I spent yesterday evening with this amazing guy that has taken me a long time to find..but he is not my boyfriend..he is my ex-boyfriend. The thing is it doesn’t feel like that. He still feels very much a part of me. There is an ease of being we share, a sense of comfort being with him. We spent the last 5 months trying to have a relationship. There was so much conflict that in the end we just gave up.
I thought most of the conflict arose from him not being sure whether he wanted to be in a relationship. He has a lot of female friends and and had an active social life when we met. Right from the beginning, he kept saying he didn’t want to give up his friends while I said, it is fine to have friends, but please bring them within the circle of our relationship, if you wanted to be with me. When I pushed, he pulled away. It didn’t help that I had predisposition to an anxious attachment style. Every time he said he wanted his old life back, my anxiety got triggered and I became very intense and controlling about what he could do and couldn’t do. On his part, he couldn’t see beyond the immediate conversation to give me the reassurance I was seeking to feel safe in the relationship. Even the night before we broke up, he couldn’t give me the assurance that he wouldn’t go off on an Island holiday with his female friends on his own. It wasn’t a healthy way to be and after he made the decision to break up last week, I just felt this enormous sense of relief. Like I had just stepped off the hamster wheel.
We have spent a lot of time together since the breakup and held hands and hugged. This to him is quite normal behaviour as he only lets go of an old relationship when he had formed a new one. I generally tend to cut off all contact after breaking up and have never gone back and been intimate with someone after the final breakup. I could see our casual intimacy spilling over into the physical realm and knew I was the most likely to be hurt as he is able to hold back emotionally in that situation and just enjoy the contact.
So, I proposed we go talk to a couple’s counselor about our situation and try to get some clarity on where to go from here. He was clear on his part that he couldn’t handle any more of the intense conversations we always end up having and I was clear I didn’t want to go back to trying to convince someone we are having a relationship and what that entailed. But there was genuine love and caring between us and it seemed like a sensible solution.
We had already established that I talk to make sense of stuff and he could only take so much of it, especially if it meant I was trying to show him my side of the deal in whatever thing we were conflicting on. I had also realised from reading up on attachment styles, that of the three main ways partners bid for intimacy in a relationship; the physical, time and understanding, the only thing we matched up was the physical. Whenever I made a bid for time, he got triggered and talked about wanting time with his friends and other social activities. We both had children in our care for part of the week and combined with his work and business commitments, we actually only had one on one time 5 nights out of every 14. Often the question was raised on both our parts whether he wanted a relationship at all. Him not being able to answer that question did not help at all with my needing to feel safe in the relationship.
Whenever I made a bid for intimacy by trying to talk about feelings or share insights about myself, we ended up in these intense dead end conversations which often ended with him having an angry outburst or walking away. The rejection I felt from these instances in turn contributed to my anxiety which exaggerated the behaviour on my part. At one point during out time together, I remember asking him whether he even liked me a person other than as a sexual partner, because bids for any other form of intimacy failed miserably.
What led me to writing this post today was an insight I had last night about my need to keep talking to him about a particular topic despite him giving me many indications early on that I needed to let the issue go and let things be or let it resolve naturally. On my part, I could see the tension building up in him, yet I still kept going. The second to last time I did it, we were in the car together and I was driving. When he couldn’t take it anymore, he jumped out and told me to “fuck off”. I hated seeing him that upset and knew it was my fault, but I couldn’t pull out of the spiral even while seeing it wasn’t helpful. He said he felt like I was going to keep talking about the issue until he agreed to it even when he had a completely opposite view. Until now, I had kept insisting I was just letting him know how i felt and was indirectly wanting his reassurance that he still wanted to be with me.
What I realised last night was while I might have a perfectly rational explanation of why I thought he should do something the way I thought it should be done; for example, spending last New Year’s Eve with me and my son rather than with his friends doing something I couldn’t join them in, sometimes he just wanted to be himself, however unkind or selfish it might be. My forcing him to see it from my point of view took away his liberty to be who he really was. He kept saying to me, why can’t you accept me and be tolerant of me the same way you are with your son? Why do you make me feel like I am a bad person when I don’t do what you want me to do? Both very valid questions I now understand, but I only understood the whole story last night. I remember, my previos boyfriend saying to me when I did it to him once that he doesn’t want the story behind my reaction when he did something bad because it made him feel worse. I get it now.
The question is why do I do it? Am I so convinced that it had to be my way? And what if it doesn’t happen the way I wanted it to happen. Despite hours of explaining and convincing and badgering, he still chose to spend New Year’s with his friends and the world did not come to an end. In fact, it changed a key friendship with one of his female buddies that has brought us together in an unexpected way. The answer is I am driven by fear. What that fear is I am not sure, but it is an awful feeling and I keep talking away so I don’t have to feel that fear. And so the fear becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.
This is my drama and I need to work through it for a relationship to ever work for me. But at least I can now see.