The recovering addict and the… sports addict? What is this?
March 15, 2012 9:25 AM   Subscribe

The recovering addict and the… sports addict? Is this level of interest in sports normal? How can I not take the backseat to sports, while remaining considerate of his feelings as he deals with me dealing with multiple health issues?

Background: I am a mid-twenties female; my partner is a mid-thirties male. We have been together for 2.5 years, known each other for 3 years, and we live together in the apartment he rents.

I was in a professional graduate program and over my winter break entered treatment for my drug addiction. I left the program early because I needed to return to school. Despite all the problems (they placed me in the wrong wing of the treatment facility, so I was attending groups for a disorder a don’t have, but fortunately I was being medically monitored during my detox, which is exactly why I went there. I knew therapy would be lacking (in my case, non-existent), and I’m pissed that I wasted money after being put in the wrong program (the problem was rectified a few weeks in… 2 days before I was to leave), but I’m over it. At least I was medically monitored and I got a few weeks clean under my belt.), I wish I would have stayed because when I returned to school, I was offered a voluntary medical withdrawal that would not impact my job placement, scholarship, etc.—all because one of the deans knew of my problems for a few months, and my grades didn’t reflect the student I had become right up until entering treatment.

So since my withdrawal, on my own I’ve found a therapist who is willing to meet with me, an addiction psychiatrist who is willing to treatment me outpatient under the condition that I submit to random drug tests (my idea), and have dealt with multiple major health issues. I had a medical issue going on for some time, the treatment center gave me nine different antibiotics at once instead of letting me leave to see a GP, so I ended up with a systemic infection. I went to an OBGYN for that, and found out I had another bacterial infection that had turned systemic. (I was also violently raped a few months ago so finally seeing an OBGYN at my age was long overdue. I was worried any of this was tied to the rape incident.)

…Then I found out I have cervical cancer. Not fucking precancerous cells or low-grade whatever, but cancerous cells. I am being treated for that now because it’s already spread.

During the entire time these mysterious infections were being treated, I lost 20-30 lbs. I couldn’t eat from the meds, I felt like a dying cancer patient (little did I know!), so everything was exhausting. I was/am still detoxing, so this has all been really fucking hard. Admitting I was sodomized has really taken a toll on my emotional health. I’m just so so glad I’m in therapy and I wasn’t turned away as I have been historically (liability issues), because I love that I have one hour a week where I get someone’s undivided attention.

Now to my question… since becoming sober, I’ve realized there are major problems in my relationship—problems I used to ignore with drugs. My partner ignores me. We don’t talk because he doesn’t want to. He’s obsessed with sports. We don’t argue, although I’m learning on my own how to be assertive. I told him point blank there are problems we need to work together on and resolve.

I don’t know if I’m being overly demanding or emotionally taxing on him. I hate that I live in his apartment. He calls it our place and says he wants me to feel at home. (I left the apartment I was renting when I left school, and because my partner dispenses my meds and the plan was always to live together, I winded up here. FWIW, we’ve spent long periods of time living together under the same roof; this is the first time I call this place home though.) I don’t feel that way.

I plan to look for a job once my health improves. In the meantime, I am dying here. This is his daily routine:

Wake up at 8:45, listen to sports radio for 1.5 hrs while he relaxes / gets ready for work; goes to work where he simultaneously listens to sports radio and works; comes home for lunch for 2 hours where he’s on his laptop reading sports articles and listening to sports radio; goes back to work; comes home and immediately goes to his computer to read sports articles, listen to sports radio, and watch ESPN until dinner… during which he listens to sports radio. After dinner it’s more of the same: he watches his shows (of which there are many); he watches his teams’ games; he’ll watch bits & pieces of other games he deems important; he watches ESPN; he listens to sports radio—often simultaneously as he watches TV; he’ll catch up on watching back-to-back episodes of The Wire (he does this with major TV series he’s missed: buys the box set and watches back-to-back episodes).

