How do you stop thinking of something that still hurts?
February 8, 2014 2:00 AM   Subscribe

If you've decided to let something go in a relationship, how do you get past it while it still hurts you?

I'm in a new relationship; known each other a few months and haven't been dating long.

Recently found out he was on numerous dating sites; messaged a few people but it wasn't clear if that was after we were "official" or not. We talked about it, he said it was because he wasn't sure about me and still had feelings for his ex but as time goes by it feels more right; there was a lot more discussion but in order to be concise I won't go into details. I ultimately decided it wasn't a deal breaker but to proceed with caution.

The problem is, it was a trigger - in my relationship before this, the guy was on dating sites looking "for friends" and ended up cheating on me. And that whole relationship consisted of a year of him seeming into me... until he met someone he liked better. I came out of that with a strong viewpoint that if someone seems into me but also seems to want something more, I should cut my losses. So this situation has hit me a lot harder than it normally would, and I've gone from super-confident to insecure and hurt - which I know will torpedo things.

I've also been running hot and cold since I found this out - I'll be icy towards him when he first comes over, but I am into him so after a little while of being around him I'll warm up and act normally. I'm not doing this purposely; I can't "stay mad at" him, while he's actually here.

Even though we haven't known each other that long, we've spent 5+ days together every week since Thanksgiving... so I thought he was a lot more into me than he is, especially since he always initiates spending time together.

Most of my thoughts are of this situation now. I just want to go back to enjoying my life and being happy. I know time will help, but I don't know how to proceed normally with him while I'm still hurt and afraid.

I know it seems I'm overreacting, but the last 2 people I was really into would say they were really into me - but their actions said otherwise and I'm just reeling from potentially being in the same situation all over again; I feel as if there's something wrong with me and that's why I feel depressed.

We've already talked about it 3 times on 3 separate occasions, and I don't want to keep poisoning the well, so to speak; I also feel that because I'm reacting this way mostly due to past experiences (I think), I need to fix it myself. How do I do this? TIA.
posted by Autumn to Human Relations (21 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
You do not need to fix yourself, you need to trust yourself. It sounds like you don't want it to be a dealbreaker for you, but it is a dealbreaker for you. You cannot get the reassurance you need to get past this from someone who is spending 5 days a week with you and while saying he isn't sure about you and still has feelings for his ex. That's bullshit behaviour.

You are clearly NOT letting this go, because you're obsessing about it and still needing to has it over. You should let the GUY go and trust in your previous viewpoint that if someone seems into you but also seems to want something more, you should cut your losses. Cut them; DTMFA.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:23 AM on February 8, 2014 [16 favorites]

If this is a pattern for you in your relations with men, then the common denominator is you. You are attracting or allowing the wrong kind of men into your life. Men with commitment issues, men who aren't taking you seriously, men who are using you for comfort or sex. These are all the drifters that women with self-esteem issues attract. You need to realize that you aren't helpless, and that all men are not flakey and uncertain. There are so many wonderful men out there. But wonderful men are usually only attracted to women who know their own worth and who radiate self-confidence and self-esteem. You don't have to be the hottest chick in the room, but you do have to love yourself and prove it with your actions to win a great guy over.

The issue in this case isn't that you need to 'get over' what you found with this particular guy, the real issue is why you're sticking around after finding it. If someone is allowed to disrespect you, and to tell you to your face that they aren't even 'sure' about you after you've already had the official let's be together conversation with them, then they will see you as someone they can walk all over.

My advice would be to dump this loser and tell him that he's got it backwards: you aren't sure about him, and therefore you would like to move on. Blow his mind. Because right now this guy thinks he's got you on a string and that you'll put up with anything he throws at you. Don't be easy. Don't be that girl.

