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When to give up?

(20 Posts)
Pollyputhekettleon Thu 16-Jan-14 15:11:13

OH and I are in a mess and I don't know what to do. Together nearly 4 years, DD is 1 and a half. I had PPD after she was born but been to counselling and have been better really for the past 6 months or so. Relationship isn't though. It started with him not hearing me/listening to me/responding to me. So we talked about it and he agreed, a couple of times, that he would acknowledge when I spoke to him. He kept it up for a while and then goes back to his old ways again. He literally just ignores me sometimes. And he genuinely has a bit of a hearing problem so I'm left wondering whether he heard me at all and whether or not I should repeat myself. Sometimes he really hasn't heard me, sometimes he has but has arrogantly decided that I don't require a response. Say if I asked him to bring me in something while he's in another room, he may not bother to even grunt a response because he's doing it. Doesn't occur to him that I don't bloody know whether he's even heard me or not.

Now I'm starting to think it's more like a basic lack of empathy than a communication problem. Over Christmas I was upset about a family thing, a small thing really but I said it and no response. His facial expression doesn't even change. If I waited ten minutes there'd be no response unless I asked for one. It's the same with good stuff, I was happy about something and he just doesn't respond. It's not all the time but I never know whether I'll be graced with a response or not. Apparently what happens in his head is he thinks 'Well you know what your family are like so you shouldn't let them get to you' or 'Of course I agree with the thing you were happy about, I've told you that before so why would I say it again?'. But he has no feelings about it, according to him, one way or another. He doesn't share my sadness or happiness even a little bit. He just logically analyzes what I've said, draws his conclusions and that's the end of it. No communication about it with me if he deems it unnecessary.

He admits he has an empathy problem, has been told the same repeatedly by his exes and I think even friends and family. Said that I was lucky that all his previous girlfriends had made him into slightly less of a 'tin man' (his words) than he used to be. He agrees his family are all similar but partly claims it's a man thing also which he knows is just a cop out. More true is that he's said it's a kind of self-protection because it's how he maintains his sanity. He avoids feeling strong emotions like the plague basically so he can't handle mine either. He's always on an even keel on the surface. He's the same with everyone, friends have even joked that one day it'll all come out and he'll go postal. I'm not sure, I think he might genuinely have suppressed his own feelings so much that he's telling the truth when he says they're not there, or at least that he only experiences mild, safe ones.

Anyway I've said that I can't be in a relationship with someone who can't empathize with me and he's said that he doesn't think he can change that. Says now that he doesn't know if he still loves me or not, has fallen out of love with me. I do still love him. He's agreed to look into relationship counselling but doesn't think it can help him to have empathy where there is none or to fall back in love with me. Maybe he's right about that. He wants to just keep drifting along together basically and wait and see if he falls back in love with me and if I can accept him the way he is. I won't accept that or stay in that kind of limbo. I think this looking into the counselling is just his way of avoiding it, or avoiding individual counselling which might be more likely to help him. Should I try to push him into it or just draw a line under it now? Or any other suggestions? I'd really like the relationship we had pre-DD back but I need to know he'll be there for me if or when we go through that kind of stressful time again in future. Sorry this is long.

Lovethebubbles Thu 16-Jan-14 15:30:20

I don't really have any particular advice, but just wondered if there is a chance he could have a mild form of aspergers? My ex was a bit like that and sometimes just didn't understand or realise why he couldn't empathise.... And it wasn't like he didn't care, it was like he just didn't "get it". He found it frustrating sometimes. It was one of the reasons we split up. We saw a counsellor for a while and it was only afterwards she told me she thought he may have aspergers.

desperatelyseekingsolace Thu 16-Jan-14 15:44:34

I was wondering about that too... My dad has mild aspergers and has always been terrible with empathy. Knowing about it helps because it forced him to deal with it.

Pollyputhekettleon Thu 16-Jan-14 16:55:43

Yeah I have thought about that and the counsellor suggested it but she hasn't seen him. He does put his foot in it sometimes in a way that I know he genuinely doesn't understand why the other person is upset until I painstakingly explain it to him and then he genuinely feels bad about it. And he doesn't read situations properly sometimes, like a friend was being polite about him doing something when it was obvious to me it was just politeness and she didn't actually want him to do it, but he doesn't notice that kind of thing at all until I point it out to him. What could I even do about that though? I think he'd be hurt if I suggested something like that.

AttilaTheMeerkat Thu 16-Jan-14 17:07:15

Its totally unfair of him to have you drift along whilst he works out whether he can fall back in love with you or not.

A lack of empathy could well indicate a disorder of personality. Also his relationship history has been poor to say the least. Perhaps initially you thought that you could rescue and or save someone like this from their own selves and I think his ex's got fed up with him and booted him out. I do not think that you will ever get the pre DD him back - that was probably also a mirage designed to take you in.

