Can my relationship be salvaged?

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Can my relationship be salvaged?

Post by littlebluedove on Thu Dec 27, 2018 3:37 am

Hi,

I'm in a (somewhat) long distance relationship. I feel kind of yanked around by my partner but at the same time, guilty for my mistakes. This morning, we had a conversation over text that went like this:

Him: "I wish you were here"

Me: "Awww, if I was there I'd cuddle you"

Him: "K"

Me: "What's with the K?"

Him: "My bad, sorry"

Me: "Do you want to break up?"

Him: "I don't know"

Me: "I've already been waiting for weeks to get to see you again, so I'm in too much pain to wait around longer. I'll treat this as a breakup. This really hurts."

Him: "Sorry"


Later I told him I was willing to hang in there with him. He seemed somewhat receptive to talking, but wouldn't tell me what he was unhappy with me about. I kept asking him. Also, I offered to leave him alone, and at first he said he'd like some time apart to think about if he wants to stay together, but then said he'd like to text like normal. This evening, we made a bit of small talk about politics, and he may not have entirely been in a bad mood, since he laughed at a few things I said.

I asked, "How are you feeling in our relationship? Bored, angry, anxious, smothered? If you can identify the feeling, maybe that could help us identify the problem." He said, "A little smothered." I asked him if he'd like to have three days of no contact and have a check-in on Sunday to help us reset, like restarting a laptop. I said, "I'd be happy to work on being more independent to help you feel better and salvage our relationship. I bought a couple of books about dealing with anxiety in relationships."

He hasn't replied yet to those couple of texts, but he often falls asleep on me, so I'll wait until at least sometime tomorrow before assuming he has ghosted Sad

It's true that I would try too hard to get a hold of him when I'd get anxious, but when I'd apologize and offer to work on it he'd say that I was doing fine, that he didn't have a limit to how often I could contact him, etc so I honestly thought my clinginess was a neutral thing to him in particular, like how while some people can't deal with messy partners, some don't care about that. I pointed out in one of my last two texts that I didn't know his boundaries had changed because he hadn't told me.

I feel like I could just as easily paint him as too distant/flaky. For example, he started acting really distant this morning, as described, right after basically saying he missed me and promising to reserve a bus to come to my city on Friday. He once told me he'd video chat me one evening but didn't follow through, without a heads up that he had changed his mind even, though he continued texting me.

It's a little tough to tell whether this is my fault, that I got clingy first and caused him to get distant, or his fault, that he got distant first, and caused me to get clingy. Looking back, to be honest though I think it was probably me who started this awful chain. He could tell I sounded pained about him rescheduling our first date without much notice, asked about it and I admitted, "I'm afraid you're going to stand me up. I've been stood up a lot." He said, "You think that just because I rescheduled at the last minute?"

Yes, there are several things I enjoy about our relationship, such as our inside Pokemon jokes and how we comfort each other when other people say cruel things to us.

Anyway, I'm not entirely sure whose fault our problems are, but I think it's most likely mine, and I'm afraid I've blown it with someone I could've had a beautiful relationship with for years to come... Sad I don't know for sure yet that it's over, but it doesn't look good. What do you think the odds are that we can make this relationship better?

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Re: Can my relationship be salvaged?

Post by KMR on Thu Dec 27, 2018 5:00 pm

Obviously, I can only speculate based on the information given, so I could be way off-base here. But the impression I get is that he feels like you are more invested in the relationship than he is, whereas he's just not feeling as strongly about it. It could be a case of "we haven't been together very long and I'm just not there yet," or a more definitive, "I don't feel as strongly about you as you do about me." But because he's aware of this discrepancy, he isn't sure whether it's better to stick around and see if stronger feelings develop on his end, or if it would be better to cut things off now because he doesn't want to drag things out and cause you more pain down the road. That could also be why he's unable or unwilling to state exactly what's bothering him about the relationship, because there isn't any specific problem he can point to, just these vague feelings of uncertainty. In this scenario, "smothered" could be code for "Your words and actions show that you're more invested in the relationship than I am, and it makes me uncomfortable because I don't feel the same way and am not sure if I will."

It could be that there's just an incompatibility here between how much contact the two of you need to feel comfortable and secure in the relationship, with you wanting to reach out more and him feeling overwhelmed when you do so. But it sounds like you've offered to make compromises on your end and he's denied that it's even a problem. So either that's not actually an issue for him, or he just doesn't want to address it and is pretending that it isn't a big deal. Either way, I'm not sure there's more you can do about this than you already have.

"Fault" is a really tricky thing to define, and probably unproductive to do so. There may not be anyone at fault here. If you're just in different places with regard to how you feel about each other and what this relationship should be, that's not anyone's fault, it's just an incompatibility. Even if there is a specific cause here, there's not much you can do about past mistakes, except to own them and learn from them. You already recognize that anxiety, insecurity, and clingy behavior can cause problems in relationships; he (presumably... hopefully...) understands that the same is true about being distant, uncommunicative, and flaky. These are things that one can always work to manage and benefit from resolving, regardless of whether they were specifically at fault for the problems of a given relationship.
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Re: Can my relationship be salvaged?

