Why do I continue to go back to him
February 21, 2018 1:32 PM   Subscribe

I'm desperate for help. I cant understand why I continue to fall for a man who continues to hurt me? *longer version*

Im desperate for help.
I grew up being the care taker of my family members. Both my parents wrre alcoholics and my sister was handicapped mentally.
My mother passed away three years ago, and soon after that I met someone. We will call him Adam.
When we met, I was an emotional disaster. To this day I can hardly remember that entire year because the pain was unbearable. Its all a blur.
I didnt find Adam attractive. The moment we met I wanted nothing to do with him. When we kissed, I felt no spark. Adam felt something else apparently.
Over the course of two years, adam tried to win my heart. He would drive an hour to take me to lunch for 30minutes and take me back to work, than an hour home. When I moved closer he drove me two hours to a furniture store, drove it all to my house, and set it up for me. He knew about my rough past, and didn't care at all about it. He still wanted to be involved.
We would talk off and on. Apparently his ex moved in for 6 month sometime during that, and moved out.
In all honesty, I was still an emotional mess. I told him I wanted nothing to do with him and I didnt want to be with him. Yet he still made small kind attempts to show me I should give him a chance.
So... I did. He doubted us a lot, asking if I was sure. He was confused why I suddenly agreed. But I did.
I moved in, and it wasnt great.
I blamed him for everything. I honestly have never felt so much hate for someone before... I dont know what was wrong with me.

We broke up after 3 months and I left. But soon after I realized what I'd given up, and he was gone. This started a cycle. I slept at his house every other night or so for 9 straight months. Towards the end I told him he needed to be with me or let me go. But he would get lonely and depressed, and based on who I am... Im a care taker.
I found out he had been taking to his ex the entire time. That he couldnt be with me because he wished I was her. That I treated him like trash and he only kept me around because he cant be alone and I have abandonment issues.

I told her everything. She had no idea we were sleeping together, and how I was "treating" him was about that opposite of what he said.
At this point he lost both of us. He was alone. Of course, I fell for it.
He apologized to me and said sorry (which I didn't believe because he tried with her first, and he went ignored). He would send me flowers, and leave me notes. I started to speak with him again because he is really the only person in my life that's somewhat stable.( I have no family since my mother passed) And I had a pregnancy scare (ive only slept with him).
Little by little I started to give in. He tried hard. He told me he wanted to marry me and he would never hurt me like that again. And after 9 months, he asked me to be with him again.

And guess who showed up?
Of course, the ex.
She claimed she had cancer, and can you guess who he mad priority?
After only a month of everything she was back. I was torn, yet again. I didn't really feel his apology was sincerely, especially when he defended himself later and said we werent even dating so he didnt see why he was punished for talking to her (when he told me repeatedly he wasnt talking to or seeing any other girls).
She went away, since she didnt have cancer. But the wound was wide open. And I didnt trust him. I tried my hardest to be positive and communicate ways my therapist was teaching me, but he slowly shut down. Little by little he turned off his emotions. It felt like only a few months before, only I was on his facebook status.
Valentines day he ended it. After only dating for 4 months he said we werent working out and he didnt want to hurt me anymore. I was fine with it. I wasnt happy.
Here we are, a week later, and he continues to contact me. I deactivated my facebook, deleted him on all social media, and blocked his number. He will slip short messages to me throughout the day on instagram or texting. He left a letter on my door explaining how great of a person I am. He texts me he apologizes for doing this to me, and he cant eat or sleep.
I ignored him, of course. Until it got to the point he said he hopes I'm still alive.

I told him, it was his choice. His choice to leave. I tried to be reasonable and say it was 50/50 both our fault and we just werent a good match. But he kept saying hes sorry and he hates being alone.
When I told him I need to move on because he left me, he goes on to tell me it was basically all my fault, listing all the reasons why. And brings up his ex.
Apparently our relationship was horrible and he was never happy, but he didn't want to be alone. I dont understand. His ex cheated on him and tells him to kill himself. I dont do any of these.
To this day I dont know how I'm a horrible monster he makes me out to be. I really dont. All of my friends, including him at one point, tell me they love me around because I'm so positive. I own a new car, I have my own brand new apartment, I work full time, and school full time to become an elementary teacher.
I cry when I see cats locked in cages.
I know he is a sweet guy, but then he isnt. I dont understand why I feel the need to always run back to him.
Dating is so hard for me. I don't like affection until I absolutely know the person. It took me two years to not cringe with adam. I've been sexually assaulted in the past and in an abusive home I learned physical touch was only a negative.
I know I'm a good person. I know I cant be completely crazy in this whole thing. I like to believe my subconscious is somewhat right.

