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12 hours ago, FF-lawyer said:

Well, I focused this post on what I am doing wrong, not him (after all, I can only change myself), but yes, I am very aware of his issues. I am aware that he does not have any coping mechanisms (no healthy one at least - his default coping mechanism is avoidance/escape), he has difficulties controlling his negative emotions most of the time (be it sadness, fear, regret or stress), he is unable to set any boundaries with his parents, he is a massive people-pleaser to the point of putting other people’s happiness over his (his parents even explicitly told him that their happiness is more important than his, and while he is extremely angry and resentful at them, he does not act on these feelings), and he is overly sensitive to criticism or any form of disapproval (even a mere difference of opinion is going to be tough for him and he will remember it for years). Some of it is probably obvious from my previous posts."

 

So to distill what you wrote (you are not a professional psychologist, right?) you see that he acts like a whiny jerk too much of the time, he chooses to be a doormat with his parents, and he is a doormat with others too, and then gets mean if criticized because he's choosing to be a doormat and he'd rather vent/act out than take responsibility, be a grown up.  Or it might be he is like this more with you given the parent-child dynamic you've chosen.

Make sure you resist the temptation to indulge in psychobabble because that will give you an excuse to stick around.  Sure in years from now he might grow a backbone and be a thoughtful, considerate, stable and mature person.  What would "tangible and consistent improvement" look like? Again ditch the 10 dollar words and make a list of specifics you think would show progress. Like "he'll tell me in a tactful way he's feeling stressed and would prefer not to talk about ___ right now" and he will do that more than half the time.  Or "he told his parents a polite "no" when in the past he would have said yes then had a temper tantrum later for some random reason".  

I would see where he is at in at least a year from now with limited/impersonal contact and perhaps after a year or so if you want to chat with him and see where he's at with the therapy etc you can take it from there.  I would date others and move on in the meantime and assume it will take far longer than a year for him to be in a mature place and assume that neither of you might not be interested or available at that time. My husband and i changed a great deal in the almost 8 years we were apart after dating seriously in the 1990s but neither of us "waited."  Just dumb luck that we happened to be single all those years later plus wanting to try again - the rest is not luck - at all - and I say that because we both had "issues" that were dealbreakers the first time around.

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I'd focus on this latter part, more than the former. Curious: Do you have the same impulse with friends, with family? I ask because it's worth understanding what's behind that, the degree to whic

I think the above describes me to some extent, until I was in my mid-30s. I made excuses for their shortcomings and took up the slack for them. When I reached my mid-30s, a switch went off. I bec

The Wendy behind Peter Pan Psychologist Dan Kiley, who defined ‘Peter Pan Syndrome’ in 1983, also used the term ‘Wendy Syndrome’ to describe women who act like mothers with their partners or peop

"My engine is always on fire! If I were not the engine, no one would be: we would just be stagnating forever and none of us would be reaching their goals/dreams. Of course I really want him to achieve his goals too, but he never seems to know what his goals are, so we can’t really work towards his goals. He is more the “let’s see where it goes” type of person. This obviously has some advantages but that also means that he has a lot of regrets over what he should have done. I would be horrified to have regrets because I did not “act” on my dreams."

I've seen couples like this before, my husband's brother is like this for one, and it usually goes two ways (which I believe is why so many commenters are trying to help you see the problem with being the engine here):

1) You keep pushing and pushing because you feel like he (and you both as a couple) won't go anywhere if you don't, but then that eventually will make you resentful if he never changes (and he may not!), and when it comes to kids and things in the future, this really could cause you a lot of pain and misery.  He really may not be capable of changing to be the driving force.  And he'll have zero motivation to do that if you are the one still driving.

Sometimes that option ends in the wife getting too tired to do this (especially after kids) and she divorces him.  Years of your lives would be wasted, lots of pain and suffering for everyone, especially the kids, involved.

2) You can choose to step back and give him room to lead.  This actually DOES work sometimes, although not all of the time.  Sometimes it doesn't work because the man literally can't change.  Some women, without even knowing, pick men who are like this because they understand deep down (unconsciously though) that it gives them that control.  Maybe a girl grew up with an abusive or passive father, a dad who made her not feel like she could trust men, so then she picks one that has less a drive so she can always be in the driver's seat.  It's possible this is not your story, but in general, this scenario tends to play out when a woman doesn't trust men fully.

