DTMFA or give it another try?
August 30, 2011 8:40 AM   Subscribe

Should I break it off for good, or give it one more try?

I just canceled my wedding and broke it off with my fiancé. There had been red flags along the way, like excessive time spent playing computer games, difficulty relating to other people on his part, unwillingness to make sacrifices or adjustments for my happiness or mental well being and refusal to participate in activities that interest me or to help with household chores. The final straw was me crying, and him responding “it’s not my job to be empathetic.” We’ve discussed that particular issue before, and he tells me that something is blocking him from talking about his emotions (he has, throughout the course of our two year relationship, refused to go to counseling). I’m an emotional type of girl, so this is a difficult thing for me to understand.

He’s still living in our apartment and I’m staying with my mom. He has asked me to come over to talk; the first time he refused to talk to me, because I came over after work, rather than staying the night, another red flag. The second time I went, he told me that he was sorry he hadn’t been treating me the way he should and that he was willing to set aside time for us to be together and talk. He expressed willingness to go to counseling, but sort of backtracked on it a few minutes later. We spent an hour discussing work that needs to be done if we have any hope of salvaging our relationship.

My general feelings on this are (and this might make my question a non-question): people rarely change, unless they face a huge life event that makes them question their very existence, or something forces them to, and the changes are very rarely permanent. Also, I believe that I can’t expect someone to be anyone but who they are. He has told me he is “hard on people”, and this seems to be very much a part of who he is.

He wants to stay in the apartment for a six week trial period; I think it would be better for him to take a short term rental in someone’s home (he has one potentially lined up) for at least three months, with the option of extending it. I don’t think six weeks is nearly long enough, and again, I am doubtful that the changes will be made at all. We have both basically trashed our apartment, I want to get it cleaned up, get settled into my new teaching job, which is stressful at the beginning, and then work on the relationship.

Am I being unreasonable? At first, he told me that if he moved out, that was the end of it, but he seems to be coming around to the idea of living separately for a time. Complicating things is my mother, who genuinely hates him, and has threatened to cut me out of her will if I go back. He was never abusive, just selfish and emotionally neglectful.
DTMFA? Give him a trial period where we continue to live together? Have him move out and then work on it?

Most importantly, I still love him.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (53 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
If you're asking whether to DTMFA, then DTMFA. Don't try to change him or wait for him to change. You deserve so much more.
posted by elisse at 8:45 AM on August 30, 2011 [4 favorites]

unwillingness to make sacrifices or adjustments for my happiness or mental well being and refusal to participate in activities that interest me or to help with household chores. The final straw was me crying, and him responding “it’s not my job to be empathetic.”

Ugh, none of that sounds promising at all. He doesn't sound like a person who knows how to have a grownup relationship. You deserve much, much better.
posted by Glinn at 8:46 AM on August 30, 2011 [5 favorites]

The fact that you still love him should not stop you from acknowledging that this relationship has a slim-to-zero chance of actually bringing you joy. Please dump him now.
posted by argonauta at 8:50 AM on August 30, 2011 [12 favorites]

Dude. Put your own oxygen mask on first before assisting small children. He leaves the apartment, you bring order to your environment, you start your new job. You go to joint therapy once a week. When you see real change, he can come back. That may be in six weeks, six months or never. If he isn't down with this plan, DTMFA because at a crisis point, you do whatever it takes. You do not want to be with someone who will not do everything possible to make it work.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:51 AM on August 30, 2011 [39 favorites]

if you're always looking for red flags, you're bound to find danger. i don't think this relationship will work, but from you're telling, i don't think it's because he's a big jerk-face - i just think it sounds like you guys prioritize things differently and that's not acceptable to you.
posted by nadawi at 8:52 AM on August 30, 2011 [6 favorites]

Make him move out, and you move on. You can't force someone to change if they don't want to, and somebody who thinks it's not his job to be empathetic needs far more work that you could possibly accomplish on your own.

I know it must have been hard to break off the engagement, but you did the right thing for yourself. Don't go back on your self-respect and your understanding of your own needs just because he's making squawky noises that vaguely resemble what you want to hear.

