Like, fifty green-eyed monsters.
February 26, 2016 4:51 PM   Subscribe

My fiance just helped my--to be as melodramatic as possible about it--archnemesis into the same elite career/institution he's in, so that now I have not one, but two people to pathetically peer at, looking in with my nose pressed to the glass. He also had a thing for her before we started dating (and during). I'm freaked out and bitter. Help me figure out how not to be a huge evil baby while I taste the many acrid flavors of the jealousy rainbow.

My fiance and I have been together for almost seven years. We're both in our mid-20s and started dating right as I started university. Our relationship is very good and strong by most metrics: we've been through very tough stuff together, grown into each other, communicate constantly and relatively well. (Although we already know I have envy issues: relevant background but also, really fuckin long.) But there's been this stupid sticking point almost the entire time, and it might be about to get a whole lot stickier.

My fiance (uh, “Jack”) has a friend. Female friend. He sees her very, very rarely—like once every few years, these days. But he knew her before he knew me, and had a thing for her, although nothing really ever materialized. (Once he and I got together, though, she did send him a weird, “Oh man, good for you, although I did always think that maybe you and I could have..........” message.) Being both an insane and insanely jealous person, I obviously hated her. She couldn't have been a more perfect threat: way prettier than I was, smarter, more interesting, “cooler,” studied the same subjects we both did and was far better at them than I ever was. Everyone who meets her falls in love with her. She was tough and sexy and had a shaved head sometimes but could also speak perfect Latin. I was terrified of her.

She and I share a lot of the same pathologies and interests (duh, otherwise I wouldn't be worried about how easily she could replace me), so we would chat on and off, and my feelings about the situation were unclear even to myself, but it was also very much a friends-close enemies-closer kind of deal, and I never could discern how seriously she took our friendship. Or how seriously I took it, for that matter.

Some complicated biz took place after that. I was very sick, like brink-of-death sick, and my relationship with my then-boyfriend was very strained as a result, though we had had an enviably great relationship for three years at that point. This could be another five pages, but Jack tried to sleep with her sometime during that period. It wasn't an outright attempt to cheat—we were all getting drunk together, and in a bitter, masochistic, “this feels inevitable and I want to get it over with” way, I drunkenly spat something about how he could fuck her if she wanted. And he tried to, although she didn't let him. There was no actual sex but they did make out and get naked and etc. To be fair, we all thought I would be dead pretty soon.

He and I spent the next few days fighting it out; it was tearful and ugly. He felt horrible. I was horrible. I think sometimes that maybe we should have ended it then, even though I would probably be dead by now if we had. But I had too little energy of any kind to break fully out of the relationship's orbit, and we carried on, albeit in a deeply damaged way. Things were jerky and stiff for a long time, and they didn't really start going back to normal until I was hospitalized for a while at the end of my junior year. I still don't fully trust him, re: her.

Now he's in his second year of a doctorate at the best program in his field in the world, of which I'm already ridiculously envious. We didn't have much contact with her for a few years, but she just finished a master's in the same field, has been applying to PhDs, and, surprise! just got in here, along with every other Ivy, jesus christ.

(If, uh, you did not see the previous ask, I've been struggling for almost two years now with dealing with my fiance's genius, his stellar academic career and success, his essentially frictionless rise to the top of his field, and his having his perfect dream job career path all laid out for him, while I sacrificed any chance at that—not that I really had one anyway!—to maintain our relationship while we were in college. I am, 24/7, crushed by how stupid, dull, and useless I am compared to him. It's very boring.)

This is her first choice school. We haven't seen her since that, ah, time. I kind of wanted to never see her again? Oh, and salt in the wound: he helped her get in here! When she started applying to PhD programs, she got in touch with my fiance (since they're in the same field) and asked him to read her writing sample and help coach her through the process. And he did, even though I was (am) jealous and scared. He put in a good word for her with the department; who knows how instrumental that was as far as her acceptance goes. I knew I couldn't ask him not to, but he knew I didn't want him helping her, either. I've respected his wishes when he wanted me to avoid guys he thought were “too into” me—not that I really wanted to be around them, they were awful almost to the point of harassment—and I know this is a far more complicated situation, but still.

So I'm mad. And sad. Scared. This perfect, Everything I Can Do She Can Do Better woman that my fiance was into before we started dating, that he tried to fuck while we were dating, is now probably going to join his PhD program, and he helped her get there, even though he knows I really, really don't like her or being around her. So she's going to be living in our town, coming over for dinner, under the impression that we're all friends now, all adults, so that they can talk shop while I...what? Seethe? Nice.

I'm already jealous of both their careers and success. Now that all has to be compounded and made infinitely more immediate and inescapable? She keeps texting me about how excited she is to visit and how much she loves both of us, even blogging about what a great help Jack has been to her and how much she loves him. Fuck.

I'm also jealous that he's helped her along in her career, while I have no career to speak of? I'm working a job I mostly hate, for a company with shady, gross business practices, at weird hours that keep me completely socially isolated such that I still know no one in our town (which is.......why I'm on MeFi...........), feeling crushed and alienated and stunted, and whenever I want to vent or discuss or even just have a stupid cry about being directionless and miserable, it eventually gets cut off by a “Baby, I really need to get back to work now.” But he took the time to prop open the doors of the ivory tower for her. Ugh.

I'm scared he's going to fall for her, but I also just am bitter about their victories and the role he played in hers. I know I'm coming off as very Insane Girlfriend and also Lazy, Jealous Asshole who resents everyone else's accomplishments, and this is all very disorganized and poorly written. It's a wildly complicated situation, or maybe it just seems so to me; I could go on for pages more, but this is already really rambly. I'm sorry. How crazy am I? How can I deal? How can I be less stupid and insecure about all this? Please help me practice being less of a paranoid idiot and more of a normal, healthy person with adult relationships.
posted by bugperson to Human Relations (129 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
He put in a good word for her with the department; who knows how instrumental that was as far as her acceptance goes.

As a professor who is in a program with graduate students and involved in the graduate admissions process, in my program it would (a) be bizarre if a second-year graduate student put in a word for some other prospective graduate student, and (b) would make utterly no difference on that student's chances for acceptance into the program.

That's not typically how graduate school applications work.
posted by leahwrenn at 5:02 PM on February 26, 2016 [27 favorites]

It sounds like you've got a lot of resentment going on with what you've "given up" and a lot of hopelessness and really catastrophic fatalistic thinking going on. It sounds like you've got mostly good self-awareness and have made huge strides, and I want to suggest you might want to have some talks with a counselor/therapist about what you can do to be more satisfied in your own life. What sort of goals, day-to-day hopes for yourself, projects for yourself can you be working on to let you focus on and enjoy your own life and not on comparisons to other people so much? How can your relationship be a source of strength to you and not something you're constantly feeling like you are sacrificing for and getting the short end of the stick?
posted by Lady Li at 5:04 PM on February 26, 2016 [14 favorites]

God I wish you'd break up with this clown and leave him to Sexy Princess Perfect and her transgressive hairstylings. I don't care if he's the next incarnation of Giles Deleuze, your relationship sounds horrible. It sounds like it's killing you. Everything you could possibly do is being held back by the needs of genius, the career of genius, and now the needs and career of the girl genius seems to want to bang. This is not what feminism wants for you.

I remember your previous ask, and I think you're probably going to Nope anything that will actually help, and then you're going to wake up when you're thirty to find that genius-boy is having it off with someone in his program and you'll have all the emotional work still to do to make yourself a new life.

But if you were really going to take advice - find some therapy. Find some therapy. Find an online therapist if there's no one local. To me the puzzle is why someone who's obviously smart - and you're obviously smart, your writing is a little on the too-wry-for-one-so-young side, but smart - has hitched her wagon to this type of man. I know you like him, I know you care for him, but your life is being consumed, being burned up, by the need to stay with him in this stupid town with no friends and nothing in your life that you can succeed at. What is driving you to burn yourself up in this way? What injured you so badly early on that you don't think you're worth more than this?

Ugh, why don't you just move to Minneapolis and hang out with other people? Move to Minneapolis, I'll show you around, you can have a long-distance relationship with genius-boy and find a job that will help you feel better about yourself. It just kills me to see a young woman destroying part of herself in order to stick around for a relationship with a man who - even if he's super well-intentioned - is not good at making her feel valued and worthwhile.
posted by Frowner at 5:06 PM on February 26, 2016 [288 favorites]

He had NOTHING TO DO with her getting into his program; you say yourself that she got into all the other great programs.

I can't tell whether your fiance is a first-class asshole or what, but YOU ARE MISERABLE IN THE RELATIONSHIP. Seriously, I don't understand what you're getting out of this beyond more things to beat yourself up about, which you already super do not need. You need to get out.

If you're not going to leave, at least draw some boundaries - this woman absolutely does not get to come around to your house for dinner and think that she's friends with you if that's not what you want. You are an adult and you do not have to hang out with people you don't like. It sounds like you're choosing to make nice with her because you're afraid of being judged for being jealous of her. That's not a great reason to hang out with someone you don't like.

Life is hard but by choosing to spend all your time with people who bring out all this shame in you is making it harder.
posted by mskyle at 5:14 PM on February 26, 2016 [19 favorites]

I think the jealousy and insecurity are symptoms. Some other thoughts:

1) work on not using self-deprecation as a coping mechanism. Confidence can affect so many aspects of your life for the better. Fake it til you feel it.

2) success is not a zero sum game. I struggle with accepting this too. But it's true: your fiance/archnemesis' accomplishments do not diminish yours. Their intellect does not diminish yours. etc. The sooner you can internalize that, the better.

3) realize that a lot of "successful" people are actually not that much more brilliant than their cohort, but better at playing the game. That may not change your situation but it may help you process what you observe.

4) spend some real effort focusing on yourself. Even if you don't find your One True Calling right away, fill your time with activities (writing? Reading? New sport? New hobby?) and taking care of yourself. You start out distracting yourself from feeling not good enough and who knows, you might actually start to feel fulfilled after awhile.

5) give yourself a break. Being in a bubble with other high achievers can be exhausting. If #4 doesn't get you out into the real world, maybe take a step back and spend some time in a different environment for another perspective.

As for your archnemesis, if she *were* a threat to you, you can minimize whether that even matters by having your own shit going on and being comfortable with who *you* are. If you try to beat her at being her, she will always win. Be you, and you will eventually stop caring about her. The opposite of love is not hate but indifference, and all that.
posted by AV at 5:30 PM on February 26, 2016 [14 favorites]

You don't have to choose to stay in a relationship that makes you frame your sacrifices and almost-dying and working at a shit job as Massive Loserdome for Losers.. You don't have to stay in it.

You don't have to stay in it. Also, THERAPY.
posted by rtha at 5:30 PM on February 26, 2016 [18 favorites]

If you can slog away for years to 'maintain' a relationship through effacement of your Self, think what you could do if you made a choice to 'maintain' just your own Self?

I've nourished and supported 'genius' blokes and trod water for years with a co-dependent 'tude. It makes you sick and pathetic (in the true sense of the word) and fearful of every possible presentation of abandonment. The best thing that happened to me was psychotherapy. Who taught you to look up to 'genius' and who demanded that you sublimate your own desires onto someone else. You found this guy when you made your first strides out of home, so I'm guessing it's developmental ushering into feeling worthless. You can learn to find and celebrate your own genius, you can find a person, or community that enables you to like you for you.

You're mid-20s and you've got a lotta life ahead of you. Take your vacation time overseas on some backpacking group of twenty somethings tour. Say not one deprecating thing about yourself to others during that time. Don't speak a word about 'my fiancé is so smart' or refer to yourself via this person's life.

Lift weights at the gym and watch your muscles growing as you mentally chant your mantra 'I am enough just as I am' - or turn this relationship as presented here into a feminist takedown stand up comedy routine about Shit Chicks Will Put Up With And Shouldn't. You've got a wicked turn of phrase and I bet you're fucking awesome through n through.
posted by honey-barbara at 5:32 PM on February 26, 2016 [26 favorites]

Please listen to Frowner.

Look, academia is the pits, and you seem to be idealizing it in a way that is not healthy. (I say this as an academic.) It's just a job. You move around a lot. There's a lot of upheaval. Dual careers are a nightmare (ask me how I know!). Departmental politics are a Lovecraftian horror. Undergrads will get their parents to send you threatening emails about their sub-par grades. It can be very fun and interesting and rewarding, but it's certainly not the only way to have a life.

There are so many other ways to have an interesting, fulfilling life. Join the Peace Corps. Save every penny from your shady, gross job and backpack through South America for six months. Sell everything you own and walk the Camino de Santiago. Don't ruin yourself envying your fiance's life. Make your own.
posted by baby beluga at 5:34 PM on February 26, 2016 [83 favorites]

feeling crushed and alienated and stunted, and whenever I want to vent or discuss or even just have a stupid cry about being directionless and miserable, it eventually gets cut off by a “Baby, I really need to get back to work now.” But he took the time to prop open the doors of the ivory tower for her. Ugh.

Leave him, and go to therapy, or otherwise just spend some time alone, figuring your shit out.

How many years of your life do you want to blow on being miserable?
posted by gone2croatan at 5:35 PM on February 26, 2016 [19 favorites]

Why do you put yourself through this? GTFO before all the bad things you think are going to happen, happen. And then do whatever you need to do to be proactively satisfied with yourself, rather than reactively miserable.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:36 PM on February 26, 2016 [4 favorites]

I didn't recognize your username but I recognized your style immediately and knew it was the poster from your prior ask, OP. But this one is way better written and more relatable. This is how I read your asks: as entertaining fiction.

OP, honest to God, I think you should write a book about your ride on this little rollercoaster. In fact, I think you should not break up with your guy until it is done. Yes. Sorry, but great art flows from pain more often than not. You have talent, you have pain - a fresh source, even! - and you have a screaming need to be heard to be acknowledged as extraordinary. And I think your book could be great.

And not only would it be amazing therapy for you to create something truly excellent, I even think you could get famous from it. I think now is the time, looking at popular culture. I'm reminded of how the idea of emotional labor is beginning to be understood. I'm reminded of the hilarious bit in Girls' first season when they go to the book party for the author whose boyfriend committed suicide and how jealous Hannah is of the author's having the subject matter to work with. Hell, I'm jealous of you right now of having it to work with. Girl, stop wasting your phrasing on AskMeFi, go start writing it out. Let the anger and jealousy and humor just flow, don't stop, don't edit yet. Let your imagination go, don't stop with just the literal truth. And then come back and tell us when it's getting sold. I can't wait to raise a glass to your deal.

(and then obviously break up with him because he doesn't make you happy. But first let the misery inspire you to greatness.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:37 PM on February 26, 2016 [39 favorites]

Dude, you are so, so depressed right now and you are wearing your self-loathing like a comfy blanket. Every success one of these other people has is a knife that you are choosing, daily, to pick up and jam into your own heart. Go to therapy and find out why.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:37 PM on February 26, 2016 [70 favorites]

as dan savage would say [and others have said], dtmfa.
posted by the twistinside at 5:41 PM on February 26, 2016 [5 favorites]

Yeah, um, therapy please. I don't know whether everything in your post is due to extreme cognitive distortion or due to you being in an astonishingly toxic relationship or what, but I know for sure you need someone to give you in-person assistance. ASAP.
posted by SMPA at 5:42 PM on February 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

I see now from your previous post that you have a "useless" therapist. Please get a different one. They should be able to give you a referral to someone who is better suited to your needs.

Please also remember that therapy requires a lot of scary work on your part.
posted by SMPA at 5:45 PM on February 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

1. I concur with Frowner.
2. You do sound miserable in this relationship and like you are clinging to it like Rose on her door in Titanic.
3. I strongly suspect that you are constantly fantasizing that he's fucking her and loving her and going to leave you so he can fuck her. Just all the time.

So you know what? Fine. LET HIM. Leave him so that he can go fuck her all he wants (if she wants to let him). I know you're not gonna do it, but I'm saying something this audacious because in your head, he's all but left you for her and is fucking her except for the mere technicality where he technically hasn't left you for her and/or fucked her yet (to your knowledge). You're already paying most of the emotional price in your head for him leaving you for her. Hell with it: let your "worst nightmare" happen because you're already living it, and if it actually happened you might try to move on with your life to do something else that isn't being his satellite.

" I think you're probably going to Nope anything that will actually help, and then you're going to wake up when you're thirty to find that genius-boy is having it off with someone in his program and you'll have all the emotional work still to do to make yourself a new life. "

Yeah, I know that's what you're going to do. You're not in any kind of place to voluntarily let him go, so you won't, and you'll cling on until he boots you to the curb. There's no way any of us can reassure you that he won't do it and even objectively speaking not knowing any of you, it does sound pretty likely that it can/might/will happen. You've given up everything for him, sunk cost, etc. But it's not paying off to give up everything for him, is it? No.

I think at this point you're just going to end up circling the drain for awhile clinging to him until the inevitable happens, honestly. Unfortunately you don't sound even close to being all "fuck this shit and being the Pluto to his sun while waiting for him to dump me, I'm out." But again as Frowner said, it's time to go to therapy and start sorting this shit out so that at some point in time, you can start working on yourself instead of doing all of this drama.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:52 PM on February 26, 2016 [14 favorites]

He felt horrible. I was horrible

He was horrible.

This guy tried to sleep with her while you were dangerously ill, and she stopped him? Put aside for a moment all of your concerns about your behaviour and possible justifications for his, the person you consider your arch nemesis was more on your side than he was.
posted by lucidium at 5:54 PM on February 26, 2016 [118 favorites]

I don't want to pile on here. I'm not going to tell you to DTMFA or anything. But you can't have a good, healthy relationship where one person feels they have given up virtually everything important to them for the sake of the other. And it seems like you're so focused on what other people think of you. Can you focus on yourself for a little while? What do YOU want, forgetting about your fiance and his friend and anybody else? Can you carve out some happiness for yourself without regard to what's happening with your fiance or others?
posted by chickenmagazine at 5:56 PM on February 26, 2016 [9 favorites]

I once read that one way to time travel is to listen to the experiences of elders. Time travel to 10 or 20 years from now and give advice to yourself if that makes you feel better, but folks here have some very, very good advice to you from the heart. You must get out of this relationship while you have some dignity left. You are providing your own funeral here, not your boyfriend or the nemesis, YOU. Put on your big girl panties and take care of yourself. Your bf isn't going to do you any favors and break up for you, he doesn't need to. He's getting what he wants and he knows he can get away with it. Once you are out of this suffocating, tiny space you're in, you will feel SO MUCH BETTER. Do it now, don't waste time, don't make excuses, get out. What kind of man tries to fuck some other woman when his gf is dying?? You will feel better, you will have the life you want but you must take the steps, even though you don't want to. Feel the fear and do it anyway.
posted by waving at 5:57 PM on February 26, 2016 [6 favorites]

In my circle there is a couple (ex) where the guy had an affair with a teacher while married (and the principal!) and then was found out and lost his job and "had to" move away from his wife & kids and the affair-lady just "happened to" move to where the guy was.

And for like srsly 30 years the guy & wife had a commuter marriage and she was miserable and their narrative was woe unto us we cannot be together although everyone else was like "so move to a third place??" And finally...he divorced the wife to finally marry affair-lady and the wife went ballistic. Everyone else in the world could see that they were both married to _dysfunction_, not each other.

You are a strangely envious person in a relationship with someone who seems to be a big-ego'd big fish in academic pond with this chick hanging around, cutting off pieces of herself to make it work which conveniently feeds whatever it is you get out of being preoccupied with what Everyone Else has.

