It is the return of the Winter Pledge Drive here at Awkward Enterprises, where I rattle the tip jar and invite people to throw in a few $ if you like what we do here. You can contribute via PayPal, Dwolla, or (new!) cash.me/$CaptainAwkward. Your generous gifts help me keep the site going.
Now to today’s question, which involves some mentions of hoarding behaviors.
I have been seeing this guy for the past 6months long distance. We visit every few months. This past visit was the longest we’ve spent together (3 weeks) and it was somewhat a rollercoaster. A few things went wrong here and there of course that was bumpy. Overall I felt disrespected, confused, and disgusted. I told my partner that the state of his apartment made me feel uncomfortable (he’s a borderline hoarder w/ no access to his kitchen, getting electricity off the grid, walking space is lessening) and he responded by saying it’s related to my trauma. I understood that, yet he did nothing to increase my comfort while I was there. The mess continued to be an issue while I was there (losing things, bugs, mice) and finally before I left I told him that I felt like my feelings weren’t being taken seriously. He didn’t take this well and acted standoffish towards me afterwards. I’m back home now, and I’m feeling much better to be in a de-cluttered space. It’s been a week and I’ve asked that he take some space for himself and get help. We chatted briefly about it. I tried to check in today and got no response. I only know that he’s alive bc of his social media postings (some of which have been passive aggressive) I don’t know what to do at this point. I’m ready to give up and call it quits……should I give him more time? If so how much time is enough?
Did he say that the behavior is related to “my trauma” as in his trauma or as in your trauma? Because if it’s this:
You: “Partner, I am uncomfortable with x…”
Him: “You’re just saying that because of your trauma!”
Then he is trying to convert your discomfort with his environment and behavior into discomfort with yourself, which is what broken glass guy does.
And if it’s about his own trauma, that sucks, and is very sad, but either way, you still need what you need, which is not to be grossed out and uncomfortable in a space where you’re staying. You need him to make an effort to make you comfortable, and if he won’t or can’t (which, maybe he can’t, and I hope he gets alllllll the help if so), you need to not be in that space and maybe need to not be in the relationship anymore.
Either way, I’m sorry but it’s probably time to ride away on your nopetepus.
Not all romantic relationships can or should develop into permanent ones or involve shared living spaces, but if that is the kind of relationship you want in your life, keep in mind that the early stages of dating are for figuring out if that kind of compatibility exists. Six months in, it’s not looking good. Here’s what we know:
- The way he arranges his living space does not indicate long-term compatibility with you and how you like to live. It makes you actively uncomfortable when you stay there in the here and now.
- He won’t or can’t take steps to make it more comfortable for you when you are a guest.
- He blames you and your history for that discomfort.
- Longest visit so far = unhappiest visit so far.
- You feel disgusted, disrespected, and are “ready to call it quits.”
- Discussing your feelings honestly and giving him space isn’t bringing you closer together. He’s avoiding you but posting passive-aggressive status updates where he knows you’ll see them.
No doubt he is experiencing some shame and distress right now, and I feel a lot of sympathy for him. Hoarding behaviors often ride sidecar with serious mental health conditions and a ton of shame, none of which I am qualified to address, though one thing I can tell you is that making sustainable changes is a very time-consuming process. You asked “how much time is enough?” and the answer, really and truly, is probably years, plural, at which point this still might be a struggle and a point of contention between you. Note also that he has not said “I have a problem, I want to get help for it, please be patient with me while I do that and I will do my best to make sure it doesn’t impact you when you are here with me.”
Look at it this way: You are only six months in. You are long-distance and nobody has pulled up stakes and rearranged their whole lives for the other partner…yet. You can have empathy for someone’s feelings and their struggles without opting into those struggles “for better or for worse.” It is absolutely okay to date someone for a while and then decide, oh wait, now that I know them a little better I can see that this person is not for me. It’s okay to not invest more time and work into something that isn’t working.
Here’s a gentle, clean breakup script: “After our last visit, I realized that things aren’t working for me, and I’ve decided to end things.”
My advice: Let his silence & avoidance be a gift to you for right now. Don’t do any work on the relationship (like checking in) until he contacts you, and when you are ready, end it.
I wish you both well.