Papi, will I ever trust again?
HUGS to you and Papi. Never feel bad for doing good. You are not disposable; We are all here for a purpose. You were good to this person. Now, continue to be good to yourself.
Hey JP! I think your assertions about the self-serving nature of "radical soft" types is right on the nose. But as it relates to this particular letter...I think there might be alternate explanations for what's going on that this letter writer isn't considering!
The writer takes it as a given that the ex-boyfriend has intentionally deceived her, but considering what actually transpired between them, I think that if you instead work from the opposite premise—that the ex has been truthful—his behavior is actually pretty easily explainable. He claims to have broken up with her due to "declining mental health." The writer doesn't expound on what type of mental health issues are potentially at play, or if they'd seen signs of this during the relationship, which limits our perspective as readers, but even so: when you're very depressed, or in some other type of mental health spiral, it can be exceptionally hard to reach out to friends and hold space for them. In my own life, I have pushed friends away just when I needed and wanted them most, simply because I felt like shit and was convinced that I was unlovable and unworthy of them. It's entirely possible that the ex truly meant it when he said he wanted to remain friends, but is in too dark of a place to be able to reach out to the writer. This would also explain why he "only talks about stress or work" when the letter writer reaches out: he could be so depressed that he can only really think about his own stress, or in such a bad headspace that he's trying to keep things on the surface to prevent the writer from seeing the depths of his distress. Mental health issues being the genuine cause of his behavior doesn't mean he's totally off the hook for being a bad friend to the writer, but it would change the balance of the situation significantly.
What honestly worries me, regardless of whether mental health issues are to blame for the ex's behavior, is that the writer has assumed one particular interpretation of the events to be true, even though other sensible possibilities exist—and, as it happens, the interpretation is an emotionally damaging one. It seems that the events have tapped into some pre-existing fear of abandonment or other belief that the writer has about themselves about their desirability as a friend and partner, which, in my experience, can make it really hard to see the forest for the trees because it's just so painful. If I were the writer, I would probably point out to the ex that he never reaches out and isn't fully present when reached out to, and explain to him that it makes the writer feel bad. His reaction will provide the writer with insight on how to proceed: if he apologizes and then begins to make more effort, great, but if he says he's going to do better and then doesn't make any changes, they'll know that he was in fact trying to keep them at a distance (or is just not in a place right now to maintain any real friendships) and can try to make peace with that.
Came here to comment about how brilliant "therapy-flavored everything" is, and how well that sums up the phenomenon that I have also noticed. Cheers to another great letter and response!
I saw the headline and just had to subscribe to your and comment. You see, I think I'm living through AD's experience right now.
I've been with a wonderful man for a year now. We've had a very rocky start in 2021, and a lot of very tough moments related to my supposed infidelity and his inability to believe I was credibly committed to him. He always accused me of really being into someone else while we were friends. So we had issues of trust for a long time.
But by late summer and fall of 2022, we became really close. I explained I was committed to him, deleted Grindr from my phone to avoid temptations. That was a great step for me. That helped me really focus on him. We just returned from a lovely trip abroad, where I introduced him to my closest friends. We laughed a lot during the trip and supported me during some stressful times. Usually he's very much against PDA, but kissed me in public in front of a big crowd during our trip. And we became even more intimate. We planned future trips. I was finally in a great place with him.
Then on New Year's Eve, only two days after getting back from our overseas trip, something began to turn. He started, once again, pointing ways in which we're not really gelling, making things up from my perspective. Maybe he was just a little drunk. When the power went out at his house a couple days ago, he decided to go to a library during the day and stay with a friend instead of with me. He's stopped contacting me to initiate conversation, returning to a pattern of me reaching out to him via text. He won't tell me when we can meet again.
We've had problems before throughout 2021, but we always came back together, mostly at my insistence. He comes from a culture of not really sharing his feelings or emotions. I'm extremely verbal--always saying I love him, but rarely heard it back from him. He might be attacking advantage of my vulnerability and gets off on how much I value him. From what I can discern, he has a habit of justing getting up and leaving his ex's without explanation. Looking back, I was almost always the one trying to keep us together.
I just don't know what our status is, whether we've broken up, and, of course, why. I haven't been able to sleep or think of anything else for days. Can't focus on work because I'm so in my head, sketching out what I want to say.
The problem is that this is just my perspective, and I don't know what he's thinking. Rather than running to him for reassurance like I have in the past, I've given him lots of space. Although it's only been about 4 days, I think what I thought what was a wonderful relationship for the long-term might be over for the reasons you wrote to AD. It's just so damn sudden!
This is particularly sad for me because this was only my second relationship. My first lasted for 11 years, which was full of trauma and emotional abuse.
Today I'll reach out once more and ask to chat. He'll probably say, once again, he just wants to be friends. It's just so hard when you don't know what the other person wants and won't tell you. I think I can only take your advice and realize that this has also not been a healthy relationship for me. If he wants it over, I'll have to move on.
I just needed to write this because AD's experience is much like mine in real-time.
Sleepless in San Francisco
I think shame is an element that we often forget motivates a lot of behaviors. If I care about somebody, I can’t just turn that off because they aren’t reciprocating effort. I continue to care and remember that we are all hurt in our own ways. People treat others poorly for a lot of reasons — I’d argue that shame is at the root of many of those reasons. So in the case of this writer, I think the ex is experiencing a lot of shame, whether consciously or unconsciously, about the way he treated the writer, so in his mind it’s better to keep distance to avoid feeling that shame more acutely. So while it feels very personal to be treated poorly, it likely has nothing to do with you. If you want to keep caring about someone, you can do that while letting them go. Caring about them can mean knowing that reaching out will induce shame, and so you might decide not to. Exercise the caring part rather than the hurt part. How lovely to be someone who can care and love and be otherwise vulnerable. Like Papi says, you might get hurt again. I hope that this experience is a lesson learned in how to better protect your heart, not close it.