Is history repeating itself?
June 6, 2014 10:48 AM   Subscribe

Boyfriend has a history of commitment issues. Am I letting the past affect my future?

I was with my current boyfriend previously for 3 years. Towards the end of the first go around he began asking me questions that made me feel like it was moving to the next level (ie. what furniture I would want to keep when we lived together?) We got in our maybe second real fight about my frustration on commuting to his place every weekend. That week we took time to ourselves, I knew he was pulling away but I thought it was because we both needed a time out. The following week he came to my house and broke up with me. I was very hurt and felt I had been lied too. We spent 2 years apart, no communication. Then a little over a year ago, he texted me out of the blue on suggestion from his then therapist. We met and began seeing each other again around March 2013. Christmas of last year he asked me what kind of a ring I wanted. In February he brought the subject up again, this time asking my ring size. Several other conversations occurred with him asking more detailed questions. We went to Hong Kong in April and he made a point to tell me that he was not going to ask me to marry him there, he wanted me to be able to celebrate with our family and friends. On May 22 I went out with a friend drinking and stupidly went to his house to ineffectively communicate how much I was ready to get married. In the conversation he told me he has purchased the ring. We've been bickering since then over petty things. A couple of days ago I tried to communicate with him about our bickering and the cause of it. Asking him to communicate with me about his feelings and thoughts but received no response, later that night he shut his phone off. I sent him an email saying "I've been doing a lot of thinking. I've been having feelings and fears similar to what we went though at the end of our last relationship. I think these fears are the cause of most of the arguments and bickering that have been going on. It may be a defense mechanism to help protect myself from hurt. I know there are insecurities on my part and I don't want to contribute in any way to the end of our relationship. I love you and want to spend the rest of my life with you. I look forward to our future and know we can work though anything." We haven't spoken in a couple days except for an email/text from him saying good morning and no response to the email. I've basically made plans for every day this weekend to keep myself busy. I know time will tell but people on ask.metafilter give such great advice I thought I would throw it out there.
posted by askme to Human Relations (45 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Don't marry him.
posted by Aubergine at 10:58 AM on June 6, 2014 [39 favorites]

In my opinion, asking your opinion about engagement rings and then still not actually proposing six months later is him showing definitely commitment issues. Especially with your past history. In your shoes, even if he proposed now, I would be seriously worried he would break off the engagement - or more likely - stand me up at the altar. Those feelings would inform how much emotional investment I would have in the relationship.
posted by saucysault at 10:59 AM on June 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Aubergine has it. Do not marry this person. Don't you want to marry someone whose affections and commitment you don't question? Even if he proposes today, wouldn't you feel like it was only because you begged him to? That doesn't seem like a good foundation for a marriage to me.

I'd only really want to marry someone whose attitude was "Hells yeah I want to marry you! Let's do this thing!"
posted by futureisunwritten at 11:03 AM on June 6, 2014 [10 favorites]

nthing don't marry him. It doesn't sound like you're letting the past influence your view now - there are plenty of current red flags as it is.
posted by brilliantine at 11:04 AM on June 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

He has so many excuses. He doesn't want to get married. That's cool. You want to get married. That's cool, too.

What's not cool is him not communicating. This is a preview for your marriage. He's drawing this stuff out. It's not fair to you.

I don't think you're wrong to feel what you're feeling. You're seeing the same behaviors as before and it scares you. Of course it does. You've been on this ride before.

Get off and don't get back on.
posted by inturnaround at 11:07 AM on June 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

Is he still in therapy?
posted by scarykarrey at 11:10 AM on June 6, 2014

Response by poster: No, he's no longer in therapy
posted by askme at 11:13 AM on June 6, 2014

All in all I think there's too much semaphore happening here and not enough real talk about what is really up.

Rather than all this dramatic dancing around, just ask him what's up. Be prepared to hear "This isn't working."

The fact that you can't easily see him in order to have a serious conversation, and it's possible for him to just ghost from your life if he feels like it, is the really serious red flag here. That's just not what a 2-5 year old on the verge of marriage relationship looks like.

