August 13, 2017 at 7:59 pm #163790
Here’s the background of me and my ex-bf…
We were together for about half a year… a short time to some but it was a significant period of my life. When we first knew each other, the connection was instantaneous and we clicked really well and we had endless things to say to each other. He was very loving towards me and I felt the love from him in every little action. We spoke about a future together as well.
He is a family man and he cares a lot for his family. He took on a lot of the financial load for his parents and sister. It came to a point that it took a toll on him though as he felt stressed from the arguments with his family and from the finances. He was taking part time studies and he was going through some changes at work too. Alot of stressors in his life. Everything was going well until 2 weeks before our breakup. To cope with his stress, he overspent on gaming which resulted in a hefty credit card bill. He blamed himself a lot for not having the discipline and throwing our future away as a result.
Thereafter, he felt he did not have the bandwidth to be in a relationship and that it would not be fair to me as he felt he was being a burden. So he ended the relationship even though we were very much in love. I told him that we could work through it and it was a non-issue to me but he said he had too many issues to work through. So I respected his decision and accepted the breakup.
It has been more than 6 months since the breakup and I have also grown a lot in the meantime. I have become more independent, worked through my own issues with the help of a therapist (still ongoing), exercised, travelled a lot and basically living life!
I suppose what I struggle with now is that I still cant let go of the hope that one day we may be together again. I have this feeling that this is not the end of us.
When we broke up, we ended on a good note in that there were no bitterness between us. And we both said we are open to trying again should his issues be resolved and he is in a better place.
Since then, I have given him the space to work through his issues and have not been in touch. Except for seeing his updates on social media which sometimes makes me jealous of all the people who are still in his life.
I do trust that he meant whatever he said to me while we were together and I trust that he made the decision to break up due to being overwhelmed by his issues. He showed himself to be consistent in his words and actions throughout the relationship so I have a lot of trust in him. I feel that if he felt the love that I felt, he would not forget me so easily too.
August 14, 2017 at 5:13 am #163828
- I’m learning to surrender while keeping faith in us. Not sure if this is contradictory?
- I am not sure whether to reach out to him. I feel it is a waste to be strangers given our strong connection but I am afraid it will end up stressing him more instead. I am also afraid that I will not be able to handle being in touch as I may end up having expectations of him again. A part of me also feel that it would make more sense for him to initiate contact as he is the one who needed space to work through his issues.
You wrote: “He showed himself to be consistent in his words and actions throughout the relationship so I have a lot of trust in him.”- that is very promising, that you noticed that he was consistent and that he was.
As a con to possibly resuming a relationship with him, you wrote: “I am afraid it will end up stressing him more”-
How did your words and actions stress him before, when you were in a relationship with him?
anitaAugust 14, 2017 at 6:05 am #163832
Thanks so much for your reply! 🙂
Actually he never said to me exactly how he probably felt stressed by me so this is my own guess after some pondering. When we broke up, he took on all the responsibility and he told me I was the best girlfriend he cld ask for. He only said that he is not sure where the pressure in our relationship is coming from but he does not have the bandwidth to figure it out.
He probably felt the pressure as he thought he was not giving as much to the relationship as I was. I probably smothered him which made him feel pressurized. I would constantly make him cards and bought little gifts when he was having exams, going through a hard time at work or just to let him know that I love him and I will be there for him no matter what. I felt I also made him the source of alot of my happiness – so much so that I wanted to give up activities that I enjoyed so that I can spend more time with him. An example would be I love travelling but I told him that now that I have him, I do not want to travel as much as I would miss him.
I was also ready to start saving up to buy a house together (which we talked about). So when he overspent and got into the credit card debts, he felt guilty that he was not as committed as I was to the relationship.
In summary, I think the pressure came from me being too dependent on him for happiness and then he feeling like he cannot give back to the relationship as I did.
