Unstable Woman Worth it?
Q: My most recent love interest began with a surprising intensity: we got to know everything about each other fairly quickly, and we decided we should be together long-term after only a few months. A problem, though: she's recently divorced from a two-year marriage that came behind a five-year relationship. Gripes that she made about him when he was brought up soon came to echo in our relationship. We went from "we never spend enough time together", to "you are smothering me" with no change in actual time spent together. She began taking her frustration and anger out in self-destructive patterns, and I decided it was enough.
After I broke it off, a week later she tells me that it wasn't my fault, and that she was having a nervous breakdown. She said that she couldn't be tied down anymore for awhile, and that maybe in the future when things settle down, we could try it again. Everyone I've ever met that knows her is willing to talk bad about her and the things she does. Still, I do want to think the best of her, especially since I don't have any evidence other than what I've heard around the horn. Also, her friend that she goes out with and ends up drinking way too much with is also the one that keeps trying to tell me that it's probably going to work out after she gets stable again.
I guess my main question is... No matter how much I care about her, after all this, is it worth it? Should I even be concerned with what could happen with us in the future? Should I move on, or heed her and her friend's opinion that it could probably work out in the future?
Dr. Susan: If you put your life on hold in the vague hope that "things will be different" with this unstable woman at some indefinite time in the future, you should really have your head examined. You met her while she was rebounding from another long relationship and she apparently hadn't yet figured out what went wrong with that one, which is probably why she kept blaming you for stuff that wasn't even your fault. Relationships do change a lot over the first few months or couple of years. You go from wanting to spend every moment together to needing at least SOME space, or maybe a lot of space, depending on your personalities. In other words, things get more "normal." But she had to blame YOU for her changing feelings, even when you say you weren't aware of any actual changes in your time spent together.
You don't say what those "self-destructive patterns" were that she began acting out, but that sounds serious. Threatened suicide? Drunken binges? People who do those things aren't ready for a healthy relationship. I wouldn't just sit around waiting for "things to settle down." One of the more interesting bits of your letter is where you say that everyone says bad things about her, but you WANT to think the best of her and wonder if it "could probably work out in the future." Based on what real-life evidence, I'd like to know? Wanting to believe something when you have nothing to sustain that belief is called fantasizing. Put your energies in another direction.
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.