seeking new relationship advice
July 30, 2011 8:20 PM   Subscribe

extreme opposite personalities and ages, one fell in love with other unrequitedly, don't know what to do...

I'm in my late 20's and have never been in a serious relationship before, and I can count the girls I've slept with on one hand. It's not that I can't get women, it's just that I'm pretty introverted and am getting a Ph.D. in a highly technical and socially boring field which requires a lot of time on my part. Neither was I too interested in relationships for about six years, because while I have had opportunities, I was always too into my work.

four months ago I met a woman in her mid-to-late 30's. We were friends first, then I reluctantly started sleeping with her casually (although not on the first night), when one night I had to stay at her place because I'd gotten dead drunk. In the four months we've known each other, we've gone on vacation together, saw various shows and musicals, realized we have the same taste in music and movies and food, and I stay over at her apartment almost daily and we cook together. All these things make for a loving relationship. However, I don't really like her, and never really have, partly because of her wild and unimaginable sexual past which she revealed to me as a friend, partly because she doesn't know how to dress, nor is classy in any sense of the word, partly because she just isn't my type.

She has told me she's madly in love with me (I give her massages and am generally thoughtful, also, the sex is good and frequent), but I just don't feel anything for her and I never have, and I've always been very forthcoming with my lack of romantic interest in her. Lately this lack of feeling has devolved into contempt and a lack of respect (especially when I remember her wild sexual past, though maybe I'm not justified in this), and I'm just plain unhappy. I notice that unlike with other girls I've dated, I never flirt with her, and the conversation is never very good, and I almost never hold hands with her in public. I just feel and always have felt that she is the exact opposite of who I would want to be with.

She doesn't ask me to stay over every night, but she texts me everyday, and tries to make plans with me (stuff I'd find really fun, if it weren't for the fact that I'd be with her), and the sex is hard to refuse, and I'm going through a phase where I'm not really interested in my work anymore and my social life is pretty non-existent. So it's a lot easier for me to go over to her place than to create my own space. I'm not sure if I'm becoming romantically attached, but certainly I'm becoming emotionally attached, in a negative sense, considering how much I let this situation bother me. Most guys would love having a woman cook with and support you and be willing to sleep with you several times a day, travel with you, all while letting you date other women, but I'm coming to realize this situation is not for me. I hate the silence and the awkwardness that occurs whenever we're not having sex.

We've talked about this, and she's clear she wants me in her life, and that we should be a couple, but she isn't pressuring me. I want to make a clean break of this, but I'm not sure if it will be painful - it could be very painful, or not at all. I've cleanly gotten over girls I've dated who I thought I wouldn't get over, but I've spent the most time with her out of all of them. She obviously can sense that I'm unhappy and uncertain at best, but she still wants me at round, and is convinced she'll never find anyone as amazing as me.

I don't know what to do and this is bothering me quite a bit now. Any general comments would be appreciated. I don't have any real support network, so anything anyone writes would really be appreciated.
posted by decpmt to Human Relations (70 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
the sex is hard to refuse,

Refuse. There's nothing she can do to improve this situation; you know where she stands. You don't want to be in this relationship. It's your responsibility to tell her, and to stop leading her on. It could be painful - certainly for her, likely for you, too - but it's still the best thing to do. You can be honest and genuine and sensitive when you make the "clean break," but it does need to be made, for both of your happiness and health.
posted by Miko at 8:24 PM on July 30, 2011 [6 favorites]

However, I don't really like her, and never really have

We've talked about this, and she's clear she wants me in her life, and that we should be a couple, but she isn't pressuring me. I want to make a clean break of this, but I'm not sure if it will be painful - it could be very painful, or not at all.

Seriously? You are making me kind of angry and I'm a guy; I can only imagine how this would make a woman feel. Well, I don't know if I have to imagine.

How do I put this...ah, yes: man the #%&k up and grow a pair. Break up with this woman already and stop stringing her along.
posted by dubitable at 8:29 PM on July 30, 2011 [80 favorites]

Yeah, you haven't given any reason why you'd want to continue this, and it's not good for her either.
posted by sweetkid at 8:30 PM on July 30, 2011

nor is classy in any sense of the word

You know what else is not classy? Stringing someone along who's in love with you, who you particularly don't even like just to use them for sex. That's pretty low and you have the audacity to judge her for her sexual past. Wow, just wow.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 8:31 PM on July 30, 2011 [186 favorites]

Break up with her. Rip the band aid off. It might be difficult to do, I don't know, but you need to man up and do it because it's clearly the right decision.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:31 PM on July 30, 2011

This is painful and angering to read, as a woman. Honestly I don't even know where to start with this. I'll just say one thing:

break up with her.

posted by bearette at 8:33 PM on July 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

"Most guys would love having a woman cook with and support you and be willing to sleep with you several times a day, travel with you, all while letting you date other women"

Not it they couldn't stand the woman and knew she was in love with them. Most men have more respect for themselves than that.

This is bothering you because its a shitty thing to do. Both of you can do better than this. You're not going to suddenly wake up and be ok with this because you know deep down what you're doing is wrong. I know that because you've asked this question.

Break up with her and leave her alone.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 8:35 PM on July 30, 2011 [4 favorites]

Of course it's going to be painful. But the longer you drag this out, the more painful it's going to be... it's already gone on far too long.

If there is any kindness in your heart, break it off NOW. You seem to think you're doing her some kind of favor by sticking around, let me assure you that you most certainly are not.
posted by keep it under cover at 8:35 PM on July 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Please break up with her. Please. There is no compassion in what you're doing and you need to set her free to find someone that just even likes her.
posted by houndsoflove at 8:35 PM on July 30, 2011 [7 favorites]

and is convinced she'll never find anyone as amazing as me.

Somehow, I think that she can do better than some douche who is just using her for sex. Break up with her and don't have contact with her. She'll thank you for it in the long run.

Also, people's past sex lives are just that: in the past. You don't have to accept that, but try not to judge them for it. You're not revealing yourself to be any shining gem at the moment.
posted by sugarbomb at 8:49 PM on July 30, 2011 [43 favorites]

It's not that I can't get women, it's just that I'm pretty introverted

You sure? Because you sound really unhappy that you have no social network. I think you need to reevaluate your strategy in that area.

