I'm doubting that my gf really cares about me, despite what she says
March 16, 2017 8:19 AM   Subscribe

I’m starting to get bitter, lonely, and resentful, and am trying to decide if I should throw in the towel on this 8 month relationship before things get ugly. My girlfriend is basically telling me to distrust my own eyes. Snowflakes within.

I (male early 30s) am dealing with a growing feeling that my gf (female early 30s) just doesn’t like me all that much. My list of reasons is myriad - when we greet each other she’s chilly, a half smile, maybe a half assed hug, no kiss. My interests and work are central to my identity, she has no interest in any of them, and won’t really play ball. When it comes to sharing things that are on my mind (book I’m reading, something in the news, some cultural ephemera), she usually responds so little that I end up in an inadvertent monologue, or the conversation turns to how the topic itself is unworthy of discussion or how it makes her feel. When I talk about my work, which can be both interesting and intense, she doesn’t say much, doesn’t keep track of the characters, won’t ask me about my day, doesn’t seem to remember when I’m in a high-pressure period, and so on. Delivering inadvertent monologues and talking into a vacuum are not things that I enjoy, so I’ve stopped and we end up mostly discussing her work (which is not in my field but I find fascinating), her friends, and her interests. This crops up in other ways as well - sexually she mostly pays attention to her own pleasure and not to me, she shows little interest in my friends, doesn’t ask biographical questions, doesn’t ask about my hopes and plans, never asks how my day was or how I’m feeling, and so on.

I don’t think I have any unusual requirements for attention or reassurance, since I realise I might be coming off that way. In fact, I think I am by nature more of a giver and a caregiver and usually am happy to be those things - it’s just that in this particular case the end result is very lopsided. However, I am admittedly used to a different kind of temperament, my romantic history mostly consists of warm and open women who never made me ask myself such questions.

When I reread what I've just written, it all sounds dire and the conclusion seems obvious. Here’s the wrinkle: Sometimes I see a different version of gf, with significant alcohol consumption and/or when discussing her issues in an in-depth way, or sometimes completely randomly. The version I see is vulnerable and passionate and gives me hope, though this happens very rarely. Like once a month rarely.

I’ve also brought these things up in two long and pointed conversations over the last few months. I’ve asked her what she’s getting out of being with me and whether she has any feelings for me at all. She has several responses. She tells me that I’m more verbal than she is, especially when it comes to feelings, and that I should just talk and she just wants to listen. She’s also a few years out of a seriously abusive relationship, and outside of that most of her relationships were with cold and distant men more stereotypically masculine than myself, so she tells me that someone like me is new to her and she doesn’t know how to deal with me. She says she loves me but can’t express it in my way, and that I should just take her word for this. She says she likes me for my decency, safety, and the lack of pressure I put on her. She tells me that she spent most of her life as a self-denying, striving perfectionist and has gotten divorced from her own feelings, incapable of expressing them, and incapable of intimacy or vulnerability. Despite herself, she hates weakness in herself and others. She is lonely and depression prone, knows this is all misguided, is trying to change, and is asking for my patience. However, she is not interested in therapy because she feels that it’s indulgent and is often mortified talking about herself, except apparently to me.

In theory, her request for patience and her predicament generate a lot of sympathy with me. In practice, I don’t know how to give her the time and space to open up while I myself suffer. I don’t really see her changing, she seems comfortable in her icy comfort zone, and I don’t know how to keep my feelings for her from curdling and then vanishing while I wait.

I feel for her and want to be supportive, and I do want the relationship with her that I can sometimes briefly glimpse. But I’m losing hope and patience, and would appreciate any input.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (39 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
You're fundamentally incompatible and she's not interested in treating you the way you want/need her to.

The person you glimpse once a motnth or so is not her true, secret self. Her true self is the person you see more often, the person not giving you what you need. You need to break up.
posted by RainyJay at 8:30 AM on March 16, 2017 [38 favorites]

It sounds like what you need in a relationship is fundamentally incompatible with what she needs/is able to provide in a relationship. It does not mean that either of you is wrong or bad people, just that you have different goals and approaches to a relationship. You have been very forthcoming about what you need to have in the relationship, and she has been forthcoming that her past and her personality make that difficult for her. You may care for one another very much in your own ways, but ultimately this is how the relationship is going to be. If that is something you can live with, that's ok, but it sounds like it makes you very unhappy.
posted by goggie at 8:33 AM on March 16, 2017 [11 favorites]

Do you want to be in a relationship where once a month you get to be happy with the person you're with?

