I know he doesn't love me, why can't I leave?
January 4, 2009 11:37 PM   Subscribe

Why can't I remove myself from a relationship I'm not happy in? I'm miserable with him, miserable without him, and all my relationships follow the same pattern...

Been dating a man for about 9 months. He is going through a divorce, been separated for over a year. Since I've met him, I haven't been able to hold a job, have become very depressed, and all my energy goes into the confusion I feel about the relationship. He is an emotional rollercoaster, pushing me away until I threaten to leave, then reeling me back in with acts of kindness and declarations of how much he needs me. I recently moved in with him because I lost my job and couldn't afford rent. We live in his slum apartment, the bedroom isn't habitable at the moment because the slumlord doesn't make repairs, so there is no privacy. I tell myself I'm staying here out of financial desperation, but I know I'm lying to myself. He feels uncomfortable when his teenage kids come over on the weekend because I'm here. His kids do not like me for the single fact that I am with their dad. I ask him if I should leave and all I get are mixed messages. He tells me he wants me to stay but then 10 seconds later asks me how this is going to work when his kids come over. He tells me he still wants to be with his ex (she wants the divorce), then tells me it would never work with her and that he really likes and cares about me. Since I've moved in he has stopped telling me he loves me and is not interested in having sex. He has a bad drug habit and the divorce is breaking his bank.

When I had tried to leave in the past, numerous times before we lived together, I was miserable and could not stop thinking about him. I was alone and unhappy for too long before I met him. I did not know how serious his drug problem was or how much of an emotional and financial wreck he was. He hid alot of things from me but now that I'm living with him it's difficult for him to do that. I know I need to get out but it makes me feel physically sick when I think about how miserable I am going to feel. I don't have alot of options right now because of my job situation and ever since I've been with him I've had nothing but bad luck. I have low self-esteem and no direction in life. He has helped me out in alot of ways (mostly financially), but there is no relationship here and I can't stand living with someone I'm in love with who isn't in love with me. I have been looking for a decent job for months with no luck. Whenever I start making up my mind to leave, he dangles free rent and other financial perks in my face, knowing that I have my hands tied. We have already had a few screaming matches where he has told me to get out, and yet I'm still here and I feel like a fool.

I really care about this guy but I'm not happy and can't see happiness with him in my future, although I occasionally entertain the thought sometimes until reality sets in. I feel pathetic, used, and unloveable. I do have some options as far as places I can stay, with family, etc....but these arrangements are not ideal in my mind (I keep looking for an excuse to stay). Any advice, words of wisdom, people who have been through something similar...greatly appreciated. I'm stuck and drowning. Thanks.
posted by DoNotRefill to Human Relations (21 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I've been in a vaguely similar situation, and for me, the only thing that worked was making myself cut off ALL communication with the guy despite my feelings. When I felt like giving him a call, I would instead call a friend or find some activity to occupy my time and thoughts. Eventually, I didn't think about him anymore - a point I was sure I couldn't possibly achieve in the beginning.

This guy is bad news, and you know it. He may have many positive qualities, but they aren't making up for everything else because you've said it yourself. You're miserable. You need to heal, and you can't do that while you're in communication with him, and certainly not while you're living in his slummy apartment.

In a nutshell: Get out and stay out. You can't fix his problems. Don't call him. Don't let him call you. Your alternative situations may not be ideal, but they MUST be better than your current situation. Just do it. No more excuses.
posted by katillathehun at 11:47 PM on January 4, 2009

Look at it this way... you're avoiding breaking up with the guy because of how miserable you're going to feel. But the relationship is making you miserable 100x over as it is. Find a job flipping burgers or slinging coffee or whatever you can find for the short term. Use your options for a place to stay and cut him off by making a clean break. If I were you, I would just leave while he's gone and don't leave any contact information. Get a new cell number if you have to, so there's less of a chance of him begging for you back and you caving and going back to him later.

You are not getting any happier staying with this guy. Moving out would be like ripping the band-aid off this thing. It might hurt at first, but it's nothing compared to what you're putting yourself through over and over right now. As far as your living situation/job, whatever not being ideal... well, compared to what you're living in now, how could anything be less ideal?

Also, even though it's pretty much a standard AskMe answer, I think you should get into some therapy ASAP as soon as you can afford it in order to figure out why you keep repeating this pattern in relationships. Healthy relationships don't cause angst like this and nobody deserves to put up with those feelings.

