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Should I set a boundary or is there no hope?


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Hello,

 

Will keep this as short and to the point as possible.

 

I have been with my gf for 10 months now. We have been living together for the past 6months.

She is responsible, dependable, extremely intelligent, successful, and strives to be fair with everyone. We also are aligned on what we both want in terms of next steps in our lives as individuals and fundamental morality concepts. Those are all qualities that I love about her and make what I will attempt to describe below very hard for me...

 

She suffers from anxiety and struggles with a high level of insecurity and low self worth. It’s very hard for her to set boundaries explicitly and finds herself in difficult situations because of it. She’s had a very tough childhood and has been unlucky in her adult relationships. I can handle insecurity and I can help her manage her anxieties. I love her and these things don’t bother me.

 

What I struggle with is her relationship with other men. Her father routinely cheated on her mother and was extremely harsh on my gf (i.e. she would always walk on eggshells around him - is she misbehaved according to his book he would deprive her of his “love” for weeks and sometimes months on end).

 

My gf has been open about her past which I appreciate but there are remnants of it that seem to still be unresolved.

 

1. There is an old friend who she used to travel with (1on1) and have fun with (making out and partying together but it never got sexual). That friend has tried to cross the line multiple times and has professed his love for my gf - even after he entered a committed relationship. He tried to make out with her a few years back while she was in a relationship and she had to stop him (but allowed the kiss to carry on for a few seconds). He has bad habits (drugs) and commitment issues (has cheated on his gf). My gf cares for him but not in the romantic sense.

 

2. There is this other guy who she’s also known for a while but it isn’t actually someone who she is close friends with. He has been trying to get alone time with her for months now and she’s Been deflecting. He has invited her to dinner only to retract the invite when she mentioned that I was her plus one -instead of a gf. He has referred to me as “Mr Right Now” followed by a snarky emoticon and has told her in prior messages how he has “certainly missed her” followed by the relevant emoticon. Aren’t These kind of comments odd from someone that you don’t see or talk to often and who supposedly doesn’t know your personal life well?

 

3. She follows her exes and past flings on social media and has some saved phone conversations from over a year ago (even though they screwed her over). There has been someone at work who has said inappropriate things to her... These things wouldn’t bother me but call it insecurity, jealousy or whatever, they are starting to become relevant now...

 

I don’t want this type of interference in my relationship. I believe these remnants of a past life need to be cleaned up when you commit to someone. She doesn’t have to do it but that’s what I offer her because I want to do right by both of us and for the good of the relationship.

 

Where am I wrong and what can I do about this? Is there hope or is there some sort of male validation thing going on?

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Sorry to hear this. Why did you move in after dating 16 weeks? That in itself reveals a problem with boundaries. Stop playing therapist. If her issues are too difficult, you need to move out. You need to get to know each other over the course of dating 10 months, not try to fast forward into playing house then find out who someone is.

I have been with my gf for 10 months now. We have been living together for the past 6months.

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Can I ask how old you guys are? I'm also curious why you guys decided to move in together so quickly, if you can expand on that.

 

It is hard, reading what you wrote, not to see a dynamic in which your relationship is constructed pretty intensely around her insecurities and anxiety—and, especially, her poor methods of coping with all this. You mention her childhood, for instance, in a tone a therapist would take when taking notes on a patient, which makes me wonder how much of your early bonding was connected to her telling you (a) some horror stories of youth; (b) how those horror stories continue to affect he as an adult.; and © you feeling "privileged" that she was willing to "open up" about all that.

 

That can all feel super vulnerable, but it's also a way of indirectly creating a system that validates that cycle and nurtures poor coping mechanisms, which is different than supporting someone. Seems you're awfully close to crossing that line, if you haven't already. If one of your own major emotional rewards is being the exceptional person who who can understand her anxieties and insecurities—well, that means they need to remain potent and volatile, you know? If they were better controlled, where would the emotional bonding happen?

 

As for the specifics: I'm curious how you know so much about these men. Is she volunteering this information regularly, telling you about the friend, showing you the texts and emoticons from the work friend? Or are you looking through her phone? If it's either of the above—well, bad sign. Those are pretty iffy boundaries right there, on both sides: iffy boundaries breeding iffy boundaries—a corrosive cycle.

