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To Stay or To Leave

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This topic contains 18 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  anita 6 days, 13 hours ago.

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  • #284351

    Lillian
    Participant

    Hi everyone,

    I’m new on here and have been struggling with the idea of staying or letting go for some time now. I have been in a relationship with a guy for 3 years and have broken up once before. We see each other on a regular basis because we’re both athletes at a high level and have the same (successful) coach, so changing coaches is not an ideal option. This means we are at the same weekend events, see each other training, and have a lot of the same mutual friends. I have been feeling so lost lately because I am not sure whether or not we have hit a dead end. We have identical interests and when things are going well, we really enjoy each other’s company. We talk endlessly about our sport, have the same thought processes, and have similar life goals. However, when things aren’t going well it’s usually me who ends up taking the blame and apologizing for things I wasn’t even aware I had ‘done wrong.’ For example, I was on a weekend trip with my brother, and my boyfriend barely talked to me because I didn’t invite him. He said when I returned that he was surprised at how little I contacted him, when I thought I was doing an excellent job keeping in contact. I ended up taking the blame for this. There are many situations where I just feel like I’m being controlled in a sense. It seems we fight whenever I spend time with anyone other than my boyfriend. On one hand I know it’s wrong to be made to feel bad, but on the other hand, maybe I don’t spend enough time with my boyfriend? We’re both incredibly busy, so I like to have my alone time as well as time with him. When I spend time with people other than him, I feel as though he distances himself from me. Is there a point when you know it’s over? How do I convince myself one way or the other? I still really care about him and I don’t want to bear the idea of losing him, but I am not convinced staying would be the most beneficial either. Any and all advice would be greatly appreciated.

    #284355

    Valora
    Participant

    Have you had a long conversation with your boyfriend about any of this? From what you’ve said, it doesn’t necessarily seem like you two are a bad match for each other, but it does sound like there is a communication breakdown.

    For example, that vacation you took with your brother… your boyfriend apparently expected you to contact him a certain amount and you contacted him a lesser amount but it was an amount that you felt was acceptable. I’m guessing you guys didn’t talk about your expectations for contact before you left, right? So you were both expecting different things. Neither of you were necessarily right or wrong there, it was just a communication breakdown.

    The same goes for the time spent with other people. He may be expecting one thing from you while that isn’t working for you but have you talked to him honestly and directly about your feelings and what you need? If not, let him know that you do need to spend time with other people, too, and that it’s nothing against him, it’s just healthy for people to have friend relationships outside of a romantic relationship and that is a need for yourself that you need to meet. He may be receptive to that. If that doesn’t work for him or it’s not something he can give you, then that’s an incompatibility, but it may just be another communication breakdown and he may be fine with you hanging out with others once he understands more by talking about it.

    So before you convince yourself one way or another, I’d talk to him about all of this. It’s definitely worth a shot if you really care about the relationship because that open and direct communication, laying out boundaries and spelling out each of your needs so that you clearly know what each person expects, might solve a lot of your issues with each other and get you back to really enjoying each other’s company more often. And if it doesn’t solve anything, then it’s more likely you’ll know you need to go your separate ways.

    #284357

    Mark
    Participant

    Lillian,

    I wonder why you two broke up the first time.  When you said you have been together for 3 years, was that after your first break up or did you break up sometime during those 3 years?  If so, then how long were you two not together before you came back together?

    In relationships, I learned that if I want an (emotionally & communicative) intimate, loving, understanding and kind relationship then there is no blame.  I use the Marshall Rosenberg Non-Violent Communication model (you can Google it) where we all have these set of Universal needs that we are each responsible to take care for ourselves.  Negative emotions come out of unmet needs.  And our partner is not responsible for meeting all or any of our needs especially when we done communicate and agree about it.

    Based on those premises, your boyfriend has this need for closeness and communication.  Using your weekend trip as an example, what he did not communicate to you (and you agreeing on) is how often, how much, what kind and when to have this communication.

    Plus it is important to know what each other’s Love Language is so that each of you can feel loved and know how to “give” love to the other in their Love Language.  You can Google that as well.  There are five of them.

    It appears that your boyfriend’s Love Language is Quality Time.  This is another topic for discussion and explicit agreement, i.e. agree how much is “enough” for him and when so that you don’t have to second guess about spending time with other people.  If you negotiate when are the best times for you two to spend Quality Time together then you should be able to be free to spend the rest of the time with other people and for other things.