I would draw a complete line under this and move on with your life without him in it day to day. He has stated that he no longer loves you so this relationship is not worth any more of your time and effort. You cannot make anyone seek help if they do not think they need or want it.
You state that you love him but what is there to love about someone like this, someone who basically telling you that this is who he really is.

BTW Aspergers syndrome is not a mild form of ASD at all.

wordyBird Thu 16-Jan-14 17:08:30

If you want him to change, and he won't, or can't, you have some thinking to do.
He's said he doesn't think he can change. You've said you can't be with someone who doesn't empathise. And to be honest, it sounds as if he doesn't care much either.
Do you want to stay in the relationship? What was different before you had dd?

Fairenuff Thu 16-Jan-14 17:14:16

You were together for about 18 months before you decided to have a child. What was he like before you had her? Has he always been like this with you?

Pollyputhekettleon Thu 16-Jan-14 17:34:56

I guess pre-DD I didn't need a whole lot of emotional support because we had a pretty stress-free life. He was pretty much the same then, it just didn't bother me as much. We were friends for years before we got together but not in a sharing deep emotions kind of way. Attilla and wordy I think you're right. I guess I should just believe him when he says he doesn't love me. He certainly isn't acting like he wants a relationship with me. Maybe the reasons don't really matter in the end because there's nothing I can do about thatsad

Walkacrossthesand Thu 16-Jan-14 17:41:03

Attila, your last sentence pulled me up short - Aspergers is on the autistic spectrum, or was the last time I looked?!

wordyBird Thu 16-Jan-14 17:57:36

That would make sense, Polly... that he was the same, but it was less of an issue.

It's very sad though, to feel the loss of the relationship you hoped to have with him.

Are you seeing a counsellor now? It sounds as if some RL support might help you.

tessa6 Thu 16-Jan-14 18:04:51

Is it possible that either you or he are emotionally or romantically involved with someone else?

Otherwise it seems to me you are dealing with someone who just doesn't convey emotions in the way that you do. Neither is wrong or right. Because you want him to display joy or sadness for you doesn't mean he can. It also doesn't mean he doesn't feel those things, just that his personality and experiences have left him with different coping mechanisms. It is very hard being with someone who constantly displays emotions too, it can interfere and corrupt things in a different way.

It is very worrying that he says he doesn't love you. How are you justifying that to yourself? Do you just believe it's not true or do you not mind?

Oblomov Thu 16-Jan-14 18:24:46

Ds1 has Aspergers.
But with OP, I just can't fathom how she fell in love in the first place, or how she didn't pick up on this earlier. I know she said she maybe wasn't quite so needy before, but seriously your be been together 4 years?
How did you not notice this? Why did you get married? Seriously?
The lack if empathy, plus all the other bits is an absolute killer?
Did you never question yourself / him before? Did you never ask yourself why all the ex's had the same problem?
You seem to have been in complete denial for the last 4 years. He's. Not the only one whose been burying their head in the sand, are they?!!
I don't even have any recommendations of what to do to help! Sorry. That's because I'm seriously not sure there is that much you can do.

Pollyputhekettleon Thu 16-Jan-14 19:25:18

Yes still seeing the counsellor and it does help. tessa I'm not anyway. Would never swear he isn't because I've been blindsided by that one before but there's nothing to make me suspicious. It's not just that he doesn't convey emotions, he swears blind that he doesn't have them in response to me being upset/happy/whatever. Not all the time of course, but often enough. I don't constantly display emotions either, I'm pretty normal that way I think, at least no one's ever suggested otherwise.

He says he doesn't know whether or not he still loves me and that he thinks he's fallen out of love with me. He's very clear that he's not sure yet and wants to wait and see if it comes back, doesn't want to go out and meet someone else or anything. So that's partly why I'm not treating it as definitive, partly I have a feeling that he would rather tell himself that we just fell out of love than admit that he has again sacrificed a relationship that he did actually want rather than try to change. He says his lack of empathy is self-defence so it makes some sense to me that he'd rather avoid someone who is trying to push him to confronting that. It's just a theory though.

Pollyputhekettleon Thu 16-Jan-14 19:30:40

Oblomov, I was on the rebound from a very messy end to a long term relationship, he was a good friend. He probably wasn't as bad before DD, I think the stress of the first year and my PPD, including probably being overly critical of him at times, overwhelmed whatever capacity to empathize he had. We're not married. I didn't know why his other relationships ended, I didn't interview him before we got together! We've lasted so long because we're compatible in lots of ways and he's been extremely supportive and caring in many ways -mostly practical. He has a lot of good points I'm just not listing them here because its this bad point we're stuck on.

ALittleStranger Thu 16-Jan-14 21:45:19

How old are you OP?

