Off the sauce, now what?
August 23, 2012 3:57 PM   Subscribe

Made a big healthy change but now feeling distant in my relationship. Is this normal? So what's the next step?

My BF and I are in our late 30s and have been together for about a year. We are in the process of moving in together and have talked in length about combining lives and eventually getting married. We don't have a set timeline. I am a very type-A planner and he is very a very laid back "I'll get around to it eventually type". Basically, I'm all execution, and he's all theory. Our relationship is a really good one - we are good friends and are very close and honest with one another. We have a very, very strong bond and have both agreed that what we have is pretty hard to find (and we can both attest this having horrible dating experiences throughout our twenties and early thirties). Personally, I've had quite the horrid past of crappy boyfriends, flings and men breaking my heart, but with him I've never questioned our relationship. It's a relationship where I KNOW that things are stable, happy, loving. It's pretty great.

A few weeks ago he dropped a bombshell on me. He told me that he has started to mentally distance himself from our relationship due to the way that I drink. I tend to binge drink once or twice a week with my friends on the weekends and enjoy a few drinks with dinner here and there. BF also likes drinking, but drinks far less than I do. When he told me that he doesn't want to be with someone who irresponsibly binge drinks on the weekends, I took this very seriously. Of course, I was completely devastated and crushed by this and after doing quite a bit of thinking and soul-searching, my decision on how to proceed was to stop cold turkey. I told him that our relationship and he matters much, much more to me than drinking. Besides, my friends and I have been in seperate discussions about sobering up since we're in our late 30s and it's high time to start being mature and moving onward with our lives. So far, so great - I stopped drinking entirely, have been exercising like a mofo, am eating healthy and it's made a huge difference. I feel great, am not compelled to drink one drop and am honestly glad that I stopped.

Meanwhile, BF seems to be happy and believes we are "back on track" and sees this relationship as continuing to progress. He's picked right back up on where we left off with combining lives.

However, I'm feeling Yes, I know that cutting the drinking was something *I* needed to do for ME and is something that I've been wanting to do for ME for awhile; I guess him voicing his concerns was just the kick I needed. The fact that my friends are also doing the same helps a lot and we're finding tons of non-drinking activities to do together, and it's good to have a support network. However, I can't help but feeling like I'm now checking out of the relationship with my BF. Suddenly, that unquestionable, strong, bond that we have feels like it's totally gone, even though he's just being his normal pre-bombshell self (physical affection, verbal affection, emotionally generous, etc.). It feels like there's a total disconnect; he's right back to being awesome and for no reason, I feel like I can't trust him (I know he would never cheat on me or anything like that). When he tells me he loves me and that he can't wait to move forward with our lives together, I'm feeling really skeptical, rather than happy and on the same page like I used to. When he hugs me, I feel weird and like there's a wall between us. I've outright told him this as well as my concerns and he's told me that he's confident in our relationshp and wants us badly. He's happy that I made a healthy decision and feels like we're stronger from it. I feel disappointed, because I don't feel like we're stronger from this but don't have any reasons why other than, I just don't. I used to feel the same intensity about him that he feels for me, and I think I still do, but it's not as pronounced to me lately.

What the heck does this mean? What should I do? Should I give this some time since I made a big life change? Do I just keep going and hoping that the spark will come back? I mean, it's definitely still there, but it's faded some and I don't know why. He's still the same person I fell in love with, he hasn't changed behaviors or anything like that. It's like he saw that I was serious enough about us to take his request seriously, and now he's just acting like nothing happend and everything is just back to status quo. I on the other hand, feel different, but not necessarily in a bad way. I just made a big healthy life change. I'm feeling better about my life, but now indifferent about the rest of it. I think most of all, I'm feeling confusion about next steps. I love him to death and don't want to DTMFA, but am more confused about when it will come back...or will it?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (34 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Is it possible that it was enough of a bombshell that you now don't trust the awesomeness? You thought things were awesome and then they suddenly turned out not to be, so maybe you don't know anymore if what looks like awesome actually is awesome. That is a pretty common reason for people to disengage emotionally.

For what it's worth, it doesn't really sound like a bombshell the way you describe it. He didn't issue ultimatums or anything, and he didn't sit on his feelings for months and months before going all grar about it to you. But you say "of course, I was completely devastated and crushed by this" so maybe it was enough to make you second-guess everything else.

