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Author Topic: Relationship Confusion, Please Help!!
pocket_mouse_531
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Hi, I want to ask some very serious questions about my four-year relationship with my current boyfriend, whom I'll call Michael for this conversation.

I have dated Michael since our freshman year in high school (I am currently a freshman in college). We were friends for three years and had massive crushes on one another before we finally got together. Even though we were just kids, we loved each other very much (or at least, as much as two teenagers can love each other).

The relationship was mainly problem-free until about two years into the relationship, when we were juniors in high school. I became friends with a boy whom I'll call Brandon, a sophomore. He had a girlfriend the same age as him whom I'll call Jenna. Now, at the time, both Brandon and I had eighth-period classes, so we had to stay in class until 3:30 every other afternoon. Jenna, Brandon's girlfriend, and my boyfriend Michael would wait together on those afternoons for Brandon and I to be done with class. Eventually, Michael and Jenna developed a good friendship.

At first I was fine with this friendship. However, one day I came out of class to find Jenna and another friend of hers, drawing on Michael's naked chest. This incident reminded me of my very first boyfriend and the way he used to blatantly and incessantly flirt with other girls in front of me. That incident ruined my confidence, self-esteem, and trust in guys. Seeing Michael allow Jenna to draw on his half-naked body brought all of these feelings rushing back to the surface. I cried and yelled and raged, telling him that if he ever showed that kind of flirty, preferential treatment to Jenna or any other girl that wasn't his girlfriend ever again, I would be done with the relationship. He promised me that he loved me and only me, and that they were just friends. After he apologized to me for doing it, I let the incident go and hoped that nothing more would go on.

However, other incidents did occur, which I shall number below:

1) For Jenna's birthday, rather than simply wishing her a happy birthday, as new friends normally do, Michael bought her a pair of $30 boots. I had to find out through a mutual friend of mine and Jenna's. I was devastated when I found out. Michael apologized yet again, said he only did that because he and Jenna were good friends, and swore to me that he loved only me. I forgave him.

2) Suspicious, I checked Michael's texts to Jenna one day, and found one that he had written to her that said something along the lines of, "Thanks for making today one of the best days of my life!" I was incredibly hurt by this and yelled at Michael for it, and he said to me that he didn't really mean it, that he only texted it because he'd had fun hanging out with Jenna and her friends and that it wasn't honestly as amazing as he'd made it out to be. He apologized again and I forgave him again, but my trust was completely shot.

Eventually, Michael's and Jenna's friendship became too much for me to handle because of my trust issues, and so, in order to preserve the relationship and prove to me that he loved me and only me, Michael allowed his friendship with Jenna to slowly fizzle. As of now, he has not spoken to her in six months. However, my trust issues still make it difficult for me to accept Michael being friends with other girls.

Fast forward to the end of our summer after senior year, when we were both going off to college. After many long, heart-to-heart talks, Michael and I decided we were going to give the long-distance thing a try (I go to school in California, he goes to school in Utah). Although we had our fights while we were apart, we still loved each other very much, and we really looked forward to spending time with each other during Thanksgiving.

When Thanksgiving rolled around, although I only got to spend two days with him, Michael and I had a great time. We spent Thanksgiving together, and then we spent another whole day together, going out and talking and laughing. The Thanksgiving break really solidified in my mind that we were going to be okay, that we would love each other forever. I was feeling on top of the world.

However, in the past two weeks, two major incidences have happened that have caused me to question my relationship with Michael and my feelings for him in general: the break-up of my good friend's engagement, and my recent appointment with my school's psychologist. I'll talk about each incident separately.

Incident #1: My good friend, whom I'll call Morgan, began dating a prospective U.S. Marine a year older than us named Robert during our junior year of high school. After they dated for a year, Robert proposed to Morgan and she said yes, even though he was to be stationed in New Orleans and she was going to college in northern California. However, Morgan recently called off not only her engagement to Robert, but her relationship with him altogether, citing the fact that they had grown apart as the problem. This incident literally terrified me, simply because the distance between Morgan and Robert seemed to be the cause of them growing apart. Similarly, because Michael and I are so far apart, I began to worry that we would soon meet the same fate.

