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I feel like I'm in a love triangle, help me breakup with my girlfriend.
December 17, 2012 7:08 AM   Subscribe

I feel like I'm in a love triangle, help me breakup with my girlfriend.

I know the standard advice is to follow Miko's breakup advice, but I'm not sure if that follows after 3 years where there was clearly an intent to marry. To make matters worst, the main reason I want to breakup is due to her codependent relationship with a drug addict in recovery on her side. The person is very close to her, so therapy would prob. be needed for the rest of both of our lives. She is in therapy, but while acknowledges the problems refuses to actually practice the advice from the LDAC counselor to set healthy boundaries while supporting the recovery.

Other issues are fairly minor relationship issues, it's just reached a point that after the holidays, I can't continue with the relationship until she is "ready to walk the walk". So how do I breakup with her without actually telling her that I'm breaking up with her over the codependent relationship?

The reason I'm hesitant to state the main cause is because the last thing the addict in recovery needs is to know that they are the reason for the failed relationship and constant resentment from the girlfriend. Obviously, I still love her but the constant stress has finally gotten to me. Also, I'm not opposed to getting back together down the line but she needs to prove that she's ready to do what is needed to set healthy boundaries while still supporting the addict in recovery or boundaries should they relapse; both which she has demonstrated she is not willing to do at this time. So how do I breakup or what's your advice for how the speech should go?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (19 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
because the last thing the addict in recovery needs is to know that they are the reason for the failed relationship

It sounds like the person in recovery isn't the cause though; it sounds like your girlfriend's failure to set healthy boundaries is the cause. I'm not really sure of the best way to go about the discussion, but I think keeping this clear in your mind will help you frame the talk.
posted by insectosaurus at 7:16 AM on December 17, 2012 [17 favorites]


"I feel we're not in the right place in our lives to be together. For my own health, I need for us not to be with each other right now. Take care of yourself."

Basically, whatever you say is going to hurt. If you don't want to get into specifics (why you wouldn't still isn't clear to me...it seems that saying that your partner is too enmeshed with someone else is exactly what needs to be said, but if not, just being direct is probably best), then just say you're in the wrong place in life right now to continue.
posted by xingcat at 7:16 AM on December 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


You have to speak your truth. Seriously. The breakup itself is going to be hard enough as it is for her. Do you think *not* giving her a reason is any better than being honest?

I mean, maybe I'm reading this wrong, but it's not your girlfriend in recovery...it's her friend, right? You're not responsible for her recovery or her friend's recovery. Recovery has to exist in the real world. Real world has challenges. This will be one of them. But it's not your responsibility to lie in a misguided attempt to spare her feelings. Be honest.
posted by inturnaround at 7:18 AM on December 17, 2012 [21 favorites]


It's pretty simple.

"I'm not happy anymore and I want to move on."

Don't give reasons, don't get into a big, hairy discussion, just state that you're not happy and that you want to move on. That's it, that's all.

Start disengaging your finances (if they're engaged) and/or living arrangement now. Be prepared to take all your most important stuff out in one fell swoop.

There's never going to be a good time to do this, or a time when it won't hurt your girlfriend, but doing it cleanly and completely is the best way to handle this.

Don't get into a discussion about "we can tray again if..." Make this break total and complete.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:19 AM on December 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


The reason I'm hesitant to state the main cause is because the last thing the addict in recovery needs is to know that they are the reason for the failed relationship and constant resentment from the girlfriend.

Speaking as someone who had an addict in my family and had to learn the tough way to create better boundaries, I don't think it's worth pussyfooting around this with your girlfriend for two reasons.

1. She already knows this is a huge issue, I am certain and if you tell her something else it's disrespecting the relationship you have
2. It's her responsibility to deal with this appropriately with the addict in her life. She does not have to make this into a resentful issue since, in a reasonable world, it's actually NOT about the other person, it's about her and her behavior towards you and the way that is not functioning and becoming a dealbreaker.

It's easy, super easy, to point to the addict and say "Not only are they fucked up but they are the reason I am not in a fulfilling relationship" but honestly part of the getting out of the codependency is realizing that you have to own your own behavior. The addict has to own theirs and the people trying to support the addict have to own theirs and they're not inextricably linked no matter how much you may feel like "doing the right thing" involves supporting the addict at all costs at the expense of your other personal relationships. And keep in mind that the holidays are a lousy time for everyone and addicts and their support people often wind up having a really messy time of it generally speaking.

It's tough and it sucks and I am sorry for both of you but it's absolutely okay to say "I can't be in a relationship with someone who appears to be in a primary relationship with someone else" [or some variant on that] and it's okay to want your relationship to be prioritized in a way that seems appropriate to you.

