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How do I stick to my guns and break up?
April 22, 2012 7:36 AM   Subscribe

I've determined that I need to get out of my current live-in romantic relationship. How do I stick to my guns and break up?

I've determined that I need to get out of my current live-in romantic relationship of 3 years.

I tried to end things several months ago, but caved in upon promises of change, which have subsequently not materialized.

This time, I am tempted to actually move out while he is out of town next week. I feel guilty about this because it seems so abrupt
and I know he will be shocked; even though it shouldn't come as a complete surprise that I am breaking up with him, I think the method would. But I fear that if I don't make that huge commitment of actually finding a new place and moving my stuff out, I may backslide again and continue on in this relationship that is not working. I have started looking for places and have been approved for one, but haven't signed the lease yet.

I still care about him, in fact I genuinely consider him my best friend, and it is excruciating contemplating doing something that will hurt him. I'm also terrified of being on my own again, already feeling how lonely it will be. I have no friends in this geographic area, which makes that feeling worse. Yes, I plan to take steps to make them, but the point is NOW I do not have anyone supportive other than long-distance friends and family, which makes the prospect of breaking up with my SO even worse, and is one reason I fear backsliding from this decision. For a variety of reasons I don't want to get into, it is harder to make friends while attached to my SO.

We have no kids, no pets, separate finances, and a month-to-month lease. Neither of us could afford our apartment on our own, and he especially is in a bad financial place and may have difficulty even affording another apartment in this area at all. This adds to my guilt.

This is a "too good to leave, too bad to stay" situation, which is one reason it has been so difficult to come to a firm decision and why it is easy for me to backslide. Some things are good, but the things which are bad are things I am really not ok with; I've been tolerating the intolerable, and have been very unhappy for many months. I think we are essentially incompatible. We fight frequently and both the reasons for the fights and the fights themselves have chipped away at my trust in him and my enthusiasm for this relationship. He is not happy either but I am fairly certain he won't want to break up.

I've thought of offering the option of "trial separation" both to make things easier for him to accept and to appease my inner unreasonable hopeful voice, but I don't think that's really the right way to do it. I have to find a way to bite the bullet.

So my questions are: How mean or unethical is it to move out while a partner is away without telling them until after the fact?

And secondly: How can I be sure I won't backslide this time and continue our relationship in some manner? What are ways of approaching this, emotionally and/or practically, that will make it "stick" this time?

Thoughts from people who have overcome their own waffly tendencies and made the change they know they needed to make?

Thoughts from people who LEFT a "too good to leave, too bad to stay" relationship?

Thank you!!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (28 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
However mean or unethical it might be to move out while he isn't there, it's FAR MORE mean and unethical to let things drag on (and on, and on) because you can't bring yourself to make the leap.

Moving out sounds like it's the lesser of two evils to you.

To prevent backsliding:

- remove him from your phone, your facebook, etc etc.
- look out for "him-shaped" holes in your life, things you always did together and so forth, and be proactive about filling those holes with something else.

In doing this you are doing him a favour as well, since the only thing worse than breaking up once is breaking up five times.
posted by emilyw at 7:54 AM on April 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Paul Simon put it down about as best as can be said. There is no easy way to do it without hurt, guilt, fear and 1000 other bad things happening. Shakespeare via Macbeth advises "If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly".

You can talk about this if you want, communication isn't a bad thing, but you are determined to leave the situation you find yourself in. It sounds to me that this period of your life is over and you need to move on. If you cannot see a way to salvage the relationship drawing out the ending isn't productive. If it would make you feel better find him a place to live he can afford sounds like you are squared away. Three years is a long time but if it isn't going where you want it to go don't postpone the inevitable. My heart felt sympathies I've been on both sides of the equation if it can't be fixed put your energies elsewhere.
posted by pdxpogo at 7:58 AM on April 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Trial separations when you know you are done are just pulling a band-aid off slower. The hurt is the same. Just do the deed.

Honestly, if your partner is in a bad place financially and can't afford the apartment on his own, moving out while he's out of town is pretty cold. You're not giving him ANY notice to get his finances together or to find a roommate. It's the end of a month, so I hope if you take this route you're prepared to pay May rent too in order to ensure you don't cripple him financially in addition to the emotional turmoil of finding out the person you are living with just up and left you.

