PREVIOUS LETTER ||
NEXT LETTER >
Predicament of the Week
In which Breakup Girl addresses the situation that has, this
week, brought her the most (a) amusement, (b) relief that it is happening to
someone else, and/or (c) proof that she could not possibly be making this stuff
Dear Breakup Girl,
I met the love of my life in college and dated her for a few months, and for
no reason that I could determine (she seemed as much in love with me as I was
for her) she graduated and lost touch with me. Over the next 6 years, I never
forgot her. I elevated her to a legendary status in my mind against which all
my dates for those 6 years were compared. Although I met some girls I really
liked (I liked them, they didn't like me or vice-versa, the old standby), none
compared to T. Off and on I made attempts to call her or I sent her cards and
eventually we hooked up, and six-years after she faded out of my life she
reappeared: we started dating steady. I was so in love my head was spun
whenever I was near her. She crazy in love too. Now, we've been together for a
year and a half; I'm nuts in love with her still, but we have had big problems.
She and I are diametric opposites in nearly everything. What I like, she
doesn't and vice-versa. (We'll it's not quite that bad, but it's close.) Even
so, we had plenty of good times together. This leads to the central problem of
our relationship: we disagree on MANY issues, some of which are reflective on
our own values and beliefs.
The trouble is we can't hit the middle-ground of compromise because we fail
to understand the other's perspective. In honesty, many times I can't even
respect where she's coming from with her arguments. This is going to sound very
self-righteous, but I believe I'm the one with the sense and proper values, and
that she just can't see it. Let me illustrate a few of our differences for you.
Please also, let me know if I'm wrong to think I'm in the right for each of the
First off, T. is a very moody person with a pessimistic attitude. She is
often depressed about life, and she expects bad things; in my thinking, that
kind of thinking (attitude) brings on bad things (Catch 22). Her father was
murdered just before she became a teenager. Every year, on the anniversary of
her father's death or on his birthday, she becomes gravely depressed. Lots of
things remind her of her father and they trigger the depression too. Our
biggest fight occurred because I'm always telling her she needs to try to move
on and put the past behind her so she can heal. I've told her that I can
understand her being sad from time to time, but not gravely depressed each time
something reminds her of the tragedy some 15 years later. (I'm now
understanding that she [people] are VERY different from me and I needed to
allow her to mourn without always telling her to keep her chin up.)
Well, our latest issue involved her depression about this, and I again
encouraged her to move on instead of just being there as I should have. She was
so depressed and down on life in general that for three weeks she stopped
wanting to kiss me, hug me, or even tell me she loved me--it just stopped.
There was a great distance between us, like we were dead to one another. She
totally shut off the giving of affection. This had never been a problem before,
so I thought something seriously wrong. When we finally got together and were
able to talk about the deadness between us, I told her that in a relationship
she can't just stop giving to the relationship anytime she gets depressed. I
said that I couldn't be in a relationship where her state of depression
determines whether or not she makes an effort to SHOW/COMMUNICATE love. She
said that when she gets depressed, that she CAN'T give to the relationship as
if it were some sort of physical limitation. My thinking is that giving signs
of affection is a CHOICE and she could surely do so even in the midst of
depression. You know, just by the little things couples do to show love,
nothing spectacular expected. A short phone call or a quick e-mail just to say,
"everything is all right with us, and I love you." (You're thinking
I'm not secure because I want affirmations. This is partly true, but because of
my dealing with her emotional instability.)
1. Do you agree that couples should always be giving affirmations/affection
in a relationship or that my expectations are unrealistic? Well, this
discussion turned into (in her view) me trying to always tell her how to be
since I'm often encouraging her to be positive. We had a huge blow up and she
stopped communicating--wouldn't even talk to me--for four days. I would call
her and tell her that I was dying inside due to the way we ended it (I thought
we broke up) and she would just say she needed space and she wouldn't give me a
clue when I asked what had happened. She shut down communication and every time
I asked for a response she'd reply in a mean and hurtful voice that she'd talk
about it when she was ready.
2. Is it ever Okay to shut down communication like this? Even after we got
back together, she said that she was is the right and that she got mean with me
because I wouldn't let it go. I kept asking what had happened, what went wrong?
I told her I was dying inside and I just wanted peace. Was she in the right to
behave as she did?
