I've never been good at leaving, how do I do it?
December 22, 2008 10:16 AM   Subscribe

I've fallen out of love, I can't stay in this relationship, but I've never been very good at ending things.

My girlfriend, over the last year or so, has descended into what I consider to be an alcoholic depression. Her hobbies have boiled down to drinking, and complaining, and her behavior has made me fall out of love with her. No friend, coworker, neighbor or family member is safe from her criticism, and I remember times when we would talk about things we like. Repeated pleas to return to talking about things we like, even if to gain some momentum or to instill even a small sense of what we used to be like have failed. I can no longer steer the conversation to positive topics for more than a minute at a time. It is just repeated swigs on a bottle of beer and then more of the same. My friends don't call anymore because they can't handle her negativity when she drinks. When I get away from her for an evening with them, I am on top of the world.

I've also been begging her to think about her financial future, as she was working a well-paying job on a contract basis, leaving her plenty of extra room to save a little bit for when the contract ended. Now the contract is over, and she almost brags about the fact that she is broke. I would point out to her that the not insignificant daily spending on alcohol could quite easily turn into a nice amount to ensure her financial well-being, but she would just take this and turn it into any number of excuses, ranging from "My job is very stressful" to "It's nice to finally have money" (I know, I know) to "You are just being greedy and don't want to change the way you live."

And she hit me. After her friends went home, and I'd cleaned up our place, and I'd gotten to bed so I could get up and go to work the next day, she threw her purse at my face - hard, in the dark - for "being rude". It wasn't much, but these things don't just go away.

She is unwilling or unable to get help. She will not acknowledge that her alcohol is causing a problem. She is unable to see that she cannot continue to behave the way she wants, whenever she wants, without it having consequences.

I don't need any convincing that this needs to end. I made a cold, calculated list of the behaviors I like, and dislike, using blunt, honest language I wouldn't normally be able to use. I just don't know how? I don't want to endanger her or trigger any more impulsive behavior, but I have gotten to the point where I feel that she is taking my life away one day at a time. I have no idea what to say or do. I have no idea what concessions to make, or what arrangements to make. I don't know if this will be a push toward getting help, but after all the efforts I have made in that direction, I am afraid I don't care. Her friends recognize the problem, but she always claims the ones who really care live in different cities, and the friends she has here are fake (doesn't matter where we live, always the same story). Her family lives in town, so she might physically have a place to go (she could not afford to live on her own, for the reasons stated above, at the moment), but they are not much help in these matters.

Thank you, Metafilter. I can be contacted at howdoileaveher@gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (24 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Just remember that you are not responsible for her behavior. Your breaking up with her would be no more a trigger for her drinking than her waking up in the morning.
posted by Dr-Baa at 10:24 AM on December 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

You have a sit down. You explain your feelings. You let her react and then you go. Have stuff packed if need be. Don't let her talk you out of it. Just do it.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:26 AM on December 22, 2008 [5 favorites]

You are spending too much time worrying about her reaction to your actions. You need to look after yourself.

You need to reconcile yourself to the fact that this will be a messy breakup on her side, and that she will say things that may hurt you, that she will most likely try to blame you for any number of her own actions, and that she may say nasty things about you to the world. You can't control any of that.

What you can control is your own life and your own choices. And, in this case, it certainly looks like you'd be best served by Ironmouth's suggestion. Sit down, explain why you're doing what you're doing, and do it. I would add the caveat that you want to go into that meeting absolutely set on a final course of action: don't go into it as a negotiation, and don't listen to any hysterical recriminations or highly emotional promises on her part.

You haven't made it clear who is staying where you currently live. If you are intending to leave and get your own place, get that in place now, so that you have a place to go. Do NOT let her know where you're living. You may also want to change your cellphone number and/or phone number, as well as your primary email address.

Any joint bills and/or accounts need to be severed, and new accounts established. That may mean new bank accounts. You will want to remove yourself from any of her accounts, and similarly remove her from any of your accounts. Any outstanding debts that you share need to be resolved, one way or the other.
posted by scrump at 10:36 AM on December 22, 2008 [3 favorites]


I've got a buddy who sounds like your g/f. Well, maybe not as negative, but certainly violent when he's drunk, and he's drunk a lot. I've seen any number of his g/f's come to their senses and dump him, and he's carried on ok.
posted by notsnot at 10:40 AM on December 22, 2008

I know someone in a situation very similar to yours, alcohol and all, and I can only say that I'm really sorry. They're struggling hard, relying on some very good friends, and a lot of the difficulty seems to be from being unable to mention the alchoholism in the shitstorm of rumour and accusation - their partner refuses to acknowledge it and the partner's friends and family won't name it either.