At 1:30 am, he comes into the bedroom, where I am. I’m sad as usual because I didn’t get any airtime. He’ll usually be affectionate and hug/kiss me or initiate sex. (Right now I can’t have sex while I’m being treated for cervical cancer so that causes him some frustration. Prior to all of this, we had sex daily, which I enjoyed. We have great sexual chemistry.) I feel used and valueless. I get ignored all day and then you come to me for sex? If I try to engage him or go sit in the living room near him, I’m not allowed to talk. If I say, “Can I ask you something?” I get a huge eye roll or exaggerated sigh as he pauses sports radio or he pauses the TV. He’s said I’m not super talkative and to limit my talking to the “important stuff.” I asked him to give me an example of what I’ve said to him that’s Important vs. Not Important, but he didn’t have an answer.
I hate that we don’t talk. I hate that I have to ask to talk and it’s met with an eye roll or some sign of annoyance. I hate that going to the kitchen to get ice from the fridge means he has to make a big point of putting the TV on pause because the 2-3 seconds of the ice machine making noise is such a disturbance to him.

I totally 100% GET that he has his teams. If we’re going out to dinner, he’ll tivo his team’s game and watch it when we return. When he’s watching a game, I know not to go out there and talk to him. He knows I know this. I’ve asked for quality time. I’ve explained that this could be sitting in the same room. He can watch tv and I can be on my laptop, but there’s open communication if either of us wants to say anything, like “Dude. The weirdest thing happened at the grocery store today…” There’s no eye-rolling.

Right now I get no airtime. I’m like the dog in the Pet Supermarket commercial. I wait all day for him to come home and stupidly expect that I get some time with him and I never do. Ever. I know better at this point than to expect it.

He says I’m a Debbie Downer and I’m always sulking. I admit recovery is hard and I’ve been depressed my entire life. But I don’t speak to him about this so as not to be depressing. But some things… like when I found out about the cancer, are not Debbie Downer topics. I wanted to tell him but I didn’t get a chance until I was sobbing about it 2 weeks later when I finally got a chance to tell him (I had to explain why we couldn’t have sex).
He’s listened to my quality time spiel and nods in agreement… but nothing changes. He’s agreed to come to therapy with me next week and I’m holding him to his word.

I guess I’m just looking to hear if anyone has gone through similar. I feel like I have to walk on eggshells because he’s letting me live here for free (although he makes six figures, has an executive level job, any petty money I could contribute once I’m working is chump change to him; as a sign of my gratitude I keep the apartment spotless when the housekeeper isn’t around) and I don’t want to be perceived as demanding. He wants to get married one day and hates it when I spend the weekend with a friend from school because he misses me… but he doesn’t talk to me at all when I’m here! His family adores me, which adds to my guilt. They’re such nice people. (I grew up in an abusive household so I don’t have family to go to.)

Am I asking for too much? How do most couples spend quality time together during the week after work? Is this a sports “addiction?” How do I communicate my needs (attention, wanting time to talk) in yet another way that he may understand better?

(Please no DTMFAL because he will be attending therapy with me next week. I will leave once I’m on my feet if things haven’t been resolved. Right now I have $0 and because of my health, working immediately or packing up and going isn’t feasible.)
posted by overyourhead to Human Relations (26 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like the 2 of you just don't get along. Maybe the therapist will help you do so. If not, it might be time to move along before all this stuff you notice ruins the memories and impression of the relationship up to this point. It sounds like you helped each other through some stuff, so if you do have to split up, at least you can remember it as a nice time and a good thing, and leave it at that.
posted by vsync at 9:37 AM on March 15, 2012

You couldn't tell your boyfriend that you had cancer for two weeks because hew as too busy watching sports? And then he's frustrated because you can't have sex because you have cancer? And he ignores you all day until he wants sex?

