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Author Topic: Broken?
Elemint
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I'm 20 and have been going out with my girlfriend for a year and a half. We're both in college so it's a long distance thing and we see each other when we can. I haven't really gone out with many girls before, all mostly short lived. The girl I'm seeing now seems to get me a lot more than others have but moves very quickly emotionally. I didn't say the whole "I love you" thing for a long time and the first time was kind of guilt tripped into it. I've never really been in a relationship for a long period of time so I just didn't have anything to really compare it to. Sometimes I feel it, sometimes having to say "I love you too" makes me feel very awkward. I really have no one to talk to these things about, and have plenty of other things on my mind trying to afford college and other bills. Sexually, we talk a lot about it and do the long distance thing but when we do see each other I get extremely nervous about it, even though on some level I do want to do those things. The idea of being that open with someone is a bit unnerving. I was raised by a single mother so I really don't want to do anything at all to offend a girl, in any way. Most of the time, I end up doing nothing sexually for fear of offending my girlfriends, or doing something wrong to make them feel badly, even when they've said they want to. It's safe to say I'm a late bloomer in the whole sexual area and since we are both virgins, I sometimes feel even more confused as to how to behave. I guess, as far as a question goes, can anyone offer any advice or has anyone else gone through something similar? I sometimes feel like I'm having my first relationship at 20 when other friends have had them when they were much younger in high school and that I'm not moving whether it be emotionally or sexually, at the speed I should be or that other people may expect of me, which they sometimes interpret as me not being interested.

Thanks for any thoughts.

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alex dubya
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Hey there,

I'm not an expert at relationship advice or anything, but you should know that what you're feeling is normal. It doesn't make you weird or behind the curve if you feel a little unsure in your first relationship. Regardless of what age you are, it's new and unfamiliar territory.
You should try not to gauge it based on your perceptions of what 'should' be happening or not- relationships are about the people in them and what they want, not what everyone else seems to be doing in theirs.

In terms of you and your girlfriend, I feel like the best advice is that communication is key.
Have you talked to her at all about how you're feeling pressured, or how you're feeling confused about what's expected of you? I know the prospect of having a realtalk like that is scary, but having open discussions shows that you care and willing to make yourself vulnerable for the sake of understanding yourselves/your relationship better.

Does that help at all?

[ 03-27-2013, 04:38 PM: Message edited by: alex dubya ]

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Heather
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Hey there, Elemint.

Am I right in hearing you say that:
• You have said I love you, but haven't actually felt love for this person, nor the real desire to say it because you feel it?
• In this relationship and others, you have felt scared to be sexual with partners, even in ways that you know you want to, and in discussing it with them, they have expressed wanting too?

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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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Elemint
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Hey Alex,

I have talked about that or at least tried to explain it but the last time I tried to explain it she insisted that I should be feeling something or know how I feel by now. Since it's long distance during the school year, I find it harder to feel more comfortable around someone when I don't see them consistently. Not trying to put the blame on her or even myself, the situation is what it is, but she's dated people throughout high school and kind of has an idea of what works and what doesn't.

Hi Heather,

I don't really know how I feel. As lame as this sounds, the only concept of love I have is from family members whom I am very close to. She says she loves me, and I do care for her, but I don't know if me feeling strange about saying it sometimes is just being nervous or not feeling the same way, or at least on that level. Sometimes I feel like I do, but I don't think love is something you feel only sometimes. I do care for her greatly but as far as marriage or anything I have absolutely no interest in that, not that it has been brought up.

Scared and nervous as to what to do, I guess. I always envisioned I'd be with someone who had done it before and would show me the ropes per se. But since neither of us have, I feel like all the pressure is on me. She does want to, but I guess in addition to the nerves thing what's holding me up is the risk of pregnancy. She is firmly against using the pill, which I have suggested in addition to wearing a condom if we were ever to do it, and puts most of the responsibility on my end. That's fine and all, but I don't want to take a chance, even with a condom. I'm a musician and I've seen a lot of people get into bad situations, so I guess that is a fear of mine since there are so many things I want to do. At the same time, I don't want fear to stop me from experiencing things.