We've talked about this, and she's clear she wants me in her life, and that we should be a couple, but she isn't pressuring me.

She sounds stable and realistic and like she wants you to figure out what makes you happy.

She has told me she's madly in love with me
She obviously can sense that I'm unhappy and uncertain at best, but she still wants me at round, and is convinced she'll never find anyone as amazing as me.

Not to be dismissive of her, but these are sort of just "those things people say" - I get the sense that she's stroking your ego a little bit on purpose more than she's completely 100% head over heels when she says these things. That might make it easier.

I want to make a clean break of this, but I'm not sure if it will be painful - it could be very painful, or not at all. I've cleanly gotten over girls I've dated who I thought I wouldn't get over, but I've spent the most time with her out of all of them.

So the only thing keeping you from breaking up is that you think you won't get over her? You will. And she'll get over you.
posted by Nixy at 8:51 PM on July 30, 2011

What you are doing to her is terrible. You're sending her every signal that you want to be in this relationship, that you you like her, that you want a relationship with her, but the truth of it is you despise her (for her sexual past? What the hell, dude?). This is so beyond unfair to her that it's disappearing over the horizon. Break up with her and let her be with someone who respects her as a person, not as as some sort of Pez dispenser of treats and outings.
posted by PussKillian at 8:51 PM on July 30, 2011 [13 favorites]

I think that she can probably do better. Please break up with her so she can find that someone else.
posted by k8t at 8:53 PM on July 30, 2011 [4 favorites]

Please break up with her so that she can find someone who likes and respects her, and so you can learn to treat people with more compassion than this.
posted by scody at 8:57 PM on July 30, 2011 [14 favorites]

You *are* in a relationship with her, whatever labels may or may not apply. You're relating with her, and you've got a[n], if informal, relationship already going. She's being awfully nice. But, I never did put much weight on nice. Kind is another thing entirely. But, anyway.

For certain people who are deeply engaged in work and tend to "burrow in" that way, to the detriment/neglect of a social life, it can be easy to get involved in all-or-nothing sexual liaisons. And the emotions can, um, tend to desiccate.

It sounds like you need friends. Having sex with someone does not a friend make. You're experiencing cognitive dissonance because on the one hand you need friends desperately, and one of your main friends ended up being someone with whom you slept. And you're clearly out of friend territory with this woman. You also [said yourself that you] regard her with some measure of contempt and disregard. Not good. Those awkward silences? She can feel your contempt.

You sound really cold and the big flashing neon sign clue is that you already know you don't like her. Examples:
* However, I don't really like her, and never really have, partly because of her wild and unimaginable sexual past which she revealed to me as a friend, partly because she doesn't know how to dress, nor is classy in any sense of the word, partly because she just isn't my type.; and
* I hate the silence and the awkwardness that occurs whenever we're not having sex.


Since your emotional repertoire is so foreshortened, I'd say you're afraid of any sort of feeling. Pain or otherwise. Even, say, this: I want to make a clean break of this, but I'm not sure if it will be painful - it could be very painful, or not at all.

This is what people risk when they let other people into their lives: being changed, transformed. Affected. Try learning how to care about other people over solely getting your needs met through them.

Learn how to make friends. That, too, takes work, and can be painful. And end it. You're basically saying, "If I end things with her, I'll actually have to feel my loneliness and lack of friends and she distracts me from having to feel my feelings." They're not going anywhere, and even if you continue engaging with her in this way, the contempt isn't going away, nor the loneliness. Don't use people as distractions. She's not one.

A quote to end:
"The second note lies obscurely under a streak of ketchup, or catsup, but the third is electric. It says: 'Reversion to pleasure-pain basis,' and this is from some observation of another time. A number of years ago I had some experience with being alone. For two succeeding years I was alone each winter for eight months at a stretch in the Sierra Nevada mountains on Lake Tahoe. I was a caretaker on a summer estate during the winter months when it was snowed in. And I made some observations then. As the time went on I found that my reactions thickened. ordinarily I am a whistler. I stopped whistling. I stopped conversing with my dogs, and I believe that subtleties of feeling began to disappear until finally I was on a pleasure-pain basis. Then it occurred to me that the delicate shades of feeling, of reaction, are the result of communication, and without such communication they tend to disappear.
—John Steinbeck (Travels with Charley)
posted by simulacra at 9:02 PM on July 30, 2011 [25 favorites]

To clear something up, you are not "extreme opposites" in ages if your less than 10 years apart. I came in here thinking you were Harold and she was Maude.

Nthing that you need to make a clean break. Don't treat people this way unless you want to be thought an asshole.
posted by rtha at 9:04 PM on July 30, 2011 [23 favorites]

"ordinarily I am a whistler" to "Ordinarily I am a whistler."
posted by simulacra at 9:05 PM on July 30, 2011

Also, I now see that you noted that this is a new relationship, and called it as much.
posted by simulacra at 9:06 PM on July 30, 2011

You're less than 10 years apart, is what I meant to type. Thanks, autocorrect.
posted by rtha at 9:08 PM on July 30, 2011

Wow, I am not sure if you are trolling but will assume good faith here. As mentioned above, you ARE in a relationship with her. It is not a good relationship for her and in the way you write not for you either.

Before it turns to hate on either side, please break up with her. Do not dilly dally, but break up and have no further contact. Time is precious to a woman, more so than a man (cruel, generalizing, but true). She and you are wasting each other's time. Both of you should have better: She should be with someone who cares for her and you with someone who you do not feel such negative emotions towards.

*sigh* It should not just be about entropy and rationalization. Put in the energy and recalibrate the system.
posted by jadepearl at 9:10 PM on July 30, 2011

You both sound like you're using each other, but for different reasons. Stop that.

Make the clean break. It will probably hurt once you realize how much you miss having someone around, especially someone who loves you, even if you don't like her.

Find a therapist, so that you have a support network 'cause you really need one.

If you want to talk, mefimail me.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:14 PM on July 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

[folks, ease off on the pile-on. give constructive advice or just keep moving. thank you.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:18 PM on July 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I hate to tell you this, but is IMPOSSIBLE to spend that much alone-time with someone you don't get a long with. So why be so mean about her looks, demeanor and history? it's OK to get along with someone and yet not fall in love.