Sure, go to therapy. Maybe a therapist can help the two of you communicate better, or help each of you see what is actually going on here. In the meantime, focus on getting yourself healthy, sober, and in a position to move on.
posted by dpx.mfx at 9:41 AM on March 15, 2012 [27 favorites]

First off, I am so sorry to hear what you are going through and hope you have a swift and easy recovery.

Second, your bf is escaping. Classic escapism that has ramped up because of all the unthinkably stressful things you have been going through. You, his live-in girlfriend. It's impossible for him to not be affected by all the stress. Though it'd be well and great if he stepped up to the plate and was super boyfriend in the face of this, he's human and that's not happening. My advice is to give him a break. Reduce his stress-load, it in turn will reduce yours. Reframe your bitterness towards him by accepting that he perhaps is paralyzed in his inability to care for you or ease your pain. Give him the benefit of the doubt. Own your part in it; you NEED to communicate what is going on with your health. You cannot keep cancer a secret from your live-in boyfriend. This is setting him up for guilt and failure and more stress and withdrawal.

Work on getting yourself healthy. Be affectionate towards him, cuddle or just sit with him while he watches a game, get him tickets to something and go with him. Show love. The track you're on now is only causing you and him more stress, he withdraws more, and in turn you become more resentful and less able to focus on your health.
posted by Katine at 9:44 AM on March 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

That sounds horrible! I'm so sorry you're going through all this. You definitely deserve support and I'm glad that you have at least one outlet for that (therapy). But you deserve more. Heck, your partner deserves more from himself--I definitely think he has a problem.

I get why you don't want to leave, since you don't have any resources of your own. But you might want to revisit that assumption and see if there are other people in your life who would be willing to help you, or if there are organizations in your area that could help. Have you told your therapist all of this? Maybe they would have suggestions for how to support yourself so you don't feel trapped in this dysfunctional relationship.

As far as this relationship, unless he really wants to change I very much doubt the situation will improve. The only concrete suggestion I can make is perhaps try to engage him around the sports he is interested in. If you can get him talking about something (anything!) maybe the conversation will naturally grow.
posted by postel's law at 9:44 AM on March 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Are you bored? Do you have any hobbies? If you're waiting for him to come home all day, every day (like a dog? ouch), that's not good but it's also not something he can manage for you. You might not have the energy yet to go out and do things in public, but you might want to find some things you can do with yourself at home- TV shows you like, books to read, stuff to cook or build or make. This could take some of the the pressure off your partner.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:48 AM on March 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

If I recall right, they tell you not to make major decisions while you're going through treatment for addiction, psychological issues etc. The catch, of course, if that where relationships are concerned, no decision is also a decision. That said, I agree with dpx.mfx. Get healthy and don't worry too much about the rest.

I do wonder if your boyfriend has always been this focused on sports broadcasts. I mean, this is probably a heavy situation for him too, and it may be that he's distracting himself with sports more than usual. If he were my friend, I'd be concerned that he seems to be avoiding dealing with his own feelings about the major changes that are happening with you, his partner.
posted by BibiRose at 9:49 AM on March 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Should have previewed. Katine said it better.
posted by BibiRose at 9:50 AM on March 15, 2012

Guess what you don't want to hear but need to! DTMFA! You are dating a terrible person. No, not dating, because this isn't a relationship anymore; he's your landlord. Or something. Even roommates have casual conversations. You're ten years younger than him, he makes 6 figures and only seems to show interest in you sexually. Does that paint a picture different than your personal narrative? We don't even have to touch his fucking ridiculous relationship with sports.

This is horrible, I'm very sorry, because you're going through a whole lot of Shit that no one needs to (and back-to-back to boot) and it's going to make it even harder to get outta dodge. But not only do you deserve to be loved by those you shower affection on, right now you NEED it, and the support that comes with it, to get through your issues both medical and psychological. I'm not the guy to tell you where to find this support- but there are many threads on here that can.

