Stuck in a relationship with small child, love gone, what to do?
January 14, 2007 1:07 PM   Subscribe

Stuck in a relationship with small child, love gone, what to do?

I am a heterosexual woman in my mid-thirties, living with my boyfriend and our small child. I seem to have fallen out of love with him more than one year ago. This had to do with him totally losing it in a time of stress. He 'forgot' what we had said, and did not even try to make up for the ensuing mess. I was shocked.

Since my outer life was really busy - international removal, career change - I did not do that much about it at that time. We spent more time together, tried to communicate better, no success. So I kept grinding my teeth, turned into something of a bitch (which is just not me) and our sex life declined to zero.

Meanwhile we are in better outward circumstances, and I am seriously considering to split up. I have been hesitating for a long time because of our child, but feel now that I have to make a decision soon. My boyfriend is trying to stop me, says that he loves me and suddenly shows the most considerate of behaviours. I do like him but still find it hard to navigate through the week due to the remainder of his splendid inefficiency. More importantly, I cannot see my love for him coming back.

Now my questions: 1) Since my boyfriend had no longer relationship before me, I always saw him as still learning how to behave in a relationship - and how to make everyday life function with a child around. He has learned a lot in the last few years, which does give me hope that things will continue to improve. Is this naive of me? (People usually say: what you see is what you get, but I can see a lot of new fathers change from student slobs into reasonably organized professionals.)
2) Even if we manage to find a better everyday life together I cannot see how my love and desire for him could come back. Can you?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (19 answers total)
If you want to stay together for the child, have you considered couples' counseling?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:21 PM on January 14, 2007

This had to do with him totally losing it in a time of stress. He 'forgot' what we had said, and did not even try to make up for the ensuing mess. I was shocked.

People are human and sometimes they do things we don't expect or believe that they could do, even in times of stress.

The real question is can you forgive him for this? The answer, of course, is up to you, but maybe you're being too hard on him and shutting yourself off to him.

You don't describe what happened, so we can't judge it, but maybe you should give him a second chance (since he seems to be making some sort of effort) and make an honest effort of it. At least then, you can say you tried and gave the relationship a full chance.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:33 PM on January 14, 2007

In my experience, falling back into love is almost unheard of. The best you can really expect in that situation is to fall into "like".

In truth, the "falling out of love" is pretty much the only thing I see in a relationship to which there is no repair, or no hope of improvement. If you truly have fallen out of love with him, then you need to arrange your affairs, inform him of your decision, and get on with your life.

And no need to make it any kind of indictment or criticism of him. He could have been Prince Charming and literally never did anything less than perfect, and you could have still fallen out of love with him.

You know how primitive and visceral and mysterious the whole "falling in love" thing is? Yeah, pretty much the same as the falling out of love.

Sometimes, it just happens.

Best of luck to you. I hope you find happiness. But please don't let guilt or anything else keep you from seeking that happiness.
posted by Ynoxas at 1:39 PM on January 14, 2007

Is this naive of me?

No, people can learn. Having said that, I'm interested what makes you think you have so much more experience and knowledge than he does about how to make relationships and children work. It's not exactly clear from the information you've given. Perhaps you just have more experience at the kind of relationship that you want?

Also not clear from the question is the real nature of this 'totally losing' incident that caused you to fall out of love with him. It must have been really bad, because otherwise I'm not sure how one so experienced in relationships could lose their affection for someone over one isolated incident with mitigating factors. Are you sure you're not just using this as a release valve for the fact that you simply don't like the guy as a whole anymore?

Frankly, if it's been a few years, and you still can't see yourself loving him again, then you're probably not going to. Don't do the staying-together-for-the-sake-of-the-kid thing. Two separate happier parents are much easier to deal with than two people living together in a house of simmering resentment.
posted by chrismear at 1:51 PM on January 14, 2007

I do like him but still find it hard to navigate through the week due to the remainder of his splendid inefficiency.

Seriously consider staying if you like him. It's cliche, but consider changing yourself if you expect him to change. I find that I focused too much energy on the shortcomings of my husband, when in reality I felt inadequate and had much to improve upon.

My sister's therapist recommended the book, Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay: A Step-by-Step Guide to Help You Decide Whether to Stay In or Get Out of Your Relationship. She found it incredibly helpful in her situation.

Good luck to you and your family.
posted by LoriFLA at 1:54 PM on January 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

Sounds like the incident was a character test for him, and he failed. If the situation presented itself again, do you think he would perform differently?
posted by TorontoSandy at 2:02 PM on January 14, 2007

Contentment is an under-rated pursuit in this day and age. Can you find it in this relationship? Can someone else help the two of you find it? If he loves you and values his family, he will go to counselling with you.

On the WYSIWYG argument; people change. It sometimes takes men a longer in life to realise what's important to them but they get there in the end.
posted by baggymp at 3:10 PM on January 14, 2007

Perhaps this will help to frame the issue for you: your relationship with your boyfriend is the relationship your child will grow up thinking is normal. Do you think it will be a good influence? Additionally, the you as you are now -- stressed out, bitchy (as you say) -- is the person your child will know as his or her mother. Do you want that?

