It was a dream, then got hit with a huge dose of reality. Can we fix it?
June 5, 2015 9:44 AM   Subscribe

My boyfriend (ex-boyfriend? Something in between?) and I fell in love and saw us building a future together. Then chaos erupted with his work and put a strain on us and our relationship. After months of waiting, he has a new position that he has become obsessed with and our relationship was put on the back burner. We still love each other and don't want to walk away completely, so we are currently on a break and I'm confused about where to go from here. (Deeply apologetic for the length, but I wanted to paint the most accurate picture possible... )

We met through an on-line dating site back in November and instantly clicked. We started communicating through insanely long emails, and then gradually moved to texting, which went on pretty much nonstop every day. We had a lot in common, were on the same page when it came to what we were looking for, and grew comfortable with each other fairly quickly, talking about absolutely everything. Our first date was about two weeks later and the chemistry was obvious. After dating for a few weeks, we happily became official and were so excited about the wonderful thing that was building between us. We saw each other once a week and were taking the physical route slowly, primarily due to our living situations. We both lived with our parents; I was due to having moved back from out of state in September and looking for a place. He was due to having moved out of his ex’s apartment at the beginning of November. I knew about this and we talked about it on our second date because I was apprehensive of being a rebound. He was very honest with me about their relationship; it had lasted a year, but was not a good relationship, and they had broken up in August. He said it was miserable staying there, but he was saving up for his own place, then she told him to pack his shit and get out. I appreciated him being honest with me and he appreciated my not being afraid to bring it up.

We had made arrangements to go away for the weekend in January when he found out that the center where he worked would be closing. He had two months to either express interest in staying so they could find a new position for him or take a severance. Naturally, he was devastated; he absolutely loved his job and worked hard to get there. We met up that evening for dinner in an attempt to lift his spirits and also let him know that he had my support. We went away for the weekend and things were perfect. We slept together (a lot… lol), he met some of my friends, and spent hours in bed just talking. Laughing over ridiculous things, sharing our deepest secrets, and the next day, we confessed our feelings for each other. He said he loved me first, that he was sure I was the girl he wanted to marry, to have his children, and I admitted that I felt the same. We both knew that it was super fast, but it was how we felt, and it felt right. After that weekend, we met each other’s families and everyone not only approved, but were very vocal in saying how happy we looked together, how we seemed like such a good match.

As the weeks ticked by, I watched him decline. He became depressed as his company jerked him around, one person telling him he had a supervisor position, then corporate saying he didn’t. He would tell me things like he knew he wasn’t holding up his end of the relationship, he didn’t want the next day to come around, he wasn’t sleeping; I knew I couldn’t fix it, but I tried my best to be there for him, to offer support and stay positive. I moved into my own apartment in March, the weekend of his severance deadline, and he still didn’t have an answer from his company, so he didn’t go with me to get my things. My mom was pissed to have to pick up his slack, but I had given him the out if he wasn’t feeling up to it because I’ve suffered from depression and losing a job you love before, so I knew what he was going through. He did come the day I moved in to help with things and we had an enjoyable evening together, but he still didn’t have a concrete answer about his next step, even though they extended the deadline for him to the last the day the center was open. He was looking for other employment, but nothing was open. Later that month, we spent a day at a festival with my friends, where we separated from the crowd and had fun together, but he nearly had an anxiety attack when we got back to the house. He got freaked out and left, with me following, and I expressed my worry for him. He texted me when he got home and said he was going to ask for a psych referral.

The last day the center was open (March 20), he still didn’t have a position and was basically going to bounce from store to store to train and offer support until the supervisor position opened. His hours were nuts and he was driving absolutely everywhere, so it cut back on how often we saw each other and talked. He came over one night for dinner and told me his sex drive was nonexistent, we talked about his depression, and I tried to be there for him. I knew he wasn’t happy and was getting burnt out; likewise, I was getting burnt out from stress at my job, stress from him and my anxiety was flaring up (he’s known about my anxiety and has previously been there for issues related to it). One day was particularly bad, where I basically cried from my lunch break on, and I expressed it to him. He apologized because he said he knew he wasn’t helping. I asked if he could come over after work, he was off that day. I asked if we could meet for dinner that night up by him, he said he had already made arrangements to do something for his aunt. I tried to call him, it rang twice and then phone went to voicemail. I left him a teary message and didn’t hear back from him until he texted me to say goodnight and my emotions were on high. He came over the next day and… it wasn’t pretty.

