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Author Topic: Time to myself
astrocyte
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Hey, I'm worried about the relationship I have with my current partner and I'd like to talk to some people who are outside the relationship and also don’t know either of us  I guess I'm mostly worried about..reciprocity? and knowing what our needs are? And I'm worried about having enough space because our needs in this respect seem to be really different.

I'm in what seems like a long-term romantic relationship: I'm 22, my partner is 23, we have been together for close to 2 years. We haven't lived together ever, but live in flats pretty close to each other. I think that I love him. I don’t think I've ever felt like I was *in* love with him. I and he both sometimes get worried that I give him emotional support out of obligation, whereas I know that when he does it, it's because he cares about me.

Yesterday morning, I told my partner that I wanted us to spend a couple of weeks apart and he eventually agreed with a tonne of reservations. I feel like I've been being really selfish with my time and energy within the relationship in a few ways. I told him that I'd like some time to think about what I want from the relationship, how attached/affected by his wants I want to be, how much time I want to spend with him, and also to think about some sex things that he's not really a part of but that heavily influence any partnered sex I have. I also said that I feel utterly terrified at the thought of not being with him, and that this really worries me, and that I think some time apart would help. I wasn't really able to explain why for this last one, and he thinks it is something along the lines of "I'll realise after two weeks that being apart is only medium-crap and feel better for some weird reason".

He felt super sceptical about how effective this move on my part was going to be. He thinks that given most of those thing affect both of us, it would be better for us to talk about them together than not see each other for two weeks and potentially have a really crap time. I really feel like if I don’t know what I want regarding an issue, I'll have serious problems talking to him about a solution. I feel like I just haven't been able to think effectively about any of this stuff for awhile, due to a mix of self-imposed pressure and a medium-big workload at university, poor time management, non-helpful worrying about the relationship, and the time I spend with him (ie hanging out, staying at each others houses, sexy times & cuddles) affecting my thinking.

My partner found my request extremely upsetting and hard to understand because he doesn’t get why I'd want to stop doing something that I enjoy (ie hanging out with him). In his eyes it means that something bad about the time I spend with him outweighs the good, so he wanted to know what he should do differently. I found the whole conversation so painful. Up until this week-end I think I've been a clingy or needy person with him rarely if ever. Yesterday I couldn’t stop crying after we talked about spending time apart. My partner wound up spending the rest of the day and staying with me last night. This probably wasn't ideal given that we'd just agreed to spend time apart. We both wanted to continue to hang out that day, but I feel pretty dreadful about it. I'm worried that he's way more willing to do stuff that's inconvenient or hard for him but benefits me, than I am for him. I'm simultaneously worried that he needs or expects a level of commitment or sacrifice or whatever from me that he isn't getting.

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Heather
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Reading this and everything you're saying here, I think your idea to take a couple weeks to yourself sounds like a really excellent idea.

Can you go back to that plan, and perhaps also talk to some friends about support from THEM, not your partner, should you find yourself feeling upset?

I don't think it's fair for him to try and tell you what you need here, nor fair for him to suggest you shouldn't do what you feel you need to because of his ideas of what the results may be. Even if you did some to the conclusion he thinks you will, I see a lot of value in you taking that time, especially since it sounds like you two may be a little two emotionally enmeshed in some ways.

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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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astrocyte
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Hey, thanks for your reply, Heather.

The result when we talked yesterday was that we definitely won't see each other or have contact for at least a week. The decreased time was due to me vacillating; my partner thinks I will need way longer to work out what I want. I don't think it would be a problem to extend the time period again, but I'm not going to contact my partner till the week's up. I talked to a close friend about the situation today and she was really supportive. I'm going to see other friends and my mum this week also.

