In a relationship but feeling empty…
May 31, 2016 12:31 PM   Subscribe

I am living in a country that is quite far from mine because I got a great opportunity to work here in a newspaper. I’ve been dating a man for a year. I have feelings for him and know that he does for me too. However, I often feel shallow and full of doubts about our relationship. The first reason is that I cannot share a lot of my interests and ideas with him. I have a strong intellectual side. I like to read, discuss ideas, and learn stuff. My boyfriend is only interested in discussing gadgets, fashion, sports, and computers. I don’t mind these topics but I like more ‘intellectual’ things as well and I don’t like not being able to share them with him. I have also found out that some of his opinions are quite conservative and it bothers me because I am very liberal.

This also makes me feel that I am not completely honest about my work. I am very liberal in journalism but when I’m with him, I tend to keep my opinions to myself because I know that he won’t agree. This is also a problem because I tend to relate to more liberal people and he doesn’t fit in my world of friends very well. I often feel that if my friends and colleagues knew my boyfriend better they would question my commitment to the causes I support in my work as a journalist. I feel that he doesn’t stand for the things I stand for and he is not, politically, ‘one of my people’ and rather, one of the people I tend to dislike.

However, what bothers me the most about him are his general unemotional, moody and cold ways. Because conversations with him are often shallow and impersonal, I find it very hard to open to him about more personal stuff. I also notice that when I do make an effort to open up he is not very responsive. For example, some months ago my sister had a very serious problem. I was feeling very bad but I found it impossible to talk with complete openness with him. Mainly because I feel that he is very judgmental of people and also because I am not sure if he would keep this information to himself in the future. I did talk a bit about it in the end (without going into details) but he just patted on my shoulder and commented ‘hope things get better’. Afterwards, he never asked me how things were going. He also doesn’t usually ask about things that I believe are important. For instance, when I tell him that I am working on a piece, he never asks what it is about. I also told him once that I had an accident as a child and he didn’t ask what kind of accident it was. I told him that it was weird that he wouldn’t ask about it and he said ‘I thought that it was personal’ (isn’t a boyfriend someone you are supposed to talk about personal things with?) He is also quite moody and easily impatient when things don’t go as planned. I often think that if he were to go to my country (I come from the ‘third world’), he would hate it because things don’t work as well there. I also worry about his potential attitude to my family. There are cultural differences between us but much more between my family and him. I am not sure if he would be sensitive enough to be accepting about them. A third source of anxiety in my relationship is related to the fact that I don’t know what he wants in the future. I would really like to settle down and have a family but he is ambiguous about it. He says it’s too early to think about these things. My thoughts about him and our relationship oscillate between ‘it’s not too bad, give a chance. He is a decent man and he loves you’ to ‘are you out of your mind?’, ‘how can you date this man?’. I do like him. He is very stable and faithful. He’s also quite accommodating and physically affectionate. But I feel that love should be something else. I feel that love should be about intellectual, emotional, sexual and spiritual connection. However, I don’t know the man I could have such a connection with. And the truth is that I am terrified of breaking up and being alone in a country where I don’t really have anyone. Facing the prospect of being single and going back to dating is also very stressing. Before I met him I had a couple of very bad experiences: a guy I fell in love with but broke my heart, men who had not the slightest interest in me as a person and only wanted sex. I also feel sometimes that the problem might be in me and not in the men I date. Before I dated my current boyfriend, I dated another man for some months. However, I decided to break up even though we got along and he has very funny (something that I really like in men). The main reason with him was that he had no studies at all. The second, that he was flirting a lot with other girls. I also felt that he didn’t get me and that I couldn’t trust him. So I ended it. But I remember thinking “If I meet a nice man that has some kind of studies and is completely faithful, I will stay with him. I will stop this crazy search”. But here I am with a man who has studies and is faithful and I am still very hesitant about him… I would like some ideas from you. I feel that I don’t have the perspective on life that other people may have. I feel very confused and would really appreciate reading what you may want to share with me. Thank you for reading.
posted by Fromthesouth to Human Relations (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The most positive things you say about him are frankly bare minimum and half the time you are absolutely sure you should break up. Being single won't kill you, but chaining yourself to this dude will. He doesn't have to be a bad person for it to be a bad fit, so please leave and start a new, happier life immediately.
posted by hollyholly at 12:38 PM on May 31, 2016 [18 favorites]

It is hard to identify any shreds of hope at all that this a good relationship for you in your question. Something inside you is trying to get you to leave this relationship because it knows there is a better one out there for you. Listen to your own voice.
posted by incolorinred at 12:43 PM on May 31, 2016 [6 favorites]

Sounds like you two aren't a good fit. I think you should move on and try and find someone who you're more compatible with.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 12:45 PM on May 31, 2016 [3 favorites]

To me, it sounds like there are way more "cons" on the list than "pros." If it were my relationship, I would end it.
posted by xingcat at 12:46 PM on May 31, 2016 [3 favorites]

My rule of thumb: When you list out all the pros and cons and whatevers, the last thing you say is how you really feel:
I am still very hesitant about him…
Break up with him.
posted by Etrigan at 12:51 PM on May 31, 2016 [3 favorites]

He doesn't have to be a complete monster to justify breaking up with him. All it takes is not wanting to be with him.

