Keep trying or give it up?
March 4, 2014 12:32 PM   Subscribe

Is this relationship viable? Should I keep trying, or is it probably not workable?


I am female, dating a guy, and we have been dating for about 5 months. We're well-matched intellectually and sexually and have very compatible values and interests. I think he's interesting and attractive and I have fun with him at least 80% of the time.

I had a fairly stressful and violent childhood and struggled for years after that, but he has basically never had anything bad happen in his life and never struggled. Great family, well-supported in school years, immediate success.

Problem 1: I do not want to tell him about my psychological disorder

I have a deep-seated psychological/physiological disorder that, at this point, I am not counting on to ever fully go away. I currently take medication for it which I might or might not continue (not sure how much it's really doing). I have never felt comfortable telling him about any of that. He has often stated his belief that people who have anxieties just need to try to to get over them and that people who are taking antidepressants should just try exercising more instead. He brought this up in relation to one of our very young friends, a struggling 23 year old girl who was understandably having trouble handling independent adult life and began to go into an emotional tailspin. She confided in him that she began antidepressants. My reaction was relief, but he said to me later that he was thinking of suggesting to her that she just start running more instead of taking the medications. I was a bit horrified by that.

I'm conflicted about what to do, because I feel that by not telling him about my disorder, I'm not giving him the chance to possibly be more supportive. At the same time though, I feel very resistant to opening my private health matters and choices about them to judgment by someone whose beliefs are, in my opinion, rather strong for how uninformed they are. To be honest, I may be avoiding this conversation in part because I know that I will strongly resent him if he reacts in a way that is judgmental of me personally in this area, or questioning of my choices in this area.

Should I open this conversation? If so, what is the best way to do it that will give it the best chance at going well?

Issue 2: Feeling judged and pushed into things.

He is somewhat judgmental in the area of fitness. He is a competitive endurance athlete whose last long-term girlfriend was competitive on a national level in their sport. I love sports but my body does in fact have an upper limit of athletic ability, my body has been to that upper limit, it's nowhere near a nationally competitive level, and even getting to and maintaining that upper limit is, for me, unpleasant. We do sports together a lot and he is always pushing me to try harder, go faster, endure for longer, and it is very unpleasant.

We did a hike while I was beginning to come down with what turned out to be a nasty flu. I kept going as many miles as I could and told him I was getting too sick and had to stop and turn around, and he pressured me to make it "just to the camp where it'll be better for you to rest." The camp was another mile further, steeply uphill. He argued with me for another twenty minutes before he accepted my "no."

He is the same towards himself. He injured his leg on a different hike, could not walk, and refused to get medical attention even as he was shaking with pain and was later in too much pain to sleep. After several hours he finally agreed to go to the hospital and repeatedly said he felt embarrassed, stupid, and humiliated by going to the hospital for that kind of injury, and that he was wasting resources. He said was embarrassed that he got an injury on such an "easy" hike when he's never injured himself climbing mountains. (Meanwhile, the hike was so hard for me it was close to my limit of endurance.)

He also keeps telling me I should exercise more, especially that I should run. I told him I get plenty of exercise and he said, "jokingly," "Yeah, ten minutes of tennis a week?" I recently gained 10 pounds, which was a good thing for me. (My disorder causes me to sometimes lose unhealthy amounts of weight, I am still well within my healthy weight range.) I have felt like he has made those comments more since that happened, but I could be imagining it.

He is also somewhat judgmental about how I arrange my living space, and how many possessions I have.

The hiking example is also an example of him being pushy. In general, he will be pushy when he wants me to do some kind of activity and he feels like I'm being unreasonable. These are just mundane things like taking walks when it's raining and cold out, going to parties late at night, etc. He has made comments to the effect that he wants to be with someone who is "up for anything." I am definitely not a person who is up for anything. I am flexible in many areas of life, but when I say "no" to something, I would like that to just be accepted without someone trying to wear me down with argument. As it is now, I say "no," then he spends 20 to 30 minutes arguing with me, and then he is frustrated and I am annoyed. It is true that I may be less flexible about certain things than the average person would be. It is also true that I may be inflexible about certain things that the average person might find to be arbitrary or random. I may, in fact, be "unreasonable" when I say no to certain things, however I still really don't want to do them.