I'm definitely too emotionally enmeshed when I'm trying to make decisions about this relationship. I don't know how it happened because it's something I'm always concerned about and trying to avoid. At the moment, sometimes I feel like there's this see-saw and if I go to far one way, I might do things out of obligation or because I need to in order to feel OK, and if I go too far the other way,I might be withholding too much time, energy etc, and being selfish, and I'm trying to balance and love people in a way that's non-fail. Does that make sense? It's the horriblest analogy.

Would it be ok if, as well as asking for support from my friends, I continued to occasionally talk about this here? Also, there are two related things I want to ask about. One is about sexual health and one is about sexual proclivities but they both relate to this relationship. Is it better if I make new threads for them in the relevant forums?

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Heather
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I'm glad to hear you worked out a way to at least take some of that time. It's also great you found a friend to talk to and have identified some other people to talk with. [Smile]

It's not a bad analogy: I think I get what you mean. It sounds like you're saying that it feels like you're always at one of those two extremes, rather than finding a place of balance in this. Does that sound about right?

I'm more than happy to keep talking about this here with you, including additional issues. [Smile]

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About MeGet 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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astrocyte
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Hmm yeah, that is a much more sensible version of what I meant. I feel like I flip between those two extremes really quickly. I guess I said it was a bad analogy because I don't think it's a good model of what loving should be like.

Thanks. I'm really, really glad and appreciative that these boards and you are around.

Um, OK. I wanted to first talk about a thing that I'm extremely uncomfortable talking about, but I think I'm going to have to write it out first and copy-paste it up in a day or so. So much dramatic *sigh*.

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astrocyte
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O.K, I’m not going to write about that particular thing that I mentioned because something more pressing has come up. I would really like talk here about sexual health within our relationship, because we KEEP butting heads over it.

A lot has happened since I last posted. A trying-really-hard-to-be-brief update: we ( me and my partner) didn’t speak for two weeks, we spoke, he was really angry because he felt like I was simultaneously asking him to stick around while refusing to allow him to see me. I decided that I really wanted to give this relationship a try, he already felt that way but needed me to not be setting all the rules. He also wanted me to give a greater weight than to what he wanted/what’s in his best interests when I was making decisions within the relationship. I agreed that these last two really needed to change. HE agreed to be more vocal about what he wanted. We agreed to continue to talk about these things and our views on emotional commitment. Choice.

One of the things we are continuing tot alk about is sexual health. I need to go back to the start of our relationship to explain what kind of an issue this is, so:

June ’08-ish. We get together. I say I want us both to get STI-tests before we be sexual. My partner (who I will refer to as B)gets tested, minus the HIV & syphilis bloodtests. I never get around to getting tested at all . This is reprehensible. I had been tested previously about 4 months prior to getting together with Band found it scary and humiliating for various, non-serious reasons. I had done unprotected female recipient manual sex since then, which is pretty low-risk. These things don’t matter though; I made an agreement that I didn’t follow through on.

B didn’t really care about the delay initially, because he didn’t think, given my level of risk, that getting tested was a huge priority. Also, the activities we were engaging in were mostly manual sex. As time went on, he would remind me because he knew it was important to me, and he wound up being pretty pissed off about it, as is to be expected.

I have finally gotten around to getting tested. Myself, I wouldn’t have stayed with, or at least wouldn’t have continued a sexual relationship with someone who was so disorganised about getting tested for the better part of two years. We have put sex on hold anyway while we are working out other relationship issues. But if we are going to have a sexual relationship in the future, I really want us to both get tested at least yearly, and maybe do the six-monthly thing that you guys recommend since we have never done it. However, in this country (N.Z) the standard health ministry line seems to be “get tested when you end a relationship, at the start of a new relationship or when you think you have been exposed to an STI”. B is unwilling to do regular checking because he feels like it is unnecessary in that it's more than what’s required for best practice. He is really uncomfortable about me making yearly tests for both of us a condition of a sexual relationship. In my recent test, I tested weakly positive for syphilis. The clinic thinks it’s most likely to be incorrect, but I still need to go back in 6 weeks. I told B this and he says he will get the HIV/syphilis blood tests but not the full check-up.

