Why do my relationships keep ending so suddenly?
May 22, 2014 7:35 PM   Subscribe

I've had three girlfriends in my life, and all three have gone from loving me to never wanting to see me again in just a matter of weeks. What am I doing to scare these awesome ladies away? Snowflake details inside...

Hey Metafilter! I know, I know, you are not my therapist, you are not my psychologist, nor do you have all the answers. But after several years' worth of reading, I've noticed that you collectively have a canny ability to locate the blind spots revealed in the way OPs frame a question, and I would greatly appreciate your collective brilliance at doing so in helping me to determine why I cannot be part of a relationship that lasts.

I have had three "relationships." Quotation marks because the longest lasted about ten weeks, and the shortest two. I am 25, and have made repeated efforts to try and build enduring, mutually supportive relationships with women to whom I was very attracted - and they fail INSTANTLY. It goes from passionate to over so fast that my head spins, and I don't know how I can keep failing so badly.

The first was with a girl I met at a party: she was very pretty, had a deep series of issues trusting men because of an abusive ex, and like me, was very into hip-hop and screenwriting. This was perfect for me, honestly - I grew up in an abusive family, I was able to be a kind, considerate, [I hoped] trustworthy boyfriend, and we both understood the 'survivor' mentality. We dated for a week or two, became 'facebook official' almost immediately, and then I went to spend a weekend at her family's house a state away. She basically broke up with me upon arrival, we spent an awful three days together, and have talked intermittently since.

The second was a very pretty girl whom I met through a friend's comedy troupe - they had founded the troupe, she was an improviser in it, we ended up at an 80s dance party together and had an incredibly deep, soul-searching conversation afterward that lasted the night and ended with a ton of making out. She seemed to be into hundreds of niche things that I was also into - little-known artists that we both thought nobody else knew about - and she was also an epically generous, thoughtful person. I thought, wow, this is awesome. We lived a state apart, but began a long-distance relationship based on seeing each other once every 2-3 weeks, and at first, much like the previous girlfriend, she was incredibly smitten with me and the 'honeymoon' phase of the relationship was very intense. She repeatedly told me how amazing I was, and we called and texted nonstop. One day, out of the blue, she told me she needed some "space" and we didn't speak for a week. Then she broke up with me via skype, in a way that was bizarrely very kind and encouraging (really, she told me not to change a thing). The only thing I can think of that might have hurt the relationship was that I had attempted suicide a few months prior to meeting her, and just my mentioning that once brought her to tears - maybe that shook her up too hard?

The final relationship was the most painful and most mystifying. I met a girl through tinder who was phenomenal - a very career-oriented, highly educated young woman who was bubbly and pretty and had an amazing sense of humor that just perfectly jived with mine. It was magic. We dated for a few weeks, and the relationship grew more intense and physical - I have never had so much chemistry with another person as I had with her, it was like we craved one another - and we seemed to rarely be apart. I tried to be as open and emotionally supportive as I could possibly be (and indeed, during our breakup, she complimented me on these qualities), and this started to assume a new importance when she underwent a gastric bypass surgery, which I tried to support her through in every way. Because we had been so sexually active (and due to the surgery, the result of which she could not use any form of contraception), we had a pregnancy scare. Like before, she told me she needed "space," we did not speak for a week. Then she called me to tell me she was breaking up, and this was it. She said I was incredible, but she just couldn't be with someone right now. I was in disbelief, but, I mean, hell, maybe this is just inevitable by now, and she broke up and proceeded to block me on every social network/SMS platform we share. I still don't know if she ever actually became pregnant as a result of the scare, and I may never know.

Perhaps there is some obvious mistake I'm making, in the way I have misunderstood how a relationship works, or what a boyfriend does, or what I did wrong in these cases. I really am confused, and lost, and I feel very confident that every future relationship will also follow this boom-bust pattern of OMG ur amazing followed by get out of my life just a few weeks after. There is something I'm doing that's causing them to fail, and I just can't identify what it is - so please, Metafilter, if you have any insight at all, I would love to hear it.
posted by sidi hamet to Human Relations (45 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Eh, having a bunch of short, intense relationships when you're 25 is pretty normal, I think. Though, at a guess, I suspect the issue is 'too much too soon.' Might want to try and slow it down a bit. Try not to say "I Love You" on the second date, and so on.
posted by empath at 7:43 PM on May 22, 2014 [9 favorites]

My guess is 3 different reasons. Long distance GF found someone else who was much closer. The surgery woman freaked out because of the pregnancy scare.

The first one I have no idea.

Thems the breaks, there are other women for you to date. It is not easy to make a relationship work.

I think the real problem is you only date these high chemistry women and don't take chances on others. Ask more women out.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:44 PM on May 22, 2014 [7 favorites]

This is a super hard question for strangers on the internet to answer, because we only get your perspective. Maybe you are pushing it to a SERIOUS RELATIONSHIP place too quickly? Maybe you're just 25 and this is kinda how it goes sometimes, and you're young enough not to have had the other experiences?

The first relationship definitely sounds like too serious, too fast. She probably had second thoughts, and just handled it badly.

Gal #2 definitely sounds like text book "Long Distance Relationships are Super Hard" possibly with a bit of "She Met Someone Local" -- she let you down easy, which was the kind thing to do.

