Not meant for relationships?
April 12, 2011 9:36 AM   Subscribe

I feel relief after breaking up with my boyfriend, but I’m unsure if it’s because the relationship wasn’t right, or if I am just not meant to be in a relationship.

We had only been dating 4 months. When we first met, there was instant chemistry, and I have never been so compatible with someone physically. He was different, exciting; brought out a side of me, mostly sexually, I have never experienced with anyone. My friends liked him when they met him, but it was only once. I was very happy with him in the beginning, and they saw that. I thought things were different with him than they had ever been with anyone else, and I even said I thought he was the one. He constantly told me he loved me, and thought I was flawless, physically and other wise. Showered me with compliments…the things every girl wants to hear. He was also good to my 5 year old, and she really liked him, instantly.

But, there were issues. He was barely working and became very depressed easily. Things didn’t seem to just “flow” when we were out, and we seemed to have different ideas of what fun was. My family just didn’t click with him, but couldn’t really pinpoint why they were uneasy about him. His previous relationship was extremely unhealthy and still seemed to influence him from time to time as she was unstable and he felt guilty for that. Sometimes his sexual humor made me a little uncomfortable and his childish behavior on face book, or how he was constantly writing notes, like 25 at a time. He seemed to push the relationship too fast, although I admittedly went along. I began to feel smothered, and just have a nagging feeling, which I’ve had before in relationships, that I just needed to get out. I missed my freedom and my routines, and I was feeling depressed. I felt like I needed to escape. So I did.

This is the second time in only two months I ended things, but I think this time is for good. He thinks we need to "believe in us", maybe even try couseling. He’s telling me I am just scared of being in love and being loved, as I confessed to him I might be in the beginning. And even though I feel relieved and excited to start again fresh being single and concentrate on being a mom and my career, I can’t help but have a small part of me wonder if he’s somewhat right. My past pattern in relationships is nothing to be proud of. I stayed with my daughter’s father for 7 years even though I was never truly attracted to or in love with him. I loved him as a friend and thought an Ok relationship was enough and that I was expecting too much. Now that I just ended a relationship where the chemistry and attraction was there immensely, I can’t help but ask myself that question again. The pattern with me always seems to be the same, but with different circumstances. I feel smothered, depressed, need to get out. Then I feel relieved.

Am I too unrealistic? Is it because the relationships are not right, or am I just not meant to be in one? Can you find someone with whom you share a great physical attraction yet feel safe and secure with? Did I just get scared because I finally was in love and someone loved me, and I couldn’t handle it? I know there are many other more significant problems in the world, but this puts so much stress on me I feel it physically and causes me great pain. Any input would be greatly appreciated.
posted by aprilc34 to Human Relations (20 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You are not being unrealistic. There are many, many red flags in your second paragraph there. Don't let him talk you into believing there's something wrong with you because you didn't want to be with him.

Of course you can find someone to whom you're attracted who will make you feel safe and secure. People do it all the time.
posted by something something at 9:40 AM on April 12, 2011 [5 favorites]

Wow, where would you get that you're not meant to be in a relationship from that? There are many, many guys in the world who you will click with, who will share your sense of humor, work ethic, and relationship speed.

One bad apple doesn't mean anything!
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:41 AM on April 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

Nobody is "meant for a relationship" or not. Relationships always involve (at least) two people. You are meant for that relationship with that one person -- nothing more, nothing less.

I say this because I used to buy into that same line of thought. I ended my first real love after 7+ years because we couldn't make it work, even though we both loved each other very much. I figured, and told everyone who would listen, that I wasn't meant for relationships. I used this to keep plenty of good guys on a string and at a distance. (And to be honest, it was a really good excuse -- the ultimate "it's not you, it's me.")

Then I found somebody who I clicked with -- it wasn't perfect, it wasn't flawless, but being with him was easier than not being with him. And I realized this was the relationship I was meant for.

It sounds like your relief is your body's way of physically telling you you've made the right choice. Listen to that.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:46 AM on April 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

You really shouldn't feel obligated to stay in a relationship you're not psyched about. That's not an unrealistic expectation at all.
posted by milk white peacock at 9:47 AM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sometimes, after a breakup it initially feels easier to say things like "I wasn't meant to be in a relationship." or "I'm just not marriage material." The important thing to remember is that it is true at that moment. You've made a big decision to not stay with someone who didn't fit. To say that you aren't meant to be in a relationship or that you aren't the type of person who is relationship ready takes a lot of the blame off of the other person and puts it on the shoulders of the dumper. It also makes it less of a personal thing when you don't want to get back with the person. It makes it less about how they didn't meet your needs and more about how you just aren't ready.