This just does not end well, my dear. Go live your life, not his.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:59 PM on February 26, 2016 [9 favorites]

Response by poster: sorry to be an obnoxious threadsitter, but a few n.b.s:

1.) this happened in the last ask too, but, while I am pretty young/naive/romanticising/an outsider, please don't write me off as someone who doesn't "know how academia works." I'm being extremely vague with the actual goings-on because academia is small and this field is even smaller. No, my bf didn't literally go up to the head of dept and say ,"Hey, this girl is brilliant," only to have them say, "Okay! Sick! She's in!" I'm not going to put direct quotes because that would be very stupid. Essentially, and I don't know how it came up, a prof said she was one of their shortlisted candidates but they needed to narrow down the list, and my bf said it was her top choice and she'd come here if accepted, and that influenced the decision in whatever small (but still painful) way. I'm not going deeply into what he does or his relationships in the dept, but when I say he gets to do a lot of very cool and fun stuff on their dime (like travel through southeast Asia for month, visiting temples and making diagrams of different kinds of dead cows), it's because that's what he's doing, not because I don't "get" academia. I know there are lots of downsides, but we both grew up below the poverty line, so this seems like a pretty rad, cushy gig to me.

2.) This is not an abusive or toxic relationship. 90% of the time it is perfect and the kind of relationship people get all "#goals!!!!" over. He is the kindest, most supportive man I've ever met and by far the best feminist. He truly wants me to flourish and be happy, and if anyone is the evil bad guy in this relationship, it is me. It's just that I'm not coming on here every other day to post asks about how great we're doing.

3.)Thanks for all your thoughts so far. You are all very insightful, and I really appreciate the time you sink into helping random weirdos with their problems.
posted by bugperson at 6:01 PM on February 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Shit, P.S.: Looking for a new therapist. I had an amazing one in undergrad but she is several hundred miles away now, unfortunately.
posted by bugperson at 6:03 PM on February 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

90% of the time it is perfect and the kind of relationship people get all "#goals!!!!" over.

Okay, but ten percent of the time your fiance is acting like a manipulative piece of shit. This is not a good relationship. You're putting this guy on a pedestal and putting yourself down. This is truly distressing to read.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 6:06 PM on February 26, 2016 [72 favorites]

Focus on yourself. You need a new job and a new therapist. When you are in a better place, the rest of this will be easier for you. I was going to say you should dump him and move, but having seen your update I don't know. I will say that he can be great and the relationship can still be bad for you.

I too love your writing.
posted by Area Man at 6:15 PM on February 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

Okay, first, this is an incredibly intense question that is well written, and if nothing else, you should turn this into a thinly-veiled novel for people like me to read. (On preview, I see everyone else thinks you should use this to fuel art, too.) That might be bad advice to take literally. But seriously, you've been through a lot of stuff, including with this person, and I can see why you're freaking out.

One step I think you should take is to boost your own self esteem. You make her sound perfect and you make yourself sound like an utter loser, but aside from having experienced a massive illness with the associated career impact, and from having put his career needs first, you're clearly smart enough to succeed if you got traction in a direction you wanted to go in. (Reason 1, this question. Reason 2, your fiance "has a much higher opinion of [your] abilities than [you] do," per the last question.)

Also, for the record, I would like to say that people in academia and people who know Latin are not smarter than everyone else. There's this "we're the smartest of the smart" aura that can surround worlds of arcane intellectualism, but that's just because you're around people whose identity is all about being smart, whereas other people just do competent smart things all day long without trying to get a prize for it. It takes a LOT of smarts -- a lot of different kinds of smarts -- to, say, keep a large construction project running on time. Someone who gets a Ph.D. in philosophy at Oxford is clearly good at one game (school). But some other hypothetical person whose family immigrated and who learned English and now runs a company had to succeed at like ten games to pull that off. You're in a multi-game environment with this whole health / grades / career choice thing, so I'd try to stop comparing how "far" you've gotten or putting these people on a pedestal of genius. And if it's not you putting them there, if they see themselves anything like you see them, they are utterly insufferable and you should run away. Either way, it sounds like you need to find a way to prove to yourself that you're a badass, so maybe start taking karate lessons, taking organic chemistry, and studying for your MCATs, or whatever.

With respect to the fiance, I honestly can't tell if you're a reliable narrator. If he is stuck on her in an ongoing way, if he is going to spend the next few semesters trying to get with her, then it's probably worth getting out now. You deserve a relationship that makes you feel secure. On the other hand, do you not feel secure because of you, or him? I can't tell; my odds are maybe 60% it's him -- he did try to sleep with her; 40% it's you -- as your self-image is clearly really distorted, so you might not be reporting all the reassuring signals that suggest she's not really a threat. Is it possible that no matter how many times he apologized and reassured you that he no longer has feelings for her, that it wouldn't sink in enough to make it in this question? If nothing was left out, I'd be all over DTMFA. But on the chance that your assessment of the relationship parallels your assessment of your career potential, then it might be worth playing it cool and not preemptively destroying your relationship while you get some help (therapy!) in figuring this out. What does he say when you explain that her return is bringing up you all's history and making you remember that very hard time? I would also set very clear boundaries if any shit starts to happen. I'm not trying to undermine you here -- if your gut agrees with all the DTMFAers, then go for it -- I'm just saying that as a reader, I honestly don't feel I can say for sure without more data.

Last, you have a LOT going in your head. That'll make all this harder to deal with. Therapist? Penpal? More message board postings? Long runs? That novel? You need other support besides your fiance. I think a lot of what is coming through in your question may be something like anxiety or depression and that if you got that under control, all of this would be much easier to handle.
posted by salvia at 6:17 PM on February 26, 2016 [28 favorites]

Yeah, I just want to say that the whole business with this woman while you were sick, well, from the inside, it probably feels like just how really intense, intellectual, unusual people act, with the strong passions and the unconventionality. And it probably feels pretty good to be flippant about how scary and terrible it must have been to be deathly ill. But I'll tell you what, that was really bad behavior on his part. It wasn't cool just because you're all bright and bohemian, any more than Burroughs shooting his wife in the head was okay because they were bright and bohemian. It was a sad thing for you to expect, and a warped thing for him to actually do.

Even if this guy were Agamben wrapped inside Guattari wrapped inside Zizek wrapped in an enigma, that wouldn't make it right for you to give up everything on the alter of his career.

Even the brightest man is only one man. Smart people - history is full of them, they're not actually, individually, that important. An individual brilliant genius isn't more important than an individual capable and compassionate organizer or administrator, and may in fact be less good and less important.
posted by Frowner at 6:18 PM on February 26, 2016 [94 favorites]

I have not seen this up threat (apologies if it is): you are stuck in the young love trap. You been with this guy since you were young and you can't imagine life without him. Being with him is apart of your grown up self image. A relationship like this is hard for most to let go of. But you need to run like the wind from this man. And then once you find your good new therapist you can talk through: a. What a jackass you should run from as soon as possible sounds and feels like! B. What you want and need from another adult in a good relationship. Go no contact with this dude starting this weekend.
posted by Kalmya at 6:18 PM on February 26, 2016 [12 favorites]

> 2.) This is not an abusive or toxic relationship.

It doesn't have to be in order for it to be not good for you. Nobody has to be Hitler in order for the relationship to not be good or for them to not be good for the other person in the relationship.

You are not happy. You are in a relationship that feeds all your worst fears and beliefs about how awful and useless you are, in a place where you can't even find fulfilling work outside the relationship. THIS SUCKS. How much longer do you want it to keep sucking? How much resentment and terror do you want to keep swallowing? What are you afraid will happen if you say "I can't live like this anymore. I love you, but I can't live like this and I'm gonna move to MPLS and hang out with Frowner and stop feeding the misery beast. Bye."?
posted by rtha at 6:20 PM on February 26, 2016 [61 favorites]

You are desperately unhappy and focusing so much energy on this woman and your fiancé and instead you need to direct that energy on yourself in a positive way. Therapy therapy therapy. Find that. Then you can unravel some of this other stuff and decide how to proceed. Or dump him now and start fresh. Either way work on yourself.
posted by JenMarie at 6:21 PM on February 26, 2016 [5 favorites]

This is not an abusive or toxic relationship. 90% of the time it is perfect and the kind of relationship people get all "#goals!!!!" over.

It doesn't matter what other people think of your relationship, it's obviously making YOU miserable and that's the most important part.

if anyone is the evil bad guy in this relationship, it is me

Sorry, but he attempted to cheat on you with somebody you already had issues with while you were LITERALLY DYING... and then he goes out of his way to get this woman into his grad program so he can live in the same city with her again? You have not described a single thing that you've done that even approaches this level of fucked up, and that is fucked up.

I want to know how you came to believe that you were the evil bad guy in the relationship. I think a LOT more is going on under the surface than you are mentioning. It really sounds like you are being gaslighted here - you described yourself as the bad guy when he cheated on you while you were deathly ill.. that doesn't happen without having your emotions so twisted in knots that you can't tell what's right. It's distressing and confusing and terrifying - I've been there and it won't get any better until you're away from him. At least get away for a few days or a week and see if you can clear your thinking a little bit. The way he's treating you isn't ok.
posted by zug at 6:21 PM on February 26, 2016 [46 favorites]

Look, I've been where you are. I dated a man whose brilliance I've never seen the like of before or since (and I'm no slouch myself). The times we were together I now remember as among the most miserable times of my life - and I thought I was happy! I was devastated when we broke up, because I just couldn't imagine being out in the dull, mediocre world anymore without his brilliance buoying me up. He dumped me because he thought our relationship was unhealthy for me, and he was right. When I look back I wish I had gotten out sooner and just been friends. Your life is too short to spend always comparing yourself to someone you think is better than you, even when they're romantic and good to you. You need to find someone that's your equal, and that you know is your equal. It takes time.

You think he's a good guy because he treats you well 90% of the time and he's brilliant. He's not. He's not a good guy. If your guy was a good guy, he wouldn't try to sleep with other women while you're dying, even if you said it was ok. If your guy was a good guy, I guarantee you wouldn't feel like this. You can't see this because you're hung up on the parts you think are good and the fact that you feel special for dating someone so smart - but they're not worth being miserable, and no amount of therapy or ridiculously long AskMeFi posts is going to help you to stop being miserable in this relationship. My ex died, some time after we broke up. I miss him all the time as a friend, but I never miss the way I felt when we were together. Move on - when you're on the other side you'll realize how stupid it was to make yourself feel this way.
posted by permiechickie at 6:28 PM on February 26, 2016 [17 favorites]

Others have touched on the other things much better, but to comment on one tiny slice:

if you seriously still don't trust him not to fall in love with her/ sleep with her / leave you for her, YOU SHOULD NOT BE GETTING MARRIED. Whether it's because he really does still have a thing for her, or because your anxiety about her is consuming you with jealousy and fear, do not get married with this niggling at you. You cannot stand across from someone on your wedding day and wonder if they'd run off with Latin Girl if she asked him to. It will destroy you and the marriage.

Therapy will help you either deal with the anxiety, or to question why you stay with someone you truly don't trust.
posted by nakedmolerats at 6:29 PM on February 26, 2016 [24 favorites]

Shit, P.S.: Looking for a new therapist. I had an amazing one in undergrad but she is several hundred miles away now, unfortunately.

Consider asking if she does phone sessions, if you haven't already. (And if she doesn't, ask if she can recommend anyone in your new location, or has any colleagues who can recommend someone there.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:30 PM on February 26, 2016 [4 favorites]

Oh, wow. I wish you had friends you could lean on. (If you lived near me I'd want to be your friend because you sound cool and I deeply relate to a lot of what you say.) These friends that I wish for you are outside of academia-- because, no offense to academics and those who love them--academia is ridiculous. And I know you completely get what it's about, but I think it would be helpful (and enjoyable) for you to knock it off its pedestal. Yeah, you said it all right, it's pretty fuckin cushy-- and cushy lives deserve to be mocked, for catharsis and sport.

I want to be so hard on this dude, but something tells me you just won't hear it at this moment. I do think you earnestly feel he's too good for you and this is keeping you in a situation which is causing you true misery. But...wait for it...what if...YOU'RE too good for HIM? Try that on, in your brain, for a wee while. Take that idea out and show it a good time. Kiss it on the lips.

Most of the time when I'm spiraling as bad as you seem to be it's because I fear the worst. But you? The worst is already happening.

Fear that makes me crazy: what if he wants to fuck this woman I envy? Your reality: you already know he does because HE ALREADY TRIED TO. Fear that makes me sad: what if something really awful happens, like I get deathly ill, and he doesn't come through? Your reality: that already happened. Fear that makes me hesitant to be myself: what if I open up about all my ugly feelings and fears, and he doesn't care? Your reality: that's already happened MULTIPLE TIMES.

Look, I ain't no fancy perfesser or nothin, but I don't need a PhD to tell you that he is one hundred percent going to try to fuck her (again.) How are you somehow the crazy bad one here?
posted by kapers at 6:31 PM on February 26, 2016 [28 favorites]

Response by poster: Ack! Stop! I'm not being gaslit. I promise. This man is not William Burroughs. He's very soft and silly and not self-serious in any way. I've been trying to keep things concise (haha!) but y'all are asking for more data.

He is really, really great and loving, and he's made sacrifices too. He makes them daily, actually: like walking three miles late at night to come get me at work, since we don't have a car, and then walking another three home together. He's not making me miserable, I am making me miserable. The issues I have are in me. Leaving this relationship and even eventually finding another would not solve them, and if there is anyone on this planet who will weather them with me, it's this guy. I don't want to write off your collective wisdom, but I don't know how better to convey his ultimate goodness. Leaving him would not fix me, and the sacrifices I made were my choices, inasmuch as anyone has free choices, I guess.

He doesn't have a wandering eye in general; there have been no other threats of any sort. I'm just hung up on this.
posted by bugperson at 6:32 PM on February 26, 2016

This is not an abusive or toxic relationship. 90% of the time it is perfect and the kind of relationship people get all "#goals!!!!" over

Girl this sounds FUCKING TERRIBLE. You are too young and inexperienced to have the insight necessary to realize that either you are being totally manipulated or he is capitalizing on your self-blame.

I was in a very similar situation when I was in my early twenties, and I was convinced that it was my problem, that I was irrationally jealous, that if I could change myself ever so slightly I'd be cool enough to capture all of his attention. And my boyfriend indirectly reinforced it by creating his own tiny worlds with other girls, much like yours seems to be doing.

You do not deserve to feel this bad even 10% of the time. Looking back I wish I could take 22 year old me and shake some sense into her. I was so far down the rabbit hole that I didn't know which way was up, and I got that same familiar feeling when I read your question.
posted by pintapicasso at 6:32 PM on February 26, 2016 [9 favorites]

Also, what would happen if you stopped referring to yourself with negatives? This is something that women do all the time - we had to make a rule in the class I teach that no one would start off with "this is probably a dumb idea but" etc etc because people did it every other comment. Don't call yourself a random weirdo. No one here thinks you're a random weirdo. The world is going to give you enough shit; you don't need to give it to yourself.

And: there are questions like yours on metafilter periodically, where someone is like "I am so ugly no one will love me, how can I accept how ugly I am" or "my lot in life is to be miserable, how can I accept this with a glad heart". And every one of those questions just screams "I have been damaged by this terrible world to the point where I have turned that inward on myself". Those people all think they are being super rational ("but I really am ugly! So naturally no one could love me!") but the problem is how much they've learned to hate themselves. Sure, maybe they're not beautiful and will never be the life of the party, but the real solution is to learn to like themselves and learn to find places and situations where they can be happy, not jedi-mind-trick themselves into accepting their "inferiority".
posted by Frowner at 6:32 PM on February 26, 2016 [73 favorites]

Re: the not quite affair. Regardless of who did what when, it's okay for you to not be comfortable with him being in a small graduate programme with this woman. You need to tell him this-- clearly. Not with lots of circling and apologising . Clearly.

"I am not okay with you two being in the same programme. I am not over what happened. I own my own part in it, but I still am not okay with this."

Then he has to decide what he does with that information. And then you have to decide whether to leave or stay.

Re: the rest. I wonder if you realise that your posts read like a hugely toxic soup of rage and self-denigration. The anger leaks through every word. None of this has anything to do with your partner.

FWIW, you need to deal with your rage before it consumes you. You cannot be a good partner when you hate your own life. Cannot. And yes, you could get left for that, even by a perfect boyfriend. (And there is no such thing as a perfect boyfriend.) Put on your own oxygen mask and then deal with your relationship.
posted by frumiousb at 6:39 PM on February 26, 2016 [31 favorites]

How about a break? Clear your head a bit, get some perspective away from the day to day situation. From a purely pragmatic standpoint, the current proximity is making you unhappy, and realistically no one does just "DTMFA" in an instant, so it makes sense to experiment with changing up the situation.

Maybe absence makes the heart grow fonder, maybe you feel differently after a month at a friend's place. Whatever happens, you're not going to feel worse.
posted by lucidium at 6:39 PM on February 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

Let him go and get right with yourself. I think you want a reassure that he loves you but let's be honest this is toxic. You deserve to be happy and free of doubt.
posted by irish01 at 6:39 PM on February 26, 2016 [4 favorites]

And your update is giving me shivers. Being soft and silly does not mean that this guy has got your back. I know so many giggly non-serious playful shy types that are shitty at relationships because once you dig past the jokes and the smiles and the small tokens of kindness, they are inherently selfish. He is not meeting your needs. Walking with you 6 miles is a token, its a nice thing to do but when it comes down to it, your biggest issue isn't walking home alone, it is feeling worthwhile and smart and good and loved.

And you don't even know what a relief it is to find someone who believes that. There is no greater comfort than coming home to someone who you know down to your bones thinks you are the absolute best lady EVER, and would move heaven and earth to prove your own goodness to you.
posted by pintapicasso at 6:45 PM on February 26, 2016 [71 favorites]

I want to favorite everything Frowner says about fifteen times.

I've been in this relationship, with this person, and a decade later I sometimes viscerally shiver thinking about how shitty it was and how blinded I was by--I dunno, not love although it certainly felt that way, but dependency and admiration? It took me years, literally, for my psyche to mend. Look, this guy may be unbelievably interesting and intelligent and funny and maybe sometimes kind, but he doesn't have your back. A good partner will always have your back, whether with others or when you're just one-on-one, and will make you feel more secure and safe and loved, and won't produce this much wracked insecurity and jealousy. I remember thinking that no one else could love my flaws the way this ex did, and now that I'm long out of that relationship I'm able to see how many of those flaws weren't flaws, they were just personality traits with no particular negative bent, that he hassled and guilt-tripped and hounded me about for nearly five years. Leaving him may not fix you, but it certainly wouldn't hurt. I promise you, as someone who's been through this, though the heartbreak is enormous at first, you'd be happier and more self-possessed a year out than you'll ever be if you stick around or--ack--marry this guy.

I have been jealous before, and you know what? It was a sign that my relationship was out of kilter. Maybe jealousy in and of itself isn't a useful emotion, but it's telling you something valuable about the dynamic between the two of you. He might be a perfectly good person, and you might be too, but the two of you don't mesh. You've grown immeasurably since meeting him, and presumably he has too, but I find that it's really hard to grow independently in college and post-college relationships. Insecurity may be "all in your head," but it's still an important sign.

Dump him and go teach English in China or get a shitty coffee shop job in a city you're excited about or apply for a Fulbright if you're an American, or do something very far away from this life you have now.
posted by tapir-whorf at 6:49 PM on February 26, 2016 [14 favorites]

I'm wondering if you think that being "brutally honest" about your own flaws will motivate you to change for the better. Like, being your own insane boot camp drill sergeant?

I've known lots of people who think this way, but I know exactly zero people who've made it work in practice. Negative self talk, if anything, results in more "failure."

Anyway, no one on MetaFilter is likely to agree that you're a terrible, no-good, very bad person who deserves nothing but misery. So I recommend that you stop trying to convince us (and you) that this is the case.
posted by SMPA at 6:59 PM on February 26, 2016 [23 favorites]

Leaving this relationship and even eventually finding another would not solve them, and if there is anyone on this planet who will weather them with me, it's this guy.
Ah, the old "who else would put up with my crazy bullshit?" thing. I had that. In my 20s. When I hated myself and I was dating a guy who befitted greatly from my hating myself.