Couples therapy is currently your bright light at the end of the tunnel, and it shouldn't be, because it isn't going to solve the problem of His Being an Asshole. Finding people who enjoy you in their lives and can help you blaze a path through the Shit should be your priority.
posted by MangyCarface at 9:55 AM on March 15, 2012 [7 favorites]

When I had a close friend with a major illness that put a big burden on both of us, it affected my behavior. Your recovery and your illness affect those around you, and so it may be hard to see which things are now 1) visible because you're more conscious, which things are 2) patterns that were influenced by the addiction, and which are 3) patterns that are related to your new illness.

For (2) I can say, addiction affects couples, not just the individual. And so you and your SO may be in habits that worked during addiction, and now do not. So as a couple you're in a different spot now and couple's therapy or a support group may help you together to figure out where you are now as a couple.

For (3), cancer is a hell of an illness. It affects the friends and family of the person with it in various ways. When I had a relative with cancer, one of my coping strategies was to check out a lot. It wasn't a positive way of dealing with the stress, but it was a way. All I can say is understand your SO may be acting this way not because they are themselves a bad person, but because they lack the tools to deal with major stress in a healthy way. Therapy for each of you, separately or together, may help, as might going to a support group for people with cancer. Hearing that you're not the first couple in a similarly awful spot, and then hearing how some of them made it through, well, that could lift some of the stress off.
posted by zippy at 10:03 AM on March 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

If the two of you are going to survive, he's got to find a better stress outlet than checking out all day, every day. Therapy for you, him, and the two of you as a couple.
posted by zug at 10:07 AM on March 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

Oh, and if you come to realize that (1) is the big thing here and the two of you just don't work, therapy will help the two of you understand your relationship. And if there's no progress / he won't go / you're still unhappy about your relationship, DTMFA when you can.
posted by zippy at 10:09 AM on March 15, 2012

I know you said "No DTMFA," but this ...

Wake up at 8:45, listen to sports radio for 1.5 hrs while he relaxes / gets ready for work; goes to work where he simultaneously listens to sports radio and works; comes home for lunch for 2 hours where he’s on his laptop reading sports articles and listening to sports radio; goes back to work; comes home and immediately goes to his computer to read sports articles, listen to sports radio, and watch ESPN until dinner… during which he listens to sports radio. After dinner it’s more of the same: he watches his shows (of which there are many); he watches his teams’ games; he’ll watch bits & pieces of other games he deems important; he watches ESPN; he listens to sports radio—often simultaneously as he watches TV; he’ll catch up on watching back-to-back episodes of The Wire (he does this with major TV series he’s missed: buys the box set and watches back-to-back episodes).

and this ...

If I try to engage him or go sit in the living room near him, I’m not allowed to talk. If I say, “Can I ask you something?” I get a huge eye roll or exaggerated sigh as he pauses sports radio or he pauses the TV. He’s said I’m not super talkative and to limit my talking to the “important stuff.” I asked him to give me an example of what I’ve said to him that’s Important vs. Not Important, but he didn’t have an answer...

and THIS ...

…Then I found out I have cervical cancer. Not fucking precancerous cells or low-grade whatever, but cancerous cells. I am being treated for that now because it’s already spread.

Sorry, but your partner is a piece of shit. Scum of the earth. Vile. Reprehensible. Vermin. How in the hell can you stay around and accept this humiliation, this flat-out contempt he has for you, his disrespect for your human dignity? It would be awful to treat you this way under any circumstances, but while you're battling cancer that has spread? You get an eye-roll when you try to talk to him, and a warning only to talk about important things?

This question really pissed me off for you, and I don't even know you.

All these questions you ask are pointless unless he starts treating you like a human being. Currently, he's not. I feel as though you have gotten so acclimated to it that you wrongly believe that this kind of treatment is acceptable. It isn't.

Please take care of yourself and get away from this awful, selfish, infantile creep.
posted by jayder at 10:27 AM on March 15, 2012 [34 favorites]

Maybe he's burned out; maybe his burnout point is a little lower than where it needs to be if he's dating someone who's going through what you're going through.

