My relationship is going downhill due to poor communication
February 5, 2019 8:42 AM   Subscribe

My boyfriend started out very sweet, engaged, excited, and involved but things have slowly devolved into silence, tension, lack of affection, and an inability to communicate despite how much reading and therapy and effort I'm trying to put in. I don't know what happened or how to give things one more attempt before throwing in the towel for good.

You can look up a past question that was posed at the very start of this relationship but I don't want to overwhelm you all with the details, since this is going to be long enough. Essentially, things started out pretty bumpy with my boyfriend not being in a place to commit (very understandable considering he had a full time job, training for a marathon, going to school part time, and working a part time job) but he would still act as if we were committed and when I brought up a few areas I needed more from him in (advanced notice on planning dates, initiating dates) he would throw up commitment as a reason for not being able to meet that need. We broke up a second time, and hardly talked for 5 weeks because I needed space to think, but he was anxiously contacting me every few days not letting me have that. I was ready to move on and he wasn't.

Eventually various things were said and done that led me to begrudgingly meet with him in person to talk as he explained everything. It took me about two weeks of deliberation but I decided to give it one last shot and man, things were good! I always knew you couldn't expect someone to change but boy was I a believer for the first 3 months or so. He told me when he was in a place he could commit he was a totally different person, and it certainly seemed so. On top of that he had a renewed positivity about his job position and was confident he would get the job he wanted soon. He was almost too all over me like a puppy at first, which I expected would slow down a bit to be a bit more mutual. My feelings came back for him slowly and he was very affectionate and constantly initiating back rubs, date ideas that he was excited about, “I love you”s, participating in taking love languages quizzes and sharing Gottman articles, etc. I was thrilled that he was putting in work on the relationship on his end. After a few months of what felt like my first healthy, happy relationship he started moving things in so he was essentially living here (although not yet paying since he can't afford it yet) which made me pretty happy since I always wanted to live with a partner.

Unfortunately right before the holidays it started slowly descending into old patterns of him seemingly being more quiet, disinterested, spending time staring off into space and not engaging much in conversation, etc. We started arguing over ridiculous things that shocked me he would get so angry or defensive about, starting with the time he thought my neutrally asking him not to dump out my unfinished La Croix was me nitpicking at him for not pulling his weight at home or something, and freaked out and got very angry when I casually asked him at dinner for the first time if it were possible for him to pay me back on the food bills we were splitting so I could budget my month. He thought because I simply asked that it meant I needed it RIGHT now even though he just paid me back a few weeks ago. I just wanted to ask the question and he could have calmly stated that we should set expectations or asked if we could wait or whatever, but he blew up and got mad that I asked that question when we were out for Thai. We never discussed money before this and had not yet discussed what we were or weren’t comfortable with, so I had no idea he would be so upset by this.

For the last two months I’ve been learning all I can about communication, reading Gottman’s work on the 4 horsemen (BF exhibits defensiveness, stonewalling, and contempt quite heavily) and other communication books (currently reading Difficult Conversations which is totally awesome and eye opening for me), and I’ve been in therapy since before this relationship, particularly working on communicating my needs which I struggle with due to having a difficult mother (I suspect BPD). I try to tell my boyfriend during arguments that we should be talking as a “we”, us versus the problem, not blaming and defending. I use “I” statements, but I have a hard time in the moment recognizing whether my communication is effective or not. I try really hard to ask him questions to understand his background and perspectives, but whenever I say reasonable things he just doesn’t speak unless I slip up and say something he finds offensive or hurtful, and then that is what we talk about instead. If I ask him too much he just says “I’ll try harder” or something generic that doesn’t acknowledge what I was saying and gets mad at me for pressing, so I lay off.

I literally cannot understand what is going on with him or how to talk about things because he doesn’t share, whether I bring things up in calm or difficult times. The only things he will share are his past, which we talk about a lot. His mother is a narcissist and his dad was physically present but that was about it. He says he’s used to a lot of screaming matches and passionate arguments, and even told me that he used to not realize what I was saying was so important to me because I wasn’t screaming or yelling them at him (in a letter he wrote me after we last broke up).