But if you step back and wait, and let him make mistakes etc. and truly be supportive, and learn to trust that he'll do the right thing, I've seen that work to where the man becomes someone who will lead (be the engine). 

If no one is leading, he'll be forced to step up at some point, but you have to realize that may realistically take longer than just 1 year.  But that takes a lot of patience from what I've seen on the woman's part... because he inevitably won't lead the way you would, and if you criticize him during that phase of transition, he may give up and become more passive in leading again or even refuse to (because your criticism would be extremely painful, especially due to his family background, it will bring up his old wounds again from them).  So if you step back and allow him to lead, you'll have to be very very patient and supportive (not critical). 

Allow him to make mistakes, even financial ones, and talk about them together, but not in an accusing way unless you want him to go passive again.

 

Edited by maritalbliss86
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OP, if you're still reading this... that pain you mentioned you feel for him, about his family, that's normal

You're witnessing the end result of what happens to some adults, men and women alike, when their parents fail them in life. 

Your ex-boyfriend's parents FAILED to help him become a person who naturally believed in himself, has a huge personal drive for success, or to have proper coping mechanisms etc.  That is a parents job and purpose.  It is NOT an entitlement to expect they will do that.  The results when they fail their children are horrible and usually life-long struggles for those individuals.

Calling it entitlement to expect parents not to abuse their children (even into adulthood) is blaming the victim (and that child who gets abused) for daring to expect the parents fulfill their proper role the universe designed for them.

BUT he also can't make excuses to remain that way.  He has to do the work on himself and realize his parents massively failed him and still are, in order to grow and change. 

But he isn't entitled, he's rightfully very angry they failed him as proper parents.

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14 hours ago, FF-lawyer said:

I also know myself and I know that I would regret it if I didn’t give him a chance to surprise me. 

How can he surprise you when you've already decided what the surprise looks like? 

I hope this doesn't sound too harsh, but when I read your last post, and others, the word that comes to mind is control. Generally speaking I'd imagine you might be someone who struggles to let go of full control, which is common in ambitious, determined, capable humans, and not in and of itself a "bad" quality. But in relationships—be they platonic, romantic, or even parental—there are very real limitations when the best part about your connection to another person, and the place where a connection offers the most comfort, is the degree to which you can control the outcome, the narrative, the mystery of another person and their journey.

I'm not sure if you're up for thinking about that right now—as it means turning the analytical lens away from him, fully, and focusing instead on yourself—but from where I sit? It seems you're still banking on your ability to be the engine, still finding ways to work around how little respect and faith you have in him, still resisting exploring why you've been drawn to someone you don't respect all that much, don't believe in in nearly the same way you believe in yourself. Sample question, along the those lines: Are you scared of how life would look and feel if you didn't have someone who constantly reflected back to you a conception of yourself as strong, smart, ambitious, mature, issue free, and in control? Or another: How important, for you, is the story that he "needs" you, even if you don't "need" him in the same way?  

Another point I feel is worth making: five weeks, in the scheme of a 6.5 year relationship is nothing. So while I understand the urge to look at those five weeks you were broken up as evidence of something—your strength, your ability to go it alone without crumbling—that's kind of a mirage. Not the part about how you'd survive just fine—you would, as would he, as humans have proven since the dawn of time—but just that this is more of a "breakup" than a breakup at present. All in all, you are both still in this relationship far more than you're not, regardless of what labels you put on it at this stage. 

Anyhow, it might be worth giving some thought to the difference between being great with someone and thinking you could be great with someone. The former is what happens when another person, and a relationship with another person, exceeds the bounds of our imaginations, while the latter is what happens when our imaginative capacity is the best thing about a connection. There is comfort in the latter, since we are in control of our own imaginations, but that comfort does come at cost. 

 

 

 

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We don't know the whole story - neither does the OP because I am certain his parents haven't shared what they did and perhaps they did the best they could under the circumstances. 

"Your ex-boyfriend's parents FAILED to help him become a person who naturally believed in himself, has a huge personal drive for success, or to have proper coping mechanisms etc.  That is a parents job and purpose.  It is NOT an entitlement to expect they will do that.  The results when they fail their children are horrible and usually life-long struggles for those individuals.

Calling it entitlement to expect parents not to abuse their children (even into adulthood) is blaming the victim (and that child who gets abused) for daring to expect the parents fulfill their proper role the universe designed for them."

