How do I navigate this breakup?
August 12, 2017 5:06 PM   Subscribe

My girlfriend broke up with me and now she's insisting that I have to work to regain her trust, and I don't know what to do.

About two weeks ago, my girlfriend broke up with me. History: we'd been having a lot of fights and I started to see a therapist to help me work through some of my issues. I've had problems with codependency and with being able to set boundaries which I've been ignoring for a while. I've had issues with communication that I'm working on, but typically I am passive aggressive and will snap and say hurtful things in the heat of the moment, which was one of the reasons she broke up with me.

Even after we broke up though, she's calling me every day, she requests that I come to her place to sleep because she says she gets scared and cannot sleep when she's alone, or insists that she comes to my place to hang out with me and my roommates or to sleep. It hasn't been every day, but what happens is for example last Friday I told her firmly no I need space and will not visit her. On Saturday she insisted and we had a fight and compromised by me going to her place until she fell asleep and then I went home, and on Sunday when I said no again she said she was going to bus to my house so I relented and went to her place for the night. This past week I had the entire week off work which I did not tell her and was evasive about because I just wanted to spend time on my own. Well midway through the week she asked when I worked and I lied and said I just had the past few days off, but when she pressed further the next day and I admitted I had the week off she got extremely angry and said I'd lied to her and I'd broken her trust.

Today she insisted that I hang out her with which I did, but I put my foot down again when she asked me to come to an event with her parents because I didn't feel comfortable given our situation. Shortly after dropping her off she called me and demanded to know what I am going to do for her to regain her trust, and I couldn't really answer. I don't know what to do or say! I said that I'm taking therapy and trying to better myself but she says that is a personal thing and she wants to know what I'm going to do for HER. She says I'm being selfish and only focussing on myself and I'm ignoring her feelings and her needs. If I mention that she broke up with me she says that's not an excuse and she's working hard on her part to make it work but I'm not. There is a part of me that wants to make this work and wants to make it better because we've been together for almost a year and a half and I do love her, but it just seems like every time we're together we start fighting all over and it makes it difficult for me to work on my issues.

posted by smurfzambo to Human Relations (42 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
She says I'm being selfish and only focussing on myself and I'm ignoring her feelings and her needs. If I mention that she broke up with me she says that's not an excuse

Yeah, it totally is an "excuse."

It's good you're in therapy, and in therapy FOR YOU, because that is what therapy is for. Tell your ex that you don't want her to contact you any more. Block her phone/email/facebook/etc. Keep a journal (for you, for therapy), and talk to your friends. What she's doing is awful and you don't deserve it, and you don't need to listen to her bullshit. I'm sorry you're going through this.
posted by rtha at 5:10 PM on August 12, 2017 [50 favorites]

WTF? This lady is way out of line. You don't need to "regain her trust", you need to cut her out of your life. This is a weird, untenable, not-improvable dynamic.

It sounds like she didn't break up with you in order to end a bad dynamic, but rather to try to manipulate you into doing her bidding. Don't do it. Block her number, mourn the relationship and move on.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:15 PM on August 12, 2017 [82 favorites]

Congratulations, you've discovered why people say to go no-contact after a breakup. There are exceptions to that, but if you're in one of those exception cases, you will know it. This is not one of them. This is done and you're moving on and she's not your problem anymore.
posted by Sequence at 5:18 PM on August 12, 2017 [16 favorites]

She broke up with you. That means you don't have to pay attention to her feelings and needs anymore. Cut her off -- reject her calls, block her on social media, etc., etc. I know it's hard, and I know having a relationship end feels awful. To this internet rando, her behavior looks a lot like she gets some kind of thrill out of manipulating you in this way. You deserve so much better than that!
posted by Janta at 5:21 PM on August 12, 2017 [37 favorites]

There is a part of me that wants to make this work and wants to make it better because we've been together for almost a year and a half and I do love her, but it just seems like every time we're together we start fighting all over and it makes it difficult for me to work on my issues.

There's your answer. Cut off all contact and focus on yourself for a while. It's okay to have mixed feelings after a breakup, but that doesn't mean the breakup was a mistake.
posted by bunderful at 5:24 PM on August 12, 2017 [8 favorites]

If she broke up with you, she forfeited the benefits of being in a relationship- sleepover privileges, comfort and attention and company on demand... Perhaps even your friendship if you choose that route. You are absolutely within your rights to do exactly that.

