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Should I let her go unless she takes the initiative?

Tagged as: Breaking up, Faded love, Troubled relationships<< Previous question   Next question >>
Question - (22 January 2019) 11 Answers - (Newest, 23 January 2019)
A male United States age 41-50, anonymous writes:

I have been in a relationship for many years. We do not live together because we both agreed we would wait until each of our children are grown before we combine our households. There have been "ups and downs" over the years, but never anything bad (nobody has ever cheated, no abuse, nothing like that). Our "downs" have almost always been the result of petty fighting. Unfortunately, when we do fight, her "go to" mindset is to shutdown. It might be for the rest of the day or it might be for several days, but she will not return calls, will not talk, will not text, etc., and if I try to communicate with her she says she doesn't like the relationship anymore because it's supposed to be fun and we need to let the relationship go. Sometimes she is very mean about it and tells me that it's over, if I try to save the relationship, etc., I'm just going to push her further away, those kind of things. Of course, we have always somehow ended working things out.

Now, it has happened again. We had been doing well, holidays were great, took a trip together and rang in the new year together. Pictures of us together, hugging, smiling, kissing, all over Facebook and everybody declares us the "perfect" couple, etc. Yet less than a week later we have a very minor disagreement (after a birthday gathering for a friend we have an argument and then she said she doesn't like us anymore). I went home and we haven't talked since, which was over a week ago. As with every time this happens, I have been depressed about it. But this time I have not tried to contact her because I feel like I'm always the one trying to fix things and she takes that for granted.

So now I'm second guessing myself and wondering if I should try to fix things up like I always do (which involves me calling, her telling me it isn't going to work and she doesn't want the relationship, and me talking her into us working on it and then things going okay for a while). Or should I let her go and if she takes the initiative to work it out then great but if she doesn't just let her go since that would mean she truly doesn't want the relationship anymore?

View related questions: depressed, facebook, kissing, text

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A male reader, Code Warrior United States + , writes (23 January 2019):

Code Warrior agony auntI can't tell you what you should do, I can only tell you what I would do if I had to deal with this. I would break up with her permanently precisely because she deals with disagreements in an immature way.

She is who she is and she's not going to change, nor would I want her to on my account. Asking someone to change is a fool's errand. People don't change unless they come to the realization themselves, and even then, they are rarely able to make the changes last. In stressful situations, people tend to revert to their base behaviors.

As for you, you've got wise up. Obviously when you're having fun and aren't fighting, things are good. That's true for anybody. However, it's childish for you to wish for all fun with no fighting. Furthermore, it's even more childish to treat the fighting as though it's not part of the relationship. You do that when you tell us how good the relationship is when you're not fighting. It's as if you're treating the fighting like it doesn't really count against the overall relationship. Sorry, but it's every bit as much a part of the relationship as the good times are.

Frankly, I can't remember the last time my wife and I had a fight where she didn't speak to me for a day. I think we might have had one like that 10 years ago. We disagree all the time and we trash talk each other, but it's never mean spirited. She's my buddy and I'm her buddy and buddies trash talk. Obviously, we're more than buddies, but hopefully you get the point. We don't fight a lot anymore, and when we used to fight lot during the bad part of our marriage, we would still talk to each other the next day and apologize to each other.

I'd break up with her and move on. If she came back to me and wanted to reconcile, I'd tell her no. If she promised to change, I'd tell her that if she really thinks she needs to change, then she should make the effort, but don't do it for me because I'm not going to wait for it to happen, I'm moving on.

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A male reader, Fatherly Advice United States + , writes (23 January 2019):

Fatherly Advice agony auntJust on the wild side here but do you think she might be serious about it not working? I know it is a lot lot like accepting that No means No (sarcasm). Sure she may just be short term mad again, but if she is the one to say NO then it is indeed up to her to say Yes. Honestly, the right thing to do is to accept her spoken will on this and back off until she opens the door again.

If at that point you decide to tell her, "no thanks, I'm seeing someone else" or "No thanks, you've hurt me enough that I don't want to go there again. Well that is just the truth that she gambled on.

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A female reader, Tisha-1 United States + , writes (23 January 2019):

Tisha-1 agony aunt What are the petty disagreements about? Perhaps they aren’t petty to her, though they seem to be to you. You say you have arguments often, yet you don’t describe what they’re about. It would help us to know why she and you keep arguing. What is the topic? What is the bone of contention?

I would suggest that instead of just stopping contact, that you let her know you are going to wait to hear from her. I would say something along the lines of, “Angela, we have been fighting and you have been breaking up with me on a regular basis. Obviously what we are doing isn’t working well, and I would like to try a new tactic. I think our strategy should be to communicate in an effective way. I perceive that you shut down when we have an argument. I feel like I’m the one who then has to re-initiate contact, apologize, and do the things that restart the relationship. I think that I am tired of this approach, and my new approach is now to let you take the initiative to try to repair the relationship. I hope to hear from you, I do feel that we have a good relationship, and I would like to save it, but I am not willing to continue the same pattern, that seems like it’s destructive to a long-term relationship to me.”

