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I love my girlfriend. We've been together for two and a half years. Should we break up?
June 6, 2009 4:13 PM   Subscribe

I love my girlfriend. We've been together for two and a half years. Should we break up?

I've been in a long, mostly fulfilling relationship with my girlfriend. We started this relationship in college, and by next week, it'll have been two and a half years. We've been very dedicated to each other, very considerate and caring, and we started out as good friends --- she's my best friend, as well as lover. It's been wonderful.

Lately, however, I've been having some questions. And by lately, I mean the past half-year.

Currently, she's locked into a career path that she doesn't want to take, so she's pretty crabby and negative all the time. When I suggest things for her, or tell her my plans for something, her responses tend to be like "but that won't work", or "what will you do if it fails?" It's a constant drain on my optimism, and I find myself falling into this position of having to cheer her up or give her hope most of the time. It's been like this for the past two years -- I miss the former her. I understand the situation she's in -- she doesn't like the type of people attracted to her career path, she doesn't like the kind of work she's doing -- but she's also unwilling to change her path for various reasons. In my opinion, she's depressed, but didn't like anti-depressants after a month, and won't go back to therapy despite my (gentle) persuasion. I'm the kind of person who wouldn't do something if it would really hurt me to the core, so while I understand her situation, I don't understand her choices to place herself in that situation. I wish I could just tell her to quit this career path, or place it on hold and go teach English abroad for a semester, or write more prose in her spare time from her career. But instead, most of her reactions are along the lines of "I can't do anything about it" or "I don't have time to take a break". This often does result in friction -- I'd say we argue or bicker lightly bout fifteen percent of the time; the other eighty percent is really nice.


She isn't very adventurous or active, either -- she wants to go to sleep around 10 or 11, instead when I'd like to be going to a quiet bar with friends and talking, or walking around, going to small shows, so on. She's very interested in the things I am, but without the same energy level or willingness, so often I'll say something like "Let's go to see A", she'll say "I'm tired, you go alone", and I end up hanging out with her and missing out on seeing A. While the choice to miss A is my own, I still feel like I'm missing out, either whether I go see A without her, or hang out with her and miss out on show/opening/event/reading/movie A.

The combination of her negativity and depression has also impacted our sex life. What used to be at least once a day has now dwindled to once a week, despite semi-living together. I know this is still very frequent, but we're both in our early-mid twenties, and it also feels different from what we used to consider 'normal'. Not only that, it feels forced, like I'm the one desiring her more than she desires me. It didn't used to be like this, and I'm still not used to being normally felt unwanted and undesired.

At the core of this all of this sense that I'm young, that my time to be immature and stay out all night and dance in NYC streets is limited to the here and now, before things like career paths really start to lock down. She's my first serious girlfriend, and I feel like I should be dating around -- because I can also envision myself with her for the rest of my life, and that simultaneously frightens and enlivens me. I feel like I should be a little bit foolish. I had no "traditional" (please note the scare quotes) college experience of debauchery and drunken frat parties and rampant NSA one-night-stands -- far from it -- and I feel like I'm missing out. Not only do I feel that am I missing out, I secretly feel like she's bringing me down with her negativity.

So lately I've been thinking about us not being together anymore.

But she's really a wonderful girl, a really sweet girl. She's really accepting of my faults and caring, and we have so much in common, and she gets my sense of humor. She brings my late-sleeping self breakfast in bed, sometimes, totally unprompted. She'll write funny things on my feet when I'm sleeping. I'm totally comfortable around her, I make her laugh, I truly feel like myself around her. I care about her, I love her, and I don't want to hurt her. She's a rare girl.

Most of our friends are mutual friends, so things are complicated because of that. I think that all parties involved are mature enough to handle an amiable breakup without taking sides or anything, but it still makes things pretty hard.

And I can't deny -- I'm partially afraid to be single, it's hard to not have someone be your favorite person, and vice versa, it's hard to not have something happen to you and think 'I can't wait to tell her', and so on. If I broke up with her, I'd not only lose a girlfriend but a best friend. I know these are probably not the best reasons to stay in a relationship, but they're there nonetheless.

I think part of her feels the same way, and we nearly broke up twice in the last two months, but in the end we realized that we really do love each other, and so we've stayed together. Or rather -- whatever desire to break up was overcome by this sense of sadness at the situation and longing and desire for the other person.

In the end, my questions are: What do you think about this situation? Have you ever broken up with someone, despite the fact that they still loved you and you loved them? How does one do such a thing? How do you know when it's time to end the relationship if there's mutual love and respect on all sides? How do you break up with somebody when you really, really don't want to hurt them?

