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BF is stuck in a rut. I’m literally in the opposite space.

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  • #364924
    Aum
    Participant

    First, some context:

    I quit my job and moved to another country to teach English for a year. I wasn’t happy in corporate and I wasn’t sure what I was doing with my life. I had also been taking care of family from a very young age. After taking this year off, I’m feeling a lot better mentally and emotionally, despite the year that is 202o. I still don’t have any solid career goals or plans, but my mental health has never been better.

    My BF and I have been together for about 10 years. We met in our early 20s, and we are soulmates. I still believe that. He has been nothing but supportive, loving, caring and understanding. I have an anxiety disorder and have struggled with depression throughout our relationship. He has absolutely supported me 1000% . He would literally do anything for the people he loves, family, friends etc.

    He has so much talent, drive and ambition. He’s extremely smart and hardworking. He literally climbed up the coporate ladder in less than 5 years of entering it. Basically, he’s the complete opposite of me – he seemed like he had his stuff together. The problem is, he didn’t really have it together, emotionally and mentally I mean. He hasn’t been a kind, loving, supportive, understanding person to himself.

    And now he’s stuck in a rut. Possibly been this way for a couple years now.

    I always brought up our issues, problems in the relationship, he never did. It always felt like I was forcing him talk about things and unpack them. Communication is important to us both, obviously, but he never really talked about or confided his true feelings to me. He’d always give me the tip of the iceberg, not the whole glacier, while I meanwhile, dunked him in my feelings like he was Leo in Titanic.

    I’m not sure why he’s this way, maybe it was the way he was raised, maybe it’s because he’s the eldest son and there’s a lot of pressure on him. I can’t tell you because he’s never opened up to me about any of it. I doubt he would even think about this if I didn’t bring it up.

    Sometimes when I did bring this and other issues about his lack of emotional introspection up, he would get upset, but try to go along with it. He’d make promises and commitments to be more open and honest about his feelings, but ultimately, he always went back to old, unhealthy habits. Some of these habits have become toxic, and have contributed to this rut. He doesn’t like bad feelings, and he always tries to supress them with vices. After doing this for years, he’s gotten phyically sick from these bad habits. I don’t think his emotional health is great either, some of his relationships with his family have suffered for it too.

    A couple weeks ago, we were discussing our relationship. Again, I brought it up. I pointed out all the commitments he made, some goals he had, some things he wanted to achieve. He used the same excuses that he’s been using for the past couple years. He says he wants to change, but he can’t. He doesn’t know why.

    Something inside me snapped. I told him that we needed a break, a seperation. Of course we were both devastated, and he’s still fighting for me. It’s breaking my heart.

    Throughout our relationship we kept one another accountable, he’d call me out when I was being toxic and vice versa. I made every effort to become better, both for myself and for him. He literally made me a better person. But he doesn’t seem to want to do that for himself. He keeps lying to himself, telling himself that things are fine. It’s only when he sees me crying, or when he gets sick, or when he can’t avoid a problem at all that he decides to do something about it – and that’s usually a band-aid on a gaping wound type solution.

    I want to help him, I truly do. But in lying to himself, I feel as though he’s been lying to me. I also feel hurt and betrayed by how little he confided in me and how he never allowed himself to be honest and vulnerable with me all these years. I accepted him as he was, thought we were both growing together, despite (still) being a complete mess with no ambitions or goals. I feel like our entire relationship was one-sided: I was vulnerable, broken, I trusted him with all of me. But he didn’t give me the same, in fact he actively tried to hide his issues, his feelings from me and from himself. I feel manipulated by this. And I feel like all the hard work we both put into the relationship meant nothing, because he was never truly about growing and changing.

    When we decided to do long distance, we both knew it would be challenging. But I don’t think it’s fair to blame this backlog of issues on that.

    My question is this: what should I do? Should I just walk away from 9 years of a relationship?

    Or should I put my faith, trust and hope in him again and keep trying to help him, even though he may never get out of this rut and he may keep lying to himself and to me?

     

    #364945
    Anonymous
    Guest

    Dear Aum:

    “I had also been taking care of family from a very young age… he’s the eldest son and there’s a lot of pressure on him”- seems like the two of you have this in common: pressure by family to take care of them (pressure applied aggressively or not).

