Feeling lost and not sure what to do
Not sure where to begin, this is an essay I'm afraid! My problem seems to be a mix of relationship difficulties, existential crisis and my own emotional problems. I've been with my current partner for nearly a decade, before that I was in a 5 year relationship that ended badly (used to say things to me like I was too stupid to finish uni so I should just quit and move closer to him). When I finally walked out of that relationship my current relationship started quite soon after (we had been friends for a fair while). We had some difficult times, my partner was seriously ill for some time and couldn't work for a few years and has been unemployed for a significant proportion of our relationship.
I finished my degree, we moved in together, he overcame the illness, we were quite content for a while. For a long time we were happy, we are pretty well matched, love a lot of similar things but with enough different to keep it interesting, could honestly say this bloke is my best friend. Significant age gap but that had never bothered me because we got on so well. There are several problems though.
I was fairly ambitious career wise, which he thought was cool and seemed to respect, I've got this sense of adventure and so does he. I spent a lot of time as a teen and young adult caring for a close family member and didn't move away so I'm eager to do that at some point. Maybe even travel to a few places. I know I may need to move away from home for my career and he's fine with that, he can come with me. When we moved in together I'd finished my degree and got a crappy pays the bills sort of job. He'd been ill and recovered and was having difficulty getting back into work. I'd help him as much as I could filling in forms and applications. He went on a few courses that he never finished for whatever reason but I tried to stay supportive because I knew it was getting him down. Meanwhile I was so unhappy and stressed in crappy job that I'd feel physically sick going into work of a morning. He wasn't greatly supportive, his attitude was 'well, at least you've got a job' which I can understand but I still struggled and had a bout of depression that eventually led to a bit of a breakdown. One morning on the way into work I sat on a bench in town and started crying and couldn't stop, my father had to come and get me and take me the docs and I quit that job without even having another to go to. Luckily I got a job soon after that made use of my degree and while it wasn't exactly what I'd wanted to do the people were lovely and I recovered from the depression and learned a lot. I had other part time jobs on the go too and saved money and with that and some financial help from a close family member that I helped care for to do a distance learning post grad course to help get me into my dream career.
My partner was really supportive of me doing the course but still struggling himself to find work. I didn't mind as he was able to really help me with the housework while I worked full time, traveled for uni about once a month and cared for my close family member. My partner asked me to marry him and I said yes and started dreaming up plans for when I'm done at uni. Everything was a challenge but we were managing. Two years on my partner has had a few bits of temp work but nothing really stable. He's getting depressed himself but wont go the docs as he doesn't want to be on any more meds than he's already on. The housework is not really getting done so I start picking up the slack on that. I'm getting harrassed by an old colleague (but don't tell my partner he full extent of what's happening for fear he might, ahem, want to sort the problem out himself). Then close family member passes away suddenly and it floors me. I mean, I cope for a while but then one day depression hits me like a ton of bricks and I'm signed off work and back on medication. My income is all we've got so I drag myself back into work but that's all I can do, I limp on in the degree and use as many deferrals as I can but eventually end up giving it up. Just one of those things but I feel sad about it still.
I think at this point partner and I start growing apart a bit, I'm doing pretty much all the housework at times and paying for everything. No mention of getting married again. We're not really able to go out or do anything, we manage a holiday one year which I more or less paid for. Often it feels more like we're just existing and not living. I'm starting to get snappy and resentful. I work in various jobs, none of which are related to what I'd wanted to do. But that's life eh. Partner gets a job he loves but sadly funding runs out and he is back to square one, I was gutted for him. He stays volunteering his time as this work helps a lot of people I'm happy for him to do that. Unemployment has knocked his confidence and he's not signing on and applying for limited jobs. I'm getting really stressed by this and frustrated. He's had a hard life and struggles with depression himself, he's had a hard childhood thanks to an abusive parent and he has lost his previous partner and child, I don't think anyone gets over such loses. But he wont get help. He's pretty hard to be around and I've lost some friends because of this. It's difficult at times because his response to confrontation about it all is anger so I would find myself backing down from confrontation. I'm prone to panic attacks when confronting people. His angry outbursts frighten me a bit because they remind me of my dad who was prone to do that. I have a pregnancy scare and after the initial panic we are really excited at the possibility of a baby but sadly it turns out I'm not. I start to feel pretty broody, in fact it feels like I'm falling in love with him all over again. Because I've also got a lot of anxiety it terrifies me too though. I try to talk to him about my fears but I get angry responses once again. I'm told at one point 'if you don't think you can cope just don't have one' (a baby). He tells me we can't even think of planning a family until he has a job. I stop talking about it. I feel crushed.
