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Torn between two men and I'm so confused/upset
I don't know what to do and need help. I was with my ex partner for 10 years. I loved him and my life with him. We were very compatible, he was very emotionally supportive (which is important to me), and accepted me like no other, He was my soul mate. But he could also be overbearing/ controlling, verbally abuse, and, very rarely, physically abusive. After one such instance I left. After being out on my own for a few months, I met someone. He was handsome, funny, and softer with me than my ex and I fell in love with him. We started dating and it was good, although we were less compatible, he required more space than I was used to, and I couldn't talk to him with the same openness as my ex. He also was afraid of commitment, which I was aware of. Then he started acting weirdly, calling me less, saying hurtful things, and finally freaking out and breaking up with me. I was heartbroken, and during this time reconnected with my ex.
In anger, I decided that since I hadn't been treated very well by either man, I would see them both casually and continue to date. While I was doing this, my feelings for the second guy (commitment-phobe) intensified and so did his and I felt him falling in love with me, going out of his way to do things for me etc, but things were still very slow, I only saw him once a week,talked about the same. Whereas I spoke to my ex every day, we would go to art galleries, movies, on weekends. He said he was really trying to be better. But I was in love with the commitment phone. However, I also know that first flush of being in love fades and you are left with what's left, the communication etc. So I ended it with the 'phobe' about a month ago and chose my ex, who I love but am not in love with in the hopes that may change. Now the commitment phobe has come back and put it on the line, he's in love with me, can't sleep, needs to see me, etc and I feel weak. My concerns are:
- My ex is pulling a charm offensive and will revert back to his old ways.
- The now committed commitment phone, while he has some more obviously negative traits (poor/lack of communication, less compatible) is less manipulative than my ex and may also treat me better, be more willing to compromise etc.
- I may not be able to recapture my feelings for my ex and we should just be friends.
- I won't be able to deny this extremely strong urge to see the commitment phone and sabotage any chance of reconciliation that I have with my ex, who may honestly be trying to be better
Hi Juliet, welcome
My main concern is your long term partners mental and physical abuse of you. That is imo is not going to go away.
For what its worth, can you continually date the phobe and date others until you are have eliminated confusion? Just bgecause he says he is in love with you doesnt mean you have to make a commitment yet. Find out if he is more compatible than you think by dating often.
A full commitment isnt necessary yet. Take your time.
But I'd rule out the long term guy simply on abuse.
If I could do my dating life all over again, I would take a lot more time being single and getting my emotional/financial independence firmly established after being abused by a partner. The damage abuse does can be subtle and cause you to fall into a pattern of picking new abusers.
Where you really want to be at before you commit to a new relationship is having the strength and resources necessary to walk away from any jerk who shows his true colours and you do not like or trust them.
To be honest, both the guys you describe sound like people to be cautious around. Your ex has a good side, but can be abusive. The new guy likes a lot of space , not so compatible, not great at communication. They sound like competitive guys, trying to `win the girl' but the guy end up with once courtship is over will not be charm and competition. You really need to assess these people for their character.
That's not how I did it though. I messed up my early 30's bouncing from one idiot to the next, from one type of abuse to the next. I was hurt, hating being alone after a long term relationship, in shock and probably had PTSD from physical abuse. I believe i would have been better served investing in good solid friends who I trusted with all my heart, and getting my financial Independence sorted and living on my own for a year or so. Not what I wanted at all, but I could have avoided a lot of chaos in my life if I'd done it that way.
Thank you for your thoughtful responses, you raised a lot of good points and were right on the money about a number of things.
I guess the reason that I've felt so panicked/pressured lately is that my ex warned me that he's not going to stay around forever while I continue to date other men. While I understand where he's coming from, I also can't bear the thought of not having the one person in my life that "gets me", which is why I tried to end it with the phobe.
I had considered continuing to date the phobe while I continue to date, and haven't entirely ruled out that as a possibility. I also liked the point you made that just because someone says they love you doesn't mean you have to commit. It's weird but that hasn't occurred to me, and I think I definitely need to ask myself what I actually want.
Bindi, you're also right in that I think both men are vying for my affections, and so are on their best behavior, but I also agree that is a false impression and isn't sustainable in either case.
Thankfully, I would consider myself to be fairly financially independent/secure, I have a reasonably well paying career, I pay my own bills, I have savings, a nice car and travel with work. But I do get tired of having to do it all on my own and this "trust no one because they only let you down" mentality.
The point you made about not falling into a pattern of picking abusers also resonated, as it was something I hadn't considered but makes perfect sense. I grew up in a household with an emotionally abusive/manipulative mother (I know, Freud would have a field day!). When I moved out at 21, I moved straight in with my now ex after a whirlwind romance, and the cycle began again. Sometimes I wonder if everyone who supposedly loves you is destined to abuse you or if I'd even be capable of picking a nice, normal person or whether I'd consider them too boring/unattractive or something.
I guess the reason that I've felt so panicked/pressured lately is that my ex warned me that he's not going to stay around forever while I continue to date other men. While I understand where he's coming from, I also felt panicked at the thought of not having the one person that "gets me" in my life.
