How can i tell if I'm the problem?
January 13, 2015 7:58 AM   Subscribe

I feel like in most of my relationships I haven't been treated the way I want/deserve. I'd like to see whether this is really the case or if the problem is me.

These are the relationships I've had basically. I don't feel like I've been treated the way I deserve in any of them, except for (4), where there were just genuine personality clashes, (1) and (5) aren't that bad either.
TW: domestic violence, abuse, sexual assault

(1) This was basically ok and lasted for about 3 years.
He agreed to live with me when I moved to another city after having a long distance relationship for about a year. He didn't and continued living with his parents for what seemed like basically spurious reasons. I never got the feeling he liked me that much. Sometimes he said he was uncertain if he loved me. He was nice to me though.

(2) We lived together for about a year. He emphasized what a free, independent spirit he was 'a wanderer' . He said he would break me in order to make me whole again. He would get really angry with me for doing things like going to events but emphasised how independent we both were. He was always talking about how I was nothing yet and how terrible at talking to people, etc (true) but how much potential he had and how great he would make me. I don't think he ever really liked me.

(3) I was hanging out with him because he seemed like an interesting person and like he liked me. But he was also dangerous and as soon as he found out where he lived wouldn't leave me alone. He would rant at me for hours about how awful I was, how i was a snake, disgusting, a government agent, having sex with everyone in the street. He would knock on my window throughout the night to check I wasn't having sex with anyone else (I wasn't ) and if I didn't respond quickly enough he'd get more and more angry. I couldn't really get away. He came into work (I worked in a library) and would wait outside and follow me home. He raped me several times and one time attacked me and I really thought I was going to die. Towards the end he was obliquely threatening to kill me- 'I would never kill myself I'll take both of us'. The worst thing was that I didn't have any friends to help me. There was no one to turn to. I had one person who I thought was a friend but who didn't help me.

(4) It was basically a nice enough relationship, although quite casual for both of us and we got into fights a lot because of our differences in politics.

(5) This was my last relationship which ended about a month ago. I really really like and admire him, and he seemed to like me, too.
When we first started seeing each other he warned me that he didn't like relationships, although he couldn't really elaborate on what that meant. He didn't feel like he could be in a monogamous relationship, which was ok in theory with me because I don't think monogamy per se is proof of love. But he never wanted to spend as much time with me as I wanted to spend with him. Like 3 nights a week was pushing it. He never seemed that excited to be with me. He basically treated me the way I might treat someone who I sort of liked, but didn't really love. When I'd bring this up, rather than try to find ways to show me he did like me that I would connect to, which would have been what I would try to do if I cared about someone, he'd just insist that he did like me, but that he just wanted to show it spontaneously, that doing stuff on purpose like texting me if he thought about me would be fake.
He started seeing someone else, which was very difficult with me. I agreed on principle, but in practice it was very challenging as already I didn't feel like he was really committed to the relationship. I tried to talk about how I felt and make suggestions for how things could be easier for me, like seeing the other person less initially as I got used to the idea, meeting at the other person's place rather than his if that was possible, checking in with me when they were making plans to see each other to see how that fit in with my plans, him being reassuring that he still liked me, these were all just suggestions for ways to make it easier for me, rather than demands, but he still found this intolerably controlling. Whereas I saw our relationship as something we were doing together, where we'd work together for things that would work for both of us, he seemed to think that he'd take my feelings into account (which apparently he did although he never discussed this with me) but it was basically up to him what he did.
On top of this, he's never been good at being reassuring in relationships, he seems to think that because he wants to see me, that should be enough for me to know he cares about me, and me occasionally asking stuff like 'do you still like me' he'd find difficult to respond to.
He did get me gifts sometimes, and made me mixtapes. But it really worried me that I could never ask for anything without it seeming like I was trying to be controlling? Like, that seems like the basis for relationships to me, that (within reason) the other person does stuff that makes you happy and vice versa, not because it's necessarily stuff they like, but because you like it? He's never told me he loves me presumably because that would be too formulaic, and doesn't want to think about the future either... This stuff perhaps wouldn't have bothered me so much if it weren't for (2) and (3), which have made me wary of independent men and also really feeling like i need someone that i know is on my side. He has said he's put a lot of emotional energy into our relationship & making me happy and i want to believe that but to be honest i just don't see it? And I'm really wary of just taking someone's word for something against my own judgement.

