In need of new insights re cross-cultural LDR with issues
July 22, 2011 6:14 AM   Subscribe

A long-distance relationship complicated by issues relating to (his) ex-girlfriends, potentially alarming interaction and cross-cultural issues. Also, wonderful and lovely in most ways. So, since my head and heart are a hodgepodge of contradictory thoughts and feelings, I would like to ask for your help with this. Trailing past discussions has provided some valuable insights, but did not clarify my core issues, so I hope this AskMe is on track.

The story:

An old acquaintance got back in touch with me over Skype, and we were soon talking daily for hours. Little by little, a disembodied romance grew between us which got so steamy that we decided to see each other in person as quickly as possible. Four months after we rediscovered each other, I was on a plane to the other side of the world.

The first few days we were both giddy and bright-eyed. Then, things calmed down. A lot. We lived like an old married couple. This was slightly disconcerting, but I assumed exploration of our new world as a loved-up couple was delayed until the holiday we had planned together. The holiday came and went with no change. On our way back from that holiday it suddenly dawned on me why my unease: ever since I arrived, his most recent ex was ringing on a daily basis, including during the holiday, he had been meeting up with her repeatedly, he was in regular contact with an assortment of other ex-girlfriends, many of our conversations centred around their virtues.

I had known before I arrived that he was still very friendly with most of his exs, and really admired him for it, but hadn’t expected these relationships to regularly impact on our intimacy. This, and our own interaction became more difficult to handle, especially since I was there for 1.5 months only. Earlier he had offered to “change” his interaction with his exes. Now I understood why the offer, which at the time I had found somewhat baffling.

I decided to take him up on it and told him that I cannot deal quite so well with the situation as I had expected. We had a good conversation with him deciding to dial it down a bit with the exes for a while. Also, we decided to make more “couple time” for each other, and planned an outing the very next day.

The next morning we were having coffee when out it came: he doesn’t understand why I would ask him to give up his year-long friends etc. I was flabbergasted. I tried to remind him of WHAT I had said. He insisted that he didn’t understand what my problem was etc, and in this circle we moved around until the tension became too much and I caved. It turns out his recent ex had that morning invited us to dinner so he suddenly freaked out. After a rather maudlin day we go to dinner. Overall, nothing changes much. He insists I don’t return home, so I prolong my stay to a total of just under four months.

Before I ask my questions, I want to add that he seems convinced that he wants to be together with me, he is very declarative towards me, insists I move out there (I am back home now). Also, I find him quite fascinating and wonderful, feel very tenderly towards him, and would really love all of this to go away by finding a handle on things.

My questions are:

1. I am quite inexperienced when it comes to being friends with exes. I am on civil/friendly terms with most exes, but not all. Could those of you who are more familiar with such situations explain how this transition happened for you? I’m after the actual dynamics, rather than a more general “you fall out of love, but still love the person”. How did you make that work? I have been reading in other threads here that it is fairly common to be friends, then GF/BF, break up, back to friends. Why is this scenario not worrisome for a girlfriend? I’m asking because I have such fraternal feelings for my male friends that getting together seems like incest – it would be no more an option than dating my dad. Since that is not the case with everybody – why is it so widely accepted that someone weary of the friend-girlfriend-(close) friend ex is by definition crazy? Isn’t somebody who has crossed that (to me fairly significant) line in somebody’s affection more likely to cross it again? If this thinking is faulty, why so?
2. The thing that worries me most is the affirmation/promise – passive-aggressive negation of affirmation/withdrawal of promise dynamics. Any thoughts on this? How have you managed to overcome it? Is it possible to overcome it?
3. All of these issues are happening against the backdrop of a LDR (we will be together again in cca 4-5 months). Have you ever had an LDR that hit a sticky patch and still survived? How did you go about approaching/discussing problems at a distance?
4. Generalisation warning: Boyfriend and I come from two very different cultures: Anglo-Saxon background (him), Eastern Europe with several years in the Anglo-Saxon west (me). I know that there are cultural differences which can lead to misunderstandings and blocked communication. Is anyone else in a similar situation? How did you manage to overcome this kind of mutual blindness?
5. It has occurred to me that boyfriend and I have quite different views on our relationship (they have probably converged more since the early days described here): I felt we were still very much in the early days, so had an increased need for discovering each other and the world together, he seems to have regarded us as an already established relationship early on in our face-to-face period, and pottered about as though we were past the “exciting” early phase and into a more advanced phase. Does this seem a reasonable interpretation to you? If you have/have had such de-synchronisation with your partner, how did that work for you?