I'm not going to tell you not to work on your envy issues. It's a great thing to work on. But. BUT. Something tells me your jealousy would not be such a colossal problem were you not engaged to a man who gets naked with another woman when you're dying and then later thinks it's appropriate to draw that woman closer into his life in a way that excludes you.
posted by kapers at 7:00 PM on February 26, 2016 [42 favorites]

I realize this sounds kind of out of nowhere, but I think the best solution to your relationship concerns would be to get a new job.

You mentioned in your last post that you have experience in a professional kitchen, even running a professional kitchen. If I were you, I'd go out right now and try to get a restaurant job. Not because I think it's some kind of spiritually healing career, but because being a young chef is, if you'll excuse the phrase, "hot right now." If you swagger into a party full of grad students and your boyfriend introduces you as a line cook at a cool restaurant downtown, jaws will fucking drop, I guarantee it. (Admittedly, and grossly, this only works if you can effortlessly code-switch into white-collariness, but you obviously can.)

Why? Feeling as if your primary identity is as an adjunct to a community you're not actually part of sucks. There is no way to make it not suck. You need to either get into academia once and for all or find yourself another role that has nothing to do with academia, and the latter is easier to do on short notice.

Once you feel overall better about yourself, tell your boyfriend that you are 100% incapable of having a healthy friendship with this woman and you don't want her to be part of your social life, and see what he says.
posted by ostro at 7:03 PM on February 26, 2016 [41 favorites]

Fiancé? Wedding? Don't do it. Not for him, not for you. Right now, you are not relationship material. Whatever is speaking in your question, it needs to be fixed before you can enjoy a mature relationship. Perhaps it's your history together, perhaps it is stuff before your shared history, but the issues underlying what you emote need fixing.

Maybe these can be fixed while remaining in the relationship, but my guess is not. So the choice is, do you leave him, or wait for him to leave you, to fix yourself.

Of course, you could just go on as you are, making yourself miserable, and being the miserable person in a relationship - how do you think that is likely to play out (see option 2 above)?
posted by GeeEmm at 7:07 PM on February 26, 2016 [4 favorites]

Okay, stay with Mr Awesome. People can be awesome, they can be totally fucking great in all manner of ways, such as walking a lot and gaining accolades from outside-the-relationship-aquarium. That's not what you came into this room with though - you came in with: my dude tried to (and probably did) fuck this chick whilst I was dying, they've been doing a 'what if' dance for years, now he's helping her career. I'm jealous as fuck. How do I deal?

No surprises that we said uh hell no.

you can be a great human being and shit can just happen. Other people are often let downs. This being one such case.

You're allowed to be angry at your partner's abandonment during your illness and you're allowed to be angry that this awful wound has been revisited via this recent enactment. And you're allowed to sit with that, and still otherwise like your partner. I did, and I still do, love the partner who did this to me. We are not together but I get that young blokes in their twenties don't often have such big stuff to deal with and don't know what to do. His stuff is not bigger than yours, but still big. Sexualised enactments around illness of a partner I've learned is a Thing. No wonder you feel crap about this recent thing because it echoes from this trauma and how your partner acted at that time. And how he's acting now.

As someone who's had major illness hijack and derail my career, love life, fitness, latent vivacity and love of the world, can I encourage you to work on this angle of vision onto your psychological state. It's a massive life trauma, you didn't cause it, you're not to blame, and you have deep stress from it. You see it's robbed you of so much and yet you blame yourself.

Lady, you nearly died and you suffered morbidly for three years with an illness. You're a fucking MARINE crawling through mud, under barb wires and pistol whippings, and you've survived. You're a brainiac who clawed out of your poverty class to get a good degree. You've kept your wit.

Why don't you take off when your partner does his field work and go check out a part of the world that for you might be 'research' - without drama, without threats, just a 'I've booked three weeks in India doing meditation, yoga and Ayurvedic blah blah' (eg) and do all the research you need for that trip. While you're away maybe write about your experience of illness and all the ways you're seeing it echo through your life. Move the focus from your partner and take up a project like this for yourself. I reckon you'd have the absolute support of your partner.

I've no doubt your partner thinks you're amazing and out of his league. You've been to hell and back and you're still with the words and the wit.
posted by honey-barbara at 7:08 PM on February 26, 2016 [59 favorites]

I read your whole question and scrolled past the answers to tell you two things:
1. You should be a lot nicer to yourself. Your paragraphs are brimming with negative self-talk and you don't need to be your own worst enemy.
2. I think you should dump your fiance, get some therapy to deal with your issues and get you to recognize how awesome you are, and later date men who are smart, sexy, and don't keep you in this competitive framework.
posted by stowaway at 7:08 PM on February 26, 2016 [8 favorites]

You should go on retreat for a few months, go to the other side of the world, backpack and hike, stay in an ashram --- ANYTHING -- but take a break from this horrible stress.

I can't trust your words because you have zero perspective. Every time someone says they are the "evil" one in a relationship, it's usually the other guy. Don't live like this.
posted by jbenben at 7:10 PM on February 26, 2016 [11 favorites]

whenever I want to vent or discuss or even just have a stupid cry about being directionless and miserable, it eventually gets cut off by a “Baby, I really need to get back to work now.”

I don't know how better to convey his ultimate goodness

Well, it's not because you're a bad communicator, you're very persuasive, but even the greatest writers are constrained by their material. I hear you when you say that leaving him won't fix you. That doesn't mean that being around him isn't making you worse.

and although I am sorry to say this because it isn't encouraging, he may be wonderful as you say but he isn't special for being committed to you in spite of your issues. You are obviously smart and sensitive and he is probably attracted to that as well as to your self-punishment -- because he sounds like a tool but not like an outright monster -- but miserable young women with a tendency towards hero-worship are magnets to men like this, and men like this are legion. I do not mean that because you are struggling you can only hope for men like him and no better; I know that is not true. I mean that he is a very recognizable type; that your adoration of him gives him undeserved power; and that power corrupts.

and: I wish you would leave him but I don't think you have to worry about the other woman because she's demonstrated twice that she sees him clearly enough not to want him. THat weird semi-flirtatious regrets message she sent after he started seeing you, instead of before, that's a dick move but that's how you do it when you don't actually want the person. She may not have your well-being as a top priority, but I think you can trust her judgment even if you can't trust her decency.

seriously, I know I sound like a dick when I give advice to people who remind me of me, and I know it is obvious when people are just patronizing their own past selves and not really responding to your individual situation. but this guy, you can forgive as much as you want to forgive, but I really really think you need him to be a good and worthy and wise person because you think his choice of you as girlfriend is all you've got to validate your own worth, so that if he's not as great as you think, then you must not be as great as he says. But you are -- you can be as valuable as he thinks you are, even if he's not as smart and good as you think he is.
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:23 PM on February 26, 2016 [30 favorites]

He may be the world's most awesome guy. Everybody probably loves him IRL. A halo may be growing over his head as I type. Except for the part where you absolutely can't trust him not to try to fuck her when you don't want him to, and that desire to fuck her was so strong it overruled you possibly dying at that moment. And you are not in a position to say, "Look, I don't trust you with her and I need to lay down the law and for the sake of our relationship, I need you to stop having contact with her." (Which is extreme shit, but in some cases that's a justified request to keep a relationship going in a post-cheating scenario.) Hell, you may be able to trust her more than him, because she said no. If she ever says yes....Well, you're already living that in your head anyway.

And in addition to that, there's something about being in this relationship that is making you feel like total crap. I don't exactly know why that's going on in your relationship beyond the "I'm a satellite in a crap job" thing, but that isn't a great sign either. Optimally your fiancé should be bringing out the best in you and not the worst.

He may be a saint, but those two things about him are not good, and don't make him sound like the world's best future husband to you.

This is a bit reminding me of my grad student ex, who everyone loved. Most women had a crush on him, which was fine with me since it was a poly relationship and I'm cool with sharing. There was one girl he had a crush on that didn't reciprocate and I never thought much about that until his best friend said to me something like, "Doesn't it bother you that he'd throw you over in a heartbeat if she said yes?" I didn't actually think he would do that (and still don't, for whatever reason) so it didn't bug me, but that's a hell of a thing to say to anybody. I think in your case, would apply.

I don't think leaving him would fix you, but it would definitely help at least the problems of "waiting for the anvil to fall and he fucks her" and "somehow I feel like the world's worst person while in this relationship." I know that last bit can certainly still apply while single, but at least the first wouldn't be a worry any more.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:45 PM on February 26, 2016 [7 favorites]

He's not making me miserable, I am making me miserable. The issues I have are in me. Leaving this relationship and even eventually finding another would not solve them.

Listen, maybe some of the people in this thread are right about the boyfriend and maybe they're wrong. But honestly, it's irrelevant, because as you yourself say, you are making yourself miserable. Like, actively. You're taking the things that make you miserable and making them the focus of your entire existence.

If you had more clarity about yourself, you would have more clarity about your relationship, one way or the other.

You say in your post, How can I deal? How can I be less stupid and insecure about all this? Which reads, to me, as "how can I change the way I FEEL without actually changing anything else at all about my life?" The answer is, you can't. You have to do something different.

Forget the boyfriend. He's beside the point. Why do you think you can't get a better job? Why do you think you can't make new friends? Why do you think you have no future, when you are perfectly aware that you're smart and that your education got derailed by illness? Why are you convinced that the only solution to all of this is just to feel more OK about it?

I really, really think that some antidepressants and a year of therapy would completely change your life for the better.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:55 PM on February 26, 2016 [35 favorites]

Look, I've dated a cuddly teddy bear of a man who was smart and funny and mostly kind. He was also really good at making me feel like crap 80% of the time. They're not mutually exclusive. At all. And my self-destructive tendencies and self-loathing made me feel like there was something deeply wrong with me for me to not be happy.

Spoiler alert: there was stuff wrong with both of us. Water meets its own level. I promise you that as you get healthier, you will find folks with all of his fine qualities that also don't make you feel like garbage.
posted by superlibby at 7:59 PM on February 26, 2016 [8 favorites]

I stopped reading the comments once I saw your second edit and you said it yourself.

You can't be happy with another person until your happy with yourself.

You don't need to forever break up with this guy, but you do need time apart. You need time apart because you've been together pretty much your whole adult life. You need time apart so you can figure out how to do you. You need time apart so that you have to hang out and only talk to your friends. You need time apart so you can build your own support system that includes other people.

You need time part so you can be happy with yourself.

best wishes
posted by raccoon409 at 8:01 PM on February 26, 2016 [6 favorites]

I feel sorry for you. You sound like you don't love yourself, and you don't want to. And it sounds like this is something that will never change, because your perspective is so skewed. So I feel sorry for you.

A man could buy you the moon but if he chops off your leg as well, what good is he?
posted by kinoeye at 8:06 PM on February 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

He's not making me miserable, I am making me miserable. The issues I have are in me. Leaving this relationship and even eventually finding another would not solve them, and if there is anyone on this planet who will weather them with me, it's this guy. I don't want to write off your collective wisdom, but I don't know how better to convey his ultimate goodness. Leaving him would not fix me, and the sacrifices I made were my choices, inasmuch as anyone has free choices, I guess...

He doesn't have a wandering eye in general; there have been no other threats of any sort. I'm just hung up on this.

Alright, that's clear! Or, it's a clear hypothesis anyway. However, it's possible that you have your own stuff to work on AND that he's into this person in a way that justifies all your feelings; those aren't mutually exclusive.

How about this? Try telling him "hey, I'm feeling really insecure because of your history with Ms. Perfect. I don't want to hurt our relationship with ultimatums or anything, but to be honest, I really don't know how to handle it. What do you think?"

If he says, "I totally get that. It's hard for me to create distance with someone I consider a friend, but I'm open to discussing what kind of boundaries would help you feel safe," then maybe he's everything you're saying he is.

If he says "why are you so jealous?" or anything that turns the focus onto you, particularly if it implies you are a flawed person, then that's an example of him actively undermining your self esteem.

Meanwhile, try focusing on your own life and mental health for awhile. If the problems are in you, then attending to them might make your jealousy go down, or it might give you more clarity about ways that this relationship isn't healthy.
posted by salvia at 8:11 PM on February 26, 2016 [17 favorites]

I think that you need space to work on yourself and that you're not going to be able to do it while you are with him. Maybe it means breaking up, maybe it just means taking a break.

My last relationship, I was so unhappy because he earned good money and his career was on track and he was so satisfied with his work, while I worked as a waitress and earned just above minimum wage. It felt like everything came so easily to him, while I had spent months job hunting just to get that crappy job.

It was only after breaking up with him that I managed to find a job that I really love. Because when I was job hunting while with him, every set back or rejection hurt so much more. Now I can focus on working on me and my career without comparing it to his successes. Maybe it would have been possible to work on that stuff while still in the relationship, but I think there's only so much poison that a relationship can stand. Yes, it was a poison of my own making, but I think it was too late to repair by then. There was too much resentment.

I think it's pretty shitty that he tried to sleep with her while you were so ill. It would be reasonable for you to want to set boundaries with him about his relationship with this other girl. But I also wouldn't be surprised if he were to break them.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 8:17 PM on February 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

So 90% of the time, you have a great relationship. Picture in your head an abusive relationship. Do you think it is abusive 100% of the time? Why would anyone stay in a relationship that was abusive 100% of the time? They wouldn't. People stay in bad relationships because they're not 100% bad. They're just good enough to make you think it's worth staying. I'm not saying your dude is abusive - just that 90% isn't good enough. If he makes you feel great nine days in a row and makes you feel like crap on the tenth day, that's not okay. No relationship is perfect but I think you can do better than being in a relationship that makes you feel lousy 10% of the time.

Also, this guy might be amazing. That doesn't mean he's amazing for you. I dated a guy who makes me think of your guy. He was crazy smart, nice, funny, considerate, etc. But he had some hang ups from his last relationship and they didn't mesh well with the issues I brought to the table and he tried to do the fadeaway and it made me miserable. He's probably a good guy but he wasn't good for me at that point in my life and that's okay.
posted by kat518 at 8:24 PM on February 26, 2016 [6 favorites]

I hear you when you say that leaving him won't fix you. That doesn't mean that being around him isn't making you worse.

Exactly this. You recognize that you are unwell. The energy you spend being okay with his choices for the sake of maintaining this relationship needs to be spent on getting well. To be in a balanced, healthy relationship, you need to know not only that your partner has your back, but that first and foremost you have your own back. Date yourself.

You can't know this, because most of your formative adult years have been shaped by having this person in your life. When he is no longer in your life, there will be a him-shaped hole. It will take years, but you will grow to fill it. Atrophied personality traits will emerge and startle you. You will have moments of surprise spurred by a decision that, back when you were dependent on someone else, you would have made differently. You will learn that selfishness has its place as a motivator. In your current situation, you have no space to be selfish. You cannot learn to master it and temper it so that it is useful without harming others. Selfishness is important.

Obligatory disclaimer that if I sound like a jerk, it's because I'm talking to me 2 years ago. Or 4 years ago. Six. At all those points in my young adult life, I was dealing with the same puzzle: "How can I carve myself out to become his ideal partner? If I fail to become what he wants, who would possibly love me?"

I agonized over this until one of them did me the decency of moving 2000 miles away with the savings we were going to use to buy a house across the mountains. So I started dating myself, and I fell in love. I hope you do, too.
posted by landunderwave at 8:29 PM on February 26, 2016 [22 favorites]

I drunkenly spat something about how he could fuck her if she wanted. And he tried to, although she didn't let him. There was no actual sex but they did make out and get naked and etc. To be fair, we all thought I would be dead pretty soon. I still don't fully trust him, re: her.

Okay, this jumped out at me like a giant screaming red alarm. You shouldn't trust this guy re: her and it sounds like SHE can't trust him re: her either. I know you think this guy is the best thing since sliced bread but it sounds like he's been grinding down both your AND this other woman's defenses, to the extent that he tried to pressure her into sex she didn't want while you were on your fucking deathbed. What a fucking horror show, I cannot even imagine-- for both you AND for her, unless she's basically a psychopath.

I, too, know people who power frictionlessly through higher academia like your BF does, and a lot of their ability to do that centers around their ability to power through situations while ignoring the potential for friction because they are, by god, going to get what they want, regardless of what the other people involved feel or want. During the situation you are describing, your boyfriend wanted to fuck his friend, even though he knew that you AND SHE did not want that. Because he's a quality scholar. He got into $Ivy program. If he wants something he's going to take it, because he's a great guy and a Genius and he deserves it, right? YOU need to get yourself safely away from this man, and your nemesis needs to watch her fucking back because I guarantee he's going to try to fuck her again and I don't think he's going to care how she feels about that. I am imploring both of you to stay safe.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 8:36 PM on February 26, 2016 [30 favorites]

Look, if YOU are hung up on this, are truly actually and Factually as far as we can determine the truth-of-the-matter about these types of things the abusive one (in that massive jealousy=abuse) in this relationship, in that you are abusing yourself and are dumping all this emotional fear and panic and worry on your partner...I'd tell you to GTFO. I don't think that's happening, but if there's emotional abuse in a relationship, it's pretty tough to see who the victim and who the villain is anyhow. Abusive relationships result in one or both of the people occasionally having massive freak-outs that lead to harm getting spread around, emotional tidal waves that negatively change the landscape in ugly ways forever after the city gets washed out to sea.

It doesn't matter any longer who the villain is of this story. You're miserable enough, even occasionally, to post on an internet forum that you have an ARCH NEMESIS that YOUR BOYFRIEND ALMOST FUCKED. Gah! I mean, I get it, I'm an over educated under achiever with severe emotional problems and a mouth that won't stop when I'm feeling overwhelmed. I say dramatic shit like "WELL go fuck that person I HATE then and we'll just SEE WON'T WE, maybe you'll finally BE HAPPY if you escape from the shit that being in a relationship with me clearly is!"
But. The times I've beaten myself up with that, the times I've dwelled on things like how imperfect I am in comparison to my partner and his buddies and and and, it turned out that yes I was in an abusive relationship, and no I still don't know who "started it" and I don't care because it. is. over. and I don't have to worry about it any longer. Did I love him? Oh hell yes I did. Does that mean it was worth living in occasional gasping despair? Despair about the same garbage fires that dwelled right under the surface of every selfie, hashtag relationshipgoals, every vacation, just waiting to respark? FUCK NO.

Run. You're worth it. Find someone who doesn't make you hate yourself quite so much. Or don't and get a cat that loves you, and doesn't care if you think you deserve it. As a poster above said, you're already dealing with the emotional fallout of the worst thing ever. Might as well pull off the bandage and see what's really rotting under there, or if there's even a wound at all.

Get a therapist to help you through the OH FUCK I RUINED EVERYTHING process of dumping him. Do it for the RELATIONSHIP, not because you're a terrible person or he is or she is. This one's broken, and blame can only be based on causality. So, blame the big bang. It doesn't matter. Just leave.
posted by zinful at 8:44 PM on February 26, 2016 [13 favorites]

This question is the equivalent of saying "My leg is broken, how can I train for a marathon?" Even if all of the problems in this relationship were on your side (which they're not, sorry), I don't think it's possible for you to do the healing you need to do while wrapped up in all this will-they-or-won't-they drama.
posted by fox problems at 8:44 PM on February 26, 2016 [11 favorites]

Look. He's on his path. But you're way, way, way off course. He might be loving, tender, whatever leaving the backstory to one side... . But he's not supporting your growth.

It's right up there, but I'll quote you to make the point, because you've contradicted yourself a bit on that:

I'm also jealous that he's helped her along in her career, while I have no career to speak of? I'm working a job I mostly hate, for a company with shady, gross business practices, at weird hours that keep me completely socially isolated such that I still know no one in our town (which is.......why I'm on MeFi...........), feeling crushed and alienated and stunted, and whenever I want to vent or discuss or even just have a stupid cry about being directionless and miserable, it eventually gets cut off by a “Baby, I really need to get back to work now.” But he took the time to prop open the doors of the ivory tower for her. Ugh.