He's told me some things that bothered me. Examples:
He told me if he left I would run to some loser
Told me when I'd ask him why he wanted to be with me was because I was "the prettiest girl he has ever been with and doesnt want to be alone."
The whole thing with his ex. I always want to check his phone. I haven't, but he snapped at me when I attempted to once at the beginning
His best friend is an asian playboy model almost. I get upset when they hangout and he always choose their friendship over our relationship.
He talks bad about me to his family
He doesn't tell me when something is bothering him because he doesnt want me to get better at lying?????
He told me to pretend I was his wife and we had a child in the other room on my birthday, and I asked him why he said that and he told me he knew its what I wanted to hear.
I booked a trip to japan, and he completely shunned me over it. That was when he wad pretty much done.
Can someone explain to me why I continue to run back to this guy? Your opinions anyway. Im desperate..
Advice would also be great, thank you.
P.s we are in our mid 20s
posted by Deal to Human Relations (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You go back to him because he's a user, and users are good at charming people into acting against their interests.

Also, you seem to have very confused standards right now about what behavior is and isn't acceptable from a person you are seeing. He exploits that ambiguity, but, because you lack a clear sense of what you want and deserve from a partner, you are also easily swayed into following the emotions of the day into something that doesn't make you happy long-term.

But you know what? In the end, it doesn't matter. This guy is literally not worth one additional second of your time or energy. Not one. Don't try to solve him. Block him on any remaining social media channels. Don't read notes he leaves. You need to cut him out of your life completely. There is nothing for you there. NOTHING. N-O-T-H-I-N-G. He is taking up valuable space that you could fill with people who care about you.

Do try to solve you. You would benefit immensely, I think, from some therapy that could help you clarify what you are and aren't looking for in a relationship, learn to establish and maintain boundaries, and cope with conflict in intimate relationships (this is especially tough for survivors of abuse). Otherwise, I'm afraid you may find yourself repeating the cycle. Unfortunately, there will always be guys out there looking to hustle you.

You can do this. Just go on not engaging with him. Good luck!
posted by praemunire at 1:49 PM on February 21, 2018 [11 favorites]

"If you leave, you'll never find anyone as good as me" is a general very red flag in addition to all he particular ones in your question. Abusive relationships work because they're a crazy rollercoaster of all kinds of emotions, and once you've been off this ride for a while you may be able to figure out what kept you coming back. Right now, I wouldn't worry about the why and just worry about getting out and staying out. Go no-contact, enjoy your life, go to Japan without some asshole who tries to control your movements.
posted by hollyholly at 2:11 PM on February 21, 2018 [9 favorites]

He filled a void for you when your mother died and I think you might be afraid that if you let him go, you will face the void again. Trust me, facing the void is better for you than he is. It will be scary at first, but in time you will be so glad you let go. This is a horrible merry-go-round that won't ever change, so its time to get off. DTMFA - you deserve much better!
posted by NoraCharles at 2:11 PM on February 21, 2018 [5 favorites]

I think you know why you go back. I don't think a whole bunch of internet people telling you things you already know is going to result in a change in your behavior. If not this guy, it'll be the next. I think you need some serious tools to actually change your actions. I'm not really a therapy type, but I think you need a more action-based therapy, like CBT.
posted by Aranquis at 2:15 PM on February 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

I don't know you, of course, but I've known many, many women in similar situations. The reason they kept letting their "Adams" back into their lives was that they were just as afraid of being alone as Adam says he is. So much of their self-esteem was wrapped up in having a romantic partner that even the worst man in the world was better than none at all.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:55 PM on February 21, 2018 [9 favorites]

It seems to me that you aren't running back to him; he's dragging you back. He's using every trick he knows to manipulate and control you, because he knows that you are, for very good reasons, vulnerable to his techniques. You're not weak or stupid, you just have certain buttons that he can push. We all have things like that, but the things you've already been through mean that those pressure points are vulnerable to selfish and cruel people of his type. That's not a personal failing, it's simply something that your current situation exposes you to more than a lot of people.

