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Breaking Up With my Best Friend of 10 Years

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  • #402998
    Leah
    Participant

    Hello everyone. I’m new here. Very desperate for some clarity and peace. *Sorry this is so long, I really tried to keep it short and left some parts out…

    So I’ve known him since we were 16. Actually, back then we started having an awkward teenage romance that didn’t last long (about a month) and he was my first ever kiss. I broke it off then because I was not ready at all. I have horrible mistrust in men because of my parents’ divorce, they give me bad anxiety, and when I was a teenager I also did self harm a lot. After a few months, we got back in touch (same friend group) and quickly became very very close friends. He’s had about 3 relationships over the years, and I was simply one of his best and closest friends. In the meantime, I’ve been developing an anxiety disorder, mainly social anxiety, feeling pretty lost in life… Kinda cruising, as my anxiety confined me to my house and my computer more and more.

    3 years ago I started college (at age 24). It was actually really good for me, because I moved out of my parents house, and the classes were interesting and I met a couple of people I could become life-long friends with. I had 1 semester, and then COVID hit. Staying at home all day long, losing interest in classes and barely seeing anyone face to face fed my anxiety real good. Even shorter distances or small get-togethers, which I was once able to do, became more difficult. I got a psychologist, and she was pretty good.

    I’m not sure when, but I guess I’ve developed some romantic feelings toward my male friend. Obviously, we get along really well because we’re best friends, and I also find him very attractive. When I finished my first year, he decided to also come to the same college I was in and live nearby where I lived. God knows where I got the courage, but I decided to tell him. It was pretty simple like “I like you as more than just a friend. Ball’s in your court. If you say no, it’s okay and we’ll remain friends. If you say yes, then we’re gonna be in a relationship.” Really surprised him with that one. He asked to think about it. The day after he came to my apartment and said yes. He was 24, I was 25. I had 0 experience in romantic relationship and also 0 experience sexually. But he is a very gentle soul, and he knows me so well. He was patient with a lot of things and gradually, we worked our way to all of these things, which turned out to be great fun, amazing, and exciting.

    He is more social than I am. I can be a bit introverted, but underneath the terrible anxiety I have, I’m also pretty social. We get on REALLY well, communication flows with ease, I make him laugh a lot, and he helped me gain self-confidence. He really is an amazing person, and anyone would be lucky to be around him.

    After a year, we were planning to move in together. We were actually checking out apartments and such when I got cold feet. Something didn’t sit right, I was too scared to not have my own personal space, worried I’d feel claustrophobic. So I called it off, and it was a difficult few days, but he decided to move on from it. Everything went back to the good stuff, and after about 5 more months, I was ready, because at that point we were already kinda living together naturally (he would spend most nights at my place, and hang out there a lot), so I was less stressed about it. Nervous and excited, of course. We found the PERFECT apartment and the decision was made pretty quickly. That was barely 6 months ago.

    A couple of months ago, we hit a major bump. I won’t get into all the details, but basically my anxiety (which usually hits my stomach, rendering me physically unable to go anywhere) prevented us from carrying out a family dinner with his family. He was very disappointed. We fought after that, and he left for a few days to cool off and talk to friends, and he came back saying that we need to really work on things, wanted to go to couple’s therapy and stuff. But first, we both agreed that we wanted to have a couple of weeks of “fun”, because the whole thing was really bad emotionally and difficult. So we wanted to lighten things up a bit, have some good times, basically we put a pin in it. We never went to therapy or properly addressed the matter again.

    Two weeks ago, a similar thing happened. We had a weekend planned, friday at my parents and saturday at his. My anxiety (or something I ate) hit really hard and I couldn’t go. That evening we had a big fight, during which my anxiety was brought up again and he accused me of not doing enough to work on it or make it better. (this type of thing happened a couple of times before) He also said I can’t take criticism. I kind of instigated the fight though, because when he came home he was very disappointed and mad at me, didn’t even bother to check how I was doing (after I spent that day on the toilet, feeling miserable, and crying). I felt like he didn’t care about me, or like he didn’t accept me for who I am, warts and all.

    After that day, he was kind of trying to again lighten the mood. My brother came over and we hosted him at our apartment, which was nice. But since that night, I had a knot in my stomach. what happened that night was not okay in my eyes, and it was a position I never wanted to be put in.

    Another day passed, and I couldn’t stay silent. I have no idea how or why, but I started it by saying that I think we weren’t compatible. I don’t remember what happened after that or the contents of the conversation, but by the end of it, he agreed with me. He said we should break up. We were both very emotional, crying, hugging, and then he packed a bag and left.

    Ever since then, I’ve been going through a horrible time. Part of it is causing me to not fully remember what happened in those last two conversations. Also, I’ve been beginning to regret many things that happened in the last two months… The fact we never actually tried to work on things when we had a problem – and we never did, throughout the 2 year relationship. I finally saw that he was right – I wasn’t doing enough with my anxiety, and I went back to my psychologist immediately and I’ve also made plans to see a psychiatrist and plan on starting proper treatment to rid me of this horrible thing that’s been controlling my life.

