Is it me, is it him, and is this worth it?
May 11, 2016 1:36 PM   Subscribe

I know YANMT, but please lend me your thoughts on the situation in the fold. Am I dealing with plain old conflict or emotional abuse here? At this point thinking and rethinking about it is making me believe I’m an unreliable narrator in it all. Help! Sorry in advance for the rant-y word dump.

The background: My partner (31M) and I (27F) have been together for a year and a half. Six months into the relationship, we moved into a tiny studio together. We are two very different people. Bring that together and naturally we fight a lot. We’ve never figured out how to fight properly with each other and the resentment is building. It’s gotten so bad that I don’t know if I love or even like him anymore. It’s also worth mentioning that I don’t have friends and am probably depressed. Currently, I’m seeing a therapist and working through CBT, but don’t find it all that helpful.

So we fight mostly because we have very different outlooks on life. I’m saving for a down payment to buy a home and mostly like to stay in. He’s strapped for cash, but always finds it in his “budget” for whatever drinking/partying/raving his friends do on the weekend. These scratch the surface, but I guess those are the differences that stand out the most.

Our biggest issue though is when I want to bring up a conflict: he seems to always have an excuse/explanation for his behavior or he uses that time to bring up an occasion where I did something wrong. Getting him to admit fault is like pulling teeth, and even when he does, it’s vague (“Yeah I’m not perfect. I have my flaws, but…”). Apologies come eventually, but the problem is never solved because he doesn’t believe what he does is worth apologizing for. Our fights are so circular and unproductive. It really drives me up the wall, so much so, that there are times I admit I would scream in frustration, cry or slam doors.

Because of our fights, he thinks I have an anger issue and should discuss it with my therapist. I’ve never expressed anger in this way with past boyfriends and certainly not where it was inappropriate (ex. at work, in public, at children, etc.). Of course, I would like strategies to deal with my anger better. It just grates hearing it from him – the source of my anger.

I’m at my wit’s end and feel so tired. I’ve tried “I” statements, being gentle in my approach, waiting until I’m calm to broach the problem, thinking about his perspective – and all of them would still lead to circular fighting.

I’ve tried breaking up with him many, many times. Only in these come to jesus moments, do I feel like he is finally REALLY listening and we can talk productively. That shouldn't only happen when I'm reduced to tears, ready to give up and have told him so. He says he’s not ready to give up and wants to fight for us. We come up with solutions, and then revert back to our old patterns. He brought up couple’s therapy, and I do think that would be interesting because I would like to know how to communicate better if that’s the barrier here. On the other hand, he’s much more articulate than I am, so he’d probably be able to convince the therapist that I’m the crazy, and I don’t think I could handle that.

Despite the above, he makes me laugh so much everyday (and cry almost as much). It’s great when everything is good between us, and we can be silly and have fun together. I can talk about anything and everything with him (except conflict). In some ways, he’s the best friend, boyfriend, lover I’ve had. He’s been very supportive in the high and low points in my life. He’s really wants me to make friends, and always pushes me to be more social. He’s very charming and intelligent (but manipulative), and almost everybody he meets feels at ease.

I keep losing resolve to break up and wanting to keep trying, perhaps out of loneliness? But in my head, I know this is not the type of relationship I could sustain long-term.
posted by ThatSox to Human Relations (37 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't see a clear question here, but this line of yours stuck out to me:

I keep losing resolve to break up and wanting to keep trying, perhaps out of loneliness? But in my head, I know this is not the type of relationship I could sustain long-term.

If you can't see a future with him, why are you wasting your present with him?
posted by Julnyes at 1:42 PM on May 11, 2016 [17 favorites]


It’s gotten so bad that I don’t know if I love or even like him anymore.
I know this is not the type of relationship I could sustain long-term.


You've answered your own question here.

But to address the rest of your question, how he's so great sometimes but a lot of times he's not, I direct you to Poop Milkshake.
posted by phunniemee at 1:44 PM on May 11, 2016 [26 favorites]


I know this is not the type of relationship I could sustain long-term.

