Am I being a total psycho?
April 2, 2013 4:51 PM   Subscribe

I'm having a hard time with my breakup and with life in general, and I am trying to figure out if I am a barking up the wrong tree / being a crazy person / within the realm of normal, for some value thereof. Wall of text ahoy.

So my biggest problem in this is the whole thing just seems so unfinished. The short details: together two years, had talked about getting married, lived together (though, having been burned before, I kept my apartment just in case … which turned out to be wise). We had been having trouble and started couples therapy, but hadn't really gotten to the heart of talking about things when we got in a huge fight and he decided it was enough. But we never really talked about it. Got in a fight (about making coffee — nearly all our fights were about small things that I can see were also about big things, but never the big issue explicitly), he said he had "things to think about", didn't really talk for two days to one another — he went to his friends and to our shrink — and then it was just over. I stayed home from work, packed up my things, and he had the movers bring them back to my place. This was extra hard because we had planned the place together, I had done pretty much all the decoration (I am a designer), we had a roof garden with all these plants I had planted still growing, and really I was leaving my home. I was also working crazy hours, so altogether, not at my best.

I guess it is weird that I didn't say anything more in between the fight and the end, but I wanted to give him the time to think he asked for and then he sort of refused to discuss things once he wanted it to be over. I was also getting to the end of my rope with our arguments and his general inability to understand/respect my feelings. All of which is to say, it is ok things ended. It's sad, because I think we had a lot of important things in common and that our issues were solvable, but he couldn't see his way to my point of view (in general this was true about issues big & small), so then it makes sense to end things.

After we broke up, we mostly didn't talk, though I did text a little. Things like work was going well, etc. Then I had an incredibly craptastic day (about a month after the breakup) and asked if we could suspend breakup and grab a drink. This ended with us getting in another fight and him throwing a drink in my face (just the liquid, not the glass). He apologized profusely, but damage done. In general when we disagreed, he would say mean things and on occasion break stuff, so the drink throwing certainly seemed like an escalation. So I told him I felt like if not exactly abusive, his behavior was problematic and we shouldn't talk for a while.

Then my grandma's dementia got worse and I had to fly to my parents and other personal drama and I finally cracked and called and asked if we could have brunch. It is hard for me to feel connected to people and with getting all life's lumps at once, maintaining an open line with someone who I once felt close to seemed important. His response was basically "leave me alone, maybe we can be friends in six months". And as far as I am concerned, the fact that he couldn't set aside other things to be friendly when I was getting a shit sandwich kind of means I have no interest in being friends ever. That wasn't to blackmail him, just the truth that if someone isn't there for you, then what's the point later? I wouldn't ever trust them.

So now I'm worried that I am being totally unreasonable and way too demanding. I mean, we did break up, and I hurt his feelings and he doesn't owe me anything. At the same time, I am having a hard time with the idea that we didn't really communicate about the breakup and I am really hurt by his response about my grandma. To me, at least, there is something about having been that close that is still important. Like, I don't think we need to be spending tons of time together or even be friends exactly, but the idea that he just doesn't give a shit is hard to take. It makes everything that went before seem false and makes me feel like a fool.

I plan on leaving him alone, of course; he made his feelings totally clear. But I guess I wonder am I being totally unreasonable to be shocked / hurt / uncomfortable with the ease of him just writing everything off like it never mattered? Is this how people become stalkers?

I have a shrink who I love and I am doing this self-esteem class and trying to reach out to other folks I know (which is hard because trust), but this is totally tearing me up. I'm honestly not sure if I am more upset about what happened or upset by how upset I am.

Throwaway email:
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (24 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
But I guess I wonder am I being totally unreasonable to be shocked / hurt / uncomfortable with the ease of him just writing everything off like it never mattered?

I think you are making an assumption here that isn't necessarily warranted. What you know is that he is not willing to spend social time with you right now. That might mean he's written you off; it's just as likely (more likely, I think, given how your last meeting went) that he has lots of complicated feelings about you and your relationship and hasn't resolved them to the point where he can deal with a casual-friendly dynamic yet, let alone be emotionally supportive of you.

