I know I need to end it, but I also know I won't
December 8, 2011 9:19 AM   Subscribe

Help me end this toxic dating situation. Maybe even share stories about finally realizing you had to cut things off and how you actually went through with it.

I met a guy using the Local app on OKC a couple of weeks ago. Things got intense from the get go (i.e. spent six days straight together). He's been warning me all along that he's aloof, busy (read: consumed) with work, a wanderer, might not contact me as often as I'd like, and essentially is doing his own thing right now and I can take him or leave him.

That in it of itself should have been enough to get me to bail instantly, but for various reasons (extreme physical attraction, daddy issues, attachment issues, mild anxiety and depression, previous relationship stuff not completely figured out, etc.) I've stuck it out.

I'm at a complete (mental) breaking point after getting into yet another disagreement about the state of our "relationship". It's crystal clear that I need to run for the hills, but I'd be an absolute liar if I said I'm going to end things.

Please tell me how you were finally able to walk away from something that was obviously wrong, the steps you took, your mental process, anything that might help me convince myself to actually go through with it.

*I don't know if this is helpful, but I'm 32 and he's 36. And yes, I realize that it being less than a month old comes across as ridiculous, but it is what it is.
posted by patientpatient to Human Relations (31 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Things got intense from the get go (i.e. spent six days straight together). He's been warning me all along that he's aloof, busy (read: consumed) with work, a wanderer, might not contact me as often as I'd like, and essentially is doing his own thing right now and I can take him or leave him.

He's telling you this for a reason. They only way you're going to be able to get out of this is if you finally, actually believe him. It's never going to change. There is nothing you can do. There are no special tricks, you just have to finally believe that.
posted by spaltavian at 9:23 AM on December 8, 2011 [4 favorites]

I realized I deserved better.
posted by headnsouth at 9:23 AM on December 8, 2011 [3 favorites]

I was in a similar situation until he cheated on me, then I was able to make a clean break. I was actually relieved because it gave me a clear-cut "out." Believe me, I wish I'd ended it much sooner, because the infidelity was heart-breaking. Imagine the worst emotional pain you've ever felt, double it, and then decide if the hot sex is worth it.
posted by desjardins at 9:26 AM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

I played music. No seriously. I played "Come on Eileen" (I have no idea why that song worked for me, but it did) and did it. I realized I deserved better. My ex deserved someone who was happy with them/worked with them. I told my friends beforehand so that they were available/knew to answer when I called. I built up a sytem of support to help me through. And that was for something that had lasted four years. So figure out what kind of support you need and do it. You deserve to have the love you want. He has told you that this is not going to be it. And I still say, play music to help you get through. Soundtracks can be incredibly helpful, healing, empowering. (Ms. Franklin's "Respect" is a good one, too, and it gets your booty shaking).
posted by anya32 at 9:26 AM on December 8, 2011 [4 favorites]

Also, read some materials on addiction. I am not saying you are an addict, but the mental processes (for both addiction and recovery) are strikingly similar.
posted by desjardins at 9:27 AM on December 8, 2011

Please tell me how you were finally able to walk away from something that was obviously wrong

I wish I had walked away after a month (instead of after years) because I, like you, knew from the very start that I should walk away. I kept second guessing myself and not listening to my own instincts. Don't do that. Don't waste your time.
posted by marimeko at 9:32 AM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

"(extreme physical attraction, daddy issues, attachment issues, mild anxiety and depression, previous relationship stuff not completely figured out, etc.)"

Look, there's nothing wrong with you. Stop beating yourself up for being attracted and having daddy issues and attachment issues and mild anxiety and depression and previous relationship stuff. It's normal to get attracted and want to hang onto someone and it's normal to try to cope with not-perfect stuff until you can't any more. You don't have a mental illness, you're infatuated. You are smart and healthy for not letting your id run the show here, in the face of incredible temptation.

If I were you, I'd just stop calling. If he's as hiply unavailable as he says, he probably won't notice. If he calls, say you're busy. If he calls again, say he's dumped.

Also, spending six days straight with a near-stranger sounds pretty intense so, even if he's completely on the level and not manipulating you, it's unsurprising that he would want more space now. (But it sounds like he's been telling you he was going to push you away from the beginning.) Next time, try going the Air of Mystery route and only seeing someone once a week for the first month and then gradually phasing them in. You still have the intensity, but you also have enough boundaries to still make good decisions.
posted by tel3path at 9:33 AM on December 8, 2011 [22 favorites]

After many years of a toxic relationship, I realized that I didn't want to be an object of pity because I was still with him. This came at the same moment as realizing that I was worth something. The sense of self-preservation, self-respect and self-worth all clicked into place at once and leaving was the clear and only next step.

