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Author Topic: Out of a long-term relationship that was driving me crazy
Dawolf
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Hello there.

I broke up with my girlfriend of five years almost three months ago, I just can't get it out of my mind and I was wondering if someone here could answer my questions, or give me some tips or something. (Watch out, this is going to be a *long* post...)

Mostly, I was absolutely exhausted, both physically and emotionnally. In the last year, my girlfriend had started doing very passive-aggressive and controlling things. For example: telling me that I was wrong and clumsy and and arrogant about everything. That nobody else would be able to put up with me and nobody else would love me as much as her. That I was a bad boyfriend because it wasn't "special" every them we saw each other. That I was antisocial and very not charismatic because I wasn't any fun with her friends (while I am not the most social person ever, I do have a good circle of friends, and I tried to avoid most of her friend because they were gossiping b*****s who had stated outright that they didn't like me because I wasn't one of the "cool" guys). That I shouldn't spend time with my friends because they were "weird" and "didn't help me in my life" (her words, not mine, I certainly wouldn't hold my friends responsible for my decisions in life). And so on and so forth. It... took me by surprise, to say the least. Not to say that these things had never happened at all before, but I was able to speak with her about it and we managed to get over it. This time, it was different. When I tried bringing up these things, she did *everything* she could to avoid the subject, from "You don't love me anymore" kinds of guilt trips to "You're insane and you're always inventing problems" rants. It didn't help that, at the time, I was growing apart from one of my best friend (who was also my business associate, so it caused its share of problem) and wasn't very emotionaly stable. There were days when I just needed to cut myself off from the rest of the world because all the things in my life were too much for me to handle, and my girlfriend certainly didn't know how to handle it either. But, most of all, I was tired of having to grovel before her parents like I was a naughty puppy.

Her parents. They were ultra-conservative, racist (they were "good" Vietnamese and I was a "lazy white" -- they never said outright to me face, mind you -- though they did voice that kind of "concerns" to my girlfriend once -- but it certainly felt that way), selfish control freaks. They didn't want us to be together in the first place. I managed to force them to accept it by officially asking her father the permission to go out with his daughter, as I was demanding her in marriage -- I realised later that to them I wasn't "mindful of their sensibilities and giving them a chance to discuss it like mature adults", like I thought I was doing, no. They were of a peculiar mindset where appearances and ritual were everything and, when I asked them outright, almost officially, they couldn't say no. It was too much for them. So when I thought I was being sensible and mature, they thought of me as that little bastard who forced them to accept them something they didn't want to in the first place. And now that I had bestowed upon me the "incredible favor of letting me go out with their daughter" (and that's only slightly sarcastic -- to them it *was* indeed an incredible favor they were doing me), now, they had a right to decide what was my life and our relationship going to be. And boy, did they try to do just that. Mind you, when I started dating with my girlfriend, we were 16, so I can undestand some amount of reluctance in the beginning. However, it started being a problem when we reached adulthood. They tried to have a say in *everything* my girlfriend and I decided together, often trying to sway her opinion in the exact opposite direction of what we had agreed. And, unfortunately, sometimes they succeeded.

This is something that has always disturbed me greatly, I must say, how easily they were able to make my girlfriend say the exact opposite of what she was saying the day before. It is my understanding that they were *extremely* emotionnaly abusive towards her. They were always undermining her self-esteem, telling her that she was good for nothing and lazy -- which she certainly wasn't, she was one of the most dedicated and hard-working person I've encountered -- while they were themselves idiots who couldn't properly handle their money and made their daughters suffer from it -- they lived in a huge (and most certainly *very* expensive) house, the father bought a new TV and computers every few years and the like, but they didn't heat during winter unless it was absolutely necessary, and they sometimes kept rotten food because "it costs less this way", yet they had the gall to question our own, *my* own sense of priorities and lecture my girlfriend on how immature she was. Hell, sometimes, they threatened her to throw her out to the streets and let her starve, usually just because we wanted to have a bit of time together. Then the day after they bought her expensive gifts, "to show her that they care about her". And so on and so forth.