I don't think it's abuse at all for parents to do the best to help their child be independent and reasonably secure.  I don't see it as my job to help my child have a "huge personal drive for success" because that's too broad and too cumbersome.  If he shows drive I will foster and encourage, I will lead by example but I will never pressure him to have a huge personal drive for how I define success.  I will see how he defines success, I will see whether he wants to put his huge personal drive into how he defines success.  There are so many variables.  And if it turns out he is not successful, if it turns out he has a drive to do well but not as strong a drive as I "think" he should, then that is not me abusing -that is him being his own person, a separate person, a person who makes choices.  Let's not pin it all on the OP's boyfriend's parents mostly because we only know her interpretation and we know she is not close to them and has not heard their honest assessment of the situation.   

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21 minutes ago, Batya33 said:

We don't know the whole story - neither does the OP because I am certain his parents haven't shared what they did and perhaps they did the best they could under the circumstances. 

OP did add a lot about how his parents interacted with him, their mindset, and then especially the way they treated him after he decided to make his own decisions.  She gave enough info to understand his parents cross the line in trying to control him, make horrible negative comments to hurt him and her, etc.  

"I don't think it's abuse at all for parents to do the best to help their child be independent and reasonably secure."

I said it amounts to abuse when parents actively breakdown that process inside a child.  When they make him/her feel worthless, or humiliate them etc. those things end up making a person not have enough drive to succeed in life.  Emotional or verbal abuse is still abuse, I'm sure you'd agree.  It has lifelong ramifications, which is why good, proper parenting is so important to a child's future.  Yes, some achieve without having good parents, but that's usually in spite of their parents not fulfilling their role, not because they failed at it.

She literally said she admired everything he's done in spite of his obstacles.  I do agree people like that have it harder when trying to be successful. They're not starting with a full-hand so to speak.  And it's not entitlement when they acknowledge their parents failed them in those ways.

  I don't see it as my job to help my child have a "huge personal drive for success" because that's too broad and too cumbersome.  If he shows drive I will foster and encourage, I will lead by example but I will never pressure him to have a huge personal drive for how I define success.  I will see how he defines success, I will see whether he wants to put his huge personal drive into how he defines success.  There are so many variables.  And if it turns out he is not successful, if it turns out he has a drive to do well but not as strong a drive as I "think" he should, then that is not me abusing -that is him being his own person, a separate person, a person who makes choices."

I think you're missing the point that his parents, as per the OP, are doing the opposite of what is considered normal for parents to do.  

If your son turned out to be unsuccessful at something, in your and your husband's minds, you probably would not handle it by berating and insulting him like OP's parents have done to him.  That's what I was pointing out.  

Expecting them not to act like that is not some twisted form of, "entitlement," rooted in selfishness believing they should support his decisions.  They don't have to support his decisions, but they do have to treat him and her with respect. 

That's what I was saying.  I'm sure we agree mostly... it's just calling his disappointment with them, "entitlement," seems especially cruel to people who legitimately have crappy parents.

Edited by maritalbliss86
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@Batya33: he never acts mean or like a jerk, but he does shut down a lot. The specifics would be mostly setting strict boundaries with his parents and following through/not feeling guilty after doing so (saying no and not complaining about it to me afterwards basically), not shutting down whenever anything unpleasant happens (being able to discuss concerns without him being overwhelmed to the point of not hearing anything anymore and/or feeling attacked, or if he feels that he is going to get overwhelmed, to clearly say so instead of shutting down). I also do think that these issues take quite some time to be managed since he’s had them for so long. I think your suggestion is very doable, thank you.

@Wiseman2: thank you.

@maritalbliss86: I am already resentful from the constant leading, I am definitely not going to continue like that. I have a very healthy relationship with my parents, who have always been wonderful to me! No issue in my side trusting men, at all! What happened is more that in the first three or four years together, the relationship was very well balanced, with both of us leading (maybe a slight edge from my side, but barely) and then approximately from year 4, it became more and more unbalanced and I progressively ended up in a position where I became the leader. From year 4, he also leaned more and more on me as he faced a lot of struggles with his studies - he chose the same field as me and he didn’t have anyone else than me who understood him as he didn’t know anyone who went to university, so I guess I was a good source of advice (and I’ve always been really successful at my field). Simultaneously, he started to doubt a lot on his abilities (he said he also compared himself a lot to me and it made him stress even more) and took his struggles really hard, and his parents also kept asking why he is not working yet. Basically he felt a lot of pressure. His age also didn’t help and he always felt a lot behind everyone else. I tried to support him as much as I can, telling him that I couldn’t care less about his academic or professional achievements, that it’s okay not to know yet what he wants to do, that he shouldn’t compare himself to other people or me, etc. but he seemed stuck in a bit of a negative spirit. So I think that he was busy with his own issues and did not have the time or energy to lead the relationship at the same time. So I probably filled the void by leading even more. It was all very gradual really. Actually, the better word would be exponential.

