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Was it right to break up?


Sam1986

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I haven't posted here in many years, and for a good reason - heartbreaks seem to be a thing of the past as I entered my first long-term relationship.
After 3 years of being together, we had some rocky patches where I (34 M) decided it was perhaps better to break up with her (34 F).
My problem basically boils down to a dilemma that has lasted for these 3 years - Should I stay or should I leave?
After breaking up, I'm still not sure whether or not it was the right thing to do, and I must admit that I probably stayed longer for this exact reason as well.
I was never sure if we were compatible, as I never properly fell in love with this girl after we met.
On the other hand, I sure do love her (if that makes any sense).

One of the reasons that I probably never fell properly in love was because right from the start she was rather needy.
After two great first dates where we agreed to keep in touch, I didn't write to her for a day or two (I was focusing on work and friends at the time, as well as reflecting on our dates to get in touch with myself on how I felt about it), at which point she asked if I had already lost interest in her.
I replied that I didn't and we had a good third date as well, but the pattern would continue.
I think it was by date four where she wanted us to have a "serious conversation" about us, since she was unsure if I wanted to continue to invest in meeting her.
I did of course, and also said that I would like to keep meeting her to see where things went, but I got the feeling that she wanted a more solid commitment already while I was happy with us having good dates, taking things slow and meet up a couple of times each week in the beginning.
The "taking things slow" has been an approach I'm mostly happy with, since I used to fall in love hard before and rush into relationships where they quickly burned out. This is something I also spoke to my therapist about as we were trying to uncover why I rushed my relationships before (probably some mix of low self esteem regarding dating, and being used to the pattern).

Anyhow, things would initially go well and we went on a trip to Vienna together in the winter of 2017, a trip which was really nice and where I finally got a slight "in love feeling". However, things quickly went south after that and we had our first major fight as I said I wanted to take things slow after that trip (a mistake on my part, I admit). While we did agree to be "official" after that fight (in part because my therapist challenged me on why I was holding back), things still kept going south frequently and we had one major fight after another.
Come spring, I first came across what I like to describe as one of her "episodes", which have been a constant source of worry for me since.
We had initially agreed to meet up on a Saturday to go to a flea market (her idea), we hadn't agreed on a time to do so. She had made plans in her head about going out at noon, while I was tired after a long week and wasn't ready to leave the house until 1.30, at which point she became very angry with me. I asked why she was being angry, and she replied that "you always just think about yourself", and started become quite accusatory and eventually hung up the phone. I replied per text that I understood and that I would hang out a bit with my friend in the meantime since I was already downtown and not really too keen on spoiling my Saturday if she would continue to be mad at me. While I was at my friend, she kept calling and texting me, crying and saying "if you don't come right now I feel like we're done with". I was kind of baffled by how things escalated, and decided to leave my friend to seek her out as quickly as I could. When I came over to her, she was a total wreck and just kept crying about how unfair things were, how she would do everything for me and that I didn't care about her. That was 2,5 years ago, and at that point I tried to calm her (it was very clear to me that these weren't rational feelings, like me and my therapist had discussed before when we were talking about her outbursts and how it affected me), and told her that maybe it was a panic attack and that she really was scared about the relationship. She agreed, we hugged, and that was that - all bliss for a week or two.

Since that time, we've had frequent "episodes" where a minor trigger (like me being late) would trigger a major relationship fight, and where she would immediately resort to the nuclear option - saying "this relationship isn't right, I've known it all along, I'm starting to see this clearly now for what it is" etc. And I would keep being calm about it and trying to calm her as well. And initially this would give me kind of a good feeling as well, since I did (and do) care for her and since I have some experience from my therapy sessions on what insecurity and panic can do to you.
However, her "episodes" (or panic attacks, anxiety, whatever you want to call it) didn't subside, and started becoming triggered by totally unrelated events as well. One time for instance, she would become mad that I wanted to hang out with her brother, sister and her boyfriend while on a common trip to Germany (she had always said she wanted me to become closer to my family, so I did). As I said it, she become very cold and distant (her brother picked up on it too), and as I texted her afterwards asking her to join us, she was quite mad. So I went to our room where we had another major fight. The usual "I don't care, you just always do what you want to do" etc. was said, and the whole thing was awful. As we went to a restaurant later, she would be so icy cold that everyone picked up on it and asked me later what was wrong (I tried to be polite and do nothing more of it, not saying much about our fight).