In social situations he still goes back to being his relatively loud, boisterous, excited self but I'm wondering if he maybe he’s depressed, which would certainly not be surprising considering how much he hates his job and wants to change careers after over a year of working towards it. But how can I know if he won’t tell me what’s going on? It’s either that or he is just this way when comfortable. But then who was this man for the first three months and where did he go? I feel terribly confused and a little tricked, and this honestly is not the first time it’s happened to me where things were not good with an ex, we break up, get back together because he regrets it and things are just amazing for exactly 3 months and then dissolves again (only with the ex breaking things off). It's weirdly similar, even though the relationships and people are quite different in many ways. Sometimes I wonder if it’s just me and my expectations making the people I date irritated and I’m expecting too much, which was certainly how the last relationship felt. I doubt it’s entirely my fault, but there’s a piece of me that still questions this…

So meta filter– I guess my question was initially going to be how to talk to my boyfriend about possibly going to therapy (individual or couples), but now I’m wondering if anyone has had similar experiences and had epiphanies and could explain to me what is happening. Every few days things will be really good and nice and I don’t want to end things, but I don’t see a future for us if this continues.
posted by korrasamus to Human Relations (41 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
despite how much reading and therapy and effort I'm trying to put in

You can't do it for him. He doesn't want to do it. You are way over the line with your diagnoses and trying to train in methodologies to fix him if only he would do what you want. He is who he is, you have no right to demand anything else from him. You can ask, in the sense of expressing your needs, but you don't get to answer for him.

Your move here, because you cannot force or manipulate him into doing it, is to decide YOUR boundaries: do you want to be in a relationship like this, or do you not? If no, exit the relationship. It sounds like this guy would be great if he would just be someone else entirely, which isn't how it works. You are doing long-term damage to yourself at this point, from the contortionism involved.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:48 AM on February 5 [41 favorites]


When I read your post my first reaction was: viable relationships are not this hard while you are living them.

So I'd step back from any further rumination and DTMFA.
posted by mathiu at 8:50 AM on February 5 [29 favorites]


I’m wondering if anyone has had similar experiences and had epiphanies and could explain to me what is happening

What is happening is he is showing you that he is not ready, emotionally or in practical terms, for an adult relationship. Send him on his way so he can pay for his own room and board somewhere else, and the next time you think about cohabiting with someone, talk about money first.
posted by headnsouth at 8:51 AM on February 5 [57 favorites]


I believe it will all fall into place once you meet the right person (and are ready for them yourself). So keep thinking about yourself and your values - but don't try to change yourself in order to improve "the fit" with anybody's life or patterns.
posted by mathiu at 8:52 AM on February 5 [5 favorites]


This does not sound like a relationship I would want to be in for any amount of time. Also, a healthy person would not throw a fit when you ask him to split the grocery bill for both of your food.

Those relationship books and studies also say that moving in together should be a formal decision and not something you slide into out of convenience. It is definitely too early in the relationship to be letting someone live with you without paying rent and, quite frankly, it sounds like he's mooching off you.
posted by Penguin48 at 8:57 AM on February 5 [14 favorites]


I've been in this relationship. Being alone is so much better I can't even articulate it.

Add up in your mind all the time it took you just to write this post. Think of all the glorious things you could be doing with just that time! Now multiply it by eternity. That's how much time this man will take from you. Every minute you stay is a minute you lose.

Take care of yourself.
posted by sockermom at 8:59 AM on February 5 [99 favorites]


After a few months of what felt like my first healthy, happy relationship he started moving things in so he was essentially living here (although not yet paying since he can't afford it yet) which made me pretty happy since I always wanted to live with a partner.

Red flag.

We never discussed money before this and had not yet discussed what we were or weren’t comfortable with, so I had no idea he would be so upset by this.

REDDER FLAG.

So let me get this straight: you got back together with this flinchy, hot/cold guy who is now living with you rent free, you've never discussed money with him, he's flying off the handle when you gently ask him to pay you back for something, AND the relationship isn't even that fun?

I can't answer your question about where that fun, enthusiastic guy went. People change in relationships, especially when you start to get more comfortable with each other, and it makes sense that he'd be more boisterous in social situations than out in the wild. But, good grief, a relationship shouldn't require this much one-sided work from you.