He needs to be able to examine his own motivations and understand what's going on with himself and how he relates to you. Being burned out and asking for room to do what he needs to do is fine. Treating you as contemptuously as he's treating you is not. That's something he needs to work on.

You keep referring to him as a partner, but he is not. The energy expended in making a relationship work is not put towards trying to make sure each individual is mentally well - it's put towards the actual relationship, with a consideration towards both partners. You are doing all the lifting here. It broke my heart to see you ask about ways to spend time together as couples, because if he wanted to, he would. He doesn't want to. Finding some new interesting activity to occupy your nights with is not going to fix anything, and in fact will probably make him act with irritation.

Between the fact that he only comes to you when he wants sex, the fact that he hates it when you do something other than exactly what he wants, the fact that he claims to miss you despite ignoring you all the time, and the contempt with which he's treating you (eye-rolling, making a big production out of pausing a thing, etc.), I really don't know what to say.

It'd be too easy for me to say you're dating an asshole, even though I happen to believe you're dating an asshole, but a sympathetic view compels me to say that some people just burn out and don't understand why. His habits and routine have carved a huge, deep notch into his life and he resents any attempt to change it. He's dismissive and disrespectful of you, and honestly, I don't think it's a great idea to live in this environment - always waiting on another pellet of attention and being heartbroken when you don't get it - while in recovery. It's volatile, and volatile is not what you need. You need to have relatively sure footing right now.

You are being too understanding. He doesn't have his teams. What he has is a relationship he's completely checked out on, with a person he lives with so he can't get away from them, and a method of withdrawing from that person. The sports are incidental.

From what you're saying - and I only have what you're saying here - this relationship sounds kind of broken. If you want to effect any change, your best bet is to tell him all of this in plain language and ask him what's going on inside him; ask if there's some happy medium here, where maybe he can stand to miss a sports game once in a while, where maybe spending a little time reconnecting and bonding with his partner, a person he claims to love who's in a fragile place right now, could maybe take precedence over watching a bunch of overpaid assheads throw a ball around (maybe don't use that exact phrasing). If he acts like the very idea is an imposition - if he acts like even talking about this is a huge eyeroll-worthy problem - then I don't know. Go to therapy together, but he could certainly stand to attend therapy on his own, as well. I do think it's a good sign that he's willing to go to therapy with you, but if he's not willing to act on whatever ideas are presented there, then I don't know what to tell you other than that you should probably begin the process of moving on.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:47 AM on March 15, 2012 [6 favorites]

You have a lot going on, and it sounds like your background makes it hard to gauge what reasonable expectations are in a healthy relationship. I respect that you have too much going on right now to think about "dumping" him, so I'm not saying DTMFA. However, you need caring support. It sounds as if your boyfriend is unable or unwilling to provide that, at least right now. He dispenses your meds and puts a roof over your head, but he's kind of treating you like a houseplant--doing the bare necessities to keep you alive and in one piece, but otherwise ignoring you.

I'm going to suggest that, as a first step, you think about who you can rely on for caring support. Not total support. Just, who can you turn to for some encouragement? You mention a friend from school. Can you spend some more time with her on a regular basis? Do you have additional friends? Is their someone in your boyfriend's family you like spending time with? Have your healthcare providers and therapist connected you with any support groups for cancer patients? Can you attend a 12-step group or other addiction support group?

Let your friends and community care about you. What brings you a sense of peace or joy in life? If it's something that can involve another person, invite a friend: "I'm having a really hard time right now. Can you come take a walk with me?" or "Can I talk to you about some things that are going on? I just need to vent." Many people, myself included, really love to be invited to give encouragement and support. When a friend needs that from me, and I can give it, I feel good.

It will be a lot easier, down the road, to make decisions about this relationship, if right now you work on developing a support network that doesn't rely on him to provide something he can't or won't give you.
posted by Meg_Murry at 11:24 AM on March 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

If I say, “Can I ask you something?” I get a huge eye roll or exaggerated sigh as he pauses sports radio or he pauses the TV.

