Can I make my sociopathically selfish ex Be There for me?
June 7, 2008 12:18 PM   Subscribe

I'm scheduled to have a medical (pill) abortion in a situation involving my optimistic, scientifically brilliant, clueless ex-boyfriend. For some irrational reason, he's the only person I want with me while I go through with it.

We dated last year, for three months when I was still very new to the city, and we were pretty darn happy. He was kind, attentive, respectful, and engaging. Then he had drunk sex with an ex-girlfriend who'd been pursuing him for a while. I was, of course, crushed, but I had just moved to a new place and he was my only contact. He persuaded me to take him back, and I finally relented, and then he broke up with me again a month later citing a heavy work load and little free time. A few weeks later he changed his mind again, but I told him to get off my doorstep, throw away the bouquet of flowers, and quit sending me apology letters. He persisted trying to get me back for months, but things eventually died down between us. He began dating another girl but always made it clear that if were I ever willing to try again, he'd be open, which repelled me more.

Recently we started going out to dinner and resumed the compelling dynamic we had before the cheating period, and wound up having (totally safe) sex several times. This was during a sad, lonely time in my life in which I had realized that after an entire year I still wasn't over our break-up, and I'm not proud of my egregious hypocrisy of sleeping with the same man who did this to me while he's dating another poor girl. He's in an "open-ish, don't-ask don't-tell" relationship with a girl of whom he speaks with a mixture of admiration ("she's so loyal") and indifference. I get the impression that without the policy, she'd be doing much of the asking, and he'd do the telling. He has admitted that he has always loved me, that he is biding his time with his current girlfriend as a gesture of respect to her for sticking with him as he got over me. When I discovered I was pregnant, he immediately came over and we discussed the steps we needed to take to end the pregnancy.

He is a bizarrely optimistic, scientific creature, and told me point-blank that he didn't necessarily see the abortion as a terrible thing, that it felt like an evolution of our relationship. He told me upon entering my apartment that he needed to be gone in an hour to "keep up appearances." He seems chastised, repentant, but also utterly removed. He hedged when I told him I need something more out of him, not a relationship--neither of us is ready for a real relationship after what we went through--but a gray area between fuck buddies and the relationship he seemed to be offering me this past year, to get me through this period.

While I have wonderful friends kindly offering their support, my ex-boyfriend is the only person I want with me when I take the pills (which I hear is moderate-to-severely painful for several hours), because this is his doing as well. I'm unsure if I should demand that he take care of me, demand that he be there for me more readily, or if I need to kick him out of my life for good. Part of me wants him to see the ramifications of cheating, of sacrificing other people's well-being for his own. Is wielding my abortion as a Life Lesson manipulative or justified? I honestly think I'd feel better if he could feel, or witness, a little of what I'm going through, but maybe this is a lost cause.

We're both 25 and live in New York, if that's somehow important.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (34 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I see your point and why you might want to force your ex to be there for you during this experience, but I don't think it will bring you the satisfaction or closure you're looking for. You two don't seem capable of making each other happy (The line from that Supremes song comes to mind- "You don't really love me, you just keep me hanging on"). Meanwhile, what happens if he is there for you? What if you have one beautiful day- then what? There is no indication that things are going to get better, I think it might be a lost cause. I'm sorry for what you're going through.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:25 PM on June 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Is wielding my abortion as a Life Lesson manipulative or justified?

I think it is cutting off your nose to spite your face. Basically, what TPS said. I bet you will feel better if you have people who care about you with you at the time.
posted by grouse at 12:32 PM on June 7, 2008

First, I want to say how awful it is that you're going through this. You must be feeling so many things at once--it sounds awful, complicated, and confusing.3

Is wielding my abortion as a Life Lesson manipulative or justified?