I've also got an email address at lovingbreakupaskmefi@gmail.com. Thanks.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (40 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
You love her, stick with her - love is hard to find. But you can't be responsible for her happiness - she is. She sounds like she is afraid of something, it might be best to demonstrate by example how to use fear for good, instead of letting fear control you. I wish you the best of luck.
posted by bigmusic at 4:23 PM on June 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was just in a situation like this (2.5 year relationship, were living together, etc) and what finally made me leave was realizing that while we cared deeply about each other, there were parts of ourselves that were being sacrificed to stay in the relationship and as long as that was happening, I couldn't see either of us being truly happy. If she's not willing to change her job to make her life more livable, that might just be a part of her personality that makes you not meant for each other. It's hard, but sometimes breaking up in these situations is the right thing to do.
posted by youcancallmeal at 4:23 PM on June 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think you've answered your question. In response to, "Have you ever broken up with someone despite the fact that they still loved you and vice versa," the answer is yes, and we're both a million times better off for it, but it took a long time, and it would have been easier if we'd gotten our acts together a lot earlier and gotten right to the point.

You do it tactfully, and if possible, mutually. "I love you, and I respect you, and this is really really hard, but I'm not happy, and I'm thinking that maybe we should take a break" is a good place to start. If you're lucky, you'll only have to do this once or twice -- we did it about four times, and then it finally stuck.
posted by puckish at 4:28 PM on June 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


IANAD, IANAShrink. She may be depressed, because it sounds like she's unhappy with a lot of things and that's interfering with your relationship and she's not doing much to change things. You should suggest that she talk to a psychologist (though not that bluntly). Best case scenario, things change for the better. Worst case scenario, you break up as you would have otherwise.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 4:42 PM on June 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


At the core of this all of this sense that I'm young, that my time to be immature and stay out all night and dance in NYC streets is limited to the here and now, before things like career paths really start to lock down.

Being immature is rarely as rewarding as you think it's going to be.

Or, if you prefer the less gentle response:

Buddy, you and me are part of a whole generation of losers who want to keep boozing it up and playing video games into their forties. Bucking the trend isn't exactly a bad thing. After we graduated from college, any one of us who wanted to believe it was “our time to be immature”—or even that such a time is worth the trouble—is willfully ignoring reality.

The time is now, yes; you're in the prime of your life. The prime of life isn't for wasting on booze and parties, my friend; it's for wasting on creating and destroying and creating again, on building cities and amassing thoughtfulness, on getting something you want. Being immature sucks. And there's no quicker way to discover that than to throw away a perfectly good relationship for the sake of some perceived right to be childish.
posted by koeselitz at 4:42 PM on June 6, 2009 [127 favorites]


Edit: suggest more forcefullythat she talk to a psychologist ...
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 4:43 PM on June 6, 2009


in the end we realized that we really do love each other, and so we've stayed together. Or rather -- whatever desire to break up was overcome by this sense of sadness at the situation and longing and desire for the other person.

I think you answered your own question right there. You should be happy and thankful you have someone who loves you. If you think she's depressed, help her—don't run out on her.
posted by Houyhnhnm at 4:46 PM on June 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Do you love her enough to go get counseling on your own?

You love her, she won't get help. You're asking strangers on the internet for advice anonymously which precludes any back and forth between you and us.

You need to hash this out with the help of another human being. That's what therapists do.
posted by marsha56 at 4:53 PM on June 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


If I were in your situation I'd stick with it. It sounds like you have it pretty good. You only fight 15% of the time, and not seriously, and you admit that you love each other. Yeah it's kind of a tough time right now, but why bail on something that, overall, makes you happy?

My boyfriend and I went through something like this not too long ago. I'm in school and he's not, and he always wanted me to go out and do things with him when I had homework or was generally grumpy and stressed. My mood rubbed off on him because he felt he could never, in good conscience, go out and have fun without me. If I wanted to sit at home and watch TV then he had to do that too. That path leads nowhere good, and don't let yourself get stuck on it. Go out on your own and have fun with your friends -- if she's a good girlfriend she'll let you do it. If she guilts you and demands you stay home to mope with her, then you should break up.

Really, you should talk with her about this. Not about thinking you're missing out on life, but about what you expect of each other, the problems you see, and how they can be fixed.
posted by lilac girl at 5:44 PM on June 6, 2009


If she won't interrupt her patterns, and you can't interrupt them, then that means you will continue on like this until either some sort of natural breaking point is reached by one or both of you. Is that anyway to span time together? Waiting for the inevitable irreconcilable difference, or for some fit of fortune to make things official? You need to be up front about this and your concerns about your relationship, or else you could limp along like this for years. YEARS.

Part of the problem stems from the fact that you see problems in her life that she doesn't see. Cranky and depressed is obviously the new normal for her, and she's so used to it that it would never occur to her to do anything to get "better". It's like convincing a colorblind person that an object is a different color than they perceive it. Good luck with that.