Your relationship is going downhill because your financially dependent boyfriend wants to have his girlfriend cake without all the messy commitment. I can guarantee that you will feel a thousand times better once you break up with him.
posted by nerdfish at 9:02 AM on February 5 [43 favorites]


Hey. You are doing a ton of awesome work on yourself and on how to have a relationship, but he's not participating and you can't make him, no matter how much work you put in. It honestly doesn't sound like he's a very nice person, or as though he's nice to you, or as though he's acting in good faith. His refusal to contribute to your rent is also bullshit - either he's living with you and paying, or he's not really living with you.

There is a particular class of jerks out there who will start a relationship where they are like "oh you're the best, I adore you, blah blah" and then when they've convinced you that they're cool, the mask drops and they start acting like this guy. The only thing to do is get out.

Find someone who wants to communicate and date that person. I promise you they are out there.
posted by bile and syntax at 9:06 AM on February 5 [11 favorites]


He's a bum.

He's a bum and a moocher and he prioritizes things above you which shouldn't be.

It's not working and it's not healthy and it's not fun. DTMFA.
posted by Capt. Renault at 9:08 AM on February 5 [16 favorites]


And to answer your question about whether anyone has had an epiphany about a relationship like this, I can guarantee that almost everyone reading your question is thinking of a deadbeat ex they've had in the past, and the epiphany was wishing they'd broken up with them sooner. The sooner you end this relationship the sooner you can find a relationship with someone great who isn't this much work.
posted by nerdfish at 9:17 AM on February 5 [25 favorites]


Oh dear. You can’t be the only one doing work in this relationship. It’s like you’re trying to find the answer or a key to make it all work. I’ve been there, feeling like I need to understand it in order to know what to do. Here’s the thing: all this work might be worth it if he was doing the work too, but he’s not. It sounds like he’s not working on himself or your relationship. He’s not meeting you even close to half way.

Those first few months are fueled by new relationship energy, when we are our best selves. That stage never lasts. It may be that he can only be that person for short bursts at a time. But who he is now—that’s who he is.

Find someone who will meet you on the bridge.
posted by bluedaisy at 9:18 AM on February 5 [2 favorites]


You're trying so hard. I mean, I'm sure you have your flaws as a partner, but you have a moocher sitting on your couch eating your food and you're doing all this work trying to get him just to talk to you. This is not worth your time or effort. Toss the bum out.
posted by praemunire at 9:21 AM on February 5 [8 favorites]


At first I went looking in your question for commonality with my husband, who occasionally gets moody and withdrawn when he's very stressed at work, but noooo. No commonality at all.

What you've described here is just a mooch who isn't that into you (which is why he doesn't seem happy around you -- he isn't) and is staying because you're letting him live rent free in your place. Get dumpin'. In three months this will be just be a vague memory in your "ugh why did I even date that guy" album (which we all have! It's ok. Just get him out of your house and life and into the album, pronto.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:25 AM on February 5 [11 favorites]


This person does not want the same kind of relationship you want. He may not ever want it with you. It's time for you to decide what YOU want to do, and do it. You can't make people have the kind of relationship you want to have. You can see if they want the same thing, and if they don't - then you have to decide what you're going to do with that information. But that "whatever" won't involve them unless you want to live in an unbalanced dynamic. You can't force someone to be your best friend, you can't force someone to be your partner. That's the very definition of pushing on a rope.

Communicate clearly to soon-to-be-former boyfriend that he has to make new living arrangements soon. Give him 2 months to move. Be prepared to find a new place to live yourself and move out and leave him behind, if he won't move. I would say "give him 2 months to either start paying 50% of the rent and utilities, or move out" but I think you've let this go on too long, you both need the reset.
posted by Tailkinker to-Ennien at 9:25 AM on February 5 [3 favorites]


Do you think your boyfriend is spending time and effort wondering what's going on in your head? We women spin ourselves in circles trying to justify our totally reasonable needs for respect and intimacy in a primary relationship. People who really, deeply know they deserve these things don't feel they need to explain or justify or analyze why they do or why the other isn't supplying it. Please try to believe you deserve it. If you had a few kids and a mortgage together you'd need to do this kind of work to get to a place you can live and breathe, but you don't need to do that here.
As a friend of mine says, you can't get an orange from a hardware store. You want a sweet, nutritious, juicy orange and no amount of talking to the hardware store clerks is going to make one appear.
posted by nantucket at 9:37 AM on February 5 [20 favorites]


Like others here, I think this relationship is unlikely to be successful in the long term, and if you were my friend my advice would probably be to cut your losses and split up now.