    The first week after the breakup, I talked to friends and family like 24/7, ended up going back to my parents for a few days because being at our shared apartment alone was unbearable. Then, one week after the breakup, we met up. I missed him terribly, as he’s been my best friend for 10 years, and I love him very much. Meeting him was a huge relief, and he was going through what I was going through – we were both a mess, crying. But we managed to laugh a little too. We talked for about 3 hours, not getting into the hardcore stuff. At some point in the conversation I brought up the fact that my emotions were confused and that I may be having second thoughts, but he kind of cut me off and said that he can’t allow himself to think that. He needs certainty, or he’ll get completely lost. He took a couple more clothes from our apartment, but just being there made him cry and upset, he said he was going to find someplace else to live and that we’ll sort out clearing the apartment a bit later.

    Since that conversation I’ve been more of a mess. I can’t help but replaying all of the good times we had, how easily we click, the deep emotional, physical, and mental connection that we share. I feel like this could’ve been avoided. We could’ve worked on things, suddenly I feel like I got so much clarity about what went wrong and and why – all things I believe can we worked on. Tonight I couldn’t take it anymore and I called him. I was crying, I think he was a little too… I didn’t know what to say, I just really missed him, his voice, his presence… He suggested I also get out of the apartment because it’s difficult to be here, but I told him it’s hard for me to let go, which is the truth. At some point he said something like “I just want to remind you that you instigated this,” or like that I initiated the breakup, which is true. But I don’t even remember why, how I felt, or what exactly I said. He tried to comfort me, but I told him I’m sorry I called, as it wasn’t fair to him and we said goodnight and hung up.

    I feel really crazy. I initiated the breakup, but suddenly I can’t remember why I did it. I regret so many things I did or didn’t do, and I would give anything to go back to those incredible, beautiful times that we had, that I think we still could’ve had more of. I try telling myself that he doesn’t accept me as I am, which is true and he’s agreed with me about it, and that I deserve better. But I can’t help feeling that this could’ve been avoided if I wasn’t so stubborn and proud when he told me to work on my anxiety. I just ended up disappointing him repeatedly until he got fed up. And the last couple of months, we’ve both been avoiding having a real conversation about our problems… I also think we never learned how to fight in a good way – it’s okay to get mad and have problems (and we only had the 3 incidents mentioned here), but we never did the after-care necessary to heal and grow from them.

    Now, I feel like we’re both too broken. The relationship is too broken. To fix this now, we’ll need really intense work, and I think we’re both not available for that right now. (not just because of the breakup, but also because we’re both kind of confused about life and where we’re going, it’s a really turbulent time in our lives regardless) Everyone tells me I can’t think about maybe, one day, after we’ve both grown as individuals, we’ll make it work. Everyone tells me I should focus on me, try to move on… I can’t let him go. I want him in my life so badly. I want to be with him romantically. But I also feel like I can’t trust myself right now, because I’m really upset and emotional, and maybe we should actually break up. Maybe we are not compatible, even though I disagree with that right now. I’ve grown so much in the relationship, and it honestly was the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

    I’m just so confused, I miss him so much, I can’t find any peace in my heart… My heart just doesn’t understand how can it be that we both have such strong emotions for each other but we can’t be together? It doesn’t make sense…

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    #403003
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Leah:

    I will read  your post attentively and reply to  you thoroughly, best I can, in about 10 hours from now.

    anita

    #403015
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Leah:

    It helps me to understand and “live in the story” when I take the time to slowly re-write it , so I will do that and add lots of quotes. My reply to you will consist of two posts. The first is the retelling of your story and the second is my thoughts about it.

    Your parents divorced, and as a result, you “did self harm a lot” as a teenager, men give you “bad anxiety” and you had “a horrible mistrust in men”. Over the years, you’ve “been developing an anxiety disorder, mainly social anxiety, feeling pretty lost in life”, more and  more confined to your house and computer. At 16, you broke off a month-long “awkward teenage romance” with a 16-year old boy with whom you had your “first ever kiss” because of your anxiety and mistrust. A few months later, you “became very, very close friends”. At 24, you started college: you moved out of your parents’ house, found interest in your classes and you made two friends, but after one semester, Covid hit, and you stayed at home all day, losing interest in your classes, socially isolated and anxious, and you saw a good psychologist.

    He had three relationship over the years while you had none, and the two of you were “simply one of his best and closest friends”. But at one point on,  you “developed some romantic feelings” toward him. At 25, when you finished your first year of college, he moved close to where you lived and attended the same college you attended. At that point, you mustered all your courage and told him that you liked him “as more than just a friend”, and that the ball is in his court, that if he says No, “it’s okay and we’ll remain friends”, and if he says Yes, “then we’re gonna be in a relationship”. He didn’t say no or yes. Instead he asked to think about it. The day after, he came to your apartment and said Yes.

    “I had 0 experience in romantic relationship and also 0 experience sexually. But he is a very gentle soul, and he knows me so well. He was patient with a lot of things and gradually, we worked our way to all of these things, which turned out to be great fun, amazing, and exciting.. We get on REALLY well, communication flows with ease, I make him laugh a lot, and he helped me gain self-confidence. He really is an amazing person, and anyone would be lucky to be around him”.

    After a year of this wonderful relationship, the two of you were planning to move in together, checking out apartments, but you “got cold feet. Something didn’t sit right, I was too scared to not have my own personal space, worried I’d feel claustrophobic. So I called it off”.

