Just been dumped - and I'm beating myself up
September 23, 2019 7:20 AM   Subscribe

11 months in, my boyfriend (now ex) has told me that he is ‘deficient’ and that he cannot love me in the way that I would like. He would be happy to stay with me indefinitely but thinks that it is better to let me go because of my age and because he is 'not enough' for me and that at 35 (I want kids), he should 'let me go'. This has increased the huge insecurities I already had. On the other hand, I feel like perhaps he was emotionally unavailable from the start and I should have just cut it off ages ago.

Did I expect too much, or was I right to feel worried?

I posted three posts about this man before, so I should have known really. Many people told me to DTMFA but I bought up my concerns with him and he responded well. Looking at it all, I feel like I maybe took crumbs in the hope that he would change and I could win him around. I’m feeling stupid and like I am seriously f***ed up and at 35 should not have fallen for this, but then I remember all of the loving actions I saw and I can't help feeling he did have feelings for me and I've driven them away with overly worrying about it.

He said while breaking up that he would have been happy to be with me forever (and we had talked about marriage, kids and living together) but that he worries he will never love me in the way that I need or want to be loved, and that my insecurity would just get worse (which it has). I’m confused as it sounded like he was ‘falling on his sword’ to ‘save me’ from himself, but also feeling angry and cheated that he could do this and at the same time say I’m his best friend, his favourite person, that I’m the only person that’s meant so much to him.

He said he felt he should feel head over heels by now and that he wasn’t, that he doesn’t know what those things feel like and doesn’t think he will ever - he has been convinced of this for a very long time. I feel very sad at the thought that he will feel those things one day, it just won’t be with me. He said that perhaps if the timing was different and he had more time for his feelings to grow things would have been fine. Which makes me feel old and I like I put him under too much pressure.

This leads me to wonder whether I just ask too much and if nothing will ever be enough - perhaps if I’d trusted him and not questioned things (I was getting pretty anxious) this would not have happened. I feel like the fear I had from the beginning - that he would find me too much and waste my time - has come to fruition, and I feel like I have pushed him away and kind of ashamed of that.

I actually have had a couple of relationships where my anxieties managed to disappear, where I felt loved, where we had a lovely closeness. So I know it is possible, although I fear my self esteem has taken such a hit since then that maybe it's not anymore.

I told him that sometimes insecurities just crop up on my side, and that I'd like to stay together, and that this wasn't all bought on by him or this 'inability' to love. I actually ended up reassuring him that I do often feel loved, which has been true. But I didn't push to stay together as it felt like after he had said that, there was no going back. I was weirdly calm (shock?) and felt sorry for him more than anything. I ended up basically reassuring that he is capable of love, that I had felt love, and that I cherished what we had.

But now, I feel sick, and sad, and I miss him a lot.

I wonder whether because of this belief that I can't have a successful relationship I subsconsciously chose someone who clearly had intimacy issues and should have backed away much sooner instead of using this as a stick to beat myself with. He was a naturally distant character who at 31 had never had a close relationship. In our eleven months of seeing each other, we probably spoke to each other on the phone every two weeks (after about 5 months of never talking on the phone), with mostly texts (several a day) between our dates (which were 1-2 a week). When we did talk on the phone, he sounded impatient and like he wanted to get off. He was weird about meeting my friends, which I put down to shyness as he had no issue with me meeting his. Put on paper, that seems fine, but it just didn’t feel like we were progressing much in intimacy and he just didn’t feel ‘in it’ enough.

I remember him confessing he’d never loved anyone earlier in our dating, and that he had never had a serious relationship. He said he thought love grew slowly, and I agreed, and felt happy to let it unfold. I thought it was, and now feel blindsided and like I either should have waited longer, or like he did love me but didn't express it very well and I have triggered some fear in him about not being able to love anyone when, actually, I did feel loved in many moments. Maybe I should have stayed quiet.

In many ways, he showed me love and he certainly gave me a lot more than he had been able to give others. I felt loved by him reasonably often, and could really see that he adored me at points. He implied we had a future together. He said he could go with my timeline when I was having a fertility panic (which I was careful not to make him feel responsible for - I'm getting my eggs frozen), he was about to take me to Switzerland to meet his entire extended family. Maybe he did love me, in his own quiet way, but I wanted too much? He was clearly very pained to break things up, and was very upset. He said he doesn't know how to be happy and he will now just be unhappy alone (his default position - he's been convinced from the start he'll end up living in a log cabin with a dog).