I had considered continuing to date the phobe while I continue to date, and haven't entirely ruled out that idea. I also liked the point you made that just because someone says they love you doesn't mean you have to commit. It's weird but that hasn't occurred to me, and I think I definitely need to work at considering my own needs and what I actually want.
Bindi, you're also right in that I think both men are vying for my affections, and so are on their best behavior, but I also agree that isn't an accurate representation of who they are and isn't sustainable over the long-term.
Thankfully, I would consider myself to be fairly financially independent/secure. I have a reasonably well paying career, I pay my own bills, I have savings, a nice car and travel with work. But it is hard doing everything on my own.
The point you made about not falling into a pattern of picking abusers also resonated, as it was something I hadn't considered but makes perfect sense. I grew up in a household with an emotionally abusive/manipulative mother (I know, Freud would have a field day!). I essentially moved out of one abusing environment straight into another, so sadly it's all I've known in a way. Sometimes I wonder if everyone who is supposed to live you is destined to abuse you, or if I'm even capable of a happy life. Thanks again, you've given me a lot to think about.
Thanks heaps for responding. My background is similar to yours, down to having an abusive/manipulative mother 😞
I think the important thing to take from that experience is to know that abusive parents can make you feel that what you need emotionally is unimportant, and they discourage you from developing tools to get what you really need on an emotional level. They reward you for things like `keeping up appearances' and shutting down your emotional needs , your voice, and other needs depending on your mother's personal quirks.
After years of that, sometimes you can find it hard to even know what you need emotionally, and yet you can be great at keeping up appearances, and keeping quiet when people make you feel unsafe, unwanted, and disconnected. It doesn't mean `all your relationships will be with abusers'. It only means that you have been pre conditioned somewhat to cater to someone dominant and abusive, and call it love.
What I would like to encourage you to believe is that your real emotional needs not only count, and deserve to be heard - they can also be met by a good life partner. And I believe what you need most of all, and what will fullfill you in the long run, is to feel very safe , very connected, and `heard'. You would add X, Y, Z personal preferences to that, but your emotional fullfillment is what will make your relationships feel worthwhile, and allow you to grow.
You would benefit from a partner whose actions match his words, and for your part, you need to explain/ ask him for what you need on an emotional level, and keep asking, for the duration of your relationship. There are men who are so caring and wonderful that they will do this if you keep the dialog open. They will make you feel safe, emotionally and physically.
Anyway just some thoughts to consider, I hope they help a little:)
Thank you everyone for your kind responses, and thank you Bindi, I now know why your advice was so insightful :)! "It only means that you have been preconditioned to cater to someone dominant and abusive and call it love" was particularly eye-opening as I almost exclusively go for dominant men and would say that's in the top three traits that I like, I think perhaps that's something I should reconsider in future.
I think I'm fairly in tune with knowing what I need emotionally, my issues more relate to having the confidence to believe that I can survive on my own and that I am deserving of happiness. One aspect of my mother's manipulation focused around her making me rely on her (e.g. preventing me getting a driver's license) and then constantly holding all that she did for me over my head, "you need me, you'd be incapable of doing this on your own" etc and my ex was the same, that constant feeling that I was indebted to them and couldn't live without them or survive on my own. This was compounded by the fact that I've had health issues since a teenager and a lot of deep seated issues related to those from my mother, which has made the manipulation easier.
You're so insightful yourself Juliet, I am grateful reading your perspective. I can appreciate the issues you've been dealing with all these years, wanting love and good relationships and then bumping into this or that obstacle that you think may be connected to childhood conditioning, or maybe not.
I very much related to what you said about the drivers license, and your mother encouraging dependence so she could have the upper hand/ask too much of you/throw it all in your face. Thank you SO much for reminding me of that. That was my little spark of insight for the morning, I'm very grateful. I'm in my 40's and I still struggle with that every day and still don't have my drivers license. Its as if Independence itself is a big internal no-no , though like you I am more than capable of Independence. Sabotaging my own Independence creeps up on me in little ways all the time.
On the attraction to a dominant man thing, I spent years trying to figure that out too:(. I feel that the attraction fades with time (the further you get away from childhood basically), and possibly comes from the familiarity/chemistry of being a kid enmeshed with a Dominant parent. Most people do marry someone like one of their parents for that reason, and never have to question it or fight that chemistry like abused kids do.
What I found myself, is that even though I pursued all kinds of dominant men in my youth, and the chemistry felt enormous, I came to see that good people do not Dominate. Its what abusers do. There is no legitimate, healthy, or humane reason for it. I feel strongly that in partnerships, leadership has a natural flow according to each partner's abilities, knowledge, and strengths. For example, you wouldn't drive somewhere with your partner who knew the way (and you didn't), and then rob them of the opportunity to guide you both there because you need to feel dominant, smarter than them, or make them feel less capable than they are...just one example of many where I think Dominance is abusive and also stupid.
I'm sorry about your health Issues too. You're right, sometimes dependence is real and you need to be able to rely on someone. That's why its so important to choose your life partner for solid character traits above all else.
Anyway thanks so much Juliet, I really enjoy talking to you.