Ironmouth has probably got it in a nutshell there, to which I would add that you may wish to prepare yourself for the possibility of her making accusations that it was you who hit her. I wish you the very very best of luck.
posted by carbide at 10:47 AM on December 22, 2008

You could try setting an ultimatum so this doesn't come out of nowhere (in her view.) Say "if you don't stop drinking, right now, I am going leave you." And then help her get help, be prepared with as many resources as possible to help her stop drinking if she chooses to. An intervention of family and friends, maybe?

However it sounds like she won't even consider stopping. But at least this way you can phrase the break up as being a rejection of her alcoholism, not a rejection of her herself. And she will know that she does have control over her fate-- what she's choosing is to be alone, with a bottle.

I'm sorry this is happening to you, it sounds really hard. I agree with everyone else who says get all your stuff packed up and bills severed, a place to live lined up, etc so you don't have to do any of it after the break-up.
posted by np312 at 10:49 AM on December 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

In practical terms, you should make arrangements for a place to stay the night that you have the breakup talk so that you can leave immediately afterwards. Possibly pack up all of your stuff in advance if it can be managed, or at the very least the stuff that you wouldn't want to lose. Then have the talk, and leave for the night. If you know anyone you can trust who would be willing to be on call for her that night, maybe alert them in advance.

You'll have to think about how best to sort out any financial issues, etc. For example, if you are going to let her have the apartment, then get your name off the lease, change utility bills, etc. But that might have to be a separate conversation with her. Maybe try meeting a few days after the breakup at a coffeeshop or something, in a place that's less emotionally charged, to sort those things out.
posted by cabingirl at 10:58 AM on December 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Stay collected, explain your reasons for leaving her very calmly, don't be tempted to be persuaded the other way and go. Sleep at a friend's or a hotel and tell her you'll be in touch to get your stuff back and move out soon (unless she will be moving out). Above all, be polite and courteous.
posted by Sijeka at 11:20 AM on December 22, 2008

she. hit. you. Even if it was with a purse, it doesn't matter. Her behavior is abhorrent and it sounds like it's just getting worse as time progresses. She's jitterbuggin' all over you, and if you don't do something about this now, you'll just get pounded further and further into the earth. Save yourself and stop worrying about the effect you'll have on her - it sounds like she's got some shit she needs to deal with either way, and if you weren't important enough to her for her to listen to your pleas or for her to even sense your frustration and how upset you are over this... I mean, really process that. If you were important enough to her, she'd recognize her behavior and work to change before you left her. She's not though. So let that be your bedrock because no matter what, there's multiple someone elses' out there who would sacrifice anything to be close to you. Please, please, please. Also, start listening to some hardcore 'I hate your guts for being a crappy person and making this relationship suck' music. Start with Ween's 'You Fucked Up' and go from there.
posted by Bageena at 11:24 AM on December 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

You cry. Then you pack. Then you go. And you cry some more. Certainly tell her why, but it's not a discussion about IF you are going, just WHY.

It seems impossible to leave. It's like your roots have grown into the foundation of the home. What will the future look like? How will your friends react? What will people say? What will you say to people? My advice is to ignore the doubts and questions and worries, and find a place to go. Then go. Don't worry about all your stuff. Take what's most important to you and worry about the rest later, if at all. (I'm assuming you don't own the house you are in; that would entail a different approach.) Once you are somewhere else, you will know you did the right thing. The drama won't be over for a while, but getting physical distance is essential. Little by little, life will move on, and you will be "you" again.

(More in email.)
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 11:24 AM on December 22, 2008

You are making this more complicated than it needs to be. If you truly have made a cold, solid determination to leave then pack up your stuff and go. There's no need for a talk beforehand.

After you've unequivocally left there will be plenty of time to talk/whatever. Make sure you get financially clear: perhaps leaving mid month would be kinder so she'll have two weeks to do something before she's on the street.

Clean breaks are hard, but in the end much better than dragging it out.
posted by tkolar at 11:27 AM on December 22, 2008

I don't mean to be rude, and am very sorry for this situation, but how can we give you advice when you leave out vital pieces of info?

1. Do you live together?
2. How long have you been together?
3. Do you co-own anything like a dog or a car or a baby?
4. How old are the both of you?
5. What social situations will you have to interact with her in?
6. Are you a male or a female? This might not have anything to do with it, but who knows? It could be relevant to somebody's advice.

This should be a checklist that pops up whenever someone asks a relationship question.