Having gone through therapy, I feel that I have gained a lot of insights into myself and I have worked (and still working) on this. A part of me feel like sharing all these insights with my ex bf to let him know how I have grown. And I just feel if we have a second chance, it is quite likely to work better (provided he also sorted out his issues).
But I do not know if he has sorted out his issues or if he is even ready to be in touch. That is why I fear I will end up pressurizing him again.August 14, 2017 at 7:00 am #163850
You wrote that when you broke up “he took on all the responsibility”- that is not surprising, since he took all the responsibility to his family’s financial needs (“He took on a lot of the financial load for his parents and sister” as well.
And there are “arguments with his family”- are they not grateful, I wonder, for his financial help? I don’t know what the arguments are about.
You wrote in your original post that “He blamed himself a lot”, and in your last post you wrote: “he is not sure where the pressure in our relationship is coming from but he does not have the bandwidth to figure it out”- maybe the pressure came from his strong inclination to feel guilty and to take on responsibility that doesn’t belong to him. No wonder, with such pressure, that he doesn’t have the bandwidth, that is, the energy or mental capacity for more (as in a relationship with you), in his overly taxing life.
It is possible, given the pressure he feels about his family’s dependence on him, that “the pressure came from me being too dependent on him for happiness” was something he wanted to unload.
It is a good thing that you attend therapy. Unfortunately, he probably didn’t. And so, he is probably still struggling with his guilt and over responsibility to his parents and sister, still having arguments with them, perhaps, and still pressured.
If I was in your place, before considering re-starting a relationship with him, I would communicate with him more about his parents/sister guilt and pressure, figure out the situation there and likely future in this regard. It may be that for as long as this situation exists, and until he extricates himself from his current family role, it will not a good idea for you to be in a relationship with him.
anitaAugust 14, 2017 at 5:43 pm #163962
Appreciate your wonderful input and it gave me so much clarity! What you said in the last paragraph really resonated with me and it is something I have been thinking about also. That if we were to have that chance to re-start the relationship, I would want to communicate with him about what has changed since the breakup and what has he done to resolve the issues that were there. I would also do my part in sharing my growth process.
I agree with you that “for as long as this situation exists, and until he extricates himself from his current family role, it will not a good idea for you to be in a relationship with him.” I also thought about if the situation were to continue and we had gotten married, it is likely that we would still be embroiled in the financial issues of his family. I thought it is one thing to help one’s family but another to take on responsibility that is not his to take on.
Which was exactly what you mentioned also about “his strong inclination to feel guilty and to take on responsibility that doesn’t belong to him”. The context of his family arguments stem from his sister going through an acrimonious divorce and she wants to settle it in court through legal battles (so as to spite her ex husband). However, she does not have financial means to fight the lawsuit nor to sustain her current lifestyle. His parents were all ready to liquidate their assets to help her in this legal battle and support her spending but he did not want them to do so as he was worried about their retirement. Thus, he has been helping out by lending his sister money so that the sister would not turn to his parents. So the arguments came from when he tried to reason with his parents that it is not worth going to court and they should put a stop to helping the sister. His parents would then turn on him and say that he should help his sister as they are family etc. Other arguments arise from when he tried to reason with his sister to spare a thought for their parents instead of being so selfish. Grateful.. I am not too sure if they expressed it. But it is definitely expected of him to help. And I know given his family-oriented nature, he would still choose to help them even at the expense of himself.
Which made me feel the pain for him that he takes on more than he should and he gave the relationship up (which he said was what gave him the happiness in his life). I do feel so so much for him and I wish that he could be happier. It felt so counter-intuitive to me that he chose to gave up something that gave him happiness over the responsibilities that gives him so much pain. But of cos, I understand from his point of view that family is something he would never give up and I do respect him and his decision. Thus, I let go and gave him the space to work out his issues instead of fighting for him to keep trying.