This slowly ate away at me because people in the past have told me that no one will love me, that my expectations are too high, that i'm too demanding, and it seems like maybe it's true? I don't really have any friends and people don't seem to like me very much. I'm really suspicious that I could have had so many bad relationships in a row. It's so hard to figure out what's a baseline expectation of how someone treats you when you know you're demanding but you also know in retrospect that people in the past haven't treated you well? Like to me (5) sounds genuinely difficult, maybe a relationship that would work for some people but not for lots of people? I think my main mistake has not having been aware of my needs and not leaving people sooner when it was clear they wouldn't meet them? I feel like I could make a great partner for the right person, I'm caring and loving and interesting I think. But I meet so few people who are interested in me, I've run out of options on okc, etc, and the prospect of meeting someone you like, who likes you, who also wants the same kind of relationship you want just feels so incredibly unlikely and daunting... This is especially difficult because people with similar interests to mine all seem to be into short term relationships and relationship 'fluidity' which sounds like a nightmare to me... And like I said, I have no friends, so I think somewhere the problem must be me but I don't know what to do about it, whether I should learn to be less demanding and more forgiving and willing to meet people where they're at or set my standard really high and risk excluding everyone?
posted by ninjablob to Human Relations (27 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've been told all my life (mostly by my parents) that I'm difficult and hard to please. It has taken me a long time and the care/love/kindness of a good partner to realize that that is not the case. (My mom, on the other hand, is a piece of work. Think about where such information originates.) Demanding basic consideration and respect is not being difficult; it's being human.

Demand better FOR yourself, and demand better OF yourself. The more you work on your own self esteem, the better prepared you will be to reach outside of yourself, build friendships -- perhaps fewer, but of better quality -- and form lasting relationships of all kinds.
posted by Madamina at 8:13 AM on January 13, 2015 [10 favorites]


You keep saying you have no friends, so I would work on that. Having a relationship means (to me) starting on a level where you'd be friends, because you have to like the person you're with as much as you love them. Building some true friendships will help you develop that skill, as well as give you important feedback on these questions you have about your love life.

As to, "Nobody will love me," drop that mindset right now, because nobody is unlovable. You may have trouble loving yourself, which is what I suspect is at the heart of this, but again, friends will help with this immeasurably.
posted by xingcat at 8:14 AM on January 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


people in the past have told me that no one will love me, that my expectations are too high, that i'm too demanding

When a person says this, they are saying they don't love you and they don't plan to meet your expectations. This is your cue to say buh-bye and walk away from said person for-evah and turn on Bette Midler's "I'm Beautiful" or Pink's "F***ing Perfect" or whatever you do to remind yourself that you're awesome.

Just to emphasize, when a person says that to you, they have zero insight into you. They are telling you something about themselves.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 8:14 AM on January 13, 2015 [56 favorites]


It's not you, not really.

You need to decide what it is you want. You claim to be okay with non-monogamy, but based on what you've said, I'd say that you want to be in a monogamous relationship. You're involving yourself with people who are telling you who they are right off the bat, and yet you don't believe them. If someone says they're not into monogamy, believe them. Say, "Too bad, you seem nice, but I want to be in a monogamous relationship."

The guy who said he had to break you to make you whole....you know that was straight up abuse right? He sounds like an asshole. So why did you stay with him?

Your standards aren't too high, your standards are non-existent. You NEED standards. Someone being nice to you is our basic social contract, not the best you can hope for!

So, make a list of what you want in your perfect relationship. A good list might be:

1. Is crazy about me, he loves my flaws as much as he loves my perfections.
2. Thinks I'm beautiful
3. Is gainfully employed
4. Is not an addict
5. Has a great relationship with his family
6. Is educated and reads a lot
7. Is kind, caring and compassionate
8. Has a group of friends and for the most part, they're all good people
9. Wants or doesn't want to be a father (whichever one works for you.)
10. Wants to be in a loving, monogamous relationship that leads to marriage.

My list was very similar and I did exclude nearly everybody. Which was great. Who would want to be dating someone who didn't meet my minimums?

