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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Relationships » I don't know whether the relationship is giving me enough to stay.

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Author Topic: I don't know whether the relationship is giving me enough to stay.
moonlight bouncing off water
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My boyfriend and I have been going out for 7 months. He is my first boyfriend, but I am not his first girlfriend.

His home life is troubled. His mom's boyfriend is controlling and verbally abusive, so we spend a lot of time talking about that. By the way I'm 16 and he is 18. He's done high school and has a job paying minimum wage with his grandfather's construction company. He also has an anxiety disorder which causes him enough to deal with without the issue of his mom's boyfriend put on top of it (he still lives at home, by the way, and the boyfriend is there quite often and sometime spends the night). His mother isn't a very strong type, she lets her boyfriend boss her around, and does nothing to stop it, and she fails to provide the support he needs from his mother both to him and to his brother who is turning 16. He never gets to talk to his mother or spend any time with her. To top it all off he is usually at odd's with his brother (although recently they apparently made up).

By contrast my home is paradise. I might fight with my parents and sister but I know I always have their support. I never feel in danger in my own home. I know that everything my parents do to or for me, whether I consider it good or bad, is motivated by their care for me and by them wanting me to be as healthy and happy as I can be.

By virtue of the contrast in our home lives, my boyfriend has a lot more issues to deal with on an ongoing basis, and so we spend a lot more time talking about his issues. I wouldn't mind this if I actually got to talk about my problems and issues when they arise, no matter how big or small they are. I feel like I can't express how I'm feeling unless I have some kind of a crisis that can out weigh his issues. I've told him this and he's told me he'll work on it, but he hasn't.

I was talking to him last night on the phone, and he was still distraught from an issue 2 days before, but he was feeling significantly better. I tried to talk about the fact that I wish he would call me more, rather than me always calling him and he only calling me when he was upset and needed to talk or when I had specifically asked him to call. He asked me to "please not do this right now", as he often does when I try to bring up a problem. I told him that I needed to talk to him about this but he wouldn't.

I understand that he has major problems at home that he needs to solve, but I have things I need to talk about too. I always worry that if I talk about things that are bothering me when he is upset that I will trigger his anxiety, despite the fact that he has told me not to do this as neither of us can know what will and what will not trigger it.

But still, I neglect to, or he neglects to give me the opportunity to talk about my feelings, so I end up bottling them up. Little things that would likely have been resolved have me fit ready to burst because I don't get to work them out. Our phone conversations almost always turn into a fight and see us leaving the conversation feeling worse than we did going into it. I can go from feeling great and deciding to give him a call to see how he's doing, to feeling like shit when I get off the phone.

None of this is to say that he has never been supportive, there have been many a time that he has talked me through problems. It's just that when he has a problem too, I can't have one, or if I do, it takes a back seat to his.

If the relationship were as black and white as the above, I'd break up with him and be over with it, but it's not that simple.

I love him and he loves me. We spend a lot of time together and have common interests such a trading card game (Magic the Gathering)that he introduced me to that we play a casual tournament of every Friday night. We also have differing interests which keep the relationship interesting. He is a good person and I know that if he actually works on the things I need out of him (like him calling me and listening to my issues more often) and if I work on my issues in the relationship, that we can make this relationship work.

We've talked about living together, having kids, getting married. I know all that would be a far ways off if it ever happened, but it's nice to think about the future. I want the present to be good, whether that means he and I part ways or stay together (the staying together being my goal) but I can't help but feel that I am not getting what I want and need out of the relationship.

I feel like I am putting in more than I get out. I'm not really certain what I'm asking you for. Advice I suppose, and perhaps insight into the relationship that can only be gained from that outside. How can my boyfriend and I patch up our relationship? Or is it beyond repair?

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~moonlight

I am ME and that is the only label I need.

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Heather
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Okay, so first things first: who is he seeking out help and support from around all of this besides you? Or is he only talking to you?

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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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moonlight bouncing off water
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He has a counselor that he talks to on a regular basis (in fact, he was in to see her yesterday). A few days ago he talked to his brother about some of this and patched things up with him (they'd been fighting quite a lot lately) and he and his brother decided to become allies (or as they put it not be jerks to each other). He also has a friend who he talks to a lot who has dealt with depression and/or anxiety who is very nice. His friend told him that if he ever needs to go to the hospital (for his anxiety) that he would take him if he wanted.

He's never taken me up on the offer, but my parents would talk to him if he asked.

That's part of what I hate about this situation, I can't have any influence over the situation and I can't help him to get out of it. I can only support him by talking to him and offering my parent's support and advice.

Edit: I think, however, he really only talks about anxiety to his friend (who is quite a bit older than him by the way). I don't know whether he talked to his brother about the issues with his mom's boyfriend or just about the issues he and his brother were having with each other. And although I suspect he talks to his counselor about his mom's boyfriend, I don't pry into what he talks to his counselor about because I want that to be private and for him to only tell me about it if he wants to (I'll ask him how it went, he'll say pretty good and I leave it at that unless he brings something up).