I think you know what you should do, and I wish you the best of luck.
posted by howrobotsaremade at 11:58 PM on January 4, 2009

Came back to second howrobotsaremade on getting a new cell number. My ex dumped ME but wouldn't stop calling me even after I expressly told him to stop (as much as it hurt me to do so). I changed my number: problem solved.
posted by katillathehun at 12:01 AM on January 5, 2009

I think you owe it to yourself to extricate yourself from this dead-end situation. Do you have family or friends you can stay with for awhile? I say this not just for practical, roof-over-your-head reasons, but also because I can imagine that you would benefit from a lot of emotional support and, frankly, TLC right now. When you've had someone breaking down your self-esteem that way, just being around people who love you and value you for exactly who you are can go a very long way toward helping you heal up, get strong, and get back on your feet again.

Making yourself let go of someone who isn't reciprocating your love and care is probably one the hardest things in the entire world to do. But, again, you owe it to you. He isn't giving you the love you need and deserve, so stop throwing yours down a hole and direct it back to yourself instead. I hate to say it, but I've come to learn that any kind of healthy, caring interpersonal relationship should function sort of like a bank account: there's only so much someone can withdraw without making some deposits. Eventually, there's just nothing left to give. He's put you into serious overdraft. Close that account and save that love first and foremost for yourself, and also so you have caring to offer someone who will adore and respect you without jerking you around or keeping you in some kind of weird ambivalent limbo. I agree with the previous poster that cutting off your lines of communication is probably for the best so you can walk away without any emotional ties to him pulling you back. Time to take care of you and let him sort his own stuff out.

You deserve better. The best. Don't forget.
posted by teamparka at 12:01 AM on January 5, 2009 [3 favorites]

(Sorry, just re-read and saw you do have places to stay. VERY GOOD.)
posted by teamparka at 12:05 AM on January 5, 2009

Move out. Now. Today. This is a toxic relationship, and it will never make you happy. Take it from someone who has been in a similar situation (on his list of priorities, I - and then our kids - came a long way down the list below marijuana, his motorbike, his mother, his friends (or fellow drug-users, not real friends) and his self-pity for being a loser). You have to take the plunge and get away from him, even if it means living on friends' lounges for a while. They'll probably be delighted to help you.

And then take a long, hard look at yourself. What would make you truly happy? Living alone? Living with friends? Embarking on a career/study/hobby? Adopting stray cats or dogs? Walking through the park once a day? Whatever it is, do it. Get out of there and make a plan to do what you need to do to be happy.

You need to look after yourself first & foremost, and you need to start today.

I am 40, and have realised that I had a bad habit of attracting people like your boyfriend. Now I'm single with 2 kids, employed in 2 jobs that I love, and any man that comes near me now has to convince me that he's going to make my life better, not worse. Yes, I've declined a few offers, and my bed can be big & empty at times, but I also know I'm not stuck with a loser who will make me miserable.

Your self-esteem is shot to pieces, and until you start repairing your emotional self, it won't heal. Get him out of your life, and start looking after yourself. You deserve it. You're obviously articulate, sensible, and desperately sad. You deserve to be happy. Repeat that, ad nauseum, until you know & believe it. YOU DESERVE TO BE HAPPY.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 12:20 AM on January 5, 2009 [5 favorites]

He doesn't want to be the bad guy or shut any door that could have anything left on the other side.

You're going to have to just rise up and do what you need to do, even though it's going to hurt like hell for a bit.

There is no reason to go through life miserable.
posted by batmonkey at 12:43 AM on January 5, 2009

I do have some options as far as places I can stay, with family, etc....but these arrangements are not ideal in my mind (I keep looking for an excuse to stay).

This is the key. You know you can leave, but you still look for a reason to stay.