Both, I think, but is it the best thing for you to keep focusing on him instead of caring for yourself?
posted by sondrialiac at 12:36 PM on June 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

What you are about to go through is an intensely personal event and despite your feelings about the ex-boyfriend, I can totally understand why you would want him, and not your friends, with you. I'm not sure but I think it has more to do with the fact he is partly responsible than having to do with manipulation. Wanting him to feel part of what you are going through is very understandable -- you can not make him feel the way you want but you can ask that he be a witness to this, given his responsibility in the situation. I think I would feel the same way and if the person wasn't there, I would feel two other things - that it was unfair that the other person did not have to go through this too and at the same time want to talk about it with them but not know how. I'm sorry for your situation.
posted by bluesky43 at 12:38 PM on June 7, 2008

Whether it's fair or not, when it comes to his support, you're in this alone. He's been incapable of setting clear boundaries, he's waffling and rationalizing and obviously can't be counted on to know how to soothe you or ease any of your burden during this awful experience.

If having him there is something you're wielding, consider that you wield far greater long-term power by denying him this experience, keeping him away as you go through this procedure. It is a greater comment on how irresponsible he is, something that will be obvious to him when he looks back on this later when he has finally discovered his real emotions on the matter.

What you're planning sounds like the most uncomfortable, unsatisfying possible situation in which to go through with this. You owe yourself better: a friend who is there because they care about you and want to help you feel better, or even solitude to tend your wounded body and heart in privacy with dignity. What could he be but a polluting presence, one more thing to tolerate in hopes that it will do some vague good for each of you in the long run?

You did the right thing by telling him and giving him a chance to show his true colors. He dropped the ball. It's time to tend your own garden.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 12:38 PM on June 7, 2008 [12 favorites]

No offense, but reading what you wrote the guy comes across like a self centered jerk (at least in terms of relationships). He's got a bunch of women who have strong feelings for him, and he's playing them off each other and he's not sexually loyal to any of them.

If you're hoping that somehow experiencing your abortion with you is going to change him, it's definitely not going to work (IMO). Maybe he'll mature later on (like years and years from now) but no guy is going to give up no-strings attached sex if they're getting it. If anything, it will just reinforce his use of condoms and safe sex.
posted by delmoi at 12:59 PM on June 7, 2008

posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 1:01 PM on June 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

To be fair, and to backpedal my original stance, you openly acknowledge that your needs aren't rational. Sometimes they're not. That could be anything an basic as hormones, or a coping mechanism. Asking the man involved to be with you during this time, in some ways, reminiscent of a birth itself, and a means to make sense of a deeply painful experience.

And regarding anyone who turns Ask.Metafilter into an adoption service: the OP makes no suggestion that she's uncertain about her decision to have an abortion. Until further evidence arises that she is, indeed, having doubts, we should treat her very difficult suggestion with as much sensitivity and gravitas as possible.
posted by zoomorphic at 1:04 PM on June 7, 2008

Is wielding my abortion as a Life Lesson manipulative or justified?

I think you'll feel worse about using it that way than he ever can.

I honestly think I'd feel better if he could feel, or witness, a little of what I'm going through, but maybe this is a lost cause.

It is a lost cause. The man you conceived with is a a psycho. Let someone who actually cares about you take care of you, and get rid of this poisonous sociopath.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:24 PM on June 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

I honestly think I'd feel better if he could feel, or witness, a little of what I'm going through, but maybe this is a lost cause.

Based on what you've written, he's shown himself to be remarkably callow (at best). While I suppose it's possible that he may suddenly find vast reserves of compassion and empathy by watching you go through the abortion, I don't think it's particularly likely.

Please, figure out how best to take care of yourself during this -- and I think that would be better served by letting yourself be supported by friends you know will come through for you with what you need, rather than by an ex who you merely hope will do so. Your friends won't disappoint you. He probably will.

I wish you well.
posted by scody at 1:28 PM on June 7, 2008

I feel moved to answer the title of this post: "Can I make my sociopathically selfish ex be there for me?"