Thank you very much for reading all this, and for your thoughts, and a good weekend to all of us.
posted by miorita to Human Relations (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I was on a plane to the other side of the world....
...the tension became too much and I caved....
...He insists I don’t return home, so I prolong my stay...
...insists I move out there...

So he won't give up intimate daily affectionate contact with former lovers but he expects you to give up your home/family/friends/work/culture to be alone with him. It looks as though you are doing all the work/giving/compromising here. What's in this for you?

2. The thing that worries me most is the affirmation/promise – passive-aggressive negation of affirmation/withdrawal of promise dynamics. Any thoughts on this? How have you managed to overcome it? Is it possible to overcome it?

It's possible to walk away from it. Remember, people are on their best behavior at the beginning of a relationship. This is as good as it will ever be.

...(we will be together again in cca 4-5 months).

Is he coming to see you this time?
posted by headnsouth at 6:28 AM on July 22, 2011 [4 favorites]

Best answer: 1. I have very few friendships where there's literally no attraction at all because most of the things that I like in relationships I also like in friendships. This doesn't mean that I want to hook up with most of my friends; it's just one fairly small factor ("Person is cute! She looks like Marlene Dietrich!") in how I think of them.

2. I'm friends with most of my exes, but all but one of these friendships have weakened over time, mostly because we live in different cities. Generally, after we broke up we didn't talk for a while, then had coffee, then fell into a pattern of hanging out every few weeks. I was housemates with an ex for something like six years very happily - but there was a three or four year gap between breaking up and living together. Being friends was something that we both wanted - a way to recuperate the break-up. Plus, we had all that time together, all those shared stories....the nicest thing about an ex is that you have already been through all the attraction stuff with them. You can talk about relationships on a different level because you don't have to seem charming or keep secrets - they already know a lot about you.

I am friends with my partner's exes - in one case autonomously friends, hanging out without the partner.

3. That said, even when I've been good friends with exes, we haven't talked every day (except my housemate!) and we didn't hang out any more often than with a non-ex friend. It would seem a bit odd to me if someone was prioritizing an ex over all other friends and over a current partner.

4. This relationship sounds a bit shaky to me, what with the long distance and the multiple exes around all the time. I'm not entirely clear about the "exciting parts are over now after four days" thing - if this means that the sexual novelty has worn off after four days, that's not a good sign at all.

5. Are you happy with the rest of the relationships - ie, if you're "living like an old married couple" are you enjoying that? Because if not, this isn't going to work out. If someone can't work up some romantic notions about a new relationship with someone (new! glamorous!) who is visiting for a couple of months, they're unlikely to have romantic notions ever.
posted by Frowner at 6:37 AM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Anglo-Saxon here.

Exes to me fall into two camps - those I'm still really close to, and Other.

"Other" comprises most of them - the ones I've grown well apart from, the ones who I exchange an odd email or facebook message with, and the ones I actually don't get on with anymore (only one of those, thankfully!).

But the ones I'm close to, I regard sort of in the way of an old friend (as opposed to a close friend), or a cousin - that's the level they generally feature in my life. A sort of, speak to them once a month or so, have a catch-up, help them out if they need it. My most serious relationship, it took me many years to adjust the "type" of love I felt for them, but eventually it did metamorphose into something closer to familial love, than romantic. But I sure as hell don't talk to my siblings every day, and they don't butt in when I'm having a date with my honey.

My feelings on this, therefore, are that your sweetheart is letting his exes (and wait, there are more than one of them? is he trying to keep a buffer of them in case you don't work out, to make sure he has a choice who to fall back on?) WAAAAAY too much into his current, present life. I'm closer to my exes than most people I know, and still, daily/weekly contact with them would be too much. Plus, my SO would probably not be comfortable with this, and I care about him more than them.

So yeah. My advice - ask him why he needs them so close. Ask him if he would be ok if it was the other way round. Ask him where the compromising can start.
posted by greenish at 6:38 AM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The first few days we were both giddy and bright-eyed. Then, things calmed down. A lot. We lived like an old married couple.

[E]ver since I arrived, his most recent ex was ringing on a daily basis, including during the holiday, he had been meeting up with her repeatedly, he was in regular contact with an assortment of other ex-girlfriends, many of our conversations centred around their virtues.