Let me put it this way: you stay with him, you're going to end up being, mostly, a wife. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing in the world wrong with being mostly a wife. Some people are wholly satisfied with giving to their partners and families, it's absolutely a legit choice. But you EVIDENTLY need to do more. You'll regret not giving yourself a real shot. Imagine more of the same for another ten, twenty years. Horror. Imagine the marriage then not working out (just on the odds, that happens to a lot of people).

(Lots of women wind up drawn to people living the lives they want, and living through their partners' success. I'm not going to say I've done that, and I'm not going to say I haven't, but it sucks.)

The life you want for yourself is not going to happen with him, because of the inertia pulling both of you around his career, regardless of anyone's intentions. Though honestly, it doesn't sound like he's trying that hard to fight it. You - you're in love. That's what you're doing right now. Which isn't terrible, that's the biggest, most overwhelming need people have. But are you getting the same love back? Would he make comparable sacrifices for you?

The jealousy - it's not weird, you're not crazy, it's a predictable response to the situation. But that kind of worry reduces and distorts a person, and it feeds on itself. Do you have the headspace to think about anything else right now, like getting another job? You need to feel relaxed and have a clear mind to work on that. I don't know how that's going to happen, because no matter what she does, and even if he makes (and keeps) promises to respect whatever negotiated boundaries, your trust is gone, for good reasons.

You don't want to leave him, ok. In that case, you need to develop Jedi-level mind tricks to generate the sense of peace, calm, and security required to figure your own shit out and do your thing. Find a better therapist, for sure.

Wishing you all the luck. I really hope you sort it out.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:45 PM on February 26, 2016 [30 favorites]

You're in a miserable relationship! No decent guy would put you through any of this.


Put yourself first!
posted by Miko at 9:31 PM on February 26, 2016 [4 favorites]

Why would you want to live this way? Perhaps you have no standard of comparison? You may not know how peaceful, how uplifting, how great it feels with a partner who has your back and who makes you feel loved and secure. Perhaps you've never really known what it's like to be able to truly trust someone. You probably haven't experienced the amazing surge in productivity and creativity that comes when you free up all that energy that's going into obsessing over your partner. Sadly, if you stay with this guy... you never will. What a waste of your life! You sound smart enough to know better.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 10:21 PM on February 26, 2016 [7 favorites]

When I read your first post I couldn't help but sense the problems you describe are not really about these two others at all but more the imbalances you feel within yourself.
No matter what happens, life is short, the only person able to truly take care of yourself & be responsible about it is you. Life gets ahead of us and then you wind up with kids or other things tie you down more than ever.. and sometimes the chance to put yourself first & prepare yourself for the next decade or two is lost or made harder than before. All I'm saying is you should do whatever is right for you, with therapy, and I think you're pretty switched on to get to the bottom of what that is, whether or not it's to do with your relationship.
posted by Under the Sea at 10:35 PM on February 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

Holy shit, what an asshole. I've never read a more clear cut DTMFA in my life. Your life could be so much more. You could actually be happy. Grit your teeth, break up with him and I promise you, you'll be free. And you'll be so much stronger and happier for it than just waiting around, wondering if he's going to screw her next time you have a rough patch. (While he thought you were DYING?! Seriously?! What the ACTUAL fuck?).
posted by Jubey at 12:58 AM on February 27, 2016 [5 favorites]

Normally I'd say he's an asshole, and you need to ideally dump him and worknon improving your own life, but at the very least work on improving your own life.

But everything you've written is such an agonized scream of I HATE MYSELF!!! I HATE MYSELF!!! I HATE MYSELF!!! I HATE MYSELF!!! I HATE MYSELF!!! I HATE MYSELF!!! I HATE MYSELF!!! I HATE MYSELF!!! I HATE MYSELF!!! I HATE MYSELF!!! I HATE MYSELF!!! I HATE MYSELF!!! I HATE MYSELF!!! I HATE MYSELF!!! I HATE MYSELF!!! I HATE MYSELF!!! I HATE MYSELF!!! I HATE MYSELF!!! I HATE MYSELF!!! going on forever, that I feel unable to trust anything to be as it seems.

You have an extremely low opinion of your fiance - even while thinking he's wonderful - and I can't tell if your low opinion is justified or not, though I tend to agree that it probably is.

I would really suggest that you follow showbiz_liz's advice, but at the very least get some sort of change of scene or new activity into your life however temporary. It almost doesn't matter what you do right now as long as you do something, at least IMO. But I feel like your problem is something you would need to work on with a *good* therapist, more than something any of us can advise you on.
posted by tel3path at 1:22 AM on February 27, 2016 [10 favorites]

Response by poster: I was going to stay out of the thread until it petered out, but felt too guilty about how bf is getting slammed here and feel I haven't presented things fairly if the responses are this extreme.

To clarify: the near-miss incident was almost five years ago. He was only twenty when it happened; 20 year-old bros are often idiots and behave in kind. And to offer what I can of his side of the story, he offers that he has worked hard to change that part of himself, there haven't been any other scares until this recent mess, and that the factors in our relationship (namely, my illness, which was extremely stressful for all of us and during which I was very nasty and cold and we had almost no sex for a year) are now gone.

If anyone is treading in emotionally abusive territory, it is me. I'm clearly paranoid, insecure, and too full of self-loathing to love wholeheartedly. And if anyone would benefit from a breakup, it's him. He doesn't hassle or guilt-trip, and he seems to feel that he has been putting effort into helping me flourish, but that I haven't been responsive enough to make it worth the effort, which is fair. I catastrophize.

The thing that is sticking in my craw is a text he sent her (I wasn't snooping, just momentarily borrowing his phone, and he made no attempt to hide it or open a new tab or w/e because he doesn't see this as a big deal, while I am going to proceed to whine about it) in which he told her he "shouldn't say this, but [he] selfishly hope[s] [she'll] choose our dept and come here." I thought I had mentioned this earlier and cannot get it out of my mind; it's weird, right? Maybe they're just friends. Maybe! Probably even! But I can't let it go and get heartbeaty and freaked every time I think about that stupid text.

But! He's still good and deserves defending. I think, deep down, that I'm being unfair and bitchy, but it's still good to get outside perspective. Sorry for popping in so much and being so narrative-focused yet incoherent. It's 4AM.
posted by bugperson at 1:36 AM on February 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

I was in a similar situation in my early 20's with an LDR boyfriend, right down to the arch-nemesis. She was a beautiful, sophisticated Italian ex-girlfriend of his who SLEPT IN HIS BED when she came to visit and who he sent Christmas presents to every year via air cargo even though I never got anything for complicated reasons. He too was a great funny guy who wanted me to succeed and gave me loads of support. He made loads of sacrifices for me - he'd wake up at 2 o'clock every morning just have an hour with me before I headed out for the day. He taught me to cook. He taught me to assert myself in professional situations. He saw that I was in a really precarious situation at school and talked me through it.

It was still a terrible relationship and I was immediately happier once I left it.

EVERYONE wanted me to leave this guy because they could see how unhappy I was. I idolised him and was constantly down on myself, I hated myself as I could never live up to my own expectations, I was lazy, I was selfish, I couldn't do anything right (meanwhile in the real world, I was a great student and had friends and was doing just fine for someone my age). And i just kept telling them how awesome he was, how sweet he was, all the things he did for me, and I ignored them for years. It was only when I got so desperately unhappy that I went to a counsellor on my campus that the levy finally broke. I told her about my amazing-but-complicated relationship and how I felt and she was like WTF THIS IS AWFUL. For me, it took hearing that from a counsellor to finally realise that I was so unhappy and had to make a change. It sounds like you're not quite there yet, as your follow-ups sound super familiar to me.

Your fiancé's qualities or inclinations to sleep with that other women are almost irrelevant here -- the reality is that you're desperately, impossibly unhappy because of this relationship. The reason you're getting such a strong reaction from everyone is because you're showing us how unhappy you are with all of that terrible mind-talk you display about yourself. Lazy. Jealous. Asshole. Stupid. Rambling. Dull. Useless. Crazy. Paranoid. Those are really terrible things to call yourself. They show anyone who has experience with this sort of thing just how horrible you feel -- for anyone who has been through something like this, we're all like DROP EVERYTHING AND DIVERT ALL RESOURCES TO YOURSELF, THIS IS NOT A DRILL. Carrying on with that kind of self-flagellation is toxic - it can cause terrible sickness, panic attacks, depression, and I say that from experience.

Again, I'm not sure if you're ready but I'm glad to hear that you're looking for a new therapist -- you deserve to feel better, and hopefully they will be able to help.
posted by ukdanae at 1:38 AM on February 27, 2016 [40 favorites]

Mod note: Hey, bugperson, moderator here. I need to quickly note that Ask Metafilter is not for ongoing discussion but rather intended as a straightforward "ask a concrete question; get an array of suggestions; use what's most helpful for you." At this point it's best that you relax with the responses here, and just take in whatever advice seems most useful for your situation. Thanks.
posted by taz (staff) at 1:48 AM on February 27, 2016

Once he and I got together, though, she did send him a weird, “Oh man, good for you, although I did always think that maybe you and I could have..........” message.

There is always going to be sexual tension between your fiance and his "friend" because THEY like it that way. Will it ever come to fruition? Maybe, maybe not. But it will likely always be there, and you will always sense it, and he's not going to cut it off to make you feel more comfortable because it is exciting and he likes it.

Dan Savage talks about The Price of Admission to a relationship; basically, the price is all the bad things which you accept are not going to change, and thus you will have to put up with if you want to be in this relationship.

Sometimes the price is worth it... and sometimes it is not. Putting up with him being "into" this other chick, and she into him, and always being aware of the possibility that they might decide to take things further is the price for staying in this relationship. Are you willing to feel shitty and jealous and envious forever, just to have him around?
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 1:50 AM on February 27, 2016 [18 favorites]

Apparently the tough love signal just went off in my drunksplaining cave. You're not defending him by the way, you're just creatively hating yourself again. But I think you know this, you just don't seem to care.

If you are determined to self-hate yourself through comedy and neglect then there is only one course of action open to you.

Sleep with her yourself.
For teh lulz.

You can do this shit for decades if you want.
You know you're awesome because you're not stupid.
So get to work and believe it.

Oh, and then write a book.
Or don't.

But deffo the work and the believing and the self-worth.

As for the boyfriend, if he's not willing to burn down his career and his life and everything for you then do you really want to be there? Not because that's what is right or what you deserve but because that's what you want. If he wants to be on the bugperson train then that's the price of a ticket. It is not an unreasonable price, it's a really good train. Better than his anyway.

One of the coolest things about the Internet is seeing funny and clever and incredible people become successful through the sheer force of their awesomeness. Often in spite of their best efforts at self-sabotage. Do you want to be the next Jon Bois?

Seriously though, you write incredibly well and appear to be quite awesome. Even Frowner thinks so and they're mefi royalty. I think if Eyebrows concurs it becomes some sort of immutable law.

Oh shit scarper, its the cops.

Good Luck.
posted by fullerine at 1:58 AM on February 27, 2016 [19 favorites]

I didn't say you were being fair or unfair to him, I said you HAVE a low opinion of him because that is what you're continuously expressing. This is just a fact, not something you're guilty of or innocent of.

And the low opinion of him is something I feel unable to trust not because I think you're being hard on him, but because you don't seem to be able to see anything but yourself for miles in any direction, as if you were standing between two mirrors with reflections repeating into infinity. We're all trying to get through to you in various ways yet you're unable to process it in any way that incorporates information that's not already in your mind.

Forget the other woman for the moment. Increasingly I feel like she's the MacGuffin in your personal story. Whatever is really going on with her it sounds like she's just another projection of yourself, right down to your begging him to sleep with her. I don't know what's really going on there but here is what I do know with reasonable likelihood based on what you've said:

You hate yourself, you think he's betraying you, but really he's abgreat and worthy guy who you don't want to be unfair to. That's one interpretation. OR: You hate yourself, you think you're betraying yourself, but really you're a great and worthy person that you don't want to be unfair to. Is it possible that that's what you're trying to communicate to us, that's getting drowned out by the noise of your continuous agonizing screams?
posted by tel3path at 2:02 AM on February 27, 2016 [8 favorites]

There are two ways to interpret this situation and both point to "break up and work on yourself".

The first is the Mefi consensus. Which, I agree with. I won't rehash that because you've got the entire thread above.

The second interpretation is your own, which is making you resist the Mefi consensus and defend your fiancé: he's too good for you and you're terrified he's going to end up with someone "better" than you. (To reiterate I don't think he's too good for you, but you clearly feel you don't deserve him)

But you know what? Even this view means you should consider breaking up. If he's better off with miss perfect, maybe you should let him? Let him pursue the life you think he "deserves".

Let your worst fear go by letting it be. It honestly cannot be worse than the hell you are already putting yourself through and at least you can finally learn how to live your life without him in the picture. Because by your own admission your life with him is making you miserable.

Maybe he is amazing. But he's not good for you. Like being allergic to chocolate. 95% of people get along fab with it and think it's the answer to life's problems. But it's actually making you break out in hives and unable to breathe.

Life is MORE than a box of chocolates, hun. Go find ice cream!
posted by like_neon at 2:13 AM on February 27, 2016 [16 favorites]

I suggest doing an activity that has nothing to do with your current perception of your self worth. Do something that you would never try, that has nothing to do with hopes or dreams. You need to meet people and share an activity with them. If you have even one hour that is a normal interaction time for other people, you can use it to start making even the weakest of connections. I took a cupcake decorating class at a Michael's once. Some ideas: volunteering, sports, improv, meet-up groups, dance class, yoga, hang at an open-mic night, trivia, game night at a comic book store. Anything that will put you in contact with strangers and an activity. At the very least, you need other things to think about and other people to talk about those things with. Right now it sounds like your self worth is suffocating. When you make contact with the outside world, it will start to gain some room to breathe.

After I made a devastating change that altered my life path (similar trauma to your previous ask), my boyfriend was nice at first. Then he did not understand why I cried all the time. I loved him and he was a genius. I thought my sadness and insecurity was the problem. I thought I was being unfair and needy.

After a few months of this, he told me he thought I was wallowing. I wrote in my journal, "BF told me I was wallowing. That really sucked. Anyways, I hope I can have fun on our camping trip next week."

Later I saw a therapist and was diagnosed with adjustment disorder. Looking back, my ex and I should not have been in a relationship during this time. My mental health started to improve drastically after I broke up with him. If I was with him today, I would still hate him (and myself) for the things he said to me and for his near-miss type actions (ugh). I would repress my emotions for fear of being told I was overreacting or being a bitch. You are obviously smart and hilarious and capable. Your story made me laugh because of how you told it. Then it made me sad because it reminded me of myself. It was hard and hurt horribly, but I finally made choices that helped me feel better. My outside-world connections and activities helped tame my spiraling anxieties and gave my life a bearable context. Wishing you luck and happiness, and I hope you find a new therapist who totally rocks. (One day we will all find therapists who rock.)
posted by sweetjane at 3:14 AM on February 27, 2016 [7 favorites]

omg I just want to give you a hug. I refuse to believe you are the horrible person you frame yourself to be. You sound like a cool person with a great sense of humour and a lot on your plate at the moment. I do understand why you feel like you are an insane person. And I agree with you insofar that your problems are probably bigger than your relationship - or at least not only stemming from your relationship - and I am not sure you would actually feel better if you broke up right now. You live in a city where you don't know anyone, are not able because of practical reasons to meet new friends, you have a shitty job with weird hours.. I would become insane too! Then you also suffered a very serious illness and your boyfriend almost cheating on you and the difference in "success" (which there isn't, but I can understand why it feels this way - hell, I'd probably feel this way too if I were you) between you two.. It's a lot. You sound like your confidence is almost destroyed and I understand that. It is a logical consequence of what you are going through. I do think a good therapist and a lot of self work is in order, regardless of your relationship. Also, I'd try to change to other shitty aspects of your current life, like finding a job you like better, meeting new people, trying a new activity/ hobby, learn something new like a language or whatever, just start doing things that will make you feel better about yourself. You need to have at least one source of self-worth in your life and I don't know if you even have one at the moment.

Regardless, I do have one thought about your relationship: The thing with stupid shit you do in relationships when you're 20 is everybody does stupid shit like your BF did by almost cheating on you and stupid shit like you did by being paranoid and bitchy (which I am not saying is true, but it feels true to you). Thing is, most of these relationships break up anyway and you grow up and start new relationships in which you don't have the stupid things you did in previous relationships hanging over your head like the sword of damocles. I think that is what happens for most people. You, on the other hand, stayed together and that means that this immature stupid shit is still a part of your relationship. And you have to deal with it. Together. It takes a lot of work and communication to get over stuff like this. And immense guilt-tripping and self-hate is not going to help you with this. I really feel you and have a lot of thoughs on this because my relationship sounds a bit like yours (been together since early twenties, did some stupid immature stuff, followed by guilt and self-loathing that was even more toxic than the stuff that happened itself, but eventually getting over it (ourselves, actually)). Anyway, I do know now that it takes a lot of self-work, therapy, growing up and COMMUNICATION about everything to get past this. And I said this like a hundred times already, but guilt and self-loathing are your enemies and will destroy not only you, but eventually your relationship. (That is, of course, if you do want to salvage your relationship. I am not sure though, if you did all the self work, and feel more confident en love yourself, in the end you'd still want to be in the relationship you are in now.)
posted by leopard-skin pill-box hat at 3:40 AM on February 27, 2016 [5 favorites]

I just split out all the words you use to describe yourself, your fiancé, the other woman, and your respective relationships with each other in your OP. The words you use to describe yourself - th largest set of words and phrases - are 100% negative. The words you use to describe the other woman, which, apart from "archnemesis" and "had a shaved head sometimes" which you seem to see as a negative? are 100% positive. But that's not even what's striking to me.

Look at the words you are using to describe your fiancé:

elite career/institution
[person] to pathetically peer at, looking in with my nose pressed to the glass
he felt horrible
in his second year of a doctorate at the best program in his field in the world
stellar academic career and success
essentially frictionless rise to the top of his field
perfect dream job career path all laid out for him

That's only 8 phrases that describe Jack, one of which describes how he felt at a low point in yur relationship. The other 7 phrases basically describe a career, not a person.

Jack is what you want, you can't have a career, but you sacrificed everything during university to your relationship with Jack. Now he both has and is what you want, and you see him as giving it to this other woman while you get nothing.

I don't know, as I said, what kind of person Jack really is but... you seem to really want a career more than anything else, and you are not going to get it by fixating on Jack.

Would it surprise you to know my career was worse than yours, at your age? You're not the only person ever to be socially isolated with her career in the toilet and no prospects, let alone a shit undergraduate degree. Would it surprise you to know I'm now an academic at one of the world's most elite institutions?

There has to be some way of fishing your education out of the U-bend, especially if you were banjaxed by health problems that were a matter of record. Stop staring fixedly into the wrong corner and bestir yourself. It may come hard but it will come to you in the end. Obsessing about Jack and your near-perfect doppelganger from through the looking glass is a distraction that is keeping your mind off the real challenge.
posted by tel3path at 4:55 AM on February 27, 2016 [36 favorites]

And in case you're curious, you used 55 words or phrases to describe yourself, all negative, but also nearly all personal. I mean, you have painted yourself as a person of many qualities, even if all of them are bad ones.

Versus the 8 words or phrases to describe Jack, of which 7 were actually descriptions of his career.

That's what makes it so hard for me to discern what kind of person Jack is or get a handle on what his actual contribution to the problem might be, because although you say you have/had a good relationship with him, I can't find anything in what you said that makes it believable - not necessarily because it's untrue, but because you can only be in a relationship with a person and you didn't describe Jack as a person. You described *yourself* as a (wholly negative) person in a relationship with a career.