It's ok for you to want to keep an open line to him, but it's also ok, and in fact what AskMe generally recommends to people in the middle of tough breakups, for him to think that's a terrible idea for his emotional health. It doesn't really have anything to do with you as a person, it's just a common and usually effective coping strategy.

And, pardon me a second, but he threw a drink in your face. What kind of emotional support are you really expecting he's going to give you, anyway?
posted by restless_nomad at 5:05 PM on April 2, 2013 [8 favorites]

I don't know exactly the timeline of what's happening here, but while your shock and hurt at his distance are understandable, no, its not really reasonable to expect your ex to be a part of your life on your terms. It's also not particularly useful to be doing this whole revisionist thing of your entire two years together based on his actions at the end/now, and it's not going to make any of this any easier.

Further, this is obviously not a person who can give you the kind of support you want.

You're not psycho. You're grieving. I say this a lot on here, but no one owes you closure. Closure is something you give yourself. You are doing good work, with your therapist and with working on reaching out to other people. Don't keep looking back. Keep looking forward.
posted by sm1tten at 5:14 PM on April 2, 2013 [16 favorites]

No, you're not being crazy, or psychotic, or even unreasonable. But...

there is something about having been that close that is still important... It makes everything that went before seem false and makes me feel like a fool.

This says that you haven't really broken up with him. He's broken up with you, which is to say that (from his end), the relationship ended. As in, done, finis, chopped off at this point. But you haven't broken up with him, because you're still hanging onto a thread of relationship that implies continuing access.

Generally, people who are successfully friendly after breaking up, are so because there's a distinct end to their relationship and a starting over as friends, usually after a time apart. The friendship is a separate relationship.

Having a clear end to your relationship doesn't make you a fool and it doesn't make everything that went before false. People change, relationships change, and the sum of good and bad things are real, and if you broke up, you did so at a particular point in time when you judged the relationship couldn't continue from there. It doesn't make anything you felt before wrong or silly or mistaken.

So: sit down with yourself and really clearly think through that your relationship with him is over, and that's okay (and with his behaviour, that shouldn't be too hard). Maybe you'll be friends in the future, and your shared history will become a part of that. But you can't retroactively justify the good parts of your relationship with some future possibilities of good times again.
posted by fatbird at 5:19 PM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

You're struggling with a lot of things, and it sounds like he is, too, even though you don't know what they are. It actually sounds like you are one of the things he is struggling with.

I don't think that you wanting more contact is psycho. I don't think that him not wanting more contact is psycho. I do think that you trying to maintain contact with him and lean on him for support during your "shit sandwich" without realizing that he's trying to break away from you and your refusal to let him go is making things really hard on him is insensitive and somewhat unfair.

Let him go. Lean on others for support. Perhaps someday you two can be friends, but obviously not now, and perhaps never. Concentrate on the other problems and people in your life.

In short, move on, and let him do the same.
posted by davejay at 5:20 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Like, I don't think we need to be spending tons of time together or even be friends exactly, but the idea that he just doesn't give a shit is hard to take.

Would you rather he said yes, let's get brunch again, and threw another drink in your face? Because that would be strong evidence that he does give a shit, you don't bother doing that to someone you don't care about - it's just that how he feels about you is angry/resentful/not healthy and he wants time apart to fix that. If you keep leaning on him, he'll never move past that, and you'll never be friends. If you can't lean on him now, then ok, maybe you'll never want to be friends later. Is that a worse outcome than having him outright hate you?
posted by jacalata at 5:21 PM on April 2, 2013

It sounds like you are really stressed and suffering right now. I'm sorry that you are having such a tough time.

I don't think it's crazy to mourn a relationship's end, but I also like the common definition of "crazy" as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. This man couldn't be supportive of you the last time you interacted (he THREW A DRINK IN YOUR FACE! That is something you do to an enemy.) and he couldn't be supportive of you during a fight over the coffee maker. You asked him to be supportive again and he declined. It's okay to be sad and hurt by that, but he has made it clear that he can't be supportive of you.

