...What am I missing, here?
July 14, 2008 10:34 AM   Subscribe

He loves me. He says I'm teaching him how to be happy. He says I'm adorable. He says I'm precious. He encourages me to try new things and is proud of me when I do. He's grateful when I do the same and lets me know that. He says everything is wonderful. ....So why does he think we should break up?

Very quick recap: nine-month relationship. Both of us have been burned, both initially wanted to go slow. Him especially so because he's been married once and divorced, and also had another live-in relationship go bust on him; he early on said he was afraid "he didn't have many chances left to roll the dice like that," but then very soon after that things got really good. They have STAYED really good for the whole nine months -- he is incredibly supportive, insightful, devoted, affectionate, caring, EVERYThing. He also says that I am the same to him. And none of that has changed during this period. Even the sex is still good -- both tender and rowdy in turns (two days ago he even called me for phone sex when we couldn't get to see each other and some emails got flirty).

But last night -- he dropped a total bombshell, and said that he thought it was time to break up. I was floored and asked why -- he said that he thought we'd hit a plateau and things had gone as far as they could go.

I asked where that came from -- he reminded me of a talk we'd had a month ago, when we'd had a talk about "us" -- I'd had a roommate move out, and we each confessed that we'd toyed with the idea of moving in together instead of my getting a new roommate, but had each decided that we weren't ready for it yet. I asked whether he thought we could eventually get to that point, and he said he didn't know -- and I said, truthfully, that I didn't know either, and I didn't so much need an answer so much as I needed to know we were asking the same questions. He said yes we were, and I said that was cool, and that was that.

But last night he said that he'd been thinking about that ever since, and has decided that since he doesn't know for certain now, that must mean he never will. But while he was saying that, it looked like his heart was being ripped out of his chest. He does still love me, he does still feel happy around me, everything is great -- but he is convinced that someday it will not be, solely because he isn't thinking he's ready to move in yet.

When I said that some people just need more time than that, he said he didn't HAVE time, "I don't want to wait a couple years until I'm 43 to figure this out", and he didn't want to "get trapped in a loveless marriage where we both have a kid but we're stuck because we were too afraid to let go." But still -- the whole time, he was looking like his heart was completely breaking. When I said that if he really meant to go through with this, that I would sever all contact with him for a few months because I would need the time to heal, he looked utterly devastated.

We finally agreed to sleep on it and talk again tonight. Even after he walked me home -- a walk interrupted by both of us bursting into tears and clinging to each other having a crying jag on the sidewalk -- he texted me two hours later to say that "whatever happens you are not alone, I still care about you." His words say it's over, but his actions and body language is the complete opposite.

So. What the HELL is going on? None of the relationship red flags or warning signs are there. He hasn't had any complaints about me, and still doesn't. The only fights we've had have been little 2-minute hissy fits followed by sheepish apologies. He has been the same constantly affectionate and demonstrative and attentive person he has always been. He says I have been as well. So why would someone give up a situation you know is good because there is a possibility it may not be good at some potential point that may not even happen? Is it me, or is this whole thing totally motivated by his fear seriously clouding his judgement?

I'm considering suggesting a trial separation tonight instead, a couple months' worth, and seeing if we both have any clearer insights about whether we still feel the same way or if this feels like a big mistake. But any insights welcome because this just sounds like jabberwocky.
posted by EmpressCallipygos to Human Relations (45 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
Adding: we even both talked about kids some months back, when I had a pregnancy scare and when I told him I was late, he blinked and said that he was surprised that his reaction was to be happy about that. He said he'd also imagined being married to me. But...still.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:36 AM on July 14, 2008


He sounds a bit confused and maybe scared, to me. Some couples are together for two YEARS before moving in.. some only two MONTHS. That shouldn't have anything to do with anything. Get your own places and just continue developing as you have. Why do you have to live with each other anyway? You haven't even dated a year. Tell him to man up and figure out exactly what he wants. Does he pine for someone else or is he simply freaking out about living together and all of those big "future" questions?
posted by ChickenringNYC at 10:45 AM on July 14, 2008


He's probably expecting things to go south again, and is preventing himself from feeling that pain pre-emptively.
posted by Solomon at 10:49 AM on July 14, 2008 [5 favorites]