It's unnecessary for you to hold disrespect for this person in this situation. You were free to decline her advances and direct invitations from the beginning. Yo.

After you do the right thing here and break up with this woman, I think you need some time off from dating.

You have some... well... emotionally immature attitudes about relationships. And women. Mostly women, actually.

Maybe come back here and read what you wrote in a month or two? Look at your sentiments with a fresh eye and see what they say about you as a person.

Just an idea.
posted by jbenben at 9:24 PM on July 30, 2011 [9 favorites]

I wonder if your prudishness over her past numbers isn't so much that she's slept with an unacceptable number (which is a ridiculous concept, IMO) but that you feel insecure about how few partners YOU have had and are projecting onto her your unhappiness over that.

Stop sleeping with her because it is not kind to her and it makes you into what is generally considered a douche.

You need to look into your judgmental tendencies over your partners' past sexual lives. The older you get, the more of a past your partners will have. It's on you to accept that, because if not you're going to find yourself dismissing more and more women as not being 'classy' enough.
posted by Windigo at 9:28 PM on July 30, 2011 [8 favorites]

By continuing to have sex with her, keep in mind that this is all now becoming part of YOUR sexual past, and you will be judged by others on that basis, just as you're judging her now. Are you comfortable with that?
posted by hermitosis at 9:34 PM on July 30, 2011 [5 favorites]

One day, if you're lucky, someone you love won't judge you for the attitude you had about women in your late twenties.

If you can't give her up for her sake, give her up because your contempt is poisonous to your own well-being and emotional growth.
posted by thejoshu at 9:35 PM on July 30, 2011 [7 favorites]

You know what you call a woman with "a wild and unimaginable sexual past"?


Please stop using this woman and go find someone equally judgmental so y'all can be unhappy together.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:37 PM on July 30, 2011 [50 favorites]

though maybe I'm not justified in this

Wow. My first guess was that someone was stoned and bored and wanted to stir up shit. But maybe it's not true. Maybe you're being honest. I suppose that's something.

So you share a lot of interests, do fun things (or did), cook together, and have "good and frequent" sex. But you have contempt for her because she had a sex life before she met you, and she doesn't dress up to your standard. So you are shallow. But that's not against the law or anything. It is wrong, however, to stay with someone for whom you have contempt.

My guess is you feel justified somewhat because at least you told her you have no interest in her "romantically". It's also my guess that you have some weird ideas about what "romantically" means, but you're young. You may yet learn.

In the meantime stop being an ass and let her find someone who actually likes her because she is kind and loving and likes good and frequent sex - despite her choice of clothing and level of "classiness" (wtf does that even mean? Do you think she is ignorant, or tactless, or decorates her apartment in a way that embarrasses you, or what?). And then you can go and reflect on what a healthy loving relationship might look like, and why everyone deserves one.
posted by Glinn at 10:07 PM on July 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

And she does have someone amazing in you, in that you are fulfilling some need she has to have a person in her life who she takes care of. She actually sounds like she's getting what she wants out of the relationship, and you're the guy who feels too lost to let go of something that isn't working for you and find a situation and a person who would suit you better. You do deserve that, you know. You don't just have to fall into things, or let them choose you. Your assessment that is isn't working for you is accurate, and yet you seem caught up with the fact that it *should* be working for you, with all the cooking and the buying and the sex.

And As Long as you focus on your contempt for her, you're avoiding your own issue, which is having the decisiveness and confidence to move away from what you don't want (because someone else wanting you is never enough to make up for the fact that you don't want them, nor is the nebulous idea that you should want what they are offering) and towards what you do want.

The world is big. Go choose someone or something, rather than just being something chosen.
posted by anitanita at 10:11 PM on July 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

Once upon a time I had a fuck buddy who I didn't really care for, didn't want to introduce to my friends, was aboveboard about "this will never be serious, we are only fuck buddies, nothing more", etc. The relief I felt when I broke it off was amazing. Knowing that you don't need to spend time with someone you don't like is fantastic. If I could go back, the only thing I would do differently is not get involved in that kind of thing in the first place, or at least break it off as soon as I realized what I got into. Yes, breaking up is going to be messy, but it will be worth it, seriously, I promise, just do it already.

Also, I've tempered my post to comply with Jessamyn's request that we not pile on too much. I wasn't exactly a winner at that point in my life, but...
posted by anaelith at 10:14 PM on July 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

You're worried about it being painful if you make a clean break. Painful for her, or painful for you? Is it just the bother actually breaking up that's annoying you? Because that's not a good excuse.

As much as it would suck to hear that someone I had feelings for wasn't in love with me in return, it would suck about ten thousand times worse to find out that a man I'd been spending so much time with - including vacations! - didn't even like me. At all. That he had contempt for me as an individual and stuck around's easy sex? The humiliation would just be unimaginable, and it would seriously make me question what's wrong with me that I deserve to be treated that way.

Even if you don't tell her - and I hope you don't tell her how little you think of her as a person - she's going to figure it out. You can't hide something like that. I strongly urge you to do the compassionate thing and let this woman go. She deserves so much better than what you're giving her.
posted by Salieri at 10:33 PM on July 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't really like her, and never really have, partly because of her wild and unimaginable sexual past

have never been in a serious relationship before

After I read the first bit I quoted, I went looking for the second. From what I've seen those are correlated (though there are confounding variables, like youth and the romantic ideals that go with youth).

You sound judgmental, and it sounds like that doesn't bother her. In one way, you are lucky at the relationship stability this creates. Does she know how much disgust you have for her?

If your goal is to be kind, I'd put them in this order:
- just break up with her without being specific as to the reasons (by far the best)
- tell her how much disgust you have so that (I pray!) she will break up with you
- break up with her while explaining your disgust
- keep wasting her time
posted by salvia at 10:38 PM on July 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

There was this one girl I went out with once. I super liked her. When she broke up with me, she said she liked hanging out with me, but I didn't really believe it. Maybe she did, since we did enough of it. But she never introduced me to her friends.

I didn't care. She could have hated my guts. But as long as we had sex, I was a happy camper.

