I need help to become a better person

Postby tomtom123 » Fri Jun 05, 2020 4:01 pm

I'm a 40 years old guy, I was with the love of my life for 15 years, the best woman I ever knew. Last week she completely shocked me when she told me she feels that she needs to end the relationship. She said it's just too much for her to handle. That she loves me but she needs to start thinking about herself and she needs time for herself to find herself again. She didn't say it's completely over but that she needs time to think, how much she can't tell, maybe 14 days, maybe a month. After that, she will make the final decision. She moved out of our home to her sister. She told me she can't be my mother, that she needs a man in the relationship, somebody to take action and especially not act like a child when things don't go my way. I'm an introvert, can be easily agitated and my reaction was to become quiet but if I said something it was in a way to make her feel guilty. It was emotionally exhausting for her. In general, we were a happy couple who loves each other and we didn't argue like more than an average couple but in 15 years it was just one too many for her. At first, I was very confused and sad and I didn't fully understand what she meant by all this. But after a few days of contemplating everything about our relationship at one moment, I realized what she meant. I broke down completely and can't stop crying for over a week now. I finally saw or maybe admitted myself how I was really acting towards her. In those situations, I always tried to justify my actions somehow in my head so I felt that I have the right to act like that, I also didn't know better. We always agreed that conversation can solve anything but when a situation arose none of us were able to start a conversation until the buildup was just too much. Now I know that I acted immaturely and I admitted her that everything she said is right and I genuinely believe and accept that. I said I was sorry and that I'm willing to do anything to solve this. Sadly she said that at this moment she's not sure she can believe that.
I really want to become a better person. I want to change, for me, for her, for both of us. But I'm lost. Is therapy the only way? Are there any resources online for something like that? Right now I have the full confidence that I can do it on my own because I truly know what's the issue and so far when I admit myself something I usually can manage to make it right. That alone scares me too because I know my issues are probably rooted deep and it's not that easy. In the end, I'm willing to go to therapy, I'm actually already looking for contacts but is there anything else one can do? Is there any literature I can read. I don't know, I was never in this situation in my life.
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#1

Postby tokeless » Fri Jun 05, 2020 5:00 pm

Do you understand that this has been going on for many years and perhaps she's finally had enough? Saying you can change this way of being on your own suggests you lack insight to how ingrained this behaviour is as I'm sure this will not be the first time she's tried to tell you how you are?
Right now she needs her space and if you try to make this all go away I think you'll prove to her she is right to leave you. If you are not as she needs you to be, saying you will change may anger her because why didn't you if it was that easy to do? If you are needy and immature in your behaviour she then adopts the mother role, the comforter and not your wife and you not her husband but a dependent. Very draining over time. Show your maturity by leaving her be, accept she needs space and time and you accept her decision. Plea bargaining will make it worse. I also think you need to plan/think ahead about being on your own again as it may be too late. I wish you well but this could go either way but it'll be her decision, not yours my friend.
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#2

Postby tomtom123 » Fri Jun 05, 2020 5:18 pm

It's hard to hear that but I know you're right. Thank you.
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#3

Postby tokeless » Fri Jun 05, 2020 6:36 pm

tomtom123 wrote:It's hard to hear that but I know you're right. Thank you.


I'm sorry to put it to you. I've been there myself but different reasons. Life will go on and I learned a lot from it that made me happier in time. When I look back at that time I don't feel sad but I have no regrets because it's just life. Maybe use this time to explore who you are and what it is you want from life.. I think we can all be happy if we do that. Also, look at this as a potential new start in your life and the freedom it offers. The sadness and longing will subside if you stop keeping it alive.
Take care and best wishes
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#4

Postby Candid » Sat Jun 06, 2020 8:51 am

tomtom123 wrote:I really want to become a better person. I want to change, for me, for her, for both of us. But I'm lost. Is therapy the only way?


I think this is sad, and I wonder how much of your dependence on (and in) this relationship is due to the original relationship between you and your mother. I've had experiences with men whose mothering was somehow incomplete, and with hindsight I've realised they expected me to 'mother' them.

You don't need help "to become a better person". Of course you can trawl this relationship for what you did wrong, and you'll find plenty. Who wouldn't? But you'd do better looking for what you did right, and what you learned in the course of that fifteen years. A man of 40 isn't the same as he was at 25. This article https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog ... re-mothers may be of interest.