Can you see why I'm conflicted/why he would think I'm being unfair?

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Heather
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I've read all of this, but I'm afraid I'm not clear on you feeling conflicted or what you mean by that.

I do certainly get how he would feel there was an unfairness here, as there would be in any situation where two people made an agreement only one honored.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About MeGet 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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astrocyte
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Gah. I'm sorry for writing such a spiel. Obviously there's no question that my actions in not honouring that agreement were grossly unfair.

What we don't agree on is whether, in future, we both need to get tested regularly, or whether that's only my responsibility, since I'm the one who it is important to. I don't know whether I'm being fair in insisting that my partner as well as myself gets yearly tests, given our situation, the likely opinions of doctors here, & my past behaviour. Sorry, I hope this makes sense.

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Heather
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No need to be sorry at all, just wanted to understand you. [Smile]

I don't think anyone is being unfair in setting a boundary/limit on a sexual relationship by stating they need all partners to be getting basic annual sexual healthcare, the kind that pretty much all health organizations suggest and encourage.

For sure, you're going to want to address that per you wanting that but doing a poor job of holding up your end of the deal, and by all means, not ask that of someone else if you don't intend to follow through with it yourself.

The onus is also on you, if that is your limit and boundary (and it's one I'd personally suggest everyone have: I myself have had it for as long as I can remember, even with most casual sex partners, I just don't sleep with people who don't get tested) and a partner or potential partner doesn't want to agree to it to draw your line and then nix on a sexual relationship with that person. In other words, if you ask that, and someone says no, they won't, the answer isn't still entering into something and then pushing and pushing for that, it's declining to enter in (or stay in).

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About MeGet 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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FYI, I don't think it's sound to suggest that because a given agreement is only important to one partner, only they need to take part in it.

To be clear, for example, I'm triggered, per past abuse, by doors slamming. So, I ask partners who live with me to please not slam doors. If they were to say "Well, *I* don't care about slamming doors, it doesn't bother me,so why don't you only not slam doors," that would be someone making clear that something I need to feel safe and okay wasn't important to them. In other words, since *I* am ostensibly important to them, what I need in that way should be important to both of us.

That might not be the best example ever, but do you get my gist?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About MeGet 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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astrocyte
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Thanks for replyin'. Yeah, I most definitely get your gist with the doors example, and also the other things you said.

I can't find any NZ Family Planning resource that recommends annual testing. I feel like if I could, then he would accept this as a reasonable boundary even if he didn't agree and we therefore abandoned the sex part of the relationship. But because he can't, he thinks it's unnecessary/overkill, and can't understand why I *need* it.

My reasons for wanting at-least-annual testing are:
1) the potential for any infections to not have been active/ not have been picked up in an earlier test. (This does happen, right? I didn;t make it up?)

2) I think that without it, there's maybe a greater disincentive to be honest if you cheat/ have unprotected sex with somebody else, and regardless of how much I trust a partner I'd prefer to treat them all the same in that respect, and have them treat me likewise.

3)I think that when your health is clearly going to have a large influence on someone else's health, you have a bigger-than-usual obligation to take care of it.

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Heather
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Well, internationally, these are the usual recommendations, though some allow for less frequent testing for monogamous couples who have been together a long time (longer than our users usually have been, given the usual age here).

Just to go through your reasons:
1) It can happen, though if people have been monogamous for a good while before that last test, it's not likely, and becomes less and less likely over time if a couple remains monogamous.

2) I think that's sound, though I also think you need to figure that a partner who will be dishonest about sex outside the relationship may be just as dishonest about testing and results.

3) I agree.

But what I'd also add is that if and when we have a limits and a boundary, we really shouldn't need huge, compelling arguments. Just the fact of having it. Again, if someone isn't down with it, and you don't want to adjust it, the onus is on you to walk away from that partner, not on them to be pushed into a different choice.