Do not say, Can I ask you something? Just start talking. When you preface it with "can I ask you something?" it sounds heavy.

Do the opposite of what you're doing now. Watch The Wire with him. Make some popcorn and sit with him. Do stuff you enjoy. Ask him to hang out with you. You are going through a lot. I would imagine it would be difficult to remain super positive. You are going to have ups and downs. You have a lot on your plate but if you want to stay with him you have to stop blaming him and take some responsibility for your happiness.

I have had a history of being depressed. I've been moody. You can bully and manipulate people with your moods. My husband retreated to video games and the internet. My husband is also a huge sports fan. He is constantly watching ESPN, NESN, consumes sports news on any media device that is available. So many times I shot him down (see bid for connection) and was in a funk, or wallowing in my own self-pity, and he just sort of gave up trying to engage me. You might need to start engaging him and showing him you have a life and you are pursuing activities you enjoy. It's difficult. He's human and coping the best way he knows how. You're going through a lot. Nobody is perfect. Forgive him, forgive yourself and try to create a better balance in this relationship by being open and loving as possible.
posted by Fairchild at 12:08 PM on March 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

Huh. I'm a little surprised that people are telling you to be so accommodating toward him.

Here's an important question: has this pattern only started since you got sick, or has it been in place before that? It sounds, from your question, like this dynamic is an old one, but you are only noticing it now that you're sober. If this is the case, the excuses that other people are making for him no longer apply - he's not escaping into sports if he's always been this way. You mention that you used to have a really good sex life. I wonder if your previous sexual connection was standing in for a missing emotional connection, or at least papering over some pretty big problems. That can happen. But, really, I can't imagine being in a relationship with someone where we didn't talk. That sounds like a nightmare.

I know you don't want to DTMFA. I'd really strongly urge you to reconsider that. Is there anyone in your life you can lean on for a little while? If one of my friends were in the situation you're describing, she would have my couch for as long as she needed it, no questions asked. But if it's really impossible for you to leave right now, I'd suggest that you begin to lay the groundwork for when you can leave. Start figuring out if you have a friend you can stay with. Look into what kind of job you can get when you're ready to work. And, in the meantime, figure out something that you can fill your time with, because I don't think that he's ever going to give you the kind of companionship that you (quite reasonably) want. Good luck, and I hope you get well soon.
posted by Ragged Richard at 12:29 PM on March 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

My boyfriend watches a ton of sports. A TON. I know what looking forward to coming home and then being ignored feels like. The good news is that when I need some time with him, I can ask him for an hour or so of watching a movie together or taking a walk or getting a beer, and he's glad to put the games on hold to spend some time together. Have you asked your boyfriend to participate in any specific activities with you or suggested he spend an hour with you doing Activity X? Like, "Hey, at 10 pm, can we snuggle and watch that cooking show and make fun of the contestants?" Maybe he needs some direction.

However, I'm not holding out hope because anyone who'd tell his girlfriend to only talk to him about "important things" is a dickbag. And that's not even factoring in what you're experiencing! No depression or mood of yours could justify that kind of dismissal.
posted by pineappleheart at 12:35 PM on March 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

If this is the same guy that didn't want to move to give you something less than an hour and a half commute during law school, the sports is really a red herring. He seems to want to use you only for his convenience and, not create a mutual and supportive relationship. Sexy goodtimes? Thumbs up! Anything else? Eyerolling and sighs! Heaven forbid you actually try to communicate.

Maybe, and this is hugely unlikely considering his age and past history, but just maybe therapy will light a fire under him and he'll truly change into the kind of supportive man that a healthy relationship needs. Doubt it, but it's a possibility.

More likely, if he gets the idea that you're reevaluating his position in your life, he might talk change and do some quick band-aid things to keep you around, and then let things slide back to the status quo.

