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April 1, 2019 10:30 AM   Subscribe

My promising new relationship is falling apart. Could you help me take perspective?

I started dating someone 4 months ago. At the beginning, it felt like the chemistry I’d been missing in all of my other relationships. We talked about everything. He was smart, accomplished, creative, and incredibly generous. He was incredibly loving, considerate, and 100% committed to me. We felt like a team. Even though I’ve tended to be an anxiously attached person, I felt very secure. I was so relieved to find someone who wasn’t going to string me along, like most of the other people I’ve dated had.

For the last couple of months, things have been increasingly hard. Initially, things shifted when I was looking for emotional support about something and he changed the subject. I had explained within the first week of our relationship that I need to talk things out when I’m upset and have had some issues with past partners not knowing how to give support, so I thought it was a good opportunity to gently bring it up, but he got defensive and upset. He had to leave town right after this, at which point I found out that my dog has terminal cancer. When I texted him about feeling stressed/sad, he kept changing the subject, telling me he was sure it would be fine (read: she’s dying), and asking me to talk about positive things instead. I got frustrated and upset and he got defensive and upset in return. Finally, a close friends texted me to end our friendship without explanation. He got frustrated with my emotional reaction (including rolling) his eyes, then spent the next hour arguing with me about whether it was valid to feel upset about it.

He experienced pretty awful child abuse, which I am certain is playing in here. He says he prefers to not talk about stressful things. Although he’s nearly constantly negative, he will never tell me about it because he feels that talking to people about your stresses puts stress on them. Although I’m generally a pretty even-keeled person and rarely very sad or anxious, when I mention anything not positive, he appears to see it as a complaint.

He has implied that he sees me as needy. I don’t think I need support from him at all- I've been single and self-sufficient for much of my adult life, I just want to have healthy relationships where we can communicate openly and acknowledge each others' perspective. He's still upset that I requested to proportionally split rent by income (note, moving in together is no longer a thing). He described me as he saddest person he’s ever known, but also the most privileged. During a fight about this, he described me coming to him for support with the situations with my dog and ex-friend as a rich person complaining to a poor person that they can’t have a new luxury car, meaning that he has been through much worse so it’s insensitive for me to talk about smaller problems to him. This thought bothers me daily.

He's been in multiple long-term relationships that he describes as pretty easy and says this issue (him not providing the support that his partners want) has only happened once before. He heavily implies that my relatively smaller amount of long-term relationship experience has given me unreasonable expectations.

He’s been grouchy nearly constantly since this all happened a couple months ago- mildly positive toward me at best and more typically annoyed with me. He says it's not about me and I shouldn't take it so personally. He tells me he loves me still every few days or so. He sometimes expresses affection via acts of service or gifts, but he does those things for everyone in his life. I told him I missed how affectionate and loving we used to be and he got upset with me, and said that this is just what happens "when the dust settles" in a relationship, and it takes time for affection to come back after tough times.

I’m struggling with two things. First, I'm finding it hard to take whatever responsibility I need to without internalizing this. I get that he’s been a jerk to me and that’s on him. But it’s hard to not feel like it’s at least a little bit me, given my history of being anxiously attached and the fact that his other relationships haven’t been like this (according to him). I wonder how much of this is reasonable relationship growing pains that I'm overreacting to. Second, I'm struggling with really having had my hopes up about him, and giving up on that idea of what this could have been. It feels like it'll be even harder to be open to a romantic relationship in the future because of this experience. Any advice about either of those issues would be much appreciated.
posted by deus ex machina to Human Relations (52 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm pretty fucking anxiously attached and I've never dated someone who was this much of a shithead about it.

(Struggling with having gotten your hopes up is real, and sadly a lot of that is time. But... yeah, no, this is not you.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:39 AM on April 1, 2019 [32 favorites]


DTMFA. Wow, he sounds terrible. Past abuse is a reason, never an excuse. People are responsible for their actions regardless of trauma. The means if he's not taking steps to better his behavior or meet you in the middle in regards to your needs, he is emotionally irresponsible. You do not want to date someone like this, let alone move in with them (!!!).

You've only been in a relationship for 4 months. That's not long enough to experience growing pains, these are red flags about incompatibility.

Regarding getting your hopes up - stop thinking about "what could have been", that doesn't exist. This person is emotionally immature and kind of an asshole, so in no alternate universe could it have worked out. He would have to be a completely different human being for your relationship to have fleshed out the way you wanted it.
posted by FirstMateKate at 10:40 AM on April 1, 2019 [65 favorites]


You've been dating for a few months and started fighting a few months ago?

You're just not compatible. Stop thinking about it, break up and move on.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 10:42 AM on April 1, 2019 [75 favorites]


Oh, I am so sorry to hear about your dog. I can't imagine how much grief and pain you are feeling! I wish I could give you a hug -- I wish I could help your pup.

I'm an internet stranger, and I care about the pain you're experiencing. You deserve a romantic partner who can care about your pain at least as much as an internet stranger.
posted by meese at 10:45 AM on April 1, 2019 [48 favorites]


I don't really think you need to take any blame on yourself here, except perhaps for failing to recognize that he told you early on that he would be unable to provide you with the kind of support you need and you didn't break up with him then. Here are the two key sentences in what you wrote:

I had explained within the first week of our relationship that I need to talk things out when I’m upset ...

Although he’s nearly constantly negative, he will never tell me about it because he feels that talking to people about your stresses puts stress on them.


You two have needs that are fundamentally incompatible.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:46 AM on April 1, 2019 [27 favorites]


Do you want to continually argue about whether you're having emotions, and if so, if they are the right amount and kind of emotions (according to him)? Because this dude is never going to stop that behavior. I'm sorry you got your hopes up, and I'm sorry about your dog.
posted by coffeeand at 10:47 AM on April 1, 2019 [53 favorites]


He says it's not about me and I shouldn't take it so personally.

Well, this part is true, at least. The way he's behaving, his continued grouchiness and wanting you to stuff down any part of your personality or reactions to real life events that's not entirely positive, is entirely about him and not you.

That doesn't mean it doesn't hurt. And that doesn't mean you should be together. Your having needs does not equal being needy. Your dog situation and friend situation both warranted care that he did not give you, and he instead embroiled you in drama about him and your relationship, at a time when you were already upset. That sucks a lot and doesn't speak well of him.


he described me coming to him for support with the situations with my dog and ex-friend as a rich person complaining to a poor person that they can’t have a new luxury car, meaning that he has been through much worse so it’s insensitive for me to talk about smaller problems to him

Going through difficult life experiences doesn't mean you forever get a credit in the balance of the relationship (or all relationships?!) and no one can ever be allowed to put anything on you for eternity. That's not how it works, and anyone who thinks it should work that way, well, is mistaken. I've been in that relationship and I would suggest that it might be time to rethink whether you want to be with this person for the long term, before everyone gets more invested and more hurt.