My Algebra/Geometry teacher in high school, W. D. Hardy used to say, "If you don't want to be married to a gas station attendant, don't date a gas station attendant."

So when you start dating someone, it's perfectly okay to tell him what YOU want. "I'm a monogamous person so I'm not interested in dating a lot of different people at the same time. I want to be with a monogamous person, someone who wants to be in a committed relationship that leads to marriage and a family. I get that we're still just confirming that we're compatible and I want to be very open about what I want, so neither of us wastes any time." 9 out of 10 guys will balk. They may be perfectly nice, but they're not right for you. 1 in 10 will agree with you, and admire you for being upfront and claiming what you want in this world.

Also, it's perfectly okay to break up with someone who's only 80% of what you want in a partner if the remaining 20% is deal-breaker stuff.

You deserve better than being abused or merely tolerated. You are not someone's fall back person. You are a wonderful person who deserves the BEST partner for you!

You may want to be in a relationship, but you need to appreciate your own company first, build a wonderful life on your own, then you won't settle for these broken, sad, trifling half-men you've been coupled up with. A partner should be the cherry on your sundae. Not the ice cream.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:16 AM on January 13, 2015 [49 favorites]


No, your standards and your expectations are perfectly correct. I'm focusing pretty much exclusively on Relationships 2 and 5. 1 and 4 aren't really "bad" relationships, everyone has relationships that just don't quite work; this is not pathological. 3 was an abusive horrorshow which is not in any way your fault or a mark on your character: abusive horrorshows will abuse pretty much anyone they can get their hands on.

So with 2 and 5, this is your problem in a nutshell:

I think my main mistake has not having been aware of my needs and not leaving people sooner when it was clear they wouldn't meet them?

I don't think you're demanding. Or rather, you are the healthy amount of demanding, in that you have standards and boundaries and you speak up when those are not being met. But you may be coming off as demanding in the bad way, because instead of asserting your standards by leaving the relationship, you are fighting and fighting your partner to try and MAKE him give you what you want.

You're allowed to want the relationship you want; you deserve it. But you are not entitled to get that kind of relationship from someone who doesn't want to give it. Your job is to find the person who WANTS to have the relationship you want.

Like, that seems like the basis for relationships to me, that (within reason) the other person does stuff that makes you happy and vice versa, not because it's necessarily stuff they like, but because you like it?

Yes, this is a perfectly reasonable expectation. But Relationship 5 didn't want to do that, and frankly he doesn't have to. But guess what? You don't have to date him, either.

You are luckier than many, in that your partners seem to have been super-honest about what they want and what they're willing to do! Many many people struggle for years with partners who promise things but don't deliver, and finally have to see through the lie. Your partner has told you what he wants, who he is, and what he's willing to do.

Finally, your standards aren't "really high" so as to "risk excluding everyone." Your standards are perfectly reasonable. You just haven't found a good match who's willing to meet them yet, and you seem to have been surrounded by people who don't have your best interests in mind, which means you need to learn how to have your own best interests in mind. Work on making some friends first; practice being a good friend and practice only keeping people around who are good friends in return. Practice actually acting on your boundaries when people push or trample them.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:18 AM on January 13, 2015 [12 favorites]


First things first, you are depressed. You sound like you have extremely low self esteem, which might be why you have been attracted to people who you know will treat you badly (and apparently have told you as much directly).

My advice would be to forget relationships for a while. Not just staying out of one, but literally not worrying about it right now. That part of your life is what it is at the moment. It's time to work on you first. Therapist first, psychiatrist second, support group third.
posted by Willie0248 at 8:19 AM on January 13, 2015 [11 favorites]


You might find How To Spot a Dangerous Man Before You Get Involved to be useful. It's not a perfect book, but it might help you reframe your experiences and become firmer in your expectations of others.
posted by jaguar at 8:25 AM on January 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


the prospect of meeting someone you like, who likes you, who also wants the same kind of relationship you want just feels so incredibly unlikely and daunting...

I think, for a lot of people, it is, or at least it feels that way? Certainly I felt that way for a long time. I was single for most of my 20s and the first half of my 30s. I remember having a conversation with two friends, one who, like me, was perennially single, and one who got married right out of college, and MarriedFriend was like, "Oh, don't worry, you'll find someone!" and SingleFriend and I were like, "Actually, we find it more reassuring to believe that things would be OK even if we didn't."

