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Hanging on by a thread - again

(35 Posts)
pebblewells Sun 11-Jan-15 10:28:51

Some background, which may well out me but at this point I really don't care. DP and I have been together for 3 years. He is a widower, with 2 young children, and a stay-at-home Dad. I have no children, and am at university 4 hours away.

We have had our struggles over the 3 years - he has a lot of emotional baggage and hurt left from his marriage and his bereavement; about 1 year in I had a wobble over the realities of life with children; and the strains of long distance affect us both.

The real bombshell came this time last year - completely out of the blue, when I thought we were going along quite happily, he rang me on Skype to break up with me. He looked and sounded a completely different person - it was like a robot talking to me, I couldn't get any emotion or anything out of him at all. It broke my heart - I had to take time off from uni (which is not an easy or advisable thing for the course which I am studying) and I really tried to talk through things, to find out what was wrong etc. Turns out he was depressed. It was literally the case that - one day he would be breaking up with me, and I would try to talk to him and reach the real him (not the depressed him) and the next day he would say he wanted to marry me, and so on, for a period of a few months.

Things settled down from the summer onwards, and I really thought we were happy. But last night was like deja vu. Exact same time of year, exactly the same amount of days until I have to start uni again, exactly the same thing - on Skype, for what I thought was a conversation about how we move forward, telling me the spark has gone, he loves me and always has, but doesn't know if he wants a relationship anymore, that he has been trying really hard for the last few months to find what he feels he has lost, but that he has failed. And there I was, happier than ever these past few months, thinking how great things were going.

The whole conversation was completely confusing. One minute it sounded like he was breaking up with me, then he would say no, that it's just a thought he has sometimes, and then back to sounding like it was all over. After a 4 hour (!) Skype conversation until 2:30am, suddenly he is saying he loves me, that there is something special between us - after hanging up on Skype, he rang me on my mobile to give a little speech about all the things he loves about me and how he feels about me "despite all the negatives".

This morning - I don't know what the hell to feel. I have been crying since 4am because it feels just like all of the pain of last year, all over again. I text him an hour or so ago saying I was really struggling to cope, and his reply was "everything is fine darling" with a smiley face.

I don't want to lose him, I don't want to LTB, I thought we were so happy. I feel like I am grieving for this relationship and I don't even know whether it is lost or not.

CogitoErgoSometimes Sun 11-Jan-15 11:03:32

His behaviour is very cruel and causing you huge distress. If he's behaving this way because of a MH issue then it's his responsibility to get help and not your obligation to tolerate it or rescue him. He does not have the right to inflict pain. I suggest that's what you tell him, therefore. Otherwise you're just going to revisit this on an increasingly regular basis. Life is far to short to waste it being unhappy.

OrangesJuicyOranges Sun 11-Jan-15 11:09:24

What an asshole. He is clearly having major doubts and is being cowardly about ending it. He has contacted you twice with the intention of ending it and then both times, seeing your distress, has backed out of it. How many more times do you want this to happen?

tigermoll Sun 11-Jan-15 12:26:22

I have to say, I'm afraid I agree with oranges - this is a man who wants to be out of his relationship, but keeps chickening out because he can't bear to be the bad guy. Hence the mixed messages. Unfortunately, he probably, deep down, hopes that you will end it if he jerks you around enough.

pebblewells Sun 11-Jan-15 12:36:18

I know it makes me a bit of a mug but I couldn't end it myself, I have this stupid ridiculous hope that this will be the last blip. He text this morning to say that talking last night really helped, that he feels more positive, and that he wants us to continue to talk over the coming week and when we see each other next weekend.

It's this catch-22 situation that happened last year - I am completely happy in the relationship and positive about our future --> he says he wants out --> he changes his mind and starts feeling more positive --> I am broken on the inside but feel I have to be strong because I so want this to work, and because me getting het up about things won't help.

Maybe I am in denial but I can't accept that he wants to end things but is too chicken - because just us being together can be hard logistically and is not something that just rumbles along with no effort, and because of his children who he wouldn't want to mess around (even if he does want to mess me around).

But your explanations are the ones that make most sense and are what I would say if I was reading this post by someone else.

tipsytrifle Sun 11-Jan-15 12:49:27

Is he this volatile with his children? Yes they can have a toy then no they can't? Some days the rule is this, then it isn't?

This situation is torturous and that last skype talk must have been a nightmare. You aren't ready to let this go yet. Whether it's his depression making him cruel and confusing or he's an emotional abuser, this relationship is going to really really hurt you.

tigermoll Sun 11-Jan-15 12:55:03

OK, well, if you aren't going to end it, then I'm not sure what you can do, except wait it out. You know how this cycle works - he's put you through it a couple of times before, so there probably aren't going to be any surprises.

If you are trapped in the 'I MUST figure out why he is acting like this' spiral, then it might help you to think about what benefits he gets out of behaving like this. Ask yourself a few questions:

1) When we are in a 'difficult' patch, do I find myself always putting his needs and feelings above my own in an effort to make everything alright again?

