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Maybe just communication issues, but want an outside perspective


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I (37M) have been with my girlfriend (27F) for just over six years now. Lately we've been arguing. A lot. We have several long-standing issues in the relationship that we're either working on or have promised to work on. For some background, I'll outline the big ones below:

 

1. We're not intimate often and rarely have sex.

 

This is my biggest issue with the relationship, and for me, most of our problems come back to this one. For five years I struggled with what she told me versus how she acted. She was never really present during sex. It was like she just went somewhere else. She was physically present, of course, and was alert, but wasn't a participant. She didn't engage, didn't seem to ever want to do it. Anytime I'd ask or try to talk to her about it, she'd tell me she just didn't feel that strongly about sex, but that she did enjoy it. Which led to me wondering if I was deficient. Not trying to brag, at all, but I've never been accused of being bad in bed, and there have been times that a partner has been angry enough to hurl that insult if it were an easy one to make. Regardless, I still looked inward, asked if there were something I could do (or stop doing) that would make it enjoyable. She never had an answer, and often would get frustrated at me for asking. Since things never changed, I would get frustrated when I would get rejected four out of every five times I tried to initiate. And I always initiated.

 

I started to wonder about why she was seemingly so apathetic about something as great as sex, so I asked her if she felt she was asexual, asked about her past, if there were people who she had bad experiences with, abuse, anything. She only ever mentioned one time, when she was in second grade, a worker at her mom's factory touched her inappropriately (on top of the clothes) and made her feel very afraid. Her mom was summoned immediately and fired the worker on the spot. She assured me that, while that happened and was traumatic for her, it wasn't affecting our relationship, and that she was fine.

 

Then, about a year ago, she revealed to me that she had been raped, multiple times and by different people, as a child. I reacted poorly. I was torn between wanting to help her and wanting to jump down her throat for not telling me sooner. The latter side of me won, and I went off. This was only at first, however, and during the same conversation I sincerely apologized and told her all I wanted to do was whatever I could to help. She's since started going to therapy (I already was because of a separate issue with my mother). Her therapist is the wife of my therapist, and we're looking to do a couples session in the near future. However, while she works through this, we're still not being intimate, and as awful as it sounds to say when she's dealing with so much, my needs continue to be unmet in the relationship. I love her, but I don't want to let myself become resentful, nor do I want to lose sight of my own well-being. I won't be any good as a partner if those things happen.

 

The work she's doing leads into my next issue:

 

2. She's suddenly claiming she's a different person than she was before and that I have to stop acting as if she's the same.

 

I'm very proud of her and the progress she's made. But if I'm honest, she's not a different person. She may be trying hard to be, but I can't treat her as though we haven't spent six years together. I know her. I know her habits, I know her conversation tactics, her likes, dislikes, what angers her, what makes her happy, etc. But lately, when I react to something she does or says, and that reaction is based on how she treated me in the past, she freakin loses it. It's confusing to me, because she seemingly wants it both ways: When I behave in a way that's consistent with her past, she's a new person and how dare I do such a thing. When we talk about my needs and intimacy and the future, she's working on it, and it's a process that isn't just gonna happen overnight. I've tried once to point this out, but she took it as me invalidating the work she's done.

 

3. She claims that she's the one who always has to change

 

This is a recurring argument between us that pops up in the
middle
of an argument, and there's no way to address it without resorting to score-keeping. Honestly, the numbers are probably on her side. However, I've maintained that the reason she always feels like she needs to change is because I bring up issues far more often than she does. It's not until we're already talking/fighting/discussing that she springs an issue she's apparently had with me for some time. I instead try to point them out when they happen.

 

She takes this "always/never" approach with a number of things. She's said before that we never do what she wants to do; we always do what I want to do, and when I pointed out (with examples) times that wasn't true, she relented a bit and said that regardless, it feels like we always do what I wanna do. I've suggested she bring up things she'd like to do, and if we both agree, then we can do that together (one of the issues we're working on). Also, she's claimed that I never compromise, that she always gives and bends. When I pointed out that she asked me to move where I keep my food in the fridge (things I like that she doesn't like), I relented even though it felt like I was being relegated to a drawer. I was clear in saying I didn't hold a grudge, but that it was just one example of a time I've compromised. I also pointed out that we got a rabbit, then another rabbit, because she wanted them, and despite my worries about what we'd do with them when we were out of town, the carpet in the house, proper grooming, etc.

 

(For those wondering, the rabbits do have a good home. We love and take care of them and our dog. I hate people who are irresponsibly abusive to animals.)

 

4. She often loses control of her emotions, making an adult discussion nearly impossible

 

Title of this one pretty much says it all. It's so incredibly difficult to keep a conversation/discussion on track (and to keep it from veering into argument/fight territory) when she's screaming at me every few minutes, usually about one of the above things. Then we have to derail so she can realize what she's doing and calm down. And by then, we've both forgotten what we were discussing before. It sometimes feels like a tactic, but I give her the benefit of the doubt.

