Topic: In previous relationship with a possible Alexi-trait

English Alexithymia Forum > Personal Experience

In previous relationship with a possible Alexi-trait
23.08.2014 by IWantToUnderstand

I recently found an article on alexithymia. As I randomly read through it during a flight, several pieces of the puzzles were laid inside my head. Personally, I felt a huge relief because I finally came to an understanding in why the relationship with my previous boyfriend had been so difficult and complicated. Everything he had said, expressed and not during the relationship, sudddenly made sense - our struggles made sense.
I wanna tell you my story - hoping for some feedback, maybe advice and just general comments as I haven´t (and won´t) tell anyone about my assumption. I want to pay him respect and I think he is the only rightful one to be telling people what he is or not.

I dated a young man for four years. He was my best friend. He was different. He was weird and I loved him for it. He believed in great visions and in great dreams. The world seemed larger and greater in his company- because his perspective on everything seemed clearly and well thought trough: he constantly looked at things from an "outside perspective". His mind seemed (and was) extremely organized, logical and structured. I looked up to him in so many ways. What I found strange but didn´t give that much though back then, was his lack of emotional or fascial responce when I was moved into tears or got emotional (it did not need to have anything to do with him). He gave me a blank and empty look in return. For all of the years we have been together, he has now and then said certain things that to me seemed cold-hearted, totally stripped for empathy and understanding for other people. And my heart cried every time. About 99% of the time we met, he would approach me with highly raised shoulders, a look in his eyes that expressed fear and insecurity. And he never met me with a sincere smile. He pretty much just looked like he did not want to have anything to do with me. Therefore, almost every beginning of our time together, would start with me feeling totally rejected. I tend to eventually "oversee" it. But I remember always being anxious and dreadful when we were about to meet, because then I would have to feel that way again.... I knew it would be better as we started the day and just got over the "meeting-part". He very seldom spoke about how he felt about things, he would rationalize everything. And I mean- everything. We had a long-distance ralationship for two years and he was not able to recognize the emotion of missing me. That emotion was dressed out as a stomach-ache. He questioned his stomach-ache... But did not add any emotional meaning to it until one of his family-members suggested it might be a missing sensation. When we skyped or talked in the phone, he was monotonic and seemed indifferent about a lot of what we talked about. He rarely (if not never) sounded excited or exaggerated. He would get annoyed, but never really upset. When I became upset, he became sad and insecure. He always took my anger very personal, also the times when my anger had nothing to do with him. He never asked me how I felt or how my day had been. Once, when he did- it was during a dinner we had- he was so uncomfortable asking me that I just responded with a smile of pity and this sentence: "it´s okey... Don´t bother asking." (I truly regret saying that).

Early in his youth, he would read material on how to hold the right body posture for this and that... How to smile during this and that... And how to in general- socialize. He very often seemed uncomfortable around people. And has said so himself. Both his voice and body language expressed that clearly. He learned a way to "play and seem safe" during organizational leading. But in the reality I know he wasn´t... He would just do anyting not to let it shine through. He is a very sucessfull, productive and smart man. He has worked as a leader and lead a lot of inspiring projects and initiatives. But after socializing he would very often be completely drained.... He had head-aches and stomach-related issues. He was never able to express why when I asked. He just said he was tired. When I gave him a look of admiration, he would send me a confused fascial-expression, followed by: "What?"... Around him, I eventually became very sensitive. Too sensitive. To the point in where I hardly recognized myself. With all of my other friends, I would often be logical, rational and keep my head cool. I would always be the one encouraging and thinking "straight". But with him... No. I think I overcompensated with my emotional intelligence and my expressions because he did not show or give me any... I was desperate to see something in him. Anything- that could prove that he really loved me - and eventually I was convinced that if I so was shot in the heart on the street and dropped dead - he would not raise an eyebrow... I felt tired. Exhausted and worn out. I did not understand- up until now- why he couldn´t show me some "simple" affection and care...

What made me feel both sad and upset, was his lack of trusting people. I find it natural to give and show people my trust as long as they are not giving me any signs that I shouldn´t. That was NEVER the case for him. He would be very suspicious and anxious of other people´s reactions and possible behaviour. He would go more like this: "I might consider giving you some of my trust if you prove yourself worthy of it". He always initiated discussions with an academic and impersonal topic.

