Long Term relationship with a girl that has issues?
November 5, 2013 8:41 PM   Subscribe

Is there any chance that a relationship with a girl with issues from her past could work long term? have there ever been any that have been successful?

So to start off I recently broke off a 2 year long engagement. A couple of the reasons were due to lack of attraction, predictability and boredom. Then one day I go to meet up with a new client for 3 weeks and there is a new girl there.

She caught my attention along with perhaps all the other guys there. I kept to myself for the most part but we engaged in conversation and ended up having a lot of things in common and also shared the same passion in what we do and what we enjoy. It was refreshing to talk to someone who can relate and understand you in a way. On top of that she has a great sense of humor which I had never even realized was a great thing to have in a girl.

we spent a few late nights talking for hours at her place, nothing physical. It was nice and we would talk about everything. Im obviously attracted to this girl. I dig her personality and shes perhaps one of the most stunning women ive ever encountered. And I enjoy making her smile.

She then opened up some more and went into detail about her father and mother who divorced when she was young and how her father never talks to her. Of course these things manifest into an individual's upbringing and im worried that if i ever get involved with this girl it might spell hell later on.

Ive been with troubled women in the past and I have no idea why it is im so attracted to those kinds of women. When I was 24 (im 29 now) I decided to give up on dating and hooking up with girls and concentrate on getting my life right and finding a good, strong, attractive, spiritual woman. I stayed single for a long time and then when i turned 28 i decided to try looking for a girl i could spend my life with. Lots of girls in my cultural community were single available and had many admirable traits, they were raised in good families, had a good education, and were level headed. But I just couldnt help but see my whole future already unfolded before me...it was so predictable and i thought what was the point of that?

This girl I like now is damaged and in a way so am I. I wont pretend like im perfect either. I have my fair share of issues. My self esteem isnt that great although its improved greatly. I have anxiety and I stress too much. My intuition is telling me to leave but i cant help but really be into this girl. Theres a part of me thats asking...well what if I went down that difficult road and we made it work?

There's a scene in a movie called Before Midnight where after a 10 year relationship this couple get into a really bad argument. But the guy ends up going after her after she walks out on him. Shes a tough case to handle. But because he loves her so much he makes it work and wins her back. Its that passion that I want. My parents have it. I love my mom but sometimes she gives my dad hell and can be extremely difficult. But my dad has so much patience with her and you can really tell he still is madly in love with her, he admitted to me he still has that passion for her from the first day he met her.

Thats important to me to have in any relationship...and i feel as though i have it with her.

posted by red47Apple to Human Relations (53 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
You're going to be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn't have "issues" of one sort or another. No one gets through this life unscathed.
posted by cecic at 8:48 PM on November 5, 2013 [64 favorites]

Sorry,, can you clarify what these "issues" you speak of are? Do you mean that her parents are divorced and she doesn't have a relationship with her father? Because that could describe millions upon millions of people in this world, plenty of whom have healthy, lasting relationships of all kinds.

I would actually call those non-issues, myself..
posted by wats at 8:48 PM on November 5, 2013 [39 favorites]

You're asking this because her parents are divorced and she doesn't get along with her dad?

Yes, people with divorced parents have successful relationships.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:48 PM on November 5, 2013 [10 favorites]

Very few humans do not have issues. Very few adults do not have baggage to go with their issues. This woman does not sound damaged to me; she sounds like she's a member of a contemporary family. I'm unclear why she's less worthy of a relationship with you than you are of one with her. If having issues precluded people from forming successful partnerships, the divorce rate would be 100% and not 50%.

Relationships are not movies. Women are not idealised romantic figures; they are fully actualised humans just like you. See also: Madonna-Whore Complex.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:49 PM on November 5, 2013 [16 favorites]

Response by poster: Well besides having parental issues, she smokes too much has a few tattoos (i dont mind the tattoos much) and i think she may be scared of commitment.

Also this is more of a cultural thing but my family is very conservative and religious. She isnt at all, although she does seem to be spiritual in a sense that she does believe in something bigger than ourselves.
posted by red47Apple at 8:57 PM on November 5, 2013

Some preliminary thoughts:

- Females over the age of 18 are women, not girls. I don't say this just as an abstract point about what word to use, but rather to encourage you to start thinking of potential partners as fellow adults with agency in their lives, rather than infantalizing them and framing them as children who are either "damaged" or "undamaged."

- Don't base your goals, expectations, and decisions on how anything is presented in a movie. Real life, real relationships, real challenges, and real people are more complex than any movie. Over-romanticizing and oversimplifying your view of relationships does yourself (and your partners) a deep disservice.

- If you have recently called off an engagement, it's entirely possible that you need much more time to deal with the end of that relationship before embarking on a new one, whether with this woman or with any other women.