 

So to outline what's currently going on, a friend of hers (we'll call her "R") is staying with us after moving back to the U.S. from India, where R worked for 15 months. As a result, the three of us quarantined for two weeks (ends tomorrow), and her friend should be moving into her new place early next week.

 

In an effort to spend more time together doing something we both enjoy, (sorry for non-videogame folks) we've been playing a game called Ark: Survival Evolved together. Created a server, opened it up so that our friends could play, all that. It's been pretty fun. Also something I thought of the other day that would get us out of the house and active a little more is playing some catch. Since I hadn't owned a baseball mitt in nearly a decade, and she'd never had one, I figured it would be a fun time. So we bought mitts and a couple balls and went out after work Friday to play some catch in the yard. It lasted about 20 minutes before the mosquitoes were too much for her to bear (damn you, Texas!) and she had to go back inside, where I helped apply some gel to the bites. She said she had fun, though, and would be down to try again another time.

 

So yesterday was the last day of the weekend, and the day before she had spent all day with her friend, going on walks, watching movies, etc. I don't mind at all, I'm glad she's got a friend to spend some time with while all this is going on. I pretty much spent all day in the office playing Ark, building a "base" (a building in the game where you store materials and craft items) to show her next time she logged in. I finished the house part and had her come into the office to see. She had a pretty "meh" response, though generally positive. Just kinda hurt my feelings a bit that I'd spent several hours on something I knew she'd like and that was all I got in return. But no big deal, she'd log in the next morning before I got up and see all the cool new dinosaurs I'd tamed for her.

 

I got up and came into the office, where she was already sitting. Asked if she'd logged into the server, and she said she hadn't. Told her I had surprises for her. Can't remember if she responded; I think she was reading a manga or something. Anyway, I logged in and showed her the new dinos and she seemed super excited and logged in immediately. We had talked the night before about how I got burned out a bit from gathering resources *and* doing all the building myself, and she said she understood and that when we played next, she'd gather resources so I could build because she likes the way I build things.

 

Well we hop and and we're playing, and she's out gathering resources. I decide while she's doing that I'll go explore around the map a little bit. So we're both kinda doing our own thing. I mentioned once that this was a really pretty area I was in (our computers are in the same room, so she can look over and see on my screen), but I didn't get a response. Just assumed she was busy or focused or maybe listening to music.

 

A few minutes later, I hear her chair squeak as she turns to me, sighs heavily, and says "Welp, I'm gonna get off." I gave her a look that was probably equal parts confused and hurt. "Really?" I asked. "Yeah" she said. "We're just sitting here doing separate things and not talking. Am I wrong?" "No" I said back, "but I said something earlier and you didn't say anything back, so I just figured you were busy. I'm just killing time until you're ready to start building. Why didn't you say something?"

 

"No!" she said with her jaw clenched. "You are not going to make me feel bad- I am not going to feel bad for not playing video games!"

 

I was pretty exasperated. "It doesn't have anything to do with video games," I said as she left the room.

 

I was pretty far from our base, so I spent the next couple minutes getting myself and the dino I was riding back to safety, then logged off to go talk to her. Opened the bedroom door, and she was getting changed. She recoiled and covered herself as though I were some stranger and shrieked "Jesus!" This really got under my skin, because she makes "mountains out of molehills" often as a tactic if there's any kind of tension between us so that she can focus on blaming me for something instead of whatever part she might have in the tension. "Sorry, this is my bedroom, and I'll come in when I please," I said pointedly as I closed the door. Asked her if she maybe felt like trying to go out and play catch again, but she said that she and R had already planned to go for a walk. I told her a felt like she just didn't want to spend time with me and wondered what the deal was. It was basically an argument at this point because she was getting defensive and saying that she'd been spending tons of time with me (when we work remote we're in the same office at home, which I personally don't think qualifies, but anyway...), said the only time she'd spent with R was a couple of nights the week before and then yesterday (Saturday, at this point, when they hung out all day). Don't remember the specifics from here, but the whole conversation made me feel a little swept aside. Anyway, she spent the rest of the evening with R, and the only other words we spoke yesterday were "Good night, I love you".

 

Then this morning I woke up late because I had the day off. She was already at her desk. I thanked her for doing a chore of mine that I had forgotten to do the night before, and offered to do one of hers. She seemed annoyed, said no, it's fine. I asked if everything was okay, and she said yeah, I'm just tired. So I said okay, I'll leave you alone. Started playing a game at my desk. Came across a part that I thought she'd appreciate, and said something aloud to get her attention. She ripped her headset off her head and looked at me with this face that said "What are you bothering me for?", but her mouth just said the first part, "What?" I raised my hands and my eyebrows and turned away. "Nevermind," I said. "You're clearly in a pretty crappy mood today."