When we now ended our relationship a while ago (for the third time), I´ve had this strong sense that there´s something I do not know... I have had this very strong sensation that something is not right. There is something missing... I have never doubted my feelings for him. I loved spending time with him in general, but the lack in ability to show and recieve affection and love really bothered me. When I was dating him, I guess I was just way too involved. I was too involved in order to "think straight" because I wanted so much to understand his behaviour that I actually- became blind. My wanting to understand eventually turned into frustration for both of us. He could not explain. And the only good enoug reason I could come up with him not being able to express, was that he wasn´t really that interested in living a life with me. I interpreted his inability to recognice and verbalize his and my own feelings, as insecurity in the relationship and in me. Because when I asked him how he felt about us, about me- he would either look away with an empty look for something that seemed like ages... And then finally give me some kind of insensitive, cold response in return (I know he did not intend to) or some long-winded rational answers I actually, to be honest, do not remember the content of whatsoever.... My conclusion (which I actually concluded with several times in that relationship) was severely painful... "You have to go, he doesn´t want this"... I asked myself: "Why has my best friend been with me for so many years when 80% of what he has expressed (verbally and through body-language) has indicated that he doesn´t really give a s****t?!" Do you know what I mean? So something was not right... I just knew there was a piece of the puzzle that wasn´t laid. Because I know that he cares, I know that he is sensitive. He has tons of emotions. He has cried several times when he is around me. I just never seemed to figure out why - no matter how I formulated my questions. But when I read that article I knew... I finally understood all of his behavior. I just wish I had known earlier.... I wish I knew that when he said, with a tearful voice: "I do not know how to say it"... It was literal. He did not know. I did not know there was such a struggle. If I had known, I would have approached him differently. I would have stop asking "How are you today?" and instead wait for him to engage on his own. I would talked much more about myself. I would have stopped to assume that his lack in showing or expressing emotions had something to do with me... I would stop accusing him for not showing me affection or love, but I have found a way to work WITH him and make him feel safer.
When I am with my friends, I always show care and empathy through asking them questions about themselves. How they are feeling, how and why that is.... I keep eyecontact, lean forward and and engane. With him, I now realize that I should have taken on a different approach. I would have been more quiet. More patient. I wish I knew earlier. It might not be too late. But I am very afraid that it is. Though I still want to have faith in us... Anyways, time will show...

Maybe There Is Hope...
31.08.2014 _T('by') Toxophile

Whoa. I had to go back and look at the details at the beginning of this to make sure you weren’t my wife of the last four years. With minor differences, this sounds like our story. Trust me, your (former?) boyfriend feels, and I’m sure he loves you tremendously. I believe he is torn up inside and has many questions. He may have even heard of alexithymia and related to the basic definition but never thought to look further into it. I knew of it for over a year as a novel description to what I felt but could not express.

Last week, my "wife-pro-tem” (we are separated, and she wants a divorce) gently suggested (so as not to hurt my feelings since I always overreact - if I react) that I might have some sort of mild autism since I seem so detached. “Alexithymia” immediately came to mind. I went home and did some research and was blown away by how well the deeper description applied to me. I didn’t realize how much emotions affect our daily lives!

We’ve since discussed this more, but I think it’s too late for her to give us another chance. I know she still has deep feelings for me, but so much isolation has really turned her off (I only know she has these feelings because she told me so after I bought a house for just myself for when our divorce is final. I callously involved her in some part of the final closing docs, which caused her to let me know it was hard for her to see me move on.) I think there are ways to work through this. Most of it will be on my shoulders, but she would need to be very understanding.

You mentioned some ways in which you might be able to get along with him. I don’t think you need to be more quiet or just let him be. You won’t get anything from him, and you will feel even more isolated. I think finding some way for you two to relate how you feel to each other non-verbally would be better. I can’t suggest anything right now because this is all very new to me. If I’m lucky, I’ll have something to share later. I believe he needs to learn about alexithymia. If your instincts are correct and he is alexithymic, he will probably be relieved to finally understand his whole life from a fresh perspective. As long as you have not given up, I think there may still be a chance for your relationship to work…with a bit more work.

Everything is gonna be alright:-)
05.09.2014 _T('by') IWantToUnderstand

Thank you for sharing!
I hope everything will sort out for the best for you two! She migt be turned off now, but eventually she might be able to look at it from an overall perspective... Because when you're in a relationship and doesn't know what you're dealing with, (alexithymia) difficulties will then be dealt with accordingly- as you're trying to build something in the dark... Over and over again. We did so.
I know by own experience that there were several times, when I experienced the thymia at it's "worst", and did not understand what the reason for his behavior/coldness was, that I would feel so distant and just wanted to get as far away from him as possible.... Even though I knew I loved him, I "escaped" several times when he said something that to me seemed so cold. Simply because I felt convinced he did not care... I would get scared and as a result of the fear I would get upset. Talking about it did rarely lead us somewhere.... He would say that he knew that he loved me and wanted to be with me, but I still didn't understand why he couldn't respond to me... Eventually that fear and anger made me feel even more distant to him... But if I had known that there even was such a thing as Alexi-trait earlier, I am sure it most certainly would save us for a lot of problems and conflicts... Simply because I would then know the reason for him being so distant.

Not knowing you are dating an Alexi, is sad because it leads us into believing and eventually concluding that our partner is not expressing/verbalizing emotions because he/she simply doesn't care so much about us. We think that when our partner is neglecting us emotionally (not responding to our crying, sadness, happiness in any facial, bodily or verbal feedback), we will eventually have no other choice but to interpret it into "He just doesn't love me". I mean, what else to conclude?...

Men are known to have less need to express and talk about their emotions. To a certain degree, that is wonderful! :-) (I think so personally) Because what most of us women want, (I know I do) is peace and stability from our man. Someone to help us organize overwhelming emotions and even bagatalize them sometimes by just saying: "Come on dear, let's do some rock-climbing or play some tennis to create some breathing-space for this situation". In my opinion, that is why men and women are great together - They complement each other perfectly! :-)

So if she (and you) just recently figured out of what is referred to as "Thymia", I think (I know that I would) she would take on a completely different approach... Because it is only when you know, that you can start from the correct base and working to figure out what's working and not for the other one - How to speak each others "love-language" so to speak. But a requirement before that, is to know what the other one is having difficulties with.... (you with alexithymia might not even consider it a struggle because you're so used to it), but for us entering a relationship with an Alexi, it might be devastating... Both during and after the relationship. Personally, I rarely have difficulties with people seeming cold or irritated around or with me, as long as I know the reason for it... It is the not-knowing that drains the energy from us. And it is the not-knowing that makes us question what value our partner puts in the relationship and us as individuals.
So I really hope that she eventually will understand all of this from your point of view... And that you then will deal with the realtionship in a "magical" and understanding way :-)

understanding the other side
02.01.2015 _T('by') isk8ff

I'm writing this on my phone so please excuse the misspellings and grammar. But reading the other side of the story I almost cried all of my relationships have always ended because of me being so distant and unable to express how I feel and my current girlfriend is at the same point and she's the love of my life the only thing I know how to express is anger and happiness and my happiness is usually faked because it's what I know how to do best until today I always felt so alone and I can almost promise you he loved you and hates the fact he can't do anything about it I understand which emotion is which but the only thing I know how to feel is good and bad I never know why I am feeling why I am and I can't express anything correctly it always comes out as anger even why trying to complete a normal conversation. She asks me why I love her and it hurts me to not be able to explain why I've spent my whole life thinking I don't deserve people around me because I'm an a** hole because I don't understand how my words affect people I always feel alone because Noone understands what I go through every day I always feel like it is just me. And even tho I read your story and it makes me feel bad I can't even tell you why it does all I know is I hurt people and I can't control it.

06.03.2015 _T('by') DXS

IWantToUnderstand, sounds like you were dating someone with Aspberger Syndrome. The lack of facial expression is more with Aspberger.

Don't think you should..
10.03.2015 _T('by') Franmail

IwanttoUnderstand: Alhtough it must be painful for you I think you should not try to revive the relationship - except maybe as friends. You could help him by putting forward the information about Alexithymia but do not try to go back into the relationship - despite the compassion you feel for him. It will hurt too much in the long run and you could end up stuck for years in a relationship that is less than you deserve. You never know there may be someone out there who is perfect for him. Please don't go back - I know of what I speak.

On the topic of forgiveness
24.03.2015 _T('by') LovelyLivid

How many of you had to be taught the factual steps in learning how to forgive someone or needed to research the process of forgiving someone to even believe in it? Moreover, are their any of you, with the same condition, who only identify with the procedural steps of true reconciliation, as the necessary requirements, prior to entertaining the thought of issuing the statement "I forgive you." to a person you held nothing but anger toward because of their hateful actions? It applies to my current situation, which landed us in couples therapy... Fun stuff, let me tell you. Thinking I was justified in the contempt and anger I have for his mother. Walked right into therapy, and honestly felt she didn't deserve my forgiveness because she wasn't even sorry. It was a absolute numbing confused state for me inside and crying and angry expressions on the outside when our therapist told me point blank that our relationship was toast if I could not learn what forgiveness actually feels like. Everyone kept saying my hurt feelings were valid but I only identify with anger toward her. I'm 31 years old and I had to admit to myself today that I have no idea how forgiving someone feels exactly... I have lived my life cutting people out when they have wronged and angered me. If I'm not happy then I'm really only angry, but with lots and lots of tears and body reactions that I have no understanding for... I was wondering if anyone could be kind and offer a bit of insight... I would really appreciate it. But please no insults, as I am really struggling with understanding the concept. Thanks in advance for any feedback.

26.03.2015 _T('by') DXS

LovelyLivid, if you are talking about emotional abuse, do a google on a blog called "Emerging From Broken."

Sounds like the OP was my ex-fiancee
06.04.2015 _T('by') NowItMakesSense

I read your post and it sounded so close to my situation, except where I was the boyfriend affected by Alexithymia. The relationship was even four years in length with several breakups in between. The pattern fits exactly. I can tell you that, having just realized that I almost certainly fall into the Alexi category (funny, my real name is Alex, but I digress), your partner did indeed care about you very much. My ex-fiancee was such a caring woman and I loved her very much, but I simply couldn't express what I was supposed to. I didn't even know myself what it was, beyond being content to be around her and experiencing physical ailments when not around her. If conversation turned onto the topic of emotions, feeling, or my lack thereof, I would need to be alone and be in physical distress. I often missed things entirely that would upset her for hours or days. I would even accuse her of being overly-emotional. At one point, I did research and attempted to diagnose her with a condition called Borderline Personality Disorder due to (what I thought) were unreasonable requests for emotional stimulation or lack of coping due to emotional dysfunction. Neither of us had any idea that the other interacted with the world differently. One member here likened it to expecting a blind person to understand visual cues or trying to describe sight to that same blind person. It's impossibly outside our locus of experience or ability to comprehend.