What to do when the sickener hits?
May 27, 2013 4:49 AM   Subscribe

How does one handle sudden epiphanies about relationships, the kind of ones that happen when waking one morning and completely reverse your feelings from the night before?

I've been dating a very wonderful woman for the last 8 months or so. We've been very much in love, talking about moving in together in the summer. Yesterday we spent a day looking at places to move to in our city and have found the perfect area - largely within our budget, friendly, well-kept. We went to bed dreaming of the future and of how wonderful our life will be.

This morning I woke with a remarkably strong feeling: I don't want this. Not only do I not want to move in together, but I don't want to spend my life with this fantastic person who just yesterday I was head-over-heels with.

This kind of sudden change in thinking has never happened to me before. I've experienced the end of a relationship's honeymoon period, I've dealt with waning romance and I'd like to think that by and large I've done it in a very mature fashion. This feels like neither of those things, and I have no idea how I'm supposed to deal with it.

Part of me strongly thinks I should talk it through with my partner, but what if I wrong? What if my feelings flip again tomorrow? I'm aware that she's had some flaky boyfriends in the past who have talked big things and then disappeared into the ether, and I don't want to be that guy.

How does one deal with sudden flips of emotion like this? How can I work out what caused it? Is this a message From my subconscious or just pessimistic overreaction to the joys of yesterday?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (24 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Part of me strongly thinks I should talk it through with my partner, but what if I wrong? What if my feelings flip again tomorrow? I'm aware that she's had some flaky boyfriends in the past who have talked big things and then disappeared into the ether, and I don't want to be that guy.

"Follow your heart, but be quiet for a while first. Ask questions, and then feel the answer. Learn to trust your heart." Carl W Buechner

Give it a few days - at the very least 24 hours - to see if that feeling is still there and why you may be feeling it - you don't have to act on these feelings right away. It is better that you figure these feelings out on your own for a bit before you mention it to her. There is nothing as frustrating as:
You: "There is something wrong, something isn't right."
Her: "What is it? Everything has been great!"
You: "I don't know."
Her: ?????? WTF?? (cue insecurity, doubt, stress, confusion, etc.)

You may find that this was just a case of cold feet and isn't a huge deal, or you may find that this search for a place together revealed some things you need to talk about. Good luck.
posted by NoraCharles at 5:10 AM on May 27, 2013 [18 favorites]

What are the reasons for the doubt? What kinds of things are you telling yourself about her, and your life together, in your head?
If they are actual good reasons that you have been suppressing all this time, that's very different than having a panic attack due to your own anxieties about commitment. If there is nothing substantial, just an OMG get me out of here! feeling, I would definitely wait to discuss it with her and try to deal with it on your own for a few days, see if it goes away.
The sudden reversal itself is not necessarily the main thing to focus on. Look rationally at the contents of your doubt.
posted by third rail at 5:10 AM on May 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Maybe you're rushing into things. You say you don't want to move in with this person or spend the rest of your life with her. That's fine- but do you want to spend today with her? How about tomorrow? Do you still feel like you love her? Eight months is not an incredibly long time, maybe you're just not ready for that level of commitment yet. Or maybe there's some other factors- maybe you don't want the same kind of future as she does and you're just now realising it.

So yeah, as of right now, do you love her? Like her? Enjoy her? Start there. If things are moving too fast, it's ok to ask for them to slow down.

On the other hand, if you are coming out of an infatuation you'll know because in a few days you won't love her, might not even like her.
posted by windykites at 5:24 AM on May 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Have you ever felt mad at someone because of something they "did" in a dream?

Because that's what this sounds like to me. Sometimes you forget the dream completely but are left with a nagging negative feeling towards that person that you can't understand or rationalize. The fact that you "woke up" with this totally flipped attitude is what suggested it to me.