That is so frustrating and horrible. I'm so sorry you're going through this. I don't think you're missing anything - I think that you and he have terrific chemistry and a great time together and make a great couple - no reason to second guess your take on things. But also - he's got his own issues and he's terrified of breakups and he's terrified of being "trapped" in a bad marriage with kids and that stuff isn't going to get better. Not ever, and absolutely not if he's anywhere near 43. Honestly your options are -
1. let him go. break off contact. maybe be friends in time, if you can.
2. continue to engage - get back together - break up - insist to him and all your friends that you'll never go back for round three - relent and believe him when he comes sobbing that he made a mistake and you're the one - and on and on.
Anything can happen, but the odds of an option three (where you can, through your actions, undo all of the damage done to him by the women who got there before you) are vanishingly small.
If he can't just enjoy having a terrific no-pressure girlfriend without panicking and projecting a future of loveless responsibility and drudgery on you for flimsy reasons - that's not your fault. It's not even really his fault - but it's his deal, and it's unfortunate and I think you should move on.
posted by moxiedoll at 10:53 AM on July 14, 2008 [6 favorites]


It sounds like he's waiting for some sign to tell him that things are the way that they're supposed to be. I've been in a relationship like that for the past year and a half and while we still care for each other and get along famously, there has to come a time when you realize that there's either a future for you or there isn't. If he's waiting for a sign from the heavens, so to speak...that future might simply not exist. There's no real reason for it and my heart totally goes out to you. It sucks to feel like everything is going right except for some undefinable element that you can't create.
posted by youcancallmeal at 10:53 AM on July 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


Chickenring: The thing is, I AGREE that we don't need to live together right now. He just says that by now, we SHOULD know, and since he doesn't feel it now, "what more do we need to learn about each other", and he just doesn't see it happening.

Solomon: I also think there's a preemptive thing going on, actually -- how do you work with that?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:55 AM on July 14, 2008


I'd guess that he's continued to think about whether or not he could ever be ready to move in with you and he's decided he can't. It sounds like what you have right now is great for both of you, but he honestly doesn't see it has a future and is scared to tell you that. He's trying to do the right thing -- end it now before he hurts you more -- even though he's enjoying what you have today. My guess is that you could stay together longer but eventually reach the plateau he mentions and then find it too late to move on, both of you having invested so much in the relationship.

But then I'm just some random person on the internet. Only you and he can get to the bottom of this.
posted by Lleyam at 10:55 AM on July 14, 2008


would knowing a reason make a difference? I find telling the other person what they lack during a breakup especially difficult. he is stepping away from someone he loves/loved and most likely still likes, so assuming he doesn't really wish to hurt you more than he has to is a motivation I could empathize with. relationships aren't like courtroom battles where the more rational case or the more powerful argument wins. it doesn't always make sense. that's why breakups are so tough.

btw: the 'trial separation' sounds -sorry- like you are kidding yourself and tempted to draw this painful period out for longer than you have to. you mentioned he had no complaints. clearly there is something that doesn't feel right, so the logical assumption for me here is that he is not the most direct person when it comes to uncomfortable subjects. considering that he did mention to you his desire to call it quits indicates to me that he really has made his mind up.
posted by krautland at 11:05 AM on July 14, 2008 [5 favorites]


Guys, stereotypically but with a grain of truth, tend to decide when they want to settle down and then find the person they're going to marry. He is looking to settle down, move in, and get married again...right now. And, no matter how much he says, he really is not having as wonderful a time with you as you think he is. And why? Because he's looking for a future with someone and that someone isn't you.

His internal clock is ticking and he's willing to put the effort, and suffer the hurt, associated with finding someone to marry. And his previous conversation with you was his way of finding out if you were on the same page as he is : i.e. do you want to settle down now. When you played it cool and said that you don't know if you're going to move in with him, what he heard was that you were willing to wait and that you have time to kill before you "go to the next step". And, what he was telling you was, "lets move on to the next step soon". The problem is that he's not very good at being honest with you, himself, or being able to communicate what he was really saying and thinking. And the more he says "I love you" and talks about how wonderful you two are together is him trying to cushion the blow and let himself be a coward and not be totally honest with you.

You, and him, are not on the same page. Unless you're willing to change pages, this isn't going to go anywhere you want it to go.
posted by Stynxno at 11:06 AM on July 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


It's too bad that his fear of being trapped outweighs his ability to wait and see a little longer. Sometimes it takes a long time to know that someone ISN'T the one, he seems to think that if he doesn't know for sure someone IS the one by a pre-set amount of time, (9 months seems completely arbitrary to me) it must mean you CAN'T be the one. Which doesn't seem concrete to me.

I don't know that you should subject yourself to his own debilitating lack of faith in the relationship, but if you think you can make a difference in his feelings of security, maybe ask him to wait until the 1 year mark to decide whether or not the relationship is a dud. To me it sounds like he's operating under some sort of strict timeline-- it's not like he's terminally ill or has an aging woman's fertility time crunch. If he is genuinely happy with you (and doesn't secretly think he can do better,) he should stick around and see what happens. If he's not happy, and doesn't know if the relationship will ever get to a point where he'll feel the urge to commit to it, then you should be happy he's getting out now and not playing games with your heart.