It gets to the point where I am badly depressed. Being refereed to cbt and counselling etc through GP. Feeling so much like I'm growing apart from my partner, losing a lot of respect for him. I feel at times like I'm being used. Sometimes I can sit on the couch and cry and get no response from him. It's not just the relationship, I'm unhappy generally in life, I guess I thought I'd be sorted by now, not jumping from one short contract job to another. In the relationship it gets to the point where I think I do love him but I'm maybe not in love with him. I tell him this and it devastates him. I ask for space and go back to my parents for a while but he wont leave me alone, sends texts alternating between really sweet to calling me names, saying I'm evil etc. He tells me if I come back we can have the baby we were talking about. Threatens to kill himself if I don't come back. Luckily he goes to the docs, is prescribed antidepressants and goes to counselling and things improve to the point where I give him a second chance and we start to date again. Ironically he got a job after I left, and has been in it for nearly a year now.
I know there's a lot of love for him still there but am scared to be open and honest about how things are because his reactions are so extreme sometimes so I try to take it slowly but stay put at my parents for a while. I tell him I love him. He still had his ups and downs but things are moving in the right direction for him. We have a few wobbles but things seem to be ok. I'm having cbt to help me with my depression and make myself more assertive and able to cope with things and it works well for me. I don't think that things were moving fast enough for him relationship wise and one day when we are having a bit of a rough patch he tells me he's applied for a job in another part of the UK, which is a bit of a shock. It's not so far away I couldn't still see him, in fact I have somewhere nearby where I'm able to stay. He doesn't get that job and stays in the current one. One day a friend posts a link on my facebook about this great opportunity. I can put a lot of what I learned at Uni to use, maybe be my own boss to an extent, live the good life off grid. But it's a 4 hour drive away from home but I reckon I could get back every few weeks. I jokingly quip that I'd well love to live there. Partner responds to my post with 'go for it!'. So I stupidly shoot off a quick email to the place and within 24 hours they respond that they'd love to meet me.Partner is not too happy, I don't think he was expecting me to get a reply back. He threatens to break off our relationship if I go to look at the place. I love him dearly but something snaps inside and I stick to my guns and dig my heels in and tell him I will not respond in his favour if he gives me an ultimatum. I ask him to come with me and he told me he wanted nothing to do with the place. I go to meet the people and look at the place and something about it restores me, I can really see a happy future there. I even think it might be a lovely place to raise a kid. I tell the people about my situation with my partner and they are quite happy to have him too, in fact they can think of a place nearby that can really help him develop some of his talents.
I go home and tell him I'd love to go but I'd really love for him to come too and he's angry and betrayed and hurt. He calls me selfish one moment but the next tells me he can understand why I want to go to this place and he thinks it'll be good for me, especially my mental health. But then he makes me feel guilty by saying things like how I'm abandoning him, and abandoning my mum (who is ill but ok for now, in the future I'll likely have to come home to care for her). I feel really responsible for him, he tells me the distance is too much for him, he'll likely finish with me when I go but he's not sure he can live without me. I feel so heartbroken for him but then also feel like I'm being emotionally manipulated at times. But he can be really caring and sweet and I can understand why he might feel it's a risk to quit the job and follow me there. I'd like to try a long distance relationship. There's nothing similar close to home (unless you can afford to put a lot of money in to it) but if this project is a success the hope for the future is that many of these places will exist all over the country and we can get a place of our own together, we'd be more likely to be able to do it because of the experience I'd gain. He always told me that he'd love to do this sort of thing one day, but everything is always 'one day'...I could really wait forever. I just feel so guilty but I feel like if I pass this up I'll regret it. Not sure what to do, I love him and really don't want our relationship to end but maybe love is not enough? Am I being really selfish? Would you go?
One of your thoughts struck me: "I feel really responsible for him"
Oh - yes you have - totally and completely all this time. (YES, it was ironic that he finally got a job after you separated. And you doing all the housework AND being the main wage earner?? He's angered and feels betrayed when you get the opportunity of a lifetime - and he declines to share in that, even when it could benefit him?)
NO - you are not being selfish. You are being HEALTHILY selfish! Yeah for you.
Do what you know is best for you. If he loves you, he will follow. (but don't count on it; you may not want him anyway)