Live together? No, apart.
October 9, 2012 8:29 PM   Subscribe

Couples who lived together, then moved apart: did you end up together in the end?

I've been unofficially living with my girlfriend for about 9 months now (been together a total of a year). She lives in the same metro as me, but far enough away that driving back and forth is a huge pain for both of us, given our work schedules. For the most part, things have gone well. We've worked on home projects together, taken trips, all the things you'd expect couples living together to do.

That is, until recently. There have been some issues that she's had trouble getting over. I was dragged to a strip club by my friend's friends during his bachelor party; I didn't even go in, but I couldn't get a cab before they decided to come out and leave anyhow (it's a somewhat rural area). I told her about it (didn't want her to hear it from someone else), and it's been a never-ending stream of pain and hate from her since then. After days of fighting and then calm, and then back to fighting over, and over, and over, she said that we should take a week of not seeing each other (I'd stay at the apartment I still have). That was Sunday.

Today, she says she wants to no longer live with me, and that it would be at least a year before she'd even consider marriage. Before this (two weeks ago!), all she could talk about is how she wanted children and to be married. I wanted the same thing.

I feel like this is just the first step to her pushing me out of her life. That, no matter how much I bend over and take it, it'll never be good enough. That we'll go from living 20 miles apart to seeing each other once a week, to once a month, and then never. I feel like even though she's asking me to move out, she'll be the one to resent me for not being there all the time (which, is part of the reason I was there in the first place; every time I'd be away, it was non-stop texts and calls about how she missed me and wished I was there and wondering when I'd get back).

I guess what I'm looking for is some hope.

Did you move out, but finally end up together? What was your situation? Do you wish it happened differently?
posted by chrisfromthelc to Human Relations (36 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
umm..Dude, unless there's more to the story here she is being irrational, unreasonable, immature and unfair. I'd call her bullshit and dump her.
posted by roboton666 at 8:46 PM on October 9, 2012 [36 favorites]

So it's gone from constant declarations of affection and talk about marriage to wanting you to move out because you were standing in the vicinity of a strip club? That'd be a red flag to me.

To answer the question you asked: no, in my experience, couples who live together and then live apart do not get back together. The moving out is the precursor to the end of the relationship.

I guess my question to you is, why do you think you should have to make amends for standing in front of a strip club?
posted by Angharad at 8:47 PM on October 9, 2012 [7 favorites]

Moving out and getting back together is not the issue. The issue is her problem with your behavior. I personally don't think you did anything wrong, but you need to talk to her and figure out what can be worked on. It sounds like she wants you to just grovel grovel grovel, which lots of girls do when they feel they've been wronged. But if you've apologized and she hasn't offered you forgiveness or any way to make up for it or even allowed any kind of discussion, then I don't think living together again is going to happen anyway. Nor should it.
posted by greta simone at 8:49 PM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

She is getting upset with you for NOT going into a strip club? She is doing you a favor in letting you know how irrational she is now. You deserve a healthy relationship, and that was not a healthy reaction. This is a good time to break it off.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:50 PM on October 9, 2012 [10 favorites]

I once lived with a boyfriend, then lived apart, then broke up.

Then I lived with a different boyfriend, then moved 3,000 miles without him, then we moved back in together, then we got married, and now we have two kids and live in the suburbs and I drive a minivan. Beware! Beware!
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:52 PM on October 9, 2012 [15 favorites]

She might also not believe that you didn't enter the strip club (your story sounds very far-fetched; why didn't you call her?) and is this angry that you seem to be telling an enormous lie. Regardless, I agree with others: moving out will not solve this problem. You need to settle your differences or break up.
posted by acidic at 8:54 PM on October 9, 2012 [7 favorites]

My best friend and her husband lived together and then moved into separate houses for about a year before moving back in together and subsequently marrying. They have been married for four years and are working on baby number two. They are a solid couple.

So, yeah, it happens. But unless you are withholding some vital info here I think you have other issues to concern yourself with. Like, "I have an irrational partner and is this someone I want to spend the rest of my life with."
posted by teamnap at 8:57 PM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is it possible your girlfriend has actually been unhappy in your relationship for a while (despite her declarations to the contrary) and she is seizing on this as an excuse to break up with you? This way she gets to demand that you move out without seeming like the bad guy by dumping you outright.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:57 PM on October 9, 2012 [4 favorites]

it's over bro
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 8:57 PM on October 9, 2012 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: She might also not believe that you didn't enter the strip club (your story sounds very far-fetched; why didn't you call her?) and is this angry that you seem to be telling an enormous lie.

acidic, we were not within driving distance of each other; she was also out of town at the time. Strips clubs are not my thing. I had never been to one, nor plan to go to any in the future.
posted by chrisfromthelc at 8:58 PM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

My cousin and her boyfriend lived together for a year or two, took a year or two to live separately (with friends) then moved back in and are now buying a house together.