Can I just kind of re-check in with you here, knowing this may be a huge question, and ask, given this and other posts, if you two are still earnestly feeling like you're a good match overall? In other words, is it possible this is such a big issue because so many other things are?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About MeGet 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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astrocyte
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I'm definitely not into pushing him into doing anything he doesn't want to do, any more than /I/ want to be sexual under circumstances that I don't want anymore. Maybe the idea of convincing him has been part of my thinking in the past though. That makes me feel gross.

In terms of your question, I think we are still working out how compatible our differing needs/wants are. The gap might end up being too big. I think we have a really good connection in some ways (one that we both feel), and generally feel like the relationship has a lot more positive than negative outcomes. Sometimes it's really, really hard for us to understand each other though.

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Heather
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Okay. So, maybe in talking about the STI issue, the best way for now is just to:

a) State one more time that this is a hard limit for you, and that you respect if he doesn't want to, but that means a sexual relationship is off the tale for you, and
b) Make clear this might be something to talk about in the larger context of your whole relationship and if this might be doubly-charged because it might illustrate yet another way you're not connecting.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About MeGet 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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astrocyte
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Thanks. We ended up talking about this the following day. We established that B doesn't ACTUALLY think that people can't just generally have limits 'cod they have them. The reason he really needed me to justify needing HIM to be tested regularly was because I had violated the previous agreement. I said it was something that I needed both of us to do in order to feel safe, and he was able to understand that. He agreed to get tested in 11 months time (I got tested a month-ish ago) and yearly from then.

I think his rationale is that him going and getting tested right now would still leave him feeling super manipulated. I can understand this. I told him I needed to work out what I thought about that, but I think it is probably an acceptable outcome for me. (By which I mean, "I think I'll be OK with it and if I work out that I'm not, or change my mind later, I'll say so", not "I think that it's OK because I can convince him otherwise". )Sex is still off the table for a little while, at my request.

[ 05-04-2010, 12:45 AM: Message edited by: rosegeranium ]

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astrocyte
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Hey again. Umm,I have been reading the healthy relationship checklist, and I'm feeling really back-and-forth about whether I should even be in a long-term relationship at the moment.

On one hand, I really love my partner. I think he's super terrific and the time I spend with him makes me feel so alive. I know life without him would eventually be just as good, even though I'd be really sad for a long time. He says that if we broke up he'd find it really difficult to continue to hang out. That's understandable, as much as I might wish it wasn't the case. It might not be permanent, I guess, but it could be. I don't know if that should affect any decision I make.

We had a two-week break which ended...two weeks ago. We had agreed to give this relationship another try. Now I'm having serious doubts again. He asked me if I saw us being together in the future as a possibility, because I hardly ever talk about my future plans. I do think it's possible, and I'd really like it to be. But how I feel and how I see myself now is so different, in some ways, from how I'd like to be in the future. I don't really feel like an adult for a lot of the time. I don't feel sure of who I am or what I want to do, and I don't feel like I'm too great at taking care of myself or having the willpower to stick to things long enough to achieve goals...etc. I feel like a giant disappointment, at the moment, to be honest. Any time I feel stressed, I have the worst...escapism habits? I'll sit and read till I get sore eyes and back cramps.

I also feel like if not now, then at some point, I'm going to need to be single for awhile. This is the first *adult* (even though I've just said I don't feel like an adult) and maybe the first long-term relationship I've had. I don't know if I can continue to grow if I just stay in this relationship continuously. That sounds really weird though, because OF COURSE I'm going to continue to grow, and a relationship at this age probably has a default assumption of non-permanence (we are 22 & 23).

I really don't want to break up. I can't concentrate on anything I'm supposed to be doing for uni, I keep having these alternating thoughts about what I should do. I wish I could just make a decision, because then I might be able to concentrate. But the decision I want to make - stay in the relationship - doesn't sit right at the moment. I don't think I can say "Hey, B, being in this type of relationship with you is my first chice".