If that's the case I would suggest communicating with him and making clear that you really want to know up front what's going on with him & his feelings so that you aren't guessing.
posted by headnsouth at 4:13 PM on August 23, 2012 [16 favorites]

Is it possible you build so much of your identity/personality around drinking and going out with your friends that you're having to adjust to missing that part of yourself (and maybe resent him for taking it from you)?
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 4:16 PM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

It might be that the tremendous stress you're going through as you affect this major change in your life is colouring your perception of your boyfriend. While I'm sure you're feeling positive about not drinking, i'm also certain that it took great effort for you to defeat such an entrenched habit. It would be perfectly natural for some of this stress to find an outlet as resentment or anger towards your boyfriend, especially as he caused you great anguish by bringing it up in the first place. You're also detoxing from a powerful psychoactive substance, which can have all kinds of impacts on your personality. Have you talked to him about this? If you can't, have you talked to someone else, who's close to you, perhaps a therapist?

Keep in mind that relationships go through changes, and that it's normal to feel slightly disconnected from your lover for a period of time as you go through life. I'm certain that the old magic will come back with time, especially if you are able to talk to your boyfriend, or another trusted person, about this and approach this as a team.
posted by sid at 4:26 PM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

It's only been a few weeks, yes? As you say, this is a big change for you, and yeah, I think you just need some time to adjust to this new aspect of your life.


It's like he saw that I was serious enough about us to take his request seriously, and now he's just acting like nothing happend and everything is just back to status quo.

I think this may be the disconnect. For you this was huge; for him (from your point of view) it was just a blip. Maybe talk with him a little bit about what's changed for you, how you're feeling, so you get to connect with him about it.
posted by Specklet at 4:27 PM on August 23, 2012 [8 favorites]

It sounds like you didn't like the unilateral way in which he approached it - that he informed you he was distancing himself rather than that he approached you with his concerns and asked you both to consider it together. That may be worth bringing up, and asking him how you can trust that next time there is a concern, he won't make you feel like he's going to take one-sided distancing rather than problem solve.
posted by namesarehard at 4:28 PM on August 23, 2012 [21 favorites]

Is it possible that it was enough of a bombshell that you now don't trust the awesomeness?
posted by headnsouth at 6:13 PM

This is what I'm wondering too. You seem to have had no idea that he was distancing himself before he spoke to you, so I can see how now you might be wondering if everything is as good as he says it is. Perhaps the fact that he dropped a "bombshell"on you rather than talking to you about it also made you feel less secure in the relationship, as it doesn't sound particularly "close" and "honest" communication, so much as like you were blindsided.

Also, for you, this IS a big deal and things are NOT back to the status quo - your life is different now, and I think it will take some time to adjust to that. Is he on this journey with you - not drinking, eating healthy, exercising? If he's not, would he be willing to do (some of) those things with you to help bridge the gap?
posted by sm1tten at 4:33 PM on August 23, 2012 [11 favorites]

Have you ever experienced a disconnect at another point due to a big change in routine?

If I go on vacation for over a few days I get this weird "this feels wrong and strange" thing that is a little distracting. I used to get it during the summers between school years.

Maybe you need time to recalibrate to this new lifestyle being routine, and until then maybe you should actively revel in the newness to remind your brain what's going on. I think things could work their way back to feeling right.
posted by skrozidile at 4:36 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

You just did something really difficult in quitting drinking and totally up and changing how you treat your body. I would guess that at least part of the issue is that you got a ton of confidence from your lifestyle change. You had some less desirable habits and when you decided they were a problem you blasted them into space in one shot.

You found strength within yourself to do something impressive and maybe now you're finding you can supply yourself with confidence that you used to get from your boyfriend. So you don't need him as much as you did before, and now when he offers the same support he did when you were drinking maybe it galls you a bit because it seems like he doesn't appreciate the change you made. Or it just reminds you of the person you used to be and that you are now glad not to be anymore.

At any rate, though it is sad that you have some doubts about your relationship now, it is very happy that you took no prisoners and kicked the shit out of your bad habits. Maybe he just can't hang with the new you? Maybe now you're thinking "Okay, now your turn to fix [BF's bad habit] because I totally delivered on mine."
posted by TheRedArmy at 4:39 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

It all happened only a few weeks ago - his bringing this up, your inner turmoil over it, and your decision to make a big life change and quit drinking altogether.

