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

  1. #1
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    I can't seem to fully engage emotionally until relationships have ended

    A three year relationship of mine just ended, again, and I'm really emotional about it now. I'd seen this looming and thought I could handle it, but as soon at she came to pick up her things, I felt overwhelming grief. All of the things I'd thought were too much work to do toward the end of the the conflicts I'd let go unresolved, all the petty annoyances that I'd let build, all the complaints or cries for attention on her part, became deafening. Obviously, I've reached out to see if she'd like to try again, but shes done, and I don't blame her. I have this pattern of becoming distant or aloof every 7-9 months as a way of stalling for time on escalating my commitment to her. It has caused her great pain, clearly.

    I want to fix this so badly. Not just to get back the relationship, because that's likely gone forever, but so I don't fall into this cycle with someone else. I'm a bit of a loner, and admit that I'm wary of the loss of freedom in committed relationships, but I find LTRs to be incredibly fulfilling at the same time, especially my most recent ex.

    What do I do?

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    What were the issues in the relationship?

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    Platinum Member Wiseman2's Avatar
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    Sorry to hear this. How old is she? What type of commitment? Were you exclusive? Living together? Did she want to get engaged? Boundaries help freedom in relationships by creating space and autonomy. Being joined at the hip is unhealthy.

    Don't settle down if you don't want, but don't just coast along stringing anyone along.
    Originally Posted by mustard
    A three year relationship of mine just ended, again

    I have this pattern of becoming distant or aloof every 7-9 months as a way of stalling for time on escalating my commitment to her. I'm a bit of a loner, and admit that I'm wary of the loss of freedom in committed relationships

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    Originally Posted by Wiseman2
    Sorry to hear this. How old is she? What type of commitment? Were you exclusive? Living together? Did she want to get engaged? Boundaries help freedom in relationships by creating space and autonomy. Being joined at the hip is unhealthy.

    Don't settle down if you don't want, but don't just coast along stringing anyone along.
    She is 28 and wants to move in together and get married. i want those things too, but I can never tell when I'm "ready." I don't know what those decisions really feel like. I'm not averse to settling down but I'm scared of being very bad at it and making both of us miserable. I understand that I can't keep stringing anyone along. I didn't want to lose this woman but I admit that I made it almost impossible for her to feel secure in staying. i might have self-sabotaged to avoid a decision though. I can be very avoidant and cowardly.

    Now I looked like an duplicitous idiot recognizing and communicating the true extent of my grief and remorse to her after the fact and she understandably doesn't believe a word I say. It must come across as horribly manipulative. I didn't want to hurt her anymore but I also didn't want to leave those things unsaid.

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    Originally Posted by Hollyj
    What were the issues in the relationship?
    Mostly due my comittment issues. I had a bad divorce ten years ago that turned me off on the idea, and my parents werent very good role models of a healthy partnership. There were some communication problems, but it was mostly about my reluctance to escalate formal commitment. We basically lived together, she's essentially a part of my family, and our lives were pretty well integrated. It made total sense to move in together but i just couldn't do it.

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    Platinum Member bluecastle's Avatar
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    Can I ask how old you are? Just curious to get some context here on what "forever" constitutes.

    I can relate to a lot of what you've written here, having felt that way here and there over the course of life. All in all, I think the reason was pretty simple, if sad: I was in relationships that I just wasn't fully into being in. I treated them as somewhat temporary because, deep down, gun to head, I believed they were just that. When they ended I was devastated—because loss sucks, but also, I think, because it invariably held a mirror to the shortcomings of being in a state of quasi-commitment inside a committed relationship.

    What helped me? Taking some real time to think about what it is I wanted from a relationship, to get intentional about all, so that whatever I committed to wasn't fueled simply by early juju, sparks, and basic human desires for sex and companionship, but a real faith that we could each offer the other what was needed to thrive: as individuals, as partners.