    Next, the relationship continued, he spent most nights at your place, spending a lot of time together, and five months after getting cold feet, you were okay with moving in together, “Nervous and excited”. The two of you found the perfect apartment sometime in late January of this year. Sometime in April, the two of you “hit a major bump” when your anxiety prevented you from attending dinner with his family. He was very disappointed, you fought after that, and he left for a few days to cool off, came back “saying that we need to really work on things, wanted to go to couple’s therapy”, but first, the two of you agreed to have a fun couple of weeks “to lighten things up a bit”. You didn’t attend therapy nor talked about what happened.

    In mid-June, your anxiety hit really hard and you couldn’t attend dinner with him at your parents’ (on  Friday) or at his parents’ (on a Saturday). Either Fri or Sat., he came home, “disappointed and mad” at you, you felt that he didn’t care about you, that he didn’t accept you for who you are, “warts and all”, and you instigated a fight with him. It was “a big fight, during which my anxiety was brought up again and he accused me of not doing enough to work on it or make it better”.

    The day or days after the big fight, he tried “to again lighten the mood”, but you “had a knot in my stomach. what happened that night was not okay in my eyes, and it was a position I never wanted to be put in”. Next, you told him that you thought that the two of you were not compatible, and sometime later, he told you that he agreed with you and that you should break up. The two of you were “very emotional, crying, hugging, and then he packed a bag and left”.

    In the two weeks after he left, you feel horrible, regretting: “we never actually tried to work on things when we had a problem – and we never did, throughout the 2 year relationship. I finally saw that he was right – I wasn’t doing enough with my anxiety, and I went back to my psychologist immediately and I’ve also made plans to see a psychiatrist and plan on starting proper treatment to rid me of this horrible thing that’s been controlling my life”.

    A week after the breakup, you met, “we were both a mess, crying. But we managed to laugh a little too”, you told him that you were having second thoughts, but he cut you off, telling you that “he can’t allow himself to think that. He needs certainty, or he’ll get completely lost”. He took more of his clothes out of the apartment you used to share, and “just being there made him cry and upset”.

    “Very desperate for some clarity and peace… Tonight I couldn’t take it anymore and I called him. I was crying, I think he was a little too… At some point he said something like ‘I just want to remind you that you instigated this,’ or like that I initiated the breakup, which is true. But I don’t even remember why… I try telling myself that he doesn’t accept me as I am, which is true and he’s agreed with me about it, and that I deserve better… I also think we never learned how to fight in a good way… I can’t let him go. I want him in my life so badly… maybe we should actually break up. Maybe we are not compatible…  I’m just so confused, I miss him so much, I can’t find any peace in my heart… My heart just doesn’t understand how can it be that we both have such strong emotions for each other but we can’t be together? It doesn’t make sense”.

    Second post to follow.

    anita

     

    #403018
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Leah:

    The second part of my post has my thoughts about your story, hoping these will help you gain some clarity and peace. It will be a long post, and I hope that you read it when you are calm, and take breaks during parts that cause you distress.

    1) About anger: I think that anger was behind the following (or that it is a significant part of the following): “I have horrible mistrust in men…  when I was a teenager I also did self harm a lot… A couple of months ago.. He was very disappointed. We fought after that… Two weeks ago..  we had a big fight… He also said I can’t take criticism. I kind of instigated the fight though..  I felt like he didn’t care about me, or like he didn’t accept me for who I am, warts and all... since that night, I had a knot in my stomach. what happened that night was not okay in my eyes, and it was a position I never wanted to be put in. Another day passed, and I couldn’t stay silent. I have no idea how or why, but I started it by saying that I think we weren’t compatible… I’m really upset and emotional, and maybe we should actually break up. Maybe we are not compatible” –

    – your anger is behind your mistrust in men. It is behind the fights you instigated, etc. “what happened that night was not okay in my eyes”!… “I couldn’t stay silent”! Anger wants to destroy and your anger had a significant part in destroying your relationship.

    * “basically my anxiety (which usually hits my stomach, rendering me physically unable to go anywhere) prevented us from carrying out a family dinner with his family…. Two weeks ago, a similar thing happened. We had a weekend planned, Friday at my parents and Saturday at his. My anxiety (or something I ate) hit really hard and I couldn’t go” –

    –  I wonder if anger was part of what hit your stomach really hard in these two occasions: anger about having dinner with your parents because you are angry at any one of them or both… and anger about having dinner with his parents because… you wish that you had parents like his, maybe (I don’t know)?

    * I thought that your parents were divorced.. I wonder if by “parents” you are referring to your mother and step father.. or maybe your parents got back together.

    Your anger needs to be addressed. You are welcome to share about it here.

    2) About claustrophobia: “We were actually checking out apartments and such when I got cold feet. Something didn’t sit right, I was too scared to not have my own personal space, worried I’d feel claustrophobic” –

    – claustrophobia: an irrational fear of confined spaces. I think that the first confined space you found yourself in was your parents’ home, when you were a child. Maybe that’s the reason why anxiety (and anger) hit your stomach really hard when you anticipated having dinner with them. Maybe claustrophobia was the reason you felt so good when you moved out of your parents’ home, when you first attended college, and why you were so miserable.. to be confined with them again when Covid hit.