If I were in your shoes, I would keep talking to my shrink, keep attending and doing the homework for my self-esteem class, and keep pursuing other avenues of improving my resiliency and self-care. It's hard for me to reach out to people, too, but I can and do do things like listening to music I enjoy, reading silly/fun books, playing sports or being physical in some other way (lots of people love walking or easy hikes in nature if it's nice weather where you are), getting lots of regular sleep, preparing and eating food I like, etc.

I hope things become easier for you and I wish you the best.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 5:22 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Mod note: This is a followup from the asker.
Just to clarify quickly, normally I don't have a huge issue with no-contact. It's just that I would think some things are more important than an arbitrary rule, and this falls within that. I would also add that after the last hangout, he wanted to still talk to me and I said no. So I wasn't contravening some previously established deal. In fact, the opposite.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:26 PM on April 2, 2013

In my experience, difficult life situations and emotionally trying times don't make it easier to offer support to someone else; they make it harder. The stakes are higher, the pressure is on, and in a situation where he's already having trouble, it's even less likely he's going to be able to succeed. I think fatbird has it right: he's broken up with you, and it's over. Any continuing friendship at this point is both theoretical and in the future. Probably the kind of distant future.
posted by restless_nomad at 5:31 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would also add that after the last hangout, he wanted to still talk to me and I said no.

And now you want to talk and he's saying no. I understand that your wanting to talk seems really important and I am sorry you are going through a tough time right now, but it's sort of easy to get your laser beam anxiety focused on something that you can gnaw on (like a guy who is not treating you well and is not there for you and who maybe wasn't there for you earlier either) than the stress you can't gnaw on (what's up with your grandma and the other drama). I don't think, in my own moral calculus, that you get to have your exes around when you need them. That's really one of the things a break-up means, in my world "I am not responsible for/to you anymore" At the same time, I don't think the fact that you broke up means that your previous relationship didn't mean anything and I think when you're feeling a bit more clear-headed, that will be more obvious to you as well.

You are hurting. You're acting in ways that do not seem to be in your own best interests. Leave this guy alone and focus on yourself. This is a stress reaction, and it will pass.
posted by jessamyn at 5:36 PM on April 2, 2013 [18 favorites]

I don't think you're crazy, but I do think you are seeking that mystical thing known as closure.

You discuss how abrupt this breakup was, and I sympathize, because we've all been there. At the same time, you reference multiple fights over "small things standing in for big things;" the thought of having to fight over coffee-as-other-concern many times sounds absolutely dreadful to me. Maybe it ended up being dreadful to him?

What may be sudden to you may have been gradual to him, and even if you could have him sit down and relate all the small things that added up, and when they did, and how they hurt, do you think you would feel like you got it, like things were really done?

Or would you find yourself fretting over what could have been, or how things could be worked on?

There is no easy ending or pat epilogue that come with experiences like these. You have to accept that it's done, and as much as you wish you could dig more into this, it won't be of any use to him, or you.

Note: I am not trying to imply fault here, at all. Sometimes things don't work. Sometimes you discover that two people together can experience the same relationship differently. Things happen. You'll be okay.
posted by vivid postcard at 5:40 PM on April 2, 2013

After your last update, it sounds like you're trying to have interactions with him on your terms - you decide when the two of you shouldn't talk, you decide what counts as something "big" enough for the no-talking to be (temporarily?) lifted ... this would be really confusing and uncomfortable to deal with as the other person.

So while I don't think it's psycho of you to want to lean on him, neither do I think you should really be too down on him for doing what's best for him. You asked, he said no - you're broken up and this isn't really the big betrayal it would have been if you were still going out. I'm sorry you're going through difficult times, but I hope you can see why it might not be great to expect him to be your support right now.

Plus, there IS the throwing-the-drink-in-your-face thing ...
posted by DingoMutt at 5:42 PM on April 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

Why do you expect him to be nicer during the breakup, and your relationship to be healthier during the breakup, than it was when you were together?

Repeat this.