 

So then we started arguing again about what had happened yesterday, she asked me what was going on with me, I told her nothing, that I'm about as midline as possible right now and have been for several weeks. When I again pointed out that I had tried to talk to her, and asked her why she didn't say something if she wanted to talk, she started making a whiny baby voice mimicking what she might say. At that point, I was done talking, because it seemed to me that all she wanted to do was make me angry, and I wasn't going to fall into the trap. I put my own headset back on as she screamed at me, knowing that even if we did get into a fight she had an out: "I'm still on the clock, so I can't do this right now." (She didn't say that, because I didn't give her the chance, but she definitely would have.)

 

So after a few minutes of her yelling/talking/screaming at me, I turned off my computer and got up to start doing laundry. Already had it in my head that I was gonna go for a drive, cool off, and that maybe by the time I got home, she'd be cooled off too. Took a shower and had clothes laid out on the bed, and when I got out of the shower she was in the bedroom getting changed. "You going somewhere?" she asked. "I had planned on it, unless you want to try talking again," I responded. So we got into it again. It was more productive, even though she kept doing the mocking whiny baby voice, saying she'd feel "pathetic" if she had to ask me to talk to her. She also accused me of leaving the door open while she was naked and I made some grand proclamation about this being my bedroom (which I didn't, I was merely reacting to her exaggerated reaction, and I closed the door as I talked). She said I had "burned a bridge of trust" with her by doing the thing that I didn't do. I believe this is probably why we're still not speaking and I'm here writing this post.

From there, the argument got pretty petty and heated, I called her out for interrupting, she claimed that if she didn't I'd monologue for twenty minutes with no rebuttal. Told her I'd try to pause more often if she'd stop interrupting. Then she interrupted again later on, and when I called her on it, she owned it and said "Yes I did! And I meant to!" At that point I was done. Told her so. She kept trying to scream at me, but I just repeated that I was done talking now, thank you. After that I got dressed and left to go for a drive.

 

Came home a few hours later. She and R were watching movies in the living room. Part of the laundry I'd done was the sheets on our bed, so I put the sheets in the dryer and went into the office to hang out and play some games with my friends. About two hours ago (just before midnight) I pulled the sheets out of the dryer and made the bed. Found her asleep on the couch watching Star Trek. Woke her up and told her if she was waiting for the bed to be made, it's ready. She said she wasn't waiting for the bed to be made. "You're not?" I asked. She shook her head. "Then you're sleeping on the couch?" She nodded. "Well that's fine," I said. "That was actually my plan anyway, but I can sleep in the bed, no big deal. Do you want your pillow and blanket?" "Yeah," she said. So I went to the bedroom, and brought back her pillow and blanket. I wasn't about to tuck her in or anything after the way I'd been treated today, so I just kinda tossed them onto her legs. Heard her react to it as though I'd pinched her too hard or something, but I kept walking out of the room.

 

 

I've been as fair and honest as I know how to be here, and done my best to show both sides. Though I've gotta be honest, I really don't understand hers here other than she's convinced herself somehow that I inconsiderately left the door open (which I know I didn't). And that means I don't care about her or her progress or the trauma she's been through somehow. Maybe she exaggerated the amount of time the door was open because someone potentially seeing her naked (other than me) is a big trigger for her and the moment seemed longer than it was? That's the only rational explanation I can come up with. Either way, it's clear to me that we have some communication issues, but just wanted to get an outsider's perspective to make sure I'm not somehow being a big ol' dong here.

 

Thanks for reading!

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In my experience, when people say that they are a different person from before, it could be a big red flag.

 

You have been together for six years, so any change would have been gradual enough to not be noticeable. Imagine that you are the right person for her because your characters match, your thoughts are aligned, and you get along pretty well. Now imagine that she changes her whole personality, or feels like she has. Are you still the right person for her, since she is not the same person as before?

 

The red flag is that her convinction about her change could hide a bigger reality, which is, she is having doubts about the relationship. I would confront her about it to remove any doubts, since no plans can be worked out if she is really checking herself out.

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Her brain didn't even fully mature until 2 years ago in the decision making area, the pre-frontal cortex, and if she hadn't changed from her early twenties to the later twenties, that'd be pretty stagnant. Perhaps she's outgrown the relationship.

 

It doesn't sound like either of you are going to be capable of fixing things on your own, so it's good you're both in therapy and will be going to couples therapy, but that can't just be one session. Give yourself an unspoken timeline of how long you will give therapy to work, and if it doesn't, then don't invest anymore time in a relationship that is too heavy on the dissatisfaction side.

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It sounds like there has been so much resentment between you two over the years that she's edging out of the relationship.

 

Are you sure you want to be in the relationship at this point? It doesn't seem as though she really does, but hasn't quite yet found the courage to end it with you. How do you feel about it?

