How to break up with a nice person who has serious problems?
July 28, 2011 5:47 PM Subscribe
Looking for advice about breaking up with my very nice but very troubled boyfriend.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (21 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
This is going to be long, but the gist of it is that I am in a relationship of nearly three years with someone who has an addiction to painkillers. I’m looking for advice on extricating myself from the situation - in other words, I need breakup advice. Posting anonymously because my boyfriend knows that I read Mefi and Ask Mefi daily.
Let’s call my boyfriend Ben. Ben and I have been dating for almost three years. After about a year of dating, I broke up with him because he had slipped back into using painkillers and had been lying about it to me for a very long time. He cleaned up his act - so I thought - and we started seeing each other again. I ill advisedly decided to have him move in with me shortly after we got back together; at the time, I truly thought that he was making a real go at sobriety and thought that living with me - I’ve been sober for more than 3 years - would also help. Even so, I had inklings that his newfound sobriety wasn’t completely sincere, for lack of a better word. Despite my faint reservations, I decided to plunge full-steam ahead.
I’m pretty certain that he was totally sober for at least the first few weeks of living with me; the rest of the one-and-a-half years since then, though, he most likely hasn’t. The trouble here is that he has a genuine problem. He spends all of his extra money on pills. He neglects all of the other parts of his life. He is in serious financial trouble; his car is on its last leg. He has a low-paying job with no prospects of doing much better - especially when he can’t get off the drugs.
Meanwhile, I have made leaps and bounds in the last three years. My career has flourished and I am achieving many exciting things. I also have a child, and I spend a huge majority of my spare time with her. I’m renting a place currently but want to buy a home next year. Everything is on track for this to happen easily.
We staged a pseudo-intervention for Ben a few months ago, “we” being myself and his parents. He immediately fessed up, as always, and started hitting meetings. That quickly tapered off and it also quickly became apparent that he was not staying clean. The tricky thing is that it’s nearly impossible for me to tell if he is using because it just makes him tired. He works odd hours so it’s just hard to tell.
There were a few other “confrontations” about his using in the intervening weeks. I say that because I am terrible at confrontation. I have the hardest time just talking to him about this. As busy as I am, it’s often easier just to let things slide. He’s also a very kind person and has never raised his voice at me or done anything remotely unkind to me. The times when I have really gotten fed up with the status quo, I’ve sent him emails about how I felt. Lame, I know, but I just feel like I’m going to start bawling or something if I even think about broaching the subject of breaking up.
Which brings me to now. I am officially, finally, fed up. He was clearly high a few weeks ago and it scared the crap out of me. I told him that he needed to find a sober living place and to go do that until he got his act together. He said he would. Then he said that he wasn’t having any luck, which I know is BS. We live in a metropolitan area and I know for a fact that there are many, many options. Then he told me that he had to save up some money, which I also know isn’t true. Since then, the subject has been dropped entirely. Ugh.
At this point, I just want to break up. It’s so hard though because we live together. It’s doubly hard because I have no idea where he will go or what he will do. I know that I can’t stay with him just because of that - or that I shouldn’t stay with him just because of that - but the actual thought of breaking up is just so difficult. To add to all of that, I have discovered the joys and benefits of sobriety and it angers me to live with someone who is still in the throes of addiction. I feel like I am cheating myself; I also know that I have some signs of codependency.
I should also add that he recently told me, via email, that he thinks he would be dead by now if it wasn’t for me. I know that is manipulative, and it worked. I feel guilty about leaving him.
Finally, my question: How can I go about breaking up with Ben without crushing him? I know it sounds like I want a magic wand that will make this all go away; I kind of do. What I’m after here, though, is real-life advice from those who have had to break up with live-in SOs, in situations that were “one-sided.” In other words, non-mutual breakups, which most of them are.
Also, am I crazy for wanting to break up with him? Is it cruel to do this to someone who is struggling with these problems? I guess I don’t want to be “mean,” which is really dumb, but there it is.
Thanks for taking the time to read this and for any advice!