That said, I had a couple of thoughts that I wanted to share:

1. I disagree with some of the other posters here who suggest that worthwhile relationships are not difficult. Obviously a relationship that is persistently difficult is a problem, but I also believe that an otherwise healthy relationship can be very challenging for a period of time, and still be worth pursuing. Don't trick yourself into believing that a good relationship will never be hard.

My bias: My bf and I have been together for about 2 years, and are very, very happy. But we definitely struggled for a few months last year, as we dealt with moving in together and figuring out how to communicate about important issues. Today we are both really happy, but we both grew up and worked hard to get here. Relationships are always evolving.

2. Gently, I think you handled the splitting food bill conversation very poorly, and while he should not have gotten "very angry" (a red flag indeed) you should have approached the whole discussion better. It's important to remember that money is very stressful for a lot of people, especially people who are lean like your bf. Given that you two had never discussed money in any context, I imagine he felt blindsided and overwhelmed to have it sprung on him, especially in public. A better approach would be to say, in private, "Hey bf, I'd like to talk about how we split bills. Would tomorrow be a good time for that? Now, what movie should we watch tonight?" And then have the actual conversation in private, too.

3. It sounds like you are in the position of power in the relationship (mostly because it seems like you are working to "train" or "teach" him how to act, but also more concretely just because you seem to have more financial stability than he does). That can really take a toll on a relationship. It sounds like he is anxious and, as a result, defensive. That's obviously a major problem, and I don't mean to suggest you should just accept that behavior, because you shouldn't. However, if you decide to stick things out, it might be helpful to try and understand why he acts the way he does.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 9:55 AM on February 5 [3 favorites]


I (m) had a somewhat similar dynamic with my ex. I drove myself into a serious state of depression and anxiety trying to fix the relationship. We did make a lot of progress through shared work (therapy, meds, separation) but ultimately it didn't work out.

Some people are framing this as your partner is a bad person who doesn't put work in. That might be true! But I found that when I thought of it as something willful--something my partner could control and chose not to--it made me feel worse. Why couldn't she just realize or follow the strategies I suggested? Was she just mean and I'd been a terrible judge of character?

Instead, it helped me to think of her (and me) as not being the right place in our lives, with the right communication needs and the right support systems, to help each other. In a sense, that the relationship was not capable of working through no fault of our own. And since I'd tried so hard I was pretty certain about my side of the equation.

(The dead end here is saying, "Well, I can be that support system and get them to a better place." From your discussion of how much strain this is putting on you I'd say that looks like a dangerous path. For me, taking on all that emotional strain on my own (without meds, without therapy, mind you) was a huge part of triggering a major depressive episode and periodic anxiety attacks. And it didn't help my partner, either.)

For what it's worth, we have parted on very amicable terms after going through this process and remain dear friends, but it was a very rough couple of years. I'm rooting for you!
posted by col_pogo at 9:57 AM on February 5 [9 favorites]


You guys just sound really incompatible. He is scared to commit and has been jerking you around for the last two years, and you're trying to do workbooks for married couples with him. It's just not going to work. Believe everyone here who is telling you that it shouldn't be this hard (of course all relationships have hard times, but you are still trying to persuade him to even just act like a boyfriend) and that you will regret not breaking up sooner.
posted by cakelite at 10:17 AM on February 5 [1 favorite]


But then who was this man for the first three months and where did he go?

This reminds me of what Dan Savage refers to as "new relationship energy," but in the context of this:

The only things he will share are his past, which we talk about a lot. His mother is a narcissist and his dad was physically present but that was about it. He says he’s used to a lot of screaming matches and passionate arguments, and even told me that he used to not realize what I was saying was so important to me because I wasn’t screaming or yelling them at him (in a letter he wrote me after we last broke up).

and this:

I try really hard to ask him questions to understand his background and perspectives, but whenever I say reasonable things he just doesn’t speak unless I slip up and say something he finds offensive or hurtful, and then that is what we talk about instead.

and this:

Unfortunately right before the holidays it started slowly descending into old patterns of him seemingly being more quiet, disinterested, spending time staring off into space and not engaging much in conversation, etc.