Either way, it's a sucky situation to be in, and I wish you the best of luck.
posted by np312 at 11:08 AM on July 14, 2008


So why would someone give up a situation you know is good because there is a possibility it may not be good at some potential point that may not even happen?

It sounds to me as if it could be fear of success. This is pretty common, and unfortunately, often turns out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy -- "it'll never work out, so I won't even try", or "it won't work in the long run, so I'll sabotage it myself before it falls apart on me". In my experience, you can either put up with this behavior forever (and prepare for lots more of the same, which may or may not be OK with you, depending on what you're getting out of the relationship), or break up. There is pretty much no way to get somebody like this to stop with the self-sabotaging behavior, other than by improving his general self-esteem, which isn't something that anyone else can really do for him.

Alternately, he may not be afraid of success; maybe he has simply decided that your living together isn't what he wants out of life, and is trying to let you down easy before the relationship gets any more serious. In this case, you're also not likely to change his mind.

At any rate, the question you need to ask yourself is: is never living together, ever, a deal-breaker? His words may say it's over, and his actions and body language may say the exact opposite, but it sounds to me as if they're all unanimous on the we-can't-live-together front, at least for now. If you can live with his decision with regards to co-habitation -- and that means now and for the rest of your relationship -- maybe you two can work it out; if not, I think you might be better off if you leave now.
posted by vorfeed at 11:09 AM on July 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


But last night he said that he'd been thinking about that ever since

Important point: He never talked to you about this. He's unilaterally made this decision and dropped this bombshell on you despite his feelings of love. Ask yourself this: Do you really want to have to convince him or save him when, on the one hand he's worried he doesn't have much time left and on the other hand acting like a selfish, scared prick?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:10 AM on July 14, 2008 [7 favorites]


Actually, scratch the "at least for now" from my last paragraph -- he might change his mind in the future, but you cannot count on it... and IMHO, it's unlikely enough that it's probably not worth taking into account at all.
posted by vorfeed at 11:11 AM on July 14, 2008


He sounds to me like he's scared the relationship is going to turn into a deadend, and that by that time he'll be too old to start a family.
posted by xammerboy at 11:16 AM on July 14, 2008


HMM... he is a very future-oriented person if he thinks that you guys should know by 9 months if you want to live together. Maybe you SHOULD get rid of him. He'd only be more whiny later on.. "But honey!! We should KNOW by 5 minutes into this movie if we'll continue watching it..." .... "But hun!!.. the steak has been cooking for 4 minutes.. if it's not done now, we'll never eat it!" .... "But hun!!.. I beat level 2 in New Super Mario Bros.. if I don't beat the game soon, I'm selling it back to Gamestop and putting a reserve on WiiFit!!"
posted by ChickenringNYC at 11:20 AM on July 14, 2008


This is why good coaches are so mysterious. They're good at getting into people's heads and getting them beyond these types of thinking. The *state* of his feelings now have nothing to do with the state of his feelings 10 years from now. It's simply a state, like a single movie still. It'd be different if he wanted to leave and had gobs of reasons to do so that derive from many such states over a broad period of time. Instead he sat there obsessing over one such state and is using HIS obsession as a reason for leaving.

Bench him, and let him know you're doing it in exactly these terms. He's gotta get beyond this type of thinking and take responsibility for his obsessions. I know it's counter intuitive to realize you're obsessing while doing so, but it'll improve with time. I'm down to 15 minutes or so these days.
posted by jwells at 11:24 AM on July 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


Styxno: I wasn't clear; HE was the one who said he didn't know about moving in with ME, and had been afraid of mentioning that to me because he thought I'D be hurt by that. When we had that talk, when I said that one of the things I thought was most important to me was that he not feel like things were going at too fast a pace, he looked visibly relieved. We never actually HAD a "let's move in" talk, it was more like a, "hmm, we had the chance to have that talk and didn't, did we avoid it for the same reasons? Huh, yeah, sounds like we did. Okay, cool."

Krautland: actually, yeah, knowing a reason would make a huge difference. I'd even prefer "I've actually realized I have fallen out of love with you", because that is a WAY better explanation and makes MUCH more sense than "I'm crazy about you, but I'm pulling the plug now on the off chance that someday I may not be, possibly maybe." I mean, "I don't love you any more" sucks, but at least it's a reason.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:28 AM on July 14, 2008


His words say it's over, but his actions and body language is the complete opposite.

I'm sorry you have to go through this, but I think that someone can fall out of love, but still care immensely about that person, feel hurt that things won't work out and be devistated that the person they care about will be absent from their lives.