I have to reiterate what I said about following showbiz_liz's advice. Above all, stop fixating on Jack as a solution or source of your problems and stop calling yourself names as a form of thought-stopping. Only YOU can prevent forest fire.
posted by tel3path at 5:16 AM on February 27, 2016 [19 favorites]

Ok, I'll take you at your word. You're an abusive, jealous, worthless, person in a crappy non-career job. You're probably holding your boyfriend back professionally. He'd probably be a lot happier with the other woman, because she clearly has it more together than you do. You should leave him so he's free to do what he so clearly needs and wants to do-- have a high-quality, genius mate, who is also sexier and prettier than you are.

There. Feel better?


Then what is it you want us to say?

Yes, I think you are right that you are broken. You are clearly miserable. I don't see a path through life with him where you suddenly feel better about yourself and him (and her). But listen, you were miserable before she applied to his school. If she hadn't shown up, you probably would have written this post sooner or later about somebody else. Or something else. Maybe you'd have written it next summer, when he got the perfect traveling gig and you got canned from your shitty job and ended up working at Starbucks. Maybe when he got a genius grant and you went back in the hospital. Maybe when you were comparing his first academic book to your snarky tell-all about being an academic's wife.

You're perceptive enough to realize that this is about you. You're right. It is. It's about how you are putting your own needs and desires aside, and living life through him, instead of for yourself. You will always be second place in life if you put somebody else's needs ahead of your own. It doesn't make you a better person to be a trailing girlfriend/spouse to a genius. It doesn't. You don't get any reflected glamour. You get misery, eternal misery, comparing yourself to him. Even if he is as awesome as you say he is, being with someone like him is only making you feel worse.

And on preview, I wish to include by reference everything tel3path just said, because YES.

And also, it sounds like you started this thread because you wanted some self-help advice to stop being jealous and miserable. So I will answer your actual question as well. Go read the self help books thread a few posts down. (Most specifically, I'd suggest checking out the codependency books referenced. They are spot-on perfect for someone who is feeling like a jealous, rage-filled satellite in her own life.)
posted by instamatic at 5:19 AM on February 27, 2016 [37 favorites]

Here's the link to Miko's recommendation.
Codependent No More and Beyond Codependency unequivocally changed my life in my mid-20s. Even if you don't at all relate to the label "codependent," these are books about helping you come into your own life, live by your own values, and pay attention to your own needs rather than projecting your hopes and dreams onto other people. This was vital to me in my mid-20s. The difference between the time before I read them and the time after was night and day; they really helped correct my thinking about what relationship choices in life were all about, whether I needed a partner to feel whole, how to be a good friend and not an emotional blackmailer, and that sort of thing. Highly recommended.
Emphasis added, because this? Is you.
posted by instamatic at 5:25 AM on February 27, 2016 [9 favorites]

Leaving him would not fix me

I'm also jealous that he's helped her along in her career, while I have no career to speak of?

Do you know what leaving him would do? It would free up an enormous amount of psychic energy for you to focus on anything besides his career and your psychologically claustrophobic, all-consuming dyad with him. Find out who you are without that. Seriously, I'm exhausted by the amount of psychic energy you're spending on this at the expense of working on yourself and your own capacities and inner life without him (FWIW, I had this same kind of mirror-neuron near panic attack on your behalf when I read your previous question about him).

Sartre himself wasn't worth this, and Simone de Beauvoir wouldn't have have gotten a goddamn thing done herself if she had let her inner life be hijacked to this extent. (And if you're insisting on running everything through the filter of him--ask yourself if maybe one of the appeals of Shaved Head Latin Scholar is that she may seem not more brilliant, but more intellectually independent from and inter-personally unteathered to him? It's the frisson of "not me" and of the not wholly ownable and predictable, that fuels desire.)

Write--but please, don't write the song of HIM. Stop being this grad student's fucking "future great man of ideas" biographer. Write about anything else.
posted by blue suede stockings at 6:11 AM on February 27, 2016 [21 favorites]

Honestly, that text sounds flirty to me. It emphasizes that he wants her there for "selfish" reasons. That's not the same as "oh, you should totally come here, we can get sandwiches at [place] all the time and double-team that obnoxious jerk [in our program, every program has one]" or something.

But what I wanted to say was this: This is a very gendered problem. Try to imagine a girl genius and her sad, unhappy male partner in this situation - it would be unlikely, but I've known several women in your shoes.

I notice that women (and AFAB people generally) who are discouraged from valuing or caring about themselves set something else up to value or care about as a proxy, and that thing is inviolate. You may be worthless, but Jack is awesome. You may be stupid, but Jack is a genius. If you criticize Jack, or if we criticize Jack, that causes you guilt, because Jack is so wonderful and you - bad old you - have somehow not conveyed Jack's wonderfulness sufficiently. (It strikes me that "you've got jack" also means that you've got nothing.) You justify caring nothing for yourself by the fact that Jack is so wonderful and such a genius, when perhaps what is going on is that you have been forced by life not to care for yourself, and you find that you must at least care for something.

I also notice that women (and AFAB people generally) (and probably men) who have been hurt sufficiently by life can actively choose situations that will go on hurting them - if there's a choice between a situation where they are valued and happy and a situation where they will feel inferior and as if they always need to make up for their shortcomings, they will choose the latter.

I really, really wanted an academic career, and - like you - everything and everyone around me conspired to assure me that it could never happen. I was too old, my undergrad was wrong, I didn't have enough academic direction or a "project" picked out yet, I wasn't a "genius" like my dude friends (who were not, in the end, actually geniuses). I chose - because I hated myself - to believe all those people and to ignore all the other people who told me that I was smart and capable, that it was not too late, that I could obviously do the work.

I do not have an academic career. I do a little teaching, and I like that a lot, but it reminds me that I would rather do only teaching. My life is...all right. Since I mostly care about books, I don't absolutely have to be an academic.

And yet I look back and wish that when I was in my mid-twenties I had had access to more and better advice and support, and had not listened so hard to all the things that told me to hate myself.
posted by Frowner at 6:13 AM on February 27, 2016 [42 favorites]

You have gotten a lot of excellent advice here, and I'd bet money you aren't going to follow any of it, which is very sad. It is clear to any third party that this relationship, despite what is good in it, is ultimately poisonous to you. You are right that the biggest problem lies within you, but it is not that you are jealous, evil, lazy, not smart enough, and whatever other negative words you want to attach to yourself (while defending even the most horrible behavior of your fiance). The problem is that you don't understand that you absolutely need to prioritize finding a therapist who can help you sort this out. You said in your other AskMe that you are "surrounded by geniuses." No, you aren't. Genius is by definition very rare. But the fact that you view the world that way is extremely problematic, and you will never be happy until you can develop a world view that is not rooted in the core belief that everyone else is brilliant and you alone are whatever you want to call yourself now. Something in your life has really skewed your view of the world and your own worth, and you aren't going to be able to get out of that mindset by yourself.

From reading your objections to all the wise words you've received here, I've got to ask what you thought you were going to find on this site. Some magic words that would make the bad feelings go away? That doesn't exist. Find a therapist. If you don't like the first therapist you see, find another. Keep trying until you find someone you can click with. That is your job right now. If you don't do this, you're going to be dealing with the same issues for the next fifty years. If it's not with this guy, it will be with another.
posted by FencingGal at 6:29 AM on February 27, 2016 [14 favorites]

and he seems to feel that he has been putting effort into helping me flourish, but that I haven't been responsive enough to make it worth the effort

When you look at your miserable labor at this job you don't like, that's beneath you and that depresses you, that makes you feel like a failure every day but you don't give up, you keep on going -- and then you look at this man, who in YOUR OWN ADORING ASSESSMENT won't do shit for you like help you or listen to you because it's difficult to worry about you, not enough obvious reward -- do you see the difference in fundamental character here? You are radically misdirecting your strength, but you do at least have it to give.

& all this crap about him being a wee misbehaving twenty-year-old child who is all better now? that is the kind of fond crap older people say about 25-year-olds too, you know. When you get far enough past any age, you can fool yourself into believing that nothing you did back then really counted. Anything he did, I mean -- you aren't offering any of that dumb-young-person absolution to yourself.

and that the factors in our relationship (namely, my illness, which was extremely stressful for all of us and during which I was very nasty and cold and we had almost no sex for a year) are now gone.

this is what you think is his side of the story? and you think you're the abusive one? jesus fucking christ. I thought this whole elaborate explanation of how him mistreating you was somehow your fault or the fault of circumstance was your own invention, but it's his thing too? Look, you can't on the one hand defend him because he only did it once (!!!) and then say, well, that's just because I only got ill the one time. What if you get ill again? Which leads me to:

You are actually ill right now. Is all this business about how you are so terrible to him emotionally a way of laying the groundwork to blame yourself for driving him to it, whatever "it" he does next? There is this tone of paradoxical self-protection in your defenses of him -- like, you can admit to having a terrible sense of self-worth, but you can't admit that he might be awful, because being a decent woman who loves a selfish man is, what, a cliche? like having imposter syndrome or unjustified low self-esteem? I know it is intensely humiliating to be treated as a demographic representative rather than as a person but you cannot let distaste for a well-worn trope keep you from seeing clearly the situation you are in.
posted by queenofbithynia at 6:47 AM on February 27, 2016 [9 favorites]

Jeez, this is painful. Where are your friends? Why aren't they doing the job of taking you for drinks and making fun of this "genius" girl with you? Where do you live? Do you want to do Skype drinks with all of us?

Contrary to what everyone says, I don't even think you hate yourself. I think you know how smart you and hate the fucking world for not realizing it and giving you the things that your fiancé (who could be cool; I have no way of judging him) and his dumb friend have gotten so effortlessly. And it's easier and more socially acceptable to say "I'm a dumb piece of shit" than to be like, "No, fuck this. I am too intelligent for my job and this dead-end bullshit and where's my due?" because people will call you entitled or reveal they don't think you're as bright as you do. It is SO OKAY to be jealous and pissed that other people have things you didn't get and are certainly good enough to have. Life is unfair and people are unfair and jobs are unfair and it's okay to be mad at them instead of falsely beating yourself up because you want to defensively make yourself the punchline before someone else does. Get mad, remember you're awesome and talented and darkly funny in ways they aren't, round up your friends, and talk some shit. Go home drunk and in a good mood.

Therapy's cool too, but you know that already. I am not sure you know you deserve to be pissed at life and for people to comfort you even if your jealousy is irrational or unfounded.
posted by Yoko Ono's Advice Column at 6:50 AM on February 27, 2016 [19 favorites]

The thing is, I can't really tell anything about your boyfriend at all... because you're so obsessed with what a horrible, awful, stupid, worthless, walking garbage fire YOU are that that obscures everything else in everything that you write. You are brimming over with so much self-loathing that it's almost physically palpable, and frankly, you are no good to anyone at all when you hate yourself as much as you're displaying here.

Really, the only solution here is a breakup and therapy. None of us can actually tell what kind of person your boyfriend is, because all our information about him is filtered through your self-loathing, and you hate yourself more than you hate anyone else on the planet so you've put him on a pedestal but the way you talk about him is colored with loathing, whether for yourself for not being perfect enough for him (and fuck a whole lot of that noise, sister), or with him for doing things like trying to fuck someone else while you were fucking DYING (seriously, that you devalue yourself so much that you're literally telling us that it's OKAY that he tried to fuck someone else while you were dying because you hadn't been Mary Sunshine WHILE DYING, so you deserve to be cheated on...)

The point is, the problem here is not your boyfriend. The problem is in how much you hate yourself, and how much you would like to destroy yourself to prove that you're not worth anyone giving a damn. That's why you keep coming back here and telling us we're wrong to tell you to get out of this relationship because your boyfriend is just so perfect and you're just human garbage. You really want us to believe that, because not believing that contradicts the whole world set up in your head.

So. Break up, because this relationship is clearly not healthy for you. Hell, if you have to tell yourself that you're doing it for HIS benefit, then do it. But cut this guy loose and get yourself into therapy. You're not good to anyone at all when you hate yourself this much.
posted by palomar at 6:51 AM on February 27, 2016 [6 favorites]

Oh, and PS, do a fun thought exercise and ask yourself where Jack and Whatsherface's academic careers would be if they literally ALMOST DIED and had to be hospitalized in undergrad. Give yourself credit for even graduating from college with a decent GPA at all. If you were a lesser person who happened to be barely alive at some point in college, you might not have managed such an incredible feat.
posted by Yoko Ono's Advice Column at 7:04 AM on February 27, 2016 [8 favorites]

> He's not making me miserable, I am making me miserable.

No, the relationship is making you miserable. It doesn't matter how "good" he is (and we have no way of knowing)—he is not good for you. I feel like it's pointless even to type this out, because you've clearly made up your mind and are reading all our (unanimous) replies with gritted-teeth impatience, but I can't help but hope that maybe one more voice, one slightly different wording, will push you to take that little step out of your bunker, so that you can say to yourself "Maybe, just maybe, all these people can see something I can't." Please at least envision the possibility that if you weren't with Mr. Wonderful you might find a way to be happy with yourself and your life, which clearly is impossible for you now. Do you want to spend the next few decades feeling this way?
posted by languagehat at 7:13 AM on February 27, 2016 [13 favorites]

Also, why is it that you "would probably be dead" if you hadn't stayed in the relationship? That isn't clear to me. Is it because Jack was doing something concrete to keep you alive? Is it because you would have wound up homeless? Or that you would have died of some form of a broken heart?

Why do you think this relationship is or has in the past been a matter of life and death for you?
posted by tel3path at 7:15 AM on February 27, 2016 [6 favorites]

Hi Bugperson, I just want to say that I hope that you don't get so upset by the answers here that you quit reading and go away and try to forget about this thread. Even if you can only read it in bits and pieces, or if you want to argue with every response you are getting...please don't just dismiss what people are telling you here. Come back in a few days or a few weeks and read it a little at a time, whatever it takes for you to mull over the answers here.

It's true that we don't know you or your boyfriend, but few people are as worthless as you describe yourself as being (while showing all evidence to the contrary in this thread) or as amazing as you describe your boyfriend as being (again, while showing all evidence to the contrary). Those extremes are one reason people are reacting so strongly here.

There's a lot more I want to say to you, but I think I'll leave it at that for now.
posted by tiger tiger at 7:18 AM on February 27, 2016 [20 favorites]

I would almost second this except that it doesn't explicitly recommend anything for you to DO with that resentment.

Since I think an attitude of resentment is lurking behind what you've written anyway, I feel like you could follow that advice at precise face value, ignoring what's implied by it, and still be exactly where you are now in 20 years, and maybe worse.

All the "I'm so $NEGATIVE_EPITHET" is a distraction to make us, and you, focus on how you really should feel this way or that way about yourself, when the last thing (IMO) you need right now is to feel any particular way about yourself. Don't just switch from hating yourself to hating the world. You need to take action and start working to get what's yours, and you don't need to FEEL any way about it. And it will be a hard slog, most likely, even if you are theoretically entitled to better because other people had it easier. The rain falls on the just and the unjust.
posted by tel3path at 7:23 AM on February 27, 2016 [4 favorites]

I don't know that I'm saying "teehee, just drink your troubles away with Carrie and Samantha and do nothing!" but rather "It is okay to talk about this with people without coating it in a protective layering of 'This is what I deserve because I am the worst and I am saying that because I am scared you're thinking it.' " You won't have to do that exhausting crap with the right people. Sometimes you can't explicitly DO anything but drop an emotional burden or drain.
posted by Yoko Ono's Advice Column at 7:37 AM on February 27, 2016 [4 favorites]

I don't think you hate yourself. I think you hate that things have been unfairly hard for you, and unfairly easy - as you see it - for your guy and Manic Latin Shaved Head Pixie Intellectual Lady. And I think that's totally valid. And THAT's why I think you should break up with him. I'm not here to debate with you whether he sucks or not. But the thing that there's no debate about is: being with him makes you feel like shit. So stop. Because it doesn't get better, don't you see that?

The path you're on gets WORSE NOT BETTER. It gets WORSE when you're his wife (never mind mother of children!) You will get MORE bored and MORE jealous. He will get MORE interested in MORE interesting ladies outside the home. You will be MORE limited in what other options you have. Just... the life of an academic star's wife might be good for some people, but not for you. You need something else. Your dissatisfaction is leaping off the page. And it's ok! It's ok not to want this! It's even ok not to know what else is out there, but to know that THIS path leads to misery. So just get off of it.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:47 AM on February 27, 2016 [17 favorites]

It seems to me that you're thinking in a way that I tend to fall into as well. Your boyfriend is a GENIUS, this other girl is PERFECT, you're HORRIBLE, etc. And I mean, I completely believe that your boyfriend is a genius when it comes to his specialized subject area, but that doesn't mean he's a genius at EVERYTHING. And obviously the other girl isn't perfect because she sends shady texts and gets naked with guys who have sick girlfriends and so on (and anyway no one is perfect, trite saying be damned). And you're not horrible --you're HUMAN. You have messy emotions and messy relationships because we all do. Years ago, this classic AskMe recommendation helped me break out of the black-and-white thinking cycle to an extent, and later, my fabulous and loving and supportive boyfriend (now husband) helped me as well. He still gives me a nudge now and then when my thoughts get into this useless cycle, and he helps me sort out what's going on and see the grey areas. I don't really have any relationship advice for you that hasn't been said upthread, but I think looking into your thought pattern here might be a start.
posted by katie at 7:51 AM on February 27, 2016 [5 favorites]

And listen, kid, following up on what languagehat and tiger tiger said: do you think we are just not understanding you? That what you really need is to explain it more and it's just that you can't because the mods told you not to?

Listen up kiddo, I was hating myself since before you were even thought of. I know all the tricks. You can focus on other people with the energy of a thousand suns, and it will not make one bit of difference - it doesn't change your situation.

I'm not going to side with anyone who thinks Jack is in the wrong here, or that you should cope by belittling him or Archnemesis or anyone else. Maybe one or both of them is, like, Hannibal Lecter himself in person, an archetype of superhuman ability and superhuman awfulness all embodied in one ghastly ubermensch, so fabulous yet so evil and bizarrely devoted to messing with your head for no reason. Or maybe they're just average people with feet of clay like the rest of us. Or maybe hearing the same question from Jack's or Archie's point of view would make it all seem completely different. Or exactly the same. We just can't know.

The time to put your nose to the grindstone is now, bearing in mind that "nose to grindstone" probably means getting some medical help and a good therapist and taking maybe a year or so to coast along while spending as much of your spare time as possible on fun stuff like baking cookies or watching Star Trek or doing whatever non-work thing it is you enjoy the most (and do you even know?) and then perhaps taking a leisurely stroll over to the admissions office of a nice university SOMEWHERE ELSE to see if your undergrad degree can get you in or if maybe some work experience would punch your ticket, or what. Every time, during this process, you're tempted to evaluate yourself or others, just let the thought float by without honouring it. You have things to do.

And on preview, I wasn't suggesting Yoko was telling you to do nothing, only that she wasn't explicitly telling you to do SOMETHING and I believe that SOMETHING is what you need to do. I also absolutely agree that you need some light relief. One of the biggest problems for me, When I Was Your Age, was that I realized I had nothing good to think about. I was so fixated on solving my problems which were all basically intractable at that point, and thinking about how to improve things 24/7 was not helping. I realized I needed to break out of the infinite thought loop, and that thought wandered through my mind in search of something to connect with and then I found, on sale, some VHS tapes of a TV show I had loved as a child, and I bought them and started watching obsessively. Best money I ever spent. I was at least able to comfort myself that way until I finally started to succeed in improving my situation.

In your case I think you need action more than you need distraction. Your post is all about what's distracting you AND making you miserable. But yes, you do also need some light relief, as long as you don't JUST swap one form of escapism for another.
posted by tel3path at 7:55 AM on February 27, 2016 [13 favorites]

p.s. You should believe everything I say, since not only have I been in much the same situation you're in now (minus Jack or Archie, thank goodness) but by your own standards I am clearly a GENIUS. I've got you two ways.