It's not you, it's him. It is actually not possible to argue towards resolution with a party who's conflict strategy is deflection.

You can try couples' therapy if you would like to. You have literally nothing to lose, and it may make it clearer and easier to break up. You can also just leave if that's what you want to do. What you cannot do is sign yourself up at the age of 27 to go into a lifetime partnership with someone who can never be wrong and cannot take responsibility for his actions.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:46 PM on May 11, 2016 [10 favorites]


It's not clear from your question whether there's emotional abuse involved, but it's moot. You're totally miserable after only 18 months, and he only tries to meet you halfway when you're literally breaking up with him, then gets back to business as usual once you agree to try again. Actually break it off and find someone who makes you happy; don't waste any more time trying to convince yourself to be happy with him.
posted by hollyholly at 1:55 PM on May 11, 2016 [16 favorites]


Regardless of who's to blame for what (not saying I disagree with DarlingBri, tho), you two barely even sound like friends, let alone a couple. Like seriously, I would not put up with any of this shit from even a casual friend, let alone a girlfriend. Break up, move out, and go no contact stat.

Despite the above, he makes me laugh so much everyday (and cry almost as much). It’s great when everything is good between us, and we can be silly and have fun together.

Look, there's this person at my work who I really don't get along with. I think she is a professional backstabber, who lazily tries to pawn all her work off on other people, but still take credit for the work getting done, and is always pointing out other people's flaws in really public, unnecessary ways. We are not friends and I'm always keeping an eye on her. BUT, when there is a group lunch or whatever, even we crack some jokes and share a laugh or two about reality TV or whatever. Even terrible things are not terrible absolutely all the time; there are moments of relief in any sort of situation. The fact that your relationship is terrible 95% of the time is what to focus on, not the fact that it's fun 5% of the time. You can find someone else to make you laugh without all the bullshit.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 1:56 PM on May 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


he doesn’t believe what he does is worth apologizing for

As long as this is true, he's never going to change. When you fight, he's just trying to placate you so he can keep doing his thing.

It almost sounds like he enjoys being called out on his impulsive behavior. Like maybe he thinks being impulsive is the key to feeling alive, and sure it's a little naughty, but that's what makes it fun, and don't you want to join him?

thinking and rethinking about it is making me believe I’m an unreliable narrator in it all

This is his manipulation talking. You are fully your own being with your own wants and needs. You deserve a person who believes you, and believes in you. This guy is NOT that person.

Being single may well be more boring than being with this guy, especially socially, but gaining back control of your life is worth it.
posted by danceswithlight at 1:58 PM on May 11, 2016 [11 favorites]


Oh, and I also meant to point out:

[W]e moved into a tiny studio together. We are two very different people. Bring that together and naturally we fight a lot.

FYI, that is not an inherent part of relationships. It is possible to have relationships that are not like that. I have never had a partner with whom I "fight a lot." As soon as things started going that way even a little bit, we broke up because we knew we were wrong for each other. In every long-term relationship I've had, we only fight about specific incidents and specific disagreements. Really fighting "all the time" is a bad bad sign and not just something you should be learning to put up with.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 2:01 PM on May 11, 2016 [25 favorites]


RUN.

You can't live with someone who doesn't know how to handle conflict maturely. Sorry.
posted by jbenben at 2:05 PM on May 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


I agree with the opinion expressed above, that it's moot whether this is emotional abuse or conflict.

I guess there could be abuse happening - either in the form of you constantly accusing him and demanding that he admit things, or in the form of him denying the accusations/refusing to admit stuff, or being manipulative somehow, or any number of other things, we just don't have the information to decide.

But with or without abuse you've described a very bad relationship that you don't want to be in.