If you guys don't live together, I think all this talk of ring sizes is a fantasy on both ends. Especially given your history. Anyone can buy anyone a piece of jewelry.
posted by Sara C. at 11:22 AM on June 6, 2014 [11 favorites]

You don't say anything positive about him or the relationship. No "I love him very much" or "We have so much fun together" or "He makes me feel valued/loved/anything.". No where in this question do I get a sense that you're happy in your relationship. Are you?

I really don't think you're being irrational or letting the past colour how you're viewing what is going on now. I think he doesn't want to get married and I think he wants out. The stuff that is going on here isn't the kind of thing that should be happening in a relationship that is on the verge of marriage. You deserve better than a partner who shuts down, avoids you, and basically ignores you for days on end.

Relationships don't have to be this hard or stressful. You can and WILL find someone better.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:28 AM on June 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I think you know that as much as he likes you, or even loves you, he doesn't want to marry you. I'm so sorry that you went back to him and spent the last two years expecting things to be different.

When you discuss marriage, it's a serious but joyful thing. Each partner is excited, and you talk specifically about it, in tangible and intangible language. There's no sturm und drang, there aren't any stupid arguments. You've made no secret about how much you want to marry this guy, so what exactly is he waiting for?

You seem to want to say that he gets to drag this out as long as he likes, and your frustration is what the problem is. Not hardly. You have a right to be frustrated, he's been telling you the cat's on the roof for weeks now!

But that's not really the point. Even if there's a diamond ring somewhere in his apartment, SOMETHING is keeping him from pulling the trigger on this, and worse, he won't talk to you about it.

Frankly, if it were me, I'd say, "Arnold, you've been dicking around with this ring/proposal thing for weeks. Frankly, I don't know if you're jerking me around, or planning to rent out AT&T park ala Kanye, either way, enough already. You have two choices:

1. The next words out of your mouth had better be: Will You Marry Me


2. We're done, in which case we'll need to go no contact because going through this twice, for the same outcome, is too taxing on a woman.

So what's it going to be?"

It's okay to stand up for yourself and ask for what YOU want. Why is this relationship all on HIS terms?

Even if he did propose, you're nowhere near ready to be married. So if magically it turns out that I'm wrong (and there's not much chance of it,) and he does ask you to marry him, INSIST on premarital counseling. Because you need help communicting.

Don't call him, don't text him and don't email him, if he responds back, unless it's to say, "I won't discuss anything with you over text/on the phone/in email, we need to meet fact-to-face, when can we do that?"

Hugs, this is going to be hard. But remember you enjoyed your time with him, so don't view this as a waste.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:38 AM on June 6, 2014 [28 favorites]

From your description, everything is fine (for him) as long as he controls the flow of information.

You want to talk about something?

He shuts his phone off.

You send an emotional email?

He ignores it.

The engagement ring conversation revolves around your ring size and when he's going to ask you; but it doesn't seem like you two have actually had a serious conversation about marriage. So it's non-realistic, fantastic thinking on his part.

I can tell you from really sh*tty personal experience, this type of communication doesn't change. I was engaged to someone who was 100% onboard with "I want to get you the most gorgeous ring!" and "I'm moving in with you!" whenever it suited him.

When I wanted to talk about us, or what getting married and living together would even look like, he wouldn't respond to me.

I made excuses for a LONG time...he was busy with work and golf and whatever, but once he gave me the ring and moved in, it became crystal clear that my guy had to control all conversations, even to the point where when we lived together he would actually walk out of rooms if he didn't want to talk about something.

I can't imagine your guy is any different. But maybe he is.

I would break up with him.
posted by kinetic at 11:44 AM on June 6, 2014 [25 favorites]

It doesn't sound like commitment issues as much as he's jerking you around.

Acting like he's definitely going to propose, and then giving you the silent treatment is shitty. It doesn't sound like he values your feelings in this situation AT ALL.

You should be with someone who values your feelings and wants to communicate with you openly. You shouldn't be with someone that holds a ring over your head like a bargaining chip.

posted by inertia at 11:49 AM on June 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Like PuppetMcSockerson I too noticed the lack of 'I enjoy X, Y and Z about him so much, etc.'