We only 'guilt' our partners when our needs aren't being met—and by wanting them to be met by a partner rather than a parent, we're going to create a dynamic that's less than adult.
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#5

Postby tomtom123 » Sat Jun 06, 2020 9:27 am

My childhood was a happy one but I do recognize patterns in my behavior that I took from my mother. But I don't know how or in what way would her mothering towards me be incomplete. Right now I can't see that. That of course does not mean that's not the case.

Right now I need to take ownership of my mistakes, I need to identify them because as unbelievable as it sounds, even though I was there all along, right now it feels to me that when all this was happening, I had no idea what was really going on. I never looked at it the same way I'm looking at it now. Now I also see she did try to tell me that many times, not in a direct way but I should have seen it. Or maybe that's just another mechanism for coping with the fact I was treating somebody I love with all my heart in that horrible way. Thoughts like that scare me and that's why I thought about going to therapy.

Thanks for the link. I read it and it's pretty accurate. The only difference is I now fully recognize the issue, I take ownership of my behavior and I really want to change and not to do this crap anymore, if we continue our mutual journey together or if not, in my future relationships.
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#6

Postby tokeless » Sat Jun 06, 2020 10:15 am

Hi Tom,
A very important lesson I learned from my failed marriage was the art of listening. Of course I listened but I did this to collect the information I needed to offer a solution. I was a problem solver, my career involves solving problems so for me it was normal to do this. However, in my relationship by doing this and feeling I was only trying to help the woman I loved, i was doing a few things.
1. I wasn't actually listening to her.
2. I was giving her the message she didn't know how to solve the problem herself (when she was totally capable)
3. She felt disempowered and eventually stopped telling me how she felt.

This created resentment, anger and it destroyed the feelings she had. I remember her telling me "I just want you to make the right noises", which meant acknowledging she felt that way, supportive sounds like oh, umm, agh.. do you want a cuppa, hug etc etc... NOT, I would do this, try that, don't put up with it.. solutions. She didn't ask for them, I gave her them. I only realised this afterwards and could also see how my mum does it to me and it drives me f***ing nuts. I still don't tell my mum much now because it limits her chances of giving me solutions I haven't asked for. She would be hurt if she thought she was doing this because to her, she is only doing what someone who loves you would do.. hope that made sense but it was the best lesson I have learned and I use it in my current relationship and it makes a huge difference. She values me and what I do with her when she's troubled and sge grows with my support, not solutions.
Best wishes
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#7

Postby Candid » Sat Jun 06, 2020 10:16 am

What I see in your post is that you're hard on yourself. You're looking for what's wrong with you rather than what's right—and to me you sound like a good man. It's my opinion that you now know exactly what your faults were and that it's time to look at the many things you get right.

Don't fall into the trap of idealising your partner. No doubt she has her flaws, too. When she was telling you about all you were doing wrong, or "what's wrong with you", there are two factors in your response. One is a kind of lightbulb: "My god, yes, I'd hate it if someone did/said that to me!" So you can aim not to do that again, and it's a good thing. There's also the criticism that gets under the radar because it's precisely the way one or both parents labelled you when you were very young, and it's not "you did something wrong" but more along the lines of "you are something wrong". That feels like a horrible nameless guilt that, when alluded to, causes a sick feeling in the gut.

tomtom123 wrote:even though I was there all along, right now it feels to me that when all this was happening, I had no idea what was really going on. I never looked at it the same way I'm looking at it now.


Great! It's only in relationship that we grow and mature. All I'm saying is don't get stuck there.

I was treating somebody I love with all my heart in that horrible way. Thoughts like that scare me and that's why I thought about going to therapy.


As a veteran of therapy from both sides, I say why not? You've developed a lot of insight, but it would be helpful for you to understand why you did it—as well as how you can insulate yourself against being triggered again.

It's great that you can consider both continuing this long-term relationship and the possibility of starting again with someone else. Few of us have the maturity to take a good look at ourselves between partners, so I salute you and wish you well.
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#8

Postby Heraclitus714 » Sat Jun 06, 2020 1:16 pm

tom a lot of mental concepts ''easly agitated -become quiet'' sounds like your boxing . time to get in shape do not predispose yourself to loss. check out your body as well as your mind . give a man a fish he is fed for a day teach a man to fish he will always eat ---teach a man to love to fish he will be happy even when he is hungry ...love yourself first you know your flaws they are who you are dont fix them understand them they will fix themselves. try to get out meet new girls and learn to enjoy them for who they are that will help lead you to who you are ...lust for life... i wish you well
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#9

Postby tomtom123 » Mon Jun 08, 2020 7:02 am

I know she has her flaws but I spent so much time pointing them out over the years that now it's time to do mine. Not to just point them out to her but I need to point them out to me.