To your specific question:

Yes, countless people with "issues" have formed healthy, happy long-term relationships. Sometimes this comes after a series of less-than-healthy/happy relationships, sometimes this comes with therapy, sometimes this comes just by virtue of growing up. The idea that the only people who have good relationships are those who had perfect childhoods is simply false.

That doesn't say anything about the potential for a relationship with this particular woman, however, about whom I don't think much can be deduced given the few details you share here. Her parents divorced? Well, yeah, so what? I know plenty of people with divorced parents who are in happy relationships, just as I know plenty of people whose parents stayed together who themselves are in unhappy relationships.
posted by scody at 8:57 PM on November 5, 2013 [97 favorites]

I am a big sports fan. At the beginning of every season, I look at my teams and decide what they will be like this year. Thousands of prognosticators talk about the team "on paper". There is a reason they play the games instead of just doing some analysis of how teams look on paper.

Judge this new gal based on her actions and HER words. She cannot and did not choose her parents. She is choosing to deal with her issues now in a way that works for her.

Although you are already 29, I think with a little more time, maturity will set in and you will see that "on paper" is bs. If you like the woman and she likes you, try to work it all out. What is the old saying? Better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all?
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:09 PM on November 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

The question of whether or not anyone has ever had a successful relationship with someone who had issues indicates to me that you are emotionally young and not very knowledgeable about how the world works. All people in all relationships have issues because people are human and human beings just come with baggage of some kind no matter who they are or what their upbringing is.

The real question is not do these things work, but rather are you mature and self-aware enough to recognize how these things work, and it sounds to me like you've lived a rather sheltered life and need to do some living and learning before you enter into a relationship with anyone again, especially if you've just broken off an engagement. Perhaps you need to take some time to assess what baggage you bring to a relationship, and then consider what baggage that someone else might bring as well and determine what is a deal breaker and what isn't.

But start by realizing how sophomoric your question is, and get to the real stuff instead next. That's the route to healthier and more fulfilling relationships.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 9:09 PM on November 5, 2013 [28 favorites]

It sounds like you are struggling with attraction to someone who does not fit your familial and cultural idea for a partner. You need to examine and deal with that rather than making up reasons (her family history, her smoking and her tattoos) why you shouldn't be attracted to her. It really sounds like you're scraping for reasons to look down on her in order to give yourself some distance, and it would probably not be a good experience for her to date you currently. Either accept and embrace the reality that you want to date outside your family's expectations or walk away.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:12 PM on November 5, 2013 [73 favorites]

Considering that twenty-three percent of American women have tattoos and one hundred percent of people everywhere have issues, I imagine that at least some of them are making long-term relationships work successfully.
posted by creativenothing at 9:22 PM on November 5, 2013 [8 favorites]

I don't think this girl is damaged or fucked up or "has issues," but I do think that she doesn't fit your expectations of what a woman should be like. She smokes? She has tattoos? Wow, I didn't realize that most of my friends are damaged goods.

It's fine if you're not compatible with this person, but it's not fine to frame it in a way that makes her deficient or wrong in some way. Get over yourself and stop judging her. Break up with her if you insist on looking at her in such a condescending way.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 9:25 PM on November 5, 2013 [47 favorites]

So your parents are still together, but you've mentioned here and before that your mother, while very physically attractive especially in her youth, can be a nightmare to deal with. If a man I was dating told me that I would consider him to have been just as "damaged" as I would someone telling me their parents are divorced and they aren't close to their dad. From your previous questions you clearly have some heavy issues when it comes to relationships, issues that could easily have developed from your parent's occasionally dysfunctional relationship. I'm not judging, I have issues too! And probably this woman you've met does as well. And also just about everyone on the planet.

Basically, why are you demanding perfection when you yourself will never attain it?
posted by Dynex at 9:37 PM on November 5, 2013 [7 favorites]

Jesus i'm pulling out the radioactive old line i've made fun of and ragged on so much, but this question really does say a fuck of a lot more about you than it does about her(and really, it doesn't give us that much info on her since you don't really know much). To take stock she:

* Has tattoos.

* Her parents are divorced, and her father doesn't talk to her

* Is "scared of commitment"(what is giving you this feeling? you don't expand on this at all)

Really, this is all pretty mild stuff. Like if you made a food pyramid of "issues" this would be the very bottom tier. nearly everyone has a couple servings of low level stuff like this. And in my experience and the experience of many others i've talked to the people who appear to not have any "standard" issues like that and seem "normal" generally get an equal sized serving of some replacement for that in weird personality quirks, etc.

It's hard to quantify in some broken down list the way you listed her "faults", but even questioning those minor things as deal breakers and seeing her as some kind of damaged person not on your level really speaks volumes about the frankly odd way you're approaching this.

I think you're doing a bit of two things people can do that cause problems in interpersonal and especially romantic relationships. One of them is breaking everything down in to movie tropes like you did with your last paragraph, and trying to make your life fit into them. Another one is trying to analyze it down to some exact science of "well i get enough of this, and add a little of this, make sure i don't pour any of that in... and PERFECT!". People take advice meant for a specific situation or general advice of "avoid this type of thing" and mix it all up in to thinking it's some kind of video game stat, or just true in all situations all the time.