He said he didn’t get the call and showed me his phone; when I said I was hurt, he said he didn’t do anything. I tried to talk to him about everything and was stonewalled. He completely closed off to me and it freaked me out because it was so unlike the person I had come to know. I cried, screamed, begged for him to get help and he refused. He didn’t want to go to counseling. He didn’t want to go on meds. He wanted to be with me, but didn’t know how to fix things. I almost broke up with him that night, but didn’t. After he left, he apologized for treating me the way he did and I apologized for how I came across. We saw each other about two weeks after that to go to a concert with some friends. The evening started out fine, but then he shut down at the end; he said later it was because he didn’t know the artists and because he couldn’t hear afterwards, but the car ride home was insanely awkward due to all of us thinking he was mad.

At the end of April, the supervisor position FINALLY came through. We met that night for dinner and our evening was cut short because of a conference call he found out about when we were leaving the restaurant. He was beyond frustrated, but I understood. Since then, our relationship has been strained. Our communication is nowhere near what it was, we haven't been intimate since January, and we haven't seen each other. He was dumped into a store that has major, major issues, a staff that doesn’t support him whatsoever, and a crazy theft problem. He had to cancel a date because his second in command called out and he had to stay. I know he’s overwhelmed, I don’t blame him, and he’s admitted that he over commits and overworks himself. I’ve continued to be supportive and positive, but giving him space when he needs it. He's also been dealing with kidney stones and is delaying having one taken care of due to work. He has told me that he would’ve gone crazy if it wasn’t for me, a few more weeks and we’ll be out of the weeds, he loves me and he promises we’ll make it through, etc.

However, the last time we were supposed to be together, he was staying up late moving cameras and forgot about our plans, even though we had made them in advance. I hadn’t seen him in a month and did not take it well. I sent him an email saying we either had to figure things out, take a break, or walk away because we couldn’t keep going like we were. We discussed going on a break for two months. He admitted that he was not being fair to me, he completely understood why I was unhappy, he loved me, and it hurt to admit that he couldn’t give me what I deserved right now. We both agreed that we didn’t want to walk away from this completely and he said we’d get there. We’re on said break now and still talk here and there (pretty “surface” stuff, just checking in mainly), but it hurts. I’ve stopped initiating conversation because I’m confused, but he’s reached out. All this has done is made me miss him even more and made my mind have an absolute field day with everything; I was a rebound, he’s cheating on me, it was all a lie, etc, even though I know the truth. He's not the type to cheat due to a past relationship, he's always been honest with me, and he's agreed that there isn't an issue with the relationship; it's the situation. I am well aware that I need to work on myself during this; I am on anxiety meds and have a counseling appointment on Monday.

Am I crazy for holding onto hope that we can get through this and rebuild? Or should I just walk away now? How do I cope with the uncertainty? How can I get jumpstarted and stop this moping? Any advice would be appreciated.
posted by heathergro to Human Relations (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The mefi advice from metatalk I saw yesterday: if your question takes more paragraphs to write than the number of months you've been dating, then yes, DTMFA.
posted by k5.user at 10:04 AM on June 5, 2015 [60 favorites]

You've known each other for 8 months. This is too much chaos and drama. When people say "relationships are hard work" this is not what they mean: this is not the kind of work you need to do in a relationship. This is not a good, healthy, nurturing situation for you. It is a good thing to walk away from things that do not nourish you. This relationship is not giving you what you will get from a healthy relationship. Not only that, it's keeping you from being in a relationship that is healthy.

I think that learning a new hobby would be aces for you right now. That is what I did when I went through a painful breakup of what was an insanely dramatic relationship. The hobby got me out of the house, gave me something to focus on, let me feel competent and productive, and was the best thing I could have done for myself. What is something that you've always wanted to do, but never did? Now is the time to do that thing.

