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Thread: I can't seem to fully engage emotionally until relationships have ended

  1. #21
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    It's been a month since the breakup, and three weeks since I've heard from her. The urge to reach out is unbearably strong. i've started therapy and it helps me understand why I'm feeling this way and why i made the choices I did. I'm hopelessly avoidant. I've started sleeping with someone and I'm upfront about where I am emotionally, and she understands. It helps to have a connection, however tenuous and borne out of triage.

    I miss my ex incredibly and my mornings are psychological chaos: I'm angry and hurt and guilty and grieving all at once. I open an email several times a day and just write, letting them sit in my drafts folder. I'm incredulous that I put myself back in this place again.

  2. #22
    Platinum Member bluecastle's Avatar
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    Sorry about all this. Whatever the circumstances, I think what you're experiencing right now is kind of how it goes for the first month. Kind of how it goes, really, until you get through this moment. Not words that make it easier, I know, but maybe they can help you judge these feelings less, react to them less, and instead just sit with them as they fester and eventually pass.

    On the subject of reactions? I understand how a new sexual companion can be something of a salve—been there, plenty. But if you reflect back, is this not similar to how the relationship you're presently mourning started? You finding someone who would be "okay" and "understanding" with your state of complete emotional unavailability? A night becoming a week becoming a month becoming years? You feeling kind of good, in the moment, while also being kind of surprised that someone would "stay for the ride" given how little you had to offer? Might be worth thinking about, or not, as you see fit.

    Validation is powerful stuff, and there's no validation quite like sex and affection. But when what's being validated is a version of ourselves that we're not happy with, the very validation can become a bit like an anchor, pulling us down and away from where we want to go. You're 41 right now. Great age. (I'll be right there with you in a few months!) Take a moment and think about where you want to be at 42, at 45, and what kind of connections (with yourself, with others) you want to define that period. Then ask if the choices you're making right now are getting you closer to that, or further.

  3. #23
    Platinum Member Rose Mosse's Avatar
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    I'm sorry. I didn't see your response on Jul 6. Perhaps the relationship wasn't as enjoyable or fulfilling on both sides, regardless of weight or size. I think it's better to voice differences if you can't get past them or if you don't find the other person attractive anymore. It may hurt for a bit but the other person will get over it and both of you are able to lead happier (separate) lives. What I want to address most is the guilt you're feeling.

    This is all still very fresh too. The mess is normal. Feeling out of sorts, psychologically screwed up, upset, crying all the time and going into withdrawals and panic attacks are not unusual. Keep writing if it helps you but don't send any emails.

    About that guilt: Let go of that. I think guilt is the most damaging of the emotions you've mentioned above because it implies that you've done something so wrong that you are unable to forgive yourself. Forgiveness is the gateway, to me, in rebirth or renewal. If we turn the tables around, she too eventually will have to forgive your comments in order to move on with her life without being bitter and angry towards others or, worse, towards herself and the way she looks.

    You, on the other hand, should also understand that she's an adult and able to govern her own actions, moderate her own behaviours and emotions and her life, weight, body, mind, soul does not belong to you and nor is it dependent on you whether she thrives or not. She is her own person so let go of that guilt.

    The way I see it is this: two different people on two different paths. Appreciate the memories but try not to let them get in the way of you experiencing more and living a full life. This isn't the end for you. Work through that guilt and travel light. Don't carry that around.

  4. #24
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    Thanks for the reply bluecastle. I suppose this is all pretty standard stuff to experience. Therapy has been incredibly illuminating, talking about why I struggle with true intimacy, why I might stifle expressions of love and affection, why I seem so indifferent as the relationship fails but feel so terrible after it all ends. It's pretty textbook avoidant attachment behavior.

    I'm unsure if this new girl is the right thing to do, but she's communicated to me that she finds talking to and being around me to be a healing experience for herself, getting back into the dating world after an extended hiatus following what she tells me was a very rough relationship. I check-in on her feelings about me occasionally to make sure we're not getting into places that can damage anything. It may be selfish but I definitely feel a little steadier as I process everything.

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  6. #25
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    Originally Posted by Rose Mosse
    You, on the other hand, should also understand that she's an adult and able to govern her own actions, moderate her own behaviours and emotions and her life, weight, body, mind, soul does not belong to you and nor is it dependent on you whether she thrives or not. She is her own person so let go of that guilt.