Nothing is that easily quantifiable, and you would do well to stop looking at it as such. I can't help but think that the vast majority of any issues brought to the table in this relationship, even at the infancy stages, would be coming to the meeting in your wagon.

and yea, not to mention what ablazingsaddle brought up. If you can't approach this without looking at her in a really condescending way, then walk away and take some time to work on yourself.
posted by emptythought at 9:55 PM on November 5, 2013 [13 favorites]

She doesn't need someone judging her like this.

You don't know her at all, it's unlikely your assessments are accurate.

It seems a strong possibility you've got issues related to your cultural upbringing and your experiences with your mother.

If you get involved, you will hurt this nice person who has done you the kindness of allowing you an opportunity to get to know her a little better.

Be kind in return and don't get involved.

Do self-work and maybe seek therapy. You need to grow up emotionally before you can enjoy a fulfilling relationship.

Fulfilling relationships don't just happen, they take (self) work! So get to it!!

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 10:04 PM on November 5, 2013 [18 favorites]

Best answer: Yes, relationships with people who have "issues" can work, yes there are examples of this, even for pretty extreme examples of "issues". In my own personal example, both me and my long-term partner have serious emotional baggage, but we've both made a commitment to work through it, we're both in therapy, we communicate openly, and we have found some peace with one another. The success of our relationship is largely a story of overcoming our issues, rather than repeating old patterns of emotional withdrawal, drama, codependence, etc...

Your question tells me that your own issues send you into high-drama cycles and that you're repeating patterns from your parents. This is a really common behavior called 'projection' and 'transference' in which we replay old dramas throughout our lives until we manage to resolve them, casting people in our lives in old roles (e.g. you and her play the roles of your parents). It gets in the way of real intimacy, because one relates to the old characters in the mind, rather than the real people in the present. Seeking out that drama, as you describe, is being in the grip of these issues. The passion is empty and there is no peace to be found by chasing it.

There are reasons why you make the choices you do, even if you don't know them. If you crave emotional instability you will be drawn towards emotionally unstable people. Why would you crave emotional instability? Because it's what you know, because the ones who brought you into the world were likewise unstable and you therefore associate love with drama (maybe), because you have poor self esteem and don't believe yourself worthy of unconditional love (maybe)... there are lots of possibilities. A therapist can help you unravel them. Going through therapy and gaining an understanding of my issues and gaining some skillful control over them has been the best gift I could have given myself.
posted by PercussivePaul at 10:07 PM on November 5, 2013 [12 favorites]

You seem to have a list in your mind of what your partner "should" be. Which wouldn't necessarily be wrong except your list is very unrealistic and strict. Relax, you are young.

Also it seems to me like you actually do like women with baggage and "issues."

> You admit to having broken off serious relationships because there wasn't enough drama in it. You said it was getting too predictable. But most healthy relationships are calm and safe.. some predictability often comes with that. It's hard to have safety and calm without some predictability. Well, most people who have a lot of baggage or "issues" bring a lot of needless drama into a relationship. And they can be very unpredictable. So when you say you want unpredictable but without issues... that's kind of an oxymoron.

> You admit that you tend to be attracted to girls with "issues".

> You admit your mother can be difficult and cause drama. Yet you want a relationship like the one your parents have.

For someone who's convinced themselves they don't want a woman with "issues", that sure seems to be exactly what you want.

As for her parents being divorced- that only means something went wrong between her parents. She was not responsible. My parents never divorced, but I would not have called it a healthy marriage. Just because someone's parents stayed together doesn't mean they had a healthy family relationship. I know lots of families who went through divorce that are a lot healthier than some families who didn't. I think you just need to relax and take a little break to clear your head after your broken engagement.
posted by manderin at 10:11 PM on November 5, 2013 [4 favorites]

> She then opened up some more and went into detail about her father and mother who divorced when she was young and how her father never talks to her. Of course these things manifest into an individual's upbringing and im worried that if i ever get involved with this girl it might spell hell later on.

These are not "issues" worthy of a giant red warning flag of damage and future hell to pay. It's just...the hand she's been dealt, a difficult relationship with her father. We don't get to choose who are parents are. Besides, having a good relationship with parents who are happily married does not guarantee a thing in terms of one's own relationship compatibility.

What does "she may be scared of commitment" mean? That she's cautious about getting deeply involved with someone she's known for only a few weeks who recently broke off a two-year long engagement? Um, that sounds pretty wise of her, if you ask me.