    3) About being fair: “I kind of instigated the fight though, because when he came home he was very disappointed and mad at me, didn’t even bother to check how I was doing (after I spent that day on the toilet, feeling miserable, and crying). I felt like he didn’t care about me, or like he didn’t accept me for who I am, warts and all” –

    – but at the time, you didn’t bother to check on how he was doing, you didn’t care about him.. you didn’t accept him being “very disappointed and mad”. Checking on each other would have been fair, caring for each other during that time would have been … special.

    4) About fighting: “I also think we never learned how to fight in a good way” – there is no such thing as fighting in a good way. Fighting is always bad for a relationship. Communicating and negotiating honestly and effectively is good; fighting: bad.

    5) About uncertainty and feeling lost: “At some point in the conversation I brought up the fact that my emotions were confused and that I may be having second thoughts, but he kind of cut me off and said that he can’t allow himself to think that. He needs certainty, or he’ll get completely lost“-

    – he felt your uncertainty when you got cold feet in regard to moving in with him, and when you fought while living together, culminating in you initiating a breakup. Your uncertainty about him is expressed in the closing of your original post: “maybe we should actually break up. Maybe we are not compatible”.

    6) About humans and saints: He sounds like a great guy, honest, decent, kind, not a saint… but no one is a saint, no human, that is. But even if he was a saint, even if he was perfect, it is not in his power to dissolve your anxiety (and anger). Neither is it his job or responsibility. It really is your job, your responsibility, just like he suggested.

    I wasn’t doing enough with my anxiety, and I went back to my psychologist immediately and I’ve also made plans to see a psychiatrist and plan on starting proper treatment to rid me of this horrible thing that’s been controlling my life” – congratulations for doing the responsinle thing!

    7) About confusion, clarity and peace: “I’m just so confused, I miss him so much, I can’t find any peace in my heart… My heart just doesn’t understand how can it be that we both have such strong emotions for each other but we can’t be together? It doesn’t make sense…” –

    – the strong emotions for each other is not the problem, as I see it. The problem is the strong emotions that you have in regard to your father/ parents (and in regard to yourself in the context of your relationships with your parents). These strong emotions (horrible distrust, fear, anger) got projected into your boyfriend and into your relationship with him. It is these projected emotions that need to be addressed and processed.

    anita

    #403022
    Tommy
    Participant

    Can understand being uncertain about a relationship. And the after effects of being broken up. At first one wants the relationship. Then when things get tight and the relationships moves further into the next steps, there is a pull back. Fear or whatever one calls it, it pulls at one’s mental state. It can have real physical effects. The falling out of the bottom of the stomach. An empty feeling that becomes vast and void. Or just pain. Causing a break up. Then regrets fills the void made by the break up. Then day in and day out there is the thoughts of all the good times and all the bad times. Never ending. Whenever there is a moment to reflect, the mind and heart pulls one back to those times. Stuck in a loop.

    Where does happiness begin and how do we know it is right? It begins with laughter. And, we never know it is right until time passes by. I married my wife and chose to stick it thru everything (with certain exceptions). Being together means to make that choice and stick with it. Arguments will be plenty. But, so will the good times. As long as there is no abuse (physical or mental) then it is right. There will be struggles. But, the one thing I count on is that we have chosen each other and will be there for each other. Even when we disagree about something. The disagreement is not what the relationship is about. The relationship is separate. Remember to forgive is to forget and move forward. I wish you happiness.

    #403033
    Leah
    Participant

    Hello Anita, thank you very much for your response.

    1. What you said about anger was very interesting to me. As a child, I was pretty quiet and introverted. Through therapy I’ve realized that I had a lot of anger as a kid (my parents divorced when I was 5, and since then they haven’t been able to answer my needs properly), but I didn’t properly expressed my anger, instead turning it inwards and internalizing it. That’s how I’ve grown to hate myself so much as a teenager, and would punish myself with self harm, starvation, and even from the age of 10 I remember I had suicidal thoughts. Since then, though, I’m glad to say that I no longer have those horrible thoughts about myself, and I’m no longer suicidal.

    About my mistrust in men, it definitely comes from my relationship with my father and my parents’ divorce. My dad emotionally cheated on my mom (I only found out in the past few years). He was the whole world to my mom, so when he left home she was devastated. For a few years, I remember my mom just lying in bed and being generally unhappy. As a kid I was very creative and imaginative and was excellent at keeping myself busy with dolls, movies, and later on the internet. So I experienced very early on how men can ruin women. Furthermore, despite my father insisting on seeing me and my two older brothers, and he always loved us and wanted to be a part of our lives, he simply did not have the time. He had his own business (to this day), and he would leave early in the mornings and come back at 8PM or later. After the divorce, the days we were at his place, he wasn’t very emotionally available, and so I learned not to rely on him in this sense and not to expect much from him. Nowadays, I do have a good relationship with both of my parents. My mom is one of my best friends, and we talk about everything. My dad has grown to be more emotional over the years, and so I open up to him a little more. Both of them are married to other people, and live about 20 minutes drive from each other, so if I come back to my parents for the weekend, I would usually visit them both (separately).
    As far as being jealous of his parents or his family – far from the truth. His family is very complicated. His parents also got divorced when he was around 5 years old, and he grew up mainly with his father and his new wife, along with her 3 children, which he considers to be siblings because they grew up together. They are 7 children total, 3 biological, 3 step siblings, and one half sibling. His father lives in the same town as my father, which is why we’ve known each other since we were 16. He has a complicated relationship with his mother, who’s been alone since the divorce (about 20 years). Right now she lives out of the country, and they communicate on the phone about once a week, but he finds her draining and difficult to talk to.