Regarding therapy, I did suggest to him to seek therapy himself and it was something that he was considering. I am not sure if he went ahead with therapy but it does remain a possibility that he is still struggling and has not managed to extricate himself from this role that he took on. All I can hope for is that the loss of the relationship was something that shook him and pushed him towards seeking help to get out of this situation.
At this point in time, he has not reached out to me and I have zero clue how he is doing in terms of working out his issues. I guess what prompted me to write this was when my therapist asked me why I never reached out to him if I still love him so much now. She said this to me “What if you both are just waiting for the other to reach out?” And I read this tinybuddha article about surrendering which said:
Surrender = Complete acceptance of what is + Faith that all is well, even without my input.
And I thought it made alot of sense and I made it my new philosophy in life to surrender since the breakup and just see how things unfold.. but what my therapist said made me feel uneasy.
That would there be missed opportunities due to inaction?August 15, 2017 at 10:44 am #164076
Regarding “this role that he took on”, this helping his family at his own expense role- it is not a role that he took on. It is a roll that was given him, ingrained in him since childhood. You wrote that ” His parents would then turn on him and say that he should help his sister as they are family.”-
The price for him extricating himself from the family role inflicted on him is that his parents do turn on him. In my experience with this family role, it is a very difficult one to get out of. He may not go to therapy simply because it costs money that he feels needs to go to his parents/ sister!
I am not surprised, in this context, that he chose to end a relationship that brought him happiness instead of the relationships that bring him misery. His motivation to continue the relationships that bring him misery is to not experience the greater pain he fears: that of being rejected and criticized by his parents. More often, the motivation to avoid pain is stronger than the motivation to seek pleasure.
I think that surrendering or accepting what you cannot change is a very good strategy. I don’t think you can change his family dynamics or extricate him from his family role. As unjust as it is, as wrong for him as it is, you cannot compete with the power parents have on their children, during those formative years, when he was taught what he was taught.
anitaAugust 15, 2017 at 10:47 am #164078
* didn’t submit correctly…August 17, 2017 at 7:11 am #164356
Wow. Your last reply to me really hit a spot and it brought tears to my eyes.. and I sat on what you said for a while and let it all sink in. I guess I never saw it that way.. that his problem is so entrenched.. I always thought that it was a problem at the moment that he was facing with the sister’s divorce but it actually goes deeper than that. and yes, i cannot compete with the power parents have on their children.. and it makes so much sense about why he chose to avoid the pain of his parents’rejection rather than to seek pleasure in a relationship with me. I can see what our relationship was up against was something HUGE.
and then there this relief knowing that it was something close to impossible to compete with. for a long time I also struggled with wondering if I could have done more for him.. was there anything I could have done differently that would have changed our outcome.. and you putting his issues into perspective helped me to see the magnitude of his problem and how it goes waaaay back.. and how it is something that is beyond me to change.. and the serenity prayer (that I see you mention a few times on this forum) came to mind..
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
somehow knowing that this is something that is beyond me to change.. is very empowering and it reaffirmed my decision to surrender. cos there is nothing that is within my control to change. as much as I want to be there for him.. wishing that things can be different for him.. but this is his journey. and I can only be there for someone who allows me to. I have to accept that his situation is something I cannot change.
Yet the feeling of relief is mixed with sadness too. I feel this immense sadness too.. that he has to go through such pain and my heart aches for him. why does he have to go through this? It is like he is a good man and he is just trying his best to be a good son. but why do things have to be so difficult for him? I wish and wish that things can be different for him and that he can be in a happier place too. he deserves his own happiness and it is so unfair that he has to bear this burden.. such that he cannot even find his own happiness. why is his happiness compromised?
I feel so so helpless in the face of his sufferings.
And I guess all I can do now is to send light and love to him through the universe and hope that things will turn out better for him somehow. and I will also keep the faith (no matter how small the hope may be), that if it is meant to be, that one day he may be able to resolve all these issues and who knows, we may have a real shot.