If you really like her and the chemistry is as good as you say, it'll keep long enough for you to be a little patient and give her some time to choose you. As The Supremes said, "you can't hurry love."
posted by desuetude at 10:17 PM on November 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

This girl I like now is damaged...My intuition is telling me to leave

Because she has divorced parents, smokes, has tattoos, isn't conservative, and isn't committing to someone she's been on a few dates with? She is "damaged" by these things, and a troubled woman?

And here you are dreaming of meeting someone you can have terrible arguments with.

You, red47Apple, you have issues far worse than she does. Maybe she can tell, and that's why she seems scared of commitment with you.

You want contradictory things, you might find it helpful to explore these things you want and your idea of "damage" with a therapist, they can listen to you and help you figure out what you are looking for.
posted by yohko at 10:54 PM on November 5, 2013 [32 favorites]

Look, if you don't like her, you don't like her. You don't need a list of reasons nor do you need people convincing you that she's actually okay.

But, maybe, having just come out of a relationship, you're really wanting to find someone and yet, you know this woman isn't right (even though she's there, and she's a woman!)

Online dating. Get a hobby. Leave this woman alone. I think you're just not in a good space to date her at the moment because you're trying to fit someone to fill the "girlfriend" role simply because she's there and you don't want to be alone.

And for the record, ALL roads are difficult roads because ALL relationships have crap hit the fan at some point. It all comes down to how you handle it.
posted by heyjude at 11:12 PM on November 5, 2013

This woman (not girl) does not sound "damaged" to me. You have some learning to do regarding women. They do not fall into two classes, either boring and predictable or "troubled." They are fully realized, complicated, and unique human beings, just like you (giving you the benefit of the doubt).

You have issues, she has issues, I have issues, everyone you've ever met has issues. All god's chilluns got issues. All relationships are formed between people who have issues; if they last long-term it's mostly because the people involved accept and love each other enough to work through or adapt to each other's issues, but there is never (and I do mean never) any guarantee.

You broke an engagement because of "lack of attraction, predictability and boredom." Why were you engaged to someone you were not attracted to and who bored you in the first place? This sounds like more evidence of serious issues than smoking, being tattooed, and having a distant father. You might want to look into that.
posted by caryatid at 11:16 PM on November 5, 2013 [10 favorites]

It seems inadvisable to start a relationship with this woman under these circumstances, not because there is anything wrong with her, but because you are unable to embrace your attraction to her and are interpreting your own discomfort and ambivalence about your feelings as problems with her. Also, if you are honest with her about how you feel about her, she would have every right to be angry and indignant, and might well not want to continue any sort of relationship. But if you are not honest about how you feel about her, how can you possibly establish real intimacy with her?

Strong long-term relationships are built on equality, respect, honesty, and empathy, as well as attraction. I would work on your own ability to offer all those things to a woman before trying to embark on another relationship.
posted by unsub at 11:36 PM on November 5, 2013 [4 favorites]

Maybe she thinks you're damaged because you don't have any tattoos.
posted by htid at 12:21 AM on November 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

You've gotten a lot of rough feedback here - all of which I wholeheartedly agree with. I feel that's well covered, so here's some anecdata:

What do you fine as a 'successful relationship'? Mine is "worked hard, stayed together for as long as possible, parted with maturity and grace (be that death or otherwise). My parents' divorce when I was eighteen would have virtually been a non-issue if it had been mature and civil instead of the vindictive insanity it actually was.

Let's talk about damaged for a minute.
My grandmother grew up on the Canadian border, outside of a small isolated Polish village (they were Ukrainian... so she learned Polish and then English). She had two sisters, a brother, a brother who was crushed under a wagon wheel before she was born, and a half brother ("he's not even mine!" was a common refrain during parental shouting matches...). Her parents fought violently, they were both raging alcoholics who cheated on each other, and her father used to beat her sister unconscious (she volunteered, as the oldest, to protect the littler kids). She was killing roosters for dinner at four or five, fell off a horse at twelve and spent two decades paralyzed from the waist down on one side (until they invented back surgery and could fix it... she was poor, so you know... she just dragged her leg around.) and ran away at fifteen to avoid an arranged marriage to some boy from their village in Europe. That's damaged, but a large part of my assigning that definition is that they never had access to the resources we do today that would have allowed some amount of healing - not the least of which is a culture in which therapy is normal, relatively un-stigmatized, and fairly accessible. I note now that they were all 'good' Christian farmers, active in the community/church/PTA, who stayed married... nobody smoked, and nobody had tattoos. All of the siblings "broke the cycle". But whoooo-eeee... that's some baggage.

Now, I agree that what you're describing in this woman and evidencing in yourself is pretty normal baggage - I don't think she's damaged necessarily at all. (You - maybe a bit) The only thing that'd give me pause, personally, is the smoking since it tastes gross to kiss, is unhealthy, and expensive - but I know a lot of people who aren't similarly bothered.