Save your self.

Good luck. This is hard.
posted by MonkeyToes at 9:33 AM on December 8, 2011 [5 favorites]

I watched Wedding Singer. When I realized that I was getting weepy at a stupid Adam Sandler movie, wishing that I'd find someone to love me as much as Adam Sandler's character loved Drew Barrymore's character, I mean, crying at a stupid fucking Adam Sandler movie, I knew it was time.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:35 AM on December 8, 2011 [9 favorites]

Nothing should be dramatic and angsty a couple weeks in. I remind myself of this and it has saved me many times.

A relationship is about valuing another person and being valued. You deserve that. He said he does not value you. Say that out loud a few times and anytime you're on the fence. "He does not value me."

Stop answering his calls. Since you have trouble breaking it off, just text him that you're done. I'm not normally for that kind of break up but don't actually talk to him.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 9:41 AM on December 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

A lot of times, when we seek drama in relationships, it means there's something we're avoiding in our own lives. Figure out what that thing is, what you need to do about it, and then walk in the opposite direction from drama dude.
posted by roger ackroyd at 9:44 AM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think you should send Mr Aloof an email saying it just isn't working for you (you don't need to elaborate). Then ignore further communications and do not contact him again. The aloofness is a big sign he doesn't really like you, but if the occasion rises he might use you briefly. You are worth way more than that!
posted by meepmeow at 10:00 AM on December 8, 2011 [4 favorites]

You can send him a text message or an email RIGHT NOW, seriously, right this very second, that says "X, we're not a good match. I'm going to move on. Good luck with everything."

If you want to know a mental trick that has helped me in situations like this in the past, I think you're onto something when you call this relationship "toxic." Think of this man as an actual poison to you: "a substance with an inherent property that tends to destroy life or impair health." Rename him as POISON on your cell phone, and use something like this as his picture. Remind yourself that there are poisons that smell sweet, but that does not change the fact that they are not just bad but actually dangerous for your health. If he was dripping with cyanide and radioactive biohazardous waste, you wouldn't have to think twice about getting and staying away, right? Think of it like that.

It seems like you're already further on the right track than you might recognize, just by how you've put together this post. Wishing you well, and hope you'll follow up with how things go.
posted by argonauta at 10:01 AM on December 8, 2011 [5 favorites]

stop pretending he's something he isn't. he's told you who he is and how he's going to treat you (badly). now you have to listen to him. if you can accept his terms, great. if that's not the kind of relationship you want, walk away and don't look back. (seriously, just do it. it's not as hard as you think, and there are about 9,999 other guys on okc right now who would date you.)
posted by unlucky.lisp at 10:03 AM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

At this point, you can't even call this a dating situation. It's just a crazy drama you've created. My WAG is that you want to hide for a while.

There's no easy way to stop yourself when you get going. Come on Eileen might work. Is there anything else you can do obsessively until you are safely in-gripped by this? Tetris? Anything???

When you do get out - and you will - don't beat yourself up. We all have attacks of stupid and you seem to have caught this one early. Yay for you!

Do you have a close friend who can babysit for a couple of days? Any projects you need to tackle?

Can you afford to take yourself on a long weekend somewhere?

Good luck.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 10:07 AM on December 8, 2011

For me, it was when I realised that the time I spent apart from him was more fun and less stressful than the time I spent with him that was the trigger; this was, like others mentioned upthread, after years, not weeks, of misery and psychological torment.

It took moving away (back home after uni) to get the distance I needed, but not just in a physical way - I also realised I had friends that were fun to hang around with, I started a job and met nice, mature people and wasn't being pressured and manipulated any more and literally one evening, under instructions to ring him, I realised that I just didn't want the burden any more.

If I had listened to my gut at the start (which was flashing up all kinds of warnings - sorry, gut) I would NOT have wasted two and a half precious years. You are hearing those warnings right about now, a month in. This sounds like a person who has stated upfront that he is not in the business of caring about your feelings, which is ... erm, good to know I suppose, if not comfortable to hear. At least you're not under any illusions.

