Confusing relationship - advice?
April 14, 2019 11:22 AM   Subscribe

I recently was in a complicated brief relationship with someone who had just gotten out of a long-term relationship with someone who cheated on him. Despite red flags, he said he was over it and I liked his company, was very attracted to him, and he was fun to be around. We were a similar space in life too, both not in University (I had just had to drop out due to serious sickness I contracted on a trip which got better in the following weeks).

He wanted things to become more serious between us but I had reservations and anxiety because he was talking about his ex a lot, seemed a little immature, and was stuck in depression (had dropped out of Uni). He would text me everyday and I liked being around him except he would often bring up really personal dark things that emotionally drained me. I have a history of family with mental illness so it hit on a personal note.

After a few weeks I ended up breaking things off. He seemed sad but suggested we see each other casually and I tentatively agreed. Then we still kept talking every day and hanging out all the time. We would have really good moments together, and then he would say things that were insensitive or talk about how he was going on Tinder already. If he were to show that he really cared and was making an effort to turn his life around, I would've taken him back. Also he had low libido, a depression thing, but the way he handled it made me feel bad. I was struggling because part of me really liked being around him and the other part had intense anxiety. Despite it I felt like we had a strong friend bond, not just a physical attraction.

One night he made a comment about how he had cheated in the past (and regretted it) and then with a different ex of his, he had laughed at her when she took an accidental fat joke he made and broke up with him because of it. More warning signs. Yet he showed sensitivity in other ways. He was drinking a lot, not sleeping til 6 am most nights, and no job/no ambition/constantly talking about depression. I broke it off again, said we were in different places. He apologized for his behaviour, said he understood that no one would really want to be with him in the state he was in right now, and he hoped we could hang out in the future.

I became depressed and missed him a lot. I felt like I couldn't move on but was conflicted.I found out later from his friend that he had felt like I was the one who got away. A few weeks later we hung out and were really enjoying each other's company. Then we had sex (which neither of us were planning on) but it felt sad because he was talking about dark things again after and also other girls. Cue me feeling shitty again.

A month later, we hung out, and again had sex. Seems idiotic to me now, but I had just really wanted to have one nice night with him so that the relationship didn't end on a dark note. Again, the topic somehow got on his ex-girlfriend. He got upset, and we both left feeling shitty. We both apologized to each other the next day.

I vowed to myself to stop this. Then a few weeks later I ended up getting drunk at a band night he was at and feeling intense feelings towards him in my inebriated state, wanted to hang out with him after the show. He got mad at me, and said he would never date me ever again, he was doing cocaine now, and found out more things about his ex that made him more depressed. He said he didn't want to be with someone who didn't know what they wanted. I brought up some of the shitty things he had said to me, and he said sorry but seemed very cold. Since then we've made up, he said he would always be open to hanging out with me as friends and he's texted me once since then

I still can't stop thinking about it. Part of me cares a lot about him, part of me is angry, part of me is confused, part of me is guilty and feels like an idiot. I've never been in a relationship like this before. Has anyone else ever felt really attached to a relationship that wasn't healthy? How do I process this so I can move on? I still care about him and am considering staying friends but I feel conflicted.
posted by oracleia to Human Relations (12 answers total)
Stop thinking about how you need to process it in order to move on. First, just move on. Worry about processing it later. You have absolutely got to go no contact. Stop seeing him. Unfollow/unfriend him on social media. Block his number.

There is no such thing as "staying friends" because you have never been friends.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:25 AM on April 14 [19 favorites]

I already have unfollowed, unfriended him on social media. But I feel like completely cutting him out of my life and never talking to him again just seems so final. I know we have similar friend circles so we'll probably run into each other.
posted by oracleia at 11:31 AM on April 14

Give yourself the gift of refusing to over analyze this - it's much simpler than it seems: this man is not prepared to be in a relationship ... with you or with anyone. Do not allow someone like this to take up valuable real estate in your life.
posted by WaspEnterprises at 11:34 AM on April 14 [19 favorites]

Go no contact. If you run into him, you run into him. But he will continue to use you for sex and emotional labour otherwise.
posted by nathaole at 11:51 AM on April 14 [7 favorites]

Has anyone else ever felt really attached to a relationship that wasn't healthy? How do I process this so I can move on? I still care about him and am considering staying friends but I feel conflicted.

I have been in a similar situation to you but at an older age. Believe me, the late night + depression + substance use cycle is not a healthy one. I can’t tell you how to move on perfectly because I couldn’t do it myself (it’s really hard when you care about someone like this). Ultimately I was able to process it by trying to understand that this guy, as much as I loved him, was not in a mental space where he wanted to be happy the way we could be together. He was self-destructive and his depression was causing him to make choices that made himself feel worse. He was not making choices that would make him happy, so to the extent that we were happy, calm, and in a good place together he would push that away. It didn’t matter how “made for each other” we were.

