Anatomy Of A Failed Relationship

This is a summary of a very long conversation I had over dinner last night with someone who is about to break a young woman’s heart not with malice, but because of a lack of self-awareness and a desire to be further along the path to healing than has been achieved so far. It also describes the process in my former sexless relationship so well and it describes other relationships I have experienced. I wrote this to chronicle the conversation but it reminded me so much of my SM that I wanted to share it.

It starts out so fresh, so hopeful and so promising. Both you and I are interested and available. We do the dances, have a few drinks and share a few experiences. We develop trust and intimacy, a rapport that only we share between us. Fondness grows. We laugh. We play. We enjoy each other intellectually, emotionally and physically. We bond and experience “us”. Love is uncovered. Respect is grown. Things feel good to us both. We share experiences and goals and we look forward to more. We both feel hopeful, safe and secure.

As we grow closer you appreciate a great deal about that which makes me “me” and I appreciate so much about you as a man. I am impressed, inspired and so at ease with you. We sort out a lot of that relationship stuff that makes things either work or not. Life goals, hobbies, passion for life, sexual compatibility, conflict management and communication all work. A few things don’t but they are the little things and no deal breakers.

Life goes on. It moves forward. Things happen but nothing that knocks the relationship completely off course. One day I look up and look over at you. And you are no longer the you I remembered. Sometime during this experience of life together, you changed. I miss the man you were. I don’t know how to get him back. I don’t know how to help you get back to who you once were. After trying in vain different attempts at getting you/us back and finding you and us different than I remembered I begin to wonder if you ever were the man I thought you once were.

Maybe you weren’t ever that man at all and I saw what I wanted to see. Maybe it is as you say and something happened to turn you hard, cold and distant from someone who was once full of desire for me, warmth and softness… or maybe I was wrong in my young and naïve assessment of you. Or maybe you were wrong in your demonstration of yourself to me. Maybe you put on an event of showing me not the man you are/were but the man you most wished to be. It’s always good to put your best foot forward but putting someone else’s foot forward and calling it your own isn’t fair. In a relationship it’s best to represent yourself as you truly are instead of as you hoped to be.

Intimacy has dried up and you are no longer interested even in the smallest expressions of affection and love. You no longer smile bright when I express appreciation for something about you or seem to even notice when I tell you I miss you. You seem very caught up in your own world and your own apparent unhappiness. I seem to be in the way, an afterthought. I am no longer desired and I do not mean just sexually. My presence in your life seems to no longer be a priority. It hurts me. Because I accept that you may be just going through a time of trouble I feel and hear my pain, but I do not make it your problem. You have to work through whatever is going on with you. Sometimes my anger and hurt eeks out of me without me being able to stop it but you don’t seem to notice my pain anyway. If you do notice it, you don’t do anything anymore to help soothe me. It’s notable to me because before, you really would have steadied me well.

I wait patiently for the man I thought I had to return or to find an older, wiser version of him in his place. One day I wake up in the morning with the sinking feeling that he never will return or perhaps never existed at all. Then I am left with a choice. Do I accept this relationship I currently have with a person I cannot know and cannot trust and build from there, hoping it will work itself out and that love will conquer all? Do I leave in sadness and mend my hurt and start fresh in a new relationship, only to risk that the new man is only putting someone else’s best foot forward as well?

Maybe you just wanted to be a good guy, but you weren't yet.

Maybe where I thought we fit together so well, you wanted so badly to fit that you tried to stretch to meet me there even though you weren't yet.

Maybe the intimacy I felt that came so easily was in fact something you worked at giving me and you simply couldn't maintain it in the long term. Maybe you had too much damage leftover and healing left to do.

Even some very good, kind, loving people don’t know themselves well enough to be a healthy, whole and loving partner. The work to become a healthy, whole, complete and loving person independent of a relationship must be done before a relationship can commence. You must know who you actually are, not who you hope to be someday or who you think you should be in order to bring a full partnership to a relationship honestly and authentically. You can try to get there in a hurry once you’ve found a person with whom you’d like to have a relationship but ultimately you will not be doing it right, you’ll just be doing it quick. You’ll be putting someone else’s best foot forward and inadvertently bait-and-switching with another person’s heart and life when who you really are comes to the surface.

I get stuck on the subtle nuances of how to weed out those who know themselves well enough, those who are close to it but still in progress and those who want to be and are really good at pretending to be someone else and put that person’s best foot forward. The ones who are simply emotionally clueless about themselves and don’t have any desire for true intimacy and vulnerability are easy for me to spot. I also simply don’t develop a deep attraction to them on the mind-heart-soul level. It’s the group of those who want to be further along than they are on the path that plague me. The ones who have potential and want to realize it and are even willing to try to be that person, but haven’t fully embraced or become comfortable with it yet.