You know it makes sense ;-)
posted by tel3path at 7:57 AM on February 27, 2016 [5 favorites]

Here's the thing about hating yourself: I am not a saint on this. I hate myself and I admit it. But do you know why I hate myself? Because of other people. I don't hate myself as I sit here on the couch on Saturday morning alone. I'm fine with me now. When do I hate myself? When I'm getting criticized at work yet again, when it seems like there's an infinite number of people having complaints about me as a person, when someone's mad at me, when a boyfriend (way back in the day) didn't like something about me and I was afraid I was going to get dumped for it. When it seems like there's just something fundamentally awful about me when I interact with other human beings and they have a problem with me and they let me know it and I cannot for the life of me figure out how to change myself enough to please them. What is it about this relationship that is bringing out those feelings in you? The (reasonable) jealousy? Something else?
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:58 AM on February 27, 2016 [5 favorites]

Thanks to Instamatic for posting my comment on the Beattie codependency books. I made a very short comment here last night, but I woke up thinking I should go back and translate that comment into this thread. Those books are a good place to start. They're tailor-made for your situation. In particular, Codependent No More contains exercises and self-assessments, so it's like a workbook. You can take it at whatever pace you want, but it's basically reading a short chapter, then reflecting, maybe journaling, about how you see that as related or not related to you. You can do it in small chunks. It's sort of like taking some first steps of therapy for yourself, quietly, privately, and independently. Just see if you can grab the book from a library and check out the first chapter. If you're anything like my, by the end of the first 7-8 pages you'll be somewhat riveted by the perfect description of you and your situation you're encountering in the book, and realizing that it just might offer you some threads to get free of the toxic thoughts and feelings you're having. Just check it out!
posted by Miko at 8:30 AM on February 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

"Dan Savage talks about The Price of Admission to a relationship; basically, the price is all the bad things which you accept are not going to change, and thus you will have to put up with if you want to be in this relationship.
Sometimes the price is worth it... and sometimes it is not. Putting up with him being "into" this other chick, and she into him, and always being aware of the possibility that they might decide to take things further is the price for staying in this relationship. Are you willing to feel shitty and jealous and envious forever, just to have him around?"


" If you criticize Jack, or if we criticize Jack, that causes you guilt, because Jack is so wonderful and you - bad old you - have somehow not conveyed Jack's wonderfulness sufficiently. "

Very good point. It seems like what compels you to respond here boils down to "Don't say anything bad about Jack! He's perfect! Except for this couple of really bad things that prompted me to write this question! Which you should just ignore, I guess, because it hurts me if someone doesn't think Jack is awesome!"
This is reminding me of an ex-friend of mine who would talk about how her dad was a complete jerk to her and eventually abandoned her family, but laid down the law to me that NOBODY ELSE could ever say or think anything bad about him. Uh.... if you think he's bad and you know him better than I do (since I never met him, obviously), how am I gonna think he's awesome? If you have bad things to say about him that are bothering you, we're just supposed to shove it under the couch? Especially when you asked us about it? It's hard to ignore. Nobody writes an advice letter about someone who's 100% awesome that they're happy with. It's always "so and so is perfect BUT...."

If some friend of yours told you that her fiance did this sort of thing back in the day, or if you read this question by someone else on AskMefi, what would you think about it? Would you think Jack sounds awesome upon reading it? Would you encourage her to stay?

Then what is it you want us to say?

Okay, fine. Jack is awesome. Jack is a saint. I would sell my soul to the devil if I were you to keep Jack. If Jack asks you to cut off a body part for the sake of the relationship, I think you should do it. Do anything at all costs to yourself to keep this precious, perfect genius who worships you and only you in your life. As for this jealous thing, stick your fingers in your ears and go "la la la" every time Ms. Perfect comes up in conversation. Or embrace her as your new best friend when she arrives. Deliberately ignore how much he likes her compared to you. Don't read anything he texts or e-mails privately whatsoever and stay off his computer. Stick your head in the sand as far as you can go, especially if he's "working late" or if you go out of town. Do the same sorts of techniques that women who secretly know they're being cheated on have done for thousands of years--ignore it and think, "Hey, he's still technically with me, right? He hasn't straight up left me for her yet, right?" You're going to have to choose to stay, ignore it, and deal with it. Block out any reasonable suspicions you might have.

Ways To Get Over Your Jealousy and Save Your Relationship.
Stop Being Jealous.
Overcoming Jealousy in Relationships.
Relationship Jealousy.
How Not To Be Jealous book.

I hope all of that helps in the way that you wanted us to answer.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:36 AM on February 27, 2016 [6 favorites]

He's still good and deserves defending.

I got depressed when I read that you wrote this, because you ought to be applying this to yourself. Yeah, you've made mistakes; so what, we all have. You're still good, and you deserve defending.

Seriously, why don't you put even 20% of the effort you've put into vigorously defending your boyfriend into defending yourself? And don't say "but I'm indefensible!" because you're not.

When I have problems I want practical things to do, so here are two.

1) Do a mental exercise in which you are a defense attorney. Your client: yourself. This means you HAVE to defend yourself; it's your job. So even if you believe that you are absolutely 100% the bad guy in the story (which you're not), that view doesn't matter right now; your job is to find the evidence to defend you.

Make a list of all that evidence. Make it long and detailed, like you would if you were an attorney and your job was on the line. Make the case for Bugperson, and study it. Memorize it. You'll see that you are defensible.

2) After you find out that you are defensible: If you still refuse to defend yourself, then my second practical tip is to immerse yourself in pro-woman media. I'm not kidding—it's not that I think media can save the world, but it can only help you here. You're telling a story that has two women in it and one man, and you have a vicious hatred of both women (one of whom is yourself) and you're driving yourself crazy trying to hold up the man as a paragon of intelligence and virtue. Nobody here is quietly accepting your version of events because the people here are familiar with a pattern of young* women putting themselves and other women down for the sake of men, and we're all really tired of it. Watch Mad Max: Fury Road or something. Or really just watch any movie, and make the female character the protagonist in your mind. Rewrite the movie from her point of view. Make her desires, motivations, talents, and intelligence the focal point of the new movie you're writing. Make her the star. Do it with multiple movies until you get used to your new way of thinking. And then do it again, but this time with the movie of your life.

That's my advice, from someone who's no expert but just felt too sad not to say anything after reading this stuff. Oh, and find a new therapist (right away). While you're waiting for your appointment, buy a self-esteem workbook. Tell yourself your new project is to learn to value yourself.

*and if you're around 24 then you are young by the way, which means your brain is still growing (it's not done till between 25 and 27)—I could be wrong, but I predict you may settle into yourself more soon and your mental health might improve on its own as a result; mine did, simply through growing. Have hope.
posted by honey wheat at 9:02 AM on February 27, 2016 [23 favorites]

I'm a regular lurker on Ask MeFi but I'm delurking because even after 100+ comments I still want to say a few things. I'll just list them because there's enough text in this thread already. (Upon preview, I see I've written my own wall of text. Well, here goes.)

* How much of these feelings do you share with your boyfriend? How open are you with him about how things are for you? Do you feel like he listens and truly sees you? I'm not going to pile on when it comes to his character or whatever, but how does he make you feel when you are sad and vulnerable and feeling alone? Relationships can't fix those things for us but a good partner will make you feel seen and supported and provide a soft place to land. Jack might not be terrible but he might also not be able to meet these needs for you and you deserve to have these needs met.

* Can you take a trip somewhere for a week or two, by yourself or with a person who isn't directly connected to your academic life? Go somewhere out in nature, to the desert or the mountains or the ocean. Throw your feelings about your life against a big open canvas, see what type of perspective it brings. Write about it. Go to a concert or show of some kind that makes you have big cathartic feelings. Read about peak experiences and see if you can chase down a few.

* Regarding jealousy, I suggest reading a book or two on polyamory, namely More Than Two. Not because I think opening your relationship is the answer to what's going on for you but because it talks a lot about the signals sent by jealousy and provides a ton of resources for how to effectively communicate within relationships. Take a look at how other people "do" relationships. Mutual respect and a willingness to be open about feelings, needs, and wants are a big part of the type of polyamory discussed in this book and the tools used for it are applicable to mono and non-romantic relationships.

* Nthing the suggestion to read some books about codependency. Your relationship with your boyfriend might not be codependent in practice but some of the ways in which you think about the world are skewed WAY too heavily toward how other people perceive you. It feels big and important because your anxiety is telling you it's big and important. This is hard stuff to untangle because it grows alongside us when we're younger but the best work I've done in my adult life has involved freeing myself from a mindset that forces me to live in fear about being judged.

* Look up some talks by Brene Brown, read one of her books about vulnerability and courage. Read Tiny Beautiful Things and Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Examine why you feel like there are things in the world that aren't for you, that you don't deserve. Look at the role shame might play in this and see if you can tease out some perspective.

I've read several long threads here from people with very distorted negative thinking about their life and worthiness. Very similar attitudes toward what you've put out but you are much more willing to listen and take in contrary opinions than some of them have been. I think this is awesome and it will be much easier for you to take next steps because of it. But please, even if the thought of leaving your relationship is too big and unexpected and wrong-sounding for you right now, consider taking on a project of being in a relationship with yourself. Treat yourself how you would want someone you love to treat you. Even if you're only doing it as an eye-rolling thought exercise once a day. Not because I think there'll be some big revelation of how Jack should be treating you or whatever. Fuck that. You're right; leaving won't fix you. But I think you want more for yourself. I think you've shown that you're strong enough to CHOOSE more for yourself, after so many years of life choosing really crappy things for you. You deserve it. Everyone does.
posted by norrington at 9:20 AM on February 27, 2016 [11 favorites]

I've read almost your entire thread, bugperson... reading what you've gone through was an incredibly upsetting ride, and I genuinely hope you find something that would make you feel better, be it a change in scenery, relationship or therapist. Because you are worth it--and please, please, PLEASE don't feel like you're not good enough because you've done something incredible--graduating when you had your harrowing health problem.

One thing I noticed that you've said in your previous + current AskMe was that... you had zero friends and that you had "scared them away when you were ill". Have you tried to make any friends outside of Jack's circle? And has Jack encouraged you to do so?
posted by Tsukushi at 9:24 AM on February 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

I feel like a pile-on of "DTMFA" won't really help and people have covered so many excellent answers already main thought while reading the question and your updates was that if you'd be miserable without him but you're already miserable WITH him, then you may as well leave. Is there somewhere you've always wanted to live? Something you've always wanted to do? You should do it! I am 33 and still live in the place where I grew up, and I hate it and myself. I have a husband and he is super amazing and never makes me feel bad in any way ever, but he grew up here and has a job here and I love him so so much but I also wish that I had just left town when I was 24 instead of waiting around hoping I'd meet a boy. You sound so smart and funny and I can really see you packing up and striking out on your own in a new city, and just having the best life ever while your boyfriend and the other girl do all their smart-people bullshit. As someone else noted above, other types of people are smart, too, and usually more interesting.

Anyway in order:

How crazy am I?: Just a regular amount.

How can I deal?: You can leave the situation and do something else. I don't really see there being a way of working through it, speaking as a miserably jealous person myself.

How can I be less stupid and insecure about all this?: You can't. It's a stupid situation designed to make you feel insecure. The only way to stop this is to do something else entirely, and like six months from now you won't even care about this anymore.

Please help me practice being less of a paranoid idiot and more of a normal, healthy person with adult relationships.: You're not paranoid unjustly, and you're definitely not an idiot. I don't think anyone is normal, and to get healthy you could go to therapy. But as someone who doesn't go to therapy, if it were me I would probably just withdraw from the situation entirely because it sounds terrible.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 9:30 AM on February 27, 2016 [9 favorites]

I'm clearly paranoid, insecure, and too full of self-loathing to love wholeheartedly.

You've been with him for five years - assuming you're ~ the same age as your partner, you don't really know what you're like as an adult, outside of this relationship. People respond to relationships and situations, sometimes in dramatic ways. (Depending on a bunch of things. Love is a strong motivator. Being far away from reference points and in an unfamiliar setting can take you away from yourself, too. Bad jobs can destabilize you and pull out, or create, different versions of you, also. And there are better and worse communities for given individuals.) Right now, you have no other reference points or contacts or reality checks other than your partner and his world, and your horrible job, so those are defining your responses and sense of yourself. Food for thought.

(I behaved and felt like - and imo therefore was, for that time - a totally different person with my ex than I did at any time before or since. I don't know how many times I thought, "is this really me??", even as I was betraying myself [because, I now know, of the particular dynamics involved]. There was a kind of split consciousness - there were the dynamics and facts - and enacted self - that were actually happening, and then, between moments and reactions, there was was, for want of a better word, me. My past and possibility. That dissonance was painful. In my daydreams, there was an alternate timeline, in which I lived in accordance with my values and goals - or *might*, in some nebulous future. Problematic, because unless you *act* to make things happen, they don't. You have to make those possibilities and wishes facts. Sometimes by making hard choices. Anyway - it wasn't just me, feeling I wasn't being me. I heard from friends and family - later, after we'd broken up and I was back to myself - that I'd been acting like I'd been invaded by an alien for 5 or so years. They tried to tell me sooner, I just wasn't ready to listen. Being caught up in things. I think you're caught up in things.)

in which he told her he "shouldn't say this, but [he] selfishly hope[s] [she'll] choose our dept and come here." I thought I had mentioned this earlier and cannot get it out of my mind; it's weird, right? Maybe they're just friends. Maybe! Probably even! But I can't let it go and get heartbeaty and freaked every time I think about that stupid text.

In the context of the history you've shared, that's a suspicious text. Your alarms are probably going off because they should be.
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:29 AM on February 27, 2016 [11 favorites]

I'm part of only 5% of respondents who aren't certain that the problem is him or the relationship. (I do think that being on your own would make it far, far easier to spend a year or three focusing on your mental health and what you want out of life.)

But I'm chiming back in to say that -- yes, that text message to her is screwed up. It is flirtatious in a way that isn't appropriate given you all's history. Would it help to have a script for discussing your feelings about this and some boundaries? Do you feel like you would do that? I think it would help to keep things somewhat matter-of-fact in tone. I'd start with opening the discussion along the lines of "I'm feeling really uncomfortable about Lulu's return given our history with her and how hard that time was for me." See what he says, then move the conversation toward "I really need to hear that you're committed to putting our relationship first and maintaining a certain emotional distance from her -- no flirting, no trying to get together with her, no late-night study sessions alone -- friends, yes, but guarding appropriate boundaries so that things don't start to feel like more-than-friends. Is that something you could commit to?" See what he says, and if necessary emphasize the fact that "this is already really hard for me. if things get like they were with her before, anywhere near that level of sexual tension, I'm not going to be able to tolerate it. It won't be possible for me to stay in this relationship if I see consistent signs that you'd rather be with her. And I might be oversensitive because of our history, so I might even see signs where none exist. I really need your help with keeping a clear boundary with her."

If he can respect and act on that, then that's great. You guys really need to be a team here, and you deserve his support, both because of the history but also just as someone who cares about you. As a sensitive, loving genius, he should very much understand that her return risks bringing up feelings from what was quite possibly the worst time of your entire life so far and certainly the worst time of your relationship. If there's some reason you feel you can't have this conversation with him, that's an issue. If you can't push this relationship to a place where it's comfortable and healthy for you, then you'll eventually need to end it, so hopefully having some of these tough conversations will seem like the easier option.
posted by salvia at 11:05 AM on February 27, 2016 [9 favorites]

And if anyone would benefit from a breakup, it's him.

SO be the big person and break up with him already, then go work on the problems you feel that you have with a therapist. If you are a shitty partner at the moment, don't be a partner. The world has billions of people in it, find someone when you are truly ready.

You and he, deserve to be, and can be, happy, but you are insisting to us you can't be happy together at this time so split. It will be OK. It will be better than OK. Stop hamster wheeling and do it.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 11:33 AM on February 27, 2016 [7 favorites]

Oh man, this pile-on. I sometimes wonder why certain questions trigger it, because after a certain point it's just the same noise over and over and it gets kinda lost in the sea of comments. And yet, here it is, and here I am posting on it anyway.

I'm sorry that you're getting such a huge push-back. I get it's frustrating and I bet it's probably making you feel all defensive and flight or flight. I get that it's probably not helping at this point, either, it's just making you retreat back into your shell of self-loathing and making you more defensive.

Look, I don't know whether you should break up. I don't know the actual reality of your situation. But I do think you doth protest too much in defending him, and making excuses for him. Do you want us to say, 'yes, you're insecure and needy and horrible!' because it seems like that's the only answer you want to hear at this point.

I don't think that the text he sent bothering you is you being insecure at all-- I think that text is a red flag. I think your intuition is right. I don't think it's mere insecurity speaking. If my fiance said something like that to a once-crushed-on friend I was jealous of? It'd really hurt me, especially if I felt inferior to her and he knew that. But he'd never ever do that. And I don't think he'd ever encourage a crush to be close to him in his place of work and study. So when his prof asked your fiance about candidates, I think he should have just stayed out of it. Yes it's not a big thing. Yes, he hardly cheated or anything. But in speaking up, at all, he subconsciously chose a side-- hers instead of yours. Then he texted his delight about it to her. He needs to start choosing your side, and your side as a couple like freaking yesterday.

Whether it's correct or right for you to feel insecure is moot, he should have not encouraged her place there out of loyalty to his friendship, because his loyalty should always be you and your relationship.

You need to talk about that, and get through it as a couple because If he doesn't do this, two things will happen. Either he'll keep not picking your side in subtle ways until the resentments eats up at you both and break up, or your concerns with him running away with her become a self-fulfilling prophecy and you'll break up anyway.

Since you want to ride this out to it's inevitable conclusion, try to get mentally healthy as best you can. Okay, maybe it is your insecurity making you miserable. Then eliminate it as best you can so you can reveal if your relationship is contributing or not. And the only way to overcome self esteem issues or inferiority complexes to this degree is with a lot of therapy. Get a better therapist. Distract yourself more from this bubble/pedestal you slot you and him into. You said yourself you catastrophize, and I do think you suffer from all or nothing thinking and low self esteem, and caring what people think. People mentioned it up-thread, but in lieu of a good therapist, at least read David Burns 'Feeling Good' -- it helps especially with this way of looking at things. Buy it, read it twice.

I hope things get better soon.
posted by Dimes at 11:40 AM on February 27, 2016 [9 favorites]

Here's every phrase you used to describe yourself:

green eyed monster, jealous, envious, melodramatic, pathetic, looking in with my nose pressed to the glass, freaked out and bitter, huge evil baby, jealous, envy issues, insane and insanely jealous, not pretty enough, not smart enough, not interesting enough, not cool enough, not good enough at school, not lovable enough, not tough enough, not sexy enough, terrified, pathological, replaceable, horrible, ridiculously envious, no real chance of academic success, stupid, dull, useless, very boring, jealous and scared, mad, sad, scared, jealous, jealous, crushed, alienated, stunted, directionless, miserable, scared, bitter, insane, lazy, jealous asshole, resentful, rambly, crazy, stupid, insecure, paranoid, idiot, not normal, not healthy, obnoxious, naive, romanticising, evil, bad guy, miserable.

In this entire post and all the responses, you don't say a single nice thing about yourself. I feel overwhelmed just reading this list and so, so sad that you feel this awful. You have a roaring TSUNAMI of self-hatred going on here and you can't hear anything but the roar of the ocean. I don't know how your relationship with Jack is supporting you through this, but I can say with confidence that whatever it is, it clearly isn't working given all the evidence to the contrary. You need to do something different.