If she was actively in therapy and working on these problems and you were seeing progress or at least effort, then maybe you want to give her some time to help get past the things in her past that have broken her. But a general plea for time that's not accompanied by an actual plan of improvement and a demonstrated effort is meaningless.

It is telling that her reason for not going to therapy and the problem she is trying to fix are the same issue. She is not going to fix this one on her own, and you do not owe it to her to be her substitute, unpaid therapist while she doesn't actually work at solving this problem because it makes her uncomfortable.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:36 AM on March 16, 2017 [17 favorites]

From reading this, I'm not really sure why you actually want to be with this woman. What does she bring to your life? It seems like she causes you only negative emotions (except when she's drunk?).

She says she likes me for my decency, safety, and the lack of pressure I put on her.

These are such generic qualities. From how you describe her, it seems like she just doesn't have much interest in you specifically as a person and is using you as a kind of safe harbor after a series of traumatic and dangerous relationships. If you're a caregiver by nature, it seems that you have the kind of personality type that would be most vulnerable to this kind of person. This relationship doesn't seem fair to you at all.
posted by armadillo1224 at 8:36 AM on March 16, 2017 [49 favorites]

She may be a fantastic person who cares about you, but from your description you are not compatible at all. You deserve to have a partner who cares about what's going on with you and wants to kiss you and hear about your day.

Move on.
posted by bile and syntax at 8:37 AM on March 16, 2017 [4 favorites]

The refusal to go to therapy is what would be the dealbreaker for me. It is not indulgent, it is critical for the changes that she says she wants to make. People can grow and change incredibly when they want to. She is comfortable where she is and is afraid to do the work to be open enough to the intimacy you crave and deserve. She has a lot of work to do to be in a healthy relationship with someone as balanced as you. If you don't cut her loose, you will spend a ton of your goodwill and time helping her back to a healthier place. It will be exhausting and you will probably feel like a chump at times, but you are completely in the driver's seat when it comes to deciding if that's worth it. Either choice is ok! At the very least she should meet you halfway and go to therapy imho. Calling it indulgent is surreptitiously telling you that your desire for intimacy is more important than her pride about her situation.
posted by pazazygeek at 8:41 AM on March 16, 2017 [9 favorites]

Sorry! I have one more thing to add. Being in a healthy relationship after a history of abusive ones is WAY TOUGH. When you've had many partners who have crazy bad emotional problems, you spend all of your time focusing on their issues, their crazy, and propping yourself up to prevent total despair and self hatred. It is entirely possible that she is comparing herself to previous partners on the emotional health-o-meter and rating herself a perfect '10'. Who needs therapy when you're a perfect 10, right? This is precisely why she needs someone impartial to help her gain some self awareness. She can't do it, you can't, her friends can't.
posted by pazazygeek at 8:46 AM on March 16, 2017 [6 favorites]

I agree that people can change. But your own description of her makes her sound like one the least open-to-change people I have ever encountered. She seems to shut down every. single. avenue you bring up. There is no value in trying to carry all the water in a zero-return relationship. There is no sunk cost to be recouped. You sacrifice yourself, give of all your considerable resources, and she gives you essentially... nothing. What is the greater good? Why are you trying? I cannot see this ever getting better.

I can't express enough how damaging it will be for you to remain in this dynamic. I did, and years later still struggle with self-esteem and trust issues. That you are able to see it clearly is a huge benefit to you. Save yourself, and allow her to find someone else.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 8:53 AM on March 16, 2017 [5 favorites]

I’ve asked her what she’s getting out of being with me and whether she has any feelings for me at all. She has several responses... She says she loves me but can’t express it in my way, and that I should just take her word for this. She says she likes me for my decency, safety, and the lack of pressure I put on her.