    “I have an anxiety disorder and have struggled with depression”, “After taking this year off, I’m feeling a lot better mentally and emotionally, despite the year that is 2020”- seems to me that the pressure to take care of your family from a very young age harmed you mentally and emotionally, causing you anxiety and depression, and once you took a year off from taking care of them (or from working where you don’t want to work, so to take care of them), your mental and emotional health improved.

    On the other hand, he never took time off from taking care of his family, or from the expectation that he will be taking care of them (?) which may explain why his mental and emotional health did not improve.

    “maybe it was the way he was raised.. I can’t tell you because he’s never opened up to me about any of it.. I feel like our entire relationship was one-sided: I was vulnerable, broken, I trusted him with all of me. But he didn’t give me the same, in fact he actively tried to hide his issues”-

    – here is a possibility, and it is only a possibility, for you to consider, accept or reject: maybe you repeatedly expressed to him that your own parents never did any wrong, that your anxiety and depression had nothing to do with the way you were raised, and you expressed to him otherwise that parents are never to be criticized. So, he didn’t feel safe enough to share with you anything that may be critical of his parents.

    anita

    #365011
    Aum
    Participant

    Hi Anita, many thanks for the response!

    So when you say:

    – here is a possibility, and it is only a possibility, for you to consider, accept or reject: maybe you repeatedly expressed to him that your own parents never did any wrong, that your anxiety and depression had nothing to do with the way you were raised, and you expressed to him otherwise that parents are never to be criticized. So, he didn’t feel safe enough to share with you anything that may be critical of his parents.

    The truth is we have both talked about the role our parents played in our dysfunction, as mentioned above, me more than anyone. I’ve always been forthcoming about the difficult relationship I’ve had with my parents and never hidden any of those emotions from him. So the floor was definitely open for that.

    I have to say that over the years, he has had quite a breakthrough in terms of dealing with his issues regarding his parents, though again, he never wants to share or delve deeply enough into them. I’ve sometimes overstepped by questioning things he says, does, allows or even tolerates when it comes to his family, and though, again, he hears me out, it’s often extremely uncomfortable for him to introspect on whatever his own feelings are.

    I want to say thank you for this:

    On the other hand, he never took time off from taking care of his family, or from the expectation that he will be taking care of them (?) which may explain why his mental and emotional health did not improve.

    I’ve honestly never thought about it this way, since he always acts as though things are fine, and that he has things under control. Maybe this might be something he has to consider doing….

    I wouldn’t call him a people pleaser, but he definitely has trouble saying ‘no’ to the people he loves. He often struggles with this, he always tries to make everyone happy by giving them what they want, while simulatneously trying to find a way to make himself happy and it never works out. He hates letting people down, particularly his mother and father, and he hates the idea of them or anyone he loves thinking of him as a faliure.

    After all these years though, I honestly don’t know if he’s capable or even willing to try with any of this.

     

    #365038
    Anonymous
    Guest

    Dear Aum:

    “he definitely has trouble saying ‘no’ to the people he loves”- he has trouble saying No to the people  he loves and fears, both.

    “he always tries to make everyone happy by giving them what they want”- so that they approve of him, and pleased, they will not hurt him.

    “He hates letting people down, particularly his mother and father”- because how they reacted when they felt let  down by him: they hurt him during those times with their words, their tone of voice, their facial expressions of disapproval and condemnation, and maybe with their physical force.

    “he hates the idea of them or anyone he loves thinking of him as a failure”- he hates to be hurt by the people he loves and fears, because that’s what happened when his parents .. caught him failing. They punished him, they hurt him.

    “he always tries to make everyone happy by giving them what they want, while simultaneously trying to find a way to make himself happy and it never works out”- if he could give you what you want from him, which is that he reveals to you his true feelings, that he gives you the whole glacier, not just the tip  of the iceberg (“He’d always give me the tip of the iceberg, not the whole glacier”), he would have.