Love is in many ways labour and sometimes making a relationship run smoothly can be a bit of a pain but still both parties just need to put that work in, and it's worth it. But it's not clear what you might be getting out of continuing to try to work on this. He doesn't sound like he's interested in the labour required to make love work on a more meaningful level.
posted by kmennie at 11:59 AM on June 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Seriously, if your potential fiancee is able and willing to hide from you when you want to talk about getting married after he's bought the ring, I can't see anything good coming up for you two as a couple.
posted by xingcat at 11:59 AM on June 6, 2014 [13 favorites]

Best answer: I think people are being kinda harsh on the guy. He sounds like a slow mover, but a mover.

You're thinking "we dated for 3 years already" but maybe he's thinking of this like a new relationship.

March - dating again
Christmas - hey what kind of ring?
February - hey what size?
April - fyi I'm not proposing yet just relax on your vacation
May - bought the ring
June ... ?

Some guys I know move like turtles towards this kind of thing, but they do move. Or they're waiting for 'just the right romantic moment' or whatever.

What I am more worried about here is your communication style with each other. I would think after all this time you two would communicate better as a couple, be more of a team etc. That is where I would ask whether the Team is ready to get married, not just him or you. Did you reply to his text? Did he get the email? Are you picking fights? There's lots of info here that could be missing. You showed up drunk to do the "I want to get maaaaaried" story... maybe he's sitting on his feelings making sure he feels right about this. Who knows. Talk talk talk talk talk!
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:01 PM on June 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Stonewalling is a form of emotional abuse. Your boyfriend isn't thinking about your feelings and he doesn't wish to share his with you. Don't marry him.
posted by dawkins_7 at 12:08 PM on June 6, 2014 [9 favorites]

I don't know, I'm having a hard time imagining a scenario where I'm really psyched to marry someone, and I have the ring and the whole proposal concept is in the air, and then my intended drunkenly tells they're SO EXCITED TO GET MARRIED, so my reaction is negative.
posted by Sara C. at 12:09 PM on June 6, 2014 [22 favorites]

Do you want to get married, or do you want to get married to him?

If you judge him solely by his actions, does he measure up to someone you could envision yourself being married to?

You should sit down, have a Come To Jesus with yourself, come up with answers to these two questions, and I think that you will come up with your answer.

If he's going slow, maybe you should go even slower.
posted by John Kennedy Toole Box at 12:12 PM on June 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

After 2 years, he didn't call you and say he made a huge mistake. He texted you to ask for a therapist recommendation. It sounds like being with you is easy for him and when it becomes easier for him to break up with you, he will break up with you again.

I know it's easy for an internet stranger to say these things. I could see a situation where I might end up in your place. The logical part of me has a rule never to get back together with someone who has broken up with me. I think it's a good rule to live by since if he broke up with you once, it's easy to imagine him doing the same thing again unless his life has drastically changed.
posted by parakeetdog at 12:16 PM on June 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

I look forward to our future and know we can work though anything.

I want to say this gently but directly: the part that I've highlighted is almost certainly wishful thinking. The very fact that your boyfriend has been behaving like this for so long, in fact, demonstrates that the two of you cannot work through anything. A relationship that is on track for a healthy, happy, mutually satisfying marriage (and please note: marriage is different from getting married) doesn't look like this.

He is not communicating with you and not willing to make a commitment to you because those things reflect who he actually is and what he actually wants (or doesn't want). That doesn't make him a bad person, and it doesn't mean that you don't love him. But it does mean that you need to let go of this idea that if you love him strongly enough ("we can work through anything"), you can make him become the person you want who will give you what you're hoping for.

Couples who can, in fact, work through anything are couples who are already committed, who already communicate with one another, and who already have a deep and mutual sense of empathy and respect. The relationship you are describing as it presently exists is not that kind of relationship.
posted by scody at 12:22 PM on June 6, 2014 [31 favorites]

These are not commitment issues, which is a phrase people use to excuse behavior. Oh, everything will be fine one day, he just has commitment issues and I just have to fix them by doing all the work and lots of wishful thinking.