I feel like it's my fault for putting pressure on the situation - but I think this thinking may be flawed and that if the relationship were right, he would be able to make me feel more secure instead of like I needed to play it cool all the time.

We had just come back from a lovely holiday where things just felt really close two weeks ago. He then had a week’s intense workload and was very quiet, which piqued my insecurity- something which has been quite present through a lot of our relationship, so maybe I wasn’t as happy as I thought.

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I would like advice on how to get through this without it turning into another ‘failure’ in my head, or a reason to beat myself up with. I worry I expected too much. That it was my insecurity that led to this. I've also been recovering from several big life traumas and am worried I put him off with my generalised anxiety/sadness about multiple things (which I tried not to burden with him but which came up regularly).

I would also like to hear opinions on whether you think my insecurities actually were a pretty natural reaction to the situation? I feel pretty nauseous right now and hearing other peoples' take on this may help quell the anxiety and feeling of impending doom and loneliness/'no one will ever be enough' thoughts.
posted by starstarstar to Human Relations (36 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Even if your anxiety did put him off, that doesn't make it your fault or mean that you are too anxious ever to have a successful relationship. The problem isn't the anxiety but the gulf between what you need to feel secure and what he's able to provide, and the feedback loop that results when the latter keeps falling short (you're anxious, he doesn't quite do what you need in order to feel less anxious, you get more anxious about that, repeat ad nauseam).

He was pretty clear that he wasn't equipped to meet you where you were emotionally. I can't say I think much of the level of effort he seems to have put in, but you can't make people ready or able to meet you where you are—and you certainly can't do that by pretending to be somewhere else, i.e. acting like you have no needs when you're actually insecure. He does not naturally put out love on the wavelength that you receive it, or at least not often enough, and he's not interested in learning to. That doesn't mean what you're asking for is unreasonable; it means it's not something he thinks he can provide. He sounds not that interested, generally, in providing for people emotionally, so that's DEFINITELY not a referendum on whether you're asking for too much.

You are, by the way, not asking for too much, nor being too insecure. You're feeling crazy because of the feedback loop that intensified your insecurities by continually not giving you quite what you needed. The right person is going to make you feel LESS crazy.
posted by babelfish at 7:57 AM on September 23, 2019 [20 favorites]


The fact he didn't want to meet your friends (did he introduce you to his?) and the fact he broke off JUST before you were going to meet his extended family makes me wonder if he was hiding a secret either from you, or from his people.

You're not asking too much, and you don't need to hide your light under a bushel or somehow act as if you haven't had traumas. The expectations many men come into relationship-wise (and the expectations of some women) come from a thoroughly misogynist and neoliberal capitalist society in which a false individualism is prized and women are expected to contort their selves and lives to please men according to these often unspoken expectations. An understanding of feminism can help with the pain, as this is not your fault. But the fear of being alone, missing the fertility window, or parenting alone are legitimate because this goddamn society makes it so hard. These aren't solutions, but this is not your fault. Take comfort in that.
posted by Mistress at 8:03 AM on September 23, 2019 [5 favorites]


I’m confused as it sounded like he was ‘falling on his sword’ to ‘save me’ from himself, but also feeling angry and cheated that he could do this and at the same time say I’m his best friend, his favourite person, that I’m the only person that’s meant so much to him.

Right now you are still full of hormones and such; in about six months to a year you're going to look back at this and think what an amazing crock of shit he tried to hand you. In the meantime, do not accept the crock. This is a grown man who couldn't bring himself to tell you in a honest way that your life goals were incompatible. He doesn't get to make you feel bad about yourself.
posted by praemunire at 8:07 AM on September 23, 2019 [49 favorites]


I had a guy break up with me on a faster timescale (4ish months) after it was clear we weren't on the same page with our timelines (he was newly not even divorced and had just signed a lease on an apartment, was still very hurt from his last relationship; I had been dating for a few years, had a handle on my past relationships, was ready to move into a more grown-up situation with someone and not just date, and I wanted another baby). He said he "didn't want to hold me back". I too had felt insecure the whole time we were seeing each other, he wasn't as responsive as I wanted to text, he was content only seeing me for a few hours a week, I had this nagging anxiety the entire time even though our time together was good.