Furthermore, your values and goals are incompatible, and you also have a low opinion of him and his values and goals and his character generally. Maybe it would be kinder to free him up to be with someone who thinks more highly of him - if your low opinion of him is justified, that would mean he'd be with someone equally immature/degenerate, but at least that someone wouldn't be as unhappy as you are.

tl;dr it seems like you have such a bad relationship with this guy that breaking up is the obvious thing to do.
posted by tel3path at 2:06 PM on May 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Is it me, is it him, and is this worth it?

It doesn't matter, it doesn't matter, and no.
posted by babelfish at 2:18 PM on May 11, 2016 [11 favorites]


I'm guessing it's him, because his behavior is very, very common for immature men (many of whom never actually become mature). It is possible that after years of therapy and immense emotional labor on your part (have you read that thread, by the way?), he will learn not to do the stuff that is infuriating you. It is also possible he won't. Do you want to take the risk and put in those years just in case? If not, the time to leave is sooner rather than later.

(I should also warn you that it is possible that after you leave him he will get together with someone else and magically display the very qualities you would have liked to have seen in him. I don't know why this happens—maybe the stuff Woman 1 says sinks in but can't actually take root and flower until there's a Woman 2 without all the history?—but it does, and it will drive you nuts if it happens with him, which is one good reason for cutting off contact.)
posted by languagehat at 2:34 PM on May 11, 2016 [6 favorites]


I don't think this guy sounds abusive.

You guys do seem profoundly incompatible. And in addition to that, you have a lot of factors in play that are only going to emphasize your incompatibilities.

1. You share a tiny studio: have you considered getting a bigger place? I'm a huge advocate of minimalism, lived in a "tiny house" for three years, and totally get that you don't need a 5000 sf mcmansion in order to live a normal life. But you also need to be able to have privacy from your partner, have your own space, and just generally have breathing room from each other. I also think that living in a tiny apartment can make life in general more complicated, which exacerbates conflict and puts the two of you guys into more stressful situations than normal. Which sucks in a relationship where you have incompatible communication and conflict styles.

2. You have no friends outside the relationship. Get friends. This is super unfair to him and is probably why he perceives you as having anger management problems others have not noticed in past relationships. This guy is your ONLY outlet. Which means he gets all of your stress and prickliness and bad moods and venting, and you don't have anywhere outside the relationship to go to vent about him or even just do a sanity check about relationship stuff.

3. You have outside mental health problems. This is completely OK and doesn't invalidate your right to be loved, but it is a thing. It's also yet another reason that living in a tiny studio apartment and having no outside social life is going to exacerbate things, and another reason you need to take care of yourself and make the path easier.

Unrelated friendly advice: I was in a bunch of relationships like this in my 20s. They were all a total waste of time and energy. I know this guy feels like the love of your life, but he's probably not, and there is probably somebody else out there that doesn't have this level of deep incompatibilities with you. It doesn't have to be this hard. Let this guy go and go find someone you're not in a constant struggle with.
posted by Sara C. at 2:57 PM on May 11, 2016 [6 favorites]


Change is hard. Change is really, really, hard. It's really, really, really hard once you get to adulthood and your patterns of behavior are well established. Most often the person you have in front of you is the person you're going to have from here on out. It's not impossible for people to change, but it takes thoughtful and consistent effort to do so. Based on what you've written this guy doesn't sound like he want to put effort into change.

Assume the person you're living with now will never ever change. Do you want to spend the next six months, six years, sixty years with him? I'm pretty sure the answer is no.

I expect that it will be much easier for you to address your depression and make friends when you don't have the anxiety and anger producing person in your daily life anymore.

It will be hard for a bit, but then it will be so much better. End the relationship.
posted by brookeb at 3:02 PM on May 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


He brought up couple’s therapy, and I do think that would be interesting because I would like to know how to communicate better if that’s the barrier here. On the other hand, he’s much more articulate than I am, so he’d probably be able to convince the therapist that I’m the crazy, and I don’t think I could handle that.

Therapists are actively not supposed to take sides like that. It is not a therapist's job to decide who's "the crazy one" in a relationship; so if this actually happened, the therapist would not be doing their job.