I agree that his parents failed him, I have always thought that it wasn’t really “fair” that he had to go through so much. I know life isn’t always fair, but yes, I have always felt quite sad about it.

@boltnrun: no, I don’t think of improvement as doing something the way I would, but as doing something in a way that enables us to have a healthy relationship, I don’t care in what way. 

@bluecastle: not too harsh! I have been initially drawn to him because when we met, he was just starting university and couldn’t care less about what anyone said about that. I thought it was awesome that he went to university despite all the negativity around him. And I really think that he really did not care about what others said at that time. But over the years, the negativity got to him. I had a lot of respect and faith for him initially but I also gradually lost my admiration when he lost his own confidence and let people walk all over him. I don’t have much respect for him now, I admit, but I know I did and I know he can go back to this self-confident person he used to be, the one I was initially drawn to and the one he also wants to be. I think that the real him is the one I met 8 years ago and that he can get his confidence/backbone/persona back.

@Batya33: I don’t think his parents are doing the best they can to help him become independent when they tell him he shouldn’t live with me because they would be alone without him living with them. I also don’t think that telling him he is wrong every time he makes decisions is helping him become independent either. Not denying his responsibility in the story but they are REALLY not helping him.

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"Batya33: I don’t think his parents are doing the best they can to help him become independent when they tell him he shouldn’t live with me because they would be alone without him living with them. I also don’t think that telling him he is wrong every time he makes decisions is helping him become independent either. Not denying his responsibility in the story but they are REALLY not helping him."

I think this is so telling.  If I read this without knowing the facts I'd assume you were referring to a child.  He is an adult.  They're not supposed to help him anymore to become independent (unless he had a disability etc and was not really an adult mentally/emotionally) - he chooses to ask them for input or he doesn't stand his ground and change the subject or assert his boundaries.  If they act in a negative way now -they are adults and so is he.  He is not a child.  They spent years raising him and that is done- by definition.  So it's all on him what he wants to do with his interactions.  Adult to adult.  I really have never heard of someone refer to parents as being to blame for not helping their adult child to be more independent and to make better decisions.  I think perhaps you see him as a child?  I think you are hearing one side of a conversation and it's telling that he tells you that they don't like or approve of you.  So they want him to live with them and they're doing the guilt trip.  Big deal -so many parents do some variation of that with their adult kids.  But the adults have the control.  He just chooses not to use it.  He chooses to let them and you be his parents.  

 

Good for you for getting specific.  He can't help how he feels but he can control his reaction to how he feels and he can control how much he chooses to interact with his parents.

Edited by Batya33
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@Batya33: oh I was referring to your reply “I don't think it's abuse at all for parents to do the best to help their child be independent and reasonably secure." to say that they did not help him become independent when he was a child. Of course I did not know him when he was a child but given what they are doing still now, I’m assuming it was like that or worse when he was a child. I have also heard a lot of stories of his childhood (told by him or his parents) which clearly indicated that they were not raising him to be independent. 

I of course agree that this is on him, as I said multiple times. He is also aware (that’s the reason why he sought therapy in the first place as he knew something was wrong). I am obviously not saying his parents should help him be independent now, that would be really weird.

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So I think you're making a lot of assumptions about his family and injecting your own value judgments onto what it means to be "independent" and what they were supposed to do -in your opinion as an outsider, typically hearing one side of things or bits and pieces - to help him be independent.  And you're quite biased - you love him,  you want him to be a certain way and you're looking to place blame because it's easier that way for both of you.  Thing is many many kids have less than perfect childhoods and make choices to overcome the flaws in their parents -sometimes simply by getting physical space.  My father had a mental illness that was diagnosed in his 20s or earlier -he lived till 83.  This affected my mother's parenting of my sister and I of course.  She did her best.  And he did his best despite his mental illness even though I really didn't realize that until I was in my 30s.  (And no not because I was a parent by then, I wasn't).  They are doing mostly what he allows them to do as he is an adult.  You're very fortunate to have had good parents/parenting - I'm happy for you and happy that you recognize and appreciate it.  