 

Have you had conversations with her about how all this makes you feel? About what you need to be secure in a relationship? That's generally part of dating—ideal, in the early stages, when things aren't heavy, so together you slowly build a world in which you can both be secure. It's less about "setting" a boundary than expressing your own boundaries, listening to someone express theirs, and seeing if you can create boundaries together that work for a harmonious relationship. There are ways in which that is an ongoing part of all relationships, ideally pretty smooth rather than contentious.

 

Seems you guys skipped that step a bit, as I can't tell if you guys have had such conversations, or if those sorts of talks are eclipsed by discussions about her anxieties and insecurities. Regardless, better late than never, as they say.

 

In your shoes, I'd let her know—calmly, respectfully—that you're finding some of these relationships to be interfering with the sanctity of your relationship. Just express that, without offering rules or prescriptions or judgements, and see how she responds. Hopefully she is understanding. Then, together, you can create some different boundaries—and then you see if those are stuck to, and if you can feel more secure. If the answer is yes—great, a sign of compatibility. If the answer is no—well, not as great, but at least you'll know that you're in a relationship in which you can't feel secure, and can proceed accordingly from there.

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You've skipped over many important steps and that's why you've found yourself in a bind. At the point of becoming exclusive, that's when the relationship boundaries discussion should've come into play, because why be with someone if they don't share the same boundaries? That's, as you see, sacrificing the one precious life you have on someone who regularly upsets/frustrates you.

 

A guy I had been group friends with as a teen sent a friend request to me on Facebook. He then messaged me and made inappropriate flirty comments, when he could clearly see I had a husband. I immediately deleted him, because that's what a decent person with a good moral compass who doesn't need an ego boost from a scumbag does. Plus, I'd never risk my marriage over nonsense like this.

 

What would I say to her? "I made a mistake not discussing relationship boundaries with you before moving in together. I don't believe in staying in touch with exes or communicating with people who have a crush, because that's disrespectful and unhealthy to our union."

 

And then listen to her response. If she starts on a pity party of her past, it's BS. If she's holding on to emotional baggage, she can't be a good partner until she seeks therapy and it works. If she does it because she gets an ego boost from it, she won't admit it, but know that's often a reason people who are taken allow someone else to flirt with them without shutting them down.

 

It's better to choose a partner you DON'T want to change. I have a feeling you won't break up with her even though she has no respect for your union, but if you have self-worth and walk away, in the future, don't make major decisions like moving in with someone until you find out all the major things about them which usually takes a minimum of a year. Sounds like you knew some of those things about her early on, but in the throes of the new highs of the relationship, chose to ignore the red flags. Learn from your mistakes so you'll have a lower risk of heartbreak in the future. Good luck and let us know how it goes.

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Great feedback from all of you. Thank you so very much.

 

Will attempt to answer as many of the questions posed / add color and will revert later for anything missed:

 

1. We moved in early due to an issue with her lease. We’re both in our 30s and although it seemed a bit rushed we agreed to underwrite the risk if you will and go ahead with it. We are pretty compatible when it comes to cohabitating and we haven’t had issues in that regard.

 

2. She has been faithful and honest about her whereabouts and I don’t believe she has or has had anything else on the side since we began dating.

 

3. In terms of red flags, no one is perfect and I do appreciate honesty and award effort. I try not to judge a person solely on their past - I won’t discount it and will seek some “predictive validity” if you will but I won’t disqualify them simply because they made mistakes when they were younger or because their father was an abuser.

 

4. We agree on outside influences and how we need to prioritize each other in our relationship. In my mind cutting off communication with prior partners (or people where emotional/physical boundaries were crossed) is the right thing to do in a committed relationship. She won’t cut someone off like that unless they become a problem. She won’t proactively reach out either. In one instance she came to me and asked me how she should respond because she wanted me to be ok with the interaction. She doesn’t want to hurt people unnecessarily but she is to a degree frustrating me by not clearing this up.