The optimal solution would be a conversation the night before he leaves, where you outline your plan for leaving and pay him rent for May. That way, he doesn't get blindsided and has the trip to think things through, so you have plenty of time to get out without being bargained with.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 7:59 AM on April 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just moving out when he is out of town is cruel and cowardly, particularly since you consider him your best friend (you have not described an abusive or dangerous relationship). It would not speak well of your character to do that. So do the right thing. You must have the difficult conversation. And make sure you work out the finances fairly regarding the apartment. You state he can't afford the apartment on his own. So even if you make the wrong decision and follow through with your plan, you should pay your half of the expenses for 1 additional month so he has time to find a place he can afford.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 8:15 AM on April 22, 2012 [9 favorites]


Let him know you are moving out. Now. Give a one month's notice. (So, May 31st) One month can give you both enough time to find a new place with roommates or figure out another temporary solution. If you want to get out now, not a month from now, that's fine, but you need to pay your half of the expenses until the end of May and you need to tell him that asap.

To not backslide, you need to cut off contact completely. Cold turkey. Make that pact with yourself. (Also make sure all bills are paid and all your stuff is out of the apt so there are no excuses!) That's what I do. ie: I know my friend Sadie would be totally pissed at me if I talked to my ex because he treated me like crap. Sadie would be disappointed, and I really don't want her to be disappointed in me. She's never said so, and we've never discussed it, but I know it's how she would react, and that's all I need.
posted by manicure12 at 8:44 AM on April 22, 2012


The only way this would be at all fair or appropriate would be if you covered your rent and half the utilities that don't depend on usage (cable, landline phone, or whatever) for at least a month. Otherwise you're not just breaking up, you're sticking him with a huge financial burden in addition.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:02 AM on April 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


If you tell him you are moving out, are you worried that he will hurt you? Are you afraid that he might restrain you, so that you cannot leave? Is telling him something you would consider a dangerous act?

If so, then it's appropriate to move out without telling him. That's a tactic perfectly designed to ensure an abused partner's safety against a dangerous individual. It is the right thing to do, in such circumstances.

If not, however, then it is an unnecessarily cruel act. You will be turning his life entirely upside down without any warning and leaving him with the very sudden burden of finding a new, affordable apartment.

You don't tell us what this intolerable behavior you've been putting up with is... That makes it very hard for us to tell whether the main concern here is breaking away safely or, instead, just breaking up easily. If it's a matter of safety, do it. If it's a matter of ease, don't.
posted by meese at 9:05 AM on April 22, 2012 [11 favorites]


Moving out without explaining in advance seems like a fearful response to me. I'm sure you're afraid to hurt this man and the conversation isn't going to be fun, but after living together for three years, he deserves your honesty.

That said, if you know you're unhappy in your living situation, you're not doing anyone any favors by staying there. Remember, when you break up with somebody that you no longer want to be dating, you're also setting that person free to find someone right for them.
posted by deathpanels at 9:09 AM on April 22, 2012


I'm feeling kind of mixed about whether or not outright moving out before he returns is the best approach, but I do appreciate where you're coming from when you say that you need to commit yourself to something fairly huge in order to prevent a backslide - especially if this is a situation where you feel a strong friendship with this person. I can see how that would make it so tempting to waver on your decision, especially during the times when things were either good or at least not outright terrible.

Would it be possible to sign a lease for your next place without moving out completely before your partner comes back? Perhaps a (non-refundable?) rental deposit and application fee would be enough to feel like your decision is irrevocable, without causing your soon-to-be-ex to have to come back to the shock of an empty apartment fairly out of the blue. Maybe helping out with his rent for the upcoming month would be a nice thing to do as well - IF you can afford it - but I would only do so if I could frame it in such a way that it was clear that this was an act of parting kindness, NOT an indication that you will continue being involved with and responsible for his living situation (you don't want to given any indication that he could just move into your new place with you when he leaves the current place!).

If this wouldn't work for you, though - if you feel like you really do have to be completely out of the place before he gets back or else you won't leave at all - then my opinion is that you've got to do what you've got to do. It will certainly hurt him (but what way won't?), and it will could harm the chance of any friendship with him at least in the near future, but if your choices are to leave on less-than-great terms or to drag it out (what would a "trial separation" even hope to achieve?) then I would agree with emilyw that this is the lesser of two evils - for both of you.
posted by DingoMutt at 9:41 AM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Given that you tried to end things several months ago, you moving out won't be a genuine surprise. He might feel shocked, but this has been coming for a while.

I can't imagine a scenario where it would somehow hurt less to break up and then have to awkwardly live in the same apartment while one, or both, of you look for a new place. So go ahead and move out prior to having another (final!) break-up discussion with him, but as others have said, do your best to help ease the financial aspects of the transition by paying your half of May's rent.