No, you cannot. I know that this is a terrifically awful time for you right now, but I think you need to realize that what you want to happen with this guy isn't what you need right now. You aren't going to teach him any lessons by your experience, and in the effort to do so, you are going to deprive yourself of the real loving support that you are going to need during and after this experience.

"He is a bizarrely optimistic, scientific creature, and told me point-blank that he didn't necessarily see the abortion as a terrible thing, that it felt like an evolution of our relationship. He told me upon entering my apartment that he needed to be gone in an hour to "keep up appearances." He seems chastised, repentant, but also utterly removed."

Wow - I'm sorry, but this sounds like an astronomical load of bullshit. How in the world is having an abortion an "evolution of your relationship?" He spent 1 measly hour speaking with you about it, and then had to leave to keep up appearances?!

Why you are fixated on this guy is really outside the scope of this discussion, but I do think you need to ask yourself why you are willing to accept this behavior from him in this situation. Please realize people like this guy have no capacity to emotionally connect with you - please think of how you will feel after this is over and give yourself the comfort of the support of those who actually CAN and DO care about you!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:29 PM on June 7, 2008 [2 favorites]

Maybe you could both insist he be there for you for the day, then kick him to the curb after.
From the glimpse you've given us of him, you'll need to be precise and communicative in what you may/will want. While you can maybe make him witness, making him feel (or really be there), that's a tall order.

the indifference that you see in him when talking about 'her' could apply to you as well.
his excuse of 'keeping up appearances' contradicts this, though.

What's best for YOU is the key here.
Do not place his lesson-learning above your health.
Keep a hair trigger on the 'get the fuck out' button if things seem to be going horribly wrong.

If he shows, that is.
posted by Busithoth at 1:35 PM on June 7, 2008

I think that everyone is right--you won't change him. People only change when they want to.

However, this bothers me:

and wound up having (totally safe) sex several times

does not compute with 'pregnant'. After this is all done, I strongly urge you to go get a full set of tests for STDs.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:36 PM on June 7, 2008

You can't really control what he does or feels; you can only control you.

If it were me, I'd cut ties and get someone else to be there with you, someone you can actually count on. You can't make him be reliable.
posted by SoftRain at 1:39 PM on June 7, 2008

i dated a guy like your ex-boyfriend once. he was very selfish, very wishy-washy, never really knew if he wanted to be with me or not. i, stupidly, thought that one day, he would wake up and think, "golly, kerning is the one for me, i will date her forever!". and then i found out i was pregnant (and yes, i was on birth control). and i had an abortion, as i was 22 years old, a college student, and i realized that this guy was not someone i actually wanted to KNOW, much less date, forever.

i had the same thoughts you did. i wanted him to be there with me the entire time, to have him see what his actions had made me do. i wanted him to be there for every wince, every moment of pain, so he could look back at this experience as the experience that changed him profoundly, the experience that made him realize that serial dating was a horrible thing, and mostly, i wanted him to feel ashamed because i was ashamed that my body had done this to me. looking back on it, i realize maybe i was the one who being selfish at that point, wanting him to go through the pain as well, never realizing that deep down, amidst the "i love you"s and "we can do this together", he really didn't care.

in the end, i went with my two best friends. he never offered to go with me anyway. i met a much better boy, moved away and never saw him again. he never changed, though, but i suppose i never really expected him to.

i wish you the best of luck with whatever you decide.
posted by kerning at 1:52 PM on June 7, 2008 [2 favorites]

I think even if you got him to stay, you'd just be disappointed again - he's not going to see anything traumatic. Even if you feel noticeable pain and discomfort (which, depending on what kind of pills you're talking about here, and what kind of system you have etc, you may not), if he's not emotionally connecting to the problem, he won't see it as you do. He'll just think of it as you having cramps; he'll try to get you to watch TV to get your mind off it, he'll go on about how great it is that you're moving on, or he'll be politely sympathetic without seeming to really get why you're being emotional. In short he'll act in ways that will just make you feel more removed.

