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Author Topic: Confused about Relationship Situation
EC
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I posted here a few weeks ago, trying to find out the best way to go about a breakup with my girlfriend. Well, I ended up "breaking up" with her in a process that ultimately led to us taking a "break" from the relationship this semester in college.

The thing is, not much has changed. Mostly, I feel really confused, ambivalent, and somewhat trapped. I'm hoping to find a way to sort through my feelings regarding my situation. We've been together for four years and have had several breakup "attempts," all of which have been unsuccessful.

My inclination to make a change (i.e. end the relationship "for real") mainly comes from the fact that we have different goals. Although I'm not proud of it, I am feeling the need to be single again and possibly date other people/become involved. She, on the other hand, is not fully satisfied with me as a partner, but dislikes change and would wouldn't mind staying with me indefinitely. Also, we have some quite different expectations of each other that we can't seem to reconcile at this point.

I feel bad that I can't "commit." However, I unfortunately don't think that can change until I experience being single and "available" again--I didn't originally intend for this to be a super long-term relationship.

There are also very strong reasons on the other side. We are both each other's first relationship and extremely close friends. She really is the only close friend I've ever had and I can't bear the possibility of losing her as at least a friend. However, she's an "all-or-nothing" type of person and insists that we could never be friends if we broke up fully. I honestly don't know how I could go through each day with such a significant person in my life cut off completely. To break up would seem like abandoning someone I care about. I do see a potential for us to have a great relationship in the future, but I just don't think it should continue indefinitely at its current trend.

Finally, I worry about her if we do break up. She can be very closed up emotionally and hasn't had the best coping strategies historically. Also, she has a very low self esteem.

I feel stuck. I'm at an indecisive place that I feel may be unfair for the both of us. But when I think of it, a full breakup seems far more devastating than what's going on now. I'm in my last year of college and would like to keep the emotional turmoil to a minimum. Are there any ideas that have been successful in similar situations? I know every couple is different.

I appreciate any insight, thank you.

Posts: 44 | From: California | Registered: Jul 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
marigold
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I'm so sorry for the both of you...

just a small insight: you might be perfectly able to "commit", just not with this person. And you migh be also able to build friendships with others.

I know this doesn't work like magic, but she might try counselling, to help her self-esteem problems. If you're not good at making friendships, you could try to sort out that too.

maybe you should offer her your help in becoming stronger, finding out more about her problems with professional assistance, and beginning to resolve them. Then, as she becomes more resistent, you could leave knowing you've done all you could. But of course you shouldn't hide this agenda from her, and maybe knowing this plan would make her sad and wanting to cut the contacts immediately. In which case I have no ideea what to do.

Just thinking aloud...

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EC
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Thank you Marigold for your reply [Smile] I guess I don't have a lot of friends because I prefer to know one or two people deeply than a lot of people on a surface level. It's true that I would definitely feel better about the whole thing if I thought she could cope in a healthy way and take care of herself.

We really do have a deep connection and a lot of memories together that have brought us very close. I think we absolutely have good enough "chemistry" to be together in the long run if it worked out. And the thing about me dating other people: it's not urgent, it's just that I wouldn't want to get married or make a serious commitment to the first person I've ever been with because it's hard to know whether what I'm in now is better than anything, or worse (in which case I'm blinded to reality).

One of my main concerns is that we're just postponing the inevitable and making the pain greater when it eventually happens (because we have "tried" to break up before throughout the span of the relationship).

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Cara K
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Hey EC,

Most first relationships end up lasting longer than they should, because of problems just like the ones you've described up above. From what you describe, it seems like the relationship has run its course, and that attempts to reconcile your problems have not been successful. That's okay. It happens.

But you need to remember that while I think it's wonderful that you care, your girlfriend's mental health is not your responsibility, and staying with someone because you're worried about their hurt feelings is a really bad reason to stay with someone. If you're concerned that she might actually hurt herself, it might be a good idea to get one of her friends to help look after her -- and remember that you're not going to be able to be that person. As for her low self-esteem, think about it: if you had low self-esteem, how would you feel if you found out that your girlfriend was only with you to protect your self-esteem? I imagine that would hurt a lot more in the long run than just breaking it off.

It's not always possible to be friends after a breakup, though for those who do, there's usually a decent break in between the end of the relationship and when the friendship is rebuilt. That's normal, and actually healthy. If you try to continue being friends with her right away, that's not going to work, and would probably cause her more pain and take her longer to recover from the split.