Just a datapoint.
posted by trevyn at 10:45 PM on July 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Look, I'll just semi-ignore the relationship thing to start with: I want to say that this isn't actually your real problem. Adding 2 and 2 together, you say that you're a huge introvert who hasn't socialized a lot or really has an easy time connecting with different people... especially non-geeky-introvert people (I'm guessing) who are maybe "slutty", extraverted, free-spirited, etc (whatever). I know what that's like, actually. Even though I'm a relatively empathetic female, I still feel I'm still a social outcast, an extreme introvert, grew up focusing mainly on my interests and looking down on girls who were fixated on make-up & boys & parties. Even though I know that's crazy and I was just bitter, even though I myself am a girl, even though if I let myself, I can get pretty incensed at your sexism-- I know what it's like. It's funny how the geek boys look down on the cheerleaders ("contempt" is only recent? are you sure?), but guess who many of you guys sleep with anyway (and why? is it just easiest?)... but that's another issue.

So. The problem is the social isolation. Being isolated means you worry she's your only easy source right now, and besides, (as you said), you're not as distracted as you used to be. You're waking up to the larger world outside your work, and that's good. Being worried, being unsure: this is the kick in the pants I'm pretty sure you actually need. Making it easier on yourself will not ultimately be good for you. Hanging out with someone you can't stand is also not good for you, though honestly, in the long-term you it is a good idea to recalibrate some of these assumptions you're carrying around. For instance, you seem like a rational person, yet you blame this woman for having an attitude you're displaying yourself; I mean, I get it if you're in love with her but she's using you and has a past full of casual sex, but you're in a casual sex relationship. When you're open to that as an idea, you end up having lots of them, because they're all casual. It then logically follows that if she was different (more 'serious'), you wouldn't want her and would never have gotten together with her in the first place (and in fact now that she's slightly changed in attitude, you do indeed no longer want her). If you got with her 'cause she was convenient, you have absolutely no room for blaming her for having also found other guys convenient in the past; it's not like you have any right to expect to be special when you're only providing her the same thing any Joe Schmo could. So please, think about the hypocrisy involved.

It's not as hard to make friends as it seems. There must be some sort of social outlets available in school; I know you're in a grad program and it's no longer the same feeling as being an undergrad if you go to some of the club events or whatever, but give it a whirl. There's also Craigslist Platonic. But seriously, do something fun-- go to some of these activities she suggested with some new people. Like, I dunno, if there's no club already present, you could start one-- you could even talk to a professor to get some names for students who're likely to be interested. I dunno, there are always options.

I actually don't think geeks should exist in a bubble and only socialize with other geeks, but consider doing that for awhile. Try finding a nerdy girl who's willing to be your friend (and, I mean, don't have sex with her). See how that feels. It's actually not that hard; we're not that rare. When you're sure you respect her 100%, go on a date. I mean, as an experiment. When you think you might feel something, only then have sex. At that point, when you are finally 100% non-slutty yourself, you may discover you've found what you've been looking for.
posted by reenka at 10:49 PM on July 30, 2011 [4 favorites]

It also sounds like your anxiety and dissatisfaction with this situation is affecting the rest of your life - social, professional, etc. This is a great time to start looking into therapy. You do need some impartial insight into how to better balance your life and find appropriate partners for you.
posted by sweetkid at 10:51 PM on July 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Most have focused on what you should do to do right by her: break up with her and rid her of yourself. Yes. Absolutely.

But for yourself? Therapy, friend. You've got some pretty unhealthy views that have permitted you to cultivate this bad relationship. If you do ever hope to have a healthy relationship, you're going to need to work on that.

It's said that familiarity breeds contempt. Relationships don't succeed because they defy this rule; they succeed in spite of it.
posted by jph at 10:52 PM on July 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

So she's an unclassy, unfashionable whore . . . but you're the one still with her. So what does that make you?

You're being cruel. Stop sleeping with her. Stop speaking with her. Tell her it's over. And go get some therapy, because no human being should be using another human being in this way.
posted by schroedinger at 11:53 PM on July 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm going to suggest something different here. I'm going to offeR you some questions to think about. This your first relationship right? Ask yourself why you are so very angry with this woman? Did she disappoinr or betray you? Are your expectations or ideals being betrayed by being with her? Does/did her willingness to have a relatively low emotional and commitment threshold relationship feel disappointing and make you angry with her?

Rather than break up completly why don't you take a break and figure out what going on . Perhaps this is all more complicated than it seems.
posted by zia at 12:12 AM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

Well... whoah... if this is an earnest post... eek. The first thing I notice is that you'd like to believe you are opposites, when you really aren't, and that must be a big part of the reason you ended up together. To start, each of you have been willing to accept a relationship that is far from what you really want out of convenience, or laziness, or inertia or – I'm not sure what. Fear? Low self-esteem?

You deem her without "class," yet are you exhibiting any yourself? You think her sexual history is something terrible, yet how many of your ideal future-mates would look upon this relationship of yours as a good sign of a sexually and emotionally healthy and honorable person? Wouldn't they also feel that using somebody (and being used) in this cold way was a kind of "unimaginable sexual past"? Perhaps you have so much contempt for this woman because you see so much of yourself in her? That is the way it usually goes.

Do break up, with the excuse that you need to devote yourself to your studies (for the love of Gods, don't share what you've said here), DO NOT sleep with her again after some time passes and you get horny. Please, please, please. Definitely see a therapist yesterday.

When I first read this post, all I wanted to say is that I hope you find the person you deserve, but after cooling down a bit, let me say more kindly, I hope you become the person you deserve to be. You will need a little help with that, hence the therapist suggestions. I wish you luck, and the best possible outcome.
posted by taz at 1:55 AM on July 31, 2011 [6 favorites]

You sound conflicted -- on one hand saying it's a loving relationship with good and frequent sex, cooking, vacations, musicals etc (which sounds like a romantic comedy) -- and on the other hand saying you are very unhappy and don't like her at all. I don't know quite what to make of this. I kind of think that maybe you do like her in many ways, but that you can't accept it?

Whatever's going on, though, like the last thousand commenters I think you should break up with her. I think you should make it complete, the breakup, say "it's not you, it's me," refuse to give details (dear God don't tell her what you think of her clothes and sexual past), and not be friends afterwards. I think that is the best thing to do for both of you.