Do yourself a favor - take a piece of paper, divide it into two columns, and in the first column, write out all of the reasons that you can think of to stay in this situation. Then, in the second column, write out all of the reasons to leave. Read the columns aloud to yourself while looking at yourself in the mirror. You need to decide for yourself what direction your life will take. We can't tell you to leave or to stay, but you do know what is best for you. Make the decision to live the life you deserve. If you want things to change, it's up to you.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:50 AM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Often, sticking in a bad relationship is a result of you (subconsciously) trying to avoid having to deal with some other problem. Could this be the case for you? Is there any problem in your life, a shadow, uncertainty, threat, that you can ignore "as long as things are rough with my boyfriend" or "as long as I'm so terribly lovesick"? This may seem a bit of a backwards approach to the relationship issue, but you should consider this possibility. Candidates for the bigger, real problem could be:
- unclear/unhealthy relationship with your parents
- unclear expectations of the future/don't know what to do with your life
- irrational fear of being alone/of being rejected/not liked
...and, actually, anything that pops up in your mind. It might even be a problem that doesn't seem "real" or "serious" to you on the surface, but actually scares you so much that you'd rather hide behind a rotten relationship than to deal with it...

(I don't want to say that you're somehow creating this problem yourself or that it's "your fault" - just that you might be caught in a circle that is hard to break out of from the inside because your own mind is playing tricks on you. You might also be interested in this book).
posted by The Toad at 1:08 AM on January 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

Being miserable when you leave is like detox. It will be horrible for awhile, but it will get better. Not instantly, and probably not even quickly, but you need time and distance to get his manipulations out of your system.

You said that he pulls you back in saying how much he needs you, but, contrary to popular music, that's a bad thing that should make you want to run for the hills. In some cases it's acceptable hyperbole, but in this guys case, considering how much of a wreck he is, he's relying on you to a very unhealthy degree. You're spending all your energy dealing with him and the problems surrounding him in your life, and it doesn't sound reasonably possible that he will ever give you the support, care, and affection you deserve.

I appreciate how tough it can be to rely on people you have a good (or at least better) relationship with, living with them or whatever, but you really do need that kind of personal support right now to pull you through the emotional detox and get you back on your feet. AskMe is good for the boost/encouragement/ass-kicking that it takes to make the first step, but I strongly encourage you to find one or more people-- online or off, strangers or not--that will be a recurring presence, keeping you strong in your decision to stay away from this man.

Always remember, your primary responsibility is to yourself.
posted by itesser at 1:52 AM on January 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

How miserable could leaving actually be?

You're living in the ghetto with a poor drug addicted emotionally abusive divorcee?

I'm really what's your plan that will be worse? Unless you're planning on moving under an overpass in the ghetto with a destitute homeless guy addicted to harder drugs that actually physically beats you... anything you do is an improvement.

You see how easy the decision is when framed pragmatically?
posted by JFitzpatrick at 6:00 AM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have low self-esteem and no direction in life.

If you suffer from these issues, and you're miserable with him and miserable without him, then I'm pretty sure any self-help book would tell you: leave this bad relationship and work on being happy on your own. When your self-esteem and direction in life come from your relationship, you will almost universally end up in crappy partnerships with crappy people who treat you like crap.

When you're a whole, thriving, well balanced person, you are FAR more likely to attract better people and end up in a partnership that is also whole, thriving and well-balanced.

but there is no relationship here and I can't stand living with someone I'm in love with who isn't in love with me.

If he isn't in love with you, that is unlikely to change. Do you really want to spend the rest of your life with someone who doesn't love you? There are 6.7 billion people in the world; do you seriously objectively think this is the best you can do and the happiest you can be? Because I do not, and you shouldn't either.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:43 AM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

The writing's on the wall - you're in a truly awful relationship situation, and there's not even any genuine love between you and the guy. Nothing to be gained here. So you'll feel lonely for a while when you get out - if you can take this, you can take that. Being lonely, alone, and free is an enormous improvement over settling for this absolute mess that you're in right now. Your other places to stay you say are "not ideal" - well, this place you are staying is definitely "not ideal."

Don't worry about a "decent" job - find any job, and start saving money. Look for housemate arrangements where you don't need to pay full rent for an entire apartment. Get your life going again. Don't ever let yourself become financially dependent on someone else again.

I just read a dumb Dr. Phil article in which he made a good point about why it's hard to make change. Often we do stuff that is totally contrary to our goals and interests, not because the things we're doing are 100% awful, but because embedded in all the miseable shit is some sort of payoff. The example he gave was smoking - smokers get a short-term payoff of feeling good after they have a cigarette. But they suffer from long-term effects that are absolutely lousy. without the payoff, everyone would just quit smoking - but the payoff is powerful enough to seem important and to create an obstacle to you making the change you need.

