The changes & transitions in a LTR. Letting go, breaking up or changing expectations?
Does it ever get easier??? I feel I have been dredging through the same issues for so long. I feel so foolish, selfish, confused. I keep going back and forth on what I want, what I "need", what makes sense. I'm trying not to be so hard on myself but it's difficult not to feel inadequate. I'm only 23 and the two relationships I'm in now have been my only serious, adult relationships. Everything is so new. This forum has really helped me see things from a perspective other than my own and I greatly appreciate that. I guess sometimes I just need to sort things out, so bare with me..
I have been with my bf for 6.5 yrs now, gf 2.5 yrs. This is all of our first go at a poly configuration. I am the center of the v, they are not together. Things have been very up and down. It's all been a crazy learning experience.
About a year after my girl and I got together, I started feeling a disconnect from bf. It first showed up as sexual tension and fear. I strugged with this internal conflict for a while... I questioned if I was a lesbian, told him this and we took a break from sexual intimacy for about 6 mo. During that time, some things happened that made me realize I still had feelings for other men. I talked to him about it and he felt very rejected, I felt very confused. We pushed through it and worked on other aspects of our relationship. We remained close emotionally and spiritually.
After that give or take 6 mo period, we gradually started being more physical. I accepted that my sexuality is fluid and was no longer afraid of having to "choose sides" (whether I said this out loud or not I feel it was a subconscious fear, especially experiencing my first serious lesbian relationship.) It's a relief to feel I can let go of that pressure, to know it's not a gay/straight thing. But to be honest, now I am confused on an even deeper level.
I love this man so much. He amazes me every day. He inspires me more than anyone else. I trust him with all my heart. He is incredible and a true "catch." I can't picture my life without him. I love the time we spend together, I love his family, his friends, everything about him. He is truly one of a kind. Yet I find myself scared constantly that I cannot be all that he deserves.
He has greived over the change in our relationship, "losing" me as his "primary", if you will. When we first got together 6 yrs ago, we did everything together. Now, I live with my gf, we share more interests, have more of the same friends, and are at more of a similar place in life. We have more passion between us than him and I do. With how much I love him, I never want to take him for granted. I feel so blessed that someone like him loves me and that we have this kind of connection. But something inside me keeps pushing me to realize something isn't right.
It's scary to admit, and hard to grow up and realize that maybe I'm the one who isn't right in this situation. I love him to death and want him to be so happy. I know he aches over the fact that him and I don't spend as much time together as we used to. We have tried to make time for each other, over and over. My life has become so busy as I've grown up and gained new interests and passions on my own as well as building my career, not to mention the time strain of two relationships, friendships, family, etc. It's hard. He expresses to me in different ways that he needs more. I feel intense guilt constantly over this. It really is a controlling factor in my life. It's such a confusing battle. I tell myself I'm trying hard to take care of him, but why aren't things "perfect" and why isn't everyone as happy as they could/should be? My therapist tells me I have issues with needing to take care of people and catering to everyone, that I can only truly be responsible for my own emotions. I know this is true, but yet it's so hard to break away and realize I can't make every little thing perfect for everyone.
It's scary to realize love isn't as black and white as we are told to believe. It scares me to say maybe I'm not as in love with him as I once was. It scares me to imagine losing him in my life. At the same time, our relationship ideas are clashing. He needs more attention, more intimacy, more romance. I need more freedom, more space, more flexibility to grow. I fear I am confused again, that I'm immature, selfish, blind. Maybe I am. But that's the same part of me that feels it's unfair to drag him through this while I "figure it out." I love his commitment and loyalty, that he will be by my side through anything, I want to give him the same in return. But I want to help him take care of himself too. And that might mean letting him go..... It SUCKS because I know he feels he has let go so much, for me to take away anything else would be like a stab through his heart. He has felt abandoned by me growing in another relationship with someone else, though he has accepted it.
I cannot say where we will end up, when, or what our love will look like in 10 years when you lay it out on a time line. All I can put my energy into is right now, and right now I know he is not satisfied, whether he expresses that honestly or not. I cannot go out and find another lover for him to fulfill his needs romantically and sexually. I can have honest conversations about how I fear I will not be able to fulfill all the things he wants and deserves. Maybe some day. But I have tried, and feel I keep coming up short. I know it's not fair to either of us to keep clawing at something that is just out of reach. I don't know what to do to make this better but I know something needs to change.