You deserve so, so much better.
posted by headspace at 8:52 AM on August 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


It sounds like he's weasiling his way out of commiting to a strict plan for improving your relationship. Counciling is manditory, it's not something he should just be willing to try. Couples Counciling sounds like the only way you'll be able to actually have a conversation you both can understand. You don't get what he's saying (by your own admission) and he doesn't seem to care about getting what you are saying.

but back it up a little- what the heck is the point? do you really see yourself being happy if he doesn't completely turn it around? He might get better- but is that really enough to keep you from being miserable?
posted by Blisterlips at 8:53 AM on August 30, 2011

“it’s not my job to be empathetic.” ... I’m an emotional type of girl, so this is a difficult thing for me to understand.

I would keep the "I'm an emotional type of girl" part, but change the rest of the sentence to: "... so I can find someone who's more compatible with me."
posted by John Cohen at 8:57 AM on August 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

it’s not my job to be empathetic

WTF? In a relationship, that's job one for both parties. This is emotional abuse, no matter how you slice it.

DTMFA and then, spend sometime investigating yourself so you don't fall in love with this type again.

He needs to move out, you need to move on.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:05 AM on August 30, 2011 [6 favorites]

Who's right and who's wrong is irrelevant here. (Although there is absoultely nothing here to indicate he's "absusive"). You don't need to assgin blame to come to the obvious conclusion: the two of your are too different for this to ever work. You don't share priorities. The relationship is over, you just need to acknowledge that and start living the rest of your life. It's never going to work for the two of you.
posted by spaltavian at 9:09 AM on August 30, 2011 [5 favorites]

You were really brave to call off the wedding. Don't back down when it comes to protecting your future happiness. The two of you together are not a recipe for success. He drives you crazy by being absent from the relationship and you nag him to be something he isn't. You both dodged a bullet--now get on with your lives.
posted by Scram at 9:18 AM on August 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

You were about to marry this guy but you have nothing nice to say about him except that you love him. That seems like a very bad sign, and I don't see how we can come to any conclusion after reading your listing of all his flaws other than that you should break it off with him.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:20 AM on August 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't think you're being unreasonable, but I also don't think he is either. He sounds like a fine person, but probably not the right guy for you. There are plenty of women who can deal with an aloof careless man, you're not one of them, don't stress about it.

I say make the break and make it as clean as possible. Don't marry him.
posted by LZel at 9:23 AM on August 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

When you do start counselling, one of the first things you both need to map out is what you each expect from a committed partnership. What does he imagine his job to be, if not the empathetic one (and some guys just can't deal with women crying) and what job does he imagine yours to be, in the context of the relationship. Same for you, what do you imagine his role his and yours.

See where the gaps are, see what can be negotiated and then see what can't - you'll be able to see where the lines are and thus the non negotiables or the dealbreakers. Based on that, take your final decision.

After all, you did both reach the point of wanting to marry each other.
posted by infini at 9:24 AM on August 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

Most importantly, I still love him.

You always will unfortunately, but that's how it goes with love - it never dies, just changes. It sounds like your love for him is already changing, and it's a painful process, but let it happen, and don't let him try and hold you in one place as you grow upwards and outwards.

Cancelling your wedding must have been incredibly painful for you, but you're a stong person to do it - keep up your strength and do what you know is right for you - move on up.
posted by greenish at 9:24 AM on August 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

You say I believe that I can’t expect someone to be anyone but who they are.

He has shown (and told) you who he is. Make a clean break.
posted by Specklet at 9:26 AM on August 30, 2011

You're not going to fix this - you can love him like crazy and not be able to have a good and fulfilling relationship with him. I think you know that. Dragging it out won't make it easier, it will just keep you from healing.

I'm sorry, this sucks. It will get easier, even if it doesn't seem like it right now.
posted by mrs. taters at 9:27 AM on August 30, 2011

I know you love him, but he's not a good partner for you. It's not that he needs to get comfortable talking about his emotions. It's that he needs to care about how you feel, your happiness, your needs.

At this point he has demonstrated that when you say, "Enough. We're done," then he'll make small concession-like noises in an effort to get you to come back, without actually backing them up by changing his behavior or outlook on the relationship. That's not showing concern for your feelings and needs. That's panicking over the possibility of losing you.