[ 08-05-2011, 11:26 AM: Message edited by: moonlight bouncing off water ]

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~moonlight

I am ME and that is the only label I need.

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Heather
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Have you two ever had a visit with his counselor together?

If not, I think that might be a really good move. That way, you can talk about how you're feeling, his counselor, knowing him well (if he's really participating in his therapy), can likely be of a lot of help in you two working towards a better balance with all of this. Even just one visit together would likely be productive, especially she he and she can keep talking in his private sessions about these issues.

Also, is he a legal minor? And has he reported the abuse at his home to his counselor? If so, has she not reported the abuse to social services?

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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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moonlight bouncing off water
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No we have never had a visit to his counselor together. Though I think it could be very beneficial to do so, I'm not sure it is the best idea for our situation. I try to keep his visits private, unless he wants to share them. I would be very comfortable even bringing up the two of us going, let alone going. I wouldn't want to tell my parents I was going, so I'd probably end up lying.

No, he is not a legal minor (legally one is an adult at the age of 18 here).

I don't know exactly what he talks to his counselor about, but I'm sure his home life is part of it. I'm not even certain that he classifies the abuse as such or whether he simply considers it the mother's boyfriend being, excuse my language, an *******. Whether or not he's talked to his counselor about it aside, I'm fairly certain she's bound by patient confidentiality, so she could only report it if he consented to he doing so. I don't think it's likely that he would consent to her reporting, due to an issue he had with child protection services when he was a child.

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~moonlight

I am ME and that is the only label I need.

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Heather
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Can I ask why he's still living at home in that situation if he is of legal age to leave?

Seeing his counselor together doesn't mean his visits still aren't private. She would not be giving you any private information about him, she'd simply be facilitating some conversations and tools to help you both with the information you shared with her in that visit and only in that visit unless he asked her to share anything additional with you.

Here's the thing: it seems to me that y'all need some help here. It doesn't have to be from his counselor, so if that's not something you feel either of you can ask for help, do you have any other ideas about who might be?

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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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Heather
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Also, just FYI, when someone is being harmed by someone else, and that is shared with a counselor, patient confidentiality is not an issue. And legally, when harm is being done that is not lawful, counselors in most systems are bound TO report it, whether or not the patient consents.

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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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moonlight bouncing off water
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He's living at home because, despite having a job, he doesn't feel he is in a financial situation to move out. We live in a really small town, and there is'nt much affordable housing here. To boot a few apartment buildings here have burned recently, so what little affordable housing there was has burned or been taken by those who left homeless due to the blazes. He wants to move out, but doesn't feel like he is able to. Yesterday he got one of the rare chances to talk to his mom and he was going to tell her that she either needed to get rid of her boyfriend or help him move out, so I hope something came of that. I know that the only way the situation will get better is if he moves out and I hope he does.

My issue with privacy and the counselor isn't that I think she will divulge information. It's that I would feel like I was intruding on something my boyfriend didn't want me to. It would be kind of like if he came onto this site and never visited any of my posts, or even knew my nickname on here; despite my things I talk about not being divulged, it would still feel like an invasion of my support network. Do you know what I'm saying?

And you're right that we need help. I'm trying to help him on my own and it's simply not working. I think the only people that can help us with this are my parents. I trust them and they care about my boyfriend a lot. But I need him to be okay with them being a part of this. He's said it's fine if I discuss it with them, but I'll only have the courage to if he is there to discuss it (which is illogical, I know).

I'm not sure what my parents could actually do in the situation, but they are really smart and would at least be able to offer advice and support.

My boyfriend has said that since his mother started dating her boyfriend he has gotten more parenting from my parents that from his mom. And I believe him. The part that makes it really horrible is that my parents have only talked to him a little bit about what he wants to do with his life and shown him respect and love. They haven't done much. And his mom is done even less than that.

I think that he is reluctant to get help from my parents (although he seems to appreciate the offer) because he'd rather his mom help him. But she won't. She doesn't even try to help him and even if she did she is doing him no favours by having that man in the house.

[ 08-05-2011, 12:22 PM: Message edited by: moonlight bouncing off water ]

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~moonlight

I am ME and that is the only label I need.

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Heather
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Oh, that's awful about what happened with all that housing. [Frown] Is he employed? If so, has he looked into maybe getting housemates so he can afford to move out? Not that that automatically fixes everything, mind, but it sounds like living in the situation he is is a large part of his problems.

Around the counselor: have you asked him if a shared visit is something he'd be comfortable with or not? If not, why not ask and see how he feels about it? Maybe he doesn't feel it would be an invasion, especially when you're looking for support for you as a couple, rather than for him as an individual?

And it sounds like talking together with your folks would be a great extra source of support. If he's on the fence, have you been clear that this isn't just about HIM getting help HE needs from your partners, but about YOU getting help and support YOU need?

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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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moonlight bouncing off water
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I just saw your second post. As per the patient confidentiality, I didn't know that. The thing is, I don't know that there is enough proof for her to report anything, or if my boyfriend has given her enough information. To the best of my knowledge, it has not been reported.

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~moonlight

I am ME and that is the only label I need.

