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I don't know why this happened and what do I do to fix it?

(32 Posts)
SnowedLastNight Thu 21-Jan-21 06:12:20

My last relationship utterly destroyed me.

I've been single for nearly 10 years. In that time I've dated a bit, a few short flings but never anything serious. I've been unlucky with the men I've met and ended each of these flings after a few months when they became unpalatable to me. The issues have mainly been infidelity, sexual aggressiveness or criticism of me physically (too old, too fat, not attractive enough).

In their own ways, each of these 'damaged' me a little - added another little scar I suppose. But I've always bounced back, taken a few months to a couple of years for myself and come back stronger. Ending a relationship that isn't right for me has always felt empowering. It didn't really affect me or how I saw myself long term. And there was still always hope. Still always next time.

Then, just over a year ago, I started seeing a friend of a friend. It was an abject disaster. The reality was that we got on well enough but there wasn't really a spark and we had many incomipatabilities that made each of us unsuitable for the other long term. He didn't criticise me directly, as other men have, but it was clear that he didn't find me physically attractive in the way that he might. Physically, I found him very attractive but I found aspects of his personality less so in a partner and, eventually and after about 11 months (which was far too long in hindsight!) I ended it.

We remained friends, initially for the benefit of our mutual friends really but, for the last couple of months, we've seen each other most weekends and we spent a lot of time over christmas together. It's actually been lovely. We've become really good friends. I stay at his house (in the spare room), we take it in turns to cook, we laugh, go out for walks (not much else to do at the moment!), watch films, talk. In every way, we get on far better now than we did when we were together. We are still in a support bubble.

The things that were a problem when we were seeing each other are no longer an issue in a friendship in the way they were in a relationship and we are genuinely close. We've each shared things about ourselves that few others know and we trust each other.

I still think he's an attractive man but have no desire at all to get back together with him and i have no reason at all to think he feels any differently. It just wasn't right. It really is a case of we should never have been together and should just have been friends.

But it's utterly destroyed me.

I've cried nearly every day over the past few weeks, I've lost motivation to do things I enjoy. I haven't bounced back this time and I don't know why.

I feel like the hope I've always had has left me. It's left me feeling unattractive, undesirable and broken. I just feel so sad and so hopeless. I can't seem to find myself this time.

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IrenetheQuaint Thu 21-Jan-21 06:23:12

I don't quite understand what has destroyed you, OP. Are you worried about your prospects of finding anyone else? Is your close friendship with this guy making you feel worse rather than better? Are you sure you don't want to get back with him?

DinosaurDiana Thu 21-Jan-21 06:26:23

I agree, I don’t get it.
Your last two sentences sound like depression, so I suggest you phone your GP and tell them how you are feeling.

SnowedLastNight Thu 21-Jan-21 06:37:03

I don't know really.

I don't want to get back together with him. I've already told him that I'm far happier now we're 'just' friends. The close friendship is really nice.

I suppose I've had a number of close male friends over the years during my single days that have almost emulated 'relationships' without being one. Close, emotionally intimate but no sex. No flirting, no suggestion of it being anything more. Just very close friendships that have been far better, far more emotionally fulfilling, far kinder, far more supportive than any relationship I've ever had.

I ended up actually getting together with one of these men once - we met as teenagers and got together in our mid 20s. What started as a really close friendship, just genuine best friends, became a controlling and abusive relationship that I struggled to understand and failed to repair for 10 years before ending that too.

My friends used to joke that I didn't need a boyfriend because I always had a male friend who fulfilled the role of my boyfriend without being my boyfriend - without the love or the sex or the intention; the feelings etc.

I suppose I'm less worried about my prospects about meeting someone else than I am about facing the reality that I just won't. And the reality that I've now got an ex boyfriend who fulfills that 'ersatz relationship' role better than he filled the boyfriend role.

I'm having to face the reality that this is it now.