My husband and I are both "damaged" by your definition... we've got everything your woman friend has covered, and then some. We've worked and grown and healed... though not really on anything you mentioned (Tattoos, piercings, a few smokes, and a relative you don't speak to? Eh. Isn't that everyone? That's me, and I'm a goody-two-shoes Herminone type!) We are over-educated and have boring stable responsible day jobs, and we have a 'boring' stable relationship that is punctured by joy - not drama. We're happy. We adore each other. We're going to start trying for a baby next month (!). We're human.

If this woman is so amazing that it makes you want to be a better person, that you are questioning your beliefs and preconceptions, and growing...then you may just have something here. Agree to be friends for a few months, and get a few therapy appointments under your belt. =)

PS: A sense of humor? YES PLEASE. Soooooo valuable. If she can make you laugh and take a joke (and you genuinely like her)... it's worth the work. It makes the work fun. You need to work on yourself - just like everyone else - but absolutely there is hope here, if you want there to be.
posted by jrobin276 at 1:04 AM on November 6, 2013 [6 favorites]

I have to be honest-- she doesn't sound like the one with 'issues'. You might do with a little bit of self-examination, here.
posted by empath at 1:09 AM on November 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

PPS: We're not picket fence people. We're not Christian, conservative, and don't live in the suburbs. You don't 'have to' anything. You can do what you want - you know that, right? Have a stable happy relationship and an exciting life... or whatever. We're all just making it up. I don't feel like I'm settling down, because my spouse, and the possibility of a baby, just feel like the world is exploding with expansion - not shrinking. It doesn't hinder me from living - it enables and deepens and presents new opportunities. I never would have backpacked China unless my cute boyfriend (now spouse) asked me to... tip of the iceburg.

You've seen Pleasantville, right?
posted by jrobin276 at 1:16 AM on November 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

she has a great sense of humor which I had never even realized was a great thing to have in a girl

It sounds like you have a lot of exploring to do in terms of understanding what you want in a partner, and what will really make you happy, and you have to figure out who you could make happy given that as things stand now you're pretty quick to pass blanket judgments based on not a whole lot of data. If you want a different sort of partner than the one you've been raised to seek, which sort of sounds like the deal, you'll have to do some internal work to gain the confidence and perspective needed to pull that off.

But yeah, in terms of your specific questions -- everybody's got issues. You've got issues, I've got issues, your partner, whoever she winds up being, will absolutely have issues. Most of us limp around with our issues and do pretty much okay.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:58 AM on November 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Just for general consideration, a messed-up familiar background is not bound to lead to grown-up kids with "issues." That's just one of so many myths (just as the reverse: that a stable family always leads to kids with no issues).

That said, even if your assessments of this person were accurate after all, I think you should attempt to move away from judging women in a checkbox kind of way. Imagine men and women being equal as human beings. Now imagine someone else having written this post about you. You wouldn't like it.
If you like her, don't let her tattoos or her parents worry you. If her tattoos or parents worry you, maybe you should look elsewhere.

Then, I am sensing when reading your initial post that you're asking for a kind of guaranteed pedigree partner. You want to be really safe; are you sure (as per your follow-up) that it is really she who's scared of commitment?

Ultimately, getting a partner is all about forcing oneself to think outside the box: one's own life-experience box. That's the assignment. The assignment is not to wait for someone who (another box metaphor) checks all the boxes. The assignment is certainly not to stand back, wait, and eventually select someone. It just doesn't work like that at all.
posted by Namlit at 3:16 AM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've read your past question and I think the problem here is you. You need to see more of the person and less of a predetermined list. If you are worried about her being "damaged" be her past experiences, realize her experiences made her the awesome person she is. There is no right or wrong way here to create a good human. I take great umbrage to your usage of "damaged", my husband grew up in the perfect household and he still married me - who came from what would a very damaged background, and we've been married for 23+ years. Relationships are hard work whether or not you both come from the same homogenous background or not. I think you need to mature.
posted by lasamana at 4:56 AM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

If your gut is telling you to not date here, it's really okay to not date her.

And if you are so inexperienced/culturally bound that you think someone who doesn't talk to her dad has "issues" that make her undateable (for you, at least), then you either need to broaden your horizons or never date anyone with parental complications....Except you seem to think that all the single girls in your community who come from good families and good upbringings are boring. You've got yourself a nice corner there.

FWIW, my non-relationship with my dad in my 20s was the least of my issues.
posted by rtha at 5:21 AM on November 6, 2013 [7 favorites]

you never even realized that a great sense of humor is important to have in a partner, and you think that being the product of divorced parents is going to cause "hell" later on? this woman (not girl) did not choose her parents or choose to have them get a divorce, and she deserves to be with someone who interacts with her as an individual and not a series of assumptions and myths, and doesn't judge her for her past experiences. maybe she learned a lot about love from watching her parents divorce. maybe now she is great partner material. you actually have no idea.

how would you feel if someone said things like this about you, making assumptions about your background without taking you into consideration as an individual? "oh he's from a conservative/religious home, so i'm sure he'll end up boring me soon." "oh he doesn't have a long list of past sexual partners, obviously he's not going to be very good in bed and doesn't know what he's doing." etc.

don't make assumptions! maybe you need to do some growing up before getting into a serious relationship. or maybe you are just not compatible with this woman, but make that determination based on reality, not on assumptions you made about her without her input.
posted by zdravo at 5:25 AM on November 6, 2013 [5 favorites]

Ive been with troubled women in the past and I have no idea why it is im so attracted to those kinds of women.