Don't get sucked into long discussions about his future, financial or otherwise, just give him a check for your portion of the next month's joint bills and leave him to it. (Or directly sent your portion to the landlord, whatever you think is best.) He will then have a month to decide his own future - that is plenty of time to make arrangements.
posted by cessair at 9:41 AM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


However mean or unethical it might be to move out while he isn't there,

When you are looking out for yourself in this way, there is nothing remotely mean or unethical in what you are contemplating.

Mean is doing something gratuitous to hurt him.

Unethical is violating some obligation you have toward him.

Neither of which are in play in the situation you describe.
posted by jayder at 9:47 AM on April 22, 2012


I agree with the suggestions to pay your share of next month's rent and bills, since that's what you'd be on the hook for even if you were both happy and agreed to move out together to a new place.

For a clean break, make sure you're squared away with the landlord that your name is no longer on the lease or utility bills. Otherwise you are still on the hook for half (or maybe even all of) the payments, even though you don't live there anymore.

If you do decide to move out while he's gone, I think the kindest remaining option would be to be at your shared place when he gets home from his trip, to tell him what's up and hand over your apartment key. All your stuff may already be moved to your new apartment, but unless you're afraid of violence with this guy, it seems like you ought to give him the respect of an in-person break-up speech rather than him coming home to a half-empty apartment with a note.
posted by vytae at 10:03 AM on April 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Moving out while he's away, especially when leaving him with the apartment, is a terrible thing to do. There's nothing wrong with wanting to break up, and even if finally doing so would be surprising (which you say probably isn't the case), that's the kind of thing that happens and no one can be blamed for a relationship ending. relationships end, more often than not. it sucks, but it happens and both people have to take care of themselves when it comes to coping with that. you can't be responsible for the fact that that'll hurt him.

but moving out while he's away is incredibly cruel, and the urge to do so comes (I suspect) more from a fear of confrontation on your part than anything related to doing the right thing. Don't do it.

Leaving him with the bill on the apartment is tough, and there's no simple answer to that. you can stay there for a month while you both try to find a place, or you can pay your share of that rent for a month, but the second option sounds like you might not be able to afford it and the first has the problem that you've already found a place. If he has someplace else he can stay, recommend to him that he stay there while he looks for a place and you both move out of your current apartment.

In order not to backslide, your only option is to cut off all contact with him. Not in a mean way, but be kind yet firm about the fact that for your own welfare you need to be away from each other, and that even though you know that might be hard for him it's what you need for yourself and you're sorry. Don't act like it's in his best interests. There's nothing wrong with doing what you need to do for yourself, so do it and be honest about it. He can be as upset as he wants, and he'll have a right to be upset if he is. But not because you did something wrong. You didn't. The situation is simply upsetting.

Because staying away from him is the best way not to backslide, I think your best option is to move out AFTER breaking up with him, and try to think of what he can do to have someplace to live while he looks for an apartment.
posted by shmegegge at 10:14 AM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Break up with him before he leaves (not the day he leaves, give him a day or two with his support network), clear out while he is gone and cover bills for at least a month. I'm sorry, it is tough and it will hurt both of you.
posted by saucysault at 10:45 AM on April 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yes, tell him in person before he leaves.
posted by salvia at 10:49 AM on April 22, 2012


It's easy to say that since he's going to feel like crap either way, you may as well pull off the bandaid swiftly and just scram.

But while it's true he'll be hurt no matter how gently you do this, that's no excuse for doing it in a cold, cruel way. Even worse, your motivation is clearly to avoid friction for yourself.

Well, tough! Ending relationships is hard! Grow up and do it responsibly, with as much kindness as you can muster, and, to minimize lingering pain, make it super super clear to him that reconciliation won't ever be a possibility.
posted by Quisp Lover at 10:50 AM on April 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm in a remotely similar situation. I feel like our live-in relationship is just hurting us both but I'm afraid to just tell how I feel cause I don't want to hurt him. I have no idea if he feels the same way but I think he really doesn't want to break up with me. We have talked about our problems but everytime we end the conversation by promising we'll do better and try harder even though things have been the same for months now. I just can't bring myself to just say we would be better without each other even though I have many times "decided" so.

So I feel your pain when you say you would just rather leave and disappear, cause trust me, it would solve all my problems to just take off and move to Japan and send a post card saying "oh, by the way we're over" haha! but I think it still would be very cruel. He needs to hear you say it and you need to hear yourself say it to him, I think when I'm in the point of even admitting it out loud to at least someone I'm not going to back out.