He's been in multiple long-term relationships that he describes as pretty easy and says this issue (him not providing the support that his partners want) has only happened once before. He heavily implies that my relatively smaller amount of long-term relationship experience has given me unreasonable expectations.

1. It doesn't have to be easy to work, if both partners want it to work. 2. It's rare that a relationship is easy all the time, and two people will inevitably hurt each other at some point or another. 3. That said, I feel like it should be easier for you both than it is right now, and you should hold out for the person with whom it is indeed actually easy, or at least who's going the same speed and direction you are. I'm not feeling that's the case from your description.


But it’s hard to not feel like it’s at least a little bit me, given my history of being anxiously attached and the fact that his other relationships haven’t been like this (according to him). I wonder how much of this is reasonable relationship growing pains that I'm overreacting to. Second, I'm struggling with really having had my hopes up about him, and giving up on that idea of what this could have been. It feels like it'll be even harder to be open to a romantic relationship in the future because of this experience.

I'm coming to realize that I'm also a fairly anxiously attached person, or can be. I need more regular feedback and touchpoints than I seem to get from a lot of people. I'm not sure if it's that I'm necessarily that way by default or that I perhaps choose partners who contribute to my insecurity in that regard (who aren't giving or communicative, or who see my needs as somehow "too much" and theirs as somehow "central" and then feel even more insecure because I feel that they feel that way). I'm working on figuring that out, as you of course should, but it's not unreasonable to need what you need and want a partner who will give that to you.

Anyway, you've been in a not-great place for fully half of a very short relationship, and it doesn't feel like it's getting more comfortable. I would say be done here and start going on more dates.

Oo, and like meese said... That was something that even things like gift swaps helped me realize, that if a randomly assigned internet stranger on another continent could care enough about me for a day or whatever to make me a custom gift that met my needs and played off of my interests, well, there's gotta be someone out there with whom that could happen romantically. Hold out for the person who gets you. I don't think this is that person.
posted by limeonaire at 10:51 AM on April 1, 2019 [9 favorites]


This sounds really hard, I'm sorry. What a disappointment.

First, I'm finding it hard to take whatever responsibility I need to without internalizing this.

One thing I have learned (relatively) recently is that it is really important to separate romantic relationships from personal growth / accountability. That is sort of abstract so I'll try to give an example.

There are two questions embedded in this question:

1) Who is at fault for this relationship's failure / success / challenges / distance?
2) Do I need to apologize / change / do better?

Those questions are better answered separately from each other.

The answer to "who is at fault" is, frankly, typically, "no one." Usually, especially in a shorter relationship, people just aren't compatible. Everyone has their quirks and their "pros and cons" and sometimes those just don't jibe with each other well and you end up feeling bad around each other, instead of good. That sucks but it sort of doesn't make sense to think about it as a "fault" thing. Laying blame for incompatibility just tends to get you stuck in ruminating about mistakes that anyone could have made (that were not necessarily even mistakes, just people being people.)

For example, it may be that you could have given him a little more space when he expressed that he wanted to hear more happy stuff and he would have responded better. It could also be that he could have asked for space in a much more direct and validating way which would have led you to respond better. But---and I mean this really sincerely---the fact that you both reacted the way that you did and said the things you said is totally fine. Even though it led to distance between you, and it could have gone another way, it's okay that you both said what you said. It reveals that you're not really in sync in terms of communication and you both find the other party's method of handling negative emotions to be unappealing and difficult to understand. That's good to know. Delaying that realization for another two or three months was not going to change either of your personalities.

That moves to the second question, though, which is whether you need to apologize, change, and/or do better. This is a different question. Sometimes we fuck up even though we're doing our best, and I think this is especially true in intimate relationships where people are pushing each other's buttons. THAT SAID, nothing you've said indicates that you need to apologize to this guy, and I don't think you think you need to apologize. I think you want him to apologize, which is a whole 'nother kettle of fish, but if he's not willing to do it then that doesn't mean you need to, or that you need to "take responsibility." Again, it's not a zero-sum thing where someone has to be at fault. Maybe no one did anything objectively terrible but you still want an apology, which is reasonable, and you're not going to get one, and that's where that goes.

Whether you need to (or want to) change or do better in the future is a whole different thing. It sounds to me like you maybe have a pattern of issues with intimate relationships that could use some retooling. I don't want to come down hard on you for this or anything because lord knows we have all been there, but it seems like you maybe put a lot of pressure on the people you're close to and have trouble maintaining relationships with them as a result. The fact that a friend ended a relationship with you explicitly and that this guy is distancing himself are both indicators to me that you are not necessarily great at getting what you want from interpersonal interactions --- closeness and intimacy. That might be something you want to change for you. Regardless of this guy, wouldn't it be nice to be less anxious about relationships? Wouldn't it be nice to feel like talking things over with someone else is a want, and not a need? I think all of that is something that you might want to work on for you, separate from the issue of whether this relationship fizzling is your "responsibility" or not.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:52 AM on April 1, 2019 [14 favorites]


Nthing you should DTMFA.

It sounds like he's doing that thing where he attributes your behavior to negative traits it would be very hard or impossible to change (attachment style, lack of trauma, relative inexperience), as a way of discouraging that behavior and undermining you. I'm used to calling that "typecasting," and considering it a serious red flag.

Also, because of my own trauma history, I suggest kind of owning typecasting, as a way of asserting yourself.

"You're right, I'm totally inexperienced and insecure, sorry, I don't think we're compatible."

"Yeah, I am too ungrateful, selfish, and lazy to visit [your abusive nightmare house], sorry."

"Yeah, I am way too full of myself to give someone like you my number, sorry."

The "sorry" should ideally sound as insincere as possible, and it's handy to have an exit strategy (leave the space / hang up / etc) in case your typecaster escalates - but they often don't.
posted by bagel at 10:54 AM on April 1, 2019 [6 favorites]


The bottom line is that a partner who loves you validates your feelings, doesn't minimize your needs, and provides emotional support when you need it. They don't dismiss your experiences and emotions and deny you emotional support because they view the issues you're going through as "less" or not "real hardship." They don't argue with you for an hour telling you that you aren't entitled to feel the way you feel about anything.

What responsibility are you supposed to take here? Responsibility for finding out a beloved dog is dying? Responsibility for losing a friendship? These are situations that require grieving. Are you not allowed to grieve? Are you not allowed to seek support while grieving?

If he can't give you support in these situations, imagine what would happen if you lost a job, lost a parent, lost your home in a fire, found out about a personals health scare? When would something be serious enough to warrant support from this withholding jerk?

You told him what you needed (communication and being able to talk through feelings) in order to feel loved and cared for. He is refusing to give this to you. You deserve more. It sucks, but it's time to break up.
posted by brookeb at 10:56 AM on April 1, 2019 [12 favorites]


a rich person complaining to a poor person that they can’t have a new luxury car,

He lacks basic empathy for you. That's his flaw, not yours. It's ok to be a person who needs emotional support in a relationship. That's not needy. It sounds like you expressed these needs in a healthy, reasonable way.