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18 hours ago, FF-lawyer said:

I know he can go back to this self-confident person he used to be, the one I was initially drawn to and the one he also wants to be. I think that the real him is the one I met 8 years ago and that he can get his confidence/backbone/persona back.

Thought experiment: 

How would you feel if I told you that who you are, right now, is not the true you compared to who you were (at least in my eyes) nearly a decade ago? How would you feel if I told you—perhaps not directly, but implicitly—that my admiration and respect for you was contingent in you re-becoming that person that I believe you to be? Would you feel inspired, seen, understood, safe? Or would you feel judged, under pressure, misunderstood, anxious?

I'd have a think on all that. 

 

 

 

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If he told me (or if my parents told me) that he had a lot of respect for me 8 years ago and that he doesn’t have any respect for me anymore, I would think that I did something terribly wrong and I would analyse what went wrong in my life, why I acted in a way that people lost respect for me, and apply the necessary corrective actions. I would not necessarily feel inspired, but I would also not feel judged or under pressure at all, I would appreciate that someone is honest enough to tell me that I’m screwing up. I would prefer that than continue to screw up without awareness of the situation. Constructive criticism is nothing but positive in my opinion. But if you’re asking the question, I’m assuming that my reaction is not the norm and that a normal reaction would be to feel pressured?

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The "real" him is who he is currently whether or not you want to accept that.  He is not masquerading as someone else. 

You both want him to grow and to revert back to the past.  Does that make sense?

The fact that you view him as "screwing up" says it all.

Edited by boltnrun
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I would want an honest response if I went to a trusted friend or counselor and asked if I was doing my best.  I would not want unsolicited input unless it was 100% obvious that I was clueless as to the mistake I was making/made.  For example I received tons of unsolicited input in my 30s especially about why I was "still" single.  Most was useless, from the bias of the "giver" and  that is in hindsight too.  On the other hand, I received constructive critcism about how to delegate work when I was promoted to management level.  And yes I made some mistakes.  Yes I screwed up.  And the constructive criticism helped me a great deal.  But it was my mentors, my bosses who gave that to me -that was their job whether I wanted the input or not.  

Do you really think, truly, that you could do something that would make your loved ones lose respect for you and you honestly would be clueless about such a huge mistake that could result in that? Really??

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“Do you really think, truly, that you could do something that would make your loved ones lose respect for you and you honestly would be clueless about such a huge mistake that could result in that? Really??”
 

No, I don’t think that at all, I was simply answering the question in the event that I’m screwing up and I am clueless.

He does seem clueless though, as he was shocked when his psychologist told him that his relationship with his parents is not healthy and that he is being a doormat. He was also not aware that he is not able to make decisions despite him being stuck for 7 years studying something that he did not want to but did not get out of. Again, his psychologist had to point it out and he told me that it opened his eyes.

On another note, I have never given unsolicited advice, he is the one who constantly comes for my advice. Sure, I can say “I don’t know, what do you want to do”, and sure, my advice is maybe not always the best, but in all circumstances, I am not the one coming to him with advice that he did not ask for.

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55 minutes ago, FF-lawyer said:

But if you’re asking the question, I’m assuming that my reaction is not the norm and that a normal reaction would be to feel pressured?

I don't think there is a "norm," per se, but I think it's important to recognize that everyone will not respond as you respond. What motivates one person will kill motivation in another, and so on. Personally, I also think that as we leave childhood and get settled into adulthood, outside pressures (from family, friends, lovers, social media, whatever) becomes less and less powerful as we discover our inner compass. 

I also think it's interesting that you used the example of if your parents spoke to you like this, since, as others have pointed out, you are very much taking on the role of a certain kind of parent here, the sort determined to see their child reach their full potential, as they (the parent) views said potential. He, meanwhile, seems to feel an almost identical pressure from you as the one he feels from his parents, while taking on a similar doormat-like role, something he may be a few sessions away from getting to in therapy.  