My mother would always say, "You're too picky, I'm afraid you'll never find anyone" but looking at her relationship with her long-term boyfriend and how unsatisfactory it was to her, I felt like her opinion was just not useful to me.

Anyway, when you can't find someone you wholeheartedly want to be with, your choices are to be alone until you find such a person, or to be with someone you don't wholeheartedly want to be with and try to make that work. For me, being alone ALWAYS felt easier. I'm not the world's best compromiser. And I'm pretty introverted.

That's where I'm coming from, and from my perspective it seems like right now you're not demanding ENOUGH and you're being TOO forgiving. You're wasting time on people who aren't good for you, time that you could spend doing awesome stuff or meeting awesome people.

Try and make friends with people who are in good relationships. Seriously, it will change your whole perspective.
posted by mskyle at 8:25 AM on January 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


Oh, also...more in the vein of believing what people tell you: I remember when I was younger that I used to think men were joking, or just being dramatic or whatever, when they said horrible things. Surely they had to be, because nobody would *admit* to just basically being broken and horrible, right? Well...they will, turns out.

He'd say: "I will break you and make you whole"
I'd hear: "I think I'm a poet, and I want to be dramatic about loving you!"
What he meant: "I'm basically a shithead and I will wear you down to nothing."

He'd say: "I'm no good, I'm not a faithful person."
I'd hear: "I have low self-esteem! Reassure me!"
What he meant: "I have already fucked your roommate, like five minutes before you got here."

You need to accept that when people say horrible things, they usually mean them. If you're painting these men in dramatic, passionate, sympathetic lights...stop. Someone who's HONESTLY just trying to be poetic or whatever will quickly correct himself if you say something like, "wow, that's a horrible, almost abusive thing to say; why would you say that."
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:25 AM on January 13, 2015 [69 favorites]


When we first started seeing each other he warned me that he didn't like relationships, although he couldn't really elaborate on what that meant. He didn't feel like he could be in a monogamous relationship, which was ok in theory with me because I don't think monogamy per se is proof of love. But he never wanted to spend as much time with me as I wanted to spend with him. Like 3 nights a week was pushing it. He never seemed that excited to be with me.

I think you need to set the bar higher. By all means accept non-monogamy if that is what you want. But you don't have to be monogamous for the other person to be excited to see you! And don't date people who talk bullshit to you. There's a saying about "When people tell you who they are, believe them." This guy was using some crap about "monogamy" to tell you he wasn't that interested, right out of the gate. Most of the other ones, some variation of the same thing.

I also think the advice above is brilliant. Get more friends. For one thing, you can chat with them about these guys you keep dating. A good friend will point out to you the red flags that pop up early on.
posted by BibiRose at 8:30 AM on January 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Your expectations are not too high, and you listed 5 examples of people not meeting your expectations. Maybe part of the problem is that you aren't enforcing your expectations and you stay in bad relationships too long. But ultimately (and I know this probably sounds trite) you're going to keep having failed relationships until you find the one that works.

Honestly, if I were you I would address the not having friends thing way before I tried to get in to a relationship. If you don't have any friends and your boyfriend/SO is your only source of social interaction that is probably going to put strain on a relationship, especially if your boyfriend/SO has friends of their own.

FWIW I felt a lot like you do now. I felt like I was too much of a tricky fig to ever find someone who loved me. I felt that with all the failed relationships I had gone through that it must be something to do with me specifically. I must possess some trait that made loving me extremely difficult. So what I did was basically give dating up as a bad job for a while and just focused on being awesome. I started taking better care of my self health wise. I stopped going out to bars because that was never really my scene. I took an art class. I went on frequent long walks along the city trails after work just because it was beautiful. I started making quilts and hand quilting them. I eliminated negative people from my life. I volunteered. I started a book club. I stopped staying up late and instead starting going to bed early and waking up early to go to the gym before work. I stopped caring about what I thought I was supposed to do as a young woman in my 20s, and instead did the things that truly made me happy and made me the best version of me. And no joke, it wasn't until I became this hyper focused unapologetic awesome version of myself that I started a relationship with a man who is now my husband. One of the things he has said attracted me to him was that I seemed so genuine and confident in who I was and sincere. Looking back, I think a big part of why I had been attracting the wrong people and having such crap relationships was because I wasn't being honest with myself about who I was. I was being the person I thought I was supposed to be, doing the things i thought I was supposed to do, instead of being who I actually was. Know what I mean? Once I started being my natural nerdy uncool self I started attracting people who better matched me.