Meanwhile, decpmt, it sounds like you really need a social network. It sounds like you've been inward-focused/work-focused for a long time, and haven't developed the same friendships/empathy/people-sense that you might have done otherwise. Can you break up with her, and then join some clubs or groups? Maybe some Meetups, or 12-step groups, or a religious organization, or a cooking club, or community theater? I think that community involvement could be really good for you, for two reasons. One is that you seem to have some pretty rigid ideas about how people are supposed to be (i.e., it's one thing not to like another person's dress sense, and a totally different thing to be contemptous towards them because of it) -- and maybe having more friends could loosen you up a bit. The other reason is just for you. There is no reason you should be lonely, and I hope you could find people -- both platonic friends and sweethearts -- with whom you could take vacations, cook, go to musicals with and generally enjoy yourself.

Good luck, decpmt.
posted by hungrytiger at 2:04 AM on July 31, 2011

Normally I would be sympathetic, but you're way off the grid with this one.

She: has a wild and unimaginable sexual past, which you hold against her.

You: are using a woman who is in love with you for sex.

Just chew on that for a few minutes. Then stop sleeping with her.
posted by auto-correct at 2:09 AM on July 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

This might sound overly simplistic, but: put yourself in her shoes. Then decide what to do.
posted by Franny26 at 4:55 AM on July 31, 2011

Jesus. I read this post as a request from someone -- confessedly with little social experience, no social support, perhaps lonely as hell -- who wants to have it confirmed that his unhappiness won't go away until he ends the relationship. He was asking, however clumsily, for confirmation that he would be doing the right thing, and that the world wouldn't take him for an idiot and that he wouldn't be kicking himself.

I don't think it would, and in my view he should explain his feelings to the woman as diplomatically as possible and end the relationship, making them both better off.

There's a fair bit of that in the responses here, but a lot of riffing on unenlightened remarks like "her wild and unimaginable sexual past" -- who the hell even knows what that means? it's frigging unimaginable! -- by people who are demonstrating their commitment to loving relationships by typing on a computer. If you want, just speculate that this woman is an idiot too, for having interest in the poster, and enthusiastically embrace the possibility that they are made for each other. Or you could just answer the question.

P.S. I too flinched at some of the views the OP expressed in the question, but now the the most eyebrow-raising part is "I don't have any real support network, so anything anyone writes would really be appreciated."
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 5:29 AM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think the thing that is drawing so many strong reactions is that while they both enjoyed benefits from the relationship: sex, companionship, intimacy – she seems to have been doing that with somebody she admires and cares for, and he seems to have been doing that with somebody he despises and loathes. It's not something that will be ignored here for the sake of being nice, and it shouldn't be. He stands to benefit far more in the long term by learning that this is not normal or healthy behavior.

To solve his short-term problem, he needs to break up and expand his social exposure. To solve his long-term problem, he needs professional advice to help him understand why it's a bad idea to become intimately and emotionally involved with someone who disgusts you, and how to avoid doing that in the future.
posted by taz at 6:49 AM on July 31, 2011 [9 favorites]

[very seriously, if you can not find yourself able to comment without outrage, please do not comment. MetaTalk is your option.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:28 AM on July 31, 2011

I don't know what to do and this is bothering me quite a bit now. Any general comments would be appreciated. I don't have any real support network, so anything anyone writes would really be appreciated.

Okay, what you should do is sit down with her, thank her very sincerely for the time you've spent together, but that you've done some deep thinking about it and you need to break off the relationship. Be very kind and patient, but also firm. It's not working, it's not anyone's fault, you need to make some changes in your life. Don't argue details, don't promise to be friends, don't accept any invitations from her to do anything after the breakup - if she continues to contact you, ask her to respect your decision and give you space.

Then start working on the problem of not having a support network in you life.
posted by Squeak Attack at 8:06 AM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Break up with her. But, please do not express your feelings of contempt for her anymore -- that's just brutal. You're using her, she's allowing you. You're the abuser here and she's being abused.

It sounds like you are emotionally scarred, like her, but in a different way. However, that doesn't mean you can take it out on her, or others.

You sound emotionally immature, like a child, so I understand why you think it's all about you. Go get yourself a therapist, anyone will do -- you just need to begin having a relationship with another human being who can teach you how to have an adult human relationship.
posted by minx at 9:15 AM on July 31, 2011

Um, yeah. I felt outraged too when reading your post. However, here's my comment, said without outrage:

Here's what you do: break up with her, get into therapy, talk about whatever pain you feel from breaking up, talk about your dissatisfaction with your work, find other things that interest you to get you excited about living, increase your social network, and when you've sufficiently grown as a person and are able to empathize with her position and hurt, call her up and apologize for stringing her along all that time ago. In other words, get yourself emotionally healthy so that you are honestly able to take responsibility for the pain you've caused her, and so you don't do it again.
posted by foxjacket at 9:23 AM on July 31, 2011

I was this woman. My ex didn't like how I dressed or what kind of person I was; didn't want to hold hands in public or flirt with me. He didn't want to spend much time alone with me if we weren't having sex. I was too in love with him to realize that it wasn't fair to me; I went out of my way to make myself more appealing to him so that we could stay together. This went on for three years. It was incredibly painful and made my world so much smaller. I passed up so many opportunities for happiness for him.

Every day since we've broken up has been a blessing. I can't remember a time that I've been so consistently happy. I've been able to be myself. I've been having daily adventures; pursuing my passions, and finding out that I'm actually pretty lovable. There has been so much joy in my life since he left. I've been dating guys who think I'm great--they go out of their way to tell me that they like my quirks, my style, and go out of their way to just talk to me. It's been amazing.

And oh, yes, you wanted to know if you could find someone you like better? Yes, of course you can. My ex found someone pretty great for him relatively quickly. She's my opposite. They seem to have good chemistry and he's very into her. You can find that too.

If you care about your friend, fuckbuddy,whatever at all--if you have any self-respect--please break up with her. She doesn't deserve to be treated like this. She deserves someone who loves her. And you deserve someone you really love. You'll both be so much happier, trust me. Regardless of how painful it will be in the short term, life will get so much better.