Good luck!
posted by lleguana at 4:56 PM on April 22, 2012


Hi, it's me, the anonymous poster.

As for the rent issue: yes, I've already paid for my share of May's rent. I can add utilities to that.

I wanted to clarify that while he cannot afford this place long-term unless he becomes employed soon, he does have some savings and would not need to move out immediately, if he so chose.

If you tell him you are moving out, are you worried that he will hurt you? Are you afraid that he might restrain you, so that you cannot leave? Is telling him something you would consider a dangerous act?

I am not worried about physical violence. He restrained me from leaving once but has not done that in a long time after I made clear that it was a total deal-breaker if it ever happened again. I don't think he would restrain me.

He has threatened suicide before when I've wanted to break up, and I am afraid of that happening. Although I didn't think it was really sincere, I also was really worried that maybe I was wrong and he would actually do it.

but moving out while he's away is incredibly cruel, and the urge to do so comes (I suspect) more from a fear of confrontation on your part than anything related to doing the right thing.

Even worse, your motivation is clearly to avoid friction for yourself.

No, my motivation is neither to avoid friction for myself nor to avoid confrontation. My motivation, as stated in my post, is a fear that I will backslide again and agree to another "one more try" that most of me knows isn't going to work. I want this to be a clean break and I don't trust myself to do without bolsters in place. I backslid once and don't want to do it again.

It kind of sucks when I am doing my absolute best to prepare for this break up and do it in the best way possible that some respondents are imputing ill or selfish intentions to me. I care about this person and hate having to hurt him and am looking for the best way to successfully make a clean break.

Well, tough! Ending relationships is hard! Grow up and do it responsibly, with as much kindness as you can muster

Ha! I can only hope I do it with as much kindness as you display (eye-rolling icon goes here).

break up with him before he leaves
Break up with him before he leaves (not the day he leaves, give him a day or two with his support network)

I thought about that possibility (since I feel mean waiting to tell him I want to break up), but I do not wish to ruin his trip, which I have reason to believe he will enjoy greatly otherwise.

Like me, he doesn't have a local support network (other than me!).

I also wanted to say that while having no contact for a while may be the best thing, blocking him from facebook, removing his number from my phone, etc. is not something I wish to do. I do not want to break contact with him permanently, and hope to remain friends.

I guess I didn't make clear in my post that I had and have no intention of just not being here when he gets back. Of course I am going to tell him in person that I am breaking up with him.

What I'm currently considering doing is picking him up from the airport when he comes back, going out for coffee, and having this conversation in public so that perhaps there is less chance of yelling or suiide threats, while preparing him for the fact that I've moved out and letting him know face to face that I do care and really, really regret that this IS the decision I'm making.

I'm still very interested in ideas or advice about how to make sure I don't back-slide and agree to "one more try", other than through this plan. I feel like a lot of people are saying "yeah, it's mean" without actually offering me ways to NOT do this and still make it stick, given what I've told you about my past attempt and our situation.
posted by ArgyleSockPuppet at 6:20 PM on April 22, 2012


I actually just gave this advice to someone else so sorry for the repetition but...in my experience the best way not to backslide is to simply get out there and live your new life, hard. Do the things you were not doing because the relationship wasn't giving you space for them, whether that's getting out there and making new friends as you implied, taking sky diving, listening to that band your ex hates, eating things that crunch while lying in bed. Basically: Spend your time dating you.
posted by Zen_warrior at 6:37 PM on April 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


As for the rent issue: yes, I've already paid for my share of May's rent. I can add utilities to that.

Then I think doing what you need to do to protect yourself is fair and equitable. If he were a roommate rather than a partner you've already told you want to end your relationship with, nobody would bat an eyelash for giving your roommate more than a month's paid notice, given that you're month-to-month tenants.

If you could do even more, financially, that would be generous and give him even more time to get things in order about finding a roommate or moving. But you know what your budget can and can't swing.

And if he makes suicide threats, refer him to people who can help him like the Samaritans and Hopeline and your local phone/online counseling resources. It is not your job as his ex-partner to be his safety net.

I'm still very interested in ideas or advice about how to make sure I don't back-slide and agree to "one more try"

Accountability buddies. Tell several friends that you have made the commitment to end things with this person, and tell them that you want their help in staying accountable to that commitment. When you feel like you might give in to his entreaties or threats, call your accountability buddies and get their feedback, which will be HELL NO.

I'll be one of your accountability buddies via MeMail if you like, and my answer will always be HELL NO. (My answer will also be to read Facing Codependence and do the workbook so you don't get into another one of these situations, but one thing at a time.)