He's been in multiple long-term relationships that he describes as pretty easy

Easy for him, maybe. I wonder what his exes would say about it.

He heavily implies that my relatively smaller amount of long-term relationship experience has given me unreasonable expectations.

He's trying to convince you it's unreasonable to want emotional support. That's not cool.

I know how much it sucks to have a new, seemingly-promising relationship go off the rails like this. But it sounds like what happened is that you just learned more about him and discovered things about him that make him an unhealthy partner for you. I think this is actually a good thing in the long run. You can take care of yourself by ending things, and go out and find someone who won't treat your emotions like a problem.

This really 100% is not your fault.
posted by lunasol at 10:57 AM on April 1, 2019 [48 favorites]


This is actually the normal function of the initial relationship stages, to find out if it's a fit. And we are humans with soft squishy hearts and what we secretly want is to be together permanently from the first date and not have to go through the experience of finding out it's not going to work.

Nobody's perfected the reconciliation of those two things, or none of us would go through this. But you shouldn't take it as evidence that you shouldn't ever try to have a relationship; use it to strengthen your muscles, particularly the one you use to kick a person to the curb sooner rather than later. This is also your red flag to work on those attachment issues, and learning to be real careful about what kind of fixer-upper projects are in your skillset to take on*. So that next time you are actively making choices from a position of your personal power instead of helplessly hoping someone will decide to be with you nicely.

*All people are walking around with trauma. Some of it is just not going to be compatible with yours, and I think in this case that's absolutely the situation - the way he engages with the world (and likely the way he needs to be engaged with) probably requires someone with a firmer pushback style. (And, honestly? I think that he just maybe does not sound like he's in a place to healthily partner in a relationship right now, but for sure not with you.) That's not you, and that's fine, but it means some people's personalities are not for you and yours is not for them. And some people are not ready at the time your life intersects with theirs; knowing how to see and accept that - and it is respectful to let people be who they are, it's an act of kindness to not try to bend them to fit your agenda - is a really good life skill.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:59 AM on April 1, 2019 [24 favorites]


People in the initial stages show you their best version of themselves. That's what you fell for. He is, unfortunately, not the best version of himself he would like to pretend he is.

Even a complete stranger does not meet "my dog is dying" with "both of my parents are dead and so is my cat so where do you think you get off complaining TRY TO BE MORE POSITIVE SO I DON'T HAVE TO DO ANY WORK HERE OKAY?"

Please break up with this manchild.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:59 AM on April 1, 2019 [57 favorites]


Gosh, I'm so sorry about this! You deserve to be heard and supported. He's being a shit and there are no excuses for it. It's common to start to notice glaring differences three or four months in: it's still fresh but reality strikes. I'm not saying this guy is emotionally abusive (yet), although he could be and is just starting to show his true self. It's not uncommon for manipulative people to start by showering you with love and attention so you feel secure and wonderful, only to start putting you down slowly but surely. We keep remembering that magical start so it's hard to let go. I wish I had done this in my past relationship but I stayed much longer: a mistake in hindsight but sometimes we have to go at our own pace, even when it's less than ideal.

I am extra sorry about your pup, and wish you the best in your time left together. Losing a pet is awful, and seeing them suffer and become sicker and sicker is devastating. I believe how partners react to our beloved pets is a great sign for how they really are as people and partners. How my one ex reacted to our cat dying helped me finally leave that relationship. Honestly, I was much sadder about losing my kitty of seven months than my boyfriend of three years! My girlfriend after felt I talked too much about my dead cat -- no one else said this fwiw -- and that should have been a sign. I finally broke up with her and enjoyed six months of bliss living alone with my second cat of nearly three years. (Both were born with feline leukemia so had a very short life expectancy, sadly.) I didn't expect the second cat to pass away because I thought he would be in that 15% would could survive. When he died, I was surprised but prepared; most of all, I was grateful I had gotten that ex out of my life because those my kitty and I bonded like never before those last few months before. Unlike the previous ex, it took me a year to get over this one; however, I only waited 36 hours to adopt a new cat. We're happy together and this time I'm determined to make sure any potential pet stepparent is caring, not just about her well-being but my special connection with her. Yes, this is all super cheesy but so true for me.

tl;dr: If you are considering breaking up but having trouble letting go, do it for your dog. Enjoy your last few weeks or months together without the burden of a shitty boyfriend. You'll be glad you did, I promise.
posted by smorgasbord at 11:01 AM on April 1, 2019 [7 favorites]


He calls you ‘needy’ because you need things that he can’t or doesn’t want to give. I choose to be charitable and assume that his own negative feelings were squelched by his parents and that he has no idea how helpful it is just to be heard. He will find someone who can tolerate his insistence on positive-talk-only, and you’ll find someone who knows how to be supportive and is willing to learn.
posted by wryly at 11:01 AM on April 1, 2019 [6 favorites]


This is all great insight. I agree we're incompatible and I don't think we should be together, so this is helpful to get my head wrapped around it.

Also, the issue with my friend appears to be totally unrelated to my relationship stuff, with I acknowledge exists for me in romantic relationships. I believe their partner wanted them to end the friendship for reasons completely separate from anything I did. My friendships have generally been healthy.
posted by deus ex machina at 11:02 AM on April 1, 2019 [8 favorites]


He says he prefers to not talk about stressful things.

Accept that this is not something you can change about him, and then consider whether this life attitude is what you want from a long-term partner. I would not want someone with this preference to be the one by my side as I cope with aging, losing loved ones, or even watching election coverage. You guys are just not compatible. To the extent you’re struggling with the feeling of placing all blame on him and wondering how much is your share, I’d try and reframe this as no one’s fault: you have different personality types and want different things from partners. That’s normal and okay! I have friends who prefer not to talk about stressful things and get annoyed with me because I can’t stop talking about things that stress me out—I still love them very much as friends even though i’d never want them as my husband!
posted by sallybrown at 11:03 AM on April 1, 2019 [2 favorites]


You've only been together four months! "Promising" is something you bestow on a theory or an experiment, not a relationship. Stop second-guessing yourself and move on from this person who is clearly not meant for you.
posted by juniperesque at 11:03 AM on April 1, 2019


Also, the issue with my friend appears to be totally unrelated to my relationship stuff, with I acknowledge exists for me in romantic relationships. I believe their partner wanted them to end the friendship. My friendships have generally been healthy.