    Make sense?

    Mark

     

     

    #284363

    Lillian
    Participant

    Hi Valora,

    Thank-you for your thoughtful response. We have had conversations in the past about wants and needs, but not necessarily about our boundaries. We did not have a discussion about our expectations before leaving for a vacation with my brother. I don’t know if we have had a truly honest conversation with each other about our expectations and needs in the relationship because both of us are scared of losing each other. I am scared if our wants and needs don’t match that we will lost our connection, something I am terribly afraid of. He has said before that he will never leave me, which in some ways is flattering and in others it’s scary. I am so afraid of losing him that I might have been tunnel visioning.

    It’s comforting to hear that we just need to have an honest conversation, no matter now much it hurts. I’ve been so busy convincing myself that we can meet in the middle on everything, including our needs, that I might be ignoring potential red flags between us. Thank-you for your advice. xxx

    #284367

    Mark
    Participant

    Lillian

    I find if I don’t feel safe enough to have such conversations then it’s a relationship that lacks the deep intimacy that I desire with a partner.

    Having a partner with whom you trust do you can risk at being vulnerable and honest is gold.

    Can you take the first step?  I would think after 3 years of being together gives both of you some foundation to do so.

    Mark

    #284369

    Lillian
    Participant

    Hi Mark,

    Sorry for not responding to your comment sooner. I see what you’re saying – this is my first long-term relationship so part of me is unsure as to whether or not the feelings of not being completely open and honest (even if it means we’re on different pages) is normal or not. It is great to hear your perspective on this. It is sad that we have not been able to be completely honest with each other, I guess the thought of losing one and other scares both of us. But as you say, this might indicate a lack of deep intimacy.

    In terms of your first post, we were together for about one year, apart for half of a year, then together for just under two years. When we were apart we noted communication problems as the concern and decided we would work on these things separately. As I look back, I now realize it was more than just communication, but also boundary setting, being honest about needs etc. I think we have both fallen into the trap of relying on the other person to meet our needs instead of meeting them ourselves, as you’ve pointed out in the Marshall Rosenberg Non-Violent Communication model. It seems because our needs were not communicated we have just come to expect certain things from each other even when the topic at hand has not been discussed.

    I looked up what you mean by Love Languages, and also find it interesting. I completely agree that his main love language is quality time. I would say that mine is as well, but likely just in differing amounts of time. This is something we will need to talk about to see if we can come to an agreement on.

    Thank-you very much for your helpful advice, I am truly grateful. xxx

     

    #284383

    Mark
    Participant

    Lilian,

    You are welcome.  I find that the “growth” of romantic relationships where we risk, where we practice being vulnerable, where we deal with our own personal baggage, where we learn how to communicate honestly, openly and compassionately.  It’s tough and scary.  I have used a counselor with my partner to help us along on this.  We all have our wounds and family-of-origin beliefs that don’t really serve a healthy relationship.

    I believe it is all about trust with each other and willing to be stretched to grow for yourself.  I think if my partner does not want to do the same then that’s a deal breaker.  I divorced because my wife was not willing to do that with me.  I found somebody who was willing to take that risk and step into her discomfort in order to co-create a better relationship.. with herself and with me.

    Mark

    #284409

    Valora
    Participant

    I don’t know if we have had a truly honest conversation with each other about our expectations and needs in the relationship because both of us are scared of losing each other. I am scared if our wants and needs don’t match that we will lost our connection, something I am terribly afraid of.

    You’re welcome!  I quoted that part of your post above because you said something VERY important. You aren’t having these honest conversations because you’re scared of losing each other, but the irony here is that NOT having these conversations will likely lead to you losing each other because your needs aren’t being met. This happened with my ex and I. We were so scared to talk to each other because we were afraid of either disappointing or losing the other one that eventually my ex got frustrated and started feeling like you are now, only he made the decision to leave without talking to me about how to resolve the feelings he was having first. So those conversations are so, so very important to have if you value your relationship and your boyfriend as a partner.

