Breakup with complicating factors--can you help me plan?
July 23, 2019 11:10 PM   Subscribe

Hi all. Going through a super stressful possible separation from my live-in partner. Some particular emotional, financial, and logistical logistics lie ahead. Looking for any help in how to get through this one day at a time.

This is me:

I was asked to get more involved with my partner's son's life. I did, helping him get into college and guiding him through the registration process. Then he started to exhibit passive resistance in a number of ways. The things that I've been working with him on are pretty essential life stuff: school, finding work. Nobody, father, son, or family therapist, has suggested that how I'm approaching the son is problematic. I mean, who knows, maybe I'm fucking it up, but nobody has suggested as such.

However, when I bring up the son's passive resistance with the father, the father gets upset and defensive. I perceive myself as being very reasonable during these conversations; he seems to find the conversations unreasonable in themselves. Then he becomes angry at my distress. I don't want to paint myself as a martyr, here, but I can't figure out a more succinct or accurate way to describe this dynamic.

I've told him that I find myself in an increasingly untenable position, that this dynamic is not something I can deal with. This makes him angry. I've told him I will back off with the helping but I'm really concerned because I now know that A, B, and C in son's life is not being addressed. This makes him angry. His anger and his failure to address the issue constructively are quickly doing a number on my feelings for him.

Okay. So that's the context. Today, in a therapist's appointment, in front of his son, he told me was sick of it, if I wanted to leave, I should leave. So.

I'm putting this context here in part because one obstacle I have here is psychological. I'm devastated. By the dynamic, how it's played out, my partner's lack of his support, his declaration in therapy today. I need to crawl in a hole and sleep for a week. But I have a super demanding work schedule/commute/chronic pain problems that make sleeping difficult.

Question 1: Dealing : What are some good tips and trips for maintaining a grueling schedule despite having a yawning abyss open up in your personal life?

Question 2: Reaching out: unfortunately, as I use a wheelchair, have little money of my own, my family is far away, and my social circle is extremely limited, moving out is going to be a big, big battle. When I've feeling wounded, I become 100% introverted and this is the thing I need to fight now. Can you explain to me like a third-grader what I should be doing beside crying and looking at ads on Craigslist?

I see a therapist on Friday.

Sorry if this is incoherent.

Thank you.
posted by IwishIwasFordMaddoxFord to Human Relations (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You are roughly a month in on this new living situation. Your SO made what seems from the outside to be a somewhat frustrated off-the-cuff remark that you are taking super super literally. I want to gently suggest that you put the brakes on everything right now and let things continue adjusting.

Because everything you described in this question and the last one you linked aren’t earth shattering issues. It may be annoying if he doesn’t get his act together to attend school in the fall, but it’s not the end of the world if that happens spring semester instead. It is not a crisis. It’s ok to let him deal with those consequences of ABC that you are worrying over. He’s an actual legitimate adult and gets to make his own mistakes.

Passive Resistance- as you phrase it - is usually a sign that someone feels powerless about the decisions being made for them by someone else. It sounds like you have been heavily involved in trying to steer his ship and he’s letting you know the only way he can that he isn’t interested in that direction (or isn’t interested in it right now or needs to steer the ship himself.) it’s ok for you to stop pushing so hard without burning it all to the ground and moving out.

Everything sounds like it’s in fast forward for you, and maybe there are details you’ve left out that make this all incredibly urgent. But honestly? The kid just gained a new parent figure, graduated and moved in less than six weeks. I’m twice his age and would need to stop and catch my breath.

Some people deal with change by going fast and hard, some people deal with change by shutting down and assimilating. I think y’all just have clashing styles and it’s feeling incredibly and overwhelmingly stressful to you. You can detach from all the stress you’ve picked up in regards to this. Truly truly trust that your SO and his son will figure it out on their own, and let it go. Because if you move out they’ll have to, right? So let them figure it out without also upending your life.
posted by stoneweaver at 1:17 AM on July 24, 2019 [13 favorites]

Get in touch with your super limited social circle, especially folks close geographically and those who are closest emotionally. Send them all texts saying that you are going through a hard time and could they meet for a drink (or with the faraway friends, maybe you could "meet" through text or Skype). Tell people that you could use help figuring out your next move, and then let them help you and/or just socialize.


As for dealing, I find meditation helpful. There are a couple free apps you might try -- one is called 1 Giant Mind and is very simple and soothing, and another is called Insight Timer and has thousands of meditations. I also like to do "mini-meditations" when I'm super stressed because they take like five seconds and you can do them at any time. Just breathe in and then exhale slowly, and feel yourself sort of physically settle into yourself, as if you were a sand timer.

Also keep in mind that your partner didn't break up with you (from what I can tell). You may find his position to be a dealbreaker, but for the moment it doesn't sound like he's saying "we're done," it sounds like he's saying "I can't take this situation with the three of us triangulating any more." If you don't want to split up, there is probably room for the two of you to keep talking.