    The way I see it is this: two different people on two different paths. Appreciate the memories but try not to let them get in the way of you experiencing more and living a full life. This isn't the end for you. Work through that guilt and travel light. Don't carry that around.
    Thank you for your kind words. I'm trying to let go of that guilt but it's hard. I know she makes her own decisions about how to respond or otherwise handle being hurt, but it's hard to think I shouldn't have done things differently. In many respects the relationship was the best I'd ever had.

  7. #26
    Platinum Member bluecastle's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by mustard
    In many respects the relationship was the best I'd ever had.
    I'm curious how this statement sits next to the idea that, throughout the relationship, you wondered why she stayed in it. Just making an observation, but in your shoes that would be something I'd reflect on—or, I should say, something I have reflected on when I've been in versions of your shoes. Guess I can't help but think that some of the guilt you're struggling with may be less connected to various things you could have done differently than to the idea that what made this relationship good for you is what made it a struggle for her.

    It kind of goes back to the business of having emotional unavailability validated by another's emotions, which invariably becomes about two people connecting on a plane of insecurity: not consciously, not actively, not intentionally. But still. Speaking for myself, I made it a priority when I found myself wrestling with some of this that any relationship I dedicated real time and energy to was going to be one in which I knew, in my deepest cells, I was all in on, sincerely open, heart and mind and spirit. That's hardly a recipe for forever success, as things can go sideways a zillion different ways, but I do think it's a recipe for curbing some of the guilt and shame, be it the whiffs of those feelings in it or the avalanche of them in the wake.

    It's simply hard to get all up in your head when you're sincerely all up in something. The stuff you're describing, in terms of "stifling" expressions of love, of achieving "true" intimacy, of indifference? To my ears and eyes, at least in the comfort of the bleacher seats, a lot of that boils down to choosing to spend time with someone you're so-so about rather than ga-ga about, with the "terrible" feeling you're describing, at least in part, what happens when that sort of dynamic reveals itself to be what it is, what it was.

    I will invariably struggle to express affection for, say, certain food that only leaves me half-satisfied when eating it. Do I then try to figure out what's wrong with me, so I can learn praise such meals? Or do I challenge myself to expand my appetite, so the praise comes naturally because being indifferent just isn't an option when something is so satisfying and nourishing?

    Food for thought, to stretch a metaphor to its breaking point.

  8. #27
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    Originally Posted by bluecastle
    I'm curious how this statement sits next to the idea that, throughout the relationship, you wondered why she stayed in it. Just making an observation, but in your shoes that would be something I'd reflect on—or, I should say, something I have reflected on when I've been in versions of your shoes. Guess I can't help but think that some of the guilt you're struggling with may be less connected to various things you could have done differently than to the idea that what made this relationship good for you is what made it a struggle for her.
    I"ve thought a lot about this over the past several days, and I think what I'm feeling is a multifactorial situation that's taking some time to really parse. I had tremendous trust issues because of things she'd said and done, and I knew that she was capable of manipulating and was willing to lie about anything, really, to escape accountability, to keep people where she wanted them, or to just make her life easier. I knew about this very early on and I decided to love her anyway. I needed that connection, and obviously there were parts who she is and what we were that I deeply enjoyed.

    Subsequent to this, I'm forcing myself to examine why I never allowed my trust issues to be fully explored together and possibly bring us closer. I understand that I had every reason to walk away a month into the relationship three years ago, but I didn't. But I also didn't allow those feelings to be discussed very often, and quite consciously put them aside after the initial blow-ups/discoveries. I'm reconsidering how I investigate problems in relationships and whether or not my black and white approach made it impossible to adequately address them. I also know that I did some sabotaging, at least in part to avoid having to hold myself accountable and possibly change how I thought about boundaries and where my points of no return are. Couples push through years-long affairs, why couldn't I bring myself to make an earnest effort to rebuild that lost trust?

    There are also issues with my unusual upbringing that I'm starting to pry apart. I had a very strange, almost spousal relationship with my mother that I distinctly recall being part of in middle school, but likely began much earlier. There was a lot of oversharing, seeking my emotional and social support, and meltdowns/outbursts that would go on for days and weeks at a time. I"m the oldest of a very large family, so as i was a spousal son, i was also a parental sibling. I did not have an emotionally stable or typical childhood.