If you're bad at saying no in person--send her this thread and tell her that you were the OP. I can guarantee that she won't be back.
posted by millions of peaches at 9:34 AM on July 31, 2011 [7 favorites]

Oh, and I wanted to speak to you a bit more about this:

She doesn't ask me to stay over every night, but she texts me everyday, and tries to make plans with me (stuff I'd find really fun, if it weren't for the fact that I'd be with her), and the sex is hard to refuse, and I'm going through a phase where I'm not really interested in my work anymore and my social life is pretty non-existent.

Fix your career and your social life first. You're letting this woman distract you from the fact that the rest of your life is making you really unhappy. Break up with her, go out, find a job that you like better, challenge yourself, meet new people, have adventures. Make yourself proud of who you are; right now you're behaving contemptibly. I doubt very much that you don't realize that on some level. If you were proud of yourself and liked yourself, you wouldn't lock yourself into constantly hanging out with someone you don't even like.
posted by millions of peaches at 9:42 AM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

Maybe my writing tone was a bit cocky, and that's what causing all the outrage, but I was never mean to her as many of the commenters seem to think, judging by their tone. Whenever I've felt the need to get something off my chest with her, I've always been really diplomatic, and it's not just for show: I'm not judging her per se, but judging what's right for the both of us, at this time in our lives. I always make sure to phrase it that way whenever we assess our relationship.

In any case, thanks for all the comments. I won't take any the large volume of insult personally, because I understand that maybe I've failed to convey the good that comes from this relationship, and that is this relationship. I know for myself that I haven't acted horribly given the circumstances, and I've been as honest as I could be with both myself and her throughout all this time. I'm not sure if I need therapy; I do have some friends, in different walks of life, but not many. Maybe it wouldn't hurt.

We both are finding it hard to let go, currently.
posted by decpmt at 10:08 AM on July 31, 2011

you sound insecure to me--"it's not that i can't get women" isn't a phrase someone comfortable with themself says, at least it reads that way to me. it smacks of someone overthinking his worth and what other people think of him, like he thinks everyone's judging him by these numbers or prowess or whatever (when most people don't care). i think possibly this is connected to your reaction to this more experienced lady and the way you try to keep her lower on the totem pole so to speak, to remind you sure, she may have more experience than you and that's intimidating, but you're still cool and in control if you tell yourself that makes you feel full of contempt or dismissal instead of intimidated. it's a way to make an insecure ego hung up on this sort of scorekeeping feel better. maybe. if you dig down and find there might be truth to this, maybe therapy or reevaluating the cause for your need to do this and feel "higher up" than your partner and all that, the focus on status via superficial power things, would help you be happier and healthier, kinder in future relationships.
posted by ifjuly at 10:19 AM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think most people are reacting to the fact that you lack respect for her and aren't giving back what she puts into the relationship. Even though it's something she's agreed to do, it's not very kind of you to let her do it. If you were in love with someone and they thought of you this way: "However, I don't really like her, and never really have, partly because of her wild and unimaginable sexual past which she revealed to me as a friend, partly because she doesn't know how to dress, nor is classy in any sense of the word, partly because she just isn't my type.", wouldn't that be painful?

Okay, so, you're both having a hard time letting go. Try a period of no contact--start with a month. Make a concerted effort to meet new people. Once you both start making a new life for yourselves, you'll find that it'll be easier to let go.

I sincerely wish you both the best.
posted by millions of peaches at 10:21 AM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

I also want to make clear the fact that I've never strung her along or misled her. I've been completely honest with her from the beginning that I didn't think this could work out, but somehow we talk through it, decide some time off is necessary, but we fail to implement it.
posted by decpmt at 10:24 AM on July 31, 2011

Being honest and upfront doesn't always necessarily equal doing the right thing.

It doesn't sound like this is a good relationship for either of you and therefor doing the right thing is breaking up with her and staying away. Focus on relationships that make you happy.

Sure maybe it'll be tough but maybe you'll feel a tremendous sense of relief. Take the advice from so many break up threads on here and tell her you want to break up then erase her number from your phone, set her emails to go to the trash, defriend her on social networking sites and keep yourself busy doing things that make you happy so you don't have time to think about her.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 10:36 AM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

OP, I'm almost certain you've misled her. She may know that you don't think this could ever work out -- but does she know that you "don't like" her, that you think she has no class, and that when you think about her sexual past you feel contempt and disrespect?

As far as failing to implement the breakup goes, why do you think this is hard for you?
posted by hungrytiger at 10:37 AM on July 31, 2011 [14 favorites]

Does it matter if you've strung her along or not? Why focus on what kind of person this makes you, when the problem is really that neither of you are getting what you want? My ex also got upset at the suggestion that he might have been stringing me along, when all along he'd been upfront about not being in love with me. The argument distracted us from the main point, which was that we weren't right for each other in spite of having enough in common to make a relationship half-work. I know exactly what you mean about the relationship being loving and hard to let go of. I have been there.

One of you has to put their foot down and make the breakup stick. It looks like she's unable to do it, so it's going to have to be you. I really want to emphasize that both of you can do better. That you're not going to end up alone, or with someone who doesn't treat you well. It sounds like you know how to be respectful and up front with her, so do that. Tell her that it's not working and that it will never work. Enforce a period of no contact; don't answer calls or texts. Send emails to trash or a separate folder. Make yourself too busy to have time for her--find shows to go to, start a new project, plan a trip somewhere. It will hurt, you'll be tempted to cave, but know that one day soon you'll feel really happy and free.

Your experience is really familiar to me; my ex and I were both graduate students in a technical program with very little going on in terms of a social life. We were both insecure and unsure of whether or not either of us could do better. We made each other very unhappy for too long. If you want to talk to me more, you can MeMail me.
posted by millions of peaches at 10:49 AM on July 31, 2011

I've been completely honest with her from the beginning that I didn't think this could work out, but somehow we talk through it, decide some time off is necessary, but we fail to implement it.

You have been fooling yourself and fooling her. Even stripping away the "cocky" tone, the plain facts of your original post and your follow-up comments make it clear that you view her with deep contempt. Contempt is absolutely, completely, irrevocably poison in a relationship, and no amount of being honest or talking through it or taking time off can counteract that.