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Minimalistmini Thu 21-Jan-21 06:41:48

Do you mean that the close friendship is stopping you from moving on? A friend of mine split up with a guy just before the first lockdown but due to circumstances has developed a friendship with her ex similar to the one you describe. From the outside, it seems unhealthy, and I wonder what will happen when socializing becomes easier and they have the opportunity to start dating new people.

DinosaurDiana Thu 21-Jan-21 06:45:42

Do you actually need a ‘boyfriend’ ?
You’re not having sex with this guy, and you’re happy with him, so what do you actually want ?
And I always think that it’s a great quality for a woman or man to be happy alone, so that a relationship is an enhancement of your life rather than a need.

SnowedLastNight Thu 21-Jan-21 06:51:47

No. I don't think so.

I have moved on from him emotionally and had done before I ended it with him. I'm genuinely happier being friends.

For the first few weeks of 'friendship, we didn't actually meet. He would phone a couple of times a week and we'd message. We met for a few walks in the park that were fine and emotionally i felt very neutral. We never discussed the previous relationship. It was almost like we'd always been friends and never anything else - no reminiscing, no post mortem. Nothing. It didn't feel necessary.

The friendship was consolidated, I suppose, over Christmas when I started staying over. And we genuinely enjoy each others company. It's completely platonic though.

I'm aware that, if either of us were to meet someone else, it might change things somewhat and that would make me feel.a bit sad but I wouldn't feel jealous if he did and I doubt he would either. We didn't ever really develop feelings for each other in that way.

I suppose what I'm facing is the reality that i can have close friendships with men but am completely incapable of having romantic relationships.

I don't think it's really about him.

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SnowedLastNight Thu 21-Jan-21 06:53:23

No, I dont 'need' a boyfriend. I never have. But it seems to be a 'flaw' that I can't. It would be nice, i suppose.

And I think the realisation that men don't see me in that way either!

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IrenetheQuaint Thu 21-Jan-21 06:53:50

I'm actually quite similar, OP. No idea what the answer is!

SnowedLastNight Thu 21-Jan-21 06:58:51

I'm actually quite similar, OP. No idea what the answer is!

Really? Do you know why it is that way?

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IrenetheQuaint Thu 21-Jan-21 07:03:44

Not really. Maybe a slightly repressed family background where I was discouraged from showing emotions/vulnerability. But no massive trauma or anything. What about you?

SallyTimms Thu 21-Jan-21 07:05:38

But you have forged a strong friendship with a man you find physically attractive and who isn't displaying any negative behaviour he did previously, so while you acknowledge you are just friends, you must be teetering on the brink of what could be a relationship.

It's like being shown the display model of something: you're getting the all singing all dancing version of something, take it home and you get the basic no frills version that isn't quite as good.

I'm not surprised it's upsetting you! Look at how nice he is when he doesn't have to be close to you / your partner. That would be a head f**k for many people! It's like some super subtle art of negging!

SnowedLastNight Thu 21-Jan-21 07:17:32

It's like some super subtle art of negging!

But most people have far more friends in life than partners. He doesn't fancy me. That's fine. There are plenty of men (the majority!) who don't fancy me. And some who do.

We are far closer now than we were before. We didn't know each other very well before we got together. I suspect that, if we had done, then we would never have got together.

Some of the inconpatabilities were just irreconcilable life choices that would have meant one of us would always have had to compromise - not really things where there is a middle ground. Others were just incompatible relationship 'needs'.

I don't think it is teetering on the brink of what could be a relationship. But I agree it probably looks like one to people outside.

I've considered it. If he ever asked me to try again, I would say no.

There's no part of me that wonders what if..?

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lottiegarbanzo Thu 21-Jan-21 07:19:48

Well, I think a lot of your issues with the men you've dated, sound like the same issues many women report on the OLD threads etc. to do with men being ruined by porn, treating dating like shopping and looking for sex not love. This getting much worse as the available men get older.