I'm sorry to hear that about your friend, but glad that you are in good, healthy friendships. I think the reality of dating is that it can be really hard for people who are sensitive to feel secure in relationships that are actually (factually!) temporary. It is really difficult and maybe the answer is that it just takes time to find the "right" person, or maybe there's something you might want to improve on or deal with outside of this particular relationship. Either way, I am sorry again that this was so disappointing after such a promising start!
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:07 AM on April 1, 2019 [3 favorites]


Oh my god, fuck all of this. Yes, you are incompatible and that's nobody's fault, but on top of that he's being a real ass about how he chooses to respond to your incompatible needs. You could spend the next X months/years painfully hammering out a way to develop more compatible emotional responses to each other, but this is so early in a relationship for it to be this hard.

Walk away from this one pronto and keep looking for someone who will be more compatible with your basic outlook on partnership. You are asking for a type of support it is okay to ask for, you were open and up-front about that early on, you are not doing anything wrong here.

I'm sorry you've been having such a hard run of it lately. You deserve sympathy and affection and someone who will not make you feel guilty or burdensome for asking for those things. Toss the guy out and snuggle with your dog and your friends instead until another good prospect comes along.
posted by Stacey at 11:10 AM on April 1, 2019 [7 favorites]


The bottom line is that a partner who loves you validates your feelings, doesn't minimize your needs, and provides emotional support when you need it. They don't dismiss your experiences and emotions and deny you emotional support because they view the issues you're going through as "less" or not "real hardship." They don't argue with you for an hour telling you that you aren't entitled to feel the way you feel about anything.

This.

Also: Nthing that the dating process is that time when you are supposed to find out if someone is right for you... NOT when you're supposed to find out how many hoops you need to jump through before you're worthy of someone else's attention.

Anything that frames the de-evolution of this relationship as some sort of failure on your part is WRONG. You are doing everything right, IMO- you have given this guy a shot, and he is not the one for you. Clearly. That's what dating is for!
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 11:12 AM on April 1, 2019 [7 favorites]


And I am so sorry about your dog. That so little support was offered in that situation is all I need to know to recognize wrongness in this dude. Hugs to you!!
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 11:14 AM on April 1, 2019 [2 favorites]


Agree with the advice above that it's not you, it's him, and that you should end this as soon as you can. Also, just wanted to provide some solidarity from one person working on a relationship to another. You deserve to be able to be yourself with someone, including acknowledgment of your grief and stresses. I'm sorry that you're going through all this, and I hope that you can find a glimmer of something happy for your self soon.

Remember to be your own best relationship. Love yourself and take care of yourself first. I would dump him and then re-aquaint yourself with you. No one else will provide the other pieces that you need to be whole. You should approach a relationship as a bonus to your already awesome self and life!
posted by jj's.mama at 11:19 AM on April 1, 2019 [2 favorites]


But it’s hard to not feel like it’s at least a little bit me, given my history of being anxiously attached and the fact that his other relationships haven’t been like this (according to him)

the saddest thing is that this isn't even necessarily a lie. there are plenty of women in the world who will never mention their troubles to a man who tells them that their troubles in life don't matter, and that he doesn't want to hear about them.

I'm finding it hard to take whatever responsibility I need to without internalizing this.
it’s at least a little bit me


look, I'm sure you have bad qualities, everyone does, but of course it's you. a doormat who refuses to lie flat and be walked on causes friction and conflict, you're absolutely right. having played an active role in this rupture is something to be very proud of here, and something to hold onto for comfort when other aspects of the relationship or the breakup are very painful. you didn't curl up in submission and just let him and his decrees happen to you. you are responsible for that, for maintaining agency and articulating your feelings, yes. you did do that. that says nothing but good things about you.

and I do get him. having to listen to other people tell you about painful situations in their lives is a horrible, stressful thing. not everybody has PTSD or really extreme diagnosable difficulty with it, but nobody likes it. it feels bad. he would get no argument from me on that. If you are just totally unequipped for intimate social interactions you can, with apologies and explanations, default on that obligation, which is part of being close to another person, and hope they forgive you. but his inability to listen with empathy does not make you flawed for wishing to speak.
posted by queenofbithynia at 11:22 AM on April 1, 2019 [9 favorites]


It's basic human decency to listen kindly and offer sympathy when someone, even a total stranger, tells you their pet/relative is sick/dying. Or at the very, very, very least not try and change the topic to be about how you talking about your pain is making him uncomfortable. The fuck?

Anyway, that your BF cannot do this basic human decency thing signals that he's not remotely ready for a relationship with anything more emotionally complex than a smooth river stone. Maybe get him one as a DTMFA gift? Write "CHRIS" on it with a Sharpie. Then he can have a relationship with someone who won't ever ask him to be even the tiniest bit uncomfortable or exhibit the slightest amount of empathy.
posted by seanmpuckett at 11:25 AM on April 1, 2019 [7 favorites]


What you are asking for and wanting is not unreasonable. It may be that soon after meeting someone, within the first week, is a bit early to raise these issues. You've said you have some good friendships; maybe you need to get into more of a habit of leaning on those people for emotional support when you are early in an intimate relationship.

But it does sound like some red flags came up quickly, and (hear me out) that's actually a good thing. My therapist recently told me I was "lucky" to see some really awful red flags with someone I had only been dating for a few weeks. Her take: it usually takes three to four months to see such red flags, and by then you can be more invested and attached. You being able to recognize these problems and extricate yourself from the relationship at this point is a sign of your emotional health, regardless of what this guy has told you.

You know this, of course, but it is so easy to get caught up in that wonderful chemistry early on. Chemistry isn't always an indicator of compatibility, however. It can be really hard to see past those early rushes of bonding hormones and see what someone is really like. It's fun and exciting and also ... sometimes really misleading.

Also, since you mentioned attachment styles: it may be that this guy has an avoidant attachment style, which is pretty much the worst thing for someone dealing with anxious attachment. Folks with an avoidant attachment style can seem incredible charming and like excellent partners when a relationship is brand new, but then they often want space when true emotional intimacy develops. They are so good early on because it's safer because it's new. Have you read the book Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment? Even if you have, it might be worth a re-read in the context of this relationship so you can use this lens to evaluate what happened and help yourself move on.

I wouldn't believe everything he's told you about his past relationships. It may have been "easy" for him because he wasn't that invested, emotionally. Also, it's easier for him to blame you for the failure of your connection rather than own that he has any responsibility in the relationship.

This is so hard, but here's a framing that might be helpful: this guy, as great as he seemed at first, is not a good match for you in the long term; he lacks the ability to empathize and self-reflect. The fact that he showed you this so soon in the relationship is a gift, because this is freeing you up to move and find someone who will and can be a good partner.

Good luck.
posted by bluedaisy at 11:35 AM on April 1, 2019 [3 favorites]


Another thing to hold in your head next time (and this can be applied to friends, jobs, living situations, etc): "promising" or "having potential" should be the rock bottom bare minimum. Like, definitely get the hell out if it ISN'T promising and doesn't have potential, but actually having those things is still zero guarantee of success. Potential is cheap, the ongoing manifestation of real substantial positive progress is what actually has value.