Incident #2: This past Monday, I went to go see our school's psychologist for the first time. For most of my life I have struggled with severe anxiety, paranoia, and some mild depression. When I got to college, I decided that I'd put off getting proper help for too long, and so I chose to go see this therapist. What surprised me is that after the therapy session, I wasn't stuck thinking about what we'd literally discussed during the session--the crazy anxiety and paranoia I deal with when it comes to me achieving academically, my relationship with my first boyfriend and the emotional/sexual pain it brought me, my difficult and confusing relationship with my mother--but rather, I began to question whether or not I actually loved my boyfriend Michael anymore. The thought that I might not be in love with him frightened me more than anything in the world for reasons that I honestly cannot define or explain.

I began to ask everyone for advice: my good friend Morgan, my best friend (whom I'll call Anna), my younger brother, and my mom. Each of them gave me vastly different pieces of advice/wisdom. Every time one of them told me their thoughts on the matter, I found my feelings aligning with theirs (I am very easily influenced). However, I am still utterly confused as to my true feelings, and I want to sort them out as soon as possible. I am honestly unable to tell if my confused feelings are because I'm sincerely uncertain about whether or not I love my boyfriend anymore, or whether my severe anxiety and paranoia are causing me to worry even more than usual, now that I've made the choice to face these problems instead of avoiding them. I just want to know what exactly I feel.

I guess, basically, in a nutshell, I want to discuss the following questions:

1) Given the information about Michael's and Jenna's friendship, did I make a bad decision by continuing to be in a relationship with Michael, even though the way he treated his friendship with Jenna really hurt me? Should I have broken up with him two years ago? Should I break up with him now?

2) Is my confusion about my feelings occurring because I am honestly uncertain about my love for Michael, or is it because I'm finally trying to deal with my anxiety and because of that, I'm just projecting uncontrollable fear onto everything I hold most dear, including my relationship with Michael? I know it would be a good idea to get help from my school psychologist, and I already have an appointment scheduled for the week I get back to college (which is in three weeks). However, I really want to start figuring out these feelings right now, because I don't know how much longer I can live with this confusion anymore.

I am sorry the post is long!! Please help me!!

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Robin Lee
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HI There Pocket Mouse,

It's clear that you are struggling a lot here. Have you shared any of these struggles with Michael? IN other words, does he know that you're generally having a hard time right now?

You and Michael have known each other for a long time. It's natural that there would be fluctuations in the relationship, based not only on the fact that it's long-distance right now but because you and Michael, just by virtue of how long you've known each other, are, as individuals, different people than you were when you met.

Your question about whether you should have or should break up with Michael because of the friendship he had with Jenna is a difficult one to answer as there are a lot of red flags there. It sounds, quite frankly, like Michael has gotten a very clear message that he can't be friends with other girls, and I wouldn't be surprised if that has put a lot of strain on your relationship. Expecting a partner to not be friends with an entire group of people is a really tall order. So, I do think that that triggered some challenges in your relationship but I don't think that's specifically because of the nature of Michael's friendship with Jenna.

It sounds like you feel incredibly stressed by life right now. What do you think you need in order to feel less stressed? How do you feel about talking with Michael about how overwhelmed and anxious you are?

--------------------
Robin

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pocket_mouse_531
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Hi Robin,

Yes, I have discussed these issues with Michael. He does generally know that I'm going through a very difficult and confusing time right now. He has continuously told me to just give myself some time to figure it out, and that no matter what, he loves me.

I know I made it seem like I never wanted Michael to be friends with other girls. This is not the case, though! He still had other female friends in high school. My issue was just the preferential way he treated Jenna. Is there a different way I ought to have communicated that? Or am I being unreasonable?

I'm not really sure exactly what I need in order to feel less stressed. I am going to see a psychologist, but they are at my university, so I won't have another appointment for three more weeks. I have talked to Michael about how overwhelmed and anxious I am, but as I don't understand where this is coming from or how to deal with it myself, I have a hard time truly explaining the whole thing to him.

What I really need for right now is just some insight into what exactly is the cause of these recent feelings. Is it that I honestly don't love Michael anymore? Or is it that my anxiety and paranoia, because I'm now forcing myself to deal with them, are manifesting all over the place in my life?

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Heather
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Hey, pocketmouse.

Personally, based on what you've posted, I read you describing a close friendship between Michael and Jenna, one that doesn't sound any different from other close friendships people will tend to have. In other words, for example, this sounds like some of the ways I engage with my own best friend (gifts, expressions of having a great day when we spend time together, some physical closeness, etc.)

