Monday, January 6, 2014

Real Talk (semi-wedding related. but real.)

Firstly, I want you to know that no matter what you write or post about; weddings, style, life, snarky pointed mocking retorts, I (and a whole slew of other fantastic powerful ladies) will continue to read with gusto. [Editor's Note: YOU GUYS ARE GONNA MAKE ME CRY]

Secondly, I am having a major life crisis that neither therapy or friends can advise me with complete raw honestly, and although I haven't written a "Dear ESB" about it, I have read other letters with somewhat similar root situations and comments with valuable information which have helped me along my way. These letters from desperate women are possibly their last stop before making a major life-altering change, and there's something about the community you've built here which fosters that. I would like to think I would never let myself get to that place, however, at this juncture I am at my breaking point. 

I’m engaged to, in an ideal world my ideal mate, the guy who if you told me I'd be with forever when I was younger I would have shit myself.. but he's not who I thought I was getting. The person I thought he was when we met is not the person I am with now, and possibly I am not who he thought I was too. 

We had a quick moving-in and a quick engagement, but we've now been engaged for about a year, and due to extenuating circumstances I haven't started planning the wedding. Friends all around are getting married and dating and in love with their partners, and I am just meh for myriad reasons. Everything is just.. almost right in theory, but just not quite right. The idea of us together is better than what we actually are.

I have been in several significant relationships, he has been in few. I am a bit younger, he is approaching 40 and very ... well very much an "old habits die hard, you won't teach me any new tricks, I'm a peter-pan kind of stubborn person" man-child. 

We are both in creative professions and work odd hours which leaves little time and regularity for dates, regular plans, etc. We both maintained that we had never been in love before being together. We were friends for years before becoming romantically involved. We were both heavy drinkers when we met years ago, he has since cleaned up completely (no alcohol/smoking/drugs) and I still imbibe occasionally, but his sobriety has been a crutch which allows him to willingly avoid social and community engagement with myself and friends (not going out on New Year’s, leaving weddings early, avoiding dinner parties). 

We currently live in Chicago, where he has no friends or community, and I have old history. He has made no effort to meet people, find his own community, etc. citing that we are only here temporarily so why should he bother. 

When we started having some problems we went to therapy together (both he and I have been seeing therapists separately prior), but after a few months, our therapist doubled his rates, and although I thought we were making progress, we kind of haven't put in the effort to find a new one. 

And here's the big thing that I an't get over: A few months ago a stone fell out of my engagement ring. It's a family ring, fairly old, so not totally unexpected. As it's kind of an awkward every day ring anyway, we had talked about getting me something smaller for every day wear..  He took it in for repairs, and I forgot about it. 

One night a few days later (three days before our anniversary of our first date), I was planning to meet some newly-married friends for dinner at the restaurant where I work (my partner had never been to this restaurant in the 12+ months I had been working there despite my asking).. I asked if he would join us. He said no. He then walked into the other room, came out with a box in his hand, and said "if you're going out, you might as well wear this." All casual like.... 

It was a gorgeous ring, similar in style to mine but smaller, more appropriate for every day. It was exactly what I wanted. I asked "where did you find this!?" he said "I had my eye on it for weeks and finally got it at the place I took the other ring for repairs!" 

We tried it on but it was too small (which I thought was strange because he knows my ring size and if he had been planning on it for weeks then why not get it resized, right?) so I asked if I could wear it around my neck tonight so I could have it on, and then we would take it to get sized tomorrow.. 

His response was... well basically he was astounded that I was still planning to meet the friends, thinking instead that I would just stay home with him. I was astounded that he wouldn't want to go celebrate with friends who were just married. The argument escalated, and it came out that he had just found the ring by accident the day before (which is why he hadn't sized it properly yet) and that he was planning on giving it to me for our anniversary days later, I was baffled why he would give it to me in such a casual way, feeling almost like he just didn't feel like I was giving him enough attention by wanting to go out that night so he gave me the ring early to keep me home. Selfishly. 