    On that note, I know as kid he wasn’t heard at home, either. He was often forgotten about. When he was a teenager, he would often sleep and live at friends’ houses, leaving his own home after fighting with his dad and slamming doors. I also see that in our fights that we had, he always got up and left. He has a pattern of running away, and I have a pattern of expecting men to leave me, like my father did all the time.

    2. The point about claustrophobia is interesting… But I didn’t come back to my parents when covid hit. I was still living alone which resulted in isolation, during covid… But I do agree that often times my parents’ house felt like a gilded cage.

    3. You are right. Taking responsibility and accountability for my mental health, anxiety, and how it affects my partner is something I’m only now realizing I needed to do. I kept him out when it came to my anxiety, guarding it and protecting it, even though it only did me harm. I couldn’t listen to him when he expressed that he was worried, and wanted me to be free of it. More than that – he believed I can be free from it. And I didn’t believe it. Now I’m starting to believe, and I’m mad at myself for not being able to see it sooner. I was too caught up in protecting myself – my anxiety – and my own well being, that I didn’t leave enough room for his emotional state. I made him feel unheard and not prioritized.

    4. I agree again. I think I would say it was arguments, only the last time being a fight. But regardless, our communication in those moments went out the window. I love the idea of negotiation, I think it’s the right way to go about it.

    5. Yes. I feel like I never knew if my uncertainty in the relationship came from intuition, or because of all of my baggage, my mistrust in men, my mistrust in long-lasting relationships…

    I agree about your last point. I thought I could work it out with him, in the relationship. I know he really helped heal a lot of my mistrust in men, and I learned to lean on him and trust him. At the same time, I do have a lot of unresolved fear, anger, trauma, which culminates to me having anxiety and over-protectiveness over myself, which often times results in me pushing away people who care about me. I feel like the anxiety taught me false-truths, and I believed it until it became my reality. I always thought my mental health issues and emotional instability were facts, something I would always have to deal with. Now I see there could be a reality where I don’t have to fight myself so much and struggle so much.

    I do want to note, that he also has harmful patterns. Especially in the arguments that evolved into fights, often times he would raise his voice (which completely shuts me down), and because he’s very passionate he can come off aggressive, which I interpret as hostile, resulting in me getting over-protective. I think he, too, doesn’t know how to express anger in a healthy way. I’m not trying to deflect the guilt, but I’m wondering if we are compatible, and if these things can be worked on and we could, someday, make it work better… Or am I holding onto false hope?

    Right now, we have some contact (the breakup happened two weeks ago), and we’ll also need to sort out the apartment that we share (I went back to my dad’s house, and he’s subletting a unit close to our apartment. He can’t be in our apartment, it’s too painful for him). We are both hurting, we love each other and care for each very much, we’re both confused… I think we should breakup now, because everything seems too big and I’m not sure we can unravel it all right now. I know for myself, that I need to start my journey of solving my anxiety, and working on my tendencies to shut people out, not listen, etc… But I miss him a lot. He’s been one of the closest people to my heart for a decade. We click on an amazing deep level. But I still have doubts, and I don’t know what’s causing them.

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    #403034
    Leah
    Participant

    Hello Tommy, thank you for your reply. I wonder if you had more advice about how to know when to stick it out, and when to accept that maybe the differences between two people are two big to gap.

    I feel like after I moved in with him, I had accepted and dedicated myself to living my life with him. I think I got a little comfortable, maybe, and didn’t check on him enough.

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    #403039
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Leah:

    You are very welcome. More in regard to your childhood: you were about 5 when your father left your mother: “He was the whole world to my mom, so when he left home, she was devastated. For a few years, I remember my mom just lying-in bed and being generally unhappy“.

    * You shared that your father wasn’t very emotionally available (“After the divorce, the days we were at his place, he wasn’t very emotionally available and so I learned not to rely on him in this sense and not to expect much from him“).

    I wonder if you realize that your mother wasn’t emotionally available to you (and to your brothers) either, at least not during the few years when she was lying in bed, devastated and unhappy. I don’t suppose you were able to rely on or expect much from her during those years (ages 5-8, or longer.)

    You wrote that your father was your mother’s whole world (“He was the whole world to my mom”). It means that neither you nor your brothers were your mom’s whole world. It is a child’s desire to be her mother’s whole world… Not that it happens often, it’s just that a child desires it.

    As a child, I was pretty quiet and introverted… I had a lot of anger as a kid… turning it inwards… punish myself with self-harm, starvation, and even from the age of 10 I remember I had suicidal thoughts‘ – emotionally unattended to by both parents, you were devastated

    Nowadays, I do have a good relationship with both of my parents. My mom is one of my best friends, and we talk about everything. My dad has grown to be more emotional over the years, and so I open up to him a little more” –

    – the life-emotional experiences that affect us most, by far, are those that happen in our first decade of life, during those Formative Years (as childhood is called): our early-life experiences are Formed into our Brains. It is very, very difficult to replace powerful early-life experiences with later-life experiences.