It sounds like there may be some important issues he could address with a therapist, because he may still be experiencing a lot of pain from his parental dynamics, and it may be related to the challenges in your own relationship. There's something about your description of the communication patterns that sounds like he has some therapeutic work to do, especially in light of how you frame the conclusion to your question:

I don’t want to end things, but I don’t see a future for us if this continues.
posted by Little Dawn at 10:18 AM on February 5 [3 favorites]


I literally cannot understand what is going on with him or how to talk about things because he doesn’t share, whether I bring things up in calm or difficult times.

Oh, hey, this was my parents. My father also came from an incredibly messed-up family of origin. Long story short, it was an unhappy marriage and we were relieved when it ended.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:13 AM on February 5 [3 favorites]


You are twisting yourself into a pretzel trying to make it work. There's no hidden epiphanies and no magic words you can speak to make someone love you or commit to you. You can be 200% perfect and loving and the other person still might not want to reciprocate. There's freedom in letting go. All the best to you.
posted by M. at 11:27 AM on February 5 [6 favorites]


Hard work is an excellent thing, but there are areas of life experience in which one can work too hard, and one of them is relationships. Romantic relationships and friendships among peers must be equitable to be healthy, and it is never one person's responsibility to make the other person put in the effort required to make their relationship work or to treat them with care and respect. It's like the two of you are rowing a boat together. Both people in the boat have an obligation to do an equal share of the rowing, and they should also do their part of the work reasonably willingly and pleasantly so as not to burden the other person with any sort of unnecessary emotional labour. If your partner does nothing but rest on their oar and/or throws a tantrum when asked to put a reasonable level of effort in their rowing, it is neither your job to do their rowing for them nor is it up to you to coax them into doing it, and if you try to row the boat on your own in the hope that you'll eventually somehow get the other person to start doing a full, fair share of the rowing, all that will happen is you'll exhaust yourself and waste time going around in circles.

If you're paying all the rent and he throws a tantrum because you asked him politely to pay for his share of the groceries, you're doing too much and he isn't pulling his weight. If you're trying really hard to understand why he's sulky and uncommunicative and he's going right on being a pout, you're trying too hard and he isn't putting in the effort to make your relationship work.

Let all this extra rowing go. Let this deadbeat go. And in future, take a stand early on and refuse to do more than half the work of making a relationship happen. Decide what you can live with from him and ask for that, and if the guy won't step up to the plate, don't try to make him. Just keep dating and making your life as enjoyable and rewarding as you can on your own until you find the kind of guy who values you enough to step up.
posted by orange swan at 11:50 AM on February 5 [11 favorites]


I really appreciate all the straight-talking and it is very clear what needs to be done. However, I do want to clear up that while he is somewhat "mooching" here, he was previously staying at his parents' house which doubles his commute and we were both tired of him having to drive all the way out there to exchange clothes and such so he just brought them over. It also made me feel more comfortable with his lack of planning/desire for spontaneity because I at least knew I'd see him every evening even if we didn't have plans or had individual things to do before going to bed together.

Also, he has had no problems with paying me back consistently (we split groceries, food, etc. on an app). However, I think he tends to assume intent when I ask questions and jumps to conclusions that typically assume the worst of me, and so he thought my asking about when he might pay meant "Are you finally going to pay me back?" or at least that would explain to me the level at which he reacted.

I did completely leave out all of the ways he has still been caring and sweet and contributes and he's suggested recently that he thinks I overlook the ways he shows he cares when I've brought up feeling lack of appreciation or connection. But he also disregards any opportunity to accept responsibility for any hurt because if it wasn't his intention I guess it doesn't require apology.

I definitely struggle with knowing when am I putting in too much work versus when am I just making problems and catastrophizing normal relationship conflicts. I had poor models of conflict and boundaries growing up and so I'm still working on trying to "calibrate" my meters. It's definitely gotten better thanks to therapy and growth and I know what I need to do– I think I was just looking for validation because the change in personalities was pretty jarring and caused me to question my own perceptions.