So ignore dating for now. Decide who you are, decide who you want to be, and then BE THAT PERSON. Be that person in a very dedicated way. Do things that make you happy and that improve your life. Cull the things that aren't making you happy and aren't bringing the best out of you. Do all the nerdy uncool dorky things that you're not supposed to like to do, and enjoy the hell out of them. Get really comfortable being you, and be HAPPY with who you are.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 8:34 AM on January 13, 2015 [16 favorites]


I have no friends, so I think somewhere the problem must be me but I don't know what to do about it, whether I should learn to be less demanding and more forgiving and willing to meet people where they're at or set my standard really high and risk excluding everyone?

Telling yourself that "you are the problem" isn't helpful or loving. You need to be able to understand that while you are not a problem, you have gotten involved in problematic relationships, made problematic decisions and may *have* some problems to sort out - but none of that makes YOU a problem. That just makes you human, like everybody else.

Set your standards higher. This does not mean you will exclude EVERYONE else. It means you will exclude many people and possibly be single for a good long while. You may need to learn how to be alone and happy for a while before getting into another relationship. You're afraid you will never find anyone. Please know this is a very common fear. Tell yourself that you know you're afraid but that you are going to take a leap of faith that there are people out there you can be very happy with, and in the meantime, you are going to invest in being happy as a single person.

As others have said, you should work on the friends thing. You need a support system that includes platonic friendships. Get involved in activities you enjoy and try to connect with folks there. It may be that some of the people who share your interests are more suitable as platonic friends than as lovers. That's okay.

You've persisted in dating people who treated you very badly. Again, this is a common experience. The more you recognize that you deserve better, the easier it will be for you to see that as soon as someone says something as horrible as "I will break you", you will know to RUN, not walk away. The more self-esteem you have, the easier it will be for you to decide "You know what, being unpartnered indefinitely is ALWAYS BETTER than being with an abusive asshole."
posted by Gray Skies at 8:40 AM on January 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


But when you get older, finding someone who has shared values regarding your partnership and family may be more important. So what I am saying is that I would consider you to look for people who may not share tons of similar interests right off the bat.

Repeated for truth. I love my husband so hard I can barely breathe, but in all honesty we had not a lot in common at all. Truly, we were (and still are) very different people in terms of interests, all the way down to my being a cat person and him being a dog person. But we are so god damned alike in terms of our beliefs, our values, our ethics, our expectations for the future, our finances,... all the important stuff. The interests have morphed over the years and there is more overlap and more shared interests, but there is still lots of differences. I still like Star Trek and he still likes Star Wars (and lord knows these two shall not meet!). But we love each other more than life.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 8:42 AM on January 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


You can't control how people treat you, but you can control whether you continue to stay with people who treat you badly. Going out on a limb here, I'm going to guess your family life was kind of chaotic, and you possibly had one or more absent or alcoholic/addict parents. You probably didn't have any good role models for how a relationship is supposed to be and how people are supposed to treat each other and have low self esteem. So you just kind of attach to whoever seems to take an interest in you, no matter what their motivation is. And you probably don't know what a bad sign is for a relationship because, again, you don't know what a good relationship looks like.

You need to stop getting into relationships for a while, and start working on your life. Get into therapy. Figure out who you are by yourself. Become a whole person who doesn't need another person to make you happy. When you get to that point, you'll find that relationships are easier because you're entering into them as an equal, and aren't just taking the first guy that comes along.
posted by empath at 8:48 AM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


If you ever find yourself thinking: "If only I had a boyfriend who loved me, I'd be happy", quash that thought, because it is a lie. No relationship is going to fix you and love won't make you happy. It's the opposite, really. Happiness makes it easier to love, not the other way around. You need to find joy in life alone, and then share it with someone else.
posted by empath at 8:52 AM on January 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


