One of the correspondents to Relate’s agony aunt caught our attention – her situation, we imagine, might be close to the distress felt by many people in a relationship. She wrote:
I met someone two years ago and within that time we have had around five dates where I was actually happy. He doesn’t communicate any feelings to me, very often does not talk to me for ages, but when we get back in touch (often I am the one who initiates this) we have a good time. I am getting tired of it but for some stupid reason I am not able to let it go. I should be with someone who cares about me and who wants to make the effort. Very often, I feel manipulated by him but I forgive him every time when he does treat me a bit better. This situation is very stressful and I feel emotionally drained. Very often, I wonder what is wrong with me?
Our agony aunt replies…
There’s nothing wrong with you. In a way, you’ve answered your own question, because you recognise that you deserve better treatment than you’re getting.
Sometimes, situations like this come down to the fact that each person just wants different things. It may be that your partner actually just wants a ‘no strings’ situation where you each come and go, whereas you seek more commitment – and end up feeling used when you don’t get it.
You don’t say what it is about him that makes you happy when you’re together. I don’t know if the good times you mention were about being out and about with other friends or sharing close intimate time together – whether that’s cosying up in front of the telly or having loads of sex that makes you feel wonderful. Perhaps it might be an idea to really think about exactly what draws you to him, because if you knew that, it might make it easier to understand whether you’re likely to get it.
When I read your message, I found myself wondering if you’ve had similar experiences with other partners. Sometimes, we’re attracted to people who remind us of early relationships as a way of trying to ‘make better’ old and less helpful experiences. In other words, we can find ourselves looking for a partner who reminds us of a time in our lives that wasn’t comfortable in the hope that we can create a different outcome.
The situation you describe is not uncommon. Lots of people get hooked on chasing that little bit of ‘positive’ they get when they’re with someone they like, even if it’s all they have to tide them over until they next get to see them. But rarely does that mean they’re happy in between – and clearly, you aren’t either.
What I will say is this: while tearing yourself away from the situation is likely to feel painful (and all the more so if you’re wondering if anyone else will come along with whom you can feel close), staying as you are is only going to make you feel worse.
Perhaps you’ve tried talking with your partner about how rejected his lack of involvement with you makes you feel. Maybe you find yourself treading carefully and not saying anything because you fear that if you take a stand, he won’t be available at all. Either way, you do need to take a stand.
Perhaps you could start by really thinking about what’s keeping you stuck. Relationship counselling is for single people too. It could help you to think about whether you simply want to stop making contact and see what happens – or let him know that he isn’t meeting your needs and you’re not going to be calling again.
You never know, if it’s just that he hasn’t realised how you feel, this might shake things up and make him more attentive – although from what you say, I doubt it. Seeing a counsellor might also help you to reflect on why you’ve chosen this relationship and help you to gain the confidence to be clear about your needs with any future partner.
I think you know the answer to your situation. However you do it, get your courage in both hands, take a good look in the mirror and tell yourself and then everyone else that you’re worth more than this.
If you would like to talk about your relationship issues in confidence with one of our counsellors give our friendly appointments team a call on 01234 356350.