The solution is to go about your normal day to day, spending time with that person and being open to feeling the way they make you feel in the real world. You'll probably find the confusing flip of emotion fades away.
posted by telegraph at 5:24 AM on May 27, 2013 [24 favorites]

The brain can do strange and seemingly illogical things when one is asleep. Waking up with a different attitude to something than when you went to sleep is not uncommon. It could be the working of a dream you've forgotten, or something else - quite possibly benign - working out below the surface.

The key thing is to do nothing for a few days - not just one day - and don't mention these things. They may very well fade, get back to the previous normality. See how you feel about the relationship and related things next weekend.
posted by Wordshore at 5:26 AM on May 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

However, this: I'm aware that she's had some flaky boyfriends... I don't want to be that guy

is not a good enough reason to stay in a relationship, if that's what's holding you there.
posted by windykites at 5:27 AM on May 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

8 months eh. Bit rapid, specially if you have doubts. If the feelings subsist act on them
posted by BenPens at 5:39 AM on May 27, 2013

I've had this feeling before... a cold, dark realization that things were not what I suspected. It has always (in my experience) turned out to be true. If I get angry with someone in a dream, it is generally because I am angry about something in real life, or because I am imagining a (realistic) scenario where they would likely do something to make me angry, and am upset because even if it hadn't happened, it was the kind of thing that could (given who they were, etc.)

So... I would just sit on this feeling for a little bit and see what develops. If you can, spend the night alone tonight or at some point in the next couple of days. I get more realizations when I sleep alone (less disturbed sleep). Also, this may sound hokey...but before you go to sleep, ask your mind to tell you why you feel this way. Sometimes your unconscious responds to requests.
posted by 3491again at 5:47 AM on May 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think this is more about the fear of making such a large commitment than about her. I would wait a few days before doing anything. I would try to think about it in different terms. Would you feel this way if you weren't thinking about moving in together?
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:11 AM on May 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've definitely had this fast feeling before.
My advice: slow down. You don't want to make a decision like this in a rash way. Give yourself some time to think through why you are having the change of feeling. Try and get to the bottom of it. If you find your answers, and it's "no" to a future with your girlfriend, set her free. Good luck!
posted by MeatheadBrokeMyChair at 6:15 AM on May 27, 2013

Morning emotions can often be a come down from the night before, for me at least. I often experience my most crankiest anxious feelings in the morning. When I've had a drink the night before this can exacerbate it. You were smart not to do anything about it right away. I say take a calm stroll, clear your mind and then check what your instincts say then.
posted by waterandrock at 6:21 AM on May 27, 2013

This sort of thing just happened to me with my house purchase. I found exactly the house I wanted but at more than I intended to pay--however I could afford it, made an offer and got accepted. At 4 am the day after I woke up feeling like I'd just made the stupidest decision of my life--sweating, sick to my stomach. I had this "doomed" feeling.

I usually "trust my gut" so I fired off an email to my realtor and asked her to withdraw my offer.

Fortunately she is very experienced and told me to talk it through with someone I trust. I did with several someones and calmed down enough to agree to go through the process. My best friend made me realize that maybe this was me feeling I don't deserve getting something I really want.

It took me a solid week of just sitting with the decision (and continuing the process) to start to feel good about it.

This is a major life decision. It is going to be a big change. Talk it through with your partner--and remember what you love about her and why you deserve this happiness.
posted by agatha_magatha at 6:24 AM on May 27, 2013 [18 favorites]

As much as humans are engineered to partner up, there is an impulse that conflicts with this - also from the same evolutionary tract. It's the impulse of flight, of mobility (because that's what survival of often demands).

That bit of evolutionary impulse 'to end it all' kicked in while you were off-guard, i.e when you were asleep. The more stable thought usually wins out in the long run, so I would relax.
posted by Kruger5 at 6:45 AM on May 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seconding the "maybe this is about the big change and not her". Because yeah, 8 months feels kind of fast when it comes to moving in (to me, anyway - I do tend to move slow, though).