Everything you describe about this relationship is terrible - absolutely everything. So try figuring out what the payoff is that you are getting by staying in. Is it easy not to have to worry about supporting yourself? Is it nice to feel desired, in the odd moments where you do, a little? Does anything feel better than being alone?

When you discover what you're in it for, then you've also discovered your key to getting out. Find what you need someplace else, someplace healthy like a job, goals, or friendships, and stop trying to get a payoff from this guy who extracts such tremendous costs for every tiny crumb you are taking away. Whatever he's offering you is definitely not enough that it's going to make you sad, in the long term, that you left. A year from now you'll be thanking your lucky stars that you had the courage and you'll wonder what in the hell you were thinking. You won't be miserable you left him. Head for that.
posted by Miko at 6:44 AM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have been looking for a decent job for months with no luck.

I do have some options as far as places I can stay, with family, etc....but these arrangements are not ideal in my mind

Look for a "good enough" job for the short term, and a "good enough" living situation for the short term. "Ideal" is something you often have to work towards, not leapfrog into from nothing. Any source of regular income--even if it's serving coffee or ringing up books--is going to make you feel better and more in control; it will also keep you from being able to spend all of your time ruminating about this situation.

It will expose you to different kinds of people, too--as would a healthier living situation. it's very difficult to rise above the level of dysfunction you're surrounded with....you'll get dragged down before you'll pull anyone else up.
posted by availablelight at 7:08 AM on January 5, 2009

I know this has been said more than likely above me but:

1 - Get out. Just pack your bags and leave. If you feel you need to do this when he is not there then do so. You can leave a note stating that you are moving because of a whole list of reasons but just leave. This is unhealth for you.

2 - Change your cell number. I have a friend that needed to do this. Her Ex would not leave her alone. Problem was solved after she did this.

3 - Move in with your parents/family. Trust me they are family. You can depend on them. Just have a plan to move out in X months. Tell them this plan.

4 - I don't know if you already have one but get a job doing whatever. Since you have free rent or cheap rent (moving in with family) a job doing whatever will give you an income and allow you to save something up for your move into a new apartment later on down the road. Also when I lived at home I always threw cash my parents way. It's just a nice thing to do and you won't feel like a free loader.

5 - Keep looking for a better job. Tell yourself that your temp job earning 1.50 an hour is NOT your future Career. Find a better job. Something you will be happy with.

6 - Be single for a while. Don't enter any relationships with anyone until you re-identify yourself again. You can date and talk to dudes but I would not be exclusive with anyone. You might fall in the trap of "I need to be with someone just to be with someone" Again my number changing friend above did this with my brother. I love my brother but at the time he was not someone you should have dated. She just got out of a crappy relationship and landed in another with my bro who just got out of a crappy relationship. Needless to say it didn't last and there was/is bitterness between them.

7 - Cheer up! You have all of metafilter behind you! Good luck. Let us know if you need anything else.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 7:37 AM on January 5, 2009

If you haven't yet found your groove that allows you to be happy and fulfilled on your own, single, then
1) You're not going to be happy in any relationship.
2) You're not even going to be able to get a good relationship with a great guy, because you're not bringing enough to the table in terms of healthy happiness to attract the people who can offer you that healthy fulfilling relationship that you seek. You'll end up with the broken situations instead.

You've probably been duped by hollywood into thinking that if you're alone and miserable, the solution is a partner. This is wrong, and sends you barking up the wrong trees. No-one can complete you if you're not already complete.

You have to get out of the relationship, and then you need to stay out of further relationships until (an ever bigger challenge) you find your groove and learn how to be happy on your own.

When you don't need a relationship is when a relationship can be a wonderful thing. Prior to that, relationships will be distorted and dysfunctional.

Depression sounds like it will be a problem - you will need to regularly get out and spend time with friends, so that you're not wallowing alone in your misery all the time. Alternatively, a job can help with this, and you'll be needing one of those anyway. (Good luck for the job hunting!)

Perhaps ask around your friends if anyone has a place you can stay in exchange for some (serious) kind of work you can do for them. If that means couch surfing, find somewhere else for your stuff so you're not making the place yours and settling in, but keeping it a temporary arrangement.
posted by -harlequin- at 7:39 AM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

As someone who has been stuck, trapped (and other depressing words)in a very bad relationship, I know it isn't as easy as, JUST LEAVE HIM. If it were that easy, no one, anywhere, would be stuck in a dead end relationship. I just want to say that I know it's waaaay more complicated than that...just leave him. Um, okay, then what? I understand 100% that it isn't that easy. I also think I understand why staying with other people is just worse somehow, like now they know just how low you've sunk. Ah, we have *some* pride left, right?