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5 years out of 6, this relationship has been nothing but a misery. On top of that things aren't getting better, they are getting worse and more miserable. So at what point do you think you can face the fact that this relationship, this woman isn't right for you. It's not working and truly....you've done all you can to try.... I mean there comes a point where you've tried enough and it's time to let go and part ways. You are years past that point already. How many more years do you want to waste on pounding a square peg into a round hole?

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It would help if you stopped treating her like a child. What's the plan here? Just keep living together or kids, marriage, etc?

 

Unfortunately it may be time to admit how incompatible you are.

 

I'm not sure what leads you to believe I'm treating her like a child. Could you elaborate?

 

The plan, originally, was marriage. I started looking at rings a few years ago, which prompted me to really dig into my own feelings about committing to her. Ever since, things have been too uncertain for me to consider making that commitment. Your last sentence is basically where I don't want to admit I'm at.

 

Thanks for the reply.

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In my experience, when people say that they are a different person from before, it could be a big red flag.

 

You have been together for six years, so any change would have been gradual enough to not be noticeable. Imagine that you are the right person for her because your characters match, your thoughts are aligned, and you get along pretty well. Now imagine that she changes her whole personality, or feels like she has. Are you still the right person for her, since she is not the same person as before?

 

The red flag is that her convinction about her change could hide a bigger reality, which is, she is having doubts about the relationship. I would confront her about it to remove any doubts, since no plans can be worked out if she is really checking herself out.

 

Good advice. We've come close to ending it a few times over the past six months, but wanted to give couples sessions a try before we made anything permanent. Those sessions will start in about a week.

 

The change certainly hasn't been gradual, at least not in her mind. She believes, and expects me to believe, that she's become a different person in the last four months. While I'll admit she's made good progress and is generally more aware of her own feelings and how her actions impact me, she's far from a different person altogether. I had the same thought you did when she started all this "different person" stuff and asked her if she was sure I'd still be what she wanted once she had worked through everything and finished changing. She said she wasn't sure, but that she loved me and couldn't imagine wanting anyone but me right now.

 

So I guess she could be lying about that, but I don't have a reason to think so.

 

Thanks for your reply.

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Her brain didn't even fully mature until 2 years ago in the decision making area, the pre-frontal cortex, and if she hadn't changed from her early twenties to the later twenties, that'd be pretty stagnant. Perhaps she's outgrown the relationship.

 

It doesn't sound like either of you are going to be capable of fixing things on your own, so it's good you're both in therapy and will be going to couples therapy, but that can't just be one session. Give yourself an unspoken timeline of how long you will give therapy to work, and if it doesn't, then don't invest anymore time in a relationship that is too heavy on the dissatisfaction side.

 

I agree, and I'm not saying she hasn't changed at all, but she's certainly not a completely different person as she'd like me to believe.

 

The unspoken amount of time, for me, is six months after the couples sessions start. If things don't improve by then, I'll feel okay (well, as okay as one can after six years) about ending it.

 

Thanks for the thoughtful reply.

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It sounds like there has been so much resentment between you two over the years that she's edging out of the relationship.

 

Are you sure you want to be in the relationship at this point? It doesn't seem as though she really does, but hasn't quite yet found the courage to end it with you. How do you feel about it?

 

I'm not sure. She claims she is sure anytime I bring it up. I've brought up my uncertainty before, but it's always resulted in reassurances that we'd work on our issues and things would get better. I believe we have a real shot at that now that she's in therapy as well, but that seems to have brought a new wrinkle with it as well. So, as I said to the poster above, I plan to give it six months once we start doing couples sessions, and if there's no drastic improvement in the relationship, it's probably best to move on.

 

Thanks for the reply.

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5 years out of 6, this relationship has been nothing but a misery. On top of that things aren't getting better, they are getting worse and more miserable. So at what point do you think you can face the fact that this relationship, this woman isn't right for you. It's not working and truly....you've done all you can to try.... I mean there comes a point where you've tried enough and it's time to let go and part ways. You are years past that point already. How many more years do you want to waste on pounding a square peg into a round hole?

 

Blunt, but mostly accurate. However, if it were *nothing* but a misery for the majority of the time, I'd have left long ago. There are clearly feelings between us, and compatibilities that don't present themselves when describing negative issues.

 

I mostly agree, though. I'm nearing the end of my rope with everything. Just trying to make sure there's not something I'm missing or just looking at the wrong way.

 

Thanks for the reply.

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It sounds like there has been so much resentment between you two over the years that she's edging out of the relationship.

 

Are you sure you want to be in the relationship at this point?

 

Wondering the same thing myself.

 

Reading between the lines a bit, and taking into account that she was a sneeze out of adolescence when you met, while you were cresting into your 30s, I can't help but see a dynamic in which you are seeking some kind of comfort in both the idea that she is young and immature and the notion that you can "grow her," so to speak. That she has begun to reject that dynamic and role in your life—that she is no longer 21, but approaching 30—is a big part of the rub here. As much as you want to preserve that early dynamic, she wants it shattered.