This is all fine and good just after a break up. I've said it a number of times and it really can be quite helpful to get you time to find yourself and create the headspace where a healthy relationship can grow.

The only thing to be careful of, is when you begin to define yourself as solely this "not-relationship" person at the expense of possible good relationships. This guy really sounds like he was not for you and that's okay, but don't completely write off all relationships just because he was less than awesome.
posted by teleri025 at 9:49 AM on April 12, 2011

Why not try being single for a while.
posted by TheBones at 9:54 AM on April 12, 2011

You weren't "meant" to do (or not do) anything. You a are a person with likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, talents and failures... A "relationship" is when you (the person with likes, dislikes, etc) relates to another specific person (with likes, dislikes, etc.) There's no such thing as "releationshipS." There are just the unique bonds you forge with individual people -- and each one of those is its own animal. You-and-Peter had nothing to do with You-and-Paul.

You are falling pray to the universal human urge to simplify -- to have some rule by which you can live your life. "Just TELL me if I'm meant to be in a relationship or not!" Believe me, I know that would make life easier, but life isn't easy.

I know, I know. If you just KNEW that you weren't made for relationships, you could give them up. You'd know for sure that your next relationship would fail, so you could avoid getting into it in the first place. But the scary truth is that your next relationship might succeed ... or fail.

What you can do is think about why THIS relationship ended. You can -- maybe -- apply what you learn to SOME future relationships, if they are similar in certain ways.

One of the biggest lessons I've learned in life is not cut myself off when I feel the urge to start sentences like this:

"The problem with me and women is..."

"I'm bad in relationships, because..."

NO! That's romanticized, escapist bullshit. I need to change it to...

"The problem with me and MARY is..."

"I was bad in this particular relationship with MARY, because..."

I'm not saying that you're a totally chaotic system that never behaves the same way twice. I'm saying that the way you learn general rules is to focus on the specifics. And when you do that, be careful that you're not generalizing something that can't be generalized.

And, yes, psychiatrists will work with you to figure out your "patterns" -- why you always are attracted to men who... why you always behave to men in a particular way. What they're trying to do is BREAK you of that habit. You shouldn't be attracted to men who... you shouldn't treat "men" in a particular way. You should treat Peter in a specific way that works for your relationship with him. And you should treat Paul in a specific way that works for your relationship with HIM.

There are no "men."

There are no "relationships."

There's a thing called life, and you have two choices: you can make it up as you go along or you can run on autopilot.
posted by grumblebee at 9:57 AM on April 12, 2011 [35 favorites]

Maybe there are exceptions to the rule, but if you've only been together 4 months and relationship counseling is on the table, it's better to just walk. It's not gonna get better.

It's not that you can't have a relationship, it's that you can't have a relationship with those guys. I was single for 4 years, it was awesome. I'm in a relationship now, and it's awesome. You just need to find someone who will give you the space you need and act like an adult, preferably who has a job. That's not asking for a lot.

You sound like you're comfortable being single. That's an asset - don't settle for someone just because you think you should be in a relationship.
posted by jnaps at 9:59 AM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

It is possible to find someone that you share a great physical attraction with and also feel safe and secure with - it's not easy though. I think the physical part can come first, and then with time you develop the relationship part of things, where you have compatible interests and whatnot.

Two months in and constantly showering you with "I love you"s and compliments, coupled with the other behavior you describe - I can see that being smothering. That's part of what I mean I guess about being compatible - that extends to how much personal space you need, how much of your own routines you keep, etc - it's always an adjustment to go from totally single to being in a relationship, but if you're not excited to make those changes at the very beginning of a relationship then I think that's a big thing.

It's okay to get out of relationships that don't work for you, and to set your own expectations for what's good for you relationship-wise. It doesn't mean that you're notmeant for a relationship, it means that you haven't found the right person yet...
posted by mrs. taters at 10:02 AM on April 12, 2011

Am I too unrealistic? Is it because the relationships are not right, or am I just not meant to be in one? Can you find someone with whom you share a great physical attraction yet feel safe and secure with? Did I just get scared because I finally was in love and someone loved me, and I couldn’t handle it?