Standing here on the sidelines, my heart breaks a bit for both of you, as you're missing out on knowing the expansive, almost overwhelming form of comfort that comes from respecting your partner and he's missing out on the similar form of comfort that comes from feeling respected for exactly who he is. This is just me, and my own belief system, but I think people thrive and come into themselves most authentically when they feel respected, not when they feel like respect is a carrot on a stick that will come if they run fast enough to snag it. 

 

 

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3 hours ago, FF-lawyer said:

“Do you really think, truly, that you could do something that would make your loved ones lose respect for you and you honestly would be clueless about such a huge mistake that could result in that? Really??”
 

No, I don’t think that at all, I was simply answering the question in the event that I’m screwing up and I am clueless.

He does seem clueless though, as he was shocked when his psychologist told him that his relationship with his parents is not healthy and that he is being a doormat. He was also not aware that he is not able to make decisions despite him being stuck for 7 years studying something that he did not want to but did not get out of. Again, his psychologist had to point it out and he told me that it opened his eyes.

On another note, I have never given unsolicited advice, he is the one who constantly comes for my advice. Sure, I can say “I don’t know, what do you want to do”, and sure, my advice is maybe not always the best, but in all circumstances, I am not the one coming to him with advice that he did not ask for.

OK so being in denial is not the same as being clueless.  Of course he knows, he chose to ignore it.  And that is his choice so you pointing it out isn't going to advance the ball -in fact it may just trigger defensiveness.  On the other hand sure a professional is supposed to point out when someone is in denial.  He knew he just chose the easier way.  It's easier to be a doormat, it's easier to stick with the devil you know -what he was studying - than to take a risk.  He is a person most likely who will choose the easier/passive way.  You are not that person.  You don't respect his approach.  He can meet someone who is happy to have him exactly that way for her own motives and reasons.  You're not that person.  And yes he asks and asks but does he implement your suggestions? Doesn't seem so. 

 

New Year's Eve 1997 I think it was when I was seriously dating my now husband he gave me constructive criticism about my social skills.  Very specific feedback.  Honestly I don't remember at all whether I asked him but I remember being motivated and inspired by what he said -it resonated, it made sense, it was a short to the point comment.  I made changes starting then and as a result I formed more and better friendships over the last 20 plus years.  But the point was I was ready to hear it, ready to hear it from him, respected his point of view and his delivery was thoughtful and caring yet firm. 

 

I will also tell you that I did not respect his lack of backbone back then in certain situations.  I remember getting so frustrated at times.  I remember giving him feedback and sometimes out of frustration.  Did nothing.  We broke up at the end of 1997 for almost 8 years.  A main reason we got back together is he -on his own - made certain changes, those changes did wonders for his self confidence, and my respect for that aspect of him - his self-confidence, the way he interacted with people - made a world of difference into why we worked the second time around.  But he had to come to those decisions on his own -at least, not with a biased significant other.  So I get it on that level.  

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it's these moment I hear the old Dr Phil adages-

"People do what works"   - even if it's difficult to stomach watching someone else do something we might think unhealthy, there is a pay off for them, or they wouldn't be doing it.

What's his reward here for being passive?  My guess, he knows you'll pick up the slack and he gets to continue doing what he does best. 

So, now you become part of the problem.  And all your *help just reinforces the notion he's too passive to do it himself  . . .and cycle goes around and around.

Let's turn the mirror a bit.  What is your payoff for doing all the heavy lifting?  What internal dialog, even if unhealthy does that reinforce for you?  Because if you weren't getting something out of it you would have backed off and let him figure this out on his own by now.

Edited by reinventmyself
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On 12/27/2020 at 10:47 AM, maritalbliss86 said:

Some women, without even knowing, pick men who are like this because they understand deep down (unconsciously though) that it gives them that control.

I think the above describes me to some extent, until I was in my mid-30s. I made excuses for their shortcomings and took up the slack for them.

When I reached my mid-30s, a switch went off. I became tired of the merry-go-round of being the responsible party.

I realized that I didn't respect the men that I had been dating--why else would I make excuses for them, and assume the role of responsibility in my relationships?

I took some time off of dating for a couple of months to get my picker straight. Then I re-met someone from my past, who I really liked.

But instead of making excuses for him and taking up the slack, I stood back to see if he would sink or swim. 