The last one just sounds like bad luck -- surgery followed by pregnancy scare is a lot to take; she said she couldn't be with someone right now, meaning she'd made the decision to drastically simplify what she had to deal with in her life in whatever ways she could, and one of those ways was you. Going no-contact is actually a really fair way to treat someone when you dump them, because attempting to "stay friends" when one of you doesn't want to break up with the other never works.

You're 25, all of this has happened to other people plenty of times before. You're not a freak. Just get back out there. Maybe don't rush headlong into it the next time.
posted by axiom at 7:47 PM on May 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

The impression I get is you're kinda "dude who gets a girlfriend and thinks all his problems are solved and clamps onto them REALLY tightly." But it could just be you're 25 and them's the breaks.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:48 PM on May 22, 2014 [19 favorites]

There's a rather important question here that you're not even touching on - what did those three women say why they broke up with you?

And, conversely, what did you say to them shortly before? It sounds to me like you're entering a relationship, you become familiar, and then boom, something happens. "Familiar" often means you started opening up to the other person, sharing things with them. Maybe you're sharing something they're not ready to hear yet? (The "suicide" thing is definitely a heavy topic. Not saying you shouldn't share that - you should - but timing and gentle introduction kind of matters there)
posted by groby at 7:55 PM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Dude, you're too clingy and give too much to women who take advantage of you. Stop it. Be less available to women. You are not their White Knight. Stop getting so into their lives so soon. Go out to coffee with a girl, go to a movie. If she has uber problems, say, "sorry to hear that," and move on. You are so desperate to get a girl that you ignore boundaries and then they go, "whoops!" and you are used. That's not good for you, so stop it. Really get to know a girl and be friends with her before you commit so much of yourself. It will be okay like that. Slow down. We all make mistakes in relationships. Now you know. Don't get too involved with a girl and be a little stand-offish next time, okay?
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 8:08 PM on May 22, 2014 [8 favorites]

My guess is that you come on too strong. I've been there (one relationship in particular still makes me cringe a bit :-). There's nothing wrong with you. You'l figure this out.

"There is something I'm doing that's causing them to fail"

You don't know that.

Advice - don't overthink things, when you meet a new girl, do things a little differently - go slower.

The right person for you might not be so 'intense' at the start, but rather a slow burn that will have some longevity.

You're young (fwiw, my first date was at 27, and I screwed up a bunch of times, making mistakes in my 30s most folks figure out in their teens; just got married at 49).

Good luck.
posted by parki at 8:08 PM on May 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

The fact that 2 of 3 of them said that they needed space, as well as the wording of your post, suggest that you might be somewhat dramatic and - I don't want to say clingy or needy because they have too negative a connotation, but maybe you get very involved in communicating with a person on a pretty emotional level more early in a relationship than most others do (and I say that as a person who is on the high end of wanting frequent communication with partners).

I think rather than being standoffish to counteract this, which could come off as playing games and would probably not feel genuine to you and instead feel like an effort, you should think about and explore whether these things are in fact true about how you approached your relationships - it is awfully hard to tell from a brief summary like this - and if so, why you behaved that way and how that might have impacted the relationship negatively. Maybe talk to some trusted friends about it and get their thoughts. If you spend some time considering that then perhaps you could find yourself in the future acting naturally more confident and independent rather than having to force yourself to behave in certain ways to 'play hard to get', a strategy that might backfire if you don't truly believe or feel like acting the way you are.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:23 PM on May 22, 2014 [19 favorites]

Sometimes people just lose that lovin' feeling quickly. In my experiences, guys tend to suddenly "snap" and lose it within oh, 24 hours, but that's me.

I concur that there were probably three different reasons, and Ironmouth is correct on the guesses they made as to why. A pregnancy scare would flip anyone out, and LDR's aren't the most stable. As for #2, could be a combo of LDR fail and personal freakout.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:31 PM on May 22, 2014

You sound like a truly lovely person. No "obvious mistake" stands out, except your intuition is probably correct that mentioning your suicide attempt scared away bachelorette #2. It may have made her feel like you were too risky or too unstable to get attached to - but, then again, what were you going to do? Hide that fact about yourself forever? Nah.

As for #1 and #3 my guess is they have self-image issues that preclude them from feeling worthy enough to be in a healthy relationship right now. Not your problem.

Obviously, women are finding you attractive and engaging, so just keep living your life and watching after your health. I'm confident you'll soon meet someone worthy of your affections.
posted by hush at 8:31 PM on May 22, 2014

Like others, the only common thread that stood out to me what the word "intense." Women can feel rushed or smothered just as easily as men in the early stages--and see that as a red flag--and it is possible to dial back without going the opposite direction and playing "does he like me or doesn't he" headgames, as treehorn+bunny mentioned.

The suicide attempt is nothing to feel ashamed or stigmatized about but mentioning it that early on could trigger someone who's had a painful experience with an acutely mentally ill family member, friend, or ex (or even themselves), or it could sent out "take care of me" vibes if disclosed inappropriately early. I know a (useful) red flag to me is when I hear about abusive or dead parents or similarly heavy stuff within the first few weeks--for women, that can feel like an appeal for nurturing or care-taking/mothering.
posted by blue suede stockings at 8:40 PM on May 22, 2014 [6 favorites]

This may or may not be relevant, but the first word you used to describe the first two women was "pretty" and that's the fifth adjective you used to describe the third. Pretty, when you're an adult, is a word that is more likely to be used describing a sunset than a person. It comes across as kinda juvenile. Along the same line, describing their appearance as the first thing about them reads shallow.

