I just want to say how much each of you sharing your experiences and time with me means. This is a lonely holiday weekend in Canada and I expected to spend most of it crying (which I have, it ain’t pretty) but sleeping it off after a big cry helps, and waking up to these messages helps.
I honestly had not considered the co-dependency thing, I thought I ‘nipped that in the bud’ when we worked through his alcoholism for the first time. But looking back on our relationship, I think you are all 100% right, and that in my heart, I hoped his decision to go to med school would ‘fix’ the pain and heartache we experienced as a result of his drinking. I took on so much responsibility (perhaps this became worse because of his drinking and just stuck around as a trait in our relationship) and at some point, his needs eclipsed mine. When we first started dating I had my own things I loved and while I do actively build my career, etc. I think his life became my main focus, and didn’t realize that instead of being a good partner maybe that was unhealthy. I am meeting with a psychologist I work with regularly on Wednesday to sort all this out (acknowledging it is not a one-appointment thing). It made me sad last night when I looked back and realized most of my major relationships, with one exception, involved someone with addictions issues in some form on the other end, and me trying to help them (although not necessarily starting the relationship that way). I will use this time to work through those issues. I think I need to start there.
The second thing I should point out is that he wasn’t the type of person to get up and need a drink; he was the type of person however that once he started to drink would drink to the point of blackout, or I would come home at 6 PM and he would already have drank a quart and become a mean person I didn’t like and who didn’t treat me well. He went to AA, worked with a psychologist, and opened up to his family after losing me, all on his own, as we didn’t speak for 6 weeks at all and I had clearly broken it off. So while he is not the ‘textbook’ idea of an alcoholic, he has still admitted he is one and as a result has not drank at all in 3 years, and we have celebrated his sobriety each year, and all he has done as a result of it. This was kind of the only reason aside from cheating I could think of that would drive him to push me away so harshly, as he was never like this before, and I’m loathe to preemptively break up with him if this were to push him over the edge – for my own mental health, yes, I can accept that we have separated and move on, continue to seek support in forums like this and work with my own support network, but if I break up with him and this type of fragility is the underlying reason, paired with medical school, I am afraid that would break him.
The other possibility is that he is not at all using/drinking, and I am making this up to assuage myself. He also mentioned that it was getting ‘depressing’ since he was staying home alone in his apartment all the time studying, and after avoiding going out for weeks and being antisocial, he joked about toting around a travel mug of black coffee at his first get together/birthday party and that making him even weirder since he is older than everyone. After that, he went out twice only (two Friday nights). It’s NOT like he was going out every night instead of talking to me, which is maybe how it came across.
And this leaves me with the possibility that, because he was staunchly opposed to drinking again when he stopped (he compared losing me to his drinking to being like a dog who eats something poisonous and then never goes near it again), and because he was never ‘dependent’ in the sense of waking up every day, but in drinking to excess, that he actually hasn’t drank, and is just burdened with stress from school and maybe the leftover patterns from when he was dependent that got us through that time, but no longer serve him or us, and can’t cope with our relationship anymore.
The conversation was very strange in that he vacillated between being cold and clinical about my needing to accept he had moved away and was never coming back, to crying about the dogs, and crying about being unhappy, to what seemed like very lucid comments about my ‘needing him too much’, ‘micromanaging’, ‘that we always argue and now he doesn’t have to deal with that’ (this isn’t true, but I had been pressuring him to talk to me while he was facing the stress of a new country and med school), and that he ‘wasn’t sure about out relationship and didn’t want to keep me waiting months/years’. Once the rest of these issues are parsed out, this makes me think that while he has handled himself in a completely unacceptable way, the issue ultimately stems from being unable to cope with the stress of school and a relationship, and that my codependent behaviours exacerbated an already stressful situation. He said this quite calmly, and deliberately, as if he had given it thought. He knows how unhappy I am with him taking distance, and how much it breaks my heart. I agree 100% that he knows he is mistreating and failing me, and he cried saying that he was unhappy and that he didn’t want to make me unhappy or hurt me. Perhaps him doing this because he can’t cope with the stress makes the most sense in light of his characteristic behaviour over the 5 years of our relationship….. he just does not presently have the communication or stress management skills he needs to handle this situation and our relationship, and learning those and showing emotional maturity and responsibility for his role in our relationship, however limited that role might be during school, might be a bare minimum floor I need from him. I also think my codependency behaviours are contributing to this situation and no longer serve me or the relationship, although they did get us through his addictions issues in the past and get us to where we are now – and I need to take responsibility for those regardless of what happens, for myself, just as he took responsibility for his drinking several years ago. So in a nutshell, as I toss these ideas over in my head as you have all suggested them to me, I think maybe I am dealing with more the fallout of his past addictions issues (very bad communication and tolerance of stress) and my responding to them in a codependent way that no longer works in this situation.