[H]e seems convinced that he wants to be together with me, he is very declarative towards me, insists I move out there (I am back home now).

Dude is a narcissist who loves the chase, gets off on being wanted, and loves to be the center of attention, but as soon as that excitement is gone, he gets bored. That's why he keeps his exes in close orbit. If you move out there now, you're likely to be one of them soon.
posted by googly at 6:59 AM on July 22, 2011 [10 favorites]

Best answer: Take my advice with a grain of salt, because I'm not friends with most of my exes, but when I see a guy who has lots of contact with various exes, I think "these girls are backups." I keep exes at arm's distance because we're exes for a reason. I know a lot of people keep exes around so they have a ready relationship to fall back into if the current one doesn't work. I would ask myself what he gets out of talking to these girls every day. Does he need constant female attention/assurance? Red flag.

It also sounds like you're putting a lot into this relationship and not getting much out. If I traveled long distance to see my significant other and he wanted to take me to his ex-girlfriend's house for dinner, I'd take off without saying goodbye. That seems very disrespectful to me.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 7:01 AM on July 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: It has occurred to me that boyfriend and I have quite different views on our relationship...Does this seem a reasonable interpretation to you?

Yes, seems reasonable to me. Just based on your description, you seem a lot more into the relationship than he does. Not that he doesn't like you- he seems to like the attention. But is he really giving you all the things you want/need in a relationship, beyond just being there? Sounds like maybe not.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:04 AM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Firstly, thank yo very much everybody for your replies. I have heard the term thread-sitting in other threads, but don't really know what the conventions are with replying to people (this is my first post), I hope it is OK to respond.

headnsouth, it seems I left out some important information (partly due to the jumble in my head, partly because I was quite verbose as it is). I will be the one more accommodating geography-wise in this relationship because I work on the internet and am therefore more flexible, whilst he is tide down to a job (which is nonetheless less constraining than most). The story as I told it here is a few months old, and has progressed, in rough outline, as follows: I left, we spent four months apart, he came to see me, but stayed less than planned all those many moons ago when I left his country for a variety of reasons. Issues mentioned in my initial post came to a head, so our get-together this time was occasionally tense. But also quite wonderful. However, I realised that without reframing certain things - such as the girlfriend problem, our sometimes differing requirements re. interaction and one or two minor issues I can no longer fully appreciate this relationships. He has returned home now, and we will try to slowly discuss these issues. Problem is I hate confrontations and am quite bad at phrasing my thoughts. Also, his previous reactions make me a bit apprehensive re. such conversations. Hence the request for tips.

Frowner, greenish, Kitty S.: thanks a lot for your input. Again, I want to clarify: my bf seems to spend a lot of his time interacting on the internet. He has good relationships and good friends he sees, but a lot of his socialising takes place on the internet (facebook updates, blogs, forums), and mostly this is not with girlfriends. Also, most of his exes, bar a couple, are far away, some are married, kids, etc so certainly no backups. My worry is less about possible romantic nostalgia or even dalliances (even though there is a tiny shred of that, but really negligeable), and more due to a feeling that I have trouble describing: due to this I feel more like the current favourite in a harem than a girlfriend (but I am most distinctly the favourite). This feeling is what I think might quite possibly be due to cultural constraints.

One more thing which I have failed to make clear: our physical interaction is wonderful and leaves nothing to be desired. Sex is great, and I feel that our bodies are perfectly atuned to each other. I love being in his arms, my scent drives him crazy etc. This is also an important part of our online/phone relationship (well, minus the actual presence). Rather than saying say old-age couple I should probably say "good friends with great sex and physical tenderness". I know for many this sounds like just the thing, but to me, there is something lacking (in the mutual curiosity, intense face-to-face interaction with each other department etc). There is probably a better way of describing this, but I cannot hit upon it. If it helps: he keeps describing himself as an introvert and a geek. I don't have an instinct on what this exactly means and how it contributes to our situation, but from what I have read on these, there might be something there.

Again, thank you everybody for taking time to answer, and I apologise if I am too long and convoluted.
posted by miorita at 7:25 AM on July 22, 2011

Best answer: Maybe the phrase you're looking for is "taken for granted?"

You're falling into the trap that many women do, which is trying to figure out someone you assume is complicated and "fascinating" and must have deep and hidden reasons for his actions. You want to "figure him out" when he's probably actually very simple. He probably just literally does not think about it as much as you do. At all. He doesn't give you enough attention, isn't curious about you, is distracted by other friends easily and seems to care more about his social appearance to them than to you.