I feel like it's a pattern for me to want to leave things when they get hard or when I feel uncertain. I don't want to end this unnecessarily. I'm really scared.

[ 05-10-2010, 02:41 AM: Message edited by: rosegeranium ]

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Heather
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Of everything you just wrote, this leapt out at me the most:

quote:
I don't know if I can continue to grow if I just stay in this relationship continuously.
That's a very strong statement, and something I'd say you probably want to think most about in your decision-making process on this. While yes, you'll still likely grow no matter what, some relationships really support and encourage our growth, while others can actually make it harder, or even rely on us NOT growing and changing, and the latter will not tend to enhance our lives or result in great relationships.

How did you feel during that break? Was the good for you?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About MeGet 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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astrocyte
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The two weeks were sort-of good for me. I feel crappy about it now, because its helpfulness to me might have been outweighed by how much it hurt my partner. I felt pretty sad, but like I was working something out. Not like how I feel now. But now I'm for reals trying to make a hard decision, so maybe I'm supposed to feel worse now.


B pointed out to me that we stopped having a break over three weeks ago, whch means this is at least the 6th week of me feeling some degree of uncertainty. At the end of our break, I had realised that I wanted less of..something? I want to not feel really really sad when he gets depressed. Sometimes how I feel at these times goes beyond empathy/caring and I don't like it. I thought if we had a bit more distance, that might help.

I want to feel like a relationship enhances our lives, as you said, not like I need to arrange my life to be choice enough that I can be an effective girlfriend and not have problems. I guess there's always a balance to that, though - if I'm struggling with things in my own life then I generally get a little bit worse at all my relationships.

B feels really sad that, as he sees it, I want to put limits on how important we can be to each other/how much time we can spend together/how much I care about him. I don't really understand the middle one, since time is totally a real-world limit, not somehing in my head.

When we talk about this, we often have pretty different views about interpersonal things. It seems as if B always wants a resolution within any given discussion, and I always want to think about stuff for a little while and see how we both feel later on. We both struggle with this difference. Looking back, I'm wondering if this has always been an issue when we discuss any problems we are having, or if it's just gotten hard now.

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Heather
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Do you want me to tell you hat my feeling is about all of this based on what you've said?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About MeGet 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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astrocyte
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That would be helpful.
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astrocyte
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Sorry about double-post. Your opinion would be helpful, and I'll take it into account. But I have to make sure that I don't make it a deciding vote, right? Otherwise, I'll feel worse, like I can't make my own decision at all, instead of "I've just asked some peeps for help clarifying how I feel/what I need." Ugh. I don't know what my problem is. Feel free to tell me what you think.
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Heather
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By all means, hopefully any of us asking someone else for advice or an opinion take it as feedback and input into our own feelings or opinions, rather than leading with what someone else suggests, especially if it is very much not in alignment with our own feelings.

That said, it has been sounding to me like it's possible you really do want to move on and feel done, but that your conflict isn't so much that you think you'll miss out by ending this relationship, but more that you don't want to hurt or disappoint your boyfriend and that because you've been in this for a couple of years, you feel attached to it/familiar with it, as any of us tend to when relationships go on.

In other words, I don't hear a lot from you on how you feel like this relationship is benefitting you anymore: I hear you talking much more about how you feel held back by it, and concerned you may continue to be held back by it.

One of the toughest situations in romantic relationships is when a given person makes that the ONLY kind of relationship we can have with them, especially if the relationship has been long term. As relationships grow and continue, they tend to become multi-dimensional, so our romantic relationships also often become (if they didn't start that way already) our friendships, even part of our family.

For sure, after a breakup, it's normal for people to want and need some time and space apart to process that and reorder their own lives, as well as to re-establish some autonomy. But never being friends again with someone we got close to is a pretty grim prospect, and also can seem very strange as a possibility with someone we were so close to.