After you take a break from dating (it isn't fulfilling, is it? I certainly hope not with the way you're going about it right now) you should buy as many highly rated books on self-esteem and dating that you can get your hands on and start studying. You would benefit from reading Life's Too Short to Date Men Like Me by Willie Booker; The 30-Day Love Detox: Cleanse Yourself of Bad Boys, Cheaters, and Men Who Won't Commit -- And Find A Real Relationship by Wendy Walsh; Maybe He's Just an Asshole: Sharpen Your Bullshit Detector, Rock Your Expectations, and Become Your Strongest Self! by Halle Kale; and 10 Simple Solutions for Building Self-Esteem: How to End Self-Doubt, Gain Confidence, & Create a Positive Self-Image by Glenn R. Schiraldi PhD

Those books will change your life.
posted by OneHermit at 3:13 AM on February 8, 2014 [16 favorites]

It's a dealbreaker. Your gut is telling you something, that's why you're hot and cold.

Y'know, all relationships end until the one that doesn't.

In this particular case, anyone who admits to "not being sure about you" at one point, while simultaneously nursing feelings for his ex, is not anyone things will work out with 99% of the time anyway.

I would cool off on someone who would date me and see me 5 days per week under those circumstances, too!

It's OK to release this one back into the wild. Your instincts are working just fine.
posted by jbenben at 3:33 AM on February 8, 2014 [5 favorites]

I think a lot depends on how long he kept messaging other people after he started seeing you. If he'd seen you once, wasn't sure how it was going etc and sent a couple of messages, no biggie. Part of trying to meet someone is taking chances with a lot of people and not jumping the gun by assuming every date is going to be "the one".

However, if you guys had been seriously dating for a while and he kept doing it, that's another thing. Especially if you'd had conversations about being serious, or done other serious things like telling each other you love each other, etc.

The fact that you aren't sure about how long he kept messaging other women is a little weird. Surely he knows? Is he being cagey? Does he seem like he's trying to hide it from you? Over three separate conversations about it? Weird.

Ultimately we are strangers on the internet and can't tell whether he's lying about it or keeping something from you. But if you can't trust him, you can't trust him. You either put yourself out there and risk being hurt again or you don't. Whichever way you go, it sounds like you need to get better at trusting yourself and believing in yourself.

I am sure that someone at some point will recommend therapy. You could, if your past experiences are really hampering you maybe it would help. It doesn't have to be a big long thing, even just a couple of session with a counsellor could help.

In the meantime, maybe back off a bit. Don't see each other five days a week. Tell him you need to sort out some stuff in your own head. Give yourself some time and space and think about it. Make lists. Write stuff out. Have a good deep & meaningful with a friend. Get the worries out of the self-perpetuating loop in your head and into reality. Often when you do that you realise either how silly or how completely spot on they are.
posted by Athanassiel at 3:35 AM on February 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Any guy who spends that much time with you while telling you he "might" want something else and being "unclear" on whether he was on a dating site after committing to you is not worth your time. You're having a hard time letting go of the past because you are not getting the confirmation and reassurance you need that the situation is over. You deserve a guy who wants to be with you and works to make sure that you want to be with him (as both parties do in a healthy relationship).

Bottom line: you deserve better. In addition to the great resources listed above, suggest also checking out Baggage Reclaim . She has a fantastic, empowering perspective on relationships and self-esteem.
posted by rpfields at 3:39 AM on February 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

Just leave him.

Imagine how awesome that would be.

Just imagine you walking out the door, head held high, wearing something fashionable and flattering, firm resolve on your face and in your thoughts, confident that you're heading towards a better future. Imagine going on a girls' night out with a couple of really good friends. Discovering a new dance meetup or book club full of people you really like, and doing that five days a week instead. Imagine laughing, relaxing, flirting with people but not rushing into anything, being that free and attractive single girl on the other side for once. Imagine the karma.

That feeling can be yours, but not with him.

Seriously hon, I just get this overwhelming feeling from your post that life is too short. Men are not rare and special. This is not worth it. I mean, we could over-analyze this and vacillate and be cautious and deliberate about everything, weighing and measuring the pros and cons, sleeping on it, letting it take up all this rent space in your head, waiting for him to commit to you, reading stories about how other relationships worked out that way and getting your hopes up, or you could just move on. You can be free, now.
posted by quincunx at 3:44 AM on February 8, 2014 [32 favorites]

I know this is beginning to feel like a pile on, but I'm going to tell you why you should not put this hurtful thing out of your mind.