However, in your case it sounds more like a precursor to breaking up.
posted by DoubleLune at 9:00 PM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't think you're lying; I'm saying it's possible that she thinks you're lying.
posted by acidic at 9:01 PM on October 9, 2012 [8 favorites]

Um, what is her objection to the strip club? Can you repeat her arguments here?

Unless she's a nut job, I don't think she'd be this irrational out of the blue. Prior bad experience? Political objections to the institution itself? Whats her reasoning??

It's hard for anyone to judge if she's being irrational, or you guys are simply miscommunicating, or whatever the deal is without some background.

Otherwise, everyone else is correct and you should quit while you a ahead and stay moved out. Sorry.
posted by jbenben at 9:10 PM on October 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

"it's been a never-ending stream of pain and hate from her since then. ... That, no matter how much I bend over and take it, it'll never be good enough."

Those two phrases both sound so monstrously ... hateful. Angry? Nasty? Bad. She hates you and gives you pain? You view what she's doing as forcing you to "bend over and take it"? The drama level here -- both in what you say was her reaction to your story, and in the words you use to describe her -- seems really unreasonable if this is the only thing that's happened and you're not leaving something else out of the story. If this is the only thing that's happened, well, you both seems really unhappy and willing to lash out at each other.

Do you actually want to be with her and live with her?
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:10 PM on October 9, 2012 [24 favorites]

There is something very strange going on here. I suggest asking her why it is that she's so upset that you were near a strip club, and why it would be so awful for her if you had actually gone in. There is clearly something else going on here. Perhaps she has previous bad experiences or something, I don't know.

While I grant that my SO is very relaxed about such things, she was amused, rather than upset, the day a friend of mine dragged me to a strip club for the free buffet. Hence my thinking there's more behind her upset than meets the eye. You either need to talk about it and resolve those feelings or there's not going to be much relationship there, given that she's moving out because of the incident.

Basically, DTMFA if a heart to heart doesn't get this cleared up.
posted by wierdo at 9:11 PM on October 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

My aunt and uncle have done this a million times (they've never been married so he's not technically my uncle, but they've been together since before I was born, so.) Anyway they will get mad at each other, and she will move out and rant that she is done with him for good and is leaving him in her dust. Then in a few months they are living together again.

But, your scenario doesn't sound quite the same as that to me. This really sounds like she is harping on something bizarre as an excuse to break up or get some kind of weird leverage, or have you grovel in some way. If you have described the scenario exactly as it happened, it's a pretty bad way to be treating you.

Have you tried saying you don't deserve a stream of pain and hate about this and you really want to know if there is anything else going on behind this?
posted by cairdeas at 9:15 PM on October 9, 2012

Response by poster: Um, what is her objection to the strip club? Can you repeat her arguments here?

Her issues are the same as mine; we're both morally opposed to it. Her dad was, at best, was ignorant as a father to her and her sister growing up, and spent a lot of time at strip clubs when he and her mother were divorced (they remarried after a couple of years).

I've done everything within my power to not be anything like he was back then (even though he's reformed his ways and is quite a pleasant guy to be around now). Her ideas are that "that's how it starts!" and "people go there to cheat on their wives!", and by my simply being there, that's what I want to do.

The more I write this stuff out in detail, the more I see that this situation seems unreasonable.
posted by chrisfromthelc at 9:23 PM on October 9, 2012 [4 favorites]

It sounds like she's not ready for children or marriage or living together with anyone, to be honest. I understand her irrational hurt, but... it's irrational, and she needs to be responsible for it. I think you should stay moved out and decide whether you're going to be happy in this relationship.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:26 PM on October 9, 2012 [6 favorites]

(The drama level of your relationship sounds like my relationship when I was 17. Not a dig, just saying, she or both of you have a lot of growth to do.)
posted by stoneandstar at 9:26 PM on October 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

Regardless of whether her response is right or wrong, she feels that a boundary was violated and is questioning whether you're good father/husband material, given her parent's relationship. This is pretty understandable - we don't tend to want to repeat the mistakes of our parents.