I met my now partner shortly after and indeed it appears the other guy would have been holding me back from the life I wanted and now have two years later (baby is due this spring!). So it sucked at the time, and you should treat yourself kindly and do all the breakup things you need to do, but then consider the gift if him not wasting your time any further even though you miss him, like yes you can eyeroll his real intentions but he could sense you weren't happy and whether it's to be selfish or not he's freeing you up to be with a better match. My partner is a much better match for me than the other guy, I am literally never insecure with him and I have an anxious attachment style. Insecurity is a natural reaction to not getting your needs met.
posted by lafemma at 8:10 AM on September 23, 2019 [20 favorites]


You super do not want to have kids with someone who will break up with you instead of stepping up and improving himself. It really sounds like you were trying to fit yourself around him. You were trying to be someone he could love. Here’s the truth:

You are infinitely and intrinsically lovable. The person you are is enough. The life you want is beautiful and wonderful. You deserve someone who wants you to be big and celebrates you and wants to spend time with you as you are without having to hide your vulnerabilities and cut off your intimacy.

He was not that person. He made you feel like you had to hide and cut off parts of yourself in order to be lovable.
posted by stoneweaver at 8:14 AM on September 23, 2019 [38 favorites]


Let's boil this down to the brass tacks: you've been together a year, he isn't in love with you, you're 35 and want to have kids. He's right: it's time to split.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:24 AM on September 23, 2019 [37 favorites]


I understand your anxiety, but the fact you have plans and desires is the basis for confidence, not for self-doubt: these are the things you want. You're far from the first person to have a great holiday weekend followed by a break-up, because people try situations on to see how well they fit. He was comfortable enough to spend time with you, but couldn't make the jump to having you meet his family. He was the one who wasn't invested, and a lot of your anxiety was probably based on picking up that lack of confidence he had in the relationship going forward.

He said he doesn't know how to be happy and he will now just be unhappy alone (his default position - he's been convinced from the start he'll end up living in a log cabin with a dog).

It's not your responsibility to provide meaning to someone else's life. Nobody should feel like their role in a relationship is to justify why their partner is better off with them than alone! That's ridiculous.
posted by mikeh at 8:31 AM on September 23, 2019 [4 favorites]


Maybe I should have stayed quiet.

Nope. You did nothing wrong. You were open about your feelings and expectations. You were the grownup here.

This guy isn't and was never ready for the relationship you wanted. With meeting the extended family (if that was a real plan) and your clock ticking, shit was getting real for him and he bailed. He did not do this to save you or give you a better future. He did this for himself because he is an emotional coward.

You are better off without him.

This hurts. You feel awful. It's going to feel awful for a while yet. But do not give this jackass any sympathy because he is not worthy of your feelings or consideration.

I am sorry you're going through this.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:31 AM on September 23, 2019 [8 favorites]


You didn't do anything wrong.
You didn't put "too much pressure" on him.

I know how you're feeling, we always try to blame ourselves like it's our fault someone wouldn't work on themselves and actually have concrete feelings. This guy wasn't being honest about his feelings and was doing that extremely common depressed/weak-avoidant person thing where they are like "UGH I JUST CAN'T." But they could and they just aren't dealing with their issues.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:33 AM on September 23, 2019 [2 favorites]


Your feelings are normal and worth honoring with time and they will subside.

But you dodged a bullet. A man who makes that sort of excuse to leave a relationship — oh I’m not good enough for you — is a liar. He put the burden on you by a passive aggressive shitheel move.

The problem isn’t you. It’s him. You’re fine.

And most likely your prior struggles with this relationship resulted from his effort to get you to do the dumping. Next time, if it ever happens again, take the guy up on that offer the first time.
posted by spitbull at 8:38 AM on September 23, 2019 [4 favorites]


None of this has to do with you making wrong strategic moves in the relationship (whether due to anxiety or whatever else). He just chose a complicated (and imo cowardly) way of saying “I don’t want to date you anymore, so let’s break up.” Both people have to want to be in the relationship, and he doesn’t, so now it ends.
posted by sallybrown at 8:38 AM on September 23, 2019 [2 favorites]


This sucks and I'm really sorry you're dealing with it! Chalk it up to a learning experience. Next time you end up in a relationship, definitely watch for the relationship to evolve a little more as time passes, it seems like you were still just "dating" after eleven months, so no wonder you were feeling anxious.
Don't try to dissect what he said. He realized he didn't want to have children or commit on your timeline (or at all) and so he broke up with you. It sucks but you will move past this! You're going to be fine.
posted by cakelite at 8:51 AM on September 23, 2019


I cannot favorite this enough:

in about six months to a year you're going to look back at this and think what an amazing crock of shit he tried to hand you. In the meantime, do not accept the crock

Post this writ large over your door such that you see it every time you leave the house.
posted by oflinkey at 8:55 AM on September 23, 2019 [13 favorites]


But you dodged a bullet. A man who makes that sort of excuse to leave a relationship — oh I’m not good enough for you — is a liar. He put the burden on you by a passive aggressive shitheel move.