I won’t ever end up so far gone as I was before to accept the things I accepted in my SM. But I can’t say I won’t end up with some dysfunction or giving too many chances to make things right or to fix things once I am with someone. That is dangerous for me. I am not convinced I know how to spot a relationship that is good versus one that could be good. Could be good can also go bad if the person is putting someone else’s best foot forward instead of their own.
HellHathNoFuryLikeMe HellHathNoFuryLikeMe
36-40, F
11 Responses Aug 12, 2012

Not sure how I missed this but I'm glad I found it now - lovely writing and really describes some of our situations so well. Thanks for sharing :)

Beautiful ex<x>pression.<br />
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I was wondering what you felt about viewing this as a process rather than something with an end that could in any sense be guaranteed or characterised as good or bad (as if that could be certified!). For example, I find it hard enough to understand what I do let alone anyone else, so that makes the "weeding" process rather harder! And I've also learned to focus on planting as many good things, in the moment, as I can, that tends to smother the weeds; and perhaps to reclassify the weeds is handy - they tend to be the ones that are persistent despite our efforts.<br />
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I guess the other side is developing the trust again that you can indeed look after yourself - as you have already shown. That you can be safe.

It is a process, you are right. But when I discovered the man in front of me wasn't the man I had grown to love and adore I had to make some changes in myself and my views on the relationship. So this one had a finite end. And it was both good and bad. It just hurt along the way.

This story is very much like my own experience, but with a different outcome. You have expressed how a couple grows apart so accurately, poetically, and painfully. I hope this story gets lots of reads. <br />
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Here's how my story turned out - My husband buckled down, checked back in, and worked on becoming who he really is. I had to forgive him for doing exactly what you described in your story, as well as find the courage to really be myself as well. <br />
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You state, "Even some very good, kind, loving people don’t know themselves well enough to be a healthy, whole and loving partner. The work to become a healthy, whole, complete and loving person independent of a relationship must be done before a relationship can commence." ba<x>sed on my experience, no one really knows themselves well enough to be a healthy, whole, and loving partner until they have lived in the relationship for some time. Many of us met our spouses in our early 20's - who is that evolved at that age? In other words, nothing prepares you for marriage except marriage. A wise man once said "you can't pass a test you haven't been given yet." For my husband and me, we really weren't put to the test until we had to face our marriage possibly ending due to the exact issues you described above. I felt it was important to express this point because it's not just me talking out my *** - I lived through it; our marriage is fulfilling for us both again.

*pardon the syntactical errors, I am unable to edit.

The semantics are great - which is what matters.

The searing honesty and authenticity of this is mind blowing. Yet clearly, from some of the comments, not everybody "gets" it. <br />
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The "dance" you describe is so common - and yet so very hard to foresee or to predict. The assumption that we can "automatically" tell who is right and who is not right is just that - an assumption. There is certainly truth in the fact that we can ignore red flags - but you are NOT talking about such a situation here IMO.<br />
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You are talking about a situation in which, despite a concerted search for red flags, none were visible. . . . Yet the person who presented himself was simply not the REAL person. And it is quite likely he did not do this with any intention to hurt or decieve. But his own lack of self knowledge and self confidence lead him to "be" someone he was not. And that someone was not able to be maintained on a long term regular basis.<br />
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The terrible tragedy of this is that your very acceptance of him, your support and commitment, were undoubtedly the tools that allowed him to show you his "real" self - and yet this real self was essentially quite different from his projected self.<br />
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The "real" person can get temporarily lost or mislaid! Stress, lack of intimacy, emotional distance, life's obligations - all of these can throw up a version of the person that is less in tune with us than we previously experienced. But if this is a temporary situation, the real person WILL re-appear. He (or she) will revert to their real self when called on to do so, or after dealing with the current challenges. He/she WILL become once again the person you truly believed them to be . . . because the changes were only temporary and in response to environment, not root causes.<br />
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When that "real" person does not re-appear; when their behaviour continues to demonstrate aspects of their true self that were not previously visible and / or are in direct contrast to your original perceptions, then you know that the original WAS a facade. Not necessarily presented for any but the best reasons, as you acknowledge, but a facade nevertheless.<br />
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Do not doubt yourself. Do not question your judgement. Know that you saw a manifestation of a person that could have been authentic, but unfortunately was a facade. And none of us can maintain a facade long term. <br />
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Know that you have done nothing that has brought about this situation - except that your very acceptance and commitment allowed him to be his real self! And that is in NO way a "fault" - even if the outcome is ironically bitter.