I'd sit with that feeling, and maybe examine it a bit - imagine if you decided to table moving in for a while, and whether you would still want to date her. If you do, that's probably a sign that these feelings are more about "hold up, this is a big change and I need to process this" than it is about her.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:48 AM on May 27, 2013

Yes, n'thing let it sit for a while. I had terrible cold feet before (and after) I got married (also out of the blue and when I woke up one morning), and ten years later getting married to my beloved is still the best thing I have ever done (A++++, would marry again).

It may be your gut telling you something, but it may also just be the equivalent of the 3 AM "everything is terrible" feeling, which rarely proves to be as dire as it seems. Give it a while and see. I would not say anything to your SO unless/until you start to believe that this is a real feeling and you need to slow down, but I would also not sign anything.
posted by biscotti at 7:28 AM on May 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

The period of limerence can also involve denials, from the very best intentions. Introspect a little and be honest with yourself if there are aspects of this relationship that are unsettling you, but that you've been putting aside so's to enjoy the first fine flush of romance.

That cold morning feeling could just be your feet, as others suggest. Or it could be legitimate messages from your own mind reminding you not all is well. Only you can discern which it is.
posted by zadcat at 7:35 AM on May 27, 2013

Don't tell her about it unless you feel the same way in a week.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:48 AM on May 27, 2013 [6 favorites]

If you really don't want this, then I think you'd have known that before now. Are you being totally honest with yourself?

It's one thing to be repressing your doubts about a relationship (been there, done that!), and another thing to temporarily freak out because you're staring down a big, real commitment and life change. Kind of like how many first-time parents look at their very wanted newborn and say, "What the hell, I have just ruined my life!!"

I don't think you should unload this on your SO, but I do think you could talk about it. Something like, "Wow, this seems really serious, it's kind of freaking me out!" Being able to discuss and withstand negative emotions in a relationship is actually really important.
posted by yarly at 8:05 AM on May 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

It sounds like a bit of black and white thinking. I'd be very wary of it and see if it passes on its own. It could be a little Gollum from your subconscious trying to get you to ruin a good thing. The most legitimate emotions have some rational basis (e.g. I am unhappy being with her because she doesn't listen to me when I am sharing my feelings and she never picks up her socks versus I am unhappy being with her because of my weird mood this morning.)
posted by mermily at 9:05 AM on May 27, 2013

I call this kind of thinking "shower thoughts," because they always come up when I'm in the shower. No matter how awesome a relationship is, I usually think "we should break up" when I'm in the shower. There's never a reason, just the thought.

But the shower's also where I thought it would be a good idea to build armor for kittens so they never grow up, or that I could probably find some way to live in a dirigible if only someone would let me tether it to their land.

So I tend to just dismiss it and let it pass.

Observe the emotion, and don't dwell on it.
posted by MonsieurBon at 9:17 AM on May 27, 2013 [12 favorites]

Have you ever taken this step with a SO before? If you haven't taken this step and moved in with a partner before, could this possibly be growth panic (a fear of achieving success and independence)? Even though you're not getting married, moving to another city to start a new life with someone is a HUGE act of commitment in itself! Not to mention for some people, a huge step in demonstrating independence and self-direction. I say this not knowing anything about your age or life experience base. Plus you're also consenting to a certain amount of vulnerability in trusting this other person to guide and support you in this transition. Could it be that overnight you've realized just what a genuine risk in getting hurt you're taking in making this kind of big move?

Is there a part of you, somewhere in your brain, panicking that this is going too well and therefore doomed to failure?

Or is there a part alerting you to the fact that you're making this move for some of the wrong reasons?

Agreeing with others to give it a few days before having the conversation that NoraCharles described. Re-visit your reasons for moving, debug any self-sabatoging/irrational ones, and re-assess. Know yourself thoroughly with respect to these doubts before bringing it up with your SO.
posted by human ecologist at 10:48 AM on May 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Be aware that you are very dangerous right now.