But mainly, I think it was too intense too quickly. That has definitely scared me off before. You do sound lovely, but have you dealt with your abusive past? I mean, really dealt with it? Because it seems to me that you are so intent on breaking the cycle, which is absolutely a GOOD thing, that you swing too far in the White Knight direction. Start with loving you first, and it will be so much easier to let others love you, the REAL you and not what you think the idealized non-abusive you should be. I say that in kindness, because I know it's difficult when you're trying overcome that background, but don't let that be the defining point of you, because you're more than your past.
posted by Ruki at 8:42 PM on May 22, 2014 [17 favorites]

It might have seemed sudden to you, but I bet they saw it coming a long way off. As others have said, it sounds like you throw yourself into intense relationships really quickly. It's possible that your intensity in the early relationship phase was (as others have mentioned) a bit of a red flag to the girlfriend and caused her to back away, but also possible that she was never as committed to the relationship as you were. Be a bit more cautious, and be sure you're listening to what she's really saying and not what you want to hear.
posted by aimedwander at 8:48 PM on May 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think you've got some boundary issues you need to work on. You may be picking people with them too in some cases if you view intensity right off the bat as a good thing.

The first woman you mentioned, with the issues trusting men, rather than looking at that like it's something to identify with, I'd look at that as a warning: she basically told you early on that it wasn't going to work, and the reason why.

With the second woman you met, talking all night with someone you just met and then going long-distance with them... There's something I've grown to look at a little askance about the idea of going through the trouble of trying to hold things together seeing someone that infrequently because of how well you hit it off, like the dramatics of all that switching between deprivation and fulfillment is maybe the draw, rather than actual intimacy. And, yeah, a recent suicide attempt is a serious truth-bomb to drop on someone.

With the last woman, the real tell would have been how soon into your correspondence with this woman did she bring up that she'd be having gastric bypass surgery, and, if you're being honest with yourself, how much did that tug at you as something you'd be able to help her through? Was the recovery period going to be long? I'm just, like, speculating here, but the sorts of games I'm thinking of here can be played on both ends, and it might be that a lot of people in her situation would have held off on dating until after the surgery, or that she was looking for a distraction on some level.

Boundaries are, like, internal, too. If you're over and past the issues from that suicide attempt, I think you should avoid mentioning it to new partners until you've got enough of a track record with her to know that you're stable and okay, because that becomes a huge burden for her to bear, and you don't want her to have to contend with those sorts of dark thoughts. Right?

Same goes for your history of abuse. I think you move past it by getting to a point with it where your intimate relationships are independent of that stuff, meaning you don't talk about it for awhile.

And if someone tells you they have trouble trusting men, you can't fix that for them. You can believe them, though, and walk away.

Intensity isn't a great thing to look for right off the bat. In my experience, the healthiest bonds get formed by a little bit of positive contact, then some space during which both people can toy with the idea of not seeing the other person again, and then freely deciding that they do want to keep spending time together, then more positive contact, more space and more mulling, and more decision making that yes, I want to see this person again.

If you get a lot of intensity right off the bat, there's nowhere to go but down. And once the other person starts to get doubts, they don't have that buffer of space to retreat to to bleed them off. They instead feel constricted, because they have to deal with the anxiety over letting you down, and the anxiety over having been wrong.
posted by alphanerd at 8:51 PM on May 22, 2014 [11 favorites]

These relationships sound too short for the intensity you are describing. So likely you were projecting some fantasy thinking on them, and likely they felt uncomfortable about that.
posted by ead at 8:53 PM on May 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

Is there some reason you are not trusting these women when they say it's not you, it's them, and they just cannot be in a relationship right now?

Because, for a lot of women, a pregnancy scare solidifies that PDQ.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:59 PM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

You have loads of company, chum.

I don't know if this really counts as a blind spot but you described each of these women as being "pretty" or 'very pretty". Long ago, to my early 20s mind, pretty girls orbited at an energy plane that I could only fake my way onto, so in persuing them, I was inherently trying too hard and couldn't sustain my adopted persona for very long. I also had a huge ego, so having an intense fling with a pretty girl was a quick way of bolstering that. When things crashed, I'd feel doubly hurt because it was like having my sense of societal standing yanked out from under me. I'm not saying tht you're the total asshole I was but you might want to broaden the sorts of relationships you have with women and attempt to make friends with more of them

People get more interested in longer term pairings as they get near 30.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:49 PM on May 22, 2014 [6 favorites]

In the handful of relationships I had ~ your age, I had a tendency to see each person as The One. Because each of these were my "only shot," my omigod-last-chance at being with someone like the given smart, attractive young woman in question, I tried my damnedest to emulate the sort of mature, deeply caring relationship I'd observed my parents enjoying. Obviously, relationships were about total commitment, lots of honesty, grace, forgiveness, and so on, right? So, obviously, I had to get to that place immediately.

(Let us not forget the importance of Capital C Chemistry!)