Maybe it feels a little unfair to you. Even if rationally you want to believe it was *for you*, your irrational side thinks you did it for him, and you were crestfallen that he was so disappointed in something about you. Maybe the irrational side of you wants him to make it up to you, and win you over again.

Spend some time on your own reminding yourself of all the awesome things about him, and have a re-connecting talk about the things you adore about eachother. Have a special evening together over coffee and dessert or something.
posted by lizbunny at 4:40 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think you feel a bit cheated (and I would too) because you thought you two were doing really well and you had no limitations, he loved you for you, even the drunken quirky silly bits; but now after a year you find that he wants you to be different. Did he feel this way all along and was just waiting for the hook to really stick in your lip to tell you? Are there other things he is waiting to tell you once you struggle through this one?

He really should have voiced his concerns much earlier in the relationship and in a respectful way.

Many people will focus on the "Yay - less drinking, must be good!" part of this question, but imagine if he instead wanted you to spend less time with your friends, talk less loudly at parties, stop telling your lame jokes, give up your silly hobby, wear longer skirts because you're older now etc.

I would trust my gut and move on now, I don't think you will regain the great feeling you had.
posted by meepmeow at 4:45 PM on August 23, 2012 [12 favorites]

I think the drinking is a red herring. You thought everything was solid and great, and you found out that the whole time you were thinking that, he was checked out AND he decided to inform you he was checked out after the fact, instead of before. Of course it's going to be hard to trust now. What is there to even trust in? Outward signs of affection that may or may not mean anything. I agree that it might be time to move on.
posted by bleep at 5:03 PM on August 23, 2012 [6 favorites]

Isn't the problem here that instead of voicing concern with you about your drinking habits, telling you how it makes him feel and asking you if you would consider cutting down/teetotalling, he instead issued an indirect ultimatum/threat that could be summed up as 'Stop, or relationship is FINISHED'. I wouldn't be feeling too loved or cherished either, especially if there had been no discussion beforehand.

Look, my partner drinks more than me. Like you, about twice a week he'll come home from having fun with his friends in high spirits and will go for a drink on his lunch hour with colleagues sometimes. If I thought it was becoming a problem, I'd have a chat with him about it, or maybe a series of chats and ask him to cut down, pointing out stuff like hangovers and reduced quality time. I wouldn't intimate that I was checking out of our relationship because of it, unless we'd had discussions about it before and he hadn't done anything about it knowing how unhappy I was.

It is a very subtle, passive aggressive, manipulative move. I'm also wondering if he's not freaking out and using the drinking as an excuse to end things, or if this 'I've checked out of the relationship' mini-move is his beginning to pull away and will be repeated in a more final way in 6 months time, when you do something else he randomly picks that just makes him 'disengage'. It's a weird way of not taking responsibility for his own decisions. I would bet your gut is correct, it is picking up on tones and body language that convey a truth that can be covered up with words, especially when they are words you really want to hear.

I think you can do better, and you deserve more than this.
posted by everydayanewday at 5:14 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, I get why you feel like this: you no longer trust him to love you unconditionally. Let me go with an analogy for this: It'd be the same situation if you had, say, gained some weight, and he told you something like this. You lost the weight, now he's all affectionate again...but meanwhile, you're thinking and always wondering, "What happens if I eat some cookies and gain some weight back? Does he only love me if I'm thin? Will he stop loving me again?" Only in this case, you're thinking, "Will he stop loving me if I have 2 drinks with friends on the weekend? What happens if I relapse a little? Or a lot? Can I trust him to stay with me now that he's said my drinking is a dealbreaker for the relationship?"

I think I'd be feeling like you are under those circumstances. I wouldn't feel like I could trust him any more either. Unfortunately, I can see the problem, but I don't know what you'd do from there. It's a totally reasonable thing to consider to be a problem, and to ask about, and to make the sacrifice for the relationship for...but all the same, the relationship nearly was over and you had no idea, and now it feels conditional rather than all twue-wuv-like.