There are a lot of reasons people put up with awful and abusive relationships. Sometimes it's because those dynamics are familiar to them; they've learned, on the deepest levels, from childhood, that that's what love feels like. Sometimes it's because they've actually never experienced someone exerting power over them like that; pure bad luck leads them to meet someone "exciting", and they enter into a relationship with them in a totally healthy and normal attitude of trust, which is just unfortunate when dealing with someone with abusive tendencies. They get blindsided and then exploited, and the relationship operates on their self-esteem such that it gets damaged in the process, altering their expectations for future relationships. If they're women (I can't tell if you are, maybe?), and especially if they're young, they're vulnerable to societal training that teaches them to let men greenlight or redlight relationships (e.g. men defining "where things stand").

I agree with others that learning to set boundaries, recognize shitty behaviour and leave when you see it is going to help. If you think you learned some unhealthy patterns early on (or indeed later on), therapy might be something to look at. You do have to learn how to GTFO when it's time, because that will clear a path to meeting someone worthy of you.

(We put our faith in Blast Harcheese's warning is important. See also. Listen to what you hear. You can't change people. Watch out for big, strong personalities. GTFO also if anyone makes you feel like you're on tenterhooks, like getting a little affection or attention from them is a rare and special thing they parcel out based on merit. GTFO if "nobody understands" them, especially.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:11 AM on January 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


I have no friends, so I think somewhere the problem must be me but I don't know what to do about it

You wrote this in a previous question: I've never had a 'friend' who wasn't a man who wanted to have sex with me

I would start by making friends who are not men who want to have sex with you. And I would go to a therapist and tell them my goal for therapy is for me to make at least two platonic friends.

Here is why I think therapy can help. Friendship is a two-way street, and therapy is a one-way street. A good therapist does some of the hard parts of being a friend, like keeping commitments consistently, lots of listening, responding with as much wisdom and gentleness as they can, keeping your secrets. Meanwhile, as the patient, you get to rant about your problems and be listened to, and never have to return the favor (as you would in a friendship), because you are paying. And a side benefit is that you get to see how the "other half" of a friendship works as you observe what the therapist is doing. Notice how various things that your therapist says make you feel, and if they say something that makes you open up to them or like them more, make a mental note of how they did that so that you can try it on someone you want to make friends with. For example, I learned in therapy to say "tell me more about..." when I want to encourage someone to talk about their interests, but I can't think of a specific question to ask.

The best depiction that I've seen of this friendship component of therapy is Dr. Shana Doronn in the A&E series Obsessed. (I feel like it's probably free online somewhere, but all I can find is both seasons on Amazon.) Compare her to the other psychologists; they are all using the same "exposure" technique, and they all have patients who are making their own choices about whether or not to do their "homework." But she just seems to be extra good at being warm and friendly and winning the patients' trust. Just to be clear, I don't think you have any of the mental issues that the people in that series have. I'm recommending it so you can see an example of what to look for in a therapist who can show you how to be a friend.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 9:12 AM on January 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


But when you get older, finding someone who has shared values regarding your partnership and family may be more important. So what I am saying is that I would consider you to look for people who may not share tons of similar interests right off the bat.

I've relayed this story before... I was talking to someone about "dealbreakers" in a relationship and mentioned how, before meeting my husband, I'd been adamant about what I wanted: a well-educated, financially solid guy who had no history of substance abuse in his family and had a great relationship with his parents.

At the time I met him, my now-husband was the opposite of those things (at least, not educated in the traditional sense), but I realized that he had all of the end-result qualities I'd hoped to find by setting out those criteria: intelligence, care with money and spending, vigilance about overindulgence, and a lot of caring and compassion for those around him.

So you might have to move past certain standards you hold, but that doesn't mean you can't keep your standards high. Think about those end results, instead of the way you think you might get them.
posted by Madamina at 9:41 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Something I noticed in your overviews of the past five relationships is that you don't really focus on how much you actually liked them - only how much it seemed that they liked you. While being selfish in a relationship can be problematic, i think for the time being you should put yourself first. Do I like him? Do I like how he treats me? Is he making me feel better or worse when he is around? etc etc.