 

The sex stuff, for starters. You can make it super complicated, as you have, but it's also kind of simple. You two don't have great chemistry, never have, as you've never really felt she was "with" you between the sheets. Happens. A lot. Always a bummer. But rather than just think of it as sexual incompatibility, you seem to have viewed it as a problem to solve, some place where you can "awaken" her, with that "awakening" really being about your pleasure, soothing your insecurities, reaffirming some idea of yourself. Someone who is young and inexperienced might entertain that for a bit, as she has for years, though it grates, wilts the spirit. People don't want to feel like other people's projects.

 

Which brings us to your second point—second and third, actually. How I, here in the bleacher seats, would take what she's saying? I'd see it as a 27-year-old woman who has grown very, very tired of being viewed as a hapless 21-year-old by her partner. She is tried of giving you the reward of her growth, of having her immaturity being the thing by which you measure your own maturity, and is now finding ways to reject that model to feel more empowered. The language for all this may still be forming for her, but, like Andrina said, this is what it looks like when someone "outgrows" a relationship. She wants to be seen and viewed as an equal, not wet clay that you can mold and become frustrated with when it doesn't "set" in the shape you desire. No, she is not expressing that with a ton of grace, but she's trying. I get that you have a lot of history, and emotions are tense right now, but your overall tone in talking about her is heroically condescending.

 

Onto point four. You're saying she loses control of emotions, struggles with "adult conversations," but from what you've outlined? I'd say that applies to you as well, maybe more so? The nuts and bolts of the novella, after all, is that you wanted attention and praise from her that you weren't getting when you wanted it. Rather than just think she wasn't super duper into gaming when she she left the room, you kind of amped it up. In response she amped back. Around and around. Zoom out, be generous, be humble, and it kind of looks like: two people who, together, lose control of emotions and struggle to have adult conversations. You're both guilty of the same crime, so to speak, and there may be no one to blame save the god of incompatibility—two people who no longer function and, in trying to force functionality, merely exacerbate that which is dysfunctional.

 

If you're still reading? I know that may sound harsh, but I'm not saying that you're being a "big ol' dong" here. You're just in a relationship with someone you've never taken seriously as an equal, and now that she really senses that, the plot is lost. Personally, I believe that, as much as people do change and evolve, the foundations of relationships get set pretty quickly. The reason very, very few 21-year-olds spend forever with who they date at that time in their life is because they outgrow who they were, and no longer want to be seen that way. Alas, as you yourself have said, you can't quite see her as anything but that person you first met. Go back to when you were 21, and imagine having to play that role for someone as 30 dawned. You might understand her headspace a little better, as well as the fault lines running through the dynamic you two have built together.

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It sounds like you are very confident in 'you know her'. However, this can't really be true. Can it?

 

Sounds to me like she is feeling very misunderstood. Which generally causes intimacy, in any type of relationship, to stop.

 

Your post read like you do things, that you think are being supportive of her, but they are really more about you.

 

You screamed at her for not telling you sooner that she was raped. Think about that. I understand you regret that but...

 

honestly, why would your first reaction to something, so clearly about her, to make it about you? And to make her feel even a smidge worse about it? I don't understand this at all.

 

Then the whole sheets thing..... you wake her because the bed is ready. Why wouldn't you make sure the bed was ready before bed time? you started the linens earlier in the day? then you wake her up. that's annoying. then you ask her if wants the blanket and then you toss it on her.

 

which is it? do you care she gets a better night sleep or are you mad she didn't come to bed?

 

21 to 27 is a much bigger growth spirt, than 31 to 37. So she probably has changed.

 

And as another poster said, I do see the parent child dynamic in what you wrote. You sound like you think you know her better than she knows herself.

 

She is probably resenting this and feeling like you are imposing your version of her on to her.

 

The best thing you could do is try to listen more. Talk less. Look to solve things via compromise instead of trying to convince her you're right.

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It sounds like your instincts are telling you not to go further, particularly with this much strife already. If she wants kids/marriage let her go.

I started looking at rings a few years ago, which prompted me to really dig into my own feelings about committing to her. Ever since, things have been too uncertain for me to consider making that commitment.
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Blunt, but mostly accurate. However, if it were *nothing* but a misery for the majority of the time, I'd have left long ago. There are clearly feelings between us, and compatibilities that don't present themselves when describing negative issues.

 

I mostly agree, though. I'm nearing the end of my rope with everything. Just trying to make sure there's not something I'm missing or just looking at the wrong way.

 

Thanks for the reply.

 

Well of course no relationship is 100% bad. Heck even the worst and most abusive and violent of relationships have their good moments. That's hardly the point here.