Move out and see where it leads. Maybe it's something that can be overcome, maybe it isn't.

This is also a good opportunity for you to consider whether you want to get married and have kids with her. See it more as an opportunity to question where you're both at and whether you truly want to spend the rest of your lives together.
posted by heyjude at 9:35 PM on October 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

It could be a matter that she's upset that you were dragged along without you vehemently declining and not going at all. Unless this strip club trip was sprung on you and they just took you there without your knowledge (possible), she may see this as you not aggressively standing up for what's right (in her mind) and you just going along with the crowd - even though you didn't go in - you went along.

I don't think that's necessarily a great reason to be as upset as she is, but the situation could have indicated something in your character that she was unaware of before and is now something that's a deal-breaker.

Give her space and time to cool down (and perhaps this means living apart for a while) and maybe she'll come to the conclusion that what you did/didn't do isn't such a big deal. Or maybe not.

But I think it's a good idea to give each other space.
posted by Sassyfras at 9:50 PM on October 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I had a pair of friends in college who lived together for three years, then lived apart for a year, then got married and moved back in together. They've been married for maybe 18 years now? But she asked for that because she'd never lived alone and wanted that experience, not because they were fighting.

Your girlfriend is being really irrational, and it *sounds* like her main goal in pushing you away, whether she's aware of it or not, is to protect herself from being hurt. You sound scared, annoyed, and frustrated. Your language ("stream of pain and hate" and "bend over and take it") suggests you're feeling like her main goal is to punish you. (You might be right. She's your girlfriend, but I've never met her!)

Feeling safe with your partner is central to a good healthy relationship, and wrong as she may be, she doesn't seem to trust you not to hurt her. You're very clear on the point that you've done nothing wrong, and I have no reason at all to doubt that. But just because she's wrong not to trust you (or she's wrong to punish you) doesn't mean she's wrong to slow down the relationship. She's holding you responsible for her father's actions, which is unfair and unkind, but is also probably not something she's doing on purpose. It's a good thing to know that she's got a weak spot, here, and it's a good thing for her to have realized she won't be ready to marry for at least a year (even if her flawed reasoning is "I must punish you" - which it might be.) You don't want to marry someone who doesn't trust you, or who punishes you for nothing. Not in a month, not in a year.
posted by gingerest at 10:03 PM on October 9, 2012 [8 favorites]

Best answer: I think if she was pushing so hard for marriage and kids ASAP there may have been a certain amount of fantasy in her mind, where she had a certain life pictured and you were being slotted in to the role - easy, since you wanted the same things. And then something happened that broke the fantasy image, because Fantasy Chrisfromtheic would NEVER even be NEAR a strip club or have friends who would ever want to go there!

So now she's having this whole "you aren't who I thought you were!" moment... which isn't really about you. I think it's the right decision in that case to postpone getting married. And it may be the right decision to break off the relationship, too - or it may be a foolish decision on her part, born out of an overly black-and-white world view.

Just one hypothesis. But something I can totally imagine with the facts you've given.
posted by Lady Li at 10:09 PM on October 9, 2012 [10 favorites]

I think I have more sympathy for your girlfriend's position than most of the other answers so far do. I am morally against strip clubs, and consider it cheating. My boyfriend going to a strip club is a deal-breaker for me. I would break up with him if he went to a strip club, regardless of the reason, and regardless of whether or not he got a private dance or anything else. I make this exceptionally clear, and would only date men who have the same feelings about it, of their own accord. Given your girlfriend's family history, it is totally unsurprising that she also has a very emotional response to it, in addition to being morally opposed to it.

A couple of the above posters suggested the following, but I wanted to elaborate on it, because it resonates with me, and thus might resonate with your girlfriend. The fact that you didn't go inside is great, and would for me render the situation not so much about cheating. Rather, the fact that you even went to one would cause me to rethink the degree to which you have moral backbone and courage, and are willing to stand up for unpopular moral truths in front of your friends, etc. I really despise hypocrisy, and knowing that my boyfriend mouthed moral pablum about being against strip clubs to me, and then went along with his friends because he was afraid of looking uncool, would grate on me almost as much as him going inside. It would make me wonder what other important morals he would refuse to stand up for. Also, it would make me wonder whether he would refuse to stand up for me in front of his friends, if they started disparaging me, if he won't even stand up for his core values as he expressed them to me.