It sounds like you're focusing on how he feels about you and how you can make him like you better, which may be why you're drawn to these kinds of jerks who have to "break you down and rebuild you better" instead of liking who you are.
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 9:48 AM on January 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


Yeah, I agree with a lot of other people that you're not the problem here, at least not in the way you mean. The way that you're contributing to these problems is not by having unrealistic expectations, but by sticking around long past the point where it becomes clear that these guys aren't going to be good for you. This is what friends are great for! I would stop dating entirely and spend some time trying to cultivate friendships. Then when your friends tell you that they think your new boyfriend is bad news, listen to them!
posted by Ragged Richard at 10:38 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I just want to note that while friends can be helpful in pointing out bad relationships, that is also a skill one can develop for oneself. You are not doomed to bad romantic relationships just because you don't have friends to pull you out of them.
posted by jaguar at 11:17 AM on January 13, 2015


Sounds like your "picker" is off - you're going for either self-centred douches, or just settling for "meh" relationships. Maybe you are reluctant to get really involved & put your heart on the line? Next time just wait for a guy that makes you go "yes!!" not "eh he seems interested in me...." and if you don't like how they're treating you, do not hesitate to walk out the door (and do not look back).
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:09 PM on January 13, 2015


You deserve to be loved, and you are not being picky.

However, for some reason you are picking men who aren't good for you. Are you attracted to the "bad boys" or the "lost" ones? Where are you finding these men?

I agree with those above who are telling you to back off men for a while. You need to learn to love and appreciate yourself. Therapy is one way. Mediation might be very good for you. Somehow, you need to break that cycle of choosing men who will hurt you.

Give it some time, and then you can start to engage with guys again. Have fun. Go places where you can find guys that like what you like. If you're passionately political, go to a political rally. Attend a photography workshop, reading club, dance or cooking class. Don't find guys in bars. Date guys you normally wouldn't have much interest in. Find the nice guys you normally overlook. Make friends first, and then give it time. Walk away at the first sign of "not nice" and trust your gut on this.
posted by BlueHorse at 1:21 PM on January 13, 2015


So… It sounds like you have had some dreadful relationships with some real pieces of work. The thing is though, you get to choose who you are with, and you get to choose how long you stay with them. You're not too demanding. The people who told you no one would love you were not right.At a certain point in each of these scenarios, it seems like there was a point at which it was clear that it was time to bail.

For example:

(1) . . . basically ok and lasted for about 3 years.
He agreed to live with me when I moved to another city after having a long distance relationship for about a year. He didn't and continued living with his parents for what seemed like basically spurious reasons. I never got the feeling he liked me that much. Sometimes he said he was uncertain if he loved me. He was nice to me though.


For many people, these would be red flag moments, at which someone would choose to leave the relationship. Three years is long enough that it sends the message, I am willing to tolerate this behavior and this is what I feel I am worth.

Or:

(2) We lived together for about a year. He emphasized what a free, independent spirit he was 'a wanderer' . He said he would break me in order to make me whole again. He would get really angry with me for doing things like going to events but emphasised how independent we both were. He was always talking about how I was nothing yet and how terrible at talking to people, etc (true) but how much potential he had and how great he would make me. I don't think he ever really liked me.


Major, major deal breakers. I don't even know what the breaking you thing means and I find it disturbing. About a month seems like a reasonable time frame for this relationship because that's about how long to it takes to get a general feel for a person. About a year way way too long.

In all seriousness, have you tried dating kind of dull guys? Like banning all free thinkers, artists, men who don't believe in relationships, men who don't believe in love, alcoholics, people who are angry and poetic, etc. etc. It's hard to find the perfect mate, but it's not hard to find a guy who is kind of ordinary in a lot of respects who will treat you right. Please cut bait when people are not being good to you. You are the problem only insofar as you are choosing to tolerate this behavior. It is a choice, though.
posted by mermily at 1:51 PM on January 13, 2015


Hey. I sympathize with your question and I wanted to wait until the workday was over to give myself time to really answer it.

First of all, I want to mention that the way you think about this and ask this question makes you seem more logical, levelheaded, and clear-thinking than the vast majority of people. You sound like you really have the ability to be objective- which honestly makes you a bit of a rare gem.