As for you, it sounds a bit as though you play safe, go for people who attract you as friends, but are not willing or able to take the emotional risks to reach for what you want in a romantic relationship.

SnowedLastNight Thu 21-Jan-21 07:20:36

It's like being shown the display model of something: you're getting the all singing all dancing version of something, take it home and you get the basic no frills version that isn't quite as good.

I get that...

But it's not really how it feels.

I suppose I have thought it's a shame we didn't have what we have now before but I'd also imagine that, if we did get back together, I'd also be treated to the previous version!

But in also see that as a facet of him and not a reflection on me.

I mean, yes, it would have been nice if he'd fancied me when we were togetherbut he didn't so 🤷🏻‍♀️ it doesn't bother me now that he doesn't.

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lottiegarbanzo Thu 21-Jan-21 07:23:33

Also, are you saying you were in an emotionally abusive relationship for ten years? That's a long time and must have taken a toll.

It sounds like a lot of time has passed since then, with all these months and years alone between flings.. How old are you now? What are you looking for in a relationship?

lottiegarbanzo Thu 21-Jan-21 07:25:25

Oh yes, you start with 'single for ten years', so you're mid-forties?

SnowedLastNight Thu 21-Jan-21 07:26:06


That doesn't account for the men I met outside of online dating or before online dating was a thing. Or before 'online' was a thing!!

As for you, it sounds a bit as though you play safe, go for people who attract you as friends, but are not willing or able to take the emotional risks to reach for what you want in a romantic relationship.

Again, I've only dated one I was truly friends with first (the one that was abusive). The others I've met through work, on nights out, or at hobbies and, yes, a couple were online but that's not really the issue.

I know why those men were flawed. This isn't a 'why can't I meet a man?' thread.

It's more about me and how this realisation has made me feel and how I progress.

I've not really met anyone unwanted to take an emotional risk with or who wanted to take one with me.

No one has ever had those 'feelings' for me. There hasn't been a risk for me to take without ignoring glaring red flags!

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SnowedLastNight Thu 21-Jan-21 07:30:23

Yes, I'm mid 40s.

I don't know what I want. I suppose what I have with this current ex boyfriend, or what I've had in previous 'ersatz' relationships, but with love and affection. So it was a proper relationship.

What I seem to have is either these very close platonic friendships or disinterest, criticism and disrespect in relationships. And never the Twain shall meet.

If I could find what I've managed to find many times in my platonic friendships with men but with love and sex, then I'd be onto a winner!

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SnowedLastNight Thu 21-Jan-21 07:32:31

I appreciate that it's harder to meet someone decent in your 40s but it was no different in my late teens, twenties and thirties either.

My ex of the 10 year relationship and I were inseparable as teenagers. Just complete best friends but the relationship was a disaster.

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carlaCox Thu 21-Jan-21 07:33:30

*The issues have mainly been infidelity, sexual aggressiveness or criticism of me physically (too old, too fat, not attractive enough).

In their own ways, each of these 'damaged' me a little - added another little scar I suppose.*

This was the bit that stood out to me OP. It sounds like your self-esteem has been slowly eaten away to the point where you think that no man will ever really desire you in that way. My best friend had the same experience doing online dating over the last couple of years and experiencing a number of quite brutal knock backs. It can really affect even the most confident of people.

SnowedLastNight Thu 21-Jan-21 07:47:30

It sounds like your self-esteem has been slowly eaten away to the point where you think that no man will ever really desire you in that way.

I think there's probably some truth in that.

But it started long before online dating.

I think my experiences have probably just consolidated things I already thought and believed.

But through my life, I've met and dated more men in the real world than I ever have done online and my experiences were no different.

I think i feel safer in these platonic/fake relationships.

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gannett Thu 21-Jan-21 07:52:47

OP while you might feel broken at this moment and I understand why, can I just say that from your posts and your description of your situation, to me you seem... actually quite sorted.