I never went out with the friends that night. 

I wore the ring until mine was repaired and then I took it off, put it back in the box, and explained to him that every time I looked at it I just thought about the bizarre and strange way he gave it to me, and that it would be really great if he could find a more loving way to give it to me so that the energy attached to it was more.. LOVING. 

I don't need anything special.. It could have been wrapped up in a Christmas present. It could just be a quiet moment in our home. It could be on a walk or in bed for all I care, just not "... you might as well wear this.." I know we were already engaged but it just seems so lazy. 

For all the other problems we have I think stem from laziness. Or at least a lack of effort on his part to build a life with me that is engaging, inspiring, and full. I don't need to be perfect like one of those couples who have engagement portraits done or blog about the bread they just made, but I live a passionate life and I feel like I've lost some of that passion since we have been together. My friends have noticed it, my family has. The ring is symptomatic of a larger problem, and it just happened to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. 

I believe on some level that I love this man, I love the potential he has within him that I truly believe he is unwilling to tap into because of his depression, anxiety, sobriety, or laziness. We all have problems and I suffer from some of the same ills. I am not martyring myself, nor am I blaming him for everything. I'm just wondering how much of this is me being crazypants and how much of this is something I am unwilling to be OK with for the rest of my life. I don't feel like I am the best version of myself when I am around him. 

Maybe that's my answer. 

Anyway, I don't know if you will even publish this and/or if you even are still going in this direction on the blog or whatever blah blah blah.. I just.. I don't know. I think I just wanted to write this all down to see if it made more sense in black and white. 

It doesn't, BTW. 

so yeah. sorrryyyyyyy


The ring part, whatever. You can’t throw it back at him and demand that he give it to you LOVINGLY. That’ll never work.

The guy part? Drop him right this very sec.

Collage / GIF by Ernesto Artillo


  1. Yeah, this guy sounds awful, and you sound miserable. It sounds like you've had to make a lot of excuses for him. No more! Break up with him, gather your friends around you, and enjoy being in Chicago, one of the most awesome cities ever, without him.

  2. OP, I think it would be smart to re-read your letter to yourself again. Can you see all the totally reasonable complaints? Can you see all the bitterness and resentment you've woven through the sentences?

    You deserve better and so does he. Yes, every relationship has its struggles, but those struggles should not include feeling unloved, under valued, disrespected, not cared for...

    That's all I read in your words OP. He doesn't value you. Go find someone who will. Good luck.

  3. It sounds like you already know what you want to do, and if you're looking for permission or reassurance: do it, lady! break it off and go be happy. you don't deserve to feel 'meh' in your relationship for the rest of your life.

  4. The thing is, this isn't an ideal world, it's this world, and ideals hardly ever work. He may be what you thought you wanted when you were 14 or 14 or 24, but you're not who you were then, and I think you know you're not happy.

    Forget the ring, it isn't about the ring, except the ring as a symptom of the larger problem, which is that this relationship doesn't seem to be what you want - and it doesn't have to be. You don't have to stay because you're engaged or because this is what you thought you wanted or even because you care about him.

    Good luck, lady.

  5. 1. Don't get married to this guy.
    2. After you get away from him spend some time seriously evaluating your own drinking and other habits. There's a lot of resentment of his sobriety in your words and that makes me wonder if you know you have issues that need to be dealt with.
    3. Get out there and live that engaging, inspiring, full life and see who you meet in the process.

    1. I actually disagree, what I read was that the OP curtailed her drinking, the guy quit... But he never re-engaged in anything in a happy way after that. No new interests, no interest in attending dinner parties and not drinking, no interest in seeing friends or making friends... I could be off, but I heard an issue in his recovery (sure, he's sober, but he's isolated himself.. sober in a vacuum isn't so sustainable..)

      just what I thought after reading the post.