Post by Enail on Thu Dec 27, 2018 7:10 pm

Another possibility is that it's not so much about investment as about your preferences in relationships. It sounds like the way you would like the relationship to go is with frequent, affectionate and reassuring communication where you both discuss your emotions and the relationship so the other always knows clearly how you're reacting. It sounds like the way he would like the relationship to go is more low-key and focused on light topics, like he would prefer not to have a lot of talks about the relationship, and possibly like he needs some time to think about his reactions before he's able to communicate about them. That makes it seem to me like your preferences aren't very compatible. I don't know whether or not you can find some middle ground you can both be comfortable with, but I think it makes it natural that you'd be having a hard time getting there, without it necessarily being anyone's "fault."

I do notice that it seemed like the text conversation escalated pretty quickly; do you think this is because your relationship has been having a lot of trouble lately prior to this so that it segued naturally into the existing conflict (such as if you've discussed breaking up previously and hadn't made a decision on it), or is this how things usually go even when the relationship is stable?

It also seems like you feel a lot of anxiety whenever there's any kind of conflict or when he isn't communicating with you as much as you'd like or as explicitly about the relationship/his emotions. That must be stressful! I wonder if it would help if you could find something to do when you're anxious that doesn't involve seeking reassurance of him and let the anxiety die down a little before talking with him; I find relationship conversations tend to be a little easier and less intense when my emotions aren't flared up at the time of discussion.
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Re: Can my relationship be salvaged?

Post by littlebluedove on Fri Dec 28, 2018 12:06 am

It doesn't necessarily need to be a *lot* of contact though I will embrace it if someone offers it, my issue is with what feels to me to be *quality* of contact. For example, I told him that even just say, video chatting for half an hour a day and visiting once or twice a month would make me feel better than doing a bunch of texting like he has been doing. That would actually be less time spent communicating than with the method he has been using, and I even pointed that out to him.

He broke up with me for a few hours once before saying I don't trust him enough to be on my side and that really hurts him, though he came back to me. I'm sorry I've hurt him, and it wasn't my intention, though I know intention isn't magic. I've dealt with a lot of abuse and had very little support in my life, and there have been clusterfucks for a long time trying to access mental health treatment. With my difficult background of various traumas, some very long term, people not sticking around in my life and thus a lack of real life sounding boards and the lack of mental health care despite my efforts to get it, I'm very socially stunted. It's difficult for me to read others' intentions or to know how to react. Since I know I can't go to a forum or mental health hotline every single time I get confused or anxious about a social situation, since whenever I have anyone in my life I constantly feel confused and anxious, I've read articles, videos etc for help. I find Doctor Nerdlove's, Captain Awkward's and Psychology Today's contenet most reliable, but if they don't cover whatever the issue is resorted to whatever's available, even if it's Buzzfeed or Reddit or whatever.

I guess sometimes I accidentally make things worse if it turns out I read bad advice or if I accidentally misapplied good advice. For example, I asked him if he wanted to break up after the "k" text because while I initally was worried and felt dismissed by the k text, I Googled it before responding and there were lots of snarky, outraged articles about how k is "the worst text someone can send" "passive aggressive" etc so I figured that meant it was something to be alarmed about after all and jumped to asking if he wants to break up. I've mentioned to him in the past that I'm socially awkward and have accidentally ruined relationships but I'm not sure if he realizes how deep my issues go. I've thought about explaining this to him as additional information for him to make his decision either way, i.e maybe he'll decide he'd rather date someone with closer to average social skills or maybe he'd go the other way and be more understanding with me. However since he has said he wants to just talk about fun things (I don't know for how long) and not our relationship I'm forcing myself to sit on this information that might be crucial because I know it's important to respect boundaries.

Things do seem to be picking up, though. He has been getting more engaged with our conversations as the day has gone on, asking me questions. He also asked me if I've eaten today I guess from knowing about my issues getting groceries, etc and I said I haven't but don't expect him to support me with it like he has been since I know I've upset him and that I'll do my best to take care of it myself tomorrow. But he said he wants to talk me through it. And I gave him an easy out, so I believe him and accepted his offer.

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Re: Can my relationship be salvaged?

Post by littlebluedove on Fri Dec 28, 2018 12:32 am

To answer the question about if there's a feelings discrepancy, it seems like for most of our relationship we were actually about equal. We've both sent really passionate and really romantic messages before, and he was the one to bring up bigger stuff like moving in together and getting a dog. Though of course he may not feel that way anymore, which appears to be because of my smothering as he puts it, though it's possible he has just fallen out of love like you said and would've been more patient about working through this with me if the ephemeral love was still there.

I've decided that if he stays with me, I'll wait for a year to see if he starts at least talking to me on the phone again and saying romantic things to me again, and if those things aren't starting to happen a year from now I'll start a conversation about it then, re-evaluate then if I have to.

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