- It's okay to tell your girlfriend that she seems to not be in a place where she can balance the needs of the addict in her life with having a committed relationship with someone else.
- It's okay to tell your girlfriend that while you're happy she's been in therapy, you're not seeing the results you'd need to be seeing to want to continue this relationship
- It's okay to say nothing at all about your girlfriend but just to say that you're not getting what you need from this relationship and you need to not see each other right now

If you've decided that the breakup is necessary, I'd just go ahead and tell her sooner rather than later (because of the holidays) and really let her sort things out with her other relationships. It's nice that you're concerned, by the same token she's going to have to muddle through this somehow and being honest might at least help her understand at least one perspective on how her other possibly unhealthy relationships are (or could be) affecting her romatic ones.
posted by jessamyn at 7:20 AM on December 17, 2012 [39 favorites]


Yeah, you seem to actually be on the fence between breaking up with your girlfriend, in which case you just say some variation of what xingcat or Ruthless Bunny suggested, or having a conversation about breaking up because of this particular situation. I think jessamyn has it here, you need to come clean and there are ways to do that that do not implicate the recovering addict, but still let your GF see what's going on in a way that she will be able to respond to.
posted by OmieWise at 7:26 AM on December 17, 2012


The reason you're hesitant to state the main cause falls very much under the heading of 'not your problem.' Addicts do not need to be shielded from real life continuing on around them, and presumably the situation with the troubled individual has been going on for quite some time and the individual's troubles are substantial? Individual probably either knows, or will not be surprised to learn about it, or is delusional/in denial and finding out that s/he is also not respecting appropriate boundaries may even be helpful.

(Though if this is not a scenario where the problems have dragged on -- ditch that and consider that you need more patience? A timeline of sorts would be helpful, as would examples of the extent of the involvement. Counselors are lovely things, but also fallible...)

Be prepared for "screw you" in response to "I'm not opposed to getting back together down the line."

But, back to the phrasing issue -- after three years your partner is entitled to honesty here; the third party's feelings are not the priority. "Don't give reasons" is, I feel, bad advice here. You want to at least try to leave the camp site in better shape than you found it, etc. My take from the small amount of info provided is that doing this without honesty would be unsupportive and disrespectful of both the girlfriend and her friend in recovery, who are not children and don't need to be shielded from what's going on in your head. You have a clear and reasonable (assuming this has really dragged on, and you have clearly stated your concerns and been ignored) reason to end things; there's no reason to not be forthright. Moreso since it is not a big personal insult to the girlfriend; it's not a hurtful "You've gotten too fat" or "You're not my intellectual equal" that would probably leave her smarting. She may even agree (?) with the break-up, on the idea that if you don't support her involvement here then you won't support similar involvements with other troubled folks over the years, and that sort of thing will not stop being a priority to her, and this may be an incompatibility and not a failing on her part as far as she is concerned.
posted by kmennie at 7:29 AM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Please respect your girlfriend and the three years you have been together enough to tell her the truth. Especially if you really would like to get back together at some point. Giving her the actual reason gives her the opportunity to fix it.
posted by stoneweaver at 7:49 AM on December 17, 2012 [17 favorites]


This question as framed is really odd. There is more language in here about the addict's feelings and needs than about your own or even your gf's. I guess it reflects how front-and-center this addict has become to your world.

This especially is weird: the last thing the addict in recovery needs is to know that they are the reason for the failed relationship. What about what your girlfriend needs -- i.e. honesty from the person she's loved for three years, whom she thought she might marry? You're leaving her because this addict situation has made your life together intolerable. Why shouldn't she have that information? Don't you think it might be useful for her to have as she assesses her relationship with this addict going forward?

Do it today and tell her why. Tell her you love her but you just can't live like this and that you are done. I suspect that you will be ENORMOUSLY relieved when you start getting some distance from this addict thing.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:50 AM on December 17, 2012 [23 favorites]


If you have discussed it already to death with your GF that the way she conducts her relationship with the addict is at the expense of the relationship between the two of you - then I can see why you wish to avoid a discussion which has already proven useless.

If your GF has never had the discussion with you, maybe have it with her in her therapist's office so someone can help you explain?

You only owe your GF a discussion if the issue hasn't been fully explored, previously. Otherwise, rip the band aid as quickly as possible, and with minimal drama.

It's OK to say that it isn't working out for you and it's time to end it.