    I'm a bit of a loner myself, for instance, fond of marching to the very loud beat of my personal drum. Rather than think of that as some impediment, however, I started thinking about it as something to nurture—as something that could be nurtured inside a relationship, with the right person, rather than some cancer I had to eradicate in the name of forever and ever. Doesn't mean I was looking for someone to give me a hall pass on reckless and inconsiderate behavior, but just someone that I could feel like me around, rather than some version of me that felt like an act being performed on the relationship stage.

    Just going from what you've offered, it may be pretty simple here: you haven't met the right person and/or haven't taken a minute to become the person you want to be, so you can be that person alongside another. All those fears you're describing? About it going south, and so on? Zoom out a few degrees and you may see them as a byproduct of basic incompatibility rather than some personal pathology.

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    I'm 41. You're right, upon introspection, I always considered the relationship somewhat disposable, especially since it grew out of what I had intended to be a hookup. There were also a few things that made me question her honesty and integrity that I won't go into right now. I felt a good amount of guilt at times in the relationship, knowing that she was, as far as i could tell, fully on board while I had some reservations. It's not that I don't want ot work through things like that, but it's very hard to let go of the idea that since it has happened once, it could happen again.

    As the relationship moved forward I did feel at times as though I wasn't adequately done "becoming." I didn't linger very long on those thoughts because it's such a vague complaint, and I don't know how to reify the concern and address it appropriately.

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    Platinum Member bluecastle's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by mustard
    I always considered the relationship somewhat disposable, especially since it grew out of what I had intended to be a hookup.
    A lot here to unpack, I suspect. If you drift into something in a state of emotional unavailability, and have that state validated by another, the odds are very slim that the dynamic suddenly evolves into total availability, into something that doesn't feel like drifting. Reason is simple: How can you take a woman seriously who is taking a version of you seriously that you don't even think is so hot, so serious? If a shadow version of yourself is what gets her "fully on board," you're going to be prone to questioning that, surrendering to it. It's like having a mirror held to you that reflects back an image you don't much like, at which point respect (of yourself, of the person holding that mirror) is basically annihilated.

    I say look at this moment, tough as it is, as a gift. I'll spare you my story, but I went through something shockingly similar: same age gap, same initial expectations, also three years. When it ended, and the smoke started to clear? My whole thing was that if I was going to ever be in a state of heartbreak again—which I was open to, since I wanted love and partnership and all that jazz—it was not going to come after (a) significant time spent on the fence with (b) a woman who would put up with that shellshocked version of myself. To get to that place—well, it required me to get a bit more serious about growing up and scraping some corrosion off the emotional pipes.

    You got divorced at 31, which leads me to think you got married to a youthful love. Can't help but wonder: In seeking someone much younger than you, could you have been trying to replay that story with different results? It's hard to feel like you're growing alongside someone, and able to keep growing authentically, when you have to grown backwards a bit to connect.

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    Platinum Member LaHermes's Avatar
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    At the heart of the matter Mustard.

    "I had a bad divorce ten years ago that turned me off on the idea, and my parents werent very good role models of a healthy partnership."

    and

    " but it's very hard to let go of the idea that since it has happened once, it could happen again.
    "


    Until you work through these issues and make peace with them I fear relationships are going to be difficult for you.

    It isn't IMO about being what you call a loner.

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    Platinum Member bluecastle's Avatar
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    Oh, and just a thought about your title:

    When a relationship ends, full emotional engagement is "easy" because it's with yourself, the other person rendered an idea, an abstraction. You have all these feelings, without the complexity of another person.

    It's like the difference between fully engaging with Paris while planning a trip, or looking back at photos of a trip, but struggling to actually enjoy walking around Paris: weird traffic patterns, too much cigarette smoke, whatever. And if you told me that about Paris? I'd say it just wasn't the city for you, or that you should get a bit more intentional about what it is you want from travel: a place to escape yourself, of discover new corners of yourself.

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