Watching others realtionships crash & burn...

nadastimerMay 3, 2002

I am so at a loss at what to do! I posted before about my friends who just moved in together after almost 5 years of dating (this board is the only one that really I could get relationship help on). Anyway, things seem better and then they get worse again. I realize and remeber how different things are when you move in with someone but, oh my! I've been down to help my friend out with hanging decorations and things a few times this past week and I'm actually pretty shocked at some of the stupid stuff they fight over! They can be laughing and having a good time and then a second later one or the other is mad and it's this big fight that drags on forever. Talk about uncomfortable moments. ~I watched her boyfriend throw another hissy fit and break the lid to the tea pitcher just cause I guess it would dribble tea on the counter when you poured it.

The first week they were there he helped do things and well week #3 is here and he's doing pretty much nothing. But I think she has unrealistic expectations of the whole thing. Like she thought he could do everything she hated~take out the garbage, do the laundry, the dishes..) I tried to explain that in most instances the woman does do the bulk of the house work and that she has to change her attitude about things like washing the dishes and taking the garbage out. It's not like she's still living with her parents and they are in charge of the house. She and her boyfriend are now the ones responsible and if they don't do it, it won't get done. It's just that every little minor chore has a complaint with it. Of course her mother wasn't the best homemaker herself and I can see her mother in her more than she wants to admit. She hates grocery shopping (which she's been there 4 times in 2 weeks and the first trip they spent $250 yet they have barely anything in the freezer or fridge to eat and she hasn't really cooked many meals!!!!!!) They got a dog a few days after they moved in and now she hates having to give the dog water, taking him out, feeding him, etc. She whines about having to pay bills and how they are broke and she can't stand it. (My mother wanted her to come work for her for a lot more money but she wouldn't. She's too used to having tip money when she comes home and she can't live without it she said). I'm sitting there just listening to all this and thinking...WELCOME TO THE REAL WORLD!!!!!!!

Something else that is startsa lot of fights are past things. Like the boyfriend cheated on her and came clean about everything before he decided they were getting a place together. She still accepted him but I swear at least once a day or more she throws something in his face about it. She brings the girls up in conversations and trashes them like it's all there fault. Well, if her boyfriend loved her so much...he wouldn't have done anything! And the one girl we hear about all the time, he dated while they were broken up so he wasn't cheating. However the girl got pregnant (but said she had an abortion since then) and it's now all her fault. What about him, Isn't he responsible for anything? Now my friend won't go to the store or drive down certain streets because she may see her or have to drive past her house. She refused the first apartment they found because it was in the same town as the girl but way on the other side. She went on and on about how if she sees her she's going to tell her off and maybe hit her. I told her not to stoop to the girls' level, if she wants to act that way fine but don't do it back.

Anyway, I'm watching all this and seeing their relationship go down the tubes. They just don't know how to compromise or to let things go! I want to warn her but I fear that's the wrong thing to do. Is there any way I can help? Anything you would tell this person? I figure if she could forgive him and accept all the wrong he did in the past, she has to learn to shut up about it and find other things to talk to him about. They both also need to learn that neither of them can always be right, there has to be someone who's wrong once in a while. The hissy fits get you no where...I think I may just once have to get up in the middle of the argument and leave~would that prove anything? I just think they have A LOT To learn about the world. There parents sheltered them for too long or something! well, if anything I guess I had to just vent a little! LOL I feel better now!

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Well, since you asked - you shouldn't do anything. All you can do is be a friend and offer a shoulder to cry on. I kind of remember that you said your friend doesn't take advice very well, so it's not a good idea to offer much advice right now.

This is one of those life lessons that help people grow up. If you get over-involved your friend won't feel the discomfort and make the changes necessary to solve the problem herself.

What you can and really should try to do, is take a few steps back mentally and disengage emotionally from your friend's problem. These are your friend's issues and it's good to care and worry for her, but it's not healthy for you to be so emeshed with her.

Please take care,


    Bookmark   May 3, 2002 at 12:50PM
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I guess the only reason I was really thinking about this morning was that I was out with her last night. Things were great until we got back to her house and her boyfriend was there and then all the whining and attention getting stuff starts. I just really can't stand that they are so comfortable with fighting while others watch. I hate being there when this stuff happens and usually its when I'm alone~my son and fiance' aren't there. I think next time I will leave the room or maybe go outside. Maybe the problem is that they think this behavior is normal? It's like watching this train wreck. I see all the signs of failure but can't do nothing. I told her before when he left and she was so sad that if they are meant to be together, they will be. Guess I need to think of that now. She has to learn that she needs to changed some things about her to make any kind of relationship work. I just never realized she was so bossy and b*tchy until now!!! Thanks.


