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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Support Groups » Relationship/Personal Boundaries, Self-Improvement...

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Author Topic: Relationship/Personal Boundaries, Self-Improvement...
Hanners b-nanners
Neophyte
Member # 109398

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I've been in a sort of blurry situation with an ex-boyfriend..

A little less than year ago, we started dating, but looking back I don't think I did it for the right reasons. I think it was mostly based on feeling desired by someone even though I wasn't completely sure I felt romantically attracted to him.. After a few months, we started breaking up and hooking up a lot. The first time we broke up was because I felt that I was being taken for granted. He was my first boyfriend, and I guess I put a lot of high hopes expectations on the relationship. It hurt being apart even though I knew there were incompatibilities and things that went wrong in the relationship...
But eventually, I went back and we've been on and off since then. Usually, I would be the one to break things off out of anxiety and insecurity.. It's a kind of vicious cycle of splitting and feeling sad, getting back together lustfully and feeling guilty afterward..


Basically, there's a big disconnect between what I say I want and what I actually do.. I say I want a meaningful relationship that's not centered around sex or a relationship that's in the air (i.e. "friends with benefits"; casual dating, whatever you want to call it..), yet I continue to hook up. It doesn't feel that great. I have a tendency to lose sexual desire/arousal after a few minutes while his usually lasts much longer... It's not supposed to feel like I'm obligated to pleasure him.. it's great if I actually enjoy it, and sometimes I do, but most of the time I feel indifferent... I haven't been honest with him when he asks me if I'm enjoying it.. And when we've made plans to go out, I've managed to flake out or even cut things off.. I know that's not right.. and that definitely shows I have some issues to work out..

We've talked a lot about defining our relationship plenty of times before, but I don't think its been effective because I don't stick to what I say. Right now, I'm don't think I can really be a friend - JUST a friend.. Maybe I'm so used to this on-and-off pattern that its become habitual.. even if it's not healthy, meaningful, or enjoyable (for the most part)..


I've asked myself what I value in our relationship.. and do I really feel connected to him? Why split? Why go back?

It's hard for me to find answers to what I value in our relationship aside from cuddling haha.. This is going to sound conflicting, but I realize that I'm afraid of being more intimate even though I want to be/feel more connected.. I keep going back even though it's not really healthy because it's familiar and it's scary starting the process of opening up to someone new and possibly being rejected, etc..

I realize I've definitely taken my family and friends for granted in the midst of this.. and I've definitely disrespected myself a lot as well...


So... what to do.. I need to make a decision.. whether to continue with this or work at being friends if he is open to it and really commit to setting and maintaining boundaries... How do you stick to your values, especially at the toughest times when it's tempting not to?

I am grateful for anybody's advice/input! (and let me know if I need to clarify anything) [Smile]

[ 01-20-2014, 04:57 PM: Message edited by: Hanners b-nanners ]

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Heather
Executive Director & Founder
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One big thing I am hearing here is what sounds like you saying you have yet to be truly honest with him about some of this. Do I have that right? If so, how about getting started on figuring all of this out by doing that: by being honest with him about things you have not been?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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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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Hanners b-nanners
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It's true that I haven't been honest about really enjoying the sexual stuff..

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:)

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Hanners b-nanners
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it's hard for me to bring that up without worrying about how he will be affected..

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:)

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Heather
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So, you talk about it with kindness and sensitivity. But neither of you is going to be served well, or impacted well, by you pretending you are feeling one way when you are feeling a very different way, no?

I think it sounds like we could say similarly about other aspects of this relationships, too, don't you think? Saying you want to see him, but then flaking out on plans a lot makes pretty clear obviously you don't want to see him: if you did, I'd expect you would be keeping those plans most of the time, and feeling excited about them as they arrived.

Being honest is how we DO connect to others. We can't actually truly connect if we are hiding things from each other or not being honest about our feelings and shared experiences.