    I also absolutely hate losing and nursing the thought of being unable to outwork my limitations or their consequences allows me to still find some way to beat the feelings. There really is nothing I can do though, as she's made it clear that she has no interest in working things out. Right now, at the end of the day, I miss her very very much, and i'm suspicious that even something as productive as trying to learn my from this is just another attempt to flee that pain.

  9. #28
    Platinum Member Wiseman2's Avatar
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    After 3 yrs she had to do what she had to do. Unfortunately, that means you were incompatible as far as long range goals and values.
    Originally Posted by mustard
    She is 28 and wants to move in together and get married.

  10. #29
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    Originally Posted by Wiseman2
    After 3 yrs she had to do what she had to do. Unfortunately, that means you were incompatible as far as long range goals and values.
    I don't blame her at all for drawing the conclusion that she did and deciding that I was never going to truly commit to her. I tend to perceive relationships as restricting while also valuing that connection very deeply, which manifests in hot and cold behavior and strange boundaries.

  11. #30
    Platinum Member bluecastle's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by mustard
    I knew about this very early on and I decided to love her anyway.
    This sentence, among others, caught my eye. Personally, I don't think that "love" is something we can decide to feel, or not. Feelings don't quite work that way. We don't decide to be sad, or angry, or disappointed, or in love, no different than how you have no choice but to feel whatever swirl of feelings you're currently reckoning with. We feel them—same way we feel a gust of wind or the cold air in winter—and in feeling them we make various choices, some conscious, others not, in how we react to those feelings. Do I put on a jacket, or go inside? Do I punch the wall, or do 50 pushups? Do I commit to a relationship, or not? The momentum of those choices becomes us.

    What I can't help but see? These trust issues you had with her, whatever their nature, were not impediments but essential ingredients you were seeking, since they allowed you to get what you wanted (at least subconsciously) from this relationship and/or relationships in general: an exit strategy, a rationalization for hanging out on the fence, a lack of feeling in you validated by an outpouring of feeling from another. You didn't try to rebuild trust, in other words, because you didn't have any sincere interest in that. People build, rebuild, and repair trust when it is essential to them, when they are so firmly planted on one side of the fence that it's a basic survival thing, kind of like how building, rebuilding, and repairing a home is essential to someone who wants to be and feel sheltered inside it.

    Another word for all that? Control. We think of that word in malicious ways, as something some of us try to exert over others, often aggressively, but there is also a passive means of consolidating control—like, for instance, choosing to be in a relationship with someone who does not trigger in you the richness of feeling you know, on some marrow level, you are capable of experiencing. This is just my observation, of course, but any love that can be "chosen" or "decided on" is a love that is generated more from the brain than the cells, a conceptual sort of love. I can "decide," for example, to try to love certain foods: tasting them, thinking about their taste, musing on the idea that others in the world do love these things—so, perhaps, so too can I? But that's different than biting into something and going: THIS!

    I bristled a bit at your last two sentences, I admit. Lessons aren't an antidote to pain. Nothing is, really. Not learning, not running, not orgasms and companionship, be it of the rebound or full-emotional-surrender variety. Pain is pain is pain. Time takes care of that, always, just as time will always produce more pain, new pain. But the lessons do help us in how we spend that time on the other side of pain, and working through it whenever it comes back our way, so we don't find ourselves paralyzed when new pain stirs up old, poorly processed pain.

    What I'd be thinking about right now, if I were you? I'd think about the ways in which what you might be feeling right now—the pain—is a loss of something that you felt you had more control over than you ever did, and then ask yourself if the "safety" of being on the fence is even worth it if, when everything comes apart, you're still left emotionally shredded? Had to stare down some of those questions myself, so I might be projecting, but I'll tell your that little personal duel was a worthy one.

    My childhood was hardly typical as well, and I've worn its markings with a mix of grace, absurdity, and the occasional weaponizing (internally, externally) of my bs. So it goes, for all of us. But you have now been an adult longer than you were a child, and you have a lot more of this business of being an adult to participate in. So, really, it's your call how you want to spend the currency of your time, yourself. I listen to you here and I hear a tender man who is longing, intensely, to share and enrich that tenderness with another person, which is such a beautiful thing. But I also hear a man being a bit fearful of that surrender and looking for ways to make facsimiles real.

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