From the beginning of human language, one person has been turning to another and saying "I feel really good about this" and then being eaten by a tiger. It's pretty much the same phrase as "hold my beer" - the outcome might be spectacular, or terrible, with roughly equal odds, and having the feeling doesn't actually mean much. (Whereas "I have a bad feeling about this" is a much more innate self-preservation response and we tend to be more right about that, but it's true that anxiety sometimes steals that function for its own use.)
posted by Lyn Never at 11:40 AM on April 1, 2019 [6 favorites]


During a fight about this, he described me coming to him for support with the situations with my dog and ex-friend as a rich person complaining to a poor person that they can’t have a new luxury car, meaning that he has been through much worse so it’s insensitive for me to talk about smaller problems to him.

This isn't even somebody who's capable of being a decent friend to anybody right now, much less a partner. If he's in such a crisis state at this very moment that he has to triage to this degree, he should be dealing with that with a therapist. It's possible that this is true, in terms of his ability to deal with stuff. The abusive part of this is not recognizing that this is an abnormal state that needs professional help and expecting this to just be a thing you build your relationship norms around for the rest of your lives.

Like, there are people I know who I'd never date in a million years who I've been more supportive about more minor stuff than this. I have a friend who literally makes several times what I do and who has had the most charmed possible life and I still don't mind hearing about the ways he's had a moderately shitty day at work. Trauma can totally put you into a position where you don't have the energy for anything but your own shit, but the moment you try to make that somebody else's fault, that's where you go from "vulnerable person" to "asshole". "I'm stuck in my own head right now, you're not wrong to want support on this but I can't do it" is still a rough thing to hear but a completely different thing from "how dare you ask for this".
posted by Sequence at 11:47 AM on April 1, 2019 [16 favorites]


I generally try to remember that everyone inserts a heavy amount of bias into their description of a relationship, especially when there are issues.

You do have a lot of assumptions about them, and especially after a fight, if one or both sides hold grudges, it becomes more difficult to get past - as all these little digs to get a mini-win or twist the knife of a point overrules both people from swallowing some pride and fixing things. Plus, emotionally, it can be hard to get over something significant.

I'm not saying you're wrong about this other person. though you may read some of the things they say or do more harshly than they meant or intended. Though, the thing about the dog is pretty harsh even if they aren't a pet-person, that's some serious lack of empathy there.

That being said, agree it's obvious you're not compatible. That honeymoon part in the beginning is fairly common - anyone can hold up an act until it becomes more trouble than it's worth in their mind. I don't like to give relationship advice, since not knowing you or them (and even when you know the people), there's always things we don't know or have the wrong perspective about. But, it doesn't look like there's much future here - just a fight to keep an unwanted status quo. I'd make the break and move on...
posted by rich at 12:13 PM on April 1, 2019 [1 favorite]


Here's something uplifting to hold onto: you just leveled up in the skill of recognizing a bad relationship fit and not being willing to sublimate some part of yourself in order to hold onto it instead of letting it go and making room for a good relationship fit. That is seriously hard work, and I am proud of you.
posted by palomar at 12:34 PM on April 1, 2019 [19 favorites]


Christ almighty, how hard is it to lend a sympathetic ear to someone whose dog is dying? This is, like, the lowest possible bar for testing basic humanity. I don’t really need to know anything else about this guy to know he’s going to be a shitty partner who is never there for you when you need him. Please get out now before you’re faced with the task of grieving your dog, because you won’t be able to help expecting him to show some empathy, he won’t, and you’ll feel like you have to hide your grief from him which will make everything a hundred times more painful. (I’m almost certainly projecting here because that’s what I went through with my broken-robot ex-husband, but that doesn’t make it not true). (Also thanks to whoever the MeFite was who dropped the term “broken robot” in another thread—it’s so perfect)
posted by HotToddy at 12:39 PM on April 1, 2019 [9 favorites]


I just re-read your post about sharing expenses. That was two months ago... so it sounds like you all were dating two months when you started having serious conversations about the logistics of moving in together. Gently, I'd like to say maybe you need to think about not considering such big commitments so quickly after connecting with someone. You just can't know them that soon. Sure, some folks have jumped in that quickly and it's worked out, but I'd say that's the exception rather than the rule. This relationship might help with that lesson: it feels so full of promise and potential early on, even when there are major issues manifesting and looming.

Savor those early days, and enjoy the connection, but know that people are shiniest at the beginning, and that's not who they necessarily are in the long term.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:39 PM on April 1, 2019 [16 favorites]


This isn't your fault and isn't a sign of things to come with other people.

Anyone who has expected me to downgrade my emotional/relational expectations has not worked out fwiw, those needs can't and shouldn't be ignored. I've also learned to beware the "too good to be true" feeling when I'm first dating someone, like yes it should be fun and romantic but sometimes people project a false persona and then the mask comes off once they think you're committed.

You should continue to be up front with newish dating partners about your needs and what you're looking for, not try to change yourself drastically to fit someone's lower need for emotional connection and support. Also people should treat you better with time, that's also a flag I've learned to look out for. Some people are great at the first few dates but make crappy longterm partners or there's an incompatibility in how you want to engage with one another or spend your time that's not apparent for a couple months.
posted by lafemma at 1:19 PM on April 1, 2019 [3 favorites]


During a fight about this, he described me coming to him for support with the situations with my dog and ex-friend as a rich person complaining to a poor person that they can’t have a new luxury car, meaning that he has been through much worse so it’s insensitive for me to talk about smaller problems to him. This thought bothers me daily.

This is horrible. I've had a few encounters with people who start in really amazing and then turned around like this very quickly. I've also made the mistake of staying around a few times. This guy is not interested in being a team - he's interested in what you can do for him, and doesn't want to hear about what you think he should do for you because he doesn't care about supporting you. The idea that he's "been through worse" and that you're somehow super privileged in some way where your dog dying is like "a rich person not being able to buy a luxury car" (!!!) is horrible - it shows he doesn't take your issues seriously, and didn't care about your dog, didn't care about what your dog meant to you, and didn't care that he was saying hurtful things to you. This alone is enough to dump him, but the rest of the things you have said are all like an entire assembly line of red flags.

DTMFA. There are great people of whatever genders you are into out there in the world and this guy is not one of them.

I am so, so sorry about your dog and your friend. Those are awful things to go through, and you deserve a partner who will be supportive, rather than someone who won't even acknowledge that you have real issues and valid feelings.
posted by bile and syntax at 1:24 PM on April 1, 2019 [7 favorites]


He’s being a huge asshole and gaslighting you by trying to make you think YOU are the problem in this relationship. You’re not, HE is. This dickwad is not worth your time. This will never get better. Dump him.
posted by a strong female character at 1:29 PM on April 1, 2019 [2 favorites]


He sounds mean. It's him, not you. Break up and don't look back, other than to sigh with relief that you are no longer dating someone who is mean to you.
posted by emd3737 at 1:29 PM on April 1, 2019 [1 favorite]


During a fight about this, he described me coming to him for support with the situations with my dog and ex-friend as a rich person complaining to a poor person that they can’t have a new luxury car, meaning that he has been through much worse so it’s insensitive for me to talk about smaller problems to him.