What he has is sex and attention when he wants it, at the low low price of making up whatever story you want to hear so that you will keep providing it, and then complete dismissal when he has something or someone better to do, knowing that you won't hold him responsible for his behavior because you want the approval and okayness that is represented, in your mind, by a ring.

Your "fears" aren't causing relationship problems. The relationship is crap, that's why you're not enjoying it. The reason you fight so much is that you don't get along. One of the reasons you don't get along is that he's awful.

People show you who they are, and you must respect that and not project some other person onto them instead. He is showing you how much he doesn't like you or respect you or care about your feelings. And your response is simply that you will do anything to keep the relationship from ending. You are more concerned with keeping the relationship from ending than with being treated with love and care and respect.

Go no-contact and please get help.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:29 PM on June 6, 2014 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: Ok, let first say here that I was trying to give the facts, an appropriate timeline but have let out some important info. I do love him very much and want to marry him, he makes me happy. If he didn't I wouldn't of sent that email. We have had many conversations about our future and marriage that were very happy and went well.

We do have a good relationship and communicate very well aside from this last week. Especially this time around. There is a definite difference in him and his communication since therapy. He's much more open about his feelings, until this recent event. When I ask my family their opinion (I tell them everything) they tell me to relax. He is a slow mover and I know that. It's why I asked this question, I feel part of it is my own insecurities.

Let me give some more information. After the "drunk" conversation, where he told me he bought the ring and I should relax. He also acknowledged the fact that it was at this period in the last relationship where he cut and ran. He understood my feelings and tried to reassure me. We spoke about how he feels I do not trust or have faith that he will ask me to marry him. Just in case anyone asks, I do trust him. On Sunday he asked my family over for a crawfish boil and since then we have been bickering. During our conversation Wednesday, where I tried to talk about the bickering I suggested maybe this weekend we need a break, time to ourselves. It was after that when he shut his phone off. The recent lack of communication has me worried. I understand your opinions and can see how people want to say DTMFA but I'm looking for more constructive responses.

And yes on the premarital counseling, we have talked about it and agree.
posted by askme at 12:56 PM on June 6, 2014

If you trust him and want to marry him, and you don't like the answers you're getting here, then you should wait until he's ready to talk to you and go ahead and marry him. You know your own circumstances, but I think what's happening now is that you're hearing what you don't want to hear and are trying to convince us to tell you that things are okay.
posted by xingcat at 1:01 PM on June 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

Best answer: People here on AskMefi can be harsh and quick to suggest break up, but ultimately we only know the skeleton of the story that you've shared with us and you are the one who can see the bigger picture.

It may not be a break up situation, but I think it's reasonable to say it's not a let's-get-married situation either. Someone in a previous thread said something along the lines of "marriage shouldn't be just a 'yes', it should be a 'HELL YES.'" This is soooo true. Why don't you guys just work on the relationship as it is and stop with the marriage talk for a while? It puts additional and unnecessary pressure on both parties. Make other milestones, like take a trip together, or move in together, and take the time to succeed those steps before getting to marriage. There are lots of couples who spent their whole lives together and never got married at all.

If you are really going to be with each other for the rest of your life, then you have so many years ahead of you, most of which could be married. No need to rush into it.
posted by monologish at 1:12 PM on June 6, 2014 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you monologish. I agree with everything you said
posted by askme at 1:14 PM on June 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Is history repeating itself? Magic 8-ball is uncertain.
Are you letting your past affect your future? Certainly, and you well should. There's no other way.

What I missed from your post is how the two of you addressed what happened before, and how and whether you have taken steps to do things differently. Have you each acknowledged your parts -- especially him! -- in what happened before? Not just that it happened and that in an ideal world it wouldn't have; but that he is not a perfect person, he has problems with forward motion, and allows those problems to hurt you deeply?

Because without that, of course you're wondering whether history will repeat itself, as it has a tendency to do. Of course you're wondering whether you can try to pretend your past is a clean slate, which it will never be. And why is this burden, of cleaning the slate, all on you? What is *he* doing to keep the past from affecting the future? What would he say in response to that question? Why do you need to wait for him to ask, why can you not make this decision together as partners?