And personally, I'd tell her to go no-contact for at least two weeks so you can get your head together.

And give serious thought to enforcing the breakup boundaries... Shes clearly not helping cure codependent or setting boundaries.
posted by Jacen at 5:25 PM on August 12, 2017 [4 favorites]

You need to go no-contact. For more than 2 weeks. More like 3 months.

Let her know that you are going no-contact. Then immediately filter her e-mail and block her phone number.
posted by adamrice at 5:36 PM on August 12, 2017 [8 favorites]

Yeah, if she actually broke up with you, it sounds like she really doesn't understand how break-ups work! When she talks about how she's trying to "make it work" it makes me wonder if this was supposed to be an actual break-up, or if she considered it something else.

If you guys are actually broken up her behavior is waaaaay out of line. She has no right to demand your attention and insist that you sleep over and go to events with her family. It'd be downright strange for you to do that stuff, as somebody who was recently dumped. You don't need to do anything to regain her trust. You're broken up! That means the relationship is over. It sounds like she basically wants you to continue to be her partner in everything but name, and that's bullshit.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:42 PM on August 12, 2017 [7 favorites]

If she broke up with you, then her feelings and needs are NOT YOUR PROBLEM. Her being lonely or "scared of sleeping alone" or bored or just wanting to hang out --- repeat after me --- all of that is NOT YOUR PROBLEM.

You really, really need to go totally 100% no-contact with this dingbat: that means no, you do not accept her phone calls, nor do you call her, not even once. Ditto for texts and emails and smoke signals: you can send one, and ONLY one, text to tell her never to contact you again, but other than that block her everywhere, including deleting her on things like Facebook. "No Contact" means just that: absolutely NO contact whatsoever, including (other than that initial don't contact me text) every single time going forward she tries to contact you. NEVER respond, not even to send additional don't contact me notes.

personally I'd recommend total radio silence for AT LEAST six months, if not a full year. It's got to be long enough to completely break her habit of using you, as well as break YOU of the habit of caving in to her demands rather than telling her NO.
posted by easily confused at 5:48 PM on August 12, 2017 [12 favorites]

I'd go no-contact for at least a year, personally. For resumption of contact to be successful, you both need to have fully accepted that the relationship is over and have some decent boundaries around that. Plus you need to be confident that if she asks you to do something you can easily say no, and if a fight starts you can walk away.

For more mature people who have been around the block a few times and who aren't the sort to have difficulty moving on from relationships, a shorter time is probably fine. But I get the feeling you are both fairly young and inexperienced, which makes it a lot harder.

Tell her she was right to end it and that you need to go no-contact and move on, then block on all devices. (Don't tell her how long the no-contact is).
posted by bunderful at 5:49 PM on August 12, 2017 [5 favorites]

You did lie to her. That was bad. I've done it before myself, when I was scared of how someone would react. It was still lying. Part of the work you need to do for yourself is to learn how to say, "No, I don't want to have contact with you right now. I'm taking the week off work, and I want to spend it by myself, not with you."

That'll be a scary thing to learn. You'll get lots of pushback and attempted manipulation in response, at least until the other person realizes that you are comfortable with what you want. But it'll make your life better in the end.
posted by clawsoon at 5:52 PM on August 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

If I mention that she broke up with me she says that's not an excuse and she's working hard on her part to make it work but I'm not.

Just to be 100% clear here, this is not how break ups work. This isn't even how break ups where the people want to get back together work. This is not normal.

Like everybody said, go no contact (for real) and stick with the therapy.
posted by grapesaresour at 6:16 PM on August 12, 2017 [25 favorites]

Does she know she broke up with you? does she know what that is? do you guys have the kind of history where "breaking up" just means a bad fight where somebody storms out? because even if she knows she broke up with you and is fucking with you now in full knowledge of what she's doing, why are you taking her calls or going over there or any of this?

you don't have to talk to her. you don't have to go to events with her (!!!). you don't have to fight with her. you don't have to listen to her. You don't have to listen to her messages. You don't have to read her emails. You don't know what to do? Don't do any of that!