It is a good question to ask. It’s similar to people asking themselves, “Am I the good guy here? How do I know if I’m a good person and not the jerk in someone else’s scenario?” And my first answer to those people is always, “Even asking yourself that is half the battle.” There are so many people who go through life totally self-unaware, who don’t even consider gray areas.

That said, I think you know deep down at your core that the way these men have treated you is not right or deserved. What I’m hearing you ask is, “Are there any good ones? Or are other people all just assholes, and if so, how can I balance my need for human interaction with my need to not be taken advantage of?” And that’s another good question.

Unfortunately, my answer is yes, a lot of people are just assholes! However, a lot of people, I have slowly come to realize via life experience, are kind of assholes and kind of good guys, and if they are allowed to be assholes, if they are rewarded for it, will slip lazily into more and more assholishness. If they are punished for it, and smacked a bit on the nose for it, they’ll come around more and more to the light side of the force. Many, many people are like this- even some very excellent people with very excellent qualities like intelligence and humor etc- in that if they can get away with being an asshole, they don’t even realize they’re being an asshole, or they rationalize that it must not be that bad if no one is calling them out. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good- but also stay away from the true assholes of the world.

Relationships should not be about unconditional love. Parental relationships are about unconditional love, and it’s beautiful. But romantic relationships are not.

It is okay to be the person who “trains” the other person, yes, kind of like a dog, or a small child, into more civility. I get the sense that you are rather passive in this regard; that you are rather, “I just accept I cannot change other people.” It’s true, it’s very difficult to truly change other people. However, it is not that difficult to change how other people treat you and react to you. It’s pretty easy, in fact. This is what you should seek to do early and often, via positive and negative reinforcement. You won’t get very far if you don’t truly hold the card of self-sufficiency and self-reliance and a healthy ability to walk away, however. They will call your bluff. In a sense, two people always learn how to treat each other in all relationships and friendships. They are always navigating these things, pushing and pulling, testing, learning from each other, reacting, and growing together or apart. So yes, in that sense, it is possible to change someone else’s behavior.

You also need to have a strong sense of yourself. I get the feeling that you really crave attachment; that you are in a way very caught up emotionally in these men’s opinions of you and want to be totally loved and sort of merge with another person. Taking a leaf from the book of Zen Buddhism would be very helpful to you. Your attachment to this outcome and this idea is what is leading to the most suffering. Try to live in each moment- one by one, day by day- and don’t live for the promises of tomorrow. Pity these men- think of them as people who don’t know themselves very well- and let them go. Do some sort of ritual to come to terms with this, even- it helps. Also, always remember that if you truly love someone else, you can let them go. I realize this is very noble and much harder said than done, but it is true- real love is not entitled. It doesn’t cling or need or beg or get what it should rightfully have. It respects the other, and respects the self.

You can get friends. Making friends is a lot of work of going out and really trying. It is a numbers game and I doubt you have exhausted your options. Friends are not going to come to you, and this is not because you are unlikable, but because you are human living in the modern world and that’s just how it is.

Good luck.
posted by quincunx at 6:24 PM on January 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


I don't think you're "the problem." You're not unlovable. You sound awesome -- kind, self-aware, and rational. From your posting history I gather you are INFP. I am as well. Your relationship pattern is fairly common for our type. We're understanding to a fault and we go for nonconformists. Unfortunately, the pool you've been fishing in is full of dysfunctional fish. People who have pointed out that intense, artistic anarchists MAY have issues have a point. I'm not saying that all of them do, but you're going to find more folks with anger management issues, unresolved trauma, and commitmentphobia among the outliers of society. (I speak as someone who has been one of those people and dated them too). Is it worth the price of admission? I used to think so, until I ended up getting my mind fucked with terribly by my last boyfriend. When I get back out there, I'll be looking for people who are more conventional. My suggestion is that you try that for a while after a period of therapy, a dating hiatus, and making friends.
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 9:01 PM on January 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


Sounds like you're suffering from too-low standards. Don't let (or keep) someone in such a central position of your life if the experience ranges from ok-I-guess to horrible. You're better off living an unencumbered single life -- all the better to cultivate deep friendships -- and waiting for a better partner-relationship. Wait for enriching, uplifting, life-affirming, wonderful, passionate, elated, delightful, serene, grounded, connected, aligned.
posted by ead at 10:53 PM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


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