I would surround yourself with friends that are going to understand and support you in the ways that you need. If this is something you are experiencing at a deeper emotional level, have friends around who relate to that, rather than trying to force people who don't relate to that to fit your expectations. If he thinks it's basically like you having your period, there's no way to make him feel something different. The best he could do would be to fake it, and the worst would be to seriously alienate and upset you.
posted by mdn at 2:09 PM on June 7, 2008

Response by poster: Are you hoping that by him watching you go through the process, he will feel terrible and repentant? That it will be painful in some way, at least psychologically or emotionally painful?

Here is the deal: The only reason he would be upset that you're in pain is if he gives a shit about you. And I think it is pretty clear he couldn't give less of a shit about you except for the sex you offer him. He uses you, and you let him, in the same way his current girlfriend does. While you are having the abortion you will probably be depressed and in pain. He will be bored and disinterested. You will be hoping he'll offer massages, heating pads, maybe rub your feet. If he does, it will be out of a sense of duty and nothing else.

Frankly, I bet you would have a better experience going through this with a complete stranger, because a complete stranger is likely to have more developed a sense of genuine compassion than this guy. He said an abortion represented the evolution of your relationship. Do you have any idea how fucked-up that is?

Kick the dude to the curb. Don't talk with him again. No more hookups. He's poison to you.
posted by Anonymous at 2:11 PM on June 7, 2008

I've had girlfriends in the same exact situation as you, one brought her daft 'no strings boyfriend' to be with her, and one brought me instead of the man responsible. We've all agreed afterward that it was better to do it alone, or with a close friend rather than that daft man (both men were of the same caliber that you describe and the women were around your age) as all that guy did was mess with his hair and text message his friends and sneak out for cigarettes the whole time, making something moderatly painful turn into agonizing hours of hell with Mr Self centered.

Your guy sounds like that kind of guy. Bring someone who loves you or go it alone.
posted by dabitch at 2:17 PM on June 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Part of me wants him to see the ramifications of cheating, of sacrificing other people's well-being for his own. Is wielding my abortion as a Life Lesson manipulative or justified? I honestly think I'd feel better if he could feel, or witness, a little of what I'm going through, but maybe this is a lost cause.

Unwanted pregnancy is not a ramification of cheating (or being a selfish asshole), it happens to monogamous couples too. If you were having safe sex then this was just an unfortunately accident and the 'blame' is equal - its not something he did to you. Its something you did together.

Maybe you mean the abortion rather than the pregnancy? Do you not want the abortion? Is he pressuring you to do it? As much is its his child too, at the end of the day, its your body, if you don't want to go through with it then you shouldn't.

If the issue is just the physical pain/discomfort, were you offered a surgical abortion? I had one at 8 weeks and it took 10 minutes and was completely pain free.

Either way, if he's genuinely a sociopath then none of this will make a blind bit of difference to him, he wont have the emotional capacity to understand whatever lesson you think he should be learning.

If you're sure about the abortion and its been your decision (not due to any pressuring from him) and just want some moral support then take a friend.
posted by missmagenta at 2:20 PM on June 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

You can't make anyone do or think or feel anything, it's just not something you can control. Trying to do so tends to backfire even in the most trivial of situations.

You need to do what's best for you, and you've made no case that this is it. All you'll end up doing is prolonging the drama, raising your blood pressure, and running the risk of being devastatingly disappointed while your body is churning with chemicals. It's a recipe for complications and regret. Your best possible outcome here has nothing to do with him.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:26 PM on June 7, 2008

I'm so sorry you're going through this situation.

Perhaps you could think about what, exactly, you're hoping to gain from having this guy with you during the abortion, and how likely you are to gain it. Suppose you try to get him to be with you. It's a wearing emotional effort, you get your hopes up.... and then he shows up. You get him to go through this with you, he's supportive and caring. And you feel more emotionally to him than ever. Or you go through all this wearing emotional effort to get him to show up, and he still refuses. Or after promising you... he doesn't show up. Or he does show up but acts like a jerk. It's one more painful thing he did to you, when you've already got a good-sized collection. Do any of these outcomes sound like what you need at this point?
posted by orange swan at 2:37 PM on June 7, 2008

If you decide you want your ex with you during the procedure, I'd advise you to hedge by having a friend nearby on call just in case you change your mind. After all, if you didn't have some doubts, you wouldn't be posting your question. (That's not meant as a criticism. I think your doubts are a sign of intelligence.)