I've been dealing with a major health issue over the past few months and she's been very supportive, but also a bit angry because I haven't made the effort to see her (I am the only one who has transportation, so I always have to make the trip) despite it being rooted in the current medical condition. I feel obligated or like I would be a jerk. I actually tried to end it a year ago, and she begged me not to. I don't want to be the guy that leads someone on, and that is not my intention, I just don't know how I feel I'm just going with the flow and taking it day by day.

To me, sex should be something emotionally based with two people who care about each other. But at the same time, I sometimes just want to turn the emotions off especially given a lot of things that have happened in my own life in the past few months. Maybe that's partially why I feel somewhat scared to be with other people in that way. I don't know if that makes me a bad person or something.

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Heather
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You know, I'm hearing a lot of incompatibility/poor fit issues around this relationship in this last response from you.

Things like:
• you wanting/needing a certain level of pregnancy prevention this person doesn't
• You being in a healthcare crisis right now it seems this person isn't understanding or working well with
• You feeling like as far as the balance of learning each other sexually, it's really all on you, not more mutual (even though, just FYI, no one can "show us the ropes" of how to do things in a big way, that's just something we do together, with any new partner, no matter our level of experience, if you follow me)
• You expressing some of why you stay in this relationship is about feelings of obligation, and this person possibly even guilt-tripping you into staying somewhat?
• Plus, the timing right now just sounds off.

IOW, it may well be you've got some stuff to work out with any intimate relationships with anyone, but I am also seeing that the relationship you're in now sounds pretty full of conflict, and at least some, if not all, of the stuff going on might be more about problems with this relationship, period, that really aren't so much about your own issues.

--------------------
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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Elemint
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Thanks for the response, Heather. I agree with a lot of what you've said. With the health issues I've been going through, she's talked with me and has been supportive in a lot of ways, and that's partially why I feel obligated. She doesn't have very high self-esteem, either and is always concerned that people are going to leave her and always says how she's not worthy of me, or things along those lines which kind of unnerve me. There are the guilt trips on certain things, that's definitely true and I do feel guilty that I haven't been able to do things for numerous reasons. The timing issue is a big one. She gets very upset if I don't keep in contact with her consistently (whether through text messaging, phone calls, online means of contact, etc.) throughout the day. Sometimes, I just have a lot of stuff going on and I try to send her a text or two during those days but it always becomes this passive aggressive thing, I feel like.

Essentially, I'm conflicted because there are good things about the relationship and I think she is a good person and I do care for her. She says she's really in love with me and maybe what a lot of you have said, the reason I feel awkward talking about it is either I haven't fallen as hard as she has for me, and I just don't feel the same. Like I said I care about her, but as far as the relationship progressing to another level, I just can't see it for me personally. There are days when I think I may feel differently, but those moments are fleeting.

As far as myself goes, I've had a lot of stuff that has gone on over the past two years. My parent almost died and left me at eighteen managing all the finances and going to college and taking care of everything, and this relationship had started right before that, briefly. I've seen a counselor, but never got into really talking about my relationship since there were other things that were at the forefront. I guess since the health issues are being taken care of, the relationship is now something I can kind of think about where I didn't before. I'm sure there are personal issues of mine contributing to the relationship, and I'm not trying to discount that, but I certainly feel like in some ways, the relationship is toxic, and in other ways it's nice to have someone to talk to who cares for you. At the same time, we see each other rarely and a lot of my friends question how that can really be a legitimate relationship at the end of the day. She has said she will make no effort, short of paying me back for travel costs, to make the effort to come and visit me, so there's definitely a feeling of it all just being on me and I've had a lot of that over the past few years, and need a break.

I've thought about asking to take a break until I get myself together and then seeing where we are...but I tried that about a year ago, was met with crying, pleading, and fighting. I do feel very obligated and I don't really have anyone who is experienced with relationships (parents are divorced) who's opinion I trust enough to act on it.

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Heather
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Elemint: I'm so sorry to hear about all you've been through.

