“Hello! Sorry for the formatting, I’m [23F] always on mobile. I’ve posted on relationships before, but every time it’s been about a relationship that hasn’t worked out. Which brings me to this issue that I have. I always break up with people.
I wasn’t super popular for dates in highschool, and I had a bit of a glow up before college. Like, mid-2000’s teen rom-com glow up. And all of a sudden I started getting attention. I wound up picking the wrong guy who was in all ways abusive for about 4 years until I finally left him over a year ago. The problem is, since then I’ve had this lasting fear of commitment?
I’m not sure if I should call it a fear of commitment or not, but the best way to explain it is that I will really like someone and then before even 2 months has passed, I will not like them anymore. And it’s different every time. Usually I just start to find the little things they do annoying. Mannerisms, the way they eat, something. And I convince myself that they aren’t right for me and I shouldn’t be settling. I feel like this is rooted in the fear that I will end up staying with someone for a long time and ultimately breaking up with them. And I hate the idea of dating someone else for 4 years and having to start over.
But this new guy [24M] is different. I think. I like everything about him. He’s got the perfect occupation, he’s great with kids. He supports what I do. I find him attractive. Our personalities seem very compatible and he has a great relationship with his friends and family. I adore this guy. But we’ve been together a month and I’m nervous that I’m going to reach my time limit and like clockwork I’ll find something wrong with him and end it.
To be fair, I am the type to fall for someone very quickly. Which is what makes me nervous in new relationships and only increases the paranoia that makes me leave after 2 months. I would ask friends for advice, but not many of them seem to be in happy relationships. They seem incompatible with their SO’s but they haven’t left because they don’t want to start over.
My question: Is there any advice out there to help me avoid breaking up with someone for bad reasons?”
Dear Is Not Always Rainbows,
Have you ever eaten a substandard ice cream? The one that you’re not thrilled about but were happy to grab at the ice cream aisle of your closest grocery store? You might have looked at all the Ben & Jerry’s million flavors and grabbed your favorite flavor in a hurry as to not be seen eating grocery store ice cream brands. But you were all settled in in your unicorn-patterned jammy jams by the time you realized that you accidentally grabbed Chocolate Fudge Brownie instead of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. You might have just shrugged your shoulders and go, “Meh. This is going to be an experience.”
I sometimes have relationships that feel that way too; that while they’re not my perfect matches, I know it is going to be a brand new experience with this human being and go into it with a plan to learn about how other people love.
I think you recognize in yourself the kind of role that your long-term abusive relationship has played in your subsequent relationships, and is continuing to play in this new connection. There is a reason why you fall in love so quickly, and why you get burnt out so quickly after you recognize a minor (or major) personality flaw.
One of the reasons why you fall in love so quickly after the end of a long-term relationship is because you were already there at an intense level of intimacy with someone else before. You feel that void your ex has left behind and you’re anxious to fill it with something anew that can provide that same kind of warmth and safety again. Another contributing factor could also be that your personal background on not really dating much in high school has warped your sense of mutual attraction, in that you greatly overvalue the attention you receive and try your best to reciprocate that same level of (often sexual) intensity back. So that when you first meet someone, you burn hot for a couple weeks to a month before simmering down when that same intensity cannot reasonably keep up when the lighter fluid of newness runs out. This is what you are feeling when you hate having to start anew after four years of a relationship. You did invest four intense years of your life into a relationship that ended up not working out.
Another major contributor to why you tend to break up with others so easily over character flaws originate from your previous abusive relationship. You didn’t go into too much detail about the kind of abuse you’ve had to endure, but I am going to assume your ex displayed an incredibly toxic and unhealthy behavior patterns around you. Those behaviors left a lot of open wounds and scars you were quick to cover up. But because you had to endure four years of abusive behaviors and patterns, you lost a lot of control along the way. And in a way, you could be asserting control back into your life by picking at those scabs of your past wounds and ending things at a moment’s notice. Your patience is dangerously low in the romance department after four years of abuse.
Good news. There are some counterspells you can cast here to make sure you aren’t prematurely ending things with this new promising connection.
First is to recognize that your past is your past. Sometimes, people are just really bad matches for you at any given time. It takes two fundamentally functional people to make any kind of relationship work, and you just might not be in a mental place currently to make another long-term relationship work. And that is okay. Clearly, it didn’t work out between you and your long-term ex for very good reasons. Forgive yourself for the place you’re in. It is okay to experience pain and grief after a devastating end of a long-term relationship. It sounds like you’ve been on a path to recovery for the past year, and have been doing some underneath work already. You just haven’t really recognized the amount of work you’ve been putting in to be just okay again. So keep doing what you’ve been doing to acknowledge that you don’t have to be perfect after a difficult relationship, even after an entire year. That recovery alone could take years, decades, or even lifetime. That doesn’t mean that you are undeserving of love. You just have to accept that that is going to be a baggage you’re going to have to carry in your life going forward.
Second is to give yourself a break. That paranoia and anxiety you feel two months into your relationships is your internal voice asking you if this particular relationship has the legs to survive another four years. Why do you even have to answer that question? Two months is far too short to know if you can even survive the next four months, much less four years. Instead of fixating on whether or not long-term relationship is viable with this person, why not go into these engagements without any of that kind of restrictions and experience them for the experience’s sake? You’re 23. You’re young and attractive. You are going to command attention from twentysomething men who see that charm and glow about you. So breathe through that anxiety you feel, and repeat to yourself that you don’t have to have it all figured out in two months. Sometimes, even two years is not enough.
The last counterspell I have for you is to accept that relationships end for whatever reasons, valid or invalid. The character flaws you saw, the scabs that you picked at, they’re all reasonable. The time you invest into your relationships is not going to always yield a reward. Sometimes, it is just a journey.
I’ll tell you that I’ve been in a handful of really toxic relationships in the past. Some that chipped away a year of my sanity and mental well-being. I’ve always tried my best to make those relationships work, but they failed anyway for all perfectly valid and invalid reasons. And I’ve accrued my own set of baggage along the way. For example, I cannot date someone who loves horses anymore. But I’ve enjoyed my relationship with my equestrian ex for the intense experience we were able to have together. In the same way, I hope you can evaluate your relationships not just on the beginning and end points of those connections but the overall trajectory and the good memories you were able to build with them instead. Sometimes, a relationship is just a journey.
I am really excited about your journey. You’ve got such a long and enjoyable path to happiness ahead of you. One month is far too short for you to know if this [24M] is going to be the long term fit for you. Part of the fun in modern dating is to figure all of that compatibility out along the way, you know? So enjoy each of the steps along the way.
Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.
I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at email@example.com. If you liked my advice for this post, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter. You can also subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!