Am I crazy for sticking by my boyfriend through the shitstorm that's his life?
January 9, 2011 4:18 PM   Subscribe

My boyfriend is no longer the same person he was when we started dating, but the circumstances underlying the change don't seem as cut-and-dry as you might think.

(Forgive me for using letters in place of names, but I find that it's much easier to refer to people by anything other than their labels. I also apologize for the length of this post. Strangely, it seems easier to pour out my troubles to anonymous people online than it does to speak to an anonymous person about this.)

My boyfriend, J, and I have been dating for seven months now (will be eight months by the end of January). He's 29 and I'm 22. We're gay. He doesn't live with his parents, I do. I have my Bachelor's, he's still trying to get his. We have talked about a future together. (This is important information. At least I think it is.)

Things were absolutely fantastic over the summer: we saw each other frequently, about no less than five times a week (mostly due in part to his willingness to drive out to see me on my lunch breaks) and we always spent my days off together as well as Saturday nights because that's how our schedules worked out. Note that he was working three jobs over the summer: a job at the local university, a weekend job at a restaurant, and he was involved with the Census. He lived in a townhouse with two roommates, C and J2.

There were ups and downs, as there are in any relationship, throughout the summer, but the important thing was that we were always willing to talk things out. We never got into real arguments with heated exchanges and hurt feelings. We just simply handled disagreements in a mature manner and we always resolved issues in an agreeable manner, there was never a sense of "I-win-you-lose."

Things started to go south once it became apparent that C was swindling J and J2 out of money from their utility bills and she never paid her third of the rent on time. C left and that left J and J2 in a tough position because she left before their lease was up in October. They couldn't afford to live with each other in the same townhouse for another year, and J really didn't want to live in a place filled with such bad memories. J had two options: live with his brother, J3, in J3's apartment (which was located pretty close by) or move in with N.

N is a "friend" of J's, one who actually helped him secure a job as department manager at OD once he was no longer called back to work on Census projects. J's goal was to eliminate the school and restaurant jobs, leaving only one source of income. It was tough to commute between his house and the OD store location, about a 40 minute drive, and J had to buy a pretty crappy car after his other one died on him over the summer. (I was there when the car died. It was not a happy day.) J felt more comfortable living loser to the OD store location where he was training, so J decided to move in with N in a house that's about 45 minutes to an hour away from where I live.

I didn't know N, so I trusted J's judgement on this one. However, my first hunch that things were not going to be as great as he thought they were going to be came when J was supposed to bring over some carpet cleaner for the new house. J was waiting for N to give the okay to come over because J didn't have keys to the new place. N never gave him the okay, so J decided to go to bed. The next morning, N texted J to tell him that it was clear that he didn't care about moving in and that his things would be waiting for him when he got to the new house. (We will meet N in more detail later. To skip a lot of exposition, let's just say that there have been numerous arguments since October, culminating in the most recent one which is the straw that broke the camel's back.)

J's hours at OD were brutal. He barely had any days off, and by this point I had quit my own job in order to find a better one, so I was able to see him every day on his lunch break, just as he had done for me over the summer. It was difficult when they temporarily assigned him to a store about 45 minutes away from where I live; I didn't see him for almost two weeks because of the distance and the way his schedule worked out. (Days off? What are those?) It's important to mention that J never wanted me to visit him at the new house where he lived with N because of the way they had disagreements all the time and he didn't want to put me in the middle of that. If I had been able to go to the house on a regular basis, I doubt that I would be posting here today, but I digress.

At first, J and I tried very hard to see each other when he moved in with N. We scheduled as many dates as possible and we were pretty successful in doing so, but by the time he was temporarily assigned to that other OD location further away from me, something had happened. He was weary, he was tired, he was barely surviving, he had bigger matters to worry about (his stepfather was in the hospital for around a month because of heart complications). I admit that I wasn't helping a whole lot by demanding his time, but I felt scared that he was pulling away from me.

After three weeks, he was moved back to his training store as his permanent store. I was ecstatic. I would be able to see him again on a predictable basis! He should be able to get days off! But nope, the holiday shopping season happened, and with it came demands on his time that I never thought would happen. (Apparently, people go shopping for Christmas gifts at an office supply store...)

December was no better than November. We had only two dates for that entire month. He closes about 85% of the time, so forget trying to spend time with him after work. December was a disaster. I hope I'm not being self-serving when I say that I had the patience of a saint during December (and there's probably a bit of bias at work), but do note that this is month three of all this drama and I'm still with him. Other people would have called it quits, I should think.

On December 30, I received a call from an unknown number asking if I was D. I said yes. This mystery caller asked me if I knew that J had a boyfriend, and then said that he had my address; if he ever found me, he would beat me up. He hung up.

I was floored.

It turns out that N had snapped. I'm not sure as to the exact details why--they're a mystery to us all--but apparently it was precipitated when N went through J's room. N found my Christmas card addressed to J, read it, then tore it up. N went through J's MacBook and input all of J's contacts into his phone. (I wasn't the only person called; J told me later that N also called J2 and J3.)