I can't say about the body language.

I recommend respecting his choices. Treat it as the end. He may find that his feelings for you are stronger than he thinks, but giving him the chance to find that out is the only way he can discover this.

Meanwhile, you deserve a period of healing and a chance with someone who is more certain about a long-term future with you.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:42 AM on July 14, 2008 [7 favorites]


He's either got issues that he needs to work on and/or he doesn't feel you're the right one for him. Either way he does have feelings for you and it's a wrench for him to break things off. Yet he's proceeding to break things off. So try not to read any hope into the body language etc. He's breaking up with you, and there's nothing to be gained by investing more time and hope and emotion in a man once he's decided it's over.
posted by orange swan at 12:00 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh I'm so sorry that I have to welcome you to the hell I've been in for the last two months. I was also dating a divorced man, things were really amazing, and two weeks after I told him that I loved him and one week after he said he felt the same... he bolted, saying "This can't be the last relationship I'll ever be in." Was it fear? Was it a convenient excuse to get out of a relationship he didn't want to be in? I don't think I'll ever know. All my instincts tell me that he was really truly happy in the relationship, but in the end it doesn't really matter. When the cards were on the table, he had the choice to stay and work through any fears and talk about them with me, or to leave. And he left. And I need someone who will stay and work on things as a team. And so do you.

I'm still going through the "but it was so perfect, if only..." mindset, and I know you will too. I don't have a lot of good advice to offer, but you have a lot of sympathy from someone who has been through the same heartbreak.
posted by MsMolly at 12:01 PM on July 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


Listen to his words, not your perception of his actions and body language. I'm sorry, I know it hurts to go through.

I think your decision to cut all ties to let yourself heal is an excellent choice, speaking as someone who did the exact opposite after her last breakup. Just make sure you follow through with it, no bluffing.
posted by kattyann at 12:01 PM on July 14, 2008


he didn't HAVE time, "I don't want to wait a couple years until I'm 43 to figure this out", and he didn't want to "get trapped in a loveless marriage where we both have a kid but we're stuck because we were too afraid to let go."

These, to me, are the most serious words, because they back up Stynxno's theory that he's really very ready to settle down, but isn't sure you will be the person to do it with. The way he phrased it sounds like he has thought about it a lot. It seems that all you can do is talk about whether you are, in fact, on a plateau. Are you just bobbing along, having a fine enough time, but with no sense of the direction of the relationship? Because that is clearly not what he is after.

That said, it's not a totally lost cause. He's feeling definite anxiety and time pressure and wants to move his life forward. In some ways, I've been this person in a relationship, and very much identify. Yes, he's future-oriented, and yes, he's unsure whether he's on the right path toward the future he wants. Every day he has to make a decision about whether to step off this path. So far he hasn't stepped off because the two of you clearly have something very meaningful and important. But every day he thinks about it, because there are things he wants, and he doesn't see them coming to pass as quickly as he thinks they should.

he said he didn't HAVE time


And here's where he's wrong. He's extrapolating and catastrophizing. The fact is that yes, he does have time. If you can get him to breathe a little and acknowledge that it might help. You aren't sucking his future away at this very second.

What's unclear is how solidly you feel you are his future, or want a future with him. If you aren't sure you want to be with him or have children with him, it might be best to let him go. Because it does sound like he is thinking about where he will be within a few years.

But I think there is a multiplicity of answers available to you both. It sounds like talking more is the right thing to do. Just be honest about what you want and feel, and make an honest effort to listen to what he's saying. If you have to part, that is truly a sad and lousy and awful thing. But sometimes you do have to part from people you genuinely love, simply because the timing or the shared lifestyle or the future visions aren't the same. I sincerely hope it doesn't come to that for you both, but the right thing to do is make a sincere effort to find out. If you are not mutually dedicated to moving forward together in life, then the best thing to do, now that you are having the difficult conversations, is to release one another in peace to have the future you each need. The romantic in me really hopes you can work it out, though.
posted by Miko at 12:15 PM on July 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


What's unclear is how solidly you feel you are his future, or want a future with him. If you aren't sure you want to be with him or have children with him, it might be best to let him go.

Oh, I'm pretty damn sure. We bring out things in each other no one ever has and we are truly larger people for having known each other. I want to keep taking care of him and helping him keep growing. I also realized back in February -- and I told him when this happened -- that he has been the first person ever that I have ever imagined myself having children with.

Early on last night he asked me to please not try to change his mind, because "I've wasted YEARS by changing my mind and letting people talk me into things because we were too afraid to let go," but I argued back that well, shit, he was about to take away the best person I'd ever known, the man I was starting to think might be the one, and I believed that we had NOT reached a plateau and we definitely could do it and so I'd be DAMNED if I was going to let that go without trying to talk him out of it.