This. "I'm not good enough for you," "I can't give you what you want," and all those "I'm doing this for your own good" rationalizations are such smarmy bullshit they make me want to vomit every time I hear them.

An ideal partner is someone who wants to be with you. Not someone you have to walk on eggshells around or constantly worry about pleasing.

If ex-partner does wind up alone in a cabin with a dog or six, well, that's on HIM. If HE is unhappy then HE needs to do the work on HIMSELF, whether that's therapy, spirituality, long walks in the woods, whatever. You can't heal a person who isn't going to do the hard work, unless you are an actual doctor. You can't change a person unless they are a baby and you are changing their diaper. The love of a good woman will never save a man - that's one of the most pernicious myths ever invented and has been the cause of so much suffering. Let it die in a fire.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 8:58 AM on September 23, 2019 [26 favorites]


"A man who makes that sort of excuse to leave a relationship — oh I’m not good enough for you — is a liar."

I've been broken up with before for essentially not being good enough, I've also been in relationships and come to the realization it should end because I'm not a whole person and my gaping unaddressed flaws will only hurt another who doesn't deserve it. I'm not sure why it makes them a liar, especially since the general assessment here seems to be that they are in fact not good influence for OP for myriad reasons. Calling them weak or avoidant or cowardly seems like it falls completely in line with the "I'm not good enough."
posted by GoblinHoney at 9:19 AM on September 23, 2019 [9 favorites]


Shrinking yourself up as small as you can in order to keep a relationship never works, in the long run. Yeah, it might keep someone around longer...someone who wants to be with someone coiled up and unobtrusive, and consider what that means about them and their priorities.

Most relationships under the 2-3 year mark end exactly like this. No real fault, just a failure to transition between limerance (and/or that horrible spectre "potential") and something real and lasting. If you're lucky, you figure out it's not happening by month 6, a lot of times it happens around 9-10 months or 12 months for obvious milestone reasons. Ultimately, it's just a case of Bad Fit.

You're right, he'll probably fit better with someone else in the future and be happy with someone who isn't you. That's not because you are bad or wrong or broken or unfit or unworthy, it's just that not everyone in the world is for you. It's just an unreasonable expectation.

Of course you feel terrible, breakups feel terrible. Change sucks, disappointment sucks, having to start over sucks, realizing you've gaslit yourself really fucking sucks. Go wallow for a bit, let yourself have the self-pity and rejection and hurt, spend a couple of weeks kinda in flu mode, being gentle with yourself. And then start putting one foot in front of the other, knowing that in six weeks and six months you are going to have all kinds of new and different feelings about all this, and you are going to be smarter and know more about what you want and what you're looking for, and also you're probably going to be pretty angry (at yourself, at him, at society). And that's okay, that's how we re-forge ourselves after a loss. You will be okay.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:20 AM on September 23, 2019 [5 favorites]


Insecurity is a natural reaction to not getting your needs met.

This is a grown man who couldn't bring himself to tell you in a honest way that your life goals were incompatible. He doesn't get to make you feel bad about yourself.

QFT!!!

What it boils down to it is this: You asked for what you needed, and you should absolutely always do that. He couldn't meet those needs. That's it. There's nothing more for you to feel bad about. The problem is that you're blaming yourself for his shortcomings. You did not fuck up this relationship; he just wasn't honest.

I'm sure he did love you. But honestly, love is not enough. You need that in addition to communication, respect, honesty and having compatible life goals. He was just not honest and all this stuff about "not feeling head over heals, not loving you in the way that you need, etc." is a dishonest way of saying "I don't want the same things you do."

I would take a break from dating/trying to find a partner and regroup. Start dealing with your big life traumas, spend time with those that love you, get therapy, and think about what you want in a partner and in life. Then when you go out trying to find a great partner, be ruthless about weeding people out.