You answer this question in your question:

I love my mom but sometimes she gives my dad hell and can be extremely difficult. But my dad has so much patience with her and you can really tell he still is madly in love with her.

You're looking for your parents' relationship, which is exciting and dramatic and interesting. It's not predictable and staid. That's why you're attracted to troubled women.

That said, the opposite of predictable shouldn't be judgmental. Don't go into a relationship thinking you can change her. The tattoos are not going away. She's only going to quit smoking if she wants to. Who cares about her parents and her background? I don't speak to my dad either, and I just celebrated my 16th year of truly wonderful marriage.

Date her only if you're interested in her the way she is now. She's not a project, and you really don't have to marry someone like your mom just to keep things interesting. I promise.
posted by headspace at 6:33 AM on November 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

Smoking and tattoos are her lifestyle choices, not "issues." They may be things about her that you don't like, but what she does with or to her body is 100% absolutely none of your business.

As for her parents' divorce, yes, divorces can complicate the children's future relationship patterns. It's fucked up. It's not fair. Trust me, it sucks standing in her shoes and wondering how to proceed when the only example you have was a train wreck. It may cause a reluctance to commit to someone since you just don't know what it looks like when a relationship succeeds.

On the other hand, having divorced parents does not spell automatic doom. People with married parents can have skewed expectations just as easily -- "being married" is not the same as being happy and self-actualized. In fact, your last paragraph is exactly what I'm talking about -- you can look at your parents' relationship and recognize that you want something like it but without the hell and difficulty. Maybe this woman can look to her parents' relationship(s) and also demonstrate an ability to pick and choose what she wants. (And, I wasn't there for your conversation with her, but let me just say that not speaking to her father may be an act of heroic bravery and strength and a sign of her commitment to taking care of herself and her sanity.)

When you really like someone, you're willing to weather the storm while they sort these things out. And when someone really likes you back, they'll appreciate the company. Do you know if she's interested in a long term relationship with you?

Now I will be very, very blunt -- Saying she's "damaged" because she has a past is frankly insulting because it implies that she is an object that should be preserved in an undamaged state for another person's enjoyment. If I'd been seeing a guy for a short while who had these kinds of reservations about me (assuming I have issues, assuming I'll give him hell, considering my tattoos and smoking to be issues or damage), you better believe I'd show him the door without a second thought.
posted by mibo at 6:41 AM on November 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

she has a great sense of humor which I had never even realized was a great thing to have in a girl

To be honest, the vibe I'm getting here is that you don't think of women as people. It's a little creepy. It's like you're saying, "And I didn't even know they made that model of girlbot!"

I think the greatest favor you could do yourself -- and more to the point, her -- is to deeply examine your attitudes toward women in general, and not attempt to date anyone you can't view as a whole person instead of a list of bugs and features in a visually appealing package.
posted by kythuen at 6:56 AM on November 6, 2013 [34 favorites]

Another vote for not dating someone you look down on this much, and examining why you would look down on someone for these reasons.

But when you say,
She then opened up some more and went into detail about her father and mother who divorced when she was young and how her father never talks to her.
I wonder if she did that kind of negative information dump some people do after a date or two. It's like they are saying you need to know certain things about them before you decide whether to proceed, and it comes off as a warning that They Have Issues. I really can't tell from your description and quite likely-- especially if you were having marathon conversations-- the stuff with her family just came up in the course of conversation and she elaborated on it as people naturally will. But if she was giving you the "here are my issues" talk, in my opinion that is something to consider. I have never dated anyone who did this who didn't turn out to be pretty seriously selfish and self-centered.
posted by BibiRose at 7:15 AM on November 6, 2013

Hey, a lot of people really pointed out how your thoughts on someone being "damaged goods" (which is really a horrible, awful way to describe any person, IMO). I will take a different track here. You mention that you met her at a client meeting. Is it acceptable to date clients in your workplace?

In general, you may want to explore how you see women a bit deeper before dating anyone. There's a reason why people here are saying some very similar things in their analysis of your question.
posted by kellyblah at 7:21 AM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Buddy, I have more issues than a subscription to the New Yorker and I've been with my husband for about ten years, married for four. Our relationship isn't perfect and it takes work but we want to be together so we're making it work.