Anyway, assuming (for whatever reason) that the answers are No, Not long, Nothing, Young, Almost None, and Male, give her a call/email/fax/telegram that says "I don't want to be with you anymore I'm sorry" and never speak to her again.

Many "how do it do it?" break-up concerns are based on wanting to continue to be friends or not seem like the bad guy, both of which are beside the point. Just Do It.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:29 AM on December 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

You can't worry about her reaction in this. You really can't. Just put a lock on your heart for a little bit until you and the things you value can get out.

I'm a proponent of having a new place lined up and my stuff already packed in situations like this, so that you can have the conversation and then leave immediately.

As to the conversation itself, keep it simple. "I don't feel safe or happy in this relationship anymore and you seem happy with things as they are, so I'm ending it and leaving."
posted by batmonkey at 11:31 AM on December 22, 2008

I went through a very similar thing myself with my ex-husband. First of all you need to figure out how the housing situation is going to work. We rented a place and I left. I knew he couldn't afford it on his own either, but I could not stay there another night. If you are asking her to move out, things may be a little different for you. For myself, when I finally worked up the nerve to leave I found the following helpful:

1. I took my dad with me, I left him in the car, but I knew he was there if things got ugly. Also it gave me the nerve to go through with it. Plus, I didn't want to be driving while in an emotionally charged state.

2. Earlier that day I emailed my ex and told him I needed him to be home, awake, and not be on the pain killers when I got home from work because I had to talk to him. I think he knew it was coming when I got home. Again it forced me into doing it and it gave him some time to not be totally caught off guard.

3. I told a few people I was leaving him, again it gave me the resolve to do it. I also called his family and friends because I wanted someone else to be there for him. His behavior was also erratic and I was afraid he might do something rash, so I made sure someone would be around for him that night.

4. I didn't do a "I'm leaving because...." speech. He knew his behavior and his drug use was behind why I was leaving. I just told him, "I'm sorry, but I cannot live here with you any more."

5. If it is final make it final. I also said there was no option for reconciliation that I was done.

6. Know what you need to take with you immediately that day so you can grab it quickly and get out fast. Even if you want her to move out, at least plan on spending the night some place else.

7. If you move to another place, make arrangements on the phone or via email to pick up the rest of your stuff when she's not going to be there. That day will suck, no matter how good it is to get out of the situation, it will be hard to go through all your things and walk away from it. I made the mistake of doing this part alone, I wish I had brought a friend with me.

I hope this helps. For the record, I spend years with this person I did not love and who treated me poorly. I had known for well over a year that I needed to leave and I didn't because I didn't have the strength to go. I am now far a happier and healthier person. Also, once I did leave, all my family and friends told me how happy they were I wasn't in the situation any longer. Not only was that abusive relationship hurting me, it was hurting all my loved ones. I only wish I had left sooner. Good luck.
posted by Palmcorder Yajna at 11:58 AM on December 22, 2008 [5 favorites]

Falling out of love with someone is always problematic. Last year at this time, I sat down to explain to my partner why I did not love him anymore and why I was ending our relationship. I couldn't do it by speaking to him, because I knew that I would begin to logically backtrack, rephrase things and ultimately it would turn into a negotiation rather than what I knew needed to happen: I had to leave.

Simple is never simple in these situations. But in an effort to keep things focused and pro-active, you need to sit down with the list that you have written out and use that as your guiding principles for how you address your soon-to-be-ex. Do not give her a laundry list of reasons why you are leaving, those will become terms for negotiation (and a desperate alcoholic will always try to barter with you when faced with the possibility of losing control).

Simply explain that this relationship is no longer healthy for you, and that as of that moment, it is over. You can apologize for any part that you played in letting it get to that point. You can assure her that you will work with her to make sure that neither of you find yourself in financial ruin as a result.

I don't know what I'd recommend as for staying at home v. leaving. She seems like a volatile and potentially dangerous person who, when enraged, may be violent. I would be prepared for that possibility, and be ready to make a hasty exit. I would also safeguard any valuables that you do not wish to see destroyed or disappeared before initiating the conversation. I am also not sure of your girlfriend's mental health, but I would suggest that it is worth considering giving someone a head's up in case she becomes self-destructive. Friends or family - even if you are not on good terms with them yourself - would be good assets to her following your conversation.

Best of luck, and I'm so sorry.
posted by greekphilosophy at 11:58 AM on December 22, 2008

Posting on behalf of Anonymous in answer some questions:
1. Do you live together? Yes.
2. How long have you been together? 3+ years.
3. Do you co-own anything like a dog or a car or a baby? No.
4. How old are the both of you? Early thirties.
5. What social situations will you have to interact with her in? Quite possibly none.
6. Are you a male or a female? Male.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 12:03 PM on December 22, 2008

Thanks for the response anon. My answer does change a little based on that, since you've been together for a while and probably have a bunch of stuff entangled together, despite not owning anything big.