As in your experience, almost all of these relationships ended seemingly suddenly. A couple of them were quite short-lived, too, and some were complicated by distance at some point. In hindsight, I suspect that my well-intentioned concept of a real relationship was just too much, too soon. Not that the women I dated were necessarily repulsed by the idea (i.e. I don't think I was any more "clingy" than your typical sensitive young dude). Rather, they probably wanted something like that, too. But it was a matter of picking up the gamepiece and moving it halfway around the board, without doing all the grinding dice rolls, card draws, and etc. I wanted the trust and mutual support of a stable three-plus year relationship, in week three, without putting in the time. I don't blame them for feeling like they'd been thrown in the proverbial deep end.

I'm seeing two constants in your description of these failed relationships: how hard you were working to be open and caring; and how insane the chemistry was. I would suggest slowing down your revealing of your strengths in the first case, and changing your ranking of the importance of the latter. I'd also suggest reminding yourself that lots of folks go through an early dating phase of intense, short-lived connections that end for unclear reasons. Eventually, our sense of when to be caring, patient, or honest -- the timing of these behaviors -- becomes more natural, and start to seem less intense/forced to those on the receiving end. Don't worry. You've got a long time to practice.
posted by credible hulk at 10:11 PM on May 22, 2014 [18 favorites]

I guess I feel like as you get older, it will start to seem kind of bonkers to even refer to someone you've known for a few days as your "girlfriend." Even if she wants you to. Especially if she wants you to.

It might be best to start seeing the intensity of your feelings as a byproduct of new fun people and new fun brain chemicals (which it is), rather than some sort of indicator of long-term compatibility. It's slightly less fun than that feeling of OMG SHE'S THE ONE, but then again, you've found three such "ones" in a pretty short time, so that should clue you in that it's not divine providence.

After a handful of weeks, I still feel like most people are basically strangers! Liking bands and artists and enjoying banging each other feels intimate and our culture codes it as such, but some of the people who like my favorite bands are actual fascists, okay? It's, like, a false shorthand for intimacy.

Make sense? You can still enjoy the newness of someone while recognizing just how exceedingly not anything you know about her.

But yeah, otherwise the three incidents you describe sound like three different cases. The common thread is new, super new, I-don't-think-you-quite-grok-how-new, chemistry, which is very fragile and very easily undone by things like mental illness, surgery, pregnancy scares.
posted by like_a_friend at 10:15 PM on May 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

You seem so young, and your life is a Wes Anderson movie. Or 500 Days of Summer. Have you seen 500 Days of Summer? You really need to.

I’ve dated guys who I know are too immature for me. They’re sweet little boys. They make me smile in a motherly way, and sometimes shake my head. You remind me a lot of them.

They sit there with their big eyes and they think, “Wow, girls!”

Man, life is really hard. Hard, long, and sad. You say you’ve been suicidal, so I think you must have in you somewhere some seriousness. Some hardness, some quiet desperation and some anger. Where is that in this question? Where’s the measured, calm, awareness that nothing is perfect? Where’s the hard nights after work when you’re tired? Where’s the disappointment and regret? Where in the HELL is the awareness of the flawed humanness of Girls? Stop being so impressed with everyone. Get some cynicism and jaded weariness. Everyone has bad days. After you’ve been with someone for a year or two, the magic and charm, believe it or not, tends to kind of go away and get replaced with something else.

Why is life and girls something that just happens to you, too? Why aren’t you more of an agent in your life? Who’s steering your ship? Do you believe in fate? Don’t: Fate is bullshit. Luck is bullshit. Why is your tone so much like “wow, these girls like me! I’m so lucky, it just happened!” Why aren’t you going out there and finding someone you like? Why are girls divided into those who “like you” and those who “never want to see you”? I mean, that’s the shittiest way of dividing up girls. The second shittiest is “pretty” and “less pretty.”

Stop focusing on them “loving you” too. They didn’t “love” you. Love is when you hold someone’s hand when they’re dying. Love is when you get up early and chop wood in the freezing cold for your family. Love is not “you’re so amazing, I like your hair” and making out. That’s, like, .02% of what we call love.

You need a lot of…something. Come to Jesus moments. Near death experiences. Growing up. I don’t know. Epiphanies.

You are sweet and fun and nice on the surface. So are they. But what’s underneath? Where’s the meat, the bones? I bet you anything that at least that girlfriend who broke up with you “kindly” was thinking along these lines almost exactly. “He’s so sweet. He’ll never be the grown-up I need right now. I’ll let him go.”

You just seem like a wide-eyed kid in a candy store. Stop calling them girls and start calling them women. Read a lot of really depressing Russian novels. Then go watch Youtube videos of women giving birth until you feel yourself getting older. Especially the difficult births.

Sorry if this made no sense or was mean.
posted by quincunx at 10:42 PM on May 22, 2014 [63 favorites]

But it was a matter of picking up the gamepiece and moving it halfway around the board, without doing all the grinding dice rolls, card draws, and etc. I wanted the trust and mutual support of a stable three-plus year relationship, in week three, without putting in the time.

I agree with others that the intensity and intimacy of these relationships sound a bit forced, or fast-forwarded. Credible hulk's game analogy is perfect.

