Posted by fxckfeelings on November 10, 2015Share This Post
Louis CK once said that no good marriage ends in divorce, but it’s also true that really bad relationships seem to go on forever; those connections built on intense neediness and over-responsiveness tend to get stuck in a death spiral as both parties endlessly circle the emotional toilet, never quite flushing their connection away. That’s because, once you care deeply about someone, it’s hard not to become over-attached and treat his or her commitment problems as if they were misunderstandings that might be your fault, even if that someone doesn’t treat you well and isn’t great partnership material. All of this can be avoided if you learn how to withhold commitment until you’re sure a prospective partner has the right qualities, regardless of how intense your need and attraction. Later this week, we’ll explore the five steps of bad relationship recovery, but you can’t recover until you know why it’s good to walk away from your bad relationship in the first place.
I’ve been in a relationship off and on for almost a year, and the reason for the “offs” is his fear of everything— three times he’s done the same thing and broken up with me for “a possible problem,” or “fear of ___,” or whatever stupid reason, but in the end I always find him and we get back together. I know this is a bad pattern. I mean, it’s pathetic to keep wanting to be with him after how he’s been such an asshole to me for no apparent reason. He chooses to treat me as if I were shit, as if he wants to hurt me badly while pretending it’s nothing. I know I should be mad and write him off as an asshole, but I can’t. I keep justifying his actions, because I know what he’s been through. Anyway, I love him and I hate that I can’t love myself enough to stop looking for him despite all the mean things he’s said and done to me, how he’s treated me like a toy. When I finally did stand up for myself recently and say some really mean things, he didn’t react at all, won’t respond to my apology…I don’t want to keep waiting for him to talk to me and my head knows that it’s stupid, but my heart keeps wanting to reach him. I’m not trying to be a victim—I believe that everything that happens to us is the consequence of our choices—but I need to know how to choose better for myself. My goal is to figure out how to get over this guy and the rut of our unhappy relationship.
People always sound like addicts when they talk about a difficult relationship in terms of explaining and rationalizing the other person’s behavior; they become such a strong advocate for the source of the damage, defending their actions and pleading for understanding, that they lose sight of protecting the target of the damage, i.e., themselves.
Unlike illicit substances, spouses are supposed to serve a purpose besides making you feel good; you’re supposed to evaluate prospective partners by how they measure up to your own priorities for starting a family, managing finances, etc. If you’re only judging a relationship in the same way you’d judge a batch of heroin—by how good it makes you feel—then, like a junkie, you’re hooked and, subsequently, screwed.
Need tells you that your goal is to make it work and find ways to get through to him, even if fighting is the only way that works and he has never demonstrated that he can meet any of your more important needs, now or in the future. A healthy goal, on the other hand, is to develop your own standards for relationships and stick with them, no matter how painful the process of withdrawal.
Your instinct might be to figure out why you fall for a guy like this, but, like the alcoholic who won’t stop until she truly figures out why she drinks so much, that search usually does nothing but prevent you from facing the fact of having to stop. So, if the cause of your bad boyfriend addiction isn’t obvious, it’s worth focusing instead on plotting a course towards relationship that are better.
Begin by listing the qualities you absolutely require in a partner or friend, e.g., trustworthiness, commitment, acceptance, and reliability. Then, if you decide that this guy is unlikely to ever measure up, figure out ways to stay away. Ask friends to help you out, or talk regularly to those who want to help or have been through the same thing. If depression or anxiety is driving you to be with him rather than be alone, try talking to a therapist, or even trying a course of medication that can ease those obsessive thoughts.
Remember, you’re responsible for finding yourself a decent partner, and every day spent wasting your time on a non-candidate is a day lost.
Acknowledge your addiction, stop making excuses for Mr. Back-and-forth, and stop making yourself available to him altogether. Then you can be available for someone who’s good for you, not someone who makes you feel good, going forward.
“I feel like I’m working hard to keep an on-and-off relationship going, but I know I’m not at fault for its problems and that I can’t stop my boyfriend from coming and going. I will get stronger, decide what I want, and do what’s necessary to find a relationship I can count on.”
More advice from Dr. Lastname