This is so clinical and cold and it breaks my heart. The responses are just a bunch of stuff about her. It's like you don't even exist, except in relation to her, in contrast to her, or in terms of what you can do for her. I know exactly how this feels, and how much it hurts, over and over, to look to your (supposed) partner for the warmth and closeness and intimacy you want your relationship to be defined by, and to never get it. You have articulated it so well here; therefore I believe that you have done so towards her also. That in the face of such well-expressed unhappiness, she still give you ice queen, tells me all I need to know. You don't exist as a person, for her. And that is 100% HER failing, not yours. There is nothing you can do to "fix" this, or her.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 9:02 AM on March 16, 2017 [18 favorites]

Voting to move on. You can and should be happy in your relationship. If you're not happy and the other person isn't committed to addressing that issue in the way you need, it's absolutely OK to move on.
posted by cnc at 9:08 AM on March 16, 2017 [4 favorites]

You deserve to feel liked/loved/cared about. I think the fact that she can't verbalize or physically demonstrate the affection and interest you want is a very valid dealbreaker and agree that to stay longer will be terrible for you.
posted by lafemma at 9:15 AM on March 16, 2017 [4 favorites]

You know, it sounds like she's just no my that into you. I think you should let the relationship go.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 9:16 AM on March 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

This sounds a lot like dysthymia/depression combined with just not really knowing how to contribute to a relationship - it's a learned skill for many of us, and some people don't know they lack it. I recognize some of my younger self in your description of her.

If you want to bring it up with her again, here are the approximate phrases that helped me realize I needed to work on things:

"It makes me feel loved/appreciated/supported/etc. when you..." I find that I'm more motivated to change my behavior to make people happy than to make them not-upset. When she does contribute, express appreciation for it.
"For us to have a successful long-term relationship, I need you to..." This acknowledges that you're aware that it's not an easy fix, and that you are willing to invest in the relationship but need her to contribute too.

However, it sounds like you've had serious conversations with her and she's unwilling to make steps towards getting better, either for herself or for the relationship. What you've got now is probably as much as you're going to get. Don't stay in a relationship with someone who won't contribute, and don't stay in a relationship out of pity.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:18 AM on March 16, 2017 [12 favorites]

The person you glimpse once a month or so is not her true, secret self. Her true self is the person you see more often, the person not giving you what you need.

I want you to read this again. Intermittent gratification can be very addictive, and it's easy to fall into a trap of thinking that if you just behaved in the right way, she would be that person you glimpse every month. That's not who she is. You've been clear about what you need from a relationship, and she's not able to give it and is not interested in changing to meet your needs. You deserve to feel loved and supported by your partner, please find someone who will be that kind of partner to you.
posted by gladly at 9:40 AM on March 16, 2017 [16 favorites]

Dude, no. I'm someone who came out of a severe abusive relationship, and I did the emotional work to be ready, PLUS I was really into my partner. You deserve so much better, please either state your direct needs that will make you feel good, or realize they can't be met, and end this relationship. Please respect yourself, you are so important. You deserve someone who is so into you that they understand what you are giving them, and is happy to reciprocate in kind. Do not settle for crumbs.
posted by yueliang at 9:41 AM on March 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

I want to second what Metroid Baby says above. You are able to specify your needs quite clearly in your second paragraph to us; but in your 5th, when you recount long and pointed conversations, they all seem to revolve around her -- not your needs.

I am not in camp "move on" yet. If you can explicitly say to her, "I need ... " and see her respond, you might get somewhere. I know personally that when my partner says "I need ..." that my ears perk right up: I really, really want to make sure he has what he needs, because I adore him so. I hope this is true for you. And if you are clear about what you need and see no response, then you know you are in a relationship where your partner is uninterested in your life or your needs, and I would guess you know what you need to do. "Patience" isn't part of this; it is either there or it is not.

Some people do need to literally be told what those expectations are. And many relationships suffer when partners play "guess what I need?" but never can say the words.
posted by Dashy at 9:52 AM on March 16, 2017 [8 favorites]

Her emotionally abusive past does not mean you need to have an emotionally unsatisfying present. Please break up with this woman for your own mental health and well-being. She can then look after hers. Which is, again, not your problem to fix.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:56 AM on March 16, 2017 [10 favorites]

This woman is not going to give you what you hope for and deserve.
Please honor what you want and need from a partner.
You are worthy of a loving partner who loves you for you and all that you have to offer.
posted by jennstra at 10:00 AM on March 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Only stay with her if she can articulate a plan for working through her issues and demonstrates consistent good-faith effort to follow the plan. Working through emotional issues won't necessarily have a linear progress trajectory, but there should be evidence that she is grappling with these topics.
posted by delight at 10:06 AM on March 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

a growing feeling that my gf (female early 30s) just doesn’t like me all that much

It sounds like you don't like her all that much. It's OK to admit that. The writing's on the wall - head out.
posted by Miko at 10:22 AM on March 16, 2017 [8 favorites]

As someone who's had abusive relationships before, when I say to someone that they're decent and they make me feel safe, that is a Thing. I wish people wouldn't dismiss that as making out like she doesn't think that much of you. When you have been in that sort of place, it is not easy to feel safe again. It is not something you can count on having from just anybody you hook up with. This was one of the first big-deal things I told my partner. People who haven't been there are likely to think that "decency" is a thing one should be able to just assume from a partner, but yeah, no. Safety is mainly dull for people who have always been safe. For some of us, it is a rare and treasured thing.

