How can I accept my decision not to give a relationship a chance?
November 26, 2017 8:44 AM   Subscribe

I turned down a relationship with a guy I was dating and I keep revisiting the decision even after a year. I need to take action or move on for my own mental health.

I keep wondering if I should have tried to work things out with him. When we sat down after several months to have the Defining the Relationship talk, I wasn't sure what I wanted. I felt I had been growing slowly in love with him in spite of not feeling any initial limerence, but he didn't seem to want to spend much time together.

During the talk he revealed that he had felt very passionately about me initially but now said he was more ambiguous mainly because he wanted the heady romantic passion that I wasn't feeling. He had a laundry list of issues with me, including things like I'm not affectionate or generous enough and the relationship might take too much time away from his career and fitness. He said it would have to be third or fourth priority in his life, which may be completely reasonable for a new relationship but was hurtful for me to hear. He asked if I would be ok being a "medium girlfriend". In spite of this, he wanted a relationship. It took three talks like this before I could make it through one without crying, but ultimately I decided it wasn't going to be a good thing for me and he seemed upset and kept asking why I wouldn't work things out.

But now, I keep wondering. I have very little romantic experience so maybe I was too sensitive? He said he was just trying to discuss concerns so we could work them out. Maybe I overreacted and couldn't put hurt feelings aside long enough to have a difficult conversation and move past it?

He's one of the few people I've met who I can talk with for hours about anything, makes me laugh, actually makes me feel energized around him instead of drained, and I'm still attracted to him. I think about him a lot and he's the first one I want to share things with. We are still friends, but I find myself missing him and wondering what is going on in his life. I think he has completely moved on so I'm not even sure any kind of romantic relationship would even be possible (or advisable), but I can't help second guessing myself all the time about the decision not to at least try to have a relationship with him.

I've been putting myself out there, dating other people, even asking guys out which for me is shockingly bold behavior, but haven't met anyone else with whom I enjoy spending time as much as him. I feel like I keep doing the right thing as far as turning down relationships that are less than I want or "deserve", if that's even a fair word to use here. But all I get for it is ending up lonely.

How do I let this go and accept the decision I made so that it will stop haunting me? Should I say anything to him?
posted by seraph9 to Human Relations (16 answers total)
He had a laundry list of issues with me, including things like I'm not affectionate or generous enough and the relationship might take too much time away from his career and fitness. He said it would have to be third or fourth priority in his life..... He asked if I would be ok being a "medium girlfriend".

Holy shit. You did the right thing. You were absolutely not too sensitive - he was very clear that he wanted a relationship only on his terms. He could see that his terms would be hurtful to you, but he did not rethink his terms or offer to compromise or stop asking for a relationship that would not be satisfying for you.

I don't think you need to say anything to him. I do think you should go no contact.

For some of us it takes a while to get over relationships (this made more sense to me after reading Attached which I highly recommend). It was also helpful to learn that falling in love is like heroin.

It often takes me a year or more to get over someone I was really into, even if we only dated for a few months. It took longer when I was younger. I used to think that my lingering feelings had some meaning, like we were "meant" to be together and I won't feel that way again, but really I'm going through withdrawal and "getting sober" from that person. It helps to not be in touch with them (this doesn't stop the feelings completely but it does stop all that heart-pounding every time they send a generic "Happy Thanksgiving" text).

Go no contact, take a vacation, get a massage, re-organize your sock drawer, take up cross stitch and be patient with yourself. When you find yourself obsessing over him remind yourself kindly that you're still detoxing and gently refocus on something else. You may always feel a little twinge when you think of him, but in time you'll think of him less and less and the twinge will get fainter.
posted by bunderful at 9:22 AM on November 26, 2017 [39 favorites]

He said:
He had a laundry list of issues with me
I'm not affectionate or generous enough
the relationship might take too much time away from his career and fitness
it would have to be third or fourth priority in his life
He asked if I would be ok being a "medium girlfriend".