Here's what real change would look like: He'd proactively schedule time with a therapist to work out his own emotional issues. He'd clean the house. He'd address other bad habits that have led to conflict between the two of you. He'd apologize sincerely for being cold, unkind, and uncaring, and he'd commit to being a better partner if you'd take him back. He'd specify concrete ways for the two of you to make sure the relationship is staying on track. At the same time, he'd say, take the time and space you need. He'd suggest couples counseling, but only when you're ready and if you want to.
posted by Meg_Murry at 9:32 AM on August 30, 2011 [20 favorites]

You guys just aren't compatible. I am like you. I married a guy who is like your fiance. And it was a terrible, horrible idea. Guys like that aren't necessarily BAD guys, they are just so radically different in their approach to life that they cannot meet your emotional needs. We are brought up to believe that love is enough, love conquers all, blah blah blah... And that is a horribly damaging lie. Sometimes love just isn't enough. And that's why I am not married anymore.

Go out and find yourself a guy whose personality is more compatible with yours, with whom you can have a satisfying relationship without either one of you trying to force your psyche to do things inimical to its nature.
posted by kataclysm at 9:35 AM on August 30, 2011 [6 favorites]

From an actuarial point of view, your long term odds are massively poor. Cut losses and run like crazy. You dont have to make him "bad", just find someone more compatible. Otherwise, resign yourself to a lot of unhappiness, and forever question what you were thinking.
posted by jcworth at 9:49 AM on August 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

The statement "It's not my job to be empathetic" is a valid reason to terminate a relationship. That is the tip of an unpleasant iceberg.

Put this bloke in your rear view mirror and accelerate. Objects may be crazier than they appear.
posted by DWRoelands at 10:02 AM on August 30, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'm usually pretty loth to say that straight off the bat, being mindful that we're only getting one person's take, don't know background, etc... but assuming you're telling us the truth about this guy's behaviour, "red flags" doesn't even begin to do it justice. Huge flashing red spotlights with screeching klaxons might be a bit closer.

You love him? Trust me, it wouldn't take many years of this behaviour to cure you of that. Far better to rip the Band Aid off now and be sore for a while.

posted by Decani at 10:07 AM on August 30, 2011 [5 favorites]

Hi. I had a very similar (obviously on the surface, I don't actually know you at all) relationship where I was in your position. I gave my SO a full year of space, with both of us "trying to work things out." Guess what? My SO didn't change AT ALL over the course of that year, and our supposed to be glorious month where we were together again was the darkest comedy of errors (i.e. poor emotional judgement leading to incredibly painful romantic strife).

However, this outrageously unpleasant experience did afford me with the brutally uncomplicated closure I needed in what I retroactively considered to be the longest break up of all time. Yay? I guess each relationship is a learning experience. I certainly learned my lesson here, but no one else (despite good advice from every single third party in on the situation) could convince me to give up before I was really ready. That's what love is.

But I want to ask you this: Have you thought about the fact that you can and will find someone who makes you feel happier every single day than you ever felt with this person even on your best day? Because that's the truth.

You get what you need for closure and find someone worth your time.
posted by Temeraria at 10:08 AM on August 30, 2011 [7 favorites]

You must hold onto yourself and avoid being sucked into the sludge. It sounds like you know what you want. Stick to that and tell him you'd like him to leave so that you can get the environment in order and you guys can disentangle yourselves. It will be easier to work on things in the relationship if you have your own space and are doing things you feel good about. You aren't exactly dumping him, and it sounds like the relationship is too complicated for it to end so easily, anyways. But you're making it clear that things need to change. Go with your gut.
posted by amodelcitizen at 10:16 AM on August 30, 2011

The final straw was me crying, and him responding “it’s not my job to be empathetic.”

As last straws go, that's an excellent one.
posted by mhoye at 10:22 AM on August 30, 2011 [18 favorites]

There's a saying hereabouts that I think is worth repeating: Listen to what people tell you about themselves.

He says he's hard on people. He says it's not his job to be empathetic. He's already starting to backtrack on the commitment to go to therapy, and hasn't demonstrated much walk to back up his talk.

Have him move out. Move back in, get your apartment cleaned, and get settled into your new job.

Then you can take a good hard look at whether it's worth saving. I think your gut is already telling you the answer, and you just need someone to back you up.

We're backing you up.
posted by canine epigram at 10:23 AM on August 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

He knows he has a problem; he admits he has a problem; he refuses to take the perfectly reasonable and logical step to address that problem; he considers his problem to be a positive characteristic; he refuses to take responsibility for the problems he causes.