These kinds of basic compatibility issues are really important to sort out as you go. You can't wait and hope that they'll iron themselves out over time. Right now you seem to feel she is unreachable and that she doesn't need you the way you'd like to be needed. You need to find out if this is a phase you guys are going through, or if she's pretty much content with the way things are. You need to have a few big sobbing fights full of hard questions and even harder answers, after which you will know each other better and may decide you're better off together after all. I suspect that people's fear of "fighting" keeps them from examining lots of important corners of their relationships, but that slow boil of bickering you're engaging in is actually a far more insidious threat to your relationship than a few thorough fights would be.
posted by hermitosis at 5:54 PM on June 6, 2009 [10 favorites]


She has, for whatever reasons, no interest in doing anything about her misery. It's gotten good to her.

You can choose to stay around for it and be miserable yourself, or you can walk away and be there for her as a friend. The thing is, your relationship is already over, and you're only just beginning to realise it. I'm not sure from what you've said if she realises, or indeed whether she cares.

You need to be true to yourself and your happiness. It may be trite, but better to regret the things you've done, not the things you never did. I'm roughly ten years past where you are right now, and yeah, the going out and partying all the time and being a generally immature man-child day after day thing does pall eventually... but you're young. Have fun. Life keeps grinding you down and getting harder, so why not have some fun along the way?

As a side note... ~4 weeks into antidepressant meds sucks balls. It takes something like 6-8 weeks for them to actually start having a real effect, or at least that's what my doctor told me.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:14 PM on June 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you want to go out, you should go out. If she wants to come with you, great. If not, go anyway. Right now she's used to you staying in with her, if you start going out, she may be more likely to go with you. She just doesn't have to do that right now in order to spend time with you.
posted by heavenstobetsy at 6:35 PM on June 6, 2009


You sound like you have a pretty good thing going. Consider the vast amount of people who don't have anybody to love at all. Either be more forceful about getting her the emotional and mental help that she so obviously needs, or get your own help dealing with her crankiness. Good things are worth hard work, and reading your post, it seems like you really love her. It would be remiss of you to run out on her when she needs someone who loves her to help.

I do have to reiterate what dirtynumbangelboy says, it takes two months, not one, for meds to kick in, and often that one moth period of change can really whack a person out. I also have to agree with heavenstobetsy, you should feel comfortable going out and doing things on your own. Perhaps a new friend can help, and perhaps she will deign to accompany you once in a while, but you don't have to be with her constantly to help her.
posted by Mizu at 6:56 PM on June 6, 2009


Loving each other is great, and it's a great start for a relationship. I used to be of the belief that love was enough to sustain a relationship between two people who were committed to each other; but I have since found that it takes a lot more than love. It takes work, and it takes compatibility. You don't choose who you love, but you can "choose" (if I may borrow the scare quotes) who you're compatible with.

Since this is your first serious girlfriend, it sounds like you're finding out you're not compatible, but since you've never been with someone you were compatible with, you don't know the difference.

I sympathize with your situation: I have very low energy levels due to chronic medical issues. I very often have to ditch things that do interest me. With my ex, he would choose to stay home, but would feel bad about it since he legitimately wanted to be with me, but felt like he would be "abandoning" me to go out and do things. With my current partner, if I'm not up to something and he wants to go, he goes anyway, enjoys himself, and I don't feel guilty for "keeping him away" from fun stuff. We also do plenty of fun stuff together, but if I'm not up to it, that's fine and no one feels any pressure or resentment. I had no idea how much of a relief this would be until I realized a few months into the relationship that my staying home was a non-issue, whereas in my previous relationship, it was often a source of tension.

So, this is one example of what I mean by "compatible." My ex and I shared a thousand and one interests and spoke in our own private language, but I wanted to stay home and do crossword puzzles and he wanted to go out and go to shows. My current partner and I have wildly divergent interests, but we enjoy every minute we spend together and there's no pressure (partly because our interests are so different) to spend *every* minute together. There are other examples of this as well, but I'll just stick with this one.