    Bookmark   May 3, 2002 at 3:02PM
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I agree, there's not much you can do... they will either work things out or break up, and all you can do is let her know that you will always be there for her. You may need to avoid them as a couple, if their fighting makes you uncomfortable (which it would me!) I have a friend who is in a horrid relationship, and I pretty much stopped hanging out with the two of them together, because it bugged me so much to watch them! The only other thing you can do is SET A GOOD EXAMPLE... when you are with her and your finacee is with you -- show her what a normal, loving relationship is all about.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2002 at 12:43AM
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You can't control other people. You can opt to 'explain' or 'warn' or otherwise provide information or support but thier conflicts are their own and between them. Some of their external conflicts are going to be reflective of internal issues to each of them, as they are with anybody.

Saying one 'forgives' is not the same thing as having come to an acceptance of the past with an eye to the future. Feeling like staying together may be preferable to breaking up (for whatever reason) is something that can lead a person to say they 'forgive' or for others to look and see what they interpret as 'forgiveness;' but the person who felt wronged in the first place may well still feel irked over the situation no matter how far in the past. Personal pain is complicated and how people manage internal stresses is very personal to them and their own internal processes such as they are.

Some people seem to 'need' a higher feeling of stimulation in general than others. Their scales are set at a difference balance in a hard-wired sort of way neurologically. People who have this kind of thing internally can feel like conflict somehow reinforces or 'proves' the other person cares, or that they themselves exist. It sounds nonsensical to people who have no such need or orientation to the world and who generally prefer quieter more peaceful love relationships. There can be post traumatic stress involved for some people who seem to be neurologically wired to remember and relive their painful incidents. They cannot, by themselves and without help just 'get over' things because those things escalate within the person and new painful incidents sort of churn up the old painful ones and whole new worlds of inner chaos may occur. People who have this sort of thing tend quite naturally to not be able to 'forgive' in the conventional sense of the concept. They are consumed by their emotional pains and if they want to, they can get help in getting past their past events-- but it's not something a friend can do for them, and it's not likely to be easy or pleasant. A real problem if inner chaos is occurring, is that it will be reflected in outward behaviour (that behaviour will be unpredictable and chaotic, and it can be dangerous for everyone involved.)

Your friend is your friend. You're not her therapist, rescuer, or relationship 'fixer.' In your role as friend there are things you can talk to her about. If she complains a lot and seems to be stressed in an unhealthy way, and you can see ways that she might be able to help herself out then you can mention them. The idea is to just mention them, not impose them or give her the feeling that you are trying to assert 'control' or 'judgement.' I would mention things along those lines if they apply mainly because taking concrete steps to orient one's life around some past painful situation seems like there might be an internal problem more pressing than relationship problems as a whole (even if those are totally obvious and seem more important). People who have felt extremes of personal pain as may have been involved in the past incident can contain great chronic seething anger. If they are acting in ways that seem to foster and reinforce their own anger and pain, and they have an apparent source to blame for their pain, the situation can be dangerous.

It seems like it would be a good idea for you to walk out if or when they get into arguments. It won't 'prove' anything but it will remove any playing to the audience they might do because you are there. It will also remove you from a potentially dangerous situation until it cools off and you are all more able and willing to act civilized.

P.S. Feeling as if you should warn her and do things to help her change is a really good reason to remove yourself from their conflicts. If she is in pain, and angry and not apparently adept working within the 'real world' with its rules and limitations; being around her when she is angry is not a good idea for anyone. It may be especially not good if there is her and him and you spend whatever input you may have trying to get her attention or trying to change her behaviour.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2002 at 10:35AM
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Thanks, again. She was here last night to write a paper for her last college class and we talked a little. Most of their "problems" have to do with this being the first time either of them has been on their own. She's trying to deal with the reality of all the housework and what it takes to make your place look good. He's not realizing that he's not with his parents and needs to be more helpful and not just make plans and come and go as he pleases. Why oh why do we let males grow up with the idea that being in a commited relationship is so bad? I'm so tired of the "You're whipped" comment or hearing men refer to their wives, girlfriends, fiance's or whatever as the "Old Lady" or "the ball and chain". If they'd only get it in there head that there is nothing wrong with having someone to go home to and who is there for you is not a bad thing! Or that women only want to know where you are or to be told where you are going because it's common courteosy and want to know you are okay, things would be a lot easier in the world, I think. We're brought up so differently and sometimes that's great but other times it's not. Could this be why most men cheat, run when their girl tells them they are pregnant and several other things? They're so afraid to be tied down but who really wants to be alone forever?