And it isn't ridiculous - feelings are what they are, especially at the start of something - but please don't ignore the still small voice.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 10:21 AM on December 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

What is the ideal relationship for you? Spend some time thinking about that only. Then use one of the cutoff suggestions above, send that text or email or what have you, so you make room for a closer-to-ideal situation to develop. Interacting with this guy is not worth it for you. Find something worthwhile to do. That's pretty black and white, but I find sometimes that helps to make a break with a bad habit.
posted by Listener at 10:25 AM on December 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

-Realize this person is using you.

The 6 days straight together was a classic set-up, as was telling you he wasn't available. By making you think his attention was "scarce" he made it seem "valuable" to you.

In truth, you don't even like this fellow, you're simply vulnerable and he is a very very good manipulator.

Once I became good at spotting the manipulation tactics not-so-nice people use consciously and unconsciously to make sure they get what they want, the tactics stopped working on me.

A good place to start might be this book. Also, that book by Neil Strauss about the pick-up artist scene.

Really. You just have to start seeing that sort of treatment as super unattractive and you're on your way.

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 10:41 AM on December 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

Sit down in a quiet space. Give yourself at least an hour. Write down why you are in this relationship. WHat do you get? WHat do you feel you need? What are some pros and cons of this relationship? Is this going to be healthy or unhealthy for you? WHat goood things do you bring, what bad things? Above all, what do you deserve, and how are you going to get it? I belive you deserve good things and happyness........ do you?
posted by Jacen at 10:48 AM on December 8, 2011

I had to really, truly, fully believe that he was never going to change his behavior, could care less about how the way he treated me affected me (despite his claims otherwise), and did not care about me as much as I wanted to believe he did. To be with him long-term, I had to accept that that was ALWAYS how I would be treated. For me, since I tend to doubt my own gut, this meant that I needed a ton of irrefutable evidence that he was a total shitshow. I really hope that you don't wait it out 'til you get all of that evidence, because that was massively painful.

I also had to believe that he wasn't my only option, and that I could have that same intense attraction and compatibility with someone else. So, keep looking on OKC. Look on Match. Talk to guys at bars. If I could find someone else in my small town, you can too.

What was hardest was giving up the massive amount of hope I had built up (and he had fostered) about how things might be. I had to walk away from something I wanted more than anything. Eventually, you'll get to a point where you believe that it's really and truly worth it to leave; that the costs of staying outweigh the benefits. If you only sort of believe this now, walk away on the faith that you will believe it someday. I promise you will. Walking away now will do wonders for your relationship skills, and will directly fight some of those anxiety/attachment issues you brought up in your post.

Oh, and listen to this song.
posted by quiet coyote at 10:57 AM on December 8, 2011 [6 favorites]

Consider the embarrassment you will feel later when you look back on this situation in about a year and realize you debased yourself thoroughly for someone who was not that interested in you.

A story, since you asked. I was dating this guy who kept telling me he didn't want a relationship. I clung to houseplant IQ and continued to "hang in there" for a variety of reasons. I knew it was not going to work out and that would it end badly. It did. I was in a lot of pain afterward, so I started therapy and I read a whole bunch of books trying to figure out why I "loved" someone who I didn't even like and who didn't make me feel good at all. If I had known then what I know now, that situation would not have even interested me.

That experience was a valuable learning tool, and I try to honor it as such, but it's so embarrassing to look back at myself in that situation because I realize how little I cared for myself. Don't create those memories and that baggage for yourself. It's not a good feeling.

If you want, MeMail and I can give you book titles, etc.
posted by amodelcitizen at 11:01 AM on December 8, 2011 [3 favorites]

First, give yourself a break--he sent super mixed signals from the get-go. People obsessed with work don't spend six days with someone. They just don't. So what he said and what he did were different enough to make anyone confused and a bit hopeful.

Besides, how come when women play hard to get and men pursue, it's normal, but when the genders are reversed it's OMG desperate? No. You're not pathetic or silly. You two got together, it was hot, you want more. Who wouldn't?

(A big, BIG part of how I got over it was to stop beating myself up about it and acting like I'm some kind of horrible weirdo, because that just fed into the cycle where I deserved to be ignored or would be "lucky" to get this guy's attention...self-shaming does not work.)
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:05 AM on December 8, 2011 [11 favorites]

Self-compassion is great, but I would argue that IS pathetic to keep pursuing someone who is not interested in you and has said they are not interested in you. Sometimes you need to get real with yourself.
posted by amodelcitizen at 11:16 AM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

... aloof, busy (read: consumed) with work, a wanderer, might not contact me as often as I'd like, and essentially is doing his own thing right now...

This means "I just want sex."