Right now I'm in a strange place - basically, I'm waiting for her to decide so it's impossible for me to completely let go and start looking ahead. Until her decision is final, whatever it may be, I'm feeling like I'm in the waiting room, waiting for somebody to decide about my future, which scares me tremendously. At the same time, I'm very grateful she's willing to think about it and I'm prepared to give her as much time as she needs.

Thank you all. Your responses opened my eyes even further. Some things are hard to hear but they are all true.
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#10

Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Mon Jun 08, 2020 7:56 am

tomtom123 wrote:...basically, I'm waiting for her to decide...At the same time, I'm very grateful she's willing to think about it and I'm prepared to give her as much time as she needs.


Tom,

I think you would benefit from being much more specific. The idea that you are just waiting is a recipe for failure. It is probably a fundamental part of the problem. She is tired of waiting on you to follow through on specific things and your solution is to not do anything other than wait.

If you had to write a list of her top five concerns what would they be?

- You don't take out the trash?
- You don't have a job?
- You play video games?
- You use drugs?
- Infidelity?

She wants you to step up and change your behaviors to perform the role of husband. These are typically specific behaviors, not some general "therapy" or an issue of lack of information. You must have an idea of what she expects from you. Instead of waiting, start demonstrating through actual behaviors that you are willing to put forth the effort.
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#11

Postby tomtom123 » Mon Jun 08, 2020 9:10 am

I try to be general because if I start with the specifics I feel I can write too much stuff nobody cares about and it will just muddy the waters. But I probably should mention a few important things that will put some things in the perspective.

I never asked her to marry me, even though I wanted. To be more specific, for about 10 years she was telling me, friends, parents, anybody who asked that marriage is not important to her. It was probably more important to me at the beginning than to her. But along the way, this apparently changed. She stopped saying this a few years ago and I guess she changed her mind but never directly told me that. We still don't have kids. In the beginning, it was a mutual decision not to have them just yet. A few years back we decided to start trying. She didn't get pregnant but we never had an open conversation about the reasons. I wanted to open this conversation on many occasions but I just didn't.

Richard@DecisionSkills wrote:The idea that you are just waiting is a recipe for failure.


Maybe I expressed myself wrong. I'm not just waiting and not doing anything. The first step was to realize and admit my mistakes. Now I'm trying to take action, I want to solve this problem, I want to make things better, I want to make me better, I don't want to make the same mistakes in the future with anybody. I'm thinking about therapy, trying to find other ways to grow but as I said, it's all new to me and I'm still confused. What I wanted to say with "waiting" is more about the state of mind, I can't just put this fact aside that it might be over or there might still be a chance. I still love her with all my heart, in many ways even more than at the beginning of the relationship.

Richard@DecisionSkills wrote:If you had to write a list of her top five concerns what would they be?


She needs to feel secure about the future (now, she doesn't):
1. Can I be a competent father
2. Can I be a husband and not a child
3. Can I start dealing with difficult situations in a more mature way
4. Can I really change
5. Can she really change (she told me she also has this fear she will start repeating old patterns)

Richard@DecisionSkills wrote:She wants you to step up and change your behaviors to perform the role of husband. These are typically specific behaviors, not some general "therapy" or an issue of lack of information. You must have an idea of what she expects from you. Instead of waiting, start demonstrating through actual behaviors that you are willing to put forth the effort.


This is the part I'm struggling with lot. She said she needs time for herself, to "find herself", she moved out for the time being, all this is telling me to back off, to give her space to breathe, think. On the other hand, I know the only way to show her is not by saying, it's by doing but what can I do to show her that, by her not being actually there? How can I show her I can change for the better and not demonstrate this in an actual relationship if you know what I mean?

I realized and took ownership of my mistakes, behaviors, I looked at our relationship from a completely different perspective and I openly told her all that - that's the main reason she didn't end the relationship permanently, even though that were her intentions that day when she came back from her sister's place a few days after moving out, she told me. I also started making changes in my life, structure things more (I was living more as a student, even though I have a regular job for 10 years now - staying up late, eating junk, not exercise, etc). I'm willing to go to therapy even though when she suggested this (about couples therapy) about a month ago I said and believed there's no way I'll ever do something like that. Ever. Now, I'll go there by myself. But how to show her that she can believe I can be a man she wants and needs while not living together, that I'm struggling with.

