Painful situation

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    Hello everyone,

    This is my very first time writing in a forum, and a very painful dilemma has brought me to write my story and seek any help I can get.

    Here is little bit of my background. I am a 28 year-old Korean American working in Korea. My family are still living back in California, and I am living with an extended family in Seoul. Althoough I am fluent in Korean and know the culture very well (or so I thought), it has been very difficult adjusting to Asian corporate culture, which is very different and mentally demanding compared to working back home.

    I’ll try to make the story as concise as I can, but please hear me out as it is quite complicated. I have been dating this girl on and off for the past 11 months. It started very casually, without much physical attraction to be honest. She was my coworker, and had a great personality, so we naturally got closer and after a couple of weeks, we decided to be “official”. Here is the first problem. I have been a very thoughtful/picky dater, and always thought about marriage/compatibility even before giving someone a chance. Obviously that never got me too far in dating. I don’t have super high expectations of someone I wanted to date/marry, but there was a general standard/list that I stood by. This was my first time going against my personality, and actually dating for the sake of dating. Obviously, things didn’t start out too well. I unknowingly started picking this person apart from head to toe, criticizing their imperfections, comparing her to others, mentioning to her how we’re not very compatible, etc. She was such a good girl, and had such strong feelings for me that she didn’t complain, but tried to change herself to cater to my needs/wants.

    Once I realized what I was doing, it seriously crushed me. I have always thought of myself as a good and kind person, and never ever hurt someone like this before. Of course I apologized profusely, treated her better than before, and tried to lower my standard/expectations. Looking back, perhaps I should’ve broken up with her then, and let her go free. However, guilt of destroying someone’s self-esteem if I broke up with her then, and my strong desire to make it up to her made me stay and consciously tried to make this relationship work. Noticing the difference, she treated me even better, and we became closer than ever. As you might be thinking, was I in love? I didn’t think at that point….so when she mentioned commitment and marriage, I started backpedaling, unable to commit. However, with more time passing we became even more attached. We were best friends, and one positive thing was that we were very intimate. However, at this point, my self-esteem had hit rock bottom, thinking how can someone love me this much even after what I have said and done? And even after I had told her all of my imperfections, whether it be physical or personal? Will I ever find someone that treats me and cares for me as much if I leave? I was torn inside. I wasn’t happy with the relationship, but I felt scared of leaving, fearful of hurting her feelings again, fearful of being alone, finding someone this caring, etc.

    Since then, I have tried to break it up with her 2-3 times, thinking she deserves someone that genuinely loves her, and I need to find a more fulfilling relationship that’s somehow better for me. The results have been the same, either she begging me to stay and I got weak and came back, or me getting scared of losing someone that’s so close and comfortable that I came back. Every time we got back together, things were better than before. I consciously tried to commit, cater to her needs, and make her happy. But there was always doubt in the back of my mind, and it would creep out whenever the thought of commitment, which would lead me to being emotionally torn.

    Curently, we are broken up (again), but we are talking, and this time I feel like I have to make a decision for good. I don’t know what is wrong with me. Do I have commitment issues? Am I just attached emotionally? Am I driven by fear? Can love and attachment hold us any longer?

    She is such a great person, and I do have a lot of feelings for her, but at this point, I am fearful of losing her at the same time fearful of “settling” and possibly hurting ourselves again in the future. Amazingly, she still thinks that I am the person she wants to marry, and is willing to wait if I’m not ready. At the same time, I can see that all this emotional torment has been too tough on her, and we are on a mini break where she wants me to talk to her when I can actually commit. What I want the most is to be able to commit and be happy for once, but I just cannot seem to make any decision, which is killing me inside.

    Understandably, I have been miserable for the last months, both dealing with this issue and adjusting to work/environment.

    Please help…I’m stuck…I am ready to do anything to free myself of this emotional mess.

    Thank you for reading this long story. I will answer any questions or comments.

    Buddhist Wife

    I’ve read your post a few times and I find it hard to work out from what you have written, what it is you genuinely feel.

    I wonder what it is that you expect from love and what you think love is. You describe yourself as being ‘attached emotionally’. Is that love to you or not? Only you can work that out for you.

    I think you have to let go of your feelings of guilt towards her. You both entered the relationship on equal terms and we all know that we are at risk of being hurt when we start dating. She knew this too.

    Getting into a relationship with someone doesn’t make you a bad person. Breaking up with someone because you are no longer happy doesn’t make you a bad person. Nearly everyone does one or the other at some point in their lives, often several times. It’s just life.

    I think it would be very unwise to make your decision from a position of guilt. I think it would be best if you put that feeling aside.