I recommend you fully cut off contact with him for an extended period of time and work on making choices that will make you happy in the long term. After months to a year of no contact with him, you’ll be in a place to decide whether you actually want him in your life as friend. You don’t want to be there as his friend when he starts dating someone else, because in the head space he’s in, it’s going to be someone that makes you feel like “he’d date her but not me?! What’s wrong with me?!”
posted by sallybrown at 11:52 AM on April 14 [3 favorites]

Lots of people have been here before. I have definitely been here and know how it feels.

Unfortunately, the answer is always the same. Go no contact. Stop making up reasons as to why you need to keep holding on to this. If you don't go no contact now, if you keep allowing yourself to be caught up in this relationship, you will look back in 6 months, 5 years, whatever, and wonder why you wasted so much time holding on to something you knew was wrong.
posted by thereader at 11:58 AM on April 14 [14 favorites]

But I feel like completely cutting him out of my life and never talking to him again just seems so final

Isn’t that the point?
posted by aubilenon at 12:12 PM on April 14 [10 favorites]

It's really insightful that you've noted that this pattern is a pattern, and that it doesn't make you feel good. One thing that's useful for me is asking myself what I'm getting out of the interaction. Something about the dynamic is attractive to you, and being able to uncover the root causes of that is very useful and powerful. To that end (cue standard askme response), I have found therapy to be very useful. Finding a therapist that specifically focuses on my feelings and where and how those feelings repeat across related situations has been very helpful for me.
posted by sockermom at 12:18 PM on April 14 [2 favorites]

Thanks everyone for your comments. I wish I knew why I was so attached to the cycles of this because obviously it's not good for me.
posted by oracleia at 2:07 PM on April 14

I wish I knew why I was so attached to the cycles of this

I can point to one possibility in your own post: "I have a history of family with mental illness so it hit on a personal note." Sounds very much like your relationship with this guy mirrors on at least one level a relationship dynamic that you're already familiar with. When we grow up in a way that exposes us to unhealthy relationship models, we often spend a lot of time unconsciously seeking out new relationships that will mimic those earlier models, because we are more comfortable inhabiting that experience over and over again instead of doing uncomfortable emotional work to step into a new and healthier relationship style.

If you're not ready to talk to a therapist about this yet, it may be useful to journal about it.
posted by palomar at 2:59 PM on April 14 [7 favorites]

Has anyone else ever felt really attached to a relationship that wasn't healthy?

Like literally almost everyone! You seem pretty young, since you noted that you're not in University like that's unusual, so I assume you're like 18-22-ish? This is really really really something that almost everyone goes through. It sucks! But also this guy is a losing proposition. Take it from an old lady such as myself: A dude who is doing a lot of coke, saying mean things to you, and making dramatic pronouncements about other women/his life in general is NOT A GOOD BET, both as a boyfriend AND as a friend. I promise you, spending too much time with this dude is just a recipe for your own general misery. They don't get more interesting or nicer. Truly truly truly truly block him and stop hanging out with him and I promise you will feel WAY better about this situation in about six months. Sometimes it seems romantic to be involved with someone who has all these PROBLEMS, especially if you're bored in other areas of your life, so my advice is to stay away from him but ALSO try to pick up a habit that's time-consuming/exhausting so your brain has other things to percolate on. When I was going through a bad breakup from a relationship that was emotionally misguided, I took up running and it truly helped.

I will say: It also helps to tell your close friends that you need to not hang out with him or talk to him for awhile. Draft them to help you stay distracted.

This will pass, I promise.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 3:29 PM on April 14 [14 favorites]

Feeling attached to anything is just a feeling. Anything that you do promotes attachment to that thing. Over the course of my life, I've gotten attached to sleeping in, and to getting up at 5 am. I've gotten really attached to going running every day, and I've gotten attached to sitting on my couch on the Internet for the entire period after work. Attachments to people are trickier, but still, I've been attached to friend groups that were very healthy and very unhealthy for me. Often, the people I was attached to in some way mirrored my own situation, but they also reinforced and deepened, or even changed, my own state of mind.

The point is that you can decide yourself. There are sayings about this - "the hand teaches the heart" and "fake it until you make it." Even though this situation is one you feel attached to now, if you choose to walk away from it and similar situations like it, it will eventually inspire the same "oh hell no" reaction that on paper it sounds like it should.

This is actually a pretty powerful tool because even baby steps can start to teach you. So even if all you can do is to interrupt him the next time he is talking about yearning for his ex- or dating other people and say "you know, to be honest, since I have a crush on you, it's kinda painful to listen to this, so could we talk about something else?" that would be a way of demonstrating to yourself that you don't have to let yourself be treated a certain way. And then once you internalize that, then taking a bigger step will be easier next.
posted by salvia at 3:56 PM on April 14 [4 favorites]

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