I used to think that "compatible" meant "compatible personalities"; someone who shared your interests and laughed at your jokes. I've since found out that it means something more like "compatible co-habitant"; someone you can live with (or envision yourself living with) who makes you feel like your best self when you're around them and who, rather than adding stress to your life, makes you feel completely grounded. I never thought for myself that this person would be a WoW playing electrical engineer (I'm an arts-educated Buddhist nanny), but there you go.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:01 PM on June 6, 2009 [22 favorites]


She definitely has the classic symptoms of depression. It's time to sit down with her and have an adult heart to heart talk. You lay it all out for her and tell her you feel her refusal to get treatment for her depression is driving you away. She knows this deep down inside. If she loves you, she'll see you've reached your limit and will take steps to remedy things. Give her a chance. Good luck to you both.
posted by CwgrlUp at 7:08 PM on June 6, 2009


If you love her and are generally happy with her, don't mess something up just because you're a guy and you feel like you should screw more girls before you settle down forever. If that's what's bugging you then that's stupid. But then again, if that REALLY bothers you then do it now instead of 2 years from now when it'll hurt her even more to find out that you're breaking up with her because you haven't dated around enough, even though she's great and wonderful and blah blah blah. Can you tell I'm bitter?

I can totally understand wanting to go out and party all night when being young in the city. It would be good if both of you realized how great it is to have a significant other to go out with!! It's SO much better knowing that you're getting drunk and you're going home with the person you want to go home with, knowing that you can flirt heavily all night with the person you actually like. So if you see yourself wanting to do this with HER then try to work on her depression and unwillingness to go out and her unwillingness to enjoy being young in the city. Hopefully she'll realize that it would be fun for her as well. If she doesn't realize it, well then think ahead 2-3 years. Will you still want to go out as much as you do now? Or will you be happy staying in more with her without feeling like you're missing out on life? Maybe it's worth staying with her if this is something you see working out long-term.
But even if now it's not her that you want to go out with, but you just want to go out and have more freedom, and don't think that some compromise now will be worth it in the future, or don't see yourself changing your lifestyle in the next few years then maybe breaking up wouldn't be such a bad idea.

So, think about you and her now - is her negativity fixable? Do you want HER to join you for all the fun or do you just want to go out and have fun? ... and then think about you and her in the future long term - do you want to be with her? If yes, then go out and do the things you want to do now anyway, make sure she knows you love her and aren't trying to get away, and hopefully things can be OK.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 7:12 PM on June 6, 2009


Really, you should talk with her about this. Not about thinking you're missing out on life, but about what you expect of each other, the problems you see, and how they can be fixed.

This. It sounds like you're going through a rough patch. Loving someone doesn't mean that you're always in that happy-go-lucky, I'm-so-in-looooove-with-you phase. Don't throw away what sounds like an otherwise good thing for what you think is the greener grass (which really, isn't, and I think you know that).

It sounds like you still love each other. If you can work it out to fall back IN love, it will be so so worth it. Other people have offered good suggestions for how to start. The early-mid twenties suck as far as figuring out the whole career/life path thing. Give her a break. It may take awhile to get used to the idea of switching careers (or making the one she's in something she can be happy about again).
posted by messylissa at 7:13 PM on June 6, 2009


ananoymous, I feel as if this letter could have been written by me about 5 and a half years ago.

I met my boyfriend in college, we helped each other, lived together, and we gave each other tender and loving companionship. We clicked in certain ways, we enjoyed doing certain things together, and we gave each other a comforting home to return to after work. But something was missing, and no matter how much I tried to avoid it by telling myself what a wonderfull guy he was, and how wonderfull his virtues were, I couldn't stop longing for the things that were missing, things I knew in my heart were important to my happiness. In this partial satifsfaction I settled for 10 years, until my early thirties. I have many many happy memories from these years.

Why did I avoid facing the truth that I really wanted to leave? Fear of the unknown and of being alone of course.

Anyway, after 10 years, I admitted, that though He was a Great Guy, He wasn't the Great Guy for me. Therapy and antidepressants helped. Also maybe my biological clock was telling me, since I knew I wanted children, I better find the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. Our break-up was as tender and caring as the relationship, and we will both always have a special place in each other's hearts. We're still warm and friendly when we see each other.

I'm now happily married and have two beautiful babies, and I'm happier now then I've ever been in my life. (My only regret is that I didn't find my husband earlier, so that we could have started making our memories sooner. 10 years is a long time to make up one's mind)

Anonymous, its hard to leave. Its hard to turn down the cheescake, even though its so you can have the tirimisu, but you have to, to get the tirimisu. Your letter sounds to me like deep down you know its for the best.

Oh, and don't feel guilty about wanting to cut loose a little. This is your heart urging you to free yourself, so you can look around some more, so you can find the Great Girl that IS for you.

Good luck!
posted by hollyanderbody at 7:15 PM on June 6, 2009 [7 favorites]


She sounds stuck in other areas of her life. Possibly the breaking up would not be a bad thing, in that respect, it kind of kickstarts much-needed change.

You/Your girlfriend may hate me if I'm wrong, but I'm just going from my experience. I *changed* all the bad things that were going on once I got out of my stuck relationship.