But none of that matters so much right now. You've got even bigger stuff to deal: your health and recovery. I understand if you can't move out right now, but I think you need to detach yourself from him in your mind. Focus on yourself, and getting better, and work towards a plan to get you in a more supportive living environment (or even one that's just not anti-supportive). Don't sit around all day waiting for him to come home and ignore you. Work to find the support you need elsewhere. Rely on friends, online support groups, help through your school and community, whatever and wherever. Just don't sit around moping and waiting him to not give you anything you need except a tiny scrap of attention. He can provide a roof over your head and food on your table but don't expect or rely on him for anything else (and even the roof and food you should be looking to find elsewhere as soon as is reasonably possible).
posted by 6550 at 1:20 PM on March 15, 2012 [7 favorites]

After reading your past posting history, I may have to amend my earlier comment. You have to ask for and be direct about what you want. Though it looks like you might just have a craphead boyfriend on your hands.
posted by Katine at 1:27 PM on March 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

I am amazed that people are excusing this as escapism, or a coping mechanism, or whatever. This is terrible. I won't say DTFMA, but he's a MFA. People like to excuse husbands of pregnant women for their asshole behavior too, and this kind of sheds some light on it-- treating the woman in your life with this level of disrespect is never okay. At least, it does not indicate a healthy relationship.

I've seen how cancer affects loved ones. My uncle currently has cancer, and the people close to him are dealing with it in their individual ways. Some are depressed, some have to check out some of the time. NONE of them are treating him like it's inconvenient when he wants to talk to them. Of all the possible reactions in the world, that would be the most inexcusable one. It might be a way of dealing, but it is literally the most selfish, lizard brain way of dealing ever, and the fact that he hasn't put two and two together about his behavior as a decent human being means he's probably not decent and never will be. I'm tired of excusing guys for being 100% emotionally unavailable when I'm going through something life-changing, and then expecting my feminine support when they have their own issues, so there's my baggage.

Dialing it back, even if he is not a huge jerk, he is a man unable to emotionally support you whatsoever while you're dealing with cancer recovery and addiction recovery. Is this really a person you want to be with for the rest of your life?

I think it's easy sometimes as a straight woman to feel like a guy "just wants sex" if he's stressed out and then seems suddenly sexually interested, but this is above and beyond. He's upset because you can't have sex because you're being treated for cervical cancer?! It sounds like you know in the back of your mind that you should move on, but can't deal with the financial consequences right now. That's okay. I would keep trying to get healthy and wait until you're in a good place to make any big decisions-- but no, he is not behaving normally, and he is treating you quite badly.
posted by stoneandstar at 2:50 PM on March 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

I think the reason why people are telling you to accommodate him and work on the relationship is because your situation matches the stereotypical template of the uncommunicative sports-watching man who tunes out a nagging wife, versus the woman who gets out of bed with triple pneumonia to find her husband's socks, make his tea, and ferret out his psychiatric issues.

The problem is that this sounds like a grotesque caricature, which is questionable under the best of conditions. I don't think it should be your job to make him popcorn, initiate a snuggly conversation with someone who has already demonstrated total contempt for everything you say, and watch The Wire with someone who you already know will not let you near the DVD player with any media he didn't put there himself. I think you're too sick to take care of him. Nevertheless if I thought it would help, I'd agree with the advice that you do that. I just don't think it will help.

I'll be honest with you, I admire jayder's restraint in his assessment of this guy. However, I'm just an Internet stranger, and the only thing I can say for sure is that your bf's behaviour is totally abnormal, so if anything can improve your relationship, it will be professional help and thankfully he's agreed to go with you.

Good luck.
posted by tel3path at 4:24 PM on March 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't see what you're getting out of this relationship other than a place to stay. He doesn't like to spend time with you, and he's not giving you any support at a time when you really need it. Do you have any friends you could go be roommates with, instead?
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:03 PM on March 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Are you expecting too much?

No. Jesus no. In my experience, whenever someone asks this question, it means that they are expecting way too little.

What do couples do together on weeknights?

