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A setback. Feeling sad again.


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First of all, we were a gay couple. He's 15 years younger than I (he's 23). Part of the problem was our age difference, and being at different stages of our lives. The other part? Well, he definitely has some issues.


I didn't want to pursue anything serious with him from the beginning. I wanted it to be casual dating, but eventually he asked me to stop seeing and having sexual relationships with others. I don't know why I said yes. Eventually he moved in (he manipulated the situation by saying he was kicked out of his parents' home, because I had said no before). But then he slowly wanted to continue an open relationship, and he began to have very dysfunctional experiences. He was drugged once by a man (he willingly took the drugs). He was raped by two strange men he met in a hotel room. He caught 2 STDs. He would go to the gay bathhouse for SM sex. I had to get out of bed to pick him up off a sidewalk where he passed out drunk. It seemed the more degrading the sex and the situation, the more he was drawn to it. I think it's an understatement to say he has self-esteem issues. And I stuck with him through it all. I know he did love me, but his issues kept him in a self-destructive pattern.


Finally, we ended it one week ago, on Valentine's Day. At first I was heartbroken, but slowly I've become more relieved. The stress and torture of always rescuing him was really taking a toll on me. Waiting up for him, or laying in bed hurting because he wasn't there. I had become depressed, drank too much, and had gained about 20 pounds. I had low energy, and had become disinterested in sex. I stopped exercising and lost interest in social activities and important hobbies. I felt frustrated and angry- both with him, and myself for allowing this into my life. I also learned that I could have never changed him or saved him. He would have to do that himself.


Right now, I feel so sad for him. He's putting himself in health and life-threatening situations. My instinct is to try to help and protect him, but I know I can't do that for him. It is breaking my heart to think of how much pain he is inflicting on himself, and receiving from others. I'm sitting here, in tears, wishing I could heal both of us.

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Breaking up can be devastating for both people. Your feelings are not less valid because you ended it. I'm sorry that you are feeling so sad. You did the right thing - you had to do what was best for you, and this relationship clearly was not good for you at all. Drinking too much, feeling depressed, weight gain, worrying about him all the time. You must have been stressed beyond belief. Your ex doesn't need a boyfriend, he needs a therapist! I'm not saying it to be funny; in this case it is completely true.


I guess that you know this but I'll say it anyway, because sometimes we need to hear things we know repeated by other people. You cannot save people, Progprof. It is not your job to fix your ex, babysit him, or be his counselor. As you've seen, being a "caregiver" in a relationship has a deleterious effect on the caregiver.


What is important now is for you to begin to fix yourself, to come back from this stressful and drama-ridden situation you've been in. Know that you did all you could, and feel good about that. Be kind to yourself. You can't heal your ex, but you can heal yourself.


Hugs. I hope you feel better soon.

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Thank you, Spotti. I've always been a caregiver, since I was a kid. My father is an alcoholic, my mother has depression. That often left me taking care of things. I always seem to fall into this trap in a relationship, where I take over the care of another needy and demanding partner. This one was by far the neediest (the last one was verbally abusive)! During this last relationship, I would stop and think, am I crazy or is this not right? Why am I doing all the supporting, loving, caring, and nurturing? Why am I running our home, alone? It's not that he was completely incapable, but he was so driven by his sexual impulses, and even just outright refusal to help.


I don't want to sound bitter (but a little anger isn't bad), but his typical day was sleep until one hour before work, go to work, go do whatever he got up to after, then stumble home and sleep again. Usually in that one hour together, he would tell me what happened the night before. On his days off, he would stay out longer the night before, sleep longer (so I had to cancel our plans for that day), and then stay up all night again, or try to get sex from me. It was such a change from the beginning, when he couldn't get enough time with me.


The most important question now, though, is what issues do I have that led me to tolerate and support that? That's what I'm trying to understand. Fear of abandonment and codependency. Check!

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Have you ever been in therapy? I am also the child of alcohol and substance abusing parents, and I'm pretty sure my mother is undiagnosed bipolar. I learned a lot about this dynamic in therapy and how it affected me as an adult.


My therapist told me that a lot of times, adult children of dysfunctional families like ours are driven to re-enact the circumstances of our childhood, over and over again, until we get the result we always wanted. I chose alcoholic, emotionally unavailable men for YEARS for this very reason. Just didn't feel the "chemistry" with good, safe, available men. Is that how you feel too?

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