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I need your help. I don’t know if I’m in a shitty relationship or if bad things just keep happening to us. I’ve been dating a guy for eight months. We fell in love very quickly and very intensely. The first period was very happy but I quickly felt very insecure and anxious about our relationship. I have generalised anxiety disorder and am often irrationally anxious. It has led to numerous situations where I was deeply worried about an aspect of our relationship, felt like we had tried as much as possible to fix it, and ended up trying to break up; however he would always convince me that we hadn’t really tried and that he wanted another chance to do better.
He is a rationalist who is deeply against living by social norms and just sees them as defaults, and is “non-default” about pretty much everything including work path, values etc., as well as lifestyle including cooking (lives off takeaway so as not to spend time grocery shopping and cooking), cleaning (does not have much of a regular cleaning habit – I broke glass in his kitchen a month ago and he said I shouldn’t have to clean it up and it’s still there), sleeping (he has no regular sleep schedule and sleeps when he wants to. The kind of work that he does is largely from home with long deadlines. He ships a prescription anti-narcolepsy from overseas which allows him to stay awake for long stretches on little sleep – although he plans on giving this up soon). He also takes party drugs and for a while, was taking quite high amounts of MDMA on a weekly basis, which pretty much wiped him out the day or two after. I have always been uncomfortable around drugs, although he did not really know the extent of my discomfort, and I can’t take them myself due to mental health. He dropped back to once a month after I expressed concerns about escalation and he acknowledges that he has some susceptibility to addiction, although he is not currently dependent.“
One serious issue we had was that he gave me an STI. He had rationalised that he had a very limited risk of having an STI so despite my repeated requests and despite being informed that a previous partner had been infected, did not get tested. I was furious at his intellectual arrogance and the danger he had put us both in. I lost a week of unpaid time off work and my mum had to nurse me through my allergic reaction to the treatment. I told him I wanted to break up, but we ended up supporting each other through the treatment and ultimately decided to get back together and work things out.
We have had some more rough patches lately. After agreeing that he would party on New Years, he ended up sleeping and feeling rotten through most of my birthday on New Years’ Day, which felt pretty lonely for me. He has been very stressed at work and had some issues with a very serious eye infection, which means that any positive changes around cooking/cleaning etc. have understandably stopped. I supported him through the eye infection by taking more time off work to wait at the eye hospital with him for many afternoons. We then went away camping with some of his friends, some friends-of-friends and a couple of my friends. Most of them did drugs, including one less experienced girl who wound up with drug-induced psychosis. It was a five-day process to get her help and it was extremely upsetting and worrying for everyone involved, and I once again could not work for the period. The experience reinforced my dislike of drugs and desire to not be around drugs, and as someone with mental health issues, I was angry and upset that the girl’s mental health was being blamed more than the illegal drugs she had taken. I told him that the drugs were too high a price of admission for me and packed my bags.
We have since traded emails in which he first said he did not understand why I left him and thought that I was being dishonest about drugs being the true reason. Through his logical arguments he has forced me to see that I was being irrational about my attitude to drugs and that it is merely a personal preference I have not to be around them, rather than any objective issue with the drugs themselves. I felt like the whole arguing process was unpleasant and cold and hated it. When he explained the break-up over drugs to his best friend, the friend replied by saying he should not to try and argue people out of their emotions and boundaries. My boyfriend doesn’t see the problem – he thinks if someone is objectively right, they’re right, and emotions that correspond with that are the issue of the emotional person. He is also extremely strong-willed and intellectually well-backed-up and is not used to being challenged emotionally, so I don’t think he realises how unpleasant it can be. I’ve explained this explicitly now and he found the concept very hard to relate to.
It’s really hard for me to check in with friends and family about this too. They all hear only have to hear me mention drugs to tell me I’ve made the right choice by leaving him. My family has had bad history with drugs and my sister, who used to take party drugs and was badly affected, told me “You’ve already been through a lifetime’s worth when it comes to drugs – you don’t need to go through any more”.
We’re now in a position where he thinks I’ve made a mistake with the breakup, and that I did not adequately justify my reasons for ending it. I ended up seeing it from his perspective and apologising for being irrational and hurtful. I love him and that we do have a lot of good things including a great amount of love, affection, good humour, and generally understanding. He says he loves me more than he loves anyone, that he needs me, that we are good for each other, that he wants to be the one for me, that he wants to make it all work. Our plans had included travelling and ultimately living together. I ended up feeling like maybe breaking up with him over the drugs had been an anxiety response rather than something I really wanted to do. But I’m worried about this narrative; as I type it I can see that it sounds really unhealthy (he would say that “sounds really unhealthy” is weak reasoning). I feel like I’ve paid a lot of costs over the STI, drugs etc., including lost work time, stress, and in particular with the STI pain and possibly ongoing health concerns. I can’t turn off the part of my brain that says that someone who loves me as much of as they say wouldn’t hurt me in these big and small ways. We’ve discussed this; he says he feels he treats me well; and I guess that I am now consigning a lot of my worries to pure anxiety, which makes me feel like I can’t trust my emotional reactions and that I should work on my anxiety and ultimately stay. I don’t know if that’s the right thing for me to do. I don’t know if we truly do have a problematic dynamic (despite having amazing things shared between us) or if it’s just anxiety at play. Have we just had bad luck at points? I can’t tell if this all feels so weird because his lifestyle and approach is so ‘non-default’ or because I am being manipulated. I don’t know if my anxiety is protecting me, or causing the problems. I so hope you and the Awkward Army can help with insight and advice.
Worried about my worry but also my maybe(?!)-dodgy relationship