    He can’t give you what you want. He is unable. Think of things that you are unable to do that some other people are able to do. If you do so, you will put yourself in his shoes and understand more thoroughly how it really is impossible for him to give you what you want, no matter how much he loves you.

    The reason it is impossible for him is that he is still afraid, just like he was afraid as a child. Fear is more powerful than love. Think of this: a lioness and her cub in nature are having what appears to be affectionate time with each other. But the moment the lioness hears a gunshot close by, the affection is gone and fear takes over: she doesn’t continue to play with her cub, she attends to the danger.

    We are often baffled by why can’t other people change in matters that we don’t struggle with. But if we look inward, we will find ways we ourselves can’t change, ways that some  other people don’t struggle with. In your situation: you don’t struggle  with expressing to him how you feel. On the other hand, there probably is something that you struggle with that is not a struggle for him.

    He can’t give you the whole glacier because the whole glacier is .. well, frozen solid. His glacier is not a subject to his choice or to anyone’s demands that it melts. “He says he wants to change, but he can’t”- he would like the glacier to melt but he has no idea how to make  it happen. When you pressure him to talk about his feelings, you are just adding ice to his glacier.

    “maybe it was the way he was raised, maybe because he’s the eldest son and there’s a lot of pressure on him”- what is certain is that pressure doesn’t melt the iceberg. Pressure caused the iceberg to form at an early age.

    I will stop here for now. If you would  like to, let me know further what you think.

    anita

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 6 months ago by .
    #365099
    Aum
    Participant

    Hi Anita, thanks for the response again I appreciate it.

    Thank you for using the metaphor it really helps me understand things better 🙂

    I think you’re right, I’m so used to sharing my emotions that I couldn’t understand why he was incapable of doing the same. It’s probably hurting him terribly that he can’t give me what I want, I certainly don’t want to add to his pain.

    You’re right about the pressure as well, I think I’ve been selfish and demanding. I feel terrible knowing that I’ve made his emotional state worse by creating more pain and anxiety.

    He recently wrote me a couple emails, where he opened up about the things that cause him stress and make him feel pain. He said writing it out was the most difficult thing he’s ever done.

    I understand him, this situation, alot better. Do you think wanting to help him address the glacier is more harmful than helpful? He seems willing to try, but hen again it may be painful and I don’t want him to hurt.

    On the other hand, engaging in unhealthy behaviour, ignoring and being in denial of the glacier may actually hurt him more. Maybe it’s not my place to make that decision for him?

    #365102
    Anonymous
    Guest

    Dear Aum:

    I will read and reply to your recent post when i am back to the computer in about 10 hours from now.

    anita

    #365110
    Anonymous
    Guest

    Dear Aum:

    You are welcome.

    “Do you think wanting to help him address the glacier is more harmful than helpful?” – harmful if you pressure/ demand of him to address the glacier; helpful if he is motivated to address the glacier, and then you encourage him to do so gently and patiently, while providing him with safety in the context of his relationship with him.

    “On the other hand, engaging in unhealthy behaviour, ignoring and being in denial of the glacier may actually hurt him more. Maybe it’s not my place to make that decision for him?”- his mental/ physical health is likely to get worse if he doesn’t engage in the healing process that requires addressing the glacier. When we don’t move forward (heal), we move backward (get sicker).

    “He recently wrote me a couple emails, where he opened up”-I mentioned fear as a powerful motivator earlier: on one hand he is afraid to open up, on the other hand he is afraid that you will break up with him. So what is likely to happen is that he opens up a bit, like he did in the couple of emails recently, but when he feels safe enough in the relationship (not afraid that you will break up with him), he will abandon his efforts to open up. You can trust him to address the glacier and heal only if he is greatly motivated to do so.

    It seems to me that he needs professional help, if he is motivated to address the glacier. I don’t think you can help him open up. You can only facilitate it and encourage it if he is motivated to heal  in the context of quality psychotherapy, and makes it happen.

    anita

    #365165
    Aum
    Participant

    Thank you for your response Anita. You’ve really helped me alot and I appreciate it.

    It’s extremely painful knowing that I can’t help him, but I think you’re right, he needs a professional, maybe someone who can help him objectively as well.