(sorry for all the questions, it's how I think and work).
posted by Dashy at 1:15 PM on June 6, 2014

Why don't you ask him to marry you?
posted by sid at 1:18 PM on June 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think there are certain lines in a relationship, where if they are crossed even once, it's enough to justify a breakup. Different people have different lines, but for me and I think for a lot of other people, stonewalling is one of those things that only has to happen once before I seriously start to re-evaluate the relationship.

So I don't think you got some 'DTMFA' responses because you didn't include enough information about the parts of your relationship that are good for the fact that you communicate well sometimes, but because of this:
We've been bickering since then over petty things. A couple of days ago I tried to communicate with him about our bickering and the cause of it. Asking him to communicate with me about his feelings and thoughts but received no response, later that night he shut his phone off. I sent him an email saying "I've been doing a lot of thinking. I've been having feelings and fears similar to what we went though at the end of our last relationship." We haven't spoken in a couple days except for an email/text from him saying good morning and no response to the email.
posted by Asparagus at 1:28 PM on June 6, 2014 [9 favorites]

Seconding Asparagus. I didn't suggest moving on because you didn't include enough information; I suggested it because this guy thinks it's okay to ignore you when it suits him. That's a feature; not a bug.

and this: After the "drunk" conversation, where he told me he bought the ring and I should relax.

So instead of asking you to marry him, he told you that what you were feeling was wrong and how you should feel...that you should relax and wait for the proposal to unfold at a pace more fitting in with his needs.

I understand your opinions and can see how people want to say DTMFA but I'm looking for more constructive responses.

This is often a danger on AskMe. You really need to be open to the responses you get. When you say DTMFA isn't constructive, then it seems like you're asking for people to tell you what you want to hear and you're choosing to ignore advice. You told all of this to your family and they've told you to relax, but you're asking the same thing here.

If you're asking the same question over and over and you're automatically rejecting DTMFA advice, then something clearly isn't sitting right with you.

I hope you can figure this out.
posted by kinetic at 1:46 PM on June 6, 2014 [15 favorites]

Best answer: The hardest thing, in situations like this, is to feel all the feelings, and still intellectually have to assess whether the signals you're receiving - and they could be subliminal, hence your unease and your posting your question- are worth listening into, the context of the long term relationship.

That's the past that should be considered. That's the experience that you do need to assess.

You may not need to break up with him. But definitely heed the sense that you might need to hit pause on the snowball to marriage.

I might need to put up an Ask on how better to assess what are the subtler lines in a relationship, like Asparagus mentions above, the ones that aren't as obvious as a punch in the teeth. Till now, the behaviour I have just learnt has a name, stonewalling, was one I took for granted in this cultural milieu I'm in.
posted by infini at 1:47 PM on June 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Here's the thing. It's ok that you are feeling anxious and need reassurance. The right partner for you will know (or would have learned by now) how to comfort you when you need it. Whether what you need to hear is, "Sweetheart, don't be upset, of course I'm going to ask you! I told you I bought the ring! I've got a plan, don't worry." OR "Look, I was gonna do this with a big romantic plan but clearly it's stressing you out so do you want to just be engaged right now? Will you marry me? I want to marry you! Here's the ring! I have it right here in my sock drawer! Stop crying!"

But he's not saying either of those things, or ANYTHING AT ALL! He turned off his phone! HE DIDN'T ANSWER YOUR EMAIL! WHAT?! So not cool. You don't want a partner who doesn't know how to comfort you when you are upset, who turns away from your upset-ness and gives you the cold shoulder and doesn't respond to you.

Even if what he's thinking is, "This anxiousness is unattractive. I don't know if I can be married to someone who is so worried and is rushing things." He needs to USE HIS WORDS AND SAY THAT TO YOU LIKE A GODDAMN GROWNUP.

Don't be upset with him for not having proposed yet. Tell him you're upset with him because he isn't talking to you and telling you what he's thinking.