 

5. Unfortunately I have assumed the role of a therapist a little bit. She works for a hedge fund and it’s brutal, she’s been without a role for a while and it’s really affecting her psyche. I get into the supportive partner mood by letting her vent and assuring her that she isn’t alone etc etc.

 

Sometimes things in life don’t work exactly how one would expect and you either have to take a chance or not. I did. Now We have to sort this out.

 

If there is a need for an ego boost / validation from past partners and men in general I will not accept that so yes for that I will break up. The issue of me being the perpetual therapist is also something that needs to be resolved but perhaps solving for what is the primary driver of her anxieties at the moment will resolve a good chunk of that issue.

 

I really appreciate the feedback. Thank you again.

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As already pointed out, moving in so fast with a complete stranger shows a lack of healthy boundaries for both of you. You then proceed to outline all the thing that you like and appreciate about her.....yet majority of those things are more imaginary than based in reality. The reality that you are describing, meaning her actions, choices, relationship history, current behavior show that her values are fundamentally different from yours.

 

My best guess is that you got caught up in being told what you want to hear, didn't take the time to actually get to know, observe, and evaluate whether her actions actually match her words, and now you find yourself in quite a dilemma where it's hard to admit that you made a mistake in getting involved with this woman because she is not at all what you want/imagine her to be.

 

Relationships are not fixer upper projects. It's not your place to play therapist to her. Her issues, since she is so aware of them should have been long ago addressed and dealt with in therapy and counseling which would actually require her to be single and not involved in any relationships for an extended period of time. If she genuinely wanted to fix her issues so she can have a healthy relationship going forward, she'd either have already pursued intensive therapy or would be doing so currently instead of manipulating you into a whirlwind live in situation where you hold her hand while she maintains inappropriate relationships with other men because she likes it that way. There is a less PC and much more blunt way of putting this - the apple doesn't fall far from the tree and what she is doing is using. Wrap your head around that if you can. Of course that means you have to put aside your own issues of playing the knight in shining armor who'll rescue the damsel in distress. Users love people like you.

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As time goes on you'll get to know what's really going on with her. Right now you're guessing because she has not been forthcoming with you about quite a few things. She keeps you focused on nonsense drama and neurotic issues to keep you from seeing the truth...and you're falling for it.. She needed a place and there you are.

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I have been talking about all this with a therapist. Alone, primarily because I do want to understand why I need to be that knight in the first place. It’s certainly helping and a lot of what you are telling me I have been considering already.

 

Unfortunately I love this person and yes that makes it hard to let go... She is coming with me to a future session - thinking of next week. I plan to lay all this out in a clear, concise, and non-accusatory way and see what comes out of it.

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I have been talking about all this with a therapist. Alone, primarily because I do want to understand why I need to be that knight in the first place. It’s certainly helping and a lot of what you are telling me I have been considering already.

 

Unfortunately I love this person and yes that makes it hard to let go... She is coming with me to a future session - thinking of next week. I plan to lay all this out in a clear, concise, and non-accusatory way and see what comes out of it.

 

.....This is you desperately trying to fix her and change her instead of fixing yourself. It's still you going "I can make this work how I want it to work." focusing on her and her issues rather than facing your own full on. Deep codepence isn't love, btw, it's fear.

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Someone who struggles with insecurity and low self-worth will never be fully responsible, dependable or fair as consistently as someone who IS secure and has high self-worth. For as long as she doesn't address those areas or improve them, she will continue to make poor judgments and you will be collateral. You're overestimating and not being truthful enough about the situation (not being truthful to yourself).

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Her decisions don't suggest that she has good judgment overall. She's impaired. Sorry. I would not be able to move past that. A person's own judgment is everything. I would not be prepared to be anyone's watch dog, so to speak. I'd prefer my partner be fully functioning and able to govern his/her own life without much input from me and vice versa. The joys and connection should come from many other things but judgment should never come into question.

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So you are all convinced there is no hope?

 

I'm not sure any of us are qualified to answer that, as "hope" is pretty subjective. That said, I think you're pretty deep in a kind of "fixer upper" mode, where the relationship is both a form of personal therapy (if you can make this work, then you work) while also being a way for her to sidestep the real growth that comes from therapy, since you sort of provide an illusory version of that (you being with her means she does work).