  6. Have you seen that episode of The (American) Office where Michael is dating Jan, and he takes the women of the office out to the mall and he says he can't decide whether or not to break up with her? The women tell him to write a pro/con list and he lists off the negative side like "She's insecure, she wears too much makeup, I'm unhappy when I'm with her-" and Pam stops him and says "That's the answer right there."

    That was me when I got to this part of your letter: "I don't feel like I am the best version of myself when I am around him." Done. Break it off. That is your answer. Go get yourself back, girl. You can do it.

    1. This. That line about being the best version of yourself is the clincher...
      Sorry :(

  7. A coworker of mine once told me that shortly before her wedding she had massive cold feet and confessed to her parents and friends that she really didn't think she could marry her fiance. They all gave her the stock lines of "it's just cold feet," "nothing is perfect," "you expect too much from him." So she got married. And shortly after she went through an incredibly painful divorce that took her years to recover from emotionally and financially, not to mention rebuilding her self esteem. She has since reminded several of our mutual friends in unsatisfying relationships that it's easier to cancel a wedding than a marriage and that there is no point in any wedding planning process that it can't be called off. It might not be pretty, and it might be expensive, but you can ALWAYS call off an engagement. Call this one off.

    1. Came to say exactly this. Better to call it off now, or at least take a break. Maybe after some time apart you will both find that passion again, or maybe not. Either way continuing on and hoping things will magically change isn't going to work in the long run. Good luck! The ESB community has your back :)

  8. darling girl,
    i've been there... you know it in the excuses and justifications that you thread through your letter... it may or it may not help... but i met this guy... i thought he was amazing. i thought he was my soul mate. i thought we had our lives together. he was so amazing at the beginning... we were engaged within 2 months. he was still amazing. we moved away to another town and i thought he was amazing. then it began, i was isolated, he made me feel guilty for visiting my family, going out with friends, travelling when he didn't want to...

    blah blah blah

    it was the hardest thing i could do. but i walked away. i took a year to find myself again (and deal with his emotional outbreak and venom when i did)

    it was the best thing i'd ever done. i look back now and think of how many time's i'd justified his actions. how many times i had said, "he's tired from work", "he couldn't get time off".... i justified him staying home to drink instead of coming to my exhibition opening night... but i did and i still loved him.

    fast forward two years. i had an amazing year (which was sometimes hard, lets not lie... but it got easier), i got back to my art and my writing and my friends and made goals and made plans and enjoyed being me...

    please think about what you want... if "[you] don't feel like [you are] the best version of [yourself] when [you are] around him." then concentrate on being your best self. you deserve it so much. don't be the next best version of you because of history.... please

    this letter makes me so very sad for where i was, and i apologise if it is too much (there may have been a glass of wine involved...) but goodness you sound like a rad lady, and a lady who knows what you want... but it's early days. step by step. breathe and be productive.

    so many virtual hugs and best wishes :) let us know how it goes? xxx

  9. He sounds depressed, and you sound resentful and unhappy. Has he done individual therapy? He probably has some emotional things to work out with regard to his sobriety.

    In any case, he's not currently the partner you want. You may not be the partner he wants, especially as you seem very social and he is antisocial.

    I think you already have your answer.

  10. "I love the potential he has within him."
    Whenever my friends talk about how much potential someone has, or that they wish just one small thing would change, I stop them and say 'what if NOTHING changed? What if the rest of your life was exactly as it is right now. Would you be happy?'

    I think the answer for you is a very clear no, which while difficult to deal with, will save you years of second guessing and time wasting. Giant hugs.

    1. A guy once said to me, "I have a lot of respect for the person you are, I just have more respect for the person you could be." And there's a reason I remember that, ten years later. When you love someone for who they could be, you're not loving them, you're loving what you want them to be. xoxo

    2. Such a great way to shift the perspective!

    3. Shiri, what you wrote (You're not loving them, you're loving what you want them to be.) is one I'm copying down right now. I have a friend going through a similar experience and at some point she is going to need to hear that. Well said!