2) Does he use the threat of the relationship ending to get his own way on issues that we previously disagreed over?

3) Am I the only person in his life that suffers from his moods - or is he perfectly able to behave with friends/colleagues/co workers?

4) Is a 'bad patch' used by him as a reason to duck out of responsibilities or attend events that he is not keen on?

5) Do I find that I am making 90% of the effort to keep this relationship going?

6) Am I reluctant to press for things that are important to me (discussions of the future, equitable split of finances, domestic chores, etc) because I don't want to rock the boat?

If you answer 'yes' to these questions, then its pretty obvious what is in it for him to keep you feeling so insecure.

AnyFucker Sun 11-Jan-15 12:59:24

Are you going to let this guy wreck your Uni course and ultimately the rest of your life ?

what he is doing, MH issues or no, is cruel and shows a callous disregard for your well being

I know you don't want to hear it, but staying in this situation hoping for the best will destroy you

you have to be the grown up here and put this relationship where it belongs....In the past

Twitterqueen Sun 11-Jan-15 12:59:30

He is using and abusing you - your trust, your love, your tolerance - to prop up his own emotional shortcomings. A relationship should benefit you too and clearly it's not. Time to get rid.

pebblewells Sun 11-Jan-15 13:09:57

He says he has changed a lot since he was bereaved and his whole life changed - before, he never lost his temper or raised his voice, could cope much better with stress or challenges. Sometimes he has what we call "teenage strops" (probably doing injustice to a lot of teenagers) - and he knows this, and recognises that he responds in this way and says it is completely alien to him, and afterwards he looks at the way that he reacted and doesn't recognise himself.

So it is these little periods of insight that keeps us going and keeps giving me hope. I can cope with a lot of things but it is so horrible to hear someone you love so much saying such things.

I called him cruel last night, and he just said sorry and that he didn't mean to hurt me.

I know you are all correct in what you say. I really didn't think it would be a cyclical thing - I thought last January was a one-off and we were moving onward and upward from there. It would be a hell of a lot easier to walk away if he could sustain his opinion - today he is completely different, it is like he doesn't register the hurt he caused last night and that the conversation was a positive thing in helping him see a future for us.

Twinklestein Sun 11-Jan-15 13:20:13

I don't believe never lost his temper or raised his voice before bereavement, it's just a convenient excuse and one that you can't question because it would seem like bad taste. Equally if he has teenage strops, they'd not alien to him, they are him.

Not registering the hurt he caused is not a good sign as it implies he is entirely wrapped up in himself, oblivious to your feelings, and painfully un self-aware.

The relationship as you describe it over 3 years - baggage and hurt from his marriage... You flipped out about children... Now he's backed out twice in one year... It's affecting your degree... This relationship isnt working. When relationships work they don't have so much angst and dickering about, even in the shadow of a major bereavement.

I strongly suspect the if the relationship wasn't long distance you would have split a long time ago.

Twinklestein Sun 11-Jan-15 13:20:44

^ he

CogitoErgoSometimes Sun 11-Jan-15 13:22:50

He's got all the excuses hasn't he? hmm Holding out for the 'nice guy you know he really is underneath' is a classic way to get trapped in a shitty relationship. Sometimes bad things happen to bad people. Sometimes people exploit their bad luck story to behave unreasonably. If he wasn't a widower and single dad etc would you even be entertaining giving him chance after chance?

Again, if he knows his behaviour hurts you then why does he keep doing it?

AnyFucker Sun 11-Jan-15 13:38:52

He keeps on doing it because he cares only for himself and it keeps you on the back foot being the one doing all the "work" in the relationship

alwaysstaytoolong Sun 11-Jan-15 13:44:16

I'm a MH nurse with years of experience and a degree in Psychology and other qualifications in counselling, CBT etc - only saying this because of what you've said in your OP.

I was the 'rescuer' in many of my relationships and the best advice I can give you with all I know?.

Take what he tells you at face value. And I mean the main message - he does not want to be with you.

Don't try to understand or analyse or guess what is motivating this. That is not your job nor your responsibility. Don't go down the road of 'he's scared of being hurt, he's pushing me away, he's vulnerable, he's ill ' etc - therein madness lies!.

The best scenario is he is confused about his feelings for you and that's why YOU feel confused - he is projecting his confusion onto you. The worst scenario is he is very sure but doesn't want to be the bad guy or is hedging his bets.

Even if we take the best scenario - he is not sure. After years with you he SHOULD be. You're sure about him right?. If he is not sure about you then he is not invested in your relationship and not invested in YOU.

You should be with someone that is 100% invested in what you have and who you are. You need to let him go and God, it will be so painful but it's what you need to do.