! !! !!! !!!!

Please let me put your mind to rest about this. I have an abuse history I will not get into details of, but which definitely would have qualified me to go on Oprah in the late 80s, and maybe even write a memoir.

I would have no trouble being sympathetic about your dog, or even if you were in pain due to a hangnail, because I am not a total jerk, at least not in these ways. This is not how pain works, but more to the point - it is not how partnership works. It is an indication that whatever the cause, this person is not a good person to date. The fact that he is making it your problem is even worse than his lack of empathy.

This is what dating is for - to find out if you are compatible, if the other person is who they appear to be, etc. Please see this learning as a win, and move on.
posted by warriorqueen at 1:36 PM on April 1, 2019 [7 favorites]


When I first met my husband and we were absolutely obsessed with each other we used to talk about how we would need to deal with the process of moving out of the honeymoon phase, i.e the 'dust settling'. We've been married for almost 3 years now and though there is less sex and more of the day to day grind, and we've sold 2 houses and moved twice and got new jobs and lost friends and have to walk our dogs every day, and had huge stress with family illness, we often laugh about how we thought our feelings would be less intense after some time. Instead, our feelings have deepened. We love each other more. Things are even better.
All this to say, you are 4 months in and this guy has shown you who he is. Do you want a lifetime trying to extract support and joy from this man? I seriously wish more for you than that.
posted by thereader at 1:38 PM on April 1, 2019 [9 favorites]


I hate to be this person, but was your ex your primary source of social support during the time you were dating?

Yes, he's mean and lacks empathy, but I've gotta wonder if you had established a pattern of asking for too much too early, and by this I mean venting at him a lot. Having a history of being single and self-sufficient doesn't really prevent someone from effectively managing their relational needs in new relationships.

I want to reiterate: he's an asshole and handled this situation like a human garbage fire. It is not your fault he is an asshole. But sometimes when people with poor communication skills act like this it's not truly because they expect you to be positive 150% of the time.
posted by blerghamot at 2:00 PM on April 1, 2019 [1 favorite]


Wait. You've been in this relationship four months, and TWO MONTHS IN you were describing him as "your partner" and planning to move in together? No no no. Especially not with this asshole. Because no one is perfect and if I were you I'd examine my own motivations in moving SO quickly ... but this guy is DEFINITELY an asshole.
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 2:32 PM on April 1, 2019 [2 favorites]


I started dating someone 4 months ago.

He’s been grouchy nearly constantly since this all happened a couple months ago- mildly positive toward me at best and more typically annoyed with me.

So he's been an asshole for at least half of your relationship?
No. No, no, no no. He is bad, this sounds abusive (or at the very least like a prelude to abuse), please dump him yesterday. You are a beautiful shining star who deserves better.
posted by esmerelda_jenkins at 2:35 PM on April 1, 2019 [1 favorite]


I’m sorry you’re going through this. How disappointing. Just remember that he is not the person you thought he was. And this relationship is not really what you thought it was either if it changed so quickly in just a few months. That honeymoon phase should have lasted longer. AND the compatibility & feeling like a team? That’s supposed to be constant, always there.

The part that upsets me the most of all this: who or what endowed him with the power to tell you how you should or should not feel? Does he even understand that, like him or anyone else on planet, you get to feel your feels without his or anyone else’s approval? You’re not a robot with on/off switch for grieving of loss of beloved pet (!!!). And *he* certainly wouldn’t get to be the one to control that switch.

You are worthy of feeling emotions, whatever they may be, without your partner’s authorization. Don’t let anyone make you believe otherwise.
posted by Neekee at 2:39 PM on April 1, 2019 [1 favorite]


Fuck this guy and all of his nonsense. Honestly. There are a lot of people out there who had shitty childhoods who did the work and now manage not to act like complete jerks to the people in their lives. As one of these people, I'm giving side-eye so bad I'm about to get a migraine. It is not wrong to have inner turmoil and to struggle emotionally, but it is wrong to make it someone else feel like shit because of it. Sometimes it is as simple as having different needs, and there are no bad guys in that type of situation, but this dude has no ability to empathise and clearly has very little self-awareness. Nah. Even people with moderate emotional needs would struggle with this. People like me and you, who need a little more feelings-chat, are going to wither and die in a relationship with someone like this.

I understand the need to figure out your part in this, and it is a testament to your commitment to being a good person that even after the way he's been treating you that you are still trying to identify the areas where you could have acted differently. However, I have always found this difficult to do when in the thick of it so to speak, and have found that clarity only really comes after being separated for a while.

So, move on, be super kind to yourself and surround yourself with people who make you feel awesome. Then maybe after a couple of months, do the soul searching. I think the answers you'll find then will be a lot closer to the truth than they would be now. It's a cliche, but, time and distance from the situation will do so much good. I felt very much the same after getting out of a relationship with someone very similar, and I'm now in a much healthier relationship, partly because the last dumpster fire gave me a lot of clarity about the great and not-so-great aspects of my character.

The dude you were dating the first two months wasn't this dude. It was an actor, tricking you into falling in love with him. Sadly, it wasn't ever going to be anything else rather than what it has become. I am sorry, because I know it hurts like hell.

Also, I am so sorry about your dog. I hope you were able to get some support elsewhere for coping with that grief.
posted by BeeJiddy at 2:46 PM on April 1, 2019 [1 favorite]


I think your boyfriend sounds like a jerk and immature and you should break up.

That being said, parts of your question reminded me of my own relationship and my partners need to complain and discuss the bad things that happen at great length and sometimes he goes on benders of negativity that can last for up to a week, maybe more. It’s like a dark cloud comes over. It sucks. I take on all this stress and it causes me a lot of distress and worry and nothing I say helps. We’re working in it. But often I will try to change the subject to something more pleasant or try to cheer him up and encourage him. But definitely- it’s important not to try and get all your validation and support from just one source.
posted by catspajammies at 3:15 PM on April 1, 2019 [4 favorites]


Every person I have known who has been similarly shitty about their partner having reasonable emotional needs has also told their partner that they are some variation of too needy and/or more difficult than previous partners. They were lying. That's not what reasonable relationship growing pains looks like, and trying to deal with someone who does that to you will twist your brain until it is crazy.
posted by Polychrome at 3:27 PM on April 1, 2019 [1 favorite]


Thank you all for the validation and gentle feedback. I've been reflecting on my own relationship dynamics and needs, and it's helpful.

I have a bit of a hard time parsing the comments around seeking support so I wanted to jump back in for some clarification. Although they're a minority of the comments, this is something I've wondered about in this context (and with dating men more broadly), and I'd like to be able to reflect on this issue once I've gotten some distance from the relationship.