I'm not accusing you of the above - I'm simply trying to get into your girlfriend's head and figure out how she might be interpreting things. If this interpretation is right, you stressing to her the fact that you didn't go in may not make things better. What would make things better? If I knew that you had no idea that your friends were driving you there, that would change my opinion of the situation. Maybe if you had no other ride at the bachelor party, too. Essentially, anything that would suggest that you went out of necessity rather than peer pressure would help. Maybe a long chat with her about your shared values, and reiterating to her, with examples if need be, the previous examples of the qualities that she thinks you've not demonstrated here.

That said, you may want to rethink the relationship, or at least talks of marriage. I don't know your girlfriend, but from your description, her reaction doesn't sound healthy. A "never-ending stream of pain and hate" since she found out? I could see profound disappointment and hurt, and a reconsideration of the whole relationship calculus in light of the new knowledge. You should consider whether this is her typical response to unpleasant situations. That said, if she has a triggered reaction to strip clubs in particular because of her family history, and you're willing to be extremely sensitive around this one issue, it might be totally fine.
posted by UniversityNomad at 11:21 PM on October 9, 2012 [12 favorites]

My husband and I, while we were dating, broke up. He moved out during this time. We both worked on things about ourselves and then slowly started dating again and moved in together.

It sounds like your girlfriend needs to know that you're not her father. This may not be a thing that you can tell/show her. It might be a good idea for her to talk to someone professionally about her fears concerning relationships that relate to the relationship between her father and mother. I'm not saying that her expectation that you not go to strip clubs is a bad one - if this is a shared belief, that's a positive thing for you guys as a couple - I'm saying that she's always going to be afraid that you'll be like her dad unless she works on understanding this fear.
posted by sciencegeek at 2:27 AM on October 10, 2012

I guess what I'm looking for is some hope.

Unless there are details you're leaving out, she has given you hope by demonstrating childish, irrational, abusive and hurtful behavior before you both take on major, adult responsibilities like children, house payments, etc..

You need to sit down with her and and communicate clearly that you are a human being who is not deserving of being treated like garbage — whatever her past issues are — and that she needs to figure out her shit if she plans on continuing to share a life with you.

If she understands she is in the wrong and is willing to see a therapist to work on whatever past issues are really behind her behavior, and you're willing to be supportive of her while she gets things sorted out, that's one thing.

Otherwise, if she plans to continue to be psychologically abusive towards you, you need to make it crystal clear to her that you are ready to move on with your life — without her and her abusive behavior in it.

If this sounds like harsh advice, it is. But you're better off hearing it now before you bring children into the picture, who will likely suffer some variation of abuse from her that you are enduring now.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:22 AM on October 10, 2012 [4 favorites]

I have to agree with above. From the way you describe it, her behaviour and treatment of you over something so trivial is way outside the boundaries of acceptable behaviour. She is being incredibly unreasonable, hostile, and childish, and I sure as hell wouldn't accept that sort of behaviour by ANYONE, at the very least in a partner I was intending to spend my life with. Hell, I wouldn't accept this sort of protracted tantrum from my five year old! It is one thing to have a short burst of irrational upset, but to drag it on and on and to keep rehashing it and putting you through the ringer for something that has almost nothing to do with you and everything to do with her. And if she treats you this poorly for so long over something that is a complete non-issue, you better bet your ass that when something that warrants upset even slightly is going to be a HUGE DRAMA FILLED NUCLEAR BOMB OF MISERY!

Unless she makes some major changes and maybe finds a way to deal with her past issues you are just setting yourself up for a life of misery and stress. You are forever going to be her emotional whipping boy for all the things that have gone on in her past, and you are never going to feel safe or at ease. That is no way to live, both for her and for you.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 4:04 AM on October 10, 2012 [4 favorites]

First, every couple I've known that has gone from living together to living apart because of arguing (as compared to needing to do the long distance thing because of work or school) has ended up breaking up, sometimes after a few cycles of this. I have known quite a few long-married couples who have taken breaks ("trial separations" or whatever they wanted to call it) and had it work out well, but that's a really different situation. But that's just anecdote and doesn't necessarily say anything about your relationship.

In your case, it sounds like there is so much drama and anger -- that's no way to live, and not how a good relationship should function. Is she really just angry about the strip club, or is this the straw that broke the camel's back? Unless you guys can figure out the root of all this and get that addressed (probably on both sides), it isn't going to magically work. Have you considered couple's counseling/therapy?
posted by Forktine at 5:42 AM on October 10, 2012

I'll just add my anecdote of living with someone, moving apart, and then breaking up. But it was never good to begin with, and although I didn't want to live apart when that decision was made, living on my own made me realize how bad it had been, and I ended up breaking up with him. For what that's worth.
posted by Ms. Toad at 6:10 AM on October 10, 2012

I couldn't care less if people visit strip clubs; I've been to a couple myself. But hearing that someone was dragged to one by friends makes me really itchy.