I'm just so afraid he's translating "I've already had two strikes" into "therefore I must be a piss-poor batter and it's not even worth trying to swing at this ball here in the strike zone".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:34 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure why the hypothetical future is so important.

Ask him this:

1. If I got hit by a truck tomorrow, would you regret the time we've had together?
2. What you think you want in the future shouldn't be a reason to abandon what you know you want that you have right now. What if the great relationship that we have just kept getting slowly better over time, and nothing else changed? What if we grew closer and closer, and that's all there was to it?
3. What are you missing that I'm not giving you? If you can't come up with something decent, then you are probably going to have to marry me someday.
posted by ewkpates at 12:48 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


But last night he said that he'd been thinking about that ever since, and has decided that since he doesn't know for certain now, that must mean he never will. [...] everything is great -- but he is convinced that someday it will not be, solely because he isn't thinking he's ready to move in yet.

You know, I once heard a song called "Love you madly" - you can listen to the song yourself if you care to, but the gist of it is: isn't true love supposed to be this unstoppable, amazingly potent emotion that leaves no room for doubts and problems? If you are destined to be together for ever, shouldn't there be a choir of angels etc?

One could say that those unstoppable emotions are not expected, and that choir of angels does not exist. However, that realisation seems a slightly unromantic bedrock to build a married life upon. Marriage is the end of the game, the last chance to feel these emotions, it takes things as they are now and sets them in stone "until death do us part".

I like to think that, if and when I get married, I will be pretty damn certain I'm making the right decision.
posted by Mike1024 at 12:53 PM on July 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


I know there are multiple interpretations of the same problem but to me it sounds like he knows what he wants. He has been there previously and it hasnt worked out....having that in mind he knows EXACTLY what he is looking for and the person posting this question may come close but is not quite it. I think some males (and I've had this fantasy as well) that they will be swept off, and will want to go head over heels over somebody, instead of trying to work things through and see where they go (which is a more realistic expectation but not as romantic)....I think this guy likes you but feels that staying with you is "settling". Dont settle for somebody who thinks this way about you...
posted by The1andonly at 12:56 PM on July 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


He sounds a lot like my brother.

I think he loves you as much as he can, but not enough to make the commitment to you. He loves you, only he's not in love with you enough to keep this going. He's trying to do you a favor by letting you go now instead of you both wasting time in a relationship where he knows he won't make the final commitment with you.

I'm sorry, because that hurts to read, but based on the experiences with my brother, who sounds a lot like your guy, this could be what is going on. Find comfort in the fact that he loves you enough to not waste your time and move on.
posted by NoraCharles at 1:38 PM on July 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'm so sorry darlin, I know this must really suck for you.

But, I think he thinks he's letting you down gently. He's made up his mind. In his head, he's already a free agent. Let him go. I'm so sorry.
posted by dejah420 at 2:44 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm just so afraid he's translating "I've already had two strikes" into "therefore I must be a piss-poor batter and it's not even worth trying to swing at this ball here in the strike zone".

If so, that is his choice. Sure, talk to him and try to work things out, but don't try to change his mind because you feel he just isn't seeing things right. He's made a choice, without consulting you and perhaps that's all you need to know.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:04 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


He sounds confused, in an immature and abnormal way, like he's a third party witnessing his own life.

At any rate, don't think about it too much, if you can. He sounds like a self-obsessed baby and he's going to be a problem down the line. Find someone else.
posted by onepapertiger at 4:02 PM on July 14, 2008


he didn't want to "get trapped in a loveless marriage where we both have a kid but we're stuck because we were too afraid to let go."

And yet he's fuck-all crazy about you by his own admission. How the heck does he get from lovestruck point A to bleak apocalyptic point B without hurting himself trying to resolve the cognitive dissonance?

Dude's got committment issues, if just talking about moving in together sets off a rant about being eternally stuck in a loveless marriage, ruled by fear, and shackled by children. Compared to that, you sound pretty level-headed about not wanting to move in together just yet. You're at least evaluating options that exist now, and not some visit from the Ghost of Relationship Future that's now dominating any attempts to plan for the moment.