I guess this boils down to the old standby answer of "talk with a therapist" on this one. Sorry I'm not more helpful.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:16 PM on August 23, 2012 [15 favorites]

p.s. Congratulations on stopping drinking! That is very hard stuff to do, especially when it comprises almost all of your social life! I'm so glad you're feeling better about your health.
posted by everydayanewday at 5:18 PM on August 23, 2012

Everyone has good theories for why you may be feeling what you feel, but if we're talking "a few weeks", you really need to just chill and give yourself some more time. You've made a huge life change that's going to require time to process and adjust to, and that alone could be throwing off your feelings about a lot of different things in your life, especially a relationship which was the catalyst for the change. If this is a partnership you were seeing as serious and long-term before this all happened, "a few weeks" is nothing. I've been in my (very happy, stable) relationship for eighteen years and we have certainly gone through negative periods lasting that long. Hang in there, and give yourself time to settle into this new pattern before making any more huge changes.
posted by something something at 5:46 PM on August 23, 2012

I think you didn't notice your dissatisfaction with the relationship while you had the distraction of binge drinking.

Also agree that it is perfectly just for you to be irritated with the way he handled discussing his concerns, even though the concerns themselves seem valid to you.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:48 PM on August 23, 2012

First, not to invalidate your deeper concerns about your relationship, but people often feel "off" for a while following a big dietary change, so once that general malaise goes away, it might get easier to process your feelings about this.

I think you might want to have a talk with him about what exactly he meant when he said that he'd "started to mentally distance himself from our relationship," because that seems like the most trust-damaging part of your exchange. On the one hand, if he really has been nurturing a grudge about this, and unilaterally decided that you had to do a certain thing for the relationship to continue . . . that's a serious problem, because it indicates that he's not good at working through issues in your relationship with you rather than separately from you. On the other hand, he might have ended up hitting the "this has already damaged my feelings towards you" key much harder than he meant to or is actually accurate, precisely because we've all been told so many times that the proper way to voice concerns about something your partner is doing is to use "I-statements" and talk in terms of the other person's actions' effects on you and on your relationship. I can definitely see myself grievously overcalculating how much emphasis to put on my own feelings in a delicate conversation like this, out of a mistaken idea that it would actually be easier for the other person than just saying, "I've started getting a little worried about the amount you drink."

Basically, a good clearing of the air is in order. Hopefully it can end in hugs and laughter and all that good stuff.
posted by ostro at 5:55 PM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you have been binge drinking on average 2-3 times a week for years, I would say some of what you are experiencing has less to do with him and more to do with learning to live sober. If used for long periods of time, alcohol can have a serious effect on your thinking, emotions and behavior, even if you drank less during the week. It's only been a few weeks. I would say stop analyzing things with your boyfriend and give yourself a few months to regroup. After a few months of reflection if the problem still seems like your relationship, address it then.
posted by milarepa at 6:13 PM on August 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

I take "mentally distancing from the relationship" to mean that he'd started to get to the point where the binge drinking wasn't just a fun personality quirk, but rather a problem that needed addressing. It seems like a perfectly normal reaction to someone who comes home drunk one or two nights a week.

Before you listen to all the people who are projecting their baggage onto the situation, you've got to give yourself a couple months of sobriety. As milarepa says, consistent drinking can creep into our subconscious pretty quickly. We value what we devote thought to, and even something as simple as "thank god it's Friday, time for happy hour" gets into our heads. Instead of looking forward to the weekend for the restorative free time, we look forward to Friday because that's when we've decided it's OK to get loaded. Take that away and you'll feel a little bit empty until you reintegrate your thoughts with your reality.
posted by gjc at 6:21 PM on August 23, 2012 [9 favorites]

This part kind of stood out to me:

He told me that he has started to mentally distance himself from our relationship due to the way that I drink.

I feel like that's kind of not OK. Even though I think the issue was a legitimate concern, you can't start that conversation with "Oh by the way, I already have one foot out the door." Giving him the benefit of the doubt, maybe he didn't realize he was doing that or maybe it's his way of not imposing on you, respecting your autonomy, using "I" language instead of "You" language, etc. So it may not be as bad as it sounded, but I still think he needs to work on assuring you that he's going to communicate about issues so you can work together on them.

I doubt that he meant it this way, but it comes off as disrespectful to your relationship to treat an issue like this as if it only affects him, and take action to "fix" his side of it.
posted by AlsoMike at 6:43 PM on August 23, 2012 [9 favorites]

I say wait another whole month and if you're still feeling off kilter, talk to him about it.

