Hi, I'm Dr. Jackie, a communication specialist and relationship expert. I would like to try to help, but I am unsure of your question. I'll wait here in chat to see if you come back online and if you want to talk. :-)
That was something of an accidental question but I do have one that relates to a recent relationship break down. Do you think you could help?
I can certainly try and would be happy to
It's rather long so my apologies for that
I have recently experienced the ending of an extremely intense 6 month relationship.My now ex-girlfriend, 20, and I were involved for 6 months. The relationship was very intense, particularly in the last few months - we went on an amazing holiday, lived together for a few weeks and spent almost every night and many days together.After around 3 months, she told me that she loved me. I felt a deep connection to her but was unsure that it was love. She would refer to me as her “soulmate", tell me that she wanted to spend her life with me (during particularly emotional times i.e. after sex), wishfully discussed our future lives and said, in all seriousness, that she would want to move to Australia with me after university. She even stated that she would be uncertain about an abortion if she were to become pregnant. She discussed our Christmas together later in the year and our children in ten years.Now, I was concerned about her suitability for a long-term relationship, given that she cheated on her ex-bf – she explained that they didn’t see one another frequently enough due to university separation and that, after a year of only once monthly visits, she got bored and fell out of love with, and cheated on him.What compounded my doubts was her saying that she hadn’t felt guilty about this ending because she didn't love him anymore, despite her knowledge that he loved her still. She also said that she often wondered whether he had been the love of her life, but later on in our relationship said that she had never had a connection with him such as we had.She adored sex (and was highly promiscuous when younger), is a middle adult child of divorce – her father cheated on several partners including her mother – and has gone to university to study drama, with the aim of becoming an actress (not that this is indicative of anything necessarily but could be symptomatic of a need for attention in certain cases).After 6 incredible months together, we both departed for university. We discussed ending things but agreed that we wanted to try a distance relationship as we couldn’t bear the thought. She did, however, say that she was “terrified of messing things up” and recreating past “self-sabotaging behaviours” but couldn’t imagine doing that to me. She said that she was afraid that I might meet someone, a medic (my course) with whom she could not compete, but trusted me “with her life”.During our time apart, she initially spoke of her excitement over seeing me in the coming weeks, seeing me for Christmas and passionately expressed her love – “I don’t think you’ll ever understand how much I love you”, “you’re my world”, “I miss your mind, body and soul” – although I think she was made more emotional by alcohol on several of these occasions. I received several drunken phone calls during which she stated that she was desperate for things to work, that she wanted/felt she needed me to be there to reassure her, that she missed me a great deal and loved me intensely. However, when I called during the day, I received the same luke-warm reactions I would upon initial face-to-face encounter. Within days of this, by around 3 weeks of separation, she had stopped making any effort to contact me and I would not receive responses to messages/phone calls for 24 hours.I visited her days later. She became slightly teary upon seeing me but then proceeded to more or less ignore me, to show next to no enthusiasm for my presence (almost annoyance), to text her new friends in front of me and to say that she didn't have the “emotional capacity” to make our relationship work alongside her time-demanding course. She was largely dispassionate the entire time we discussed this – showing almost no emotion as she suggested a break. After me asking whether something had happened, she admitted that she had been invited back to another guy's house and had slept in his bed, cuddling all night, but swore in an impassioned manner that nothing more intimate had happened. Whether I believe her, I have no idea.It turned out that she had been flirtatiously texting this guy in front of me the entire time I was there – suggesting she would visit him during the Summer and telling him how awkward things had become with us. Even as we ended things she picked up the phone to text him. Furthermore, the only enthusiasm she showed was when he responded to a message.She made me promise that we could revisit things at Christmas or at some stage in the near future, we had sex and then I mentioned some of my most treasured memories of our time together, resulting in a great many tears on her part. She couldn’t bring herself to say “goodbye” to me and closed with “I’ll see you soon”. It seemed so odd considering her cold and unconcerned attitude just hours earlier.During our relationship, she would rarely show great enthusiasm and was extremely laid back, like myself. A typical evening might involve a luke-warm reception (no smile or hug unless instigated by me) and somewhat difficult conversation to which I would contribute the majority of the impetus. Gradually, the level of intimacy and affection