You already know the truth: "I feel like I maybe took crumbs in the hope that he would change and I could win him around." "I wonder whether because of this belief that I can't have a successful relationship I subsconsciously chose someone who clearly had intimacy issues and should have backed away much sooner instead of using this as a stick to beat myself with." These are things you need to work on, preferably in therapy. You're just being distracted by what he said about insecurities and blaming yourself. Just be gentle with yourself, ok?
posted by foxjacket at 9:31 AM on September 23, 2019 [5 favorites]


I had questions like this about my last big breakup, and one of my friends - who always says exactly the right thing about all of my woes - said something that helped. I wondered aloud whether my ex really did love me, and my friend said, "...I think he did love you, but he just couldn't handle it."

It sounds like there's some of that going on in your case - your ex was realizing that things were getting pretty serious, and that meant that he was going to have to step up himself and do some growth as a person. But the thought of stepping up scared him. So he chickened out and gave up instead of trying to rise to the occasion.

Fuck that. That's not your fault, that's his fault.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:41 AM on September 23, 2019 [9 favorites]


I had a break-up once where it was clear that I was two feet in and my partner wasn't. He broke up with me. In conversations later on with my therapist, she said that the break-up was an "act of integrity" on his part. In situations like this, I think it's easy to focus on specific comments said during the break-up and to cast blame on the person who left us. But the bigger issue here is that this relationship wasn't working and wasn't going to work, and it's better for both of you to move on so you can find relationships that are a better fit. Try to ignore details about what was said during the break up because that's not really the issue. The relationship is over because he realized it wasn't a good match; you suspected this too, but he's the one who pulled the trigger. Regardless of how you all got here, it was an act of integrity.

You did what we should be doing in relationships: you expressed your needs. It became clear that he couldn't meet them. Right now, you are in pain from loss and grief and you are thinking, "If I hadn't expressed my needs, he wouldn't have known that they weren't being met, and then maybe if I had been patient, he would have started meeting my news and I would have been fine." But there's the thing: your needs are valid, and it doesn't really make sense that somehow you could have waited him out and he would have met your needs later on. You needed him to change to make the relationship work, and when he didn't change, you are beating yourself up for not changing.

It's always tempting to find the bad guy during conflict in relationships and in break ups (after the break up I mentioned, I became a pro at thinking about how I had been wronged). In this case, you're looking at yourself as the bad guy. But the truth is that this wasn't a good fit: you can truly care for someone but not be able to make a relationship work with them for a host of reasons. Unless he lied to you (and I don't mean that he lied to himself and to you -- we are likely all guilty of that to some extent), then what happened is that you explored what you wanted and learned that you didn't really want that together.

I think it can be helpful to understand that things that seem contradictory can be true: it can be true that you were his best friend and favorite person and also that he's not feeling right about the relationship.

Let's break down this sentence a bit: I wonder whether because of this belief that I can't have a successful relationship I subsconsciously chose someone who clearly had intimacy issues and should have backed away much sooner instead of using this as a stick to beat myself with.

I wonder whether because of this belief that I can't have a successful relationship I subsconsciously chose someone who clearly had intimacy issues...
I can't say, but the fact that you're wondering about this makes me think it's a real possibility. We love to confirm our worst thoughts about ourselves, don't we? But a good path to starting to answer this question can be found in a book I recommend all the time: Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment. You said that sometimes in relationships you can get past your insecurities and anxieties and feel loved, but in this relationship you couldn't. This book gives tremendous insight into why that can happen and how to avoid it in the future. It also says that if you had stayed in this relationship, it likely never would have gotten better, but you would have suffered low-grade insecurities for ages. Doesn't that sound terrible?

... should have backed away much sooner instead of using this as a stick to beat myself with.
Try not to beat yourself up with "shoulds." You are no more fully responsible for this relationship than he is. A healthier approach (and I know it's so hard to get to in the early stages of a break up) is that neither of you is bad or wrong. You explored a connection that ultimately wasn't healthy or sustainable, and now you are going your separate ways.

Maybe I should have stayed quiet.
Please do try to avoid second guessing your actions. Expressing your needs is healthy, and squelching them isn't. You're hurting from the break up, but that doesn't mean you did something wrong.

You had been seeing this guy 11 months and only saw him once or twice a week and rarely spoke on the phone and, when you did, felt like he didn't want to talk to you. This isn't you being insecure. You are trying to tell yourself you should have settled for what he wanted. In fact, you're saying two different things: if I was smart, I would have broken up sooner; if I was smart, I would have shut up so I could still be with him. You're feeding your insecurities because it hurts right now.