Give your poor weary heart a break. Get away from your job and out of your city for a few days and go hiking in the woods with a journal or to a meditation or yoga retreat or something spiritual that calls to you. Then come back and take your new insights into therapy with a therapist you love and trust.
posted by zug at 12:40 PM on February 27, 2016 [21 favorites]

You seem intent on idolizing him and putting yourself down. I don't know you guys so maybe you're right - he might be completely amazing and you might just be the concrete block that's dragging him down.

At the same time, I want to tell you that this doesn't mean you're objectively this horrible person with no chance at change. I have had a bad relationship where I was jealous, hopeless and insane for most of the time. When it ended, I eventually met someone else and all the previous problems I had (jealousy, craziness) wasn't there anymore. My previous boyfriend wasn't a horrible person who gaslit me or anything and on paper, he was everything I wanted, but I've come to realize that he just brings out the worst in me. I don't know why, but sometimes that just happens.

I guess I'm saying that there's a chance you guys aren't that great for each other and it doesn't mean you're a bad person or he's an abusive boyfriend. It simply means you guys are incompatible and maybe that's something to think about.
posted by cyml at 1:19 PM on February 27, 2016 [4 favorites]

To put this whole thing in perspective, I'm going to lay out your exact words about you and your exact words about your archnemesis. All eight words/phrases you used about Jack I already listed above.

fifty green-eyed monsters, melodramatic, [pathetic], looking in with my nose pressed to the glass, freaked out, bitter, huge evil baby, tast[ing] the many acrid flavors of the jealousy rainbow, I have envy issues, insane, insanely jealous, terrified, worried, bitter, masochistic, horrible, ridiculously envious, struggling, 24/7 crushed, stupid, dull, useless, boring, jealous, scared, mad, sad, Scared, Seeth[ing], jealous, jealous, have no career to speak of, working a job I mostly hate, completely socially isolated, crushed, alienated, stunted, stupid, directionless, miserable, scared, bitter, Insane, Lazy, Jealous, Asshole, resents everyone else's accomplishments, disorganized, [poor writing skills], rambly, sorry, crazy, stupid, insecure, paranoid, idiot

That's 56 words/phrases, BTW.

archnemesis, [person] to pathetically peer at, perfect, threat, way prettier than I was, smarter, more interesting, “cooler,” studied the same subjects we both did and was far better at them than I ever was, Everyone who meets her falls in love with her, tough, sexy, had a shaved head sometimes, could also speak perfect Latin, just finished a master's in the same field, has been applying to PhDs and [...] got in here along with every other Ivy, perfect, Everything I Can Do She Can Do Better

That's 18 words/phrases, of which 17 are positive, of which 11 describe her in relation to you of which 7 are direct comparisons of her qualities to yours.

This is not counting any words/phrases describing your relationship to Jack or the various combinations of your respective relationships with each other.

The reason your protests about the greatness of your relationship with Jack don't ring true is because you describe yourself in completely negative terms and Jack as a career and not a person. A good relationship between a) a human with no discernible good qualities and b) an abstract concept such as a career - isn't possible. Objectifying Jack into his career, and idealizing him solely because of that career, as if that were the measure of his human worth? Not based in reality. Splitting yourself, and a double of yourself, black and white such that you have no good qualities and she is "perfect" is also not based in reality.

I wish people would stop focussing on whether Jack's been acting suspiciously or not, because you're seeing yourself, him, and Archnemesis through the prism of such gargantuan cognitive distortion that we simply can't rely on anything you tell us about either of them any more than we can believe your account of yourself. All we know, from what you've said, is that you idealize these two others and totally devalue yourself.

I'm not going to tell you that this or that message is or is not suspicious because you're biasing every bit of information you present in favour of the conclusion you want to produce, which is that Jack's relationship with Archnemesis is headed towards cheating. Interpreting the message that he's hoping she'll join his department as evidence that he wants to leave you for her? Maybe reasonable, maybe sitcom levels of misunderstanding. We can't know what these things mean in any kind of reality external to you, we can only know your emotional response to them, which are causing you tremendous suffering in and of themselves.

Please, please print out your question and take it to a medical doctor, and also find a CBT-oriented therapist who can actually help you.
posted by tel3path at 1:35 PM on February 27, 2016 [17 favorites]

Some things that help me through when I'm feeling jealous/bitter/small:

- reading about people who had/have all the things I (think I) want and are desperately unhappy anyway, even to the point of suicide.
- reading about brilliant capable people doing insane frivolous things with their gifts, like climbing one 14k mountain after another until one of them happens to kill them. (There is a lot of fun, interesting writing in this particular genre).
- remembering that the people I'm most envious of (usually because their success/brilliance/wonderfulness is so in my face) are generally people who are close to me, and some of them really love and respect me, and if I think they are so great and they think I am pretty great it must mean something.
- reading about refugees/immigrants who went from having prestigious careers to working low status/low salary jobs because of language/culture/licensure/discrimination reasons, and how messed up the whole status thing is and how divorced from anything really meaningful
- thinking about how, if I did have the high status position I think I wanted, and more people liked and admired me for it, would I really want (does anybody really want) 'friends' who like you because of your job/status, and who might drop you as soon as you lose it?
- thinking about my peer-age friends who died at ages younger than I am now and not only didn't have the things I wanted, didn't even get the chance I have to mope about it.
- thinking about how I could write about my life and frame my experiences if I were going to write a novel where *I* was the hero and protagonist.
- writing down things I'm grateful for, even if it's the same things over and over again
- calling someone who loves me, even if it's just to talk about the weather.
- watching a lot of episodes of one of the tv shows I love
- remembering meaningful compliments I have received from people I respect, sometimes writing them down
- thinking about what my favorite character (Granny Weatherwax) would do/say
- thinking about why I love the people I love, and respect the people I respect, and how little their success/status has to do with it.
- eat (including to excess)
- work
- very very long walks
- reminding myself that of all the things that will help determine an unknowable future outcome, gnawing away at it in my brain is among the most useless
- reminding myself that all future outcomes are unknowable
- thinking that if, in the end, I don't get what I want anyway, all the jealousy/worrying will have been a colossal waste of time that I could have spent working towards another possible positive out come. And that if, in the end, I do get what I want, all the jealousy/worrying/ will have been a colossal and ironic waste of time. So either way I may as well make the best of the mean time. (It's all mean time).
- reminding myself that another woman's awesomeness in no way detracts from my own, and my life isn't a popular culture plot where there's only room for one lovable, desirable female character.
- try to consciously remind myself that all the energy I'm spending thinking about how/what/whom other people are doing is energy that is getting distracted away from me spending it on my own life, and trying to wrestle my thoughts back to me.

Hopefully some of that is helpful. I'm a bit older than you and my life is not much like how I (subconsciously) pictured it would be at this age. It can be really hard. Life is arbitrary, effort and merit often don't add up to much, and you have to make your own meaning and put your own self and your own love out there anyway.

So Kohelet is about 2,300 years old and has parallels in even older texts. I find it can be helpful, relevant, and perspective-giving.

4 And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

5 Fools fold their hands
and ruin themselves.
6 Better one handful with tranquillity
than two handfuls with toil
and chasing after the wind.

14 There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: the righteous who get what the wicked deserve, and the wicked who get what the righteous deserve. This too, I say, is meaningless. 15 So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun.

No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all their efforts to search it out, no one can discover its meaning. Even if the wise claim they know, they cannot really comprehend it.

11 I have seen something else under the sun:
The race is not to the swift
or the battle to the strong,
nor does food come to the wise
or wealth to the brilliant
or favor to the learned;
but time and chance happen to them all.

posted by Salamandrous at 3:39 PM on February 27, 2016 [21 favorites]

Quantify. That helped me a lot when I was trying to figure out why my incredibly generous wonderful relationship was being so damaged by what a selfish horrible person I was. I started counting things - how many hours I did housework, what meals I made, what percentage of bills to money brought in, actual conversations we had about my issues vs his, how often we went out, how often he went out alone, etc. It was harder and harder to deceive myself when I had numbers and could see that I was doing this work and he was wildly inflating what he was contributing.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 5:45 PM on February 27, 2016 [7 favorites]

hey, bugperson.

just wanted to chime in with telepath and others that in times of chaos and crisis, DO SOMETHING, even something small. it will make you feel better.

so, to start, a small thing:
tomorrow, go on zocdoc and look up therapists in your area. pick one with a good rating and book an appointment online.

you're not stuck with any of this. all you have to do is start, and folks have listed a bunch of small but immensely helpful, healthy things you can do for yourself.

a lot of people are rooting for you!
posted by iahtl at 6:59 PM on February 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Going through a serious illness doesn't necessarily mean you're a better person for it, but a lot of people will tell you you're so amazing for just staying alive. You are, actually, but it doesn't necessarily make you a better person beyond providing perspective (which can sometimes be overridden by the very real fear and trauma you're carrying around), and that can make you feel really weird. There can be some major cognitive dissonance in that, especially if you feel guilty for being at best self-centered for the sake of your life and at worst mean, because almost dying is (obviously) hard and the person closest to you has gone through it with you but hasn't actually gone through it.

And they're inevitably going to hurt you unintentionally or intentionally during that time, especially if there are preexisting trust issues in your relationship, because being a caregiver is hard and can inspire resentment and what was mentioned above with regard to the weird sexual fetishization of people who represent the path not taken. ("What if I'd been with so-and-so; would we be going through this right now, or would everything just be fun and awesomeness all the time?" The answer is no, because let's be real, almost everyone goes through serious illness at some point in their life, but that's why it's a fantasy.) There's probably some escapism and resentment there on his part, which is normal for caregivers but often goes unacknowledged. (That's entirely separate from acting on it, though, which I'll get back to shortly. I'm not mentioning it to excuse his behavior, but rather to provide some insight into the psychology of this.)

Moreover, you don't feel awesome, even though you know the health situation was beyond your control, or maybe because it was, because being out of control, right when your partner is most on top of his game and in control of his career, feels like a whole other level of life-destroying. You sound resentful, and rightfully so! That's also normal.

If you read my comment history, you'll see a history of some of the difficult feelings of a caregiver of a couple people very close to me, one of whom is my husband, who have almost died multiple times in the past couple years. I switched jobs during that time and now have a really fulfilling and demanding career path, whereas my husband and I both live in fear that his illness could derail any serious attempts he might make to get his own academic pursuits and career back on track. All of the trains of thought that have to do with that are difficult, on both parties' part. I get where your fiancé might be coming from on this, but also the origin of a lot of your own bad feelings, separate from the ones he might be provoking. Though of course they're not so easily separated.

The other thing I've mentioned at least a few times here is my experience with my own ex-fiancé from college, the one who friends called Superman for being the smartest, the tallest, the handsomest, the best, whatever. And oh, he knew it, and though he'd overcome major adversity in his own life, he wasn't supportive when I wasn't in a good place (and when he was, I found it difficult to accept) because everything with him had to be progress and excellence. The desire to be with someone who's going your own speed as a partner can override compassion and empathy, which is unfortunate. My response to that situation was an unfortunate one, too; to assert my own power, or to feel wanted during what was a long-distance relationship, or because I was a serial monogamist, or to enact what I wanted to see in my parents' own dysfunctional relationship, or because he wanted me to convert to his religion and I was uncomfortable but not dealing with it head-on, or for whatever other reason, I cheated. Ultimately I told him and broke off our engagement, and the two of us spent six months of anguished chats sorting out the wreckage.

So I've been on both sides of this, and I can see your perspective and his to some degree. The thing is, if he wants to be with you, especially because of his history of cheating on you, he needs to be walking the line. It's not abnormal to see exes or almost-might-have-beens in one's life as fantasy or dream fodder, especially when chances of fulfillment with one's current partner are slim. It's even within the realm of normal for people to have former partners as characters in their dreams years later, as a former colleague totally committed to their partner once related to me. But that text... He should be doing everything to allay your fears, forever, because he cheated on you. Just having a history of cheating, as I do, is enough to make that mandatory. And he's not stepping up, and is instead boldly encouraging the person he cheated on you with to become part of his very exclusive and small academic program, to move there when she doesn't live there already... This is messed up, and you need people in your life besides us to relate to who will reinforce your real feelings that are telling you things are messed up.

You guys have been through a lot, but this move feels like he's lining up a replacement and/or trying to keep you insecure, rather than actively soul-searching and looking for ways to build togetherness. You have this roar in your ears of your own disappointment in yourself for not fulfilling your goals or being a better partner, and that's making it hard to see the wrong on his side. You have to work through that, because your doubts about his actions and your envy and jealousy seem to be telling you something important about him and about the state of your relationship. You seem to be doing all the soul-searching here, while he's already searching elsewhere. This is not a tenable situation, and gaming it out in my head just raises more difficulties that aren't resolved in the slightest unless he can set some ground rules for himself and abide by them where his friend is concerned. There are ways to do that, and I don't agree with those calling for him to leave his academic program to fulfill that, but his efforts need to start now. And if he hasn't yet admitted there is a problem with his behavior, there has to be a conversation.

You may have said this and I might have missed it, but do you have a date set? I hope you don't, but if you do, I would consider changing that now. You two are not ready to get married, because he isn't committed to you the way you are to him, and you need to find ways to work through that without putting yourself down. You're both doing things that contribute to you feeling more, not less, like the lesser partner. I understand so well how that happens, but it's not right, and you guys are not ready. At least you need further discussion together and separately, and you would do well to get some travel in and clear your head. You probably need both, or you'll be concerned the whole time you're gone that he's just hooking up with her, which is no way to relax.

Has she moved there yet? (Apologies if you also said that; this is a very long thread that I'm only making longer.) If she hasn't, this is the ideal time for you to take a trip by yourself. I don't suggest taking an outright break, though, because at this point it sounds like he'd take that as carte blanche to hook up with her, and that seems like it would just push you further apart. Give him a chance to step up instead, as well as take time for yourself, and then decide what to do on the basis of how he responds. You've more than owned whatever your contributions to this might be; he has to own his.

Be well. I think you're a much better person than you think you are.
posted by limeonaire at 8:45 PM on February 27, 2016 [9 favorites]

I don't even know if you're still reading this thread, bugperson, but, if you are, I'm hoping I can say something that might help, even if some of it is redundant. As I read through the last thread and this one, my primary thought was that you must be so tired and somehow, you need to find a way to quiet that hateful, critical voice, so your weary mind can get some rest, even if just in fits and starts. How do you do that? I think it's different for every person, but it comes down to distraction and redirecting that negative energy into something, anything else.

As tempting as it is to debate the merits of your relationship, whether your partner is what you need, or ponder whether Archnemesis is worth any of the praise or concern she inspires, I don't think that will help you at this point. Others have already done that upthread, and you seem to be experiencing that reaction many of us have when a loved one, even when we've described ways that person have let us down, is being spoken about negatively: you defend him and cannot even give any of the negative points credence for a second because it feels like a betrayal, not just of him, but of yourself. You've invested so much in this person and this relationship that to agree that he or his behavior is even a fraction of awful is just another burden to bear. While I see some flags, I don't know Jack, and cannot comment on him or your relationship. I also don't know you either but feel comfortable concluding the following based on your posts and some facts you've mentioned:

You received a full ride to university? That is AWESOME. You had a 3.0 GPA and an even higher one in your major? You are clearly quite bright and that is something to be proud of, even without factoring in the almost fatal illness and, because I think the source will make this matter more to you, I say this as a summa cum laude with departmental honors graduate. You managed to soldier on through school while your illness ravaged your body until you almost died and are now in remission? That is just all sorts of amazing and indicates strength and ambition. You also are an articulate and engaging writer, with a quick wit and an interesting perspective. I do not doubt you have a lot to offer. Unfortunately, you also seem to be your own worst enemy, harboring so much vitriol about yourself that I don't know how you manage to breathe. I want that to turn around for you, so, so much, but that ultimately can only come from you and the hard work you'll have to do to transform that toxic, distorted thinking into something accurate and positive. It won't be an easy or quick process, but you are fully capable of doing it, especially with a strong guide and allowing yourself moments of respite from that awful loop of loathing that seems to seep into all your thoughts and feelings. Many have already said some variation of these, if not them exactly, but I don't think it can be said enough at this point.

Which brings me to your actual questions:

How crazy am I? You are wounded. Your thinking is distorted. You are extremely emotionally abusive to yourself. A lot of the things nagging at you, that aren't about you, would bother most people. I don't think you are crazy. I think you are hurting, tired, and feeling adrift. It may not seem like it, but all of that is fixable.

How can I deal? Change things up because what you are doing right now clearly isn't helping. Invest in you, even if that means you give less to your relationship and your fiancé. Talk to your fiancé about this, so he understands that you aren't giving up on him or the relationship, but you are working on you, in hopes of your future as a couple and as an individual flourishing. I'm guessing part of him will be grateful and relieved because taking these rides on the self-loathing merry-go-round are exhausting for both of you, no matter how misguided those thoughts are or how much love is present. If your relationship is meant to be, you don't need to fear investing significant energy in you rather than an "us," and the arrival of Archnemesis should also be a non-factor. If she becomes one, it will hurt like hell, but you can't stop it, especially if you maintain the status quo, and, ultimately, all this means is that this wasn't the right relationship for you.

How can I be less stupid and insecure about all this? Please help me practice being less of a paranoid idiot and more of a normal, healthy person with adult relationships. First and foremost, please stop talking about yourself this way. Imagine how upset you would be if this was how your fiancé talked about himself or another loved one framed his or herself in these terms. You would be sad, frustrated, and feeling very helpless. It's very likely you are going to have to fake it at first to change these thoughts around. Every time you start to self-deprecate, take a beat and tell yourself the exact opposite of what you are about to say. For example, "I'm an idiot. No. I am a smart, insightful person. The only idiotic thing to do here is to deny my intelligence and perspective." It might feel silly, hollow, and, yes, perhaps even stupid for awhile. Fake it until you make it because the positive stuff isn't silly, hollow, or untrue. Also, as many have mentioned and you have acknowledged, you need a support system, which includes a therapist. Making new friends as an adult is hard, but you should also try to make some friends that are *not* in your fiancé's circle. If you aren't sure where to start, is a wonderful, organic way to meet people with shared interests. Reach out to friends and family who are not in the immediate vicinity through email, texts, phone calls, or Facebook. Interaction with others outside of your relationship and academia, even if it is the last thing you feel like doing, is probably one of the best gifts you can give yourself right now.

You said you could write pages about your situation and, similarly, there is so much more I could say, but mostly, I want you to take care of yourself. I want you to relax into a comforting, supportive hug and not be consumed by all these mean, hurtful thoughts about yourself. I want you to see yourself as you truly are, because it is obvious to everyone in this thread, you are not seeing yourself clearly at all. Good luck, bugperson, and I hope when you think of a bug you can envision a caterpillar inching along and cocooning itself up into a chrysalis, until it is ready to emerge as the beautiful butterfly it actually was all along, soaring above all the detritus of the past and flying towards a wonderful future, whatever that may look like.
posted by katemcd at 8:55 PM on February 27, 2016 [12 favorites]

This might be of interest and of help to you. Stanford researcher Emma Seppälä says being kind to yourself may lead to success not the other way around.

Seppälä’s new book, The Happiness Track, suggests four ways to promote kindness towards yourself:

1. Notice your self-talk: In times of failure or challenge, noticing your self-talk can help you replace it with self-compassion. Instead of saying things like, “I’m such an idiot!” you might say, “I had a moment of absentmindedness and that’s okay.”

2. Write yourself a letter: When your emotions are overwhelming, write a letter to yourself as if you were writing to a friend. It might feel strange at first, but your comforting words will help to normalize the situation rather than blow it out of proportion.

3. Develop a self-compassion phrase: Use a mantra or a phrase that you can turn to in challenging situations, so you can deal with them calmly and with grace.

4. Make a daily gratitude list: Write down five things you feel grateful for every day, or are proud of having accomplished. This may sound overly simplistic, but this extremely short exercise can produce powerful and long-lasting results.

