A friend of mine is essentially using his girlfriend for a place to live. He really should break up with her, but that would mean moving back in with his family. He claims to care about her, but constantly expresses interest in other women, going so far as to say he'd leave her for any one of them, if one opened that door. The girlfriend is clingy, emotionally dependent on him, and completely lacking self-confidence. What do I do?
posted by SugarAndSass to human relations (28 answers total)
My friend, John, is 29, grew up in the south, he's very intelligent and suffers from bipolar disorder. He has lived at home almost his entire life, would occasionally get out for a year, then have to be hospitalized after a breakdown (either a severe manic or depressive episode/state). Last year, he was in DC (where I live) for a long visit, fell in "love" with a woman, Jane. They dated long-distance for a while, and then six months and three or four visits later, he moved from his parents place (in the south) to her place here.
There are some positive things about this. For a while (six months or so), John and Jane had a relatively good relationship. DC is a lot more suited to John. Being an arty, intellectual type, he always felt out of place where he grew up. Here, he's fallen in with a good group of people through his church and other hobbies (music, political/activism stuff, etc). He's happy here. He's stable.
Unfortunately, he can't support himself. He spent months looking for a job, but due to his illness he has little experience and couldn't get an interview to save his life. His bipolar disorder prevents him from holding down something like a retail or food service job that can be demanding and high stress with constant interaction with people. He eventually got an unpaid part-time internship that lasted a few months. That's over now and he is not at all interested in looking for more work since his disability has come through. With his limited income, there is no way he could afford a place to live here if he had to pay rent. He is perfectly content to spend his days online, going to the gym, doing whatever he wants to, flirting with other women, and then cooking dinner and baking.
He has become increasingly dissatisfied with his relationship with Jane. She's very clingy, needs constant affection and admiration, and is very jealous. He has kept most of his flirtations quiet (obviously) and the one time he did mention something, she got furious and threw something, sobbed uncontrollably, and drank herself into a stupor. Beyond the insecurities, he just doesn't seem that interested in her. He claims there are some times when he feels a "deep love" for her, but he runs very hot and cold. He might be polyamorous, but he certainly doesn't want to be in a relationship only with her. He's bisexual (semi-closeted), which makes her terribly uncomfortable. He is in therapy and working on a LOT, some of which may be leading him to be more "out." (Side note, he told me his therapist told him to get out of the relationship, he then explained the housing thing to her and she didn't push it too much)
Jane, aside from the serious issues with insecurities and self-confidence, is a lovely woman. She's intelligent and fun and nerdy and she deserves to be in a relationship with someone who cares about her the way she cares about him. This is her first relationship where she believed the guy treated her with any respect (little does she know...). She is not interested in therapy. She will be devastated when things end with John (and they will, it's only a matter of when).
John knows he needs to end things with Jane, but he won't do it. He believes that the situation will resolve itself in time (how? I don't know, but this is what he believes). He doesn't want to hurt her, though he knows dragging it out will not make it hurt her any less. He doesn't want to go back home. It would be horrible for him. I know this. I am worried about what would happen to his mental health if he had to go back. With some help from me, he has gotten the ball rolling on some housing and employment assistance, but it often takes a year to get anywhere. Jane is also applying for grad school. She was going to go somewhere away from here, at which point it would be sensible to end the relationship. She is now applying to schools around here (somewhat at John's encouragement), solely because she knows John wants to stay here. She's basically willing to give everything up for him, she doesn't have a clue about how he's feeling, and it's making me insane to know about it.
I am now seriously considering cutting off contact with him until this situation is resolved. I've told him several times not to tell me about women he's had "flirtations" with, and he still does it (he has some issues with memory). I feel like I'm lying to Jane whenever I see the two of them together. We're not friends outside of John, but I do like her a lot. I can't stand that he's doing this to her and it clouds every interaction I have with him. I understand it's a difficult situation, but it seems to me that the only remotely noble thing to do would be to break up with her and face the consequences. I've told him all of this, and all he can say is "imagine living it" and "believe me, I think about it all the time."
I am somewhat concerned about not speaking with him because he has said before that I'm his best friend, and while I know he has other friends here, I'm fairly certain that none of them know him anywhere near as well as I do. I don't want to send him into a depression. I do care about him and he does have some wonderful qualities, but lately I just find myself being angry at him and sad about the situation.
Questions: What should I do? Is there another way to talk to him about this, or should I just cut off contact? Is it possible to make cutting off contact easier on either of us? Is there any way I could continue to support him with other things - finding housing, employment, etc - without being a "friend?" I cannot support him financially, and I’m also not able to house him at my current place.