  11. "I don't feel like I am the best version of myself when I am around him." Oh... no.

    Oh, lady. I am so sorry you're going through this.

    Your letter sounds like there's a big disconnect between who you want this person to be, who you think he's *capable* of being, and who he proves himself to be, again and again, with his actions.

    For what it's worth, it's possible to be with an introverted, socially anxious partner and still be social and feel respected. This doesn't sound like this. This sounds like he's been selfish and doesn't respect your needs and desires, which are just as valid as his.

    1. I agree with Anon here completely and I'm sorry you're going through this. I'm sorry to say it just doesn't sound worth fighting for to me. It wasn't a waste of time- it just is what it is: a relationship that was fulfilling in many ways and worked for a while but has come to its natural end.

      When you're with your soul-mate, you will not always agree, but you will "get" each other deeply. It really doesn't sound like you two get each other at all, and you're trying to force it because you feel obligated to give it your best effort. Well, A for effort, but this isn't meant to be.

      Enormous hugs to you.

    2. Just re-read the letter. This made me so sad:

      "I don't need anything special.."
      "I don't need to be perfect like one of those couples who have engagement portraits done... but I live a passionate life and I feel like I've lost some of that passion since we have been together."

      It sounds like you've internalized the idea of not wanting to seem high maintenance to the point that being happy and feeling special about your engagement with your partner seems like too much to ask. Red flag. Red flag.

      You are not being unreasonable. You are not being high maintenance, even if you DID want those things.

      Please don't settle - you obviously deserve real happiness, and this ain't it.

    3. This! A lot of times women are taught to apologize for wanting "girly" things like romance or even just some damn attention and accommodation now and then. You're not high maintenance for wanting him to spend time picking out a ring for you and thinking about the way to give it to you. It's just something you might need out of a romantic relationship and that is 100% OK. Most people, male or female, need that romance and passion. Even the low key ones. Go find that.

  12. Time to part ways with this guy.

  13. My god, this is such a picture of my relationship it's scary. The Chicago native with a depressed transplant boyfriend who is a hermit and just isn't living up to what he could be. I don't have any advice since I'm in a similar boat and it seems like you already know what you want.
    One thing someone told me is to make sure you are very clear on what you want and if they are unwilling or unable to give it to you then move on. It sounds selfish but it's not. It's not settling.
    Now I just need to take the advice myself.

  14. you may love him, he may love you, but you guys aren't right for each other. it's clear that you're not happy. marry someone who makes you happy, and don't settle for less.

  15. I don't get the whole new ring to replace the old ring then giving the new ring back to make him re-give it to you in a more loving way thing, because it just sounds like a LOT of noise surrounding a ring. And I suspect it is a bit of picking a fight because you have excess energy built up from the real issues.

    The important thing - I feel like you know exactly what he is and what he isn't and no amount of wishing that he'd be more/different is going to change him. It's on you to decide what you can and cannot deal with. It sounds pretty much over... you just need the courage to walk away :( Ugh, my stomach hurts thinking about it. Best wishes.

  16. Gosh so many red flags! Get out of there!

    I agree with everything everyone been saying higher up, about how he makes you miserable, and how you have internalized a lot things. And how he won,t change unless he wants too, no mater how much potential you see in him.

    I think whats scares me is how emotionally manipulative his coming off has. How he seems to try to isolate you especially with the whole ring thing, giving it to you and hoping you'd stay around that night. How he refuses to go to social events, etc. To me that's a big red flag on top of everything else.

  17. Run away before you have children and end up stuck! I see so many parallels to my life here, but I was too young and stubborn/stupid to heed the signs. Now we have a young child and, while I could leave, I'm here trying to fix things because 'almost right' seems too good to give up on in the face of such complications.


    I married this guy, or a similar, younger version of him. Our marriage lasted two and a half years. It was miserable, lonely, exhausting. I wish someone had told me that I could find something that made me totally and completely happy instead of sort of kind of happy. You can and will find someone who lights up your world. This guy isn't it.

