period of time. And -- the politics of "settling" aside -- at 26 you are actually quite young by any objective standards. There'll be plenty of other opportunities for relationships with men or women who won't treat you like an emotional punching bag.

Move on, and feel good about yourself for having taken a chance on someone, realized it won't work, and successfully concluded a bad relationship.
posted by alleycat01 at 7:32 AM on October 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

We're pretty sexually compatible but there's been a pretty long lull for the past while.

Nobody has commented on this, and I may be off base, but having been married 13 years, I can tell you eight months into your relationship you should still be jumping each other every chance you get.
posted by Dragonness at 7:53 AM on October 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

She's too immature for you. Break up.

Do not have a child with this woman. It would be like having a child with a 13 year old.
posted by WeekendJen at 8:28 AM on October 26, 2010

I think at 26 and really at any age, but particularly at 26, you have plenty of time left to meet someone and start a happy family. You just have to make sure that you have the right atttitude to attract the right kind of person. Do not tolerate things that for sure you don't want in your life. Behave the way you want to be treated. Pursue interests, do things that you love and you will meet a bunch of people who have things in common with you. I promise. Out of that bunch, it's likely that at least one will be dating material.

8 months is not a lifetime. And even when it has been a lifetime of a bad relationship, you can still get out. In fact, try to see these 8 months as a learning experience, and any more time you spend in this relationship as a waste of valuable time for you to be happy, out in the world, possibly meeting the love of your life. If she's scared she'll be alone and old, then let her sort it out, I mean how crazy is it that you are going to give up your dreams of a peaceful life because of someone else's inability to mature?

62 would be no fucking reason to give up and conform.
posted by Tarumba at 10:08 AM on October 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

Consciously or unconsciously, she's gaming your good nature. That's a pretty unfixable problem in relationships because your attempts to make things better are also eminently gameable. If you set concrete boundaries, there will be perfectly good reasons (medical, even) why she can't respect them. She will agree to enough of your conditions to stop you from leaving, and she will stick to them enough to stop you from leaving. In other words, things will be done her way for the duration of the relationship, whether that's 50 years or 2 days.

Don't play. Don't set conditions. Leave. Either she'll find someone with less gumption and live happily ever after, or she'll decide that her strategy is seriously problematic, learn a better way of interaction, and live happily ever after. Either way, you've dodged a bullet. You describe her as "faithful, honest, and compassionate", but it sounds like she's playing you like a harp from hell.

8 months is nothing. There are lots of perfectly decent people out there who you wouldn't love but who would treat you better than this, and there are a few decent people out there, who will treat you decently, who you will love, and there is at least one decent person, who will treat you wonderfully, who you can stay with for the rest of your life.

I take it back; 8 months is nothing in terms of long term relationships, but I think it's more than enough time to waste in this one.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 1:24 PM on October 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

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