If you get at all good at ignoring things that hurt you, then you instinctively begin to stop noticing, or make excuses for things that aren't fair to you. Yes, it starts with "just this one thing" but then smaller and smaller improprieties may build up.

This man is telling you that he is willing to hurt your feelings. He is telling you that he is insensitive to the awfulness of being kept "just in case nothing better comes along."

What other disregard will he have for your feelings in the future? There is no point in you sticking around to find out. Best case scenario, it's just this, which on it's own will probably never actually stop hurting (you'll just find distractions and excuses) but worst case scenario is really bad.
posted by bilabial at 4:14 AM on February 8, 2014 [12 favorites]

I also feel that because I'm reacting this way mostly due to past experiences (I think), I need to fix it myself

there is nothing that you need to fix about yourself, and nothing that you can fix about him. you are reacting this way not because of past experience but because of this current experience. that rotting feeling in your gut. if you are together 5 days a week and he's still shopping around then you are just filler until he finds something better. it sucks to hear, but you know what doesn't suck? knowing that one day when you walk away from this and find someone that is ACTUALLY into you, that doesn't go looking for something better because they think you are what is best. you deserve someone like that.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 4:20 AM on February 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

I ultimately decided it wasn't a deal breaker but to proceed with caution.

Everyone else in this thread seems to have decided differently but I'd like to trust your decision--that you correctly evaluated that this was before you were, as you say, "official."

But then you say, "I thought he was a lot more into me than he is" If that is what you meant to say, perhaps you didn't "ultimately decide" anything yet.

Since your 3 discussions, are his profiles still active on these sites? You don't say.

Yes, you could be over-reacting and "poisoning the well" as you call it, but you don't present enough evidence for me to be able to tell. Did he present enough evidence for you to tell he's no longer looking around for others?
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:16 AM on February 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Its incredibly difficult to know if you are over-reacting or "poisoning the well", & its incredibly hard to know if he's being completely honest with you from just reading the post since I don't personally know either of you.

However, here's an idea that has worked for me in the past in similar situations. I would suggest talking to him very openly, honestly, and explicitly about how you feel, how you think you are acting hot and cold, and how this particular situation is a trigger for you from past relationships.

If this relationship is a good one for you & him, then this type of open honest discussion will only make it stronger and more secure. If he is someone who wants to be with you, be kind to you, and be in a good relationship with you, then he and you will show during the discussion and both of your actions after the discussion.

Something in your gut is bothered by this, and there may be other situations in the future where something in your gut is bothered. Having those hard discussions will help decide if this relationship is worth it or not.

Sidenote: I would also suggesting thinking about spending that much time together, it seems like a little much and you might be missing some quality friend/work/alone time. But its your relationship and only you know.
posted by lullu73 at 6:34 AM on February 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

So, here's what I meant to say: You could have easily asked this question in a way that unambiguously expressed that it's really just your overreaction because of the past, but instead you chose to make it way more ambiguous. This wasn't done by accident.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:44 AM on February 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I have been told before that someone is not sure about me and they have feelings for someone else. That is what I call a dealbreaker. He is perfectly allowed to feel that way, but you have no obligation to stick around for it.
posted by mermily at 6:52 AM on February 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

What I do when I want to feel differently about something is this: first, I sit down in a comfortable and peaceful place and I think about whatever that thing is. I give myself permission to feel whatever I want. I may write/journal, I may just cry, whatever. The point is to get all those feelings out in the open so that I know what they really are.

And then I let go. I think about what parts of the situation are making me feel the negative or uncomfortable feelings and I think about what it is outcomes-wise that I am attached to there. So for example I might think about how my boyfriend is having another woman over to his house to socialize, and it might make me feel really upset. I feel this way partially because I am attached to our special relationship. I'm attached to the idea of being with him forever. I'm attached to the idea that I am not good enough for my partner and that of course he will find someone else. I'm attached to my role as his closest confident and don't want that to change. And so on.