The patterns you're describing (in terms of rushing into intimacy) also seem to be fairly common among survivors of childhood abuse. It may be worth looking up resources, or joining a support group, or talking to a therapist about a possible connection there.
posted by jaguar at 11:22 PM on May 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

Stop calling them girls and start calling them women.

Or better yet, call them people. Call yourself a person too, who will probably discover somewhere down the road (maybe when you stop focusing on understanding why people are rejecting you) that you have complex feelings and motivations for getting involved in relationships which are not just based on having some perfect connection and a physical relationship. You can feel those things and still not have it be enough to want to be with someone. Realize that relationships can be hard even when they work out. And use those relizations to build up your confidence to be alone and not need a relationship, to be more cautious about jumping headlong into one, and to realize that it is not all about you if something ends.
posted by thesnowyslaps at 12:52 AM on May 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't really think this is a you problem, it's sort of a joint you and them problem. You're, consciously or not, seeking out a specific type of person with whom you can instantly have an all night conversation about your innermost thoughts and deepest, darkest experiences.

The type of person who isn't instantly red flagged by that, and either brushes it off or worse takes it as some sign of a deep meaningful soulmate-like connection that means you were meant for each other tend to not be the people with whom you can really have or build a relationship that lasts more than a couple weeks or months.

And yea, i'm speaking from experience here. Both with short term friends and romantic interests.

I don't think you're doing anything here to drive these people away other than playing that ballgame. Every person like this i've met had a history of, and if they remained around in some sideline of my life continued to cycle through relationships like that. The only people who stuck around longer didn't play that game and rush in to a connection so quickly, or were manipulative.

So while i think some introspection, self actualization, and just general reflection on how you've been approaching the early stages of relationships and why... i don't really think you did anything horribly wrong here. You were dancing a very specific dance with other people who also wanted to.

And, contrary to some other responders here, i don't think you need to "grow up" or generally be more mature or anything. I just think you need to realize that this isn't a productive way to approach a relationship, or shore up the foundation at the early stages of it.

I also think that these experiences may not be as alike as you think. #1 and #2 sorta fit the mold i was describing, but i would file #3 as a wash/fluke rather than much else.

Oh but seriously you're not wrapping it with a lady who isn't on birth control who you just met? CMON MAN.

I really am confused, and lost, and I feel very confident that every future relationship will also follow this boom-bust pattern of OMG ur amazing followed by get out of my life just a few weeks after.

And i mean, just to directly address this, i've felt this way too. Many of my friends have. A lot of people who don't just jump in to an LTR in their early 20s, and/or didn't date around a lot before that have had this feeling. I mean, reflect on the stuff said in this thread... but it's to an extent, just a thing that happens. And yea, you'll break free from it.

There's also a general consensus among my fairly large/wide group of friends who are all around your age that tinder is for fucking, and weird short flings that end abruptly or flame out... not any actual serious relationships. It's CONSTANTLY joked about. I don't know if i'd be using that to try and find a lady to date for more than a few weeks if that's your goal.
posted by emptythought at 1:43 AM on May 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

I have to agree with most of the other answers here: relationships that start out with that amazing "omg yes YES this is THE ONE" intensity, and then mysteriously collapse before three months have passed, are really common when you're in your twenties. Or relationships that start out pretty good or just-okay and then collapse by three months, for that matter. It's kind of like how a lot of jobs have the 90-day evaluation period or appliances have a 90-day warranty, but new relationships have a lot more on the line than jobs or appliances and are thus more likely to not work out.

Instantly connecting like you've done in your previous relationships is a sign that you need to slow down. There will be some initial chemistry, sure, but you can't really determine long-term compatibility with a few nights of mind-blowing conversation and hot sex. If you're looking for a long-term partner, you need to be compatible in all the boring ways, too; just getting along together day in and day out is as important as how you two handle the highs and lows. You can't skip that or fast forward through it - quite the opposite. If you're not used to the lower-gear parts of a relationship, you might react by latching on even more tightly, or seeking constant reassurance that things are still awesome. Resist this urge. When you feel confident and secure in a relationship without the reinforcement of one of those intense passionate moments, that's the sign you're looking for.

You are more normal than you think, and it does take time and practice to get it right. I've been there, too; many of us have.

I'd also add that if you think you could benefit from therapy in any way, pursue it now. Not just for the sake of future relationships, but for yourself and for every part of your life. Taking care of your mental health will benefit you in every moment of your life, and the sooner you start, the sooner you can take advantage of it.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:51 AM on May 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm going to go with the crowd on this one and suggest that you're too intense, inappropriately so for dating. Meeting people and dating them isn't 'in a relationship'. It's dating. You SLOWLY learn about each other, see each other frequently, and sure, you may crush and name babies, etc, but you're bulding a foundation. Let's agree that no matter how strong your feelings are, it's not a relationship until you've been together about 6 months. Before that, it's dating.

Make no plans to move in with people until you've known them for over a year. Invest no strong feelings in people until you know their middle names. Select people who are uncomplicated, or at least aren't presenting 6 different problems the first night you meet them. Anyone who is confiding a terrible, abusive family relationship within the first few dates, is probably damaged in a significant way. Triple that if she then makes plans for the both of you to visit that same family. Did THAT not tell you something???