They were insane. It was insane. It became a living hell. I already had lots of problems with my own parents, so the problems kind of multiplied together. I felt like I was being starved emotionnally, and on purpose, to make sure that I would stay more obedient, because the reward for compliance was us being able to spend a few hours together without them trying to break her down afterwards. Our relationship was held hostage to their madness. I felt trapped and increasingly restless. That's not to say we didn't do anything, though. For years, we planned to live together as soon as I would have finished college and got a job. I worked tirelessly and last year, I attained it. I was terribly exhausted -- and I'm not kidding, I ended up in the hospital a few times because I fell unconscious out of lack of rest -- but happy: I had made it and it was soon going to be over once and for all.

Except it didn't end. When it became at last possible for me and my girlfriend to live together, she started backing off. She even went as far as accusing me of trying to control her life, which completely baffled me. The things she said started mirroring what her parents said, words for words. I talked with some of our common friends, and learned that they had been increasingly trying to convince her that it wasn't a good idea to move with me, even though I was now absolutely independant. I didn't quite understand why she didn't want to go through with it -- we had dreamed of it for so long, and now it was finally at hand! Or rather, I sort of understood: they had made it clear that once she left their house, she was on her own, and added to that a few threats that we would soon be starving, which was a complete lie but it seemed their grip over her was strong enough for her to believe them. Basically, they gave her a choice: living with me, starving and eventually dying after living in poverty and misery, or live with them and be safe. There was no compromise. I tried to talk with them about it, as diplomatically as I was able to, and they made it clear that they were right and I was wrong and that I didn't have a word to say in it, and that what they wanted for her was best because they said so. All the while telling me that "if I truly loved her, then I could wait".

I was devastated, angry and confused. I felt betrayed too, by the girl whom I loved, because not only she didn't want to live with me anymore, but she had changed, she was always saying hurtful things at me, telling me that I was crazy and that I had a mental disease and that I scared her and so many more things that she had never told me before. I couldn't speak with her anymore to clear up these issues, because she would get angry and refuse to speak with me for days. It was maddening. Add to that the fact that I was recently out of a 10-years-long ordeal with my own crazy parents (which is another whole story in itslef), that I had grown apart from my best friend with whom I was also trying to start a business at the time and... well... let's just say that I wasn't very stable either, which just compounded the problem. I'm very ashamed of how hard it was for me to get a grip on myself and manage all the anger and still be loving and caring, of how often I failed to be strong but, it was inhumane. I'm not even sure (nor any of my friends or family) how I was able to last that long. It was hell. I was losing myself, I was losing the one person I cared about so much, my whole world was coming crashing down, worn down by the endless assaults of insane parents, hers and mine, and *why*? I don't know. I don't understand. I'm not sure I'll ever really understand and that hurts.

Eventually, after speaking about it for weeks with my friends and my sister, I finally decided to make a clean break, especially since we were close to getting physically abusive to one another. She shoved me to the ground once, and I came extremely close to losing it and hitting her. I felt sick for days afterwards and I hated myself so much. So I finally gathered the courage to end it, with the resolution that it was for good -- else, I would be tempted to go back and risk it happening again, which I couldn't bear. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do, ever. I didn't want to end it, I truly loved her, but I felt it was necessary. It was the right decision, too.

Since then, in some ways, I have felt *liberated*, as though a huge load had been taken off my shoulders. I feel as if I have finally found myself back, and that is worth it all. However, I still have some problems now. First, I feel very guilty, because I know I have hurt her, willingly, and because I feel that I have abandoned her to her crazy parents. That's a bit irrational, because, well, I do know that it was her decision to not go through with our plans and back off because of her parents, and it was her too who said and did all the things that hurt me so much, and told me I was "inventing problems" and that "everything was fine and I was crazy", to boot. But it hurts. What hurts more is the fact that she keeps trying to call me and, while I've now made sure it would be close for her to contact me (something which makes me feel guilty too, it seems cruel to deny her that, but it *is* necessary for myself), but the last time I've spoke with her, she had told me that she would come and live with me, right now, if I asked her to. And it hurts, because I find that it is something I don't want anymore. Not now. Not like this. It's like something inside me has been broken, like I've suffered so much that I've reached some kind of point of no return. I can't go back now. It took me so much energy to decide to leave, my instinct tells me that it would be insanely dangerous for me to go back now. I wouldn't heal. I'm pretty sure she would resent me for "putting her through that" (her exact words). I'm scared to fall back in the same patterns all over again, to not be able to set healthy boundaries and have the strength to make sure other will respect them, if I don't do this by myself. And, well, her parents won't disappear.