Since that time, she has gone:
- Absolutely ballistic on me when we couldn't locate a cab or subway station in Seoul (she went ballistic, and when I told her the day after that I think she was overreacting quite a bit, she went ballistic again with the usual "our relationship is doomed, I'm starting to lose faith in us" etc., with the added "you're just as selfish as my father" - it completely spoiled two full days for me.
- Absolutely ballistic on me for forgetting to return the keys to her father's family cabin ("you're useless! Now we have to drive all the way back and my sister will hate me for it", this time with the added "you're just as selfish as my nephew!"). This was one of few times where I did get an apology out of her without asking, but it left a sour taste in my mouth as it was a simple, honest mistake on my part forgetting to return the key to the basement.
- Absolutely ballistic on me for not "making time to see her", even though I explained to her that I had already explained to her that my father had had a heart attack and I had to visit him at the hospital. As she pulled her usual routine of "you're so selfish, you never cared about me" and something about "you're just like my brother", it made me so mad that I for the first time yelled back properly back at her, telling her to leave my apartment immediately. I would have absolutely nothing of about being "selfish" when visiting my father at the hospital who had just had a heart attack. We didn't speak for three days at that point, but she eventually apologized.
- Absolutely ballistic on me as we had a stop-over in Warzaw for half a day on a return flight from Rome. We initially agreed that we would get back to the train station at 4.30 (she is really concerned with time tables and punctuality), so I tried making that happen as we went to find a nice restaurant. We arrived at the train station at 4.37 (which I consider a feat, since none of us had ever been to Warzaw before), and the train had left. She was so mad at me that after having yelled at me, she wouldn't speak to me until midnight when we landed back in Norway. We eventually somehow made up, but it still left a very sour taste in my mouth since I couldn't figure out why she would invoke the old "this relationship seems failed, you never respect me" routine over such a minor thing.

Anyway, there are many more such "episodes", and most of them feel really unfair to me. Sometimes I do get why she would be mad (it was sometimes because she felt like she had been getting little attention lately and me being a bit distant, which was true). Though on the other hand, me being more and more distant was (from my point of view) because I felt like I was walking on eggshells around her, not knowing what would set her off. It could be us being a couple minutes late, mosquito bites, her fretting over how her family was "so unjust towards her" etc.

Either way, this summer we had one of our last "episodes", and this one put things into perspective for me. While we travelled around the country with her brother and two of her college friends, this one was taken out on her brother as well, making it obvious to me that whatever trigger was triggering her not necessarily my fault. Her brother made a minor joke about her being a "nazi" regarding some topic around the table (totally in jest, and everyone was laughing except her). Since I know how sensitive she can be (and triggered!) I made sure to three times state in public that "I'm just joking here, I really do agree with your point of view actually". She went stone cold after that, especially towards me. The day after, the three of us had a major fight (her against us to be fair), where she accused her of making fun of her, not respecting her, and being "like all guys".

Despite all of these episodes, I do feel like I love her. When she is in a good mood, she is the most adorable and likeable person ever. She really is the wife material I'm looking for then, taking care of our guests, showering me with affection, doing all these little things for me.
But usually (about every 2-3 weeks, maybe a few months if I was lucky), we would have one of these outbursts again, always triggered be me saying or doing (or not saying or doing) something unexpected, which would quickly cascade into a full meltdown of her becoming extremely angry and hostile, then saying "I've always known this, we're failed and shouldn't be together", and eventually crying her heart out as I tried to calm her down. And if I didn't calm her down (and instead tried to leave, saying I needed to cool off after all the verbal accusations), she would treat me as the devil himself until we resolved things.
Needless to say, this really affected me, and continued to affect me.
Personally I do want to start a family and have kids one day, and she definitely wants that too (it was always a topic she'd bring up).
But those outbursts have always made me question whether or not it would be a stable long-term solution, as I knew I couldn't handle that for the rest of my life, and I certainly didn't want my future kids to experience those outbursts either.
To be fair, she did start taking  therapy sessions on my suggestion, but it wasn't easy to get her to see the need for it. And while I absolutely appreciate that she went ahead to try and solve whatever would trigger her, she would continue to do and say these crazy things right up until our recent breakup.