You say that when you have left him in the past, you kept thinking about him, because you had been miserable before for too long. Isolate that thought right there for a moment and see it for what it is. Because things sucked before, you are willing to keep suck in your life now. This is the sick part (I'm not blaming you at all, I am noticing this about us both and many people just like us) We need to see that although that was ok by us yesterday, it is not ok today. So, with that, here is how I got away from a horrible relationship where money and depression (much MORESO because of him and his physical abuse)kept me stuck.

First, I began to get really angry instead of sad. Anger is a great motivator, sadness just makes you paralyzed, right? So instead of feeling like crap about the way he pushes and pulls you and every other shitty thing that is happening, take the stance of resentful, as in "How dare you?!" Your time and your comforts and your emotions are worth just as much as anyone's in this equation.

Secondly, because you've had bad luck with employment as of late doesn't mean shit for tomorrow or your future(depression likes to whisper bad shit into your ears). If you go to a local motel and ask to get on their housekeeping crew(or restaurant washing dishes), and keep bugging them about it, they will see you want to work and they will eventually give you a job. I've seen this work many times. This will give you some money, also get you out of the house, make you less dependent on his "good graces" as if he had any, etc, etc.

Third, DETACH DETACH DETACH. Begin to regard him as you would a gross bug on your floor. Everything he says that is nasty and hurtful, or uncaring or whatever, put a mental check mark in the column of "You suck, buddy" This should fill up pretty quickly, right? This will keep you from being sucked in when he throws you some small kindness and you lap it up like a starved dog, blowing it way out of proportion, as if now he's some nice guy who treats you right. (sorry that sounded harsh, but when you aren't treated right and you know it, them throwing you a bone, so to speak, you end up giving it more value than it really deserves.) All this detaching will give you a better frame of mind to work with.

I ended up having to stay with my mother for a few months. It sucked, but it was ever so much better than the alternative. Had I not had her, I would have gotten a room for 70 dollars a week at some rooming house. Better a room by yourself than a slum apartment with someone who is truly wasting your time. You *are* lovable, you just don't see it yet.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 7:49 AM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

In some ways, both of you have drug addictions -- only in your case, he is your drug.

You know you need to give him up. But when you try, you experience withdrawal symptoms: craving him, feeling depressed and anxious, losing your ability to think clearly. You're also dependent upon him: each time he offers financial perks, you lose your resolve to stay away.

Leaving bad relationships is like quitting harmful drugs. It's never easy. It's often terribly uncomfortable. But once you're "clean," having passed through the withdrawal stage, you realize you'd ruin your life if you returned to the relationship during a weak moment.
posted by terranova at 8:37 AM on January 5, 2009

It sounds like he's manipulating you to me. You've tried to leave before, and for various reasons you've gone back, but nothing has changed. I think you should get help with leaving him, from a good friend, or family members. Tell them you want help breaking off contact with this fellow; then when he does whatever it is he does to convince you that you want to come back with him, they'll be there to remind you that no, you don't want to, it won't work out. You shouldn't have to do this alone! Good luck.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 9:19 AM on January 5, 2009

Do the best thing.
Do the healthy thing.
Do the right thing.
Do the thing with a future.
Do the scariest thing.
Do the transformative thing.
posted by mumstheword at 9:54 AM on January 5, 2009 [4 favorites]

I think why you're doing this is that your life is a total vacuum right now. You start clinging to him because "if I don't have him, I have nothing." You were already unhappy single, and while you may be unhappy coupled, part of you is probably thinking, "But if I don't have this man, I'll be REALLY REALLY REALLY MISERABLE, like I was before." And then you can't deal with leaving, because you can't stand to get any sadder.

Did I get it right?

Let me say this: you will be happier single than dealing with this guy's crap. You will feel like you grew WINGS. Even if everything else stays crappy and you're still unemployed and you have to move in with a jerky relative.

Really. Anything else can only go up at this point. And you'll learn that no man is better than a shitty man who won't fuck you, doesn't love you, does drugs, his kids hate you, he lives in a pit...etc.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:35 PM on January 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

« Older New Wave (not French) Movies   |   Movie with tattoo scene? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.