I do not feel like putting any of my energy towards trying to change someone; I also think that is usually futile and can be pretty disrespectful. I also don't want to be changed. I like myself and my life, I am largely at peace with my flaws and limitations, and I am extremely happy. I am self-motivated and very capable, and do not need or want anyone to "motivate" or "improve" me by pushing me or harping at me; in fact, I'd rather not invest in relationships with people who feel I need to be substantially improved at all.

So, my questions:

I feel like I am too close to this situation to look at it objectively. So - do the kinds of issues in this relationship make it unworkable, or have you found that these sorts of issues in your own relationships could be solved? Am I too rigid? Should I give change a chance? Is it worthwhile to discuss some of the things that we haven't discussed? Any other insights that I am unable to see from my perspective?
posted by the second sock to Human Relations (39 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This guy does not sound like he's worth your time. Ditch him and move on.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:37 PM on March 4, 2014 [22 favorites]

"putting any ... energy towards trying to change someone... is usually futile and can be pretty disrespectful"

Yep, he is being pretty disrespectful! Does he see you as a person, or a project? I would not stay with somebody who didn't listen to me, judged me, and pushed me to do things I didn't want to do.

I might have one talk with him about what a dick he's being, and then I'd dump him and find somebody who's a bit more mature/less of a cock.
posted by tinkletown at 12:42 PM on March 4, 2014 [14 favorites]

You said that you're happy with who you are, but you pretty clearly don't feel that HE's happy with who you are, to the point where you're afraid to be yourself around him (by withholding a pretty significant piece of information about yourself you feel he'll take badly). Based upon what you've written here, it does sound like he's the kind of person who wouldn't handle that sort of revelation very well - which, to be honest, is a huge red flag for me, and I'm not even taking anti-depressants myself. Somebody who isn't willing to understand that mental illness is a real thing that can't be exercised away is somebody I would have serious doubts about spending my life with.

I think you can find someone who makes you happy 100% of the time, or at least maybe more than 80%. And you can definitely find someone whose negatives are not so specifically driven toward irrational judgment and criticism.
posted by something something at 12:42 PM on March 4, 2014 [19 favorites]

#1 might be workable (different people have different ways of emotionally coping) but #2 is not. He sounds like the kind of guy who thinks everyone should see things the way he does. Not good.

Your partner should be supportive, not critical.

Don't tell him about your #1 and DTFMA.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:43 PM on March 4, 2014 [5 favorites]

It worries me that he's arguing with you about situations that could negatively impact your physical health. I wouldn't feel comfortable opening up to someone like that about my mental health either. Stay safe!
posted by mlle valentine at 12:43 PM on March 4, 2014 [13 favorites]

I think you have your answer in this question. You don't want to be changed, he is pushing to change you. You are extremely happy with who you are and where you are in your fitness level and psychological well being/treatment. Why introduce constant seconding guessing/doubt into your life about any of it?

As for telling him about your own mental health and personal history, I vote no. This guy doesn't seem like the kind of person you can confide in about issues without having an easy remedy of "why don't you just...." It doesn't sound like this is going to be a long, happy, healthy relationship, so why put yourself through digging up past trauma, only to defend your responses to it?

In the sense that you are unwilling to change for someone else, to what extent do you expect this guy to change for you? To tone down his exercise regime when with you? To become more of a home body with you? He seems to prefer a much more aggressive exercise schedule than you, and has, albeit misguided IMHO, completely different attitudes about mental health treatment. Would he have to change to make this relationship work? Is it fair to ask him to, as his flaws aren't necessarily deal breakers for everyone?

Break it off.
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 12:44 PM on March 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

I like myself and my life, I am largely at peace with my flaws and limitations, and I am extremely happy.