 

The point is that for 5 years you've had no satisfying sex life to speak of and rather than walking away after a year at most, here you are....still trying to make, fix, mold, seek something that is not there....never was. That is reason alone to walk away. Instead you continue to build on emptiness, rejection, resentment, seeking validation and approval where none exists.

 

The argument about the game thing.....it wasn't about the game. You did something for her and were craving recognition, a thank you, excitement....some kind of positive emotion like a man craves water in the middle of the desert. You didn't get what you want and so it blew up into an argument. My point is that this is your moment to recognize that this relationship hasn't been working for years. Has left you feeling thirsty and desperate rather than secure and satisfied and happy. So I ask again - how many more years do you want to spend living the desert trying desperately to turn it into a blooming garden? You know it doesn't work, right? Incompatibility doesn't make her or you bad people, just two people who can't quite get along, who end up feeling thirsty instead of fulfilled. You can't fix that by clinging on, you have to let each other go. That's how you fix it - by finding a partner who actually fits. Relationships aren't this miserable or this much work when they are right - a concept to ponder.

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Wondering the same thing myself.

 

Reading between the lines a bit, and taking into account that she was a sneeze out of adolescence when you met, while you were cresting into your 30s, I can't help but see a dynamic in which you are seeking some kind of comfort in both the idea that she is young and immature and the notion that you can "grow her," so to speak. That she has begun to reject that dynamic and role in your life—that she is no longer 21, but approaching 30—is a big part of the rub here. As much as you want to preserve that early dynamic, she wants it shattered.

 

The sex stuff, for starters. You can make it super complicated, as you have, but it's also kind of simple. You two don't have great chemistry, never have, as you've never really felt she was "with" you between the sheets. Happens. A lot. Always a bummer. But rather than just think of it as sexual incompatibility, you seem to have viewed it as a problem to solve, some place where you can "awaken" her, with that "awakening" really being about your pleasure, soothing your insecurities, reaffirming some idea of yourself. Someone who is young and inexperienced might entertain that for a bit, as she has for years, though it grates, wilts the spirit. People don't want to feel like other people's projects.

 

Which brings us to your second point—second and third, actually. How I, here in the bleacher seats, would take what she's saying? I'd see it as a 27-year-old woman who has grown very, very tired of being viewed as a hapless 21-year-old by her partner. She is tried of giving you the reward of her growth, of having her immaturity being the thing by which you measure your own maturity, and is now finding ways to reject that model to feel more empowered. The language for all this may still be forming for her, but, like Andrina said, this is what it looks like when someone "outgrows" a relationship. She wants to be seen and viewed as an equal, not wet clay that you can mold and become frustrated with when it doesn't "set" in the shape you desire. No, she is not expressing that with a ton of grace, but she's trying. I get that you have a lot of history, and emotions are tense right now, but your overall tone in talking about her is heroically condescending.

 

Onto point four. You're saying she loses control of emotions, struggles with "adult conversations," but from what you've outlined? I'd say that applies to you as well, maybe more so? The nuts and bolts of the novella, after all, is that you wanted attention and praise from her that you weren't getting when you wanted it. Rather than just think she wasn't super duper into gaming when she she left the room, you kind of amped it up. In response she amped back. Around and around. Zoom out, be generous, be humble, and it kind of looks like: two people who, together, lose control of emotions and struggle to have adult conversations. You're both guilty of the same crime, so to speak, and there may be no one to blame save the god of incompatibility—two people who no longer function and, in trying to force functionality, merely exacerbate that which is dysfunctional.

 

If you're still reading? I know that may sound harsh, but I'm not saying that you're being a "big ol' dong" here. You're just in a relationship with someone you've never taken seriously as an equal, and now that she really senses that, the plot is lost. Personally, I believe that, as much as people do change and evolve, the foundations of relationships get set pretty quickly. The reason very, very few 21-year-olds spend forever with who they date at that time in their life is because they outgrow who they were, and no longer want to be seen that way. Alas, as you yourself have said, you can't quite see her as anything but that person you first met. Go back to when you were 21, and imagine having to play that role for someone as 30 dawned. You might understand her headspace a little better, as well as the fault lines running through the dynamic you two have built together.

 

First off, thanks for the detailed response. I'll have to read it over a few times, but I really do appreciate the effort and thought that went into it.

 

I also appreciate the perspective, even if there are particulars that I take issue with. For starters, it was never my intention to "grow" her in any way. Could it have been a subconscious thing? Sure, I could entertain that. In fact, the issues with my mother (very controlling, very authoritarian, very meddlesome) might actually have something to do with what I look for in a partner. Maybe I'm looking to "control before I can be controlled"? I'll bring up this possibility in my next session and see what my therapist thinks.