And I suspect that deep down you know that. You know, intellectually, that therapists don't work that way, but he has somehow managed to convince you that you are being so irrational that even a clinically trained therapist would somehow chuck all of their training and sense of integrity and actually take a side with him against you.

Think about that a moment.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:04 PM on May 11, 2016 [10 favorites]


FYI, that is not an inherent part of relationships. It is possible to have relationships that are not like that. I have never had a partner with whom I "fight a lot."

So much this. I've never seen a couple that fight a lot and had a healthy relationship. You can be very different people and still work through things. And you can both be good people and just not right for each other.
posted by Candleman at 3:06 PM on May 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


I’ve tried breaking up with him many, many times. Only in these come to jesus moments, do I feel like he is finally REALLY listening and we can talk productively. That shouldn't only happen when I'm reduced to tears, ready to give up and have told him so. He says he’s not ready to give up and wants to fight for us.

It's super easy to say you'll do something. He has, thus far, failed to do it. And your continued presence is teaching him that he doesn't have to.

Time to move on. I'm sorry.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:13 PM on May 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


I came in here to say your relationship is a poopshake, but phunniemee beat me to it.
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 4:48 PM on May 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


he doesn’t believe what he does is worth apologizing for

The only thing you've described that he's doing to cause fights is spending his money on the things he likes to spend his money on rather than on the things you'd like him to spend his money on. Is that something you feel he should apologize for?

I'm not trying to say that he never does anything wrong -- his fighting style, for example, sounds kind of non-productive -- but if you're dragging him into fights and expecting him to admit wrongdoing over things that are simply matters of personal preference, I can see how he's disinclined to apologize for his choices.

It sounds like the two of you have very different priorities in terms of what you want out of life. Regardless of whether you could learn to fight well or communicate well, a fundamental disagreement like this makes trying to save the relationship pointless. You will both still want to be in different places doing different things.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:49 PM on May 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


I just don't know why you would want to stay with this person. This is way too early to be having so many problems (crying nearly every day! I'm so sorry). My husband and I moved in together into a tiny place after 3 months and have maybe had 5 bad arguments in 11 years.

The right person is out there! You're so young still.
posted by getawaysticks at 5:10 PM on May 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


Relationships can be so, so, so much better than this. Trust me. You deserve better.

Break up. When you find someone who's right for you, you'll look back on this and it will be like you were driving around with a flat tire and your hair on fire instead of living a full, happy life.
posted by delight at 5:40 PM on May 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Maybe try this on for size: conflict doesn't mean that either one of you did anything wrong. Two people can have very different experiences of the same situation. It's perfectly possible to be badly hurt by something that wasn't wrong or badly intended at all.

So maybe your part in this is mess is demanding that he admit fault, in cases where there is no objective right and wrong.

That said, in a good relationship, partners care about the others' feelings *even when no one did anything wrong.* It's perfectly possible to apologize and validate those hurt feelings and reconnect even when no one admits fault or is wrong.

An example. I recently had a conflict with my boyfriend because I was harshly criticizing an idea that is, to me, ludicrous. He got really upset about my contemptuous criticism because--as I later found out--he views the idea through a very different lens and finds it brave and inspiring. I apologized for upsetting him, we talked more about where the disagreement lies, we each understand the other better--and each of us still holds the same opinion as we did at the start. No one is objectively right, no one is objectively wrong, and we showed each other care and respect as we came to understanding.

What if you aimed for a resolution like that? Would your bf treat what you say and feel as important, if you weren't set on proving him wrong?
posted by Sublimity at 5:43 PM on May 11, 2016 [10 favorites]


in a good relationship, partners care about the others' feelings *even when no one did anything wrong.*

Quoted for truth.
posted by danceswithlight at 6:07 PM on May 11, 2016 [6 favorites]


+1 poopshake.