I hope I don't seem harsh, I've lived this and at times I thought I'd die from the pain but I needed to hear this message and it was true flowers

pebblewells Sun 11-Jan-15 13:44:23

I just feel I couldn't cope with it ending at the moment - I am meant to start uni tomorrow which comes with a lot of stress (have to move in 1 week to live somewhere else for a placement, then move 4 weeks after to somewhere else, ad infinitum) - if he had broken up with me last night I know I would have to take more time off, because obviously I am shit at coping? Plus a funeral in a couple of weeks as a family member who I adore died over the Christmas period.

I am starting to accept that this needs to end, but I know that regardless of who ends it, I am going to fall apart.

Twinklestein Sun 11-Jan-15 13:54:29

You're not going to fall apart. It will be painful, but you will be fine. You may even find you're relieved...

CogitoErgoSometimes Sun 11-Jan-15 13:56:57

Is ending it really worse than the head fuckery he's subjecting you to? Studying aside, Uni is a time of your life to be young free and single. Going out with mates, relishing independence etc. If he's monopolising your attention with this rubbish, how can you possibly concentrate on your work or let your hair down with friends? Or maybe that's the intention? Drop the bombshell just as you start a new term so that you're nicely insecure and eager to keep him onside?

This could be a good time to take a rain check. If you can't face ending it completely suggest you both stay out of touch for a while, focus your energy on other things and other people and see how you feel in a few months...

AnyFucker Sun 11-Jan-15 13:58:18

You feel you will fall apart because he has ground you down so far

when would be a good time to break up ?

The way you are thinking now, you are putting yourself through this indefinitely

I am not really understanding why you crave his "support " for some of the tricky life situations that all of us have to navigate from time to time. It seems to me that he offers you nothing on that score.

alwaysstaytoolong Sun 11-Jan-15 14:00:24

You might do pebbles - but where the illusion comes in is the idea that you wouldn't fall apart if you had him.

Nothing you've said suggests that he's a great man to have around in times of trouble or crisis. That he'd be a rock and help you through.

Doesn't sound like he would be. Sounds like he looks after himself. You'd get through it all anyway but just with him in the background and thinking he'd helped.

Don't believe you can't do anything on your own, it's bollocks!. It's a huge cliché but one it took me a long time to learn - when you don't NEED to be with someone, when you know and like who you are and know you can deal with whatever life throws at you then you can meet someone who enhances your life but doesn't define it and you're confident you could manage without them.

pebblewells Sun 11-Jan-15 14:15:05

I know there won't be a good time, just feels like it couldn't be a worse time. Must be something about a new year that sends him like this.

What I am struggling to fathom is - 3 days ago it was his birthday, his parents babysat for 2 nights and went to a lovely expensive hotel, dinner, bought him tickets for a show in May and other presents, and felt closer to him than ever because he genuinely seemed like his "old self" i.e. before the depression at the start of last year. I went to a lot of effort, and huge expense which is a big deal considering I live off a student loan. But it must have all been fake - I guess anyone might enjoy a trip away and being bought presents, and I confused that with loving me.

Thank you all. I really needed hand-holding / sense-talking / listening to. I will talk to him tonight - I know it will cause more hurt, and I don't know how to get out of bed in the morning to go to uni as it is, but he needs to know that this can't carry on. Break or break up, I don't know yet. Just need to find the strength not to let how much I love him override common sense because my whole heart is wishing that he will just say the right things and that this time they might be true. Head knows nothing will change.

CogitoErgoSometimes Sun 11-Jan-15 14:24:46

Is there a big age difference between you? Are you a mature student? What is your social life like when you're at uni? Lively or are you racing back to see him at weekends?

pebblewells Sun 11-Jan-15 14:32:38

9 years difference, I am 27. Had a great social life that fizzled away as most of my friends were doing shorter degrees and moved away when they had finished - best friend lives in London now. That coincided with the long distance starting. Normally would go to see him and the kids every other weekend, leaving me one weekend here, but I am normally so tired and have a backlog of work that I don't do much more than meet a friend for a coffee or go to the cinema. So not so lively.

alwaysstaytoolong Sun 11-Jan-15 14:36:01

Pebble - stop trying to 'fathom' what he is doing. You can't understand or explain how he is feeling and you shouldn't have to.

You're clinging on to 'the good bits' and thinking that's the 'real' him. You're falling into the trap of thinking you know him better than he knows himself.

We've all done it!. Please stop trying to understand or make excuses. If he doesn't want to be with you then that's not that you've failed or you weren't good enough or he was hurt etc.

He doesn't want to be with you so let him get on with it. It bloody hurts but that's all you can do unless the want to take responsibility for how he is feeling and acting and I don't think any of that is your fault.

CogitoErgoSometimes Sun 11-Jan-15 14:40:34

This might be the time to skip some visits, find other things to do with your weekends, make a concerted effort to hook up with old friends, make new friends etc. If he represents your entire social life it makes it much more difficult to imagine life without him.

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