When I'm dating someone, we usually share things that are happening in our daily lives, good and bad, with each other. Not in the sense that that's something I NEED to do, it's just what gets discussed as we check in with each other and share small windows into each others' days. I think he would agree with some posters above that it feels like constant complaining or negativity, but it's usually not stuff I'm upset about even if it's not objectively positive, and I share things I'm happy about too. It feels like a way to be intimate. I was genuinely surprised to hear he sees me as sad as a result of this.

When I'm actually dealing with something I'm upset about and need to talk it through, I seek support more explicitly. I try to spread out the conversations amongst my people so I'm not overburdening any one person, and I often ask if I can talk to them about the thing first.

However, I don't know what to do when there's an actual Bad Thing Happening and I'm newly dating someone who I'm talking to frequently, especially if they're not great at emotional support. If I'm still sharing even a fraction of what's on my mind or what's happening in my life, it'll be the crisis (obviously not constantly, and obviously balanced with talking about them and their life). Even though I'm not looking for support per se, it still would suck to get shut down or invalidated in those moments. What does it mean in that context to get that need for support met elsewhere, or distribute the need for support?
posted by deus ex machina at 3:48 PM on April 1, 2019 [2 favorites]


However, I don't know what to do when there's an actual Bad Thing Happening and I'm newly dating someone who I'm talking to frequently, especially if they're not great at emotional support. If I'm still sharing even a fraction of what's on my mind or what's happening in my life, it'll be the crisis (obviously not constantly, and obviously balanced with talking about them and their life). Even though I'm not looking for support per se, it still would suck to get shut down or invalidated in those moments. What does it mean in that context to get that need for support met elsewhere, or distribute the need for support?

There isn't actually a line in terms of sympathy/a short hug/a bunch of hug emojis where you have to have been dating X months to deserve support.

Like, anyone you've been seeing for more than a date or two should be capable of responding with some basic human empathy. For example, "oh no! I'm so sorry to hear you're going through this," or "it must be so hard for you to get terrible news about your dog." Like, this is not rocket science or an exceptional demand on someone. And if you don't get that, that is actually really helpful critical dating information.

It's true that some people will response with a kind of Polyanna or minimizing response. When my daughter died, a number of people made remarks like "Jesus has another little angel." Those grated on me like nails on a chalkboard, but they generally also came with flowers/hugs/cards/sympathy and so even though I think of them as non-optimal responses, and I can still get quite angry about them, and they kind of marked people as not-of-my-tribe, they still didn't make me think the other person was lacking in basic humanity, just more that their worldview includes a very ummmmm simple answer to the afterlife that I do not share.

If I were dating them I might say "that's not what I need! I need Kleenex and a good cry!" and that would give them the opportunity to step up. Or not. Which is, again, dating information.

What I would suggest is that you don't worry so much about when can you expect an empathetic and human response to your needs, that should kind of be always.

But what you can work on is being okay with what happens if you don't get that response. And the answer there is...if someone you are dating is not able to ride out life's bumps with you and sympathize and empathize, you don't need to date them...and you need a life where you are not so focused on that one person's approval that it really does become just necessary information and not a referendum on whether you are Too Needy, whether the relationship is Too Early, Too Late, Too Distant, Too Undeveloped.

In other words, ideally you will get your feet under you and if you do have a really rough situation and you're dating someone that can't support you, well, it sucks but you have your own back.

So summarized - your issue isn't whether you can prevent someone from having a shitty response. It's that you have enough ground under you that you can deal with a shitty response appropriately.
posted by warriorqueen at 4:00 PM on April 1, 2019 [8 favorites]


However, I don't know what to do when there's an actual Bad Thing Happening and I'm newly dating someone who I'm talking to frequently, especially if they're not great at emotional support.

This is a really good question without a simple answer. I do think we want to put positive energy forward early in relationships, and it would be a lot to ask anyone who we've only known a short time to do a lot of emotional labor for us, even if that person would be a great support person in a longer term relationship. Like, it would be difficult for me if I were seeing someone new and they spent a lot of time talking about their problems in a negative way and looking for a lot of support from me. But that doesn't mean someone has to pretend life is wonderful and be positive all the time, either.

It's also possible to share that Bad Thing is happening without asking for emotional support. It's important to be present with people, especially early in relationships. If you are so distracted by Bad Thing that you need support and can't focus on them, maybe it's not a great time to hang out with them?

Part of being anxiously attached can be sharing too much too soon and wanting to accelerate the development of intimacy.

The person not being great at emotional support is maybe a red flag.

No conclusions here, just a few thoughts.
posted by bluedaisy at 4:44 PM on April 1, 2019 [2 favorites]


I hesitate to post anything because I don't want your take away from my comment to be that I think you did anything wrong or that any of this is your "fault." On the contrary I agree with everyone who says that you are allowed to have needs and to want support in hard times. Those are reasonable expectatios in a relationship. This relationship does not seem like a good fit for either of you and that is not a matter of fault just the way the cards got dealt this hand. Further, while there are common time frames along which many relationships develop, everyone is different and there are no hard and fast rules.

Having said that, when a relationship moves as quickly as yours has, there are always some yellow flags that pop up in my mind. Despite your openness and genuinely good communication, there are still so many things you can't know about each other after such a short time. Things it will take years to discover. You're still getting to know this person. From his perspective, he is looking at having someone he just met two months ago, MOVE INTO HIS HOUSE. Additionally, this person knows how much he makes, how much time he spends at home, where he works, his phone number, and possibly, if you had gotten that joint bank account, a lot more sensitive personal/financial information. Then imagine that this person suddenly has some really big upheavals happen in their life and they (understandably) need a great deal of emotional support, something that is really difficult for him to give at the best of times. This could well be overwhelming and he may have been consciously or unconsciously pushing away from intimacy he wasn't ready for (even if he thought he was initially).

I'm trying to say gently, that wanting intimacy and emotional support is not wrong, but this was a very great deal of intimacy in a very short period of time. It might be worth thinking about breaking it into smaller chunks next time, for your own well being as well as your partners.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 7:20 PM on April 1, 2019 [13 favorites]


Obviously it’s vital to get emotional support from your partner- but it is possible to go overboard in a way that your loved one might find it difficult. For example, when do you need this support? How often? How long? Like, do you make multiple texts or phone calls about it? Do these things come up once a month? Every few weeks? Or every day? Does anything they do make you feel better? Do you let it color your week? If something bad happens do you then have a complete bad day or week? I think if it’s too much then it can take focus away from the nice things you do in the relationship to build it. It’s hard to enjoy a nice date if your partner is glum, it’s hard to look forward to spending time together if you’re not able to enjoy whatever joint activities you like to do because the other person can’t press the pause button on processing. Of course you need to get support from your partner and this guy sounds like he’s really immature but just watch out for it. Maybe it’s not you at all and you are able to get emotional support and then move on.
posted by catspajammies at 11:41 PM on April 1, 2019 [4 favorites]


What you're describing is very similar to an experience I had. Met someone that seemed perfect, things moved too fast, and over the span of a couple of months he turned from lavishing affection to yelling at me for bringing up a subject I found out he had lied about. Once the yelling started, it became my fault for all the problems that suddenly appeared in our dating (mainly, him yelling and being unhappy). He said we were fighting, but it was mostly him yelling. It was tough to throw the fish back in the water because for a brief time the relationship had seemed wonderful and solid and he had crafted an image of being kind and caring, but I had read enough Asks here that I knew to believe him when he showed me how he was really going to treat me. That kind, caring guy? That guy was an illusion.