Oof. What a tool. You were right to run. Do you really want to take a back seat to a gym membership?

Stay friends if you want, but if it means you'll always be wondering, then maybe breaking that friendship is for the best.
posted by SquidLips at 9:33 AM on November 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

He told you upfront that you were 4th priority? What a sales pitch.

Never date a man who doesn't make you feel valued and cherished. You did the right thing.
posted by amycup at 9:42 AM on November 26, 2017 [17 favorites]

Reading that gave me hives. I wouldn’t want a relationship like that. Bunderful has great ideas to refocus. Just remind yourself that being alone is better than being a “medium girlfriend” with someone who has a laundry list of complaints about you!
posted by bighappyhairydog at 9:43 AM on November 26, 2017 [13 favorites]

Do you want to get over this guy and move towards a better relationship that honors you and your partner, something fulfilling for both of you?

Stop being friends with your ex and block him on all social media so you can't see his life anymore. That's it. You are keeping this going with your choice to be in contact. Stop this. Change your circumstances, change your mind.
posted by jbenben at 9:50 AM on November 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

Even setting aside whether this particular guy would have been a great partner (and he would not have been), this is just one of those things in life we all need to accommodate ourselves to. You meet somebody and for whatever reason things don't work out, or don't even have a chance to get started, and you wonder "what if?"

You can wonder "what if?" until you get old, or you can move on. It's a fallacy to think there is The One. There are a number of people who fit with us to varying degrees, and accentuate different parts of ourselves.

You're doing the right thing by putting yourself out there. It's a numbers game. It can be dispiriting at times. But one of these days you'll realize that you just haven't thought about him in a month, and you don't really care anymore, because you've met someone better.
posted by adamrice at 9:54 AM on November 26, 2017 [4 favorites]

He wasn't willing to be the kind of partner you're looking for, so that's that. Don't second guess that!

You may however want to rethink some of the people you've met since then. You say you're not really feelin' it with them, but keep in mind that it took you a while to get to the point of having strong feelings with your ex, so that might just be how you roll. I also have a hard time getting excited about new people in comparison to exes, and need to remind myself that the reason they're not yet as fun and comfortable to hang out with as my exes is because I haven't yet invested the time with them.
posted by metasarah at 9:56 AM on November 26, 2017

I promise you, if you had accepted being the fourth priority in his life, that relationship would have been an utterly miserable experience. If you were lucky, he would have gotten bored and dumped you quickly (sorry, she's just more passionate than you are!). If unlucky, you would have gotten dragged through months or years of degradation where you were trying to hang on and he was feeding you crumbs.

Usually people without much romantic experience make this mistake at least once, so congratulations on dodging a bullet. Don't be in love with someone who doesn't love you back. It really sucks.

I recommend breaking off contact entirely. It can take a long time to get over someone, unfortunately. Constant reminders don't help.

At some point you're going to see this guy in a different light. All of us reading this do. I don't doubt he's handsome, charming, intelligent, fit, insightful, witty, yadda yadda. But also, he's a guy who knew you were in love with him, and still invited you to be his "medium girlfriend" even though you weren't able to get through a conversation about this without crying. A person who wants to use you and doesn't care how much they hurt you is someone you should dislike, regardless of what other good qualities they might have.
posted by mattu at 10:04 AM on November 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

He had a laundry list of issues with me, including things like I'm not affectionate or generous enough

It's possible one of the reasons that you might've not been affectionate/generous during your few months together is because he was showing you, either directly or indirectly, what he really thought about the relationship; that flags you may have noticed (that ultimately culminated with the, frankly, trashy move of you being his "medium girlfriend") about how he thought about you were why you were easing on the brakes?

How do I let this go and accept the decision I made so that it will stop haunting me? Should I say anything to him?

No. You don't owe him anything. He was upset because your great sense of self-worth and your reaction at such a nasty proposal completely undermined/ridiculed his notion of what a passionate and generous relationship should look like despite his claims to the contrary.