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moonlight bouncing off water
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I could suggest that he get housemates, I don't know whether it would be realistic in a town this size, but he could try. And yes, he is employed.

No, I have never actually spoken to him about going to see the counselor. I might, but I'm really uncomfortable about the idea.

I haven't really been clear that this would be me getting the help and support I need, so I will bring it up.

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~moonlight

I am ME and that is the only label I need.

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Heather
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But I hear you saying YOU feel uncomfortable because you assume he's not okay with it. Do I have that right? If so, don't you think it makes sense to find out if your presumptions are correct?

One thing I think might be going on here is you assuming that him getting the support he needs is way more important than you getting the support you need. But the truth is, that in a partnership, it's vital everyone in it is supported and that everyone in it -- even when their situations are different -- is making clear that they need it and what they need.

You don't help him if and when you don't voice what you, need, too. And not doing that, or always putting his stuff first -- even if and when that's not what he'd want if he knew the whole picture -- isn't healthy for your relationship. Codependence doesn't help anyone or any relationship. Sounds like it's possible that may be at play here.

[ 08-05-2011, 12:48 PM: 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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moonlight bouncing off water
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I don't really know what I need. I know I need him to listen to me but I have to practically force him to sometimes. I need him to call me instead of me always calling him. I need to feel like my issues are just as important as his. But you're right that I feel like it's more important for him to get support. At least right now, because his situation is more of a threat to him than mine is to me.

I try to tell him when there is something wrong with me, but he says "please don't do this right now" almost every single time and refuses to listen to me. Then when I try to talk about my stuff he starts to feel bad about it and I end up comforting him.

My boyfriend just called and he's going to come over. We're heading out in a few hours to play that game I talked about, but he and I will have a chance to talk before then. I will definantly talk about all or some of this to him.

Thank you very much for your advice and I'd like to keep discussing this if that's alright, I'll just probably be offline in a few minutes until tomorrow.

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~moonlight

I am ME and that is the only label I need.

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Heather
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Happy to keep talking about this as you need to.

I do think it sounds like you two need to have a very honest -- and likely difficult -- conversation about if he earnestly feels he CAN really consider someone else's needs right now. I can certainly see why doing so would be really difficult for him, and I know how much it can suck to have to opt out of intimacy when you just can't do it in a two-sided way however much you want to, but it still remains on him to make an honest assessment of that.

Because if he just plain can't right now, then as someone who is also YOUR partner -- rather than you just being there for him -- he really needs to be honest with you about that so you can make your own best choices. You need to know if someone feels they can or cannot be a real partner for you, because, perhaps obviously, if they can't, and it seems like they have a lot to resolve for themselves before they can, then you need to know that it's not sound for you to expect a partnership here. And then need to figure for yourself if you are interested in being in more of a caretaker relationship with this person than a partnership where all the support and investment goes both ways.

So, yes, his situation sounds like a larger threat to his well-being than yours right now (especially since you getting out of this appears more doable than his getting out of his home at the moment), but that doesn't mean that the sound approach is for you to be irrelevant. If he is in harm's way, then the best answer probably is for him to invest all his energy in getting out of all that, and really taking the kind of time that will require, rather than trying to be in a relationship he just can't do on top of taking care of his needs in crisis right now.

When "right now" is always, after all, when it comes to the things you need, I'm afraid it sounds to me like you're getting a very strong message he's just not emotionally available for a partnership right now, no matter how much he may want to be.

[ 08-05-2011, 01:37 PM: 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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moonlight bouncing off water
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It's pretty late, but I just got back from hanging out with my boyfriend, so I figured I'd write something short.

He and I talked, and talked and talked. I told him how I feel and that I NEED him to give me just as much support. I told him that I can't be in the relationship if he can't support me and I support him way more than he does me. I was ready to quit, to break up. But I didn't. He has promised to work really hard on supporting me. He and I still have a lot to talk about and a lot to work on, but this is a start. We're going to see each other this weekend and talk some more (it's a lot easier if we break up really important things into smaller pieces rather than one humongous long conversation).

I expected to go to sleep tonight loving my boyfriend less than I did this morning and maybe with him not as my boyfriend, but instead I'm going to bed loving him more. That he will work more, that he will support me makes me love him more. This issue won't be solved overnight, and we both recognize that, but as long as he keeps his word about supporting me we can make the relationship work. Because beyond this issue, the relationship is great, and neither of us want it to end.

This issue is far from over, but I'm in a much better position to deal with it now.

Oh and a side note, I told him I discussed this on here [well, I just said on a forum] and it felt great to actually tell him. (I am often insecure about how people would react if they knew I watched certain tv shows or did [insert just about anything here])

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~moonlight

I am ME and that is the only label I need.

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Heather
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I'm so, so glad that your talk went so well, that you took a step to really make clear that you, too, need support, and set limits around support as something you need. All great stuff!

(And I'd hardly expect anyone to be able to talk all of this out in one evening. This is clearly a longstanding issue, and not something that's going to get resolved in one night or even fully addressed in one night.)

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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

Posts: 68290 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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