Later on that same night, when I kept calling J and he finally picked up, N snatched the phone from him and tried to goad me into... something. He said that he was fucking J and that he was J's boyfriend. (Please note that N had his own boyfriend drama going on and apparently the boyfriend/ex-boyfriend is a drug addict.) It was a difficult night to say the least.

On New Year's Eve, J got in touch with me to let me know that he was okay (he stayed at a hotel) and that he still planned to spend New Year's with me and my friends. He took a day off that day and went back to the house to start packing. Right before J was going to leave to meet up with us, N came home, and they started arguing again. Predictably, all thoughts of meeting us up went out the window. I was unable to get in touch with him all night and was worried for most of New Year's Eve.

The next day, J got in contact with me from work. He explained that his phone's battery had died and he didn't have an opportunity to charge it. I went and saw him for lunch and then we started talking very seriously about the future of our relationship. He didn't want me to stress out about him and his situation any longer, but I told him that I couldn't just walk away from me. He wanted to take a break from the relationship until he was able to get himself back on his feet, but I didn't let him because I'm not one to just give up on the people I love. (Darn those pesky emotions.) He told me that he was going to need to focus on himself, that he couldn't focus entirely on me, and I said that was okay with one caveat: he had to at least make an attempt to make the relationship work. He agreed.

As if J hadn't already started changing once he moved in with N, this most recent development has made him change completely. I don't recognize J anymore and it hurts me so much. I see little signs of the old J, but it's just not enough. He said that he needed to focus on himself, and I understood that and accepted it, but that never stopped us from texting as if nothing had happened.

He had this weekend off from work and I assumed he was going to spend it in part with me, but then it turned out that he got a dog! I knew that the dog was coming, so it wasn't a surprise that he got the dog, but it was a surprise that he got it and didn't tell me he was getting it this weekend.

You see, J and I always text each other in the mornings when we wake up. It's been like this since day one. Yesterday, he didn't text me at all. I attempted to contact him three times: the initial morning text, a call at 2, then another call at 4. He picked up at that call and told me that he had been preoccupied all day with taking care of the new puppy and that he hadn't been able to text me at all. I was very hurt, hurt enough to where I actually got quite angry at him on the phone, and I've never been angry to him before. I didn't think it was a whole lot of effort to pick up the phone to text "good morning."

J has actually turned off his phone while taking care of the new dog, something I've never seen him do before. He texted this morning and I strongly hinted this morning that when we were going to see each other tonight, he could bring the dog along because I wanted to meet her, and because she's so needy right now, he said he was going to have to bring her. I called this afternoon to try to get details about when and where to meet but his phone was off. I left a voicemail and then a text message boiling down to one thing: we may not be able to spend any time tonight, but please call or text me, and this is important because I hardly ask anything of him at all. I have yet to hear back, and this was a couple of hours ago.

I have reason to believe that J is trying to butter things up with N because he doesn't want another huge argument, and N has just as much incentive because N really doesn't want J to move out; N can't afford the house by himself. Keeping J satisfied is the best way to keep him in the house, but I know J wants to move out (he's looking for apartments with his brother).

And now we come to the summary, which is probably what you need to read if you don't want to read the long and ardous extended version: J is not the same guy he was four months ago. I know it could be attributed to the honeymoon phase ending, but it's at the point now where he's said that even trying to see me feels like a burden on his time and his wallet (gotta love that gas costs money). I told him I've always been willing to drive up to his house or meet halfway (conveniently in the shopping center where his OD store is) but he still seems reluctant to bother to spend any time with me. I want to say that his change in character has been brought on by living with N and his constant desire to put J under his thumb and control him. J realizes this, and J knows he really screwed things up by moving in with N.

J is keeping me away, and it's bothering me so much because I'm at the point where I only need the bare minimum: will we see each other tonight, yes or no? But I can't even get that, and I've put so much of my time into keeping this relationship alive for reasons even I don't fully understand. (Ah, love!)

What's important to note is that I haven't hit my breaking point. Sure, there have been times when I've cried on the phone to him or my friends about what's been going on, and even J wants to keep me away because he doesn't want to trouble me anymore. But I want to help him out so badly, and he's not letting me, and I'm afraid that he's going to keep on making bad decisions before it's going to get better... if at all.

I have faith that J will fix things, but the problem is that I don't know when that's going to happen, or if he even realizes that he takes me for granted. Not a whole lot of significant others would stick by at this point, so I feel a desire to see things through. I know he cares about me, and I care about him, but the situation demands his attention elsewhere and I feel as if he's making all the wrong decisions before he can help it get better.

I feel as if I can withstand the occasional lonely night filled with tears. How much longer? I'm not sure. But am I crazy in saying that at times like this--where I think back on everything and reflect on how we've made it this far--I still want to be with him?
posted by soulsteelgray to Human Relations (54 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Not to be callous but you need the tl;dr option as well. (Sorry...I mean that sincerely, I read almost everything and this is just too long.) A shortcut would be helpful.
posted by bquarters at 4:22 PM on January 9, 2011 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I'm sorry to say, but J has been lying to you since Day One. That is as clear plain as can be, given the forum we're in and your hyper-focused-on-the-details explanation. Four months is nothing in terms of getting to know someone, and you know him not at all. Be very grateful it's not been longer than that, and that you are not in deeper than you are. Make tracks, soulsteelgray -- you sound like a lovely young man. Good luck.
posted by thinkpiece at 4:29 PM on January 9, 2011 [10 favorites]

Look, he tried to dump you, and you didn't let him. He told you he couldn't focus on you, and that has turned out to be true. The biggest problem here seems to be that you have wildly unrealistic expectations of what this relationship is supposed to be like, based on the first couple of over-the-summer months.