This is wonderful -- and what an amazing thing to be able to say after everything you've gone through in your life. I really admire you. And I feel strongly that you deserve somebody who will cherish you for exactly who you are, flaws and all, and who will delight in the joy of being with someone who likes herself.
posted by scody at 12:48 PM on March 4, 2014 [55 favorites]

I think 5-6 months is a natural point in relationships where a lot of the initial glitter has worn off and you see your partner more clearly than you did during the early excitement. He sounds exhausting and annoying. I'd rather be alone!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:54 PM on March 4, 2014 [23 favorites]

He has made comments to the effect that he wants to be with someone who is "up for anything." I am definitely not a person who is up for anything.

I think you have answered your own question. Some people are happy in relationships where limits and boundaries are tested. Some are not. This sounds like a bad fit.
posted by jessamyn at 12:55 PM on March 4, 2014 [12 favorites]

One of the most valuable lessons I've learned from reading and asking questions here on MeFi: If you're so stressed out about a fledgling relationship that you have to write this much to explain why it's making you feel bad, it's time to cut your losses and move on.

Another: You won't win as a happy, fulfilled person pushing up against someone who's perpetually unsatisfied and judgmental. They will always try to keep you wavering and off-kilter in order to knock you off of your game and, hopefully/eventually, come to agree with them.

And another: A partner who picks fights with you and makes you feel inherently unreasonable when you're doing things that make you feel peaceful and fulfilled is not a partner worth keeping. You can find a partner who will support you, lift up your goals, dreams, and accomplishments as if they were his own, and accept everything you laid out in #1 without batting an eye. There are interesting, attractive, GOOD dudes out there.

Life is both very short and very long, and five months is not an amount of time that should inspire you to surrender any more of it to sunk costs. You have everything you need within yourself, don't let this guy drag you down or out just because you still have fun with him 80% of the time. Embrace your hard-won happiness and personal fulfillment, you deserve them!
posted by divined by radio at 12:56 PM on March 4, 2014 [32 favorites]

One of my exes was like this guy. Everything was pushed to the "Extreme". Extreme Biking, Extreme Climbing, Extreme Kayaking, Extreme Hiking, Extreme Camping, Extreme Travelling.... nothing I did was ever good enough even though I tried to get involved.

I was convinced we could stay together (we were very young!) and we made a very good go of it. But ultimately, we just weren't compatible. As much as I liked trying rock climbing, kayaking, biking etc - I just knew I could never be at the level he wanted me to.

We broke up but we are still friends and now I see he's an "Extreme" Skier, living in France doing crazy, crazy things. But he loves it, and I love that I had the sense to break it off due to MASSIVE incompatibilities. It would never have worked!

I sense huge incompatibilities between you two as well, on more than one level.
posted by JenThePro at 12:57 PM on March 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

Oh boy.

My dad is like this.

He was like this with me, and almost all the women he dated after the divorce, and with his friends, too.

When he remarried my stepmom, that shit stopped. Why? She is very blunt and matter of fact. She is not "polite" and "go along." She looks him in the eye and says, "No, I'm not doing that." He pouts, he sulks for two seconds. She will repeat, "No way I'm doing that." She's blunt. She laughs. Sometimes she acts like she doesn't even understand what he wants. He gives up.

Helps that she's really "with it", sportier than him, a professional with her own life, etc.

Over time he has stopped asking as much.
posted by quincunx at 12:57 PM on March 4, 2014 [7 favorites]

Yeah, he sounds very demanding and inflexible, but it's "fair" because he is also demanding and inflexible with himself. Being with these people, I find, only works when you are rigid and demanding right back. And some people love that, and love feeling like they are always "proving" themselves to their partner and vice-versa! But, you know, a lot of people don't love that at all. It sounds like you don't, and you value the self-acceptance that you've built, and so this guy just isn't any kind of match, romantically. He might be a great friend though...

But I sympathize with you on this; at one point in my life I had to let an otherwise lovely and very impressive fella go because I knew, in the end, that I couldn't subscribe to his relentlessly high expectations (always applied more relentlessly to himself than to others--he wasn't a dick!).