If there is ANY chance she is not actually on the same page with you regarding what a breakup is, or there was any ambiguity in what she herself said....break up with her. most people who've been dumped don't get the opportunity for this kind of you-can't-fire-me-I-quit reversal, so make the most of it. If she says "you can't break up with me, I already broke up with you!" at least you know she does know. and then, never talk to her again.

if everything was all your fault and she was justified in whatever she said, do it for her. apologize once, if you want, and then DONE. otherwise, do it for yourself. if you don't actually end this and let it drag on, someday one of you is going to want to break up for real and not for play and the other one won't know they really mean it this time and won't leave, and it will be horrible. more horrible.
posted by queenofbithynia at 6:18 PM on August 12, 2017 [10 favorites]

Have you discussed her behavior and your current boundary issues (post-breakup) with your therapist? Because even though I'm almost never a proponent of going "no contact" for people who break up but like each other as human beings (i.e., when it's a mutual breakup), there is no reason for you to try to "regain her trust." There's no reason for you to sleep at her house. She fell asleep before you came along; she'll fall asleep on her own now. You don't owe her your schedule details, or explanations, or adultsitting duty.

You owe her civility when you encounter one another publicly. You owe her (one) heartfelt apology if you said hurtful things (which I'm guessing already took care of doing). And then you explain that for your mental health, it's important that the two of you cease contact for the time being. You literally have NO other obligations to her aside from basic civility. I (and these others) are not big meanies. We have a depth of experience of what is right and "normal" and what is not, and you know that you already have issues with codependency, and your current situation is a textbook case. Wish her well, block her phone, take her off your social media, and tell your roommates and friends to say, "I really can't talk to you about smurfzambo." It will feel weird at first, but it's the only way you will heal and be ready for a future, healthy relationship.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 6:26 PM on August 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

Yes, add to the chorus of 'she is way out of line'.

I just want to congratulate you on being self aware enough to acknowledge your own problems and relate them here honestly. That's half the challenge of working on it, and you've already made good progress! Ignore her, continue to better yourself and work on passive aggressive tendencies, and move on, is my advice.
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:06 PM on August 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

Go no contact forever forever forever forever.

She broke up with you. It's done. You can't be her friend because she is demanding and boundary pushing and OMG WHY ARE YOU STILL TALKING TO HER?

Dump her. Block. Delete. Move on.
posted by jbenben at 7:24 PM on August 12, 2017 [10 favorites]

It's over. You break up with someone, it's done. Move on.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 7:49 PM on August 12, 2017

If you keep caretaking her, you're just teaching her it's okay to treat you badly and have pretend break-ups in order to manipulate you. Call her bluff. She broke up with you, so you are free. Free from all this crap! Date people who will act like grown ups and treat you with respect.
posted by Knowyournuts at 8:13 PM on August 12, 2017 [7 favorites]

What do you want to have happen? She's acting like you are still in a relationship. Is that what you want? (I and the entire thread think it's a bad idea.) I think you need to clarify for yourself what you want, then clarify with her. Then you can commence ignoring her while she tries to get you all tied up in knots again. Because when you break up, you disengage. Drama is really a drag and she sounds very dramatic.

Practice saying No, that won't be possible
posted by theora55 at 8:23 PM on August 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

Even if y'all were still dating, this would be unacceptable. You're broken up. She doesn't get to make demands any more. Stop answering her calls/texts/messages.
posted by lazuli at 8:55 PM on August 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm confused, it sounds like you are still dating. If you are broken up, be broken up.

Watch some movies, eat fro-yo and turn off your phone!!
posted by Toddles at 9:18 PM on August 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

It's possible that when you actually cut ties with her (which you should do!!!) she'll step up the drama, possibly with threats of suicide. If she manages to get these threats through to you somehow despite your blocking her/canceling events together/not answering her calls (which you should do!!!), treat them with the gravity they deserve; call 911 and let the experts handle it.
posted by hollyholly at 9:39 PM on August 12, 2017 [8 favorites]

Sorry man. She's a control freak.

She breaks up with you then DEMANDS: you sleep with her, or she sleeps with you. DEMANDS to know your work schedule and what YOU are going to do to gain HER trust back.

I'm not a fan of lying but dammit dude, she kinda pushed you into lying. Not excusing you, just telling you to not be so hard on yourself.