I am pretty sure that if you throw yourself into a hobby? In two months you're going to be like, "That guy? Why did I think I'd still want to deal with that nonsense?"

I also want to say that no, you're not crazy. But you ARE selling yourself WAY short. It might do you well to examine why you want a relationship with a guy who ignores you, freaks out, and with whom you haven't been intimate with since January. You deserve so much better, but you won't find it if you hang on to the hope of getting back with this dude.

Also, this? He said he loved me first, that he was sure I was the girl he wanted to marry, to have his children, and I admitted that I felt the same. We both knew that it was super fast, but it was how we felt, and it felt right.
Is a gigantic waving red flag that has alarm bells attached to it. I'm not saying that healthy relationships don't sometimes have fast confessions of love at the start, but I think that is very rare. That kind of thing usually means "I am not actually evaluating you and how you fit in my life," which is a bad sign. There is no reason to go that quickly, and in the future I would regard those kind of intense confession sessions early on as a warning sign, not as a positive thing. Difficult, I know - emotions at the start of a relationship can be very strong, but that doesn't mean you have to act on them by making those type of statements. Marriage, children, love - those things are important to consider carefully before you blurt them out in bed. They're serious, and that is why when you heard them, you believed him. I am sorry to inform you that he was likely writing a check with his mouth that his butt could not cash when he said that stuff. That is often called "fast forwarding" and it's not as good as it feels.

Best of luck, and take care of yourself. Breakups suck.
posted by sockermom at 10:06 AM on June 5, 2015 [31 favorites]

This man cannot meet your needs and has told you this. Although you might feel ready, he is not ready to be in a relationship and clearly needs to concentrate on himself (mental health, employment) before entering into any kind of relationship. Walk away.
posted by bimbam at 10:10 AM on June 5, 2015 [5 favorites]

I agree that this is a ton more drama than a short relationship warrants. For me, the red flag in your exegesis was that you had a screaming crying fit at him, begging him to go to counseling, when he had not received a call from you one day. You have way more going on underneath the surface than your long post reveals. It sounds like you might have some issues to work out in therapy surrounding abandonment and attachment. In general, my experience is that screaming and crying are not good ways to resolve relationship issues, and if I find myself in a relationship that seems to provoke screaming and crying, it's a sure sign that it's toxic for me.
posted by janey47 at 10:11 AM on June 5, 2015 [23 favorites]

Dude. You like a guy you haven't really been with since JANUARY. His words don't match his actions; he's actually already broken up with you, he's just to much of a coward and too drama-averse to be straight with you.

Have the dignity to walk away. There's nothing to stop him calling you when he's in a better place, but you can't just sit there and passively wait while he gets there. Go lead your life.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:19 AM on June 5, 2015 [17 favorites]

Have you ever seen a plate-spinning act? Your guy is desperately trying to get the "work" plate spinning on its own, but other forces that he can't control keep trying to knock it off. His "health" plate is wobbling and about to fall off of its own pole (untreated kidney stones? yeesh). As for the relationship plate - that takes two people to spin. But he has point blank told you to hang in there and once he gets the other two spinning it will be better. You have to keep the plate spinning on your own for a bit.

And that's okay. In every long-term relationship I've been a part of, there are times when only one of us is monitoring the spinning plate. Deaths in the family, illness, unemployment, etc. It's not forever, but sometimes it's months.

If you are unable or unwilling to spin the relationship plate on your own for a while (and it's 100% okay if you're not right now) while he pulls himself together, this break is a good thing because pausing to regroup might be better than shattering the plate.

