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How should I act when I think that we might break up?
August 10, 2012 2:24 PM   Subscribe

How should one act in a relationship when you are thinking of breaking up with them?

I'm struggling with understanding how to act in my relationship when I'm not 100% certain that I want it to continue.

On one hand, I do love my partner. In a lot of ways, they're incredibly awesome, and if it were as simple as that, then I wouldn't be thinking about breaking up with them.

On the other hand, due to a number of factors (at the heart, a family history of emotional abuse), our relationship doesn't always work, and I don't know always if I can really keep this relationship going.

I know that communication is important, and I should stress that we have spoken many times about our problems. In particular, they are working a lot at trying to fix themselves (therapy, etc.), and in some ways, things have got much better---at least, the severity of our problems has decreased, and I have to say that it does leave me with hope.

But once in a while I don't feel so hopeful. And in those times when I don't know if we can go on, I don't know what to do. On one hand, I feel awkward when people ask me how the relationship is going, and on the other hand I don't want to lie to my friends.

And with respect to my partner, I don't want them to worry if my current feelings about the relationship are going to pass, but I also don't want to one day just spring it upon them after reassuring them that everything is fine, that it's over.

I know that communication is important, and as I said, we do communicate well about our problems. But I don't know how to address this, nor even whether or not I should. I don't want to abandon them at some point in the future, but I also don't want to subject them to somewhat periodic worries that I might put them through.

So my questions are as follows.

(easier): What do I say about this when talking with friends?
(harder): What do I say to my partner during the times that I'm not feeling so hot about the relationship?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (10 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
(easier): What do I say about this when talking with friends?
You tell them that things are going just fine and thanks for asking.
(harder): What do I say to my partner during the times that I'm not feeling so hot about the relationship?
You tell him that, while you think he's just awesome and you love him to pieces, you have concerns about the long term viability of your relationship and you explain why. Then you talk it out.
posted by sid at 2:29 PM on August 10, 2012 [12 favorites]


On one hand, I feel awkward when people ask me how the relationship is going, and on the other hand I don't want to lie to my friends.

If you talk to a friend about your relationship problems, it should only be with a trusted, discreet friend and it should only be to seek support, a new perspective, or constructive feedback from that friend.

Never talk to your friends about your relationship problems just because they asked about them.

What do I say to my partner during the times that I'm not feeling so hot about the relationship?

Tell them: "In some ways, things have got much better and I know you're working hard on your issues, which leaves me with hope. But once in a while I don't feel so hopeful, and right now is one of those times. I'm telling you this to be honest, not because I'm going anywhere. You're incredibly awesome and I don't want to subject you to these somewhat periodic worries."

And then, ask them: "Do you want me to tell you when I have these periodic feelings? If it detracts from your therapy and the work that you're doing, I won't. I just want to make sure we continue to communicate as well as we have been doing."
posted by headnsouth at 2:53 PM on August 10, 2012 [8 favorites]


sid has it.

Expanding that advice to a general case: when feeling *a certain way* explain to your partner that you are feeling *that way*, when unsure how you feel say to your partner "I am unsure how I feel about this" then talk it out.
posted by oblio_one at 3:03 PM on August 10, 2012


(easier): What do I say about this when talking with friends?
You tell them that things are going just fine and thanks for asking.


Oof. I like the other half of sid's advice, but this is complicated. I think the above is ok as a strategy to protect yourself, but I've found it can also be corrosive and painful in the long run, particularly if you're really saying it to shield your friends from the awkwardness. There is a lot to be gained by giving your friends a chance to listen and sympathize and other such friend-like things.

due to a number of factors (at the heart, a family history of emotional abuse)

OP, I'm admittedly projecting a little based on this because it sounds very familiar. I just want to suggest in case it's applicable: if you're experiencing emotional abuse or otherwise at risk of fallout from it? Think about yourself first and act accordingly. Secure your own oxygen mask first, then take care of your partner and your friends.
posted by clavicle at 3:11 PM on August 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


It seems like you're going through some internal struggle, you should be honest with yourself and your partner too. Once you start doing that, whatever happens, happens!
posted by Trinergy at 3:42 PM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


My boyfriend doesn't use metafilter, but I'm scouring the details of your post anyway, wondering if you could be him.

My tactic in these times is to live in the moment. With a mindset of sad-happiness. I acknowledge our struggles and possibly irreconcilable differences, and put them just out of reach (but not out of sight), and spend time being loving and affectionate. Not in the "distracting with sexiness" way, but in a "I love you, let me be close to you in this moment" way. I sometimes use those together times to confess my doubts and struggles while also discussing compromises, needs, and ways to make things better.

It's worked in my relationship for both of us to confront our doubts about being together long term, then spend the immediate moment relaxing into the simple things we like about each other and about our relationship, and taking things one day at a time.

It can cast a melancholy over things for a while, but once things are confessed, it can be easier to find and appreciate joys the days you have left together. And maybe that will be weeks, and maybe it will be years or decades.

There are a lot of interpersonal dysfunctions that will make the above idea bad advice (intense hostility or insecurity or instability), but maybe your situation doesn't include such minefields.
posted by itesser at 3:47 PM on August 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


You don't act, you end it. Nobody deserves to be led like this.
posted by pakora1 at 6:13 PM on August 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


My advice is to decide to put your all in and stop doubting the relationship or just end it. Nobody likes to be strung along and find out later their partner was just going through the motions.
posted by timsneezed at 6:33 PM on August 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also, if you're determined to continue on and try to work things out then be honest with your partner when you're feeling ambivalence and what in particular is triggering it. If you can't be emotionally open, then there the relationship will have no chance anyway.
posted by timsneezed at 6:35 PM on August 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


Yeah, it's not clear if you're concerned about the fallout of being open and honest with your partner about your feelings. I'm going to imagine it is a problem, otherwise you probably wouldn't have asked this question. But that's just a guess. timsneezed is right - if you can't be open about how you feel, there can't really be a relationship. But if you're able to be open with them, you should make sure that you acknowledge openly to them that you love them, think they're awesome, and are happy about what they're doing to help themselves. They need the full package.

Regarding your friends, personally, I think it would be disrespectful to your partner to do anything but to gloss over what's going on. I don't think you need to lie and say that everything's going wonderfully - but I think that fairly vague comments about 'working on things' are more helpful than anything.
posted by heyjude at 7:18 PM on August 10, 2012


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