  19. I actually don't think this guy sounds awful. What does sound awful is you two together. He sounds like my ideal guy. Introverted and no emo shit. You need more extroversion and emo shit. Its ok. Go find what you need.

  20. It's so hard to have doubts while your heart is piping up "but I love him...."

    I was in your shoes and we parted ways. I still love him -- after two years of distance and an eventual re-friending -- but I don't have to live with him, nor he with me.

    It was brave of you to write. Best of luck.

  21. my exboyfriend similarly emotionally manipulated me. it's strange since he wasn't actually that antisocial - he had lots of friends, but i didn't like them. and when i wanted to see my friends, he would manipulate me into spending time with him instead. there were other problems too. i kept thinking "relationships are work" and trying to stick with it, but when i finally broke up with him i felt so incredibly free to become "the best version of myself" (well, more like better). i found a wonderful wonderful man who i'm marrying this year. know that there is a world outside of your life with him where you can thrive.

  22. I married this guy, and toughed it out for 10 years. I thought maybe that was just what love was like. But it's not. It's so much better than that, and if you settle for this you will be miserable. He will be miserable. It's not fair to either of you.


  24. OP here,

    Thank you all so much for your thoughtful and sometimes painfully bittersweet feedback. I think a lot of you are right, BUT I also think the things missing from this letter were my own vulnerabilities and failures in this situation. It's easy to blame, not easy to own up to your own bad behavior. I have taken a lot out on him. I have been struggling with some pretty intense depression for most of my life (more in the past two years than ever) and he has been the person who cooks me breakfast and makes me coffee when I can't get out of bed. He has held me on the floor when I can't stop crying. He has but up with the lions share of crazybitchface, mostly calmly and patiently.
    More times than I can count.
    He earnestly tries to be a better man and has learned SOME new tricks despite being a creature of habit (do the dishes when you dirty them, pick up the bathmat after use, put your toothbrush back in the mirror, you know, adult things that he never had to do before living with me...) He is kind and a good man, and I think I painted him as some sort of antisocial monster.

    (Re: his sobriety, not an as much of an issue other than how if effects his desire to socialize and his interest in certain types of outings.)

    I am not convinced I should leave him, but I'm not convinced I should stay either. Our life right now is about to drastically change when we move in July, and I am holding out hope at least through the summer.

    I know love is supposed to be this big overwhelming thing that you just "get" one day, but what if this is it for me? What if I'm too clouded by a bunch of arbitrary bs that I can't see him for who he really is?

    Conversely, what if I am so blinded by the idea of "us" working the way I believe we are supposed to that I fail to recognize that "us" is destined for misery.. like all the time?
    Because we are pretty much miserable. Almost all the time.

    Nothing to be done.

    Now, rereading this all I feel like I am making excuses.
    WHAT THE FUCK am I going to do?

    p.s. esb picked the most perfect collage ever.

    1. Sorry to say, but there are no more "what ifs" when you meet the right one for you.

    2. Do you want to live the rest of your life asking yourself these questions? That kind of uncertainty is no way to live.

      It's hard when you're in it, but you need to listen to that teeny tiny voice or instinct inside you that knows what the truth is.

      Also, it's okay to acknowledge that he has been there for you when you needed him. That doesn't mean you have to be with him forever. My ex-boyfriend supported me tremendously through a health crisis, and I'll always be grateful for that. He was great in those moments, but that doesn't mean he was the right one to marry. I had a lot of what if questions when I ended things with him, but somewhere inside me I knew that I had to. And now, on the other side of all of that, I am so thankful that I did.

    3. "Conversely, what if I am so blinded by the idea of "us" working the way I believe we are supposed to that I fail to recognize that "us" is destined for misery.. like all the time?
      Because we are pretty much miserable. Almost all the time.

      This, my friend. I'm so sorry. I have been exactly where you are. But eventually my depression and misery with him were louder than the, "But we've been together for so long and this is just what life is" voice. Because this is not just what life is.