I think it also might be helpful to try and figure out how much of things you are not being honest about is really about protecting him, and how much of it might, instead, be about not wanting him to know the whole story and you risking losing him as an option, if you get what I'm saying. It sounds like you have been feeling pretty lackluster about this in a lot of ways, over a good deal of time, but that some of why you might be holding on to this is that if feels safe to you, safer than seeking out other people or relationships you might feel more excited about or interested in.

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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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Hanners b-nanners
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Yes, I understand what you are saying about "losing him as an option".. but I don't understand how distinguishing how much of my dishonesty is about protecting him and risking losing him as an option going to be helpful. Sorry, could you explain that?

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:)

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Heather
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Sure, let me have another go at trying to say what I was.

In a word, this doesn't actually sound to me like this is mostly about concern for his feelings, especially when we figure that no one likes being lied to in any way, or likes thinking someone is having an excellent time when they are not. or really likes them when they don't.

My sense -- and I can obviously be wrong, I only just started talking to you -- is this is much more about you and you trying to protect yourself in some way than about protecting him. That's just what it sounds like to me based on all the things you expressed in that first post. I heard a lot more indifference from you than investment, in a word.

Does that make more sense?

If so, figuring out what is really under you not being honest, or saying thing you want but then feel like you really don't in action, is what is likely to help you best figure out what to do here. If we don't really know our own motives or feelings well -- or are hiding out from them -- we can't figure stuff like this out very well.

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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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Hanners b-nanners
Neophyte
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Thanks. I understand now.

Not wanting to hurt him or disappoint him is part of it, especially concerning sex.

But overall, I guess what's deep underneath is a desire or desperation to be accepted and loved.. I do struggle a lot with self-esteem and rejection.

I know rejection can't be avoided at all costs, and in a way, I guess depending on how you deal with it, rejection can help people move forward to [hopefully] better relationships in the future..

I also know that nobody can really accept me if I don't put myself out there honestly/authentically.. It's probably much easier to find people who accept me for who I am if I am honest. And I think I need to work on being more self-accepting/self-loving though.. Because sometimes, I struggle with accepting compliments from people even if they are being sincere..

I think I might have convinced myself somewhere along the way that being in a relationship makes me more worthy... even though that's not really true.. I remember someone telling me before that it's hard to be happy in relationships if you're not happy with yourself..

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Karybu
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It sounds like you're actually fairly clear on what you want here, and are pretty self-aware, which isn't easy, so kudos on that. A lot of what you're saying here does point to not a huge amount of investment in this relationship on your part. There's nothing wrong with that (we can't control how we feel) and it's great that you have an idea of where your want to stay might be coming from.

However, you do need to be honest with this guy. Might it help if you thought about this not as an issue of rejection or dislike, but rather as being about two people who are just incompatible, who want different things? In other words, talking about this, letting him know how you're feeling, isn't about anybody rejecting anybody else. It's just about acknowledging that the two of you want different things right now, something that happens all the time.

(For what it's worth, whoever told you that relationships are harder when you're not happy with yourself was right on, and if you've been having these kinds of issues with self-esteem then it might be helpful to talk to a therapist or counselor about it.)

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"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." -Arundhati Roy

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Sam W
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I think you have hit on a lot of good points. It can be difficult (and intimidating) to try and present an honest version of yourself to people, especially when you feel as though a lot of your value comes from your relationships. And, to be fair, it can be very hard to feel good about yourself without outside confirmation of those opinions once and awhile. I think two approaches are helpful on that front. One is teaching your brain to reframe things (you are actually already doing this when you mention that rejection is a chance to learn rather than a sign of total failure). Of course, that process can be easier with the help of a counselor.

The other tip is to place time and energy into forming all types of relationships with people who you find supportive and who share interests with you. That way, you avoid feeling as though you are defined by just one relationship (your romantic one)

Going forward, is there anything we can do that you think you would find helpful?

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Hanners b-nanners
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Well... going forward, I guess I need to work on being patient and really thinking carefully about what and how I want to communicate to him.. I tend to feel very anxious after we do sexual things (after the pleasure and happy feelings wear off) and sometimes even when we haven't done anything...