(Or is he actually talking to you and you're just not hearing it? Is this actually about YOU being anxious and needing to relax and trust him? Only you know which. Probably some of both.)
posted by amaire at 1:55 PM on June 6, 2014 [24 favorites]

Asparagus and kinetic have your back.

Has no one in real life noticed it's all a one-way street with this guy? Or did you misrepresent something to us somehow?

I think maybe his style of dealing with you lacks a certain mature version of consideration and respect that a Good Romantic Relationship (TM) requires to be successful long term.

That's my takeaway, fwiw.
posted by jbenben at 2:01 PM on June 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

I wrote a whole bunch of text, and then amaire said it much better.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 2:03 PM on June 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you everyone, that's what I needed
posted by askme at 2:13 PM on June 6, 2014

Once upon a time, I was with a man who I thought was so amazing. He had some emotional issues, sure, but we talked about them a lot, and I definitely thought that progress was being made. Also, I thought to myself, I have issues, too, and I'm honestly working on them. Surely he is demonstrating that he is honestly willing to work on his as well.

He was a stonewaller. Whenever things were too much for him to handle, he would stop calling for a day, or two, or three. At first, this freaked me out, especially because I wasn't texting and texting and calling and calling and WE MUST TALK ABOUT THIS, which would push anyone away; no, he would just go no-contact, all of a sudden, and often for reasons having nothing to do with me. I became so accustomed to this - oh, he just needs time to process whatever thing he is dealing with - that it got to where when he stonewalled, I would recognize it immediately and just "give him his space."

He asked me to move in with him. I sold most of my furniture in preparation to do so. Then, I went away for two months for work, and he treated me like our relationship was on pause during that time. A week would go by without a call. I talked to him about it, told him I felt like I didn't exist in his mind. He told me in so many words that I was right - he was just waiting for me to come back, and we could catch up then.

I broke up with him. He wept. When I came home he begged me to take him back. He said he wanted to marry me. I refused.

A few months later, because I was lonely and stupid, I was the one who wanted him back. He refused at first. I begged him. We got back together, and again planned to move in together.

One day, I woke up beside him in our shared apartment. I took a shower and got ready for work. He kissed me goodbye. Then, he never spoke to me again.

I learned a lot from this experience, so it's hard for me to say that any one lesson was the most important one, but a huge takeaway for me was that people who stonewall are emotionally abusive and often terribly damaged. Do not make the mistake I did. Do not marry this person. In fact, leave him now, and never, ever look back.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 2:21 PM on June 6, 2014 [14 favorites]

I'm gonna play devil's advocate on this one and say his current silence is, well, at least partly on you.

I suggested maybe this weekend we need a break, time to ourselves. It was after that when he shut his phone off.

In other words he did exactly what you told him to do. I think the whole dude-controls-the-proposal thing is such toxic bullshit that I can't exactly defend his actions on that count, but telling someone to "take a break" and then being mad that they take a break is some mind-gaming. Now, okay, he plays plenty of em too, but that doesn't mean you have to respond in kind.

But all the same, if I'd been bickering with my SO for a week or more and then he said "let's take a break," I'd actually feel dumped. I would be suuuuuuuuper angry, and you better believe I would be taking that time to cool off and not answering texts.

The upshot is the same though: you guys should definitely absolutely not at all even a little bit think about getting married any time soon.
posted by like_a_friend at 2:55 PM on June 6, 2014 [6 favorites]

I'd reiterate, again, that if you guys are in a place in your relationship where it's possible for him to just ghost out of your life and be completely incommunicado -- for you to want to talk to him but be unable to do so -- that doesn't bode well for the idea that you guys will be married within a year or so. (Which is usually what engagement entails.)

Dramatic avowals of Needing A Break and the silent treatment and then not being able to physically track the other person down to talk is the kind of thing you can expect when you have a really bad fight with someone you've been seeing for a few months. It's not how a committed couple who are about to be married communicates.
posted by Sara C. at 4:42 PM on June 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

Best answer: During our conversation Wednesday, where I tried to talk about the bickering I suggested maybe this weekend we need a break, time to ourselves. It was after that when he shut his phone off. The recent lack of communication has me worried.