I'm very ashamed and very sorry to even admit that I fit the disc<x>ription of this man you talk about to a T!!! I feel your pain, worry, wonder and all of it!! I know what you go through or went through because I have put someone in the same situation.. There were no better men than me out there in her eyes for 10 years and I ruined that.. Anyways I won't bore you with my story but I just want to say sorry to you for having to go through this I know it's terrible because I am that man that you speak of.. I hope life treats you well beautiful and I hope things work out for the better!!!

Beautiful writing. Each marriage is full of these moments in a struggling relationship. I can say when I married I tried to be the best wife I could be. He had been married before and his first wife died. The comparisons were made and I was found lacking. We are still together and I was accepted by my husband but it has taken a toll on my sense of self .. Now I wonder who am I and where do I go from here.. Acceptance is the key.

Now that I am single I am dating a little. One man who has expressed interest in the past is a widower whose wife died in childbirth. He seems like a good man but I hesitate because of the potential for comparisons and the expectation that he may be looking for a new mom for his little girl who has never known one. Those seem like challenging shoes to fill.

Yes that is a risk .. I'd say that if you know who you are then you are not at risk to get into a situation that is difficult . I thought my husband was reasonable in his requests but didn't know enough of who I was at the time I married him. So I think date this man and be open ! Good luck to you.

Superb. Much food for thought. Thanks.

YES! Thanks for sharing!

"It’s always good to put your best foot forward but putting someone else’s foot forward and calling it your own isn’t fair. In a relationship it’s best to represent yourself as you truly are instead of as you hoped to be. "<br />
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That is my favourite part, it hits the nail on the head with regards to my stbx. Thank you for expressing that.

Clearly writtten, very well stated, so sad.<br />
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I can't fathom a guy losing interest in sex - I didn't think it was possible! I, unfortunately, have learned that at least one woman can simply mention one day that she is "just not interested" in having a physical relationship anymore. My wife. Did I know this before I was married and missed the clues? Possibly, except our sex life was fulfilling for the first 5 years of our marriage and before. Did something happen that caused that part of our marriage to wilt and die? I got diagnosed with MS, but it is benign. Nothing bad has happened in over six years (yes, a miracle). So is this any reason to cease having physical relations? I'm not going to break! And even if things do go bad, why not do what we can, while we can?<br />
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I, of course, do not have THE ANSWER for you. But do try to talk about what is happening (or not) and how it truly makes you feel. I'd hope by baring your soul, you might get his attention and sympathy might open one of those closed doors for you. Someone here recommended a book "Nonviolent Communication" by Marshall Rosenberg ( He has some good ideas of getting warring nations, rival gangs, etc. to talk to each other. Talking is critical to resolution of conflict. Don't sit still and take it without talking.<br />
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Saying prayers for you. You deserve the promise of marriage - that unique physical closeness to the one you love. Stand up for what is supposed to be there.

The signs were all there in my relationship with my ex. I just ignored or downplayed them or thought they would change. I think couple's run into the most trouble when they don't understand that the 'in love' hormonal phase is a temporary chemical state. If the relationship was primarily ba<x>sed on this expectation of feel good as the foundation without other core foundations, it is doomed. Couples survive when they can find a way to incorporate intimacy into the long term. Many don't. Some with no other foundations, end up hating each other. Some love each other as friends but can't find early passion regardless of the effort. And, this is all outside the other abusive relationships. I have been through enough relationships now to know what is me and my own childish expectations, and to know what is born of the us. I think I have finally found an us that has the foundational strength to endure IF my weaker self can rise to the occasion. In the end, you have to anchor you.

And if you anchor you, they still have to anchor them. And I have to recognize if they aren't anchoring themselves all of the sudden, even if they used to under different circumstances. Relationships change when people face adversity and feel ill-equipped to handle it. Huge transitions sometimes cause people to grow apart. I completely agree with you that the 'in love' hormonal phase being a rouse that bites us many times. I also know that it sometimes turns out that people do not know themselves well enough to really be healthy in a relationship. I am. I always have been. I overcame some serious childhood trauma and have come out of it healthy and strong. There's very little that can knock me down to the point that I am down for the count. Sometimes I expect that others have similar resilience and self awareness. I sometimes feel like I must be behind others' because of my early traumas. In reality I am probably more self aware and more healed than many of them because I overcame them (with tons of help, therapy, extraordinary life experiences).