So you don't have to become stronger or better. What you have to do is protect yourself from his attempts to use you. Which means, more than anything else, not giving in to any attempts to contact you. Do not respond to anything. Change your number. Make your Instagram account private. Do not leave a single inch exposed for him to get at. And if you ever doubt, for a second, that you're doing the right thing, come and read your post here.

I'd suggest thinking about telling your close friends about the situation. Explain to them that you are scared of him trying to lure you back. This could help create a social and psychological barrier to returning to him.

Above all, recognise that these are just practical steps to deal with the situation you're in. Put up those barriers so you haven't got to put all your emotional energy into keeping this person out of your life, or dealing with the mess he makes when he's in it. Then put your energy into things that make you happy, and help you like yourself more, so that, over time, the pressure points he is manipulating become less vulnerable. Counselling might well be one activity you try. It can be scary, but just being able to talk about your situation with someone who will listen and discuss it with you impartially is likely to bring some well deserved peace.

You deserve to have relaxation and stability and happiness, and you will. Start on that road by getting this person out of your way and out of your life.
posted by howfar at 3:06 PM on February 21, 2018 [3 favorites]

This Ask Polly question and answer might provide you with some insight.
posted by soelo at 3:13 PM on February 21, 2018 [4 favorites]

This is an incredibly toxic and harmful relationship. He only wants you when he can't have you, and as soon as he has you, he runs to the other woman. He is treating you badly and sounds abusive.

My guess is that the reasons you keep falling for him are:

(a) You've experienced a lot of disrespectful / unhealthy relationships (with your parents and with whatever awful person assaulted you). This means that many of your formative examples of love were unhealthy. That makes it harder to recognize red flags in other relationships.

(b) You've been lonely and hurt... so he's exciting and stimulating and you feel like he's a puzzle you can solve. When he was courting you, he turned himself into an addictive drug that could cure loneliness. Look up "Love Bombing" for more info on how he won you over. And now he can't cure loneliness any more because he's actually not a good boyfriend... so now you feel lonely even within the relationship.

(c) You've been taught to mistrust your own instincts and go against them. Your instinct is to leave him. But whenever you pull away, he sucks up to you until you think your instinct must be wrong, he must be a nice guy, and you give him another chance. He's manipulating you though. He's not nice. He's a liar and cheater and he says mean things to you (like you will date losers if you leave him... no you won't! Can he see the future? That's just a mean way to make you scared to leave him!)

The good news is, your instincts are GREAT- you didn't like him before and you don't like him now. You knew he was cheating (you wanted to check his phone), you wanted to break up. You can tell when his apologies are fake or when he's using you as second choice. You are so on-point with your instincts that you even hated him- a very reasonable reaction to how badly he's treated you!

The work you need to do is to make your behaviour match your instincts.

Right now your behaviour patterns (stay and make the best of it) are currently overriding your perfect instincts (leave him!!).

You just need to practice doing what your gut is telling you to do.
Cut him off. You'll feel sad and lost for a while, but it will be SO MUCH BETTER for you in the long run.

Therapy would probably help too- it sounds like you've had a rough couple of years. But you sound like a lovely, resilient person, and I wish you all the best!
posted by pseudostrabismus at 3:16 PM on February 21, 2018 [12 favorites]

He is not a nice or good person. This sounds like at least 60% poop and at best 40% milkshake. In fact, I'd label some of his stuff super manipulative, gaslighting or even abusive.

You don't need him. You just don't know how to take care of yourself, as a human being. You're well versed in human doing, (nursing, caretaking, job, car, apartment, etc) but it doesn't sound like you listen to yourself or prioritize your own health and well being and needs much.

And Mr Adam there fulfills your few listed needs of "attention" and "not being alone". Oh, and probably a unhealthy need for "drama" instilled in you by your rough past.