Good sex means almost nothing. Seriously, every time I see someone with a relationship question in askme that's like "he doesn't understand me or care about me but the sex is so good" I have to sigh. Good sex should not be your number one priority and is probably a lot more common in most relationships than you think.
posted by Nixy at 7:41 AM on July 22, 2011 [20 favorites]

Best answer: Nixy has it.

I feel bad for you. I wish you could understand that this is way way too much effort and drama for the beginning of any relationship, let a lone one that is long distance. I hope you can get away from this guy. I agree with someone above he is likely a narcissist.

You shouldn't be having any tension or doubts at this stage. Please don't move or spend any more time or money on someone or something that isn't nurturing you or creating total safety and support in your life.

You are more important than this guy's ego or his ex's. Except, for him, his needs and ex's come WELL before you. Is this the primary relationship you want? I think you can do better.
posted by jbenben at 9:11 AM on July 22, 2011 [4 favorites]

Best answer: You had a few days of excitement, because you schlepped halfway around the world to be with him. By incurring such costs on yourself, you were already "conquered", he had evidence of a certain level of commitment from you, so he felt secure enough in the relationship to start dating all his other girlfriends. Demonstrably, you aren't going to dump him over this, because you're already expecting to visit him again. When this type ("narcissist") feels secure in a relationship, it's cheatin' time.

He's not really friends with these women. My default position is one of total and absolute non-suspicion of m/f friendships, but it's pretty obvious (to someone outside the situation, not caught up in all the emotions and detail of it) that these women are his harem, not his friends.

Or maybe they aren't, these women really are his friends, but this is what it's going to be like to be in a relationship with him. It certainly isn't going to get better.

I'm sorry to be so very very brutal, but I think he's being more brutal. He doesn't sound fascinating or wonderful, just shallow, which can be a very very difficult thing for a deep thinker to comprehend. He certainly does not good enough for a thoughtful, open-hearted and loyal person like you.

I know that won't make you feel any better. I'm sorry. But if you try to look at him like he's a great guy, you'll waste your life. You may feel bad for a long time, I'm not suggesting you can switch off your feelings just like that, but I would suggest that you strongly consider dumping him now even though you don't feel like it.
posted by tel3path at 9:46 AM on July 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: When people show you who they are, believe them. He is showing you in many ways that he doesn't actually care about you very much. The fact that you two also happen to have great sexual chemistry does not change this, and will not change it in the future.
posted by scody at 11:04 AM on July 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Wow, based on what I had read in other threads, I was actually expecting a lot of people telling me that I should relax about the ex-girlfriends and other issues, and was quite apprehensive admitting my inability to deal with them. I want to thank everybody for taking their time to throw some light on what to everybody else seems quite evident (except, apparently, to me...).

Nixy - you might have a point. I do sometimes have trouble resisting the temptation to let my speculative mind run away with me, and there might be a lot of that in play here.

Jbenben, tel3path and scody, I have come across your answers on other threads, and remembered your opinions as being considered, thoughtful and kid. Your words have special weight.

hal_c_on - I was coming close to thinking something along those lines myself. Now I've edged that much closer...

So it seems I need rather a lot of reframing, just not in the direction I was thinking. I will keep reading this whilst I begin drafting a possible goodbye letter...
posted by miorita at 3:17 PM on July 22, 2011

Best answer: I've done multiple LDR and this is a dynamic that won't end well.

You deserve someone who wants you as much as you want him. This isn't it.

Good luck with the letter.
posted by guster4lovers at 4:56 PM on July 22, 2011

Best answer: I just re-read your original post a little and something occured to me: did he break up with someone to be with you? Maybe thinking that this new relationship would fulfill him in ways she didn't?

Could be way off, but I've SO been through that and when it became clear I didn't magically solve his problems, he cut off contact with me - without even a goodbye. It was the hardest thing I've ever been through.

I hope that's not it.
posted by guster4lovers at 5:02 PM on July 22, 2011

Response by poster: guster4lovers, no he didn't - his relationship with his most recent ex finished over 2 years before we got back in touch, so more than three years now. Also, I am not sure that him wanting to sort his problems and me failing him in this respect is the answer - he is very self-contained, as, normally, am I, even if right now I find myself unravelling left, right and centre, as it were.