Take this time to work on your own spinning plates (coming to grips with your job anxiety, enjoying your new apartment, seeing your therapist) and see what happens afterward.
posted by kimberussell at 10:25 AM on June 5, 2015 [7 favorites]

He said he wanted to marry you after only knowing you two months (HUGE red flag), you haven't slept together since month three of your barely eight month relationship (HUGER red flag), AND you've gone as long as a month at a time in this short relationship without seeing him? Whatever you have here it's not a relationship. Certainly not one you should build anything for the future on.
posted by MsMolly at 10:27 AM on June 5, 2015 [22 favorites]

You're not crazy, but you were a rebound. Get busy with other things and continue the slow fade.
posted by asockpuppet at 10:41 AM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also, you talk a lot (a LOT) in your question about how "we felt" about things. Reality check: you know how YOU felt and what he SAID. Even people who've been married for years are not actually inside their partner's head, able to know their feelings. If they were, no one would ever be blindsided by a surprise divorce. So it might help you to reframe your experience by realizing that you know only your own thoughts and motivations in all of this. You don't really know his. And that's what this new relationship period is for. To repeatedly test whether his words (you're the woman I want to marry) and his actions (I can't be bothered to come help you move a few boxes into your apartment) match up.
posted by MsMolly at 10:49 AM on June 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

Am I crazy for holding onto hope that we can get through this and rebuild?

Maybe? But there's no harm in checking in with him in a couple of months and seeing what's what. It's not *crazy* in the sense that you're operating on a basic delusion or that doing so would make you a stalker. It just may not pan out. It's up to you whether you think it's crazy to have hope about something that isn't 100% certain.

Or should I just walk away now?

Yes. But wait, you say: didn't you just say to check in with him etc.? Well, these aren't mutually exclusive. RIGHT NOW, you should walk away, because you're on a break. That doesn't mean you have to give up and run out and find someone else rightnowrighthisminute. It just means, you go about your life as if you do not have a boyfriend. With a gentle reminder that if you don't actually know how to do that, or have never done it, then that's probably not the best thing and means your taking this break is SUPER important.

How do I cope with the uncertainty? How can I get jumpstarted and stop this moping?

Day to day. When you think about it, your whole life is uncertainty. Certainty is an illusion. The moping is natural, there's no need to beat yourself up about the occasional mope. Just give yourself limits and when you catch yourself spinning your wheels and moping, say aloud: "okay, that time is done now, instead I'm going to watch House of Cards/go for a run/do my self-soothing rituals."

Good luck! Remember that even if this is the end, even if you were a rebound, even if he was cheating...that's not the end of the world, it's no reflection on you, and you'll be fine.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:53 AM on June 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

What happens after work gets better, and something else goes to shit? There's always gonna be something in life that goes wrong, and if he can't be there for you when things are difficult, what kind of future do you have together?

You've seen him no more than once a week, to once a month for 8 months. How many dates have you actually even had? Officially break up, and move on. Maybe you can be friends, but you are obviously not right for each other.
posted by catatethebird at 10:56 AM on June 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

Maybe try rereading your question minus the first part. The first phase of a relationship isn't really a good indicator of whether people are suited for each other. Everyone's on their best behavior, showered & shaved, polite & attentive, baggage hidden in the closet, head over heels, can't keep your hands off each other. It takes most people a while to relax and start to truly be themselves in a relationship.

So now that the shine has worn off, evaluate whether you are really good for each other. Don't think of it as "rebuilding to what you had" because the first OMG s/he's so amazing we are perfect for each other! phase isn't how a long-term relationship is going to look. Don't try to rebuild to the infatuation stage. The real question is can you build a relationship together from here on out? Good luck.
posted by Beti at 11:03 AM on June 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

You haven't been in a relationship with this guy for a long time. You were together for, what, 2-3 months, and now haven't been for 5 or 6?

If you can cut off contact during this "break," that might help you. Tell him you need to not talk until the break is over and you talk it out and reevaluate then.

But honestly, is this the guy you want to marry? Who, if he has mental health problems, refuses to take steps to address them? The guy who, when he deals with job problems or other personal problems, shuts down and can't be in a relationship with you? (Seriously, you can't marry someone like that. Life is never going to be easy forever, and your partner cannot just shut down and shut you out when it gets tough. I mean, they can, but it will be a shitty relationship for you and you will always be dreading the day when it happens again.) The guy who, in the early stages of a relationship, you have had far less good time with than bad?

