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Avatarian's avatar

Girlfriend contemplates breaking up - where did this come from?

Asked by Avatarian (25points) September 28th, 2009

My girlfriend and I nearly broke up at the beginning of the summer that just passed. The reason being was we had been miserable together for the past couple months prior to that. She’s an incredibly emotional person who requires a lot of emotional support, but is not equipped to give it back. So, when I’m happy with life, but she’s not, the relationship is still good. However, whenever we’re both unhappy, we’re like two drowning swimmers hopelessly trying to support each other. Even worst, when I’m unhappy and she’s happy, she soon becomes unhappy because she doesn’t know how to be supportive (which makes her feel inadequate as a girlfriend), and she gets all anxious/nervous/super-sensitive because she gets paranoid that she’s the source of my unhappiness despite telling her 1023180 times that she’s not. So, when I’m unhappy and she’s happy, she soon becomes unhappy too, and somehow by the end of the day it turns out that I’m having to console her…

Anyways, we talked things out last summer, agreed on a way in which we had to deal with our issues, and it worked – we had a great summer. Just last week we went apple-picking, and she was ecstatic; she just kept telling me how happy she had been for the past couple months. Just six days ago, she gave me a promise ring on my birthday (I had given one on hers).

[ I should mention here that we’ve been dating for a shade less than 3 years, and we’re both 20. ]

This week, however, for reasons not necessary to state in here, I have been very unhappy (for reasons having nothing to do with her), and very lonely. Over the course of the week, she only saw me for a few hours one night. I told her a number of times how I was feeling unhappy and incredibly lonely, but it was completely wasted upon her. She packed her schedule full of extra-curricular things she didn’t have to go to (as in even when she scheduled them, she was not obligated to go in any way), and never even made an effort to see me. Yet, somehow, when the tables are turned, I’m expected to be there for her… Note also that she’s unhappy and requires support much, much more than I do.

I voice my discontent to her about her being completely emotionally unavailable in a way which was neither accusing, nor aggressive, nor whatever. She freaked, said that I was making her feel guilty for wanting to do things, and then she panicked and said she feared that the misery of last school year would return and then seriously started to consider breaking up with me.

wtf. Last summer, when things were terrible, we discussed the approach we would need to take to address conflict and resolve issues rather than let them resurface later. In the face of the smallest ounce of tension, she completely abandoned it and considered abandoning me and reverted to this old irrationality and simple-minded stupidity which got us into horrible situations in the first place. Given the great summer, the promise ring, where the fuck did this come from? And more importantly, what kind of person is this girl? After having such a great time for the past couple months, after everything we’ve been through and all the thought and discussion we put into engineering a way to get through our troubles (which WORKED when we used it; it was the reason for our great summer), how is it she seriously considered just leaving me in response to pretty much nothing despite how much she claims to love me (claims which I believe are genuine)?

Soon after, she abandoned the idea of breaking up, and apologized a number of times for the things she puts me through, but I’m still angry and I don’t know what to do. In one fell swoop, she’s made me feel more alone than ever, as well as insecure, disposable, and worthless. Not only that, it feels as though she’s effectively put us back right where we used to be.

Now, I find myself angry and resentful with her, despite how much I love her and how much I want to spend my life with her. It’s only with this girl that I have ever felt this alone in my life. Never before with anyone else has someone made me wish I was dead more than her… and I think this is not because she’s a bad person (despite being selfish and borderline delusional when it comes to topics dealing with emotion), but because I genuinely love her for the many positive things that have not been written here.

Where did this come from? What should I do? How would I cope with the solutions available to me?

Any advice or insight is welcomed.