would increase – a kiss, cuddling on the sofa, sex and then intimate conversation. If we parted in the morning, the next visit would proceed similarly. We never fought and she rarely showed any anger, hating confrontation. She would show annoyance and impatience but denied ever feeling jealousy.She seemed to be very loving and affectionate during the right moments i.e. watching a movie/in bed/after sex (particularly during the latter stages) but could also be disinterested and condescending. She could also be quite selfish - "forgetting her wallet", buying expensive items despite owing me money that I was in need of etc.She said that before she met me she found it very difficult to open up to people emotionally, even to her previous boyfriend of 2 years, and had never discussed her previous issues surrounding eating disorders, her parents’ divorce and her issues with self-image (she was very conscious of her weight and looks and had previously suffered from an eating disorder).She often said that she thought of herself as an individual, not needing to be part of a group and not wanting to depend on people and made a fierce show of being independent.She frequently said that she wished we had met after university/that she wanted a future with me, due to her propensity to engage in "self-sabotaging behaviours" – cheating, promiscuity in younger days, drug taking and going out drinking - and was scared of ruining our relationship. She also frequently said that she was afraid that I was going to meet someone at university.But at the same time, she said that, since being at university, she rarely thought of me. She immediately started “seeing” the guy she shared a bed with after we parted.How is it that she could have moved on (new partner & seeming so happy)/given up on a relationship of such apparent intensity so quickly?When I received midnight phone calls saying how she "so wanted it to work" and how she was "so afraid" I was going to meet someone, was this an indication that she was grieving for the relationship, subconsciously knowing it wouldn't work, hence her apparent quick recovery?Or is she just finding it very easy to ignore the situation (hence the emotion shown when I was actually present) - she said she rarely thinks of home and doesn't miss it, wouldn't rather be anywhere else than her dream current university etc. – drama, leading to a career in acting.I’m not sure whether she feels love to a limited extent, hence the quick recovery/loss of interest, or has an ability to just “go cold” on partners? Neither of these seems to explain how she stayed with, and stayed faithful to, her last bf (who she apparently had nothing near the same connection with and doubted her love for) for a year, despite only seeing one another once a month. I believe that we would still be together had it not been for her going to university (even if I had) so could it just be the lack of a familiar support network – new environment, new people, new challenges, new stresses etc. meaning a heightened desire for a new partner?Does she just like the novel? Is this a grass is greener situation? Or was our relationship just a honeymoon situation? Did she ever actually love me – to a normal extent or to her own capacity for such a feeling?
No problem--can you give me a few minutes to read it? Thanks!
Yes, please take as much time as necessary
I am pretty sure that I responded to this before but am unsure you responded. Did something happen last time you posted this?`
I didnt receive a message or notificaiton unfortunately so i'm not sure if it didn't get through or some such
Ok. That is fine. I just remember being familiar with this. And I am so sorry you are going through this
It sounds like she may have detachment disorder. Are you familiar with that? I would never begin to diagnose someone who was not seeing me and with whom I never met and never did an intake on. But my gut is telling me that she may have this or something very similar.
Could you explain detachment disorder to an extent?
Things have also developed somewhat since - I received a phone call from her last night. I told her that I have been struck and hurt by the sudden ending, by the manner of it. She agreed that she had handled it poorly but didn't do it due to losing her love for me. She told me that she hasn't been seeing anyone and that we would still be together if it wasn't for the considerable time demands of her course. Finally that she felt as though she had succeeded in ignoring what had happened, how she felt until the last month when it had hit her, and that things had consequently been tough for her - missing meetc
Sure. It basically means that at an early age -- infancy through young toddler age -- that someone just did not properly bond with the mom/dad/primary care giver. Often times this occurs with orphaned children or children taken away from parents if the parents are incompetent to take care of the child. If a child is shifted from one family guardian to another to another or if the government intercedes and places them in foster care and the child moves from home to home or even if the child does not receive adequate affection from the caregiver(s), this can happen. The child never forms close, emotional bonds. And because of this experience, the child grows into an adult who is incapable of true feelings of affection for a long period of time--because stemming from childhood, affection "comes and goes" and after a period of time, it's off to the next home (or for an adult--the next relationship).