Tone, context, definition...crucial.

"Need a break, time to ourselves" could mean no contact or let's not hang, but let's do stay in touch. It could mean we're bickering and I need a time out to figure out what's bugging me or we're bickering and we should step back before we make it worse. And on and on.

If he thinks you mean no contact, your overtures are going to be confusing and a bit of a no-win for him. If you mean stay in touch, then his response is going to feel like shutting down. If he needs no-contact type space and assumes you understand, your email/calls/texts are going to feel like a profound violation worthy of a cool repose. If you need to feel connected and reassured even though you're not spending time together and you assume he understands this, his response is going to feel cruel and look like stonewalling.

And on and on and on.

Generally speaking, it sounds like you were wigged out by the bickering, it triggered old feelings, you needed to feel reassured and connected, but suggested...distance. He could still be an emotionally abusive, stonewalling baby-man or you could be Borderline (another favorite AskeMe fall-back). In this instance you being wigged out and him turning his phone off aren't enough rope to hang either of you.
posted by space_cookie at 8:08 PM on June 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: So many good replies above, but I just want to reply to a small facet of your update:

Let me give some more information. After the "drunk" conversation, where he told me he bought the ring and I should relax. He also acknowledged the fact that it was at this period in the last relationship where he cut and ran. He understood my feelings and tried to reassure me. We spoke about how he feels I do not trust or have faith that he will ask me to marry him. Just in case anyone asks, I do trust him.

Why do you trust him about the commitment issue? Why should you trust him about the commitment issue? He, by your account, betrayed your trust about his commitment to you the first time you had a relationship, insinuating via suggestive questions (e.g. "What kind of furniture should we have in our apartment?") that he had a greater level of commitment to you than he actually did, and then cutting and running. In your rebooted relationship, from all outward appearances he is likely doing exactly the same thing again, asking questions like your ring size and then not proposing. Given his behavior the first time, if he's actually serious about marrying you this time, the onus is really on him to give you cause to trust him, rather than on you to blindly trust him. From your account of things, I see no evidence that he has given you any cause to trust him about this issue, or even that he has apologized for treating you in the way he did the first time around. If I were in your situation, I would expect my boyfriend to be extra sensitive and vigilant about making his commitment to me pellucid (and backing it up with action), given how he treated me the first time. Asking you to trust him the second time without any of this is, frankly, absurd and offensive. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me, and all that. It's bizarre to me that his response to you expressing your fears about his commitment, rather than reassuring you about his commitment in some tangible way (e.g. proposing on the spot), he instead decided effectively to couch the problem as yours by saying that you simply don't trust him. You then took the bait and reassured him that you do trust him, and then, in your email follow-up to him, accepted the problem as your lack of trust. I think this is a really problematic framing. For a couple with your history, your lack of trust about his commitment is entirely appropriate, and if he already had the damn ring in his possession, why on earth did he not propose that moment in order to show you he was serious, rather than reframe it as your problem and then stonewall you? To me, this would be a deal-breaker.
posted by ClaireBear at 9:59 PM on June 6, 2014 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: For a couple with your history, your lack of trust about his commitment is entirely appropriate, and if he already had the damn ring in his possession, why on earth did he not propose that moment in order to show you he was serious, rather than reframe it as your problem and then stonewall you?

This above is what I'm struggling with

Tone, context, definition...crucial

Agree completely, I did not define what "time to ourselves" meant.
posted by askme at 11:43 PM on June 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

I see your favorites, and here is what I read...

As in your relationship, you are trying to have one foot on both sides of the fence.

This is not possible when the basic fact is that your boyfriend is making counterproductive moves considering your past shared history. By accident or on purpose, he's being unkind towards you.

Forget the bickering and your possibly misinterpreted recent words!

Pattern is similar to past disappointment. You are not being treasured and cared for and honored by your guy.

Mostly, I am uncomfortable with how much "heavy lifting" you are doing emotionally to keep this relationship afloat.

This is not the long term future dynamic you want, but it is what you are currently going along with.

