I am so confused

I am so confused

QUESTION:

your avatar   Mariealexa (23 year old woman)

I just broke up with a man who I had been seeing for three years, we had been unofficially living together for a year and a half and living together for a year and a half. I don't understand why we broke up at all. It makes no sense to me. He was caring, devoted, kind, and respected me. It's like he's suddenly developed an evil twin. One day he came home from work and sat down with me and said, "I don't love you anymore, I am not happy, and I want you to move out". Out of the blue. I must say that we had some discussions on things that we needed to work on prior to this, but it was very minor. He felt that I was disorganized and that he spent too much time cleaning house, which was a valid claim and I acknowledged it and took steps to correct the problem. I felt that he spent too much time working and that he was too withdrawn and didn't make his personal life enough of a priority, and he responded by making more time to spend with me. One of the reasons that I was having difficulty living up to his standards was that I had pretty much just come out of a very rough time. I had accidentally become pregnant and chose to have an abortion because I was not ready to deal with having a child. I did not want to put my entire life on hold and I did not feel that either one of us was ready or mature enough to deal with the demands of being a parent. From what he told me, he accepted the situation and agreed with my decision. He agreed that we could not raise this child and I was doing the right thing for both of us. I was very depressed and blamed myself for what happened, in fact I think I still do, but I was functional on a basic level. I was able to go to work and take care of the major things, but I was guilty of letting the small stuff slide for about 6 months.

We had broken up once before, on good terms, he had left the country on business long term, so it wasn't practical for us to have a long distance relationship, but he came back early and we picked up where we had left off. So I don't think that was a factor. I just cannot understand how someone just walks in one day and says they don't care about you anymore. Less than a week ago he was saying how much he loves me! There are only three possible things I can think of that might have caused this 1) he's been lying about having feelings for me 2) he disapproved of my decision to have the abortion and lied to me about it, then decided he didn't want to be shacking up with a murderer or, 3) he's got a serious inability to make a commitment.

So we broke up. But, we still are in a lot of contact with one another for people who have broken up. He calls me daily, sometimes twice a day. He seems to go out of his way to do things for me, still buys me little gifts, kisses and holds me whenever he sees me. We still go out (though he won't call it a date). I am confused. We do still sleep together, we broke up a month and a half ago and until the day I left his house a week ago, I was still sleeping in his bed. He would sleep with his arms around me every night. I let him come to my house the other day, and we did have intercourse, but I wouldn't let him spend the night...I needed time to think. I am a borderline cynic by nature...but I really feel that he still does love me. At the very least, he has feelings for me. I am not sure how to approach this. I love him dearly and with all my heart. Because I care so much, I can't seem to make myself push him away. This is a man who said he does not love me...but actions speak much louder than words. I am not sure what to do. I think what I decide to do depends a lot on what his motivation is, and I don't have a clue. If I go on the assumption that he's still as tied up in grieving over our child as I am, and maybe he just needs time and space to sort everything out, that seems to dictate that I should just be patient and be available, but not too available. If he's just playing games with me, I think I should put my foot down and tell him to get lost. But I can't seem to be able to figure out what is going on. I know I need some sort of therapy, but I don't have health insurance and though it's something I intend to pursue, right now I just need some kind of an opinion on this. All I get from my friends is, "oh, he's a jerk and you're better off rid of him".

I think there are at least 300 questions inherent in the above letter. Primary would be, why can't men say what they feel? The next would be, what do I do with this mess?

ANSWER:

    Brenda Kofford, LMHC

Dear Mariealexa,

As I read the letter you wrote over a year ago, it seemed as though your were describing the feelings, thoughts, and actions that are commonly felt when people experience loss; such as, the loss of a relationship with another, the potential loss of a relationship with a partner, and the loss of self within a relationship.

As I listen to women speak of themselves as women, partners, and mothers, I wonder about the spoken and unspoken messages they received from their family of origin about the role of women. I ponder about who is expected to provide the various needs (emotional, environmental, financial, medical, etc.) associated with pregnancy and child rearing - is it her own family of origin, the father of the child, the community, and/or her own self? I ponder about how the religious and cultural beliefs a woman is born into shapes her values, beliefs, and principles? I question where women can find the space and time to openly speak about the conflict that arises when the different elements of their lives don't seem to blend into a congruent whole.

These questions combined with how you defined your feelings of depression, blame, and guilt and labeled yourself as a "murderer", led me to think about the story of the man who in the process of buying a suit noticed the vest was a little uneven at the bottom. "Oh, don't worry." said the tailor, "Just hold the shorter end down with your left hand and no one will ever notice."

While the man proceeded to do this, he noticed that the lapel of the jacket curled up instead of lying flat. "Oh, that's nothing," said the tailor, "Just turn your head a little so you can hold it down with your chin". The customer complied, and as he did, he noticed that the inseam of the pants was a little short and he felt that the rise was a bit too tight. "Oh, there is nothing to be concerned about". Remarked the tailor, "Just pull the inseam down with your right hand and everything will be perfect". The customer agreed and purchased the suit.

The next day, as he hobbled through the park with his chin holding down the lapel, one hand tugging at the vest, the other hand grasping the crotch of his pants, two old men stopped playing checkers to watch him stagger by. "Oh my," said the fist man, "Look at the poor crippled man". The second man reflected for a moment, then murmured, "Yes, it is sad about him being crippled, but I wonder where did he get such a nice suit?"

Within families, significant hidden losses often are associated with miscarriages, stillbirths, and abortions. This is especially so when the losses are unknown to important others, when the loss is not acknowledged, or if the loss is regarded as a nonevent. Also, how a woman is able to resolve all the issues surrounding her decision to terminate a pregnancy may be further affected by society's reactive polarization around this issue...

Further, when there is social stigma or lack of support, the equilibrium of any relationship will be challenged. This challenge is generally the outcome of each moving towards the other as a means to handle their individual feelings of loss and anxiety. Yet, eventually one of the two-some will begin to feel uncomfortable with this intense togetherness and move towards work, hobbies, sports, other people, or their own psychological domains. This movement oftentimes leaves the other with feelings of emptiness which often are resolved through sexual contact, free flowing expressions of feelings, and/or through efforts to have the other change. What is absent in this emotional pressure cooker, is each person's ability to feel their own feelings, think about those feelings, and to process those thoughts and feelings with the other in clear "I" statements. In sum, each are crippled because the suit/role they have assumed may prevent them from being definitive about who I am, what I am, and what I will do.

Brenda Kofford

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