Also, I think there are things they haven't dealt with yet, just pushed them aside to see if they would go away. Like she's never really shown she was hurt because he cheated. It was more like she just got angry. I can't imagine what it's done to her inside! Another big problem in their relationship is her mother. She hates this guy and has since day #1. He isn't perfect but none of us are and I've seen a lot of changes in him over the years. Her mother holds on to nothing but the bad and will see no good. So a lot of the reason why I think this relationship lasted this long is because the parents were so against it. She once told me that when her parents did get kind of okay with him, she was questioning why she was with him. Then they started to forbid her to be with him and she wanted him more. And last night she mentioned that she sees all these guys in nice cars and the guys who have asked her out and she's questioned if her boyfriend actually realized there are thousands of other men in the world but she chose him and she could very well unchoose him. There is more going on in her head than I think she's even letting herself relize. She was also talking about how things were when they were broke up about a month or so ago...

I'm here no matter what. I just think I"m being a little more vocal than I once was. I tried to do things just to make her happy and most of the time kept my mouth shut even when she asked for my opinion. I've been giving it more now. I also pointed out that many things she complains about her guy doing, I deal with plus many other women in the world~such as leaving dirty dishes, socks or whatever in odd places instead of returning them to where they should be like the laundry or sink. That's a male thing for the most part and you can't really totally reprogram them. Man, I am watching and learning a lot and hoping that somehow I teach my son a little better than some others taught their sons. I don't want him to have to be totally dependant on the woman in his life and it's not bad to commit yourself to someone or other things that say my fiance's mother complained about but bred into her own boys. If I get through just a little bit, it will be progress right?

Thanks again.


    Bookmark   May 6, 2002 at 9:00AM
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Leslie - Sounds like you're wise beyond your years. Your girlfriend is lucky to have a friend like you.


    Bookmark   May 6, 2002 at 10:17AM
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these two that live together are what, 16 17 yrs old? sounds like it anyway. a perfect relationship = work work work, compramise compramise compramise.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2002 at 10:48PM
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Be careful because it sounds like it might not be a healthy relationship for you.

If you are or have been acting or talking in ways 'just to make her happy' that's usually a good sign that something is not well with the relationship dynamic. Spend some time on yourself, writing or just thinking about why that felt necessary or was just automatic on your part. This is important because sometimes other people have internal problems which cause them to feel and to act in an unstable manner. That can cause the people in their lives to 'have' to do and say things just to make them happy because that's when they act most stable.

Unless you were and are actually within her relationship, what goes on between her and her boyfriend is not something you can know from direct experience. You are mostly dependent on what she or what he tells you occurs, and people are not usually able to be objective about issues that cause them personal pain or great emotion of any kind. The same kind of thing is true in her relationship with her mother. People are usually on 'different' behaviour when there are guests or observers present. They might act better or worse, or just more self-consciously but there is usually an effective change of some kind.

Some people can't differentiate their subjective experience of pain (or other negative emotion) and anger. All their 'negative' stuff goes into their category for anger, and they act and react however they express their anger. Irritability can result which is nonspecific but which tends to veer into anger expression at or on others. People in this boat can require good, effective professional help to assist them in regaining self-control and learning new means of expression.

Some people have disorders which prevent them from just developing or having, or maybe even being able to naturally have a basic stable feeling and possibility for inner stillness. The different varieties of bipolar disorders can be associated with outward and inward instability for people. Outwardly, they can appear very emotionally immature and variously 'over depressed' for the circumstances or 'over excited' or 'over enthused' and nearly never just relaxed and 'normal.' Borderline personality disorder is also something which can lead to inner (and be reflected in outer) instability. People who have this disorder may be biologically/genetically hard-wired to be hyper-reactive emotionally to the point that any stress throws them hard. These kinds of problems can be reflective of biochemical imbalances and probably the people affected would also need some professional guidance and support (and ongoing maintenance) to experience biochemical stability and to unlearn/relearn more adaptive strategies for expressing emotions and for reacting to stress.

The big point with serious internal issues that require more than just friendship and more than just loving support is that they may not show symptoms until a person is an adolescent or young adult. It is not the case, for example that every adolescent who acts out sexually and who seems to hold excessively grandiose ideas of themself and their abilities is experiencing a manic episode. But, those kinds of things (as well as other kinds of 'self-destructive' but 'feel good' individual activities) can be symptoms of a manic episode. Developmentally, people require the changes of puberty to be able to feel their 'adult' feelings and to possibly be able to think more like an 'adult.' That new experience is, by definition going to bring with it some degree of normal turmoil as the person has internal changes. Sometimes though, adolescents or young adults do have more serious problems which lead to symptoms which will reflect an internal instability that cannot just be 'fixed' or 'cured' with time/maturity/love/.

The trap is that you can't know if you get through, even a little bit. You have to take that on faith based on what the person says and how they seem to act in response. And, even if you do get through, the success will be for the other person to experience as their life is hopefully enhanced and less stressful.