 

The white knight stuff, in short. The only way that "works" is if she remains the distressed damsel, and I can't help but see quite a bit of that at play here.

 

It kind of sounds like neither of you really understand your own personal boundaries, and so the relationship is a bit of a "boundary experiment" rather than something that is built, and expands, inside co-created boundaries and symmetrical value systems. Can that work, or "evolve" into something more authentically workable? I'm not sure. At the moment there seems to be a pretty significant gap—wider than you want to acknowledge, though one you very much feel on a cellular level—between who she actually is, right now, and who you want her to be. Perhaps that's reflective of a smilier gap inside yourself—but that's not a gap we can "use" another person to close, since other people are simply whoever they are, not tools or patches for our own fragile human engines.

 

In your shoes I'd be pretty frustrated—or, really, just kind less invested—by someone who prioritizes "not hurting" randoms at the expense of their partner's well-being. The less generous read on that? It's someone who is choosing, semi-subconsciously, the surface level ego soothing that comes from attention over the richer gratification that comes from building a castle that can hold two people securely. As an adult, I don't want to make it my job to teach someone how to build a castle, but to find someone whose building skills and design ideas are on the same level as my own, so to speak. That's just me, of course.

 

I'm super open-minded, generally accepting of most things human beings get mixed up in over the course of finding themselves. But you can be "non-judgmental" about someone's humanity while also "judging" them as being an unhealthy influence on you or a poor compliment to your own humanity. As you proceed, maybe ask those questions from time to time—instead of focusing so heavily on her, focus instead on how being with her affects your own psychology and emotional equilibrium.

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Did either of you recently end a relationship? It's very odd that you need couples therapy after dating 10 mos. Seems like a continuum of previous issues.

 

This means basically you are in denial and want to "fix" her and are somehow stuck in analysis-paralysis and inflicting this on her. Stop If you can't be with her naturally reflect on that. You're backpedaling. You jumped into playing house now you have to force-fit things, rather than admit your mistakes..

I have been talking about all this with a therapist.... She is coming with me to a future session - thinking of next week.
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Her last relationship ended Dec 2017 and mine a couple of months after that.

 

I can certainly see that I’m playing therapist and I shouldn’t.

 

In terms of her actions or inaction when it comes to these guys I mentioned... I believe it is largely due to her reluctance to potentially trigger conflict. This is fear. She doesn’t want to upset people and that’s true for me also. I don’t believe she has feelings for them. Nonetheless it bothers me because it makes me feel deprioritized and not respected. I’ve also done a bad job communicating that effectively in the past.

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Her last relationship ended Dec 2017 and mine a couple of months after that.

 

I can certainly see that I’m playing therapist and I shouldn’t.

 

In terms of her actions or inaction when it comes to these guys I mentioned... I believe it is largely due to her reluctance to potentially trigger conflict. This is fear. She doesn’t want to upset people and that’s true for me also. I don’t believe she has feelings for them. Nonetheless it bothers me because it makes me feel deprioritized and not respected. I’ve also done a bad job communicating that effectively in the past.

 

The point that you are missing is that in a healthy relationship with a healthy person, you are not going to have to teach them how to prioritize things correctly as per your standards. They will already be there of their own accord, because that's who they are. No fixing or talking or negotiating required.

 

What you are doing is actually infantilizing her quite a bit by this assumption that she just doesn't know any better. She is an adult. She knows what she is doing. She is choosing to act in a way that pleases her. Who she is and what she is choosing doesn't work for you.

 

So in reality, you have only two choices - accept her as she is and turn a blind eye on garbage treatment of yourself OR dump her and walk away and go find a person who actually fits you. Instead, you keep trying for an option that doesn't exist - if I talk to her this way and that, if I drag her to therapy and counseling, I will fix her and mold her into being who I want her to be. You are being toxic to yourself and you need to stop this behavior.

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I can certainly see that I’m playing therapist and I shouldn’t.