He, too, had a really hard time hearing my "no" and placed a very high value on being "up for anything." I knew that eventually, in a relationship context, I would feel pressured into something that would be bad for me, and that the resentment afterward would kill my respect and fondness for him anyway. So I cut him loose, and he found a girlfriend who is as maniacally high-achieving as he is, and they seem to be happy! And I found a boyfriend who is more than happy to meet me where I'm at, even though he is much more driven than I am in many ways. You'll find that guy, too!
posted by like_a_friend at 12:58 PM on March 4, 2014 [11 favorites]

Let it go.

Everything will always be a competition.

I'm dating a guy now who is very competitive, but he leaves it at the game. He teases me sometimes but our competitions are brought down to my level so it's fun. Like "who can run to the door first?" Or playing horse at the gym. And it's not all the time and if I give him a look or mention nah he lets it go.

I would recommend competing with yourself for how fast you leave this guy behind in your life and not look back.
posted by sio42 at 1:00 PM on March 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

Also people who believe you don't need meds sometimes are weird. If you have a headache or sprained ankle, take some ibuprofen.

If you have a sprained or otherwise head, you take a med for that. Sure excercise and lifestyle help, but to think they're the only answer and never meds is just disrespectful.
posted by sio42 at 1:03 PM on March 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

The bottom line here is that he doesn't respect your (appropriate, hard-earned, and healthy) boundaries. That's not OK, not at all, and you need no other reason to end this relationship.
posted by jesourie at 1:06 PM on March 4, 2014 [14 favorites]

If you stay with this man, and down the road you develop a severe illness, say cancer or MS, what do you think he would do? This is the question I ask myself in relationships when I'm considering a long term future. I know I would take care of someone I loved if they were sick, so it can be startling to realize that a lot of people just straight up bail.

Considering his attitude and treatment of you when you had the flu on that hike, I wouldn't hesitate from walking away from this if I were you. He might be cute, fun, and great in bed, but he's not someone you pin your future to.

(And for the love of pete, don't force children to have a father that berates them when they lag behind or tells them to suck it up if they have mental issues!)
posted by Dynex at 1:07 PM on March 4, 2014 [11 favorites]

An aside: I want to note that the guy in my situation had also had a pretty charmed life: rich, beloved, physically attractive, in perfect health, genius IQ, large group of perpetually supportive friends.

He is an extremely good, kindhearted man, BUT, there is just a whole lot about the world that he literally cannot comprehend. He really struggles with feeling like almost everyone he meets is a completely alien life form with almost no experiences to which he can relate. Your guy may be the same way. But that doesn't mean it's your job to educate him.
posted by like_a_friend at 1:08 PM on March 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

He is the same towards himself. He injured his leg on a different hike, could not walk, and refused to get medical attention even as he was shaking with pain

This suggests to me that he's not deliberately trying to make you feel inadequate, but that he actually has some deep-rooted issues of his own to do with strength/weakness/being capable etc, which would also tie in with the dismissal of psychological "weakness" (not accepting the need for antidepressants for example). So while I don't think he's a dick (and as you say you have a good relationship in other areas I think we should respect the fact that you care about him and probably don't appreciate us calling him names) I think you might not be a good fit for each other at this time in your lives. You sound like you would like a partner who is able to be supportive of your psychological and physiological issues, and it doesn't sound like he is going to be able to see past his own stuff enough to do that. If you can't trust him to be there for you if you open up to him then that isn't a great foundation for a long-term relationship. In fact, he might (inadvertently) make you feel worse if he is projecting onto you feelings about people not being strong/healthy/fit enough etc. That doesn't make him a bad person, just unable to give you what you need and deserve.

Do you feel you could trust him not to betray your confidence even if he did not react well to your disclosure? If so I would maybe consider trying to talk to him and at least give him the chance to possibly be there for you. I think you'd know pretty quickly if his reaction is what you need - does he tell you you'll work it out together or does he recoil in any way - and if there's even the slightest hint of the latter then I would end the relationship. If you don't trust him to keep your confidence should you break up then I wouldn't tell him, I would consider ending it now and putting your health first. Good luck and take care.
posted by billiebee at 1:14 PM on March 4, 2014 [12 favorites]

If I were to take your questions individually, I would say:

Open the conversation about mental health with: "I need to tell you something, and please, I need you to let me finish before you say anything. And before you ask, no I am not terminally ill nor are we breaking up. I have mental disorder X. I haven't told you about this before because in the past you have been judgemental about it. I would like to help you to understand what it's like to have this disorder. I need your support with this."

