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The relationship I am in has become exhausting

Tagged as: Dating, Troubled relationships<< Previous question   Next question >>
Question - (23 October 2017) 4 Answers - (Newest, 24 October 2017)
A female United States age 22-25, anonymous writes:

So I need to preface this by saying I am not a second-chances person. Basically once someone loses my faith or trust, they usually can't get it back.

That being said, I dated this guy for about a year, from September of last year to earlier this summer. Everything about our relationship felt perfect, except that he could never tell me that he loved me. I tried to be patient and empathetic but I finally had to call it off because it was too stressful for me. Basically, I told him I loved him in March, after about 6 months of dating. He said he still wasn't sure how he felt, and could I please give him more time. I did, but nothing seemed to change and by June (9 months in) I just felt like I couldn't do it anymore and called it off. It was extremely painful to not only be the heartbroken one but also have to be the one to close the door and walk away. And the saddest part was I never doubted for a minute that he actually did love me, based on his actions. Everyone around us, friends and family, all felt that we were a perfect couple. And on top of that, as cliche as it is to say, we were best friends. Our personalities work together perfectly and we have similar interests; we make each other laugh and are also there when the other is going through a difficult time. He just couldn't allow himself to be vulnerable and open up to me, which he fully acknowledged. Even still, he was the first really good relationship I had and it was very difficult to let that go, but I did out of compassion for myself.

Fast forward to this September and I get a text from him asking if we can talk. At first I was furious - I'm not the type of person that can talk to or stay friends with exes, and I had expressed that to him when we broke up, so it felt very selfish on his part. I talked to my friends and my sister and they said I should at least hear him out. So we talked and he basically said he had been miserable all summer and he hadn't realized what our relationship meant to him until I left. He said he didn't expect a second chance, but he needed to let me know that I had been right and he was sorry. I had allowed him a lot of grace and kindness through the whole breakup process so at this point I kind of unleashed a lot of the anger I had held back before. I told him I did think he was selfish, that he had broken my heart, and that I didn't know what he wanted from me. We had a long, long talk and he left and I told him not to text me because I needed time to think. I finally decided that we could go get coffee and just see how it went. He basically ended up telling me that if I could give him a second chance, he would work harder and be more open and vulnerable with me.

So the past month we've been kind of hanging out and going on dates and things have been 10x better than they were the first go round. He's been very vocal about how he is feeling, made sure to check in on how I'm feeling, and he's been intentional with our relationship. Then, a little over a week ago, he asks if I want to go to a friend's wedding as his plus one. And that's when everything seemed to fall apart. He's acted weird all week. Then today we went hiking and afterward he asked if we could talk and I knew where it was going. He said he was freaking out because he felt like he had "hit a wall" and everything was regressing back to how he felt the last time we dated. He said the idea of us going to a wedding together freaked him out and the idea of meeting my parents (which isn't even something we've discussed) freaked him out. He said he's scared and he feels like he wants to give me the best version of himself but all he's giving me is pieces. He admits he feels like he needs a therapist but we're millennials and that's a little out of our price range. He says he wants to be able to give all of himself to our relationship but something's always holding him back, mostly fear. I told him he's overthinking and ruining what should be the best part of a relationship and he agreed; but as someone who has struggled with mental health issues most of her life, I know that me just saying that won't fix the issue.

The thing is, the solution to this problem is so clear to me and yet he just seems mystified by it. I know that, as someone who hasn't been in a really serious relationship in 6 years and who (according to him) has never been in a healthy relationship, he thinks he doesn't know what love is supposed to be or feel like. I think he wanted someone to tell him that it's this magical carnival of fireworks all the time; as someone who has been in love before, I know that's not what it's like. And he apparently talked to his brother, who is in a committed long term relationship, and his brother told him love isn't fireworks, it's the small things you build with your partner which eventually turn into a life together. We're taking a break from talking for a few days per my request, but I asked him to think about what the worst outcome of us going to this wedding together/him meeting my parents/whatever other next step of commitment he's terrified of would be. Because as frustrated as I am right now, I really don't want to lose him. I know I love him because the thought of him not being in my life hurts. I don't expect him to be perfect, which is what I think he expects of himself; by the same token, I don't want to be his therapist or "fix him." I love him exactly as he is, flaws and all.

At the same time, I kind of want to just end things because the stress of it all is interfering with my ability to get my work done. I am a teacher and I work in a very high-stress environment; I love my job but I cry over my students and the situations they're going through more than I've ever cried over my relationship. I guess I just need advice and words of wisdom over whether this is worth pursuing or if I'm wasting my time. I've dated a lot of crappy guys in my life and I genuinely don't feel like he is one of them, but it's just becoming exhausting. I really, really do love him and I don't want him to not be a part of my life but both of us understand we can't be "just friends," so if this is it then this is truly it. Any help is appreciated.

View related questions: a break, best friend, broke up, heartbroken, text, wedding

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A female reader, aunt honesty Ireland + , writes (24 October 2017):

aunt honesty agony auntIf he truly loved you he would want to show everyone at the wedding you are together, he would bend over backwards to meet your parents and tell them how much he wants to be with you and treat you well. I have no doubt he has feelings for you, but I think he is trying to force himself to fall in love with you, which am afraid is impossible if the feelings are not there on his part.