So next time, you'll know that this is not a person you should look to for any kind of attachment.
posted by yellowcandy at 11:31 AM on December 8, 2011 [4 favorites]

I second the e-mail suggestion. And the sooner, the better.

If you decided not to do it, now go ahead and draft it. At least that will bring you one step closer.

Then block or delete him from your e-mail, phone, etc.

Friends can be a good source of support before, during and after.

Maybe a change of scenery can help. Are you going away for the holidays?

I've had some very loosely similar situations. In a weird way, it helps the worse they get, because that makes it easier to realize you're better off without them.

If you're still wavering, write down all the reasons he's not right for you, and keep reviewing the list.
posted by maurreen at 11:53 AM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

What helped me was realizing that I would never have treated someone the way he treated me. I realized that I was a better person than he was and that I deserved someone who was as good to me as I was to him.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 11:56 AM on December 8, 2011 [4 favorites]

Best answer: He's been warning me all along that he's aloof, busy (read: consumed) with work, a wanderer, might not contact me as often as I'd like, and essentially is doing his own thing right now and I can take him or leave him.

I have said this to people, and I meant it. (Although I did not spend six straight days with those people before I said it.) When people tell you this, BELIEVE THEM. When I said it to people, what I meant was, "If you want to hang out occasionally, cool. If not, I really don't care." And I really didn't. I was never going to have a real relationship with the people I said this to. Ever. Which is why I told them I was going to be doing my own thing and I was consumed with work -- my relationship at the time was with my job. When people tell you who they are, as the old saying goes, believe them.

I'm at a complete (mental) breaking point after getting into yet another disagreement about the state of our "relationship".

Forgive me for being blunt, but I suspect you are putting WAY more emotional energy into this than he is, because I wager he's not putting ANY into it. When I was him, this was the point at which I would just break it off because I personally felt terrible knowing that the the other person didn't believe my "take me or leave me, this is going to be casual -- like REALLY casual -- because you aren't my first priority right now" speech and thought things might work out when I KNEW they would not. Because I have been on your end of the equation, too, and I always felt so MAD at myself for hanging on when I knew better.

If you know you need to end it, then END IT. And if you know you're not going to, against all your better judgement, then batten down the hatches because this is going to get messy for you emotionally and it's going to suck WAY harder later than it will now. Would it maybe help to think of breaking up with him now as a favor you're doing for your Future Self?
posted by Countess Sandwich at 12:03 PM on December 8, 2011 [5 favorites]

I'd be an absolute liar if I said I'm going to end things.


Statements like that one "I'm not going to be able to bring myself to do it" become true if you keep repeating them. Every time you catch yourself thinking this, follow it with, "wait, what am I saying, of course I'm going to end things."

I was once caught in a really bad, drama-filled on again/off again relationship. I got out of it when I had dinner with two of my friends and explained the whole situation with them. And they told me I needed to stop getting back together with her. And I said something like what you've said here, something like "I know I have to, but I can't stay away from her." And they are good friends, because they responded with "what are you talking about? Of course you can. You're an adult with free will, and you're not doing yourself any favors by pretending you're being buffeted by forces outside of your control. The way to stop seeing her is to stop seeing her." They were right! So I say the same thing to you now. Not going to end things? Don't be ridiculous, of course you are.
posted by Ragged Richard at 1:07 PM on December 8, 2011 [4 favorites]

It sort of sounds like you're going to end up not having to really deal with it. If you guys are having fights about the state of your "relationship" (and I'm assuming that he's on the side of "what relationship?!") he's probably going to drop you like a hot potato pretty soon.

... and you're talking about having "stuck it out" for a month. What the hell are you talking about? this to me screams boundry issues. And as an apparent glutton for pain- you've chosen to set your sights on a dude who is all about boundries (as in never going to let you come in even if you weren't going a little nuts here.)

Get thee to a therapist and talk about NEVER DOING THIS AGAIN: Spening six days straight together, all while the dude is telling you this shit aint going to be a thing.
posted by Blisterlips at 1:24 PM on December 8, 2011

It sounds as cheesy as a Velveeta factory but the website and emails of Dating without Dramas really really helped me get over someone like this.
posted by Kerasia at 1:48 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

put ALL OF YOUR ENERGY into finding someone new (and right for you). A therapist once told me that i'd walk away from a toxic relationship when I was ready to. that was two years into it. I stayed for four more. Cut it off. its an addiction. the only way to go cold turkey is to throw your energies elsewhere. do not answer his calls or texts.
posted by BlueMartini7 at 4:34 PM on December 15, 2011

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