    You shared that both your parents married other people, that you live about 20 minutes’ drive from each one, and that your boyfriend’s family is quite dysfunctional (my word): his parents divorced when he was 5, he was emotionally neglected, had fights with his father, slamming doors and leaving the home after such fights, and he currently finds his mother “draining and difficult to talk to”.

    Regarding your boyfriend, you wrote: “I made him feel unheard and not prioritized… he also has harmful patterns… often times he would raise his voice (which completely shuts me down), and because he’s very passionate he can come off aggressive, which I interpret as hostile” –

    – if the two of you were to resume the relationship, you’d need to hear and prioritize him, and he’d need to become aware of his aggressive expressions (tone of voice, volume, other expressions) and get them under control.

    * About your mistrust in men formed as a child: most of it, if not all of it, was based not on what you experienced with your father, but on observing your mother, seeing how she reacted to his leaving and what she said about him. It’s a… second-hand mistrust. What if the reality of their marriage is … not exactly what you believe it is, I wonder?

    I do have a lot of unresolved fear, anger, trauma...  he can come off aggressive, which I interpret as hostile… I’m wondering if we are compatible, and if these things can be worked on and we could, someday, make it work better… Or am I holding onto false hope?… I think we should breakup now, because everything seems too big…  We click on an amazing deep level. But I still have doubts, and I don’t know what’s causing them” –

    – I think that what’s causing your doubts are your early childhood experience of lot of unresolved fear, anger, trauma. The latest events with your boyfriend (perhaps the term ex-boyfriend is more appropriate) moved you too close to your unresolved-fear-anger-trauma, and you want distance from these early life experiences. Breaking up with him will give you this needed distance, and this is why you are motivated to break up with him.

    anita

    #403107
    Leah
    Participant

    Thank you again Anita. Your responses really help me reflect on things.

    All the stuff you said is true. I learned to not rely on either of my parents from a young age. I learned to be independent from a young age, kept myself busy. I think over the years I created this core belief that I was a lone-wolf type of person, someone who enjoys solitude and doesn’t need anyone. What I learned through my relationship with my boyfriend is that I was sorely mistaken. I really want and need deep, intimate, close connections. It gives me meaning and enriches my life. I want to share my life with someone, and I want to have close friends. (I used to, in high school) I think I’m more social than I’ve taught myself to believe, or maybe it’s part of the false reality my anxiety created.

    I wonder about these two things you wrote: “It is very, very difficult to replace powerful early-life experiences with later-life experiences.” and “if the two of you were to resume the relationship, you’d need to hear and prioritize him, and he’d need to become aware of his aggressive expressions (tone of voice, volume, other expressions) and get them under control.” Do you think it’s possible to change? I tend to believe that it is possible, and if people clash in their harmful patterns, then they can work on it and learn to better communicate with each other in a way that doesn’t trigger or touches the exposed nerves of the other person.

    I agree with you about the origin of my mistrust in men. Seeing how devastated my mom was, I swore that I won’t ever let something like that happen to me. I developed a fear of men. What did you mean by “What if the reality of their marriage is … not exactly what you believe it is, I wonder?”?

    I fear you’re right about the origin of my doubts. The question is, maybe it’s a good thing that he brought my unresolved stuff to my attention? Thanks to him, I’ve been made aware of so many things about myself that I need to solve and improve on. I ultimately want a relationship where we better each other, but I see now that I wasn’t ready to change. I am very stubborn, which is something I need to work on.

    I hope in the future, after I’ve worked on myself, perhaps even manage to live a life with no anxiety, I could try again with him. For now, we still aren’t finished with the breakup… We are still there for each other in some sense, and still need to separate and move out of our apartment. This is all very heartbreaking for both of us… I want to believe that someday we’ll make it work, but maybe that’s just my heart fantasizing.

    I have a long journey ahead of me, and I wish I could take him with me, but I see now that I’ve done him a lot of harm. We also were really good to each other, a lot of the time. There were only a handful of “bad” things between us. I hope we can both reflect on it all together, and grow from it.

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    #403109
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Leah:

    You are welcome!

    What I learned through my relationship with my boyfriend is that I was sorely mistaken. I really want and need deep, intimate, close connections. It gives me meaning and enriches my life. I want to share my life with someone, and I want to have close friends. (I used to, in high school) I think I’m more social than I’ve taught myself to believe” –

    – I agree with what you wrote above, and I don’t have to know you irl or to communicate with you for long to know that what you stated is true. After all, you are a human being, genetically  determined to be a highly social being.  Your relationship with your boyfriend must have been a high-quality, unique experience to have taught you who you truly are!

    Do you think it’s possible to change?“- yes, I do believe that it is possible to change post-childhood life experience, from powerful, early life negative experiences to =>  positive, healthy adult experiences. It’s just that it is difficult and it requires time, work, patience, persistence, courage.. and some luck.

    I tend to believe that it is possible, and if people clash in their harmful patterns, then they can work on it and learn to better communicate with each other in a way that doesn’t trigger or touches the exposed nerves of the other person” – I agree.

