This is where having sensible methods of conflict resolution are crucial. You can’t hope that your partner will “get the hint” if you behave differently. They might just think you’re wrestling your own demons as we all do. And unless you tell them explicitly what’s on your mind, they may have no clue. I speak from experience, on both sides of this particular situation and know that proper conflict resolution takes courage and the ability to examine your own part in the conflict. Quite simply, sometimes you have to be the bad guy.
Avoiding the Conversation
I was involved with a man I had met online. For the most part, we got along well and he provided what I needed in terms of love, safety and friendship. But, alas, it was not all good. I noticed that whenever we had a disagreement, he would try to get me to react negatively, saying things that were hurtful. Playing at psychologist, I later determined that based on the love-hate relationship he had with his mother, which was his definition of love. I don’t doubt he loved me, which is why he argued with me. When I discovered I didn’t want to stay romantically involved, it was difficult. Especially since it had taken a long time to find someone I was compatible with. Initially, he was someone I felt I could be with long-term but that feeling started to change when I discovered his primary method of conflict resolution: argue. So I had a choice to make. I could have “the talk” with him or stay in the relationship in hopes my feelings would change. I opted to have the talk but unfortunately, I didn’t go right to that. I detoured into, “I’m really busy with work so I can’t talk or see you,” but not for long. I felt guilty because I knew I needed to tell him the truth. That was painful for me but I know it also hurt him. When we did have “the talk,” he didn’t understand… said he could live with seeing me less but asked me not to let “us” go. But it was something I felt I had to do. He was angry and hurt and driven by my guilt for hurting him, I did agree to a second chance but again, I knew it wasn’t right for me.
I’m not saying my methods are the best but I have always believed in being truthful. Believe me, it can save you emotional stress and pain in the long run. But as I’ve said in many of my ramblings, you have to be true to you. And I would rather end a romantic relationship as soon as I know it’s not what I need/want than pretend to be happy, get married, have children and get divorced two years later for the same reasons I knew were there in the beginning.
The Other Side
I was involved in a romantic relationship with someone who started out as a purely platonic friendship. I can say at this point, he was my greatest love and… my greatest disappointment. For a while, things were wonderful. We had a lot of love for one another, I could talk to him and we shared many good times. Similar to my experience in the previously mentioned relationship, something wasn’t right. I believe he realized he didn’t want to be with me, probably earlier than he would admit. Instead of having the “talk” at that time, he waited. And grew more and more unhappy. His method of conflict resolution came in the form of magnifying issues to the point that in his mind, were beyond resolution. He did the same, “I’m just busy….” thing I did at first. Then he started to become intolerant of me personally which was probably the most painful part of the experience for me. I know I am far from perfect but neither was he. What I thought we had was mutual acceptance. Not so. So he began to view every aspect of who I was negatively (except for the parts that were useful to him) until he could take it no more! I suspect that, while I’m not without fault and character flaws, making me out to be repulsive made it easier for him to end the relationship. Which, some time later, he sort of did. Actually, he left it open, which I believed was his way of softening the blow of rejection.
In hindsight, I felt bad that he felt he let things deteriorate to such an extent and wasn’t honest with me soon after his feelings changed. It really bothered me that in his effort to avoid being perceived as the bad guy, he put the onus on me. And I was very angry at his chosen method of conflict resolution – which was, quite simply to do nothing except behave in an uncaring way in order to ease the guilt of hurting someone he loved. I suspect that after we parted, when asked by mutual friends and acquaintances who asked what happened, he would look forlorn and say, it wasn’t right or she didn’t do X, or tell them I chose to leave. Ironically, the issue he made the most noise about took care of itself. Had the resolution of that issue come before we broke up, I believe he would have had no other excuses but to have, “the talk.”
Shortly after the relationship ended, he told me about another situation (one I knew he didn’t want to be in) that had deteriorated and how he had been made to look like the bad guy when he had done nothing. That’s it, never take responsibility for your actions. Since both of these relationships have come and gone, I believe I am a little bit wiser. Next time around, perhaps I’ll be fortunate enough to be with someone who understands that being involved means if you mutually desire to maintain the relationship. you have to do a little healthy conflict resolution.