    So the good news is, at this point, you have nothing to lose really since you’ve already been considering a breakup… this conversation, though, might possibly prevent you from having to do the thing you’re scared of… you two may be able to find a solution where both of your needs are being met and then you both will naturally start feeling better by default, and if you can’t, find a solution, then you’ll know you’re not a match for each other, so you’ll have an answer to the question you posted here.

    Even if you can’t meet in the middle on absolutely everything, if you can both find a workable compromise, that’s still a positive thing.

    Good luck! I know these conversations can be daunting, but they are very worth it in the end.

    #284421

    anita
    Participant

    Dear Lillian:

    The two of you have been able to be “athletes at a high level” because you both keep your eyes wide open as you perform, seeing what is in front of you. For relationships to succeed, you also have to keep your eyes wide open, so to see what is happening.

    When you avoid “truly honest conversations with each other about .. expectations and needs in the relationship because both of (you) are scared of losing each other”, what the two of you are doing is closing your eyes and hoping it will turn out well. It won’t work if you want to function well as athletes and it will not work if you want to function well as partners in a relationship.

    That closing of the eyes in the context of the relationship is what you referred to as “tunnel visioning”.

    “I am scared.. I am terribly afraid… I am so afraid of losing him”- what is it that is so very scary for you?

    anita

     

    #284433

    Lillian
    Participant

    Mark,

    Thank-you for sharing your personal experiences. I am finding it difficult to be vulnerable, especially at this stage when I know our relationship might be on the line. We do have our differences but it seems, like you’ve mentioned, we need to trust each other and continue personal growth along our journeys. This is a conversation we will need to have in order to decide whether this relationship is better serving us both or not at all. Thank-you again. xxx

    #284435

    Lillian
    Participant

    Valora,

    I appreciate you sharing your personal experience as well, it sounds identical to mine currently. I guess I never looked at our situation in that light, I had always thought if we meet in the middle on our needs we will be able to make it work. It makes sense how this can lead to further disruption and a potential break in our relationship because we are both not getting what we need from the relationship. You’re absolutely right, a true and honest conversation can help us determine where we are as a couple and whether or not we can make it work. I wouldn’t want to leave him hanging, as it seems your partner did to you, without any direction or true discussion on our needs and how they’re not being met. Thank-you for your honest advice. I will talk with him this week. Although I am not looking forward to this difficult discussion, I now know it will be worth it in the end, no matter the outcome. xxx

    #284441

    Lillian
    Participant

    Anita,

    I like your metaphor, I think it works really well here. You’re absolutely right – we both keep our eyes open during our sport, but are going in blindfolded in our relationship. We are only seeing what we want to see and ignoring the negative or potentially negative qualities to keep us together, when this may or may not be the best thing for us.
    I am scared of losing him because we were friends before being in a relationship and I still think he is a wonderful person. When things are going well, they’re amazing. We think the same way, have the same interests, I just can’t imagine having these feelings with anyone else. I am scared of seeing him so often and having him look through me because we are no longer together. Because we will still see each other multiple times a week, this is definitely something I am not sure I would be able to handle well.

    #284455

    anita
    Participant

    Dear Lillian:

    By “not sure I would be able to handle well”, do you mean that you are afraid that your athletic performance will suffer as a result of the relationship ending, or are you afraid of becoming depressed and not being able to function in life otherwise-

    In other words, if the relationship with him ends, what are you afraid will happen?

    anita

    #284463

    Mark
    Participant

    Lillian

    I believe there are only two ways we choose to live or life; from fear or from love.

    I believe that if I “lose” someone then we were not really not meant to be together anyway.

    I think it’s a terrible way to live by being afraid.

    You can never lose what you don’t have on the first place.

    Mark

     

    #284465

    Lillian
    Participant

    Anita,

    Thank-you for asking the tough questions and making me reflect on my emotions and beliefs critically. Yes, I am afraid that my athletic performance will suffer because I would have to see my potential ex during training and at events. However, I am also scared of being alone and not being able to distance myself from his life. Our lives are so intertwined with athletics, and it’s not the best option for us (athletically) to change coaches. I’m scared of having to see him so often, watch him interact with our mutual friends positively, and keep going with my life pretending as though we were never together. After three years, I’m not sure how to be alone, especially because our social circles are almost identical. If it were possible to just cut off contact completely I think it would be easier for me to manage. I just know that’s not an option for us, and the thought of seeing him so often and knowing what he is up to in his life also scares me.

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