I still feel so deeply for him. I love him. I want to be happy with him. I want him to be happy, even without me. I don't want to lose him in my life, but I don't want this strain to hold either of us back. I fear he hasn't admitted to himself that his needs aren't being met by me... And I also keep feeling this pain of being at a different place in life than where him and I are together. My therapist has asked me, do I do certain things in my relationship with him because I want to or because I feel obliged? It has really gotten me thinking. I feel so selfish and awful because I do feel obliged a lot of the time. Then I punish myself internally because I think what is wrong with me? I have this incredible human being who wants to give me the world, and I can't set aside everything else and give it back to him as well. Am I completely fucked up and throwing away the best thing to ever happen to me?
The other thing is, our boundaries haven't been working for me anymore. I feel so strained because I don't feel as deeply on the romantic side with him anymore, yet I am feeling very curious about exploring my feelings and sexuality with other men. This, however, is not a part of our agreement. It hurts him that I desire this because he feels he has lost so much already. It is confusing for me too though because our relationship hasn't been highly romantic or sexual in so long that it's hard to accept his ruling over what I am "allowed" to do with others.
I could really use some insight. I don't want to string things along anymore. I want to have some real conversations. I am afraid of what to say though and don't know where to begin. My thoughts are so jumbled up, I don't know what is reasonable or what is selfish. I am so scared because I feel every day I learn something new about myself that I'm afraid to make any rash decisions because things can change so rapidly. I don't want to hurt anyone, and I don't want to screw up. I'm not sure what are "normal" feelings, "growing pains" or what things I need to be smacked into reality about. I am ready to grow up, be honest, and hear the harsh truth if that's what is necessary. It's hard to find people to talk to about these things so thank you for listening.
So in trying to take care of him... what are you doing to help him "unsuffer?"
What are you doing to help you "unsuffer?"
Is staying in a BF/GF relationship with him adding to the suffering or taking away from the suffering for him? (Adding... it just drags on.)
If staying in a BF/GF relationship with him adding to the suffering or taking away from the suffering for you? (Adding. It just drags on. You are miserable, feel obligated, guilty, not able to meet his needs, etc.)
So basically someone has to shoot the horse. That someone could be you.
Some choices in life are not win or lose. But which stinks the least. If stinkage must happen, pick the least stinky!
To me? That's breaking up with him. You let him be mad at you, act out, whatever. But you break it off. Short term suckage for long term health improvements -- So he can be free. And so you can be free too.
It will still stink a bit more as you move through break up healing process, but you both get to move it forward now that you broke it off. Rather than stay suffering in the endless hamster wheel going round in endless circles.
Sometimes there's no more loving gesture to do than to let someone go and be the one to end it. So they don't have to be the one to.
And if you want something else to begin, like a lifelong friendship with him? Then something has to end. This dying on the vine romanceship. In order to make the space for a new relationship with him.
FACE TIME: "So... serious talk. It's been a long, good run on the romance and I loved it. But that has ended for me -- the romance love. I'm sorry it didn't go longer.
I think we are both hurting. And have been. Avoiding dealing with it is not helping. So I want to break up. See if after the break up feelings subside, being NOT romance partners serves us both better and frees us up to be friends without a misery cloud hanging over us. I miss you as my friend.
I don't know what kind of relationship you want to have next or even if you are willing. I would like to be good exes and friends if possible. I am willing to try. Are you? What would you want? Are you willing to talk to me and plan what we want to be next to each other?"
I am sorry you hurt, and I am sorry this is hard. :(
Could pick your hard. Pick the least stinky and move it forward. For both your sakes.
Just wanted to add.. I think the "triangle theory of love" is helpful to think about here...
Bf & I seem to be at the "Companionate Love" stage, yet still holding on to ideals of "consummate love."
I don't know how to progress from here so we are both happy and getting our needs met, or what kind of boundaries need to be put into play. I think this may be a good place to start though...
Could be friends in "companionate love" then.
Could keep the ideals of consummate love too and at the same time...could accept that you are not going to be sharing "consummate love" with EACH OTHER.
You are already in polyshipping and BF/GF to each other. And still don't feel better despite trying that approach for a while now.
So try the next thing. Break it up. Be only friends and behave only as friends do to each other. See if it eventually feels better. Rely on your companionate love to get you through the transition into a new relationship shape.
How does being unwilling to break up and try a new behavior help you stop going round in circles in this malaise?
Feelings ensue after behavior (even thinking behavior).
You keep choosing the same behavior and find it doesn't work and still feels yucky. Could change your way of going then. See if that feels better.