I'd say find another place to go first and go there for a while. Have a short explanation, either in person or on the phone. Do not make excuses or blame her, just say you don't love her anymore. Make sure to plan hanging out with friends and family who'll support you in the interim. Come back to get your stuff in a week or two. Avoid contact, and do not let her make you feel guilty.

Good luck.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:33 PM on December 22, 2008

The more scrupulously you plan your breakup, the easier it will be -- though dissolutions are never easy.

People react differently to shocking disclosures. If your girlfriend is depressed but relatively stable, break the news, give her notice (when the separation will happen, who stays/who leaves, proposed division of property), and then depart for awhile after the discussion so she has time to absorb what you've told her. Then keep to your plan.

If your girlfriend has shown any signs of mental instability, particularly suicidal ideation, urge her to contact her family, friends, and a therapist immediately for support. If she refuses or threatens self-harm, contact her loved ones yourself.

If your girlfriend has Fatal Attraction tendencies when she receives very bad news, you may have to resort to fly-by-night departure: leave suddenly when she is not there, then explain by letter or phone call.

I'm sorry your relationship did not work out. But you are doing the right thing: this situation is robbing you of happiness and even may be enabling your girlfriend to remain in an alcohol-soaked limbo of pain and stagnation.
posted by terranova at 12:57 PM on December 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Sounds like somebody needs to cowboy up. Other people aren't your problem, only you are your problem.

"You're a drunk and a nasty bitch and I wasn't put on this earth to deal with your shit, goodbye/get the fuck out of my house or I will call the cops."
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:58 PM on December 22, 2008

goodbye/get the fuck out of my house or I will call the cops

If she is on the lease--hell, even if she isn't but has been living there and receiving mail and such--you can't just force someone out of the house.

If anything, you need to get your shit in order for a fast getaway, if need be. If you have anything with strong sentimental value attached you might not want to leave it there when you finally do tell her you're going.

Better still, have it moved before you tell her. Next time you know she'll be out of the house for a few hours, pack your shit and take it to a motel/hotel/friend's place. The added benefit is that when she gets back to a half-empty house, you won't have to do much explaining.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:08 PM on December 22, 2008

goodbye/get the fuck out of my house or I will call the cops

While I understand the gut instinct behind this, I vote no. It will just start a whole new fight instead of reducing the drama.

In my case, I left with my daughter while my wife was away, from a house that I owned. Number one priority was to protect my daughter and myself from any further drama and trauma, not worrying about pushing for my rights or my possessions. I had an apartment rental lined up ahead of time, and I loaded up our stuff and got out of there.

Better to choose your own behavior, than try to force someone to do something. That never works anyway. If it did, this question wouldn't be here.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 5:42 PM on December 22, 2008

I've done this; it was both the hardest thing I've ever done, and the easiest. That song "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover"? It's just like that. You have to just go.

Prepare: Have a place to go to, and make sure your financial situation is clear

Grab your stuff: Pack up your essential things when she's out. Maybe you can get the rest later, maybe the price of freedom will cost you the rest. If so, it's worth it.

Leave: leave.

Have the conversation later. You do not want to tell her and then remain cohabiting for a period of time afterward. Do not. What to say? I said this: "I haven't been happy in a long time; in fact, I've been miserable. In fact, I've been miserable for years. I've told you this again and again, but nothing has changed, and now I have to leave. This is final." I have a feeling that in your case, you should have this conversation somewhere outside of your house.

After that conversation, don't allow yourself to be drawn into arguments, negotiations, or discussions about your relationship. If she calls just repeat the same information (again and again and again, as much as needed), and say "I can't talk to you any more. Goodbye." Don't get distracted by anything she throws your way to get her involved in her life again. "I'm sorry, I can't help you with that. I can't talk to you any more. Goodbye." Allow no post-mortem conversations about anything, because it's over and you are not going to be drawn in. "I'm sorry. I can't talk to you any more. Goodbye."
posted by taz at 2:09 AM on December 23, 2008 [4 favorites]

taz speaks the truth.

My biggest mistake was thinking it could all still be civil during the untangling period. It just can't, so no need to get sucked in.

Did I mention? taz speaks the truth.

The truth? taz speaks it.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 10:48 AM on December 23, 2008

Read what Fuzzy Skinner and taz said and do it.
posted by deborah at 5:28 PM on December 24, 2008

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