 

In terms of her actions or inaction when it comes to these guys I mentioned... I believe it is largely due to her reluctance to potentially trigger conflict. This is fear. She doesn’t want to upset people and that’s true for me also. I don’t believe she has feelings for them. Nonetheless it bothers me because it makes me feel deprioritized and not respected. I’ve also done a bad job communicating that effectively in the past.

 

See what you just did? You noted that "playing therapist" isn't doing you or her any favors, and then you went back to playing therapist, dissecting her "triggers," "fears," and "aversion to conflict," in order to...well, to what? I'd say it's a bit of a highbrow way to avoid saying something simpler—"Ugh, this kind of sucks"—which, to play therapist myself, could be seen as a misguided attempt to find solace in control rather than in connection.

 

This is the big difference between being a therapist and being a partner. The therapist is not invested in the patient for emotional support and security, so their understanding of a patient's pathology is just that: understanding, not self-soothing or power-grabbing. As a partner it's more about accepting another's pathology, and finding solace there, rather than searching for calm by wrestling with it.

 

It is human nature 101 to not like conflict, to not want to hurt feelings. But there is place where avoiding those things just creates more conflict, more hurt, you know?

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In terms of her actions or inaction when it comes to these guys I mentioned... I believe it is largely due to her reluctance to potentially trigger conflict. This is fear. She doesn’t want to upset people and that’s true for me also. I don’t believe she has feelings for them. Nonetheless it bothers me because it makes me feel deprioritized and not respected. I’ve also done a bad job communicating that effectively in the past.

 

And yet...she continues to engage in behaviour that upsets you.

 

As such, I have a hard time buying into the idea that this behaviour with men is fear-based.

 

I think she likes the attention, full stop. It soothes her fragile ego. The attention from one man - you - isn't enough for her. She enjoys knowing lots of men like her.

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This picture is very crowded with so many men in her life. It's odd, strange, weird and abnormal. You should be the only man in her life, exclusive and she needs to focus on you. Most couple have boundaries with others. She does not.

 

I'd have a long conversation with her about this in person without any distractions whatsoever. Turn the phones off, no TV, background noise, music and the like. Let it be quiet.

 

Tell her it's time to focus on each other instead of these extra men in her life. She needs to let them go permanently. Those men have their own lives which they need to concentrate on as well.

 

When my husband and I were dating, we were IT. My husband didn't have extra women in his life nor did I have extra men in my life either. We worked hard and spent time with each other whenever we weren't working, enjoyed our social life together and it was normal. Try that with your girlfriend. It's ok to have friends as long as there are enforced healthy boundaries taking place.

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Cherylyn - I agree with you. And she will too. We spend a lot of time with each other; when not working, we are together, we do have common friends at this point and take vacations together. If I want to do something with my guy friends I do it and she’ll find something to do with her friends as well.

 

There are however these people I have mentioned from her past (2 that I know of, one being an old friend who she cares for) that are just there and we both know have feelings for her. I don’t understand why it can’t be made clear to them what their place in her life is now that I am her chosen partner. I get conflict avoidance but when one insists there has to be a more direct approach otherwise you run the risk of alienating your partner.

 

Someone who you have no interest in, not required to do business with, or have to see due to a common circle or friends and family should be put in their place when refer to your significant other as: “Mr Right Now”. This comment is degrading to the woman and her relationship and makes me feel like she doesn’t value what we have.

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Find out who she values more, then. Give her an ultimatum for your reasonable request, and be prepared to stand by it.

 

A quote from an article I just read: "Healing is our responsibility because every great person you deeply admire began with every odd against them, and learned their inner power was no match for the worst of what life could offer."

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Because she doesn't want it to be that way. She's not stupid nor avoiding conflict, just ignoring you and doing whatever she wants. Keep in mind you grossly overestimate your importance in her life after what...40 weeks of dating?

 

When you get things in perspective this will all make sense. You'll stop viewing this as a ten year marriage and more for what it really is. A crash landing into a house-playing situation after knowing each other 120 DAYS.

I don’t understand why it can’t be made clear to them what their place in her life is now that I am her chosen partner.
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