You know, one of the problems here is going to be that when someone has exceptionally low self-esteem, we're not at all likely to be able to have a healthy intimate relationship with them. Basically, that's because they don't have one with themselves, at all, so they simply are going to lack the ability to have one with anyone else.

Plus, the other person is of course going to fall into a dynamic where basically they keep trying to fix that for the other person, or compensate for it, and you really just can't. It's a crummy setup, really, that is basically doomed to fail: the person with very low self-esteem says or implies again and again they're not worthy, everyone leaves them, etc. and in time, the other person WILL probably leave -- especially when the relationship involves the person basically never believing you they're loveable, controlling you with constant contact, guilt-tripping you into staying, and generally making you feel as miserable as they do -- so the low- self-esteem person will be "proved right" per all the crappy things they thought and said about themselves. And the other person is going to also feel like crud much of the time.

have you two ever talked about her self-esteem, and about what SHE is doing to improve that and work on it so she CAN have the kind of relationship she wants where she doesn't feel like she has in them (which she's going to, even alone, because that's just how she feels about herself)?

OR, if what you really want is to step away from this -- like, that is truly what you want and feel is best for yourself -- we can also talk about how to do that with someone like this, including setting limits when you go.

[ 04-01-2013, 11:07 AM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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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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Elemint
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Hi Heather,

Thanks again for the response. What you're saying makes a lot of sense. She isn't doing anything to work on her own issues. She's been to therapists/counselors in the pat and thinks they're full of it and doesn't trust them. Her family life isn't great. Her parents are getting a divorce and she talks a lot about how he doesn't love her, or wanting a different father or something along those lines. I grew up without a father. My parents divorced when I was only a few months old. I try to be sympathetic, to be kind, to be supportive but it's one of those situations where nothing I say will make a dent. It's just perpetual misery. She also clearly thinks that her situation is worse than mine. I've told her they are two separate things and you can't compare them, but she seems to identify as a victim. One of her family friends passed away a week before I went to see the doctor who essentially saved my life. A day out of recovery she was complaining about how she would gladly deal with whatever I was to have that person back and downplayed it. Again, I repeated that you cannot compare two separate situations and came close to ending it.

Basically, as I guess you can tell, there are good and bad things in the relationship. I've never really had someone to 'talk to' who 'gets me', like she seems to, so I suppose I'm a bit afraid of what I'd do without someone to talk to, even though I had been fine for years growing up. At the same time, I find myself talking to her less and less...perhaps my own way of trying to remove myself from the situation. However, over the past month or so I feel like I need to maintain a positive mindset to recover, and it's hard to do that when the person who wants to talk to you all day is constantly complaining, upset, and miserable...and then gets mad at you and makes you feel bad for either needing time to yourself or just going to school and taking care of responsibilities.

I tried talking to her once, maybe I went about it the wrong way or it turned into a 'pep talk', but every time I broach the subject she starts apologizing, complaining, and saying she is a horrible person. So, I just avoid it because nothing I say or do will change her mindset. I guess it's one of those things someone has to want for themselves.

The question of do I stay or do I go. I don't know. She was very kind to me when I was sick, and always said that "you'll leave when you don't need me anymore" so I don't want to prove her right. At the same time, I feel like I need a change in some way. I don't know exactly what that means, or if it means the relationship or something else, but since I haven't really been big on pursuing anyone I was interested in (the girl always did the asking, basically), I guess in the back of my mind I fear I won't date someone else again. Anyway, sorry to keep this discussion going. I appreciate the advice.

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Molias
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Hi Elemint,

I hear you say that you do care for this person, but caring for someone doesn't always mean that a relationship is going to be healthy or viable in the long run. Even with someone you care about, if there's a pattern of negative self-talk and not being supportive of you or being dismissive of your problems, I can certainly understand why you'd be uncertain about the future of this relationship.

I dated someone once who had some similar behaviors to what you're describing, especially the talk about how "everyone leaves." When I started to think that it was no longer a positive and healthy relationship, that constantly-repeated comment stuck with me and kept me there for a while. I didn't want to be the bad guy! But what he wanted from me was really not anything I could provide, and not something I really think of when I'm imagining how I'd like a romantic relationship to be.