I can't tell you how exactly to break up with her other than to say that you should be clear and firm while also being as kind as you can. Remember that she can't just refuse to accept the breakup -- in order for a relationship to continue, both people have to be willing and active participants.

Posts: 48 | From: Rochester, NY | Registered: Jul 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
EC
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Thank you Cara [Smile] Well there are a lot of reasons that complicate things. I do worry about her coping and hate the idea of hurting her feelings, but I wouldn't say those are the only reasons that's it's difficult to end.

For one thing, much or most of the time we are very happy together. We look forward to talking when we're apart. There is nothing pressing in my mind that makes me want to end it, and there's not a whole lot that's extraordinarily unhealthy. Like I said we have always shared a great closeness. So it's not a clear cut decision.

Maybe that's why I can't be so decisive. I don't see my reasons as "valid enough" in my mind. I want to someday date other people, but when I consider how it might ruin a relationship that's great in a lot of ways, I feel guilty. Sometimes I find my desire to be with other girls to be "frivolous."

I worry about, say five years from now, still being with her, regretting missing out on opportunities in my "younger years" to discover myself better in the contexts of relationships. I think maybe we both have lost sight of reality by being with each other for so long (as that wasn't our goal to begin with). But it's hard to accept that I would be ending something for these reasons. For one thing, would I be able to forgive myself if I'm making an error in judgment and it turns out that this was my best relationship by far (but I had ruined it by ending it for selfish reasons)?

Also, even while I can think of rational reasons in my mind for ending it, sometimes that's just not enough to convince me. I know many of you may think I'm being "selfish" for staying with someone because I'm too afraid to leave, but it's far more complex than that--which is why I'm trying to figure things out still.

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Heather
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I just want to inject something else to consider, coming from a pretty personal place.

While it certainly wasn't my first relationship, a 3-year relationship I had in college was a VERY big deal to me, was full of huge love and was seriously wonderful most of the time.

But due to a couple different things, at a certain point, I went scram. Not in the best way -- certainly not with the kind of finesse you're getting help with here -- and in hindsight, I very much regretted how I did that. But at the time, I really needed to go. And in hindsight, we both agree it was best that we did then.

Lo and behold, here we are, almost 20 years after we first started seeing one another, and we're involved again, and it's been complex, but fantastic. And while so much was so good back when, it's even a LOT better now. We've talked about it a lot, and can't imagine without having the years between we had that we would have done anything but crash and burn, or peter out into something that just wasn't right for either of us.

The point is, you CAN move on from a relationship that isn't a fit for you in many ways, but which you have strong feelings in, and -- if it's right, and y'all really are a good fit for one another -- resume it again. Sometimes, obviously, with a crazy amount of years in between.

Not saying what's best for you, only you know that, but just injecting something into the conversation so you can see that it doesn't have to just be an either-or in terms of now or never. The good stuff can keep, and sometimes even people who do wind up together again later can really benefit from moving on the first time when it feels right. It really sounds to me like this has not felt like the right thing for you for some time, but I don't think you're helped by framing this as all-or-nothing (even if she does), if you get me. And if she's that kind of person, you're going to have a pretty limited relationship with her no matter what. People and intimate relationships are just too complex and multifacted to approach them that way. I'd also add that if she is making it all-or-nothing, you wouldn't be abandoning her to want to switch to a friendship: if she refused to only see it that way, cutting off all ties would be her choice, not yours.

Rather than thinking so much about the somedays, I'd suggest putting a lot of value in now, and in how things have been and how you have felt about what you need. I know these kinds of choices are really challenging, but I'd encourage you both to take care of yourself and be true to yourself and what you think and feel is best for you, and is best going to fit your needs.

Lastly? I have to be plain. Very few people, when you talk to people who have decades on them, will find their best relationships were their initial ones. While it's certainly possible, given how much people grow over time, I'd say it's highly unlikely you'll have had your best relationship of a lifetime this early in the game.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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EC
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Thank you Heather! I am grateful for this site and appreciate all the hard work you and the volunteers contribute.

It's nice to hear a personal example of that type of situation. I think it will be a lot easier for me to cope with the idea of change if I think of it as something positive and healthy that can actually be good for both of us.

Posts: 44 | From: California | Registered: Jul 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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