And then I remind myself that these outcomes are not the point. Whether or not we end up marrying is irrelevant. Whether or not he replaces me in the future is irrelevant.

The only thing that is relevant is how I feel now. I can choose to be happy - to let go of being attached to a goal or an outcome in my relationship - or I can continue to dwell and feel bad.

And I remind myself that it's about the present, not about a nebulous potential future. Am I happy with the way things are now? Is my unhappiness coming from attachment to an outcome or is it something else?

This doesn't fix the whole problem but I have been able to let go of things using this method many times.

My final word of advice: when I feel like I am trying to force myself not to feel negatively over and over in a relationship - that is, when it is a pattern - I don't try to logic my way out after a certain point. There is a wide gulf of difference between working through past trauma while still dating and being unhappy.
posted by sockermom at 6:55 AM on February 8, 2014 [5 favorites]

A lesson I wish I had learned much earlier in life: When you're so wounded by someone's behavior that you just can't find any way to let go of what they've done and said even when you try very hard to rationalize or intellectualize out of it, it doesn't necessarily mean there must be something wrong with you that you need to fix. And it doesn't mean you should just try to figure out a way to more readily ignore your own intuition, even if that intuition is partially built on a foundation of past trauma. Instead, it almost always means your self-preservation instinct is desperately attempting to draw you away from the source of the pain.

Right now, it sounds like you're holding your hands to a hot stove and asking how to stop feeling the burn without walking away. But this sort of deeply-felt discontent and discomfort is much more honest and instructive than you're allowing yourself to believe. Listen to your heart! You deserve so much better.
posted by divined by radio at 7:07 AM on February 8, 2014 [16 favorites]

You deserve to be at peace in your heart, and to feel secure and mutually loved when you choose to be in a relationship. Relationships are always about active choices. This is both reality and reminds you that it is you, in the end, who is in the driver's seat. You are not sargasso / sargassum grass, beholden to the vagaries of ocean current somewhere out in an ocean's middle gyres. Acting as though you are may induce feelings like: limp, pointless, disempowered, frustrated but not sure why, a sense of apathy.

In the realm of dating, I really like these words from the advice columnist Carolyn Hax:
[All] good options involve trusting ourselves.
I hope you do.

He's not driving. You are. This one is not healing, he's hurting. This one is not sharing, is not lifting you up. Choose the ones that lift you up.

Remember this: "all forward, all tomorrow, all you." Delicious.
posted by simulacra at 7:16 AM on February 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

keeping active profiles at numerous dating sites and continuing to message women because he's still hung up on his ex? that just doesn't make sense. that's saying "i really missed apples so i tried to find a bunch of oranges."

i don't think you're being triggered by your past. i think you're recognizing when this thing happens and trying to convince yourself it's not happening again. this guy is too wishy washy to deserve your time and affection.
posted by nadawi at 7:48 AM on February 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

So, basically he's told you he's not sure about you, but he's getting more sure. For the sake of argument, let's pretend that's totally true.

You, upon learning this, are now less sure than you were about him, so much so that you need a lot of time with him before you feel warmly towards him. That's the wrong direction, isn't it? Going from certain to less certain? Going from warm feelings to starting cold and building up, over and over?

Forget how you got to this point; forget what he's said and done. Listen to your own feelings: you're no longer sure about him. Listen to that feeling, don't push it away.

Dating is about moving into a closer connection, not moving away from one. If you are guilty of anything, it's simply of feeling close and confident too quickly. Believe me, I've been there. We jump in with two feet, then as we learn about the other person, we feel ourselves pulling away, and rather then listen to that feeling, we stick it out hoping it will get better.

The end result looks exactly the same (to the other person) as their behavior looks to us -- a lack of commitment -- and even though the root causes may be different, the result is the same: you are both taking actions that look like commitment, but are not actually commitment.

