July 22, 2020 at 6:37 am #362310CarrieParticipant
Firstly, thank you for taking the time to read my post. I’ve read such good advice on these threads and hope someone can help me to understand a way through my current situation.
I’d been dating my boyfriend for a year and a half and he is a good man. At nearly 50, I’ve had relatively little experience in long term relationships, only one, with my daughter’s father, lasting about 10 years. I’ve struggled in the past being open and allowing myself to be vulnerable in relationships, as I had an abusive childhood.
Despite my upbringing I’ve been ‘successful’ in life, and from the outside looking in I guess it looks like I’m doing well; highly qualified, nice home, good income etc. This goes some way to hiding the pain and hurt I feel inside.
The time I spent with my boyfriend were some of the happiest I can remember. Although he has had his own issues growing up, which he shared throughout our time together, with me he was kind, attentive and loving. I’d never shared my childhood experiences with him, glossing over them. Thinking it would show a kind of weakness; a vulnerability and that really scares me.
I’d always been cautious and taken our relationship very slowly, this is even more important to me as my daughter is my world. I wouldn’t introduce her to anyone who I wasn’t serious about. In fact, he is the only man I’ve dated since her father and I split up 7 years ago.
Due to the current lockdown, distance, and timing issues (we live an hour and a half apart and both work full-time) I had never met his family, although he had asked me to do this on several occasions. He had met my daughter once, a couple of weeks ago.
Recently, due to lockdown easing, he had been asking me to meet his family again and as he has now met my daughter, he felt happy we were progressing together and was planning visits, holidays and our future lives together. I suppose this is what most people would wish for but for me, this sent my anxiety through the roof. I got into such a state one evening that I told him I could do it anymore and wanted to end our relationship. I told him I felt I was losing ‘me’ and that I couldn’t be the person he wanted me to be. The truth is, I was scared, I felt I was losing control, I panicked and took the quickest way out I could think of.
He was obviously upset and confused but I was adamant it was the best decision for both of us. We have messaged each other a few times since but he is still, understandably, hurt.
The thing is, now it’s been a week and my panic has subsided, I can see exactly why I acted as I did and that I need to work on my own issues again (I’ve had therapy in the past). I also now see what a mistake I’ve made splitting up with him but I don’t know how, or if I can do anything about it. Should I just walk away?
I’d really appreciate some advice.
Thank you.July 22, 2020 at 8:27 am #362380TimParticipant
Thank you for sharing your story, it reads as FEAR, however, I think right now the best thing you can do is work on the issues which are causing you to want to run away and decide if this relationship is exactly what you want. Otherwise, rushing to reconcile is also unwise in the end it will lead to more unnecessary pain and you splitting up again if you have not worked on the underlying issues. From what you have written it seems he is a genuine, warm man who has made an extraordinary amount of effort to move things forward at a relaxed pace but you have bolted. A healthy relationship requires vulnerability from both parties and communication. It would be unfair to string him along whilst you are indecisive, so I suggest you arrange a meeting and communicate how you felt which leads you to react the way you did and then ask for some space to work through those issues. You will have to respect his decision or choice too, he must be very hurt and you need to respect those feelings but if he sees value and worth in you and the relationship he will also be willing to give it some time and work but it will be up to you now to prove it. Simply walking away without any explanation or attempt to give the other person any sense of clarity is immature.
TimJuly 22, 2020 at 9:08 am #362381anitaParticipant
You shared that you had an abusive childhood and as a result you have struggled “being open and allowing (yourself) to be vulnerable in relationships”. You are nearly 50, successful in life (“highly qualified, nice home, good income etc.,”). Other than the ten year relationship with your daughter’s father, you had “relatively little experience in long term relationships”.
Recently, seven years after the split from your daughter’s father, you had a new relationship, and the times you spent with your then boyfriend “were some of the happiest” that you can remember. Not wanting to feel and appear weak to him, you “never shared (your) childhood experiences with him, glossing over them”.
Recently, following lockdown easing, he asked you again to meet his family and “he felt happy we were progressing together and was planning visits, holidays and our future lives together”. You panicked and ended the relationship with him, “adamant it was the best decision for both of us”. A week later, your panic has subsided, and you realize that breaking up with him was not the best decision you made, but a mistake.
“I don’t know how or if I can do anything about it. Should I just walk away? I’d really appreciate some advice”-
My advice: consider offering the man you broke up with a week ago to arrange for and pay for a few couple therapy sessions for the two of you to attend together. If he agrees to it, then within the sessions, with the guidance of a quality couple therapist, share about your abusive childhood and how that childhood led to your panicking and ending the relationship a week ago. He would also have a chance to share about his childhood and his hurt following you breaking up with him. The therapist should be able to form a plan for the two of you so to resume and improve your relationship. The plan will include tools that you can use to manage your relationship related anxiety in the future, such as pausing between panic and reacting to the panic and lowering your anxiety during that pause. The therapist should give the two of you a sort of a communication manual to use when conflicts arise, or anxiety is up.