    What did you mean by ‘What if the reality of their marriage is … not exactly what you believe it is, I wonder?’?” – well, in the case of my mother, she and my father got divorced when I was 6, close to the age your parents divorced. She was hurt and angry at him and told me a lot about how terrible he was. At one point, because she was quite terrible to me,  I wondered if what she told me was true. It so happens that I found out that he was a very bad husband.

    But not uncommonly a divorced mother (or a divorced father) will tell their children selective accounts of what happened in their marriage,  revealing or exaggerating what makes them look good, and hiding or minimizing what make them look bad. So, overall the child gets an inaccurate, distorted story.

    I agree with you about the origin of my mistrust in men. Seeing how devastated my mom was, I swore that I won’t ever let something like that happen to me. I developed a fear of men” – interestingly (returning to me), I developed a fear of women because of how my mother treated me. She directly hurt me. My father did not directly hurt me, so I didn’t develop a fear of men. You developed a fear of men through indirect experience. I think that the reason is that you felt so much deep empathy for your mother during the years when she was devastated by your father’s leaving, that it felt as if it was happening to you!

    I fear you’re right about the origin of my doubts. The question is, maybe it’s a good thing that he brought my unresolved stuff to my attention?” – yes, it is a good thing, problem is that paying attention to unresolved, painful issues is…  well, painful, and like all animals, we instinctively move away from pain.

    I hope in the future, after I’ve worked on myself, perhaps even manage to live a life with no anxiety” – sorry, no such thing as living life with no anxiety.

    I hope in the future… I could try again with him… I hope we can both reflect on it all together, and grow from it” – (1) continuing the point from above: if you wait for a time when you experience no anxiety before you try again with him (or try a relationship with another man), you will have to wait forever, (2) from what you shared, my impression is that he is a high quality, exceptional man, and I don’t know how many men are like that (?)… (3) maybe the two of you can grow together if you decide on a few ground rules and guidelines and follow them, but not now.. later.

    anita

    #403118
    Tommy
    Participant

    Dear Leah,

    Do not really have good advice about when to stick it thru and when its time to move on. Personally, I stick with my wife thru most things because that is the way I am. But, I can see when two people want different things in their lives it can cause them to separate. Example could be job/career. For me, whatever my wife wanted, I made myself want it too. Supported her. And for me, it worked out. Yes, we do have fights and arguments. But we know that it isnt what defines our relationship. We also forgive each other easier, quickly apologize.

    I hope you find someone who says you are worth sticking around. And, will make you happy.

    #403139
    Leah
    Participant

    Hello Anita!

    How is it in life that we only receive so many realizations out of heartbreak…

    I am sad to hear about your situation with your parents. My parents never spoke ill of each other, at least… I agree with you that I had seen my mother’s trauma and adopted it as my own.

    I’m going to talk to my ex boyfriend tomorrow, and I plan on telling him some of my realizations about myself. I hope he can see that I intend to learn and grow from this experience. Although I miss him very much, on every level, I have to accept that for right now I can’t give him what he needs, and I’m not sure he can give me what I need. It’s a difficult lesson in life… I hope someday we can be together, or rather, with the person that’s meant for us.

     

    Thank you Anita and Tommy for your thoughtful responses!

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    #403148
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Leah:

    You are welcome. Before I address your recent post: yesterday, I re-read my last reply to you, which included this quote from you: “I tend to believe that it is possible.. (to) learn to better communicate with each other in a way that doesn’t trigger or touches the exposed nerves of the other person”, and I wanted to comment on it-

    There are people with nerves that are so exposed that it is impossible for a person interacting with them (and especially for a person living with them), to not touch those exposed nerves: any word, any facial expression, misinterpreted, can touch and trigger those exposed nerves. One can perfect one’s practice of walking on eggshells, and yet trigger those exposed nerves. For the purpose of having a healthy relationship, it is very important for the person with the exposed nerves to practice self-control and to not react every time she/ he feels exposed and triggered.

    I’m going to talk to my ex boyfriend tomorrow, and I plan on telling him some of my realizations about myself. I hope he can see that I intend to learn and grow from this experience” – how about starting the conversation with (1) asking him how he feels, (2)  listening to him: not defensively, but truly listening to him as if he was a friend, and nothing but a friend, (3) asking him a question or two, based on what he said: it can help him understand himself better and feel understood by you.

    An exchange like this is likely to be more effective than you reporting to him about your realizations about yourself, at this point, at least.

    I have to accept that for right now I can’t give him what he needs” – I am guessing that what he needs right now is to feel understood and accepted by you (as a person, not as a boyfriend), and so, if you ask him a few questions about himself, and listen to him empathetically… this may be just what he needs.

    and I’m not sure he can give me what I need” – It is important that you are clear with what it is exactly that you need (from him and otherwise) at this point. Are you clear about it?

    I hope the conversation with him goes well.

    anita

     

    #403222
    Leah
    Participant

    Hello Anita

    About what you said – I agree about how the person with the exposed nerves needs to learn self control. I find it very difficult sometimes to hold back or stay quiet another moment, or keep down my reaction. I will try to work on it.