In fact, I think this is closer to what the problem is: he has everything organised in neat little boxes, and things need to be just so for him to keep a steady ship. I have my own little box in his mind - a big and sunny one, which he has lovingly prepared and maintained; the others have their own boxes. I think he is genuinly puzzled and pained by my not seeing just how separate those boxes are and how unthreatening to each other. I figure his aggrieved reaction to suggestions/requests of mine seems irrational to him and threatens his well-organised, but (maybe) rather precarious balance. From what he has told me, some of the exes (now friends) have broken up with him for similar reasons (this kind of modularisation seeps into his whole life), also, most family members, friends, acquaintances have remarked upon this, finding it variously endearing, upsetting, annoying etc. I personally tend to be quite OK with this, and may not have even taken much note of it had it not unwittingly exploded in relation to the girlfriend issue and the subsequent argument dynamics I mentioned above.

As you can see, I am still see-sawing on this, and procrastinating with the draft. It will probably take me a few days to finish, and I will keep returning to this thread - it was, in some ways, an incredible shock, and re-arranged my thinking on this considerably. Again, thank you everybody, and please keep your insights coming. I cannot tell you how useful all of you have been to me, even if I feel rather sad at the moment.

guster4lovers, I am so very sorry that you had to go through something like that, it truly sends your whole life and being into a spin. I hope that you emerged from it...
posted by miorita at 5:23 PM on July 22, 2011

Best answer: Please see if either of these threads are familiar to you. I've commented in both but there's lots of good info from other posters.
posted by headnsouth at 8:04 PM on July 22, 2011

Best answer: Dear miorita,

I think you shouldn't waste too much energy on that goodbye letter. I'm worried you'll over-think this and inadvertently give him a toe-hold to coax you back. I bet if you didn't tell him exactly what you were thinking and why, you'd be shocked at his non-answers to your choice to break-up.

Based on your updates (and I think a lot of your insights into the guy will be proved erroneous - I believe you are the deep thinker here, not him) I'm pretty confident he'll make a few grand gestures to win you back, and then he'll quit. If you don't give him any clues (by over-explaining your position) he will make grand gestures that fall flat.

As it is, I want you to re-examine everything he's ever done and said. Go ahead, tell me that ultimately it isn't always about him and his comfort? It is in fact always about him, isn't it? Yep. I'm so sorry.

The good news is you've now identified what doesn't work. Look for the same zing and passion with someone else, coupled with a demeanor that makes it all about the both of you, together. People like that are out there. Promise.


posted by jbenben at 8:43 PM on July 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I see this differently than a lot of folks in the thread. As I see it you have three problems, with varying degrees of seriousness. The fact that the exes exist doesn't have to be a dealbreaker, as I see it; his faithfulness depends on his commitment to you, not his lack of potential sex partners.

The "not enough excitement" could be a red flag, or it could just be some kind of interpersonal/intercultural gap. Did you talk to him about it?

And the question of keeping his word is a very important red flag. Did you talk to him about it? Does he see how that could make you doubtful about the relationship?

Because the thing is, you sound as if you really like the guy, and if you do, it's worth at least talking these things over. "What will life be like if I move to you? Will you keep your word when you make me a promise? Will we be able to moon over each other like newly-together people, because that is important to me? Will you respect my discomforts when your lifestyle bothers me, and can we find compromises we both can live with?"

You can still write him a goodbye letter after you've had that conversation, if need be.
posted by hungrytiger at 12:51 AM on July 23, 2011

Best answer: Just to chime in that as an Aspie, this guy doesn't strike me as very Aspie. I could be wrong, of course. But "modularisation" is more the kind of thing you see from guys who, well, have multiple relationships going.

He doesn't sound like someone who has trouble being able to stand his own emotions, or express them. He sounds like someone who has fairly shallow emotions.

Whatever's causing it, though, you sound like a child unwrapping a Christmas present and finding a toothbrush. Do you want toothbrushes for Christmas? Because that's what he's offering, regardless of the thought processes behind it.
posted by tel3path at 3:11 AM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Dear tel3path - that made me laugh! Quite something, today of all days. To explain why I too had the Aspie thought (and it is strange you mentioned it - I had the thought but discarded it): his small-talk is nonexistent. He is exclusively preoccupied with 4 topics, which he obsesses over every single day. Upon meeting my parents, which he had been very excited about and talked about a lot, he proceeded to hold forth on three of his favourite topics. My parents thought him very very sweet and found him endearing, and my mum constantly refers to him as the "boy" (he is 34). He does stimulate that protective feeling, as he does seem a bit clueless much of the time...