Break all contact with him.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 10:07 AM on November 26, 2017 [5 favorites]

"Medium girlfriend." Jesus!

No, you did an excellent job of taking care of yourself and recognizing that what was on offer was not worthy of you. So many women get beaten down into accepting some such nonsense, especially early on in their romantic lives!

It sounds like maybe some of his criticisms got into your head? That's another reason not to have further contact with him. The longer you go without reinforcing the idea that he's cool/cooler than you/whatever, the more absurd what he said to you will come to seem. And, honestly--at the very best he was just spouting rationalizations. At the worst, he was actively trying to undermine your sense of your own worth so he could push you into accepting whatever pittance of relationship he deigned to give you. Just because you dated him for a few months doesn't mean he has a Unique Insight Into Your Character.
posted by praemunire at 11:39 AM on November 26, 2017 [5 favorites]

You're second guessing yourself because you're lonely and right now, what you had looks better than nothing, but if you get some distance from this guy, you'll realize that you made the right decision. You don't want a guy who'll considers you in fourth place on his list of priorities, or who thinks it's more important to spend time at the gym than to be with you. You don't want to waste time on a relationship that will never make you happy no matter what you do, waiting for things to magically change. Invest your time in looking for someone good who values you, and in your other relationships and your interests and goals, because long term it'll be so much more rewarding. And I think those in this thread who had advised you to stay away from this guy are correct. Continued contact with him is keeping you from moving on and seeing him for the bad bet that he is.
posted by orange swan at 1:11 PM on November 26, 2017

This guy sucks, and I know because I broke up with someone like him him recently.

I spent time in a relationship with someone who, like your guy, gave me a list of things he didn't like about me toward the beginning of the relationship. (These were presented as explanation for why he was initially reluctant to be exclusive, not as things I was supposed to change about myself.) And, like the two of you, although we did grow to love each other, neither of us ever felt head-over-heels.

But unlike you, I stayed. Looking back on it, I think I stayed mostly to try to prove that I was more than a list of faults. And in the absence of someone better, I thought it was worth it to enjoy it while it lasted. Was that a good call? I'm on the fence. If I had a do-over, I'd probably give it another first chance but not so many second chances, knowing myself. But everyone reading this knows I should have nipped it in the bud.

The bright side: the breakup was less painful than most, and he's the only ex I'd actually consider a friend.

Obviously, I'm not going to give you an impartial answer to your question. But I think your gut is right that this relationship would be less than you want+deserve, so I don't think you should say anything to him. It's just hard to move on from something that will always have unanswered questions -- what would it be like if you gave a relationship a chance? -- but that will fade with time.

Standard getting-over-someone advice applies: Keep yourself busy. Get new hobbies or dive deeper into existing ones. Make new friends or new plans with old ones. Fill up the brain space you currently allocate to thinking about this guy. Keep not settling.

And, sincerely, congrats on listening to your instinct and sticking up for yourself. That's hard to do.
posted by katieinshoes at 2:17 PM on November 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

It sounds to me as if you had to talk yourself into being into him, and then once you’d convinced yourself, he proceeded to announce that you would qualify as a “medium girlfriend”?

I get the feeling you’re a little bit out of his league and he sensed it. Hence, the bravado and lukewarm negging — dude couldn’t believe his luck, so he tried to make you think you were the lucky one (gaslighting). No wonder you’re still second-guessing the whole thing — “Wow, maybe he really was the best I could hope for.”

Nope; his inexperience made him overconfident and yours made you self-conscious to a fault.

The bright side is, once you got your bearings, you were wise enough to stop wasting your precious time on him. And now you’re less inexperienced and you have a better idea of what to avoid next time, namely:
  • Guys who make you second-guess your judgment and your desirability
  • Guys who expect you to be “generous” and “affectionate” so they can focus on themselves
  • Guys you aren’t really attracted to, but who “deserve a chance” (when they really should just be medium-friends at maximum)
That last one is actually key, because this guy recognized your lack of ardor for him and tried to spin it as though it meant he was merely pitying you.