What you're missing seems to be the willingness to freak out alongside him based on his premonitions about your future together. I think maybe you'd be happier continuing to miss it.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 6:11 PM on July 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


As difficult as it may be, because you really care for him, you need to cut him loose and find someone who will leave you with no doubts. I second onepapertiger.
posted by wv kay in ga at 6:13 PM on July 14, 2008


I believe you must be a very clever person, because you managed to write an entire question without once calling this guy your boyfriend (or anything, really)... It sounds like the status of your relationship with this man may not be clearly defined, even after being together for nine months. He sounds like he may be afraid of another wrong turn in his life, after having two significant relationships fail, and Failed is probably the best way to descibe his perspective on those relationships. I believe men and women perceive relationships very differently, and it sounds like this man may be afraid of another Failure, to the point where he's willing to sacrifice a great relationship to avoid it. Also, it sounds like you may be a bit afraid of "scaring him off", to the point where you've listed many reasons why it would be odd for this guy to find anything frightening about you or your relationship.

I think you need to come to an honest understanding with yourself about what you truly want from this man, and then having an honest conversation with this man about what you want from each other. For instance, perhaps you would be willing to put a serious relationship on the back-burner, so long as the two of you made a commitment to be sexually and emotionally monogomous. Although women view relationships in terms monogamy, it's surprising to realize how many men think "serious relationships" are comprised of more frightening things; things which you may not even desire.

But that's just an example. Whatever it is that you desire from this man, I think you need to find a way to put those needs into actual words (not terms) and discuss them with one another. For example, perhaps you could simply ask him how he defines the words,"relationship", "committment", "boyfriend", etc, and just have a hypothetical conversation about relationships in general, to better understand each other, your perspectives, and your own relationship. Regardless of the points upon which you agree or differ, hopefully you will both emerge with a better understanding of the situation. It sounds like you both care very much for each other, and my heart breaks for you both.
posted by pineapple_heart at 8:27 PM on July 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


Heh; actually, I hadn't noticed that I hadn't used the word "boyfriend," but only because I'm out of the habit of using it because of an irrational prejudice against the word itself (I always feel like I should be wearing a poodle skirt and a class ring around my neck). But we have definitely referred to each other as boyfriend and girlfriend.

We talked more tonight, and each got a much clearer picture of what each other was feeling and thinking right now. I was surprised, in fact, to learn that he actually had been feeling that we'd "peaked" some months ago, and was just figuring out how to tell me -- and he had been flagellating himself for "not treating me the way I deserved" by seeing me a little less often, saying he needed time alone to himself now and then, etc. And he was surprised to learn that the big reason I seemed to be okay with that was "well, you DID start a new job at about that point, and you WERE busier -- and this relationship did give me the confidence to chalk it up to that rather than assuming that it was something I'd done."

He said he trusted me, but he said some things he'd been thinking about us for a long time -- and I pointed out that he said he trusted me, but not enough to tell me that sooner. If he'd said them sooner, I said, we could have worked through things together -- but even though he protested that he trusted me completely, he still didn't trust me enough to tell me those things. And rather than taking that as a sign of "not ever" I took it as a sign of "just not yet, but could get there."

He was much more clear about what he felt in terms of why he wanted to end things, and it does make sense. But -- every time we see each other to talk about this, he ends up questioning himself. And continuing to try to negotiate in that state is just running roughshod over us both, because we start the conversation with him thinking "this is over" and me thinking "maybe it's not," and we end it with ME thinking "no, it's over" and HIM thinking "maybe it's not." Because the ground has shifted under me a couple times during these talks, I always end up asking, "wait, so ARE you breaking up with me? Now I'm not sure." He grumbled that it sounded like I was asking for an ultimatum, but I pointed out that I kind of needed to know -- were we or weren't we? Because he keeps on thinking now he's not so sure. He even gave a chuckle as he was getting ready to leave and said, "who knows, you may still win after all." He's realizing that he really needs to think about what he wants, because just trying to keep talking is pointless until we've thought through what we feel.

So tonight we'd definitely calmed down enough to really talk. But what we realize we need now is a week or apart to really THINK first, and THEN we'll talk again. But it looks very good in terms of everyone finally being clear about what's going on, which is what I wanted anyway.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:37 PM on July 14, 2008


It's over. The nice stuff is just trying to cushion you so you don't cry too hard for too long, and to make you feel like you'll find somebody else quickly, and to make him look like a nice guy who treid rather than a bastard. Now he's just dragging it our because you cried longer and harder than he thought.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 6:16 AM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Let it go, EmpressCallipygos. You really do not want to be with anyone who is anything less than eager to be with you.
posted by orange swan at 6:59 AM on July 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


He even gave a chuckle as he was getting ready to leave and said, "who knows, you may still win after all."

Stop playing games and/or being a spectator in his games and move on with your life.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:13 AM on July 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


Hey are you me? This is more or less the exact same thing I am going through *right now*. I couldn't believe when he first told me he didn't want to be with me anymore. I was (and still am) so in love with him - I thought "This isn't supposed to be happening."