I'm guessing that it was less scary to be with him than to be on your own. And that equation has been changing. Now he's sucking up energy you need to change, heal, and grow. This relationship is all sorts of dysfunctional, and nothing will repair it. Enforce no contact. If you need to, there are plenty of Mefite scripts for "DO NOT CONTACT ME. EVER. for any reason. Period."

Any attempts he makes to contact you, block. Report to the police if necessary. And for the love of goodness, don't contact him no matter how sad or lonely or conflicted you get. He will provide zero closure. He will never make sense. Only you can create your own truths now, and only you can build the life you want and a life you deserve. He isn't it.

You are worth way, way way more than this.
posted by Jacen at 3:35 PM on February 21, 2018 [5 favorites]

It sounds like you don't trust your own feelings and you don't want to be alone, either. You know this guy isn't right for you, and all the things you list are great examples of why you shouldn't be with him. Not feeling a spark alone is enough, but on top of that, not to call him names, but he's been a real double-crossing jerk to you. Trust your feelings on that, not whatever nonsense he happens to tell you this day or this week (and man, he does seem to be full of nonsense). I think your subconscious is right on. I'd also suggest addressing some of the things you mention here in continued therapy, if you haven't started to do so already.

Not warming up to people quickly and past abuse shouldn't be reasons to 1. stay with someone who you realize is not good for you or 2. treat someone poorly yourself. Also, don't let recriminations or guilt (from yourself or anyone else) over how you treated him in the past, as you dealt with your own past, keep you justifying a situation that isn't good for you (e.g., self-talk like "No one else would have me," because you sound like a sweet, caring person who's legitimately making efforts to work through your own issues, and there are plenty of people who will care for you the way you deserve). You say he's the only person in your life who's somewhat stable; I'd say he doesn't sound stable at all and that you're setting the bar too low. That he keeps coming back around (or you keep coming back to him) doesn't mean he's stable or that you guys should be together, because he also kept cheating on you. (You should definitely get STI testing if you haven't.)

I've done something like you're doing myself, where I have at various times justified bad behavior in romantic relationships or other situations with some variation on "well, it could be worse, no one's hitting me." I know and you know this sort of thinking is setting the bar far too low. You grew up in a situation where you were not only forced to parent yourself and your sister, with alcoholic parents, but also endured abuse—that's so much to deal with, and you made it through it, but it sounds like you're super hard on yourself and judgmental of yourself as a result. You should read up on a couple search terms: parentification and narcissistic parents. When you're forced to parent yourself and you grow up in an environment where you are continually doubted and subjected to forces beyond your control, it can totally affect your ability to trust your own judgment that a situation isn't good for you. And it can leave you trying to care for others who you want to help because that's a role in which you feel comfortable. Like I noted recently in a comment on the blue, I realized at one point not long ago that I almost feel more comfortable sometimes when everything in my life is completely uncomfortable and I'm in crisis mode, likely because I became accustomed to just depersonalizing and pushing past difficult situations in an abusive household when I was growing up. I really feel for you on this front, and it seems to me that this will be important for you to work through too to avoid falling in with people who don't treat you well in the future, because something about them or the drama of the situations they surround themselves with feels familiar or like you're "coming home."

This guy has serious boundary issues—he cheated on you, he broke up with you, but when you were relieved to move on, took seriously the fact that it was ending, and cut off contact with him, he then refused to let it go. Everything has to be on this guy's terms, and he literally tells you what he thinks you want to hear, including inventing role-play scenarios in which you're his wife and you have a child together, then when you ask why he wants to do that, tells you he's doing it because he supposedly knows you want it? Don't let him tell you what you want. Don't wait for him to decide who he wants to be with this week or month. Decide for yourself (and hopefully decide against this dude) and stick to it.

You don't have to wait for him to grow up and quit being creepy about this, or decide he really wants you more than his ex (who sounds like she also has some potentially serious issues, if she made up having cancer and it wasn't just a scare—but it sounds like it's hard to know what's even real with her or them, and dwelling on what's up with her probably isn't useful). It doesn't actually matter what's up with the ex, beyond the fact that in secretly sleeping with both of you at the same time, he lied to you and put you at risk for STIs. Moreover, pitting you and his ex against each other is juvenile; if he's pulled in two directions in his desires, the only adult thing for him to do is make a decision and tell everyone involved, and/or candidly discuss it with both of you. That particular problem is his, not yours, but he's making you crazy over someone else when he's the one pulling the strings on the entire situation. A stable person doesn't make you fight over him with someone else or make the hard decisions for him.