I am now living alone again, a thing that I really dreaded as I'm now 34.
I've handled it without any major heartbreak on my part, but I do frequently miss her a lot.
And going by my abysmal reply rate on dating apps, I certainly don't miss having terrible match and reply rates, all the while my (near) perfect ex girlfriend living 30 minutes away from me.
And this is where I am today, still as unsure as I was 3 years ago (but for slightly different reasons).
I've never met a more kind girl in my life when she's in her good mood (she usually is) and that makes me long back to her.
But thinking about those terrible outbursts she would frequently have, I'm kind of happy that it's not a part of my every day life anymore.
And this is where my torment continues, as I'm not sure if I'd ever find a perfect partner anyway.
I now know her flaws, and she knows mine, yet I still don't have an answer on whether or not I should lock her down and just "go for it" with her.

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Ugh, this was a super long post, but any feedback would be greatly appreciated.
I know I only focused on the negative parts with her (and not talking much about my own flaws which might have contributed to the situation), but I'll just leave it for now and see what comes out of it.

Hoping anyone takes their time to read and perhaps comments as well, that would be very much appreciated. 🙂

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My dear Sam. It is over. Do not 'lock' anyone down and especially do not lock anyone down to prove that you are good together when you really are not.

You both have broken up. If you reconcile, do you believe she'd trust you any better going forward? The answer likely is a big No. She had dwindling trust and faith in the relationship due to any incompatibilities you both had and if you get back together you will continue to be a punching bag of pure distrust and resentment. My advice is to slow down, recover from the break up. Give yourself six months to a year, longer if needed, to feel like yourself again. 

Don't keep beating yourself up. Don't try to decode what her mental health issues are. Both of you had a bad reaction to each other and the relationship did not work. Being in your early thirties and single is not a bad thing. Good for you for living alone and finding your own place. Stay strong. 

 

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1 minute ago, Rose Mosse said:

My dear Sam. It is over. Do not 'lock' anyone down and especially do not lock anyone down to prove that you are good together when you really are not.

You both have broken up. If you reconcile, do you believe she'd trust you any better going forward? The answer likely is a big No. She had dwindling trust and faith in the relationship due to any incompatibilities you both had and if you get back together you will continue to be a punching bag of pure distrust and resentment. My advice is to slow down, recover from the break up. Give yourself six months to a year, longer if needed, to feel like yourself again. 

Don't keep beating yourself up. Don't try to decode what her mental health issues are. Both of you had a bad reaction to each other and the relationship did not work. Being in your early thirties and single is not a bad thing. Good for you for living alone and finding your own place. Stay strong. 

 

Thank you so much for your reply, that's helpful!

I do have to admit that it was kind of a relief when we did break up, but once she moved out and the loneliness kicked in (especially due to the social distancing isolation these days), I'm getting these second thoughts.
Though to be fair, my hope was always that "things might improve" if we just escalated things (making it official, moving in together, and starting to look at homes together), they never really went away.
As it was, she was dead set on getting a home and trying for a baby this winter, and since it was such a big decision to make when things didn't feel "right", I backed out.
And now I'm tormented over whether or not I will ever find someone like that again, or if I did the worst mistake of my life, not giving her a 100% right from the start.

It's a real drag being in this state of worry.

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Sorry about all this. 

My sense, reading your post, is that maybe you needed these three years to learn a deceptively simple lesson: relationships work best when you know, in your cells, that you're into someone, in love with them, rather than using a relationship as a kind of experiment to explore an test those feelings. 

Granted, I'm just sitting here on the sidelines, but all those "episodes" you documented? They seem like proxy battles where she was expressing something fundamentally true: that you were so-so about her, not giving her the sense of being cherished that she desired, a state of being that will fry most anyone's nerves and spirit. Why she opted to stay with you and occasionally implode rather than gracefully bow out when it was clear she needed more than you could offer—well, that's her journey now, to get a little more intimate with those insecurities so she can find something more sustainable.

As for you? I'd reflect a bit on why you continued to opt in for so long while being so-so, whether there are any insecurities of your own there that are asking for some attention. I understand how those episodes could be grating, of course, to say nothing of the earlier displays of neediness; then again, your response to all that was to lean in, which says some part of you enjoyed the attention, the sense of having that much pull over another's heart, even if yours remained lukewarm. 

From what you've provided, it seems a bit like you swung the pendulum a bit far here, trying to remedy a history of jumping into things too quickly but wading into something not only slowly, but something that just wasn't inspiring. Per the beginning of this post, maybe the thing you're looking for is in the middle? I'm just riffing here, of course, but all in all I'd say that you've done the right thing here, and now is the time to reflect and set a path forward, rather than dwell with your eyes focused on the rearview mirror.