During the first of those four days after the initial blow up, we were
keeping plans with my friends to watch a movie that we had bought advance
tickets to. (At some point after the tickets were bought, but before the big
fight, she invited two guy friends [one married, one in a relationship] from
work and I was okay with this.) I met her in a long line at the movies; a bunch
of my friends were there and we all ended up in line together. I asked if we
could go off and talk before the movie since it wouldn't start for about 1/2
hour and I was still in a great deal of pain. She wouldn't talk. She later went
off to her car for a sweater and I intercepted here there to try to talk. This
angered her. She said that she didn't want to talk that I should just try to
have a good time at the movies. (Yeah! Like that was going to happen when we
were like this.) We didn't talk much at her car before we went into the theater
where she and I and the rest of my friends all sat in a row together. She was
beside me, still angry. She got up to get concessions and when she came back in
her two guy friends were with her and, since there wasn't room in our row, they
sat, her included, directly behind me. She didn't say a word to me. Nothing
like, "Hey, M. There no room up there for my friends so can we move back
here?" I thought this the polite thing since she initially sat WITH ME.
When she did that to me it really hurt. Especially because she did it with two
guys and right in front of all my friends.
3. Was it wrong of her to do what she did even if her friends were two girls
instead of two guys? (Two guys just made it more hurtful.) Was it at least rude
and inconsiderate, if not wrong?
Although we're now together, she still insists in reflection on this that it
wasn't wrong of her, that we were fighting. Mind you, I wasn't fighting with
her, just trying to get her to talk. What made it all worse was that she
immediately showed me and everyone what a wonderful time she was now having
that she was with her friends. Finally, I turned around after about 5 minutes
of being ignored and began talking with her two friends in an attempt to make
light of the situation. After I talked a few moments, she finally made the
offer to invite me back. I went, but the damage was done and in my view, her
later invitation didn't make everything all right. Shortly later the previews
started. She would laugh about them and turn over to face them and laugh with
them as though they were one big happy crew. She didn't really turn to me to
talk to me until some time later. At one point, she saw a preview she really
liked and turned over to her friends again, and said something like "Yeah!
We're BOTH Christians who believe in God. She's also somewhat superstitious.
She once said to me that bad things have happened to her and to her family on
the 29th day of the month so I would have to get married either before or after
she was 29. This was ridiculous to me. I said it showed a lack of faith in
God's sovereign control. Fate certainly wouldn't hand us bad marriage just
because she married at age 29. I don't believe fate and God can coexist.
4. What do you think about her superstition? How should I have handled this?
Do you buy into my logic about this being a faith issue?
Recently I talked about expecting her to put more energy into the
relationship. I said that she needed to give. She does not contest that I'm the
giver in this relationship. She has already said that I love her too much and
that sometimes I smother her with love. (I'm very loving and I don't feel you
can give too much love.) I asked her what she gave to me besides her love and
she was speechless. She later agreed that her love was her sole contribution.
She said it was unfair, that I give with an expectation of getting something in
return and that that's not love. That I should give and expect nothing so that
I'm not let down. I told her that she was right about me expecting to get
something back. I don't give with the expectation of getting back tit-for-tat,
just a little something. I don't feel it's wrong to expect the other person to
give to the relationship.
5. Do you think it's fair to expect to get something back out of a
relationship? My thinking is that love is a VERB--it leads to actions. If a
person loves the other, then it produces actions. Do you disagree? Do you agree
with her saying she gives me her love and that I shouldn't expect something
more, by the way of actions, back?
Okay, so you can see that I've been talking to her about her making the
effort to put energy into our relationship. One of her biggest excuses is that
she's a mom (she has a child in elementary school). She makes being a mom her
only priority. I agree that she needs to make every sacrifice for her child,
but I don't think she should neglect me because of it. Well, anyway, we had a
very recent discussion while we were driving somewhere about a marriage
situation. I have always said I'd prefer her to be a stay-home mom (I wouldn't
be opposed to her working if that's what she wanted). But this summer she and
her child go to the beach EVERY OTHER WEEK, for the whole week. To me,
especially after talking about her need to give to the relationship this seems
selfish. If she was the most giving person in the world to me, I'd probably say
okay, but then again, I don't imagine a giving person would make such a
request. I always saw the traditional marriage where the woman stays home as
one of balance. Where she takes up more (not all) of the household chores and
child rearing and I earn our living. Granted, I do expect for her to keep the
house in order, but not to be a house slave who never goes out. I want her to
be happy, always have.