Clearly tt was a bombshell for you, but unlike the other posters in the thread, I strongly doubt that the "starting to mentally distance" sentence came out of the blue. I am guessing he had to put it that strongly (and it could have been a HELL of a lot stronger- I think he did ok) for it to get the attention it needed.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:04 PM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm in a similar position in my current relationship, having the same feeling as you are, but I'm in your boyfriend's spot. Although I don't know why I'm feeling distanced from my partner, I am talking it over with a close friend and therapist while I work out how I want to proceed. You might want to look into doing the same, as well as having an open discussion with your boyfriend about your feelings since you stopped drinking.

In any case, I think you should give it a month or two of sobriety before deciding whether or not to stay in the relationship. It's possible that other things between you two have changed while you were both distracted by the drinking, and you'll need some time to discover those things and evaluate them independent of the alcohol.
posted by youngergirl44 at 6:13 AM on August 24, 2012

I think he handled the bombshell badly. You were both in this open and vulnerable place with each other, sharing and open and loving, and part of what makes it less scary to make yourself vulnerable that way is the knowledge that your partner is diving in with you. But the way he brought this up said "I'm not making myself as vulnerable as you are" and so now you don't know if he's accompanying you on the journey any more. Part of the shock to your system is that the two of you had been moving in one direction: more openness. What he said put the brakes on that. So now you're protecting yourself.

Unlike others, I don't think its quite time to move on though. Putting myself in his shoes, before he was scared...scared that your drinking posed a serious threat to this wonderful and precious relationship that was making him so happy. He reacted to that fear by protecting himself. Now that you've stopped drinking? I'd venture to say he is utterly grateful to you, and even more in love with you for the steps you've taken and for hearing his fears (I understand that you did this for yourself first, but it still demonstrates a commitment to him and your individual and coupled future that is powerful). The steps you took were a complete affirmation for him that opening himself up to you is the right choice. So he has nothing to be afraid of anymore. I take him at his word that he's fully committed and open to you, but I still completely understand that the way he approached it has left you scared.

One other thing to consider: ask yourself if the drinking was perhaps masking insecurities you have about the relationship, or your fear of how vulnerable you are in it? It's a perfectly normal thing to be scared while you're diving in...maybe the binging was helping you quiet those fears while you took the plunge? And now that you don't have it to mask the fears, you're having to confront them. I have no evidence that this is the case, just something for you to consider.

If what you have with him is in fact really really hard to find, then don't throw it away lightly. Think about what's been said in this thread and what others may have said to you on the subject. Maybe talk to a therapist. See what most resonates as true for you. Think about what you might need from him to feel safe again. Then talk to him about it. Either alone or with a therapist.
posted by dry white toast at 6:50 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with the suggestions to give it another few weeks. My own long-term boyfriend exhibited a certain behavior and had done so for the year we'd been dating. I didn't realize how much it bothered me until I realized how destructive it was. And then I second-guessed myself, thinking, "Oh, I love him, therefore I must love all of him! And if there is one single thing that he does that I don't like, then I must break up with him rather than change Who He Is!" And that's just not true. I owed it to our relationship to voice my thoughts. Unfortunately I waffled on this for about a month, at war with myself, and in the process distancing myself from the relationship.

Finally I did get the courage to talk to him about it. He realized I was right, and we worked out a system to put a lid on this behavior. Things got better. And we didn't fall straight back into head-over-heels love; it took us about 5 weeks, give or take, to find our rhythm again. I'm glad we did, because we work very well together - something I had forgotten when my mind was stuck in that cycle of deciding whether to talk about it.

That's my anecdata. It's a tough call, deciding how long to keep giving things a shot. Good luck.
posted by nicodine at 6:53 AM on August 24, 2012

I like gjc's phrase for this, I too think a lot of people are projecting their own baggage onto this. I am, as usually happens in threads like this, depressed by the "man is always in the wrong" bigotry shown by so many people here.

He told you he thought you drank too much, you and your friends have come to the same conclusion, which, given that people always understate how much they drink means you were probably really drinking too much. So he was right, maybe he could have expressed it in a fluffier fashion or maybe he knows you just need to be blunt with drunks.
posted by epo at 7:02 AM on August 24, 2012

I think people are being way too hard on your boyfriend here. We get questions all the time from people describing their partners as having exactly the same relationship with alcohol that you've described. There's always a significant number of people who respond with "Your partner has a drinking problem. This will not change. DTMFA." Instead of doing this, it sounds like your boyfriend noticed something in his response to your behavior that he didn't like and talked to you about it. I suppose it would have been better for him to bring it up the very second that he noticed it, but we can't expect perfect behavior all the time.