Through the conversation be clear that his unconditional support is a dealbreaker; if he wants to make this relationship work he has to accept your mental illness as being the exact same as a physical illness, and while exercise does help it is a small piece of the healing pie.

You are depriving yourself of someone who could learn to be supportive, or you are sticking around with someone who won't learn, making you hide things. That's not long-term healthy behaviour. In addition, hiding it is buying into the stigma of mental illness, which isn't healthy for anyone.

As for his pushiness:

"Honey, I love you. But when I say no, I mean no, and I need you to respect that."

There was a great comment around here recently that talked about always asking for 100% of what you want in a relationship. Most people ask for some smaller percentage of what they want because they think it's what they can get. Ask for 100% of what you want from him. Then work out between you how much of that he can/will give and whether that is acceptable to you.

Again, make it clear to him that he needs to accept "No, that is my final answer on the subject" as your final answer on the subject. In return, as part of the relationship tango, you need to promise to be flexible within certain limits you will both agree on. If he will not accept "No, this is my final answer" as a final answer, subject closed, make sure he knows that too is a dealbreaker.

In all honesty, however, I don't think this relationship is salvageable. From what you are saying, he doesn't like who you are, and is trying to mould you into being what he wants. That's not a relationship. Couples will naturally mould themselves to each other; they will adopt some of the likes and dislikes of their partner and find compromises where these things clash.

Your dude? Seems to be looking at you like a lump of clay he can mould into whatever pleases him. I dunno about you, but I'd rather be in a relationship with someone who loves me, warts and all.

At the end of the day, it's worth at least having these conversations with him. Perhaps he just doesn't know any other way to behave and is open to learning how to be more of a teammate instead of a boss. Print out your question and give it to him to read--contextualize it first of course. Maybe you two will have an a-ha moment, maybe you'll decide to break up. But no matter what, relationships cannot survive dishonesty--concealment of your mental illness, and not being open about how you really feel when he's pushy and judgy. None of that is a dig at you; you've got pretty decent reasons for acting the way you are.

But you're never going to have a good relationship with someone unless you can say "I am fucked up in these ways, ABC" and get nothing but "Okay, so how do I support you?" in return. Hiding for fear of judgement is no way to live.

Best of luck.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:21 PM on March 4, 2014 [29 favorites]

But you're never going to have a good relationship with someone unless you can say "I am fucked up in these ways, ABC" and get nothing but "Okay, so how do I support you?" in return.

Can I get an amen!
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:26 PM on March 4, 2014 [16 favorites]

On the first issue, you just don't know how he'd react if you brought up your psychological disorder. Sometimes, people surprise you. I've known people who are cool with something in the abstract who freak out when confronted with it in real life and I've also seen people who have nasty opinions about abstract issues who suddenly become kind and understanding when dealing with a real person. So, you just don't know. Tell him that you need to say something important and it is important that he not interrupt. Tell him about your issue, that you do take meds, that you will continue to do so if you believe they are helping, that this condition won't ever fully go away, and that you need support and understanding from him if the two of you are to continue to be in a relationship together.

On the second issue, he isn't going to change his approach to life and sports, but maybe it is worth checking to see if he'll change his approach to you. Tell him that you aren't looking for a coach or trainer. From his perspective it may be about seeing how much potential he thinks you have and wanting to help you unlock it, but you are happy with yourself and just aren't looking to become a hardcore endurance athlete. Is he willing to try a different dynamic?

I don't know if any of this will work, but it seems like its worth a shot.
posted by Area Man at 1:34 PM on March 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

My biased opinion:

He doesn't sound healthy. Pushing himself beyond his pain threshold and then berating himself for an injury and somehow seeing it as a character flaw? No.