There's a lot to be said for working on a relationship or giving an otherwise healthy relationship a tune-up, but you seem to be pretty certain that you don't love your boyfriend anymore. If you stay with him despite that, the odds are overwhelmingly that you'll grow to resent him and become genuinely unhappy. I can't think of any good reason to knowingly put yourself (and your child) in that situation.

Additionally, I don't think "staying together for the child(ren)" is a very good idea, if that's an option you're considering. Two close friends of mine since high school came from families whose parents had such an arrangement; it really took a toll on my friends, and gave them a lot of issues with regard to their own relationships that they're still working out now. Not to mention the fact that their parents were clearly miserable.

To sum up: you answered your second question yourself, and it makes your first question irrelevant. If it's been over a year and you honestly can't see your love coming back, you owe it to yourself, your child, and him to leave.

If none of this is ringing true for you, then of course defer to your instincts. But don't let fear of the unknown stop you from doing what you need to do. I wish you the very best of luck.
posted by AV at 3:23 PM on January 14, 2007

What AV said, staying together "for the children" only results in their thinking dysfunctional is normal.
posted by wierdo at 4:14 PM on January 14, 2007

Even if we manage to find a better everyday life together I cannot see how my love and desire for him could come back.

That's your answer.

And for what it's worth, all the people I know whose parents "stayed together for the kids" wish their parents had divorced instead.
posted by matteo at 5:00 PM on January 14, 2007

There are far too many details missing from your question to even attempt to give a meaningful answer. The answers upstream suggesting counseling were definitely the best advice. With a child involved, the potential stakes of this decision are high, and the issues you have raised need to be explored in some depth and if possible by someone with access to both sides of the story. Good luck, whatever happens.
posted by TedW at 5:24 PM on January 14, 2007

Even if we manage to find a better everyday life together I cannot see how my love and desire for him could come back. Can you?

Back to add that after my sister read the above book she decided to leave her husband. The book wasn't the clincher of course, but therapy and the book helped sort out her conflicted feelings. She has a two-year old child and did not love her husband. She couldn't imagine that her feelings would change, so she decided to leave when her child was small rather than later when things may be more difficult emotionally for the child. It's always a difficult decision to leave when children are involved, but that was her thinking.

If you have a friendship with your boyfriend and like him, maybe some counseling and effective communication can improve things. Only you know if you can envision staying with this man and living a happy and contented existence.

I like TorontoSandy's answer very much. Do you like who he is? Do you like and respect his character?
posted by LoriFLA at 5:46 PM on January 14, 2007

You have a child. I think you must decide what is best for your child and act accordingly.
posted by RussHy at 6:03 PM on January 14, 2007

It would be unwise to make this decision without seeking counseling. Counseling for the both of you as a couple would be ideal; if you're not ready to propose that, speak to someone on your own behalf. This is an area in which many therapists specialize and can be of much more help than we can, knowing really so little about the problem.
posted by Miko at 9:40 PM on January 14, 2007

Love for someone can come back. It's just like when you're in a depressive period and you honestly can't imagine ever feeling good again. But one day, even if it takes years, you do.

It can happen the same way with love. The question is only whether you care enough to wait it out–and it doesn't sound like you want to.

But if the only thing that's making you want to break up with him is the strong feeling that you'll never feel love or desire for him again, then I think you should know that just because you feel that way, doesn't mean it's true for life. You can't see into the future. Like someone said upthread, falling in/falling out of love is mysterious. Maybe you won't ever love him again. But maybe you will. It all depends on how well the relationship is functioning, aside from the fact the "love" is gone.

Do you have other things? Affection? Mutual respect? A comfortable routine?
posted by mjao at 11:15 PM on January 14, 2007

Edit: By "wait it out", I really mean "work it out".
posted by mjao at 11:19 PM on January 14, 2007

Check out The Five Love Languages book (Gary Chapman) first, and see what happens. Works absurd wonders, I'm telling you.

That said, the vast majority of guys don't keep the bizarrely accurate record of what we said and how long it was since last when this or that -- your 'forgot' remark seems evidence to me that he may not be the sole criminal of not reacting 'properly.'

There are equivalents that hurt guys in the super-no-no way of calling a teary-eyed gal a cry-baby hurts women -- by failing or even bothering making an effort at understanding how the others' brain truly functions.
posted by Quarter Pincher at 8:27 AM on January 15, 2007

again, I agree very little information to go on. But I think it is very likely that you changed when you became a Mom in the way that many women do, certain things assume greater importance in the scheme of things. Mostly men change too, although not in an identical fashion. maybe you expected your boyfriend to change in a certain way and he didn't.
You can cope with falling out of love if you still like and respect the other partner. Counselling will help you both arrive at a decision as to whether this is a possibility and living together with mutual respect and admiration is certainly the least upset for the child.
However, it looks like that is not the case here, in which case I would also echo the above advice. Do not give your child the impression that this is what a loving stable family life is.
posted by Wilder at 8:27 AM on January 15, 2007

In my experience, falling back into love is almost unheard of.

Really? In my experience it does happen. But really, this random collection of internet strangers is not going to be able to give you any sound advice beyond the first recommendation--couples counselling. Good luck.
posted by LarryC at 3:11 PM on January 15, 2007

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