Also, he shunned you over booking a trip to Japan? There's just no justifying this kind of controlling behavior. You weren't together very long at all and he's certainly not in charge of where and when you choose to travel. Don't let him appoint himself your travel director, either.

You are so worthy of being loved and treated well. You don't have to do anything to be worthy of that; that's the baseline treatment you should be able to expect from your romantic partner as a human being. Trust yourself, keep working on improving your ability to recognize bad behavior, accept nothing less than good behavior from your would-be partners, and don't let this guy keep manipulating you. His targeting you is also not your fault, and I wouldn't blame you if you still feel that desire to be with him (really, it sounds like, to be with someone, not necessarily him) from time to time, but as others have said above, your past experiences make you vulnerable to getting your buttons pushed in certain ways. Don't let him or anyone else take advantage of that.

And read the answers to this recent question and this follow-up as well. A lot of that advice also applies to your situation. Sending good thoughts your way!
posted by limeonaire at 3:59 PM on February 21, 2018 [5 favorites]

I kept going back until I got a cat. I couldn't bear the thought of that jerk being mean to my cat so I had to cut him out entirely. This was a calculated strategy that turned out to be one of the best decisions I've ever made in my life.

I kept going back because I didn't value myself. I valued the life and comfort of a cat that I barely knew over my own self. But that little kitty taught me SO MUCH about love and compassion and value and self-worth.

I went back because I was vulnerable and lonely and he knew just how to push my buttons to get me to jump.

Honestly I recommend working on your sense of self worth. Take a class to learn a new skill. Get a pet. Make things. You are worth so much and this guy can't stand that and wants to cut you down. Don't let him win.
posted by sockermom at 4:49 PM on February 21, 2018 [5 favorites]

You keep doing what you're doing with Adam because you've been conditioned. Your alcoholic parents were unpredictable, too, but they were the primary adults in your life so you had to try to puzzle out their behavior and forgive them over and over, because where else were you going to go? Yeah, they groomed you into being their caregiver, as well as your sibling's, out of necessity and convenience, but that role gave you the illusion of some control. And you segued into this awfulness with this guy, the same push-pull dynamic, the same feelings of confusion and responsibility. Trying to see the good, make the best of a bad situation, and feeling obligated to offer chance after chance.

Please don't let your fears and your limited experience try to shape this horror show into a "he's the one, he's a good man but troubled, we just need to work it out" narrative. He's not the one, he's treated you so poorly, and he's not a 'sweet guy' in the slightest. He belittles you, and given his infidelity you're fortunate you're not exiting this relationship with an STI. He does not deserve your loyalty and multiple fresh starts; sharing personal information and physical intimacy does not grant him an infinite free pass to your affections.

Also: in your future dating life, your desire to know someone well before you go to bed with them is not going to be a turn-off for the right, worthwhile partner.

You're only in your mid-twenties, and you've got so many positive things going for you in your life. Make a firm break with him, the same way you'd tell a friend in this situation to part ways with a guy like this; you know the way he treats you is beyond insulting. (Be with me, so I don't have to be alone is the opposite of sweet talk.) Make time to see a therapist, so unhealthy, dysfunctional relationships like this one won't dog you for the next 15-20 years.
posted by Iris Gambol at 5:54 PM on February 21, 2018 [4 favorites]

1. He's a jackass

2. You are addicted to him because you don't know any better.

3. Go off to Japan and forget about him. Have fun, learn new things!

4. Life your life without that guy.

5. Meet another guy who treats you well and is awesome.

6. Enjoy your new life!
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 7:33 PM on February 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

He has become your habit. He has become what you know and he has created the routine for you. You have to start creating new routines that deviate from the old ones, and clash with them. You will keep going back, investing more and more of yourself each time, until you reach the point you think you have put in too much to walk away.