Good luck!
posted by Beti at 11:35 PM on February 27, 2016 [13 favorites]

This guy is looking for a release valve so he can extricate himself from the relationship without getting blamed. Perfect solution: he's going to hook up with this woman and he knows you will blame her and yourself before you blame him. You can ignore all the advice in this thread for as long as you want, but if you don't end the relationship he will. Are you really enjoying waiting around for that to happen? It doesn't seem like it.
posted by one_bean at 12:38 AM on February 28, 2016 [5 favorites]

I think you need time away from all of this and time for yourself separate from him. The good news is that it's summer job hiring season. My vision for you is to work at a girls' camp, maybe Girl Scouts, and make great women friends and hear their relationship horror stories and tell yours, and hear about all of their different dreams and plans for their lives and think about what you want yours to be, and go out drinking on Saturday night at a dive bar between camp sessions, and climb mountains and sleep in a tent and just forget about all this stuff. Call him sometimes, when you have cell service. Tell him you love him. But then also tell him about the amazing summer you're having and your new friends and how happy you are and how glad you'll be to see him when the summer is over. And take some time to think about it and make sure that is actually true.

Really, what I think you need is AmeriCorps or even Peace Corps. A year or two away doing your own stuff and living your own life and developing your own dreams, with forced separation from this life you're currently living. But that may be too much for you right now. So take the summer for yourself and your own thoughts and dreams.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:24 AM on February 28, 2016 [10 favorites]

Honestly OP this sounds a lot more illness-related to me. You got sick, your life went off track, your friends all ditched you, your partner's life seems on track still so you're constantly reminded of what you SHOULD have had, and this friend's life also reminds you of what you SHOULD have (a career in academia + the attention of your partner). For some reason, you blame yourself for all of this instead of going "yeah wow shitty things happened and that's how I got here" and that's keeping you from reaching the point of "ok how do I create a life that I hate less". (Do you blame yourself for your illness? Do you think that you should have recovered from it differently? Why are you still beating yourself up for going through a near-death experience? Do you see yourself as the kind of person who always has their shit together and not having your shit together makes you feel scared all the time?)

You can't move forward if you're still fixated on the past. You're comparing your current self to your dream self that didn't get sick and of course that makes you miserable because it's not how things worked out for you! Let it go! Stop obsessing over how your life could/should have turned out and start focusing on how you want the next 20-60 years of your life to go. This is your starting point, whether you like it or not, and the sooner you accept that and stop treating yourself like shit for having things not go to plan, the better.

What's your 5 or 10 year plan? What is your dream job now (& how do you plan to get there)? Where would you like to live (maybe a specific city, maybe just "an apartment with no leaks")? What hobbies or interests do you want to do? What do you want your day to day to look and feel like?

You've written a lot of words but you haven't told us anything other than "I hate myself and am holding on to this relationship with every shred of energy I have because it's all that remains of the life I was promised". I understand why that's appealing but it won't bring back what you had, it won't put you back on track, and focusing on your relationship with this person as your salvation won't get you the fulfilment you so desperately seek - you are a career-oriented person trying to shove yourself into a relationship-oriented life and it makes you feel like shit. It will continue to make you feel like shit because it's not what you want. Turn that considerable energy towards finding/building a career that you find satisfying.

As for concrete things to do: force yourself to stop engaging with the monster. Every time you catch yourself doing the awful jealousy spiral, work on your 5/10 year plan (figure out goals, then steps to those goals, then START DOING THE STEPS). The sooner you start making concrete steps toward a new life, the better you will feel. Find something to fill your time so that you're not constantly keeping tabs on your partner. Grab one of the self-help books suggested (especially that Codependency No More one) and go to a coffee shop or other space you don't associate with your partner and your failures. Contact therapists in your area to try to find a good fit. Get friends either by reaching out to old ones or making new ones because you really need more than one person as your emotional support.

It sounds like you didn't just have a near-death experience, it sounds like you've been a ghost ever since. I know continuing to exist when you feel you should be dead is terrifying but eventually you have to suck it up and face the thing that scares you. Start living your life.
posted by buteo at 7:52 AM on February 28, 2016 [19 favorites]

Hey, bugperson. I was in a similar career place to you in my early 20s--I majored in a humanities field and was super interested in scholarly theory but did not (for various reason) pursue academia even though most of my friends were going on to get MAs/MFAs/PhDs. I worked some shitty mindless jobs while "everyone else" was doing far more interesting things. I get why it's messing with your head. Despite my overall great academic track record, comparing my life to the lives of other people I knew made me feel like I must be inherently less smart or talented, that being good at writing undergrad papers in my field would never translate into real-world success.

I also spent a good chunk of my early 20s trying very hard to break into an industry related to my major. I didn't have the financial support/family background needed to live in the cities where the career-track jobs were, so I floundered around in my small hometown, never getting the "real" jobs my friends were getting, feeling like I had ruined my job prospects for life. I lived with my mother while my friends all had partners or cool roommates or adorable 1-bedroom apartments of their own.

I eventually got laid off during a massive downturn in the industry I struggled in, and ended up taking a job in a wildly different field to survive. I ended up doing really well at that totally unrelated-to-my-major job and making a solid middle-class income, more money than I ever thought would be possible for me.

A few years later, I moved to a big city on money I'd saved up, hoping to escape forever the gravitational pull of my small hometown, and had another career setback I wasn't sure I'd recover from. Except guess what? I ended up teaching myself to code, and now I'm a programmer at a company you've definitely heard of, doing very well for myself and enjoying my awesome life. If you had asked me what my life would be like when I was your age, I would never have guessed at any of this for myself.

I just want you to know that nobody's life is set in stone in their early 20s, and the academic life you find so appealing now may seem much less interesting to you in another 10 years. If you're looking for ways to feel less jealous, I encourage you to take the advice of many other people on this thread and explore career options for jobs you don't hate, in a variety of fields that may be unrelated to your major. I think if you try to measure your success by the paths of other philosophy majors doing what you "should" be doing right now, you're going to continue to be stuck.
posted by Owlcat at 8:52 AM on February 28, 2016 [11 favorites]

I think the reason certain threads get pile-ons like this is because something about the subject strikes as pretty universal. Figuring out how to get out of dangerous situations. Giving advice to your past self. I think the common theme in this one is that it often becomes easier to like yourself as you grow older. It becomes easier to get back in touch with the actual fire that fueled the dreams that, when thwarted because life got in the way, now have you feeling trapped and like a failure. No one is holding yourself up to these expectations but you. It's possible to rechart that path in a way that reminds you of the joy/drive/passion you felt in the first place. So, I don't want this to sound like a judgement on your experience level. But the fact that over 100 people have heartfelt things to tell you hopefully can create some optimism that time does help heal this one. It's like a first heartbreak, and then you figure out how to love yourself again. I also think @buteo's comment rings true with what I get from your question and the history you've shared with us. You have a lot to grieve in your life. You write very wittily about almost dying but that's a huge traumatic type of experience. Cut yourself some slack for whatever's happened in your life since then. My mom died out of the blue three and a half years ago and I've been unemployed for a large part of that time but i've also changed careers and started to figure out how to do some of this stuff that you've also been grappling with. Ugh, sorry to get personal. I'll stop now.

This is a beautiful poem about figuring out how to love yourself.
Love After Love
posted by norrington at 12:27 PM on February 28, 2016 [8 favorites]

A few things I feel I can say 100% without any doubt after reading your post and this thread.

Neither you nor he are "bad people", but you are bad for each other.
He and that woman are not just friends and never will be.
You need to get out of your relationship and get help.

Best of luck. I know you'll make it through to better things, I'm just hoping you do it sooner than later, because later it gets a lot uglier (I know about that too).
posted by treehorn+bunny at 12:01 AM on February 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

I read your prior question. You are 24 or 25, right? You are so full of the energy of youth. The burning "who am I," the self-obsession, the despair. I also felt this up until I was 26. (Or, if I'm being charitable with myself, 25 and a half). I was a gifted kid, high SATS, teacher's pet, blah blah, but suffered from depression and some other issues. Probably my natural personality was just not terribly in lock-step with the competitive people of this world and never would be. Did poorly in undergrad, only thing I ever wanted to be was a writer. Everyone assumed I'd go to law school or whatever but I just really didn't want to and sort of floundered around in my early 20s. At 26 I fucking grew up and stopping worrying about being a genius. I lost my parents' medical insurance and scrambled to get jobs. I worked at a dry cleaners, at Starbucks, at a salon, and finally talked my way into a job as a paralegal with no formal training. Now I work at a big fancy law firm downtown and make a nice salary with nice bonuses. I have good benefits and am competent and feel this is pretty good considering my history of lack of motivation. I will be 28 in a week.

My sister and a lot of my friends have multiple graduate degrees and law degrees and PhDs and speak many languages, etc. Know what else they have? Crippling fucking debt. Mountains of it. Piles of it. Know what else they don't have? Street smarts. Real world experience. True knowledge of how the world works. The ability to talk to the little people. The ability to change career paths or bounce back quickly from losing a job.

The best thing in the world for you is to SAY GOODBYE TO ACADEMIA. Fucking kiss it farewell forever. Live in the real world. Get a boring office job or become a high school teacher. Stop wishing for your potential to manifest and just decide to try a fun little experiment where you be normal and boring and mediocre for a couple of years. Consider it fodder for a future book or philosophy of life. Embrace the little people.

You will find being a big fish in a small pond is really nice. Stop sneering at the boring people of middling intelligence in their boring jobs and realize that among them, you perhaps could be a leader. Erin Brockovich, you know? Here is a partial list of famous people who were once school teachers: Gene Simmons, Sting, J.K. Rowling, Billy Crystal, Stephen King.

INTELLIGENCE ACTUALLY ISN'T EVERYTHING, IT TURNS OUT. However, self-respect damn near is. I think you will find you have more pride than you can possibly imagine right now when you start bringing home disposable income and feel true financial independence. It will be like the clouds part and rays of light stream down and make everything clear for the first time. You are a fighter. You understand the real world issues of having non-wealthy parents and life-threatening illnesses. Fuck the people who live in bubbles. You are scrappy, you are strong, you are a warrior. This is actually a more important quality to have than intelligence, believe it or not.
posted by quincunx at 1:07 AM on February 29, 2016 [22 favorites]

Get yourself to Slapping Medicine Man. This thread has been full of virtual slaps; it's up to you whether or not you choose to take the advice to heart.

As far as getting rid of the jealousy, especially of Archnemesis: focus more on improving your own life and making it better, instead of seething in envy about her talents and life.
posted by culfinglin at 11:21 AM on February 29, 2016

The thought I immediately had while reading your question was: "Oh my god this is a horrible, horrible, horrible relationship". However, the truth is that you're in at least two horrible relationships: one with yourself and one with your fiancé.

Others upthread have pointed out how abusive your self-talk is. You need to focus all of your attention on getting your self-esteem in a better place. And you also need to understand that reviving your self image is going to take a while. It's a process. You need a really, really, really good therapist (really good) -- not because you're "crazy" but because you need skilled help learning to love and accept yourself as you are.

As long as you are not thinking straight and in a healthy place with your self-esteem, you will not be able to see clearly what over one hundred strangers on the internet understand, namely -- that you are, in fact, in an awful relationship. You don't see this because your self-esteem is very low right now. And that's not a judgment -- it doesn't make you crazy or a bad person, it just means you are in need of tender loving care and compassion.. like billions of other people. The good news is that you can definitely improve your self esteem and heal from whatever you experienced that ramped up the volume of your harsh, abusive, inner critic.

The important thing isn't so much to leave your boyfriend right now -- it's to see your situation clearly. I suspect that you will leave him when your self esteem improves. But, for now, just focus on taking very, very good care of yourself. Even if you stay in the relationship - you need to forget about him and his old flame/crush/and soon to be fellow graduate student for long enough to prioritize yourself. Pour your energy and time into getting to know yourself, your wishes, hopes and dreams.. your pain, your trauma -- whatever is going on inside you. Stop obsessing about the nemesis, and stop obsessing about your relationship. You're right when you acknowledge that leaving him wouldn't solve your problem.. what you need to understand, now, is that YOU require ALL of your attention. Not your boyfriend, and not his lady friend. Figure out what you need and give it to yourself. That's your job and those are your marching orders. You can do this.
posted by Gray Skies at 1:14 PM on February 29, 2016 [4 favorites]

I just have to chime in to say above all how much I enjoyed your writing. So lucid and so funny, and wonderful pace.

Sad that you're dealing with these emotions, but I feel such vigor in your writing! Why not build on that. The solution to this problem will come not through analyzing the facts, the intentions, the feelings of insecurity, the potential outcomes, but through outward action. It sounds like you're miserable in your job and your general place in life and in who you are. And I can't tell from your post, but I'm inclined to believe you when you say your bf is great. His success shouldn't have to smother you or make you turn away. Why not thrive beside him? Or if he does suck, thrive without him. I feel confident that gaining some clarity in your own long-term interests and desires to build a career and acting on them may go a long way in resolving these crippling doubts and feelings of worthlessness.

Anyway, I mostly just wanted to say I liked your writing. :)
posted by poilkj at 4:01 PM on February 29, 2016 [5 favorites]

You need to listen to Frowner. But I also want to address the fact that everyone is saying your writing is awesome - which it is. BUT. It's easy, especially if your whole life is made up of nothing but academia-related relationships and friendships and careers, to think that your life has to somehow BE the tragic narrative, that there is something laudable about experiencing the level and type of suffering that makes for canonical literature, and that you will somehow be rewarded for this. I'm sorry to say this is blatantly untrue, and it's infuriating when you realize it, because everyone has been lying to you all along.

Anyway, I'm bringing this up because I think you can be un-miserable, but you probably need to see a psychiatrist and take medication and maybe take a break from your fiance and go through the shitty stab-in-the-dark disappointments of figuring out "what you really want to do," career-wise and everything-wise.

My favorite quote in the world is from (paradoxically) Judith Butler: "Is her fatality a necessity? And if not, under what non-necessary conditions does her fatality come to appear as necessity?" She's talking about Antigone and speaking and repetition, and I am totally twisting the meaning of what she's saying, but I like to think of it as a comment on the invisible narrative structures we fight to death to keep, even if they're making us miserable.

Anyway, I didn't say all this very well, but I hope it helps. And you need to listen to Frowner.
posted by Munching Langolier at 7:51 PM on February 29, 2016 [12 favorites]

I've read all the comments and I've been thinking about your questions for a couple of days. I think you've been given some really good advice here, particularly the advice to seek therapy and the insight that we as readers on the Internet can't really trust you as a narrator because you're probably struggling with a lot of cognitive distortions due to depression and anxiety.

I'm coming in here to say a few things that you probably don't want to hear but that you might really need to. I mean this with so much kindness and I am really frustrated to know what I wanna say is probably not gonna come through right on a computer screen. I wish we were friends in real life so I could say this to you in the way I want to say it, but we're not. So here goes:

You're not special.

I know that might sound hurtful. But what I really hope you feel when you read that is relief. You're not special. Neither am I. Neither is almost anyone else really, including your fiance and your doppelgänger. That's okay!

I saw a lot of comments upthread telling you that you've got a great writing style and I saw comments in your previous thread encouraging you to pursue medical school and so on. But, honestly, I don't know if that's what you need to hear. I mean, sure, maybe you'll get it together for a prestigious graduate program or land a book deal or do something that wows the world. But you probably won't. And, again, that's okay!

I get that you're smart and you thought you were meant for an academic career or something like that. I get it, really. I won't list out my accomplishments but just trust me that I probably was at least your equal on this shit back in the day. You remind me, at least based on the few details you've shared, of my younger self. I'm not actually that much older than you (I'm only 32) but we have some things in common with regards to being gifted and then not having an easy time of it in college for various reasons.

I wasted most of my twenties feeling very ashamed of myself for not going to graduate school or not doing better in college. I'd say that I spent the years from ages 23 to 29 spinning my wheels, in large part because I had this idea in my head that I should be ashamed of myself for not graduating from college with a high GPA and then going onto the Ivy League for grad school. I feel so silly about that now. I'm also so much happier than I ever thought I could be back then.

My point is this: you don't need to be special. You're enough. You don't need to do anything extraordinary to become enough either. You don't need to write a novel. You don't need to become a professor. You don't need to get into a PhD program. You don't need to do anything to justify your existence. You just need to do the hard work in therapy and in the world to like yourself.

And I promise you, it's possible.

I live in a college town. I am friends with professors and adjuncts and doctoral candidates and grad school dropouts. I'm friends with stay-at-home moms, bartenders, social workers, waitresses, pastors, administrative assistants, customer service representatives, farmers, chefs, journalists, architects, programmers, carpenters, baristas, tutors (who have a really similar job to you, in fact!), small business owners, and preschool teachers. I have a lot of friends, come to think of it! And I'll tell you right now that I know some very unhappy folks in graduate school. And the professors I know don't have it figured out either. And all of my other friends who are not in academia? They're the same way. Some of them are really happy and some of them are struggling. Everyone is just living real life in the real world. I waited a long time trying to "atone" for my past performance in my head by wallowing in shame. I wish I had gotten some perspective sooner and so that's what I'm trying to offer you now. I think you can be happy if you're willing to let go of this distorted idea that there are only a few options for a decent life.

Try this: imagine for moment that you did gymnastics growing up and you once had this dream of being an Olympian. Well, that didn't work out for whatever reason and now you're in your early twenties looking around. Are you gonna keep beating yourself up for not going to the Olympics? No way. Of course not. You'd say to yourself "It's time to get a new dream. And maybe a new hobby while I'm at it."

Of course, I know a prestigious PhD program ain't the Olympics. Yeah, I guess you could still get yourself into a program somewhere if you want to. I know one person who went from a dumb office job to an expensive one-year MA program (that she took out loans for) and then she got into a really selective PhD program. So, it could happen. But then again, she had a strong GPA from undergrad. So, YMMV as they say.

You asked for help coping with jealousy. I'm trying to tell you now that if you let go of this dream, you can also let go of the shame that goes along with it. Once you do, then you can come up with a real plan in the real world that actually brings you happiness. And I think then you won't feel so jealous anymore.

Oh. And you've got to talk to your fiance about the texts. I mean, really talk. You've got to tell him lovingly and assertively that you don't feel comfortable with his connection with this woman. It doesn't have to be a dramatic "it's her or me" conversation. I'm not a fan of those. I think if you wanna get married to this person, then it's actually a lot better to take "breaking up" off the table. Instead, approach it like this: "Hey fiance, I don't want us to get married with any secrets or baggage. I need to clear the air about Miss Doppelgänger." And then tell him what you're feeling, ask questions that you are scared of hearing the answers to, and honestly give him a chance to talk. Be committed to working through this together as a team.

A couple more things:

1) You didn't mention a wedding on the horizon and that stood out to me. I really hope this isn't one of those engagements with no date set and no premarital counseling, because that's kind of just dating from what I've seen. I mean, everyone has their own style and way of doing it so I can only speak for myself and my IRL friends. But in my community, people who are gonna get married for real are engaged for 6-12 months and premarital counseling is a must. So, consider that and talk it over with your fiance.

2) For what it's worth, I was terrified of a woman in my boyfriend's graduate program. I imagined her as a threat to me. She seemed so perfect! I could totally imagine him falling for her! But you know, I told him and he reassured me and we moved past it together. We also got married. Recently, I actually asked that same woman to be a part of a project I'm working on. And she accepted and it's fun! Because it turned out that everything I was thinking back then was just in my head.

But, I also dated someone in my early twenties who cheated on me with a famous artist after reassuring me that I was totally imagining he had a thing for her. When I found out, we had some tough conversations and I left him. Life moved on and I'm so happy I wound up with my husband instead of that dude.

Shit happens. Or it doesn't. If you want this relationship to work, you've gotta do your part to be honest with your fiance and then be willing to walk away if he isn't gonna do the same with you.

Good luck, bugperson. I'm rooting for you.
posted by pinetree at 7:57 AM on March 2, 2016 [22 favorites]

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