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 8:04 AM on December 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


You love her. Tell the truth. Maybe the break-up will finally show her the consequences of her poor boundary setting, despite your having tried discussing it in the past. Tell her you love her but you are no longer willing or able to put up with the stresses involved with this third person in your relationship. (I'd also suggest you be prepared with an answer if she promises to make changes. What would you need in order to consider that, if anything?)

I'm not sure leaving open the door to future reconciliation is good for either of you, but maybe other folks can speak to that.
posted by Glinn at 8:13 AM on December 17, 2012


She is in therapy, but while acknowledges the problems refuses to actually practice the advice from the LDAC counselor to set healthy boundaries while supporting the recovery.

Be honest with her. Losing an otherwise healthy relationship because of a problem she recognizes but doesn't change may be an experience that she can look back on and say "it took losing that relationship to recognize that I needed to change." (It also may not be the catalyst, so don't hold on to that. Clean break = clean break.) It's not a third-party's fault and you need not feel guilty for taking care of yourself or being honest about it(another layer of boundary-blurring). It's a problem you have with your girlfriend, not with the third person, and you don't see it changing. That's an absolutely legitimate reason for breaking up, just be honest with your girlfriend about it.
posted by headnsouth at 8:32 AM on December 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


The solution to your soon to be ex gf not having clear boundaries should probably involve you being very specific about why you are leaving so that your STBEGF will understand your boundaries.

If it hadn't been 3 years with an intent to marry I'd say you are not obligated in this way, but that is not the case and you yourself say you'd consider getting back together with her.
posted by skrozidile at 8:37 AM on December 17, 2012


"Obviously, I still love her but the constant stress has finally gotten to me. Also, I'm not opposed to getting back together down the line but she needs to prove that she's ready to do what is needed to set healthy boundaries while still supporting the addict in recovery or boundaries should they relapse; both which she has demonstrated she is not willing to do at this time."

I'm with fingersandtoes above and find this question really oddly worded. My first, second and third impression I get when reading this is that you don't really want to break up with your girlfriend, you just want her to SEE what's going on - you want a result. If you really want to break up with her, then give no thought to getting back with her later. Otherwise, this feels really manipulative to me.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 8:39 AM on December 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's pretty simple.

"I'm not happy anymore and I want to move on."

Don't give reasons, don't get into a big, hairy discussion, just state that you're not happy and that you want to move on. That's it, that's all.


That would strike me as... ruthless (to be charitable).....................

After three years, if you have much in the way of respect for her and yourself, a substantive conversation, if she wants it, is reasonable.
posted by ambient2 at 9:07 AM on December 17, 2012 [7 favorites]


I think you need to figure out if you really are just breaking up with her to get her to 'walk the walk' as you said. If so, that could certainly backfire. If I were in your shoes, I'd consider not breaking up with anyone until you know for sure you actually want to. As people have mentioned, none of the potential manipulation here is fair to your gf. She's currently in therapy. Maybe, simply talk to her instead. Be completely honest. Don't worry about recovering addict's reaction (for one, they do not have to know about this discussion!) and give therapy a chance to work.
posted by marimeko at 9:13 AM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Love me, love my dog.

Considering the background you described, I am tempted to assume things. The primary assumption is that you have had quite a few discussions about this, so your emotional landscape and views are familiar to her. Her experiences in counseling are significant. You should not try to counsel her, because she is better at it than you are. This doesn't seem to be about caring, but rather compatability.

The key to your position seems to orbit around the idea that you've decided to require her to "walk the walk." This tack is a familiar and poignant stance--an attempt to shift some of the responsibility for making this hard decision to her. This is where you draw a succesion of lines in the sand, which she will ignore, until the final bitter confrontation. You can save both of you a lot of wear and tear by separating from her now. By doing this, you may actually salvage something of your friendship. The condensed version of this is: I love you, but I don't want to live with you any more. I hope we can be friends.

She may (or may not) continue to be a part of your life, but you should be wary of getting co-opted into the decisions she makes regarding her other friendships.
posted by mule98J at 9:45 AM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


The fact that her co-dependent relationship is with an addict is a red herring. Doesn't matter who she is inappropriately attached to, it only matters that she puts their needs above your own in ways that you have asked her not to (at least I assume this is the case - hard to tell without specifics). That is the reason you give her. You asked her not to do something, she did it anyway - more than once, I imagine - and so you are choosing not to be with someone who doesn't take your needs & wants seriously.
posted by lyssabee at 12:36 PM on December 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Cite her boundary problems as the reason why you're breaking up with her. Always give a reason, but don't give a laundry list... just the big one.
posted by Hawk V at 9:49 PM on December 17, 2012


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