I just want to be both truly free and happy, for once. For the first time in my life, in fact. That would be nice, I think. I don't want to go back to all the insanity. I just want to be able to move on with my life, all by myself, without having to look back, nor to live my life for someone else, and I'm not quite sure of where to start. I also miss the physical and emotional intimacy quite a lot -- there were a lot of good times, after all, before it all went to hell, and I miss that. It's a good thing I have good friends with whom I can spend a lot of time -- they seem quite happy about it, too! And I wish to encounter new people, do new things, try a different kind of relationship. But I'm... scared senseless of it happening all over again. For example, there is that sweet girl whom I have known for quite some time. I wish I would be able to try and discover something new with her -- not necessarily romantic, mind you, just a new way to experience relationships, or, well, I don't quite know how to say it. Rigth now, it's nothing that serious, anyway, and I feel it wouldn't be a good idea to try anything until my mind has cleared up some more. But, well, I've learned recently that her mother is very religious and, let's say "quite present in her life", and that she herself is quite a religious person (while I am absolutely not religious at all) and, for some reason, that scared me and put me off, and it's bothering me. I mean, she is still the same sweet and friendly girl, and her religious beliefs and parents shouldn't have anything do with it -- they didn't matter before, why now? --, but for some reason it does. It's as if all my bad experiences with authority figures (and I had a *lot* of those over the course of my life) had finally left their mark on me, and I'm not sure what to do with that.

In fact, I'm not sure what to do at all, right now. I wish to discover new things, to experience what it is to encounter and have relationships with other people, to find out what I truly like and who I truly am and to do things in a better and more respectful way to myself and others. I also want to heal fully emotionnaly and I would like to be able to experience again physical and emotional closeness, even casually, in a respectful way -- I have to say that I miss sex, I miss the feelings that come with intimacy, care and love, but I certainly wouldn't want to make others suffer for it. It's not like I *need* those things either but, well, I really *like* sensual, emotional and intellectual pleasure and it doesn't seem wrong to me to seek these things, as long as it's not detrimental to myself or others.

I just don't know where to start.

Anyway, I know that post was way too long but, even if nobody answers, now I realise that it feels good to be able to put all these thoughts down and look at them like this. It makes them seem less crazy and scary, and that's already something.

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Heather
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It sounds to me like you made a very good choice, and one very much in the interest of your own well-being and healthy relationships, in ending this relationship.

By all means, I see a lot of emotionally and verbally abusive dynamics in what you've written about here (and it also seems like she learned a lot of them from her folks, which is pretty typical).

Five years is a long time, so any breakup with a relationship that long is likely to be huge to deal with, and all the more with these kinds of dynamics.

So, how can we help beyond reading and listening? It sounds like you're saying you feel ready to start dating again, but are nervous about winding up in another relationship like this, is that correct? My suggestion per that would be to either get some counseling or maybe do some reading on these kinds of dynamics (I'd be glad to make some book suggestions), and also just to start dating relationships slowly.

It also sounds like you might be saying what you'd prefer right now is a casual sexual relationship, rather than a romance, but have concerns about that, too. Is that right? Do you want to talk more about what your worries are with dating or with pursuing more casual relationships for now?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Dawolf
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Thanks for the reply.

First, I feel a bit silly for asking this, but I would like to have your honest opinion on this: did I do the right thing by refusing to go back with her and cutting off all contacts, even though she was essentially promising me everything I was wishing for? This site being what it is and the relationship being what it was, I'm pretty sure of what the answer is going to be but, either way, I have the feeling that being able to read an answer written black-on-white by someone with much more experience than myself in these matters would really help me focus and be more at peace with my own decision.