The phrase "It’s great when..." has become a big red flag to me. This is truly starting to mean "My relationship ISN'T WORKING' to me. Take it to extremes- "Its great when they don't drink' or 'its great when they don't hit me' or, in your case, quite possibly 'its great when he respects my opinions, financial and life goals and (I'm guessing on this one) doesn't gaslight me'

How is his maturity compared to yours? View on children? Would you want to raise children with him?

I suspect you do want to break up with him. I suspect you are worried he will promise the moon again and you will end up in the same spot again.

I'll leave you with my favorite poem about potholes, https://quotedujour.wordpress.com/2010/12/13/a-hole-in-the-sidewalk/ by Portia Nelson
posted by Jacen at 6:37 PM on May 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


It sounds like you want to change him. Whether this is a "change for the good" or simply a change isn't clear because we only get your side. CBT isn't changing you so you can tell how hard change is. Assuming he doesn't change, is this what you want?

I'm not as quick to blame him as some others in this thread but I think you need to be with someone who doesn't require so much change to be the person you want to be with. Whether you have "anger issues" or whether you're just angry that he doesn't become the person you'd prefer isn't important. Either he has trouble apologizing, or he just doesn't think not being the person you think he should be is something to be sorry for. In either event, what you see is what you get. Stop waiting for him to change and move on. Would a court of law say it's his fault for not changing? Maybe not. Maybe they'd even rule in his favor but so what? He's not the person you want. Give up this fixer upper project. It's better for him too.
posted by Obscure Reference at 7:02 PM on May 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Take some of your house fund and make a move. If you're the type of person who likes such things, get a room in a house with nice roommates. You can be friendly with them, you won't feel so lonely.

This guy is SO replacable. The good times aren't worth the shitty times. And there's no future for you two as a couple.

I'll say it. DTMFA.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:24 PM on May 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


If I had fights with a partner where they screamed and slammed doors I would probably consider them emotionally abusive unless it was mutual. If they told me it had to be my fault they were doing it because they'd never treated any of their other girlfriends that way, I definitely would. You don't specify what he's done that was wrong that he won't admit was wrong, so it's more than possible he is equally bad or worse, but it doesn't make much difference whether you are mistreating him or he's manipulating you into it. it's a bad situation and you should get out.

But also, if there weren't any angry outbursts or money conflicts or responsibility arguments and all you had was your uncertainty about whether you even liked him anymore, you should get out.
posted by queenofbithynia at 8:39 PM on May 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


You aren't even financially compatible, much less the rest of it. If you're living together but you're buying a house, would he be living with you in your new home that's you've bought? How would that work? In my country, if you live with a defacto partner for long enough, in the event of a break up, they're eligible for half of your assets. Pretty sobering if it applies to you, and your relationship is shaky already.

That doesn't even take into account your communication issues and the fact that everything is your fault and your unhappiness is not even worth his time to discuss (until it's time to break up and then because it will affect him, he's OK to finally talk about it.)

It just shouldn't be this hard. I don't see this one getting any better, but I could see it getting an awful lot worse. Why wait for that? Get out now and find someone who wants what you want.
posted by Jubey at 9:01 PM on May 11, 2016


Thanks everyone for your answers.

I wrote this question fresh after a fight. Maybe I shouldn't have. I don't expect my partner to be the one to apologize every single time - just at least when it's warranted. If I could write this ask again, I'd ask for examples of healthy conflict in relationships. In past relationships, I'd just end things immediately if I didn't see it working out, or we simply didn't fight as much.

And I know there's a lot I need to change and improve in myself first as well (social skills, communication, dealing with conflict for starters). Relationship issues take up way too much head space, but writing it out here helped.
posted by ThatSox at 3:32 AM on May 12, 2016


FWIW, Husbunny and I don't fight at all.

We bring up an issue and resolve it together as problem solvers not antagonists. There are no pissy attitudes or rages. No door slamming.