You need to stop trying to make everything perfect and listen to what your boyfriend is telling you, which is that he doesn't have the resources for this relationship right now.
posted by restless_nomad at 4:30 PM on January 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

Do you want to be with him because you have feelings for him or simply because you want the feeling of accomplishment for having "made it this far"?
posted by Fuego at 4:30 PM on January 9, 2011

Best answer: You need to move on. I've been in similar scenarios with women. The excuses are the main clue that he's just not into you as much anymore. How it happened who knows but it happened. Spend time with the dog? Battery died? I've heard all those and more. If he was truly interested in spending time with you he would. I'm sorry. Not sure what happened. It will hurt but you'll find someone who wants to find time for you. Good luck.
posted by white_devil at 4:33 PM on January 9, 2011 [10 favorites]

He wanted to take a break from the relationship until he was able to get himself back on his feet, but I didn't let him because I'm not one to just give up on the people I love. (Darn those pesky emotions.)

He cheated on you and tried to break up with you, and now doesn't want to drive out to see you. The relationship is already over. It isn't about giving up on someone you love, but accepting that however much you want a relationship with him, he doesn't want one with you.

Given the cheating, you're better off moving on anyway. (And it's probably a good idea to get tested if you haven't already, especially in light of the entrance of drug addicts into the cast of characters in the relationship drama.)
posted by Marty Marx at 4:35 PM on January 9, 2011 [18 favorites]

love should not be this up and down, you should not be left wondering or having these "where do I stand feelings?" with someone you are in a relationship with. If a friend told you about this situation, you would, most likely, help them stay busy and get over this guy, then slowly.....move on to seeing someone who can make you the priority you deserve to be. Life is too short to have repeatedly ask for common respect and love.
posted by jennstra at 4:37 PM on January 9, 2011

Later on that same night, when I kept calling J and he finally picked up, N snatched the phone from him and tried to goad me into... something. He said that he was fucking J and that he was J's boyfriend. (Please note that N had his own boyfriend drama going on and apparently the boyfriend/ex-boyfriend is a drug addict.) It was a difficult night to say the least.

Ugh. I got as far as the above, and skimmed the rest, because it's really irrelevant. End the relationship and move on. There's really no reason to do anything else, especially because it was only an 8-month relationship and you do not need this drama in your life. Find someone else who doesn't have a boyfriend, doesn't have baggage, and does have a future.
posted by The Michael The at 4:38 PM on January 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh lord! I forgot to mention that J DID NOT CHEAT on me, at least that much is clear. N was trying to fuck around with me, at least that is how we're all taking it.
posted by soulsteelgray at 4:39 PM on January 9, 2011

Best answer: Sweetie, no one is going to give you a prize for being a martyr. I hate to be harsh, but you seem to be justifying this relationship in terms of what it signifies about you as a person- that not many people would put up with this, that you had the patient of a saint, that you've stuck it out this long and haven't left. That might all be true, but there's a reason most normal people wouldn't put up with this much shit.

Besides all of the roommate (lover?) drama, this guy clearly is not willing to give you the time and attention you deserve anymore. Why? Who knows. Maybe it's work, maybe it's the distance, maybe he's fucking N, maybe he just isn't in to you anymore.

In the end, it really doesn't matter why. He's told you he doesn't want to be in a relationship with you, and you can't argue him out of that and be happy with this relationship, no matter how much you love him. You can't make someone want you by loving them hard enough.
posted by MadamM at 4:41 PM on January 9, 2011 [24 favorites]

I'm at the point where I only need the bare minimum: will we see each other tonight, yes or no? But I can't even get that

1. You're not being honest with yourself, that's not all you need.
2. If someone isn't willing to even tell you whether they want to see you, why do you want to be with them?
posted by desjardins at 4:43 PM on January 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: He wants to be with me, I've asked him point blank and he seems very offended that I would question his feelings for me...

(I should shut up and let the answers flow forth freely...)
posted by soulsteelgray at 4:45 PM on January 9, 2011

Best answer: You deserve better than this.
posted by abirae at 4:47 PM on January 9, 2011 [3 favorites]

Oh lord! I forgot to mention that J DID NOT CHEAT on me, at least that much is clear. N was trying to fuck around with me, at least that is how we're all taking it.

Doesn't matter; you don't need this drama. Move on and find someone with a bright, shining future.
posted by The Michael The at 4:50 PM on January 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm with the "let actions speak for themselves" crowd. He chose to get a dog and spends his time with it than to keep up your relationship. If he's short on time like you say, his actions indicate spending what little he has on the dog is more important to him than spending time with you. He's making decisions in his life that do not include you. It's hurtful rejection and I don't think you're ready to come to terms with the situation.