On 12/27/2020 at 10:47 AM, maritalbliss86 said:

Allow him to make mistakes, even financial ones, and talk about them together, but not in an accusing way unless you want him to go passive again.

He swam. We've been together for over eight years now. Now that I think about it, our relationship is parallel to yours, FF-Lawyer, in terms of time.

What worries me about you is that the dynamic between the two of you has gone on for so long.

I would have more hope for you if this was only a couple months into your relationship. But it is a significant number of years, and habits become entrenched.

What I find very interesting about your situation is the fact that, despite your successful progress in terms of school and career, you have been just as passive as he has been. He's passive in his career trajectory, you are passive in your relationship trajectory. 

I think that you find this relationship to be a safe place, much as he finds his family, friends, and country to be a safe place.

What do you think about that?

Edited by Jibralta
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Thanks all for your great insights!

Standing here on the sidelines, my heart breaks a bit for both of you, as you're missing out on knowing the expansive, almost overwhelming form of comfort that comes from respecting your partner and he's missing out on the similar form of comfort that comes from feeling respected for exactly who he is. This is just me, and my own belief system, but I think people thrive and come into themselves most authentically when they feel respected, not when they feel like respect is a carrot on a stick that will come if they run fast enough to snag it.“

I get what you mean, I used to respect him and I feel guilty not feeling that way anymore for him. I admit it must be terrible for him knowing (very probably) that I don’t have much respect for him.

It's easier to be a doormat, it's easier to stick with the devil you know -what he was studying - than to take a risk.  He is a person most likely who will choose the easier/passive way.”

I’m afraid that might be true and could stay true for the rest of his life, or at least a very very long time. He has never made an active choice in his life, whether in the relationship, in his studies (he stayed way too long in a field he did not like but did not find the courage to leave) or in his career (it’s his first job now, at the age of 31, and even this job, he didn’t choose it, the unemployment agency called him to ask whether he would be interested - although he seems to really like it and it’s a field that I always said would be a good fit, which is great). The first time he made a choice was when he moved to my country, and that was a complete disaster. I cannot understand why anyone would be full of dreams, do nothing about it, have horrible regrets about unrealized dreams and be miserable (he used to talk daily about his unrealized dreams - it was so frustrating), and then keep doing it the exact same way. Apparently the misery of unrealized dreams is still less intense than the misery of making decisions.

I broke up with him because I was sick of this whole mess, but talking with him after the break up really made me think that maybe he finally “got” his life back in his own hands. He said a lot of things that he realized from therapy, basically all the right words, and now I’m confused. Of course, words are easier than actions and I would need to see actions to back up his words, but he never even said those things before so it confused me a lot. And he’s not a manipulative person at all, I know he’s not saying that to get me back, I completely trust that he is genuine when saying these things. 

What's his reward here for being passive?  My guess, he knows you'll pick up the slack and he gets to continue doing what he does best. 

So, now you become part of the problem.  And all your *help just reinforces the notion he's too passive to do it himself  . . .and cycle goes around and around.”

I think he has two types of reward from being passive. The first one is, as you say, that he knows there will be no consequence because I will pick up the slack. It’s funny, last time we spoke, he mentioned summer holidays and then said “well, I guess I will have to plan something by myself, because if I don’t, I won’t go in holidays”. Internally, I was like “well yea, who do you think always planned the holidays for us...”. It pissed me off a bit, even though it’s a tiny step in realizing that he has to be active to do things he wants to do. The second one is that he dislikes discomfort so much and making decisions and solving problems are synonyms of huge discomfort for him (it’s visible on his face, it’s really weird for me given my natural personality) so he just does nothing - things don’t move forward (things that are not related to me, like his career) but at least, he stays in his comfort. So passivity brings him comfort.

It is really a terrible cycle, because I do everything but then get fed up and resentful, and he is even more passive because I do everything, and worse, he occasionnally feels that the decisions have been made for him, nearly “forced” and then acts out (like the whole moving to my country). It’s lose-lose for me.

Let's turn the mirror a bit.  What is your payoff for doing all the heavy lifting?  What internal dialog, even if unhealthy does that reinforce for you?  Because if you weren't getting something out of it you would have backed off and let him figure this out on his own by now.

My payoff is that things move forward and are clear. I don’t want to let things stagnate or stay vague (in all areas if my life), so at least it moves, even if I have to do everything. And I think that moving forward is even more important in a long distance relationship, as we were for the first 6.5 years - there is no point staying in a LDR forever. It’s already hard enough to be in a LDR.