I am a little worried about how to bring it up and when. I was going to wait until the weekend when we have space for him to get his things and leave. He hooked up a bunch of stuff (router, computer, few other things) that he'll have to spend a bit of time undoing, and I'm quite stressed as to how he is going to react. He uncharacteristically blew up at me on the phone (yelling, accusing me of being deceitful, "psh"ing what I had to say) the last time we broke up and it left me feeling extremely apprehensive to the point where I had him pick up his things while I was gone (he had less stuff then) and I wasn't sure what to expect. I really don't think he is the kind of person to get physically destructive or take anything but I guess I don't really understand who he is inside, considering how out of the blue his last verbal assault was. This week I'm trying to reach out to friends that I've neglected (and have honestly been neglectful themselves– relationships really are so much work) since I have had no one to talk to about my feelings lately except my therapist.
posted by korrasamus at 1:01 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


This week I'm trying to reach out to friends that I've neglected (and have honestly been neglectful themselves– relationships really are so much work)

Not really? When you're young there's a tendency to get super-wrapped-up on one another at the start and ghost your friends but it's normal to reconnect unless you're being held hostage. But that's about being besotted and stupid on love. It isn't about a relationship requiring so much hard work that you have no capacity to maintain friendships. Relationships should never be that much work.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:36 PM on February 5 [6 favorites]


Ugh. This dude is leaching off you emotionally and financially and doesn’t like to be called on it. Your “explanation” of how that is not so bad because he was previously doing the same to his parents explains a lot, but not in the way you think—he’s probably getting nasty with you because he’s starting to cast you in the maternal role. It’s only normal for boys to rebel against their mamas, right?

Also, are these the same parents whom he blames for being screwed up? If so, isn’t it a teeny bit of a red flag that he is still enmeshed and dependent on them?

You are doing a lot of great work in learning about good communication and that work will be very helpful to you when you meet a partner who is mature enough to want a relationship and prepared to put some effort into it. That is not this guy.

Take care of yourself and DTMFA.
posted by rpfields at 1:48 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


He uncharacteristically blew up at me on the phone (yelling, accusing me of being deceitful, "psh"ing what I had to say) the last time we broke up and it left me feeling extremely apprehensive to the point where I had him pick up his things while I was gone (he had less stuff then) and I wasn't sure what to expect. I really don't think he is the kind of person to get physically destructive or take anything but I guess I don't really understand who he is inside, considering how out of the blue his last verbal assault was. This week I'm trying to reach out to friends that I've neglected (and have honestly been neglectful themselves– relationships really are so much work) since I have had no one to talk to about my feelings lately except my therapist.

Oh, wow, this sounds really stressful. Do you have any good male friends or family members or couple friends that you can ask to be present around when this all goes down? Sometimes having someone else around can help diffuse things.
posted by bluedaisy at 2:12 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]


This guy is emotionally stunted and/or closed off and sounds like he’s taking on some of the narcissist tendencies he’s described in his father. Denying his responsibility in your emotional reactions to his behavior by dismissing it as “not what he intended” is key. “Pshing” you over the phone is denying that he could have had a hand in your initial break-up. He wants nothing more than to guard his ego and be right. I also agree that he doesn’t want what you want out of a relationship or isn’t open to it with you and honestly doesn’t seem to want to care about you or your needs. Sounds like he just doesn’t want the ego blow of being dumped and seeing you move on TBH.

I guess my question is what do you get out of this, other than someone who is sweet occasionally? I mean, most people have the capacity to be sweet sometimes. That’s a pretty low bar. I’ve been there. I really wanted someone I thought I clicked with to be my partner in crime and I was ready for it. He wasn’t. You can’t force a circle to fit into a square hole etc. You should be kind to yourself and know what what you want in a partner is reasonable and obtainable, just not with this guy. Don’t waste any more time or cause any more damage to yourself.
posted by Young Kullervo at 2:14 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]


I'm still working on trying to "calibrate" my meters. It's definitely gotten better thanks to therapy and growth and I know what I need to do– I think I was just looking for validation because the change in personalities was pretty jarring and caused me to question my own perceptions.

Trust your judgment - you saw the red flags! You just responded by stating your needs, breaking up, hesitating to get back together, and trying to work around them. That is understandable - you want to be in a committed relationship, you want to live with a partner, you want to support your person.