I would refer to her as a "psychic vampire." She's the kind of woman who sinks her teeth in you and sucks all the life out of you. You're broken up. Be done with her. Move on. If she "threatens" to ride a bus out to your place to sleep with you tell her the door will be locked and you won't answer it.

Time to make a clean cut. No contact forever. That's what breaking up is. . .especially in this case.
posted by Lord Fancy Pants at 9:56 PM on August 12, 2017 [5 favorites]

Oh man, your situation sucks. Of course you lied to her, she's a nightmare. But you don't have to lie in the future because she's not entitled to any information about your life. If you can't bear to go no contact (please, please, please go no contact) then just pretend you are Miss Manners and become a broken record that says, "That won't be possible" to every single thing she asks of you. But it's better not to say anything at all. Block her phone number, block her email, and don't let her into your home. This person is a danger to your health and happiness. Avoid her at all costs. In other words, what all the other Internet strangers here on MetaFilter are saying: RUN!
posted by Bella Donna at 11:02 PM on August 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

"Our relationship is over; I don't want to regain your trust; you are on your own now.

If you can't deal with that then consider getting a psychologist, because this is not normal."

And yes, block her where possible, let your roommates know what's going on and that she's not allowed in the house, and don't cave on these things.

You say you love her, so you've got to realize that enabling her in this dysfunctional behavior is not going to help her in life. This is not how an adult behaves.
posted by trig at 11:38 PM on August 12, 2017 [7 favorites]

She isn't acting like you've broken up, so she says one thing and does another and all this will do is drive you batty and who needs this? Let's forget about what she says and how she acts.

Stop thinking about what she wants for a minute. What do you want? Do you want to remain broken up with her? Given the limited information we have, indeed, even based on this two week breakup period, it doesn't make any sense. All you two have is a cluster of bad communication and neediness and manipulation and immature relationship skills.

You need to figure out what you want to do, and then tell her your decision. It doesn't matter if she decided you've broken up or not--tell her what you've decided.

If you want to stay with her or break up, either way you need to make it really clear to her and proceed accordingly:

1. You want to break up--this means you are NOT going to respond to texts or calls or hanging out and she can't come over and you're not going to her house or any social events with her and you're taking your clothes from her place (or whatever) and you will have no more communication. It's over, you're blocking her on all social media and your phone, etc.

2. You want to stay together--this means...I don't know what this would mean. I think you need to end things with her, but if you want to give this another whack, then decide what matters to you and tell her.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 4:36 AM on August 13, 2017

Block her everywhere forever.
posted by Perodicticus potto at 7:26 AM on August 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think the script in her head may have been:

"I tell smurfzambo we're breaking up; sfz is desperate and will do anything to get me back; I demand that sfz change everything about themselves I don't like; sfz complies; we get back together and everything is magically great."

So in other words, when she broke up with you, she may not have been intending to actually end the relationship. She sure as hell sounds like she wasn't prepared for you to take the breakup seriously.

If you want the breakup to be final, tell her so, then go no contact.

If you want to stay in the relationship, some therapy as a couple would probably be a good idea.
posted by Pallas Athena at 7:57 AM on August 13, 2017 [5 favorites]

midway through the week she asked when I worked and I lied and said I just had the past few days off, but when she pressed further the next day and I admitted I had the week off she got extremely angry and said I'd lied to her and I'd broken her trust.

"You broke up with me. We're done. I owe you nothing. I'm not accountable to you. Fuck off."

Then go dark. Block her texts, block her calls, unfriend her on social media, you know the drill.
posted by flabdablet at 8:29 AM on August 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

There is a part of me that wants to make this work and wants to make it better because we've been together for almost a year and a half and I do love her

That's the baby that she threw out with your passive-aggressive bathwater. Her choice, her consequences to live with. Remove the barbed hook and move on.
posted by flabdablet at 8:32 AM on August 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

When I was young I broke things off with a guy but kept talking to him about my feelings and guilt and blah blah blah, and he gave me the best piece of advice, "I am the only one who can't help you feel better about this." She broke up with you and she needs to respect you enough to leave you alone.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 9:19 AM on August 13, 2017 [16 favorites]

This woman has major issues but they're no longer your issues because she broke up with you! Go no-contact and let her figure her stuff out on her own. You're not doing her a kindness by hanging on to something that is so clearly over.
posted by rpfields at 10:50 AM on August 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

If she calls, don't answer (best to block her or change your number).
If she leaves a message or emails, delete without reading (or have them automatically forwarded to a folder, so you're not even aware they arrived)
If she comes to your house, don't answer the door.
If she stands on your front porch and starts yelling, call the police.