Don't fuck without birth control. Sure, she may not be able to use it (but I'm calling 600 kinds of bullshit on that) but you certainly can. You should be using condoms until you're both tested and in a monogamous relationship (and even then, I'd still use them.)

Move slower, don't be so quick to jump into things, and learn more about potential partners as people before deciding that they're AMAZING, CHEMISTRY, MAGIC!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:34 AM on May 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

What everyone else said, but I also notice that one of the first things you use to describe each of these women is "pretty". Physical attraction is important, of course, but are you focusing too much on "pretty"? Are you sure you have enough in common in interests, life goals, etc?
posted by whatzit at 6:41 AM on May 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I feel like people in this thread are kind of projecting all over you. Maybe you were too intense, I could see little clues to make me suspect so... but really, you sound like a pretty sweet guy and we don't have enough info here to know why your relationships crashed so abruptly. We're only getting your side of the story, and your side of the story makes it sound like things were great until they suddenly fell apart. (And of course it sounds like that... because that's what you're asking about!)

I'd say, go into your next relationship with just a bit more wariness. Move slower. Just don't be a jerk, and you'll do OK. You're probably gonna get hurt some more in your search for true love, and all you can really hope to control is how much you hurt anybody else.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 6:50 AM on May 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Lots of people have short and intense romances in their 20s. Maybe you're coming on too strong with the whole "official" thing so fast - I don't know. That would certainly have thrown me off when I was single and dating. Maybe try taking it slower? Making out and having great conversations is awesome (that was how one of my first dates with my husband went) but they do not mean you are suddenly in a relationship. That's just an awesome date.

As an aside, gastric bypass surgery doesn't prevent someone from using barrier methods of contraception (condom, female condom, sponge etc).
posted by bedhead at 7:05 AM on May 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

You need a lot of…something. Come to Jesus moments. Near death experiences. Growing up. I don’t know. Epiphanies.

the OP already mentioned a suicide attempt- surely this counts as a near-death experience?
posted by winterportage at 7:05 AM on May 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

Just a few thoughts, from a fellow stranger on the internet:
- these relationships sound intense; sounds like you idealize these ladies
- the suicide attempt... have you sorted out where that came from?
- are you looking for the "perfect woman" to "complete" you?

I was ready to chalk it up to "being 25" like the previous answer except for the suicide attempt. I hope you are ok now.

Also for the woman with the pregnancy scare: guys do not underestimate the power of a pregnancy scare to re-arrange a woman's priorities, especially if said scare comes from a new relationship! Chemistry & good vibes mean nothing next to facing the possibility of a life growing inside you, and being responsible for its physical & mental well-being.

For dating, just slow it down. Flashes in the pan burn out quickly; a slow burn is easier to stoke and keep alive if you know what I mean. Also, it's great if they share your interests but (as a passionate person with many interests myself), my most stable relationships came with people whose personalities were a good fit to mine, and then we built on (a few) common interests, rather than OMG you love the thing that I love, lets date!! which feels deep and important but isn't necessarily enough to sustain.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:07 AM on May 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

Final thought - it does sound like you're looking for someone who seems 'perfect' themselves or 'perfect for you' and it might be helpful to see & accept your own flaws, and then not look for 'perfect' ladies to date, but generally good people with generally good foundations.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:12 AM on May 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm surprised that you refer to a 2 week fling as a "relationship."
Also, the second relationship was long distance and you saw each other once every 2-3 weeks. Given that you've said your longest relationship was 10 weeks, that means you maybe saw this woman 3 times maximum?

I have a very good male friend who is now in his mid-30s and you remind me very much of him.
Every girl he meets is "the One" and he comes on soooo strong that within about a week your can physically see the girls body language towards him change. Even if he has only seen a girl for a couple of dates, he refers to them immediately as his "girlfriend".

I once played a very awkward game of golf with him and his new "girlfriend" and he was ALL.OVER.HER for the entire round. I mean literally, after every single shot he would walk over to her, kiss and cuddle her, stroke her hair, give her a bear hug etc.
At one point I seriously remember her making eye contact with me while he was hugging the life out of her and she was seriously giving me a silent "help me" expression.

Your post reminds me of my friend so much, just in the way you talk about women. Basically you've "dated" three women and the "relationships" haven't worked out. Personally, I would cross the first two "girlfriends" off your list because in my world, they don't count.... they were flings more than anything.

I think you need to chill out a bit, start seeing women as equals and SLOW DOWN. Women like the thrill of the chase too - no bigger turn off than a clingy, needy man who won't give a woman her space and goes headlong into relationship territory before the 2nd date.
That's it, those are my thoughts. Think about them, learn from them.
posted by JenThePro at 7:21 AM on May 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

Echoing everyone who pointed out that you described these women as "pretty," it also stood out to me that you refer to them as "young women" and "ladies."

As a rule, it creeps me out when men refer to women in that detached, formal way (and vice-versa, fwiw). When you describe someone you've dated, there is already an assumption that you were attracted to them. You didn't need to go out of your way to specify that they were "pretty" or a "young woman."