I'm impressed by your thoughtfulness and introspection. If you keep listening to yourself, I predict you'll have much better relationships in your future.
posted by espertus at 3:01 PM on June 7, 2008

If he goes with you, you need to recognize the huge gamble you'll be making. You want him there because you're hoping it will induce a specific reaction in him - that he'll finally get it and start feeling actual remorse and compassion over what he's done. You're hoping this experience will change him. But from what you've said, that's really the least likely outcome. Far more likely is that he'll respond the same way he always does. He'll be detached, selfish, and impatient. So you'll be feeling like shit for three reasons: 1) the physical and psychological effects of the abortion, 2) having to endure it with a callous and unsympathetic person, and 3) once again being let down by a man who continues to jerk you around despite (or because of) your endless patience and forgiveness. You are putting your well-being in his power by sacrificing it to the mercy of his reaction. Ask yourself: is the gamble really worth it?

On the other hand, the likelihood of a horrible experience might actually be an argument for having him there. Might this experience be what finally opens your eyes, and makes you realize what you're doing to yourself, and that you deserve far, far better? And if not, if even this won't finally convince you to start taking care of yourself, how can you expect it to convince him?

My God, you deserve so much better than this.
posted by granted at 3:12 PM on June 7, 2008 [3 favorites]

Mod note: few comments removed DO NOT make this question about another topic other than the one it is about, thank you
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:16 PM on June 7, 2008

Based on personal accounts I have witnessed of what you are facing, you should probably have someone with you who you trust to sincerely to care for you. He won't learn a damn thing and yes, it is painfully obvious to the outside observer that you need to kick him out of your life for good.
posted by nanojath at 4:35 PM on June 7, 2008

I speak from far-too-similar experience that he will not be going through any turmoil and having him there will make it far more difficult.

This is not penance or purgatory. He will not learn. He will not love you the way you need to be loved. You are better off with a caring stranger than someone you're obviously conflicted about. You will not look sexy, or tragic, or whatever and you shouldn't have an inkling in your mind of trying to do anything except hold yourself together and get through it.

This is about making you as safe, comfortable and calm as possible. If there was ever a day you need and deserve to be spoiled and it doesn't sound like he can feasibly provide any of that.
posted by Gucky at 5:54 PM on June 7, 2008

what you're suggesting might make a very interesting movie. but i wouldn't recommend anyone other than actors going through it.

take care of yourself. ritualize, in a way that means something for you. excise this fucker from your life.
posted by RedEmma at 6:15 PM on June 7, 2008

You wouldn't have to be asking us if you could make him support you if he was willing to support you. He'd be there and he'd be doing it, instead of off trying to arrange his social calendar with his other girlfriends.

They had words for guys like him in the 1800s, guys who would sweep in, impregnate the heroine, and discard her. "Cad." "Rake." "Bounder." "Scoundrel."

As the heroine, you can either collapse in a weeping heap and swear never to move on, or you can turn to your own resources and your own ingenuity and move past his betrayal of your expectations. ;)
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 6:50 PM on June 7, 2008 [3 favorites]

Something to think about: there are, at least to my knowledge, two sets of pills. The entire process takes about 24 hours--and then the pain can continue for another 12 or so. That's a long time to spend with someone's ambivalence. Men come and go. Count on your friends. He won't learn anything from this. Get the people in there with you that you know are on your side. And DTMFA. I speak from bitter experience on this.
posted by fiery.hogue at 7:39 PM on June 7, 2008

I went through the physical part of what you're about to go through. It takes more than four or five hours. Actually, it sort of takes several days - you get the first pill at the doctors, go home, nothing much happens for a while except you're all worried (YMMV; I was scared) and then there are cramps. Mostly not too terrible but again, YMMV. Then you take the second pill and kind of go through it all again for another 24 hours. It's painful and tiring and actually kind of boring in the way that the flu can be boring; you feel like shit, you're not up to going anywhere and everything is just sort of miserable.

