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Confused, anxious, need advice (long)


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I think this is the proper sub-forum for this, but I'm really not sure...


Honestly, this is my first real, adult relationship, where I feel like I am truly in love with someone. I feel like such a rookie with truly loving someone on a romantic, deep, emotional level. The relationship with this ex-GF means a lot to me, but I am also mindful of the need to preserve her as a friend, if we cannot make a romantic relationship work out. I seek some advice on interpreting ex-GF actions. I find myself over-analyzing things and I do not want to misinterpret things and make things unnecessarily hard. However, I am getting mixed signals (I think). It is causing some anxiety and some confusion I fear is making it harder for me to work towards closure. Maybe someone who reads this will have some advice.


My now Ex-GF and I broke up two weeks ago. We have dated since September 2015. Things started off great and after a few months, we stepped back, took stock of things and began to talk about our future. We had discussions about what we needed out of a relationship, what we expected and more. Often, these conversations were somewhat challenging. We are both 46. As such, we have experiences in our lives that must be acknowledged and discussed in the course of a healthy relationship.


She has been in regularly therapy. For a variety of reasons, things like defensiveness and a sense of safety/security continue to be elusive to her and they have impacted our relationship at times. She continues to struggle with PTSD from an extremely manipulative, serially dishonest, stalking ex-BF. We live in a very small town and she frequently runs into ex-BF. She took out a restraining order of him and has taken other actions to communicate the discomfort he presents to her. Chance encounters do not bother her--she is quite rational about these. However, he has a tendency to show up at places for no valid reason, when he knows she will be there and it will make her uncomfortable. Examples include the yoga studio where she teaches part-time and at parties/events that he knows to be related to her life-long friends (none of whom he has relationships with) when he knows she will be there.



My own recent history prior to us dating often hit a little close to home for her. When we started dating, my divorce from my ex was not yet complete. Mistake, I know. But we discussed it and decided we would trudge on. For awhile we did.


Soon, it became apparent that we needed to put our relationship on hold so that I could devote energy to getting my divorce wrapped up. Doing so would be good for all of the obvious reasons. Plus, my ex-wife is both bipolar and narcissistic. She was making my life hell. Furthermore, certain behaviors from my her reminded ex-GF of her past traumatic relationship. It caused defensiveness in my ex-GF that was becoming toxic to our relationship.


GF and I agreed that if and when we came back together, we would try to start over from scratch, take things slowly and deliberately. On August 01, we came back together after having a deep discussion about the things we each needed to work on, the things we needed to work on together (mainly communication-related things that were not that huge and could/should be able to be dealt with if we had acknowledgment and commitment from both ends), and taking things slowly...really, trying to start from scratch. My ex-GF said that she felt prepared and ready to keep the defensiveness at bay.


On October 01, some frustrating encounters with the PTSD-causing ex brought back defensiveness in ex-GF. Ex-GF has recently been diagnosed with Aspergers, so these emotions can build up and be quite intense. Knowing this, I assumed the supportive role of a friend in trying to listen to and support ex-GF.


She was frustrated and contemplating just giving up, throwing in the towel. For example, she wondered if she should just sell her successful business, sell her house and move (with her 10YO daughter) elsewhere. She was very emotional and frustrated. Even as I knew this talk was coming from a deeply painful and frustrated place, it was painful for me to watch, as ex-GF is a VERY strong, independent and driven woman.


After the conversation had progressed for awhile, ex-GF began to project her fears onto our relationship. This led to some tension as I was forced to point out how this was problematic and further proof that she really needed to seeking ways to deal with the PTSD once and for all. The conversation had become challenging at this point and we agreed that we needed some time to decompress. I went home once I it was clear that this is what we were going to do--no storming out involved.


The next day, we got together and talked about it. She apologized and acknowledged that she had allowed herself lose control over her emotions. I explained that I understood and requested that she simply continue to continue working towards a solution--mainly for her own good, but also for the health of our own relationship. We also discussed how/why things had devolved to the point to where our own relationship was brought into the fray. I told her I understood this too. I explained that I didn’t want her to waste emotional energy worrying about our relationship, which would be fine as long as she was working to overcome the stress and anxiety caused by her past.


We were both busy the following week and didn’t discuss the prior weekend’s tension any further. I assured her that I understood that she was dealing with strong, negative, frustrating and scary emotions that do not just go away overnight. Via our limited contact and conversations through the week, I sensed that she was continuing to process things. I stepped back and didn’t broach the subject, as I assumed she would reach out if she needed to talk. I thought everything would be fine.