I've asked him a lot of times about what kind of relationship he's looking for and things he wants to do in our relationship because I want to make sure we're on the same page (no misunderstandings or wrong assumptions).. When I asked him this last night, he told me that he wants to know what I want first. I stayed stubborn about having him answer first, and eventually he said, "I don't know.. there's nothing specific. I'm happy with the way things are right now. I like being with you. I just want us both to be happy."

Right now, we basically have a sexual relationship.. there really isn't much of any other aspects to it besides watching Netflix together and eating together.. talking to each other about how the day went.

At the time I answered my question to him with, "I'm confused with what I want... There are times when I really do enjoy doing sexual things with you, but there have been times when I've been hesitant to tell you that I'm not in the mood. I think our sexual desires and interests are on different levels."

I now feel that I should have told him that I'm not happy overall with myself (not that I haven't told him this before). I should have waited longer to see him so I could get my thoughts organized. Instead, I got impatient and anxious to see him. We engaged in some physical stuff after we talked. I was into it and we communicated about things that felt good and uncomfortable, etc. It was mutually pleasurable. I was happy that he was happy, and I didn't want to leave because I felt comfortable and relaxed.

Sex isn't the main problem though... It's my relationship with myself and how I respond to my feelings... especially anxiety.
Talking to him is important.. and I've previously told him a lot about wanting to focus more on improving myself and not being ready for an intimate, romantic relationship. He has said previously many times that he is okay with the relationship being mostly sexual, and I've tried to be okay with it, but in the end I'm really not. He usually asks me what I want to do about it, and I'll tell him I need space, and he usually respects that.. In one way or another, whether it's out of loneliness, desire to know how he is and if he is okay, guilt and the desire to apologize for being so anxious and confusing, physical affection, I go back..


He has told me that he doesn't really understand what I mean by improving myself or not being happy with myself.. He tells me he likes me as I am already, which is nice of him (if his intent is to make me feel better because he cares)... I've tried to explain to him that I know that I can be more, that where I am right now is okay, but it's not great.. it can be better (my habits, the way I live my life, school, treat my family family and friends, etc.).

[ 01-22-2014, 11:52 AM: Message edited by: Hanners b-nanners ]

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:)

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Sam W
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From the sound of it, he is trying his best to be supportive and respect any boundaries you set up, which is good. In your conversations with him, have you brought up the fact that you tend to feel anxious after sex (and if that anxiousness is related to how sometimes you engage without really being into it)?

What are your support system and relationships like outside of him? Are there other people you feel comfortable discussing your feelings about yourself with?

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Hanners b-nanners
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I have told him before that I'm feeling anxious because I'm not sure how he really feels. I find it hard to trust what he says sometimes and figure out what his intentions are...

I have friends, family, and a counselor to talk to (and I do). Pretty common themes in what they've told me is working on loving myself first, committing to decisions I make.. Avoid staying in relationships out of guilt or desire for validation.. Don't become a people pleaser, especially if I don't like what I'm doing for the other person. If his answers are vague or if you feel you can't trust him, then that might be a sign that it's not working...

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:)

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Sam W
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I am glad to hear that you have a good support network. I agree with them that if you feel like you feel you can't fully trust him, or if you feel like somehow you two aren't on the same level in terms of what you want/need from a relationship, then ending it might be a good option.

I would add that ending a relationship is not a sign of personal failing. Sometimes, without either person being awful or deliberately unkind, people are just not good matches for each other.

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Sam W
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One other thought that might help you keep the boundaries you've set with him in regards to you needing space. When you start to second guess yourself, or feel lonely, try engaging in some kind of self-care that will help distract you from those thoughts (reading, going for a walk, talking with friends)
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Hanners b-nanners
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Thanks, Sam. So far, I'm doing alright with keeping myself busy [Smile]

And thank you Karybu and Heather for your help too!

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:)

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Karybu
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Glad to hear that keeping busy is proving helpful for you! [Smile] Good on you for figuring out a self-care strategy that's working.

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"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." -Arundhati Roy

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