So part of the problem might be that these people you've dated got the sense that they were, to paraphrase the wonderful book How to Be an Adult in Relationships, the latest person to come along to fill the slot in your life marked "woman." When a man comes on intensely to me without taking the time to get to know me, all kinds of orange flags go up. It takes next to nothing, at that point, to convince me that I'm better off walking away.
posted by magdalemon at 8:37 AM on May 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

When you used the word "pretty" once, it was bad enough. To use it the second time.... shows some problematic approaches to women, to say the least. There is nothing of any possible value communicated by using the word 'pretty,' let alone as the first adjective you use to describe these people. It feels 100% tone-deaf and off-putting. Maybe this doesn't reflect how you actually think, but I'm going to guess that it does to some degree, or why use this absurd word three times in total? Maybe these women don't feel like you are seeing them as whole creatures, or that your discernment is not nuanced enough for them to want to truly partner with you. This all sounds harsh, but I just mean you probably need to deeply shake up and challenge your conceptions of women and partnership, and this is the very first angle which I would shake up/analyze/question. It is so central to life, let alone relationships. Good luck.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 8:54 AM on May 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm not saying this has any relevance to your situation, but whenever anyone says that someone broke up with them with no warning, I think of a coworker I once had.

I'd occasionally go to lunch with her, and every single time she'd spend the entire meal talking, at length, about her concerns, her life, her opinions, her plans, etc. I'd maybe get one or two chances to speak for a very short time, and then she'd take off again like a rocket, going on about herself.

Then, one day, she told me that her husband had just served her with divorce papers completely out of nowhere, that she had no warning and no idea that he was unhappy. I nodded and sympathized with her, and thought to myself that if she handled her relationships like she handled our lunches, it was no wonder that she didn't notice any of the warning signs, since she hadn't quieted down long enough to listen to him.
posted by telophase at 9:45 AM on May 23, 2014 [11 favorites]

A pile-on over the word pretty? For real?

OP, you have every right to call these women "pretty." These relationships didn't fail because you viewed them all as "pretty," among your various other complimentary descriptors of their traits. Though we live in a patriarchal society, and women are valued for their looks in some extremely problematic ways, you are not automatically some sort of sexist meanie for using the term, as it is not per se offensive. Sheesh.

Folks are really grasping at straws here if they think THAT is your major malfunction, but I suppose that's the feedback one gets when one frames the question in "what is wrong with me?" terms. Again, you sound just like an average 25-year-old, and you have already had way more success in romantic relationships than a great many people have had at your age. It's not all bad.
posted by hush at 10:09 AM on May 23, 2014 [6 favorites]

>I've had three girlfriends in my life, and all three have gone from loving me to never wanting to see me again in just a matter of weeks.

Your first "girlfriend" only lasted a matter of weeks to start with. I would agree with everyone else who's hesitating to call these relationships, rather than dating. And dating for a while and then breaking up when the new relationship energy wears off and you realize it won't work? Normal. Not keeping in contact with the dude you dated for a few weeks? Also normal.

Going facebook-official after a single intense connection is less normal, and I think the push to have official Relationships right away, rather than taking enough time for both you and the women you're seeing to feel each other out before committing to each other, is contributing to the feeling that your love life is swinging between these dramatic extremes of love and rejection.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 10:11 AM on May 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

Forcing myself to move slowly and evaluate, evaluate, evaluate - both my partner, our relationship, and my life - and really think about getting close to people was the greatest lesson of my late 20's and early 30's.

I am a lot more guarded and reserved in relationships than I was in my 20's. I jumped headlong into a relationship with an abusive man when I was 26 and it was the biggest mistake of my life. I learned that there is absolutely nothing to lose by moving slowly, particularly in romantic relationships.

Things that I do to move slowly include:
- not scheduling dates frequently, particularly in the first few months of dating
- not texting every day and not replying right away to texts (same for emails)
- not doing the whole friend/parent introduction/integration for a long time (6 months is what I prefer)
- paying attention to my feelings when I am with the person and directly after I see them
- picking up a new hobby and making sure to spend time on it every week
- spending time with my friends at least weekly without the person I am dating

It is sometimes hard to do these things but I find that they greatly improve my chances for having a supportive, healthy, and fun relationship. I realize that moving as slowly as I move isn't for everyone, but it is important to me and I am willing to not move forward with people that aren't comfortable with these boundaries. Choosing a relationship partner is an important task and going slowly helps me to quell my romantic-limerance-excitement and to build a good, solid relationship.

I wish you the best of luck. :)
posted by sockermom at 10:43 AM on May 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

You seem to be looking for dynamite and explosions instead of sparks. Try meeting someone that is dried wood and you are the newspapaer and together with your sparks you gradually make a burning fire of love. Or something, just slow down. 2 weeks is not really a releationship (just dating), long distance is hard and if you can, i'd skip on it, and a pregnancy scare is pretty much earth shatering for a woman.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:46 AM on May 23, 2014

I also meant to say that one of the reasons I move slowly is because it allows me to evaluate this person and our relationship and how well they fit into my life, rather than the other way around.
posted by sockermom at 11:11 AM on May 23, 2014

I think you need to date more women. Three is such a small sample size. Beyond that, well , one has trust issues, one has long distance, and one had a pregnancy scare. In particular with the first two, it seems like you're dating women who are not fully available; and as a result the dating doesn't last to turn into a relationship.