What you describe to me is so alien and horrible (like jail) that I'd rather be alone than put up with one tenth of it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:39 AM on May 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think you may as well try couples therapy. Set the requirement that you both have to feel comfortable with the therapist and that (after a few sessions, to get a good sense of the dynamic) you both feel like you're getting something from it. That is, you both have to be invested and you, particularly, have veto power if you feel like the therapist isn't being fair to you or an equal advocate for both of you. And you shouldn't have to justify this; you get to say it doesn't work, and you then will both look for a different person.

I generally agree with everyone else here, but I think this will help since you like your partner and this way if you split you can feel you really did all you could.

If you decide to lay down some boundaries and end the relationship if he doesn't respect them, that's fine too. Maybe figure out the boundaries with your current therapist. And, I'd consider a new therapist for you if after another session you don't see results for yourself. Feeling uncomfortable can be normal in good therapy, but I think you should feel some hope also, with trust that the plan you carry out with the therapist will help you meet your goals.
posted by ramenopres at 6:02 AM on May 12, 2016


You may find Dance of Anger and How to Be an Adult in Relationships helpful resources.
posted by lazuli at 6:50 AM on May 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


On the other hand, he’s much more articulate than I am, so he’d probably be able to convince the therapist that I’m the crazy, and I don’t think I could handle that.

Dude, this is so messed up. Can you get outside yourself a little to see how messed up this is? You don't even just suspect, you KNOW that he would manipulate a therapist to work against you, instead of trying to make the relationship better. THAT IS NOT A LOVING THING TO DO. That is not a way to treat a person you supposedly love.

That is a horrible, abusive, cruel thing to do. And you assume it's what your boyfriend would do given half a chance.

Hon just dump this dude. He brings out the worst in you, and possibly you bring out the worst in him as well (if both of your prior relationships have truly been so much smoother, and he isn't just gaslighting. He's probably gaslighting). Life is too damn short for relationships that make you worse than you should be.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:27 AM on May 12, 2016 [7 favorites]


He is controlling you. You should never allow another human being to control you. Never.

How do I know he is controlling you? By your own words: I’ve tried breaking up with him many, many times....He says he’s not ready to give up and wants to fight for us.

In a relationship between two people, there should be two opinions that matter. In this relationship there isn't--there is only his.

You know this isn't right for you, or at the very least it's not right for you right now. You want to leave. He isn't allowing you to do so. Yes, I know he's not physically restraining you but he is emotionally and psychologically manipulating you to the point where he gets what he wants. This will only continue and escalate as the relationship continues to devolve. Just think for a minute how badly this can develop. I don't want to scare you, but it could lead to threats of violence. I'm sure you'll say, "he's not that kind of person." Fine, maybe he's not. Flip the scenario on its head: maybe it will lead to threats of suicide. "If you leave me I'll kill myself." Think not? Believe me it happens, and that's a mountain of mental grief you do not want to have to dig through.

Even if he is the guy for you and this is the relationship that both of you are destined for, please take a break. Split up for a bit. Go to counseling and attempt to work through your issues, but do so as an independent person, not as someone whose strings are being pulled with love and guilt and compassion.

Look, as much as I believe strongly in trying to act like adults in relationships, there are times when you have to say that approach doesn't work because the other person isn't using the same tools. It's fine to say you want to be noble on the battlefield and meet your fellow knight face-to-face and take him down in fair combat, but when the other side decides to drop napalm over the entire battlefield, the only smart option is to retreat because you're in a fight you can't win.

I know the Green's reaction has come out squarely against continuing this relationship, but please consider, we only have your best interest at heart.
posted by sardonyx at 8:56 AM on May 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


Just for a data point, in 6 years my now ex wife and I had fights bigger than 'I think it's your turn to to vacuum' 4-5 times. Two were when I said something really dumb, one was her fault for similar reasons, and we had a few during the end of the relationship nonsense.

Fighting healthy is all well and good, but this is kinda sounding like a situation you can't fix while stuck in this situation.