He's moving on, you should too. May not seem like it now, but you're gonna have more summer lovin' and you deserve so much more.
posted by loquat at 4:54 PM on January 9, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: This reads to me as if you are obsessing in minute detail about events in an attempt to patch together a sense of this chaotic, dramatic life J has, and that this patched together story explains that he's though he's treating you badly and standing you up, it's through no fault of his own. But, look - he stood you up on New Year's Eve! He says he wants a break and space and needs to not focus on you two together, and he isn't returning texts and now he is standing you up to spend more time with his dog.

I am so sorry, but I don't think you are "sticking through the shitstorm that is his life" - you are being treated badly and being dumped in a long, indirect fashion, and probably you are getting booty calls that you think are reaffirmations that the relationship is still limping along okay. But it really looks like it's not.
posted by Ink-stained wretch at 4:55 PM on January 9, 2011 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I didn't know N, so I trusted J's judgement on this one.

I got to here and said "Let me guess, there's another SO in the picture here." You got there, too, just a few paragraphs later.

J seems flaky. I don't think that's a thing you want to positively reward.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 5:02 PM on January 9, 2011

Tell yourself to take a vacation from this guy. Three weeks: no calling, emailing, IMing him, no obsessing over what he did or did not say, or what he's doing and when and with whom. If he contacts you, tell him you're taking a break. Do not discuss him or the relationship with your friends, mutual or otherwise, instead do your best to put J out of your mind.

During the vacation, write a list of what you want in a relationship: communication, trust, loyalty, safety, mutual respect, sexual compatibility; whatever, it's your list, you write it.

Give yourself the time and space to get some distance from all this and at the end of the vacation, look at your list and honestly evaluate just how many things on your list J does for you. Not maybe someday in the future and without qualifications (if I could only: get him to move away from N, change him, get him to talk to me, etc.). I doubt J will measure up, but hey, surprises happen.

If you can't do that, if you can't train yourself to get out of this drama loop, I guarantee you're going to churn around in this miserable state indefinitely while J takes further liberty to treat you more and more poorly. Don't let him or anyone else do that to you.
posted by jamaro at 5:09 PM on January 9, 2011 [10 favorites]

Someone taking you for granted, especially to this extent, after only seven months is a very very bad sign.

Most people like to think of themselves as being good candidates to be in a relationship, and as having lots to offer another person. But a staggering amount of those people are actually mistaken. J is one of these.

You claim you only need the bare minimum, but you deserve more. Anyone does. And even if you got the bare minimum, it would only satisfy you for a (very) short time.
posted by hermitosis at 5:17 PM on January 9, 2011

He's treating you poorly, which makes you unhappy. You're not clear on whether he's dumped you or not. I, personally, don't think you should put up with this crap. There are plenty of guys out there who aren't jerks. Go date one of them.

Jamero's advice is an excellent idea - a compromise between sticking with J or dumping J. Should help you figure out where you are at, and what to do.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:18 PM on January 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: J and N are fucking. J is lying to you. Also, you are being a doormat.

Time to move on.
posted by ook at 5:22 PM on January 9, 2011

It doesn't sound to me as though J is necessarily cheating, but it does sound like his life is insane and he would benefit greatly -- as in, perhaps narrowly avoid going completely round the bent -- if he had one less commitment pulling on him. You, unfortunately, have been pulling and pulling, insisting that he pay attention to you, make time at lunch (when he's probably so tired he'd just prefer to stare into space or make dumb jokes with his co-workers or get some extra stuff done at work so he can look good and/or achieve some kind of stability). If you have faith in him, you must give him some space. Even if he does have a scrap of un-allocated time here or there, he really needs that to be time where he doesn't need to focus on someone else.

I know, I know, he got a dog, and that takes focus -- maybe, but although a dog has physical and time needs, in terms of attention, the dog gives much more than it takes. You, my friend, are doing the opposite, constantly needing reassurance and planning.

It sounds like you've been a saint of a boyfriend, but you have to realize that, living with your parents, life just isn't as scary for you right now as it must seem to him -- he's desperate enough that he's living with a fairly crazy person, and working very hard. Give him time, maybe a few months, maybe a year. Ask for nothing. Ask permission to call him once per week; if he says yes, call, tell him how you're doing, ask how he's doing, and do not ask him to reassure you or explain his feelings or actions. If you meet someone else, deal with it then. If he meets someone else, ditto -- but don't ask whether he's met someone else until some time has passed and it sounds like his life is settling down.
posted by amtho at 5:23 PM on January 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Well, I've lived in super-tight rental markets, I understand placating the roomie, and I'm a lot more in touch with chick-guy and two-chick relationships than with the two-guy dynamic, but even so,
"I don't know why my roomie's acting all jealous and possessive, gosh, my phone was turned off for 12 hours because the battery was dead and the charger went missing and then my toilet caught fire and my hair was dirty and I know my roommate called you at midnight and said we were lovers and called my whole phonebook and announced a wedding date and told them you have leprosy and cooties, but I am definitely not, SO not, sleeping with my roomie, N's just kinda stressed right now and I know I said we'd spend New Years together but there's just so much drama going on with the toilet and all, and my roommate neeeeeeeeds me because his boyfriend did him wrong and my dog is so dependent and besides I can't afford gas even if you meet me at work"

is actually pretty classic cheat-speak.