So, I can see that this triggered some insecurities for you, but I'm not seeing where he did anything wrong there, nor am I getting, honestly, why he agreed to end a friendship it sounded like was a pretty good one, or why you asked for that, versus doing your own work with the feelings you were having, if you follow me.

That said, I'm not sure if this past issue is really all that relevant to figuring out how you feel about this person now. If I'm missing something, or for you, it feels like this stuff with his friendship really plays a big part in your feelings about him now, let me know.

Our feelings, any feelings we have in life, don't tend to stay static over time. Same goes with our feelings in and about relationships. How we felt in the first months or even years of dating someone often won't be how we feel years down the road, because we all grow and change, and so, so do our relationships.

Is this a relationship you feel like you still want to stay in as it is? Just gut-feeling answers with that one, if you will, so maybe we have a more clear place to start.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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pocket_mouse_531
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I didn't ask him to end the friendship, I asked him to not be act in such a way that was perceived as flirty and preferential. He let the friendship fizzle of his own volition.

The thing that upset me about the friendship between Michael and Jenna was that it wasn't just that I had my own insecurities about it; other people were suspicious of how close they were. I had a couple of people in Jenna's grade come up to me and ask me if Michael and I were okay, because they'd seen Michael spending so much time with Jenna. It made me incredibly uncomfortable.

As an answer to your last question, I'm honestly not sure if I want to stay in the relationship as it is. I love Michael very much and I don't think I want to lose him as a boyfriend. But for whatever reason, I'm getting these weird feelings that I can't deduce. Can you maybe help me deduce them?

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Robin Lee
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So, what are these weird feelings?

How are things with you and Michael right now? What things are happening in the relationship that are making you have weird feelings?

Also, what, if anything, have you shared with Michael about the struggles you're having right now generally?

--------------------
Robin

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pocket_mouse_531
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Hi Robin,

That's the problem! I honestly can't tell what exactly it is that I am feeling.

For example, I will ask different people for advice about my relationship, and each time they give me advice, I will feel my thoughts lining up with theirs because I am very easily influenced. For a while, I'll feel secure in these thoughts, like I have a plan. But then I will start to feel uneasy, but I am not sure why, or what the uneasiness is about.

Also, when I spend time with Michael now, when we're together, I'm fine for almost all of the time, though occasionally I've felt a twinge of that same uneasiness. Most of the time, though, I'm perfectly fine and having a good time. However, after he leaves and we aren't with each other physically anymore, the uneasiness comes back.

What does this mean? I honestly don't understand.

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Robin Lee
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Hmm...what I hear from this is that you're ambivalent about this relationship.

Let's try this: How would you feel if the relationship ended right now?

Also, I'm wondering if it would be helpful to you to stop asking people for advice and talk instead to people who are going to help you figure out what you want for yourself? Will you be seeing the psychologist again soon? Sounds like this might be something helpful to bring up with them as well.

--------------------
Robin

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pocket_mouse_531
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Hi! Sorry I haven't posted back in a while, I got kind of busy with some work.

I should let you know that since your last reply, I hung out with Michael a couple of times: once when he was pretty sick (to take care of him), and another to have a laid-back movie night at his house.

During the time I went to his house to take care of him, I thought about something. There were definitely other potential things I could have done that day, and yet, I chose to go to Michael's house and take care of him. I didn't feel obliged to do it, and I didn't feel guilty. I did it because (unless I'm wrong and confused about myself still) I care for and love Michael very much. Does that seem reasonable? Or do you think I did this for another reason? Should I even be asking this question?

To answer your question about how I would feel if the relationship ended right now...honestly, I would feel very lonely. Michael, in addition to being my boyfriend, is truly my best friend. We have the greatest fun together, and I can be completely myself around him. He is the only person in my life who has never called me "weird" or "strange." He just takes me as I am. I can't tell you how wonderful it is to be loved in that way. I would miss the way he makes me feel about myself: intelligent, fun, fascinating, beautiful. Nobody else has ever made me feel that way about myself.

I feel like honestly, the problem is me. I feel like I have an anxiety problem that overwhelms me sometimes and gets in the way of things. But I can't be sure. I guess I just wish that I was sure.

I will see the psychologist again when I go back to school, so in approximately two more weeks.

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pocket_mouse_531
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Anyone there?
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Onionpie
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Hi pocket_mouse, sorry this got overlooked!