It sounds to me that while his competitive edge is well-honed, his sense of empathy is not. Your intuition to hide a vulnerable part of yourself is already attuned to and telling you this fact.

When someone isn't emotionally attuned to us, no matter how much they care about us, they will hurt us and it's not congruent.

You deserve better.

C'est cheesy, but I agree with the sentiment here.

And, by the by: you sound like an amazing, resilient, wonderful human being who — it should be noted — knows your limitations and respects them. Some of us take a long time to learn about our limitations and that they are not barriers but places of respect and growth. Learning to grow with our limitations is one of the hallmarks, in my other biased opinion, of maturity.

I'm sorry he doesn't get you. It's not your fault. It's not anybody's "fault". But I don't think he sounds healthy, and not for you. Pushing you when you're sick? No. Limits exist for a reason.

And excelling in your own way, with your own set of metrics, is what you're after.
posted by simulacra at 1:38 PM on March 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

So, if I'm reading this right: you don't feel comfortable telling him something important about yourself, he doesn't believe that a thing that directly affects you is real, he disrespects your normal and healthy boundaries, and he doesn't take care of himself (I'm sure he thinks he takes fantastic care of himself, but I'd argue that that would include knowing your limits and seeking medical attention when needed). All of these are potential dealbreakers; the boundary thing is a definite dealbreaker.

He also sounds like the kind of person who does great when everything's in place, but can't handle it when things get rough. If you're in this for the long haul, things will get rough at points. Can you count on him to keep his shit together and be on your team? (You sound a lot healthier than he does, incidentallly. Keep taking good care of yourself.)

Don't settle for 80% of a good relationship when the other 20% is shitty. Ditch this guy and find someone who you can be fully comfortable with.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:32 PM on March 4, 2014 [9 favorites]

Relationships develop. People do too. So do you think it's worth giving this guy a chance or not?

See, I wonder if you've said this clearly to him? he wants to be with someone who is "up for anything." I am definitely not a person who is up for anything. I am flexible in many areas of life, but when I say "no" to something, I would like that to just be accepted without someone trying to wear me down with argument. As it is now, I say "no," then he spends 20 to 30 minutes arguing with me, and then he is frustrated and I am annoyed. Perhaps do that and see what the result is. If he responds with more awareness maybe it's worth working on it more. Give-and-take is like the bedrock of relationships.

My young niece, watching Housewives of Whichever Place it Was, where there was a rich guy who kept trying to 'improve' his new wife, said if it was her she'd be all "Didn't you see me before you married me?" and I love her sense of self and I love yours too.
posted by glasseyes at 2:34 PM on March 4, 2014

On issue #1, if you stay with him, do you want to keep your medication hidden and lie about why you are going to doctors appointments as you get to know him better? If not, you need to tell him sometime. His response might make determining how you feel about issue #2 a nonissue.
posted by yohko at 2:52 PM on March 4, 2014

I was with an abuser for three years. He was super intense about how much I exercised and how many possessions I had at the beginning, too.

It only got worse. He sounds like at best he's kind of just not a good match, but his pushiness and inability to listen to you when you said you didn't want to do something (the hike), coupled with his snarkiness about your exercise habits ("What, ten minutes a week?" is such a mean thing to say)...? I don't like the sound of all this.

He isn't going to get any less pushy and judgmental. He's on his best behavior still since you haven't been together long. He's only going to get meaner.
posted by sockermom at 3:06 PM on March 4, 2014 [12 favorites]

Also trust your gut. You feel like he's saying this stuff more since you've gained weight? You're almost certainly right, especially given his fitness obsession.

Don't doubt your perception of things.

Do you really want to be with someone who you can't trust will be compassionate about your psychological disorder? I don't even know you and I hope that you're OK and that your medication is working well and that you're getting treatment and that you feel good. I don't care if you're on medicine or exercising or standing on your head for twenty minutes every morning in order to get to "OK" - and I don't even know you.

Your boyfriend - your partner - the person you spend your most intimate time with - don't you want them to accept you and care that you are OK and be happy that you are working on a way to cope with your disorder as much as a bunch of strangers on the Internet can? If you know that he can't do that, why do you want to stay?