You can cut your losses if you invest your time elsewhere doing something else. A new job, hobby, classes, friends, causes. Perhaps volunteering at a woman's shelter or woman's group would be a way for you to understand what you are actually going through. Perhaps a support group.

If you are orphaned, so to speak, you are also feeling the silent panic of being left alone in the world, and even an abusive something seems better than nothing. Find some friends, perhaps by taking some classes or workshops. Or go bargain hunting for furniture. Do something that does not involve your ex or things that he likes.

You have to find yourself. If you know who you are -- and it is hard when you have been taking care of other people (I know this one very well) to actually get caught up with yourself.

Good luck.
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 7:42 PM on February 21, 2018

I have some assignments for you.

1. Every time he tries to contact you, I want you to go back to that blah, spark-less first kiss and remember how meh it felt. Trigger sense-memory if you can! If you were wearing a certain perfume/lotion/deodorant back then, try to start wearing it again.

2. Every time you are tempted to rag on his ex, I want you to imagine that her cancer is real. If you speak ill of her out loud, donate a dollar to a relevant charity, or knit a hat for a chemo patient. If you think she is faking it, write a poem or short story from her point of view — be as sympathetic as possible.

3. I want you to start making a note of that “hole in my heart with un-kill-able pain” feeling (my mom died prematurely, and I know it all too well). When that feeling sets in, your first instinct is “find dopamine somewhere, anywhere” — and sometimes our feelings for a person work as well as any opioid against that pain. Unfortunately, the comedown is just as brutal. This is where you are — Adam is your Fentanyl, and the lows between the highs are devastating, and the highs are extremely dangerous. Admit this to yourself. Find a safer source of dopamine — I recommend running or comedy or music, but maybe you like trashy books or painting or dancing. But you have to pick one and name it out loud and go do it.

4. Sometimes it won’t be enough, and those are the times to take a break and just sit with the heartache for a minute. Talk to your mom — even if you don’t believe she exists anymore or can still hear you (I do, but YMMV). If you talk long enough, you’ll surprise yourself with guidance and insights you didn’t know you had. I promise.

5. Speaking of Fentanyl and dead people: Think of all the brilliant people who have ODed or been cut down by toxic partners in the prime of life, and make a promise that you’re going to break your addiction in honor of their memory. Being addicted to a person can be just as dangerous if that person is manipulative and obsessive and careless with you. Just like those people, you are valuable and worthy of love; the world needs you more than you need Adam.
posted by armeowda at 10:19 PM on February 21, 2018 [3 favorites]

You sound unhappy and your instincts tell you to run away - so you should leave! We support you! (Like the trolls in Frozen, we do!)

Anyway, I think you should first and foremost tell this guy that you learned a lot from this relationship (about how bad they relationships can be - haha but keep that part to yourself) and want to move on with your life. Then block him on everything, delete everything, have a grief ritual, and start a new chapter!

Other things:
- Get a pet
- Strengthen your other social ties
- Exercise
- FAKE IT! Pretend to be a method actor - like you are playing the role of someone working towards a better life/future, emerging from the shadow of an overly long abusive relationship - fake it as much as you can and when you break character, hit reset and start faking it again
- If you can afford it - go see a therapist! They are the pros
- Expect to feel terrible - but it will pass just push through

You're in your mid-20s, you have such a bright future ahead of you! This guy is not worth any more of your time, energy and life force... Hm I have felt unstable too and have had bad relationships so please message me if you want to talk. Big hug :)
posted by Crookshanks_Meow at 3:51 AM on February 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

I have a friend who is in such a similar situation, even down to the trip.

Everyone in her life feels so sad for her. We all wish she had enough self-esteem that she could break away and start living, really living her own life. Relishing it, fully inhabiting it, exploring it. Rather than balancing on the edge of someone else's.

Do whatever you have to do. Get a therapist, move somewhere new, start a new very time-consuming hobby, get a friend or friends to be your confessor every time you think about resuming contact.

But do it soon - your life is waiting.
posted by greenish at 6:33 AM on February 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you ever need a positive mental image, picture the Crones of Metafilter storming the beach with you, pitchforks sharpened, bottles broken, bra slings loaded, and pointy sticks pointied.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:02 AM on February 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

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