That being said, yes, I am scared of finding myself again in such a relationship. I'm (very) slowly working through it all, but right now I'm still building back my own self-esteem and confidence, which isn't the easiest thing ever after what I've gone through. I would be glad to have your book suggestions.

You know, I've stumbled upon an interesting thought in another forum recently: "Trusting others is not so much about them than about the self. After all, one can never know with absolute certainty what others are going to do. Rather, trust in others is really an extension of trust in oneself, in our own capacity to be able to deal properly with whatever other people will throw our way." I find that this is very true, in many ways. Of course, in my opinion, it doesn't mean that one should be open and trusting to everyone -- some people just aren't worth the trouble and the risks. But I do feel it is relevant to my current situation and fears. As such, I think it would help me very much if I could feel at least somewhat prepared to deal with such relationships as the one I've recently ended -- if I could have a better idea about what to do if I find myself again in such a situation.

For example, let's imagine for a moment that I get involved with my sweet friend which I was talking about and with whom I very much enjoy spending time. I now know that I'll have to clearly set where my boundaries are in future relationships, and not back up on them. However, what could/should I do if her parents or religious beliefs get in the way of our relationship? I'm using these two things as an example because they are things that are, in my experience, both immutable and uncompromising. Parents are... well, parents, with all the power their role entails. Religious beliefs are usually pretty much impossible to argue with on a rational basis. I now have a better idea of what my own limits are, and I know it's not my place to change others, but I'm feeling a bit confused as to how I'm supposed to deal with that kind of things when they create seemingly unresolvable conflicts. Any thoughts about that would be very appreciated.

Finally, about dating. First, I'm not really sure about what I want right now, beyond something, how shall I say, less dramatic, less central to my life -- which is why I was putting so much emphasis on wanting to experiment new things. However, how does one go about it, in practical terms? For some reason, I can hardly imagine myself approaching someone and telling her out of nowhere "Hey, want to date casually?"... I don't have any experience about these things beyond my previous relationship and, being past the whole high-school-drama-stuff, I just don't really know how to go about it. Also, I'm a bit fuzzy on what "casual" is supposed to entail, exactly. I mean, what's usually considered the difference between "casual" and "serious"? I'm asking this because I think it will give me a starting point on what I want and what to do about it all. I want to be able to express these thoughts and needs of mine clearly, so as to feel more confident in my decisions, and avoid possible misunderstandings with others about these.

I think that pretty much sums it up for now. Thanks for your time and support.

[ 03-30-2009, 09:08 AM: Message edited by: Dawolf ]

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Heather
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I do think you did the right thing, but since "right" is something very individual, I'd also say you did the thing that seems to me to be best per getting away from an unhealthy relationship.

And someone who has been abusive will nearly always promise to change their behaviour when the person they have been mistreating is leaving or gone: that doesn't mean a change will ever happen. It just tends to work to say that to keep someone around.

I'm unfortunately having to run out shortly, but I'll pop back to your thread tomorrow to give you some books and address the rest of what you've said here. I just wanted to be sure to take a minute to honor your request to have your decision validated by someone else.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Heather
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Sorry for the day's delay DaWolf.

Per books, what I'd suggest to you are The Emotionally Abusive Relationship: How to Stop Being Abused and How to Stop Abusing by Beverly Engel, Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You by Susan Forward and Donna Frazier and
The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to Recognize it and How to Respond by Patricia Evans.

I think reading one or all of those books will make you feel a bit better per recognizing these patterns more, and thus, hopefully make you feel more able to avoid these kinds of relationships in the future.

In terms of you asking what you'd do if parents or religious beliefs became conflicts in a relationship, I think the issue wasn't those conflicts, it's how they were handled. In other words, you well might have those issues sometime again in a relationship, but in a healthy relationship, everyone involved can work through them in a way that isn't emotionally abusive.