I'm sorry you're going through so much stress. It sounds rough! I wish you the best.
posted by sockanalia at 1:58 AM on July 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

I think a little anger on your part might be constructive. Why on earth are YOU being asked to manage this kid’s major life transition, when you have enough on your plate and are not his parent? The kid has two parents, one of whom is in the house. The parents should be responsible for guiding the kid through the life lessons of work and school. What is his father doing while all this is going on, and why isn’t he working with you behind the scenes so that you’re on the same page with the overall parenting plan? Why is he putting it on you, and then getting pissed off at how you handle it when you ask for help and guidance? This dude sounds like a lousy parent and a lousy partner. Of course it’s affecting your feelings for him. He’s dumping his responsibilities on you and then blaming you for not fixing everything. That’s bullshit.

As for the kid, he sounds like a teenager being a teenager. He’s not going to learn the importance of life and work, and figure out how to transform into an adult, after a month. Nobody does. And his life isn’t going to be ruined if he spends a summer playing video games, or if he doesn’t have a handle on what courses at community college would suit him best. Obviously his parents haven’t been preparing him to understand those things after 18 years, so it’s an unrealistic expectation to think he would absorb it instantly coming from you.

Personally, if this situation is what it sounds like, where you’re being tasked with nagging two adult men into cleaning up after themselves and being responsible adults when YOU’RE the one in the fucking wheelchair, then I would definitely stop the helping and focus on the moving out. None of this sounds like it’s even remotely fair to you. You don’t necessarily have to break up, but I would definitely figure out a living situation where you are no longer being forced into a parenting role.
posted by Autumnheart at 5:18 AM on July 24, 2019 [13 favorites]

I was asked to get more involved with my partner's son's life.

You’re using passive voice here, so it’s unclear who asked. His mom? Your partner? The kid? I’m guessing it wasn’t the kid. Did your partner ask you to get involved because you were complaining about the kid, as a conflict-avoidant way of hoping this would get you off his back about the kid?

I want to echo what was said above: I don’t think your partner broke up with you. I think your partner was expressing frustration poorly. You really want him and his son to change, and pretty quickly. They’re not on your timeline, though, and likely both feel frustrated by your demands (no matter how reasonable).

This sounds like a really difficult situation, but anytime a family blends like this, there will be difficulties.

What do you want? If you want to leave the relationship and move out, that’s fine, but you can make that decision on your own; you don’t need to put that on your partner because of one comment. I mean, what he said is literally true: you can leave.

You heard, “Leave.” He could have meant lots of things, including, “I feel unloved” or “I don’t know how to resolve the situation except by ending the relationship even though I would like to find another solution.”

He loves his kid and feels protective of him. You’re likely the only one pushing the kid right now. That approach doesn’t seem to be working.

Maybe there’s another approach here, if you and your partner are both committed to finding it. But I think you need to back off the kid.
posted by bluedaisy at 5:27 AM on July 24, 2019 [3 favorites]

I wonder if you all implemented any of the ideas in the last thread... A list of chores that all household members need to do, a plan for 18 year old paying rent, some policies about cleanliness...

Like others have said - while the situation is annoying and tough, it isn't a crisis. It isn't really your problem if he isn't motivated to enroll in community college or not get off the couch. I would step back from your supposed responsibilities toward this young adult. But implementing some policies for living day to day would be a good idea. If he doesn't wash dishes, don't let him use the dishes.

Move out if you want (although it sounds like it might have been a heat of the moment comment), break up if you want, but no one is kicking you out today. Craigslist, padmapper, and zillow are all places with apartment listings. Also ask friends who may have leads in their own buildings.
posted by k8t at 7:47 AM on July 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

You sound 300% invested in stuff that is really not your deal. Dial it back, and spend time building up your own network.

Set some basic roommate rules - ex, if the kid uses a dish he washes it, if he doesn't wash it he loses the ability to use dishes. You & SO pay your bills first, kid's wishes do not take priority over rent & utilities, etc. Get your partner to have a talk with just them and you, and agree on some ground rules. Either your SO or the both of you should talk to the kid about the rules. Then only care about those rules. Treat the kid like a roommate, not your project.

Your SO and his kid are going to be extra sensitive right now. You came in like a hurricane and there is a damage zone. So make sure you distinguish between what you need (clean living space, time for your own hobbies, time with just you and SO, etc) and what you were misguidedly doing to try and help (all the other stuff), and stay calm about this. It will be hard.

While this adjustment is taking place, focus on finding friends & contacts for you so you have options.
posted by Ahniya at 8:00 AM on July 24, 2019 [5 favorites]

If you dont like it, leave, is an especially cruel thing to say to a person, in a wheelchair, who may not actually be able to leave without a lot of support. Its almost an empty threat if he assumes you won't be able to do it. Which sounds like a trap and abusive! Does he think you are trapped and therefore should just be quiet while he and his son executive dysfunction all over the place?

Both father and son sound like a couple of duds. For you own peace of mind I would take a solid look at your finances. Write down income and fixed expenses. Write down every thing. Know how much your life costs.

Then take that info and start looking at apartments. You don't have to move in the next week. You have to know that you can if you have to.

If you have a stressful commute, is there anyway you can stay closer to the office for the next week? Just get out of the house and don't think about these men.