I hope that makes sense. I'll now read what you just added.
As I see it presently, we went away and either she acted the way that she did (lack of communication, favouring someone else, ignoring my presence) either due to a condition such as BPD (out of sight out of mind mentaility) or because she summised that things wouldn't work given the nature of her course. Perhaps to avoid the pain of this she acted in the way that she did - to distract. How she could be so selfish towards someone she claims to have loved, how she can still fail to see how it must have hurt me is still confusing, as is why she wasn't even willing to give it a longer try.
I can sense your pain and frustration--I know this is hard. And I agree, she could have BPD. I am sensing at least someone that she has some type of detachment disorder because it seems like she can't stick with a commitment long-term. I am just going by what you have shared about her past as well as her behaviors during your relationship. Obviously again I can't be sure because I haven't met with her. But regardless, the bot***** *****ne (despite what the cause/disorder) is that there is something going on in her mind that has caused these back and forth emotions. It may even be bipolar disorder--medical researchers STILL don't understand everything about that. But again, regardless of the causes of her behaviors, behaviors that we may NEVER truly understand, we have to try to "deal with" what is in front of us. What I mean is...
In terms of bonding with care givers - she's close to her mum and sisters but dad left under suspicions of cheating at a young age
It does seem that her actions are very selfish and hurtful. And maybe "seem" is not strong enough--let's SAY that her actions are such. My response is that what is important is her intent. There is a difference between someone who INTENDS to "play games" and cause her and knows that it is unethical, hurtful, and wrong. We label people like this as sociopaths because on the surface, they seem very likable and even affectionate. But deep down, they truly are incapable of real feelings. They know this is wrong, but they really don't care. Then there are others who suffer from some type of emotional disorder and they really do not INTEND or mean to act in ways that are hurtful to others--they just have no coping strategies and really need some help via counseling/therapy and/or medication perhaps to help replace say a chemical imbalance.
So what I am trying to do is answer your questions about "Why?" she is like this.
Without talking with her, I can't begin to know what is inside her mind. So I am throwing out some plausible causes and explanations.
The bot***** *****ne--
If you truly care about her and feel she truly cares about you (trust your gut on this--usually your instincts are right; not always but usually you can sense if she truly has real feelings), then you are going to need some help dealing with whatever is going on with her.
And she will need counseling/therapy to explore what causes these behavioral changes so that she can overcome and try to cope with stress of school, relationship stress, etc. She can't be healthy for YOU in a relationship until she is HEALTHY on her own. Make sense?
I feel that her feelings were real when we were together, although now she is convinced that she cannot have a relationship in general due to the demands of her college course. I suppose what I am struggling with is, despite the knowledge that she likely has some elements of a peronality disorder or felt that the relationship would be impossible alongside her course, how is it that she doesn't recognise that her actions were hurtful?
I am still in love with her but I know that it can't work
I wish I could answer that. Like I said, I'm sorry but it would be unfair for me to label her behaviors or "diagnose" her without talking to her. So I don't know 100% WHY she does not seem to know her behaviors are hurtful. I can only speculate at this point. Given my opinion that she does likely have some type of personality disorder, one of which I mentioned, maybe she just CAN'T understand why her behaviors are hurtful. Our brains are very complex. And due to genetics and many other factors--scientists now think hormones in our food are causing all kinds of things to go "haywire" in our brains--she could have a chemical imbalance or even something else physiological that affects her frontal lobe and/or other parts. So the best I can do (unfortunately) is give you my best guess. Since you are the one with whom I am chatting, helping you be healthy is MY goal.