You get nothing healthy out of this relationship and neither does she. The fact that you are both finding it hard to let go does not alter this fact.
posted by scody at 11:18 AM on July 31, 2011 [5 favorites]

Let me try one more time.

There are unspoken emotional requirements involved in relationships. If two people are friends, it is expected that the two people will like and respect one another.

You say that you've been honest with her, and she knows she is not the great love of your life. But I bet she thinks that you like her, and you say that you don't like her, that you find her dowdy and classless, and that you find her sexual past contemptible. All of which falls WAY BELOW the minimum requirements for a FWB relationship. I wouldn't even want to share a taxi with someone who expressed those feelings about me.

The fact that you didn't anticipate the meta-furor -- and don't seem to understand it now that it's happened -- makes me wonder a bit about your abilities to read and understand people, and redoubles my impulse to tell you to socialize a lot more.

Meanwhile, now I see that your original question is "what are you supposed to do." You are conflicted, right? You don't think the relationship is going anywhere, but you like hanging out with her and cooking ravioli, and you're lonely, and she isn't kicking you out of bed. Well, it's going to be difficult to break up because it's all on you and you probably will be lonely and you probably will miss both the sex and the ravioli.

But you know what they say about breaking up with the person-who's-wrong-for-you, they say that by doing so you open up the potential space for the person-who's-right-for-you to appear. And it'll open that space for her, too.
posted by hungrytiger at 11:27 AM on July 31, 2011 [8 favorites]

Dude, own up to what you wrote: However, I don't really like her, and never really have, partly because of her wild and unimaginable sexual past which she revealed to me as a friend, partly because she doesn't know how to dress, nor is classy in any sense of the word, partly because she just isn't my type.

...Lately this lack of feeling has devolved into contempt and a lack of respect

You seem to me to be extraordinarily confused. You claim to have a "loving relationship" with someone you don't like and don't respect. Do those things not seem at odds to you?
posted by rtha at 11:41 AM on July 31, 2011

We've all done enough piling on, and certainly as much as jessamyn is going to allow, so I want to step back and try to answer your question without judgment. You've told us that:
  • You don't like this woman

  • She loves you

  • She knows that you have some doubts
  • Right there, unless you've told her that you actively dislike her, that you don't respect her and feel contempt toward her (your words), well, you've certainly been misleading her. You need to break up with her because (1) she deserves someone who doesn't feel that way about her and (2) you deserve someone you don't feel that way about. Staying together will impede each of your ability to find that someone.

    You've also told us that:
  • You don't have a support network

  • You've never been in a serious relationship

  • You're inexperienced

  • You have some sexual hang-ups; enough to judge someone for her past, but not enough to keep you from sleeping with her because of her past

  • You question your ability to understand, interpret, and predict your own feelings

  • You're lonely
  • Some of those have to be interpreted and some are stated explicitly, but they should be noncontroversial and I doubt you'd really disagree with any.

    You need need need emotional support from people close to you. Family would be good if that's an option; at minimum, you should try to spend more time socializing with your friends, and you should work on maintaining and building friendships and creating new ones. This will help with loneliness and will help in building that support network that, like all people, you need.

    Maybe having people close to you and not being lonely and being in a better headspace will help, but I also think you should consider therapy. You strike me as confused by your own feelings.

    It seems to me that there's an undertone of "I'm unhappy with this situation, but I think other people would be happy with it, so am I wrong to be unhappy?" in your question. First, no one is happy in a relationship with someone they feel contempt for. Second, you feel how you feel, how it might or might not be "normal" to feel is irrelevant.

    Also, the emotionally invested person in a relationship finds it much, much harder to let go because he or she wants to hold on. Here: she loves you; you, at minimum, don't love or want to be with her. This idea expressed in your recent comments that it's going to be a mutual thing that "we" decide is seriously misguided -- you need to break it off and be willing to be the bad guy, or else she won't be willing to let go... unless, I suppose, you're prepared to treat her poorly long enough that she might eventually stop loving you, which I'm sure you're not.
    posted by J. Wilson at 12:21 PM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

    I've been completely honest with her from the beginning that I didn't think this could work out

    Food for thought: Have you told her how much dislike her, the lack of class, the lack of attraction and feelings of self loathing you have about being in the relationship. You don't need to answer here, but ask yourself have you really been completely honest with her.
    posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:21 PM on July 31, 2011 [6 favorites]

    I guess I didn't make clear why I think finding good friends are the 'answer' here: it's not that I was assuming you literally don't know anyone, but it's because you said that you don't have support. And the way to make dealing with stuff like this easier is to talk to someone about your feelings in person, on an ongoing basis, someone you trust. It's not a question of having us answer your question, because none of us are having a conversation with you, and you don't really trust our insight (understandably, since we don't know you).

    American culture being what it is, 'talking about your feelings' means therapy to many people these days, but it's just a normal thing I do with my friends. You came her already knowing what you should do, but you have a hard time doing it-- so what you need isn't us to tell you to break up, but someone to support you through this process. A good friend wouldn't tell you what to do right now, they'd just listen to you, and emphasize that you can do this hard thing, and talk it through again and again if necessary. Friends understand that feelings are conflicting, and that we often keep things that we know we don't want. Friends are on your side, and won't judge you, and would be patient with your dithering at the same time as giving you a kick in the pants when you need it. And that kick would actually be effective moreso than when people on the internet do it, by far.

    It's a delicate thing. Like, my friend is afraid to leave the job she hates, for instance. She really thinks it sucks monkey balls and then some (and she's angry, too), but her fear of the future, of insecurity, of her own limitations-- all that holds her back. As her friend, I can't really push her to do it, to find another job and quit, but I can remind her of what she herself wants, and what she really can do. Every time you have to make a hard choice, having friends is what gets you through it. Usually people know what they should do, even if they post on MeFi, which is what makes it sort of sad. It's not the knowing that's hard, it's the doing. Pain is scary, and so is loneliness, and so is the idea that you've really made a serious mistake, and have a blind-spot or five. Only a friend can tell you you've been a total idiot and you'd take it the right way. Being honest as you say you have isn't a simple thing. The kind of honesty that really matters in relationships is incisive-- it cuts through the bullshit rather than simply being a straightforward means of expression. When a friend cuts through your bullshit, you feel it, and the pain is good. It means you're listening. Being honest but harmless doesn't help either you or her. Of course, I mean, meanness isn't necessary, but harmlessness is also counterproductive; it draws things out, hurts people in a backhanded way.