This woman is not a movie character or a fixer-upper. She is who she is. If you can't accept that, move on.
posted by kat518 at 7:26 AM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

you either need to broaden your horizons or never date anyone with parental complications....Except you seem to think that all the single girls in your community who come from good families and good upbringings are boring. You've got yourself a nice corner there. (Emphasis mine)

I'm going to do some next-level Ask projecting here: Is it possible that you are looking for reasons or excuses not to be in a relationship?

That wouldn't excuse your attitude towards this woman, but it might start to explain your larger issues.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:29 AM on November 6, 2013

I had probably close to as perfect a childhood as can be and I still have issues. These issues are due to the errors in my own brain chemistry, which I got due to the random mutations of genes during conception and gestation. Some people have normal childhoods and normal genes and then get sick and have physical or mental issues to deal with. You can't just pick someone with an "issue-free" background and assume that they are going to be undamaged.

Not that I think I, or anyone else, is "damaged". Just that life doesn't work that way.
posted by chainsofreedom at 7:54 AM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

This girl I like now is damaged...My intuition is telling me to leave.

This is very "black and white" thinking; as soon as the object of desire shows a "flaw" then you devalue and discard her. The problem is not with her, it is with your inability to accept flaws in others, and flaws in your self. Google around and read about this way of thinking and ways to address and systematically reduce your knee-jerk reactions. Accept that you are not perfect. No really. You have a ton of flaws that everyone can see. And guess what? You're still a lovable person. Good luck.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:03 AM on November 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm confused. Is this woman actually interested in you romantically? I didn't see anything in your question that indicated she was.

Regardless, I don't think you should try to date her because it doesn't sound like you respect her.
posted by Asparagus at 8:19 AM on November 6, 2013

I'll focus on a single question: when you say she "smokes too much", is that because you find her level of smoking personally unpleasant, or because you fear that others (parents, friends, and/or strangers) will judge her negatively for smoking so much...and therefore will judge you for choosing her?

Go ahead and answer that question quickly, because you will. But then think about it for a few days or longer, and be honest with yourself. You might be surprised at what your answer ultimately turns out to be.

Then ask similar questions about the tattoos, her family history, and everything else you believe makes her "broken". Given your self-esteem issues, it is likely difficult for you to feel confident and secure in your choices at times, and if she's experienced/doing things that you think others will judge her harshly for, it is easy to assume they'll judge you harshly, too...but your self-esteem shouldn't come from what you think others think of you, and especially shouldn't come from what you think others will think of her (and your choice to date her.)

So, something to think about.
posted by davejay at 8:22 AM on November 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: @davejay

Its both but more so its because of how my family will judge her. I dont mind the tattoos but again its how my family will judge her, as well as everything you just mentioned.

You brought up a really good point. And as you pointed out I care too much about what my family thinks. Now that I think of it, it may stem from the fact that prevoiusly growing up i had made some bad decisions and my family helped bring me out of that. Now I always heed there advice and almost scared to take my own for fear of going down that same road again.

I need to work on trusting myself and find the confidence to believe and take my own descions.
posted by red47Apple at 8:57 AM on November 6, 2013

Interesting answer.
Makes me think: as an only child now in my fifties, I one day very forcefully realized that the partner of my choice should be good for me during the second half of my life (and I for her), whereas the part of my family whose judgment was influencing me most in what I was thinking about potential matches would no longer be around from a certain point onward. On some level it was a painful thought, but what a relief on another, and when I went looking, there was such a partner waiting for me.

Try think along those lines, it will help you.
posted by Namlit at 9:06 AM on November 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

I don't think the big problem is "she has too many issues" or "she smokes too much" but that you are too judgmental and too fearful.

Sorry to sound rather harsh, but it would probably be better for her if you didn't date her.
posted by Miko at 9:28 AM on November 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

This woman is not for you. Don't waste her time and emotional energy.
posted by discopolo at 9:44 AM on November 6, 2013

...growing up i had made some bad decisions and my family helped bring me out of that. Now I always heed there advice and almost scared to take my own for fear of going down that same road again.

You know, it's pretty normal for any "child" to make mistakes when they're finding their place in the world by forging their own direction. But living in fear of making any mistakes at all is a great recipe for future misery. Think about it: even if you do manage to pick a partner who gets your parents' approval rating, how will you ever feel freely happy with your choice knowing that your fears prevented you from asking for what you really want. Maybe that's why you're so keen to identify the flaws of your romantic partner, so that you have some illusionary protection from being responsible for your parents' judgment (e.g. that relationship failed because she has issues, not because I also have unresolved issues that I never actually worked through except through avoidance).

I don't think you finished learning the lessons you needed to from those mistakes, if fear of ever trying again is what you took away from that. Weak analogy, but it's like if you broke your arm playing, and your parents scolded you for being so careless that you broke your arm and don't ever do anything to break it again... later on in life, when you *had* to use that arm, will it be any surprise that it doesn't work very well? If you never took the time to actually heal it in the first place, then how can you expect it to be strong in the future? Except maybe to take the analogy a little further, you're identifying potential partners as having this broken arm that you yourself have never truly dealt with, simply because your parents told you not to ever contemplate on that broken arm again.