After I broke up with him, even though I knew it was the healthy thing to do, I had a really rough time and questioned what I had done wrong and whether there was something I was doing that caused people to act a certain way. I think it's a natural way to react, especially for people that take responsibility for their actions and want to learn from their experiences, which it sounds like you're doing. It's good that you're asking questions like this, and taking survey of what people think are good approaches for bringing up issues that may require emotional support in a new relationship. I think you'll get a lot of good ideas from the process. But, you sound like a competent person and I wouldn't obsess over finding the perfect approach since overwhelmingly it sounds like this guy is a jerk and might be attributing qualities to you (sadness) to justify his jerky behavior. It also seems like you have some regret because he talked about how his previous relationships were easy. I was told the same thing, but eventually I learned that he had treated the other people he dated similarly (with lots of blaming and yelling). It might not be you.

As for your second question about giving up the hopes of what could have been - for me this was something that took time. In the weeks right after breaking up, I had a hard time seeing future me, I just kept thinking about what was 'lost'. After a few months, I started to think about what would be good for future me, and I just couldn't make a guy who acted shitty in the present fit into that vision. I didn't believe that 'time passing' would work because every moment sucked, but a year after breaking up I was going about my life with nary a thought about the jerk that I had agonized over. I shudder to think what my life would be like if I had tried to stick it out. Sending you best wishes.
posted by BeHereNow at 11:47 AM on April 2, 2019 [5 favorites]


I found out that my dog has terminal cancer. When I texted him about feeling stressed/sad, he kept changing the subject, telling me he was sure it would be fine (read: she’s dying), and asking me to talk about positive things instead. I got frustrated and upset and he got defensive and upset in return.

This utterly baffles me. I'm a total stranger looking into your relationship from the outside, and I'm still aghast trying to figure out what is going on here. I can't imagine how confused you must have been, and how hurt, to have him react so insensitively. Does he generally dislike animals?? Like, does he hate them???

My SO announced on our first date that he and his pup were a package deal. I'd never owned a dog, and was generally unsure about being a dog mom, but I can tell you that I fell in love with that tubby old stinker of a doggo almost immediately. I'm trying to picture my SO telling me 4 months in that she's dying of cancer and the only reaction I can see myself having is devastation. I would've been heartbroken for my SO to lose his best friend and loyal companion, but I myself, selfishly, would have been heartbroken FOR ME to lose her too. A couple years later, she is now very old for her breed and it is a constant worry in the back of my mind that she's nearing the end of her life expectancy, and what that loss will do to my SO. We are as prepared as we can be to lose her, because she is old af and has lived a very good life, but I know that he will still be bereft without her.

All of this is to say, I'm so so sorry about your pup, and I wish I could give you a really big hug right now, and I don't understand your boyfriend's lack of basic human decency toward you AND your dog, who I'm certain is the best girl and doesn't deserve to be sick.

As to the bigger picture of your emotional needs and your boyfriend's inability/unwillingness to provide you with seemingly any kind of support...

My SO and I struggled early in our relationship similarly in that we had to find a balance of positive and negative, but it was more like I got super tired of listening to him complain every day about traffic being bad for example (it's always bad, it's always going to be bad, complaining isn't going to make any difference, getting upset about it is the epitome of futility and he was regularly ruining my mood for nobody's benefit at all). Obviously bad traffic (or slow elevators, or lack of parking spaces, or any other thing in his litany of petty issues) is not on the level of losing a friend or learning that your dog is terminally ill. These things are actually hurtful, actually life-changing, and deserve actual emotional understanding and support.

My first thought is that your boyfriend, due to his childhood trauma, has learned to cope with life's disappointments and tragedies by simply ignoring them and willing the bad feelings to go away. That's neither healthy, nor is it reasonable for him to expect you to adopt the same maladaptive coping mechanism. It's just not possible to go through life the way he does and expect to have anything but the most superficial of "relationships" with anyone.

My second thought was that maybe, if you are someone who says absolutely everything that is on your mind, and expects validation and support for all of it no matter how insignificant, that perhaps these larger issues have become kind of the last straw. If he's someone whose emotional well was already running low due to managing his own stresses, and you've bled him all the way dry with constant negativity, I could mayyyyybe give him the benefit of the doubt in how he reacted to your recent sadness and his assessment of you being too needy. When you mentioned that he called you "the saddest person and also the most privileged," I remembered saying those words almost verbatim and calling my SO a princess or diva during one of our fights. Not because of my childhood trauma or from the perspective of keeping score like "You didn't have it as bad as me, so how dare you complain in my presence," but because he was being unreasonable in his expectation that everything had to be perfect all the time or else everyone was gonna have to hear about his dissatisfaction.

With my SO, we dealt with the imbalance/incompatibility by me expressing that it felt inconsiderate of my time and my well-being for him to bring all this negativity into our relationship for the sake of complaining about the same things over and over again with no resolution in sight. He was able to understand then what it was like for me to be on the receiving end, and acknowledge that it doesn't really make him feel any better either to get all worked up over nothing. I made sure he knew that I recognized the difference between everyday shit like bad traffic versus having a bad day at work, and that I would be glad to listen and offer support for the latter. Our relationship has fared sooooo much better since having that conversation, the difference is like night and day - while I felt the support was pretty much going one way (me giving and him taking) when we started dating, we are now mutually very supportive of each other.

I don't say any of this to blame you for how he has treated you, just putting out my own experience in case any of it might be helpful perspective for you. I think sounds highly likely that you two are simply not compatible, and that he is somewhat of an emotional robot and expects you to be the same. You absolutely shouldn't force yourself to be that to make him happy, as you would be forfeiting your own happiness. I've been there, done that, including the parts where the guy love-bombed me, we had unreal chemistry together, and everything seemed to click so perfectly until suddenly I was asking too much of him and overthinking too much and everything that was great before was suddenly too much, and he kept pulling back until there was nothing left. I don't recommend sticking around for that kind of thing. Best of luck in figuring this out.
posted by keep it under cover at 12:00 PM on April 2, 2019 [4 favorites]


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