There are two things I want to stress here: #1- I don’t know what that means for us – except that my number one goal right now is not repairing the relationship but repairing myself. I need to heal and to learn why I consistently put the needs of others in front of my own and try to please them. #2: Beyond that, I’m not sure. I cannot make it clear enough that over the past 5 years, we have been best friends, and for the mostpart, he is as ‘level-headed, thoughtful, and caring’ as you have perceived me to be on these forums – often moreso. He has been my rock, and I would not have been able to make it through many difficult transitions in my life without him. While I acknowledge that I may have codependent traits, there is also so much GOOD about this person that I respect, and this behaviour is 100% uncharacteristic – I am a strong person and would never tolerate this behaviour. I cared too much and in the wrong ways at times, but I was NEVER a doormat. I say this, I think, from a place of love and introspection, and not from a place of desperation. In the entirety of our relationship, he said hurtful things inadvertently that made me cry a total of TWO times – and his reaction was, after I took space in another room, to come in there with tears in his eyes saying how sorry he was to have hurt me. He was my protector. He loved me. Yes, it’s obvious that this is objectively unacceptable/abusive behaviour that he needs to be accountable for, and that I need to hold him accountable for. Yes, it’s possible that this means me breaking up with him, and/or that I will work through my own issues and realize I don’t want to be with someone who has the capacity to treat me this way. Maybe that is the case, the more I think about it. And of course, it’s entirely possible that none of the above applies, he is 100% done with me and ‘discarding me’, and it’s already over. But I honestly still don’t know at this stage. I am open to any further insight or thoughts on this as I am working it out as I go and gather more information and learn the dynamics of what’s actually going on here. All I do know is how I need to take care of myself now and chart my own path forward, despite the terrible wake this has left behind.
To that end, I am considering using this time to work with my psychologist and get to the root of any codependency issues (which I acknowledge may take a year, more…) and crying this out and considering it ended between us for now and channeling the love I have for him into myself, while not rushing to communicate that to him or date. If this is less an issue of him drinking, and more an issue of us being ill-equipped to deal with this major stressor because patterns that worked in the past no longer work, I am considering something along the lines of considering #1, MYSELF and what is best for me, which may take a year, and then: considering us split up/having zero expectations, letting his actions (or lack thereof) speak for themselves, remaining open when he is ready to talk (and myself, after I talk to my psychologist about handling this situation), making it clear that I love him but also what my own boundaries are (that his behaviour is unacceptable and I will not respond to it, and that he needs to acknowledge even though it was his decision to leave, he needs to respect it is *my* decision to allow him back into our life, and I will let him know when/if ever I am ready for that) – and knowing that along with the possibility of finding a ‘new normal’ if the relationship is important enough and he can get his shit together in the face of stress from school, a very real outcome of working with my psychologist is that our relationship is irreperably damaged due to these unhealthy patterns, or because he has ‘shown me who he is’ and this is likely to continue. I think I am able to start seeing these all and working my way towards accepting these as possible outcomes, and all of your insightful advice has really helped me get there – seriously. I can’t thank you all enough.
Now that I have heard from all of you, I feel validation for the pain and heartache I have felt, and know 100% that this is not fair to me, no matter what ‘good bones’ are there after 5 years (we really were best friends), I think the lesson I am taking from this right now is that instead of people pleasing or brainstorming ways I can be there for him, at a bare minimum, in tandem, I need to work on developing a clear idea of who I am and what I deserve or want in a partner. I have been his ride or die for 5 years and maybe this is a dealbreaker for me given the stressful road ahead; maybe it should be, maybe it’s not, but the important thing is I think I will use this time to invest that care in him in myself, stay level-headed, hit the gym this morning, allow myself to cry, and prepare for this psychologist appointment and work on myself and who I am and what I really want. I suppose that’s all I can control and I just need to release the outcome at this point. It is not really about him anymore, I can see that now. All I can control is myself, and the lessons I learn here, I will take forward in every romantic and platonic relationship beyond this point. Regardless of how this pans out I think it was this framework and understanding I needed, since I was just blindsided and reeling from the pain with little information and uncharacteristically little introspection, as I have read books on codependency and would have thought I would have been aware of the signs.
I really appreciate all of your support and insight. It really is helping me get through this and see things differently/change my perspective. I am open to any other insight or suggestions on the path I have suggested charting forward from here, where I take the driver’s seat from now on, decide what I want and the path I want to chart, and any issues are handled (if at all) from a position of self-love and self awareness.