Luckily, my guy went to Europe for a few weeks, so I spent that time working on myself. Reading that "How to be an adult in relationships" book. Writing down everything I felt. Realizing I am an awesome incredible person. By the time he came back from Europe I felt fantastic.. optimistic about my future and possibilities. It helps that I'm moving to new york in a week & starting a new job.

Still, he came back yesterday. He cried, said he doesn't want anything to change & he wants me and wants me to want him. But needs to step back from this in order to really figure it out. Hearing that just wasn't nearly as painful or confusing as it was before he left. I have so much self love now that I believe he loves me, but don't *need* him to love me (in the same way he says he needs me to love him). I realize I'm a lot better off than he is, I can't worry myself about what's going to happen. I enjoy the time we spend together & when I'm missing him, I think about how he made me feel at any point in time, and I try to think of ways to make me feel that way without him.

So the point of this is, let him figure out what he wants. Don't try to figure it out for him. Work on yourself, offer your love and support to him if you want, but don't be dragged down by him. If he wants to be with you, he will. You can't force it. Just focus on yourself.
posted by plz_no_moar at 7:21 AM on July 15, 2008 [8 favorites]


From a man's perspective: It feels bad to break up with a woman, especially one who doesn't want to let you go. I have done it several times, and I don't believe I've ever had the courage to be wholly honest about my reasons, often because it seems it would be cruel to do so.

So in a way I'd encourage you to separate the medium from the message. The message is pretty clear: "I don't want to date you any more." You may never know the true reasons.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:25 AM on July 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Ugh, yeah, the new data just makes this sound like you're trying to convince a six-year-old that no, brussels sprouts will not hurt him and may actually taste good.

I'm with Brandon Blatcher on this one. This fellow needs to go screw his head on straight and stop with the "I want to live with you and get married! However, you need to realize that I don't know what I want... but just maybe, if you're a very good girl and try hard enough, you'll get me to pretend that what you want is what I want too" stuff.

That being said, it sucks that you're having to deal with it.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 2:11 PM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Flags:
He says I'm teaching him how to be happy.
I want to keep taking care of him and helping him keep growing.
"who knows, you may still win after all."


It sounds as though you are mothering him.

He sounds as though he doesn't want to be mothered (anymore?). His 'peak' time was probably when he began to realise this was the dynamic between you two. Either he also put out a 'mother-me' vibe when you two got together or at some stage, maybe when you became confident in your relationship with him (or at the pregnancy scare time maybe), you began to enact a more mothering style in your loving. It's subtle, I mean it's not like you hold his hand while he goes to the potty, and it gets confused with the other acts of being a loving and caring girlfriend, but it changes the way guys feel about their girlfriends, about how they feel about themselves.

What to do about it?
  • Change yourself (you can't change him). After that he'll either come back of his own accord or you'll not want him anyway.

  • Re-read plz_no_moar's story...

  • then ditch the drama! Stop having the "will we, won't we, are we aren't we?" conversations. Tell your boyfriend you love him, but that you are taking a break from the drama for awhile.

  • Take your focus off him and put it back on yourself. Do not respond to his schmoopy entreaties to talk about things. It's no longer about him, it's about you. As plz_no_moar says:
    So the point of this is, let him figure out what he wants. Don't try to figure it out for him. Work on yourself, offer your love and support to him if you want, but don't be dragged down by him. If he wants to be with you, he will. You can't force it. Just focus on yourself.



  • posted by Kerasia at 4:35 PM on July 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


    I was in a similar situation a year ago. Looking back now, I wish that I'd spent less time obsessing over why things had changed so suddenly and more time doing the kinds of things that plz_no_moar describes. Terrifying though it is to think about, seemingly solid and deep relationships can vanish without warning. If you take some time to nurture yourself, whatever that means to you (and maybe this is the time to figure that out), you'll know that you have a safe port in a storm should the same thing ever happen again.

    My hunch is that you are more emotionally mature than he is, and that you'll recognize that after some time apart. Then, as a few people have mentioned, you may decide that you don't want him even if he does come back.

    Also, the mothering dynamic that Kerasia mentions might be something to think about. Are you often attracted to men because you sense that you can teach them something? If so, why is that prospect appealing?

    At any rate, my heart goes out to you, and I hope that you come through this with strength and peace.
    posted by chicainthecity at 12:20 AM on July 17, 2008


    thanks to all -- the situation is still vague, but I've been reading all your comments and thinking about my own self as well in all of this.

    some specifics:

    Ugh, yeah, the new data just makes this sound like you're trying to convince a six-year-old that no, brussels sprouts will not hurt him and may actually taste good.