The following weekend (when we broke up), we had plans to go out of town for the evening to see friends. After a few hours, some tension from the prior weekend resurfaced and we began to not get along. Once we were back at our hotel, we had a long talk about what was going on. I made it clear that we couldn’t expect our relationship to work if the defensiveness returned over and over again. She also lamented that we kept struggling with the same problems over and over in our relationship, to which I responded that I agreed. However, I also told her that those issues were not so imposing, especially as we had identified them, had taken our respective ownership in them and had committed to each other that we would put in the real, hard work to resolve those things. I also reminded her that the defensiveness was the elephant in the room that made anything else next to impossible to resolve.


She said that she was ready to give up. I told her if that was the case, then I would have to accept that. I guess we broke up.


I’ve never betrayed or lied to her. I have always followed through on promises and have always done exactly what I have promised. I have never been unfaithful or treated her with anything less than total respect. As such, the defensiveness has nothing to do with anything I have done at all.


What now? Plus a few questions

The trip home the next day was uncomfortable. When we arrived, I merely said “good luck” to her and went home. This upset her a great deal and she made that very clear. So we had a few exchanges in the first days following the breakup--mainly via email, as neither of us likes talking on the telephone much. We both worried that things ended on a negative note-- this being by our standards. By any other measure, it was pretty damned peaceful and respectful, no name-calling, hatred or even any yelling.


She said that she was afraid that we wouldn’t be able to remain friends. I assured her that this would not be the case. She asked if I would come over so that we could talk, hold hands, reminisce about the positives and seek to end things on a more positive note. I told her that, as appealing as it sounded, I didn’t think I was prepared to do that...that it would not feel very good to me. I assured her that, intellectually, I knew that we would be able to remain friends, but that my heart needed some time to heal.


For the remainder of the week, we didn’t have much contact. We agreed that we return each others’ things the following Saturday. On Saturday, she came over. We talked for a little more than an hour. She was clearly much more emotional than I was.


She said she had purchased tickets to see a band we both like in mid-November and asked if I would like to go with her. I told her I thought that might be good. We also tentatively agreed to go to see a new museum together at the end of October. Just doing things we both enjoy, and trying to do things as friends. I'm sure this goes against all conventions for building friendship, but were both kind of stubborn.


Before we left, we discussed appropriate communication. We agreed that email was not an effective communication medium and I told her that if she wanted to contact me, to just send me a text message or call. I also promised that I would not likely be initiating much contact, as it would negatively impact the processing of my own emotions. I am not a proponent of No Contact. Its a game, too calculated and not of much use to me. I am capable of not contacting someone. So we left it at that.


On Monday, I receive a message from her wishing me a good week and hoping for the day that we could reach out and be there for one another without worry. I simply wished her the same. She said she would like to do the museum thing together at the end of the month and I said I thought that would be nice. Didn’t hear from her until Friday, when she send a message asking if I was okay. I responded that I was doing fine and hoped she was as well. She responded that she was okay and that she looked forward to seeing me next Saturday (when we plan to go to the museum). I responded that I was too.


Then she said that she can usually get free for coffee. I responded that if she would like to do that, then I would let her reach out to me with suggestions. She responded with a suggested time, on Thursday morning. Anyone have any ideas why she would want to meet up on Thursday for coffee, when we already have plans two days later? Am I reading too much into something here? Anybody have similar experience or a clear view of what her thought process might be?


I thought I was making some progress, but now my brain has started to work overtime again and I wonder what's going on.


Any assessment from a clearer head would be much appreciated. Mine feels a little worn out.

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It's hard to maintain a friendship after a relationship because there are still feelings involved somewhere even if you have moved on or know the relationship isn't right. I have never stayed friends with an ex for that reason.

I have noticed it's easier to move on when the relationship ends really rocky. When you end on common ground and in a mature matter, that's where it's tricky. You tend to second guess why you ended because you parted on such good terms which leads to confusion.


I think she is like you trying to process the break up but at the same time not let go.


That is why coffee and museum.


In a way it's to make sure she is a marker in your life. I mean obviously when you find someone new you will be doing coffee and museum with them.


She is scared I bet of being replaced. That's why hanging out and friends after a relationship don't work.


It gets too complicated. One of you will be hurt when the other moves on.


Now I have seen couples remain friends afterwards but they are in a solid foundation where no feelings are attached.



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The thing that's most confusing to me is why she would suggest meeting up, when we already have something planned two days later? It just seems like something else is going on.


I am indeed worried about being replaced. She has, in many ways, become a best friend to me. We have insanely similar backgrounds, experiences to call upon, likes, interests, world views and more. When I lament the loss of our relationship, the loss of that friendship is most profound. I would like to preserve that first and foremost. Right now, I worry that I would be absolutely gutted if she moved on. That wouldn't make me a very good friend, would it?