Those are all reasonable desires! The trick is to look objectively at what is in front of you and honestly assess whether it aligns with what you're looking for. This guy wasn't ready for prime time. Maybe the next guy will be - maybe not!

I was a slow learner with this stuff. But looking back I can see that each time I slid into an unequal relationship, I extracted myself from it sooner than I had before. Finally I learned to trust my judgment on the front end instead.

You'll get there. Good luck with getting this guy gone. I'd have a friend there with you if you can.
posted by headnsouth at 2:15 PM on February 5 [7 favorites]


I think it's really hard to change automatic reactions in relationships and it doesn't sound like he is ready to go there and identify his problematic reactions and work on changing them.

From experience, when you have to break out the Gottman so early in a relationship and are questioning your communication skills because somehow these fights are your fault (according to him), despite you trying very very hard to communicate perfectly, the relationship outlook is not great. You should not be having to try so hard to have a good daily life together and have fun dates and talk about money.

This guy will keep doing this cycle of showing his true colors (which yes we can feel bad for him but you can't fix him), and being on good behavior to win you back. If you can find a secure partner you will be so much happier.

For breaking up, pack a weekend bag with your dearest valuables, break up over the phone and be at a friend's house for the weekend so he can move out. If he gives you a hard time/refuses to leave file a police report and consider breaking your lease if legally he has a right to be there and the police won't do anything. Hope it doesn't come to that!
posted by lafemma at 2:48 PM on February 5


Stick a fork in it, this one is done. Pack his things up for him, leave them at his parent’s house. Break up with him over the phone and then block him - and yes, with this guy, you will have to block him. Then phone up the friends you’ve been neglecting and go out for a drink and thank your lucky stars that you dodged this bullet. Best of all, if you get cracking you can be done and dusted by tomorrow!
posted by Jubey at 3:07 PM on February 5 [4 favorites]


Look around at the couples you see having fun together. None of them perfectly reads the other's mind and says the exact perfectly calibrated thing all the time. Rather, happily coupled people give each other a lot of good will and benefit of the doubt and heap a lot of glow on each other to get by most of the time. The "work" is once in a while. You should not have to say the exact right thing at the exact right time about ordinary life stuff (like his paying you back) in order to feel safe and loved. If you had a BPD mother you might not know this instinctively but you deserve to feel safe and happy with your beau without working yourself into being perfect first.
posted by nantucket at 3:11 PM on February 5 [12 favorites]


Also, him blowing up on the phone doesn’t sound like it’s uncharacteristic. It sounds like this is the real him and given that you’ve only been together for a few months, you’re finally learning who that is and it ain’t pretty. If you don’t want to see more of that delightful person, definitely don’t allow him back in the house.
posted by Jubey at 3:13 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


Contempt on either side is a death knell for a relationship. If he won't treat you as he'd like to be treated, you have to leave. You are working to save the relationship that you had before...it's gone.
posted by wryly at 5:27 PM on February 5


If you are near the Dfw metroplex, and need a warm body, I’ll be happy to come have tea with you when he comes.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 7:37 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


Your question is what is happening... what I notice happening is that you are trying to make work a relationship that isn't working. You make excuses for his behavior and level of commitment. (He's not committing to you because he's busy?-- That's not how relationships work exactly.) He would make time for you if he wanted to. But you don't expect him to so why should he change? Why? Do you believe you do not deserve better? You do. We all do. In your follow up you again you try to explain reasoning for moving in with you. You frame this as your problem that you've done all the things and reading to get better at communicating. It takes two. You can only do so much. Now you have to choose whether you can accept him as he is now. He will not change most likely.
posted by jj's.mama at 2:34 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


Well last night we ended up having a conversation that led down to essentially what I was preparing to talk to him about this weekend and it did not go super well.

He seemed to think my willingness to break up came as a surprise and that I hadn't shared this all with him before wanting to break up, even though I told him all of the ways I'd like us to work on this before saying we should break up (including just hearing him say the words, "I want to work on this" or "how can I/we improve things?") I proposed therapy and he did say he was open to it but couldn't afford it. He jumped to a ton of conclusions about me out of hurt and took a lot of the things I said in ways that I did not at all intend and it felt like he was twisting everything I was saying.