 

The sex stuff is super complicated, regardless of how you slice it. There's a history of abuse there. So wanting to see through that and hopefully come out the other side with the biggest issue in our relationship (at least to me) resolved is not unreasonable, I think. I mentioned in the OP that I believe sex is the biggest issue we have and that all the other issues stem from it, and I believe that's because it's fostered some resentment from me not having my needs met. Whether or not I can overcome the resentment is on me, but first I'd have to see what comes of all the work she's putting in. I appreciate the attempt at directness, but it's simply not an easy issue to hand-wave in this instance.

 

The next part is back to the "grow you" stuff, which I mostly addressed above, but I did want to set some things straight. I've never seen her or treated her as anything but an equal. In fact, she mentioned a few years ago that she wanted me to try taking a more traditional gender role in the relationship (things like driving everywhere, deciding where we eat, what we do, big decisions such as where to live and what car to buy, etc.). I was super hesitant, but she insisted. It didn't work out, partly because I was uncomfortable treating her as a subordinate, and party because she didn't appreciate being treated that way as much as she thought she might. I was glad she was willing to bring it up to me and try it, though. It's one of the few times I've ever gotten a suggestion about how I could improve from her. I don't disagree with your overall point, though. I could certainly work on being more accepting. It's easy to get bogged down with the problems we have. Maybe I've started to reject her as a proxy for rejecting the issues I don't want to deal with anymore? I'm not sure, just trying to work through this a bit as a type.

 

You talked about point four, somehow assuming I'm as guilty of letting my emotions rule our discussions as she is. I'm not sure where you're getting that from. I tend to keep my voice down, not yell at her or point at her, let her speak when she's speaking, and try to approach issues from a place of wanting to resolve them rather than make demands or cast blame. It gets difficult when she's doing the things I mentioned above several times during the argument or talk. When she's screaming at me, pointing, interrupting, it affects me and I start feeling myself lose my temper as well. Again, I appreciate your differing perspective, but I've gotta hard disagree here. I'm by no means perfect, but I do not lose my temper when we're arguing or discussing our issues.

 

If she weren't feeling playing games at the moment (or even in general), she could have just said so and that would have been totally understandable. Instead, she tried to make out like I'd done something to cause her to leave, and that's what I didn't understand. Did I "amp it up"? Sure, after she'd already done so, twice. It felt like she was looking for a reason to be upset with me, which was frustrating, and I responded out of frustration with how she was acting. I'm not saying I'm blameless in that, but it's not an unreasonable reaction either.

 

You've given me something to think about, and another perspective to view this from (as well as something to bring up in my next therapy session). I appreciate that, and again, I really appreciate the time and thought that went into your reply.

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I'm sorry if this is a little harsh but it struck a cord and appeared insensitive. That was incredibly rude of you to walk right in while she was changing. I understand you wanted an adult discussion right then and there but I think the relationship has derailed so far that neither of you are respecting each other and basic decency has flown out the window. It doesn't matter what rooms you share or whether you share a bed in a shared bedroom. If someone is changing or tending to personal grooming or other business and isn't ready to see you or speak to you, it's not a good idea to be aggressive or pushy. Never walk in on someone or force a conversation like that. I understand you wanted a problem resolved - right then, right now but it's very inappropriate to walk in that way.

 

Regarding the video games, I can tell you're putting in extraordinary effort but she's not into it as much as you are. You're describing in vivid detail how you're taking dinosaurs to safety and taming them while her responses are fairly basic "yay" or "nay". This is a person who's trying to do things your way and be as active of a participant as she can be but you're not paying attention to her cues. I think you are trying, valiantly, to save your relationship but you're going about it in all the wrong ways and it's a little too much, too hard.

 

I don't think you intend to come across as aggressive but the level of detail and attention to detail needs to lessen a great deal. You're far too intense to feel comfortable around and I think she senses that. Is it possible for you to slow down your thoughts and emotions also and not let them race ahead? What are you seeing your therapist for - do you mind me asking? Is the therapist aware of your difficulties or challenges in this relationship?

 

Every relationship needs some rest periods where couples don't constantly feel compelled or pushed to do things together.

 

There's no way sex will happen naturally with how tense things are between the both of you. Try and be more respectful overall. Don't push so hard. A problem or conversation may not happen right then or right there. It may take her a week to come back to you or open up about something. Maybe longer. Are you willing to be patient with your partner?

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I did read it all, but I'm going to comment mostly on the first part because it stands out to me. Where you talk about her not being present and engaged/connected during sex for the bulk of the relationship.

For me, that would have been the time I would stop having sex with the person. For multiple reasons, one being a personal philosophy of only having sex when both are excited and engaged about it, because I want to keep a really healthy and positive view of sex. Sex is totally voluntary, whatever the reasons.. and it should never be a matter of convincing or aiding someone to be fully present in it. I just think if it's like that, it's better to not try and force anything. Let it be natural, even if it means it's not going to work out sexually with that person.

 

Just my outside viewpoint. There seems to be a lot of forcing to try to make something that doesn't fit, fit. Not only sexually.