Also, i get the sense that you view yourself as "damaged" in some way, and you are drawn to women who also are "damaged." That won't work. Try looking for women who are more stable.
posted by J. Wilson at 7:30 AM on May 24, 2014

Hey OP, visiting family is an emotional minefield let alone after a week or two of dating. Bringing someone at home means revealing a part of you that is often out of sight and it's no wonder that someone with trust issues would go "ABORT, ABORT". After two weeks you are barely more than strangers.

Having a LDR after meeting once means that you don't get enough time together to find out if you actually like each other. By the time you meet and have sex and do [activity], you already have to go back. Attraction only goes so far, you know, and sometimes people choose to break up so they can find someone they see more often.

As for the third one, a surgery and a pregnancy scare are bad enough on their own, let alone one on top of the other. Especially if it's a younger woman or someone who doesn't want to have children.

It sounds like you may be coming on too strong - try dating more women so you don't invest too much hope (and pressure) on a single person
posted by ersatz at 8:12 AM on May 24, 2014

Response by poster: Hey all - thank you for the range of the responses. A lot of good material in here to digest. Thank you particularly to treehorn+bunny, I do believe you've nailed it, and to the many who have said "you're too intense, and far too quickly," I think you've defined the major problem I have to solve. Also, to see so many say "you're young, this happens," that was quite consoling as well.

To those asking why the third lady and I did not use condoms - we did, every time. Unfortunately, sometimes condoms break :(

I was very surprised and hurt by quincunx's comments, and the sheer number of favorites that received. My life has been mostly negative events, usually negative events that had no point or redeeming value, just negative. These women were kind of the only bright spots. I don't know what counts as 'negative' to you, I was homeless at one point, have had friends die, had friends convicted and imprisoned, I have had a restraining order against my own father, have gone five days in a row without food...none of these experiences made me wiser in any way. Like most suffering, they were pointless (unless the moral was don't get behind the wheel of a car sober, or be born to a different dad next time...I don't know). You are right that I was genuinely surprised every time these women showed interest in me: I didn't get it when they were bullish about me, and when they turned bearish, I didn't get that either. I don't see how more suffering will make me more conscious of women's "humanness" or "flaws," or how that will somehow lay a foundation for a relationship that goes beyond the "magic and charm" phase.

Either way, thank you all - this has been a lot to consider, in the best way.
posted by sidi hamet at 1:57 PM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I owe you an apology then- my comment really wasn't meant to be so hurtful (perhaps too flippant) and I did not mean to imply that you haven't suffered enough- maybe more just that you seem to have an idealized and shallow view of relationships and perhaps by extension women. (IE "manic pixie dream girl" type stuff). It completely makes sense that you would given that you see these women as the only bright spot in your life. My point, I guess is that relationships, like anything else, are a lot of work in and of themselves- love is not always a bright happy thing that saves you. Love can mean self-sacrifice, and it can be painful and take compromise. Especially in long-term relationships. Instead of trying to find happiness via romantic relationships as the "one bright spot" in your life, you might be better served by developing as much of a happy, stable life full of things you enjoy on your own as you can, with good friends.
posted by quincunx at 2:58 PM on May 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Hey one other random thought/clarification: while it is good to learn from your experiences, I have found that trying to figure out why members of the opposite sex lose interest is an exercise that is likely to drive you crazy more than anything else. Certainly, it is good to think about the way you act in relationships if they actively disintegrate for some common reason that you can actually trace back to your behavior or if someone tells you that something you did specifically drove them away. However, my experience has been that when I have tried to guess why someone might not have liked me, I more often than not just end up projecting my own insecurities onto their reasoning.

This is why I think it is more useful to look at women as "people" than as an group that you have to act a certain way to impress, or that rejects you for one common reason. "People" encounter different relationships and situations and act differently to them. "Women" or "girls" are predefined by your perceptions about how they see the world or what they might want. If you idealize relationships or you idealize women, you kind of are adhering to this same sort of predefined notion of what something is supposed to be like or the function it is supposed to serve. I think maybe that is what quincrux was trying to get at in their comment and maybe what resonated with people - not that you don't have an appreciation for women's humanness or flaws, just that you seem to be approaching all of this with a predefined idea about things. It just makes more sense I think to try to approach things with less assumptions overall about what this is supposed to be like. And think about this: what if you actually did get past the honeymoon phase with these women, once you had sort of exhausted all the deep, meaningful conversations and exciting new physical relationship stage. Is it not possible that you would begin to have doubts about these relationships yourself? I think that is the hazard of jumping into things too quickly and getting super invested right off the bat. In all of the cases that you mentioned, the women you were dating got to this point before you did, so you didn't have a chance to figure out your own true feelings about the relationship and all you are left with is a feeling of bewilderment and rejection. But if you don't idealize things and take it slowly, you will be able to see more easily the way that you really feel about the person (your feelings as a "person" like the "person" you are dating) and maybe find a good, solid relationship.

I say this as a person who has had little luck with relationships myself, so take it with a grain of salt. This is just what I have observed from the evolution of my own thinking, which I think started in a somewhat similar place as yours.

In conclusion, you seem like a sensitive, well-intentioned and really nice person from what you wrote. I would be willing to bet that this is part of the reason that the women you have dated were so taken by you, and I imagine that the nice things they said about you when breaking up were sincere. Just keep meeting people and have an open mind about where things will go and you will find someone eventually.
posted by thesnowyslaps at 7:03 AM on May 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

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