If the relationship keeps getting worse, then definately break up - people kind of drive themselves more & more apart, and get more and more annoyed each other in order to feel like they have a good enough 'reason' to break-up, when it would have been better to have just broken up amicably at the beginning of that cycle (for as minor reasons or non reasons as it felt like then).

If you were willing to change anything at the moment, that would be a good sign for sticking it out. The stuckness, not so much.
posted by Elysum at 7:20 PM on June 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I found this answer to an older question particularly poignant. I think you should read it, too.
posted by Houyhnhnm at 8:12 PM on June 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


heavenstobetsy's suggestion is the best because it works either way. It is you deciding to do what you want to do. If that means you grow apart and it feels more "right" and easier to break up, that's what it means. If it means that she starts to see what she's not doing and what you want to do and decides to try joining you, that's what it means. Meanwhile, you can try telling her how much her depression is impacting you. This is the "stay with her" path. Of course, pretty much everyone ends a relationship with exactly your statements at exactly your age, so that's a well-trodden pathway.
posted by salvia at 8:43 PM on June 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


+1 to the experience of puckish. Its not uncommon for a long relationship to end amicably after running its course.
posted by mezamashii at 9:53 PM on June 6, 2009


I once coined the term "emotional inertia", which seems to fit this situation. It's easier to remain in a relationship that isn't working out than to leave and try and change things. (As an aside, Emotional Inertia is the main reason people have affairs - it's much easier to leave when you know you have something new to move too - no-one really likes to be alone.)

Retrospectively, I've learned that "life is too short" isn't just a cliché - it really is. Six months, a year spent in the wrong relationship is six months or a year of your life you'll never get back, and that you'll always regret wasting.

If something feels wrong, it probably is. Change the only thing about the relationship that you can - being in it. Have fun, do what you want to do. Be selfish because by the time you've realised that you should have been, it's too late.
posted by benzo8 at 10:58 PM on June 6, 2009


Wow, there are some pretty dodgy answers here, mefites.

Anon, you sound like a loving supportive partner who has been doing all the right things for your lady. You are also very articulate and what you wrote is amazingly clear and communicative. My advice: Sit her down and make sure you have her attention. Tell her exactly what you've written here (or get her to read this post). You cannot go on like this indefinitely, obviously, so she needs to give you something to keep you in the relationship at this point. If she won't listen, or throws your concerns back at you, then you need to decide to save your own health, do the both of you a favour, and end it swiftly (even if it's a "break" as opposed to a "break up"). Everybody goes through tough ass times; it's great that you have been supportive and awesome, and we should all be so lucky. She needs to stop trying to drag you down into her misery, and start dragging herself up out of it. If she cannot agree to that, and agree to take some steps to making herself happy (ie: look into alternatives, seek career/personal counseling), then no one else is going to be happy with her -- and really, you would be enabling her more than helping her by sticking around.
Good luck.
posted by tamarack at 11:15 PM on June 6, 2009


I think you need to tell her everything. "Look, your being SO MISERABLE in your job is coloring everything in your life, and thus my life, and if things continue as they are, I think we're gonna end up breaking up. We've already come close twice. I need to know if you are willing to do something to improve this situation--and I will too--or if we should break up now because it's not gonna get any better. I love you, but this is wearing us both down, and if you're gonna choose to be miserable, I don't necessarily have to as well."

And then see how she answers, and go from there.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:31 PM on June 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


The good news is that it's possible to leave someone you love and survive; the bad news is, it hurts. I left someone I absolutely adored because he is a painter who wanted someone to look after the mundane bits of life while he created. He was miserable, too, as he had to work for a living while spending every spare minute painting and drawing all the while questioning his ability. Meanwhile, my life suffered. Whatever I wanted to do had to be sacrificed to his schedule, his needs. I still think he's marvellous and totally wrong for me. Felt like I cut off my hand when I left it hurt so bad, but I did it to save my life. I wish we had been clever enough to have been just friends.

So, look at what you want and choose as you have to consider the possibility that this pattern, this now, will be permanent, antidepressants or no antidepressants. My painter was also in therapy and on meds for a while without any real change. He was in the middle of working out something in himself that took time, but the attitude regarding our respective roles remained the same. You're young. You need to be allowed to live a bigger life than this, to find your own life and not settle for less.
posted by x46 at 11:32 PM on June 6, 2009


[This is a followup from the asker.]
Thanks everyone. Your semi-mixed responses make me feel less of an asshole for asking this question/feeling this way.

Inspector.Gadget and others - I've been pretty clear that I want her to see a therapist, and have mentioned it more than a handful of times, but I can't make that phone call/appointment myself for her. She knows I want her to get counseling, but I've been trying not to push it too hard on her or to seem like I think that's an easy answer. I've suggested other activities like exercise or short day travel trips, but she's busy/reluctant. A lot of it, I guess, is her knowledge that she's locked into this career for at least the next two years, and financially required to continue it for the next five/ten years at least.

koeslitz -- thanks sincerely for your response. I think my words on "missing out" were a bit misrepresentative. So, in your opinion, is this a "perfectly good relationship"?