I don't think there's any way for US to know why you went to look after Michael -- that's only something YOU will ever know for yourself. I think it'd be reasonable to say that if you decided to spend the day looking after him instead of doing something more fun, you do care about him. However, we can care about people but not be a good fit romantic-monogamous-relationship-wise anyway. So what, do you think, this situation you described signifies about your feelings? As in, why did you mention it -- do you feel that it gives you some more clarity about the way you feel about him or this relationship, or do you think it confuses your feelings more, or what?

It's always very hard when our partner is also our best friend but we're feeling like the romantic relationship might not be the best fit for us. However, I think that if you two are good for each other in a platonic friendship, you will still be able to maintain one if you were to break up. I mean, you'll have to take some time to heal and move on, but I think that if we really are good friends with a partner, we could still be good friends with them after the nature of the relationship has shifted. What do you think about that? What are your thoughts on how that would go between you and Michael?

I notice you say a lot about the way he makes you feel about yourself. Do you feel these things about yourself without him/did you feel that way about yourself before you were in a relationship with him? If not, do you believe that you COULD feel that way about yourself without having anyone to "make" you feel that way? Do you feel that you get your self-esteem and self-worth from being loved by someone else, or do you feel that your self-esteem is pretty solid and comes from inside of you? In other words, do you feel that your self-esteem mostly comes from external sources (like other people liking or loving you, saying nice things about you, etc), or from internal (you thinking nice things about yourself, cheering yourself on, etc)?

[ 12-27-2012, 08:20 PM: Message edited by: Onionpie ]

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pocket_mouse_531
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Hi Onionpie!

I think that my self-esteem comes from a mix of both external and internal sources. Internally, I'm proud of myself for a lot of things (I know I'm smart, I know I do well in school, I know I'm quite capable at writing, acting, and singing). But yeah, that external boost certainly exists as well (I get this from my family, friends, and Michael as well).

Also, to talk about my friendship with Michael...we honestly became closer after we started dating. We were good friends before, but we also both had crazy crushes on each other, so there wasn't a whole lot of time where we saw each other as "just friends." I don't think I could ever see him as just a friend.

I'm not sure if I could feel that way about myself without anybody making me feel that way, because even before Michael, my parents would always tell me that I was smart, or talented, or beautiful, or whatever. I just really enjoy the fact that it's Michael who sees these things in me. Like, I have other guy friends that have told me I'm talented and smart and whatnot, and that's very nice of them. But I am honestly the happiest when Michael tells me those things.

It's more than just the things he makes me feel about myself though. We have such a fun relationship. Even though we've had a lot of hard times, he always makes me laugh, and he's always there to cheer me up. And I have always wanted to be there for him. We've grown up together.

I'm pretty sure I still want to be with Michael in a romantic way. I love this boy. I'm a silly teenager, sure, but I love this boy.

I just feel like we're going through a hard time. But then I wonder if maybe I'm just tricking myself? I'm so confused.

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Robin Lee
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i'm not really clear on what the hard time is that you're going through right now. You voice that you're feeling worried and anxious, but I'm unclear about whether there are concrete things with the relationship that are prompting this or if it's more about how you're feeling. Both are okay, I just don't know which it is or whether it's both.

Does Michael know that you're feeling worried and confused right now? Have the two of you checked in with each other about how the relationship has been going? If not, that might be a good place to start, so you can both share the positives and negatives you're feeling right now. Relationship check-ins can be really helpful.

--------------------
Robin

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pocket_mouse_531
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To be honest, I'm not really sure which it is either! Sometimes I get the feeling that something might be wrong with our relationship, and sometimes I get the feeling that I'm just personally going through a rough time. I feel like I often make my confusion blend into my relationship, but I honestly have no idea.

Yes, Michael does know that I'm feeling worried and confused right now. We have checked in, and for the most part, everything seems to be fine between us. That's what makes me think that this could all just be my anxiety and paranoia catching up with me. But I really don't know and that makes me even more anxious/paranoid.

What would you suggest I do? Are there certain questions I can ask myself and Michael to find out whether the problem is our relationship or me?

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pocket_mouse_531
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Anyone there?
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pocket_mouse_531
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Anyone there?
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Robin Lee
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When you say that things seem to be fine for the most part, are there any sticky points between the two of you?

If this turns out to be more about you personally than about the relationship, what do you feel like you would need in order to feel more settled and less anxious?

This may just take some time to figure out. Have you been able to see your counsellor again?

[ 01-09-2013, 06:27 AM: Message edited by: Robin Lee ]

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Robin

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