That's supposed to be it except you have your period but heavy for a week. However, then it can go on after that if you're unlucky, as I was - a month of heavy bleeding and nausea and cramps and generally not so fun. That's unusual, though. So the person you really want to go through this with you is somebody who is going to be on call for a while and is cool with that. It sounds like this guy may not be that person and therefore, I would definitely recommend having a backup close friend who is willing and ready to totally be there for you over the long haul. The emotional side effects, both physically caused (think PMS of Doom) and just emotional/mental, can be really harsh and that will go on longer than the 24 - 36 hour main ordeal.

That said, look, if you want this guy to be there for the first part then, fuck, he should be there and don't worry about your motivations or his motivations or any of that. Don't overthink it - in this situation you call the shots and what you want goes. If he's at all a reasonable human being, he should understand that and if he's at all a stand up guy, he'll be there. You have every right to say, look, hon, we started this together and I need you to finish it with me, together. That's not wielding anything; that's doing what makes you feel better and also, it's truth and it can be closure of a sort. But the most important thing is that in this situation, your needs trump his. If having him there will make you feel better, than he should be there. He may or may not learn a damn thing. That's not important. What is important is that you have with you who and what you feel you really need.
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:58 PM on June 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Nthing what mygothlaundry said.

Look its your abortion. The guy may be compassionate, he may not. Its up to you whom you want with you during this procedure and it doesn't have to be logical or make sense or be anything other than what YOU want.

He probably won't connect deeply with the experience, because its a very painful one and he seems to avoid painful experiences of all kinds, but who are we to say? Perhaps you need him there because you need to know he was there; you shared the making of the pregnancy, maybe you need him there to end it. Whatever the case may be, don't hesitate to do what you want.

Abortions suck; there is no way around it. Definitely have a friend on call in case he flakes or is otherwise unsupportive and I would suggest lining up friends and family in case you have grief or depression afterwards, which does happen to some people. Nthing that I hope this is your decision and that you not let him pressure you into anything (that will make recovery afterwards much, much easier); if he is pressuring you, kick him to curb now and take time to sort out your own feelings. Available on mefi mail if you need someone to talk to.
posted by zia at 10:02 PM on June 7, 2008

Unwanted pregnancy is not a ramification of cheating (or being a selfish asshole)

I think she meant that he had sex with her (and she got pregnant) while he was ostensibly with someone else.

I agree with everyone else. I understand your instinct, but punishing him (and I agree he is something short of a great guy) will neither make you feel better nor change him into what we would have wanted him to be.

Good luck, hon. This is going to be hard and I wish you well.
posted by Pax at 10:32 PM on June 7, 2008

Can I make my sociopathically selfish ex Be There for me?

By definition, no, not in any meaningful (i.e. other than physical) sense of the term.

my ex-boyfriend is the only person I want with me when I take the pills

Yeah, that's the difference between a sociopath (a near-magical pull, that continues even after you realize they're toxic waste to you) and just a Very Selfish Unpleasant Person.

Part of me wants him to see the ramifications of cheating, of sacrificing other people's well-being for his own.

Not only does he not care, he doesn't even care that he doesn't care (if he is as you've described him). You will not be the one to show him the light on this....nor will anyone else be, for that matter.
posted by availablelight at 8:51 AM on June 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

You can't make him feel bad. Either he does, or he doesn't. trying to make someone else feel bad only makes you feel bad, in my experience. If you genuinely want someone there with you, choose someone you KNOW cares about you. Forget about him, and take care of yourself.
posted by Penelope at 9:02 AM on July 26, 2008

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