Break ups suck. Give yourself a week or two to wallow, to eat crappy food and cry and watch bad tv. Write in a journal and talk to your friends. And seriously consider therapy if you aren't in it already. Self-loathing is not the same as self-reflection. I don't think (as someone said above) that you shouldn't date again until you somehow fix yourself. We are all works in progress. But do try to forgive yourself both for not ending this relationship sooner and for not behaving in a way that made the relationship last longer. You can find a better relationship. Take care of yourself and work on those insecurities. Read the book Attached (it's so so good) and be gentle with yourself. Try to get to a place where you don't blame him or you -- so don't direct your anger at him or at yourself -- but try to figure out what work you can do to be healthier and what your needs are so that you can know that if a relationship isn't meeting those needs, they are legit needs, and it's time to move on.
posted by bluedaisy at 11:33 AM on September 23, 2019 [27 favorites]


This just came up on my facebook and it seems relevant: You Deserve a Partner Who Texts You Back.
posted by lafemma at 12:25 PM on September 23, 2019 [8 favorites]


He said while breaking up that he would have been happy to be with me forever (and we had talked about marriage, kids and living together) but that he worries he will never love me in the way that I need or want to be loved

Wow that’s some classic bullshit right there. Were this a virtual would I would tell you to call him on it ("I’m good, let’s stay together forever then") just to see what happened.

I’m not sure if he was lying to himself or what, but what he meant to say was "this relationship is not meeting my needs and I need to move on."
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:12 PM on September 23, 2019 [1 favorite]


A handful of folks on this thread are criticizing your ex for specific comments he made during the break up, but I think it would serve you well not to focus on the specifics. You said he had never had a close relationship, which likely means he's not very experienced in ending them. When we are at our best, we can end things with love and compassion. But it takes a tremendous amount of emotional maturity to do that--and it's hard even with that.

Rather than focusing on what he said at the break up, I think it's healthier to come to terms with how this relationship wasn't meeting your needs and, ultimately, it's a good thing he ended up because it needed to end.
posted by bluedaisy at 1:34 PM on September 23, 2019 [5 favorites]


Another thing I’ve heard that’s been helpful to me is “love is a verb.” Maybe in his head he loved you the way you seemed to sense, but was he actively loving you? No. Breaking up with someone, not wanting to be committed to someone, is not the actions of someone happily, reciprocally in love.
posted by sallybrown at 1:39 PM on September 23, 2019 [2 favorites]


Yeah I'm not sure why everyone is being so critical of the ex. At the end of the day, what's the difference between "I can't give you what you want" and "I don't want to give you what you want"?

He didn't want what you want. It would have been far worse for him to drag it out further, and waste the rest of your 30s. He gave you back your time and your opportunity to have kids. Go get what you want.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:42 PM on September 23, 2019 [8 favorites]


He didn’t want kids and he didn’t feel strongly enough about you to think it was a good match, so him telling you he couldn’t give you what you wanted was absolutely right - I don’t understand why everyone is slamming him. Better that he’s honest with you now than strings you along until your fertile years are over, and there’s plenty of guys who do that.

I understand that you’re crushed because you saw a future with him but I’d see it more that he wasn’t capable of doing or being what you wanted than that there’s something wrong with you. There’s nothing wrong with him either! He’s not obliged to want kids and settle down. You two were just incompatible but you both gave it a shot and when he realised, he let you know. Grieve, but not for too long. Your person is out there.
posted by Jubey at 2:22 PM on September 23, 2019 [6 favorites]


At the end of the day, what's the difference between "I can't give you what you want" and "I don't want to give you what you want"?

Nothing. They both make the conversation about the other person.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 2:29 PM on September 23, 2019 [4 favorites]


At the end of the day, what's the difference between "I can't give you what you want" and "I don't want to give you what you want"?

The conversation is: I'm really sorry, but you want this, and I want that, and they're both good things, but they're not compatible.

Not "oh I am just A BROKEN MAN NOT CAPABLE OF GIVING YOU THE LOVE YOU DESERVE I guess and I'm going to go off and die alone in a log cabin." That somehow manages to make him the victim of the dumping he is carrying out, when really there should be no victims, just two people sad they couldn't make it work.
posted by praemunire at 2:37 PM on September 23, 2019 [14 favorites]


[Couple deleted; please remember AskMe isn't a roundtable discussion with other commenters talking about the OP; just address the OP with your helpful constructive answers.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 3:23 PM on September 23, 2019


So,

I've been that person who dumped you, I knew I was mentally ill and unable to give a person what they needed.