(Btw, I really wanna say that Anita, you are such a blessing to have on this forum! your perceptiveness of situations is really amazing and I appreciate your replies! I have also learnt so much from reading your replies to other people on this forum as well. Thank you :))August 17, 2017 at 7:42 am #164364
You are welcome and thank you for your appreciation and kindness.
Regarding your sadness over his pain, your helplessness in face of the unfairness of this, over his pain-
He is feeling pain and you are feeling pain. You are feeling pain about his pain. This is the nature of empathy. As you feel compassion for him for his pain, have compassion for yourself as well: you are feeling pain as well.
This pain about unfairness, injustice, cruelty that people inflict on each other, parents on their children, this pain we have to endure. I have to endure it. When you can’t change a situation, all you can do is endure. Otherwise, if you don’t endure it, you try to get rid of the pain any which way. In the desperation to get rid of pain people rush to “solutions” that create more problems and so, people dig greater holes for themselves, getting deeper and deeper into pain and despair.
So we have to endure, bear what we cannot change.
anitaAugust 19, 2017 at 6:33 pm #164744
Thanks for the reminder to have compassion for myself too as I am going through pain as well. Sometimes I forget about my own pain when I am focused on his pain. It is good for me to be mindful of my own pain too and tend to myself too.
Yes, unfortunately there is this pain that we have to endure with all the suffering that is going on. What I do is to sit with this pain and sadness and just cry as much as I want until I feel like the pain has been released through my tears. If the sadness comes, I feel it and let it come. Other than that, I do yoga, exercises, painting and going out with my friends too. I dont try to numb the pain or to look for quick fixes. Is this what you mean by enduring the pain and not looking for solutions?
And I guess the part about “In the desperation to get rid of pain people rush to “solutions” that create more problems and so, people dig greater holes for themselves, getting deeper and deeper into pain and despair.” was what happened to my ex bf when he turned to gaming for solutions which got him into deeper pain and despair. Just thought it also applied to how he handled things.August 21, 2017 at 4:51 am #164890
You are welcome. What you wrote in your second paragraph fits with what I mean by enduring pain. Regarding the solutions people rush to so to get rid of pain, his gaming is one, when overdone, so are drugs, of course, overeating, overdrinking, over exercising, over dieting, over… and overly investing time and energy waiting for people to change and trying to change people and established dynamics.
Your ex boyfriend is entrenched in a family dynamic where his role is what it is. He is driven to occupy this role. He didn’t choose this role but as unhappy as he is with it, he either can’t imagine abandoning this role or he is too scared to do so. That fear is powerful. Any sense you talk to him, all the logic you have can’t reach a person who is overwhelmed with fear.
Understanding this, “Surrender” (in the title of your thread) is the better choice.
anitaAugust 21, 2017 at 6:41 pm #165024
Thanks for highlighting the potential “trap” for myself there – “overly investing time and energy waiting for people to change and trying to change people and established dynamics” that I may have missed if you did not point it out. Couldnt help but smile when I saw how you have inserted it in so aptly and once again, resonated with me. I am very aware of the overdoing of drugs, eating, drinking, exercising etc and I steer away from those but it did not occur to me the bit about overly investing time and energy waiting.
After speaking to you, I did feel this paradigm shift in my thinking and I have stopped wondering whether to reach out to him. And yes that fear he has is powerful and he is driven to occupy that role and it is something that I cannot change. I agree that “surrender” is the better choice and I feel lighter after deciding to surrender. I felt more in control of my own life and I do not spend as much time ruminating about the relationship.
I suppose on some level I still feel this sense of loyalty to him. When we broke up, he said something along the lines of he knows I will be happier without him in the long run and thus he rather let me go rather than for me to suffer with him. In the beginning stages of the breakup, I felt that I wanted to prove him wrong that hey, I am not happier without him, that I’d rather be with him even if it means to suffer with him. But as time goes by, I also recognised that while he was definitely a huge source of my happiness (and the happiness he gave me was special and different) but my entire happiness is not dependent on him and it should not be. So slowly, bit by bit, I found my own happiness and my footing on my own again. And the thoughts of proving him wrong disappeared and I felt comfortable being happy again.