That doesn't mean it has to be enough for you to be happy in that relationship. It seems more telling to me that you guys don't seem to have compatible interests or conversation styles. If you're somebody who needs words to feel warmth, then that's not a wrong thing to want, even if it doesn't mean she intends to be cold or is a bad person for not being the right girlfriend for you right now.
posted by Sequence at 10:36 AM on March 16, 2017 [35 favorites]

I've been you. Break it off, don't waste your life.
posted by rhizome at 11:25 AM on March 16, 2017 [6 favorites]

The reason you're getting the nagging thought you should break up with this person is because you should break up with this person. I don't mean that in a dismissive or flippant way. I mean that you already know what to do. Trust yourself.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:30 AM on March 16, 2017 [9 favorites]

It's ok to break up with her. I get the feeling you want to be "fair", because of her tough background, and maybe you'd like to be assured that this is temporary, but it's not. People do what they want to do. She doesn't want to converse and be engaged with you the way you want.

I also don't believe that therapy would make her warmer to you. Therapy can help with many problems but... this is not necessarily a problem for her, you know? I don't think there's some wellspring of affection that she's having trouble expressing, from what you've said: she's perfectly expressive when she has something she's excited about. It sounds to me like she's not all that jazzed about you but feels like she ought to stay with you anyway because you're kind. You deserve someone who is really into you.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:44 AM on March 16, 2017 [4 favorites]

I'm sorry you aren't getting what you need from this relationship. Your needs are important. But, please, do not minimize what she told you about feeling safe with you. After some months of our courtship mrs mule seemed to blossom with talents I'd not noticed. I already had thought her to be smart and funny and talented, but I had only the barest of notions about how great she really is. Anyhow, I was aware that our relationship seemed to be superficial, that she was masking her "true" self for whatever reason. At some point, she finally told me about a history of abuse she and her daughters had suffered in her previous marriage. I could see that she felt painfully exposed when we talked about her past. She told me that for the first time in twenty years she felt safe. Our relationship took a few years to define itself, for me to adjust to what I knew, for her to adjust to having me know it. We have been together almost thirty years now, precisely because we were able to bridge this gap. Success wasn't a given. Please consider that the opposite of safe isn't merely unsafe, it's a landscape of heartbreak, misery, and suppression.

Your narrative seems to indicate that the two of you are not well matched. It seems to me a barrier exists that you can't breach except with much effort by both of you, and maybe even professional help. If she is unwilling, then, sadly, it probably would be foolish of you to think you can handle this on your own.
posted by mule98J at 11:45 AM on March 16, 2017 [8 favorites]

It's sounding like you are expecting a lot from someone who is probably still processing what brought her into, why she stayed, and how she got out of those previous abusive relationships.

Just because she doesn't want to talk about it, doesn't mean that she isn't working on it. Every time you show her a different perspective in manner of 'being', you are showing her that it can be different than those other times. I know this, as I completely relate to your gf's way of being.

My employment is something that I have to focus on when I'm there, but not something that I want to talk about AT ALL - not only because it could be a breach of confidentiality, but also because I just want to let it go and be myself when I come home. I am absolutely uninterested in the politics of work, but I do have to maneouver my way through them, and sometimes the thoughts are overpowering - and it keeps me silent because I am also processing those. If someone I love wants me to talk about it at home, I have to start explaining the whole scenario to them PLUS, I don't get a break from it. It takes twice the time to make sure that I can prepare myself to go in the next day.

If my partner wants to talk about his work also, I find that it distracts from my own processes - and although I enjoy that he might need to get a few things off his chest, I really don't want to be his counsellor - or someone who can't get her head out of the soap opera of imaginary people (while yes, they are real people: they aren't part of my world, unless you introduce me to them, and we do social outings together... I've met a few people and been introduced in the grocery store, mind you... but to go beyond that... well, to even be interested in knowing all the players in someone else's life like that - sounds a little stalker-ish - and I would NEVER want someone to think that I was so interested in their day to day stuff to that point. It's quite unnerving)...