Thank you everybody again. jbenben, I too was thinking about keeping it short and straight, mostly because explanations etc don't seem to penetrate. He instantly goes on alert when anything is brought up that he interprets as a criticism, and becomes like a ping-pong machine, throwing everything back at you, magnified. Also, you are right - he might end up making some grand gesture which deflates half-way through. Anyway, I currently have three draft letters going: the long, the medium, and the short. More than anything else, I think I am writing them for myself.

hungrytiger - I do, for very obvisou reasons, really like your idea, but am not sure any more how to do it. Do you have any suggestions? I mean, how do you get someone like this to not just make a promise that they will honour promises (with foreseeable consequences)? What can he do to show that this cycle is broken? And you are right, I really really like this guy (a couple of months back I would have said love, but now...). I am giving myself a few days to write the letter, so will be still weighing things up, but by the end of this coming week I want to be done with this either way. Feels strange to set a deadline for something like this, but this is tearing me up inside, and I really really want my heartbeat back to normal, and my limbs to not feel like pulp, and for the semi-panic attacks to stop.
posted by miorita at 4:01 AM on July 23, 2011

Best answer: I would talk with him about it, viz:

"The more I think about it, the worse I feel about [that day when we had dinner at your ex's house]. It's not just the issue of how much we hang out with your exes -- though I think that's something we need to deal with as a couple -- but the issue of me being able to trust you. If I'm going to move to Anglo-Saxonland to live with you, I need to know that I can trust you to do what you say."

Then I would wait to hear what he has to say. Does he understand your feelings? Does he take accountability for his actions? What does he suggest you guys do in the future?

If he were like "You're right, I acted badly, and I do want you to be able to trust me, what can I do to make it up to you" then I would move forward with the relationship, albeit more tentatively (i.e. not moving to Anglo-Saxonland immediately). I would let him rebuild trust over the course of time.

How would that trust get rebuilt? By him living up to his word in the future. By the two of you discussing what's acceptable and what's not acceptable inside your relationship. By the two of you learning to negotiate problems in a way that gets both of your needs met.
posted by hungrytiger at 10:17 PM on July 23, 2011

p.s. : I mean, the outcome of that conversation could be TERRIBLE, but it's like a relationship version of Occam's Razor. The worst outcome is that you have a terrible conversation and break up over the phone. The best outcome is that you start working out what it'd be like to have a relationship that meets your needs.

To me, it seems like the conversation is worth having.

Good luck miorita!
posted by hungrytiger at 10:23 PM on July 23, 2011

Best answer: I did make my way out of it. It took longer than I thought possible, but I did. And in the long-term, it was probably for the best that we parted ways. He was way to secretive and had problems with emotional intimacy.

I wish that I had your self-reflection and willingness to take a step back when red flags emerged. And on a lot of these askme's about relationship problems, the OP just ignores the red flags until you want to BANG THEIR HEAD AGAINST A BRICK WALL UNTIL THEY LISTEN TO EVERYONE.

That said, I hate to stop anyone from being with someone they care about and I admire your candor and ability to see this situation through a less emotional lens. I hope you guys can work this out and he can start being more open with you in a way that makes you feel more cared about and loved.

Talk to him. Listen to hungrytiger and take some of that phrasing - it's good. And post an update!
posted by guster4lovers at 9:46 PM on July 25, 2011

Response by poster: Now that the situation I wrote about is resolved, I'd like to thank everybody who posted, and to leave a quick update.

As is probably predictable from the thread itself, we did break up. I ended up sending the long letter, which turned out to be a bad idea for a variety of reasons, just as jbenben predicted (I ended up expanding on hungrytiger's excellent suggestions until I had a bit of a short-story going. It was counterproductive). At the point of break-up, we had never once managed to actually speak of the things which bothered me, or rather, I would try to bring them up, and he would never, not once, not even as we were breaking up, pick up the ball, at least to apologize for them. Meanwhile, I am very sad, but with a strange sadness, as though I had woken up from the most beautiful and enticing and vivid dream. I am also angry, confused, hurt, but FURIOUS with myself for having let this go on and on and on under a variety of pretexts (of which the cross-cultural misunderstandings angle was just one).

But the light finally struck this sluggish brain, and that happened with a good deal of help from you. Thank you all again.
posted by miorita at 1:49 PM on August 21, 2011

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