The reason why I didn’t back off when I started to become resentful from doing everything has a lot to do with moving to my country. It does require a VERY big positive action to leave his country behind and in the last year before moving, he didn’t seem to be preparing much for it. When he postponed the moving (2 years ago), I completely freaked out and pushed and pushed, which of course paralyzed him even more. I felt that if I don’t push, he won’t move, because I didn’t see him preparing to move. Sometimes I think I should have broken up with him when he didn’t move. But I didn’t because I thought it’s ok to be scared of moving and even if he didn’t do it the right way (it came out of the blue), I kind of understood the feeling behind it.

Although I have to point out for his defence that after 2-3 years together, he actually applied for Erasmus in my country, with the end goal in mind to move to me and this would of course be easier with a prior experience via Erasmus. So actually I might be a bit harsh when I say he didn’t actively do something towards moving to me. But unfortunately he wasn’t selected for the program (but he also only sent his CV, without even a cover letter, saying that there is no doubt he will get in). I remember that he took it really hard.

What worries me about you is that the dynamic between the two of you has gone on for so long.

This also worries me. This and the fact that even before knowing me, he was already the passive type (granted, very young people might be more passive than older people, but still). 

What I find very interesting about your situation is the fact that, despite your successful progress in terms of school and career, you have been just as passive as he has been. He's passive in his career trajectory, you are passive in your relationship trajectory. 

I think that you find this relationship to be a safe place, much as he finds his family, friends, and country to be a safe place.

I’m actually not sure why you are saying that I am passive in my relationship trajectory? I feel the exact opposite given the amount of effort and time I have spent in this relationship the last 2 years!

I’m not sure honestly that I find this relationship to be a safe place, I haven’t felt safe in it for the last 2 years, due to his back and forth and indecision. 

Edited by FF-lawyer
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You're passive because, despite being dissatisfied with the relationship for TWO YEARS, you chose to stay in it. Just like he chose to stay at an unsatisfactory job. It was easier to stay than it was to start over with someone who would be more compatible.

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10 minutes ago, boltnrun said:

You're passive because, despite being dissatisfied with the relationship for TWO YEARS, you chose to stay in it. Just like he chose to stay at an unsatisfactory job. It was easier to stay than it was to start over with someone who would be more compatible.

Yes, exactly. You've settled for a man who looks up to you, hoping he will change, instead of actively searching for a man who sees eye to eye with you. 

The fact that you haven't felt safe for the last two years is actually a good sign because you aren't safe with somebody like this. He can't be trusted to take the reins in your time of need, not because he's a bad guy, but because he falls short of the mark.

All of the pressure is always going to be on you.

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I was going to say something similar to bolt, about passivity. 

I also think it's really worth trying to examine the motivations here, in terms of what you're getting, with a bit more of a scalpel than you did above. It seems to me that one thing he offers you, as mentioned, is that next to him you have no doubt about your own success, your own ability to handle issues, your stability, your strength, your professional moxie, your ability to control the narrative—all these things that you clearly take a lot of pride in.

Being you next to someone less lost, or someone you perceive as less lost, even "more" successful and established than you? That pride would be less potent, replaced by more vulnerability. You would be a young professional doing pretty well, an equal going about the business of life rather than a super woman who has figured it all out. You would inherently be forced to consider how you want to grow, rather than all this laser focus on the gaps in another's growth.  

So I don't hide potential projections in paragraphs like those above: I experienced something similar in my last long relationship. I was the "successful" one, established in my career, financially solid, with a big group of friends, and all sorts of hobbies that I was as a passionate about as my job. She was not yet there, and while I don't think I put any direct pressure on her, this made for a curious dynamic that eventually crumbled.

A very hard lesson of it—but one I am so grateful for being open to learning—was that I had to admit I liked being cast in the roll as the one who had it all figured out. It was easy! It was safe! It was very soothing for an ego that was more fragile than I wanted to admit! Alas, it was also deeply unfair, to both of us, as past the base level stuff (nice times hanging, lots of sizzle) neither of us were growing in an authentic manner. Our hearts and minds were lacking critical nutrients. 

Things to think about. Do you want to feel in control—I say feel because it's always an illusion—or do you want to feel challenged?  

 

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