    I also think it would be wrong to make the decision through a lens of ‘what if nothing better comes along’.

    You clearly see the need to make a decision about this reasonably quickly and you are correct. I think it is important, especially for her, that you are clear. If you do decide there is no future in the relationship you need to be definitive with her. Tell her you like her as a person but that it’s over. She must not wait for you and you will never marry her. I think, if you decide to break up, it would also be wise to take a break from communicating with each other for a good few months. I think trying to salvage a friendship out of this will be very confusing for you both and will send mixed messages to her.

    You need to decide if you really love her. Ask yourself what it is about your relationship that makes you fear that you might be settling? Is it because you have unrealistic notions of what a relationship is? Do you expect fireworks every time you see her? Do you expect too much in the looks department?

    Or are your reasons for feeling you may be settling reasonable? There is such a thing as a good match at the wrong time. It may be that you want to date more women before you settle down. It might be that your attitudes to life, marriage and religion are incompatible which would make it unwise for you to commit to each other. It might be she wants to live in Korea and you want to go to California. It might be that there is just a feeling in your gut that tells you committing would be wrong.

    I hope this has helped and I hope that you find a solution.


    Hi MP,

    From what I read it sounds like you love her but you’re not in love with her. I’ve been in your exact position before. You feel terrible but don’t want to lose them or hurt them. Like a band aid rip it off. Sounds harsh but I’ve learned that when its meant to be its meant to be. When you love someone you just know. I’ve dated a lot of people and have been rejected a lot. It used to hurt but I realized that you know when someone loves you.

    The simplest answer is often the most correct. It will suck to be without her but when you meet the person you’re meant to be with you will just know and be happy you didn’t settle.

    I also am dubious of people who want to be with another person that clearly doesn’t feel the same way. Doesn’t sound like this person has very high self esteem. I know this because I’ve been there too. It might make sense on paper but if you don’t feel it in your gut don’t bother.

    I’ve been with someone who I “loved” dearly but wasn’t in love with him. I was miserable everyday kept finding little things about him I hated and would beat myself up for it. I also knew if I ended the relationship he would be devastated. But I had to and now he’s with someone who makes him happy and is doing much better in life. Love isn’t all good times but I feel like you know when you’re in love and don’t need to convince yourself.

    Hope that helped, you are not a bad person. It’s a life lesson

    I also agree 100% with Buddhist wife <— gives the best advice


    Hello again,

    Just want to say sorry for the late response, and thank you very much for your input.

    I agree with both of you in a lot of ways, and I feel like I came to the right place for advice. Our relationship has been very strange from the beginning, where it didn’t take the “traditional route” of falling in love, then slowly falling out of love (or love changing its shape). For me, it took time before I truly began appreciating her for who she is, and by then I had tried to break up with her twice.

    At this point, she knows exactly what is going on in my mind, as we are very close and honest with each other. She is as supportive as she can be, but knows that it’s all up to me at this point. There is no guilt involved anymore, no fear of being alone or not being able to find another. One thing that I do fear a little bit is whether I will find another relationship as intimate as this one, and whether I will find someone that is so easy to communicate with and understanding. We understand and know each other very, very well as you can imagine.

    There definitely are many positives to take away from this experience, as we both have matured through our ordeal,, and whether it was for the right intentions or not, she has managed to improve all areas in her life which I used to criticize, and I wasn’t justified in criticize them in the first place.

    All I want to do at this point is be happy and find the peace of mind that I desperately need, with her in my life. Of course, the funny thing is that my mind and heart doesn’t seem to be in synch with each other. At this point it seems like there are more fear in getting back with her, not necessarily fear of leaving her. I’m fearful of same things happening, fearful of breaking up again, fearful of hurting our feelings even more. If the same thing was happening in the States, I would definitely try counseling or therapy, but those services are not as available where I am

    As I previously stated, I’m away from my family and friends, working in a stressful environment, so I know that my personal circumstances is definitely playing a role in this situation, and vice versa.

    If a resolution can’t be found anytime soon, we are currently discussing taking time off from each other for a while (a month or so) without any contact. Even though it will be hard for both of us as we’ll miss each other, we both realize that this is something that could help us in the long run. I could use this time to work on myself, try to untangle this confusion in my mind, and see how my emotions change as time progresses. She certainly thinks that if I continue this “can’t live with, can’t live without” thing with her, we’ll be so exhausted we’ll lose any glimpse of hope of working through this in the future.

    Frankly, I’m just not willing to let her go. At least not yet. In any way possible, I want to work this out. It might sound selfish, but I sincerely hope that this is something that I can work through and strengthen this relationship in the future.

    Please let me know what you think

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