That said, even if he's not sleeping with N, J has too much going on to give you what you need from a relationship. "I can withstand the occasional lonely night filled with tears"? No, Tammy, you can do better.

He's put his roomie's and his dog's needs before yours. He can't budget money for gas or time for driving to see you. He turns off his phone when (because?) he knows you're going to call him if he doesn't call you. No matter what he says when you finally get him to talk to you, his behavior suggests he's lukewarm about you. The reward for this behavior is a boyfriend who takes you for granted and a reputation as a doormat.
posted by gingerest at 5:25 PM on January 9, 2011 [11 favorites]

Best answer: ...but it's at the point now where he's said that even trying to see me feels like a burden on his time and his wallet.

You have provided the bottom-line answer to your own question.

I'm not without my own insecurties regarding a durable relationship, but my guy, going on three years now, is my rock. For my part, I work to mimimize my unsubstantiated doubts. For his part, he never fails to reassure me, in word and deed, that I am the best damned partner he could imagine.

It's a great feeling to be loved, and I wish the same for you.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 5:46 PM on January 9, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Even aside from the cheating angle... let's look at this at face value.

A guy who would ditch out on you and your friends on New Year's Eve, even after confirming it, in order to argue with his roommate, is not a person who is serious about having a relationship with you. And if he were, in fact, at home arguing with his roommate, how could J not charge his phone? I raise an eyebrow.

I'm so sorry, soulsteelgrey, but this is a relationship already in its death throes. Don't waste your time, energy, and affection on this joker. You deserve somebody better.
posted by Andrhia at 5:49 PM on January 9, 2011

Best answer: Occam's Razor says that J is sleeping with N, and lying to you.

Regardless. You should break up with him, because his words: "no, i'm totally still into you, baby, etc. etc." are completely contradicted by his actions. It's really clear that he's Just Not That Into You anymore.
posted by MsMolly at 5:53 PM on January 9, 2011

Best answer: For perspective, seven months into my relationship my boyfriend was driving 100 miles every weekend after a 50-60 hour work week. And he had two dogs, who he left with a family member, and he spent a lot less time on his hobbies. Why? Because he wanted to be with me and was willing to do what it took to make that happen. I don't care what J says, he does not actually want to be with you if he is not actually being with you.

(PS we're married now)
posted by desjardins at 5:54 PM on January 9, 2011 [5 favorites]

Best answer: He is probably cheating on you, but more than that --



J is just like his friends and roommates, but you just don't see it yet.


Sorry this happened. I know it hurts. You'll be OK without this guy in your life. Promise.
posted by jbenben at 6:05 PM on January 9, 2011 [10 favorites]

But I want to help him out so badly, and he's not letting me, and I'm afraid that he's going to keep on making bad decisions before it's going to get better... if at all.

You're taking on too much of the burden here. Not the burden of J's messy life (although that, too), but the burden of thinking that your own actions can save or wreck both J's situation and your relationship. On the one hand, you're stressed because "I want to help him out so badly, and he's not letting me, and I'm afraid that he's going to keep on making bad decisions", and on the other hand, you're stressed because "I wasn't helping a whole lot by demanding his time, but I felt scared that he was pulling away from me."

You know what? You can put that burden down. It's a huge, heavy weight that isn't yours to carry.

There is nothing, nothing you can do that will fix things for J. You can't reason him into getting his act together, you can't hug him into it, you can't hang around beaming non-judgemental supportive thoughts in his direction and have that magically pull his life together for him. Likewise, you can't stop J making bad decisions - and anyway, bad decisions aren't the end of the world, and sometimes making bad decisions and having to face their consequences is a good thing in the long term.

You don't need to walk around him and his situation on eggshells, trying to work out the exact way to do Everything Right and magically have him turn back into the person he was before. That won't help him, and it will hurt you.

As for what you should do with the person he is now - well, that's your call. But I can't help noticing that he gets very little agency in the way you tell the story, and maybe if you reframed that, your call would be different.

I think he's treating you shittily, and doing it under the cover of But My Life, It Is So Stressful. His boss wouldn't give him any days off! His car broke down! His roommate is crazy! Therefore, he is absolved of his responsibilities to treat other people decently, because heaven only knows nobody else in the history of the world has had to deal with problems that huge before! And he'll ignore you all day in favour of playing with his new dog, but then be shocked, shocked that you would doubt his feelings for you. And everything he does, you'll grit your teeth and deal with, because His Life Is Hard Right Now. That's no way to live.

(Incidentally, how on earth does he have time for a puppy? Either that's hugely irresponsible, or his work schedule isn't quite the ceaseless back-breaking 70-hour-a-week hell he believes it to be.)
posted by Catseye at 6:10 PM on January 9, 2011 [3 favorites]

the circumstances underlying the change don't seem as cut-and-dry as you might think

Yeah, they are. Your boyfriend broke up with you the day after New Years, it just turns out that he was too much of a wimp to correct you when you went into denial mode and decided that it hadn't actually happened. But it did. How agonizingly long you want to drag out the actual breaking up is probably mostly up to you. What you believe is some sort of super romantic, stalwart steadfastness to your 8 month relationship is just hanging on to a sinking ship. How "crazy" is this? Pretty average crazy for 22. But the outcome will be the same. Concentrate on getting a job and getting your own place, and next time you need to tell a long confusing story with a cast of several, make up actual names for everyone. Yours has got 3 J's, for fuck's sake.
posted by nanojath at 6:25 PM on January 9, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: He didn't want me to stress out about him and his situation any longer, but I told him that I couldn't just walk away from me. He wanted to take a break from the relationship until he was able to get himself back on his feet, but I didn't let him because I'm not one to just give up on the people I love. (Darn those pesky emotions.)