You don't have hardly anything in common, it doesn't sound like you lift each other up in any way at all, is there anything really great about this relationship except for not having to be single? Don't you think he'd be happier with someone with more in common? Wouldn't you?

There are worse things than being single. You seem to be experiencing one of them.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:51 PM on May 31, 2016 [9 favorites]

And the truth is that I am terrified of breaking up and being alone in a country where I don’t really have anyone.

Although your feelings are understandable, this is a terrible reason to stay with a man. I expected to see some expression of this, somehow, when you began your Ask with I am living in a country that is quite far from mine .

Start making more social connections so it will be less frightening to leave the relationship. When you are less isolated, it will be easier to dump him.
posted by Michele in California at 1:04 PM on May 31, 2016 [6 favorites]

This just isn't the man for you. He may have many good qualities, but it's not enough for you.

No one likes dating, it is MUCH easier to already be in a relationship, but you're not happy with him, and you deserve to have the guy who is perfect for you. Don't settle!

You have a job you love, you're doing exciting work, and yes, it's hard to start over, but you can do it!

If you come from a culture that arranges relationships, see if there's a matchmaking service of folks from your background in your new country and give it a try. It may be terrible, or you may be surprised! I tried the matchmaking rabbi and going to Jewish Singles dances. It wasn't my cup of tea, but I tried it.

In the future, you will regret the time you spent with this man, after you realized he wasn't for you. So cut your losses and start looking for the right one!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:05 PM on May 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

People can be nice and have lots of good qualities but still not be the right person for you to spend your life with. It sounds like you and he have some very fundamental differences, and if you don't end this relationship, you're going to spend the rest of your life trying to convince yourself that he's very nice in many ways and you should be satisfied with something that you aren't really satisfied with. That is no way to live. It's not fair to him, either - he should be with someone who doesn't have to always be talking herself into staying in the relationship.

I know being alone is scary, but ending this is the right thing to do, and I think you already know that.
posted by something something at 1:05 PM on May 31, 2016 [3 favorites]

For me it's not so much that you have little in common, or that he's emotionally unavailable, or that he displays little interest in your life. Any of those would be likely dealbreakers for me; he's a stereotypical manbaby who doesn't look beyond his own needs. So yeah, those are a problem.

What really gets me, though, is your feeling that you cannot be yourself around him, that you cannot share what is important to you. Move on.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:24 PM on May 31, 2016 [7 favorites]

Nthing break up with him. You don't need to be with someone you can't be yourself around, most of the time.
posted by aspersioncast at 1:33 PM on May 31, 2016 [2 favorites]

The kindest thing for both of you is to break up. That's not the easiest thing; the easiest thing is to stay with him and be unhappy in small chunks over a long period. Thing is, you never get those days back. It's not kind to him to stay when the two of you are such a bad fit. You deserve to get your needs met and to be loved; he deserves to get his needs met and be loved. That can only happen if you free yourselves to be with other, more compatible people. If you want marriage and children eventually, please stop spinning your wheels with this guy. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 1:44 PM on May 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

It may not be easy to find a man that's a better match for you, but it'd be pretty difficult to find a worse match.

There are plenty of fish in the sea, and you'll be much happier with a man with whom you share more in common. They're out there. Don't feel bad about cutting this relationship short. You're not happy. Why linger?
posted by serenity_now at 1:47 PM on May 31, 2016 [3 favorites]

We all have to kiss a lot of frogs until we find the right partner for us. There will (likely) be someone out there that fits your criteria. If you are below 30 years old, then almost definitely you have not been looking long enough yet
posted by moiraine at 1:56 PM on May 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

I just wanted to say that it's normal to date a lot or a little + have your heart broken, etc., before finding a great partner.

I feel you on being alone in a foreign country. You should still do it. Rip the band aid! This guy barely cares beyond the length of his arm about anything, it seems from your experience of him. This is not a good fit given your stated goals for a relationship! Ask me how I know all of this!!
posted by jbenben at 2:02 PM on May 31, 2016 [3 favorites]

It sounds like you're not happy, and that it might be worth breaking up with this particular guy, but there's a lot of guys out there like the one you're with who aren't interested in relating to the women they date. Some women will, for Reasons, have dating pools that are disproportionately full of them. Do keep dating, but be sure to adjust your expectations accordingly.
posted by blerghamot at 2:09 PM on May 31, 2016

But I remember thinking “If I meet a nice man that has some kind of studies and is completely faithful, I will stay with him. I will stop this crazy search”.