Yes, just in writing this, I think I've figured out what triggered me here. It's that needing to know every little detail about my life - taking over my life - when I've worked so hard to create this privacy/safety boundary for myself. I've been stalked. I've had someone know more about me than I realized, and then use it to find a way to creep into my life and hurt me or take advantage. Creating that boundary, and keeping my eyes open to reality (observing what is actually happening, and keeping an open mind to all sources of information, instead of listening to someone's interpretation of what is happening) has been the way I have managed to SURVIVE. To share any more feels like I'd be giving over my soul to another human who, even though he has the best of intentions, does not mean that he wouldn't sabotage it inadvertently. I love that my bf keeps track of the players and takes an interest in my life, but it shocks me, too. I have learned of a few main players in his, but I have specifically tried to not remember all of it too closely - as to me, it feels a bit controlling/untrusting - and it becomes more than I can process anyway. I want to respect my bf's privacy and not become part of his daily work soap opera - so that he too, can take a break when he's with me. I want a life separate from work, and I want my relationship to be a refuge from the elements of daily life. What to you like to do recreationally with her? I think that would be a more telling thing. You didn't mention any common interests and activities that bring you both joy and relaxation.

I also tend to get physical symptoms when my partner is under stress. My body takes on his stresses, and it seems as though he doesn't realize what kind of pressure he puts on me when he shares his worries and concerns, when I need to focus on healing myself still. I can't allow all of those things into my head and into my life when it is not my responsibility to fix them, and when I there is nothing I can do to alter or influence his situation. I will lose my ability to work and take care of myself. I still have a long way to go.

I will say, that we are 2+ years together, never living together though - as circumstances have made it next to impossible to arrange that in a healthy way. So, maybe my situation is nothing like yours... and what you really need is advice for how to take care of yourself... but I thought that maybe I could shed some more light on why she behaves the way that she does.
posted by itsflyable at 11:46 AM on March 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

I suspect the truth is somewhere in between the two of you.

I'll just be harsh I guess, you do come across just from the tone of this question and the way you phrase things ("asked her if she even cared about me at all" for instance)- to be a little on the whiny, passive-aggressive, self-pitying side. You DO actually sound somewhat needier than the average/typical person. Whether this is due to some past trauma or is merely within the overall spectrum of normal personality range is impossible for me to say without more info. But there are a few little red-flaggy things that seem to speak to me of a bordering on co-dependent personality.

Instead of showing her lots of care and begging for reciprocation, try backing off a bit. Mirror her stuff back to her and see how she responds. It's possible she'll come to meet you in the middle.

For her part, some of her behaviors are definitely on the side of objectively cold and there's no excuse at all for her to be against therapy. That's the biggest red flag from her. However, her explanation is pretty logical and rational, actually, and she comes across as perhaps just more "streetwise" and less naive about relationships and sharing every little thing than you are.

Sorry if this is unhelpful, really. Just thought an outside perspective might help.

Bottom line, if you're unhappy, you have permission to leave. Doesn't matter who is right and who is wrong.

But I think you'd both benefit from examining your motivations in this case.
posted by stockpuppet at 2:04 PM on March 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

Most people here so far (including you) have said you should probably break up with her. They're probably right. If you feel like you should do that, go for it -- there's nothing wrong with breaking up if this is not working for you.

If you're not ready to break up with her -- if you feel like you can't pull yourself away from this situation -- you might try the following: without making a giant fuss about it, without assuming that it's going to fix anything or make you feel any particular way, just do a little less filling-up-of-silence. She's leaving a lot of silences, it seems -- what happens if you don't talk them full? Right now, she's playing the role of chased and you're playing the role of chaser -- what happens if you just take a break from playing that role? What does it feel like for you? Does it change the way she behaves towards you at all? You might find this post & video on attachment styles interesting to think about as you consider this.

If you try this, there's no guarantee you won't still break up eventually. But if you don't feel ready to break up yet, you might give it a shot -- it might help shed new light. At the very least, it'll be trying something different (since what you're doing now doesn't seem to be producing the desired result).
posted by ourobouros at 2:10 PM on March 16, 2017 [4 favorites]

"so she tells me that someone like me is new to her and she doesn’t know how to deal with me."

The most optimistic and upbeat way I can possibly think of to handle this is to reply by saying "OK, I'll give you some tips." (I don't expect most people can achieve this level of positivity this year, but I'm throwing it out there.)