This has happened already, elsewhere in life, from time to time: you might have applied for a job well beneath your skill-set, and the interviewer tried to make you feel foolish so you’d take her stinker of a job offer. Or maybe you went to a crappy restaurant and ordered a glass of pinot grigio, and the pretentious server scoffed, “Uh, do you mean pinto gringo?” and then he gave you a condescending look like you were Eliza Doolittle or something, and somehow this lesson was going to get him an extra-big tip.

Ever been there? At first you probably thought, “Wait, what? That’s BS, it makes no sense!” But then you remembered, “Oh, they’re trying to hide their own insecurities. Poor dorks.” Same goes for guys you’re not that into, who know it and date you anyway, acting like they’re doing you a favor until you start to believe them. They want you to settle.

I’m not saying you need limerence at first sight before you get serious with anyone else, but go ahead and be picky about chemistry — which includes physical attraction AND being able to talk about lots of things AND making each other laugh AND (unlike your ex) not making each other cry a whole lot.

The whole reason you’re asking whether you made a mistake is, you’re a conscientious and empathetic person. And that’s also how I know you didn’t make a mistake. Congrats for cutting your losses and putting yourself out there! It’ll take time to find a good match, but it’ll be worth it. YOU will be worth it; you already are.
posted by armeowda at 5:19 PM on November 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

His idea of "working things out" seems to be about deliberately treating you like shit in hopes that you will desperately try to change yourself while he doesn't have to change at all.

He's looking for someone who will be willing to put up with his bullshit. If he's moved on already it's because he has determined you are too sensible and have to much self confidence and self regard to date him.

You are better off without him. Go no contact and you will get on with your fabulous life much faster and easier than if you stay in touch.

You seem like the sort of person who sees the best in people, and while that is a very admirable quality in some ways, if you are dating someone you should be aware that the less-than best side people show you early on is something you will only see more of over time. Make sure their less-than best is still a person you'd enjoy being around.
posted by yohko at 11:41 PM on November 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

He had a laundry list of issues with me, including things like I'm not affectionate or generous enough and the relationship might take too much time away from his career and fitness. He said it would have to be third or fourth priority in his life, which may be completely reasonable for a new relationship but was hurtful for me to hear. He asked if I would be ok being a "medium girlfriend". In spite of this, he wanted a relationship. It took three talks like this before I could make it through one without crying...

OMG I don't even know where to start with counting the ways in which this guy was a total dick. He was negging you and setting you up to be in a constant one-down position in the relationship, and he kept pushing the conversation when it made you cry!!!

You didn't lose a good guy, you lost the fantasy this one being a decent human being. You're now free to find somebody who knows how to treat someone properly. Give yourself a week or so to feel sad and wallow and then get on with your life, safe in the knowledge that you are not saddled with this jerk.
posted by rpfields at 7:22 PM on November 27, 2017

Thanks everyone. Really, all of the questions were helpful and I think I'll be rereading this over a few times. My mind (and my gut) said I would not be happy in that relationship. But it was the closest I've had to a "real" relationship so the loneliness and disappointment is hard to take.

I feel like I need to defend him a bit and say that I wasn't clearly telling him I was in love with him. Even then my gut was saying something was off so I was hesitating and he may have been acting defensively. But either way, it wasn't going to work. (Annoyingly, he is my only 99% match on OkCupid though)

bunderful - I think it is kind of like an addiction. It may be helpful for me to think of it that way.
amycup - I like that standard, I'll try to remember it!
metasarah - I do think I take time to feel excited about someone. I've only ever had 4 crushes in my life and with this guy I felt very pressured to feel as strongly as he did as early as he did which probably didn't help things.

Thanks again.
posted by seraph9 at 3:55 PM on November 28, 2017

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