Per how to date, it's really just a matter of buidling something over time. You like someone, you talk to them a bit where you've met them. When you want to spend more time with them, you ask them out to coffee or a movie or dinner or to hang out with you and friends. When you do that a few times, if you're both feeling chemistry, you see how that goes, and when you're around there, that's the kind of point where you can talk about what you're interested in and up for per an ongoing relationship. If, say, you know you don't want to move towards something live-in for a while in your life, or something where families are involved, you just say that, perhaps talking about why. Bear in mind that sometimes you'll be saying this stuff to someone who wants the same things, and other times to someone who won't. Either way, it's okay.

quote:
I mean, what's usually considered the difference between "casual" and "serious"
I tend to think that's somewhat arbitrary and pretty individual. In other words, I don't think there are any solid, unilateral definitions of these. So, perhaps we can just talk about what YOU do or don't feel like you'd want right now to find your definitions?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Dawolf
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Thanks.

It's a great relief to know that it was not crazy or selfish of me to want to trust my own feelings and walk away. Having someone with experience tell me this makes me feel much better about myself and my decision.

I'm used to making big decisions all by myself -- for many years I had to make do with close to no support from anyone -- but always having to rely only on myself against seemingly impossible odds while being told by people whom I trusted that I was wrong did take its toll on me eventually, to the point that I was beginning to question the sanity, validity, even reality of my own thoughts and feelings. It's only relatively recently that I've been able to make good friends and have a meaningful relationship with my siblings. Before that, I was completely on my own. I couldn't even count on therapists -- the ones whom I could see were a bunch of sick idiots, who told me various extremely stupid things like "I can't do anything about your situation, why did you come here?", "You're a manipulator, you're the one who is abusing others and it's time for you to change." and even "You're going to be abused all your life, so you better get used to it now."! Out of five different therapists, only one truly listened to me and tried to helped me -- and then for various reasons I wasn't able to see her anymore -- hell, I felt so hopeless that I didn't really care anymore anyway.

It's a good thing I have such a strong sense of individuality. All things considered, I think I've done alright. I've managed to preserve my own sanity and I was able to walk away before losing myself and accepting the cycle of abuse, that's got to count for something.

Anyway, thanks again, I'm looking forward to your suggestions.

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Heather
Executive Director & Founder
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quote:
I've managed to preserve my own sanity and I was able to walk away before losing myself and accepting the cycle of abuse, that's got to count for something.
That counts for more than something, I'd say. That is often very hard for people to do, and many are not able to do it.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Dawolf
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quote:
Per books, what I'd suggest to you are The Emotionally Abusive Relationship: How to Stop Being Abused and How to Stop Abusing by Beverly Engel, Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You by Susan Forward and Donna Frazier and
The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to Recognize it and How to Respond by Patricia Evans.

I think reading one or all of those books will make you feel a bit better per recognizing these patterns more, and thus, hopefully make you feel more able to avoid these kinds of relationships in the future.

Thanks, I'll get my hands on them and see what I can learn. I think it will help me a lot not to be afraid of relationships if I can feel that I have some measure of preparation.

quote:
In terms of you asking what you'd do if parents or religious beliefs became conflicts in a relationship, I think the issue wasn't those conflicts, it's how they were handled. In other words, you well might have those issues sometime again in a relationship, but in a healthy relationship, everyone involved can work through them in a way that isn't emotionally abusive.
Hmm, I guess you're right about that. I think I'll have to remind myself that these things are not inherently problematic and that they don't usually define someone. After all, when I think about my friend, the first thing that comes to mind is not her faith or her family, but the fact that I feel good around her, that we can have both serious and civilized discussions together and accept each other's opinion even when we disagree, that I enjoy doing things with her and that she certainly seems to enjoy being with me too. I guess I'll have to write myself a note or something to make sure I don't forget that.

quote:
Per how to date, it's really just a matter of buidling something over time. You like someone, you talk to them a bit where you've met them. When you want to spend more time with them, you ask them out to coffee or a movie or dinner or to hang out with you and friends. When you do that a few times, if you're both feeling chemistry, you see how that goes, and when you're around there, that's the kind of point where you can talk about what you're interested in and up for per an ongoing relationship. If, say, you know you don't want to move towards something live-in for a while in your life, or something where families are involved, you just say that, perhaps talking about why. Bear in mind that sometimes you'll be saying this stuff to someone who wants the same things, and other times to someone who won't. Either way, it's okay.
You know, you make all that sound so much simpler than what we're told usually. So many people tend to suscribe to the idea that dating is all about playing some kind of mind-games, that it is some kind of hunt, that friends and lovers are "fish" to be "caught", that it then seems to become overly complicated to connect with people, with "rules" and "tricks" and whatever idiocy the pop-pseudo-pshychology magazines can come up with.