You're right that breaking off unhealthy flings on your own terms was a sign of strength. You knew what the red flags were and you didn't waste time. Plenty of people stick in toxic situations because they're so desperate for "a relationship" (in the abstract) that they overlook how bad their specific relationship is. You're not desperate enough to settle for any old relationship, you want a strong one and you know deep down that being single is preferable to having a shit partner.

You're also obviously nice and interesting enough to build strong, genuine friendships. This isn't a failing on your part, it's a really positive thing. A close platonic friendship is something to be treasured.

To an extent your feeling of being broken can be ascribed to not yet having had a healthy relationship model - I was perennially single throughout my 20s and on some level preferred casual flings and ONSs, and certainly felt that the older I got, the more set in my ways, the less able I was to fit myself into whatever box a relationship entailed - they seemed alien to me from the outside.

There's no science to finding someone who's right for you, who gets you and who meets your standards. All there is - is committing to meeting new people. Not necessarily through the hell of online dating or even in a dating context - but expanding your social circle wherever you can, making friends where you can (you seem good at this!). Those people will know people who will know people - your pool expands every time you meet a new friend.

You may meet a partner - or you may not. But your life can be rich either way. I'd far rather be in your situation than be one of the people who cling on to a toxic LTR or marriage, bring children into it and then 15 years later post on MN in bits because they realised they'd never loved their partner.

lottiegarbanzo Thu 21-Jan-21 09:47:21

OP you've completely misconstrued my point about OLD. I'm saying that the men you're talking about, match the descriptions of men in dating threads on here. How you're meeting them is irrelevant. The issue is what's happened to men.

Why not read some of the dating threads? You'll see what I mean.

Middle-aged men are another kettle of fish again. Generally, very set in their ways, increasingly narrowly-focused, yet at the peak of their earning power, so viewing themselves as quite a catch and as deserving of nubile 20 and 30-somethings.

There's definitely a case for staying off OLD, as it would seem to showcase the worst of them and their 'sweety shop' behaviours. That doesn't mean that the attitude of men you meet in other ways is very different.

SnowedLastNight Thu 21-Jan-21 10:21:11


Ah, fair enough.

I often read threads where women are struggling to meet a man and some of the replies suggest that the issue is that they are indiscriminately dating one online dud after another without ever really applying any filtering process and, having spoken to friends of mine who actively online date, I recognise this!

I suppose I just wanted to convey that that is not what I am doing.

When I was first single, nearly 10 years ago, I did go on a lot of 'first/single dates' with men I wasn't fussed about partly for the practise, partly because I wasn't really interested in meeting anyone really and partly because I was trying to work out what I did/didn't want.

If I actually got as far as dating a man, who I met either irl or online, it was because we were really compatible in terms of personality, interests, outlooks on life and what we both wanted. With the exception of the current ex boyfriend, where we eventually had too many incompatabilities, there was no reason any of them couldn't have worked long term in theory. But then I found out they were cheating or they just became overly critical of me etc.

But then, it wasn't really any different when I was younger s it's not just a middle aged men thing.

I just don't know why this most recent one has floored me so much. He was single for a long time before we met and, tbh, I can see why. Perhaps he looks at me and thinks the same but I'm not thinking he was The One or wishing we were back together or anything and I genuinely value his friendship. I just don't get why it has left me feeling so broken.

I'm usually and always so 'onwards and upwards' about everything. When I've ended these flings in the past, I've felt relief, freedom and a sense of hope and optimism about the future. But that's not how i feel this time.

I think I'd feel differently if I could look back on one positive relationship I'd had in the past but now the idea almost feels alien to me.

I have a friend who is now in her 60s. She had a long and unhappy marriage to an alcoholic. She left him eventually and met a wonderful man in her late 40s with whom she spent 9 very happy years until he sadly died of cancer. I know she feels cheated that she only had 9 years with him. I understand that and I would never say it to her but I think at least you had those 9 years. At least you have some wonderful memories of a truly loving relationship.

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