Following a few sessions, as many as you see appropriate, the two of you can pay for following sessions. The reason I suggest that you pay for the first few is so to make some amends to him for breaking up with him abruptly and without an explanation. It may resolve any anger he may feel at you for having done him wrong, it is you showing him, and yourself, personal accountability.
anitaJuly 22, 2020 at 10:35 am #362391CarrieParticipant
I appreciate you taking the time to respond to my post. Whilst looking through this site, I have read both of your comments on other threads you have contributed to and see immense value in your advice and can see (and agree) with the perspectives you have both put forward – so thank you.
I am such a private person, the thought of sharing my story would normally be unthinkable to me but I know now that I can’t do this on my own. I need to open up and begin to work on my insecurities, I’m just exhausted by it all and don’t want to lose this man from my life. When I’ve had therapy in the past it’s because I’ve gone past breaking point and got to the point where I could see no way forward. I’ve always had to hit rock bottom before I sought help. I don’t want that for myself anymore.
You are so right Tim, it is fear, with a capital ‘F’. I feel that to simply survive so far in life, I’ve created a defence that comes into full force whenever there is even a hint that I might get hurt. When you’ve spent a childhood being hurt it’s a good thing but is not sustainable in adult life and makes me so unhappy.
Anita, your suggestion to pay for therapy sessions together is sound advice but it seems like a million miles away at the moment. Right now, I can’t even get my head around how I’m going to reach out to him. I have really hurt him and for that I’m truly sorry. It has helped me to see my own words in black and white on this post. I think that to want to reconcile with him straight away would not be fair on him, or healthy for me. But I do owe him an explanation. What it will take for me to have this conversation, to be vulnerable, is huge. Partly because of my own defences and partly because I’m scared he will see me as ‘flawed’ and this will deal a double blow and I don’t know if I’m strong enough to carry this.
So, moving forward I’ve already contacted a therapist to seek online support and I will look to contacting my ex to see if he even wants to talk. Wish me luck!
And again, thank you.July 22, 2020 at 11:05 am #362392anitaParticipant
“So, moving forward I’ve already contacted a therapist to seek online support and I will look to contacting my ex to see if he even wants to talk. Wish me luck! And again, thank you”-
– you are welcome, and I do wish you and your ex luck, as you resume your relationship or not. I agree that “to want to reconcile with him straight away would not be fair to him”, or healthy for you. You feel that you owe him an explanation- you have the option of offering him that explanation in an email, a thoughtful, attentive email which you can put together at your convenience, give it all the time you need, editing it over time, so that the result is honest and true.
anitaJuly 22, 2020 at 12:09 pm #362395TimParticipant
I wasn’t sure how you would receive my feedback as it was rather blunt. However, from my own experiences, I have learned that the hard truths are often needed to help oneself. It takes a lot of courage to recognise sometimes the problems stem from within ourselves, so well done on facing the issues head-on rather than trying to run away entirely to avoid the conflict.
It is important to recognise asking for help is a key step in the right direction, like you said as a child building defense mechanisms or walls helps you to survive but as an adult, one must break down these walls and be vulnerable to learn to deal with what life will inevitably throw our way to live a truly rich, happy and fulfilled life. Living in fear is akin to not living at all. Continuing to live life closed off and in fear only exacerbates anxiety and makes you more maladjusted, it will influence everything you do and in context of relationships as you have found it will cause self-sabotage. From what you described the man in your life was attentive, loving, vulnerable, and willing to meet your needs. These are the characteristics one deserves in a loving partnership. Yet somehow your mind because of FEAR has reinforced and convinced you he is not the “one”/ he is going to hurt you/ his wonderful traits are not what you deserve/ his good traits are off-putting. The brain does this when confronted with a change from the norm, simply because for so long you have become accustomed to not feeling worthy due to the toxic or abusive relationships formed in the past. If you were to remove all emotions clouding you and assess this person on his individual merits I assure you, you would kick yourself for being foolish. I have done the exact same, but I knew it was an issue within me, so I sought therapy whilst taking space from my partner. COMMUNICATION is your ally, you need to reach out and explain. If he is able to overcome his pain and give a chance then use this opportunity to go away and do the work on yourself to be a better version of yourself, if he is unable to overcome it then that is ok because it still has prompted you to seek help and hopefully once the issues have been worked on you can live a more fulfilled life. Whats happened has happened, quite often we live in the past, look forward and let the future unravel as it may knowing you are becoming a better person regardless. I wish you all the best if you need any other perspective don’t hesitate. Use this as a force to improve, don’t dwell or you will end up self-pitying and spiraling further from what you actually want.