You've had three years to know what's there. Time to figure out where you want to go.  

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10 minutes ago, Sam1986 said:

Thank you so much for your reply, that's helpful!

I do have to admit that it was kind of a relief when we did break up, but once she moved out and the loneliness kicked in (especially due to the social distancing isolation these days), I'm getting these second thoughts.
Though to be fair, my hope was always that "things might improve" if we just escalated things (making it official, moving in together, and starting to look at homes together), they never really went away.
As it was, she was dead set on getting a home and trying for a baby this winter, and since it was such a big decision to make when things didn't feel "right", I backed out.
And now I'm tormented over whether or not I will ever find someone like that again, or if I did the worst mistake of my life, not giving her a 100% right from the start.

It's a real drag being in this state of worry.

Very welcome, Sam. Take it easy. It wasn't working for a reason. There is no reason to keep going down this road if it wasn't working to start. Buying a home and having children are big commitments. You didn't go along with it or pretend you wanted the same things that she did or pretend that the timing was right for you. This was the most genuine thing you could have done. 

Going back and forth and feeling torn and sad is all part and parcel of healing after a break up and getting back to yourself. Fear of finding another partner is usually what keeps a lot of people stuck in unhealthy relationships. 

She left the shared home. Did she say anything to you in parting? The figment or idea that the other partner is open to reconciliation is also quite common for both parties when in reality it is not an option at all after the people involved have some time to think She may not be open to any reconciliation and resuscitating a relationship after a break up is akin to repairing a lot of broken trust and you may be facing a lot of betrayal and resentment in the long run. These are just things to keep in mind when you're feeling down or sad about the situation. 

Just because it has ended it doesn't make either of you terrible people. It will take time for the dust to settle and feel more like yourself again.

I second Bluecastle's points about taking this as a learning experience. 

I'd avoid raking yourself over the coals on this one. Find peace somehow and let this one go. 

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Hi,

 

I think like Blue said where she knew you weren’t feeling it is accurate. That’s her insecurities for her to deal with and you can’t force feelings. I think she sees herself also being led on as you did stay with her for three years.  So her outbursts came from a nitty gritty deep rooted place. She should have walked away and found someone more compatible with her needs.

 

You need to be true to your values, your desires and your needs at the end of the day. If you’re afraid of being alone you should address that in therapy instead of decide if you want to continue a viscous cycle with her again. If you go back nothing will change. 
 

it’s time to move forward and heal and learn from this experience.

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Who were you trying to prove to that you could "do" a relationship?  Your therapist?  Yourself?

That's an exercise in futility, as you've found.

Be in a relationship because it's the right thing to do and the right person, not to prove a useless point to someone.

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I think you know you two are not a good match.  I lived on my own from age 28-42 (when I got married -we didn't live together before marriage, not officially).  I never felt lonely and I always, always wanted marriage and family.  I was with Mr. Right For Now for way too long - like you - I really did love him, we really did have many good times together and I never felt quite right about him -at least not for long enough to close the deal, to commit.  It was torture -for him too!  I wish I'd have ended things much sooner - we were on/off frequently.  I was 38 when we finally broke up.  Starting dating my future husband 6 months later when I turned 39 and we started trying to conceive when I was 40 and knew marriage was in the future and my clock it was a tickin'. 

We happened to be very lucky to conceive "later in life" but I had to become the right person to find the right person and that meant not chasing after drama/highs/lows and yet not settling for less than love, passion, chemistry, compatibility. That was a real challenge for me and yes it's hard to be out there dating again -I get it - but if you give yourself some time for a pity party, time to heal - I really do think you'll feel such a huge difference when you're with someone you really want to be with, where it's reciprocal and where even if she is more type A she is an adult about it.  None of these constant outbursts, etc.  

If you go back to her again you will be settling.  Not fair to either of you.  All the best to you -I get it.

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4 hours ago, Sam1986 said:

I'm still not sure whether or not it was the right thing to do, and I must admit that I probably stayed longer for this exact reason as well.
I was never sure if we were compatible, as I never properly fell in love with this girl after we met.

Stay when you don't feel like that, but we all have done that too, time has its own ways of revealing things. 

You did the right thing this time. 

 

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In my opinion you did the right thing to break up and you should probably stay broken up. Does your ex-girlfriend have any mental illness? I'm not a doctor of course but to be honest to me it kind of sounds like she may have some kind of mood or personality disorder. Hopefully doing therapy can help her work through her mood swings and what seems to be fear of abandonment. 