 

I think she was young when she got involved, and hasn't really found her voice. Some of it is starting to grumble inside her, but she's got a lot of figuring out to do, and this relationship is stifling her.

 

I'm sorry. I'm not trying to be harsh. I think you need to look at how stilted this all is though. Relationships can't be forced, and I think you are having trouble letting go of what you once hoped would come of it, and her, instead of seeing what's been apparent for a long time.

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Per your response to me, itsallgrand offered some very wise words.

 

See, to repeat, this stuff really is only as complicated as you want to make it. Flip the script, for instance, and instead of focusing on her, her past, and so on, focus on the choices you've been making through the bulk of your 30s: five years sleeping with someone you don't feel is quite "there," five years trying to solve that riddle in order for her to be more "there" for you. If you were my best friend making those choices, I'd wonder what's up with you every time you talked to me about what's up with your gf.

 

So: What, do you think, is up with that choice? We humans, in the end, only do things over and over when we're getting something from doing it. Could it be, as you mentioned, something to do with control?

 

She hasn't really found her voice, offered itsallgrand, and I'd agree. Further, I think that may have been part of the appeal, at least early: that you could be that voice, or coax it out, ensuring (control, etc.) that when it emerged in its full range of octaves you'd like what you heard as a soundtrack to live by. Well, here it is, coming out at last, albeit not in the way you'd hoped. It's grumbling a bit, shouting a bit, the record is scratching, because it's been stifled. That's not a "you" thing, but more of a "you two" thing, I think. She's 27, but feels a bit frozen at 21, while you're coming up on 40 and...well, it might be worth looking at whether you're growing into the shape you'd like to be as that bell rings.

 

You can deploy the language of "equality" until the sun burns out and we humans turn to dust, but the brass tacks here are that you had a decade of adulthood under your belt when you met, while she had a few blinks. Put each of those weights on the scale, and 9 times out of 10, you don't get balance. You get teacher/student stuff, parent/child stuff, a dynamic where the one in the student/child role eventually needs to reject the teacher/parent to find their voice. You can try to rectify that through highbrow ideas, but experience is experience, and it informs us. Less experience means less information. If balance was what you naturally sought? The intimacy stuff wouldn't have been a compelling riddle, but just a bummer, with whatever specifics behind it not nearly as relevant as the disconnection and dissatisfaction.

 

When you sincerely see someone as an equal, after all, it's simply impossible to see what potential you can coax out of someone. What is actual is more than enough—or not.

 

I know there's a lot of history here, a lot of feeling, a lot of hope. But step outside yourself and listen to the basics of your story from an outsider's perspective: an iffy, tetchy intimate life for years leading, these days, to petty arguing about petty matters. A playwright could probably spin that into an Act Three that inspires, but relationships among mortals aren't scripted. Drop the story of what you'd like here, and focus on what you have, what you two have built over years. Then ask yourself: Is that serving you? Is that, do you think, serving her?

 

Answer those questions with honesty and respect—of you, of her, of facts—and I think you may find some clarity in this fog.

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Reading your post, OP, and I get this overall sense of dread in your relationship... Obviously your relationship has run its course. You both have been and still are incompatible

I have a friend and a coworker who stayed in relationship that was 8 years overdue for a breakup and when they broke up, they both admitted to me separately they felt liberated. I think when you are in a relationship, you've already invested so much, you feel like it would be a loss if you gave up on someone you care about - but it's all self-interest based on fear of change, fear of the unknown, fear of being alone, fear of seeing them happy with someone else... When your relationship is constantly filled with this heavy dread of another fight of another miscommunication of another petty yada yada... you both would benefit from freeing yourself of that dread by moving out and moving on - separately.

 

Also, you both met when her brain wasn't fully developed so yes you got someone who was naive and impressionable... now as she is finding her voice, she is seeing/hearing things that she is doing a second take because she starting to see that it doesn't sit well with her. I am sure it's frustrating and confusing but this is just another sign that you guys aren't right for each other.

 

Don't complicate it... it's not.

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Unfortunately, you both sound like powder kegs of expectations, and neither of you sound all that invested in what the other wants beyond hoping for the kind of responses that will feed you each what you're not getting from the other.

 

I'd consider whether you both may be hoping that counseling will 'fix' the other so you can be happy together.

 

You already know that you're not going to get the sex life you want with this partner. It was never there in the first place, so there's nothing to get 'back'.

 

I'd put all the small stuff to the side and ask GF to take some time to define clearly what she wants from you that she's not getting. Then listen without defending or arguing--just take it all in.

 

From there, you get to decide whether you'll WANT to invest in trying to give to her what she believes is missing going forward.

 

However, if she can't or won't get straight with you about what she's resentful about, then you've got zero to work with.

 

Beyond that, you can keep pretzeling yourself to try to make her happy enough to offer a good love life to you, and then you can keep fighting when she doesn't give you the responses you want. But where does that get you?

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