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A female reader, CindyCares Italy + , writes (23 October 2017):

CindyCares agony aunt Maybe I am reading this all wrong ( I hope so ) but to me that's basically a complicated version of " I love you , but I am not in love with you ".

He apparently is not feeling something that, in his mind, he should be feeling. Everything is good, but it's not

" great " because there's something missing. Even if you get along, share interests, communicate, respect each other , have fun together etc.etc.- and still, he misses the fireworks.

I must say that, IMO, you are both right.

Love is not made just of fireworks and butterflies in the stomach, and the giddy, intoxicating " honeymoon " phase lasts, according to the scientists, about 18 to 36 months anyway, after which is replaced- by all the good things that you have built together in time , if you have managed to build them together.

But- there must ALSO be fireworks, stars in the sky, the wow factor, and what not. Even if it's occasional, even if it's temporary , even if you KNOW it's going to fade and change into something else.

Otherwise, you are with a person who can be attractive, lovable, fun, ineteresting, that you like and appreciate and respect over all the others, bla blah - but still- no magic. Like being with an ideal best friend, whom you think the world of, and yet ... you would not want to marry him / her, no matter how fantastic the person is on paper.

I think this is what he is confusedly trying to say, that all in all- you are not "the one", he does not " feel " you, and that's why he can't commit and cannot invest his whole self into your relationship.

Is he wrong, is he making some horrible mistake, is he ruining what could be a wonderful thing ? Maybe. Possibly. Probably. And yet- he goes with his guts, which is not a totally wrong thing in love. It's only wrong if you use your guts feelings to justify staying with someone who cheats on you or abuses you or mistreats you etc. But I think that , although we should love also with our brain, not just with our senses - he is right to listen to his instinct , and not only in his own interest but in yours too.

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A female reader, Anonymous 123 Italy + , writes (23 October 2017):

Anonymous 123 agony auntYou guys sound like Carrie and Mr.Big... And everyone knows how that worked out!

Look OP, this "vulnerable", "can't open up" talk is just bullshit. He doesn't want to be with you as much as you want to be with him. He doesn't love you, he led you on twice and now he's being weird yet again. How many more chances will you give him and why? Why are you getting so desperate for someone who doesn't want to be with you? Do you really think the outcome will be magically great?

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A female reader, Honeypie United States + , writes (23 October 2017):

Honeypie agony auntYou write that you don't want to "fix" him or "change" him but that is EXACTLY what you are trying to do. When he didn't SAY the 3 words you felt you were owed and you deserved you ended it. Even though you state that you FELT loved. you write:

" I never doubted for a minute that he actually did love me, based on his actions. "

So without those 3 little words, his actions apparently meant nothing to you. (nothing WRONG with wanting your partner to ACTUALLY and OFFICIALLY say that he loves you, mind you...)

You are NO different than him in thinking that relationships are supposed to be "such and such". For him, it's constant fireworks and for you, it's that unless those ILY are uttered out loud, it isn't a good relationship.

Does that make sense?

You are BOTH trying to fit each other into whatever NOTION or IDEA you BOTH have of what a relationship should be. Square peg, round hole.

I can tell you this, ANYONE can say " I love you" and not mean it. SHOWING love is much much harder. Words matter a LOT less than actions or actions to back them up.

When you two got back together HE was trying to BE what YOU wanted him to be. Not just the "best version" of himself, but the version he felt YOU deserved. So it wasn't the real HIM. THAT is not sustainable. (for anyone) to pretend to be someone else.

So IF you love him, like you say (again I will quote you):

"I love him exactly as he is, flaws and all."

Then accept that THE guy you dating FIRST time around is WHO he REALLY is. This "version" you are dating now is him trying to PLEASE you - because he LOVES you and wants to BE with you. He was SO desperate for that, that he tried to give himself a "personality makeover".

You are frustrated because he really DIDN'T change. He didn't become the guy you "thought" or "wanted" him to be. HE is frustrated because he can't keep up the "charade" of trying to BE that perfect guy - FOR YOU.

If he can't handle intimacy on EVERY level in a relationship and YOU want that, then HE isn't the guy for you. He wants to be, but he isn't.

He seems to think that taking YOU to a wedding is somehow scary? So he pulls back and gets weird and leave you thinking WTF just happened?! What did I do? And then you try and "fix" it...

Maybe he does need a therapist. Maybe he just needs to GROW UP.

And maybe, you need to accept that THIS is who he is. Is that someone you can see yourself with long-term? Someone who whenever he feels emotionally vulnerable or invested in another person, he pulls back.

You guys can do this pull/push thing over and over and over... you know the saying:

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

It's really NOT the definition of insanity... but HUMANITY (if you ask me). Because we DO this OVER and OVER until someone is smart enough to get off the ride.

To put it like one of our "aunties" on here, SVC would say; "YOU are dating this guy for his potential, not for who he is". Only HE can make that POTENTIAL a reality or not. You might see a LOT of great things in him (and it sounds like he has quite a few). However, it doesn't mean he can REALIZE that potential with YOU (or anyone). If that makes more sense?

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