Like what Heather said above, the dynamic became, in a lot of ways, one in which it was my job to encourage and support him to an extent that I just could not do at all - I couldn't be his boyfriend, tireless sex toy (there were some consent and sexual coercion problems as well), and therapist, telling him "no, you're wonderful, you're great, I'll never leave" every time he started talking about how terrible he was and how he was sure I'd abandon him just like everyone else.

In the end, I did leave. And I think in his mind that "proved" that his idea of the world was right, that everyone would leave him. But you know what? Staying with someone to prove a point, when the relationship was unhealthy for both of us, wouldn't have helped either of us. =(

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Heather
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Elemint: we can talk some more, but I wonder if it might be helpful to have you go through this first: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

--------------------
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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Elemint
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Hi Heather and Molias,

Thanks for both of your posts. I read the post, Heather, and although at first it didn't really draw a solid line lately mostly due to events in my own life I feel like I've gotten to the point where I want to end things. The reality is, I'm to a place in my life where I need to be surrounded by positive people. Maybe that's selfish, but I don't think I can take being in a relationship where in addition to being a boyfriend and someone to talk to, I am also supposed to be a therapist on call 24 hours 7 days a week where I am expected to clear my whole schedule and spend all day and all night talking about something. She refuses to talk to anyone and gets mad at me for even suggesting it. Every week there is something new or at the drop of a hat things change drastically. I get texts saying, "I think [insert something that she thinks is wrong with her]" in the middle of the night and then am made to feel bad about not responding because I was asleep. I understand that people can have legitimate issues, but the main issue here is the refusal to get help. She is convinced all counselors, therapists, psychiatrists, and so on are no good and won't entertain the thought of even talking to someone.

You mentioned you might be able to offer suggestions on how to end things, Heather. This is the part that I'm worried about. The last time I tried, I was begged not to end things. I believe the right thing to do is to call, at the very least, and end things that way, but I'm afraid that things will get ugly (to the point of screaming, crying, begging, etc.). Any suggestions?

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Heather
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You know, relationships we are in are made of us. So, we can't actually participate in them or think about them well WITHOUT thinking of ourselves.

And if relationships feel like they are taking who we are away? Then thinking we need to not be in them isn't "selfish." In fact, I'd say that when that's the case, we're probably already not really in them anymore in a real way, if you catch my drift. How can we be, if who we are doesn't have a real place in them?

I hear you expressing a relationship where there isn't room for you to be you save being the helper/therapist/caretaker for this person. By all means, now and then there will be temporary times when we take turns being that for each other. But if there are no turns, and all this is is about managing someone in chronic crisis, there's no mutuality here, for sure. And it's unlikely the relationship is offering you anything, even though it sounds like it's offering her things.

Per breaking up: the last time you tried, did you effectively SAY you were leaving the relationship? or was it more of a "I think we're breaking up?" And, did you stick around for the screaming and crying, or did you literally get out and cut ties, but this person tracked you down to do that?

--------------------
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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Molias
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I don't think wanting to have positive people in your life and wanting to minimize your contact with negative people who rely on you for free therapy counts as selfish. Or if it does, it's the good kind of selfish that is really just another way of saying self-care.

It is really not fair for anyone, girlfriend or not, to rely on someone as around-the-clock emotional support to this extent. I don't know why your girlfriend is so against investigating other avenues of help, but to then expect you to fill all those gaps is really not ok.

One thing that may help in breaking up is to write out a script before you call her that you can read from. I would recommend saying whatever you want to say in order to end the relationship and then getting off the phone fairly quickly, so you don't get caught up in a big discussion that gives you both more time to be upset.

One thing I will say is that if she moves from crying and begging to making any threat of self-harm or suicide ("if you break up with me I'll kill myself," that sort of thing), you get in touch with the proper authorities at her college and report it. It may even be helpful to look up that number before you call her. I don't know if she's made those comments before but some of what you mention in your posts makes me think that could be an issue.

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