Oh, and one thing that's particularly relevant that I forgot to add is that -- she partially feels the same way. There are minor incompatibilities that are always prevalent, but only come out when we're annoyed. I've discussed most of these feelings with her, and she's the one who once brought up the idea of a break, and she's the one who initially wanted to break up after a particularly lengthy period of fights. The feeling is somewhat mutual.
posted by cortex at 11:54 PM on June 6, 2009


I bet her side of the story would be totally different. It sounds as if YOU are the one who has changed or had a realization of some sort. I bet if you looked at the whole of the relationship, you would see that she was basically the same person who you first met. You are just feeling the "itch" of youth. I'm going to go against the multitude here and say that you should either deal with your own issues OR you should get out of this relationship. You may not be an asshole now, but it will only be a matter of time before you start pointing out her "shortcomings" and making her feel like shit.
posted by boots77 at 4:30 AM on June 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've discussed most of these feelings with her, and she's the one who once brought up the idea of a break, and she's the one who initially wanted to break up after a particularly lengthy period of fights. The feeling is somewhat mutual.

If this truly is the case, you two should actually take a break and see where that goes. This is your best chance for an amicable break and dragging this on isn't going to do either of you any favors.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:40 AM on June 7, 2009


I do not know you, but this question is such a weight on my shoulders. The reason being, this argument that there is ever any meaning in abandoning relationship when there is love. If there is love, there are no such thoughts, there is intention to grow what's missing (as love is only one part of the mix, not sufficient on its own) in order to get throught the hardship - in a "grow the muscle" sort of way. Why I have such a hard take? Because of all these (zero influence must be) psychologists who were doing research during decades and offered explanations, and copyrighted therapies, and the faulty thinking in human brain fails to profit from all of that.

OK, so you part, amicably. If you are lucky, you will meet someone else in the future. And then in exactly 2.5 years you will be in exactly the same place. That is how it works.

I completely understand how wacky is to give a recomendation to watch a documentary with your girlfriend, but just in case..: How Will We Love?
posted by Jurate at 8:47 AM on June 7, 2009


I'm the kind of person who wouldn't do something if it would really hurt me to the core, so while I understand her situation, I don't understand her choices to place herself in that situation. I wish I could just tell her to quit this career path, or place it on hold and go teach English abroad for a semester, or write more prose in her spare time from her career.

I'm going to go out on a limb and theorize that you aren't fabulously wealthy--that is, you couldn't afford to pay for both your and her lifestyles without working.

So, it sounds like she's trying to become a responsible adult, and you would rather fight this at all costs. New York is expensive. You can't live in New York (happily) with the money you'd make from teaching abroad for a semester.

At the core of this all of this sense that I'm young, that my time to be immature and stay out all night and dance in NYC streets is limited to the here and now, before things like career paths really start to lock down.

Good. You go do that, and let the poor girl go. She'll should still have enough time to find a grown-up to settle down with while you're bouncing from one dead-end to the next.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:20 AM on June 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Have you ever broken up with someone, despite the fact that they still loved you and you loved them? How does one do such a thing? How do you know when it's time to end the relationship if there's mutual love and respect on all sides? How do you break up with somebody when you really, really don't want to hurt them?

Abso-fuckin-lutely I have done this, and it was good, and the right decision, and I am still friends with many of those loved exes. Look, love is everywhere. I won't say falling in love is easy, exactly, but love is merely a necessary but not sufficient condition to long-term happiness.

How do you know it's time to end the relationship? I think that's different for every person, but certainly having serious questions can be a sign. I don't know if you should break up with your girlfriend. I am the kind of person that thinks that most people (men and women) need some time to "sew wild oats" (both sexually and romantically), and unless you got that out of your system in early college/highschool, it has the possibility of torpedoing your relationship at some point. Have you had a serious (possibly mutual) crush on another person yet while dating your current gf? If not, watch out. Because we all get crushes eventually, but when you aren't in a solid relationship it can easily turn into something much more damaging. Also, dude, a lengthy period of fights is a bad, bad sign. You do not have to settle for someone you have big, frequent fights with. That is not a relationship given.

Which leads us to, how do you break up with someone you don't want to hurt? Well buddy, don't string along a relationship past its due date and then break up with them only when you have someone else you are ready to rebound to. Because that really fucking hurts the other person. I've done this and had it done to me and I hope to never repeat either of those. And listen, breaking up with someone is HARD. If you do this, she is probably going to cry. You might also cry. You will probably wake up the next morning and feel like shit, even if it was the right thing to do. Feeling like shit the next day does not mean you did the wrong thing. I repeat: feeling like shit the next day does not mean you did the wrong thing.