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16 Answers

whitenoise's avatar

Just a small question… how old are you both and where do you stand in life?

edit: I am asking this since it seems your girlfriend acts somewhat immature and I feel you might stay in the relationship because you haven’t had enough experience with a decent relationship, in order to forfeit on this relationship and open yourself to a more productive one.

holden's avatar

From what you’ve written, it sounds like this girl is immature, selfish, and only in the relationship for herself. You said she doesn’t know how to be supportive. She couldn’t be there for you when you were having a hard time. Looks like you’ve been feeding her need for an emotional crutch while she reaps the benefits of the relationship. What do you think is going to happen when you have a sudden, unexpected crisis and really need help? Is she going to shut down and turn your emotions on you like she’s done in the past or is she going to stand by your side through and through? If you think the answer to that question is the former and not the latter then it may really be time to part ways.

@whitenoise: they are both 20 and have been dating for 3 years.

wundayatta's avatar

I went through a period of my life when I behaved similarly. I’d fall in love with someone (or I believed I fell in love), and I’d be ecstatic for a little while; then, for the smallest thing, it would fall apart. I’d get upset because of a broken date, and believe this was evidence that she hated me. I’d act all upset, and this would freak her out, and the next thing I knew we went through this cycle a few times, and it was over.

Later on, I found out that I was bipolar, and this kind of rapid cycling is common for people with my mental disorder. It was this experience that made me link the feelings of love and despair with mental illness. I have come to think of “falling in love” as something very similar to a manic episode. The fights over perceived slights are like the downside of mania, when you get very irritable, and then your sense of loneliness is magnified and you can’t possibly feel worse—that’s like the depressed side of bipolar disorder.

I have come to see the processes of love as being very similar to craziness. Our feelings are magnified and we become less able to think reasonably about our situation. We do things we would never do if we were in our “right minds.”

The first thing my shrink said to me when he diagnosed me, was that I should always postpone major decisions for at least a couple of months when I was depressed. The theory is that when you have extremes of emotions, you often don’t make decisions you would make if you were calmer.

I had this idea that I wanted to divorce my wife and move out. I also had the idea that if I did move out, I would be unable to care for myself, and I’d lose my job, and become homeless, and end up in a gutter somewhere. I didn’t think I cared. I knew I didn’t really want to be uncomfortable like that, but at the same time, it seemed to be more appropriate to my mood.

When I was your age, I was new to love. I fell in love for the first time at age twenty. I had no idea what I was in for. We stayed together for a little more than a year, and then broke up when I graduated. She broke up with me. For me, it was as if the world had ended. It took me years to get over it.

When I was young, I think that I, like most of us, was very unfamiliar with these emotions, and that magnified their impact. I had no perspective. I didn’t know what it was like to support someone or to be there for them. I thought it was all about fun and ecstasy. It was all play and no work. I thought it should all be easy, and everything should be smooth.

I’ve learned that relationships are almost never like that. There are always problems to work through. Sometimes you have to face them over and over. Usually this has to do with uncommunicated expectations, or feelings of inadequacy. Later on, I had a girlfriend who was experiencing severe abdominal pain associated with endometriosis. It freaked me out. I just wasn’t ready to be with someone who was sick or down. I felt selfish, but I that didn’t stop me from wanting to be free of the problem. Of course, I felt ashamed of that. Which made it worse.

I think you guys are in a cycle that is building on itself. You are punching each others buttons in a way that makes things worse, and worse, and worse.

The first thing you can do is to try to postpone that feeling that you have to do something about it. You are not in a good emotional situation to make major decisions. You are very likely to do something you will regret later.

The second thing is to use this as a lesson in forgiveness. She may have disappointed you, but people will always be doing that. People are frail and insecure and when faced with large problems, often don’t know how to handle it. If you blame each other for failure, it will only get worse.

You may have to take care of yourself in a weakened state, but if you can hold on, then maybe you guys can get back to work on your relationship and on the things that disappoint you. Maybe you can learn to do a better job with it.

It sounds like you do have a good capability for communicating with each other. This is what will save you, if anything can save the relationship. But you’ll have to wait until you are both in a better place in order to be strong enough to deal with this issue. If you try to work on it now, it’ll only get worse, and kill the relationship. I think it would be a good idea if you can find a way to postpone any major decisions.