Of course, I would like to salvage the romantic connection. But doing that would require a great deal of commitment and time. I would have to rebuild trust in her in that respect now.


I thought the proposed trip to the museum would suffice to try to begin to connect on a friendship level, but the suggested prior meetup has confused me.

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Kudos to both of you for keeping everything civil and as pleasant as possible under these circumstances. It takes a lot of emotional maturity and goodwill from both sides, especially within your framework. PTSD makes people react at many different levels, so much so that you may not be able to recognize the person. There is a neurological mechanism to this as well, so it is not only about maturely deciding what to do, how one is willing to react etc. She sounds like she has this goodwill but is unable to practice what she says at all times. Completely normal and expected under her circumstances. Add to this the recent diagnosis, she will need an adjustment period I suppose.


What caught my attention in your post is that everything is maturely and constructively laid out in dialogue but parts of this dialogue are not taking into account the amount of time these things may be stabilized. Sometimes, people can see what needs to be done, but in actuality, achieving this stability may take a longer time.


During this time, your friend may exhibit contradictory behaviour. This is also normal because she may be afraid of losing you but at the same time afraid of being with you. This may lead her to various acting out behaviours to achieve the kind of emotional distance where she feels safe and you may experience these as betrayal, hot/cold, pushing or shutting out.


If you want to keep this person for long term in your life, I would say, detach. This would allow you to continue your life without being pulled in too much when she is continuing her recovery and will keep you at an emotionally more empowered state where you don't have to make meaning of everything she does - some things may not be very meaningful right now. I believe the important thing is to go through this process in a detached but kind manner and then see where it has taken both of you. With more stability, I have a feeling that you can at least have a decent friendship.


I would think about my boundaries for my emotional safety. How comfortable am I with spontaneous suggestions for coffee etc? Personally, I would take these on an activity basis, joining in without deep emotional expectations - that's why detachment. If she cancels them at a short notice, will I be comfortable with that too? For friendship, I suppose relaxing ideas based on an activity can be more beneficial than days that are spent with a lot of talk. Things like a photography day out, sports, cultural events, things that would lift the focus out of you, too. Small steps, take one day at a time. Speak about boundaries kindly, in an accepting manner which nevertheless is firm and protective of yourself.


You may witness some troubles she is goig through. Here, I would not suggest help or support based on activity. In other words, I would not take any big responsibility to rescue her. Lending an ear, a supportive ear without getting too enmeshed may help. That is, listening empathetically rather than a lot of problem solving etc.


This are my ideas for genuine friendship but not a way toward building something deeper. Nobody can control that and if you approach her with that motivation, it can be equally frustrating to both of you.


So, I guess you must ask yourself if you are ready to be friends after a relationship, how much can you give and what you expect in return (for a while this may not be mutual) and where you are in terms of detachment.


I wish you the best in everything.

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Is she currently undergoing any treatment for her PTSD? You said this has caused her to become defensive; can you give some examples of what you mean?


She does't sound emotionally ready for a relationship at this time, and unless she is seeking treatment for those underlying issues, this isn't likely to work. A friendship also isn't a wise idea right now, as you still have feelings for her. Continuing to meet up will probably only cause you further frustration and pain. Perhaps in the future after some real time and space apart from each other, you might be able to be friends. But when one party still has a romantic attachment and the other can't/won't respond to that, it gets too messy.

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Unfortunately you both crash landed into this relationship with many issues going on and continued stress from your respective pasts. As she mentioned she wants to remain on good terms and keep things as cozy as possible. It doesn't sound like she's going to re-breakup. See what she has to say when you meet.

The thing that's most confusing to me is why she would suggest meeting up, when we already have something planned two days later? It just seems like something else is going on.
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Thanks for the insight and advice everyone. Yesterday had some of those rough, confusing times. I am having less of those, it seems, so that is good. All of this sucks. The last time I broke up with anyone (I was married for 12 years), I had a flip phone and my then-girlfriend had a landline and answering machine. It's a whole new world with so many signals to process. Its weird.

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Agree. Getting back into dating after a ltr is definitely a Rip Van Winkle experience, where the world seems to have gone by while you were asleep.


In your situation, keep in mind that the bond of "crazy exes" is like crazy glue at first. However as your respective pasts either calm down or continue to wreak havoc this bond deteriorates.

Thanks for the insight and advice everyone. Yesterday had some of those rough, confusing times. I am having less of those, it seems, so that is good. All of this sucks. The last time I broke up with anyone (I was married for 12 years), I had a flip phone and my then-girlfriend had a landline and answering machine. It's a whole new world with so many signals to process. Its weird.
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