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A female reader, mystiquek Japan + , writes (23 January 2019):

mystiquek agony auntYou have been great advice. I would just like to add this. IF your lady friend is around the same age as you, then she is also in my age range and could very well be going through menopause. Let me tell you first hand that her emotions could very well be all over the place. Its not an excuse and shouldn't not be used as one but it could possibly help explain some of her behavior. I can go from laughing to crying in 60 second some days and honestly have no real reason to explain why.

You sound like a very kind and caring man and really do want to work things out. She very well may not be a talker and its very frustrating for a partner if one is a talker and one shuts down. My husband is Japanese and they keep things VERY close to the vest and sometimes its like pulling teeth out to get him to open up to me. I know if we have a disagreement he will want to walk away and think about things whereas I would rather talk about it. ITS HARD! I understand your frustration.

She does seem to be the one more in control of your relationship but do not let her walk all over you. I would explain to her that you would prefer that she not totally shut you out that it is confusing and hurtful to you and you don't care to continue on in such a manner.

She is an adult, not a child and shouldn't be playing the game "I run away, you come find me and catch me".

I hope you can work out something that will make both of you happy. You sound like a lovely man. Good luck!

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (23 January 2019):

Both Honeypie and YCBS have made excellent posts, but I should add, threatening the relationship over small arguments is a form of coercive abuse. Think about that too. Best of luck.

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A male reader, WiseOwlE United States + , writes (23 January 2019):

If I may add something. Be careful about "taking breaks," when you have disagreements. That's basically disconnecting the relationship as a means to psychologically-blackmail her into submission. It is playing on her emotions to make her feel you will abandon her if she doesn't give-in. If she doesn't want to talk, leave her alone.

Don't use breaking-up as a tool of manipulation; or tempt fate to see if you can make her feel she's at your mercy. From how you've described her; she'll call your bluff anyway. You've already conditioned her to know, you're the one most afraid of a breakup. Anyone who knows that and would hold it over your head, isn't as nice as you think. It's calculated.

Just ask her to talk about it when she's ready; but you really don't want be put on-hold indefinitely. That only would let problems fester; because she'd rather pout than talk. You're still dealing with it; but for her sake, you'll sweep it under the rug. Until it revisits again, and again. You'll lose patience always dealing with the same old nagging problems and getting them dismissed. She doesn't want to deal with you when you're upset. The cycle continues.

People avoid confrontation, and fear causing contempt if they don't agree. When you both hit an impasse, she shuts-down to avoid feeling like the relationship isn't perfect. She wants it to always be agreeable. At the same-time she manipulates; because she knows you fear a permanent breakup. It's useful, but she can play that card too many times.

That old cliche trick of breaking-up to make her come crawling back will backfire. You can't acquiesce under duress, because you think she's going to dump you. If she has reason to dump you; my friend, it's only a matter of time. Being agreeable to appease her will turn into resentment. She's pulling your strings.

It's best to ask her to just talk it out, you'll listen. Don't approach a discussion like anyone has an upper-hand. You're on equal-footing. It's not about "who is right or wrong;" it is about compromise. Finding a final solution to get things back on track and to make peace. If it's small, let it go, don't indulge it. Let her stew on it; until she get's over the matter, or gets over herself.

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A reader, anonymous, writes (22 January 2019):

This is verified as being by the original poster of the question

Thank you to ALL of you. Based on my viewpoint from being in the relationship, I think WiseOwlE hit the nail on the head. The thing is, I don't think she's just a selfish person who intentionally manipulates me, I think this is all on a subconscious or instinctive level. Things actually have gotten better over the years but it's still frustrating. I am a talker and, as WiseOwlE seemed to recognize, she is not. However, she has gotten a little bit better about talking and I have learned to not make any talks sound like I'm lecturing her or telling her she's wrong, I have to be careful about how we talk about things and it's when I mess that balance up that we have our disagreement and problems.

Additionally, I do believe she has the power in the relationship so she never feels any fear of losing the relationship, which is something I fear most the time, and that allows her to take me for granted.

Honeypie is right, it's insane to keep doing this, but I think Youcannotbeserious has a good point too. I have always been the "chaser" in the relationship and I don't think she fully understands the fear I have when we seemingly break up. I think I need to just let her go and wait to see if she takes the initiative to bring us back together. I have to believe that if she cares (which I think she does, but not completely sure) she will do that before she will just let the relationship die. If not, I guess that tells me she really doesn't care or want this relationship.

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A male reader, WiseOwlE United States + , writes (22 January 2019):

Somebody tell me where people get this notion that life is supposed to be fun and happy all the time?

Adult-life is serious. It requires using good judgement, making sensible decisions, contributing something useful to our community, working, taking care of our loved-ones, and ourselves. If you have a faith and a belief, you try to be a good person and worship God in whatever way you were taught.

We form relationships. You are dealing with a fellow human being who has opinions, feelings, emotions, a separate brain, and a physical body...over which they have sovereign control. Therefore, we are prone to disagree.

It is childish, and stupid to believe a relationship is good as long as you're happy. Who have you ever known to be happy 24/7? Life presents problems, bad things happen, crisis occur, and right meets wrong!