Next, I would see if there are any county services for wheelchair bound people. You may have to accept this cruelty as domestic violence and explain it as such. Just get a sense of all your resources in terms of housing vouchers , transit and assistance. Maybe a carer can help with packing, for instance.

I'm so sorry this is happening to you. You sound like a functioning person who knows what she needs to thrive with a disability and are just trying to communicate those hard won lessons to the son. But...he's not your son. The most you can demand is cleanliness and financial contribution. This is also why listing out your financial entanglements and financial needs is important.

Also it may take months to sort out housing if you are going the county assistance route. I would not stop the process for any reason. Just gather info for your exit plan, stop talking about the sons life, individual therapy only, and enforce basic bullet point household rules.

Feel free to me mail if you want to hash things out.
posted by perdhapley at 8:45 AM on July 24, 2019 [4 favorites]

If you dont like it, leave, is an especially cruel thing to say to a person, in a wheelchair, who may not actually be able to leave without a lot of support. Its almost an empty threat if he assumes you won't be able to do it.

Perdhapley makes a really good point. It wasn't a kind thing to say regardless of this context, but your wheelchair adds an extra bit of meanness to his comment. Is your partner working on improving how he manages conflict? You've said he's conflict avoidant, but it also sounds like he holds back a bit and then doesn't know how to express conflict in a healthy way once he does.

I re-read your question and wanted to give you a better answer about what you should be doing now, given your inclination to hide. You said your family is far and your social circle isn't large. I really want to encourage you to reach out to folks. For family members who are far away, send a text or email or make a call (whatever you can manage). Even if you don't want to talk about your relationship, connecting with those folks can help combat social isolation. Maybe let them know you're feeling pretty stressed and you'd love to chat as a distraction. These are people who love you, and I bet they'd be glad to hear from you.

As for your friends and any local social circle: I'd encourage you to reach out to those folks to. You don't have to say you're looking for a place to live, but you can put out feelers. Even if you aren't at that point yet, getting in touch with someone and setting up to a time to meet for coffee might be a good way to break out of your routine and keep yourself engaged in the world.

This sounds like a really complicated situation emotionally. Letting other people who care about you know you're having a tough time or contact with them regardless of that might give you some comfort.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:51 AM on July 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

2.a I would set very clear boundaries on your level of interacting and coaching this child in the future. You are the not the child's parent and I'd limit it to any specific direct question child has for you (if even that). Like, if child does not how to complete a work form and asks you for help directly. Even for minor chores like cleaning up, you should not be the one telling him, it should come through his parent. If you SO objects, time to reconsider your relationship.

2.b Your situation is complicated by being in a wheelchair, but not impossible. Unfortunately it is easy for women, wheelchair bound or not, to become dependent on their partners and lose the ability to take care of themselves. Even for those of us not in wheelchairs, it is important for us to be able to take care of ourselves in the event our relationship quickly or unexpectedly comes to an end. I'd recommend building up your resources (outreach to family to strengthen bonds, financial reserves, ability to earn a higher salary) and itemizing your living costs as suggested above. You should do this right now regardless of if you plan to stay in order to improve your confidence and negotiating power with you partner.
posted by seesom at 4:36 PM on July 24, 2019

Thank you for your answers, everybody

After a few days the SO and I hashed things out to a certain extent. I appreciate what people have said about backing off w/r/t the son and I understand where you're coming from.

What I may not have conveyed very well is that the love it or leave it comment wasn't a snapped remark followed by an apology; it was a day of silence followed by this pronouncement in therapy followed by a couple more days of silence. Then he apologized profusely. It was a bit different from a more typical blowing-off-steam scenario.

My SO had told me previously that he'd been diagnosed with conflict avoidant disorder in his youth; what I didn't know a few days ago is that he'd also been diagnosed with intermittent explosive disorder and depressive disorder with schizoid traits. He believes issues related to these two diagnoses are in play. I guess the fairest way to put is he'd had a lot of therapy in his twenties and thought he'd been cured, more or less.

He's told me he's going to start seeing a psychiatrist, which I agree is an essential step.

We are in a much better place in that I am understanding a great deal more how we got into the dangerous trough that we fell into last week. We are in a middling place w/r/t the son because I am now extremely wary about getting involved in his life. Yep, totally agree, not the end of the world if he doesn't have fall semester figured out. The problem is that the son presents many issues (autism, issues related to the death of his mother) that could benefit greatly from additional support. This is a point on which all parties, including the family therapist, agree. It's one thing to say that taking these issues on isn't my role; it's another thing to deny those issues exist.

Overall, I understand my SO's failing to maintain his own psychiatric care and his failing to be upfront with me about his diagnoses are big problems. I don't need anybody to tell me that they are seriously worrying, because I get it.

But at any rate, I'm planning to diversify and extend my support group by working on advocacy efforts within the disability community.

Thanks again for your answers.
posted by IwishIwasFordMaddoxFord at 12:01 PM on July 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

« Older Obscure Webcomic-filter   |   How can we handle members' motions on operational... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments