I [24m] keep accidentally crossing my girlfriend's [22f] boundaries. She's suggesting break up.
Get ready for a long one.. any help much appreciated!
My girlfriend and I have been together for 8 months. When we met there was an instant connection and we fell in love in a matter of weeks. I told her at the beginning that I wasnt ready for a relationship as I had just come out of a serious (4 year) relationship. But no matter how hard we tried to keep it casual, we were completely head-over-heels in love with each other. Neither of us could believe we had found each other, we seemed to fit so well. We had the kind of connection where you can look at each other a certain way and just know what their thinking.
Since the summer things have been quite turbulent as we both have anxious attachment styles and are in a long distance relationship. She's very into psychology and because of this (and as a result of being in a toxic and abusive relationship in the past) she knows herself very well and is on high alert for red flags and toxic behaviour in our relationship. You might think this makes me hyper-aware and overly-cautious about what I say and do, but it doesn't. I'm confident that I'm not an abusive, toxic, or narcissistic person and I love her and care about her deeply. She's an incredible woman and I have so much respect for her. So, knowing this, I just relax and try not to overthink all my actions and words, I know my intentions are good and pure.
But, this approach isn't working - hasn't been for a while. She's very clear about setting boundaries with regards to the way we communicate and behave. And I keep crossing those boundaries accidentally. Whats worse is that, because i know that I respect her and love her I end up defending myself because i know my intentions weren't to hurt or disrespect her. But ultimately, I come to recognise that the action, or the thing that I said was hurtful or disrespectful, whether i intended for it to be or not. This relationship has been characterised as a series of moments where I've had to turn and look at myself and check myself. And I'm grateful for that. She has taught me so much about my self and encouraged me to face my demons. But, still, I keep accidentally crossing her boundaries.
One night in bed we were were helping eachother get off, she was touching my body and getting off while I had my pants down getting myself off. As I was basically naked I asked if she could take her pants off, so I could see her properly. She said "noo its too cold!" I said "aw pleeease?" and that was it, everything turned sour. She told me that it was really disrespectful and inconsiderate of me to not take no for an answer. I tried to defend myself - saying that I would happily take no for an answer, that I was just trying to be "cute", i didn't mean it in a serious way, etc. But the damage had already been done.
I helped console her after a stressful day at work (on the phone). I had a particularly tough day myself.. but I patiently listened to her talk about her issues at work. I sympathised with her and validated her emotions, i felt as if gave myself to her as a support. I felt like i'd done a good job of helping her out and I ignored my issues as to not burden her with them. So then as the phonecall was coming to an end, I asked her how she was feeling, "urgh just really stressed out" she said (or something to that degree). And in that moment I kind of snapped. I said "well if our phonecalls are making things worse then maybe we just shouldnt talk". It was a stupid thing to say - I immediately regretted it. Of course i don't want that. I love talking to her and I would be sad if we couldnt talk anymore. To make things worse, she didnt mean that i had stressed her out, merely that talking about a bad day and her past trauma brought it all up again. But while I dismissed it as something stupid I said in the heat of the moment, she took it as a very manipulative and hurtful thing to say, a huge red flag, and a stain on our already-turbulent relationship.
Things like this keep happening, ruining an otherwise beautiful and perfect relationship. I take responsibility, apologise, and promise to try not to let it happen again. With certain things I've managed to almost keep them at bay. For example, after letting my anger get the better of me and raising my voice to her a few times over the phone she set a boundary and told me not to speak to her that way. And I've managed to not really do that since. But with other things, i keep slipping up and letting my insecurities sometimes get the better of me.
So, this weekend I met her at her parents house and she told me that if things don't change with us then she's going to end the relationship. Things are so good when they're good - to the point where we've been talking about moving in together and even what it would be like to have children together. But she can't risk being in another toxic relationship, and doesnt want to have a shitty summer, so in the next few months, if things dont change on my side, then the relationship is over. She said that as I'm 24, my pre frontal cortex has already finished growing (she's a psychology nerd) and that it would be unlikely for anyone my age to change to the extent I'd need to to save this relationship. I told her that regardless, I would do everything to fight for her and that I'm determined to try to be the person that can make her feel safe and loved in the way she deserves. And she assured me that she is holding out hope, that she still loves me, and that she really wants this to work.
Has anyone been in this position before? Do you think I am able to change my behaviour and rescue this relationship? Or do you think it sounds like we are simply too incompatible in the way we communicate for this to work out? I love her so much. I know that if we can overcome this our future could be so beautiful. But I'm terrified that it wont work.
Thanks for reading.
EDIT: Wow thanks so much for the response everyone. I wasn't expecting such a big turnout! A few mixed responses, some asking me to introspect and question why I'm disrespecting her boundaries and the majority of the others telling me that it's obvious that I'm being manipulated by her and that it has worked because i seem to be relentlessly defending her in the comments. I guess the reason I'm so quick to defend her is because its hard for you guys to get a clear picture of our relationship from just this post. What you're not seeing is how generous she is, how supportive she can be, how sensitive and patient she can be, and how quick she is to apologise when she has done something wrong, etc, etc,. And you're not seeing me in my worst moments, times when I have suggested we break up because im tired of all the arguments, and times where i've raised my voice. I think we are probably both quite flawed. I want to continue to work on the relationship, but i'm not sure how exactly to move forward with the idea that she might be the manipulative and toxic one. Anyhow, thanks again - help is much appreciated!