From time to time, I do feel this guilt whether I am adding on to his suffering in some way when I am happy? I have been trying to figure out where this is coming from. I know it does not make much sense rationally but I think the logic sequence in my head goes this way: when I am happy without him, it affirms his thinking that it is right for me to be without him and that may add on to his regrets and suffering in the way he may feel further that he did not deserve me and that he is not worthy and then beating himself up for letting me go kind of thing. I do not want to be a regret in his life and another source of suffering. So.. still working out this part but I feel it will work out soon with this paradigm shift I just had with regards to surrendering.
But I also feel I am not putting my life on hold for him – I am still doing a lot of self-enrichment, finding activities that I enjoy, excelling at my work, finding my own happiness and making travel plans. And I also told myself if there are opportunities to know other people, I would not pass on the chance. So while on some level, I am holding space for him in the way I have described above but I am also not letting it be so huge that I am not moving forward.
Although I also fear that I am overly investing my time and energy waiting for him and I would ultimately hope to fully surrender.
What are your thoughts on my guilt and this sense of loyalty towards him?August 22, 2017 at 9:50 am #165122
I like reading your posts, this very last post is rational, sensible. I like it. Of course, there are things to attend to, to continue to attend to. There is a trap or two clear in my mind, traps that you need to pay attention to and watch for so that they don’t undo this great sensibility, logic and wisdom expressed so well here.
You wrote: “I felt more in control of my own life and I do not spend as much time ruminating about the relationship”- you felt more in control because you withdrew from ruminating about a man over whose life you have no control.
When you focus on what you have no control, you feel out of control, helpless and incompetent. When you focus on what you do have some control, you feel in control, resourceful and competent.
One trap to attend to more, over time, and watch for: to not ruminate over him and the relationship, investing that time and (at least mental) resources in trying to change what is out of your control, out of what is possible for you to change.
Another trap is the guilt you mentioned. You wrote: “this guilt whether I am adding on to his suffering in some way when I am happy”. The logic of the thought is, you explained, that if you are happy that will cause him to see for himself that indeed you are better off without him (like he said you will be), and that it means he is unworthy.
Let’s examine your thinking here vs reality. You wrote: “When we broke up, he said something along the lines of he knows I will be happier without him in the long run and thus he rather let me go rather than for me to suffer with him”-
he said that “he knows that (you) will be happier”- he knows and I agree with him. I give him credit here for knowing what is congruent with reality. Your thinking, on the other hand, is that if you prove that what he knows is correct (by being happy without him), he will be miserable.
In my experience, when I know what is congruent with reality, it promotes my mental and overall well-being, and so it is for everyone’s benefit, on the long run.
In quality psychotherapy, a client feels better when their thinking is validated for accuracy by the therapist. Oh, I make sense! goes the thinking. Give him that validation, in your own mind. He did make sense.
The origin of this guilt you just detailed, there is origin to it, perhaps for another time to look into.
August 23, 2017 at 9:21 pm #165396
- This reply was modified 1 year, 7 months ago by anita.
Thanks for your validation on the rationality and sensibility of my posts! Which I guess also gave me the experience of what you described as the validation by the therapist (although I know you are not my therapist and this is not a psychotherapy relationship). And I can see how it may possibly make him feel better when he knows that he made the right decision and that I am happier now.
And I am thankful that you opened this other way of thinking which I have tried it out and through this practice, it created other pathways of thinking too. I do not feel as fixed on that thinking that if I am happy, it reinforces his misery and suffering. Cos there are other ways of thinking about it.
Other pathways of my thoughts now:
– It would be a load off his mind that he does not need to worry about me or feel like he ruined my life.