Of course that's not the guy you want to marry. You should break up. It sucks, because you had chemistry and things felt great and you were so optimistic, and now all your hopes and dreams about this relationship are dying. But still, you should break up because this isn't what you want and you need to look out for yourself.
posted by J. Wilson at 11:06 AM on June 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

Love the plate spinning analogy. It sounds crazy for a relationship as short as yours but if you're serious about loving him, wanting to marry him and have his children then you're just going to have to spin that plate by yourself for now. That's how things are in a serious long term relationship - you have to be able to weather the bad not just the good. Right now he's going through a serious bad patch and you're not the top priority. In an ideal world, we'd all put loved ones above everything else, but in the real world, there are bills to pay. He's not ignoring you to go drinking with the lads, gambling or just sitting in his pants playing video games all weekend - he's trying to secure his future.

If you're in this for the long haul. you just need to take care of yourself, check on your own spinning plates for a while until he's got his sorted. And when he reaches out, throw him a bone. Accept and enjoy what he can offer and stop obsessing about what you're not getting. Take things one day at a time.

If this is all too much though, walk away. You've invested 8 months in this relationship, which in the grand scheme of things is nothing (especially since things have been rocky for nearly 6 months). If you need someone who can be here for you right now then move on and find that person, but realise that most people go through rough patches in their lives where something has to give and that something is often the more social parts of life.
posted by missmagenta at 12:32 PM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: OP here. This is mainly a reply to a comment left by janey47 (not quite sure how to really reply, still trying to figure this out!). Trust me, I am well aware that I have issues that I need to resolve on my own and am taking the steps to do that. Depression and anxiety are not new things to me; I've dealt with them for the majority of my life mostly due to issues such as being overweight/bullied, then figuring out who the hell I was when I dropped the weight five years ago. I know there are some lingering issues that I need to resolve, but it's gotten much better. I was majorly down the day before and reached out to him for some support; when the call was sent to voicemail after two rings, I was suprised, and moreso when he didn't call me back. Not a big deal normally, but I took his silence/not reaching out as him not being there for me when I needed him. The crying/screaming the next day (more raised voice than screaming, to be fair) was definitely a result of my emotions being on high, but moreso the buildup of everything; the strain of everything, my being worried about him, frustration over the fact that he was not contributing to the discussion at all and flat out refusing to get help for his own issues. It's not the way I normally behave when faced with a problem, relationship or otherwise, and I did apologize for acting that way. It is something I will be speaking to my therapist about.
posted by heathergro at 12:57 PM on June 5, 2015

I'm so sorry you're going through this. I don't think this is his "fault," but it just doesn't sound like he can handle a relationship right now. If it's hard to let go for your own sake, it might help you to try to look at this from a generous perspective: you love him as a person, and you can see that he needs to take care of himself at the moment. You can continue to think of it as a break for a little while, if you need to, but it might be best to go completely no-contact.
posted by three_red_balloons at 1:02 PM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Glad to hear you're aware of and working on your issues, still, either there are triggers in the relationship that are pushing your buttons to the extreme or, if it's not strictly speaking this relationship, then you may do well to consider abstaining from relationships until you find your footing. It's not fair to our partners to ask them to be our therapists or to act out if they don't/can't drop everything when we've had a down day.

Obviously, all of us have issues that we need to work on, the question is whether those issues leave room for a healthy relationship. Someone on here recently posed a question about dealing with the abrupt end of relationship when the mefite had become emotionally healthy. It's a good point -- if you create a relationship in which both parties are freaking out on a regular basis, then there's every likelihood that the relationship becomes based on that and the bottom falls out when the drama subsides.

No need to respond -- I'm sending you lots of positive energy -- but also just to point out that this has some correspondence with the experience of adult children of alcoholics, who become addicted to negative excitement. That's a sucky way to live, believe me, I know from experience.

Good luck!
posted by janey47 at 1:41 PM on June 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

Eek, rebuild what? The way you lay it out, you had a relationship with him for a portion of November, December, and a portion of January. And for the next 5 months, he's been pushing you away. There is nothing here to rebuild. Please save your sanity and walk away from this person.
posted by cecic at 2:00 PM on June 5, 2015 [8 favorites]

Hey, so I'm really really busy. I have a demanding and somewhat stressful job doing enough work for one and a half people in my position (seriously, they are going to hire another person), two sets of parents who both live in my city and currently have health concerns, friends, pets, bills, obligations, and a boyfriend. I travel fairly frequently both for work and for family obligations. I am tired and stressed a lot.