I think that you definitely need to give this some time. It sounds like alcohol was a pretty big part of your life. It's natural to expect a period of adjustment when that goes away. It's also likely that some part of you misses drinking, and is associating your boyfriend with that loss. I don't think it makes sense to make any kind of relationship moves until you've got some sober time under your belt and can honestly say that you're happy living this way.
posted by Ragged Richard at 7:18 AM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Give it more time, with a twist.

Talk to him more about how you're processing the timeline of events, ask him for more input about how he's processed things, then request that he holds back on initiating affection for a while.

If he's able to hold back without resenting it, you'll have time to make the decision to want him again, or decide if that's what you really want.
posted by itesser at 10:30 AM on August 24, 2012

He told me that he has started to mentally distance himself from our relationship due to the way that I drink.

I don't think this is so much "I'm telling you this after the fact." but more "I've noticed that I'm distancing and here is why I think that has happened." (I.e., I don't think it was pre-planned.)

I would suggest waiting until your new lifestyle settles in a bit. Many of the offered reasons for your disconnect seem fairly realistic - especially the "not trusting the awesomeness" anymore. Give yourself some time to see if your disconnect lasts, grows, shrinks, etc.

Disconnects and partial disconnects happen in relationships. What keeps the relationships progressing is a willingness to re-connect.
posted by _paegan_ at 12:48 PM on August 24, 2012

Congratulations on stopping drinking, that is huge. But if I were in your shoes, I'd be bothered too by the way your boyfriend approached the problem. Instead of trying to talk to you about it, being supportive and trusting you enough to work on it, he pretty much issued you an ultimatum with no warning.

Hopefully he meant it from the perspective of "here's how I've noticed I'm feeling" rather than "...and if you don't stop immediately I'm distancing myself right out the door." But the only way to be sure is to talk to him about it. If you're getting married at some point he's going to promise to be with you in sickness and in health. If you were an alcoholic that's a sickness. So is he willing to at least try to see that you get help before distancing himself next time something goes wrong?
posted by hazyjane at 10:47 PM on August 24, 2012

I am impressed with your dedication to stop drinking. I am going to make some guesses here, and I may be totally off, but maybe not. I doubt your drinking "issue" wasn't all of a sudden, for you or your boyfriend. Most people who are 30+ who drink have been doing so since college years, likely progressively more over the years, and in your case 15 or so years. I doubt your boyfriend's comment wasn't a bombshell in that you were surprised that your drinking bothered him as much as you were surprised that he said it the way he did. It somewhat of an ultimatum already in process, and it got your attention. When someone says they have already started distancing himself from you due to something you are doing it is because you appeared to have little control over your relatively unsavory behavior. I think he said it that way because he was feeling at wit's end--it didn't just come out of thin air. In and of itself, his comment is not an indication that he is an inept communicator, but rather, someone who feels they need to do/say something that put his own life back in the right direction--he was taking care of his own needs, which is a very healthy thing to do. He could have slammed doors and left you in the lurch and then later came back pleading for forgiveness and promises he would try harder to understand you and help you with your drinking. That is what good co-dependant partners do. I say this guy is looking out for you and for himself, and is a very good person. A guy that can detach from an alcoholic's (I realize that may be a stretch here, but maybe not), behavior and lay it on the line in a calm but firm way is a guy that you want to keep around. You may just need some time to lick your wounds a bit.
I would like to add that I would hope you would write an essay about this experience, as you are I think you are an excellent writer, and clearly very intelligent, and you could really shed some insight for a lot of people going through this.
posted by waving at 5:46 AM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I back up your boyfriend and don't see anything wrong with how he told you and when. It's hard to know when to bring something like this up to your partner, one on hand you want them to figure things out on their own, on the other hand it affects you in ways they can't see on their own... so what to do?

I relate to a certain degree with your relationship.

You may not realize how much the drinking dynamic was at play in your relationship, and how little bit of "drama" can feel like "passion". It can create a subtle push-and-pull that no one associates with drinking.