I thought I needed to end the relationship, but I also knew that it was cruel of me to make the choice to end the relationship for these reasons on my own without their involvement. Now, it was hard, but I reached out to my partner and expressed my fears and told her every way I was broken and all the terrible things I feared would happen, and I asked her if she could be okay with that. She agreed to try. I fucked up A LOT, but over time I learned how to listen to my partner and understand their needs, I learned how draw boundaries and ask for my needs to be met. I'm still learning, some days I feel like all I'll ever be is a half fuck up. My partner tells me when I'm being a half fuck up. On the whole the trend points up, even if it's a little bumpy some weeks. The important thing is to have a partner that tries. No one is perfect, and even now we both know that we may not "make it", but whatever we end up being too each other, it will be based on honesty and trying our damndest along the way to be as good as possible to each other.

So, this guy got the first part right, realizing that he's not in a place where he's healthy.

He didn't do the rest of the work. The hard work. He did the easiest work: He took a choice away from you.

Having your agency taken away in a relationship hurts like hell, it's bad consent and it's wrong.

I'm sorry he did that to you, you deserved better.
posted by nikaspark at 3:33 PM on September 23, 2019 [10 favorites]


I think - and I thought this regarding your earlier questions, too - that overcomplicating both his and your motivations is a defensive tool, employed when the simple truth is too painful to deal with and needs to be covered over.

defending yourself is good, and this is an effective strategy. but you can't let yourself go so far into it that you forget it isn't really the point or necessarily the truth. What does a man who's kind of a dick say when he's breaking up with a woman who still wants to be with him? He says what will get him out of the room with the least trouble, the least shouting, and the least discomfort. There are exceptions to the rule, but this is the rule.

What you are not seeing, in your analyses of what he said and what he meant, is that his breakup lines were not arguments and not exploratory essays. they were speech acts. they were tools. they were spoken to get him out of the relationship, same as turning a doorknob gets you out of a room. To worry over why he said what he said and what it really means and whether it was true is to dignify his words, and him, beyond anything they could possibly deserve. it is to mistake a screwdriver for a martini, or a cat for a telephone. you are misunderstanding the basic function of the breakup speech. you have put it into the wrong category of spoken word.

People say, when someone tells you who they are, believe them. That's good advice. Another piece of good advice is: when someone breaks up with you, every thing they say, every word, translates to I am breaking up with you. "You're my favorite person" means Don't get mad. They can lecture you for an hour on their deficiencies or yours, but that's what it means. That's all that it means.
posted by queenofbithynia at 4:50 PM on September 23, 2019 [28 favorites]


I answered both your previous questions and I really believe in my answer to your last question especially.

Even in breaking up with you, this guy shows he cannot own his own feelings and be an adult about things. Instead he has to turn it all around on you and continue to leave little crumbs for you to follow.

I don't know what to say to you, but please, please know that you are always better off out of a relationship like this one. Everyone can be loving and nice sometimes - the fact that your ex could do this doesn't make him special, and it certainly doesn't counterbalance all the sarcastic, shitty things he has said to you. Look up intermittent reinforcement.

From my perspective, you clearly tried to rationalise this guy's behaviour right from the beginning, when you knew it wasn't right. You're still doing this. This is a mistake that you've made, but it isn't a terrible mistake - many of us have made it because we cannot understand why someone who claims to like us treats us badly. This is what you need to work on - recognising red flags, leaving bad relationships early (or not getting into them) etc. You can still work this out!
posted by thereader at 8:09 PM on September 23, 2019 [6 favorites]


I went back to your previous Asks, and...I am just so, so glad you are rid of this guy now. He was so cruel and selfish and careless with your heart and your time.

Do me a favour? When he reaches out because he misses jerking you around (and I swear he will), be a step ahead by having already blocked him. Your heart and your time are priceless. Don’t let him anywhere near them again!

Seriously, when I saw who posted this, I imagined us all carrying you around on our shoulders and dumping sports drinks on you and doing some kind of juvenile cheer that made fun of his name, while the stadium speakers played Lizzo.