Third, I think it would be helpful to recognize that, even if you are not clinically depressed, your feelings are those of a depressed person. You are beating up on yourself. You are exacerbating your aloneness. You are almost seeking to go down with the ship. You have grabbed onto your pain as if it will save you.

Some people believe you can fight such feelings. They try to do all these exercises to show themselves that their thinking is not realistic. They are turning molehills into mountains.

I guess it works for some people, but that approach never worked for me. I could never push away the feelings. The thing I eventually learned to do was to not be so attached to those feelings. I learned that I didn’t have to hold onto them as if they would save me. I could kind of separate them a little from me, and become a little more dispassionate about them.

“You are not your feelings.” That’s what they say. I’m not sure what we are if we are not our feelings, but I do know that thinking this way seems to help. I guess we are more than our feelings. Whatever is essentially us goes on despite our feelings. Feelings are just tools, but when they are the wrong tool for the job, you have to find another tool, or you won’t fix the problem.

I think your tools now are time and distance. Be patient. Wait until you are not in so much of a crisis. Then you can start to work on the problem. Then you can begin to fix it. Don’t label her as selfish or you as a loser. Avoid thinking about what it means entirely. If you do think that way, then don’t beat yourself up for thinking that way. Just observe the thoughts while paying as little attention as you can to them.

Once you get past the crisis; once you are past the self-immolation, or at least past the worst of it (it may never go completely away), then you can be in a place that is stable enough to start rebuilding. Right now, you are on quicksand. You can’t find any bedrock to rebuild on. So don’t even try. Just keep looking for a stable place. You’ll find it. Then you can see if you can build a beautiful home on that rock.

marinelife's avatar

First, I am not sure this is a very healthy relationship. When you love someone, you want them to be happy. The last thing you want is to bring them down with you when you are down.

This whole thing seems very inwardly focused for both of you. Relationships are not supposed to be primarily about how much support each person gives the other. That is just one aspect.

Also, you speak freely of your girlfriend’s emotional problems which you label blithely. I don’t know what they are, because I don’t know her.

If you focus for a moment on yourself only, though, here is what you have written:

“we’re both unhappy, we’re like two drowning swimmers hopelessly trying to support each other”

“This week, however, for reasons not necessary to state in here, I have been very unhappy (for reasons having nothing to do with her), and very lonely.”

“I told her a number of times how I was feeling unhappy and incredibly lonely, but it was completely wasted upon her.”

“I voice my discontent to her about her being completely emotionally unavailable in a way which was neither accusing, nor aggressive, nor whatever.”

“In one fell swoop, she’s made me feel more alone than ever, as well as insecure, disposable, and worthless.”

“Never before with anyone else has someone made me wish I was dead more than her…”

Here are the things that stick out to me. You are blaming her for the end of your idyllic summer when it was your mood shift that started this downward spiral.

All of your reactions seem to be about things from outside of you causing you to either be happy or unhappy.

Your sense of self worth needs to come from within. If you are actually thinking of killing yourself because your girlfriend indicated in a moment of panic she might want to break up, you are not in a good place.

I am not sure you two are good for each other. I think you should break up and that you should do some work on yourself. You can’t shore someone else up and no one else can shore you up.

I think you could well find therapy helpful.

cyn's avatar

I think you both need therapy.

whitenoise's avatar

Sorry, I seem to have missed your age in your post.

Seems to me that what i wrote before holds up from my perspective.

I feel you might have ended up where you are because you are in a relationship that you should not be in. You want her to change and have been waiting for that to happen. In your mind your ‘patience’ in waiting for that change in a poor relationship has earned you a better time ahead. That will not happen.

Just because you didn’t break up when you should, doesn’t take away from her right (I’d say obligation, almost) to step out of the relationship, if it doesn’t work.

Judi's avatar

I never understood why people who aren’t married stay around in relationships that make them so miserable?

lbinva78's avatar

It sounds to me like your girlfriend has become an opponent instead of a teammate. You need a new game plan.