So, it sounds like you've made an excellent choice, and dodged a bullet. Now, you just need to keep on loving him -- because you will for a while -- but as a dear friend and ex-boyfriend who is his own worst enemy, and whom you're much, much, much better off without.

All told, nicely done and good for you. You should be proud of yourself. Stick with your excellent choice.
posted by davejay at 10:24 AM on August 30, 2011 [5 favorites]

...it’s not my job to be empathetic.

And then you kicked him very hard in the balls. I hope. Because he sure as shit deserved it after that comment.

It's possible that this will be the big event that causes him to re-evaluate his life and his purpose and all that jazz and he becomes a new person and you'll get back together and life will be awesome. I doubt it, but it could happen.

Or it could be that he will continue to be pretty much the dude he's always been.

For the first to happen I think you need to break up. He can't have the life changing epiphany without the life changing event.

If it's the second, you want to break up. Sooner rather than later.

So, yeah, you should break up. Which I think you know. Relationships shouldn't be like this. Most people in relationships don't ask themselves "should I DTMFA", because things are generally pretty good and it doesn't occur to them (It's like people who start a sentence with "I'm not racist but...". You know who never starts sentences that way? A person who isn't racist). A relationship is going to have ups and downs but it shouldn't be a character building ordeal.

Oh, and tell Mom to butt the hell out of your personal life. Things are complicated enough. She's not helping.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:25 AM on August 30, 2011

Love is not enough to make a marriage work. You can love someone and not have a similar mindset or life goals. You can love someone and be unhappy with how things are going.

In short, love does not conquer all.
posted by Knowyournuts at 10:29 AM on August 30, 2011

He was never abusive, just selfish and emotionally neglectful.

Why would you want to be in a relationship with someone like that? Get out while you can.
posted by chiababe at 10:29 AM on August 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

It doesn't sound like you have a high chance of succeeding, but I think you know that.

I would suggest staying moved out and putting yourself first, while extending the engagement for at least another two years. If he can behave consistently in ways that you think you can enjoy - not just live with, but enjoy - for two years, then I guess you can go ahead and marry him. As long as you can keep in mind that the good behaviour might disappear as soon as you are married and he no longer has to exert himself to keep you. Also, the same could apply if you get pregnant, so be extra careful there.

The reason I suggest giving it another go is to satisfy yourself that you really have tried everything. If you can define what the last straw would be and make a rule that you will walk away when it happens, you can do this. If you're likely to get sucked into quicksand/pregnant/whatever, be honest with yourself and don't go there.

I'm sure there are people who can get along with someone who is not interested in being empathetic, but those people are most likely equally hard (so not likely to get attached emotionally in any way we would recognize) or self-sacrificing to an extent that would not be sustainable for most of us.
posted by tel3path at 10:40 AM on August 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

He was never abusive, just selfish and emotionally neglectful.

Or, to put it another way, he was selfishly, emotionally abusive. It doesn't have to be a punch in the face to be abuse, you know.
posted by davejay at 10:46 AM on August 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

If it's not his job to empathetic, then WTF is his job? (and I can't help but wonder if someone else said that to him in his life while he was crying.)

And emotional neglect IS abusive.

he tells me that something is blocking him from talking about his emotions
Ok, he has some level of self-awareness. Does he think this is a problem? Does he think that this affects the relationship? Is he willing to do something about it? If not, DTMFA. I think by breaking up with him you'd be doing him a favour (and yourself, obviously). It will force him to look at how he contributed to this relationship. Or not. Just like you said - people rarely change unless they face a huge life event - maybe breaking up with him is that life event. Either, don't keep putting up with his behaviour.

Just take a few moments to think about what you want and need in a relationship. Just focus on you, not him and who he is. Then ask yourself, does he meet any of those needs? Did he do that over the course of 2 years?

And what davejay said, 100 times. I don't imagine that calling off a wedding is easy at all.
posted by foxjacket at 10:46 AM on August 30, 2011

You are me nine years ago (and DAMN, is your fiance my ex), except that you have an opportunity to skip out on the following 4.5 years of crap.