Now that I think about it, I've been doing pretty much exactly what you're saying. Huh. Guess I'll try and keep doing things the way I've been doing them, and see how that works out.

quote:
I tend to think that's somewhat arbitrary and pretty individual. In other words, I don't think there are any solid, unilateral definitions of these. So, perhaps we can just talk about what YOU do or don't feel like you'd want right now to find your definitions?
Sounds good to me. Well, I've thought a lot about it these last few days and so far I've come up with this: for now, I want something somewhat more intimate than platonic friendship, but nothing life changing. I just want to be with someone whom I can trust and with whom I can talk, have fun, share ideas both serious and not serious. I would also like to experience some measure of emotional and physical intimacy -- I'm not looking for a sexual relationship -- though I'm pretty sure I will start looking for that too eventually -- but for now, even just being able to comfortably share a hug with someone whom I care about would mean a lot to me.

And I want to be able to experience all that without fear. No power games. No control. Not having to answer to somebody else for what I do, who I see or how I spend my time. No jealousy. No more insults. No more telling me that I'm ugly, clumsy, stupid, crazy or worthless. Not ever again. No temper tantrums, either. I can certainly handle rational discussions and some measure of emotivity when it come to resolving conflicts, but I don't want to feel like I'm walking on eggshells and dealing with someone who has the maturity of a five year old.

Hmm, now that I think about it, maybe I can say it all like this: I wish to find an *equal*. I'm an adult now, I've been for quite some time and I've made it through it all pretty well, in the end. I don't want someone who think they need to replace my mother or that they know better than myself what I need. I want to find someone, not who thinks the same way as I do on everything (that would be seriously boring anyway), but who is mature enough to handle her own life herself, who will trust me to do the same, and with whom I will be able to share thoughts and idea, fun times and a measure of intimacy along the way. I guess that's really it. I don't want to cohabit or start a family with someone for now, I don't want other people to get involved in it, I don't want useless drama, I don't want to have to make huge decision which will course the change of my life, I don't want to have to stop seeing my friends or stop working on the projects which are so important to me and I don't want to feel like it has to be a life-long commitment, as if it was my responsibility to restrict my own freedom and feelings. In the end, I want to live and let live, have fun, love, share and be able to make the most of it all.

Heh. I guess I do know what I want, after all (I've thought *a lot* about it too, I must say). I think I'll have to take that a day at a time for now though because, reading back what I've just written, that seems like a lot to me to search for. Someone with whom I'll be able to share so much and yet who will be able to understand and respect my profound need for freedom -- because it is precisely that freedom that makes me who I am -- you don't meet people like that everyday, to say the least.

Yeah, that would be real nice. For once, I'll believe that it's not too much to ask for.

Alright, I think I'll start by building back my confidence and courage and then try to see if something like that could be possible with my friend -- and I'll go at it slowly and as simply as possible. If it doesn't work out, then I guess that means I'll have to find some ways to meet new people, but I'll see there and then. Until then, I guess I'll have to trust myself to do be able to do what's right, learn not to stress over it all, and, most of all, enjoy the ride.

Any further words of advice, caution or encouragement you might have would be very much appreciated. You've been a great help so far and I'm glad I've found this site -- I've read a few articles too besides surfing on the forums, and I must say that they are really informative and useful. This is truly a great site, and I think it would deserve to be better known.

[ 04-01-2009, 11:13 AM: Message edited by: Dawolf ]

Posts: 5 | From: Québec, Canada | Registered: Mar 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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