 

To me it seems like due to inexperience with long-term relationships, you put up with a lot of bs and red flags for way too long. You probably thought the relationship wasn't that bad because you had nothing else to compare it to. It's actually not normal to be in a relationship where your partner is only nice and lovely for 2-3 weeks at a time. And in-between they are overly emotional, irrational and verbally abusive. That's actually not OK and most relationships are not like this. A relationship is meant to be mostly good and happy. So probably 3/4 positive with only occasional fights or disagreements. If the bad outweighs the good then it's a dysfunctional, unhealthy relationship.

It seems you also just settled because you never felt in love with this woman. You should always listen to your gut feeling. We have gut feelings for a reason. You probably always had a feeling that something is off but you just kept ignoring it for the sake of being in a relationship.

Trust me, I know how hard online dating (and dating in general is). I'm a 36-year-old woman and no kids and never married. I want those things too but I'd much rather wait or have kids on my own than to be with someone who mistreats me and makes me unhappy. There are women out there who want a relationship and to settle down. You just have to really put yourself out there and keep looking as much as you can. Eventually you will find someone. You haven't even been single long so you can't just assume that you'll end up alone. You have to have faith and confidence that someone else is out there for you.

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Thanks for all the replies so far, they are helpful. 🙂

As several have touched upon and asked why I stayed for so long - it was a conscious decision, and something I went to explore with the encouragement from my therapist. Usually I fall heads over heel for someone or lose interest once someone shows interest (a common pattern, I know), and this way a way to try pushing against those forces and look at what's happening when I get close to someone.
That being said, I had been somewhat open with my ex about it, as I told my her that I didn't really "feel it" at the start, but that I become more happy and loving in the relationship when we had "calmer" phases.
Unfortunately that phase never really came to be, and in the end I guess we just had this negative dynamic going where we would feed our insecurities.

My ex had no diagnosis that I'm aware of, but there was clearly something about male figures that seemed to bring out the worst (like when she would compare me to every man in her family when she wanted to point out a flaw during a "panic attack"). I have no idea what that was about, and its not something I worry about either. That being said, it was really not helpful in the long run. I did occasionally see us taking the next step together for a common future, but I really needed and wanted that stability in order to commit to her.
I've never been good with very emotional people as I'm very rationally oriented and it takes a lot to get me to explode (I usually calmly try to work out the cause and work together towards a solution), and I guess we were polar opposites on that point.

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Just to make sure I'm understanding here: For three years your therapist was encouraging you to continue explore a romantic connection with someone you felt iffy about? When you spoke to your therapist about her emotional reactions, did he/she ever prompt you to consider that they were symptomatic of her being in a relationship with someone who was still deciding whether to take the relationship seriously?  

I ask all that just to encourage you to reflect on yourself a bit, and your own motivations these past three years, along with considering getting back together, rather than the hyper-focus on her and her deficiencies. The notion that you'd have been more committal if she'd been less volatile might come to be seen as just that: a notion, more than a hard fact, since all in all it seems this relationship worked, from a certain standpoint, so long as you could stay on the sidelines, more unavailable emotionally than available.  

No judgement in the above. I have two relationships in my rearview mirror, each lasting years, that "worked" in large part because I didn't have to be fully vulnerable, fully available, and where this fraught state of being in me was validated by the affection of another. That's a center that can't, and shouldn't, hold. Not fair to either people's humanity, and a recipe for the sort of thirst that can surface in all sorts of ways, from heady ruminating to explosively lashing out.  

Seems to me you're longing for something more enriching, something that feels less experimental and more actual, regardless of whether or not it lasts forever. Wonderful! In mourning this, perhaps, you'll find yourself focusing on what chambers in yourself you need to open up to find that. 

 

 

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Sorry this happened. It's common to wonder if breaking up was the right decision.

Especially in your case where she moved out and you feel a void and loneliness.

From your description, it seems ending things was the only choice 

You wanted different things from the relationship. She wanted more commitment such as home, family,etc. and you were pumping the brakes the entire time because of your fear of "jumping in too fast".

All you can do is reflect on these extremes in yourself of either rushing things or dragging them out with one foot out the door at all times.

It seems they are opposites, but in a way they are both devices to keep anyone from getting too close 

Rather than focus on her "episodes" focus on what you really want out of relationships.

You may have to work with your therapist about why you've constructed these walls and you've tried to make everyone sort of disposable.

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