Which also means that you have the opportunity to skip out on the 4.5 years of crap following the breakup, including this morning's ridiculous conversation about paying for the vehicle used in moving a futon, WHICH I WAS DOING AS A FAVOR, OKAY?

You know what to do here. Do it.

And it goes without saying, but I'm here for you and so is everyone else. Don't hesitate to MeMail me if you'd like.
posted by Madamina at 10:48 AM on August 30, 2011

Do NOT go back. You have made a terribly hard decision in canceling the wedding and I applaud you for that. You also have your head on straight with what you need to do to get your life back together.

So do that. He needs to take the short-term rental. Go on with your life. If he agrees to counseling, the two of you can try that.

"It's not my job to be empathetic" is just wrong. It is everyone's responsibility to be empathetic, especially in a relationship!

If I try to see from his perspective, he has a good thing going because he has been coasting and not had to really invest in your relationship. He wants to keep things the way they were because it requires the least amount of effort.

Does that sound like him? If so, I'll bet getting married was what you wanted, and he went along with it. Not that he doesn't love you, but his goal is relationship inertia here. So be wary of him just going through the motions of going to counseling, and do NOT move back in with him unless your needs are being met, or you'll feel more pressured to stay with him.

As for Mom: look, Moms are protective of their kids. Your Mom has made the mistake of taking a stand on your SO with her "leave you out of the will" ultimatum. That was not smart of her. I can only tell you that my Mom was fantastic at this kind of thing: she'd support ME and keep her private opinions on the SO to herself. That's the best course, because if you get back with the guy Mom doesn't like? She's created a you-and-him vs Mom situation. And if you break up all contact with him just because Mom makes you, you'll blame Mom for forcing your hand with that ultimatum before you were emotionally ready to move on. So, tip for Mom, too: MYOB!
posted by misha at 11:05 AM on August 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

You stated that you're an emotional person, therefore you require an emotional response from him. It sounds like he's not as much of an emotional person as you and doesn't require as much empathy from you. Neither of you need to be receiving the same degree of empathy from each other in order to have a successful relationship. If you need more empathy, then you need more empathy. If he needs more alone-time, then he needs more alone-time. Simple as that.

HOWEVER, if you tell him you need more empathy, and he replies that you don't need empathy AND justifies it because HE doesn't need as much empathy as you, then that's baloney. He's not even trying to see it from your perspective, or even trying making things work. I don't know about you, but calling off a wedding a serious life event! And if he's not willing to be at least a little understanding, or maybe show at least a little bit of empathy to make you happy, then why should you expect him to change or be different in other situations? What if you're parents died? Do you think he'll ever be emotionally capable to support you?

Maybe he doesn't know how to handle emotional responses and so he stone-walls you. He might actually have a good reason for showing very little empathy. Whatever that reason is, he's definitely shown an unwillingness to change his habits, even in the most dire of situations. If I were you, I'd dump the guy. You need something from him that he's not willing to give, nor trying to give, so I wouldn't even consider getting back with him.

One more thing:

If he bargains that he'll change if you move back in with him, demand proof. Don't fall for this trick. You can easily weed out those who want to change and those who don't simply by monitoring their actions over a long period of time. Don't move back in with him unless you have identified some proof that he's willing to change. If he wants to make the relationship work, then he'll make an effort to show at least SOME empathy the next couple of times you two have a difficult conversation. If he decides to go to therapy, then he needs to go to X amount of therapy sessions before he can prove to you that he's making a long-term commitment.

If he wants to change, then he will change. If not, then it's time to move on. There's someone better out there for you.
posted by nikkorizz at 11:09 AM on August 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

The final straw was me crying, and him responding “it’s not my job to be empathetic.”

I used to perpetually get into relationships with men like this to the point that I thought such explicit emotional withholding in the face of my distress was relatively normal.

It most emphatically is NOT. Can you imagine a lifetime with someone -- the person who is supposed to be your closest ally, your teammate, the guy who's got your back -- who actively refuses to empathize with you? Imagine how you felt when he said it wasn't his job to be empathetic... how many hours or days did it make you hurt? Now multiply that by years, by decades. That's not a partnership, that's slow-acting poison.

I promise you there are men out there -- many, many, many men -- who do consider it their job to be empathetic, not just for their partner but for everyone else in their lives who they care about. It's just that this man will never be one of them, no matter how much you love him.