You guys didn't work out. It happens a lot and it sucks. Would it be great that he could be there for you when you need him? Yeah... but I don't think that's really common during break ups. I mean... you broke up for a reason. You two didn't get a long in a way. Sometimes things get better post-breakup, but I think that's the exception.

You're hurting and going through a lot. He's also going through stuff and made it clear he wants space. Listen to that. You're trying to call shots and it's not going to work (unless you want another drink in your face? Seriously... that's a big sign).

Be good to yourself. Stop trying to get support from somebody who doesn't want to give it to you.
posted by kendrak at 5:46 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

It's just that I would think some things are more important than an arbitrary rule

It's not an arbitrary rule.
1. he may not give a shit about the overall no contact concept, he just doesn't want to see you now because he is angry at you.

2. People haven't come up with this 'no contact' idea just by spitballing what they could do after a breakup. The idea is that after you break up with someone, frequently one or both of you will be angry with the other, you will have different expectations of how you will both behave, and you will have difficulty in adjusting your relationship into the new patterns of 'just friends', if you keep hanging out and doing things the way you used to. People have discovered that continuing to spend time together while going through this period of adjustment often leads to a complete failure to adjust, and instead of becoming friends they become enemies. Therefore if you want to become friends later, you should stop seeing each other for a period of time. So really, leaning on him now is sacrificing your chances of being friends later. If that's what both of you want, then that would be fine - but it isn't, so you don't get his support now.
posted by jacalata at 5:51 PM on April 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'm going to give it to you straight.

This person dumped you. It is over. He threw a drink in your face, which is a sign of extreme contempt. In fact, everything you describe screams this person feels heaps of contempt for you. Once the other person feels this way, there is pretty much no fixing it. There is zero chance you can fix this.

Where did you learn that asking for love and comfort from someone who actively dislikes you is a good idea? I'm not trying to be mean, it's just, there are giant neon signs that the relationship was ending, then it ended, and you are holding on in a supremely unhealthy way. It's like you are willfully blind to reality, and I suspect this is a problem you will encounter again and again in life until you orient yourself a little more firmly in reality.

I'm sorry you are hurting and the break-up was shitty. Find another way to cope, process, and heal.

For the future, learn to recognize when someone is treating you poorly. Recalibrate yourself such that you find this sort of treatment a supreme turn-off.

Being iced out after a break up and having a drink thrown in your face should fill you with anger and disappointment, not longing and a wish to rekindle things. Personally, I would hate the bastard for a while.

So yeah, I think your reaction to the break-up is problematic and not congruent with reality.
posted by jbenben at 5:55 PM on April 2, 2013 [29 favorites]

I'll be blunt: he broke up with you because he didn't want to be with you anymore. When you get together, he goes to himself, oh right! I don't want to be with her! And he acts out.

You feel like many or most or all people who have been the dumpee - you are struggling with the great WHY??

Because he doesn't want to be with you is why. That's it. Everything else is extraneous. Breathe a lot, write in your journal, consume a lot of TV, learn a new language - whatever works to distract you. Any time you start to wonder why, say "Because he doesn't want to be with me." Out loud if possible.

This will pass.
posted by rtha at 6:05 PM on April 2, 2013 [5 favorites]

I am with jbenben here. This relationship is over. And relationships are not like nuclear warheads; you don't both have to turn your keys. I would not at all say you are psycho -- I think what you are feeling is normal! Of course this sucks and is hard and it hurts, because you're still processing this breakup and the loss of your home and all this shitty family stuff! -- but if your ex came to us and told us his side of this state of affairs, we'd all be telling him to go no contact. So I do think that, yeah, you are kinda asking too much from a person with whom you are not in a relationship (and with whom you aren't really even friends -- given the drink in the face thing. Unless you're dating Alexis Carrington, that is really not on).

I honestly think that it would be better for YOU in the long run to go no contact with this guy. Being in sporadic, emotionally fraught contact seems to be making you miserable. Try to lean on your friends for support and make your way without him. It is hard, but it's going to have to be done eventually because THIS isn't working, you know? So why drag it out?
posted by Countess Sandwich at 6:28 PM on April 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

Just to clarify quickly, normally I don't have a huge issue with no-contact. It's just that I would think some things are more important than an arbitrary rule, and this falls within that.