I mean that as compassionately and honestly as possible: Really, why do you want to stay? Ask yourself that question. Why is this something that you want to continue doing? Or is it?
posted by sockermom at 3:12 PM on March 4, 2014 [8 favorites]

His views on mental illnesses could be out of ignorance, and may be fixable. I have loved ones who are mentally ill and have been institutionalized, and I also have mentally healthy friends who pop an anxiety pill every time they get anxious before a work event. If he's only witnessed the latter and not yet the former, he may be speaking out of inexperience. My own views matured after I witnessed mental illness up close, and his could too.

The inability to take "no" sounds irritating, and not easily fixable. It sounds like he feels unworthy inside, and feels that he needs to be scaling ever-higher peaks in order to justify why he deserves to live and use up resources. This is a psychological issue that he would need to solve on his own. It may be years or decades before he addresses it. The closer you become to him, and that he sees you as an extension of him, the more he's going to criticize you because he'll project more of his unworthiness onto you.
posted by cheesecake at 3:16 PM on March 4, 2014

I think you answered your own question: You're saying you're afraid to talk about your issues with your partner because you think he's going to be unsupportive, which understandably would be a dealbreaker to you which means you're going to have to break up. I'll translate: you're afraid you're going to have to break up. Yeah, breakups suck, but not being supported by your partner or having to hide an essential part of yourself from them sucks even more even when the rest of the relationship is good.

Being supported and having your boundaries respected are essential to a healthy relationship and you know it.

I would try to open the conversation about your issues with your partner and also talk about the pushing thing or be more assertive about it. Lots of people have strong opinions about stuff they know nothing about, like your boyfriend does about mental (and apparantly physical) health. However, when the issue comes closer to home and more concrete, a complete shift of opinions is not uncommon.

If it all works out, great. If it doesn't, at least you've tried and you have a clear answer about the immediate future of the relationship. It's very common for relationships to bend or breakon the 5/6 month mark. I don't want to be pessimistic here, but my bet is on "break".
posted by leopard-skin pill-box hat at 3:35 PM on March 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

have you found that these sorts of issues in your own relationships could be solved?
For me, no. In fact, if you hadn't added in that he was an athlete, I'd have asked if we might be talking about the same gent.

Interesting, fun, smart, handsome guy, and was open-minded enough to have the conversation and consider my viewpoint, but had no desire to modify or compromise. I started to write "I'm glad I tried, though" but truthfully, I knew I was wasting my time before I opened my mouth. I think I wanted to be "fair" and give him a chance but deep down, my hesitation (I dithered for months over talking about similar issues to the OP) was because I knew he wasn't going to be to man I wanted and needed (and I wasn't going to be the woman he wanted and needed, either). I just didn't want to throw away a "good [on paper]" thing.

Until I did and I am much happier for it.
posted by sm1tten at 4:13 PM on March 4, 2014

I do not feel like putting any of my energy towards trying to change someone; I also think that is usually futile and can be pretty disrespectful. I also don't want to be changed. I like myself and my life, I am largely at peace with my flaws and limitations, and I am extremely happy. I am self-motivated and very capable, and do not need or want anyone to "motivate" or "improve" me by pushing me or harping at me; in fact, I'd rather not invest in relationships with people who feel I need to be substantially improved at all.

It is hard to see things clearly sometimes when you're right in the middle of them, as you said, but it looks like you answered your own question here. This guy is trying to change you into who he wants you to be and doesn't accept the things that don't fit that definition. It is hard to be with someone who doesn't understand you, and doesn't seem to care about your perspective; it hurts. Listen to yourself; you are wiser than you know.
posted by sevenofspades at 6:24 PM on March 4, 2014

Ugh, this guy is so controlling, it makes my skin crawl. And I strongly doubt he will change or improve over time; just the opposite. You can probably expect him to become increasingly more controlling and judgmental if you merge your lives further.

This guy is telling you what to do with your body, in ways that are potentially unhealthy and harmful to you. That is 100% not cool.