No one is perfect because it's not possible to be both human and perfect. It is important to keep in mind though, that some forms 'imperfection' may take are much more problematic in terms of forming and maintaining healthy adult relationships. Some forms of 'imperfection' can be no one's fault but can be very problematic for individuals and for society. Make sure to give serious assessment to what kinds of things are glossed over by '... but no one's perfect' or '...but anyone in my position would do (whatever) too...' Mothers, generally want what is best for their children even when those children become adults and even when their children might disagree with what 'best' is. Is it 'best' to tell people what they want to hear to make them happy? (sometimes of course, this can be life-saving; but sometimes it can also support illness or maladaptive behaviour). Her mother probably knows about the incident with the boyfriend and has an idea of the kind of pain it caused and maybe still causes for her daughter. She may not have a healthy relationship with her daughter, but it might be functionally impossible and unrealistic for her to just naturally dismiss any misgivings or anger at the person who hurt her child in order to give an appearance of support for a relationship that might have some good aspects or possible good potential.

Cars are not the measure of a man. They might be a kind of external marker for things like being able to afford and maintain a car, and something like a responsible driving record. They can also have been gifts, or belong to parents or others, or the guy may not even be driving it legally. This is the be careful of the 'greener' grass because sometimes it's astroturf or painted and not even what it looked like. What kind of relationship partner does she want (in terms of traits they have); what kind of relationship partner does she not want (in terms of traits they have); and is she ready herself for that kind of relationship, with that kind of person? As to the guy she is with, is it reasonable that he could be that relationship partner for her? It's important to keep this 'reasonable' in terms of speculation because a lot of times people want to imagine unlimited human potential which implies that anyone can be literally anything. It can get out of hand in the same way the defense of '...but we're all imperfect' can.

I'm not sure 'most' men overall act in those stereotyped ways. Some do, possibly; and maybe they learned it from their upbringing or maybe they have some other thing going on with them internally that prevented the upbringing efforts of their parents, or mother. Some men don't. Some men are very neat, and will clean up after themselves and others. Some men are not and don't want to be 'flashy' or drive around in impressive cars. There are as many different types of men in the world as there are types of women and natural human variety is extensive.

The problem with the concept of 'I chose him and I can unchoose him' is that it is very narcissistic and on the face of it kind of emotionally coercive even if it seems true or like a good line to use agressively in argument. It isn't really compatible with having an egalitarian relationship (that's neither here nor there unless she actually wants to have an egalitarian relationship with her partner). As a developmental step, going straight from parental dependence to trying to have a relationship may ignore the intermediate step of learning how to be independent herself. That kind of leap predisposes her to a kind of dependent role, or to base her relationship expectations on what she did or had when she was living with her parents. That's going to create all kinds of unreal expectations and result in a lot of personal growth (and the pains that come with that). People who have no experience yet are bound to make some 'bad' judgements about themselves and others. The 'bad' is a matter of degree however and some women never have the problematic experiences of others. The key is to recognize when the 'bad' is indicative of a serious enough problem (or problems) that a relationship should be ended entirely --not whether to jump the relationship ship to try out someone new; or whether to use that as an internal or expressed threat.

it's still a dangerous by definition situation to get or stay in a relationship with someone who aparently feels or acts in pain and anger but who seems to have an 'unrealistic' view of life or consequences; be careful

    Bookmark   May 7, 2002 at 8:12AM
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I posted because this was on my mind and I was wondering if I could do anything differently to help. However, I already in my head and heart knew I couldn't. I just have no one to discuss this situation with. My fiance' gets tired of the drama, although he does like this couple. Things can be great for a while and then it's, fight, fight, fight! Right now it's really hard because they're learning what it's like to live with someone. You dont' truly know your partner until you do that. At least they're doing this before they get married so they'll know if it's a good idea! I am throwing my two cents in more when my friend starts complaining about stuff. I used to kind of just sit there. But I don't agree with her if I know she's not right. I tell her how it is living with the male species! She is paying more attention to what I have to do to keep my house in order and everything now. I think she thought it was easier. I also have taken her to the grocery store and stuff with me and all the stopping and getting stuff and dealing with a 3 yr. old has taught her a lot about life! She also watched her 4 yr old and 1 1/2 yr. old nephews over the weekend at her place. She's learning more on her own than I believe her parents ever taught her and it's just going to take time. She's also told me stuff she's went through and knows she won't do the same with her kids. I just guess I secretly wish I could make the adjustments easier by telling her and her doing. But we know we can't do that! Life would be so simple if we could, huh? LOL Thanks again for letting me question things and also to hear what you have to say. Sometimes I need to know others think on the same level as me and I'm not crazy. And you know....when I look at this couple, I see my parents and my Mom has even said they're just like she and my Dad were. She said when my friends went into her jewelry store to look at diamond engagement rings all she heard was her own mother telling her, "Misery loves company." after they announced they were getting married. I wish I could save her the pain and loss but again, we all have to go through whatever to be who we're supposed to be later in life. Have to learn lessons somehow.


    Bookmark   May 7, 2002 at 1:34PM
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