    You’re correct when you say fear was a motivator for him opening up with his emails, to be honest I think it’s always been fear that motivated him all along. This isn’t healthy.

    I think I’m going to suggest these things to him, and perhaps step back a little. I do love him and miss him, but this might be for the best for now?

    Thank you again.

     

    #365172
    Anonymous
    Guest

    Dear Aum:

    You are welcome. Fear is a strong motivator not only for your boyfriend, but for everyone, myself included. You mentioned that you have an anxiety disorder, anxiety is about fear, repeating or ongoing fear (while we are not facing imminent and present danger).

    Here is what I suggest: place your mental health as your top priority. Of all the people you are able to choose to be in your life or not- choose those who either don’t harm your mental health or promote your well being, and keep those who somehow harm your mental health out of your life.

    I am not saying that your boyfriend harms your mental health. I know that you are troubled by some of his behaviors, but that doesn’t mean that overall he is bad for your mental health. From what you shared, he is a very nice guy, to others, like you said. But if his behaviors are bad for your mental health, then he doesn’t belong in your life.

    Here is a very common scenario that many women get stuck in (I am not saying that this applies to you, but maybe you can take something out of it): they are in a relationship with a man and they often complain about the relationship, a lot, and their message is: if only he will change, everything will be okay, I will be okay. But he doesn’t change and the woman stays and complains. She doesn’t realize that she needs to change (to accept him or leave him). She keeps insisting that he changes while she herself is unable or unwilling to change. And so, she is not healthier or more courageous than the man she is complaining about.

    anita

    #365235
    Aum
    Participant

    Hi Anita, thanks for responding.

    I understand what you’re saying. I also think it’s important to prioritise my mental health, I took this year off just to do that.

    To be honest, I’m starting to feel like I’m the toxic partner in this relationship. Everyone has a different journey and different pace, and I feel like I’m being unfair by asking my bf to speed up his pace, even change his journey to meet me on mine.

    You are right when you say I am motivated by fear. I omitted to mention that the conversation where I decided to take a break happened on our 9 year anniversary. That’s why we were discussing the relationship. I felt fearful and afraid because I’ve been making progress and he doesn’t seem to have. Again as you pointed out, he never got a chance to take time off, so how could he make any progress.

    I suppose what I’m really afraid of is that we’re no longer on the same page anymore and I’m scared of what that means. That’s why I accused him of not making any effort to grow or change, when the reality is that he may just simply be moving at a pace that suits him and his journey.

    As I’ve mentioned before, he has been tremendously supportive with my mental health issues. I don’t have many friends, and again, my relationship with my parents is dysfunctional so he is someone I consider very important to my support system. I’m the same person for him.

    I don’t think it’s fair to ask people to change, but I’ve done just that by making him afraid of losing me and forcing him to introspect.

    I think I’m also afraid for him, it’s difficult watching  someone you love engage in damaging behaviour, and worse being in denial about it.

    In some of his emails, he mentioned that he felt as though he needed me to guide him through this introspection because I knew him best. He said that even if we weren’t together he would always support me and asked if I could still advise him and guide him because he genuinely feels incapable of doing this himself.

    I don’t think he has considered professional help, ie therapy, for a host of reasons. But as I said above I’m still going to suggest it to him.

    In the meantime, I don’t really know what to do from here, I’m quite heartbroken and sort of just going through the motions of life right now. It doesn’t feel good or right. I feel like I have no right to complain though, since I made the decision to walk away.

    #365250
    Anonymous
    Guest

    Dear Aum:

    I think that you have a good understanding of your situation.

    “I don’t really know what to do from here, I’m quite heartbroken and sort of just going through the motions of life right now.  It doesn’t feel good or right. I feel like I have no right to complain though, since I made the decision to walk away”-

    – what you told him, according to your original post is: “I told him that we needed a break, a separation”- you didn’t tell him for how long that break or separation will be, you didn’t decide yet on how long it will be (did you?). You can make this decision today, or tomorrow, sometime soon.

    If you decide to resume the relationship, resume it with having different expectations and attitude: be clear regarding what you expect from him, make sure these are realistic and fair expectations, such that he is able to meet.