You're being manipulated. You are being burdened with the responsibility of constantly providing for your mate's emotional-comfort. You must cater to her vanities by making her feel especially valued; and dare you get the idea you should ever disagree! Ever heard of the term high maintenance? It requires always providing everything it takes to meet the needs and whims of a self-centered individual.

Relationships require trust, compromise, fairness, and equality in order to survive. In order to facilitate all these things, you have to communicate. You have to talk, sort things out, explain your side of the issue; and like two adults, resolve the problem.

Shutting-down is the passive-aggressive way of shutting you up. It cuts-off any attempt to make her participate in solving the problem in a mutually-beneficial way. It has to be her way or no way. You have to submit in silence; but if you should take an opposing view, the relationship is in peril.

You are dealing with a person suffering immaturity and arrested-development. She retreats rather than talk it out. You can invite her to have a calm discussion. Provided you use your ears and not just your mouth. If you try to talk, but someone is busy informing of how angry and dissatisfied they are with you; you may as well shutdown. She doesn't explain her side. She is due benefit of the doubt, and some reasonable consideration for her side the issue.

You need to create a way to discuss your problems. Not everyone retreat or separate; while the problem remains. She needs to stop blowing little problems out of proportion; but that is often symptomatic of frustration. You become that way sometimes, usually when you're dealing with a stubborn personality. A person who might be nice, but unyielding; because they insist on being right. Sometimes we just condescend to others by pretending to understand or agree; but at the same time we're making sure we deliver our opinion with such force we knock theirs out of the ballpark.

Janniepeg made a great point. Sometimes premenopause is setting-in, and what appears to be perpetual grouchiness, or petty-behavior is really a symptom of hormonal-changes. It may require hormone-therapy, and some patience. Women don't usually discuss these things, like we don't discuss ED or a drop in testosterone levels. We only see the symptoms, but we don't know the cause. If she won't talk, you'll never know for sure.

If this is a consistent pattern, for as long as you've been together; then what I said before applies. You're facing some incompatibility in personality. You're the type to discuss things out; and she just wants you to let it go, and pretend it never occurred. Just make her feel better and dismiss the problem. That's how children deal with problems. Hoping they just go-away. If you see a consistency that seems to never change; it is likely this relationship has run its course. You're both getting older, and set in your ways.

You can't make anyone happy all the time; but there should be peace and harmony. That is maintained only by having open-discussion, calm communication, trust, and maturity.

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A female reader, Youcannotbeserious United Kingdom + , writes (22 January 2019):

Youcannotbeserious agony auntIf you keep chasing, she will keep running. In your shoes I would stop chasing and see what happens. If she doesn't make any effort to sort things, then her heart truly isn't in this relationship. Are you strong enough to back off and wait so you can find out the truth?

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A female reader, Honeypie United States + , writes (22 January 2019):

Honeypie agony aunt You are familiar with the saying:

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”

THAT is your relationship.

It keep going bust, she wants to end it and you "fix" it temporarily until next time it breaks down. Then you start over, again and again.

When are you going to accept that it's just NOT really going to work out?

It's ALL fine a dandy looking like the "perfect couple" on Facebook but that IS NOT your reality, that is your facade.

And most people have LOVELY holidays and trips away because it's an "escape" from the daily life.

Even if she DOES reach out wanting to mend the fences, how many more break up, silence, and "fixes" do you have in you?

How does the relationship work in the day to day?

Is it "generally" the same things you guys fight over? And if you have been together THIS long and STILL haven't found common ground in HOW to handle disagreement, do you see it EVER happening?

BE realistic.

For now FOCUS on YOU and your kids.

I think the reason you try and fix things every time it breaks down is more out of FEAR of being alone than really WANTING it to work. Same with her. She is being honest (I think when she says she doesn't WANT to do it any more). You are dating-life is that of a yo-yo. And maybe that is because NEITHER of you want to accept that you aren't that great of a fit. Can you IMAGINE living with her full time? What would happen when there is an disagreement? Would she leave? Ask you to leave? Give you the silent treatment? What? If your relationship ISN'T work while living apart, it's NOT going to work living together, and then WHAT do you actually have to look forward to, relationship wise? Vacations?

Take a moving box (cardboard box) and start collecting stuff she has at your place (if any. Pack it up nicely and then DROP it off at her place.

Then TAKE some time going through the motions of a break up and moving forward.

Unless you actually enjoy this yo-yo thing you two got going....

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A female reader, janniepeg Canada +, writes (22 January 2019):

janniepeg agony auntShe may be starting premenopause and her emotions are all over the place. You have to reassure yourself she is not feeling comfortable with her life now, and this is not about you. When you sense an argument coming, ask her first, why is she angry, rather than go on the defensive, overreact and prolong the argument. When she goes emotional, your first instinct maybe fight or flight, and that never works. Perhaps this is the chance you get to connect with her deeply, listen and validate what she is feeling. She shuts down because she is afraid of facing the intense feelings that she has inside. You should not let her go without trying this approach.

You are always reaching out because you fear that if you don't, the relationship would end. In spite the many times that it always "works out" at the end, you are fed up by now. If the approach above does not work, then you have to tell her in the future you would not accept shut downs and non communications.

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