So, if you want to keep talking with him about this, that is something I think you might want to bring up. After all, how close can you two really be as people if it's all-or-nothing like that? Or, is it possible he's feeling the need to create an ultimatum even he wouldn't like? Talking about this particular part of the issue might be a good doorway to getting deeper in your talks and each of your feelings when it comes to seeing or not seeing a future together, identifying what each of you really wants (and if that's in alignment) and, possibly, might help you identify ways that you might be able to continue this if that's what both of you really want while fostering some of the growth it needs for both of you to earnestly be happy in it and in how it fits in your lives overall.

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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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astrocyte
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Thanks. I have written those things down and I'll think about them for myself and get a bit clearer before me and him speak again. Your idea about where my conflict might be raises a big question for me, because I'd like to think that I do benefit from this relationship and that it is worthwhile. So I'll have to think about that. I definitely do feel held back, though.

I hate how hard I'm finding this. My life is so comparatively easy. I feel like I should have been able to sort this out by now. I know B feels like he's just waiting around for me to get myself sorted out. I know that's his decision also

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astrocyte
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We broke up. I'm totally at a loss. I'm finding it really hard to deal with life - I just have the worst procrastinating habits. They all come out when something bad happens. I have so much work to do. There's only this week left of classes and I can't make myself do enough. I feel so dumb for letting myself be affected in this way.

It's OK, I do have support in RL and I know no-one can fix up my problems for me. I just feel like I can't do that either, right now.

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Heather
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Hey there, rosegeranium. A breakup of a long-term relationship is a big deal, and does tend to take time to get over. Breakups also don't always happen at the most convenient times for us. In fact, it seems like there's almost a kind of Murphy's Law sometimes that assure they happen at the worst times.

With getting your schoolwork done, can you connect with a study partner or two this week so you have someone else around who can help kick your butt with that a little?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About MeGet 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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astrocyte
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Thanks fer your sense, Heather. So true. I thought I was going to be able to do awesomely well this semester. Oh well!

I should have done that (found some peeps to study with) instead of isolating myself and trying to study. It's a bit late for it with one more day to go, but maybe I can work something out for exams. NEXT semester I'll try to have established people to study with early on.

My mum has been pretty good with helping me make plans.

This sucks this sucks. I went to see him on Tuesday because he was very needing some support and hadn't gotten out of bed (he rang me and asked me to). After that I had some really massive crying the next day, I guess it is starting to really sink in for me.

[ 06-03-2010, 12:45 AM: Message edited by: rosegeranium ]

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astrocyte
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I'm not doing so great right now.
I'm thinking about moving out of the flat I'm in - I associate being there with being sad and worried about the relationship. Also, I'm having (I think) disproportionate fury about how squalid the place gets and how unequal the division of communal-space-cleaning-up seems to me. If I could fix these things, or change my reaction to them, I'm still not at all close to my flatmates and not sure if this is an environment I want to be living in. I have the option of moving back in with my parents permanently, or doing so temporarily and finding a new place at the end of the year. I'd be giving up a measure of independence, but not financial independence since they support me financially anyway. This shouldn't be such a big deal. I think there's something wrong with me, I think I'm so used to being in the middle of needing to make a tough decision that I just create new dilemmas. I'm trying to not try to think so many steps ahead, because it's overwhelming and I end up just sitting on the bed crying all afternoon.

I've been talking to my ex. We've been able to talk pretty openly about what went wrong - I think we are communicating more clearly now than when we were together, however, when we WERE together, I thought we communicated really well, so I doubt my ability to gauge this effectiveness. He says he never felt loved in the relationship. I'm really sad about this.

There's a thing which is a problem for me in that I feel like it totally interferes with my ability to do partnersex, and it was a factor in some of the messed-up things about this relationship. B knows what it is, but I feel incapable of talking to him or anyone about it. Last week I took his stuff back to his house, and we ended up having sex, and I stayed the night. It was really good, and I don't think it made things any worse for either of us. But maybe I actually shouldn't do sex while I'm unable to fix this or even talk about it.

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