You’re a more compassionate person than I am, and I dearly hope you’ll spend some of that compassion on yourself now.
posted by armeowda at 10:08 PM on September 23, 2019 [4 favorites]


OMG IT’S THAT GUY! Girl, you dodged a bullet. I’d be kissing the ground with relief. I know I am on your behalf! The only thing wrong with this picture is that you weren’t the one to do the dumping, and I know it doesn’t feel like it now, but one day you’ll look back and realise this was definitely for the best.
posted by Jubey at 12:02 AM on September 24, 2019 [1 favorite]


I just wanted to pipe up again and say that I don't think this means you are innately insecure. I've had relationships in which I was extremely insecure, but in retrospect it was because I knew the relationship was wrong or because I was being treated badly but didn't admit these things to myself. With my husband, I have never had the need to be insecure because there has never been a doubt about how he feels, so I am basically completely secure in this relationship. I used to have long conversations with my friends about my relationships. Now when people ask me about my husband I'm like "he's fine" and then tell them what he's doing in his career/life in general. No analysis.

Relationships in which men show up and want to commit to you 100%, without any doubts, exist. This kind of thing seems to be important to you, especially since you want children. You are not irretrievably broken, but you have had a bad relationship with an ambivalent, seemingly avoidant man, so it is normal to feel beat up at the moment.
posted by thereader at 12:48 AM on September 24, 2019 [5 favorites]


Hey everyone, I just want to thank you for all of your lovely comments. There's been a lot of insightful ones, and kind ones too. In general, I think you're right - I dodged a bullet. This was a man that was incapable of being intimate with me, or, I believe anyone else. It's a rare woman that will be happy with this, which is why he didn't have any significant relationship before me.

I do think he thought I was very special - even loved me in his own way (it's not clear from my questions, but there was proof enough) - and tried his best, and contrary to what some people have said he did actually really want kids, and marriage, and all that - but had been convinced for many years that he would end up alone (in a cabin in the woods...we live in London), that there was something 'missing in his brain', and to be honest if he carries on this way maybe he will. He had stopped joking about the cabin in the woods and instead spoke about us being together, and I think he wanted to believe it could happen.

I am now starting to wonder whether my 'rescuer' tendency was carrying me through this relationship. I thought it wasn't, as he was the least needy person who asked for zero emotional support, but I clocked early on that he had intimacy problems, had been deprived of the normal joys of human relationships and that he felt deeply ashamed of this and maybe wanted to 'fix it'- wouldn't it be super romantic if actually it was just that he'd never found 'the one' and I was it? He had been dumped many times, and I think maybe I felt like I could see things people couldn't see (to be fair, I could - I always see the best in people). This is the second time I've acted on a rescuer instinct for someone who is avoidant, and then felt insecure when they inevitably were....avoidant.

I think I tricked myself into thinking I could do this, and that I wanted to, and I'm glad he pulled the plug. I don't want to demonise him forever, and I actually think it was an act of love in his own way to let me go - he could have stayed like that indefinitely, I know that, but he knew from the beginning I was looking for more and things were getting more tense as I became more insecure and unsure of where things were heading (I did kind of act unreasonably towards the end but I'm not going to beat myself up). He did 'present' quite normally for the first few months of the relationship but I guess that's normal - he just didn't know how to take the next step and required too much hand holding, which made me feel bad.

I usually am okay with staying in touch with exes at least peripherally, and on friendly terms. This time, I've blocked him on all social media and on my mobile phone. I've a sneaking suspicion he will regret what he's done and want to try again, and I do not want to engage with that. I think in time I'll get in touch and see how he's doing, when I'm completely over it, as I will always hold affection for him (I think). He's not a bad person, but a damaged one, and I realise I need to improve my own self-perception so that I spot this quicker and know that I deserve more.

Thank you thank you thank you for all of your sympathy and empathy, and confirmation I'm not mad and broken. This perception has driven this behaviour, I'm sure, in that I have been looking for someone to confirm it. I need to remember I HAVE had normal, secure relationships before (many years ago) and that this perception that I cannot and should not depend on anyone is a really damaging one. I've started reading Attached and it's absolutely brilliant at quashing this myth. Thank you.
posted by starstarstar at 1:58 AM on September 24, 2019 [14 favorites]


Chiming in to say that your response here was brilliant starstarstar. Congrats on doing some hard work and arriving a really insightful conclusions!
posted by gold bridges at 12:43 PM on September 24, 2019 [1 favorite]


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