It's time to move on. It will be painful -- really, really painful. Despite that pain, it will also be the right thing to do. I wish you well.
posted by scody at 11:14 AM on August 30, 2011 [34 favorites]

Favoriting Scody's comment very hard, and adding this...

I promise you there are men out there -- many, many, many men -- who do consider it their job to be empathetic, not just for their partner but for everyone else in their lives who they care about. It's just that this man will never be one of them, no matter how much you love him.

There are tons of men out there who don't even consider it their job -- they're just empathetic by their nature. People just like you, who are also men. They exist. I promise.
posted by davejay at 11:20 AM on August 30, 2011 [26 favorites]

He sounds like my father, and growing up with a distant, withholding, selfish father is not a good time. So even if you think you could learn to live with him, you may want to reconsider getting back together if you had planned to have children with him.

He was never abusive, just selfish and emotionally neglectful.
Trust me, this is just a different kind of abuse.
posted by lucysparrow at 11:46 AM on August 30, 2011 [4 favorites]

Him realizing he can't go on living this way (and that you won't stay with him while he stagnates) is perhaps the thing that will make him change. These are all huge issues (personal/relationship) and even if he expressed the desire to change it would only make a little difference. Changing who you are is very hard, even with solid personal dedication and professional support, and there is none of that here.
posted by everyday_naturalist at 11:56 AM on August 30, 2011

He was never abusive, just selfish and emotionally neglectful.

This is a form of forced starvation on your part.
posted by rhizome at 12:34 PM on August 30, 2011

I'd say that one of a man's first jobs in a relationship is to be the crying shoulder for a girl. It's just sort of part of the role as the man in the relationship. It sounds like this guy is a selfish ahole. I agree that most people don't change. Some people can change a little or work very hard to curb their behavior, but most people are what they are. Your gut told you to cancel the wedding. You've given numerous concrete reasons as to why you're unhappy in the relationship. So I think it's obvious that this is not the right guy for you. It's time to move on and find someone better. And you will. It takes guts to end a relationship that was just about to make a life long commitment. You canceled the wedding which was the hardest part. Now it's time to clean up the scraps and move on. I wish you luck.
posted by ljs30 at 1:09 PM on August 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm currently halfway through this book, "Getting To Commitment" by Steven Carter. One of the topics seems to revolve around the hormonal aspects of love, versus the deep intimate connections that is more of the mind.

May I suggest stepping to one side, and ask yourself if he is providing you with what you need, and the other way around as well. If the communication is not there, then perhaps you may want to look elsewhere.
posted by TrinsicWS at 1:38 PM on August 30, 2011

The final straw was me crying, and him responding “it’s not my job to be empathetic.”

I've spent hours looking after my husband this weekend. One of his close family members has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. She has very little time left.

He thanked me for being patient, generous with my time, understanding, etc, and I said, shocked:

"What else could I do? I'm your wife."
posted by NoiselessPenguin at 1:39 PM on August 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

" He has asked me to come over to talk; the first time he refused to talk to me, because I came over after work, rather than staying the night, another red flag....He was never abusive, just selfish and emotionaly neglectful."

You deserve better than "He tries to extort sex and is miserable to be with, but at least he doesn't hit me." Stick to your guns.
posted by VelveteenBabbitt at 1:52 PM on August 30, 2011

He sounds something like I used to be. I was aloof, nervous, and slow to feel, and I was defensive about things like whether that made me an inadequate human being and whether my need for space and calm could ever be as important as my partner's need for emotional dumping/processing.

It took me a few go-rounds, but I eventually recognized that, for me, dating anyone who might describe themselves as "an emotional type" was a no-good, very bad, awful, horrible idea. Even though I loved and respected them, I'd become itchy to escape them. Because I wasn't listening respectfully to my own emotions, I was slow to accept that I'd gnaw off my own arm to get away. So, instead of breaking up with them like a sensible and aware woman, I'd get snarly and emotionally absent but still doggedly hang in there month after month until finally things were too obviously lousy to bear. (Do you ever wonder if something in the fridge has gone off, and then just back away and leave it there until it's definitely gone off? This was more or less my relationship model for a few years. I do not recommend it.)