I know it is hard, but again... could choose to "unsuffer" rather than choose to continue to suffer. :(
Thanks for your reply. I'm sure you are right. It just seems so wrong and impossible to leave him. I'm so scared. I can't stand the thought of how mad and depressed and abandoned he will feel. I can't stand the thought of making him feel even more alone. I'm afraid of being lost without him. I'm so anxious, I never thought this would happen. I thought we would be together always. I can't help fearing I'm making a huge mistake or I failed somewhere. ;(
It is ok to be scared. It's ok to feel crazy. You are thinking about undergoing your OWN stages of grief and mourning the loss of the relationship if you break up and it frightens you. Who loves signing up for grief? Nobody.
But first... before you can grieve, you have to actually break up. Deciding to do that is part is the roller coaster of the cycle of emotional change. You seem to be at "self doubt." You are getting close to "acceptance" and accepting that a break up is due here. Just not quite there yet.
It's ok. Feel whatever you have to feel and let it blow on through.
It's scary to think maybe he doesn't want to be friends if you break up. I get that. You didn't think you would break up so you never thought to ask him ahead of time. But you know you. You aren't going anywhere. You are still there in his life as a friend if he wants to be friends.
You have emotional responsibility over your own self. As does he. YOU don't "make" him feel whatever. If you had that power you could wave a wand and POOF! You could make him feel happy.
What you control and can change is your behavior.
I see that you don't like a loved one hurting. But again... pick what hurts least. If there were a "hurt free" option I'm sure you would be on it like white on rice... but there isn't one of those options around here. So could move it forward.
Let yourself be ok feeling the emotional cycle of change feelings as you think about making this big change. Feelings won't kill you. Accept it is going to feel all roller coaster. Then when you break it off, accept you are going to feel the new roller coaster of "stages of grief." Both of you.
Then hopefully in time, you will both feel better. And you will both still be friends, because you share companionate love. Exercise some faith in yourself and in your partner.
In your next relationships, you could talk about how to break up ahead of time. Then if it should come to be needed? That emergency plan for a good break up? It minimizes some of your discomfort in the break up time. Then you could know AHEAD OF TIME that your partner wants to be "good exes and friends" afterward and not have that unknown amplifying the "scary."
I think part of your ugh here is fear that he might NOT want to be good exes and friends. So you fear a double loss -- the loss of the romantic relationship and the loss of his friendship. You never thought to ask what kind of ex he wanted to be because you never thought he'd be an ex.
But being afraid to leave because you might not be friends later is not a good reason to stay in something that you are not really into any more. It's also not very "friendly" to keep things dragging on. You have to stop being a GF. But you can continue being a good friend here -- man up and do what needs doing.
You haven't done anything wrong or made any mistakes. You grew. So did he. This shape no longer fits. That is all.
Hang in there.
I am much older than you but I do remember the feeling of being young and knowing I was growing up, and yet feeling uncomfortable with that, like I would be abandoning people who expected me to be a certain way or always stay the same person. But I knew I had to be ME!
When I was 19, I had a boyfriend whom I had been with since age 16. When we started dating, I was so happy and thought I hit the jackpot - he was so cool and cute and everything I wanted in a boyfriend. He was my first love and I was his. But by the time I was 19, about to turn 20, I knew I was a completely different person, and it wasn't working anymore. There was more heartache between us than joy and fun and lightness. He was intensely jealous, to the point that if I looked out the side window while in his car, he would ask me who I was looking at. Relationships shouldn't be full of angst. I felt like a free spirit who was trapped and held in a cage.
One day, I told him, "We're both growing up, but we're growing in different directions. You'll always be in my heart, but I have to be on my own." That is how I ended it. I knew it was time and I had to honor myself first. I never regretted it - he moved on, got a good job, eventually got married, started a business, had a bunch of kids. I didn't want that sort of life back then, and it would have hurt both of us if I'd have stayed and tried to give it to him.
Sometimes, the best, most loving thing we can do is to let someone go.
I went over to his house last night. The minute I got there he ran up n gave me a big hug, it felt so nice. It made me feel so happy just to see him again and be in his arms, to see him smile and to laugh together. We had dinner together and I wanted to be close to him, things felt normal and great.
Before I got there I had talked to my therapist, my parents, my gf all about the situation. I had been describing it from a very detached place. I made it sound like I had little romantic interest or emotional attachment to the relationship anymore. I even wrote a letter I was going to give him, breaking it off.
When I saw him I was overwhelmed with so many feelings. It felt GOOD to be around him and to love him and care for each other. He gets me and I get him. I felt so confused and like breaking it off was the absolute last thing I wanted to do. It didn't feel right at all.