I am friends with a married couple. Their dynamic reminds me of what you are describing in your relationship. In my friends' case, the husband has escalated his control-behaviors over the years, including being dismissive and derisive of his wife's legit health issues, and browbeating her into going on diets (while he himself does not diet). It's horrible.

I vote for getting the heck away from this guy before you get in any deeper.
posted by nacho fries at 6:43 PM on March 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

I have to echo everyone else. Many people have made many good points. I just want to emphasise the bit about how you don't want anyone to be harping on you to change or improve yourself - and nor should you! But that is exactly what he is doing, initially with the fitness and external activities, but you say he's also making judgemental comments about your possessions, etc - so getting closer into your personal space sphere. Regardless of how he would respond to your mental health issues (though I suspect it would not be well) he seems to find plenty about you to try to change, improve, whip into action, etc. He is not the guy for you. Walk away before you start to doubt yourself.
posted by Athanassiel at 6:55 PM on March 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

There is no way you can change enough to conform to his expectations and still be true to your values, and there is no way he can change enough and conform to your expectations and still be true to his values. You are not compatible.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 6:55 PM on March 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I very much agree with billiebee.

In my experience, people like this are secretly very insecure. It takes a certain kind of strength to admit that you're not perfect, that you've screwed things up in your life, that there are some things you just can't handle (physically or mentally/emotionally), and to be okay with that.

You sound a bit like me. I have taken antidepressants for years, and I have a separate, deep-seated psychological disorder. I know that I'm not perfectly in control of my life, and I'm fine with that. I don't feel that my core self is threatened by my weaknesses. People like your boyfriend do, and that's why they fight against having any.

Not sure if this is making sense, but my point is: you actually seem more emotionally evolved than him. Please don't let him wear you down.

I suggest telling him about your problems, by the way. There's a kind of power/strength in making yourself vulnerable to other people (see Brene Brown's TED talk). Put it in an email, if you have to. If he takes it badly, or continues to push you beyond your comfort zone, he is not being respectful and loving. Then you walk away.
posted by Salamander at 7:09 PM on March 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

DTMFA. This guy sucks.
posted by lunastellasol at 9:45 PM on March 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

The things people tell themselves that enable them to run ultramarathons or take regular punches to the face are completely fucked up compared to what normal people think is reasonable. Easy for those personal standards to go from ' focus' and 'mental toughness' to intolerance and fascism. The value some fitness freaks get from training supports a belief that anyone can and should change themselves to embrace the awesomeness of (whatever). I think many of these people should only date other fitness freaks.

It seems he s not in a place to meet your needs, and the longer you're with him, the more you'll doubt yourself. Better, I think, to be with someone who accept s you as you are.
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:32 AM on March 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

Ugh, this guy is so controlling, it makes my skin crawl. And I strongly doubt he will change or improve over time; just the opposite. You can probably expect him to become increasingly more controlling and judgmental if you merge your lives further.

I agree with nacho fries that your boyfriend sounds very, very controlling.

Not just with you -- he seems to need to control everything around him and his own body, all the time. To me, pretending not to be hurt and refusing medical treatment on that hike were about a practically pathological inability to admit to any loss of control. That's a pretty big red flag, and I understand why you'd bring it up here.

I also think it's strange/alarming that he would say that exercise is a cure for any mental disorder and is a fiend about exercising all the time. Is he trying to exercise himself "better"?

It's possible he's so controlling because of arrogance, but it's also possible he's so controlling because he felt completely out of control in the past (or maybe/probably both). He's not necessarily a bad person or heartless, but he is a bit screwed up. "A bit screwed up" can be unpleasant or even dangerous, too, though, and you don't owe him a relationship in any case.

I think your instinct not to give him access to certain parts of you -- like your health -- is 100% correct. If he knew about those other parts of your life/self, he'd probably start trying to control them, too. Some things are too important to be fiddled with by a guy with a compulsion to make sure things go a certain way, and I personally don't think you should risk it.

For what it's worth, I don't think this relationship can be salvaged. If I were you, I'd try to break it off fast, before he has more of a chance to mess with your life or your head.
posted by rue72 at 1:15 AM on March 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

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