      It is NOT TRUE that "there are no more what ifs when you find the right one." FALSE

      There are always what ifs for some of us. One of the best and easiest tricks my therapist gave me when I was just dating my husband and was worried about all the stuff that wasn't "right" with us, was to ask myself a question, "Do I still like him more than I dislike him?" It sounds weird, but it forced me to look at the positives with him. I had to see the good if I was going to look at the bad. And because the good did and still very much does outweigh the bad, it has helped me tremendously on seeing things clearly.

      You aren't happy. In trying to justify your relationship and defend your fiance, you can't even keep up the facade. One of the clues I wish I'd picked up on earlier in my own situation, was people who are in the right relationship, usually don't go on the internet looking for articles on how to end their long term relationships. You're here asking strangers to tell you something you already know. Which is totally fine, we all need that sometimes. But you asked, so you should listen to what we've said and overwhelmingly, we've said it sounds like you should leave. So, take that for what its worth.

    4. I don't agree that "there are no more what ifs when you fine the right one." Some people will always have some uncertainty in the back of their minds, and I think that's perfectly fine. However, I do believe that there should be enough happiness in your relationship to outweigh the feelings of doubt, and it seems obvious that this is not the case in your relationship. And according to the author of a UCLA study, "Newlywed wives who had doubts about getting married before their wedding were two-and-a-half times more likely to divorce four years later than wives without these doubts. Among couples still married after four years, husbands and wives with doubts were significantly less satisfied with their marriage than those without doubts."

      I totally agree with anon 5:52 that people who are in the right relationship don't need to spend this much time questioning and defending it. You may not want to, and it will be hard, but if you were my friend or sister, I would tell you to end it. You should be happy and feel like the best version of yourself with the person you marry. If you don't, then you know what you should do.

    5. Lovely OP, other men will hold you and make you coffee. Cheers to this one for doing so, but you don't have to reward him by marrying him.

      Every single response to your question here is No. Not one reader voted Yes. I think you know what is right...

      ...and btw, valid personal emotional needs are not "arbitrary bs."

      P.S. best esb post / thread ever??

  25. As somebody else has said, this makes my stomach hurt. You're in a really difficult position but I'd agree with everyone here that whilst nothing is perfect, it shouldn't make you miserable. Like a lot of the others here I've been in a similar situation and broke up with someone who, whilst a lovely person, was not the person I wanted to spend my life with. He had helped me through an anxiety disorder and was always supportive. I hated hurting him but now, a couple of years on, he's with someone else and I'm back to the happy version of myself. If you leave you'll have a tough time for a while but you will come out the other side. If you stay and nothing changes you might feel as you do now for the rest of your life. It sounds like you have lots of people to support you there, and we're all rooting for you here.

  26. Run little rabbit. You're not happy, and you deserve to be.

  27. In college, my roommates and I had a revelation about the word "potential" in reference to the men we were dating. Potential=not quite. Potential=inertia. There is a big difference between "He is striving to be the best boyfriend/son/scuba diver ever" and "He is a carbon-based life form and therefore could technically achieve other things." Potential is a red flag.

    1. "He is a carbon-based life form and therefore could technically achieve other things." - that is a brilliant, brilliant line, and I am totally writing that down. Thanks for that!

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  29. Seems like you accomplished what you set out to do- write it all down in black and white and have it make some sense. It does. Rarely does a relationship end with a clean-cut feeling of being WRONG. There are always things you absolutely love about that person, but if those aren't enough to fulfill you, then they are just strings holding you in the wrong place. My husband brings me coffee in bed every morning, is learning what clean means to me, and waters my house plants, but those are daily comforts, not why we are married. We are married because life is better this way. It's not always easy, but it is better. Since we began dating, he would always tell me, "You make me better."

    "I don't feel like I'm the best version of myself when I'm around him."

    What on earth would change that?