Your feelings are valid. That's a pretty thin trickle of visible love that you are trying to live on. How much invisible love is running beneath the surface, I don't know.
posted by puddledork at 3:34 PM on March 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

This sounds like a classic case of incompatibility, at least with where both of you guys are right now. I don't think either of you are inherently wrong or bad at relationships -- her level of emotional involvement and desire for conversation might work perfectly well for another partner -- but it's not right for you, and so it's okay to move on and find someone you're more compatible with.

I would also let go of this magic "once a month" moment. This really reminds me of a boyfriend I dated when I was younger -- I really wanted more emotionally than he was at a point to give me in all but the rarest moments, and the thing was, I really felt like with some "growing up" he would be an amazing partner. But the thing is, I wasn't willing to spend years getting to that point with him, especially when there was no guarantee it would even happen. As I predicted at the time, a decade later he is in a great relationship with someone else and I think has matured in a lot of the ways I thought he might at the time (we're still friends). But, I'm also happily married to someone else who is just all around a way better match for me, and I didn't have to try to "mold" him to be that way -- it's just who he is. So who knows -- perhaps for her own reasons and in her own way, your girlfriend will end up growing more into that cool person you catch once-monthly glimpses of (although maybe not). But if she does, that will be on her own schedule and for her own reasons, and you can't really force it or count on it. There are tons of awesome people out there in the world, and in cases like this I tend to think its best to part ways as kindly as possible and seek someone out who can meet you where you are, right now, being exactly who they are, right now.
posted by rainbowbrite at 6:11 PM on March 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

There's a lot I can say about love languages and communication styles and dealing with those who have been abused (and a lot of good stuff has been said, up-thread.) ... But I'm torn. Adjusting a relationship like this takes a lot of work from both parties. A therapist for the couple and her (and possibly you too) is generally best.

There are a lot of books and websites yall can work on to improve things.... but how tired are you of being her security blanket? Is very slow improvement towards her monthly 'drunk love' persona worth it? What do you get out of the relationship? Sometimes its ok to just go 'this was a learning experience for both of us, now its time to move on' But you have to decide that.
posted by Jacen at 7:21 PM on March 16, 2017

She says she loves me but can’t express it in my way, and that I should just take her word for this. She says she likes me for my decency, safety, and the lack of pressure I put on her.

this is more plainly expressed positive sentiment for you than you generated for her in this entire lengthy question -- she likes you, loves you, and thinks you are decent and safe. You in return feel sympathy and that you "feel for her and want to be supportive" though your emotions are "curdling" into resentment. It appears that she cares for you a great deal more than you care for her and for this reason, you should probably break up with her. You could also break up with her because she does not treat you in the way you like and expect, and that would also be a good reason.

but you cannot draw extended expressions of love out of someone you feel bitterness and resentment for and are losing patience with. Even if/especially if you have solid reasons for feeling all those things and even/especially if you've been keeping it bottled up and not letting it out very often. You have it from her own mouth that she values safety and expressing tender loving care towards someone who is this close to leaving is not a terribly safe thing to do. her own fault? sure, probably.

You should also break up with her because someone who is confronted with all their very real flaws and failings should have a tiny bit of fight in her, just a basic flicker of self-defense, even if she then proceeds to repent and rise above it. but as you tell it, you give her the list of what she is not good at and she answers that she knows this is all misguided, is trying to change, and is asking for my patience.

this is fucked up. I mean, even assuming she's exactly as wrong as you say and knows it. If she is selfish the way you describe, it is a very strange reaction for her to have to just say, yup, I'm all wrong, sorry about that, please exercise your gracious tolerance to bear with me and my awfulness. being so submissive to your relationship opinions like this ought to be as much of a red flag as being self-centered the rest of the time is.
posted by queenofbithynia at 8:10 PM on March 16, 2017 [8 favorites]

She says she likes me for my decency, safety, and the lack of pressure I put on her.

Wow, so romantic.

You can't fix her, and she's apparently unwilling to do the work that she needs to do to manage her own issues.

It doesn't seem like she's capable of giving you what you need from a relationship. This isn't her fault. And it's not fault either. But it does mean that this relationship will continue to not meet your needs.