    About what he needs – I meant more of what he wants out of a life partner, which is someone who can go out more without a fuss, and maybe someone who he can express himself to, like you said…

    What I need – I’m not entirely sure. I’m trying to focus on what I need RIGHT NOW, which is just compassion and a hug…

    The conversation wasn’t great. I ended up feeling hurt and disappointed, but I accept this as my initial reaction, and I already feel it fade out to my real emotions, which are more accepting and empathetic to him.

    Basically, he’s not ready to really look at the relationship the way I have. He simply doesn’t do it. He doesn’t look back. It’s too painful for him, and he’s scared to fall into a pit of darkness and never come out. He also absolutely cannot allow himself any bit of “maybe” or to dwell on the relationship, or to question the decision to breakup etc… I was hurt, because he said numerous times how we just need to move on, carry on, look forward– but it’s only been two weeks. And this was a very meaningful relationship for both of us. I feel like “moving on” so quickly, and to not look at our relationship and examine it, cheapens it or makes it feel like not a big deal. I was also hurt because I came to the conversation willing to be vulnerable, and wanting to share myself with him – my thoughts, my feelings, everything, the way I used to. But I am telling myself to accept the way he chooses to deal with it, which is by looking away from it and trying to get busy with other things. It makes me feel unimportant, but I understand that that’s all he can give me right now. I realize that I can’t expect him to give me what I want right now (closure, talk about the relationship). I hope that I can move past the hurt I feel right now, so that when he’s ready to talk, I can be there. But right now I understand that I can’t have these conversations with him, unless there’s something HE wants to say or tell me. The conversation was emotional and difficult, very different from the one we had a week ago.

    I will say, that I got to share with him my realization about my anxiety, and how much it’s been ruling my life, clouding my judgement, and that I now realize he tried and he told me all of this, but I couldn’t listen. I told him I’m back in therapy and that I’m gonna start seeing a psychiatrist and really try to work on it. He cried as I was telling him this. He was very surprised by how much progress I’ve already made, and was happy and proud of me. He told me I was amazing.

    He did say, about himself, that he realizes he has a tendency to run away from situations, and that he has commitment issues.

    From things he said, I think he wants to “move on”, cut off contact for a while, so that we can be friends and still have each other in our lives. Right now, I feel like I can’t do it. I want him as my partner and I don’t know if I could handle being just his friend. It hurts me to think that it didn’t mean as much to him as it did to me. But the bottom line is, he’s just not looking at our relationship and what’s happened to it. He refuses to do it, or he cannot do it. It’s hard for me to accept, but I have to accept it…

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    #403227
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Leah:

    To understand a member’s story better, what I often do after receiving new (to me) information, is to re-read older posts with the new info in mind. In your most recent post you wrote: “He did say, about himself, that he realizes he has a tendency to run away from situations, and that he has commitment issues” – I didn’t know that based on this 4 relationship so far (the 3 before you and the one with you), he believes that he has commitment issues.

    Re-reading “He has a complicated relationship with his mother…  he finds her draining and difficult to talk to” leads me to think that similarly to how you distrust men because you project your image of your father into men, he might have a problem committing to women in the context of romantic relationships because he is projecting his mother into women. This would explain why the conversation with you yesterday wasn’t much of a conversation: “Basically, he’s not ready to really look at the relationship the way I have. He simply doesn’t do it. He doesn’t look back” – he won’t look at it, won’t look back=> he won’t talk.

    He finds his mother “draining and difficult to talk to” => he therefore avoids talking to her =>he therefore avoids talking to a girlfriend, when things have become difficult, or too difficult.

    At some point he said something like ‘I just want to remind you that you instigated this,’ or like that I initiated the breakup” – reads like he wanted to break up with you before you instigated/ initiated the breakup, and that he was relieved that you initiated the break up, and therefore he didn’t have to.

    Another thing I noticed while re-reading: “he was going through what I was going throughwe were both a mess…We are both hurting, we love each other and care for each very much, we’re both confused… This is all very heartbreaking for both of us“- likely he hasn’t felt/ doesn’t feel exactly like you do, the two of you don’t feel the same and to the same extent. You have projected how you feel into him, and some of the projection is not accurate.

    I can’t help but replaying all of the good times we had, how easily we click, the deep emotional, physical, and mental connection that we share” – some of the connection you shared (I don’t know how much) was imagined by you, or magnified in your mind: an inaccurate projection (which is very, very common in relationships).

    I feel like ‘moving on’ so quickly, and to not look at our relationship and examine it, cheapens it or makes it feel like not a big deal” – it wasn’t as big of a deal for him as you imagined. (It doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a big deal for him).

    “From things he said, I think he wants to ‘move on’, cut off contact for a while… It hurts me to think that it didn’t mean as much to him as it did to me“- my point: not as much as you imagined.

    The bottom line is, he’s just not looking at our relationship and what’s happened to it. He refuses to do it, or he cannot do it. It’s hard for me to accept, but I have to accept it“- I think that he ran away from the relationship before you noticed that he did. And better accept it that he did.

    What I need – I’m not entirely sure. I’m trying to focus on what I need RIGHT NOW, which is just compassion and a hug” – a virtual hug and real compassion from me to you! It is refreshing to read from a young woman who is intelligent, insightful, open to examine herself: to look into positive and negative aspects of herself. I hope that you are/ will be feeling much better soon. Please post again anytime!

    anita

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