As long as you're being fair to him logistically and financially, I think you should do what you need to do to make the breakup "stick" this time. Yeah, it's a little passive-aggressive to move out as a fait accompli, but since you're making things whole financially that's something. Also, your slightly passive-aggressive tactic is more than outweighed by his suicide threats, imo.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:43 PM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think the kinder choice would be to deliver the news in private.
posted by quivering_fantods at 6:44 PM on April 22, 2012


Make yourself a list of all the reasons that this relationship is bad for you, and refer to it when you are tempted to call him.

Wanting to be friends is great if you can swing it. You can still set your FB up so that you don't see all of his posts for a while, and you can delete his phone number from your phone and save it in a place that's difficult to get to (the back of the freezer, maybe).
posted by bunderful at 7:31 PM on April 22, 2012


I disagree a little bit with your (and especially anyone else's!) assessment that he's an OK person to have this conversation with in private, without at least some 3rd party nearby or in the room. It does sound like you need a "buddy" or authority figure of some type around so that you can exit quietly and at-will once the news is delivered to him.

Your idea not to block him entirely is at dangerous odds with your desire to avoid threats of suicide or back-sliding. Think it through. One or the other unpleasant outcomes, or both, are inevitable the short-term here if you remain in contact.

Moving your stuff out while he's out of town? YES, PLEASE.

---

This plan is sound:

"What I'm currently considering doing is picking him up from the airport when he comes back, going out for coffee, and having this conversation in public so that perhaps there is less chance of yelling or suiide threats, while preparing him for the fact that I've moved out and letting him know face to face that I do care and really, really regret that this IS the decision I'm making."

This plan is NOT sound:

"...and hope to remain friends."


You may not remain in contact with anyone who has used emotional manipulation against you, especially if you wish to move on with your life, get clear of the drama, and avoid any "back-sliding". So sorry.
posted by jbenben at 7:58 PM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Going no contact is the single best way to prevent wobbling.

Trying to pursue a friendship in the immediate aftermath of a breakup is challenging even for couples who parted mutually and amicably, and where there was no mental instability (e.g., suicide threats) present.

The friendship will be there for you later down the line, if there is in fact a basis for it. Take the long view: if you go no contact for six months (better yet, a year), you'll both have time to work on yourselves, sift through your feelings, and have a more mellowed perspective on your time together.
posted by quivering_fantods at 8:35 PM on April 22, 2012


He has threatened suicide before when I've wanted to break up, and I am afraid of that happening. Although I didn't think it was really sincere, I also was really worried that maybe I was wrong and he would actually do it.

Wish I could favorite this comment a thousand times:

(former) significant other: "If you leave me, I will kill myself!"
person initiating the breakup: "And that will be your choice."


Repeat "And that will be your choice" as necessary.
posted by Melismata at 9:31 AM on April 23, 2012


To prevent backsliding I would put in place some practical obstacles to make it hard for yourself to contact him or him to contact you - get a new SIM card for your phone so you have a new number and give your old one to a friend. They can tell you if anyone else called besides him. Delete him from your facebook, and block his email address. If you can afford an out of town holiday or stay with friends then do that to give yourself some mental space. Fill your free time with activities, especially with new people who don't know him, so you can't talk about him or worry about what he's up to. It might sound drastic but I think it is easier to go for a clean break than relying on yourself to say no repeatedly.

If he feels suicidal there are loads of resources out there to help him, besides you. His family, professional therapists, GPs, helplines, online - he needs to be an adult and seek help just as anyone else without a relationship does.
posted by EatMyHat at 11:14 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just found out that his former room-mate need a new room-mate ASAP. This would be a great opportunity for him to find a new place without paying much or going through an application. Only problem is, I am afraid if I wait until he gets back to break up with him, he will miss this opportunity. I don't know what to do: tell him over the phone? Contact the former roomie, with whom I don't have a relationship, and beg him to save the room but not to tell my SO yet that we are breaking up? Or stick with original plan?

Gah!!!!!!!
posted by ArgyleSockPuppet at 1:03 AM on April 26, 2012


In light of this development, I'd probably tell him now... but if not, because of other logistics or whatever, I wouldn't get into trying to intercede with the ex-roommate to save the spot, or anything at all like that. Don't be telling other people before you tell him, or trying to make his life all tidy-without-you and wrapped up with a bow (you know what I mean). That's a part of the letting go you're going to have to do, though I certainly understand the impulse.
posted by taz at 4:24 AM on April 26, 2012


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