By all means try couple's therapy if you want. Though I'm certainly worried about your fear that he will make the therapist think you are crazy. Ideally, a decent therapist would work 30% on his issues, 30% on yours, and 40% on how those issues combine into yall's issues (+ or - a few % here)
posted by Jacen at 1:58 PM on May 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


One thing to add, whether you end this relationship or not: you need to work on yourself here. You haven't clearly stated anything awful he's done, but you have made it abundantly clear that you are a) bad at communicating in a conflict, and b) very prone to losing your cool.

You can break up with him; you may need to. But if you can't break these patterns you will likely bring these problems to your next relationship, and the relationship will either just end, or these fights will continue. You also sound very self-aware and intelligent, so I'm not trying to be too harsh. I just think mefi is prone to demonizing the SO in these kinds of questions and I think this is an important point to remember that often gets overlooked.
posted by Amy93 at 6:50 PM on May 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


About the "I've tried to break up with him many, many times" thing. Relationships require the affirmative participation of two parties. Any one party can decide to end it. While it would be emotionally mature and satisfying if it were a gentle, mutual agreement, that rarely if ever happens and is an unrealistic expectation.

When you want to get out, you can get out, just by saying it and doing it and going on your way. You are a fully empowered adult, just like he is.

When you tell him you're upset enough to break up, and he acts like he cares and pays attention and says he'll change, and you want to believe him so you stick with it: that's your choice. That's you, choosing. He's not "not letting you" break up, because you always have the authority to step out of the mutual participation arrangement. You are choosing to continue the relationship, knowing how it has been that is so upsetting, choosing to try and trust the new (and, as you've come to see, unreliable) dynamic he is trying to sell.

He can "want" to change or try to convince you in any way, shape, or form--but you really don't need his buy-in to end things.

It can be hard to remember this when what oftentimes what you *really* want is for your partner to be soft and caring about your feelings, and you're hoping that is what will happen after the blowout. I think that's what keeps people hanging on, that hope. If that doesn't ever come, it's worth ending and finding someone who can care for you like that.

A really good book that talks about all this is Love Without Hurt by Steven Stosny. Really wise and was really helpful for me as I was trying to fix, and then get out of, my own emotionally abusive marriage.

Good luck.
posted by Sublimity at 6:37 AM on May 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


If I could write this ask again, I'd ask for examples of healthy conflict in relationships

I've been with my husband for almost 3 years now. We haven't had any fights yet--not if you define a fight as an argument where both people say mean things to each other and raise their voices. When we disagree about something, or if one of us is hurt or bothered by something, this is what happens:

Me, coming back from carrying the trash out: "Hey, could we start a new trash bag sooner, instead of letting it get so full? It was sort of hard to carry tonight."
Husband: "Okay, no problem."

In the car when I'm driving:
Husband: "Okay, pull over for a moment so I can look at the map."
Me: "Okay. Wait, there are some cars building up behind me. I think this lane is too small. I have to keep going."
Him: "Can you wait just a second?"
Me: "No, I think I have to go. Sorry."
Him: "Shoot! Okay. Can you just drive slowly for a minute?"
Me: "Yeah. I can do that."

Me: "Hey, can I talk to you about something?"
Husband: "Yeah, what's up?"
Me: "I've realized that I've been sort of grumpy recently because I'm feeling worried about this thing, etc."
Him: "Is there anything I can do to help?"

Him: "When you're cooking chicken, could you be a bit more careful when you clean up? I just found a small bit of raw chicken in the sink."
Me: "Yes, I'm sorry. I'll pay more attention."

The thing I've learned is: if you approach these sorts of things as problems that you can solve together, rather than as something that is definitely one person's fault, then the problems still get solved but without all the extra drama. It's also really important that both people are ready to admit it when they've made a mistake or done something wrong and that both people are willing to apologize for it, and also that both people are willing to adjust their behavior for their partner. If one person is doing all of the apologizing and all of the adjusting, then that isn't a fair or balanced relationship.
posted by colfax at 1:41 AM on May 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


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