I'm sorry to have to be so blunt about this, but that, right there, was J breaking up with you. You talked him in to taking you back, as so many people have tried to do in your situation, and so you get the prize that everyone gets for talking someone out of a breakup: a relationship with someone who doesn't want to be in a relationship with you.

To be clear, this is not some terrible, crazy thing you've done. Everyone who I've ever broken up with has tried to talk me out of it. I've tried to talk everyone who ever broke up with me out of it. Once, I succeeded. Like you, I never really let her get around to saying "I'm breaking up with you." I somehow managed to get her to agree that we should stay together. So I know exactly how your relationship feels now - it sucks. You're the only one holding things together, and J is making you feel unwanted. There is absolutely no reason to do this to yourself. J is not emotionally present in your relationship. He may have a good reason, but that doesn't matter. Lots of people get stressed, lots of people get busy. Hell, everybody does. But plenty of people manage to treat their SOs decently while stressed and busy. If you've never been with such a person, this can seem like a revelation. That's not what you're getting from J. So what are you getting from him:

Not a whole lot of significant others would stick by at this point, so I feel a desire to see things through.

This doesn't make sense to me. Like, on a grammatical level - I don't see how the second clause is caused by the first. Why does the fact that not a lot of significant others would stick by make you think that you should? What do you think it says about you that you're sticking around? These are not snarky rhetorical questions, you should try to figure out the answers. Because whatever that is is what's keeping you in this terrible relationship. And it is terrible. Here's how I know:

What's important to note is that I haven't hit my breaking point.

This is not something that a person in a healthy relationship has ever said. Nobody has ever said that sentence about a partner whom they should stay with. If you ever hear yourself saying that again, you should run, run, run away from whomever is making you say it. Which is what you should do right now.
posted by Ragged Richard at 6:43 PM on January 9, 2011 [8 favorites]

Best answer: I'm so sorry you are going through this situation, it sounds extremely frustrating and painful.

I'm sorry to say, that I think you are in MAJOR hardcore denial about several things.

1. None of this is happening "because of" N. And none of it is N's fault. N is not a wizard casting magic spells on your bf, forcing him to behave the way he is behaving.

Your boyfriend is behaving in these ways because that's what he wants to do.

Your boyfriend didn't really see you during the months of November and December? That was because he didn't want to. I don't care how much he was working. If he had really wanted to see you, he would have made every effort to. It sounds like you know he didn't do that.

Your boyfriend ditched you on New Year's eve? He did that because he wanted to. Regardless of however much he fought with N. And certainly not because "he didn't charge his phone." I hope you can see that's bullshit.

He's started turning off his phone, ignoring your texts, making plans with you and then breaking them? He's doing all that because he wants to. Dog or no dog. N or no N.

You say he wants to be with you??? Dude. He broke up with you!!!!!

He TOLD you he wanted to take a break from your relationship. Taking a break = breaking up for people who are either too scared to say it bluntly, or who want to string the other person along a little longer for whatever reason while having all the same freedoms of single person.

You absolutely should not have "refused to let him walk away." That is actually I think not a very cool move on your part and I think you will agree if you give it a second look. He has the right to walk away. It's not okay to tell him what to do. It's not okay to completely disregard his feelings and impose your will.

You say you did it because you don't want to give up on the ones you love. Actually I think it's that you don't want them to give up on you. And it upsets and scares you to break up with him. But it's not okay to override his wishes.

The more you cling on to him the more this will just keep getting worse. He tried breaking up with you once, and the manner he did it was cowardly enough as it was "let's take a break." Now since you didn't accept that he is not going to come back to you as you want, but he is going to take an even more cowardly indirect tack of breaking up with you: The Fade.

He told you what he wanted. You're only going to suffer more if you keep clinging on. Let him go.
posted by Ashley801 at 6:56 PM on January 9, 2011 [11 favorites]

He's already dumped you.

All the other stuff is just static. Yeah, blah blah, N sounds like a real piece of work, but it doesn't matter--J doesn't want to be your boyfriend any more.

It sucks to be dumped. I've been there. We've all been there. Do your grieving and move on, my friend. This relationship is over.

You're not sticking with a relationship to see it through, you're clinging to a relationship that is dead already. Your relationship is no more! It has ceased to be! It's expired and gone to meet its maker! It's a stiff! Bereft of life, it rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed it to the perch it'd be pushing up the daisies! Its metabolic processes are now history! It's off the twig! It's kicked the bucket, it's shuffled off its mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleeding choir invisible! THIS IS AN EX-RELATIONSHIP!!
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:57 PM on January 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Why would he miss New Years to fight with a roommate? I kept waiting for the part where you found out they were sleeping together.
posted by salvia at 7:02 PM on January 9, 2011 [6 favorites]

J is keeping me away, and it's bothering me so much because I'm at the point where I only need the bare minimum: will we see each other tonight, yes or no? But I can't even get that, and I've put so much of my time into keeping this relationship alive for reasons even I don't fully understand. (Ah, love!)