    You won't get this immediately if you seriously start looking for connection, but the more you expose yourself to interaction, the more chance for a click there'll be. A girl is also more likely to be useful to you than a guy, though who knows-- I mean as friends. Friends are what makes life less scary, and make it easier to do the right thing. As it is, for now, just do it.
    posted by reenka at 12:27 PM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

    I may be off base, but I sort of think you became friends with this woman because you were lonely and started sleeping with her because she had her eye on you and was nudging things in that direction, and you went along with it because you didn't want to lose the friendship. Most people are more familiar with that story the other way around- the nice guy who wants to be a woman's friend, who she starts relying on more and more for emotional support, and it turns out he's had this raging crush on her the whole time and maybe they just sort of slip into FWB even though she'll never really return his feelings.

    Looking at it that way might make people be less harsh with you- because hey, of course the friend is thinking they can win you over by being nice enough and constantly there enough over time. Sitcoms have taught them this is a possibility. They are well aware that you don't feel as strongly, they just think they can change that. So, on the one hand, you can't really blame them for trying, but you also know they were a little duplicitous.

    I think this woman expects what's coming on some level, but will still be disappointed that she couldn't "win you over" because she was banking on that. It will hurt her, but she wil ultimately be okay.

    I actually think your situation is more worrisome than you realize. You have to be pretty desperate for companionship to give in to a friend wanting sex out of fear of losing the frienship. That's why it's critical that you get some other regular human contact, which will be good for you in the aftermath of a breakup anyway- seriously, find a good therapist.

    You are lonely. That's what caused you to do the things you've done here. You need to accept this and work on it, or accept the consequences of being lonely. I don't think making more female friends is actually a good idea- making male friends would help avoid a repeat of this situation. Alternatey, do you have siblings or cousins close in age? Even an uncle, aunt or grandparent you like? Any contact will help. Negotiate good boundaries with these friends and don't let people become friends with you for the wrong reasons- nip anything like that in the bud. Start with people you're sure you can trust, and expand the circle of trust outward- you need a rock solid foundation before you can take risks. Get a good therapist, close family-these people are usually the most trustworthy and on the side of your interests. THEN and only then start branching out to riskier frienships that could possibly implode like this one. Should it happen, you can retreat to your "safe zone." Learn from this.
    posted by Nixy at 1:38 PM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

    When I knew I needed to break up with someone but couldn't, I went to therapy and found it very helpful. Being perplexed about why you cannot leave this situation is a good sign that there is something deeper going on that you should probably seek to understand. I can brainstorm a lot of reasons other than simple loneliness and comfort that that you are having such trouble breaking up with her.* A counselor could help you sort out what you're truly getting from this, address bigger issues at their source, and accelerate the process of deciding to stay or breaking up.

    * A brainstorm: As a judgmental person, perhaps her unconditional love is refreshing and interesting? Maybe deep down some part of you thinks you've got something good and is trying to hang onto it while you grow out of your snobbery and puritanism? Or maybe you're rebelling against the family who gave you that judgmental inner voice and once you start directly standing up to them, you will find it easy to let her go? Maybe you really want to stop caring about work the way you used to and you're using her as a catalyst or cocoon?
    posted by salvia at 4:01 PM on July 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

    Quit fu*king around. Break up with her.
    posted by goalyeehah at 6:08 PM on July 31, 2011

    You sound both isolated and very lonely to me. I think you were much, much too busy to notice how isolated you'd become. Then you met all your needs with one friend, and that the very reason you sort of can't stand her is that you are spending too much time together. Sex can be sort of a shortcut to close friendship, but the problem is it's not discriminating. People who are amply sexy are not necessarily the people who make us laugh, who have great insights into our problems, or who are just easy-going, pleasant company. If you can get all that stuff from one person, it's great and it's worth doing whatever it takes to hang onto him or her. But it's not the default setting.

    You need to spend some time developing friendships the slow way. You will discover there are lots of people you don't actually want to know well, and it will be tempting to view the time you've spent cultivating those friendships as wasted, but it's not: those acquaintances are still part of our social mesh.

    My guess is that if you can loosen up your ties to this person, you will actually find you like and value her quite a bit more than you think you do. To accomplish that loosening, though, you're going to have to find some other social outlets, and it's going to take some time.
    posted by gingerest at 6:32 PM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

    There's a spare "that" in line 2 above. Sorry.
    posted by gingerest at 6:32 PM on July 31, 2011

    It sounds as if you feel helpless in the situation, as if you're just a piece of driftwood being carried along and you don't have the ability to follow through on what you know is best and healthiest for you.

    But you're not helpless. You're a grown adult who can choose and take action. The first thing to do is to take responsibility for your choices and actions. Look at what you said in your post and how the presentation takes you out of the action:

    I reluctantly started sleeping with her. Um, you chose to sleep with her.

    She doesn't ask me to stay over every night. But when she does, what do you do? Why don't you say no?

    but she texts me everyday. And do you respond to those texts?

    and tries to make plans with me. And do you say no or participate in that planning and planned activities.

    and the sex is hard to refuse. Oh for god's sake, grow a spine.

    So it's a lot easier for me to go over to her place than to create my own space. Is going to grad school treading the path of least resistance? Well then, you can do things the less easy, less convenient way in your social life too if you want.

    Everything you have done so far with this woman has been your choice. Own up to that because it means that you can also choose to do otherwise. No matter how much time you've spent together up to now, you are perfectly free to choose not to from now on. You are not a puppet or a dishrag or at the mercy of your hormones or loneliness. Choose not to be, and then act on that choice.

    Or if you do keep seeing her, realize that you are also choosing to do that, and stop making it sound as if you're just some passive victim of Older Assertive Harpy.
    posted by FelliniBlank at 10:09 AM on August 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

    I think you're a good person. But you gotta get out of this relationship. It's stifling your personal growth and it's bad for your character. It's not any good for your partner either, no matter what she says.
    posted by Protocols of the Elders of Sockpuppetry at 12:43 PM on August 6, 2011

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