People do change and grow, but not necessarily in a direction that is best for any given person in their lives. I've changed a whole heck of a lot since those days, and I think for the better, but my guess is that I haven't changed in ways that would magically make me romantically compatible with someone who's built along your lines, OP. I'm sorry to say it, but I think it's good to seriously consider the possibility that you still won't be compatible if he becomes more emotionally healthy. He could become a paragon of emotional and mental health and still not be a guy who is right for you.

In short, if you decide that this is it and you guys are over, I'd support you in that. I definitely think it's reasonable. Getting your ducks in a row and only then working on your relationship with a several-month timeline? I'd call that more idealistic than reasonable, but still pretty reasonable. Your ex-fiance's ideas? Imho, not so reasonable.

my mother... has threatened to cut me out of her will if I go back.

Good heavens. Speaking of unreasonable, that sounds like a lady who has "controlling" and "supportive" all mixed up in her mind. I hope she's a subject of conversation in your own therapy.
posted by sculpin at 2:29 PM on August 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

it’s not my job to be empathetic.

no, that it exactly his job. that's what partners do for each other. that is more his job than anyone else in the world's.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:30 PM on August 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

He doesn't sound mature enough to handle an adult relationship. He doesn't sound as though he wants to be mature enough to be in that relationship. Don't, please don't, do this to yourself. It's not worth it. You matter. You deserve to be treated well. Let him go.
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 2:57 PM on August 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

We see only your point of view. Are you very needy, emotionally intense? Is he burned out? Because we see only your side, we can't really answer this. Go somewhere quiet, and spend a lot of time thinking. You love him, try to see things from his point of view. Ask him to do the same thing. Then, you can get together in a few days and discuss it. People do change, but mostly in ways you didn't anticipate. I'm not optimistic about the relationship.
posted by theora55 at 4:43 PM on August 30, 2011

Dump him. Run away. Get him out of your life and out of the apartment.

(I love the ultimatum--It's over if I leave the apartment.--threaten much?)

He's obviously a selfish person, and you won't be happy. What would you tell a close friend or your sister if they were involved? Think about marriage with kids? Do you really want your children's father to be so lacking in empathy and emotionally abusive?

Get out now.
posted by BlueHorse at 5:49 PM on August 30, 2011

Move on. You are not compatible as a couple.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:00 PM on August 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Bows to scody.....

My bias in situations like this is to cut quick and clean

I am going to blow my own horn and for ALL the other guys out there who are available to you out there. I have written enough about my lover who passed away last year.

It was blatantly obvious we were meant for each other. We got together and within a week she had found out her cancer returned. We were together for 5 months.

While I was caring for her, some of her friends expressed their amazement at my "gifts" and "compassion" and "how can you be so strong" like it was a big thing. My reply was something along the lines of, "This is what you do when you love someone."

So I am one of the guys. The right woman found me. And our relationship was and continues to be beautiful. Scody's had an little experience of that

This next statement is not spitting on any of the woman I've been involved with in my life. When Renee and I got together I actually felt as if I was being "met." That was a first. It was clear that, no matter how much I was efforting to make the relationship work, the fit wasn't there (no matter how convinced I was or how much I loved them) It became very clear what I wanted in a woman and I would never settle for anything less then that.

This guy is not meeting you. Period. You can't change him. And their is more to life than waiting for him to change.

You deserve better. You are capable of having better. And you have the encouragement of every person on this thread to go for what is better.

As corny as it may sound, this is where you learn about courage.
posted by goalyeehah at 6:28 PM on August 30, 2011 [5 favorites]

Honestly, after reading this I can only say one thing; is this guy really worth it to you so much that you are willing to even put up with this? You two are obviously not compatible. He is not emotional and you are. The way he reacts to things causes a reaction in you of disbelief, anger, frustration... you are having a tough time understanding each other and he frankly doesn't seem to be compromising at all. What is it really costing him to listen and maybe make some changes about small things? Not much. If he loved and valued you, he would be the empathetic ear he should be, but he is choosing not to be. If you can get him to go to counseling, you can try and maybe you should get some kind of help yourself. I don't think this is what you want to be spending the rest of your life with though, right? It could get worse or it could change temporarily and then you tie the knot and he becomes the same guy again... and then you're miserable. Also, your mother sounds like she has good intentions but she also needs to let you make your own mistakes!
posted by Chelsaroo650 at 8:26 AM on October 5, 2011

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