    Regarding an attitude change, because he has been a good, honest, supportive man to you for years,  consider the attitude described in the following quote from the bible (I am not religious but the bible has some good points here and there): “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight  in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13: 4-7)

    anita

    #365584
    Aum
    Participant

    Hi Anita, thanks for your response. I’m so sorry for not replying earlier.

    I wanted to say thank you for your insight, you’ve really helped me alot. As I mentioned before, I don’t have many close friends so reaching out online was really all I could do, and I’m so glad I did.

    My bf and I have spoken, perhaps more honestly than we have in years. I laid out my expectations and he laid out his, we discussed the how reasonable and realistic they were and we talked about what we’d like to see going forward.

    We aren’t seperated, but we aren’t going back to how things were. We decided to do things differently, give each other space, but still talk and check in. We are together, but taking things slow.

    I would like to believe that things are different this time, of course that’s all down to faith and trust. He agreed that he was prone to falling back into old patterns and that if he didn’t make an effort to make better choices for himself, then it would hurt us both and hurt the relationship.

    I’m going to try this again. I know your quote from the bible says that love is virtuous, but no one ever tells you how difficult it can be and how much work it is sometimes. If I have to love anyone though, I’m happy for it to be him.

    You’ve taught me alot. I can’t imagine how I can return the favour.

     

    #365585
    Anonymous
    Guest

    Dear Aum:

    You are welcome and thank you for expressing your appreciation.

    “I can’t imagine how I can return the favor”- I can imagine and it would mean a lot to me if you do: place your well being as your top priority. Be good to him, but be good to yourself first. If you do that, it will be better for him because a Win-Win relationship is the only way healing is possible for any one of the parties to the relationship. (If you Lose, ultimately, he will too).

    “He agreed that he was prone to falling back into old patterns and that if he didn’t make an effort to make better choices for himself, then it would hurt us both and hurt the relationship”-

    – Everyone is “prone to falling back into old patterns”, it’s human nature. Many couples, where one person has a serious unhealthy habit, fall into the following pattern: one is the one with the Problems (the one without self control) and the other is the one with the Solutions(the one trying to control  the other). I understand that this is not your relationship pattern, but see to it that you don’t fall  into it. When the two of you talk  about his unhealthy behaviors, share with him yours, tell him how you relate to what he is experiencing.

    “the bible says that love is virtuous, but no one ever tells you how difficult it can be and how much work it is sometimes”- well said, love in a relationship does include work, sometimes a lot of work. The part I quoted from the  bible, about love being virtuous etc., that’s a few lines from the bible, but there is plenty in the bible that shows how for many people it is way easier to hate than to love (violence and injustice take a lot of space in the book).

    Post again anytime you want to, if you do, and I will be glad to read and reply to you.

    anita

     

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 6 months ago by .
    #365760
    c
    Participant

    In my last relationship, I spent a lot of time trying to bring things up and do a lot of talking, always taking the emotional lead, always trying to pull everyone back to center. It wasn’t my fault but it never made anything better. In my current relationship, I focus on being accepting and loving to people AS THEY ARE and then focus on myself and setting boundaries around how other people’s emotions impact me. So if my boyfriend is struggling with being really grumpy one day instead of trying to coax it out of him WHY I just let him know he is so loved and accepted and give him space. If though his grumpy mood is going to keep me from doing an activity I had planned etc I also might ask him to go home or do something without him etc. This kind of balance between acceptance and then gentle boundaries for myself has created SO MUCH trust. Like it is insane how just be creating space for him to have difficult emotions has allowed him to share them with me.  I have a list of my own red flags now too when i’m feeling pushy and feeling like I need to over-focus on him etc I know I need to just freeze and go inward. Anyway, all that to say it took me about 4 decades to learn how to create space for a man like that. I don’t know if any of that will help but it’s my experience that feels somewhat related. I definitely have growing to do but i’m self observant at the level I can now ‘notice’ when i’m focusing on someone elses inner work and need to back off them and just love them and continue to set boundaries only around how it impacts me. Also big rumblings in relationship arent always bad but I would think he needs to lead the next emotional part and some people need a TON of time and space and support to step into that.

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