6. To tell the truth, her being at the beach EVERY OTHER WEEK seems
shockingly inconsiderate and self-centered. What do you think? Am I wrong to
think this inappropriate? This beach issue is our most recent one and it has me
rethinking my whole commitment to our relationship. It's very upsetting that
this seems acceptable to her. Maybe, I'm in the wrong, who knows.
This one's a whammy! Here's where I think you may disagree with me. This is
our oldest issue and one of the most important to me. At least a year prior to
our relationship starting, she broke up with a guy she had intimately dated for
almost 4 years. Shortly into our new relationship, I found out that she was
still friends with the guy and that on occasion they'd visit or just talk on
the phone. I was adamant that she should sever the friendship, that it was
hurtful to me knowing that she was in contact with someone she was desperately
in love with.
7. Do you agree that couples should NOT remain friends with exes once they
start a serious relationship with someone else? (I think it's a respect issue.
Her ex shouldn't be anywhere near as important to her as I am, and so my asking
her to let go of the past relationship shouldn't even be that big of a
sacrifice.) One step further: I also believe when you're in a relationship, out
of respect for the partner, you shouldn't do things alone (especially in
private--i.e. not out in public) with preexisting friends of the opposite sex.
I have no problem with any group event including such friends (i.e. You, the
friend, and at least one other person). Do you agree with this?
I don't know if after reading all of that you still think I'm vain to think
that I'm in the right, and that she's wrong. That's definitely how I feel. I
don't respect all her views, but I am madly in love with her and am willing to
work at a good relationship as long as she gives effort too. I would GREATLY
appreciate your advice in this and your opinion about the cases I've given. And
be candid and blunt even if you feel I'm wrong. Hopelessly in Love --
You know, I could sit here and tell you systematically
where I do and don't think you're out of line. But for me to sit here and
referee for you would be beside the point.
Well, okay, I can't resist. I'll run through them
briefly. But stay with me through the disclaimer, okay?
1. Sure, constant affirmations might be delightful.
But you have got to cut her some slack for this depression, at least the
anniversary stuff. To be fair, I don't know what she's like the rest of the
year, but yo M., her father was murdered. This is not "chin
up!" material. If she's really goes into deep funk about this at that
time, that actually sounds like pretty good grief management to me (as opposed
to living year-round in the grim past). Yeesh, has she had any counseling about
this? You might want to sit in at some point, or at least to check out some
resources on partners with depression. 'Cause M, it's my impression that the
"can't show love right now" thing is part -- practically by
definition -- of depression. Look into it: you may find that this stuff really
may not be about you.
2. It was not effective for her to shut down
communication, but it is also not effective for the shut-ee to poke and prod
and say "whatwhatwhatwhatwhatcomeontelltelltelltell!" Other than
that, this not a "who's right?" question.
3. Ugh. Act your age, not your movie price (well, in
NYC, it's $9). Both of you. Also see #2 why the trying-to-get-her-to-talk thing
4. That is a question for your clergyperson. One to be
explored with curiosity and interest, I hope; not to be answered
5. Yes. Actions are, in a sense, all we got. (Unless
all you got are their negative image: excuses.)
6. Every other week, all week: sure, that's a long
time. But I don't see why (1) you can't join her on weekends, or (2) what this
really has to do with her generally being a stay-at-home Mom (Marge went to
Rancho Relaxo, and Homer dealt). You're not married yet, anyway.
7. She is perfectly entitled to the occasional phone
call (not phone sex) and occasional visit (not conjugal); you are
entitled (here's the "respect" part) to be spared her sharing about
him. "Separate," not "sever" -- way out of line, M -- is
the key word here. Also out of line: the "in public" with friend-guys
Disclaimer: M, what do you love about this gal?
What's the fun part? I mean, besides being right all the time? That's why I
tried (but failed) to resist the yes/no-his/hers-didnot/didtoo element of your
letter. It's beyond that, M. Sure, "love" is a verb, but when it's a
noun, I heartily recommend that it come with the adjective
"unconditional." (Especially when the noun "marriage" is
floating around here too.) Which does not mean that you never fight, have
gargantuan issues, or get petty or cranky. But it does mean that the fights and
the issues and the pettitudes are part of the relationship, not threats to it.
Is that what you have here, my friend? Could it ever be? You tell me (or ask a
counselor). And if not, please don't be afraid to be
right about that.
PREVIOUS LETTER ||
NEXT LETTER >