I'm going to tackle these one by one...

1. Am I too unrealistic?

About what? You haven't laid out what you want, so this is hard to answer. If what you want is to be with someone who makes you feel safe and who you are also physically attracted to, then good lord, honey, no, that's not unrealistic. That's perfectly realistic.

2. Is it because the relationships are not right, or am I just not meant to be in one?

This one's easy. It's the first part -- the relationships aren't right.

3. Did I just get scared because I finally was in love and someone loved me, and I couldn’t handle it?

Well, I didn't get the impression at all that you had fallen in love with this guy, so there's that. You mention really strong sexual chemistry, but everything else you say about the guy is a red flag. He's not working, he's got depression issues and doesn't seem to be dealing with them, your ideas of a fun time are different, his previous relationship issues were worrisome, he acts childish and makes sexual jokes you don't like, your family doesn't like him, and you feel like he pressured you into making this relationship serious more quickly than you were comfortable with.

None of that sounds like love, on either side. You really don't even sound like you like the guy that much, more like you're tolerating his presence in your life. And why are you doing that?

Without getting all armchair-psych on you, it sounds like you're settling for attention from any man that comes into your life with intent. It's not clear how you and your previous partner got together, but you say you didn't really love him, and you felt that an "ok relationship" was acceptable. It sounds like you were repeating the same pattern in this relationship, to be honest.

I don't believe at all that you are not "meant" to be in a relationship. I do think, though, that you need to take time away from actively trying to find a relationship, and instead spend some time figuring out what you want from relationships without the pressure of actually being in a relationship while you figure out what you want.

A lot of MeFites recommend Dr. David Burns's book, Feeling Good, for people that ask questions about general depression issues. I'd like to recommend another of his books to you -- Intimate Connections, about building connections with people and finding actually compatible mates. I really, really think you would find helpful information there.
posted by palomar at 10:09 AM on April 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Maybe (certainly!) it's that relationship, and it may also be that you're not so into relationships like that, and it may be that you're just not into them right now. Why not keep living a life that makes you happy and find out as you go, without stressing about "relationships" before you figure out the individual you want to have them with (or not)?

This is something I continually have to remind myself -- that things that are right or wrong for me right now may change status later in life, and that's a good thing.
posted by rosa at 10:12 AM on April 12, 2011

Meh, it didn't click. Any guy who tells you you have psychological problems and need therapy is not someone you should be dating.

Either he's right and you shouldn't be dating him, because you should be working out your issues in therapy and he shouldn't want to be dating someone he basically just met who needs therapy before she can be with him, or he's wrong and he's being manipulative and abusive.
posted by empath at 10:26 AM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

There is nothing wrong with devoting time to your daughter and missing a single lifestyle when you're feeling smothered. There are plenty of guys out there who will be more than happy to let you have your own time and space, share a similar sense of humor, are great in the sack, will like and is liked by your friends, and enjoy enough of the activities you enjoy. That your ex wasn't this kind of guy is not some cosmic signal that you're destined to be single.

It's perfectly normal to be a little down after the end of a relationship that isn't working. It'll pass. I doubt you need counseling, but if you're unsure after a few weeks, go talk to one. It's not the end of the world to have someone to talk to who gives good advice, doesn't know your friends or exes, and knows how to keep their mouth shut.
posted by Hylas at 10:33 AM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Meh, it didn't click. Any guy who tells you you have psychological problems and need therapy is not someone you should be dating.

Either he's right and you shouldn't be dating him, because you should be working out your issues in therapy and he shouldn't want to be dating someone he basically just met who needs therapy before she can be with him, or he's wrong and he's being manipulative and abusive.

Completely agree. My (quite possibly emotionally abusive) ex told me I was crazy and needed therapy. I went to therapy, and my therapist confirmed that I was making a lot of good decisions in my life, handled stressful situations well, and was moving forward at a good pace. She also expressed concern for me and how I was doing... and realizing that THAT is what I wanted from a relationship, I left my ex.
posted by wansac at 10:54 AM on April 12, 2011 [4 favorites]

If you've been dating for only 4 months and there's already talk of going to a relationship therapist, I'd say it just ain't working out. And you had perfectly reasonable reasons, I've broken up with guys for those very same reasons before.