Sorry for my rambling. Also, English is obviously not my first language, I hope you understand what's I'm trying to say.
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#12

Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Mon Jun 08, 2020 10:56 am

tomtom123 wrote:She needs to feel secure about the future (now, she doesn't):
1. Can I be a competent father
2. Can I be a husband and not a child
3. Can I start dealing with difficult situations in a more mature way
4. Can I really change
5. Can she really change (she told me she also has this fear she will start repeating old patterns)


These are vague and very broad. These are not specific.

You will find it very difficult to "become a better person" when you are unwilling to get specific. It makes it impossible to demonstrate to anyone that you are getting better if you avoid the specifics.

If you say you want to be healthy that is vague. If you say you want to lose 10 kg that is more specific. If you say you want to lose 10 kg in 20 weeks, that is something that you can then demonstrate that you are becoming better.

I also started making changes in my life, structure things more (I was living more as a student, even though I have a regular job for 10 years now - staying up late, eating junk, not exercise, etc).


Staying up late is more specific. Not exercising is more specific. You can demonstrate that you are making those changes even when she is not there. You can use text and photos to show improvements. You can demonstrate improvements by setting specific things that require observable effort on your part.

I know English is not your first language, but I do not think that is the problem. I think you want to avoid real effort. I think you make things broad and vague. By avoiding specifics you can say that you desire change without actually having to really define what that means.

What does it mean to be a competent father? You avoid specifics so that you don't have to actually perform, so you don't have to change your behaviors. "Competent father" is a vague bunch of nonsense. Helping the kids with homework is a specific, observable behavior of a father's competence. Making the kids breakfast is a specific, observable behavior of a father's competence.
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#13

Postby tomtom123 » Mon Jun 08, 2020 11:49 am

I don't think I'm avoiding specifics because I want to avoid real effort. Right now, I don't think that's true at all. I am willing to do anything. The problem is that she never told me anything specific about what bothers her. When we argued, which wasn't very often, it was me that was begging her to tell me specific things (more often than not her answer was "I don't know", which drove me crazy), and whatever specific she told me I did it without an issue. For example, one year ago she told me that after a stressful job instead of coming home and relax she needs to think about what to cook for dinner. From that moment on, I'm cooking for her 90% of the time so she can just relax, I do the groceries, I decide what's for dinner. In that same argument, she told me it was her that always show initiative to do stuff. From that moment on, it was me that suggested much more than her, like theatre, movies, taking her out for fancy dinner, going out for a walk together, going somewhere over the weekend, etc. What I want to say is that whatever specific she told me, I did it. I did it because I realized I "fell asleep" about those things and that was wrong. I didn't see it but when she told me and I realized it, I changed and I'm doing this for a year now, so nobody can say it isn't genuine. Now she's saying that she saw all that and she really appreciates it but those were just "cosmetic" fixes. I agree and see it now but at the time I thought those were the real issues. Maybe that's the reason I have a hard time talking specifics because I don't know them.
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#14

Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Mon Jun 08, 2020 12:40 pm

Fair enough. You listed a lot of specific things, specific changes, specific behaviors.

tomtom123 wrote: Now she's saying that she saw all that and she really appreciates it but those were just "cosmetic" fixes. I agree and see it now but at the time I thought those were the real issues.


She is not being honest with with you or herself regarding her expectations. Maybe she no longer finds you sexually desirable. Maybe she convinced herself that if you did the “cosmetic” fixes that this would fix her lack of desire to be with you, but that did not work.

Based on what you have written, it sounds like she has a different concept of what it means to be a man in the relationship than you have. In her eyes you are not a man. In her eyes, a man has characteristics X, Y, and Z and she finds that type of man desirable. Some of the characteristics might be physical, but others will be mental. Doing everything she asks probably doesn’t help.

Certainly I might be wrong as it is difficult in a forum where we only have a few paragraphs. But you wrote she doesn’t want a child for a husband. You wrote she wants competence. Reading between the lines it sounds like she wants a man for a husband and she has stopped looking at you as a man. She sees you as other than a man....other than “manly” by her definition.
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