I knew something had to be done though so I took a deep breath and started a conversation. I told him I was worried about him, worried that I couldn't meet his needs, that I felt pressured with all the responsibility of satisfying him when I know I can't always be around. I told him I really need to be independent at this point in my life. I love him but I can't be there as much as he deserves. I also know our physical/romantic connection isn't as strong as it once was.
He acknowledged my fears and told me he's sry I feel like his feelings are completely my responsibility, that I don't have to be held accountable for making everything perfect for him like that. That he's comfortable where were at and appreciates how independent I am bc he needs his space too and is glad we aren't completely dependent on each other. He's sorry if he whines or seems upset that we don't spend more time together but he understands and it's not my fault.
He knows everything would be easier on both of us if he had another lover to take some of that responsibility off me, n he is looking. He said he never meant to make me feel pressured to be physical but that it is something he desires in our relationship. It doesn't have to be a big part but he wants to hang onto the hope that some day I'd like to rekindle that w him. I told him I'd love for that to happen and it would be really great but I'm not at a place where I can focus on that - I feel it complicates things - and it would be easier on me to not have that expectation over my head.
& I also I don't want to get his hopes up that things will be how they used to. He said he doesn't need them to b how they used to, just to know that I still love him and am not just closing the door on that forever. I don't wanna close the door on anything forever, I just want him to take care of himself and get his needs met elsewhere.
We talked about my desire to be free and make my own choices when it comes to being intimate with other people. I said I'm willing to take it slower but a limit for me is I cannot deal w him being possessive of me or believing he can control me. He said he never wanted it to be like that and he wants me to be free. It's just hard for him bc I keep asking for more and more and he needs time to catch up. N that he also thinks its reasonable for him to be jealous. I said its perfectly normal for u to be jealous but you need to respect me. I want these things to be my decision bc I want to respect you and stay with you which means honoring your comfort level, not because you demand it of me. I don't know if that really got through to him but it seemed to upset him...
We talked for a long time, late into the night that I ended up sleeping over. He woke me up really upset saying its not fair bc he doesn't have one ounce of control over the situation yet I always talk about needing to be in control of myself. I said that's the only thing we CAN control is ourselves. I can't force u to do or feel anything, you have always been in this on your own free will. It's not fair to think either of us can be in control of the other. We have to take care of ourselves to make this work. He was still really upset when I left this morning and I left feeling sick to my stomach.
I don't know what to do. We feel so strongly for each other and the good in our relationship is so incredible. It doesn't feel right to end it. Something is pulling us together. We both said we want to do whatever it takes to make things work and I know we really love each other and believe we are soulmates. I don't even know what the problem is, I can't pin point the issues. When we talk about making it work it sounds so easy and makes so much sense. But then why do we both feel like shit right now???
I'm torn between my heart telling me we should stay together, and everyone on the outside of our relationship claiming we should split. I'm so confused and I just want to run away.
It sounds like you had good, heartfelt, truthful communication between you. That doesn't mean it is always pleasant, but you got out what you had to say and it sounds like you were very mature and loving about it.
The pain you feel is likely growing pains, and from seeing him upset and not wanting to hurt him. It is scary and exhilarating and confusing to step away from our support systems and comfort zones for the first time and be on our own, making our own choices and standing up for ourselves - it is easy to feel queasy about that, like being up on a high wire without a net below us.
Remember, at your age, young women are just more mature than the guys at the same age. Girls mature faster. The guys have to catch up. He is having growing pains, too. As much as he says he doesn't want it to be the way it was, of course he does! There is always comfort in the familiar, even if we know it doesn't fit us anymore. He loves you, accepts you, but feels out of control, and also has to deal with societal pressures that say the male is the boss in a relationship.
You did good. You were honest and compassionate. Keep breathing. His journey is his own, you can't fix it for him.
You both feel like shit because that is part of the breaking up process.
The stages of acceptance / stages of grief thing.
In time you will both feel better. Keep in mind you are further ahead than him because in being the breaker-upper, you have been thinking it over in your head for a while now. You have had the heads up.
Him as the one being broken up with? He's got to catch up and the first stage there is "shock/denial" like "I can't believe this is happening! I can't believe this is really over! I don't want this to be over! I don't want to see/accept it as over!" and you can expect him to hit you with "bargaining" type talk as he jiggles across the stages into final acceptance.
Best way to navigate that is be kind but firm.
"Yes. It is over. I am sorry. We are friends now, not romantic partners and lovers. "
Being clear with the boundaries helps YOU too.
Hang in there.
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