    Actually, it's more like:

    "Ugh, I hate brussel sprouts, I won't eat them!"
    "Alright, if you do feel that strongly about it, I'll go throw them away --"
    "Wait, don't do that yet, maybe I should have ONE taste first?"
    "...Okay, well I'll put them right --"
    "Agh, no, I won't!"
    "...Okay, then I'll --"
    "Wait..."

    He sounds as though he doesn't want to be mothered (anymore?). His 'peak' time was probably when he began to realise this was the dynamic between you two. Either he also put out a 'mother-me' vibe when you two got together or at some stage, maybe when you became confident in your relationship with him (or at the pregnancy scare time maybe), you began to enact a more mothering style in your loving. It's subtle, I mean it's not like you hold his hand while he goes to the potty, and it gets confused with the other acts of being a loving and caring girlfriend, but it changes the way guys feel about their girlfriends, about how they feel about themselves.

    Don't think so -- we've BOTH been nurturing, him maybe a bit more so than ME, even. And when he said that I was teaching him how to be happy, he meant "by example" -- he's heard that I do particular things, he tries them for his own self, and realized, "hey, this works." In terms of hands-on nurturing, we are both pretty equal about that.

    We've been each doing thinking and are getting together again this weekend to discuss things one more time. And if he's still vacillating then, I'm going to ask for a months' separation -- with a contact blackout (save for an emergency, like death of a family member) -- and ask him to figure it out. I've spoken my piece about what I want and why I think it is achievable-- he will have to decide for once and for all whether he agrees with me or not.

    as for taking care of myself otherwise, I've already started rounding up friends and warning them that I may need some extra support for a little while, no matter what the outcome, and I'm also looking into volunteering in a local animal shelter -- it'll get me out of the house and I'll be getting a lot of doggy and kitty affection, and that will help a lot.
    posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:55 AM on July 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


    if he's still vacillating then, I'm going to ask for a months' separation -- with a contact blackout (save for an emergency, like death of a family member) -- and ask him to figure it out. I've spoken my piece about what I want and why I think it is achievable-- he will have to decide for once and for all whether he agrees with me or not.

    Sounds like a good approach. I agree that you are right to be feeling a little fed up witht he vacillating and you don't need to hang around for it. A month's break might be very enlightening. Nobody deserves to be held on a string indefinitely being jerked around by someone else's fluctuating feelings. I think your taking a clear stance and making a plan is an excellent message about your self-worth and ability to make decisions. Good luck!
    posted by Miko at 8:17 AM on July 17, 2008


    One last note before I hit "resolved":

    Yeah, it finally ended in late July. It has been in turns sad and hopeful; we definitely want to stay in contact, but have both taken big steps back to let the relationship hangovers abate; we did see each other in person a couple weeks ago for the "exchange of stuff," and that was comfortable for the most part, but afterwards we both felt we'd kind of pushed the comfort zone for the time being so we've scaled back to "the occasional goofy email."

    And it's all given me some great perspective, and helped me notice some things that I hadn't before -- earlier, a number of you said that it seemed like maybe he was just pulling the plug before he got hurt again. It looks to be that that was the case -- mainly because I really, REALLY don't think he's finished dealing with the aftereffects of his divorce yet. I noticed that every time his divorce comes up in conversation, even just in passing, he falls all over himself to tell you that he's "over it, really, it's fine, I'm okay." I finally flat-out asked what had happened with them -- I'd been reluctant to ask earlier, and he was forthcoming enough with some details that I was comfortable letting the rest sit until he was okay sharing -- and had my suspicions that it was a "married young and it just fell down and went boom" thing confirmed. But I also learned that one of the ways his ex-wife treated him may have CAUSED a bad habit he carried over into our relationship, and which he admitted he carried into other relationships after the ex-wife and before me. So it looks like he's still got some scars from his divorce, but he's trying so hard to convince himself everything's okay, he can't even SEE that he's not, and all he knows is that something just doesn't feel right, and he bolted.

    And that's something I just can't fix for him. Only he can fix that himself. The only thing I can possibly do is maybe, someday, when he goes into the whole "but i'm okay with the divorce really" ballet is to quietly point out, "I've noticed -- you say that a lot. You sure about that?" and that's it.

    but I've been handling this break up a HELL of a lot better and healthier than other ones, and done a HELL of a lot better about speaking up for my boundaries and taking care of myself, and coming out of things with much clearer eyes. I'm starting to recognize that the very, very beginnings of the New Us are starting, and I'm already seeing it as a distinct and separate thing from what came before; the rest is just about giving myself more time to sort out what I feel and how it fits into the new normal. But the fact that I have it sorted out what his issue is, is big. And y'all helped with that, so thanks.
    posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:00 AM on August 22, 2008


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