May I suggest you stop trying to read so deeply and look for valid excuses?

Allow me to invite you to put YOUR feelings first. When you do that, your gut seems to be telling you to cut bait and find someone who shares your joy and excitement about commitment.

I think you should commit to yourself. Your happiness is paramount. This guy is pissing in your cornflakes.

posted by jbenben at 12:55 AM on June 7, 2014 [6 favorites]

Am I letting the past affect my future?

Even if you were, is that a problem? We've only got so much to go on when we're making difficult decisions, and the past can be very valuable to that end. The past certainly doesn't guarantee the future, but that doesn't also mean it's got nothing to say about the future either.
posted by obliterati at 1:29 AM on June 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have no opinion on whether you should stay with your guy or not. I will merely share my experience from a 20+ year marriage:

Don't pay attention to what he says. Pay attention to what he does.

Way too late I understood that it didn't matter what my husband said to calm me down or reassure me (about whatever); what truly mattered was what he did or did not do.

He did not honour promises.
He did not talk to me.
He hid big chunks of his life from me.
He was hostile and snarky in a mean way.
He was irresponsible.

He was also loving and kind and supportive. In an erratic, impossible to predict kind of way. Eventually I woke up to the reality that words are not deeds, packed my bags and left.

I'm actually visiting him right now. We still adore each other, and life has improved dramatically for both of us in the intervening years.

(I should also note that I was a huge pain in the ass to live with. It's not like there's a villain in this story. We both had faults. He wasn't and isn't a bad guy; we were simply no longer a good match.)

Some people are best loved from a distance. In this case, my ex is one of those people. YMMV. Best of luck in resolving your situation!
posted by Bella Donna at 4:18 AM on June 7, 2014 [4 favorites]

I think that if you relax and just keep quiet for a few weeks, this guy will most likely step up and ask you to marry him. I don't think there is anything you can actively do, however, to push that along... you already emailed him.

People are saying to DTMFA. There is some wisdom to that. This relationship kind of sucks. Really, he's controlling the dialogue and being extremely hurtful, frustrating, and annoying in a way that's disrespectful and that, well... sucks. Really.

As a comparison, though, I've worked in jobs with coworkers who are disrespectful douches, and usually it was because I had another goal in mind. I had to put up with that to get the money I wanted. Or the promotion I wanted. So I could buy stuff I wanted. Work is not perfect. Relationships are not perfect.

Maybe, to get the sex/cuddles/companionship/conversation you want with this guy, for a lifetime, you have to put up with his godawful annoying wishy-washy moments like these.

The people posting in this forum are correct to point out that his behavior is godawful. However, it's only you who can decide what trade-offs you are willing to make to get other things you might want. I can promise that no relationship is perfect. That's not really an excuse. For example I'd DTMFA an alcoholic so fast your head would spin. But, is the current offense dumpable? Unclear. One of my friends' fiancee put up with a lot of this, and now they are getting happily married and her husband-to-be finally settled into the idea. I am fairly confident they'll be fine.

I will also point out, from knowing their posting history and stories, that some of the responses here are from people who DTMFA'd and ended up long term single. Are they better off than someone who is in a problematic relationship? Is someone who quits their job really better off than someone who sticks out the horrible boss and gets rich? Really only the individual can decide that. And it's hard to predict.

I think you should hear what everyone here is saying -- this is really bad behavior. For all the reasons listed. It's not a little bit bad. It's horrible, stonewalling, and borderline emotionally abusive. It's cruel. Worse - it's casually cruel. It's him exercising his power to hurt you emotionally and disempower you. He's holding back information, presence, love. It sucks. Sucks! And as someone was correct to point out, this guy could just as easily walk out the door tomorrow and not come back.

You can know that and still decide to stay, but you should be well aware of why you are staying, and what the trade-off is.
posted by htid at 5:36 PM on June 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I hear what everyone here is saying and love the thought provoking questions. This is why ask.metafilter is so great. I appreciate everyone's help and advice. I've reread this thread several times and have a bunch to think about.
posted by askme at 5:49 AM on June 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

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