The only other think I can think of is, have you two been able to fight (argue, disagree) constructively in the past? Is that's something you can't do, maybe the cause of the argument isn't that important and this is something you could get over if you learned better techniques for airing your differences. The stuff about "bend over and take it"-- have you characterized your arguments this way to her? Were you this defensive and/or did you play martyr from the beginning?

I wonder if you need to be more assertive overall-- with your friends; with her. She may feel you don't stand up for yourself when something is important.
posted by BibiRose at 6:18 AM on October 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

I would not tolerate the behavior you describe. Having a background full of triggers is a real and difficult thing. I am not discounting that at all, and neither should you. But:

It may make a person feel terrible things.... but it is not a license to do terrible things.

Your GF is doing the second. I would say it is time for you to make an ultimatum:

"I understand why you are in pain, I understand why this is a trigger for you. But you cannot treat me this way, you cannot hold me at fault for this, and you cannot abuse me because your past is full of pain. You get right with this and put it behind you or I am gone."

I think it is possible to survive this break, but not on the terms she has dictated.
posted by French Fry at 6:23 AM on October 10, 2012 [9 favorites]

I've done everything within my power to not be anything like he [her father] was back then...

I think this might be close to the kernal of the Big Problem. She has serious unresolved problems with her father and her childhood, which you inadvertently triggered. Now you're Bad Dad.

Even if you could get her to see that this is the problem (which might be unlikely) seems like something that would require years of therapy on her part to begin to fix. You have to decide whether what you might have with her would be worth that kind of effort. (Disclaimer: I ended up giving up on a marriage where my wife had huge unresolved issues with her father that led to erratic and destructive behavior.)
posted by aught at 9:04 AM on October 10, 2012

To answer the question directly, people who go from living together to living apart rarely get back together again because one or both find new things to do with their lives.

If what you have said reflects what happened then I suspect that living apart will give you time to reflect and conclude that you would not want to get back together under any circumstances.

It took me a long, long time to realise that people were often not as I wanted them to be, the fault was sometimes the people and sometimes it was my expectations.
posted by epo at 9:35 AM on October 10, 2012

Just an aside--if she is the one who wants the relationship to end, she needs to be the one to pack up her own stuff and go.

I feel like even though she's asking me to move out, she'll be the one to resent me for not being there all the time (which, is part of the reason I was there in the first place; every time I'd be away, it was non-stop texts and calls about how she missed me and wished I was there and wondering when I'd get back

So...the reason you two started living together after only dating three months is because of her non-stop calls and texts about missing you--and this was not a mutual decision about the next step in your relationship? It sounds like she has issues trusting you, and you have issues drawing boundaries.

You say you are doing everything in your power to not act like her father, but is she doing everything she can to work on her own issues? This is where I think you need to start drawing boundaries with regards to what you're willing to put up with in a relationship.

I agree with French Fry. It's possible, but not on the terms that she's dictated.
posted by inertia at 10:34 AM on October 10, 2012

HOPE: mrs_goldfish & I cohabited 1994-2001, maintained separate residences 2001-2007, and are now inseparably wedded.

HOWEVER: Blazecock Pileon has the right of it, and from your description her controlling behavior started long before now. Not to sound all 'Think of the Children!', but ... think of the children. mrs_goldfish had an abusive mom, and it's ... Not Good.

MORE HOPE: my mother-in-law apparently got WAY better after she had her thyroid levels checked and adjusted. Personally I feel like she's still a monster, but presumably your girlfriend is younger, more neuroplastic, etc. If she's motivated to change herself (therapy, stat! especially DBT or ACT), she could become an awesome mom. Quite possibly.

HOWEVER: you can't give her that motivation by kowtowing to her resentment.
posted by feral_goldfish at 12:04 PM on October 10, 2012

She sounds insecure and intense. Moving out won't help. Moving together did not solve the underlying problems and neither will moving out.

I hate to say this because I think you should just break it off, but if you do want to stay with her the right tactic is to put your foot down, stop apologizing, and tell her there is no reason for you to move out.Be very firm about the fact that this topic is done because you did nothing wrong and will not continue to take bullshit from her.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:50 AM on October 11, 2012

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