You can absolutely drag this out for a long time if you want, but as long as neither of you is certain, you're doing yourselves a serious disservice by behaving as if you're a fully committed couple. Five days a week is only sustainable if two people feel they're ready to have a life together. Neither of you feels that way.

Believe me, I get it. I've been you, and I've been him, because you're both the same at heart: people who aren't fully into it, but are acting as if you are as if that will somehow make you fully into it, and unwilling or unable to give up the trappings of full commitment even as you're regressing in what little commitment you have to each other. Those trappings are seductive.

In your next relationship, I'd suggest you do things much more slowly. Go on dates, one a week, try each other out. Grow your commitment slowly and thoughtfully instead of diving in and pressuring each other to dive in as well. Realize the benefits of commitment are seductive and tempting, but are to be earned rather than rushed into.

In short: you are both not right for each other, you both know it, and the only thing keeping you together is the rush into domesticity that you're now unwilling to back out of. Next time, don't rush in; move slowly and step towards commitment cautiously so that you step together, always willingly, and never backwards.
posted by davejay at 7:52 AM on February 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

A clarification: it's totally okay that you two aren't committed to each other in such a short time. That's not the problem. The problem is having acted as if you both were committed, and then behaving accordingly.

If you had come here saying that you'd been dating someone casually, he told you he wasn't feeling as committed as you were but was feeling more committed every day, and now you're feeling less ready to move forward...I suspect the advice here would likely be different, because that would be two people on the precipice of taking a step into further commitment and one isn't ready yet. People would perhaps tell you to be patient, that you should be glad he was being honest and setting a boundary he wasn't ready to cross until he was ready. That's keeper material.

By diving in too quickly and too deeply, he's made a different commitment: one of hiding his lack of commitment to you, in order to sustain the relationship, hoping his feelings would eventually catch up with yours. You found out before they caught up, and perhaps they never would have. Doesn't matter. He never should have gone so deep without those feelings in place; that's all on him.

What's on you is that you should move more slowly next time, and cultivate a relationship where you talk openly about the small steps you're taking to move closer, including your doubts. Hey, maybe being capable of talking with each other about your mutual or one-sided doubts about moving closer is a great milestone to achieve before moving closer! Or, as I said to my now ex wife: I knew we were in trouble when divorce was no longer a subject that we could discuss casually or laugh about.
posted by davejay at 8:14 AM on February 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

The problem, I think, is:

I came out of that with a strong viewpoint that if someone seems into me but also seems to want something more, I should cut my losses.

But you aren't... why? Other than spending a lot of time with you, and saying that "this" feels more right by the day, what actual, real sign are you getting that he actually wants you and just you? Is the reason that it still hurts really because you can't let go of the past... or because you're actually still unsure that he wants you (and only you)?

Would you feel worse if you were right, and you wasted all this time and energy mentally destroying a good thing?

Or would you feel worse if you were wrong, and you wasted all this time and energy physically building a bad thing?
posted by sm1tten at 10:57 AM on February 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

"I don't know how to proceed normally with him while I'm still hurt and afraid."

That's because it isn't possible to trust someone and be afraid of them at the same time. It doesn't matter why. I have recently come to understand that for me, the best way to deal with the traumas of the past is to encourage situations that do not trigger them, instead of talking myself out of them while re-living them in a present relationship.

I think it is better to be your own companion then to try and be with someone you don't trust.

You are not the problem here. The good feelings he sometimes elicits in you belong to you, not him. There are many other people in the world, all of whom can affect you in many and wondrous ways. You are free and you deserve a symphony, not a compromise.
posted by macinchik at 11:47 PM on February 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Sm1tten, you hit the nail on the head. I don't necessarily care that he was on dating sites given his explanation - but during our talks he mentioned being unsure about me several times and that's where the pain/fear/distrust is kicking in. I don't know if he wants me and only me or if he'll only want me until someone he feels is a better fit comes along.

I decided to take things more slowly and only see each other once a week for date-like outings.
posted by Autumn at 12:51 AM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

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