It's time to look for someone who can.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:54 PM on March 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Let me try to save you some time that I wish I'd saved myself. It doesn't matter WHY they behave that way. You're not punishing them by removing yourself from a situation. You don't have to stay because they have a sad reason for the way they act. Your leaving is not a judgement that they are an unredeemable person. Love unconditionally if you wish to, but don't stay in relationships unconditionally.
posted by Chrysalis at 10:13 PM on March 16, 2017 [5 favorites]

I feel badly for this woman. You may well be the most decent guy she's ever encountered, and she may not know how to interact with men who aren't abusive. She may be tucked inside of herself, watchful, waiting for the other shoe to drop. She might well have those defensive feelings another poster mentioned above, but won't voice them, because she doesn't feel safe enough.

That said, you shouldn't stay with her because of that, or for any other reason than you love her, want to share your life with her, and being with her makes you happy.
posted by dancing_angel at 10:35 PM on March 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

I do feel genuinely feel sorry for her. She needs to devote quality time to her emotional health before re-entering the relationship waters. The fact she seems unwilling or unable to do so is tragic.

That said, a slot machine makes an unhealthy romantic partner. Let her down easy, walk away and don't look back.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 8:53 AM on March 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm sure she does care about you -- that's not the issue. The issue is that she does not express love and affection in a way that feels loving to you. This could be worked on if she decided to work on it -- but she's indicated that she is unwilling to do so. Her unwillingness to do the work is actually the deal breaker -- the fact that she doesn't realize that she should work to meet your emotional needs within reasonable limits. It's not acceptable for her to hear your complaints and then just say "Trust me, I love you, even if I won't do the work to express love in a way that feels loving to you." A good, healthy, emotionally available and compatible partner will do the work to bridge the gap between their love language and yours.

If I were you, I would once again lovingly explain (key word: lovingly) that her committing to therapy really is non-negotiable for you. Perhaps individual *and* couples. If she's not willing to do that, then walk away.
posted by Gray Skies at 12:55 PM on March 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

The way you describe your girlfriend and your relationship with her is the way a good friend of mine describes her wife and their relationship together. Yesterday my friend told me that while she was away on business this week, her wife packed up all of her clothes and personal belongings and moved out of the house, leaving a note saying that she'd already begun the process of filing for divorce several months ago.

Much like your girlfriend, the wife has had a troubled romantic history and has been through some abuse. Much like your girlfriend, the wife is extremely resistant to therapy -- in fact, she evidently started the divorce proceedings right about the time that my friend insisted they would either go to couples therapy or split up, and in their couples therapy sessions that just recently began she's stated that she believes she is a sociopath and has been an extremely reluctant participant in their sessions. Much like you, my friend became bitter, lonely, and resentful waiting years for her wife to unthaw enough to love her the way she wants to be loved.

I don't believe in ultimatums, but I do believe in setting firm boundaries about what kind of treatment to accept from others. If your girlfriend isn't loving you the way you want to be loved, and she continues to be resistant to doing anything about that despite knowing how much it hurts you, then you probably need to leave and find someone who treats you every day like she treats you once a month.
posted by palomar at 2:17 PM on March 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

It's not worth it. There are plenty of women that would like a nice guy that is open, warm and loving. Don't wait for this lady to be like that, because that's just not who she is. My current bf sounds a lot like your gf and it is absolutely miserable. I haven't been so lonely, bitter and resentful in my entire life. And we've only been together a few short months. the few glimpses I've had of him like you've had of your gf, make me realize that it's all just an act. It's that little bit that keeps you waiting and wanting for more, but it's an illusion. A mirage if you will.

Like someone mentioned upthread, why beg and plead and suffer for crumbs when you can have a buffet? Do yourself the favor and walk away. She has a lot of personal work that she needs to do and is clearly incapable or unwilling to do so whilst in a relationship with you. I thought I could help my bf. That showing him what a decent, healthy, and loving relationship could be would help him calm down and open up. I've suffered much collateral damage in the meantime in the form of emotional and verbal abuse and controlling behavior.

I don't discount past abuse. Yet it isn't a free pass to treat people however way you feel like because you've been hurt in the past. If this woman doesn't appreciate you for who you are and isn't meeting your needs, then that's just time that you're wasting that you could've been happy with someone else. Someone who you wouldn't have to post Asks about and you wouldn't have to beg for attention or love. You deserve more. Her issues are her issues, not yours. If you stick around her long enough, they will be yours. It's not worth it. Hurt people hurt people and that's a pain no one should have to experience.
posted by lunastellasol at 6:27 AM on March 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

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