You have not only a responsibility to yourself but to her. If you act on this feeling without really unpacking it, understanding it and and talking it over with her first, you may end up breaking her heart in the worst way possible, like it's possible she may experience the kind of devastation that takes years to undo.

She will end up feeling betrayed. Let me tell you that the worst nightmare of somebody who has trouble trusting is that they will be in a seemingly perfect relationship and then their partner will wake up one morning and decide out of the blue for no discernible reason that they need to leave.
posted by timsneezed at 11:07 AM on May 27, 2013 [7 favorites]

Yesterday we spent a day looking at places to move to in our city and have found the perfect area - largely within our budget, friendly, well-kept...This morning I woke with a remarkably strong feeling: I don't want this.

This may well be a relationship epiphany ("I am not ready to settle down") but equally as likely is the possibility that this is simply cold feet ("HOLY CRAP REALLY GROWN-UP COMMITMENT!")

I'd explore this with a therapist post-haste, and I'd do that before breaking this woman's heart.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:13 PM on May 27, 2013

This has happened to me once before. I was dating a guy for about seven months, we were very happy, I thought I was in love with him and had already told him so two months prior, not even any minor problems or doubts about him/our relationship had come up. And then one day, we were lying together on the couch watching TV, and all of a sudden I felt as if I had woken up from a dream and wondered what on earth I was doing dating this guy. He was not a bad guy in any way, shape, or form, but it was like all of my interest in him evaporated in a matter of minutes. I was also all of a sudden repulsed by the way he smelled, when previously it had never bothered me before. I excused myself and went to the bathroom to collect my thoughts, then returned and told him I had to go home as I wasn't feeling well. I sat on these feelings for three days but they did not go away; I broke up with him the next time I saw him, and still feel so ashamed for having had this happen.

I took a good year off from dating after that, because the experience bewildered me and as I said, I felt really ashamed. In time and with a lot of reflection, I came to realize what had happened. He was the second person I had ever seriously dated in my life. My previous relationship lasted six years, but the last year of that was especially rough as my ex-boyfriend clearly (in hindsight) no longer wanted to be with me but wouldn't break up with me, instead he would criticize just about everything I did as his girlfriend. My self-esteem, as a girlfriend, was in the toilet.

When the soon-to-be Second Boyfriend expressed an interest in dating me 3 months after my first relationship ended, I jumped right on board and went through all of the motions and basically proved to myself that I could be a "good" girlfriend, and wasn't such a bad girlfriend as the ex had made me believe.

I was never dating Second Boyfriend because I genuinely liked Second Boyfriend. I was dating him to essentially re-discover my self worth as a partner. I did not do this consciously. I didn't realize it until months after I had broken up with him and yet I still feel horribly guilty about it.

Ever since I realized this, I have always made a habit of examining my feelings for a person I'm dating and making sure they are actually about the individual and not feeding some other need that I have. It's taken a lot of navel-gazing/self-awareness to get to this point, but I now feel pretty confident in knowing when I'm with someone for the right/wrong reasons.

I have no idea what might've made you have this sudden switch. It could simply be anxiety over commitment as others have already mentioned, but based on my experience I would advise that you analyze your feelings for the person you are with as closely as possible, and see if they are really about her, or if they are feeding some other void that you might have in your life.

Writing things down helped me out a lot with this kind of self-discovery. Think of all of the times that you can remember being happy with her, and list them all out. Try to write why, in detail, you felt so happy. Think of other girls you've had relationships with and what made you attracted to them. Think of the reasons you are attracted to your current partner and list them out - are they similar traits? Are they traits you actually like better, perhaps? Or can you not think of much to say? How do they make you feel? Start free writing about your experience with this sudden shift in feelings, re-live it on paper as best as you can and see if any new insights surface as you type/write.

And of course I recommend giving yourself a few days to mull on this, as others have mentioned. I would probably avoid seeing her during this time if you can. Good luck.
posted by Squee at 12:27 AM on May 28, 2013 [9 favorites]

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