Also, let your friends, family and roommates (and boss?) know that she broke up with you, it's for the best, and that she is displaying disturbing stalker-like behavior, and they should in no way assist her in contacting you (letting her into your house, passing on messages, etc)
posted by blueberry at 11:09 AM on August 13, 2017

There is no halfway here-- you can't acquiesce to her sometimes, then "put your foot down" other times and expect that to do anything but prolong this dynamic. All that shows her is that she can still get you to do things you don't want to, even after she breaks up with you. In fact, intermittent refusal just tells her she needs to really ramp up the pressure because it obviously breaks you sometimes.

She might be suffering--everyone does after a breakup, including you--but everyone has to heal on their own. It may be true you had/have issues but that doesn't mean you owe her anything.

Nth-ing no contact.
posted by kapers at 11:32 AM on August 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Sorry you're going through this and it's fantastic that you're in therapy. You guys may've had some great times in the past and you probably feel emotionally invested in her being at peace with things as they now stand by seeing her through this rough patch...but the only future I see in maintaining contact is one where you spend lots of time dealing with the chaos she's generating around her neediness, her fear, her need to be in control. Unfortunatly, even if you were to resign yourself to that, you'll never be adequate ... you'll always fail in some respect.

You need to rescue yourself from her personality cult. Don't ever be alone with her again. If you need to pick up anything from her place, enlist a third party or call to arrange for the police to chaperone (in my area the cops call it a domestic belongings call).

Start spending time with good friends again. She'll have to find another hero.
posted by bonobothegreat at 11:52 AM on August 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

NO CONTACT. Send this woman one more message saying "You broke up with me, I'm not going to be able to be your emotional support anymore, and I will not be responding to any future messages from you. I wish you the best in life but this is goodbye." Then block her on all social media, block her number on your phone, and block her (or stop responding) on every other way you guys communicate. It can be hard but is SO much easier in the long run.
posted by rainbowbrite at 12:48 PM on August 13, 2017 [5 favorites]

Sounds like SHE is codependent - and possibly more/worse - and that YOU working on your issues is reducing her control of you. And of course, she doesn't like that.

Doubting that the relationship is healthy enough to survive a mentally healthy you, just on the info you've given.
posted by stormyteal at 4:23 PM on August 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

"Do not contact me again." Then ignore all of her texts, calls, emails, etc. Block her on all social media. Do not respond to any of her attempts to contact you. You are free! You don't have to deal with her bullshit anymore!
posted by a strong female character at 8:08 PM on August 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Your girlfriend didn't break up with you. She dramadumped you; she fake dumped you to get you to march to her tune with the threat of an actual breakup if you don't. I am exhausted just reading about this, never mind being in a relationship with this person. Do you genuinely want to be in a relationship with someone like this?

Issue an actual, grown up break-up. "We are done. I wish you the best. Don't contact me again."
posted by DarlingBri at 1:03 AM on August 14, 2017 [6 favorites]

Yeah, DarlingBri has it. She may have said words that sounded like she broke up with you, but in her mind that was just a negotiation tactic to get you to act the way she wants you to act. Unfortunately, she's now put it on you to do the actual breaking up, which you should absolutely do.

I wish you the best, but even though she technically broke up with you first, she's probably going to react to your breakup in much the way she would have if that had never happened. Be prepared for it to be ugly, but also be prepared for your life to be much better afterwards.
posted by 256 at 6:58 AM on August 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

It's hard to rebuild a relationship with someone who's intent on extracting her pound of flesh. You need to leave this toxic situation in your rear-view.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 8:49 AM on August 14, 2017

Thanks everyone, seems like a nearly unanimous consensus. This is tremendously helpful. Sometimes when I am in the thick of it I have trouble seeing what's right in front of my eyes and this provides some much needed clarity.
posted by smurfzambo at 10:05 AM on August 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

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