I can understand why you feel torn about breaking up with a guy who you felt great sexual chemistry with - it was a first for you, and it felt like something special, a good sign. It's much like the first time I ever dated a guy who had almost the exact same obscure tastes in music as me - if we have this rare thing in common between us, we must have EVERYTHING in common and be PERFECTLY compatible, right? no. But fortunately for you, I've dated more guys good at sex than guys who share my tastes in music. I can personally attest that great sex and chemistry alone cannot carry a relationship, but it doesn't have to be just a once-in-a-lifetime kind of connection if you keep trying.

If you want to have relationships, you will. If you don't, no biggie. I know lots of people who just don't bother with dating, they don't even try. I've only known one guy truly incapable of having romantic relationships, and it's because he's a strange kind of introvert that can't stand to be in a one-on-one situation with anyone (even his oldest friends) for any extended period of time.

And if you feel like every relationship ends with you feeling smothered and like you gave up a lot of your freedom, I would have to say a) you seem like an introvert, read up on that and learn how to present this to future boyfriends, and b) you need to speak up sooner about when you don't like something, like their being needy and suffocating you. When you tell a guy you like him but you need to take things slowly, if he's going to be a good match for you, he'll understand and be patient.
posted by lizbunny at 12:27 PM on April 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

He thinks we need to "believe in us"

Ug. I had a guy tell me this when I tried to break up with him at the four month mark. I said no, and he came to my house and punched through a screen when I wouldn't let him in. Real men understand not all relationships will work out.
posted by Monday at 12:57 PM on April 12, 2011

Best answer: He’s telling me I am just scared of being in love and being loved

Ah yes, the plaintive call of the kingus dramaticus, who believes his mates' fear of true love is the reason why they don't stick around, not that he is immature and barely employed and kind of a pest. He wants to put himself in a positive protector position, but the real implication is that this is your fault and you should not listen to yourself because he knows better. Ha! Don't buy this crap.

It takes two flawed people to create this situation. One who proffers excessive attention in the hopes of making a fantasy of romantic love a reality (thus skipping the hard work of real love), and the other who finds the attention flattering and reassuring and uses it to distract themselves from some internal problem. Which is why you are feeling crappy now - it's just the old insecurities you haven't dealt with coming through.

It's not that you are scared of being loved. It's not that you aren't meant for a relationship. It's that you haven't done the deep core work to reclaim that part of yourself that makes you feel sick and starving and crazy. You fall into the trap of being a girlfriend to someone you know isn't right because you like the idea of being loved. You may not know how to accept romantic attention without feeling like you owe something in return (which guys like this use to keep you with them). As long as you are vulnerable this way, you will have a hard time making good relationship choices.

If this rings true for you, you might like Legacy of the Heart. It is a very kind book, and maybe what will help you is kindness towards yourself. And don't go back to this guy. Choose peace over drama - for your kid if nothing else. Be firm. Tell him it's better for you this way, and ask him to respect you and what time you had together by leaving you alone.
posted by griselda at 2:47 PM on April 12, 2011 [11 favorites]

I had a boyfriend like this, what with the whole mental issues (he had borderline personality disorder) and the too much too fast and the telling me that I was scared of love and that I needed therapy to deal with it. Hell, mine even did the "you need to believe in us" garbage when I dumped him, and we had only dated for a couple months. Honestly, I am sincerely wondering if you dated my ex. It all sounds way way too similar. Anyway...

Dumping him was the best thing I have done (even though the last thing he said to me was that I was letting the best thing that ever happened to me leave). It made me feel a bit like you do now, wondering if I was meant for a relationship, but that passed quickly and ultimately I was just glad to be out of a relationship with someone who made me feel unhappy and smothered and glad that I didn't allow his guilt trip and whining to get me to change my mind. It all comes down to the fact that this guy wasn't right for you and the relationship just didn't work.

In summary, the lesson isn't "you aren't meant for a relationship", it is "that particular relationship didn't work".
posted by gwenlister at 3:54 PM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Griselda, mentally add 100 more favorites on my behalf to your insightful answer! Here's one that's in a similar vein I thought might help, but she nailed it.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 8:25 PM on April 12, 2011

Response by poster: I cannot thank you all enough for the kind and thoughtful replies! While it's obvious the real issue is why I can never seem to trust my feelings and decisions without seeking reassurance, these responses helped me immensly to see things clearly..I almost feel like I don't know the girl who posted that question just yesterday! Thank you so very much!
posted by aprilc34 at 8:29 AM on April 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

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