Even at my absolute busiest, I could find time in the day to check in with my boyfriend.

Everyone has a lunch break. Everyone has two minutes when they're sitting on the toilet and can press the two characters needed to send a little "smiley" to their favorite person. Everyone has AT LEAST one hour a week, for goodness sake, even if they're drowning in obligations.

He didn't keep you in his life because he didn't want to keep you in his life. You really need to realize this. In that sense, you are more on "distant friend/acquaintance" level than "life partner" level. I find that when I get super busy with my job, my distant friends are the ones who get the cold shoulder first. The "outer circles" get shaved off until I'm left with the center- parents and boyfriend.

Even if I can only see boyfriend one or two days a week, I can find or make the time.

This dude didn't want to keep you in his "inner circle" I'm afraid. He wasn't "too busy." That's really just bullshit.

I'm sorry.
posted by quincunx at 4:02 PM on June 5, 2015 [15 favorites]

Masochistic workaholics get abused by their bosses. They are often willing to throw everything into their jobs- time, health, love life, sanity- EVERYTHING- to bodily plug the leaks in their (work) ship. Unfortunately, the company is perfectly willing to let them suffer, because good companies don't get in this position anyway.

Your SO is married to an abusive, abusive entity. I'd get out, honestly. This sounds like a mess all around.
posted by Jacen at 2:58 PM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

"Am I crazy for holding onto hope that we can get through this and rebuild?" Yes
"should I just walk away now?" Yes
"How do I cope with the uncertainty?" You are kidding yourself if you think you're escaping uncertainty no matter what you choose in this type of situation. If you stay you continue the uncertainty and stress you're under now. If you go, you'll have the uncertainty of not knowing what's next, but at least you'll be more available for meeting someone worthy- and that's better than not being available because your mental energy is elsewhere. There is no escaping uncertainty, it's a part of life.

People say that the most common reasons for divorce are along the lines of sex and money, but neither is true. These are just symptoms of the real #1 reason for separation: One or both people are unwilling to put in the BASIC and SIMPLE effort required to keep the relationship in tact. Even the most compatible couple won't last if one of them doesn't put in the little bit of time necessary to make a phone call or write a text when warranted. If they can't even do that then how is the relationship going to cope when life throws a curveball at you where solving it is not as easy as spending a few minutes to make a call? And not to sound unromantic or anything, but there are plenty of arranged marriages that are happy and successful despite neither person falling head over heels, when both of the people contribute to sustaining their lives together. On the other hand there are virtually no successful relationships that have passion where the two people are "in love" but one or both of them won't put in the basic effort to sustain their lives together. I'm not trying to knock down the "in love" factor or anything, but the fact is that a relationship can potentially survive without it. What it cannot survive without is the basic effort to communicate and keep it in tact. This man has shown time and time again that he's not willing to put in the basic effort. If you spend any more time with this one I guarantee you'll regret it later.
posted by rancher at 11:31 PM on June 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I just wanted to thank everyone for taking the time to give me their thoughts and advice on this matter; I really appreciate it! I've been lurking here for awhile and knew I would get some good/honest advice. It's been a week since I've heard from him (I'm not doing the reaching out, as I agree with the above comments where no contact would probably be best) and it truly does suck. My feelings and thoughts about it are very confused, as to be expected. But I am treating it as a breakup and turning the focus on myself. Staying busy, signing up for new things, giving myself projects, etc. I know deep down that I really did everything I could to make it work, that this doesn't have any bearing on who I am, that it really is his loss, and that I will eventually be okay.

Thanks again! :)
posted by heathergro at 8:06 AM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

Just know that he might feel insecure after you don't contact him for a while and when this happens he might try to initiate contact again and give you false hope. Don't get sucked in if this happens. He's just wanting your attention again and after he has it he'll go back to not bothering with you. Stay no contact. It'll be easier for you in the long run.
posted by rancher at 4:27 PM on June 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

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