Finally:
OK, so you part, amicably. If you are lucky, you will meet someone else in the future. And then in exactly 2.5 years you will be in exactly the same place. That is how it works.

No it isn't. I have had relationships fizzle after 2 years. I learned from those what I needed and what I didn't, and now I am in a relationship of almost 5 years that shows no signs of fizzling.
posted by ch1x0r at 9:32 AM on June 7, 2009 [6 favorites]


Last year, I ended a relationship of three years because it just wasn't working, and hadn't been for some time, despite the fact that I was still very much in love with my (now ex-) girlfriend, and she with me. It hurt like hell, and as much as I knew it was the right thing, there were still mornings where I'd wake up and just want to die.

Looking back now, I can admit that breaking up with her was something that should have happened at least a year earlier, and probably even earlier than that.

If you think that there's a chance that things will work out for the better, then I'd tell you to stick with it. But look deep down inside--if you know that it's definitely going to come to an end, then I would advise you not to wait any longer than you need to do end it.

Good luck, either way.
posted by andrewcilento at 12:28 PM on June 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


If she's been like this for 2 of the last 2 1/2 years, it's not looking good for you.

If she's not getting help, it's not looking good for you OR her.

If she is initiating a breakup/break, REALLY not looking good for you.



After we graduated from college, any one of us who wanted to believe it was “our time to be immature”—or even that such a time is worth the trouble—is willfully ignoring reality.


Bullshit. Going to a bar at 10pm when you still can is worth it. He's not talking about doing lines off hookers, he's talking about participating in basic young-adult NYC culture, which is a lot of fun.
posted by kathrineg at 12:39 PM on June 7, 2009


> She's my first serious girlfriend

> We started this relationship in college, and by next week, it'll have been two and a half years.

Meaning you're 26 or younger.

Look, on a rational, intellectual level, it sounds like the two of you get along great. If you want to later, you can probably fairly easily restart things-- proceeding from that same rational, intellectual shared understanding of compatibility.

Since the fun isn't there, and since, by your description, she's not into finding out what can bring it back... why not take a break for a bit and see what happens.

> that my time to be immature and stay out all night and dance in NYC streets is limited to the here and now, before things like career paths really start to lock down. She's my first serious girlfriend, and I feel like I should be dating around -- because I can also envision myself with her for the rest of my life, and that simultaneously frightens and enlivens me.

You already have the reasons why you're going to break up mapped out. Just do it. Judging from your description, once that happens, a load of guilt will probably sink from her shoulders.

And, again... you're 27? 26? 25? Living in NYC? Things have been slow for the last six months?

Time to take the A Train.
posted by darth_tedious at 12:43 PM on June 7, 2009


Have you ever broken up with someone, despite the fact that they still loved you and you loved them? How does one do such a thing? How do you know when it's time to end the relationship if there's mutual love and respect on all sides?

Ha. This question is particularly timely for me because I just went through this two months ago, with my boyfriend of almost three years. We're both in our early-mid-twenties and met in college.

He was also my first serious relationship. We were very much in love and each other's lives, in a way. We lived together, worked together, and operated as if we were married already. However, I had a number of the same issues you mention, including a serious discomfort with my lack of experience.

Ultimately, it had to be broken off. I asked myself seriously where this relationship was headed. In two, three, five years, where would it be--because I could certainly see it lasting that long. The obvious conclusion was marriage.

Then I asked myself if I could commit the rest of my life to him, without ever having had any other significant romantic experience with anyone else. No basis for comparison, no other relationship, nobody else. Not whether it was right, or OK, or whether others had done it, but whether I would be comfortable with it.

And the answer was "No." So did I want to continue a happy, comfortable relationship, have it extend into marriage, and end in divorce ten years later when the discontent finally ate away (and to be sure it was already something that weighed on my mind)? Or did I want to end this happy, comfortable, loving relationship now, to avoid the risk of greater hurt in the future?

I've picked the latter. It hurts. Oh my God, it hurts. All of the breakup cliches and songs and movie scenes and anecdotes online and observations of other breakups still left me totally unprepared for the degree of pain involved. At times it literally felt like my world was collapsing. Incredibly cruel behavior on his part post-breakup did not help. But I know, at heart, that it is the right decision, and I can only imagine how much worse it would be if it happened three, five, or ten years from now. I don't regret the happy moments we had together, but I wish I did it sooner if only because we both wouldn't be hurting so much now.


How do you break up with somebody when you really, really don't want to hurt them?