Yeah the thing is that's just a thought? Not a legally binding document. Even if you had sworn this pledge in front of 8 friends after six pitchers of beer, you would not be obliged to live up to it. We say stupid shit all the time when we're heartbroken and frustrated. Once upon a time I swore I would only be with the man who recognized my obscure tattoo at first sight. Do you know who that person turned out to be? A 12 year old child at a Starbucks. Yeah, I did not marry him.

I know you don't literally feel like you are legally bound to keep that promise but maybe framing it in this way will help you to truly grasp that it's a meaningless thought and not some kind of deep moral obligation. You told yourself that because you wanted to feel protected against being disappointed again. It was a kind of magic spell that made you feel like you could control your outcomes. But it isn't helping you any more.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 2:10 PM on May 31, 2016 [9 favorites]

It doesn't sound like you're very happy with him. You have different communication styles and you don't sound like you have much in the way of shared values or interests.

You list so many ways in which you're not compatible:

- Different ideas about intimacy (he didn't prod you for details about your past, either out of respect or lack of interest, but that's not the way you roll.)
- He is judgmental and this causes you to feel uncomfortable trusting him.
- He isn't interested in visualizing his future in the same way that you are.
- You have very different interests culturally.

Also, from most of the things that you list, it doesn't sound like he spends much thought trying to make you feel comfortable with sharing your thoughts. Regardless of whether or not you share the same views or interests, a relationship between two people who look at the world very differently will not work if there is not a strong foundation of trust. For example, if you have a different political view, do you feel he would respect that even if he didn't agree, and try to see it from your perspective, or would he be dismissive and judgmental of you?

In the second half of your question you ask about whether or not the problem is with you. I definitely don't think it is, from what you've listed here, but it's worth examining, if this pattern continues, whether or not you are working to create an atmosphere of trust in your own behaviors. Do you clam up or shut down when there is disagreement? Do you try to empathize and see your partner's perspective? I am not claiming you don't, but I personally found I did much better in relationships when I thought about the type of relationship I wanted to cultivate and I looked in the mirror and made sure I was doing all I could to make that a reality.

What helped me when I wanted to do that was that I searched my soul and tried to remove what my family and friends would think. Are you super clear on what of his behavior bothers you vs. what might bother the people in your life? For example, any friend of yours who would question how committed you are to the causes you support because you love someone who doesn't share your opinions is not doing you any favors. Your world view can coexist alongside love (platonic, familial, romantic or otherwise) for others who do not share it - in fact it requires it! Now - if he can't be respectful of your position or have any empathy for it, that's a different story. But tolerating a different opinion alone is not evidence that you've "gone soft".

I know that I have experienced times where I've gotten caught up with being hyper critical of someone in my life because I was looking at them through the lens of how my friends would judge me for their behavior and attitudes. Man was that ever a waste of my time and good will. I am not saying that you are doing that, but you seem to be worried a bit about it, so maybe there is something there?

Either way I would do all my thinking about that stuff after a break up, as a post-mort of the relationship. Because it really does not sound like you guys are getting off to a glowing start of trust and mutual respect.
posted by pazazygeek at 2:11 PM on May 31, 2016 [3 favorites]

Also, I used to live in a different country than my home country. I went out and made friends. Which was really helpful after I broke up with my husband. I mostly made friends with other foreigners. For some reason, that was easier for me, so that's what I did. Your mileage may vary but no matter what happens with the boyfriend, it will be less lonely for you (I was lonely before I broke up with my husband) if you put work into making friends where you are.
posted by Bella Donna at 3:11 PM on May 31, 2016

The thing is, this isn't a real relationship anyway - you can't confide in him, can't trust him, can't share your deep, true self with him. These aren't high expectations of a relationship.

If your two basic requirements of a man are that he is educated and faithful, surely there is a man out there who is both of those things, and fulfils the rest of your needs?

You fear being alone, but this relationship sounds like a very lonely place to be in too.
posted by NatalieWood at 3:59 PM on May 31, 2016 [4 favorites]

There's so much more to a relationship than having studies and being faithful. Does he proactively make you happy? Does he act like a true companion and partner? Does he make your life better?

It sounds like this guy has way more cons than pros. Hold out for someone who makes your life better. It's okay to date lots of people to find that person.
posted by delight at 4:17 PM on May 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

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