You know, 'arbitrary rule' is not a synonym for 'rule I don't feel like following'. Your feelings are probably overwhelming, but they don't make contacting your ex any more of a good idea, and they won't guarantee any better of an outcome.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:24 PM on April 2, 2013 [5 favorites]

maybe we can be friends in six months

He's trying really hard to do the right thing here. He probably does give a shit, but that isn't going to help. You guys make each other crazy, it's not healthy, and I sympathize with your desire to connect with someone but he is not the right person to do that with.

What you're doing isn't wrong or unexpected or unusual or psycho. But it's really intense, and it feeds itself, so you have to make your rational side be the hardass here and redirect your emotional side to something healthier and safer for you not just in the long run but today. It doesn't feel like it helps today, but I promise it does.

You are making emotional demands of him that are not feasible, and because it isn't feasible there's no other option but for it to hurt you. Stop texting, stop talking, let yourself have some room to cool off.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:36 PM on April 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

I would favorite the young rope-rider's advice an infinite number of times if I could.

I see that you say you've been burned before, which means that you have had at least one other breakup. I assume that it wasn't as bad as this one? What worked for you in that last breakup? Do that. Breaking up sucks, and no breakup is perfect, but I am guessing that it was more smooth than this one that you are going through.

One thing that helped me when I was acting like a total nutcase after leaving my abusive ex was thinking about other, more successful breakups I had had in the past. I was able to get through those without going totally off the rails the way I did with this guy, and I think it's exactly because of what the young rope-rider said: I just wanted evidence that he loved me, because his behavior in the relationship was... well, it wasn't entirely loving, and included breaking objects and saying mean things and his inability to respect my feelings and a lot of arguing.

What I mean is: there was a reason I was acting out, but it didn't mean I was crazy. It was just my worst breakup. I'd had breakups before that were normal, which means that my behavior was circumstantial. It helped me forgive myself for acting in a way that was totally uncharacteristic and helped me get over him a bit, too, when I finally figured out why it was happening.

Hang in there.
posted by sockermom at 10:36 PM on April 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

It sucks. A lot. My experience is it's much harder to be the dumpee because the dumper has a sense of things not being right for a while, so takes some time to work up to the dumping. Sometimes as the dumpee you have that sense as well, but other times it just comes completely out of the blue. I think that in those cases, it takes extra long to let go. You keep worrying at it, dwelling on it, questioning it as if the answer will be different if you just keep poking at it. The answer isn't different. And then you start feeling that because it clearly wasn't what you thought, none of it was the way you thought it was, it was all a lie.

It's obviously more complicated than that. He clearly still has feelings for you, or he wouldn't have cared enough to throw a drink in your face. At the same time, he threw a drink in your face, so I'm not sure they're the kind of feelings you really want to spend time around. And although it may be important to you in times of need to reach out to people you felt close to and cared about, even if they have thrown a drink in your face, and it is your right to do this, it is also his right to say no. You cannot make him feel the way you want him to feel. You don't get to make it turn out better by arranging another meeting in the hopes that it will give you the closure you didn't get when you first split up. It's over and it sucks.

At the same time, you are not wrong to be hurt. It will keep hurting for a while. And although I think it is normal to feel like a fool, you haven't been. You just trusted someone and it didn't work out. It is as maddeningly simple as that.

Practical advice: give him the space he clearly needs; it will probably be good for you as well. Keep seeing your shrink and doing your self-esteem things. Try to focus on yourself, not on the past, not on the relationship, not on him. If there are things you were always wanting to do or try out (learn a language, take a cooking class, go skydiving, whatever), explore those. It will give you something else to think about besides him and your other stresses, it will give you something nice that is just for you. Even little things like having date nights with yourself can be fun - order take-away, watch a good film, take a long relaxing bath, eat half a packet of chocolate biscuits, whatever works for you. Be kind to yourself, and when you find yourself focusing on him/the relationship/how you are a fool and all that other negative self-talk, just gently steer yourself back into something else. Don't beat yourself up, but don't let yourself indulge in it either. Lean on other people, or a pet. This is how I got through. (Well, not the skydiving.)