– If I love someone, I would be happy to see them happy too. So I also think about how I feel when I see he is out with friends. I also feel happy that at least he has his friends for support even though it is mixed with some wistfulness. So end of the day, he will probably feel happy for me too that I am living life.
– Even if he does really feel miserable, it may not be a bad thing too. It could work in the way that he may feel motivated to do something about his situation.
– Or maybe if he sees that I am happy, it may spur him to want to match up or in some day inspire him to do something different.
And I guess end of the day, like you said these are things that are out of my control too. I cannot predict how he feel and even if I know how he feels, we all deal with these feelings differently. It could turn either way and there are too many possibilities of what can be happening when he sees that I am happier now and there is no point in predicting how he feel and then adjust my life accordingly.
I can only be happy for my own sake and just focus on what I can do for myself now. And that would reinforce my feelings of being resourceful, competent and in control 🙂 I will also be mindful of the traps that you have detailed out too.
About the origin of the guilt, I think I do have some inkling myself where it came from. Id just share even though you said perhaps for another time to look into.
Since young, I think there was the subtle message that my needs are not as important as my siblings. I would often be told to give in to them and make do with what I have. This is to avoid conflict and just make things easier for my parents to manage. Thus I grew up with the thinking that it is wrong to fulfil my own needs and others’ needs are more important. Luckily for me though, as we grew up, my siblings and I matured and we are very loving towards each other now. Thus, that pattern of me having to sacrifice my needs has not been perpetuated till adulthood.
(I guess this is also why I see parallels between me and my ex-bf’s situation just that unfortunately his case is perpetuated till today and he is still stuck in that cycle with more serious repercussions.)
But in any case, the damage was done in that for a long time I lived with the mentality that my needs are not as important and it took me a while through therapy to realise this and to accept that my needs are important too.
I guess in this case, the guilt may originate from me fulfilling my own needs now and it does not feel right. My ex-bf is someone I love dearly and he felt like family. So probably in some way I felt like I am fulfilling my needs and neglecting his which results in the guilt. It feels selfish of me to do so.
2) When my mother had cancer
Another origin could possibly be that my mother had cancer and she passed away a few years back. Through her battle, I experienced this sense of helplessness that I could not alleviate her suffering. I always wish that I could have done more for her when she was suffering. I suppose with my ex-bf, the feeling of helplessness is re-experienced and I also similarly wonder if there is more that I could do now to alleviate his suffering.
But I guess I also realised in this case, not doing anything is probably doing something for him. And his suffering is not for me to alleviate and it is his own journey.August 24, 2017 at 8:56 am #165448
It pleases me to read such good thinking, clear, realistic, sensible thinking as you express here. My brain exhaled a “Wow” as I read your recent post all the way to “I will also be mindful of the traps that you have detailed out too.”
Regarding the second part of your post, starting with “About the origin of the guilt”-
#1) Childhood: you were taught by your parents (because it was convenient for them) that ” it is wrong to fulfil (your) own needs and others’ needs are more important.”-
you were taught two things:
* that it is your needs or another’s needs, your siblings’ needs or your needs.
* it is wrong for you to attend to your needs and it is right for you to attend to their needs.
These two teachings are wrong. First, it is about your needs and their (others’) needs. A healthy relationship, be it among siblings or with your ex boyfriend, is about Win-Win (-Win, etc.) – all involved need to have a Win, the needs of all need to be attended to. A fair negotiation and resolution to conflicts needs to be taking place, a resolution that adequately satisfies all involved.
Second, it is right for you to attend your needs while not doing so dishonestly or abusively. You take care of your Win end of the interaction with another, open to discuss the other person’s Win.
Because of this learning, the feeling that it is wrong for you to attend to your needs, even in a Win-Win context, is likely to continue. It is an automatic mental habit, triggered automatically, regardless of rational understanding. Notice when it does and insert corrected thinking into that automatic activation. Do it again and again. Over time, the automatic mental habit will include the new, correct thinking and the feeling that it is right to attend to your own needs.