I suppose that one might be able to whittle down expectations in a really solid relationship (provided that the other person is committed to working on the given issues, and there are clear parameters and lots of communication) and still come out the other side, maintaining the relationship. In my experience, though, once you have begun to pare down your basic requirements for a relationship, it will end. You make a definition (okay, to be in a relationship we must do x, y and z) only to have to subsequently eliminate those elements (x and y are are not met). If I understand you right, this is what you have been doing; slowly giving up elements that you used to view as fundamental in this (or any) romantic relationship. I don't think your relationship is sustainable.
posted by queseyo at 7:37 PM on January 9, 2011

It seems like you would both be vastly better off, happier, and stabler if you were not together.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:42 PM on January 9, 2011

Best answer: I'm also in the J&N are fucking camp and you are in denial.
Time to move on. You're 22, ffs! Go out and be young.
posted by p1nkdaisy at 8:11 PM on January 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You're not "sticking by" him, you're just clinging to a crazy drama-monger. It doesn't matter whether he actually cheated or if the roommate was making shit up.
posted by autoclavicle at 9:09 PM on January 9, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You are so young and so honest. You have written everything you need to know to understand what's going on.

What's going on is that not everyone is as young or as honest as you are. In particular, J is not honest, and he is not young at all, not even young at heart. To the contrary, he is a grizzled old bull and he has just had some fun with a naive young calf. But eventually the cows will come home, as they do.

You are still focused on your and J's "relationship." There is no relationship. You have been dumped, as explicitly as J's moral cowardice will allow. Get well clear of these emotionally retarded people and go find someone to date who is capable of being as good and decent and loving as you are.
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Sockpuppetry at 11:50 PM on January 9, 2011 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Last thought -- as a bunch of people have said in this thread, it does sound like you "get something" out of being a person who is willing to put up with a lot. (Maybe you get self-esteem or pride. Maybe it makes you feel as if your SO will be less likely to leave you. Or they will owe you something in a way. Maybe you feel like it gives people a reason to want to be around you or to be in a relationship with you. Or maybe the hope is that if you do that for someone, they'll put up with a lot for you in return.)

I just want to say -- be careful with that.

1. No matter what your/your SO's circumstances are or what is going on in your lives, one thing you should never put up with is being treated badly. No special circumstance justifies that, ever. Ditching you when you have plans, lying to you, ignoring/avoiding you, treating you like you are unwanted or unimportant. Simply ignoring your needs without making a good-faith effort to meet them or even just discussing them.

2. You should also not just "put up with" problems that your SO could solve, but just chooses not to. That's not being loyal, it's just being a doormat.

3. Putting up with a lot from people will not make them do the same in return. It won't ensure their loyalty, or gratitude. In fact, givers often attract takers.

4. As long as you put up with drama and "shitstorms," your life will be full of drama and shitstorms. And then you may feel like there's no point in looking for anything else when that's all there is. But the more you refuse to put up with drama, shitstorms, and being treated badly, at the first sign that they are entering your life, the less of that you will ever have in your life. If you want a peaceful, happy life, the better bet in reaching that is not to desperately try to make a dysfunctional situation functional. It's to cut dysfunction, and the people who bring, it out of your life. Nip it in the bud.
posted by Ashley801 at 12:30 AM on January 10, 2011 [16 favorites]

Best answer: Let me tell you a story.

I was having this really bad period of limerance, for a year. What totally got me off this person was one sentence in a book - which I can't seem to find on amazon, I'll get the title when I get back tonight. Hopefully! But basically the gist is

If you focus on whether the person is right for you, and not whether he's in interested in you, you will be in the driver's seat.

Are you in charge?
posted by TrinsicWS at 4:00 AM on January 10, 2011 [5 favorites]

Best answer: "He said that he was fucking J and that he was J's boyfriend."

I'm sure that crazies exist who would lie about stuff like this.

It's just that I've never heard a story of someone doing this who was lying.

I have heard stories about this in which the person getting the phone calls became naturalized to getting phone calls from crazies saying "your bf is actually my bf". They come to think of it as part of the landscape. They get to thinking everybody gets a half-dozen calls a day from assorted crazies disputing ownership of their bf.

Do yourself a favour and believe the caller, crazy though he might be. If you can manage that, you probably won't ever get another phone call like it from anyone, ever again.

Also, please stop associating with J and his ilk. He is only going to drag you down.
posted by tel3path at 4:58 AM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I have a question.