Now that that is out of the way, your boyfriend is carrying on like normal but you're wondering what's missing! I agree with what a lot of people suggested - give yourself a few months of sobriety, to get back in touch with who you are and how you really feel on a day to day basis, with no periodic emotional resets (alcohol!) and you may just find yourself happier than ever.

My boyfriend and I have recently made some really healthy changes, and yeah, we started wondering if the relationship was just over. But I don't think it is, I think healthy feels quiet, and I think at first that silence is disconcerting, and I think we're just getting used to what it feels like to not have drama and stress.
posted by Locochona at 4:41 AM on August 27, 2012

He told me that he has started to mentally distance himself from our relationship due to the way that I drink...I stopped...BF seems to be happy and believes we are "back on track" and sees this relationship as continuing to progress. He's picked right back up on where we left off with combining lives.

As someone who has been through something similar (from the boyfriend's perspective), I think your likely lack of confidence (as expressed by jenfullmoon) is understandable, but I'll say that your boyfriend's behaviors are more important than his words here.

He raised a concern about his ability to stay emotionally vested in your relationship because of your drinking, and now that you've stopped drinking his behavior suggests that he's still emotionally vested in your relationship. Take him at face value for a moment and think: if he was really just starting to distance himself because of your behavior, he could have waited it out or tried to ignore it -- and then come back with "I've been mentally distancing myself from you for a while", which would have sucked -- but he didn't. He likely noticed "oh, hai, this thing I didn't think was a problem is a problem for me, and I can feel myself reacting in a bad way, so I'll just be up-front about it so we can deal with it." That's a positive thing, not a negative. It wasn't passive-aggressive, it wasn't delayed, it wasn't an ultimatum.

Now, if you'd stopped drinking and he hadn't resumed his full-involvement behaviors, I'd be concerned -- and again, I understand that you are indeed still concerned -- but frankly I think he's probably relieved that his honesty about his feelings motivated you to make a behavior change, because he was afraid he was going to find out that you cared more about drinking than about him. Instead, you demonstrated clearly that you're committed to him, and so of course he thinks things are great!

So now you just have to decide whether you want to give yourself time to trust him again, or walk away. Before you choose either, why don't you do what he did? "[boyfriend], I'm glad you told me how my drinking was impacting you, and the change I've made is a really positive one for both of us. You seem fully committed to me, and not at all emotionally distant. However, now I'm starting to feel distanced from you, and I'm not sure exactly why; it might be because I felt judged by you, or because I'm worried that if I start drinking again you'll leave me, or it might be something totally unrelated. I'd like to talk about how you figured out what was going on in your head, so I can figure out what's going on in mine."

He trusted you enough to risk you saying "fuck you, I can do what I want", so trust him the same way.
posted by davejay at 12:10 PM on August 28, 2012

data point: great guy I know, truly wonderful, in a horrible relationship. he leaves it, finally, and uproots himself to a new city to start over. meets a great girl, except she binge drinks, which is something he left behind and isn't comfortable with, but he really wants the girl. so a few months in, he tells her that he thinks she's great, but he simply can't be in a committed relationship with someone who binge drinks, because it is a bad influence on him. she takes a week to consider it, decides to quit drinking, and since then they've become an amazing committed couple that id hold up to anyone's standards. disliking a specific behavior doesn't mean disliking the person, and it can take guts to say "you're wonderful, but this specific behavior of yours sucks, so you have to choose."
posted by davejay at 12:12 PM on August 28, 2012

Oh, and imagine having a severe allergy to cats, but not knowing it, because you've spent your whole life with constant cats, and then one day your cat dies and it will take you a few weeks to get to the shelter for another one, and you're missing your cat sooooooooo much and you feel like your life is empty, like something's missing, but about a week later you realize your eyes don't hurt and you can breathe and you can sleep and you're not brushing hair off of everything and oh shit, maybe you're allergic to cats! and so you keep waiting before getting another one, and your allergic-to-cats friends start coming by your house again, and you start going out more because you don't feel bad for leaving a cat at home alone, and you're not spending money on doctor visits and medications for your sinus problems because you don't have sinus problems any more, and one day you look back and you still miss having the cat very, very much, but your life is so much better without cats that you realize you're simply not going to adopt a new cat.

in this story, your boyfriend said he was getting emotionally distant from you because he's allergic to cats and you keep bringing new ones home
posted by davejay at 12:18 PM on August 28, 2012

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