I'd wager that part of the appeal of this woman is the fact that she demonstrates the triumph over adversity that you admire (she's already long healed some of her broken limbs, and is standing strong today). She probably comes off as very self-made, a quality that well overcompensates your position of fear-based stagnation. The problem is, it probably wouldn't work because she saw that people in miserable relationships leave -- they don't stay to keep putting up with sh*t. That's probably what your gut is picking up on -- she's not going to be as interested in sticking around in an adversarial, drama-fueled relationship as you're hoping for.

Look, if you want to attract a good, strong, attractive, spiritual woman into your life, then you need to be a good, strong, attractive spiritual man yourself. And believe me, that's not someone who lives in fear of their parents judging them for trying to better relate to the world. Any good attractive spiritual men that I have ever known were the ones who made mistakes, then through their own serious self-reflection, garnered what wisdom they could from the experience and instead of projecting it out through blaming others, found the inner strength to own their part of the mistake as well as the inner fortitude to accept personal agency in their decisions/behaviors and recognize that those decisions/behavior affect others (it's not just that your partner is damaged and you're responding to that, but that you're making your own contributions to a poor dynamic). Men who are "attractive" like the kind of woman you claim to be seeking aren't afraid to try new things because they have a solid understanding of themselves that transcends their parents' approval; they know the value of the life they live, and what they have to contribute, and that's why living in the shadow of their parents' limitations isn't an issue for them. Their purpose in wanting a woman isn't to compensate for what they couldn't achieve in their own lives, but to have a real companion walking the same road with them.

I hope my advice isn't coming off as condescending. I do think you have good ideas about what you're looking for. I also think some of your ideas about how to get it are self-contradicting though, especially your idea of what constitutes "passion" in a relationship. A spiritually strong woman is not going to be interested in giving you hell on a regular basis at all, so definitely give those contradictions some thought!
posted by human ecologist at 9:45 AM on November 6, 2013 [12 favorites]

You also just broke off an engagement. Perhaps you are not in the best head space right now to start a serious relationship.

This isn't going to work because you are describing a woman as damaged and having issues because her parents are divorced and she smokes and has tattoos.

You are jumping the gun, worrying about all the ways this woman could be "damaged" or the ways in which your family would judge her and what it means for a potential long term relationship...and it's not even clear from your question that you've gone on a single date yet, or that she is interested in you.

It also sounds like you are kind of romanticizing the idea of a "damaged girl" for some reason. It seems like you are equating relationships where there is a lot of conflict or issues with passionate relationships. Why?

I know there's been a bit of a pile-on here about how you described this woman, but it really does bear repeating. Adult women aren't girls, they're not "damaged goods", they aren't something you can win by loving them so much.
posted by inertia at 12:17 PM on November 6, 2013

If you had a lot of long conversations with her & based on all that, your intuition is telling you that this isn't a good idea, you should trust yourself! there's a whole bunch of answers that you are not being fair to her, but on the other hand, maybe you are mature and you are being fair, just not able to really state the reasons you feel this way. Seems like it would be easy to try to explain it as based on smoking/tattoos/divorced parents, but if it's something else and you can't explain, but it just seems like a bad idea to pursue a relationship, then trust your intuition.
posted by citron at 3:31 PM on November 6, 2013

I am not saying this to shame you or anything, but by your definition, I am a damaged girl with issues. I smoke and drink, my parents are divorced, I grew up in a house where people fought by yelling, I like a sense of humor and I like sex. WITHOUT FAIL I have found myself in long-term relationships with rather straight-laced men who fall in love with me but spend 85% of the relationship picking my behavior apart and passing small, impotent judgments on it, telling me how much they don't enjoy it without having the agency to either leave me or not have gotten involved with me in the first place. It's rather exhausting and spiritually wearing and I would love to date a man who really got me for me at some point, instead of a man who falls in love with the excitement of being with me but wants me to act more like a proper "girl" once we start a real relationship. Just a warning. Recipe for sadness.
posted by stoneandstar at 3:56 PM on November 6, 2013 [7 favorites]

I think the issue here is that you are too sheltered to date someone as different from you as she is. You need to get out and get some more varied experience with people before you can date someone like her without beanplating every minute detail.
posted by WeekendJen at 8:18 AM on November 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

(I acknowledge that I need to agency to avoid these relationships myself, but I just wanted to put that out there because I think it might be more helpful for you to hear it than it was for me.)
posted by stoneandstar at 11:17 AM on November 7, 2013

You need some therapy, dude. For your own good.
posted by fireandthud at 9:11 AM on November 9, 2013

Response by poster: thanks to everyone for all the feedback. You guys are awesome!
posted by red47Apple at 10:44 AM on November 9, 2013

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