Have you ever actually met N? Because it sounds an awful lot like the scenario tel3path is describing, where N actually IS J's boyfriend and now that they live together, J has less time for you (and more and more excuses). N called you to tell you he was J's boyfriend? J picked spending NYE with N over spending it with you? Come on.
posted by cosmic osmo at 5:16 AM on January 10, 2011 [5 favorites]

Best answer: It sounds an awful lot like he told you what he wanted - to take a break from the relationship - and you didn't hear it because you didn't want to. You translated this into something else about how stressed out he is, and tried to keep things going. (I mean, it does sound an awful lot to me like there is something else going on with his relationship with N, especially since J never let you come over to their house, but at this point it doesn't really matter.) I have done similar stuff to this, but I have not had to with my current boyfriend because he really cares about me and shows me this through his actions of being nice to me, spending time with me, and making time to call or text if he's going to be late or something.

Here is what you said that jumped out at me the most:

it's at the point now where he's said that even trying to see me feels like a burden on his time and his wallet

Compounded with all the other stuff, that would pretty much be it for me. I'd be like, "OK, burden taken off your shoulders! Call me when you have your shit together!" You don't need this.

Don't feel bad about yourself for wanting to believe in the relationship and believe the best of your boyfriend. I certainly put up with less dramatic variations on the above when I was a bit younger than you are now. But don't put up with this, just give him the space he has asked you for and find someone who does have time for you.
posted by SoftRain at 7:24 AM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Look at his actions, don't listen to his words. His actions have consistently told you everything you need to know.
posted by heatherly at 9:40 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

He wanted to take a break from the relationship until he was able to get himself back on his feet, but I didn't let him because I'm not one to just give up on the people I love.

This is the key. He wants to take a break. You can't "let" him take a break or refuse him that, not if this relationship is meant to be a partnership. He told you what his needs are, where he needs to put his energy. I realize that you feel you got him to "promise" to work on it, but he's already told you he doesn't have the emotional resources to do that.

All of this is not about you and what kind of person you are. A relationship is about both the people who are in it. If one person isn't entirely in it, that's not much of a relationship. You need to let him take a break, clear out all the drama, and get some perspective. In the grand scheme of things, 8 months is not a terribly long time, and who knows -- maybe once he's got himself sorted, he might be ready to pick it back up if you still want to.
posted by dryad at 10:03 AM on January 10, 2011

Best answer: Sorry, but love is not supposed to be this complicated.

So many gay men like to talk about all the "relationship drama" in their lives. But it doesn't have to be that way. "Drama" makes it sound exciting, when really, it's just bullshit. If you want bullshit in your life, it will find you. If you don't want bullshit in your life, then keep the bullshit out of your life.

Someday, maybe when you're 35 or 30 or 25, you'll be in a nice, healthy relationship with someone else, and you'll suddenly look back and think, "Wow, remember when I was 22 and I was dating that guy J? Those were crazy times. Hope he sorted his life out. I sure am glad I sorted out mine."

Right now it might be hard to see things that way, because the chemicals that attract you to J are rushing through your body. But that's all they are -- chemicals. And good relationships are more than chemistry.

You deserve better than this.
posted by Tin Man at 12:03 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Update: I've managed to find conclusive evidence that he was cheating on me as early as September. At least emotionally cheating, anyways. And yes, it was with N! The puzzle pieces all fit together now. I was a stopgap for when N entered the picture again--they were exes.

Right now I feel at peace. The emotion and sadness will hit me at a later date, likely after I get the satisfaction of strolling right up to him at his workplace and dump him. I won't let him know that I have conclusive evidence. I probably won't let him know much of anything, really...

I want to thank all of y'all who found the time to read my excessively long-winded post and tried to help. I went specifically to this community because of its reputation for things like this. I'm glad I did because it set things in motion off the site, like the gradual accumulation of evidence, that I would never have discovered otherwise.

Thank you, all.
posted by soulsteelgray at 12:18 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

You're welcome, soulsteelgray, and I'm so happy for you that you are removing yourself from this fucked up situation. It will feel really good - the point where you finally say, f this.

But I'm also sorry you had to go through this experience at all. The one good thing about it is that any grief that comes of it can kind of vaccinate you against getting in a situation like that again. You start dating someone new, and then weirdness and sketchiness pops up ... instead of thinking "Well, maybe there's a good explanation" you're instinctively like, "Uh-uh. I cannot go there and deal with this again." And that can help you weed out the more fucked up situations.
posted by Ashley801 at 11:26 AM on January 11, 2011

Back again, just to mention the book I spoke about earlier. It's called

Get Closer: A Gay Men's Guide To Intimacy and Relationships.
By Jeffrey N. Chernin. ISBN: 1555838650

Helped me loads.
posted by TrinsicWS at 12:00 PM on January 11, 2011

...he's said that even trying to see me feels like a burden on his time and his wallet.

That was your TL;DR right there. You didn't need the rest.

He's just not that into you.
posted by rokusan at 3:34 PM on January 12, 2011

It probably doesn't feel like it, but it's totally his loss!! My bet is he will come begging back at some point, and my hope is that you tell him to get lost! Take care!
posted by heatherly at 1:44 PM on January 13, 2011

I'm sorry you've had this horrible experience. The only consolation, such as it is, is that it only went on for a few months and not for years. Yes, you'd be amazed how many people get in situations like this or just as bad that go on for, literally, years.

This will not happen to you again because you know the signs, and horrible people tend to be all the same even though they superficially look different. Your spider sense will start tingling before the trouble starts.
posted by tel3path at 3:18 AM on January 14, 2011

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