If you "know that it can't work," like you have said, then you will have to figure out some ways to get emotionally healthy again. It must hurt terribly, and I can only imagine that hurt is affecting your studies.
But you have to work through this.
If she does have a personality disorder, why do you think she is contacting me again? Is it genuinely missing me or is it more the way that I make her feel or somesuch?
And do you think I can believe her when she says that she hasn't been seeing anyone? The thought of this really bothers me
Well, to answer your first question, she may have genuine feelings. She just may not know how to express them the way most other people do--I mean consistently and not seem to shut them off and on again. This of course would indicate a disorder.
You're right, the pain is tremendous. This was my first love, the only person I'd ever opened up to about my years of major depression. And it seemed as though I was tossed aside despite these incredible experiences, protestations of affection, and apparent future plans. I'm doing a medicine degree and it's made it an incredibly difficult experience
I truly don't know if you can believe her or not. She admitted to cheating before. So of course, there are "red flags" that she may do it again.
I don't want to mislead you--but she could "get better" if she would seek therapy. A psychiatrist would be able to better give her an accurate diagnosis and medicine if needed. Then if she became "healthy" emotionally, it may be possible to have a real relationship some day. But right now it doesn't sound like that is a good option because you will be dealing with extreme feelings/lack of feelings like you have experienced. Disorders just do not go away and people just "get rid of disorders" like one gets rid of a cold.
So what are your thoughts?
I am not sure if this has helped but I hope it has.
I am not sure what happened but I'm going to go because I have another customer waiting for me. I'm happy to chat again if you want.
Can you rate our conversation when you log off so that I know I am helping? Please let me know if you want to talk again. Best, *****
My apologies for stepping away. I wonder if you might be able to explain the symptoms/consequences of dissociative disorder a little more? And also whether you think it could be the case that she simply acted out due to wanting to avoid feeling the pain of losing me & due to conviction that things wouldn't work? She said at the time that she still loved me, was in fits of tears when we broke up and said again on the phone yesterday that she had loved me when we broke up. But she also said that she had ignored her feelings following the break upuntil about a month ago & clearly her actions were not suggestive of love - do you think this is a fair conclusion - she stopped texting me, although that could have been due to cowardice, spent the night with another guy (platonic apparently) so could have simply been for comfort, then ignored me on my visit (again cowardice?) + she wasn't willing to try for longer than 3 weeks! Those intense feelings which seemed to have vanished whilst we were apart, except for a few occasions, reappeared when I was present
Hi Dr. Jackie,
I suppose the way I see it at present is that this situation has resulted form one of two possibilities:
1) PD of some description, although difficult to say which.
2) Our relationship was not based upon love but infatuation, at least on her end. Misinterpreted for love due to strength of feeling elicited. Having arrived at uni, the feelings gradually dissipated/changed for her. She realised that she wanted independence to succeed on her course and enjoy university, without being beholden to anyone else. To distract herself from the situation/prevent any heartache she showed attention to another guy and ignored the situation with me. protestations of love then and now amounted to feelings conjured up in the moment as she remembered the good times. Despite our 6 months together, perhaps it simply takes her a longer time than this to form a lasting connection? Secondly, being an adult child of divorce, she was afraid that I would leave her, as she often said, so, on some level, wanted to end things before this happened.
Conclusion: Regardless of cause, her behaviour was hurtful and selfish. The end was probably inevitable, however. It likely did not reflect upon me as an individual and we would likely have remained together if not for university. She misses me now, as evidenced by phone call etc, and will probably feel that way on occasion for some time to come/will look back with fond memories. Managing to elicit those feelings in her should be taken as a compliment.
I agree wholeheartedly with the impact of the divorce and subsequent avoidance of rejection. However, this in my eyes only accounts for her self-sabotaging behaviours and not her apparent withdrawal of interest/affection.
Is it possible that she was simply ignoring the way she felt? Getting lost in all of the new experiences and then it hit her some time later? Can some individuals just turn off their feelings in this way and if so could you explain it to me as I think I would have just missed her too greatly if the situation was reversed.