I think telling someone you don't love them is a big step, and even in the most unempathetic people, not one that you take easily.

Are you able to pinpoint when your relationship changed?

I wouldn't put too much stock in him not being the type to have an affair btw. I've seen it happen in some very surprising relationships/people.

Pollyputhekettleon Thu 16-Jan-14 21:55:59

33. You're right he wouldn't have said it without thinking it through. He does say he doesn't know though rather than that he doesn't. But saying he's fallen out of love with me amounts to the same thing doesn't it. No, can't really pinpoint the change. It seems to have been happening slowly over the past 18 months. I'd never discount an affair either, as I said my ex shocked me with that one so I'll never be surprised by it again unfortunately.

ALittleStranger Thu 16-Jan-14 22:01:21

To project hugely, I think LTR breakdowns in your late 20s can send you irrationally batty that you're in danger of missing the boat. What made you decide to move your friendship into a relationship?

It seems the the decline coincided with the birth of your daughter? That's a major change for any couple to negotiate and your relationship was pretty new (and it seems untested by any major stresses) before that point. I also think, and I say this with no evidence, that even the most "tin men" like of men can struggle to adapt to a new person competing for their partner's affections. I almost think it's worse for his type because they've never been consciously aware that they do need to feel prioritised, cherished etc and certainly aren't able to communicate if they are struggling to adapt.

Personally based on an ex I take any talk of confusion or not being sure with a pinch of salt. I think people do know, they just don't like the conclusion they've come to, because there's no such thing as a painless break.

bunchoffives Fri 17-Jan-14 00:20:00

Is he able to show empathy to his DD? Or is it just you he can't empathise with?

This sounds like a lot of bollocks to me.

If it were me I'd say, I'll tell you what while you're deciding on whether you might deign to fall back in love with me I think I'll be moving on ta very much!!

He's a selfish twat and you deserve much better than hanging around to see if he might want you. Find your backbone and tell him to do one.

Pollyputhekettleon Fri 17-Jan-14 13:33:23

He's similar with dd, he's ok on the big stuff but on small things he doesn't notice what's happening with her sometimes. She's pretty, er, vocal, though about her feelings. Not really ignorable unless you enjoy getting headache! He does things like sometimes not make eye contact with her when she's looking for him to though. I don't know.

We talked again and he's sworn blind that he really doesn't know if he still loves me or not and that there's no one else. He still likes me and fancies me. He's agreed to go to counseling now. Apparently his plan was not to just drift along but to just keep working on it together as we kind of have been and see if things improved. But he took no responsibility for that in reality. It was me bringing stuff up all the time and he didn't even stick to what we did agree. I suppose I'll have to try the counseling now, at least for dd's sake, to know I tried everything. I am pretty much treating it as over in my head though. Maybe he is just selfish and resents my pesky feelings intruding on his carefully cultivated monofeeling state.

Pollyputhekettleon Thu 06-Mar-14 11:32:35

So we've been going to counselling for a few weeks now and are making some kind of progress. He's explained what he thinks is going on in his head when he ignores me or dismisses me. Can anyone give me perspective on whether this is normal/changeable or not?

He says he had reached his emotional limit with dealing with my depression and the way he copes with being overloaded like that, with me and with other people, is he analyzes whether the problem is trivial or serious, whether or not it's within the other person's control or not, and then he decides whether or not or how to respond. So, for example, one time when I asked him to cross the road faster while carrying DD because a car was coming, he didn't respond at all because he considered my concern to be unreasonable and trivial because I 'should know' that he would never put DD in danger and should trust his assessment of car speed/walking speed/distance. He thinks I should have known that that was what was going on in his head and that's why he didn't bother to reply at all. He claims that he's not saying that my emotions are irrational but that my thoughts or worries are. How he separates them out like that is beyond me. This is so alien a thought process to me that I genuinely don't understand if this is just arrogance or something else.

We've discussed the not responding before more than once and he's understood that it's not acceptable and agreed to change. But last night he had completely forgotten those conversations and the incidents that led to them. Has no explanation of how he could have forgotten what were very serious conversations. Says the reason he didn't change is simply that the habits of a lifetime die hard but given that he'd forgotten the conversations completely that doesn't exactly add up. His family can be appallingly rude and are all totally unaware of it.

At counselling he's said, unprompted, that he thinks he is on the aspergers end of the emotional spectrum. He thinks he does the shutting down thing in relationships more than with friends or family because the demand on him for emotional support is higher in a relationship. He insists that he does want to change and he seems to be hoping the counsellor will just tell him how to do that. He insists he does want our relationship to work and he has been making an effort in the last few months. We do have fun together and enjoy each other's company in between the brick-wall-head-banging stuff believe it or not so I'm reluctant to give up yet. But is this fixable?

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