Hang in there, it will get easier.
posted by Athanassiel at 11:15 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

It is very hard to go through Hard Life Stuff without having somebody there who is your rock. However, the really great thing about letting go of notions that x y or z person can be supportive is a) it can be easier to marshal one's interior resources to deal with it, 'cause, hey, who the hell else will b) it can be easier to realize that one is going through a tough spot and c) it is easier to look around and see what other options might be out there.
posted by angrycat at 2:00 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

This was extra hard because we had planned the place together, I had done pretty much all the decoration (I am a designer), we had a roof garden with all these plants I had planted still growing, and really I was leaving my home. I was also working crazy hours, so altogether, not at my best.

Then I had an incredibly craptastic day [...]

Then my grandma's dementia got worse and I had to fly to my parents and other personal drama

I have a shrink who I love and I am doing this self-esteem class and trying to reach out to other folks I know (which is hard because trust), but this is totally tearing me up. I'm honestly not sure if I am more upset about what happened or upset by how upset I am.

If I were one of your trusted friends, I would really, really hope that you would share these sorts of difficult things with me. Especially when/if they come up out of the blue and you may or may not feel terrifically silly about considering it (I say so also because your email address is "unreasonable.lonleyheart"). It is great that you are working on things with a therapist, and already trying to reach out like this.

It might help to have a concrete exercise: take some time and sit with your feelings, acknowledge them. Once you feel relaxed – this may take some time! – as in you can take a deep breath and feel your body de-tensing, promise yourself you will not judge yourself (no "I'm psycho" or "arbitrary rules" or "unreasonable and demanding"), and that the following exercise is also not one in "judging" other people. It will be in looking at actions, which are facts, they speak to themselves. (Just in case you're very smart, yes, "as an observer of facts I am automatically interpreting" is absolutely true, and in fact it's that automatic reaction we'll be looking at, because it too is an action and speaks truth. It is not the same thing as turning a situation over and over again to try and fit an external narrative, which is what I meant by "judging" earlier. Your therapist would probably have a more satisfying explanation than I do.)

Now that that's done, you're relaxed and your "judging" mind has been sent on a nice vacation, quietly ask yourself for spontaneous remembrances of when you have reached out and had responses that you were satisfied with. Ones that come up of their own accord, not forced (thus the relaxed state), and bring a smile to your face. IF there is any return of tension that grows and does not dissipate, note that: your body is telling you that something is off. It does not matter what exactly is off, the judging has been turned off, remember: it only matters that spontaneously, you know something is off. A genuinely satisfying response may bring negative emotions such as sorrow (if you were sharing about an illness or death), and may bring a bit of tension at first that should relax if acknowledged, but it should not bring anxiety, worries for personal safety, or an invasion of judgments/justifications.

Now. When you've noted the satisfying responses, which will bring a quiet calm even if they were in undoubtedly negative circumstances, think to those people. Contact them. They are your trusted friends.
posted by fraula at 2:47 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

If I were one of your trusted friends, I would really, really hope that you would share these sorts of difficult things with me.

This first bit of mine could use some clarification – I would really hope that, because as a friend, I would already have noticed you might going through some rough times, and remember past conversations where we talked about things, and so be worrying about you. Doubly so if I knew you were alone and in an area around a guy who had hurt you in the past. I wouldn't write to ask if I didn't have enough information to go on; guessing about that sort of thing can be sticking your foot on it. Thus, the hope that as a friend, you'd trust your friends, and trust that they genuinely want your happiness.
posted by fraula at 2:54 AM on April 3, 2013

As a person with basically zero RL friends, I find that if I do meet a potential friend I cling to them like all get-out and make it uncomfortable for everyone. My recommendation is to find the other part of your support group. Don't cling to the person you used to feel closest to, especially if they have made it clear that they're not on the same level. Branch out, leave the ex out of the deep emotional discussions. They weren't successful when you were together, they won't be now.
posted by bendy at 8:22 PM on April 3, 2013

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