He also kept bringing up things I had said in the past that cut him deeply even though we had already talked about it and I owned up to them– and we would disregard how I felt hurt even when I pointed out he kept redirecting things back to me. He seemed to think the distance I had noticed was only him responding to my pulling away (and I thought I was pulling away much later in response to his distance over time first...)

He took some of his stuff and left, then called me and we talked way more calmly where he said he didn't expect me to end it so coldly (I didn't try and stop him from packing up and was acting calm but sad the whole time). He told me he was experiencing situational depression because of his situation and how he really hated being the person who can't even contribute to rent or spend money on more dates. I told him that I wished he had shared more about how he was feeling and that I wouldn't have taken it so hard when he was being cold and distant if he had told me he was feeling depressed. Instead he would just saying "nothing" or "I'm fine" when I asked what was wrong if he was visibly grumpy/down.

While I still believe that communication doesn't need to be this difficult or fraught with emotion (I'm naturally not very emotional when I talk about touchy subjects and it's off-putting when he takes it there immediately), he has me questioning how I contributed to this. I'm wondering if I'm just really difficult to please and my expectations are too high for relationships, but I have no idea how I'd even conclude this one way or the other! I definitely have a lot more work to do with my therapist...
posted by korrasamus at 11:27 AM on February 8 [2 favorites]


I just read your update and, while I’m very sorry you are going through this, it confirms for me that this guy is emotionally immature and not ready to relate to somebody at the same level as you. Relationships are always a two-way street and ideally, both parties should seek to understand the other person and work together for the good of the relationship, even if it’s uncomfortable in the moment.

You are doing a lot of work on your own communication styles, the way you deal with emotional issues, etc, that will benefit your future relationship when you find someone who is able and willing to be an equal partner. In the meantime, don’t let this guy gaslight you or bring you down.
posted by rpfields at 11:59 AM on February 8


he has me questioning how I contributed to this
It's always healthy to think about this. However, please also pay attention to this:

it felt like he was twisting everything I was saying
It sounds like he was frustrated and manipulating the situation so he could try to make it sound like your fault, like you are the bad guy.

I suspect when you have a bit of distance, you'll be able to see more clearly the bad things.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:21 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


Is anything EVER this guy's fault? Does he ever own up to anything unreservedly without needing to share the blame, like "sorry, my bad, I messed that up" or is it always some kind of surprise that he's encountering consequences for his behavior, always some extenuating circumstance that makes it never his fault or responsibility?

Your boundaries and expectations are not automatically bad because someone doesn't like them. Especially when someone doesn't like them because it means they can't take advantage of you. Gaslighters get pissed, and eventually dangerous, when their gaslighting doesn't work. Dudes who want free room and board will try to make their case when the sweet deal is ending. You "contributed to this" by having standards (not even great ones!), which is a bad deal for him.

People end marriages over exactly the kind of behavior you've outlined here. You are not overreacting or being hard to please by expecting your partner to be an adult and share the burden of not only your general life survival but of making the relationship a nice place to be. He does not appear to like anything you ever do, so he can't really like you all that much, he just liked what he could get from you.

Finish cleaning house and move on.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:49 PM on February 8 [3 favorites]


This is a classic case of a relationship that has run its course. You are not going to fix him and you're never going to be happy in this relationship. The guy has issues that go deeper than you can handle and if you remain in the relationship, he's only going to waste your time. He'll say anything to get back with you when you leave but go back to being a douche once you get back with him. My advice is for you to end the relationship and cut ties with him. You'll be so much happier being alone than being in this relationship. No relationship is worth this much work. Get Out!!
posted by sewbee at 12:39 PM on February 10


1. You are doing all the work.
2. He exhibits contempt, and contempt is a deal-breaker.
3. Pay less attention to his words. Pay more attention to his actions
4. Are really better off with him or really better off without him?

Stop trying. Live your live and be awesome. If he wants to join wonderful you and have a great life, maybe you'll let him. That's the only way to live. It's fine to accomodate another persons quirks, preferences, etc., as long as they accommodate yours. But you are tying yourself in knots for him and that is not sustainable.

Best of luck.
posted by theora55 at 2:54 PM on February 11


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