Several years ago I was at a similar crossroads in an unhappy relationship and looked to a friend for counsel. She told me to really think about it and asked if my partner helped me grow as a person. He didn’t. In fact, he was actually threatened by my desire to change for the better, and could not see beyond how our relationship affected him. I have moved on since then and I am now in a relationship with someone who supports me, challenges me, and is truly interested in being involved in my life- through the good times and the bad. Our relationship isn’t perfect by any means and we have certainly had our share of struggles, but knowing that we’re in this together has made all the difference.

In a bad relationship you spend more time justifying the frequent miserable times by remembering the few good times. A good relationship is made stronger by the few bad times that make you and your partner appreciate and understand each other better.

cwilbur's avatar

It sounds like this relationship is not working well for either one of you. Break up and move on.

SheWasAll_'s avatar

It’s a toxic one from the looks of it. Been there; the best move is to let it go. Plus, you’re only 20, try and live a little.

noodle_poodle's avatar

seems you pretty much think its her problem and her fault so why are you bothered? If things are really the way you explain them suck it up and move on it clearly isnt working seems like your more bothered bout whose fault it is than the fact your braking up so let it go your only 20 and we are all ass-holes at that age and everyother

shortysith's avatar

You are very young. I think at that age, we all are inherentely selfish and immature. It sounds like you are more mature than she is, and you are willing to look beyond your problems to help her with hers. Some people can’t do that until they are much older, or not at all. I can say that I was in a six year relationship with someone I was quite selfish with due to lack of life experience or relationship experience. I wanted things my way all the time, and it came down to when I grew up a bit, I realized I asked things out of this person because I was not happy in the relationship, and instead tried to “change” little things here and there thinking it would be better. It wasn’t. Love between two people really only works when both can put the other’s happiness first. I have been in both positions, where I wanted to give my love to someone who couldn’t give it back, and couldn’t give love to someone. You need to take some space and really think about what you want. Love isn’t always enough, and your happiness is important too. If she really is “the one”, maybe some growing up is all she needs. Either way, you are young and have your whole life to worry about things. Relationships should build you up, not bring you down :)

PandoraBoxx's avatar

It’s time to expand your horizons. This is not a healthy relationship.

Cat13's avatar

This song from Bob Dylan might help see that there is nothing we can do but move on, it helped me gain perspective when I was in a similar situation. (Picture yourself as Ramona).

To Ramona (Avatarian)

Ramona, come closer,
Shed softly your watery eyes.
The pangs of your sadness
will pass as your senses will rise.
The flowers of the city
Though breathlike, get deathlike sometimes.
And there’s no use in trying
to deal with the dying
though I cannot explain that in lines.

Your cracked country lips
I still wish to kiss,
as to be by the strength of your skin.
Your magnetic movements
Still capture the minutes I’m in.
But it grieves my heart, love,
To see you tryin’ to be a part of
a world that just don’t exist.
It’s all just a dream, babe,
a vacuum, a scheme, babe,
that sucks you into feelin’ like this.

I can see that your head
has been twisted and fed
with worthless foam from the mouth.
I can tell you are torn
between staying and returning
on back to the South.
You’ve been fooled into thinking
that the finishing end is at hand.
Yet there’s no one to beat you.
No one to defeat you,
except the thoughts of yourself feeling bad.

I’ve heard you say many times
That you’re better than no one
And no one is better than you.
If you really believe that,
you know you have
nothing to win and nothing to lose.
From fixtures and forces and friends,
your sorrow does stem.
That hype you and type you,
and making you feel
that you gotta be just like them.

I’d forever talk to you,
but soon my words,
would turn into a meaningless ring.
For deep in my heart
I know there is no help I can bring.
Everything passes,
Everything changes,
Just do what you think you should do.
And someday maybe,
Who knows, baby,
I’ll come and be crying to you.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

If that’s her decision, she doesn’t need to explain it. You have to accept it.

BBQsomeCows's avatar

you ramble and have self esteem issues.

she is selfish and high maintenance.

I see no future for you two.

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