My survey of the couples I know shows these results: they watch their favorite shows together, play games, cook together, go out on dates, host and attend gatherings. They support each others' hobbies and give each other occasional nights off from one another. But as far as I know, most happy couples are basically joined at the hip and have lots of annoying in-jokes that no one else understands.

Is this a sports addiction?

Well, I am no expert on what is or isn't an addiction. You might want to ask your therapist about that instead. I do have some personal experience with being like him, though.

I used to be obsessed with hockey. Just like your partner, I would wake up, go to the job couldn't admit I hated, listen to hockey radio all day, read hockey blogs while my code was compiling, then come home and watch hockey until it was time to go to sleep. I had no intimate friendships and was in a miserable codependent relationship. I didn't trust anyone to like me and I hated myself. I pushed away the people who tried to get close because I couldn't believe they actually wanted to know me. I only trusted people who didn't really respect or like me. I was lonely without knowing it and there was no aspect of my life that really made me happy...except for hockey. Because it let me hide.

Then my relationship ended and I was forced to face all the things I had been running away from. I haven't needed or really wanted to watch hockey since then.

Is he depressed? Does he have any friends besides you? Does he like his job? Does he find his life fulfilling? Is he passionate about anything besides sports? Is he emotionally open with anyone? Perhaps he's got a lot more going for him than you've indicated, but he sounds like a very unhappy person who is hiding from his life. Can you cover this in therapy?

How do I communicate my needs (attention, wanting time to talk) in yet another way that he may understand better?

Well, it seems like he either doesn't want to give you more, or that he doesn't know how to translate understanding into action. I think you're at a point where you need to figure out which of those it is. Time for him to put up or shut up.

Come up with a list of concrete, ridiculously specific changes, as awkward as that is. Schedule quality time together, and enforce it. Insist that the TV has to be off and he's not allowed to get up to check the internet, the TV or his phone for scores and updates while he's hanging out with you. Enforcing this does not make you a bad person, though you do need to get him to understand the necessity of it. If he's into you, he'll work with you on an acceptable compromise. If he refuses to even try, then you have your answer. I've been in a relationship where I was a bother and "bad" for wanting quality time together. It was no way to live and eroded my ability to trust other people. Don't waste your time on someone who doesn't like you.
posted by sockomatic at 11:39 PM on March 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah. Treat him like a roommate until you can move out. He is not "partner" material.

I'm about to post a request for divorce lawyer recommendations for a friend who sounds like you, but 20 years into a marriage.

She's dying inside from her husband's indifference, while everyone on the outside envies their relationship. It took her over a year to share it all with me, and I see her every week.

You are young. When you can - RUN.
posted by jbenben at 11:44 PM on March 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

You were violently raped and your partner rolls his eyes, sighs and ignores you when you have a quick question? That makes me so super sad for you. I was in an unhealthy marriage and I truly thought that it was how all relationships worked -- your partner ignores you and silently loathes you because you're not as good as he is, you are married to a person and you don't actually like him, etc, etc. Then my husband left me for another woman and I moved out and holy shit, it was like landing on Mars. A Mars made of awesomeness. I felt alive and supported and incredibly, ridiculously happy. I promise you that if you leave him (and don't look back!) you will feel like a new person with value and merit.
posted by kate blank at 7:40 AM on March 16, 2012 [5 favorites]

Sounds like he's deeply pissed off at you and doesn't know how to talk about it, especially when you have been through so much and are in a fragile state of recovery. Addiction, rape, cancer - these are serious, major issues for a partner. He may have terrible coping skills and have no idea how to talk to you about his complicated reactions without feeling he is blaming you, which you really don't need at this stage.

I don't know that that excuses his behavior, which sounds pretty shitty and is an immature handling of the problem, but it might give you a clue about what is happening on the other side of the fence.

Right now, you need (and deserve) a tremendous amount of care and support. He may simply not have the reserves and openness to deliver.
posted by griselda at 10:54 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

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