You're going to hurt them. Period. Get over the idea that you're not going to hurt them. However, you can take actions and make choices post-breakup that will mitigate that hurt. I can tell you, from my immediate experience of breaking up with someone who had the same social network and circle of friends, that a few things are necessary, and the third thing will really help maintain good relations.

1. End contact. Period. You have mutual friends who will have to arrange different times to hang out with each of you. They will deal. You have to avoid each other. You have to.
2. Move out of the city, move out of contact with one another. Ensure that neither of you are going to see each other.
3. Until #1 and #2 happens, do not date or see anyone else.

We did not practice #1 and #2 immediately. We basically maintained regular contact for the first two months of the break-up and it wasn't until recently when I left our city that it's ended. I've done more healing in the past couple weeks away from him and the city than I did in those entire two months. Seriously, I didn't realize how important #1 and #2 were, I underestimated it, and I am an idiot for doing so. Don't make the same mistake.

The impetus for both of you to go wild and parade shit in front of the other person in flagrant violation of #3 will be strong, especially if you break #1 and #2 and the other person is there as a constant reminder of your pain. You guys will want to break #3 because you know how badly it will hurt the other person and you're going to want to see them hurt. Don't do this. For the love of God, don't do this. You aren't dating one another anymore or obligated to one another anymore but out of respect for your ex as a human being and friend don't try to hurt them like this.

Also: my ex and I made a pact that we'll catch up with each other in a couple of years. No promises, expectations, just coffee or something. It has kind of helped things, and gives you the feeling like you aren't just throwing everything away forever. If you guys are so great together and it's meant to be for life, then in a few years you'll click again. The key here though is to allow yourself to date other people and don't count on it.
posted by schroedinger at 1:08 PM on June 7, 2009 [5 favorites]


Break up, being single in New York is an amazing thing when you're in your 20s.
posted by wcfields at 2:27 PM on June 7, 2009


It sounds like you want to break up with her but are afraid to, which means you should sack up and do it. You don't have to get approval that your reasons for wanting to break up are acceptable.

It's been like this for the past two years -- I miss the former her.

You've dated for 2.5 years, and she's been like this for 2 years. So you miss the her of the first six-months of your relationship. Are you sure she really changed? Most relationships will change after the first 6 months.

I feel like I should be a little bit foolish. I had no "traditional" (please note the scare quotes) college experience of debauchery and drunken frat parties and rampant NSA one-night-stands -- far from it -- and I feel like I'm missing out.

This is very silly, but I suspect this is not your honest motivation; it's just a rationalization so you don't have to feel guilty for wanting to break up with her despite the fact that she's a nice girl.

And I can't deny -- I'm partially afraid to be single

That's certainly how it sounds. So is everybody, but it's not that bad. You'll find someone else. So will she. Everything will be ok.
posted by ludwig_van at 7:28 PM on June 7, 2009


She sounds a bit like me when I was working long hours and my difficult depressing job. We fought a lot more then than we ever had before (or have since), had less sex, and almost broke up over stupid stuff. I wasn't completely devoid of adventurousness but I was tired all the time, so I didn't actually have many adventures. My boyfriend is really easygoing and tolerated me through all of that, but looking back I am amazed that he did.

It sounds like there are two issues here:
1) Your restlessness and desire to sow your wild oats or whatever. It's not clear how much of this is just feeling constrained by her low energy and how much is bigger than that.
2) Your unhappiness with her unhappiness. She's in a negative place and it's hard for you.

What if she could somehow lose some of her negativity - either through counseling or by getting a different job? What if this allowed her to be more adventurous? Would that make the relationship satisfying? If yes, then you should support her. If that doesn't work, you should leave. But it's possible that even if things were perfect between you you'd still feel restless, in which case you should move on.

Koeselitz's advice is good advice in the sense that it is what many people wish they had done, but I highly doubt you will truly be able to convince yourself that it is better to be mature, if what you hunger for are the adventures of youth.
posted by mai at 8:59 PM on June 7, 2009


follow up from the OP
It's clear to me that I've misrepresented "missing out" as some debaucherous bohemian "hey let's get drunk and have casual sex with anybody possible and run around Williamsburg without jobs!" -- I'm an introvert, most certainly not the party type.

Thanks a lot for your thoughtful responses, especially tamarack and grapefruitmoon and ch1x0r and benzo8 and schroedinger, and pretty much everyone.

Feeling like shit the next day does not mean you did the wrong thing. I repeat: feeling like shit the next day does not mean you did the wrong thing.
ch1x0r: Thanks so much for this.

I think the best response is to sit down and talk about this, face-to-face, and to see what happens. We're pretty communicative already, so she knows about most (if not all) of the stuff I've said. Thanks again -- and more comments are always really welcome.
posted by jessamyn at 9:29 PM on June 7, 2009


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